For a few years now, one of the things the Lord has been teaching me is how serious He is about reconciliation and unity.
From the start this idea comes hard to a born and bread protestant. I mean, after all, protest-ant – one who protests – that’s what I am.
We protest-ants are famous for unity – especially if you agree with us. But hey, if you sprinkle instead of immerse – that is beyond the pale of orthodoxy.
People recognize our sense of community – unless you raise your hands when you worship.
We have a certain renown when it comes to body life – until you start spouting your old-earth propaganda.
We take great pride in our loyalty – though I hope you don’t start talking about predestination.
There is no one quite as long suffering as we are – unless you believe in that mid-trib, pre-mill, rapture-less interpretation of Daniel and Revelation.
We are such a bunch of splitters. We are best known for splitting over doctrine and theology.
And perhaps the days of actual church splits are past. Now we carry out our protests in a more subtle way. We float. You know floaters, don’t you?
In my part of the world, northern New Jersey, there are four or five Bible believing churches in a ten-mile radius. To be honest, that is an understatement. I should say there are four or five in which I would be culturally comfortable. If you count churches with born again pastors doing their best to preach the Word of God to their flock, my ten-mile radius the number is much higher.
In the late 90’s I was attending a church in the town of Midland Park, NJ. At the time there were thirteen protestant churches listed in the phone book. Today, if you go to NJ.com you will find that there are 200 churches listed within five-miles of Midland Park. Folks, Midland Park is 1.53 square miles and has a population of 7,227 (thank you Google.) And that does not include the off-the-grid churches that meet in homes. “Organized religion” just doesn’t meet their needs.
These floaters move from church to church when they get tired of the preaching. They leave when their feelings get hurt. They pull up roots just because they feel like they need a change. We see a new couple come in the back door. We greet them with open arms. Then we find out they are on the fifteen-year plan. They came to our church a dozen years ago, and since have spent three years, more or less in the other four near by churches.
I am painting a picture that I believe breaks the heart of God.
Do you remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17?
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.John 17:20-21
God’s idea was reconciliation. His plan was to draw men back to Himself, and in doing so back into community.
But Ben, you say, aren’t we called to guard the truth, and hold to true doctrine.
Absolutely! We must keep the wolves out of the sheepfold, and guard those who come near preaching damnable heresy’s out. These heresies draw people away from Christ. They lead to ungodliness, and make people look less and less like Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when you have to leave, or split, or break fellowship. But for the most part, we know nothing of that. It is time to live in covenant the Jesus and His body.
Death to the Truth
God did something drastic to make reconciliation possible. There was only one way to allow people - enslaved by sin - enemies of God - full of all sorts of lies and misunderstandings - back into relationship with the pure and holy God.
His plan – Crucify the Truth – Take the very Word that spoke the universe into being and put Him to death.
God crucified the Truth to restore relationship! (Tweet This)
Let me say that again so that it has a chance to sink in.
God crucified the Truth to restore relationship. Yet we abandon relationship to preserve our dogma and doctrines.
Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the way the TRUTH and the life.
We in our flesh were the enemies of all that is true. Still God thought it better for the Truth to die a horrible death than for us to stay on the other side of the veil.
He tore the veil. That veil was the flesh of the Lord Jesus which stood between the sinful man and the Holy God.
Truth is not Dead
The Truth did not stay dead. I get that. This was not the end of the truth, and believe me God has a high regard for truth.
I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.Psalms 138:2
My desire today is not that you abandon the Word. No, but be reconciled to one another in love. When Paul faced divisions in Corinth, he determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
So what about you? Are you a splitter, floater or sticker?
Thanks for coming by.
See you again soon.
Hey - head over and check out my new book - Encounters With Jesus. If you've already read it, do me a huge favor and leave an honest review on Amazon so others will run into it.
Did you know there is a direct correlation between anointing and unity, linking your connection with the Lord and community? There is a link between how well we play with others and that wonderful opportunity to see very chain broken by the power of the Lord in your midst!
Check it out:
The Psalmist writes this:
A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
Psalm 133:1-3 ESV
In the past, reading this verse I was not focusing on the picture.
To what does He liken brothers dwelling in unity?
