Obsession or Jesus
Sunday Morning, January 31, 1999
Question: We just wondered how we should view the fact that SO many people around us in christendom seem to be OBSESSED with “prophecy,” or “rapture,” or “health food and homeschool,” or “Y2K fixation,” or headcoverings, or one kind of clothing or music or money-management over another, or obsession with the “arts,” or BLAH BLAH BLAH. How can we sort out all of these things?! Do we have to pick which obsession club we can live with and just join in, so as not to be “judgmental” and “independent”? That is NOT our heart, but it seems like people don’t “light up” and get excited about Jesus and His Bride and His Truth, NEAR as much as they get pumped when you push their “child-rearing” or “Y2K” buttons! Then they have a LOT to say. “Jesus plus NOTHING” is the motto, but one would never suspect that there is any truth to this motto, in practice. What a shame. And, to make it worse, if we don’t jump in with their enthusiasm on these favorite side issues, we are viewed with suspicion or even blackballed. We DON’T want to fight. Oh, PLEASE! But, we can’t really join in the reindeer games, either. How can we proceed? Any thoughts?
Start by knowing that solid Christ-centered child-rearing, much prayer, and excellent, open, daily relationships in the church are essential. But there are major problems when you add to your list a fetish for “child-rearing” books, exclusive “intercessors” groups, “male bonding” organizations and a million other non-apostolic obsessions or preoccupations. And the Solution is the same in every case.
And, I suppose that over 13 years of “daily in public and from house to house,” Jesus-centered, “joined and knit together,” “we being many are One” corporate Life (with a whole slew of people locally, of every background) should give some credibility to this answer. It’s really NOT just a theory amongst borrowed theories that could be offered by an “author.” I’m not an “author”—of at least that much you’ll soon be convinced. : ) Actually I have no interest in writing literature anyway. “Living letters” are all that matter in the end. And that is why I can’t resist answering an obviously pain-filled letter such as yours.
What do we do about the schisms and multitudinous voices, all shouting different themes, and representing more “flavors” of favorite religious topics and techniques than Baskin-Robbins? What can we do about the wild, controversial fist-pounding special subjects that people seem to get caught up in so easily, whether in denominational environments or “house church” cultures? They do, as you say, drain the Life out of the Body of Christ, and keep her fairly impotent to change lives and to experience Him day to day. They do, as you suggest, keep Believers apart from one another. Why? And what can be done?
Keep in mind that most of these ancillary fascinations only even EXIST because of our failures to follow God’s Ways. Specifically, the local Church is so far from the quality of daily corporate Life that Jesus intends—that it has caused innumerable tragedies. These other para-church and adrenal (C9H13NO3) topics are the product of men’s desire for VALID expressions of Jesus or their desire for uncompromised “Truth” (“What IS the woman’s role in the church, anyway??!!). But, like Saul’s sacrifice, these energized pursuits are ill-advised replacements for the Real thing. The Real thing, flowing with God’s current grace, would SOLVE all of the dilemmas anyway! I do want to repeat this: these digressions are generally born out of hunger for true things. And “agree to disagree” is a tragic error. God’s heart is “unity of the Spirit” AND “unity of the Faith.” There is a Way, a misplaced port-hole into God’s heart and mind, that brings that unity and mutual understanding, with “ever-increasing glory!” It’s Real! It’s the Place of His Love and Mercy, sustained and cohesive, where the entire local church is connected and immersed in mutual Life (1Cor. 12, 13, 14:26; 2Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Here’s the starting place. The very best thing that can happen for folks who are off on tangents is fairly simple. Set Jesus before them continually, loving Him as a way of Life. “I will draw all men to ME.” No goopy or hyper-spiritual stuff. Just simple passion for, and fierce loyalty to Jesus.
Now practically there is something we can do to help people love Him and spend their passion on Him (Eph. 3:8-10, the “administration” of the “unsearchable riches of Christ”). A related issue that makes it possible to Know Him and See Him is fairly fundamental. We can help folks to see the Truth that God speaks of often:
WHO can ascend God’s Holy Hill? Those with clean hands and a pure heart.
