Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Is Not Your Mother's Church . . . (Part 2)


As a result of my dramatic encounter with Holy Spirit, shortly after I committed my life to Jesus, I purchased a Bible and began to study it in earnest. The first thing I did was read it through from Genesis to Revelation. Whew, talk about chewing on an oversized piece of steak! I bit off the spiritual “King of the “T-bones, the Porterhouse. Once I’d chewed my way through that, I went back and began to focus on the things Holy Spirit was calling my attention to.

I’ve continued that in-depth study for over three decades.

One of the foundations for my passion with God’s Word is my personal belief that I am living in the generation that will see the return of Jesus Christ. Prior to my extraordinary visitation with Holy Spirit, I had very little understanding of just exactly what the Second Coming was all about. I was vaguely familiar with it and knew only that it was an event that religious people were always talking about and using as a means to “get people saved.” But I really had no idea what it was all about.

So I started digging.

In the process, Holy Spirit began to open up Scripture to me like peeling back an onion. The more I studied, the deeper I wanted to go. Scripture tells us that the Word of God is like “honey on our lips.” For me, it was more like taffy in my mouth. The more I chewed on it, the bigger and stickier it got.

After a couple of months of studying under the guiding hand of Holy Spirit, He told me it was time to go back to church. I wasn’t looking forward to it, because of my previous experiences. Nevertheless, I was obedient and went to the church the Lord directed me to.

I realized fairly quickly that this church “was not my mother’s kind of church.” Nor was it like any other church I had ever been in. I actually enjoyed going. I was there all the time, whenever the doors were open. I grew in my faith and fellowshipped with like-minded people several times a week. But I was also spending a great deal of time studying the Word on my own.

I moved several times and always looked for a new church. God was faithful to direct my steps, and I continued to grow in m faith.

Over time, however, I began to realize that in spite of the fact that there we no obvious similarities between the churches I was now part of and my mother’s church, or the other churches I’d visited when I was younger, some of the very same behavior manifested time and again.

Perhaps the best way I can describe it is like the story of the three blind men asked to describe an elephant. One grasps the trunk, one a leg, and the other the tail. When asked, each describes what they have “experienced” by touch and each is adamant that they have accurately described what an elephant looks like. Sadly, this is the way most Believers talk in terms of describing The Church. They focus on whatever “their” particular denomination or church thinks is the most important thing: evangelism, prophecy, feeding the poor, outreach to the community, praise and worship, healing, teaching, preaching, apostolic oversight, and so on. Various groups of Believers embrace titles for their faithful leaders such as Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Evangelist, Healer, Bishop, etc. in order to let others know what they major in. Like attracts like and individuals are drawn to whatever captures their interest. They also have a tendency to leave and go elsewhere when they lose interest or disagree with the current focus of their leaders.

Of course, these various aspects of Body life are all important ministry functions of “the Church.” We are a many-membered Body, and it is essential that all of these ministry functions, and others, are present in order for the Body to be healthy. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare to find all of these “body parts” working together in unison and harmony under one ministry covering.

Why is that?

To put it bluntly, the religious spirit knows no bounds. It is equally satisfied telling individuals that if you aren’t baptized you aren’t saved, or that God stopped speaking to His people prophetically when the Apostle John died on the isle of Patmos in 93 A.D., or that tongues is of the devil, or that we can only know and interact with God by His Word, or that we need fresh revelation by Holy Spirit which is then elevated in importance over God’s written Word, etc. One can easily find a multitude of religious and divisive behaviors in every Christian denomination and belief system.
This is called sectarianism--bigotry, discrimination, or hatred arising from attaching importance to perceived differences between subdivisions within a group. Sadly, the Christian Church is rife with this. We squabble over just about everything. That must change, because Scripture tells us that Jesus always intended that He might present the Church to Himself as a “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph.5:27-28) 

 Am I saying that foundational doctrines such as baptism, the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, sanctification, etc. are unimportant? Of course not. However, my point is that we, as individuals and corporately, need to wake up and realize that God’s primary interest is for us to be intimate with Him. Intimacy is essential to a healthy relationship. Intimacy also is the enemy of religion.

Who is the Church, anyway? Simply put, the Church literally means “the called out ones.” The word “church” in our New Testament is translated from the Greek word eccelsia. In Hebrew, it actually means "calling people together for a specific purpose.” We are “called out” to be in this world but no of it. We are “called out” to be salt and light to a dying, sinful world. We are “called out” to live a sanctified life on a daily basis. We are “called out” not to become a member of a particular denomination, but to The Kingdom. His Kingdom. A Kingdom where there is no lack, but abundance. A Kingdom where healing is accepted and expected. A Kingdom where God’s prophetic Word is embraced and obeyed. A Kingdom where we put more emphasis on the importance of a daily relationship with Holy Spirit than our religious doctrines. A Kingdom where we endeavor to only do that which we see our Father doing. A Kingdom where we are willing to do what is necessary to bring our soul into submission to the Spirit so that we might grow into full maturity. A Kingdom where Jesus, and not a particular doctrine or set of doctrines, is what we worship.

A final point on my belief that we are the generation who will witness and experience the prophetic return of Christ and all that entails. If that belief--which originated over thirty years ago during the time of my “visitation ” is correct and not simply the result of going without food for several days, or, perhaps, some lingering effects of the sinful life I was still living a few months prior--then it is imperative that we prepare for what is racing toward us at the speed of a freight train on a downhill run. If that belief is error, then at the very least I have endeavored to live my life each day as if the return of our Lord and Savior is sooner than most would like to admit.

In closing, I’d like to say this. I chose the title for this blog because it is something the Lord said to me when I first went back to church. He whispered in my ear, “This is not your mother’s church. There isn’t a solitary preacher at the head of my Body who has the final word on My Word. Nor is My church multi-headed, like a chimera. I am The Head. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Seek Me with all your heart, and you will find Me--just like I found you on that overpass."

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