The Early Church: A Compassionate Community

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[This is a repost by Jason Whitehurst here: http://jasonwhitehurst.org/2013/11/12/early-church-compassionate-community/%5D

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The early church got it right.

Sociologists marvel at how a despised movement that started in a corner of Palestine, could become the dominant faith of the mighty Roman Empire.

The Apology of Tertullian in 197 AD sums it up.  The most amazing pagan observation of the early church was, “See how they love one another.”

This wasn’t a coincidence.  Jesus gave His followers a new commandin John 13:34.

The early church did not set out to build great buildings or “mega-churches”.  They just set out to do what Jesus taught them to do.

They kept things simple.  They did four main things, according to Acts 2:42-47.

1.  They taught what Jesus taught.  
2.  They fellowshipped.  
3.  They ate.  
4.  They prayed.

Through these four things, they were led to sell what they had and give to each other as each one had a need.

They gained favor with the people in an urban part of the Roman Empire, known as being a harsh and brutal society.

Through this love they had for another based on the command that Jesus gave them, they lived together in community, gained favor with people, and the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.

To those who were homeless and impoverishedthe early church offered food and shelter.

To the widows and orphans, the early church offered a family.

To the outcasts of societythey offered a place of acceptance.

To those who were sickthe early Christians offered nursing and medical services.

Through their radical acts of love and kindness, the early church gained a foothold in a brutal and barbaric culture.

Rodney Stark, a modern sociologist who wrote “The Rise of Christianity”, said about the early church,

For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” 

They did not just start a movement, which they did do, but more than that they changed the culture.

Justin Martyr wrote that it was the consistency of their lives that caused non-Christians, to become Christians.

Over the course of history, once Christianity moved from being a movement to the dominant faith of the Roman Empire, it began to become a “baptized-form” of Judaism.

Buildings started being built.  Rules and regulations started being added.  Structure was put into place.

None of these things in and of themselves are bad.  But these things began to change what had given Christianity a foothold and traction in society.

Fast-forward 2,000 years and look at the churches in our culture today.  They do not enjoy the same leverage and favor that the early church did.

Which begs the question, where did the church go wrong?

At what point did the church move from being a compassionate community to becoming what it is today?

The church has lost it’s voice.  The church has lost it’s authority in society.

The church, at some point, took for granted the God-given favor it enjoyed with culture and society.

The church for a long time was able to speak from a place of majority and authority.

Today, the church has lost the majority and cannot speak from a position of authority.

The early church got it right.

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OBEDIENCE AND THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN

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[This was a letter I wrote in response to an online conversation of our organic fellowship I am a part of]

Hey Matt & body!
First, I am concerned that those who may not know you as well as I do, may read the below email as if it was written with a spirit of contention.  I know your heart & because I do, I know you wrote it in love.  Anyway, I just wanted to make sure no one was distracted by a misunderstanding. Blessings!!!

Let me start by stating publicly how much I appreciate Matt & Elisa’s heart for the lost AND for Jesus’ body.  Matt, I have always appreciated your lens from which you see Jesus & His body.  You are right on when it comes to “obedience” (daily sanctifying walk) and it is born out of and rises from our new life (finished work of Christ IN us). Both your heart & Dave’s heart regarding truth are desperately needed, because it helps us be a healthier body.

I want to briefly further weigh in on this discussion.  First, it is a beautiful illustration of Jesus’ body in action. Only when we share life together do we get the complete picture of HIM.  Both Matt & Dave are right on.  We work OUT that which WAS worked IN!!! Phil. 2:12b-13 says, “…but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  

Our life in Christ is not “positional” nor is it “legal”. It IS what it is. A new life for a dead man.  As this new person, according to Col. 3:1 & Eph. 2:6, I have been raised (past tense-finished work) with Jesus and I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places. I AM forgiven…sanctified…holy…righteous…etc. etc. So…..now what?

Obedience without life (resulting in an intimate loving relationship) is religion and breeds death. In the NT, the phrase “bond servants” is used 12 times after the resurrection. What a glorious picture of our life in Jesus.  You see a bond servant was considered as a true part of the master’s family. His gratitude & love was so strong for his master when he was an indentured servant that he wanted to spend his life in lovingly service to his master.  True obedience IN CHRIST therefore, is a natural by product of the life we DO have as HIS SON’S/DAUGHTERS.  What are we obeying after all?  His voice…His heart…His passion…His desires!!! It is born out of a deeply intimate life with Jesus.

