We are here to discuss what the Bible says about being the body of Christ. The church is not a building where God dwells, but it is the body of true believers in Jesus Christ. What makes a church healthy? That is the subject we will explore.
I found this poem on a tract many years ago. Out of all the tracts I have seen, this one is actually one of the best. The poem is online, and I believe it is public domain. It asks a question and poses a hypothesis. But, in reality it is true. I only copied part of the poem because of lack of space. Enjoy this one. Feel free to download the pic too.
What Bible verses do you find hard? Not necessarily hard to understand, but ones you would struggle with personally?
I have a couple of them. Here is one from Matthew 7:21-23ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘Inever knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Could you imagine this; instead of hearing 'Well done thou good and faithful servant' hearing this verse? How horrible that would be. There are other verses too. Here is one from Matthew 12:31-32 ESV "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Do you fear God? I hope you do. If these verses concern you, then you probably do fear God. But there are those in our Christian communities who would actually freely call people heretics and false teachers, simply because someone wrote it on a blog somewhere. That concerns me, especially because it involves slander. But it gets worse. Now well known Bible teachers and various people in the Christian community are saying that people using the spiritual gifts are from the devil. Friends, you better make darn sure that these people are really from the devil before you start giving the devil credit for what could be from God. I know of one person in particular who said 'So and so is demon possessed'. But the So and So (unnamed person) is not demon possessed! He is a Spirit filled man of God, but people have slandered him to no end. So, my recommendation is that is you suspect someone really is demon possessed (and there are people who are) please, be careful about what you say about people. If someone gets healed, but the person who prayed from the healed person is someone you disagree with doctrinally, please be careful about what you say about who healed the person. You could be on dangerous ground. I have a friend who is a Jehovah's Witness. I told her about some of the things God healed me from. She replied that it might have been the devil who healed me. How serious is that? Let's consider who might be demon possessed and help them. Let's consider those who are in error doctrinally and pray for them. Let's be careful to not jump on a bandwagon and follow the blogs that slander a particular person under the guise of 'warning the church'. Find all information from all different angles about something before making assertions publicly about it.
Someone was asking me some questions about salvation last night. He seemed confused on what some Christians had said. He asked about the group of people who say that a person can receive Christ, and no matter what they do, they will always be saved. They can do whatever sins make them happy and still go to heaven.
My first thought was 'I only have a couple of minutes. How can I walk this person through this thinking and show him what the Scriptures teach?'. I would like to summarize my thoughts on this subject, right here, so the answer can be clear to my readers as well as to the young man who asked this last night.
We have to go back to the Scriptures and understand, first of all, what happens to a person when they come to Christ. The Bible teaches us that such a person is born again. Being born again comes from God, not just something we do to ourselves. We are adopted into God's family, and God becomes our Father. Our spirit, the part of us that we can't see but lives forever, is now alive, whereas our spirits were dead before we came to Christ. Now we can't see our spirits, and people get tripped up at this point. We tend to look for an outward sign or a feeling to confirm that this has happened to us, but there probably won't be any feelings or anything visible that we can see that will indicate we have been born again. Another thing that happens is that the Holy Spirit of God comes to live inside of the person who has truly come to Christ. The Bible says that the person who is saved is a new creature in Christ. But here is what the issue of concern is; even though a person is truly born again, with a new nature and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, he or she still has an old nature that will still be tempted to sin. This is where Christians divide and have confusion about salvation.
Throughout the Old Testament, when people sinned, they offered a lamb sacrifice (there were other animal sacrifices as well, but I will just stick with the lamb sacrifice here). Something always had to die because of sin. Not only that, but sin kills us spiritually. The wages of sin is death, the Bible tells us. 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son to become the Ultimate Sacrifice for our sins. We don't sacrifice lambs anymore to cover our sins, but now we trust in Jesus' death to pay the death penalty for our sins. But Satan's weapon against us is to tempt us to sin. Whenever you see temptation to sin, it is because the devil wants you to sin, because he knows that sin brings death to us. But that is when we turn to Christ. We look to His death and ask for forgiveness for our sins when we do commit sin. God willingly forgives us of our sins because of Jesus' death which paid for sin.
