A Call To Arms

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, his work among them was being ridiculed by “some…who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.” (2 Cor. 10:2)  Because these people were still walking (living) according to their flesh nature, which Paul wrote elsewhere was “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7), they could not conceive of any other possible way of living, not even for Paul who had carried on the work of God in their midst for years.  Paul went on to say, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

When we couple this thought with what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12) and what he had already told the Corinthians, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14), we have a picture of the warfare that God calls us to – a spiritual warfare that consists of wrestling against evil demonic beings and using spiritually discerned truth to bring our own thoughts and the thoughts and beliefs of others into obedience to the truths of Christ.  Because there is no neutral ground, every action we take that is not spiritually oriented in Christ becomes an act of warfare against Christ and God.  This ought to be sobering indeed.

The “church” is built upon carnality.  Nicolaitan overlords and their followers practicing sectarian division, lawlessness (doing what is right in one’s own eyes – Jdgs. 21:25), envy, and self-seeking – all this and more are the building blocks with which the “church” is assembled.  “Theology” is learned and taught, not at the leading of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26, 16:13), but according to the “theologies” and “doctrines” of men and denominations (heresies – Gal. 5:20) and the tradition of men makes the Word of God, the Spirit of truth (Eph. 6:17) of no effect among the people of God.

Paul wrote, “Love never does a wrong to one’s neighbor; so love is the perfect satisfaction of the law.  And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand.  Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave (walk) properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:10-14)

As the battle cry sounds forth, we must know what our weapons are and what they are not.  The one who brings only natural abilities to the battlefield is on the wrong side of the war.  The one who has not endured the training necessary to conduct spiritual warfare is a casualty waiting to happen.  The one who has humbly bowed before the King of truth and allowed Him to mold and shape His warrior is the one who will still be standing when the battle is done.

The Old Testament records this event:

Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!”  And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.  And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’”  So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.  Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord – for every man has been against his son and against his brother – in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.” (Ex. 32:25-29)

As we seek to apply this – especially in the atmosphere of rampant religious violence perpetrated by zealous fanatics – let us be abundantly clear that no true follower of Christ can physically take up arms against Christians or even non-Christians and rightly claim to have God’s blessings and approval.  Our weapons are not the weapons of this world, our enemies are not human beings and this is not how God spiritually purifies His body!  Jesus commanded His true followers, “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:44) and the Revelation warns us, “If anyone leads into captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13:10)  Those who fail to heed the warnings about using this world’s weapons are destined to experience them – from the other end!

Yet we must also remember that Jesus warned His disciples, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’” (Mt. 10:34-36)  Make no mistake – as we learn to wield the spiritual weapons of Christ, we will bring about enmity.  As John wrote, “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (Jn. 3:20)  As our light exposes darkness, some will react with the carnal weapons of this world and will rise up and kill the true followers of Christ thinking they are thereby serving God.  This is the unavoidable nature of the warfare into which we have been plunged.  Anyone who would remain on the Lord’s side throughout the battle must be prepared to stand against the demands of his own flesh and blood even as he refuses to fight against them with the fleshly weapons of this world.

Paul wrote, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may become blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.” (Phlp. 2:14-16)  He also wrote, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26)  And Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (Jn. 10:27)  These are the responsibilities that is upon everyone who intends to be saved when all the warfare is finished.  Since the “church” promotes, intentionally or otherwise, a virtually responsibility-free gospel, the truth is much less popular than is the “church’s” so-called “kingdom of grace” deceptions that scratch and tickle ears.

