The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Monday, February 22, 2010

Conversations with a bullfrog ( 'joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me.....' )

'Is the Church a church?'

As I reeled from the impact of this 'blurt'ation; my friend re-phrased his question, 'When is a church not part of the Church?'

I quickly reminded him, 'You do realize that somebody might be listening, right?' 'Furthermore', I said, 'if you go around 'blurting out' that question, one, you're gonna immediately 'turn off'; those who believe that, as far as we're concerned, the church is part & parcel with the Church, and two, you might wanna figure out a way to rethink your question, or at least quickly clarify what you mean by 'the church', and 'the Church': a Roman Catholic might see the institutional church ( Catholic, anyway ) as the Church, along with some Protestants, while most Protestants would, I believe, differentiate between the two, alleging that the ( local ) church is just a physical representative of the spiritual Church, the body of believers scattered across the globe.

'Well'; said Jeremiah Bereano, 'I believe, and I think you agree, that the local church is, in many cases, an institution organized to bring believers together for the purposes of corporate worship, fellowship, and edification, also known as 'iron sharpening iron'. Some even exist almost solely for the purpose of evangelism, which, while not entirely without merit, should not be our main objective. By the Church, I mean the physical Body of Christ on earth, His chosen and elect people from every nation; as some would say, 'the invisible Church'.

Although I did not agree with everything that my friend has to say; this sounded about like what I believed, except I had to remind him that 'evangelism', although maybe not quite the same 'brand' practiced by certain branches of the evangelical church today, is the primary objective of the Body of Christ. I told him there had been some discussions going on lately on Facebook as to which was more important, doctrine or love; the general consensus was that love was the most important, as Paul said, 'the greatest of these is love'!

Jeremiah rudely interrupted at this point with, 'In context; Paul is saying that love is greater or more important than faith or hope'.................' ( I could see that this would NOT be one of our shorter conversations! )

'I realize that', I replied, ' but even Jesus, and then John, and James, emphasized the importance of love; Paul too, earlier in 'the love chapter ( I Corinthians 13 ) said that you can have many good things ( tongues ( of men and angels ), prophecy, all faith, etc. ), but if we don't have love, it's all useless. It's good to know what you believe and why you believe it, and even more important that those beliefs line up with God's revealed Word, but as James said, 'faith, without works, is dead ( useless )': we can have the most correct doctrine we want, lining up with 'orthodoxy' that's been taught for the past 2,000 years, but if we don't act on that faith, working it out in our own lives, and loving our brother ( and sister ), all that 'good' doctrine is just words, useless and dead!

'I agree with you there, Chuck', my friend replied; 'I can speak from personal experience in the past, and even up to this day, that many institutionalized churches do not have, or show, much love for the brethren unless you believe pretty much the same things that they do, and attend their local assembly!'

'I know what you're saying there, Jeremiah', I told him, 'and I agree; there are many churches still, that conduct their 'business'' that way, but there are also many who will help out, not only the brethren, but even those that we would call 'the lost'. We tend to look at these ministries, those of us with a more 'correct' doctrine ( yet often without love ), and say things like, 'well' they may be doing what Christ commanded, but their doctrine sure is screwy': I remember a recent conversation with a friend about the earthquake in Haiti; I told him what I heard about John Travolta, at his own expense, from what I understand, loading up his jet with food and other supplies for the survivors down there, and he replied with something like, he's just trying to spread his false gospel of Scientology'! True enough, but at least he's doing what needs to be done, because it needs done, not just 'sitting on his laurels', like many Christians, praying about it, and doing nothing, but maybe sending a gift of money, which most of it will probably never reach Port au Prince anyway!'


Before he could go any further, I quickly clarified, 'I'm not trying to say that Scientology is correct, or even that John Travolta had purely Christian motives in doing what he did, but at least, because he was able to do something, he did it, because it needed doing, not because they were fellow Scientologists, or even Christians, for that matter!' One can't help thinking of a statement allegedly made by a leader in the 'Christian Right', that they deserved what they got ( the Haitians ) because they made a deal with the devil, long ago!

I continued; 'though it is true, that many churches have acted that way, it is becoming more a thing of the past, and there is starting to be more of an outreach among many evangelical, especially, churches today, not only to the communities around them, mostly for the purposes, I'll admit, of a more-or-less false evangelism, but acting as the 'healing leaves' of Revelation 22 to the world around them, and not even because they necessarily believe that's what they are, but because God said they are!'

