What is of paramount importance to God? As time goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer that it is about our being in this world as He (Jesus) was in this world and in this life. True religion, worship in Spirit and in Truth, has little to do with the performance of rites and rituals, except that these communicate the foregoing to us, and need to be received as such as we participate in them.
Neither does amassing a great deal of religious / spiritual knowledge accomplish being Jesus in the flesh - the reality of being in Christ, with Christ also being in us, and manifesting His life within and through us - as we see, recognize, and acknowledge Him in every person God puts right in front of us, along our path each day every day.
Rituals, observance of days and calendars, and spiritual knowledge should enhance this experience and edify it. But the personal, prayerful attitude with which I must approach Jesus constantly is, Lord, how do You wish to work in and through me today? Who will You send my way that I ought to see and serve as You right now? If I am part of Your Holy Body, I want to get real about this! Please send Your Spirit to me so that I may have the capacity for awareness of You, and the will and the wherewithal to serve You as needed today and every day.
The Churches have been rent asunder for 2 millennia over rituals and perspectives. Anyone who thinks this is not so has not been present in Earth reality but off on some other tangent - as we think and dwell on “our tribe’s” narrative, to promote it. The question is, is it the tribal narrative we pitch, or the Living Christ? We may be guilty of being incredibly shallow thinkers, naive or “ignore-ant” of history, as well as in denial of the workings of the fallen, finite, frail, feeble human mind.
Do we not tend to quibble more over the lesser realities of form and miss the substance? Jesus hits the nail on the head here: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:23-25.
It’s rather amazing how He mostly has issues with the religious leaders, who were so blinded by their perspectives that they could not recognize the very Messiah they claimed to await! He’s not advocating for throwing out the rituals, but they were in severe neglect of what all of it meant! We might say they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. It begs the question, Do we?
The fact is that, if we come face to face with the simple but radical person, claims, and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles every day, with every person Christ sends our way, it would be blatantly obvious how everybody has missed it (including yours truly; Lord have mercy!), blind as we are. Conflicts and disputes are often over perspectives and rituals, but seldom over the fact of our failure to notice the outrageous, insane love called for by Jesus, whereby He says that all men will know you are my disciples! See John 13:34,35. Could it be that these things have become stumbling blocks to the manifestation of Jesus in the flesh?
Jesus calls for “evidence based Christianity”. The walk needs to match the talk, as has often been said - a reality that is so potent that it can proclaim without a word that we know Jesus The Christ, that we belong to Him, that we are actually in Him and He in us. The Holy Spirit must bring conviction of this very real need! Scripture is full of this word of admonition, revealing the fullness of Christ. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:16. What is also revealed is our failure to live out from what we have been given and what we claim to be!
1 Corinthians 13 should be prayed, pondered, and practiced daily and continually by all of us who claim the Name of Jesus Christ, because it is out here on the rugged terrain of this life desert that we are tested, trained, tried, and hopefully made true to Him in what He asks of us. And it is not simply about the behaviors of Love, as we can see, but about the attitude, the interiority, from which they arise.
If all I had of the Bible was a little paper containing this word of Love, inward heart spiritual digestion of it would be enough to sustain me here in my own desert. Or even the contents of the admonition of Jesus Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you. Love your enemies. Do good to those who are spiteful to you. By this difference will it be known that you are My disciples.” The “diet” of the desert is simple. Manna for the Israelites. Locusts and wild honey for John. Bread form the ravens of Elijah.
Only self serving kings need daily sumptuous feasts and lavish banquets. God has written the former “diet” on our hearts. Men have given us the latter feasts through the ages. We are without excuse. Libraries full of books are feasts; they are fine. However, we should be warned, “The words of the wise are like goads, and the anthologies of the masters are like firmly embedded nails driven by a single Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: There is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:11-13. (Can I get some amens?)
Discussing complex metaphysical palaver is always a fascinating pursuit. But we do well to not hold in a critical eye those we may pridefully regard as “simplistic” or “reductionistic”, when perhaps Jesus regards them as His “little ones.” “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1. Perhaps those we so criticize seek to build on the foundation of the simplicity that is in Christ, our God Who is love! Let us never rule out that possibility. Perhaps they came to an end to sorting through all the available “bricks” and simply laid the foundation?
So if all the big headed, self impressing mental / theological gymnastics keep us away from the reality of Christ love, what good are they? Just how many books - regardless of how ancient (or recent and trendy) they may be - does anyone need? They pile up like a wall of futile defense - against the enemy within ourselves - our blind refusal to love as Christ loves.
