The Intermingled, Fused, Together Christ-Life... Today
Sunday, March 12, 2000
Question: Can you give me Scripture references for why you feel it is inappropriate for believers to meet in both a more formal worship “service” as well as informally (in order to further relationships)? Scripture tells me that the first century believers continued to go to Temple, (not just the courtyards, but the more formal, “corporate” meeting times) even as they also began meeting together in homes. I’m not trying to be argumentative, but rather to understand. Why not just stay in the system and work from within?
Hello Jeff, : ) Good to hear from you—however, it might take weeks for me to answer your questions! “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” So, I’ll give ‘er a go. : )
Okay, just for fun. : ) Let’s flip this around and look at it from the other side. (Since we have strayed so far from God’s Intent and the Ways of Jesus and the Apostles, perhaps we shouldn’t start with TODAY as a reference point to be DIS-proved, but rather start with Apostolic Life and try to support all the stuff we’ve done to it instead!) So, here’s the game: : ) Can you give me Scripture references to justify the practice of a man with a title, putting a weekly ceremony on the calendar, and giving a prepared speech to a group of people who have “attended”? You know it wouldn’t be difficult to add 4,000 man-made additions, subtractions, distortions, and dilutions to that list. But, let’s just stay with these for now. Can you give me Scripture references to justify the practice of a man with a title, putting a weekly ceremony on the calendar, and giving a prepared speech to a group of people who have “attended,” and passing the bucket for his “salary” and other stuff?
The truth is, there is no justification for this departure from the Scripture and practice of the Believers that were Born under Jesus’ Leadership through the apostles. “When you come together brothers, everyone has a word of instruction, a song…” There is NO other Biblical Pattern for Believers being together, except as a Priesthood. No ceremonies, no pre-arranged choreographed stuff, no assigned leaders. Jesus Himself forbid the titles and positions and traditions. Did Paul ever “preach” to a congregation (and surely no one considers himself today a better man than Paul)? No such event ever took place, that the Holy Spirit recorded. When Paul was in Troas, the Bible says he “dialogued” with the Saints until dawn. He did not “preach” and there are no examples in the Scriptures of anything like what happens today with the ceremony and speech, on a holy day, in a holy building (or holy living room for the “service”). Where are the Scriptures for what is happening today? There are none. “When revelation comes to the second, let the first one sit down” saith the Lord. That is Scripture that makes virtually every religious organization on the planet immediately disobedient to God. It is not the way men function. “Hey! I’m the one with the Bible knowledge and charisma! I’m the man of God around here, and I will be the leader and speech-maker!” And the people loved it so. Even if God has another Command. “Let the first one SIT DOWN.” That, and “remove the leaven from the batch” are two totally unacceptable Scriptures to those who love and defend and are comfortable with the leavened batch and unBiblical lifestyles and assemblies.
Now, why did the new Christians continue to meet in the temple courts? If you check the drawings in the back of many Bibles, this was a city park, an open-air area—not a building. But, it wouldn’t matter if it were a building, because you must realize that the Jews that were converted to Jesus did not immediately think of themselves as “no longer Jewish.” To them, all that had changed was that they now realized that the Messiah, long-awaited, had Come! This is the largest celebration OF Judaism, not a reason to think they were no longer Jewish! He has Come! Now, every Jew should know this!! It’s what all of their history had pointed towards, and He has Come! It never occurred to them that they should stop being involved in Jewish things!
As time passed, now their minds were opened to the fact that this Deal was for Gentiles too. (It was perhaps a full 5 years after Pentecost when Cornelius was brought into the Family, and then much longer until “the uttermost parts of the earth” finally kicked in—maybe another 3-4 years for the push towards Antioch.) Then they had to work through how much Judaism was really just a “visual aid” (Col.2:16-17; Heb.5, 7, 9, 10; Rom.4)—and how much was for them, still (Acts 15). So, it should come as no surprise at all that they would temporarily continue with “the hour of prayer” (Acts 4) and the like. And, since they were to go first to the House of Israel, “first Jews, then Greeks,” it makes sense that they would also use synagogues for “fishing holes” later on. They did not continue to be under Jewish Law in any way, or else Christ died for nothing, according to Paul. Nor were they “under” Jewish “form” of the synagogue service on the Sabbath, with a Rabbi (by the way, NONE of this is in the Scripture, but was born out of man-made concessions, while in Babylonian punishment by God).
The first “christian religious facility” (built for christians to have meetings in) that archaeologists have ever located, was in approximately 275 A.D. For well over 200 years after Jesus, it was clear to the Believers that they were not to build “worship temples” in the towns and cities. All of the other world religions had always built “church buildings” and were still doing so. But for many years, even when other things were slipping away from Jesus’ Truths, they still knew that what Jesus had “started” was not about that.