But that raises the question we have about continuing in sin. If Jesus died to pay for our sins, and if God so graciously forgives us of our sins, does that mean we can continue to sin and be ok with God? The Bible answers that question in Romans 6. Paul asks that question of his readers and then answers it himself. His answer is, 'God forbid'. Then we have to ask another question. What does is mean when we do sin? Will God not forgive us because we shouldn't sin? The Apostle John answers that question in one of his epistles. He tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. He also tells us that when we sin, we have an Advocate, who is Jesus Christ, the only righteous One.
So, that almost sounds confusing, until you go back again and look at what happens to a person when they come to Christ in repentance and faith (trust). Is it ok if he or she sins or is it not ok? The person who truly knows God and is 'born again' has a new nature, and a new heart. The new heart can only have good desires. The new heart itself does not sin. The person with this 'new heart' must feed himself or herself spiritually with the word of God. What happens is that the born again person has now 'two' hearts, in a sense. One is the old, sinful heart, which must be put to death daily, and the other is the new heart, given to him or her by God at the time of receiving salvation. The devil still comes along and tempts a person to sin, even though the person has a new heart. The devil will not tempt a person to sin in ways that are obvious to that person, but in sneaky ways that the person won't notice. A born again person has to guard his 'old heart' against the temptations of sin that Satan will still throw at him or her. A saved person will probably only sin in areas that he or she isn't aware of being sin.
A person who has a strong conscience won't commit adultery, for example. But what happens is that little, tiny, almost unnoticeable temptations come about, that seem insignificant, at least in the beginning. Then the bigger ones come. Before you know it, the person is having an affair, yet the sin didn't start out that way. It came about because the tricks of the devil are very subtle and go unnoticed for a long time. That's why Jesus explains the act of committing adultery by simply lusting sexually after a person who they are not married to. We think flirting isn't a big deal, but it is a heart issue that leads to adultery. This is why we need to know what the Scriptures say and use the word of God as a weapon to protect us from the temptation to sin, just as Jesus did in the Wilderness.
So, a saved person can easily be tempted to sin, but now he or she has to power to say 'no' to that sin, because the Holy Spirit will enable him or her to resist. Not only is there the power to resist sin, but now the saved person also has a new heart which will have the desire to not sin. But there is the struggle between the old heart and the new. The struggle is a sign that the person has been born again, and this is good. A person who is not a true believer in Jesus Christ will continue to live in sin, because there is not a new heart that desires to be free from sin.
So, to recap what happens to a person when they repent (turn from living for self to living for God) and trust in Jesus' death for salvation, here is the list:
1. The person is born into God's family
2. The person is fully forgiven by God for their sins
3. The person receives a new heart with Godly desires
4. The Holy Spirit lives inside and gives power to overcome sin
5. The person now has eyes that can see spiritual things (he or she is no longer spiritually blind)
6. The person is now a new creature in Christ
But we must still be aware of the old nature that is still there. The old nature didn't disappear, but now it will contend against the new nature. We are to put to death the old nature, and live out our lives in the new nature, by the power of God. We will slip and fall, but God promises to pick us up again. God also promises to discipline those who are His. This is a good thing. We might not like it, but it is a sign that we are God's children.
So, to answer the young man's question about if we can be saved and continue in sin, I hope this makes it a little clearer. Yes, it is possible and probable that we will still sin. The devil will look for vulnerable places to tempt us. Sin kills us, and he wants us dead and wounded. But we have a new heart that doesn't want to sin anymore. We also have the power of God to resist sin. We don't have to sin anymore and our new status should cause us to be motivated to run away from sin. Sin is not good for us. It is Satan's weapon to wound or kill us. But we can resist his lies because God's truth is in our hearts. We will not want to continue in sin, but we will still struggle against sin until the day our bodies die and we go to be with Him.
