(Church Search Part: 1 – Starting over after losing count
Attended 1st UMC, arrived a little late for the candle lighting and the passing of the peace – whatever that is.
Noticed the dates of the songs, one of them from the 1500s, two of them from the 1800s, the hymnal was from the late 1980s, two years younger than me. So the music averages out to the year 1700.
Children’s moment had something to do with an eraser.
There was a guest preacher as the usual one had a bicycle accident.
The guest preacher talked about the gate and the sheep before my attention wandered.
On the bright side, the people were very friendly and helped all of us getting to our seats. I’m told that they tape their services for those who are ‘shut-ins’. They also gave us a gift, a packet of tissues and a container of hand sanitizer because they care and are in close proximity to the school. Minus two points for the lack of chocolate.
This will not be our new church.
After an illustriously busy morning of not attending two churches to get to a third at the last minute, we grabed some lunch from a nearby Sonic Drive-in. Try the apple slices with caramel, it’s good and guilt-free. Then we headed on over to continue tearing down the old pen. My little brother’s method was slightly destructive and very effective and so he helped to speed up the process. I had a rare successful drive back, come to think of it, the drive there went well, so I’m in a good mood.)
The Remnant was of the best-selling books found in The Left Behind Series. The Remant is also what God likes to set aside for himself.
We see it in 1 Kings 19, where God had reserved himself seven thousand faithful people.
we see it in Judges 7, where God whittled down an army of 32,000 to 300 to defeat a vast army
We see it in Genesis 6, where God used a faithful family to replenish a blank-slate world
We see in in Joshua 1, where a generation raised to follow God settled in the land promised to them
Romans 11 – The remnant is anything less than the whole. So in the same way that God has time and time again set apart for himself a remmant, he has one reserved for Himself even now. God has used remnants as small as a family and as great as a whole generation to accomplish his plans.
As for the rest, the scripture tells us they were simply hardened. Thousands were hardened and bent their knees to Baal. Thousands were hardened and sent away before battle. Untold Hundreds of thousands were hardened to anything good and were wiped off of the face of the earth. Hundreds and perhaps Thousands of grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles could not see God at work around them and perished.
From the very begining, God has used a remnant to do something unbelievable, but could there be remmants in the churches at this very moment? John’s letters to the seven churches warns them that those who overcome will recieve something. It sort of implies the existance of those who won’t overcome. This overcomer remnant will gain the right to eat from the tree of life, will not be hurt by the second death, will gain some hidden manna and a white stone with a new name on it, will have authority over the nations and gain the morning star, will be dressed in white and will have their name always in the book of life, will be a pillar in the temple of God upon whom Jesus’ new name is written, and will gain the right to sit with Jesus on His throne. I don’t know the fate of those who won’t overcome, perhaps all the more reason to motive ourselves to overcome
whatever is thrown at us.
Galatians 2:11-21, “11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15″We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
17″If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!””
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a fair number of influencial in my lifetime. There are some people you can’t help but like and follow. There are two groups of influencial people from this passage that I want to discuss. 1.) The circumcision group and 2.) The Church leader that is Peter.
1.) There will always be such groups we will have to face. They are the many that are united in thought. Had only one of them showed up, Peter might not have been afraid of them. This is one of the few battles that Peter lost to them. Some rock.
2.) Peter, Peter, Peter, it’s bad enough that you forgot the scripture that Jesus taught you personally, what’s worse is that because you withdrew from your brothers and sisters in the faith, fellow Jewish Christians followed your lead, even good old Barnabas.
Before this day, Peter made no distinction between Jew and Gentile, all believers were Christians. It was the sort of unity to be proud of. Then he stepped on the truth of the Gospel by behaving contrary to it. Have you ever done it? I’m pretty sure I have at one point or the other. Fortunately, Paul was there for some damage control. Division has no place in the Christian church. It’s not Jew here Gentile there. It’s not men here women there. It’s not Caucasian here African-Amercian there. It’s just the church, the body of believers, and Christians. So leaders, remember your influence can do more harm than good if you’re not careful.
