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.”

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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!!!

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

Click on this LINK to read the entire article

JESUS OUR EXAMPLE!

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READ PHILIPPIANS 2:5-10

The Body of Christ is so busy playing church & “doing” church that we’ve ceased BEING……the church!  We’ve ceased being HIS living BODY here and now to a world that desperately needs Jesus.

This lost world is just as sick of religion as God is!  Floyd McClung who started a ministry called All Nations & has authored numerous books said this in a letter to my friend Jeff:

“The movement Jesus started was radically different from the religious legalism and control of his day. Religion has a nasty way of messing up relationship. Neither top down hierarchy nor rules that govern people’s behavior do not liberate people from the burden of sin nor does it introduce them to the goodness and loving kindness of God.” – Floyd McClung

So, how do we show a lost, dead world the goodness & loving kindness of our holy God?…….The same way Jesus did!

So, we see that when Jesus walked this earth, in all of His activities, in all of His words, in all of His reactions, in every step that He took and in every decision He made He did so as A MAN…even though he was very much God.

Jesus lived in perfect humanity just as we live in redeemed humanity, and that is in absolute dependency & availability to the Father!  Like Jesus who lived as a man, we too are to simply be available to Him like He was available to His Father.

The problem with most of us is that unlike Jesus, we want the exaltation with the obedience and death!!!

It was His Father who did the work through Him:

Jn 5:36 “…for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works that I do–testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.”

=> His works were God’s works

John 14:10 “…but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me…”

John 6:57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father…”

Acts 2:22 = “… Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst…”

=> God performed the miracles through Jesus’ perfect humanity.

Luke 10:22 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father,”

John 10:32 “Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father;…”

So, we see that ALL of Jesus activity here on earth as a man was His Father’s activity through the Spirit who gave His body to His Father.

Therefore, as fellow humans, we are to let Jesus do HIS work through us:

Phil 2:13 (Amp) = “[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.”

Eph 1:11 having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,…”

JOHN 14:17 “…but you know Him because He [Spirit] abides with you and will be in you.” => God through the Holy Spirit dwells in US now just as the Father abided in Jesus then!!!

Let us hear it from Jesus Himself in John 6:57 (Amp):

Just as the living Father sent Me and I live by (through, because of) the Father, even so whoever continues to feed on Me [whoever takes Me for his food and is nourished by Me] shall [in his turn] live through and because of Me

He lived His life with perfect humanity!  We live our lives with redeemed humanity.  Therefore:

We are to live our lives as Jesus did: in absolute availability and in loving, obedient dependency!

THE MARK OF JESUS FOLLOWERS

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Galatians 3:5-14

In this week’s passage, we see illustrated in “Father” Abraham the mark if you will, of a true believer.

The Judaizers were trying to get the formerly heathen, gentile, illiterate Galatians to become “good Jews” by adopting the Mosaic Law primarily through circumcision.  As you read the passage, you’ll see the humor in Paul’s usage of Abraham, because he notes that even Abraham’s “righteousness” had nothing to do with the Law.

No, Paul points out that he was declared righteous because of his FAITH…period!  We too are of the same “stock” because we did exercise FAITH in Jesus for salvation.  Therefore, we ARE “sons” of Abraham not because of what we do or did but because of WHO we are in Jesus…true “faithers”!

Abraham illustrates for us that the vitality & excitement of the Christian life is experienced ONLY by faith!

Abraham was considered “righteous” because his will was TOTALLY & UTTERLY conformed to Jehovah’s will in his desires, his thoughts and his actions!  I wonder how many of us who are true Children of God, have wills that are THAT conformed to Jesus’ will???  If not, we MUST be broken!!!

How do we then walk as a “Normal Christian”? First, Colossians 2:6 makes it clear in the Amplified version, “As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him.” Walk by faith…that’s it!

Read it again! We must lose ourselves in Jesus.   Are you regulating your lives and conducting yourselves in union with Jesus?  Are we really living lives that are consumed with Jesus?

Secondly, we are given a charge in Philippians 2:12b-13, “work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).13  [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. By faith, we simply work out what has been worked in.