'What do you mean by 'a more-or-less false evangelism'', he asked me, 'I though that evangelism WAS the primary objective?!'

'Well', I sighed, 'it is, and it''s not!' 'As evangelism is practiced by most Christians today, as I described before, to try to get people to believe like you do, because you have the 'correct' doctrine, is not the primary objective, in fact, it shouldn't even really be our objective, but rather from a desire to share the love of Christ, not in a condemnatory way, as many mistakenly have done, and do, but 'out of a pure heart', with love, remembering that Christ loved us and died for us, 'even when we were sinners', and 'enemies'. He helped us, saved us, not because we had any redeeming qualities in us, but because it needed doing'.

'You still haven't answered my question', he complainingly said.

'Haven't I?' 'We agree that the church is not the Church, and I believe we can agree that the Church, although in many cases part of the church, is not all a part of any local assembly ( this may be a conversation for another day ). I believe that most, if not all, true churches ( true to the Gospel as revealed in Jesus ) are part of the Body of Christ, and that, while many members are part of the Body, membership in a local assembly ( makes it sound like a club, huh? ) does not mean that you a member of the Body.'

'I see what you're saying', Jeremiah almost reluctantly ceded, 'and I can agree, when you put it that way; I'll accept your answer.'

I was glad to hear this, and having told him so, and that I had some pressing business to attend to ( lunch ); I hung up, with the words, 'I'll talk to you more later on, have a great day.........bye!'

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Problem of Sin.................Solved!

This is, or should be, nothing new: John wrote, in I John 3:9, 'Whoever has been born of God does not sin', 'and why?', 'for His seed remains in him', indeed, 'he cannot sin, because he has been born of God'!

That's the reality!

In Matthew 1:21, which I've quoted before, Joseph was told to name Mary's Child Jesus, because He would 'save His people from their sins'. We can also refer, I believe, to Daniel 9:24, where the prophet is give a certain time line by which God would 'make an end of ( literally 'seal up' ) sin'. Inarguably, the 'man' Gabriel was referring to the redemption of 'the Israel of God' by the sacrifice of this same Jesus!

You may have heard the argument that, while John's words are true positionally ( before God, because of Christ ), in actuality we are not free of sin, because 'if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us' ( I John 1:8 ). I have addressed this 'problem' previously, in another article that I wrote several years ago, but I wanted to give it another look, from a slightly different approach, if you will. In the very next verse, we read those famous 'words of comfort' that 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness', which are indeed great words of comfort, but not, I believe, in the context in which they are usually read, that we must confess our sins every day in order that He might forgive us our sins. It is true that if we are a Christian, we will confess our sins, not in order that He might forgive them ( He's already done that! ), but our confession of sins comforts us with the realization that we have been forgiven, because we repented of our sins, when we turned to Christ! We confess our sins because we have been forgiven, not so that we might be forgiven. Another 'approach' that I've discussed previously, is that John was speaking, in the above passage, of what had previously happened in the unbeliever's life, that after we had confessed our sin and repented of it, Jesus had forgiven that sin and cleansed us from our unrighteousness! What a 'Blessed Assurance' it is, to know that, having confessed ( and repented of ) our sins, we can be assured that He has forgiven us our sins, in very fact that we have been 'perfected forever' ( Hebrews 10:14 ), and that when we do confess ( and repent of ) our sins against each other, this is simply proof to ourselves ( and to them ) of what God has done and is still doing in our lives!

I believe that, to a large extent, when many Christians read, in particular, the first epistle from John, they have a tendency, while trying to apply this letter to their own lives ( to which application can and should be made ), to overlook the historical situation that John was addressing. This is one of the biggest 'problems' facing the church today! John wrote, in verse six, that 'if we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth'. This is applicable for us today, but to the original audience that John wrote these words, I believe that they had a bit more meaning, that meaning being that if they were to 'walk' after the old manner of Judaism, and seek to remain 'under law' ( the Old Covenant ), that they had no fellowship with Christ, and did not practice the Truth! Some may ask 'why is this such a big 'problem; can we not apply this as easily to people Christians today?' Well, yes................and no! We can easily tell a person that is living in sin, while pretending to be a Christian that he cannot live as he is and still be a Christian, but when John wrote these words to his 'children', he was giving them warning that, if they did not heed his word, they were 'in danger of hell-fire' ( Matthew 5:22 ), and of being 'burned up' ( Hebrews 6:8, Matthew 13:30 )! Now, under the New Covenant; hope remains as long as life perseveres.