1 Corinthians 5:9-12, ” 9I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.””
As Christians, we’re supposed to hold ourselves to the higher standard of being like Christ. Nowhere does the scripture say we are to tolerate our sins, but to put them off, throw them away, and to get rid of entirely anything that would hinder us from the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it’s a process that hurts more than anything imaginable. This Corinthian church was at an important point in their history. Sexual sin was rampant in the city and found itself into the church. Paul was not pleased. Today, no church would like to hear Paul’s advice, how many seats would be emptied if every church cast out its immoral, greedy, idolater, sladerous, drunk, and swindler members? Is that Christian?
Revelation 2:18-29, “18”To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
27’He will rule them with an iron scepter;
he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ — just as I have received authority from my Father. 28I will also give him the morning star. 29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
There is a Jezebel in Christianity, in some denominations moreso than others. Note that John didn’t single any one or two sexual sins, he doesn’t want any of them left in the church. A church is a body of believers and the body of Christ. What affects one member has an effect on all of them. It hurts to send somebody away, but it hurts to allow a cancer of sins to go unchecked. If you love your brothers and sisters in Christ, you might have to confront them.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11, “5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”
This story does not end with hurt feelings, loniness, anger, and frustration, nope, Paul demands that everybody takes the next step – forgiveness, comfort, and reaffirmed love. Of course, a church has to be careful about getting it done right. We’re not throwing people out right and left, we’re a recovery program for dealing with sin once and for all. Yes, it will hurt more than anything, but it’s better than the alternative.
2 John 1:7-11, ” 7Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.”
Remember how I said that one of the Gnostics’ major teachings was that Jesus was a spirit only? This one church didn’t distinguish one Christian from another. One week, a pastor from one place would teach sound doctrines, the next another from somewhere else would introduce something entirely different. As a result, people were getting pretty confused. Church shopping is sort of the same sort of thing, difference is that I’m going them not the other way around.
Many people today would say something to the effect of: “Who are you to call out this guy’s beliefs? Aren’t you both Christians? Does it really matter if there are differences?” This verse tells me that by giving room to a false teacher, I’m helping him. (In the New Testament, Christians depended upon the hospitality of other Christians to have a place to sleep and hot meal. When transient teachers would arrive, giving place to teachers gave room for them to teach and a foothold for false teachings in the community at large if the teachers was not sincere.)
2 Peter 2:1-3, “1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”
Not everybody who teaches Jesus Christ teaches the Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible. Even worse, they’ll secretly introduce heresies and deny the soverign Lord. How could a false teacher secretly introduce heresies? Could it be that their teachings sound really close to right? Do their words have different meanings? Perhaps it’s the lack of knowledge of the Bible on the part of the church that allows them to be hookwinked and bamboozled. Eventually, these false teachers make up their own stories, and why not? You’ve already been slowly moved away from the scripture itself. It’s time to write a new one that teaches your own belief system and points to you as the leader who must be provided for.
1 Timothy 1:3-7, “3As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”
It used to be that once a false teacher died, his following disbanded, that’s why there aren’t any cults from the 500s or 1500s to this day, however there are much younger cults that have managed to persist despite the death of its founding leader primarily because it’s leadership was shifted to another man or a committee of leaders who could manage day-to-day operations. I watched a video from somebody or other that showed a cult leader ‘translating’ an ancient scroll. When people gained an understanding of the language, they translated it and found an entirely different story. Assuming the researchers had correctly translated the scroll, then that original story must have been made up. Today, it is still found in that cult’s scriptures and it still decieves cult members, but they don’t mind being lied to.
We know that the Gospel wasn’t made up because in that day and age the story would have been like this: “The disciples decided to visit the tomb of Jesus early each morning to pray. He was still there on day One and they told the Roman guards about Jesus. He was still there on day two and they told the Roman guards more about Jesus. Then, on day three, they watched an angel move the stone and Jesus walk out. The Roman guards dropped to their knees and accepted Christ. The Disciples, Roman guards, and Jesus walked back into Jerusalem to tell the women the good news. That very day, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they went to every corner of the world professing Jesus’ promise that faith will make you wealthy.” (See, it is easy to make up a story when you have a well-developed begining and a cast of characters.) But that’s not how it happened. The women had gone to prepare the Body and found nobody.
