Friday, October 17, 2014

Righteous Judgment

Blessed are they that do His commandments...  Rev. 22:14

Faith without works is dead.  James 2:14-26

The Heart of God

I have wondered for years just what the Bible means when it refers to righteous judgment. I felt like it went beyond just being fair, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Now I think I am beginning to see how our obligations as Christians to do the Word, to judge the cause of the poor and the needy fulfill the requirement for righteous judgment.

Have we really understood what we are to be doing as the Body of Christ? Or has religious tradition locked us into a mindset that has moved us further and further away from the real message of the Gospel and the heart of the Father?

Throughout the Word of God, the heart of God is revealed, a heart of love, a heart of giving and a heart of mercy and grace. Clearly, God wants mercy and not sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22-23), that mercy manifested as helping the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc.  It is all over the Bible in such verses as the discourse in the first chapter of Isaiah:
Bring no more offerings of vanity... Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts My soul hates... even though you make many prayers, I will not hear... Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes!  Cease to do evil, learn to do right!  Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor.  Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... (verses 13-18)
The acceptable fast in Isaiah 58 is to loose bands of wickedness, to feed the hungry, take care of the poor, etc. Yet we have been thoroughly religion-ized into thinking that our service to God simply involves showing up for church services every week and dutifully paying our tithes so the church itself can dole out the money left over from expenses to do what we should be doing ourselves.

There is no real sense of satisfaction in just sitting back and letting the administration of the system take care of our obligations to care for the needy. And the way we do things now just creates a whole population of Christians that are lazy and willing to pass the buck. The biblical model for giving in the New Testament is not one of religious obligation to a formula. It is one of giving directly to those in need according to ability and with a willing heart. James makes this very clear:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?  Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone... for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  (James 2:14-26)

Hear and Obey

Granted, doing things God’s way takes some effort on our part to first, hear from God and learn to be led by His Spirit, then actually doing what He says to do. But isn’t that the principal part of being a Christian- a relationship with God, a relationship that goes much further beyond just accepting salvation, then doing some religious duty to an institution?

Jesus practiced righteous judgment because He heard from God and obeyed. He wasn’t obedient to His own will, but to the will of the Father. So righteous judgment involves hearing from God and seeking His will:
I am able to do nothing from Myself- independently, of My own accord- but as I am taught by God and as I get His orders. [I decide as I am bidden to decide.  As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision.]  Even as I hear, I judge and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will- I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose- but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me.  John 5:30 Amp. 
But he who practices truth- who does what is right- comes out into the light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are, wrought with God- divinely prompted, done with God's help, in dependence upon Him. John 3:21
Our works have to be dependent upon Him and divinely prompted. We are not to have a “herd mentality” where we do things because everyone else does it, or because “this is the way we’ve always done things”. Traditions make the Word of none effect (Mark 7:13). The Word is living; our relationship with God should also be a living, active relationship that is solely dependent upon His direction. And when we are obedient to seek His will and do His promptings, then we will be obeying the command for mercy rather than sacrifice.

Manifesting the Love of God vs Tradition

It seems to me that our giving has become a mechanical, habitual, unspiritual, religious ritual with no life in it.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  Hosea 6:6 (Jer. 9:24; 22:16) 
He judged the cause of the poor and the needy and it was well with him. Was not this to know Me?  Jer. 22:16
THIS is righteous judgment, and this is to know God- judging the cause of the poor and the needy. The fulfillment of the law is found in the royal law of love, according to James 2:8. In that discourse, James speaks of having respect of persons, favoring the rich over the poor:
Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?  But ye have despised the poor... If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well; But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors... For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shown no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:1-13)
We are to show mercy. We are to judge righteous judgment and judge the cause of the poor and the needy. THEN it will be well with us. THEN our light shall shine as the morning and our healing shall spring forth speedily (Isaiah 58:8).

We have been hiding from the command to judge the cause of the poor and the needy. We have hidden in our “ceiled houses” of worship. The prophet Haggai calls for us to consider our ways:
Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? ... You have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways... (Haggai 1:6-7)
We have not done things God’s way, and His house lies in ruins while we all hide away in our beautiful buildings and ignore the cries of the needy. The house of God is not the building, it is the Body of Christ that builds itself up in love, not in selfishness. Those of us that have sat under prosperity preaching for years may be wondering why we just keep giving into these systems and yet don’t see that promised 100 fold return. It is because we are not doing things God’s way. We have been building fancy buildings and paying paid staff rather than being obedient to God’s call to judge righteous judgment.

When we give according to the biblical pattern- as God leads, with a willing heart and according to ability, that is where the blessings are. There is no real blessing in giving according to tradition and according to formula and certainly not according to arm-twisting from the pulpit.