To the anointing of Aaron, the first priest of the Most High receiving the outpouring of that special blend of oil and fragrance in preparation for his high calling. He would be the one who stood before God for the people. He would be the one who carried the burdens from the people to the Lord. He would be the one who carried the word of the Lord to the people
We are a people of the priesthood. No longer is there a mediator—a go between—for us. We are called to come before the throne where we can bring our own offerings—our praise—our worship—directly to the feet of the Lord. He speaks to us and we bring His word to those we touch.
But the anointing is diminished, or perhaps impossible, for the lone rangers among us. [Tweet this]
There are aspects of the faith walk that are lonely. There are times where like Jesus, we may walk in the wilderness alone, or like Paul, spend time in Arabia. But those are not the bulk of life, and those are not days of ministry to others.
It is interesting to note that in all the major passages that detail the gifts of the Spirit or the gifts of Christ, we find strong exhortations for love.
It’s most striking in 1 Corinthians where Paul tells us more about the gifts and their operation than anywhere else. Nestled in the middle of his discourse on how to behave when we gather, and what kind of manifestations we might expect in the body of Christ we find this pearl of great price -1 Corinthians 13.
Again in Ephesian 4, where we learn of the Gifts of Christ, if you take I giant step back while reading about the gifts listed in verse 11, you’ll find that it is swimming in a conversation about living in unity.
Once more in Romans 12, Paul teaches on the gifts in the context of unity and love. (Romans 12:3-10)
In Galatians Paul tells us that faith works through love,
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. - Galatians 5:6 ESV
Mull on that with me for a while.
I’ll come back to this soon, but check out these scriptures with me as see if there isn’t a link between the power of the Spirit and the unity of the Body?
… so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, … - Colossians 1:25-27
So based on what I’m seeing here, Jesus – God – is going to live in me. Clearly it will be by His Spirit – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – right?
I mean there is not a 5’9”ish rabbi in robes and sandals living somewhere in the organ that pumps blood to my extremities on a good day.
So when Jesus says:
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. - John 14:23
…what He is talking about is the Holy Spirit.
So how much Holy Spirit lives in us? What is the maximum allowable measure?
I know this about Jesus:
For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. - John 3:34-35
Can a man – a born again child of God – walk in that same measure or are we given a rationed amount of the Spirit?
We have a few passages that might inform this.
Can we correlate the indwelling Spirit with grace as in:
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. - Ephesians 4:7
Or when I think this way am I limiting God’s ability to use me by diminishing His presence in me to a smidge of the Spirit?
Look where Paul goes from this “measure” of Christ’s gift…
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. - Ephesians 4:11-13
Follow me for a minute.
Christ gives grace by measure in verse 7, then He gives men to the body – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These are given for the express purpose of equipping us for service.
This equipping is to lead to the building up of the body in unity.
This unity of the faith in the body of Christ brings us to a place in our corporate knowledge and experience with God.
WE(ok – this is really important) become A mature man – comparable to the fullness of Christ.
Notice please – It is not that I equal the measure of Christ – it is not that YOU mature to that level. It is that WE – the body of Christ – have the potential - in unity – to be ONE MATURE PERSON.
This can only happen together – with brothers and sisters. A lone believer will never mature. [Tweet This] Without the gifts of Christ (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) we are not being equipped, we are not being sharpened, we are not growing.
You may sit at home and read your Bible, and sense God’s voice, but there are some things He will not share with you, except through life in community.
Oh this is hard for me. I am such and independent soul. I soooo want to do everything on my own, and never want to depend on anyone for anything.
And so I sit here, missing God’s best, missing His plan for my growth because I won’t submit to a teacher, or listen to a prophet, or I despise some evangelist.
In the beginning Elohyim¹, the One God who is True and who Lives, the God who is Three in One, the God besides whom there is no other god².
And this true, living God who is perfect Oneness is also a community of three divine personalities: the Father, divine Lifegiver; the Son, divine Utterance; and the Spirit, divine Breath. In the eternal community of Elohyim each Member is covenantally connected to the other two Members. Disunity, desire for dominion and conflict are unknown. Within this community of absolute love working through absolute authority, unbroken Oneness flows continuously between the Members in perfect fluidity of purpose, intention and will. [Read more]
The New Testament is generously seasoned with the phrase “one another.” One of these “one anothers” that comes up three times is “encourage one another.”
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:25 NASB
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:13 NASB
Look at the power of encouragement!
We are told to encourage one another to break the power of sin to harden us.
Think about the way sin works in a believer’s life.