War in this world is all out, kill or be killed, or, as one observer aptly said, “organized murder.”  And there are applications of this attitude that we could emulate in our war against the evil, spiritual beings who manipulate and mastermind the war of Satan against God.  It is certain that our enemy is much more committed to all-out warfare than are those who call themselves “Christians”!  But overall we do not need to practice any kind of desperate warfare.  In truth, we are not desperate.  We face a foe who has been defeated but who has not yet surrendered (nor will he ever surrender; he must be overcome yet again in the lives of the end time saints – Rev. 12:11 – and then he will be captured and imprisoned – Rev. 20:1-3 – but he will never voluntarily surrender as after having been imprisoned for a thousand years he is released and rises up in war against God again. – Rev. 20:7-8)  But even now we stand in a position of strength and greater resources than our enemy although, if we can only see with our natural eyes, we would seem to be completely outgunned, outclassed, outnumberd and outmatched.  Only when we have spiritual eyes will we see the armies of the Lord that so vastly outnumber and overwhelmingly hold the superior position over the enemy who has already been imprisoned on this planet so as to limit his corruption among the creation and who has already experienced having all of his powers undone at the cross of Christ.

The trumpets are sounding – the cry to advance the cause of the Lord is going forth.  Let us shake off every tradition of men and teaching of demon that would hinder us from being on the Lord’s side and taking up His armor and weapons of light, love, truth and righteousness.  “Let us purify ourselves of every filth of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 7:1)  Let us rise up with holy fervor and pray mightily against the spiritual forces of deception and darkness which plague our world.  Let us serve our fellow human beings with love and compassion as we speak the truth that Christ alone is the solution to our world’s problems.

This is the call to arms that is ringing out.  This is our battle cry!

Let he who has ears hear.

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All In

In the parable of the talents (large sums of money – representing the life of Christ implanted within all believers – given to servants who were then responsible to go out and bring in a return on the master’s money), the master (who represents God and Christ) said to the third servant (who did nothing with his master’s money), “Therefore you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.” (Mt. 25:27)  Since this servant did not even do this least of things for his master, this lazy, negligent servant is “cast into the outer darkness.” (Mt. 25:30)

And in the parable of the workers who were each paid a day’s wages, all the workers, whether they had worked all day or only an hour, received the same amount of pay. (Mt. 20:9-10)  And Jesus promised that anyone who would give even a cup of water to the least (poorest, smallest), would not lose his reward. (Mk. 9:41)

One inference we could make from these statements is that there is some bottom line, lowest level of activity that brings in a minimal increase that would still allow one to remain in Christ and God’s kingdom when our personal account with God is finally settled.  But we must also immediately recognize that this minimum level that God will deem acceptable is known only to God – and it is likely to be different for each person because each one will be judged by what he has done with what he had been given.  But no “bottom line” of acceptability is ever once mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, neither spelled out nor given in specifics nor advocated.  In fact, we find that God has always had a different standard in mind.

Jesus said that the most important commandment was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37)  And to the woman at the well He said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (Jn. 4:23)  As a condition for attaining eternal life, Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Sell all that you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me.” (Lk. 18:22)

The minimalists (as well as those who don’t even rise to that standard) will immediately point out that the first requirement is in the law and we are no longer under law, that the second requirement doesn’t say anything about “all” and that the third requirement was placed upon only one particular man with one particular hindrance in his quest for eternal life.  All of these observations are true but these are given as an excuse to avoid the responsibility to the main point – not as a means to find truth.

The writer of Hebrews warns us, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:1-3)

Christ commanded His disciples, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Jn. 13:34)  If anyone ever gave His all to the will of God, Jesus stands head and shoulders above all others! (also see Heb. 10:7)  By this same standard, we are to care for the others who also belong to Him.  But because men have begun to care more about what is right in their own eyes (translated as “lawlessness” in the better versions), the love of most has grown cold. (Mt. 24:12, also see Jdgs. 21:25)  Because this lawlessness is rarely recognized for what it is, it is rarely considered as a sinful or carnal way to choose one’s “church” or one’s preferred “theology” and so it remains the most popular foundation stone of churchianity.  Because the many have heaped up and followed the false teachers in their dangerous divisions (“denominations”), all these “church”-ites can attain to is a mere form of godliness that cannot enable anyone to love others as Christ loved His followers. (see 2 Tim. 4:3-4, 2 Pet. 2:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:5)