It is possible that people who want to continue in sin are really not saved. They might be false converts who are deceived into thinking that it is ok to continue in sin since Jesus paid for our sins. It appears that these people do not have a new heart. For if they did, they would let go of every sin that is holding them down, and receive the Promise of God which is far more valuable than anything sin or the world could offer.
If someone gave you a million dollars, how would you feel toward that person? Let's say, you were very poor, and someone who had a lot of money gave a lot to you. Now you could buy a house to live in. You could have food on your table again. Your physical needs would be met. You would be grateful to that person who helped you out financially. So, let me ask you this question; Would you take the money he gave you and buy a gun and shoot him with it? Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't if you are a normal person because you have a conscience. That would seem ridiculous. Yet, that is what it is like when we believe we can still sin and have Jesus' blood cover our sins. I am not talking about the struggle we have against sin. All of us have that struggle, if we are believers in Jesus Christ. I am talking about a careless attitude about continuing in sin and thinking that God is all-loving and all-forgiving and sin doesn't matter to Him anymore.
If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, and are struggling with sin, please be assured that God wants you to be delivered from sin. Please don't let your sin, no matter how powerful it seems over you, to keep you from coming to Christ. Some sins are so entangling that it takes time to be set free from them. Some sins that entangle us can be broken through deliverance. God can save anyone, no matter how enslaved to sin you are. God can set you free, so you can know Him and be born again into His family. Please go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com for more info or send me an email if you want more information.
I am always trying to come up with Biblical illustrations to help us understand Biblical truths so we can know how to make Biblical applications to our lives. There really are no perfect illustrations, but many can help make a point more understandable.
I was thinking about the issue of salvation last night, and what is involved in the process. How do we explain the Gospel without involving works, at least works that are done by us to receive salvation? Or, how do we explain works when it involves God working in us and our response to that?
What are some things we have to let go of when we come to Christ? What if we didn't know those things were going to be gone, or on their way out, after we responded to the Gospel?
I have been listening to 'The Cross and the Switchblade' telling of David Wilkerson's adventures in NYC ministering to young men and women who were part of gangs. What he did was dangerous, but God's protection was there, and many of these gangsters came to Christ.
A couple of the presidents of these gangs came forward and wanted to receive Christ. They wanted change. They really hated what they were doing and gladly gave up their violence and hatred in order to receive Christ. They were truly born again and from that point on, they risked their lives because of the Gospel. Most of us have no idea what that is like, unless we live in a country that is hostile to the Gospel.
When a couple of the presidents of these gangs came to Christ one evening, you could tell that they really grasped the Gospel, but they didn't know anything else that would happen to them until they started growing in their faith. So, they received Bibles and as they left the building, each one lit up a cigarette and walked out. One of them even used a curse word telling David Wilkerson that he gave his life to God. They definitely were not saved long enough to realize all the many details of their sins, but, that would come in time!
All of us are like that though, in a sense. When we come to Christ, we know some things we will have to give up. Some things will have to be let go. Some things we are not aware of yet, but later on we will be.
After we come to Christ and become a new creature in Christ, the Bible says that old things go away and all becomes new. As we grow spiritually, we understand more truth, and the lies that we used to hold onto, we start letting them go. We will never become perfect in truth until we are in the next life though, but we can grow in the knowledge of the truth every day during our short stay on this earth.
This reminds me of a key. If you have ever had a key made, you know that the key has to be shaped exactly like the inside of the lock. Every key is different and has a different shape it will correspond to. When a key is being made, tiny pieces are chipped off. This process continues until the key fits the inside of the lock perfectly. When the key is finished, it fits the inside of the lock and can be used for it's intended purpose.