If you are anything like Adam and Eve it might go down like this.
That old foul-mouthed liar tempts you.
You look at the beautiful cookie. (I am quite sure it was a cookie tree – that forbidden fruit – don’t you think?) It sure looks like it would taste good. And that smell… It’s beautiful, and old scaly, he said it would make me wise like God. I need that cookie!
But when you eat it you get the big surprise. You do in fact know something you never have known before – shame.
Your favorite thing to do every day was to walk with the Lord – to talk with Him – to laugh – to love.
But now you were not looking forward to seeing the One who made you, the One who loves you. Instead there was a twinge of something new in your stomach.
Is it fear?
Is it guilt?
Is it shame?
Is it self-loathing?
Oh the wonders of the knowledge of good and evil.
Apparently you already knew good – what you have now is the knowledge of what evil does to a man or woman’s heart.
Thanks for that, you liar!
So now, Christian – though you know somewhere deep inside that Jesus has paid for your sin – bore your shame –cleansed you from ALL unrighteousness – in the pit of your stomach there is a “run and hide” working.
So you pull out a bolt of fig-leaf camouflage and start putting together a ‘run and hide in the bushes’ outfit.
The lie of sin is not just in the temptation. It’s always a lie that gets you to sin in the first place, but the bigger lie is what it does with your mind and heart after the fact. Somehow – so says your recently fooled heart – Jesus – who, by the way, died for you when you were His enemy – no longer loves you because you sinned.
What you need right now is a brother or sister. One who will encourage you with some truth. One who will pull down some fruit from the tree of life – a nice tasty morsel of living word.
So what about today – what day it is? Oh – check it out – it’s today!
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:13 NASB
Hey – have a great day – and encourage someone TODAY.
... for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.(Matthew 6:24 NASB)
I am having one of those chicken – egg moments (and no I don’t mean that I am pondering the wonderful bird that you can eat both before it’s born and after it’s dead.)
Riddle me this.
Does serving God lead to loving God?
Does loving God lead to serving Him?
As I work through the Song of Songs on Saturdays, I am finding that if I love Him well, it better prepares me to serve Him without holding back.
But then again, verse almost feels like it's saying you fall in love with the one you serve.
So here is a tip for every day life – get ready – it's a bit off topic – but should help somebody out there.
If you are having relationship troubles – perhaps with your spouse or your parents, or your kids, or your neighbors, or your boss, or your (ok – you're thinking of someone – stick a word here that describes your relationship and goes with the flow of my rant)_____________, try serving them.
First act of service – pray for them. Do it now – they're already stuck in your brain.
Next, do something you know they will appreciate without being asked.
Hey – I know it won’t fix every relationship, but as a Jewish sitcom mom from the 1960’s might say – ‘It couldn’t hoit!’
Picture this with me – when a relationship goes from good to bad, it does not happen in one fell swoop (usually – I do get that there are exceptions.) Often it is more like a wall built one brick at a time, over time, until you can no longer see the face of the one that you love, only the ‘dead or alive’ wanted poster on the brick wall of offence.
So, if today, you take down one brick of offense you have turned your relationship around. You've turned the momentum in the opposite direction.
Oh – and you know I am not talking about allowing them to become your Master (with a capital ‘M’ – there is only room for one of those, and that needs to be Jesus. We will get back to that – but for today just a little slice of Dear Abby.
Thanks for stopping in.
Post Script - I am on vacation this week, and working on other things. I thought I would pull up this favorite of mine from December 5, 2012. Hope it blesses you today.
Check out this related post from my new friend Sue at pen2paper: Building Walls
I don’t know how they do the offering or collection in your church. In mine we usually ask the Lord to receive our gifts and then the ushers come forward and the music plays. Sometimes a soloist sings, other times we worship, and once in a while we watch a video.
Imagine with me for a moment the Pastor standing up just as you were about to toss your envelope with your tidy tax deduction into the basket and said:
WAIT – STOP – HOLD EVERYTHING!
Nobody puts another penny in that basket until we fix what happened at the business meeting last week.
The Church will not accept another offering until reconciliation is obvious. End the factions or end the finances! You pick, but I can no longer allow you to pretend to give to God, when you can’t forgive your brothers and sisters.
That might shake it up a bit – you think?