Jesus also said, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (Jn. 7:17)  Here Jesus invites everyone to question and challenge the source of His words and teachings.  If anyone’s words and teachings ought to be above question, it should be the Christ’s.  But since even His words are not above challenge (though indeed they will stand up to any and all challenges), let us be free, once and for all time, from the monstrous, demonic lie that teachings from the clergy are above question. (also see 1 Ths. 5:21-22 where Paul says to test all things!)  Let us also clearly recognize that one who will not stand to have his teachings or practices questioned or examined – especially by the light of the Scriptures – is clergy.  It is the “all in” attitude for the will of God that protects us from the deception that is the characteristic of the end times (Mt. 24:4) – that is, unless someone wants to do God’s will above their own will, they will be ripe for failing to discern just where any particular teaching comes from.  This is serious business indeed since the end times will be characterized as “perilous” (2 Tim. 3:1) and will be fueled by “doctrines (teachings) of demons” that will cause many to depart from the faith. (1 Tim. 4:1)  The stakes are high where deception and truth are concerned.  Those who teach otherwise are perhaps the most dangerous of the deceivers because they are as deceived as those whom they deceive!

There simply is no safer place in God than to be “all in” – anything else leaves far too much of ourselves exposed as a target or as a captured “beachhead” in our enemy’s assault upon our eternal soul.  Only fools parade themselves openly in battlefields and dance brazenly in minefields.  Those who take the battle seriously and fight like they want to both win (attain to God’s will) and survive (remain in Christ’s kingdom when this life is done) are those who are “all in.”  All else are deceived – already wounded, maimed or even dead on the battlefield and are “out.”

Let he who has ears hear.

Why Do We Meet

In one of the few places where the KJV actually uses the word “assembly” (instead of “church”) to translate the Greek word ekklesia [1577], Luke records, “Some [of those who had rushed into the theater] therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly (ekklesia) was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” (Acts 19:32)  Demetrius the silversmith had stirred up the people and gathered the assembly to discuss what to do with Paul and the Christians (Acts 19:24-29) and the assembly was so confused that most of them did not even know why they had gathered.  This is a perfect picture of the modern “church.”  Few, if any, seem to remember or even know what the mission of the genuine ekklesia is.

Put simply, the ekklesia is to be spiritually able and equipped to attend to the issues and affairs of Christ’s kingdom of light.  Thus, when we come together, the key item on the agenda is not to have a time of worship or to hold a Bible study or to hear a “sermon” that titillates our ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4) but rather to, in some real way, further the kingdom of God in our midst.  In practical terms, the ekklesia then should be focusing on:

 

  • Hearing and doing the wishes and commands of the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:22, etc.)  The kingdom of God comes into our midst when we obey Christ and God through the leading of His Spirit. (Mt. 6:10, Rom. 8:14, etc.)  Until the Lord is truly the Lord over any assembly, there is no possibility of furthering the kingdom of God.  As valuable as corporate worship, Bible studies and spiritual messages may be, if they replace the headship of Christ over the assembly, they are out of order.  He alone is to be the Administrator (Greek leitourgos [3011] director, “liturgy”) of the work performed in the sanctuary that is His people. (Heb. 8:2)

 

  • Producing viable citizens for Christ’s kingdom. Discipleship is virtually a lost art in today’s apostate environment but it is a requirement for any kingdom that its citizens be taught to practice good citizenship according to its laws and ways.  In Christ’s kingdom, the primary characteristics are called “the fruit of the Spirit” and they violate the law of no man’s land. (Gal. 5:22-23)  These are produced, not by adherence to any list of do-s and don’t-s, but by learning to individually hear and obey the Lord.  “My sheep hear My voice,” the Lord said, “and I know them, and they follow Me.” (Jn. 10:27)  Those who do not hear His voice and do not follow and obey Him have no right to claim Him as either Lord or Savior!

 

  • Meeting the needs of the people of Christ’s kingdom and even of this world. As any assembly practices the headship of Christ Jesus over their activities and as citizens of His kingdom are better equipped and prepared to shine light in their dark worlds, the needs of the people of the assembly and those they interact with will need to be addressed.