Emperor Constantine, circa 312AD, merged his form of state-approved “christianity” with the other religions of his Roman Empire. He did this, to please his people and his flesh, by taking pagan holidays that worshipped false gods (“fertility”/Easter, Saturnalia/Xmas, etc.) and pagan religious practices with their temple “services” and high priest sermon-givers…and wed them together. WE are the recipients of these pagan practices, with christian fish-stickers on them to lend credibility. But you won’t find any of that in the Bible.
SO, small wonder that the Jews absorbed world religion practices in Babylon that were not in their Bibles. (Old Covenant Temple worship—yes! Synagogues with Rabbis—no!) And Constantine legitimized this practice of the world religions into “christianity.” And the Roman Catholics led the way in fossilizing this, while the Protestants took 90% of Roman Catholicism and embraced it as well. “Priests”/“Clergymen” (totally unBiblical to an extreme) are NOW allowed to get married? This is “protestant reformation”?
I’d say we should go a little deeper and find out what JESUS had in mind!!! “From the Beginning, it was not so!”
I am sure that you weren’t being in any way argumentative, my brother. I could sense your heart in the honest inquiry. I wish I had more time to give you even more, but, alas…
While I do see the difficulty of trying to walk in and “share the light” in and among a congregation that is not presently engaged in this (Biblical Christianity), I’m not sure I see how the answer is to walk away. How will anyone ever learn there is a problem if we don’t sound the alarm? I guess I’m wondering if we don’t bear some responsibility, similar to the prophets of old. They did not walk away from Israel when she was in open rebellion, but instead stayed to call her to repentance, even at risk to themselves. I feel that there are many well-intentioned Christians who work diligently within the “system” who want nothing more than to serve the Lord. To walk away seems somehow selfish—“I found truth; see ya later—you’re on your own!” Please let me know your thoughts on this.
Another good question. Just to make a point that has substance, rather than just expressing it as a “concept,” I want to tell you a bit about the Church here. I hope this is okay. We have somewhere between a zillion and a zillion and half folks (give or take) talk to us about moving to this city every year or two. We have never, in fifteen years, encouraged anyone to move here to be part of the Church. There are a number of stories of folks that had even quit jobs and given notice on their apartments, or had their houses for sale—that we talked out of moving here. Sometimes they eventually came, a year or two later. Sometimes many years later. Usually not at all, ever. WHY do we not “recruit” as is the common practice in the “church world”? BECAUSE OF THE VERY POINT YOU’RE MAKING: If folks have not exhausted themselves in their given worlds or relationships and religious organizations—trying desperately to love on and get deeply involved with those that are already in their lives—they have “put their hand to the plow” and looked elsewhere. This is robbery to those that are all around them, as well as cheating themselves of Growth by sacrifice, and the love of others.
However, being faithful FOR REAL is seldom the way folks function, unfortunately. If you or anyone really is faithful (rather than token “radical” remarks during a bible class, and a couple of new programs)…if you are really willing to get involved in “admonish one another daily so that none are hardened and deceived by sin”…if you are really willing to “confess your sins one to another” and “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ”…you will either see wondrous revival there, or you will be thrown out on your ear for shaking and exposing the lukewarm elements of whatever is out there. It is NOT an option, if you love Jesus, to allow “leaven in the batch.” No excuses, no rationalizations, no procrastination. “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” If you think you can “blend in” and be “one of the boyz” but just be a bit on the weird and radical and committed side, you are in serious trouble. “A little leaven leavens the whole batch.” God didn’t give you a choice. Nor does your “assembly” have a choice. The question is not whether to get the leaven out of the batch. It is mandatory, or quit calling it a “christian church.” “WHY do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say?” “I will take the Kingdom away from you and give it to those who will bear its Fruit.” It is not an option to leave leaven (compromise, worldliness, lukewarmness, greed, etc., etc.) in the batch. The question is HOW to remove it? Legalism? NO WAY! Passivity or disconnected ignorance of it? NO WAY. That didn’t cut it with God when God judged all of Israel for Achan’s hidden sin, and it doesn’t cut it now either. The Answer is: If the “church” is built around meetings and times and places, rather than by 100% (from the least to the greatest) “walking in the Light” in deep relationship with one another, “admonishing one another daily”—then it is impossible to obey the Command to remove the leaven. And then everyone is leavened and even the good things are greatly tarnished, according to God.