Is it any wonder church membership is dropping? Is it any wonder Christians are hungry for more than what they get on Sunday mornings? Is it any wonder we have not seen the blessings of God as we should?

The Divine Plumb Line
Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies and waters shall overflow the hiding place.  (Isaiah 28:17)
Righteous judgment will be the deciding factor. Have we judged righteously in judging the cause of the poor and the needy? Or have we been hiding ourselves in a refuge of lies? a refuge of ceiled houses, traditions and buck-passing?

Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats:
...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.  (Matthew 25:31-46) 
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Can we rely on our dutiful giving into a church system that gives to the poor to count as our being obedient to the command to judge the cause of the poor and the needy? I for one am not willing to count on it. We need to manifest the mercy, grace and love of God to those around us as He leads us. It is the Body of Christ doing the Word that will change the world.
But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed... Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  (James 1:25-27)
Plumb line is free image from Wikimedia Commons

Blog Posts

The Dechurched and the Next Move of God

The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come
Where's the Love?
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?

Red Flag Churches

Red Flag Churches
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Liquid Church- The Shape of Church to Come

Giving- According to Tradition or According to the Spirit?

The concept of church that most of us have known all our lives has been shaped by our experiences in traditional church of one denomination or another.  We all tend to accept the premise that the work of the Church is done through the local church, and that generally by the few that we perceive as "qualified".

For the most part, the vast majority of Christians only passively minister to the needy because those ministries are run by the local church, and that means only a few are actually involved. When we give our money to the church, we are told that we are taking an active part in whatever ministry the church does in the community, but is this how the New Testament says it should be?
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. KJV 1 Cor. 14:26
There are lots of “one another” verses in the New Testament that we really don’t see walked out in churches as we know them now.  The Word tells us to exhort one another, teach and admonish one another, serve one another and of course, love one another. Our mission is to express the love of God to one another in our daily lives, not necessarily just through church programs, but directly ministering to those in need when we come together, as well as to those in need in our communities.

There are a plethora of verses commanding that we walk out our faith with acts of love and service as expressed in Matthew 25:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. KJV
Christian giving is supposed to be according to ability, with a willing heart (2 Cor. 8:12; 9:7), not under compulsion.  Our giving is to be directed toward those God brings into our lives, toward those that God draws our attention to. When we give according to God’s direction to those in need rather than going through an institution that acts as a middle man, we can experience the blessings of giving and we can see that what we give goes directly to where the need is rather than being funneled into an institution that will divert funds to support itself.

There are so very many verses that express this in the Word, like in James 2:14 where it says that faith without works is dead. When you see someone in need yet dismiss them without doing anything for them, where is the faith in that? But more to the point, if their needs are dismissed because we have already given a tithe to an institution and just don’t have any more to give, then where does that leave the needy?

I have come to believe that our giving is not to be coerced by threats of the curse and given in the form of a tithe that will go to support a building, programs and paid staff. This just isn’t what I see in the New Testament at all. What I see is a heart of love that chooses to give of itself to those around them in need, and that giving is to be done with a willing heart and according to ability, not motivated out of pressure from the pulpit. And it certainly isn't limited to money; there are people all around us with physical needs that we can help meet.
13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; 14 That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. 15 Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.  Jer. 22:13-16 KJV
The use of the word "house" in this passage generally brings to mind a private dwelling.  But if you look at it like it is referring to a "house of God", a church building, it takes on a different meaning. We have "closed ourselves" in our "houses", away from the rest of the world, and sermons so often are merely "preaching to the choir".  I hate to think about how many buildings have been erected by demanding the tithe, and devouring widows' houses in the process, all for the sake of an impressive "house of God".

Here we see what God wants, and what it takes to truly know Him- to judge the cause of the poor and the needy. It brings to mind the verse where Jesus is saying to those who did all the religious things thinking they were doing God's work- "Depart from Me, I never knew you" (Mat. 7:23). So much of what we do in church is merely ritual, and we have missed the greater call God has on our lives- do something for those in need around us.

Empty Traditions of Men
13 Bring no more offerings of vanity (emptiness, falsity, vainglory, and futility); [your hollow offering of] incense is an abomination to Me; the New Moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure--[it is] iniquity and profanation, even the solemn meeting. . .  17 Learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.  Isaiah 1:13-20 AMP
Traditional churches have done worlds of good throughout the centuries, yet the institutional system it has been has restricted her ability to minister as we need to in the last days. Because of the one-man-rule setup we are all accustomed to, we tend to devalue ourselves and place too much responsibility on that one man (or woman) and the handful of people in leadership that work with them. Church has become an event, a programmed "service" in which traditions of men predominate. Indeed, the entire system is a man-made tradition that has taken on proportions that have left the Kingdom of God in the dust. The Kingdom of God is within each of us, and the Kingdom of God is now, not in the future. As the Kingdom begins to take shape through our obedience to His voice, then the world will see Jesus.