 

Peter wrote, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.  If anyone serves, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11)  There are two kinds of gifting in view here – speaking and serving – and they are both vitally necessary for a healthy expression of the way of following Christ and God.  Yet, the “church” meeting format caters almost exclusively to the speakers and virtually excludes the operation of those who are gifted primarily to serve.  Service (actual work, productivity) in the kingdom of God is almost impossible to do at a meeting and it is in this light that meetings can rob the people and divert them from their mission to hear and obey God, disciple others and meet real needs.

These three things are the lost mission of the ekklesia.  Too many think or act as if the whole purpose of assembling is to sing songs or to talk about the Bible or even just to have meetings so that we may know who each other are.  Even the world’s business community knows that having too many meetings is counter-productive to actually getting any work done and that when meetings over-shadow productivity, the business is headed toward a disastrous end.  The “church” is in its present straits because it has forsaken the true Head and has settled into a tradition of holding dead meetings that produce nothing of the spiritual life of Christ and which meet no real needs of the people who attend the meetings.  What little of Christ is experienced in most “church” meetings is not a function of the “church’s” methodology but a testimony of the transcendence of God who will meet anyone who sincerely and diligently seeks Him in whatever environment he or she is in.

When we learn again to “minister to the Lord” (Acts 13:2, etc.) in the sanctuary of His people (and not in the abominable “sanctuary” of the “church” building that is patterned after the judgment halls, “basilicas,” of the Roman empire), then we will see the kingdom of God flourishing in our midst.  Until such time, we will continue to witness and experience the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith that must be called churchianity. (2 Ths. 2:3, Mt. 24:10)  Those who would “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt. 13:43) must be true sons of the kingdom intent upon furthering their Father’s kingdom and cannot be mere “church”-ites confused as to why they have gathered together, thinking they have assembled to satisfy some purpose or agenda of their own.  To further the kingdom of God in our midst is the real mission of the genuine ekklesia – all else is simply some man’s or some demon’s deceptive “church.”  The time to choose which entity – the kingdom of God or this world – to which we will belong, is now.

Let he who has ears hear.

Who Do You Say that I AM?

“Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15) This is the question Jesus put to His disciples – and the right answer, given by Peter but shared by all of them, that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, is what Jesus said would be the foundation of the ekklesia, His people called out of this world’s darkness to be citizens of and family within His kingdom of light.

At the time that Peter gave this “right answer,” however, he did not really have the right answer. In his mind, the Messiah was surely going to rise up with military power and destroy the Romans, conveniently leaving Peter sitting in the second-most powerful position in the world.

At the time that Peter gave this “right answer,” an answer made possible only by receiving spiritual revelation from God (Mt. 16:17), he was miles ahead of the multitudes who superstitiously believed Jesus to be the reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. (Mt. 16:14) But even in his rightness, Peter still held false beliefs about the true nature and mission of the Messiah. Being set free from these cherished beliefs, expectations and hopes in the Messiah would require great encounters with the realities of the depths of his own sinful nature and a complete breaking of Peter’s desire to be something great, something self-defined and designed and crafted. Peter, as Jesus came to know, needed to know that participation in godliness is not a thing that can be grasped but must be received. (Phlp. 2:6)

Asking who we say that Jesus is may produce the right answer – but it does not guarantee that we are free of deception about who Jesus is and what He requires of us. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:31-32) The Jews to whom He said this did not abide in His word, they were not His disciples, they did not know the truth and they were not free – they conclusively demonstrated this by trying to kill Jesus for the crime and sin of blasphemy. (Jn. 8:59)

His disciples did remain in His word, they were His followers (even when they did not understand or totally agree), they came to know the truth (when the Spirit of truth was poured out upon them) and they became free.