Or, from Paul’s perspective as he spoke in the Spirit...“Some have wandered away from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. And, in so doing, though they want to be passionate experts, they don’t know what they’re talking about or what they are so confident of.”
In other words, until folks are dealing with sin in their own lives, they can’t get close to Jesus or to His Purposes. Unless they are obeying God in resolving leaven in their religious environments they will be opposing God. Remember, it was GOD who commanded that those who call themselves “brothers” in the churches, but choose sin instead of Him, must not be permitted to “use up the ground.” The Master taught, “one more year.” God said, “Warn once, a second time, and then....” The King commanded, “Everyone that won’t listen will be completely cut off from amongst the people.” The Master commanded, “and then tell it to the church.” God said, “Don’t eat with them, don’t associate with them, and expel them from your midst.” The Master spoke of how we must feel, if connected to the Head, about those who are “lukewarm.” Though much help and patience should always be exhibited, it’s NOT our choice. The Church belongs to Jesus, not us. It’s His call, and He’s not to be “over-ruled” by those who deem themselves wiser and more loving, and less legalistic than their Creator and Savior. This just had to be said. It is often disobeyed, with the hope that in our disobedience to these Commands, we’d be doing God a favor by being more loving than He is. We can’t hope to please Him by disobeying Him in these things. God is far Wiser than we give Him credit for. OFTEN, the ONLY hope we have for having a REAL brother or sister is to lovingly, patiently expose those that are not really living for Him “heart, soul, mind and strength.” This is a wonderful Tool in God’s Toolbox for redeeming the nearly unredeemable. This is not some bad idea that God had and that we need to ignore because “it’s not practical” or very “nice.” TRUST Him. He knows what He said, and it is part of HIM!
Why? Because Jesus IS Truth. Jesus IS the Word, which became flesh. That’s why He was so clear: “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” Loving Him can’t be separated in any way from loving Truth and obeying Him. The Word was with God, the Word was God. That’s why Paul could say, “Some agape the Truth, and so are saved.” And Peter could say of those with Jesus’ Spirit that “like newborn babes, they crave the pure spiritual milk.” We “live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
This painful scenario of needing to deal with sin in more than a “to him and him alone” sort of way...will come up only rarely. That is, only rarely when the quality of daily Life is as Jesus has ordained. In HIS Church, His Truths for responding to unrepented of sin...mustn’t be ignored. It’s even right there in what has been christened “the Great Commission.” “And teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded you.” Not “teach them everything I’ve taught you.” He said “correct, rebuke, and encourage” My People with My Word, not “entertain, educate, and intrigue” My People. He said His Word was “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” not that His Word was “useful for word studies, bible studies, crossword puzzles, memorizing contests, debates and profiteering from pulpit sermons, conference speeches, religious books, and music.” If we’re not taking responsibility for helping others to be OBEDIENT to Jesus in their lifestyles, decisions, habits, and personal practices...we/they CAN’T SEE GOD, or HEAR HIS VOICE!
“Without holiness, NO ONE can see the Lord.”
It was God Who said that ONLY those who are “living sacrifices,” no longer “conforming to the world’s ways,” can ever know “the good, perfect, and pleasing Will of the Lord.” Everyone else has accepted a substitute for the Person of Jesus. We really do need to “see to it brothers that no one has a sinful unbelieving heart” and “see to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up among you, defiling many.”
So, if we want to help one another find our ecstasy and “rapture” in “amour” of Jesus, we must help one another rid ourselves of the idols and affections and diversions that blind us to Him. God said that this is a “daily” life and death thing (Heb.3:12-14). It is our debt of love to Jesus (Gal.6:1-2) to care for others’ spiritual well-being. One of the many sins of Cain, prophesied to be a last days crisis as well (Jude 10-16), is to make a mocking response to God when He asks us about the well-being of our brothers. From the beginning of time, the spirit of Cain has mocked God’s call to care for our brother’s well-being. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” As Paul said, regarding Cain’s cousin Ishmael, “It is the same now.” Those same fatal diseases are still incubating in the religious world and spreading, unfortunately.
