Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Global, Local or Individual Body...?

What is the Body of Christ, His church, to look like in this world? Is it our very separated, disjointed, dis-functional spattering of churches...pick your own variety, shape or size? Or should it be seamless, flowing over the world without regard to geography, culture or preconceived notion? Earliest writings about the churches, by the authors of the New Testament books, dealing with the church from the day of Pentecost on revealed a similar struggle and similar issues that we face today. This is very consistent with anything we humans have a part in....complete inconsistency! Over and over and over and...well, you get the point. The history of Israel, as a nation and tribes, reveals similar circumstances and dilemmas as the church as a nation of believers and of a single DNA (Christ's) demonstrates today. Are we right in our separations, or are we just hardheaded like Israel was (and is)? 
It would seem, from an altogether too simple point of view (mine), that much of our problem stems from our understanding and subsequent belief of how we think we relate to the church and the Body of Christ in our own thinking. If we are globalists, considering the Body of Christ to be any who are regenerated and saved by His grace, baptized in profession of that change in our hearts, then we view the rest of the world's believers as just geographically separated brothers and sisters. On the other hand, many hold to a local Body view, thinking they alone have the place in the community, country or location to be the Body of Christ, His Church. Some go further and believe that they alone are the Body, free from all encumbrances and responsibilities to the body and refusing any admonition to fellowship as an affront to their own authority as "the" church. Paul was pretty clear...well, actually the Holy Spirit was REALLY clear when He had Paul pen the book of 1 Corinthians regarding the Body of Christ. It is really straight forward...individually, as believers in Christ, we are connected limb to limb, tendon to tendon together....NO geographical separation noted! Period! But of course that is not enough for some; in fact the command to not separate themselves is largely ignored in view of the "I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, I don't need you all....I will find my own suitable place to fellowship or start my own" mindset. Usually though, this is quite discernible as error (err...sin) in that it is typically combined with additional areas of their life where they refuse to deal with sin, or don't want to have any authority over them in any area of life. They'll hang around while the "weather" is good, but at the first signs of clouds, they are off and running to their next place of hangout or they will entirely abandon any fellowship or relationships with other believers, except for a select few who will blindly follow these to wherever they are headed...which in most cases, may be Hell, because if you look deep enough, there will be no fruit in these lives, just silk flowers and plastic apples hung to look good enough for general observation. This is always accompanied with rabid quoting of Matthew 7:1, Judge not....(leaving out the context and heart of the teaching by Jesus that actually calls for judging and calls for WHERE judging must begin...) and subsequent separation. 
How can this change? Courage and Holy Spirit intervention! What if every pastor called each  former pastor to find out about the "new folks" who show up? Or if the elders of a church visited other elders at other geographic locations at regular intervals? What if the discipline and structure of the church, outlined in Timothy and Titus, was practiced by all who call themselves His children? Shortly the church hoppers would be found out and silenced; the ones with their own agenda, who move from church to church to build their following, would be revealed as the false sheep or shepherds they are. The lazy, the fat and the brutal shepherds will be revealed as well, by their clear failure to produce fruit and sheep, not goats. But of course, you say, that can only happen in a perfect world, right??? But wait a minute, don't we serve a Perfect God? Seems like that may be the problem right there....who are we serving? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Much "Just Like the World" is too much....?

This whole idea of how much is too much has always wandered through the deep recesses of my mind. How close can you get without getting burned? How much can you do without crossing the line? How far is too far? These types of questions and the many variations have been asked by lots of folks who call themselves "Christians" and personally, I think the question itself may be a red flag that needs to be paid attention to, rather than the subject of the question explored or answered. If we are "Christians" (Christ followers), why in the world would we be asking how close to the enemy can we get, or how much of the enemies favorite temptations (or those of our own lust) can we play with and still be "okay"?
The heart of the matter....oops, said it already...YES, the HEART IS the Matter! Consider Jesus' statement about defilement in the Gospels...paraphrased roughly: its not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but that which comes out from the heart. Ouch...wait, you say..."that stuff just slipped out and you know, we are not perfect after and by the way, who made you the judge?" Ah, more indications of a heart condition, perhaps even a critical heart condition. 
Consider a little scenario with me; a young person who grew up in church, professed their belief in Christ and claimed His salvation decided to follow the example of their parents in rebellion and left with them. The young person was old enough to make their own decision and stand on their own two feet, but chose to follow the apostate group off into the wild blue yonderish part of another town and church group. The wonderfully welcoming pastor and his family, in that new town and church, swung wide open their arms to embrace this family. Choosing to ignore the issues of church discipline presented to him (the pastor), for the sake of having new folks to help and grow his church, he readily assimilated this family and the young person into all aspects of life and ministry. Ignoring all Scripture and God's template for the New Testament Bible believing church, they instead also formed deep family relationships with this family and young person. The young person moved away but maintained contact through social media and visits. Over time the young person's actions (complete abandonment of christian fellowship while out of town), attitude (immersing themselves into the world and the vices thereof) and language (profusely effluent in the manner of James 3) turned worse and worse. But because a relationship had been formed, in spite of the warnings and caution, the new church and its pastor only chose to see what they wanted. The young person was "godly" when visiting and communicating at church or family events, but worldly, JUST LIKE THE WORLD, all the rest of the time. And this brings the question, "how much is too much". 
Well, Scripturally, its not looking too good for our example. God requires a heart surrendered to Him....not just loaned at special occasions. He wants a disciple in the Body of Christ, not a tumor growing on the surface. 
Too much is the first step, the first thought, the first touch and whatever else may pull us from complete devotion to the Jesus. It is not a matter of how far can I stray, rather it is HOW CLOSE CAN I GET TO JESUS? Everyday, all day and for ever. The closer we remain, by His power and direction, the further from the pull and staining of the world we will be. Only THEN, will we be in the world, but not OF the world!!