This is the process we must all go through. It is not enough to know that Jesus is the Messiah – that is only the first step and a baby one at that. It is not enough to know all the “right answers” – we must be filled with the Spirit of Christ and God and we must follow Him by His Spirit if we are to truly be sons of the living God. (Rom. 8:14) It is not enough to trust in the mere fact that we know enough to say or sing, “You are my God” – we must progressively come to know Him (as He truly is and not how we want or believe Him to be) and worship Him in spirit and truth. When we have only a flawed understanding of who Christ is and what He requires of us, having “the right answer” but not the Spirit who gives us the right “substance,” only guarantees that our expression of ekklesia (the Greek word misrendered “church” in modern English translations) is also flawed and misguided.

Only when we are free from our own flesh- or sin-generated or contaminated notions of who Christ is and what He requires of us will His promise of liberty be fulfilled in our lives. Until such time, we will remain under the sway and power of the evil one because we have not left the realms of religious bondage so as to come into the glorious liberty of being the saints (the holy, set apart ones) of God. Until the power of God’s people – that is, the power each individual has to control and rule over his own life – is broken and that power placed totally and only into the hands of Christ and God, we will continue to mistakenly believe that dead works and religious requirements (“church”) are God’s plan for our lives and that fleshly religious façade and mere form of godliness is the “abundant life” that accompanies salvation instead of it being the very thing from which we should turn away and flee out from. (2 Tim. 3:5, 2 Cor. 6:17)

The way of the Messiah is truth, light, liberty, love, holiness and righteousness. All else, even when practiced in the name of Christ and God, is still merely a deception engineered by the devil so as to divert unwary souls from the way that leads to life. (Mt. 7:14)

Let he who has ears hear.

The Passing Darkness

The observation has been made by many that mainline denominations are dying out.  For those who have eyes to see, the reason is blatantly obvious.  John wrote, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk (live, conduct our lives) in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 Jn. 1:6)  The primary sins of the “church” are heresies (in the original sense found in the New Testament, “parties formed upon an idea or upon the leading of some man,” Greek hairesis [139]), contentions and selfish ambitions (in essence, rivalry for preeminence, Greek eris [2054] and eritheia [2052], also see 3 Jn. 9) and dissensions (especially between differing denominations and their “faithful” adherents, Greek dichostasia [1370], the “double standard” of “believe as I do or leave.”)  Each of these four sins is found in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh that prevent followers of Christ from attaining to or inheriting the kingdom of God. (see Gal. 5:19-21)  As the root of these sins, we must name the sin of lawlessness (Greek anomia [458], best recognized as the secular philosophy of relativism and summed up as “doing what is right in one’s own eyes” (see Jdgs. 21:25) as each individual decides which brand, flavor and kind of “ministry” he prefers most and then attends the “church” he or she likes best.  Those who practice this kind of religious lawlessness may well find themselves eternally dismissed by the King, Christ Jesus. (Mt. 7:21-23)

To this list we can add schisms (divisions, Greek schisma [4978]), which the very presence of denominational divisions simply proves that the “church” is not the body of Christ because “God composed [Christ’s] body…that there should be no schism in the body…” (1 Cor. 12:24-25)   We can add Nicolaitanism ([3531], “conquer or rule over the people” – Rev. 2:6, 15 ) where “pastors” and other professional rhetoriticians use sophistry and eloquence and various forms of deceptive “damage control” techniques to keep their passive, spiritually ignorant listeners comfortably imprisoned and seated at their feet. (also see 2 Tim. 4:3-4)  We can add greed and covetousness as far too many clergy are more interested in maintaining their lucrative career than they are in seeing that Christ’s ekklesia (Greek [1577], Christ’s “people called out of this world’s darkness to live in and attend to His kingdom of light,” the word inappropriately but most often translated “church” in English versions of the New Testament) stands as the unified, singular “pillar of truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15)  And there are other subtle sins such as these we could add but hopefully the point is made.