Are you helping false teachers in their wicked work?
I know from my many years that gnosticism was an attractive alternative to some in the New Testament. There were some worisome differences: the creator was not taught as the Almighty God, scripture having a hidden meaning that needed another wisdom to be understood, and Jesus was a spirit and not a man. And so, I’ve focused on things like faith and grace and holiness and love and Biblical wisdom, but once again gnosticism has taken a foot-hold in our culture and we need to be prepared to stand our ground.
Gnosticism is evident in:
Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy
The origins of the Marvel Comics universe
Alan Moore’s works including Watchmen
Pleasantville, The Matrix, The Game, The Truman Show, Groundhog Day, and The Island
Stargate Sg-1’s later seasons
The Final Fantasy Series
Dungeon’s and Dragons
Some of these things touch on a concept borrowed from gnosticism, for example, most of the movies have a ‘false world’ that must be escaped by ‘knowledge’ that the world is false. Some of these have less powerful creator deities. (I didn’t know these movies contained an element of gnosticism until I looked it up on Wikipedia. I happen to like The Island and Stargate Sg-1.)
Now it is time to talk about knowledge. Is there a sort of knowledge the vast majority of Christians are missing?
1 Timothy 6:20-21, “20Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Grace be with you.”
Whatever knowledge Paul warned Timothy about, we know that the people who were into it didn’t even agree on what knowledge it was. By going after this false knowledge, some Christians ended up wandering away from the faith. Wandering is probably a good description. It implies no purposeful or thought-out dirrection. Sort of like my favorite word, meandering.
One hundred and thirty verses of the Bible include the word knowledge at least once. Some kinds of knowledge are good:
Knowledge of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit
Knowledge of the truth (that leades to godliness)
Knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life
Knowledge of the glory of God
Knowledge of God’s will
However, the Bible tells us that knowledge puffs up and can harm the faith of a brother or sister in Christ, this knowledge is no good and up to no good.
Finally, what about the primary Gnostic beliefs that are against the scripture, because they’re wrong doesn’t that make the rest of gnosticism wrong? The way I see it is this, if you find something out that doesn’t mesh with the Bible and turns you away, that sort of knowledge is no good. Remember how God allowed prophets who preached other deities as a test to see how much his people loved him? I think gnosticism is the same sort of test for Christians. Do you love God enough to follow after his knowledge rather than something secret that could undermine your faith?
(Yesterday I helped sort out a burnt-up trailer and created a pile of aluminum as tall as me. There’s still alot of little things to scoop up into barrels, but at least that worthless, stripped out, thief-targeted trailer is no longer an obstacle or an eyesore. Today is more of the same.)
It’s not only in the political sphere that we must be certain of our words and definitions, but also in the religious. Have you ever seen the Christian movie Decieved? There is a radio-show preacher who sounds like a baptist, but in the course of the movie reveals his true new-age colors. When the Christian woman called him out on his Biblically-inaccurate conclusions, everybody took notice and ganged-up against her. Can two Christians believe entirely seperate things? Of course, but they can’t both be right. Even in the Bible there was a church who crossed the disciples teachings.
1 Timothy 3:6-5, “3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
Last Sunday, the church I visted told me that holiness was compassion, faith, and three or four other things. From what I gather, the Biblical definition of holiness is to be set apart and made sacred. Jesus was holy and compassionate, but holiness and compassion or faith for that matter do not have the same meaning.
The source of the prosperity gospel is in the scripture. It had to have been taught in order or Paul to call somebody out on it. Make no mistake, becoming a Christian means a share in God’s inheritance, but that does not translate to physical wealth, but forever living with Christ as a co-heir in the house of God. No amount of money can buy that. Lately, however, prosperity gospel proponents say that it’s not neccessarily wealth they’re naming and claiming, it’s good health, homes, job security, etc. Paul had that. Sure he was basically poor, beaten up regularly, and had been run out of town more than once. No wonder that Jesus said of the Pharisees that they already had their reward. Do you already have yours?