I spent a long time in my walk with Jesus “working hard for Jesus” and to be obedient & was also taught & told to so. This kind of life sent me deeper into a life of addiction and sin. Why? Because the law produces death…period.  Yes obedience should definitely be a part of our lives, because it is the natural by-product of the life we receive.  Hence the beauty of living in community together as His body.  We should be sharing our passions & desires that Jesus has placed in us to encourage and stimulate growth in HIS body.

I think the challenge is somewhat semantical. Obey is a verb; Obedience is a noun.  If you do a search, obey as it is primarily directed to the disciples, is used by Jesus prior to the cross & resurrection…hence under the old covenant. Whereas obedience (what we have in Jesus) is used in the New Covenant.  Jesus was burying those He taught under the burden of the law in order to accomplish the work of the law which is to lead them to their Savior (Himself.) (Also read Gal. 3:24-25.) We need to be careful regarding the preaching of “obeying” that is not born out of life in Jesus (intimacy.) Why? I Cor. 15:56 says, “…and the power of sin is the law.”

As for 1 Jn. 2:6, the logical question is how did Jesus walk? He walked in absolute dependency on His Father as the very sustenance of life.  Remember Jesus said He only spoke & did what Father told Him too. Again, this was born out of that intimate, real life that He experienced with our Father.

Therefore, brother Matt & Dave we must encourage each other to be diligent to DO somethings:

Eph 4:3 = “…to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.”
2 Tim 2:15 = “…to present yourself approved [accepted/pleasing] to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 
[my favorite] Heb. 4:11 = “…to enter that rest [Jesus], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [like the Jews who did not enter His rest]”
[I believe we should be “striving” and “working” to encourage & stimulate each other to walk in the REST that IS ours IN Jesus]
2 Pet. 1:10 = “to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
2 Pet 3:14 = to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,”

I am not writing this response as a defense to anything or as an indictment on anyone.  I love the body & long to see us walk in love and harmony in the truth.  We are ALL unique parts of Jesus body (life) and we each provide a glorious balance to each other.  Let us walk in the obedience that is ours & walk in truth and total dependency on Jesus who IS our life.  There is so much more that I would like to write, but I will spare you my beloved family…LOL!

I want to conclude with Peter’s words:
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

We Are A Perfect Fit

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I was talking with my friend Kathy the other day about the beauty of the body of Christ; the ekklesia.  We marveled at how wonderfully Father puts us together.  I then said, “Yeah, it’s like we are individual perfect puzzle pieces and Jesus, as the Head, puts us together like puzzle pieces to form an image of HIM.” She then said this,

“He made us complete in order that we might ‘complete’ HIM here on earth.”

Did you get it?  Do you sense the enormity of that statement?  Reread it!  It is profound yet oh so simple!

THIS is simple church…..simply put!

We as individual Christ followers we together form the magnificent puzzle picture of our Lord Jesus.  THAT my dear brother and sister is the ekklesia!  As “living stones” or living puzzle pieces if you will, we allow the world to find Jesus; to see Him; to experience Him.


The koinonia of these individual, complete and perfect pieces form THE house for God to dwell…here and now.  Again, this is truly God’s heart for His family; His people.

My dear family of God is this your experience of “church”?  Do your gatherings reflect this precious imagery of His house?  I don’t care if it’s a house church, traditional church or whatever.  It is the heart of our Father to connect passionate hearts for Jesus and to form these into His house and an image of His dear Son and our savior Jesus.

Let us ALL be consumed with Jesus alone, and ask Father to unite our hearts with others with a similar passion for His Son.

A JESUS MANIFESTO!

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THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE POST BY FRANK VIOLA & LEONARD SWEET.  IT IS NOT ONLY A MUST READ, BUT IS ABSOLUTELY A TRUTH TO BELIEVE!!!

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Posted by jesusmanifesto on the June 22, 2009

A Magna Carta

for Restoring the Supremacy of

Jesus Christ

a.k.a.

A Jesus Manifesto

for the 21st Century Church

by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Christians have made the gospel about so many things … things other than Christ.

Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives them significance, reality, and meaning. Without him, all things lose their value. Without him, all things are but detached pieces floating around in space.