According to John, an apostle and our brother (1Jn 2:10-15), spiritual “children” are conscious of sin and their need for God’s forgiveness. And they have supernaturally touched the bountiful goodness of His Mercy. All newborns, all “children” have seen and felt His nurture and nature in their spirits (Mat. 16:17; Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:9-11). But children, by nature, are generally consumers without much regard for others.
The “fathers”—the next step in maturity according to the apostle—take responsibility for others. The “fathers” (whether physical species or SPIRITUAL species) help birth, provide for, teach, mentor, and protect offspring. They, according to John, now “KNOW Him who is from the beginning.” (The “young men,” the warriors that really make a difference on a broad scale in this world, bust satan directly in the chops. But “young men” must pass through the other two levels, “children” and “fathers.”) To be a “father” we must by definition help turn others away from the sin that will prohibit them from ascending the Holy Hill. If we don’t care for God’s family, wouldn’t we be “worse than an infidel”?
“If a man stands in MY Counsel, he will turn My People away from their sins” (Jeremiah23).
All of that to say, it is AMAZING how easily the issues that “side-track” people onto religious hobby-horses seem to fall away when our lives are more and more free from sin, and closer to Jesus and each other (1Jn. 3:7-10; 1Jn. 1:5-7). Side issues are very inferior to falling in love with Jesus. And falling in love with the REAL Jesus CANNOT happen without turning away from SIN. Pride, laziness, fear of men, worldliness, unforgiveness, lust of any kind, pessimism and unbelief, lying, instability and moodiness, disloyalty, selfishness, gossip, slander, wasting time, lack of sowing good Seed, rebellion against authority, did I say pride? THESE are the things that cause blindness and allow us to get side-tracked on peripheral issues and man-made, well-meaning systems and schemes. “If you OBEY ME, you can KNOW ME.” (Jas. 4:4,8; Jn. 7; Jn. 8; Mat. 7:20-23; Lk. 9:57-62). You really won’t ever need to deal long with all of the extraneous and Life-diverting stuff if you are helping them have Eyes to see Jesus. And this is greatly aided by helping them get rid of the stuff that blinds them to the authentic, Biblical, Truth-incarnate Jesus.
If, with wisdom, grace, love, patience, and forgiveness YOU will, 1) lay down and turn away from areas of your personal life that dishonor Jesus, 2) willingly open your life to others for input into your life (there are areas that you can’t see, but God will allow others to see for you, so that you “will have need of them” (1Cor. 12)), 3) be loving enough and obedient enough to help others pull the weeds in their personal lives and relationships that “choke” the Jesus Life out of them, and 4) hang out with others that want the same...then you will be very pleasantly surprised at the Glory that will be manifest. Yes! It is true; helping men be more Christ-like at work, or helping others to overcome sinful habits of vice, or of being moody or temperamental or prideful or lazy...results in fuller access to, and deeper Understanding of, His Truths. YES! It is true that in overcoming sin, we “grow in unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God.” Yes! There is a direct connection between learning to obey God—-and learning to hear God. Yes! There is a direct connection between raising our children God’s Way, and understanding God’s viewpoint on eschatology, women’s roles, and a thousand other previously difficult or divisive topics. SIN is the largest barrier to knowing Him and “having the mind of Christ.” The carnal and worldly people—those who live like “mere men”—can never “discern all things” (1Cor. 2-3). But, as we turn to Him and away from sin, TOGETHER, we will not lose our way and lose sight of Jesus as our all-in-all. The hobbies that have secretly given us an identity and something to “stand for” will fall aside. Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector, in the Presence of Jesus, though previously philosophical adversaries to an extreme, no longer have much to fight about. They are lost in Him, and put aside their sin.
Hope it is Clear...It’s a great Journey.