SO, “bailing out” is not the answer. At least not until you have bloodied your knees in prayer, and risked your life getting into others’ homes and lives. Liken it to a man who discovers a toxic gas leak in his apartment or flat, and gets up in the middle of the night and moves his family to another location. Meanwhile, he fails to try to help the other 7 families that live in that apartment building, and the other 500 families that live in that complex! What a terribly selfish thing to do! “Bailing out” robs God’s People of their God-given Right to make their own choices about Truth! And, how do you know that everyone won’t receive Truth and a wonderful thing happen amidst those families? You cannot know—until you TRY! Give out books and booklets at the back door after “the benediction,” get into people’s homes multiple nights a week and pray with them and talk with them and plead with them! Honor their relationships and responsibilities with the “assigned leaders” by avoiding “undermining” or “gossiping”—but recognize that those people belong to God and must have their own chance to decide and act on what the Scriptures Teach that Christianity is. : )
Prolonging involvement in a place where “leaven” (love of the world, false conversions, greed, pope-ery, and other evil) is taking place without Light and Repentance, is also not an option. We may not stay indefinitely in an environment that does not “love the Light” and protects the traditions of men and the compromise. Even if there are some good people there, and all of your children’s friends. You may not stay indefinitely in a place where there are entire pockets of “members” that have no Light-walking relationship with others, so that there is no way to help them or even be aware of hidden leaven. We are still responsible for it, as Ai and 1 Corinthians 5 make totally clear, but we have built so poorly and unBiblically that we don’t even know where the problems that we are responsible for lie.
So, yes. Risk your life trying to find others who truly love Jesus (“If you really love Me, you will obey Me”—not just “worship” good and say deep things), and live a Biblical life with them. And, take responsibility, as you must, for “see to it brothers that none of you has an unbelieving heart” and the other issues of leaven in the batch. If there is revival, Hallelujah! If the leaven and the bad, unBiblical building practices that allow the leaven to be hidden or undealt-with continue…then leave—or be leavened to the guaranteed detriment of your family’s life and spiritual Life. And, even if you had to leave (because of the continued hidden and un-dealt with leaven and refusal of those there to be obedient to the One they call Lord) you would still need to do what Paul did: visit some “fishing holes” along with other trusted brothers and sisters to try to find those who truly do want to go to the Highest Places with Jesus and His Bride. Devote yourself to those people you can find who do want to see “the Bride prepared” regardless of personal cost—those that “love the Light.”
My next question is this—I understand the importance of not allowing unbelievers to “infiltrate” the ranks, but I’m unclear on how an unbeliever is exposed to truth. I see how my employment can be a “mission field,” of course, but if I’m spending my days working and my free time with family and the rest of the Church, when do I have time and opportunity to cultivate relationships in order to win others to Christ? Am I missing something? When you gather in homes, are unbelievers welcome? Or are the gatherings strictly limited to “Family” only? And if they are not limited, then doesn’t that constitute “leaven” in the batch?
That’s another great question. If the “church” is a meeting to attend, then being involved with unbelievers would best be served by “bringing them to a meeting.” Maybe they’d “hear” something. That’s how the reasoning goes. First of all, an unbelieving visitor would not be “leaven” because they would not consider themselves to be “members” of the Body of Christ—or Christians. “Leaven” is, according to the Scriptures, a term for those that “call themselves brothers” and continue to live in sin, without repentance. Those that “love the Light” (Jn. 3) and “love the Truth” (2Thes. 2) are not leaven, since such a person desires to change and wants darkness exposed. Weakness is not leaven. Even sin is not leaven. A refusal to love exposure, and a refusal to change, are what constitute leaven. So, a weak brother or sister that is caught in a sin, but wants to turn from it for Jesus, and wants help, and desires that “his deeds be exposed” (rather than being defensive about it) as Jesus Himself taught…that one is not leaven. They will get help to change, no matter how large their problems are. If they honestly love the Light, God’s Resources will be there for them and they will “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Also, someone that doesn’t claim to know Jesus and does not “call himself a brother”…is not leaven. An “unbeliever” is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 when “the whole church” is together. But such a person doesn’t consider himself part of the church. He is an unbeliever.
Part one of your question: Of course, an unbeliever could easily be present when the whole Church is together. But again, I have to say that it is virtually impossible at times to “figure stuff out” in our “church” world. Why? Because we are often, in today’s world, trying to “apply” or “find” Scriptures—to plug into an entirely UNScriptural church world. Even the worst of the Churches in the New Testament (probably the Corinthians) had SO much relationship that the man that they didn’t eat with almost died from the withdrawal of daily mutual life (1Cor. 5, 2Cor. 2, 2Cor. 7). That means that arguably the WORST of the Churches back then—were FAR superior to most of the “best” today!
