Friday, September 27, 2013

WHEERE IS THE UNITY

Where’s the Unity
April 25, 2013
 
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:20-21. As believers, born from above, we should be unified in Christ. Where is the unity that Jesus prayed for so long ago? God the Son and God the Father are one. We know this because the Scriptures tell us it is so. They have unity in that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. We too, the children of God, are to be united as one in Christ. Christ prayed that we be one.
 
Sadly, that prayer for unity which was spoken directly by the Creator of the universe has for all intents and purposes been ignored by much of the Ekklesia. Why? The unbridled festering of disagreements and anger has led to a splintering of the body of Christ. Instead of being the Ekklesia – the called out assembly of Christ – and looking to His inerrant word to lead us and guide us, most Christians look to the “church” to tell them what to believe and how to act. What is the problem with that? The Ekklesia is a unified body where Christ is sovereign and His word final, but a church is filled with the doctrines of men and causes division.
 
I’d like to premise this study with what God tells us never to do. “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:5-6. God tells us not to add to His words. The Hebrew word “yakach”, translated into English as reprove, actually means to judge. Certainly no one wants to be judged by God for adding to His inerrant word. Verse 6 above seems to place a high risk for anyone desiring to tamper with the Scriptures. Therefore the translators of the original text should have been very careful as they went about translating the original languages into English. That holds true for all of the various translations into English or any other language. The above warning must be taken seriously. There are other warnings within the word of God concerning adding to or even taking away words from the Scriptures.
 
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2a. God, speaking to the Israelites, makes it clear that adding to or taking away from His word would be a huge mistake. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” Deuteronomy 12:32. Here God confirms His command that they were not to add to or take away from His word. No one should have been more keen to keep God’s word pure than the Bible translators.
 
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19.  These verses attest to the fact that there is a high price to pay for tampering with the Book of Revelation specifically, but from the above Scriptures we can see that God says what He means and means what He says. He does not want His word watered down or altered.
 
For some time now I’ve referred to the saints as the assembly of the called out. In doing so I’ve primarily used the Greek word for assembly, which is Ekklesia. Why do I use the word “Ekklesia” instead of “church”? Well, the Greek word “Ekklesia” does not mean “church”. As a matter of fact there is no Greek word that is translatable as the English word church.
 
The definition of “church” is 1) A building used for public Christian worship. 2) A particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, building, and distinctive doctrines: “the Church of England”. (Put “define church” into Google and this is what you see).
 
 That definition certainly doesn’t describe a unified assembly of believers. The first definition doesn’t even describe it as human! The second indicates human agenda in interpreting the Scriptures.

 
Now let’s look at the definition of “Ekklesia” as defined in Strong’s concordance. There is a long list of meanings, but as related to Christians it says: 1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. 2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake. 3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body. 4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth. 5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
 
“And they, continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. The apostles heard the doctrine directly from the lips of Jesus, so what they taught is what we need to follow today. Have you ever asked someone if they are a Christian and received the response “Yes, I’m a Methodist”? Or a Lutheran, or a Baptist, or insert the division of your choice. What does that mean? It means that the person you are talking to is holding to the doctrines of men rather than the God-breathed Scriptures.
 
Because of being a “church” divisions have occurred at a phenomenal rate. Christ’s Ekklesia divided? Where in His teachings does He ever refer to His followers as a divided body? No, we’ve been horribly deceived over the years thus the body of Christ has become fragmented and for the most part ineffective. Doctrines of men have tiptoed in and caused division. Some say you have to be baptized in order to be saved, some say you are only really baptized if you are baptized in “our church”. Others say you must speak in tongues for evidence that you are saved, others say tongues are eerie and shouldn’t be used. Still others rely on a Pope or a priest to tell them what to do and think. Only when we drop our “church” ordained prejudices can we understand Acts 2:42 and continue steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship.
 
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We aren’t to pick and choose which Scriptures we like or don’t like.  God inspired all Scripture and it is perfect in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Diligence must be taken to study the Hebrew and Greek to understand what a word really means, rather than what it was translated to say. The entirety of the Bible must be considered when discerning Scripture. It only takes a simple lack of wisdom to add to or diminish from Scripture and corrupt God’s meaning and cause division.
 
When Jesus spoke His prayer of unity it was not about a fragmented unity or a separated unity, but a complete and united body, each person with his/her own purpose. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5. But overall, unity in Christ is now horribly fragmented. Oh sure there are splinters of believers who have united together, but never were they to form denominations or place names of dead men on the buildings. The Ekklesia was never about men but always about Messiah Jesus.
 