To this above list we could even add those “churches” that embrace and practice flagrant and open sin and abomination but this would only allow those who practice the above sins to think themselves approved by God simply because they do not practice these gross and obvious sins and abominations but instead simply and faithfully attend what they think of as a “good church.”  The truth remains that if we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet live in continuing darkness (wickedness, deception, lawlessness – doing what is right in our own eyes – sin or unrighteousness of any sort), we lie (to God, to others, to ourselves) and do not practice the truth (that is, hearing and following the Spirit of truth).

With all of this darkness practiced at most, if not all, denominational “churches,” it is no surprise they are dying out.  The darkness is passing away and those who hunger for truth and light are no longer fooled by the putrid smell of death wafting from the pulpits, through the pews and out of the “church” doors.

In contrast, the kingdom of Christ and God is without end (Dan. 7:13-14) and completely unshakeable. (Heb. 12:28)  The denominational “church” cannot long remain because God has promised that all things that can be shaken will be shaken and only that which cannot be shaken – His kingdom – will remain. (Heb. 12:27)  Only those who are truly in His kingdom – and not ensnared in some man’s “church” (by whatever name they call it, even “ekklesia”) – will be those who receive eternal life.

Christ’s kingdom is precisely that – a kingdom.  Look in any dictionary – a kingdom is a realm that is ruled by a king.  The subjects of a kingdom are those who live in obedience to the word of the king.  The kingdom of God is that realm where Christ and God are obeyed and the people live as children of light. (Eph. 5:8)  His will and His kingdom are inseparable. (Mt. 6:10)

Light or darkness – the choice, and the consequences, are ours.

Let he who has ears hear.

Furthering the Kingdom

When we look at the fractured landscape of people trying to follow Christ, we find, in general terms and broad strokes, what some are calling “post-denominational Christianity” (a curious mixture of deceptive churchianity and religious spirituality) and the “out of church” refugees who have fled from all institutional hierarchies.  Within both groups, however, there is little focus on personally (individually or corporately) following the King as the only means to truly further the kingdom of God.  This only means that various sects and divisions will continue (especially in those groups that have completely departed from the literal and interactive Lordship of Christ over the group – sadly the vast majority of groups that claim to be “Christian”) to proliferate, further devastating the spiritual landscape, preparing many for succumbing to the coming and even present Satanic deceptions of the last days.

What is a genuine seeker of Christ, who desires Him and Him alone to be his King, to do?  Or, as others have asked at various times of impending hardship and darkness, “How shall we then live?”  The first (and truly only) answer to this question is, “Follow the Lamb wherever He leads.  Period.” (see Rev. 14:4, Jn. 10:27, etc.)  But the danger in this is that we become isolated individuals who, even if we have only truth in our possession (which may or may not be true), we have not the strength of the body of Christ to draw upon.  What practical guidelines might we use to build or gather (even if only in a “loose network” – see Mt. 13:47 for the appropriateness of this figure) a group that truly furthers the interests of God’s kingdom?  And again, we cannot over-emphasize the need to be led into all truth by the Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13) so that we may truly co-labor (1 Cor. 3:9) with Him who alone builds His ekklesia. (Mt. 16:18)

Perhaps the first issue we need to resolve (or at least contemplate) is,

“What does it mean to have Christ as King?”

 Those who have learned to be lawlessly (doing what is right in one’s own eyes because there has been no king to follow and obey – Jdgs. 21:25) independent may require years to become a “King’s man,” one willing to obey the King (of life, truth, love, etc. – Acts 3:15, Jn. 18:37, 1 Jn. 4:8-9, etc.) even at the cost of one’s own life if necessary. (Mt. 10:39, etc.)  Many will have trouble even recognizing that the gospel of the kingdom – that there is a King who is to be followed and obeyed and that one can only remain in the kingdom of God by doing the will of God (Mt. 7:21, etc.) – is the original gospel preached by the original apostles.  Much work with much patience is required to restore sheep who have been deceived, neglected, malnourished and even abused in modern churchianity.

The second issue, closely related to the first, is,

“How do we help one another submit to the Lordship (King-ness) of Christ?”