It is possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ . . . who is the embodiment and incarnation of all spiritual truth, values, virtues, and gifts.

Seek a truth, a value, a virtue, or a spiritual gift, and you have obtained something dead.

Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you have touched him who is Life. And in him resides all Truth, Values, Virtues and Gifts in living color. Beauty has its meaning in the beauty of Christ, in whom is found all that makes us lovely and loveable.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person. Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. Jesus’ use of the ancient Hebrew word shubh, or its Aramaic equivalent, to call for “repentance” implies not viewing God from a distance, but entering into a relationship where God is command central of the human connection.

In that regard, we feel a massive disconnection in the church today. Thus this manifesto.

We believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”

In this hour, the testimony that we feel God has called us to bear centers on the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. Specifically . . .

1. The center and circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including things related to him and about him, are eclipsed by the sight of his peerless worth. Knowing Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.

2. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his teachings. Aristotle says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Socrates says to his disciples, “Follow my teachings.” Buddha says to his disciples, “Follow my meditations.” Confucius says to his disciples, “Follow my sayings.” Muhammad says to his disciples, “Follow my noble pillars.” Jesus says to his disciples, “Follow me.” In all other religions, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder without having a relationship with that founder. Not so with Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus himself. Jesus Christ is still alive and he embodies his teachings. It is a profound mistake, therefore, to treat Christ as simply the founder of a set of moral, ethical, or social teaching. The Lord Jesus and his teaching are one. The Medium and the Message are One. Christ is the incarnation of the Kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount.

3. God’s grand mission and eternal purpose in the earth and in heaven centers in Christ . . . both the individual Christ (the Head) and the corporate Christ (the Body). This universe is moving towards one final goal – the fullness of Christ where He shall fill all things with himself. To be truly missional, then, means constructing one’s life and ministry on Christ. He is both the heart and bloodstream of God’s plan. To miss this is to miss the plot; indeed, it is to miss everything.

4. Being a follower of Jesus does not involve imitation so much as it does implantation and impartation. Incarnation–the notion that God connects to us in baby form and human touch—is the most shocking doctrine of the Christian religion. The incarnation is both once-and-for-all and ongoing, as the One “who was and is to come” now is and lives his resurrection life in and through us. Incarnation doesn’t just apply to Jesus; it applies to every one of us. Of course, not in the same sacramental way. But close. We have been given God’s “Spirit” which makes Christ “real” in our lives. We have been made, as Peter puts it, “partakers of the divine nature.” How, then, in the face of so great a truth can we ask for toys and trinkets? How can we lust after lesser gifts and itch for religious and spiritual thingys? We’ve been touched from on high by the fires of the Almighty and given divine life. A life that has passed through death – the very resurrection life of the Son of God himself. How can we not be fired up?

To put it in a question: What was the engine, or the accelerator, of the Lord’s amazing life? What was the taproot or the headwaters of his outward behavior? It was this: Jesus lived by an indwelling Father. After his resurrection, the passage has now moved. What God the Father was to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is to you and to me. He’s our indwelling Presence, and we share in the life of Jesus’ own relationship with the Father. There is a vast ocean of difference between trying to compel Christians to imitate Jesus and learning how to impart an implanted Christ. The former only ends up in failure and frustration. The latter is the gateway to life and joy in our daying and our dying. We stand with Paul: “Christ lives in me.” Our life is Christ. In him do we live, breathe, and have our being. “What would Jesus do?” is not Christianity. Christianity asks: “What is Christ doing through me … through us? And how is Jesus doing it?” Following Jesus means “trust and obey” (respond), and living by his indwelling life through the power of the Spirit.

5. The “Jesus of history” cannot be disconnected from the “Christ of faith.” The Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee is the same person who indwells the church today. There is no disconnect between the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel and the incredible, all-inclusive, cosmic Christ of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The Christ who lived in the first century has a pre-existence before time. He also has a post-existence after time. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, A and Z, all at the same time. He stands in the future and at the end of time at the same moment that He indwells every child of God. Failure to embrace these paradoxical truths has created monumental problems and has diminished the greatness of Christ in the eyes of God’s people.

6. It’s possible to confuse “the cause” of Christ with the person of Christ. When the early church said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not mean “Jesus is my core value.” Jesus isn’t a cause; he is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned and embodied. Focusing on his cause or mission doesn’t equate focusing on or following him. It’s all too possible to serve “the god” of serving Jesus as opposed to serving him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by his irresistible beauty and unfathomable love. Jesus led us to think of God differently, as relationship, as the God of all relationship.

