I am meticulous on pretty much everything I seek to do. But there is one area I have had to let that go. It’s blogging. Why? Because if I seek to make the perfect post with all the perfect scriptures, pictures, etc, then I will never blog. And even with letting that go, I still have trouble blogging based on all the projects set before me at all times (just check the date on my last blog post). This one has been sitting in draft form for months on top of all that. Didn’t feel released to publish until now.
With that said, as a reminder, you will find me rambling, versus pleading some case to a jury. Therefore, this post could end in a crucifixion of sorts but so be it. Here goes.
A past Google+ Hangout video conversation with a friend left my heart burning for the Church with so much love. So much of Western Christianity defines the Church as a group of people that meet in a building and fellowship together with some type of worship and reading of the Bible during short stints of time. Whether it’s 200 or 20,000 or beyond, this is really what most call “church.” I’m not here to hammer on what “church” is or isn’t. Because I think God can meet people in a church building or in a small group. There…settled. But I am here to ramble around how our view of “doing church” can dramatically affect whether we live as a Biblical Church or not. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert on all this but definitely have had some thoughts around it.
In study, and from what I can put together, the early church had very little resemblance to the majority of the Church we know today in the West. Why? Well, that is a long story. A more in-depth course on the subject of church history can be found here for free: History of the World Christian Movement. With that said, I’m not saying that God cannot work within the way we meet together in our modern day. He absolutely can and does. But there are potential implications that we must not turn a blind eye to.
To sum it up what I am getting at, the early Church lived life together in a way that was incredibly close knit. When they faced significant trials, struggles, persecution or sin, their brothers and sisters saw it and addressed it with intense love due to the closeness they had as a fellowship. Today we see glimpses of that but rarely at the level I read about in the Word. I’ve been to China several times and for many underground believers there, Christianity cannot just be a casual addition to life that turns into some positive self-help speech and philosophizing, leading to believing for more good stuff in this age because I go to church, fight for the “right things” and am generally a good person that occasional talks about God with the lost. For those and others throughout persecuted nations in the earth, that closeness of community helps to encourage them in the face of death or serious persecution.
Honestly, this post is written from the Lord shaking me in recent days. He’s been screaming some things to me in prayer. I know we talk a lot about God whispering in our ears, but I feel like He set an alarm clock next to my head and had it go off related to this topic.
Ok. Let’s quickly dialogue around Paul and his writings to the different fellowships of believers. If the church in Corinth (the fellowship of believers in that city) saw a brother stumble in an area of sin, they addressed that brother (and his sin) with an incredible amount of love, desiring his restoration because they knew him. After seeking for his well being by calling him to repentance, if that brother didn’t repent, then they put him outside the fellowship in order for the enemy to deal with him and for him to hopefully return to their community over time. Today, many believers in my generation would scream “Judgmental!!!” And sometimes they might be right due to how disconnected the Church is now from what it used to be.
In my past I used to picture statements given by Paul, like the example above, as him saying it with almost an indignation and pride. Kind of like, “Kick em outta here!” And not only that, I always pictured his statements in context to a large group of believers (200+), like the church I grew up in. And better yet, I imagined it happening from a pastor behind his wooden pulpit like I had always known.
The key question is, did Paul picture it that way?
Over the last months the Holy Spirit has been significantly dealing with me on the matters of correction, confrontation, rebuke, etc, related to those who claim to be part of the Church. That last sentence is mostly framed with Facebook statuses, Tweets and any good ‘ol online communication in mind, concerning all the controversial societal issues? Mainly because no matter what social place I go online, so much of what I see and read is either “feel good” or debate worthy. What would Paul think about it all? Especially in context to some of his writings, that so many use as ammo for them to “one-up” the other guy through intellectual jargon. Better yet, how about Jesus? Surely he approves, since he was so awesome at putting those Pharisees in their place. Right? What context did Paul have in mind for so many of the Biblical ideas we now use to criticize or correct complete strangers online with, whom potentially claim to follow God? And whom we have little to no contact with in our current every day life. Thus, we totally don’t know them except for their thoughts around certain ideas and theologies through an avatar.