God is more interested in your relationship with your brothers and sisters, than He is with your money. [Tweet This]
If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24 NASB)
The last thing I want to bring out here is the imperative that first shows up in John 13, right after Jesus washed the disciples feet. He tells them:
John 13:34 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
This phrase ‘one another’ as applied to the church shows up 39 times in 36 verses in the New Testament. I have included the full listing here. Twice in the last week, I have sat with a group of believers and read these aloud. I would recommend that you do the same. You can do it alone, but I think it is striking as you hear others read them as well.
Clearly the 25 times that love in mentioned in these verses is inescapable, but you will be surprised by what other “one anothers” you see repeated.
Don’t miss this wealth of godly treasure.
John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,
Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
2 John 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
OK, how could we possibly obey even a portion of these 39 instructions if we are not sharing our lives with others?
I am not talking about going to Church on Sunday either. I am talking about living in community. Getting together with others. Sharing life, hopes, dreams, fears, successes and failures.
Each of us in Christ need to be in relationship with others who are walking out their faith. Sometimes pulling them along, and sometimes being dragged forward ourselves. No Christian has arrived at the place where he or she no longer needs the body. Christian life does not work the way it is supposed to when we walk alone.
Believe me, I have messed this up more than once in my life. Many of you reading this can probably point out specific times you have seem me do it. I have allowed rigid doctrines or personal preferences or even hurts or slights to separate me from people God was using to speak into my life.
Which one or ones jumped off the page for you today?
A garden enclosed Is my sister, my spouse, A spring shut up, A fountain sealed. ... A fountain of gardens, A well of living waters, And streams from Lebanon.
Song of Songs 4:12, 15 NKJV
If you are like me, when you think of living waters, you think of what Jesus said in John 7.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.' - John 7:38
However the phrase “living water” did not originate in the gospels.
The first time these words are paired in the Hebrew Scriptures is in a fairly familiar story in the life of Isaac. If you remember Isaac was becoming a very wealthy man and he had large flocks and herds.
Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them. But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing (living) water, - Genesis 26:18-19
I know it does not say living water here, but it is the same two Hebrew words, and when I drop the phrase living water into this sentence, knowing full well that Jesus was going to equate living water to the work of the Holy Spirit…
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. - John 7:39 NASB
… it makes me ponder this story anew.
I long for a day – and I pray it is today – when we can raise up a generation behind us who does not have to re-dig our wells, but can start in the Spirit where we have left off.
Two things are desperately needed in the Church for this to happen.
First, we must realize and recognize that the Spirit of the Living God who has given us everything we have, is the same Spirit who dwells in the next generation of believers. These young believers, no matter how young, have the same Holy Spirit dwelling in them as we do in us. We MUST pass on what we have (at least the good stuff) to those who follow us.
Next we must realize and recognize that the Spirit of the Living God that dwells in the generation that has come before us is the same Spirit who dwells in us, and be willing to receive from those who have been in the faith longer that we have. We do not have to reinvent the faith anew for each generation.
Revelation comes line upon line and precept upon precept, and if we can start where our forefathers left off, imagine how much further we could travel. If our ceiling becomes our children’s floor (to borrow a metaphor from Paul Simon) imagine how they could flourish in the faith.
This goes for our denominational differences too. I am thinking now of the strife that exists between the Charismatic folks and the non-Charismatics, or between the Calvinists and Aminians, or between seven-day creation Christians and old Earth creation Christians.
I see Christians actually trying to fill in the wells of living water from those of other backgrounds. When did you become a Philistine? [ok – I am starting to rant – but I hope you see the picture I am painting.]
Let me be clear, I want us to share only the Living Water – that which flows from the throne of the One True God. I am not suggesting we adopt an ‘any doctrine will do’ stance, but I long for the day when leaders from these various camps can stand together and find the common ground, then share the sweet living water that comes from the deep wells they have dug.
If we can begin to share the Living Water we are getting from the deep and plentiful wells God has provided, rather than defending our wells and despising others, we could grow in unity and love, and the One True Church of Jesus Christ, that church that He is building would truly flourish.
Ok – I honestly did not expect this post to go in this direction today.
Lord, I ask you for opportunities for me to share from my well, and to taste the sweet revelation from the wells of others. I pray my pride and partisan spirit would not hinder the life of Your Body today.
Thanks for coming by.
I am afraid we will have to come back to the living water again next week. I didn’t even get to the place I was expecting to start today.