7. Jesus Christ was not a social activist nor a moral philosopher. To pitch him that way is to drain his glory and dilute his excellence. Justice apart from Christ is a dead thing. The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of Justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of Justice, Peace, Holiness, Righteousness. He is the sum of all spiritual things, the “strange attractor” of the cosmos. When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.

8. It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.

Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.

The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.

9. Only Jesus can transfix and then transfigure the void at the heart of the church. Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power, authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only known fully in and through his church. (As Paul said, “The manifold wisdom of God – which is Christ – is known through the ekklesia.”)

The Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey. Knowing Christ and making him known is not an individual prospect. Those who insist on flying life solo will be brought to earth, with a crash. Thus Christ and his church are intimately joined and connected. What God has joined together, let no person put asunder. We were made for life with God; our only happiness is found in life with God. And God’s own pleasure and delight is found therein as well.

10. In a world which sings, “Oh, who is this Jesus?” and a church which sings, “Oh, let’s all be like Jesus,” who will sing with lungs of leather, “Oh, how we love Jesus!”

If Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world. We call on others to join us—not in removing ourselves from planet Earth, but to plant our feet more firmly on the Earth while our spirits soar in the heavens of God’s pleasure and purpose. We are not of this world, but we live in this world for the Lord’s rights and interests. We, collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.

May God have a people on this earth who are a people of Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. A people of the cross. A people who are consumed with God’s eternal passion, which is to make his Son preeminent, supreme, and the head over all things visible and invisible. A people who have discovered the touch of the Almighty in the face of his glorious Son. A people who wish to know only Christ and him crucified, and to let everything else fall by the wayside. A people who are laying hold of his depths, discovering his riches, touching his life, and receiving his love, and making HIM in all of his unfathomable glory known to others.

The two of us may disagree about many things—be they ecclesiology, eschatology, soteriology, not to mention economics, globalism and politics.

But in our two most recent books—From Eternity to Here and So Beautiful—we have sounded forth a united trumpet. These books are the Manifests to this Manifesto. They each present the vision that has captured our hearts and that we wish to impart to the Body of Christ— “This ONE THING I know” (Jn.9:25) that is the ONE THING that unites us all:

Jesus the Christ.

Christians don’t follow Christianity; Christians follow Christ.

Christians don’t preach themselves; Christians proclaim Christ.

Christians don’t point people to core values; Christians point people to the cross.

Christians don’t preach about Christ: Christians preach Christ.

Over 300 years ago a German pastor wrote a hymn that built around the Name above all names:

Ask ye what great thing I know, that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know; this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
His who triumphed o’er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Jesus Christ – the crucified, resurrected, enthroned, triumphant, living Lord.

He is our Pursuit, our Passion, and our Life.

Amen.

LIFE CHANGING MESSAGE!!!

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I just finished listening to another life changing audio recording of another sermon by Paris Reidhead.  WOW! It and was absolutely stirred in my spirit. The message is entitled The Normal Christian Life.

I truly believe this message needs to be heard in every church in the United States.  I also believe it has the potential to be truly life changing!!!

Please….listen to this message!  I believe that if you pray before listening to it & listen with a teachable spirit, God will impact your life!  My only desire and motivation is that HIS body is edified & strengthened.

It is 1 hour in length, but as I said very, very well worth it!  The first 4 minutes & 24 seconds is nothing but a choir singing.  You can fast forward it if you desire.

Grace & Peace to You!!!

DO YOU REALLY KNOW YOUR FATHER?

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Yesterday, as we continued going through the book of Galatians.  I was captured by Paul’s new strategy of appealing to the Galatian believers.  Paul being as perplexed as he was at their departure from a simple life of faith and dependence on Jesus’ life in them, appeals to them emotionally if you will.

In verse 9 Paul says “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?”

Now, first of all, in vv 6-7 he just got through encouraging them that we are all “sons” of God by the same faith of Abraham.  Therefore, we can cry out “Abba, Father” or Daddy/Father! God is our Father!

The Greek word “know” and “known” in the above verse is “gnosis” and is often a Jewish idiom for sexual relations.  He’s telling them basically, “SincABBAe you already are in an intimate Father/son relationship with the Creator God why would you settle for such an empty, worthless and weak substitute like religion again?”

