Sunday, May 30, 2010

EKKLESIA? OR JUST "CHURCH"? Part Three.

EKKLESIA—Part Three.
A. Brother
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing

          I am not a biblical scholar.  I have spent a lifetime reading and studying the Scriptures, and until recently, it made very little difference in my life.  I had grown up doing church, and lived most of my adult life doing church, so I am familiar with everything in our “Christian subculture”.  I’m here to declare that one can spend a lifetime in the church, but not know the power of God in his life.  I was truly an “evangelical of evangelicals”, by birth, by lineage, and by profession.  Yet I became lost, a man burdened with sins and anxieties, in constant pain; unable to find solace from his brothers, or help within the institutions we call churches.  I became completely disillusioned by the gap between what I read in Scripture—this rich life Christ promised us and the early ekklesia I saw there—and our current church life.
          God called me back, and reached out with His love to me. 
          And when the Holy Spirit reaches out and fills us, when God calls us back to Himself, when we become true disciples of Jesus, we are entering a whole new world—the Promised Land of spiritual plenty that God has meant us to inhabit.  One who experiences the life changing entrance through the Narrow Door—Jesus our Lord—and truly agrees to embark on that journey known as complete and total discipleship—will be left almost entirely on his own by the traditional churches who operate by creed, curriculum and calendar.
          Creed never saved anyone.  Curriculum never radically changed anyone.  And the calendar, with its clocks and timetables, never allowed the Holy Spirit leeway to do His work, and still doesn’t.

          Jesus calls His followers to a radically different life.  We become new creatures, and that means we must wear entirely new clothing, and we will live by His calendar, His clock, and His Spirit’s curriculums and creeds.  We no longer live by the “weak and miserable principles” (Gal. 4:9) of this world.  As believers, we often, like the Galations, long for the comfortable, familiar paths, and so we gravitate back to doing things our way in the churches, instead of God’s Way.
          Paul reproved the Galations strongly for their move back into the religious world.  For taking back upon themselves yokes of regulations and rituals that God had broken off them through Christ.  Yet isn’t that what we do every day in the churches?  We long for structure.  Unregenerated man is fearful of change, fearful of spontaneity, fearful of letting the wind of the Spirit of God take His people where He wants them to go.  So we gravitate to the creation of our own structures.

          “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
                                                                                                    --John 3:8

          As Jesus added when talking to Nicodemus that day:

          “You are Israel’s teacher…and you do not understand these things?”
                                                                                                     –John 3:10

          Our pastoral offices and pulpits are filled with many who do not understand these things.  They have chosen a secure vocation, and certainly don’t want their parishioners floating around on the wind of the Holy Spirit wherever and whenever God pleases.  They wouldn’t be available to fill all the slots that are needed to keep the church programs going.  Religious leaders today are like Nicodemus and the rest of the teachers of Israel in that day—instead of coming to God and His Spirit and His Word to find out what God wants to do, they are dedicated to perpetuating the system with which they are comfortable.
          Jesus Christ wants to transform people and let the creative, transforming wind of the His Spirit fill their sails.  He wants to free them from religion, and dead conformity to man-made rules and regulations, not enslave them to another religious system.  Yet we are prone to want these religious systems, even if God has told us they are not good for us.
          Like the people of Israel in its early days, we don’t like having Jesus as our only Head in the Body of Christ.  We want kings and princes who live in palaces to rule over us, as the other nations have.  Instead of wanting rule by Christ and His Spirit alone, moving and working in His Body as He wills, we demand a King, and a bureaucratic structure, and a visible place of worship, like a comfortable cathedral, in which to practice our religious rituals.  As God let Israel have its King, though He told them it wasn’t what He wanted for them, so God lets us have our denominations and our church institutions by the hundreds, and the trouble and the compromise and the watered-down version of Christianity they bring. (1 Samuel 8:6-21)
          But make no mistake, God still requires the same level of discipleship and obedience He always required.  If we let ourselves be drawn astray from the Word of God by our religious institutions, we are still accountable.




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