We are like that key. As we grow spiritually, little by little, we are being chipped away. Little lies fall off here and there. The pieces that get in the way get smaller and smaller until they fit exactly. The image we are going to be shaped in is Christ. He is the model key and we will be like Him. Jesus is the door and He is the key. We will be like keys opening up the door to eternal life so others can enter. We don't want to be crooked or rusted keys that cannot be used.
So, as you grow in your Christian life, just as the key is being shaped to fit the lock, you are being conformed to the image of Christ. Not always easy and fun, but there is no other way to compare with the greatness of what becomes of a person who is in Christ and is growing spiritually.
As I am wondering what is wrong with this picture, I get partial answers at times. The picture is the body of Christ, and what I see wrong so many times, is a symptom of something much more serious. If I have a child who is sick, I will analyze all the symptoms and try to treat the illness, and if I can't, I will call a doctor for help and medicine, with the hopes of a correct diagnoses. So, here is the thought that came to my mind this morning, as I think about this continual 'symptom' that I see over and over again in the church worldwide. By the church, I mean brothers and sisters in Christ who make up the body of Christ altogether.
What is the problem that I am seeing? It is a two-fold problem. First, I am seeing a strong desire from many believers in Christ for revival. It is a heart cry for many. But it doesn't seem to be happening. And we always have to ask 'why'?
Secondly, I am seeing many good Bible teachers teaching wonderful truths out of the Bible. One of the best teachings that also is practical is the teaching of peacemaking. The Peacemaker is a class that is taught in many churches and explains the principles of peacemaking out of Scriptures. We went through this class in our church and many of the principles were put into practice in our lives. I'm sure this has happened in many churches at least in America if not around the world. But in the last couple of years, I have seen more hatred and division in the body of Christ than I have ever seen in my whole Christian life. Perhaps I am seeing more because of being on Facebook and the Internet. Maybe it was there all along, and I just never saw it to the degree that I see it now.
Yes, we have been taught these principles, and we know better than to slander people today. The Bible is very clear on the fact that slander is an abomination to God. Slander is demeaning to people and there is never a time when we should use it. Slander is one of Satan's favorite ways of destruction. But Christians use it every day. Not only that, but they resort to name calling and vicious attacks against others that they don't agree with in doctrine. And because they don't believe the other party is really truly converted, they feel they have a right to slam the opposing group. Friends, we are not playing football here. Our goal should be to work together in unity where we can. Where we disagree, there should be love. We don't see in Scriptures where people who disagreed slandered those they disagreed with. We are to warn people about those who are divisive. Warning people doesn't involve slander. When we slander someone, we don't have an excuse for doing this because the opposing team is wrong. Even false teachers and prophets should not be slandered. We can warn our church family about these people and we don't have to slander them in doing so. We don't have to hate the false teacher. Sure, we hate what they do. What they teach makes us angry, and it should. But we don't have a right to slander them.