Oh, and by the way it is GOD who is working in us to have the will and to do the work.  PLEASE TRUST HIM TODAY TO LIVE HIS LIFE THROUGH YOU!!!  The mark of a true believer is a life of FAITH!!!

CHECK OUT TOMORROWS ENTRY FOR A LIFE CHANGING ILLUSTRATION OF WHAT THE “NORMAL CHRISTIAN” LIFE LOOKS LIKE………..

More Thoughts on Being a Bondservant

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As I said yesterday, if we are IN Christ, then we are in relationship with Him.  There are two parts to this relationship – kurios – Lord & doulos – Slave! 

In other words, if you call yourself lord you must obviously have a slave.  It would be silly to refer to yourself as “master” and yet have no one serving you.  Also, if you call yourself a slave you must therefore have a master. Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” So, when you are confessing Jesus as Lord you are confessing yourself as his slave.

According to Greek scholars, the word doulos is always used for (1) literal slavery (2) slavery to an inanimate object, i.e. to greed, to sin, etc.  So, why is it that in our English translations, the word “doulos” is translated as servant, bond-servant or bond-slave?

I want to challenge you to do something interesting.  Find some passages in a concordance where the word doulos is used and put in the proper word – “slave” and see what it does to the verse.

For example, at the end of Colossians 3:24 it says, It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” {douleuō}.”  So, this should actually say instead, “It is the Master Christ whom you are enslaved to.”

John MacArthur preached a wonderful sermon on being a bondservant.  In this sermon he said the following which puts this into REAL perspective:

A slave is someone whose life belongs totally to someone else, absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence.  Slavery then was a social relationship between two persons where one had nothing, willed nothing and received nothing but what the master authorized, desired and provided.”

      My dear brothers and sisters Jesus our Master wants our whole heart in absolute surrender to Him.  May He have today our absolute obedience, dependence, loyalty and love! 

Resting In Him J

Our Clarion Call!

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As we discovered last week, being a slave of Christ is probably the best way to define a Christian.  As believers, we truly are slaves of Jesus! Yet, you would never know it by the way many believers speak about their life in Christ.  We like to couch it in nice phrases to make it a bit more “palatable” to the world….but why?

When sharing our faith we often talk about the wonderful things that are in store for them (& it’s all true)…the blessings… having a plan for there life…spending eternity in heaven…it’s all about what’s in it for them…how about having a personal relationship with Jesus?  We always talk about the necessity of “having a relationship with Jesus.”  But wait, what kind of relationship do we have?

Our relationship with Jesus is that of Master (or Lord) and slave. The word that is translated as bond-servant is the word “doulos”.  Literally it means slave.  The word “doulos” ALWAYS refers to literal slavery or being enslaved to something inanimate (slave of sin, slave to greed, etc.).  It has lost its power & significance in scripture though, because translators have substituted other words like servant and bondservant.  I believe this was done because of lack of courage & conviction.  We must begin using the proper word when reading the Bible….slaves!

The reality is that we as believers in Jesus are defined by this word – doulos.  We saw last week a list of 10 people in the Bible who were referred to as douloi of the Lord Jesus.  We further saw how common this word was in the early church as it was used to describe Christians.

Therefore, as I said last week, when you tell someone about Jesus & ask them to make a decision, what are you really asking?  Folks you are asking them to become–a-slave.  Rom. 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” It is clear that a person can not be saved unless they are surrendered to Jesus as Lord!  This automatically assumes there is a slave doesn’t it?

Does that make you a bit uncomfortable?  Well it shouldn’t! Why? Because the master of the slave is what makes the difference, and my friends we have an amazingly wonderful & precious Master in Jesus!!!

Do you see the contrast? It all depends on WHO your master is.  Not IF you are a slave, but rather to whom! Everyone in the world is either a slave of sin & death or of righteousness & life which leads to freedom!  In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No man can be a slave to two masters.”

 

The Phrase “Jesus is Lord” is truly our clarion call & identity of our lives!

 

 

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