One thing I have grown to understand on a steep learning curve over the past years, has been how talking about things is SOOOOO different than actually living life in light of the things talked about.
I have been in so many philosophical, theological discussions where people, including myself, talked themselves into the coolest place in the conversation, with the hippist philosophical ideas. It felt good. Being the cool guy in the conversation. Yet, when examining my life and the life of those I philosophized with, I wasn’t provoked to righteousness in the least. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I began to ask God the question, where would all my philosophizing lead me if every comfort I now had were stripped from me, or from them? Because I see that all throughout the Word; people being called to live a cross-centered life. Not a cross-centered philosophizing love language. But life in Him.
Yes, we live in a different time where some would argue for a different type of “community” (online). No matter how much technology advances, I think the preference in God’s heart will always remain a face-to-face, day-to-day community of believers where facades are repeatedly exposed, sin is continually revealed, repentance continues to flow, humility never loses it’s grip, the cross is lived, and all are spurred on in the gospel through corporate prayer, Bible study, fasting, etc. And that’s coming from a techie. :)
Does that mean we all completely stop facebooking. I don’t think so. Unless the Lord asks you to.
But I have been asking myself, and the Lord, questions concerning the less “friendly” parts of our Christianity like confrontation, rebuke, etc. Not just doing them but actually doing them out of true love for the person I have relationship with. How I need to walk them out with other believers in light of the Day that is approaching. Facebook has the strong capability of keeping my relationships shallow while thinking I am going deep. When in reality I am isolated on an island where all that I say seems “right” and “true”, causing my heart to puff up, with no testing from an in-my-face community of believers who see how my life is really lived. A community who I cannot hide my struggles from, yet love me nonetheless. A community of those who continually receive God’s mercy through repentance, making it easier to give mercy and grace to others they are with.
I have come to the place that if I examine my daily life and there is no one close enough to me (beyond spouse and kids), who can see my shortcomings, then I will get high on my “awesomeness”, explain away any slightly exposed depravity and never feel my need for God. OR, hide the struggles and shortcomings I see in myself from everyone out of fear of man, becoming discouraged, condemned and depressed.
FALSE SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Our Christian culture in the West is filled with plenty of distractions, cloaked in the idea of “rights”. We feel we have “the right” to speak out about abortion, homosexuality, human trafficking, someone’s heretical teaching and a plethora of other issues. “Our rights” give us the ability to address the issues of the day to a world of people. And it’s incredibly easy to do.
We have opinions on everything.
And of course we see each of our opinions as valid and true. Some are more important than others. And we take a lot of time reading, forming those opinions and giving emotion to communicating passionately about them. I’m not saying it’s all wrong because even I engage in those discussions from time to time. But more often than not, when I talk to the Lord about engaging in the ever-present online debate around issue A, B or C, He veers me to something which bears far more fruit in my life. And away from hiding behind my computer, where so few can actually see and know the real me.
Some are more in love with their opinion about issues and communicating to those they will rarely see or never meet, than actually forming in-person relationships that will confront any hidden hypocrisy. Trust me. I know. I did it for a long time and still struggle with it. But deeper than that, I’ve realized that some people’s lives revolve more around the issues than the gospel. Once again, I have been there. And when I have gone there, I have really gone there. I’m passionate, meticulous on the details, elegant with the words and really love to plead a case for something when stirred about it. My Messianic complex can truly hit an all-time high and I press hard to be everyone’s savior in those moments. Thankfully, the Lord has been merciful in continuing to deal with me on that over the years.
SPIRIT OR FLESH?
So, that leads to the question, do we not know that those who walk in the flesh will live according to it? But us who claim to be in the Spirit, let us walk according to His ways.