Here is my thought from this morning: "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are spiritual. When we use the weapon of hate, we are using a carnal weapon. We are not fighting against the Enemy with the proper weapon and we will become casualties." Remember we are in a spiritual battle and our common enemy is the devil, not each other or not other groups we disagree with. If we see a Christian group of people who appear to be in error, could we take time to pray for them? Could we understand that all of us (us included) are all in the growing process of sanctification and some will be weak? Can we pay attention and be our brother's or sister's keepers and help them be delivered from the sins which are binding them? Can we handle warning our church families about false teachers by using charity? I am concerned that we have used the subject of 'false teachers' in a wrong way. For example, if we are Calvinist, some of us will call Arminians 'heretics'. That is not fair, nor is it courteous to those who are true believers who hold an Arminian viewpoint. The issue isn't whether Arminian or Calvinist is correct, but whether the person is in Christ or not. As we grow spiritually, God makes His truth clearer to us more and more. We will let go of things that are not true, even if we have been holding onto them for a while. But when it comes to false teachers, do you not think it would be better to teach the true doctrines that would make sense, rather than attacking individual people? For example, there really is a dangerous teaching that has crept into the church that I am surprised not many have caught onto yet. But I see professing Christians adapting some of the beliefs of this false doctrine. I can tell by what I read in the things they post and talk about that many have fallen into the doctrine of Pelagiansim. Not many will know what Pelagianism is, but most of us have been taught well against its principles. Pelagianism would teach, if I understand correctly, that salvation is two-fold; belief in Christ and obedience to God. Any Christian who has a basic understanding of the Gospel would know that this is wrong. But I see many who embrace Pelagianism and to my surprise are open about their erroneous beliefs. This is what I call dangerous. Do we hate Pelagians? No, we should be praying for them. We should be sharing the truth of salvation being a free gift of God, not of works lest anyone would boast. We ignore the major heresies, but embrace the individuals we don't agree with and attack them. In the debate world, this is called ad-hominem. It means attacking the person instead of the belief system. It is a rule you do not want to break while doing a debate. If it is that important to follow in debating, how much more should we follow the word of God when it tells us to be peaceful in our relationships and that we should be marked by love? Love is the healing power for this sickness in the body of Christ. Humility is the agent that will make love work. When we truly love someone, we want the best for him or her, even at our own expense. It is not about us, but it is all about God and making His name known in truth. When we truly love God, we will genuinely love one another. This is the evidence that we have been born again and are part of the body of Christ. Until we develop this kind of love, the church will stay in an unhealthy state.
Friends, I have been very affected after reading the book, 'The Cross and the Switchblade' in the past couple of weeks. (Actually, I didn't read it but listened to it from an audiobook from Christianaudio.com). I have a whole new dimension of thinking when it comes to evangelism now, maybe even a new direction, but not sure where and how, or even when.
Years ago, when I was seeking the Lord, I felt very drawn to learning about the power of God in our lives. I really believed in the power of the Holy Spirit in living out our Christian lives and doing evangelism, but I believe that I have discounted a lot of what I believed to be true, do to the emphasis/teaching in the Christian circles on all the 'false teachers' who were out there carrying on with the spiritual gifts. Don't get me wrong. I still believed the gifts are for today, and they are there to help us minister in the church and bring true glory to God's name. I have seen the spiritual gifts used properly, and people have been edified and encouraged in the faith. I have also seen the gifts used in evangelism and people have no doubt that God is present. So, what am I lacking?
I always believed that we should be Spirit-filled believers, but the meaning is unclear to many of what that really means. I would pray every day that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, and believed I am Spirit-filled, but still, I seemed to lack power or maybe not quite experienced the dimension I know was there. Not sure of what it was.
For the past 7 years, I have surrounded myself with lots of Reformed teaching and most of it is excellent. I have really grown in my understanding of the Bible in so many ways. But part of my problem started here, I think. I have heard teachings from Godly men saying that God doesn't speak to our hearts any more. That was distressing, for I know God has spoken to my heart. Was it not really God? What about all the people that have used the Spiritual gifts and God has spoken to them and wonderful things have happened? I have put all that on a shelf for a while. When I heard someone talk about God speaking to their heart, I just had doubts about it. I'm not sure God speaks to our hearts any more, except when it comes to salvation.
But as time went on, I learned from these men that the spiritual gifts are no longer in use today. Also, they teach that we receive everything from God the moment we are saved, therefore when we ask for more of God, we are asking wrongly. Finally, one more thing I noticed, was that it seemed like God was just some kind of theory about how we get into heaven. We have to be holy. We have to repent. We have to trust in what Jesus did on the Cross for us. I agree. But it just seems like a formula to get into heaven to be with this distant God that is waiting to judge the world because of all its wickedness. Don't get me wrong. All of that is true, but, what if God wants to have a relationship with us? What if God really is pursing us and what if He wants us to know Him personally? Where is that in all the teachings I have heard?