 This is simply another way of saying, How do we “Consider one another in order to stir up love and good works”? (Heb. 10:24)  The answers the “church” might give are not adequate.  Our “marching orders” must come from the Head Christ Jesus and not from any man, certainly not from some “pastoral” Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9) who uses the people for his own purposes and advantage.  We must know one another first and to do this we must overcome the isolations our culture, economy and technology have placed upon us.

Perhaps the first efforts to gather any group should be based on the pattern of the apostles and the first believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit.

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

 And yet again, this is not a pattern to be fixed on our calendars as we begin to mail out invitations.  First and foremost, we need to seek the King as to whom we should even begin to try to be ekklesia with.  “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19) and He alone can direct us to those whom He has trained (or is training or will be training) to be His loyal subjects and servants.  The pattern is given as the most likely way in which He will bring us together.  We may need to share some kingdom truths with a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance or even a total stranger.  This is preaching “the apostles’ teachings” – the truth of the kingdom of God that transcends all of men’s efforts and teachings which have produced only fractured churchianity and demonically-driven apostasy.  Invitations to share a meal may be a way to simultaneously delve further into one another’s lives and into kingdom truths.  And surely, as soon as any kind of similar focus is found, common prayer should be a regular (as “regular” as our getting together may be) occurrence.  While the “church” is content to have only a few “prayer warriors” who meet to pray, the ekklesia needs all of its members able to effectively wrestle against our spiritual enemies. (Eph. 6:18, etc.)  And yet again, each of these activities must be led by the Spirit, especially prayer, because the enemy will surely oppose these efforts to follow only the one true King.  Only in this way of complete submission to the Holy Spirit will be able to maintain a pattern of assembly consistent with that of the New Testament.

Because so many who seek to follow Christ have been tainted by their time in “church,” the biggest hurdle to overcome will be knowledge learned at “church.”  Doctrines that derive from men (Mt. 15:3) or even demons (1 Tim. 4:1) but are held to be sacred, beloved and cherished truths from God (and there are several of these doctrinal deceptions that are aimed precisely at disrupting a group’s unity in the Spirit) will quickly rise to the forefront of discussion and we must be prepared to stand against any deceptions.  Reverting to the first two issues – having Christ as our true King and seeking to aid one another in submitting to His Lordship – is likely to always be a good first step in any discussion of controversial doctrines or teachings.  And in this age of dissension and deception, every truth of God has at least one, perhaps many, counterfeits and distortions designed to derail any individual or group away from the King and His kingdom.

Following are several Scriptural standards by which we can peaceably and corporately seek to glean from the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)