As believers we are commanded “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NASB). Today we have built Christian ministries around men (pastors, popes, bishops, doctors, you name it) who usurped the authority of Christ as Head and have built around denominational titles and names separating His body into corporations. These corporations, known as churches, are registered with the government in order to establish their tax exempt position. What does that mean? It means that the government limits what they can teach from the pulpit. Instead of teaching the whole of God’s truth they must be politically correct or lose their tax exemption. There are no words too strong to describe this monstrous deception. Words that do come to mind are: abomination, heresy, anathema, reprobate and blasphemy.
 
We are to gather around the name of Jesus, not the name of a building, rented store front, or a pastor. We have literally robbed Christ of his rightful place and therefore His glory in His body has departed. We have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the works of men. We have replaced our first love (a true love and obedience toward Jesus Christ) with works oriented philosophies of men and million dollar buildings. Unity? Not hardly.
 
Rather than having two or three gathered together in His name, we have multitudes gathering in a name totally foreign to the word of God: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and numerous other associations which indicate no reverence to Jesus our Christ. This forming of congregations under other names has been one of major disrespect to our God and Saviour, Jesus the Christ and His prayer for unity.
 
Once the reference to believers switched from the people (the Ekklesia) to a building of stone and wood (a church), all Christ centeredness within the body was lost. We lost body ministry, unity, supportive relationships, fellowship and community. The funds that normally went to the poor and widows and orphans now go to the institutional structures and organization. This was a major shift (from people to building) and delivered a key blow to the function of the body of Christ. The intention of Christ uniting His believers in one body was thwarted by the traditions of men who translated our scriptures for their own benefit…not Christ’s. Because of this switch, ministry became skewed.
 
So, what can be done to reverse this horrible separation of the body of Christ? The doctrines and interpretations of men need to be dropped. Instead of a being a church, we need to be the Ekklesia, the called out assembly who are united by the Blood of Christ. Fellowship with the Ekklesia, but study God’s word prayerfully to learn the Apostle’s doctrine as they heard it from Christ.  Don’t “go to church” and be divided, but be united in the Ekklesia.
 
God bless you all,
 
Ron Graham
 
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed
 

NOT JUST LIP SERVICE

September 26, 2013

Have you ever questioned your salvation? Have you ever thought that even though you say that you have accepted Christ for your salvation there is a chance you didn’t mean it and He hasn’t accepted you? If so, the following words can be very disturbing. “Not every one 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.” Matthew 7:21. This verse can and should cause us to ask some serious questions about our salvation. There will be some who have said the right words and do wonderful things, but their commitment to Christ isn’t sincere. That is just lip service. These words recorded in Matthew 7:21 are a warning to those who think they’re justified (saved), but in reality are just going through the motions. Their faith in Jesus isn’t real and their salvation is just imagined. At one time I was one of those who thought I was a Christian and had nothing to worry about. I know now that I was on the broad road to an eternity in Hell and only a right relationship with Christ has given me the promise of eternal life with Him.

Too often we place a high value on works. How often have you tried to talk to someone about Jesus and they tell you that they are a good person and they do lots of nice things for others, so of course they think they will go to Heaven when they die. Do you also feel that way? “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 7:22-23. These words are from Jesus Himself. He doesn’t argue with these folks and deny that they have done good works and even do them in His name, but still He says that He never knew them. Why? Because they never did accept His death, burial, and resurrection as the basis for their salvation. They think that salvation is up to their own doings and is based on works not faith. Jesus very clearly said “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6. Works won’t save anyone, only faith in Jesus.

In Biblical times there were only two people groups. First there were the Gentiles. This group was made up of all nations. Most were idol worshiping pagans. The second group was called out from the first group when God called Abraham to follow Him instead of the pagan ways. Eventually this group of chosen people became known as Jews. They were given the Law through Moses and were required to do the works of the Law in order to try to stay right with God…which was impossible to do perfectly. These two groups still exist today, but there is a third group which is made up of people from the first two groups. The Ekklesia…the Body of Christ…Christians. “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Ephesians 2:14-16. Jesus broke down “the middle wall of partition” and it is only faith in Him that brings salvation to those who are now known as born again Christians. The works of the Law will not save anyone, nor will any other type of works.

There are many people today who profess to be Christians and even do many good works in the name of Jesus Christ, but when it comes to being in a loving relationship with Him the evidence just isn’t there. “I never knew you” spoken by our Creator will be sad words to hear at the end of a life filled with good works, but ignorant of Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. Do you boast of all the wonderful things you do for others? Think about your motive for doing good things. Are you trying to earn your way into Heaven? I’m sure we all have had Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses knock on our door and try to convince us that they have the way to be saved, or so they hope. Both of these groups are very deceived and they do not know Jesus. They are trying to work their way to God, but the god they worship is not God as described in the Bible. Sadly, the lip service of these deceived people will be among those who hear “I never knew you”.