Back now, to the immediate context of chapter 3 of John's first letter; in verse 2, John writes 'Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is'. Believing, as some have come to, that Jesus Christ was revealed as the Son of God when He came in the 'clouds' of judgment to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, thus bringing a decisive end to the Old Covenant ( Judaistic ) economy, so it would follow that if Jesus was revealed at that time, in which 'every eye' saw Him, then we too have 'seen' Him and are seen that we are like Him! Directly following the first quote that I made, John wrote 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest; whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother'. Again, in both the historical and covenantal context, John was warning his 'children' that if they didn't 'walk' in the right paths, doing right and good as a way of life, that this was a sign that they were not of God, the 'other side of the coin' being that if they did walk in the right path, doing ( practicing ) right and good, as a way of life, then this was a sign that they were ( born ) of God, and therefore, could not sin, for 'His seed remains in them'!

Many will argue, 'But we still sin, by transgressing against God's law, His commandments!' This is true enough, as far as that goes, but do we really? Earlier in chapter 3 ( verse 4 ); John wrote, 'Whoever commits sin commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness', and little later, 'Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him'. ( No wonder so many peoples hearts 'sink' when they read this passage, and passages like it ( Romans 8:8, etc. ) without the covenant and historical context! ) I believe that John was addressing the particular sin that his people ( national, physical Israel, after the flesh ) were guilty of, that of 'denying the Lord ( Jesus ) who bought them' ( II Peter 2:1 ), and 'seeking to establish their own righteousness ( through the Law ), have not submitted to the righteousness of God' ( Romans 10:3 ). As I wrote above, John's words of wisdom are applicable for Christians today, but not in the sense of dire warning which he conveyed to his original audience. We can know, and take comfort in, that if we 'abide in Him', He being the very embodiment of the Law of God ( love ); we really can 'sin no more' because of His sacrifice on the cross, having 'become a curse for us' ( Galatians 3:13 )! On the cross of Calvary; God transferred the righteousness of His Son upon us and placed our sin upon Him, hence we have become, positionally, as some would say, 'the righteousness of God, in Him ( Christ )'!( II Corinthians 5:21 )

Ordinarily; when using this kind of language to 'preach' this message, many will get the idea that I am trying to say, as some of Paul's listeners accused him of saying 'let us do evil, that good may come' ( Romans 3:8 ), or 'let us continue in sin, that grace may abound' ( Romans 6:1 ), but this is not what I'm saying at all! All I'm saying is that when we truly strive to lead a Christian life, obeying God's commandment, most notably that of 'love', loving God, and our neighbor as ourselves; we are no longer to be classified as 'sinners' ( though technically; we still disobey, failing to do what we should ), not because we don't 'sin', but because of what Christ has done, in and through us!

It is a terrible thing, disobeying God's command to love; hate can be a terrible and powerful force! Look at our world today; even the exalted face of Christ ( Christianity ) has been marred by it, almost worse than His own physical visage was by the Roman and Syrian soldiers before His crucifixion, and 'hate' has done this! 'Love', however, as embodied by Christ, is much more ( infinitely so! ) powerful. The love of Christ made us rise from the deadness of sin ( yes, even our mortal, physical bodies ) ( Romans 8:10 & 11 ), so that we might be renewed, made a 'new creation', able to be 'led by the Spirit', keeping His command to love! Scripture tells us that to hate ( our brother ) is to sin against him; I would like to say that I don't 'hate' anyone, although there are times when I so strongly dislike certain people's actions, that I almost feel like strangling them ( that's not very Christ-like, is it...........wait a minute......)!

What does it mean then, to 'sin'? Is sin not the transgression of the law ( whatever law that might be )? Technically; I believe that is the very definition. I asked the question quite some time ago, 'Can a Christian Sin?' A dear sister replied that, no, we could not, that it is incorrect to say that we do, or that we should be called 'sinners'. As I said above; I too, believe this is incorrect; we can no longer be said to 'sin', nor can we truly be called 'sinners'! When we do something that we have been told not to do, whether it be by a parent, by law enforcement, or any other figure of authority, it is technically a sin, by the above definition. Against God, though, and His law of Love, which is what John was speaking of, we do not sin, if indeed we are 'led by the Spirit' to love our brother. Do we love perfectly, at all times? I know I don't, but Christ does, and if we are 'in' Christ, striving to obey His command to love, we have fulfilled the law ( Romans 10:4 ), and are no longer a transgressor of it!

By the grace of Christ ( alone ),
no longer a transgressor, and able to 'love the brethren',
Charles Shank