  • Paul said to the Ephesian elders, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)  It is not impossible for even one man to know the whole counsel of God on a matter.
  • Paul wrote to his fellow worker Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)  Diligent workers who reverently and carefully seek the mind of Christ will be able to rightly divide and apply the word of truth (in accordance with the whole counsel of God) to the situation at hand. (see also 1 Ths. 2:3-6)
  • Paul wrote to the carnal (fleshly) and divided Corinthians, “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  …the natural man [who is manipulated or controlled by the god of this world – Eph. 2:2] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:12, 14 )  Anyone who remains obstinately unable to receive the things of God which the rest of the group is able to receive is to be restored to spirituality as gently as possible (Gal. 6:1) or, in due course and time, rejected by the entire group. (Mt. 18:17)
  • Paul also wrote to the Corinthians, “We speak wisdom among those who are mature…” (1 Cor. 2:6)  In some rare instances, the situation may truly be beyond the scope of the written words of the New Testament.  But more likely this wisdom will be needed in matters that require spiritual discernment so as to rightly divide an issue and appropriately nest it within the whole counsel of God.  In the discussion that attends such matters (which may become quite heated), the standard of what godly wisdom is like should be held to in order to keep the discussions from being harmful to the hearers. (see 2 Tim. 2:14)  James wrote, “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking [for things like preeminence or significance] in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  For where envy and self-seeking exist [are allowed to remain], confusion and every evil thing will be there.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas. 3:13-18)  Anyone who insists on forcing his or her own “private interpretations” (things gleaned apart from the work of the Spirit of truth – see 2 Pet. 1:20-21) upon the group – especially if his views are expressed with acerbic or acidic sarcasm and rudeness – is to be pressed toward repentance or rejected by the unanimous consent and confirmation of the entire group.  Rejection by the one who has the most Bible knowledge (possibly the most dangerous person in the assembly) only produces yet another Nicolaitan Diotrephes (see Rev. 2:6, 15) and a “majority vote” only brings the minority under the tyranny of the majority – all in contradiction to Jesus’ command that “It shall not be so among you.” (see Mk. 10:42-43, etc.)
  • Paul wrote, “I beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness [humility] and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unanimity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)  The Greek word rendered “unity” in many translations is henotes [1775] and is more accurately rendered unanimity – unanimous agreement, one accord. (see also Acts 15:22, 1 Cor. 1:10, etc.)  Paul wrote, “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and have all been made to drink one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13) and he later wrote to the same people, “I fear…[that] if [someone] who comes preaches [to you] another Jesus whom we [Paul and Timothy] have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it.” (2 Cor. 11:3-4)  Only one Spirit, that of Christ and God, is to be received if we are to be true ekklesia that furthers the kingdom of God.  Any group that fails to practice this unanimity of the Spirit is operating outside of God’s purpose that we all be one, as Christ and God are one, so that the world around us might see that Jesus is the Messiah whom God sent to be the Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. (see Jn. 17:21-23, 1:29)

We must take special care to hear what Christ said about our being one.  We are to be one so that the world will believe and know that the Father sent Jesus and that the Father loves us too.  The purpose of any group then is to corporately reproduce Christ – most often on the scale of two or three. (Mt. 18:20)  The purpose of any group is to build up His body – in spiritual strength and not just in numbers.  Any true leader (those who go before, not those who stand over!) must have as their “prime directive” the words of John the Baptist:  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:30)  Any leader who takes the preeminence to himself and away from Christ is simply another Diotrephes.  Every older leader who is a true elder (Greek presbuteros [4245] or episkopos [1985], in accordance with Paul’s list of characteristics to Timothy and Titus) must look for the servants (Greek, diakonos [1249], those who raise a cloud of dust in performing the needed work) who can go and physically attend to the needs brought to the group’s attention.  These servants, if they prove steadfast and reliable, are the leaders of the next group or next generation.  When a group is too large to gather in one home, we are to simply gather in two or three homes.  A group that is too large produces spectators and not participants.  Being ekklesia is definitely not a “spectator sport”!

This is the high and upward calling of God in Christ Jesus for any group who names the name of Christ.  This is the standard by which we should evaluate whether we are being genuine ekklesia or we have settled for being merely some man’s “church.”  If we are content to be carnal, divided or apostate, it matters not what label we take upon ourselves – our judgment is not sleeping.  But if we are going to take His name as our Husband and King, let us always remember that His is a name above every other name and the one to which every knee will someday bow, and that every tongue will someday agree that Jesus Christ is King and thus glorify God. (Phlp. 2:9-11)  The key responsibility upon mankind now is to individually and willingly choose to receive Christ as King and thus glorify God with their lives here and now and for the remainder of their days – or else they can wait until their death punctuates their earthly existence and they will then unwillingly acknowledge Christ as King and be consigned to the eternal lake of fire reserved for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41) and whoever has so served these masters of darkness (evil, oppression, deceit and rebellion against God) that their name is removed from or never entered into God’s Book of Life. (see Rev. 20:15, 3:5)  God’s judgments upon every individual and work of men will be “true and righteous” (Rev. 16:7, 19:2) and many will be eternally dismissed who believe they have a right to remain in His kingdom. (Mt. 7:22-23)  The task before us now is to purify ourselves as He is pure (1 Jn. 3:2-3) and to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting [completing] holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1)  Anything less is mere “church.”

Let he who has ears hear.