Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ephesians 4:13-16

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

It is important to realize that, according to this passage in Ephesians, the supreme purpose of the church is not the evangelization of the world. The Great Commission is often held up to us as the supreme aim and purpose of the church, and it is certainly a crucial and essential task. Jesus has clearly sent us out to preach the Gospel to every creature. But the Great Commission is not God's supreme and ultimate goal.

Romans 8:29 tells us that God's ultimate plan for us is that we be "conformed to the image of his Son." Evangelization is a means of bringing people into a relationship with God, so that God's ultimate goal for them--Christlikeness--can be achieved in their lives.

Nor does Paul say anything here about accomplishing world peace and universal justice. He does not say the church will ultimately introduce the millennium. We may well believe in the great vision of the prophets that there is a day coming when peace shall reign on the earth and men shall beat their swords into plowshares and make war no more. One day righteousness shall prevail over all the earth and all of today's headlines of injustice, tragedy, war, mass murder, terrorism, crime, racism, and hate will be forgotten. But that is not the great and final purpose for the existence of the church.

God's overarching goal is to produce men and women who demonstrate the character qualities of Jesus Christ. God does not want a church filled with whiterobed saints. He does not want a church filled with theological authorities or cultured clergyman. He wants a church filled with ordinary men and women who exemplify the extraordinary integrity, temperament, wholeness, compassion, individuality, boldness, righteousness, earnestness, love, forgiveness, selflessness, and faithfulness of Jesus Christ!

New Christians should also understand that growth does not come by trying. As Jesus pointed out, you cannot by taking thought add a cubit to your stature. You cannot say, "Now I am going to try to grow." Children would grow much faster than they do if that would work! But it doesn't.

How, then, do you grow? You must make sure that the factors that enhance and encourage spiritual growth are present. If they are, growth will occur of itself, naturally and unforced. We have already examined many of these factors, but they are summarized by the apostle Paul in this twofold way: increasing in (1) "the unity of the faith" and (2) "the knowledge of the Son of God." These, he says, will lead to mature manhood, "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).

Though the Scriptures are unchanging, new light is continually issuing forth from them through individual teachers who are given these new insights by the Holy Spirit. But then they must be shared widely in the body or no new truth is given. New Christians grow when they exert themselves to understand the Scriptures with the help of the teachers and leaders who make themselves available to them within the body of Christ.

This occurs when the knowledge of the faith (Hearing) is put into practice (Doing).
Hearing and doing go hand in hand. You cannot know Jesus Christ until you follow Him. The disciples had an acquaintance with Jesus Christ before they became His disciples. That is obvious from the Gospel records. But they never knew Him until they left everything and followed him. It is here that we are particularly helped by the prayers and concern of the other members of the body. In our relationships with one another, our experience of the Lord who lives within us is deepened and enlarged. As Jesus said, when he revealed the standard of judgment for the last day,

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40)

Teaching and preaching is the over flowing of The Holy Spirit in our life. By learning of Jesus we grow into the Image of Him. This means that we become like Him and doing what He does. Is these works or being coming like Him?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Works or Obey PART 1

Legalism, with its heavy demand for morality upon people who do not yet understand how to meet that demand with the proper response, is a deadly thing! Yet it is widespread wherever you go in the Christian world today -- here in the United States and everywhere else.

Much of the reason for this worldwide spread of legalism is that Christians either do not understand the power available to them or they ignore it and try to respond to the demand for morality by reliance upon their own self-effort and will power. That is phony Christianity! It never works. It never will work. It has created much of the weakness of the church today. The church has gained the image in the eyes of many of being a place where morality is taught, where a high standard of life is preached, but where nobody practices it. This is why the idea has gained such wide popularity around the earth that Christians are basically hypocrites who talk of standards that they do not live.

Leviticus 17
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them; This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, saying,
What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp,
And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people:

What is God trying to impart with this kind of requirement? What is the lesson that he had for these people which still applies to us? We don't have to follow the letter of these regulations anymore, but we do have to obey the great principles that are involved. You will notice that for an Israelite to violate this requirement was a very serious offense. He was to be cut off from among his people if he did not follow it carefully. So this must be a very important principle.

The minute you depend upon yourself -- your personality, your background, your training, your heredity, your dedication, whatever -- to accomplish something for God's sake, you are walking in the flesh, rather than depending upon the activity of the life of Jesus Christ in you as a Christian, which is walking in the Spirit. The whole Bible labors to teach us that walking in the flesh is always unacceptable to God. It doesn't make any difference how good the results of it may appear to man; it is unacceptable to God. According to Paul in Romans, "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God," (Romans 8:7). So if you do walk in the flesh it is uncleanness. And anyone who does so is unclean until he begins to depend again upon the Spirit of God. This is reflected in these Old Testament practices.

John 6:52-56
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

There is the great reality!, "the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ," (Galatians 3:24 KJV). These ancient requirements in the Old Testament were but preparatory devices, visual aids, designed by God to prepare people for the proclamation of the truth from the lips of Jesus. And if they had understood this, as God had so carefully and patiently instructed them through the centuries, they would have received these words of Jesus with gladness and joy. But they didn't understand this principle at all. So you can imagine, in the face of this in Leviticus, how offensive these words were to Jews who had been taught all their lives that it was an abomination to eat blood. And now here comes Jesus who says, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. You are dead. But if you do, you abide in me and I in you." Even his disciples were offended at this.

God is patiently trying to teach us that we are no longer to depend upon that fallen life, what we call "the flesh," the old life, the old method of operating. The resources that we lived by and depended upon before we became Christians -- our personality, our training and education, our good looks, whatever we counted on -- are no longer to be our resources. They are natural resources and to partake of them is wrong for a believer. That is what God is teaching. We are not to feed on a fallen life, for God has provided a new life, the life of Christ, imparted to us and now part of us. And that is a proper life -- a God-intended, God-provided life -- proper food. Therefore he who eats this life, drinks this blood, as Jesus said, "has eternal life," is operating on God's intended provision.

We eat and drink of this life whenever we draw upon the life of Jesus for strength to love someone who is not very lovely, or for patience when we are irritated and hard-pressed, or for kindness when we don't feel very good. If, in any moment of demand we reckon upon his life, then we are drinking his blood and eating his flesh. When we do that, his life is flowing in us and Christ is at work in us. That is the difference. And this is what God is seeking to remind us of. We have a reminder of it in the Lord's table where, by symbol, we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, and that pictures the life we are to live. You can see how God labors to teach this. Anything else, he says, is a curse and if you fall prey to it you will be cut off from among your people, i.e., your life will be of such a character that there will be no observable change from the old life. You will not be living like a Christian.

I started out with the statement “Legalism, with its heavy demand for morality upon people who do not yet understand how to meet that demand with the proper response” I want to end with the same . The cross is God's way of saying there is nothing in us worth saving at all, apart from Christ -- no salvageable content whatsoever. He takes us as we are, men and women apart from Christ, and he says, "There is nothing you can do for me, not one thing." For when Christ became what we are, when he was "made sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21), God passed sentence upon Him, and put Him to death. This is God's eloquent way of saying to us, "There is nothing to please me in yourslf; there is not a thing you can do by your own effort that is worth a thing." All that we can ever be, without Christ, is totally set aside. Death eliminates us, wipes us out.

Who has not heard Christians talking in such a way as to give the impression that the greatest thing that ever happened to God was the day He found them. But we are not indispensable to Him; He is indispensable to us. And the great truth to which this brings us is: If we become bankrupt to do anything for God, we are then able to receive everything from Him. That is what he wants us to see.