And that is really the crux of it all. Does the Spirit of God lead our lives or do the issues of the day?
Surely God is consumed with the same issues I am. Right? And if Jesus was here, surely He would approach these issues the way I am. Right? Well, that’s a good question to ask Him on a day-to-day basis.
Recently, as I have hobbled along in the Lord, learning to walk according to the Spirit, I have found myself very distant from the issues and it’s emotional draw. I am called to follow His leadership by the gift that was given me, the Spirit. I have realized I need to give way more time to maturing in that one thing, which will give me the confidence of salvation at the Day of the Lord and allow me to abound in love to those I actual live with. Versus maturing in communicating about all the issues and being lost on the Day that matters most.
One thing I have found is that the Spirit’s leadership isn’t all that appealing to those wanting security. He’s not a formula that can be figured out but a Person that is to be followed. Meaning, he leads us to places we might not want to go at times in order for our hearts to become fully His.
I struggle to not be lured away by good intentions and a Messianic complex of saving everyone from the corrupt “fill-in-the-blank.” Only to be left relationshipless from the Lord and others, either praised by men for my awesome debate/communication skills, or praised by myself because I am a martyr in my own mind. The more I learn to follow the Lord, the more faceless my life seems to become. But there is the constant pull from this present evil age to step back into my Nimrod-syndrome and seek to make a name for myself. It is slight and used to always linger in the back of my heart. I was so numb to it’s destructive yearnings while in bigger ministry circles.
But thankfully I’m slowly becoming more driven by a coming Day where He will deal with all injustice as the One and only true Messiah. I’m seeking to carry my cross and follow Him in whatever daily tasks He gives. Even if they seem minimal to most. Things have become simpler and the gospel is clearer. How foggy things were when my own “doing” was what drove me and peoples’ applause (praise), or lack thereof (martyr), gave me strength. My Christianity was so disjointed in a mess of boasting/pride and I felt it deep down. Everyone else had issues but me. Right?
Will humanity exterminate injustice on the earth? No. Jesus will at His return. Can I still live justly? Absolutely. But I want to do it in context to His leadership and grace, not my own self-will and reliance.
One last story.
My brother-in-law called me after the last presidential election based on a Facebook status I had put up. My status wasn’t even controversial but based on those commenting and asking questions, it eventually led there. He called me, completely fired up and ready to take me on concerning His American values and “our rights”…especially to vote. In the course of that heated but fruitful conversation, he spouted off so much rhetoric from right-wing political talk radio. His platform was completely based on his “rights” as an American and couldn’t understand why those “rights” didn’t mean as much to me as they did him. He could quote the Bill of Rights, talk eloquently about the Declaration of Independence but I can’t remember him bringing up one scripture. We talked about allegiance. We talked about true freedom (not just American freedom). We talked about forgiveness. We talked about the cross. We talked about salvation. We talked about the End Game in light of all that He had invested his time into. We talked about the one and only right he has as a human being. The right of entering a lake of fire based on his very real depravity. It’s the same with us all.
Offensive isn’t it. It definitely was to me.
I am aware of the massive debate around hell and I’m sure some just tuned me out. But that is where I am at.
What am I getting at? We all deserve a lake of fire. Thankfully Jesus laid down every right He had. He lived a sojourning life based on the Spirit’s leadership and calls us to do the same that we might receive the same reward He received. Not choosing to drop our anchor in this age but listen to His leadership through the Spirit and sojourn unto the next age.
Where does all that lead us when it comes to being the Church? For me…it’s a lot less about being distracted and vocal around yet another issue that won’t be resolved until the Messiah returns. And far more about stepping back, falling in love with God through reading the Bible, taking a lot of time listening to the Holy Spirit and learning to follow His leadership, trusting that He will daily lead me to live rightly and justly. Especially in context to a group of believers that love the Word, pray and worship, seeing love abound in our midst toward one another.