Is it wrong for a person to do good works if they are Christians? No. It is incumbent upon Christians to do good works. Not to earn salvation, but because we love Jesus. James has a lot to say about faith and works. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17. Our love for Jesus and what He has done for us should instill in us a need to serve Him well and do good works. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James2:18. These works are not for our own glory nor are the merely lip service. They are sincerely done for Christ and other people can see Christ living in us. “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.James 2:26.

According to Jesus Himself, it isn’t what we do for Him it’s our relationshipwith Him that matters. He wants us to know Him personally and include Him in all that we do. “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20. These words were written to those living in the End Times. That’s us. Jesus wants each one of us to have a personal relationship with Him right now. The more we trust Him the deeper our relationship with Him will be; the deeper our relationship the more we will love Him. By placing our lives, our trust, and our hope in His hands we will be a part of the type of relationship that He wants and expects, one that we should desire as much as He does.

When we say yes to Jesus Christ changes happen in our life; we become born again, which will be an obvious sign that something about us is different. Our friendships will change, our language will improve, our love for Him will be obvious. We will desire to do good works for Christ, but our faith is what brings salvation. Those who are truly born again will never hear those heartbreaking words “I never knew you”. If one’s works do not come from a love of Christ, those works are works of inequity. Jesus says so.

Who did Jesus have in mind when He spoke the words “…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” Matthew 7:23b? These workers of iniquity are those who have not been forgiven because there was no real acceptance of Christ’s finished work on the Cross. That means they are not a part of Christ’s Ekklesia. They do not trust Christ alone for salvation. These words will be spoken to those who haven’t truly accepted Jesus. An actor on the stage can read a script and say “Lord, Lord”, but unless those words come from his heart they mean nothing. Conversion comes when we first decide to place our faith, trust, and hope in Christ alone for salvation. This new relationship is sealed by the Holy Spirit who is now living inside the new believer. Our faith in Jesus Christ is the key. We no longer try to work our way to Heaven, but understand that it is faith alone that has brought salvation. Lip service has been replaced by a desire to serve our Lord.

On the other hand, Satan, the father of all lie, wants to see that no relationship between God and His creation is ever established. He’s got one agenda and that is to confuse, disrupt, corrupt, and to lead astray all who will accept his lies rather than believe the truth given to us by our Creator. Could the words of Jesus be any clearer? “Not everyone who saith unto me Lord, Lord…”Matthew 7:21a. Search the Scriptures for yourself to be sure that what you are being taught and what you believe about the Creator of the universe is true. All roads don’t lead to salvation and works won’t save you. Jesus is the Son of God (fully human), but He is also God Almighty (fully God). If you don’t believe this truth about who Jesus Christ is, you’re headed down the wrong path. Satan would have you believe that you are “good enough” and “works will save you” and that it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus. Satan is a liar.

Many people try seeking the truth but end up in a fully apostate congregation or false religion. Jesus is kept on the outside knocking to be invited in. His words, “I never knew you” are a sad commentary on our times because the real truth of the Gospel has been ignored by many. False teachers abound who try to water down the Gospel in order to give everyone a warm fuzzy feeling about themselves. Sin is not confronted and people are allowed to continue in sin in order that they aren’t made to feel bad or feel they have to change a lifestyle. God’s word is very clear that homosexuality is an abomination, as is other sexual sin. But false teachings of many of our mainstream denominations teach the lie that God didn’t really mean what He says in His word, or that times have changed. All a person has to do is say “Lord, Lord” and that’s acceptable. Just give lip service. This false teaching allows many people to think they’re in good shape for eternity, but according to Jesus Himself that just isn’t the case.

Apostate doctrines are being preached from too many pulpits. The congregation is being fed, that’s true, but if poison is mixed with food it is still deadly.  Many Christian worship services are led by pastors who are not grounded in God’s word and they water down the Gospel. Being politically correct has no place among Christians and we need to study God’s word in order to be able to stand firmly upon it and not just give lip service to our King.

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, God our Savior, nothing is more important. “Going to church” won’t save you. You may have memorized hundreds of Scripture verses, but still don’t understand who Jesus is. Reading your Bible through in a year won’t bring salvation. Not eating pork or only attending worship services on a certain day isn’t what Jesus wants. All of these actions are based on works.  The question is do you know Jesus the Christ, and just as important is the question does He know you? Is your salvation based on faith alone or do you just give lip service? Commit yourself to establishing a personal relationship with Jesus. You won’t be sorry as you’ll avoid hearing these heartbreaking words “I never knew you.”  

God bless you all,

Ron Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com