With this complexity one can easily deny that Jesus has come in the flesh, which is one’s own body-temple, as well as those to whom He sends us every day.
“By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and is already in the world at this time.” 1 John 4:2,3.
To confess Jesus in the flesh carries more than one level of meaning:
1. Jesus as He manifested through the Blessed Theotokos, lived as a man, died, was resurrected and now ascended into heaven - the historical Person - is the first recognition of His coming in the flesh.
2. The Spirit of Christ in the believer: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in Him, and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1 John 4:12-14.
3. We acknowledge Jesus in “the other”, according to His own words. ”When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” Matthew 25:39,40.
This is how we "confess / witness” as Jesus coming in the flesh in conclusion. We have the revelation of Jesus Christ - we believe - in the historical Savior, eye-witnessed by the Apostles, revealed by the Scripture. We are to acknowledge how the Spirit of Christ wishes to reveal Himself in us, and then through us to all with whom Jesus chooses to identify Himself. There are no exceptions! Enemies included.
Dear, sweet, radical Savior Lord Jesus! Teach us Your ways, which surely are not our ways, for we are finite, and You are infinite. You make possible supernaturally what is impossible naturally! Please set us on fire with Your Holy Spirit so that we will continue in Your Word and truly be Your disciples, and then we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (from John 8:31,32), free to be all that You intend for us, as Your dwelling place from which You manifest Your love to the world. Then keep us aglow in Your Spirit’s holy fire. Thank You for Your magnificent power and Your never failing promises, whereby we become partakers of Your divine nature. Amen.
When people don’t care about prayer or Scripture reading because they are frankly spiritually dead, no amount of cajoling or threatening or coercion is going to change that on the part of pastors or others who care. Instead maybe it’s time to realize that something supernatural needs to happen and how that comes about.
The only thing that can change a person and his priorities and aim him in the direction of the desirability of becoming godly is that there must be a Holy Spirit imparted hunger and thirst after righteousness in the very core of his being. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ. There must exist a perceiving of one’s need and the realization that I don’t have in myself the skill set or strength to accomplish this! Those who understand this must pray for conversion and regeneration to take place. Pray for the “dead” who line the pews (or stand upright as the case may be) that they will be awakened from spiritual death, regenerated, and restored to God’s perfect will and priorities for their life.
No amount of pleading with the dead to read the Bible or pray is going to work. Jesus must be implored on their behalf to raise them up!
When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, she woke up hungry! He told those who witnessed this to then give her something to eat. Lk 8:55. Mk 5:43. Similar instruction was given regarding Lazarus. The onlookers were told to loose him and let him go. Jn 11:44.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” Mt 5:6. But they have to wake up hungry first! And this only comes from the spirit of Christ, in answer to the prayers of those who understand how spiritual awakening first takes place.
As one awakens, then the true fathers and mothers in spiritual Israel in Christ are charged to feed the spiritually hungry newly regenerated, and to unbind them from the remaining bonds of death so they can grow properly.
No amount of external pleading or pressure can bring about spiritual hunger in the spiritually dead. Such efforts are futile. Yet one hears preachers of every ilk of Christianity doing this all the time. But when Jesus raises someone out of spiritual death, he is gong to have a supernatural hunger and thirst for God’s Word, prayer, and growth in Christlikeness. Such do not need to be force fed. The craving for fellowship with God and one another is a natural outgrowth of this supernatural rebirth. As is desire to know God, study His Word, and grow in His grace and Christlikeness.
That is part of the evidence that confirms that such a thing has happened.
If persons at not so motivated, it never works to preach to the dead. Even if they “try” the result is dead works of the flesh and religion.
"One nation under God" has faded into an illusion. But perhaps it is something toward which we may aspire here in the USA. This nation has removed itself so far from God as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ, that the gulf between the two is immeasurable. It's been a long time project of whittling away at everything we hold dear by forces that oppose the freedom for which Christ has set us free - that of freedom from sin, self, and Satan, the power to live a life of victory over these. The nation still may be "under God", but that may mean that it is going under His hand of judgment.
How can we dare to ask God to "bless" a nation that murders its unborn by the millions, and then sends its best blood - young men and women with a future - to foreign wars to sacrifice them for warmongering globalists (bankers and others) whose goal is world dominion? Or that puts into "law" that which God has called abomination?