I truly believe that when you truly KNOW who your Daddy really is, it will radically effective how you live.  If you don’t, you can only respond to life according to what your feelings or circumstances dictate to you.

If you have come in to an intimate knowledge of Jesus, let me ask you, do you KNOW your Father? If not, let me introduce you to Him below…….

>He is the Godhead = 3 in One! >Harmonious & orderly
>He is Love >Tenderhearted
>Always does the right thing at the right time for the right reasons with    or for the right person(s) >He longs to share His glory with His Bride & allows her to partner with Him in the building of His body
>Caring >Full of grace – gracious
>Compassionate >Rich in mercy
>He’s passionate to display His glory >He has matchless, incomprehensible power!!!
>He is Just >He is Holy
>Perfect >Omniscient
>Righteous >Omnipresent
>Forgiving heart >Creative
>Sense of humor > He IS Wisdom
>He’s my Lord, my Husband, my Master and friend!!! >Generous = He loves to bless His kids & give to them
>I take His breath away at just the           sight of me! >His mind spins wildly at the thought of me!
>Single-minded & Intentional to      fulfill His will >He loves watching His kids enjoy HIS life in them.
>Kind >Giving heart
>The Healer >Faithful & True!
>Very patient or long suffering >He is truthful (for He is Truth)
>Easy to get along with >Always positive & confident
>Slow to anger >Always judges righteously

In Daddy's Hands-jpeg May we today begin to add to this list and get to  know who are Daddy really is through Jesus.  As we “grow in the grace and in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” our lives and “church” experience will radically change.  May you be blessed on this wonderful journey!

CENTRALITY & SUPREMACY OF JESUS CHRIST

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WOW! I had to share with you below an excerpt from a blog entry entitled Confessions of an Ex Clergy Member by David D. Flowers on March 26, 2009.  Brother David nails it as he explains the true heart of Christianity. You can click on the above link to read the entire article.  It is fantastic!!!

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Conclusion-The Centrality and Supremacy of Jesus Christ
It has been almost three years now that my wife and I have ventured off into uncharted territory with the Lord. I must say… Christ has been faithful. He has provided our every need and so much more. We are blessed with great jobs, wonderful friends, and a Christ-centered church fellowship.

The last two years have been a tremendous time of rest from the many trials we endured over the previous few years. For the first time in our lives… there is little to no burden of religion upon our lives. It is in this time now… that Christ is purging me of my old pursuits. The Lord has been setting me free from religion’s chains. He has been working in me the natural faith of Christ.

What is the natural faith of Christ? It is life born out of being instead of doing. Christ’s life is burden free! He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:30) Be careful that this verse has not fallen on deaf ears or become cliché to you. If your faith is causing you anger, frustration, disappointment, depression, burnout, or suicidal thoughts even… this is not Christ’s life. You are not being Christ. You are not drawing life from his Spirit within you. Instead, you are doing things, which you intend for Christ, out of the mortal “fleshly” life you have apart from the eternal Christ. I call these works born of the flesh… religion!

Religion is nothing more than outward works of the flesh that temporarily satisfy the soul, but ultimately lead to an empty riverbed of hopelessness. We need to see that there is no way our Lord is pleased in this selfish life. This life eventually is depleted along with physiological strength. Obviously, life that is born of flesh will end in a fleshly grave. However, life that is born of the Spirit leads to real Christ-fruit and treasures stored up in heaven. It is this kind of life that is able to endure the cross.

Christ lived so that you can live. Paul said, “I no longer live, but it is Christ living in me.” (Gal. 2:20) We must draw from this life. This comes in time and through trial and tribulation. We learn “to live is Christ”, as Paul said… so that we may experience the gain of dying.

In this case, we are to recognize that the flesh (i.e. old unregenerate man) has been crucified with Christ! Yes… temptation, and fleshly desires, and pursuits are still very much real. However, Christ’s life has defeated this power so that we may now choose his life that brings freedom. The Christian life is Christ’s life. Until we commit to learning this… we have not truly chosen the road of discipleship.

