Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Are you "churchless"?

How many times have you heard the broken-hearted testimony of an individual or couple or an entire family saying how they were abused, shunned, ignored, lied about and eventually told to leave the "church" they had come to know and love? Those who have had to come to terms with this always tell of the gut-wrenching agony they endured for weeks, months, and even years. The temptation is to just sweep it all under the rug, let by-gones be by-gones instead of standing for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The controversy always revolves around some doctrinal issue. Every tactic known to the wicked one will be employed against those who are faithful to the Word and the Lord Jesus. Huge amounts of guilt will laid upon those who question the 'pastor', 'elders', 'deacons', and other leaders. You may hear things like 'what gives you the right to question me?'; maybe not those exact words, but the intent is the same no matter how it is said. You will be called all sorts of names such as trouble maker, divisive, unloving, and so forth. If guilt does not sway you then flattery will be next up as you may be told 'how valuable' you are to the 'church'. Whatever the tactic, it will involve the emotions and never reasoning based on the Word of God----and that is the "tell" that gives them away every time. If the Word is used it will be of some convoluted interpretation that is used to sway those who are not rooted and grounded in the Word, one who is easily blown about with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). The greatest temptation may be to just throw in the towel and compromise the truth to accommodate the evil (am I right? is it really worth all this trouble? what will people think of me if I leave the 'church'? etc.) Those who have been through such a trial and have not succumbed to the wiles of the devil know full well the peace that floods the soul when the break is finally made. It is highly likely that you may contract a healthy dose of the "Elijah Syndrome" while going through this trial. Elijah's complaint was that in spite of his faithfulness to the Lord he stood alone without human companion and was now facing death (1 Kings 19:10). The rebuke of the Lord told him that He had seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). We are never told if Elijah knew any of these men, but it became his "man-up" moment as he proceeded to obey the Lord. Don't be surprised if you feel alone and actually go it alone, too----but you're not alone, the Lord is always with you.

Being "churchless" has become a stigma, even a sin (as declared to be so by those who run the "church"), but what does the Word of God have to say about this? Hebrews 10:25 is shoved down the throats of those who refuse to "attend church" in an attempt to load the transgressor with unbearable guilt. This works all too often to keep the members of a 'church' in their place, in the pew, giving their money, praising the leadership, etc. We have it hammered into our heads the 'necessity of the local 'church' even it's 'authority' over the believer and what a sin it is not to be obedient to all the edicts of pastorate. But where is this to found in the Word? It's not there, despite the desperate efforts of those who control other men through the use of shame and guilt. We do find 1 Thess. 5:12 & 13 that tells us to "recognize" (not bow down to) those who are "over you in the Lord" (as God appointed teachers, pastors, etc. NOT those who demand unquestioning allegiance to them) and "esteem them very highly in love for their works sake." Phil 2:3 says "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

The sad reality of what passes for "church" today has little or nothing to do with the commands and examples found in the Word. What we do have is something hated by the Lord Jesus, the rule of the 'laity' as He spoke in Rev. 2:6 and 2:15. Nicolas was one of the seven original deacons (Acts 6:5) and is said to be a proselyte from Antioch (proselyte being a convert to Judaism, not Christianity---Strong's #4339. The term 'proselyte' is key because it always indicates a Gentile that has converted to Judaism, not to Christ, thus making Nicolas one of the first 'false brethren'.  Nicolaitan, a follower of Nicolas, who is the "victor over people" (Strong's # 3531 & 3532), refers to those who follow men and not Christ which is the case today in most 'churches'. It is hated by the Lord Jesus because men have tried to place man, instead of Christ, as the one they will bow to and worship. It is the 'rule of the laity' simply because these men are self-appointed to their self-chosen position and not God appointed. Despite all their theological degrees, praise from their fellows, years of 'service in the church' they are not God's man as evidenced by the wicked rule over their fellow man by the use of errant teaching, ungodly demands of allegiance bolstered by the guilt inflicted for non-compliance.

Being "churchless" or "unchurched" is a good thing and a not so disguised blessing from the Lord. Perhaps it is that He, the Lord, who is doing the "unchurching" of His people by 'forcing them out' of their godless surroundings----2 Cor. 6:17 & 18. But that's for another day.      

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