Pray for your leaders, yes, just like it says in the Bible. But don't ask God to bless the course they are now on, with the sheeple blindly following. Don't be fooled; both "Left" and "Right" are complicit for the most part in this. There are no saviors here!
Changed hearts through Jesus Christ - that is the only thing that will make the difference. But until that happens, "At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:9). Could it be time to "go back to school" on a grand scale?
"If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place." (2 Chronicles 7:13-15)
"This place" in New Testament terms to which this passage points is the living temple of the Holy Spirit, also called the Body of Christ, since the time of temples and Old Testament rites was put to an end, once and for all, around 70A.D. No more to be resurrected. The "rules" have not changed, for by no works of the Law will anyone be saved. That's why the temple system was abolished, NEVER to be reinstated, since works righteousness denied and still denies the very Messiah sent for the salvation of the world.
So, if you want "MAGA" - Make America Great Again, the only course is to repent so as to MAKE AMERICA GODLY AGAIN. Maybe even for the first time. As Jesus said, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12. A strong dose of humility might be in order. Humility means complete surrender to the salvation won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
And make no mistake about it, we cannot serve God and mammon. (See Matthew 6:24)
Seriously, our way has not been God's way. It's been the way of pride and self aggrandizement and the pursuit of temporal happiness. The time may be at hand when what we've dished out is coming back to us.
"Church", you're up to bat. Let's get our priorities right, and be the light and salt that Jesus called us to be, as we ask and keep on asking for His Wisdom, devote ourselves to prayer, and the life changing power of the Holy Spirit.
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The following quotation is from the writings of T. Austin-Sparks, in regard to Jesus' original 12 disciples, seemed inspiring and worth unpacking:
"The Lord Jesus was not dealing with an easy company, but a company which might often have provoked despair. But one thing was characteristic of Him in relation to a difficult handful, and that was His faith FOR (caps my emphasis) them. What faith the Lord Jesus had FOR those men! It was not that He had faith IN them, neither was it that He had faith for them because of what He saw in them; but He had INFINITE FAITH IN THE FATHER FOR THEM. His attitude was: Well, nothing is impossible with God.” (From T. Austin-Sparks: Filled Unto All the Fullness of God - Chapter 10)
We may see ourselves according to the natural view, as less than lustrous - all our shady past, our shortcomings, our inabilities, even the sin we may struggle with. We see according to our impossibility, instead of from a God’s eye view of His possibility.
HIS vision for us - that of being fully conformed to the likeness of Christ - is HIS view, HIS FAITH FOR US! He looks and sees the finished product, and His Spirit is always about the Father's business of bringing this about, through thick, thin, tragedy, trauma, triumph, becalmed, rough seas, ship wreck or riding the crest!
“And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:27-29. Berean Study Bible.)
This reminded me of a line from one of my old favorite songs which we used to sing in a prayer group where I served as a worship musician years ago: "The dream I have today, my Lord, is only a shadow of Your dreams for me." (Only A Shadow, by Carey Landry)
Lord, please grant us new eyes to see Your dream, Your vision, Your faith for us. Nothing short of that. Let no earthly or temporal passion dim this view, but let us perceive the redeemed, restored, and resurrected version You created and recreated us to be - through Your passion, Your resurrection, and even now in Your intercession before our Father's throne!
"Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]—blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he. A servant will not be corrected by words alone; for though he understands, he will not answer [the master who mistreats him].” (Proverbs 29:18,19 / Amplified Bible, Classic Edition / AMPC)
In other words, this "vision" / "dream" / "redemptive revelation" comes about by way of the FAITH OF CHRIST - seeing the redemptive plan He intends to fulfill in us. That is what faith is, a “seeing” of the substance of things hope for! (See Hebrews 11:1)
Who are You, Lord Jesus, and who am I to You? What could You possibly see in me? I need to see; I need to know!
This does not come by way of words or even by understanding the right words (although that does not discount them!), but by the vision of the redemptive revelation of God. This is the perspective that entirely changes the picture!
Jesus invites us to ask and keep on asking, the seek and keep seeking, to knock and keep on knocking! (Refer to Luke 11:5-11 or its parallel Matthew 7:7-12.)
“Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:1,2. Berean Study Bible.)
Holy Spirit, please grant this view to all of us Your children who are in Christ Jesus. May we be filled with unrelenting persistence to ask, seek, and knock - until we see and rejoice in the daring dream You have for us in Him in Whom we live, move, and have our being. Amen.