My present struggles are tied to this. I personally need the Lord to show me his true nature after I have walked in the flesh for a spell. It is almost as if I didn’t even realize I was doing so… but looking back… I know that I simply was not being mindful of Christ. This is why Paul said,

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Paul, (Col. 3:1-3)

I gratify the flesh because I am not walking in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16) I make matters worse by supposing that the Lord wants me to feel condemnation for my failure. Yet, I know this comes from the evil one. The Lord is on my side. He is for me indeed! He desires that I might walk in his life more and more. And instead of him feeling disappointed in me… his thoughts are fully set on me knowing the power of his resurrection! Christ and all of heaven cheers for me. For the Lord knows that his life is within me and that it is produced in every season that I face. This is the reason we are told to rejoice in all things. For in all things… Christ is there.

We must learn from Christ. All questions and concerns regarding our lives (i.e. family, work, play, etc.) and his church… are resolved in knowing him. There is nothing… and I mean nothing… that you should be pursuing besides Christ. Do you have a problem? Are you filled with many questions and very few answers? Are you trying to jump start your faith with 12 steps and “purpose-driven” products that are void of the centrality and supremacy of Christ? Maybe you are wondering what it’s going to take to see revolution blow through the church. Maybe you’re just trying to figure out what the Lord wants with you. Whatever the problem… Christ is the answer. Whatever the disease… Christ is the cure.

OK, you may be thinking, “I don’t even know what that means.” If any of you are left longing to understand how Christ can be the answer to all of our problems… then set your sights to learning from him. Learn of Christ through the Scriptures… learn of him through experience… learn of him through song… learn of him through trials… learn of him through study… learn of him through sorrow… learn of him through prayer… learn of him through community… learn of him through marriage… learn of him through work… learn of him through learning… learn of him in it all! Place all other pursuits aside. Let him be your one and only passion. Learn of the school of Christ. And this will equip you for every good work.

I pursued other passions in the past (e.g. teaching, writing, education, ministry, etc.) and I found that my heart was in the wrong place. I pursued these things instead of Christ.

“God shows us that our power is not a thing; it is simply Christ. Our power is not the strength to do things; rather, it is a Person. It is Christ who manifests himself in us, instead of our using Christ to display our good works.” – Watchman Nee

It was a hard thing to admit. Do I desire to replace Christ with a thing? By no means! Yet, this very thing became obvious to me. I found myself wanting and longing for everything but Christ and him alone. My life was a mixture of Christ’s life and works done in the flesh. My heart desired notoriety and a piece of fame. I had my way mapped out. I knew what I wanted and I knew how to get there. And the Lord interrupted my “passions” and held a mirror up to all the things I was pursuing outside of him. I was confronted with a question.

“Is it to some thing that I am devoted, or is it to secure for the Lord Jesus Christ His absolute centrality and supremacy?”
T. Austin Sparks

How long will we try to convince ourselves that it is Christ that we seek in all these things of men? When will we realize that Christ’s life is not found in things? The Spirit within us is reaching out for all things Christ! Yet, we attempt again and again to fill it with programs, passions, ministries, and movements. Will our purpose be something else besides knowing the power of the resurrection in Christ Jesus our Lord? Will we use up all of our mortal days attempting to fill our lives with dead things? Only Christ is living!

Therefore, those things, which are not born from the natural living faith of Christ, are born from the flesh and will only produce dead cold religion. Other religious people may admire you for these religious works done in the flesh, but the Holy Spirit is grieved. For he knows that you will only be satisfied in Christ.

The Apostle Paul’s purpose was not tent-making! It also wasn’t being a good itinerant worker and church planter. He writes of his purpose and leaves us with an example to follow.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Paul, Colossians 2:2,3

May our Christ not be “ill-defined”… but may he come to full expression in our lives. Let your Christianity be more than mere acceptance of forgiveness of sin and works of men. Let us walk in the power of the resurrected Christ! Let us take serious his example given to us in the Gospels. Too many have stopped short of this life.

I am convinced… if we are ever going to experience the life of Christ and enjoy the Spirit he has placed within us… if we are ever going to see his Bride fully prepared for the wedding banquet of the ages… we must press on to everything Christ!

When we are beginning to learn of the person and work of Christ through being Christ in all things and in every situation… his works will then naturally flow from our lives. Works born of his Spirit will spring forth from the well that never runs dry. May we allow the Lord to break our will for the release of his mighty Spirit of life through our earthly tabernacles. May we find the way of the cross a most satisfying death to embrace. For out of this death will come Christ’s life.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

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