The heart of God is for the poor, the widow, the orphan, those in need. Christianity should be a lifestyle, not a weekly event. If you are born again, you are qualified. You don't need years of training to minister the love of God to those around you. Often it is the youngest Christians, those who have been born again only a short time, that are the most effective witnesses because they haven't yet been indoctrinated into the mindsets that we all acquire after years of institutional church involvement. We tend to devalue our own abilities and giftings simply because of the way churches are structured, believing that only the chosen few are qualified to do any active ministry. Church services can become vain, shallow expressions of our faith with little that conforms to what God says He desires:
6[Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke? 7 Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house--when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?  Isaiah 58: 6-7 AMP

Liquid Church
With Jesus at the Helm

When Jesus is truly the Head of the Church and His body is obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that is when the world will see Jesus in us, for we will be expressing His love to those around us. As long as we are restricted by the traditional church model that tends to leave all ministry to the chosen few, the people of God are shortchanged. Often believers are left thinking they aren't qualified to do anything more than just show up on Sundays and support the local church programs with their money. So their gifts and talents quite often go untapped, and they are left frustrated and without vision or motivation to minister the way God intended.

With Jesus as the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit leading the people of God, every believer has the opportunity to function in the body as they are called, every believer then can give freely to those they are led to give to, and give according to ability; and every believer will then experience what it is like to be able to express their uniqueness as a vital part of the Body of Christ.

THIS is what Christianity, and for that matter, the Kingdom of God, boil down to- walking in love by ministering the love of God to those in need. When we all begin to listen to the guiding of the Spirit and minister to the needs of those around us, we turn into what some have termed "liquid church" that seeps into every part of society. While institutional church is like an ice cube with a specific form in a specific space, liquid church flows like living water into the cracks and crevices of life, bringing love and hope to parts of society others have forgotten.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matt 23:23 KJV
You CAN hear from God; you CAN learn to listen to His voice to know where to go, what to do and how to give. Traditional church tends to make believers lazy, depending on the few to do everything, including hearing God's voice. But God never intended for any of us to sit on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do it all. They can't. He needs every one of us listening to the guiding voice of His Spirit and He speaks to all of us every day.

The Holy Spirit flows like a river, and we need to become a part of that river of living water that flows at His direction, ministering to the needs of those around us. God's heart from the beginning of the Bible to the end is clearly to be directed toward the poor, the homeless, the widow, the orphan, the weightier things of the law. A reformation is needed in the Body of Christ, a reformation that will bring us into God's perfect will with mercy, righteous judgment, faith and love as our primary motivation. Then the world will see Jesus.
Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Sam 15:22 AMP
Stream is free image from Wikimedia Commons.

 by Jon Zens
"Only by turning a blind eye to the New Testament can we end up with a deeply entrenched system that flagrantly denies Paul’s crystal-clear remark — 'the body is not one part, but many.' The way most churches are run gives the distinct impression that everything depends on one part — 'the pastor' — not many. . . There is already Someone to lead congregations, and His name is Jesus Christ. But the system’s focus on a human leader functionally negates the leadership of Christ. Do we care that Jesus clearly said, 'don’t be called "leaders" because you have one Leader, Me.'"

Recommended Reading

Finding Church: What if There Really Is Something More? by Wayne Jacobsen
This book has absolutely hit the nail on the head. Wayne clearly shows how the true Church is expressed by individuals leading their lives by the promptings of the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the love of God to those around them. It has little to do with "church" as we've know it.

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola
This book is the first one I read after coming out of an abusive church situation that began to open my eyes to the possibility that what we call "church" isn't exactly biblical.

The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White
Here's a great book on how the rest of the population views the church, why traditional church is losing ground, and suggestions on what to do about it. White has a lot of books out which I intend to check out.

Should the Church Teach Tithing? by Russell Earl Kelly, Ph.D.
Here's a serious sacred cow that is very efficiently slaughtered in this book. He clearly demonstrates how this doctrine has been lifted from the Old Testament and does not apply to the New. It is also available as a kindle download at amazon, and is a free pdf download online. Personally, I wanted a hard copy to mark up.

Blog Posts

The Dechurched and the Next Move of God

The Dechurched, the Wilderness Experience and the Next Move of God
Righteous Judgment
Where's the Love?
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?
Church- Consider Your Ways
Clergy- Invitation to Idolatry?

Red Flag Churches

Red Flag Churches
What Does a Wolf Look Like?
Making the Decision to Leave an Abusive Church
The Spiritual Covering Doctrine
Spiritual Abuse Is Not Obvious
To Tithe or Not to Tithe