By the way, the “parable of the wheat and tares” is about the Church not isolating itself away from the world. “IN the world, but not OF it.” It is NOT a license to disobey God by allowing tares to consider themselves part of the church. 1 Corinthians 5 is totally clear. “Remove the leaven. You must not eat with them, or socialize with them. Expel them from your midst.”—Jesus Christ, Lord. Jesus said, “the field is the WORLD” in this parable that is so frequently abused—NOT “the field (where the wheat and tares grow together) is the church.” The wheat and the tares must not “grow up together” in the CHURCH, but rather in the world. How else could we be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth” and “a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden”?! “THIS is how all men will know you are My disciples—by the love that they see you having for one another.”)
Essentially, because the Church is supposed to be “contending as one man for the Faith,” “joined and knit together by every supporting ligament,” “we being many, are ONE” “baptized by one Spirit into one Body,” with “a hundred mothers, brothers, sisters, lands, and possessions”—we are to relate to unbelievers via His family, not as individuals inviting someone to some event. “THIS is HOW all men will know!” It’s not about events, but about them seeing us love on each other—which cannot be done in a meeting! Unbelievers must be invited into our lives and the things we do with one another on a daily basis. Jesus said that unbelievers seeing our lives and our love for one another is HOW they will know that Jesus is for real.
Think about this, as it relates to your question. We are not, then, competing for time to “share Christ” with unBelievers—with all of the other busy stuff with family and work and other things. We are weaving all of that together into One! “THIS IS HOW”: Evangelistic meetings? Nope. Invitations to “services” or events, or having programs about it? Nope. That’s not the “HOW” Jesus said was His Way. Our mutual love of one another, daily from house to house, as we rise up, sit down, and walk along the way, our shared trips to the marketplace and the errands and the activities and families, all joined into a harmonious whole! “A hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, lands, possessions, persecutions”—all rolled up into One Life. If it’s Father’s Best, then it is not about an individual that has a separate work life, recreational life, family life—and then tries to add into that a “church life” and an “evangelism life” and a “feed the poor life.” Unless it is all melted together into One, as Jesus Designed and Ordained and Commanded and Empowered…our lives will be far more impotent than God ever intended. We’ll only be kidding ourselves, really, and trying to prop ourselves up with what we can do and what we like, while closing our eyes to SO much more that God intended. Everyone quadruples their capacity when we build “according to the Pattern.”
It is essential that we build the way the great Architect laid out the Blueprint! On the simplest level, if we do not “admonish” “be called alongside” “warn” “encourage one another daily”…GOD said we WILL be hardened and deceived. We will be wrong in many areas (“deceived”) and our conscience will not warn us of the danger (“hardened”). If the “church” is built around assemblies and sing-alongs and programs, rather than around interwoven daily lives as Priests, 100%, “from the least to the greatest”—we will have massive and unnecessary weakness, “cracks,” leaven, and lukewarmness. We cannot build according to man’s blueprint—and have God’s House. Will there be some saved and sincere folks in the man-made “churches?” Of course. But even those really special folks will never reach their Potential in an unBiblical environment. As has been said before, “You can’t grow an orange-tree in Alaska, no matter how good your artificial programs are. That is not the habitat for orange tree life. And you cannot grow a Believer well in a man-made environment. It is not the habitat for Spirit Life.” It matters how we build. Immensely. The perfect example is the Samuel kingdom versus the Saul kingdom—and how GOD felt about the move from organic to organizational. It matters. WOW, does it matter! Look it up—it’s very serious to make these “small administrative changes” that men continue to make out of fear or convenience or control or greed or aping the world system models of “leadership” and “efficiency” and “marketing.”
When we’re building His Way, we don’t have three or four competing “lives” (work, family, church, spare time), but only one interwoven Life with Jesus and one another. That makes a lot of sense for a doulos (Greek for slave or servant), doesn’t it? : ) And in that One life, the people who we meet at work or elsewhere are invited on to the edge of our lives, “as we rise up, as we sit down, and as we walk along the way.” Dinners with several families, ice cream places, basketball games with two hundred of us; fireworks, barbeques, piano recitals, golf, lunches with a gang of brothers during the business day, library visits, park hikes, bicycle rides, and a thousand other Opportunities. All of these are “windows” into their souls—and divine appointments for Seed planting. If the Church happens to be getting together some evening after a seeking unbeliever is at someone’s home for dinner with a few folks…well, sometimes it would be the Spirit’s Directive to bring him along to the place chosen for the evening. Or maybe, another couple dozen of folks might inadvertently, gradually, drop in after dinner. And if they did, someone or several likely would have something they would want to encourage everyone with, and the unbeliever would “have his heart laid bare” by the Way that the Spirit does His business (1Cor. 14:24-26).
It is wonderful that you are looking into these things, with the openness that was evident in your letter. Father never fails to Reward “every act prompted by our Faith.”