Is God some kind of distant Being that we just should appease by our repentance and belief in Him? I believe in sanctification and growing spiritually, but, can we grow in our relationship with God and really actually know Him? Can we truly hear His voice and does He truly speak to our hearts? I have to say that I believe the answer is 'yes' to those questions.
We have relegated God to a formula. Instead of preaching about a person, we are preaching the formula we need to follow in order to get saved. It is fine to preach the formula while explaining the Gospel, but God is a person, not a thing.
Anyway, getting back to the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to depend more on the Holy Spirit to help us. I think we are afraid to draw upon the Holy Spirit because we are afraid that the devil will intercept and we will get a counterfeit gift if we are not careful. We have to remember that Satan has no hold on us unless we give ground to him. If we are truly seeking God, would God allow Satan to come in and sneak one of his gifts in instead? Jesus tells us that if we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to them who ask Him (Luke 11:13) Also, it is a reaction of many Bible teachers to the Todd Bentley thing. Todd Bentley believes he hears from God, but does he really? One more thing about this too; the office of the prophet of the Old Testament is not the same thing as the spiritual gift of prophecy. I think both non-charismatics and some Pentecostals believe that they are the same. That makes it even more confusing.
Getting back to the new direction in my thinking on evangelism, after reading The Cross and the Switchblade, I am ready to turn to the people who are weak, poor, needy, and looking for an answer for their sin. I have spent countless hours learning apologetics. I don't regret doing that one bit. But I go back to the story of the Cross and the Switchblade. First of all, David Wilkerson not only trusted in God for help, but specifically asked for the Holy Spirit as he ministered to the gangsters who lived in NYC in the late 1950s. He left the comforts of his home to live among the gangsters and preached the Gospel to them. These gangsters were on their knees! I was thinking of some of the words of a young man at that time, named Nicky Cruz. He came to the meeting only because Israel (the president of the gang) ordered that the men in the gang were going to attend. Nicky was opposed to David Wilkerson probably because he thought erroneously that David Wilkerson's intentions were to break up the gangs. Nicky already showed defiance toward David and he reluctantly went to the meeting along with the other members of the gang. While David was preaching, Nicky thought to himself, 'I want that' and 'I need that'. He was serious. He did a complete turn around and repented that night. Many other gangsters also repented and good fruit came out of that meeting, even though that week of meetings started out kind of rocky.
We live in a town near colleges, so the people around here are very 'knowledgeable'. One problem that comes with being knowledgeable is that we become prideful as well. The Bible says that 'knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.'. When we receive a lot of knowledge, we become unteachable. We can't learn anything new because we think we have already learned everything. So, preaching the Gospel to these people is hard. They already 'know' God, or, they are Atheists and aren't really interested in what we have to say.
Please don't hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that it is wrong to preach to college students or wealthy people. They need to hear the Gospel too. But they are not as open. I think colleges are great places to defend the faith, and to present the truth. Many years from now people may remember what they heard while in college, but they resisted it when they were in school. So keep on going to the campuses. But I am going to look for those whom I can have a conversation with that might end up with eternal results.
You don't have to go very far from my home to find such people to talk to. We have a lot of people who don't even have a car to drive, or a nice home to live in. We have people who are trying to find odd jobs to pay the bills. There are many people who never went to college and are learning in their own way how to make life work. And there are those who are homeless. Some of these homeless people are ripe for hearing the Gospel. Others have seen a form of Godliness and know the talk, but life is still missing from them.
I enjoy so much, talking to people and explaining the Gospel from the book of Genesis through Revelation, and after I talk and converse with people, many of them will say, "I never heard it put that way. Thank you so much for sharing with me." I didn't have to go through a bunch of apologetics of arguing the existence of God with them. I can introduce them to a Person who they need to meet. So, that is going to be where I will look for in ministering in the future.
I will still study apologetics and have my apologetics blog. For some people, this is really going to be helpful. But for those who want to spin my wheels, I will go to another group and leave them spinning wheels until they get tired of it and want to respond to God.