Monday, October 24, 2011

HAVE YOU JOINED THE CULT OF SELF?

THE CULT OF SELF
A. Brother

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called the children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world did not know us
is that it did not know Him.”
--1 John 3:1

          When we look around at our cultures and our churches, we see a self-focus that has become so pervasive it has twisted even many of the faithful into mere shadows of what God intends us to be.  This self-focus is a worldly focus, and turns our light into darkness, our good deeds into nothing. 

          Scripture teaches that our “self”—this unique, God-created person—is prone to sin, subject to decay, and that we must deny our “selves” in order to enter the Kingdom of God. (Mark 8:34)  Christ in us completes us.  When Christ inhabits us by His Spirit, He helps us let go of the old man, and behold, all things become new in Him. (2 Cor. 5:17)  This new man is not full of self, but full of Christ, and led and empowered by the Spirit of Christ within. (Col. 3:3)

          We are dead, and our lives are now with Christ, in Christ, and His life is in us, in this new man, created by God, reborn into freshness, and able to live the Christ-life by His power, and to His glory.  Living the successful Christ-life has everything to do with dying to self, and depends upon that death of self for its beginnings.

          However, many of us have been taught a self-focused gospel, which has come out of the churches in recent generations, especially in America.  This self-focus is really like a cult.  Its adherents are adamant about their personal rights to a good life, their political rights to freedom, their entitlements to receive the blessings of God because they claim the Name of Christ. 

          This gospel is not the true gospel of Christ, or it would teach what Jesus taught.

          Jesus taught self-denial.  Jesus taught us to be other-focused.  Jesus showed us how, with His life of self-sacrifice for our sakes.  So how could we have been led astray by this Cult of Self?  How could we follow teachings that fly in the face of all that our Lord Jesus exemplified?  I don’t have the answer to that question, but we’ve done it. 

          Think about Satan’s temptations of the Lord Jesus when He was out in the desert, practicing what He was soon going to preach by denying Himself food for forty days, and spending all His time with His Father preparing for ministry.  What did Satan tempt our Lord with?  Self-gratification, self-glorification, and self-focus.  (Matt. 4:1-11)  It was all about Jesus’ inner self, His manhood, His personhood, His pride, His need for attention, even His placement in the world.  Satan tests us in the same ways, and many of us are failing the test, because we have been unprepared.

          In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus left His disciples while He went to pray in agony about the death He was going to die the next day.  How did He admonish them in that moment?  “Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  (Matt. 26:41)  Yes, it is our flesh that is weak, and we not only experience these temptations to self-focus that Jesus did, but because we have been taught this self-focused gospel, we have often fallen to them. 

          Brothers, I admonish us, and I pray for us, that we would give up our membership in this Cult of Self.  There are many of those who claim Christ whose entire life is centered around themselves, their families, their churches, their jobs, their possessions, their activities and hobbies, their time, their efforts.  It’s all about us.  It’s all about me.  It’s all about my fulfillment as a person.  Our entire society is geared to this self-focus, and we’ve bought into it.

          We even preach Christ as if He’s the self-help guru, ready to bring us to self-fulfillment by following Him! 

          What a lie!  He’s going to bring us to self-death, so that in our new, God-wrought personhood, Christ is all, and we are nothing except His Sons and His Daughters.  As John cries out in joy, we are children of God now, and what a privilege!  Though the world hates us, we are His and His alone, and find our fulfillment in that fact. 

          How dare we preach a gospel that is other than that handed down to us in Scripture!    When Christ comes back, will He find faith on earth? 

          Those who seek Him will find Him, and when He returns, they will find their lives as promised, for eternity.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
--Matt. 16:25

Sunday, October 16, 2011

OUR GREAT SINS: A CONFESSION FOR THE MODERN AFFLUENT CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

CHRISTIANITY DEFILED:
WHICH PASTORS WILL PRAY 
THIS PRAYER OF CONFESSION
WITH THEIR CONGREGATIONS?
A. Brother

          With the same defiance Jeremiah was given by God, I stand in the "marketplace" of modern Christianity and pray the following prayer.  

Oh, Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth;
I am overwhelmed with grief and sadness over my sins,
and the sins of all those who claim the Name of Christ.

We have departed from Your Word. 
We have not listened to Your prophets.
We have ignored the simple commands of Scripture.

We have left the Narrow Road that our Lord Jesus
asks us to walk with Him, and have built superhighways,
freeways, and high-speed trains with our own hands.

We have left the simple, steep, footpath of Christ that
winds its way through the mountains and valleys,
preferring instead to bulldoze our own wide trails,
flat, smooth and free of obstacles.

We have built enormous, comfortable lodgings for ourselves,
while Your House lies in ruins.
We have designed beautiful, gracious religious buildings,
and built them at great expense
to satisfy our own cravings for recognition,
while our brothers in need go unrecognized and
the poor among us go unfed.

We have taught a gospel that is not a gospel,
which allows us to come to church and participate
without true repentance and renewal in our lives.
We have accepted and embraced the world’s ways,
marketing You like a commodity,
presenting Christ as a product,
selling our way of life like a better mousetrap.

We have given up on You.
We have left the Way, and planned our own trip.

We are captive to the kings and princes of this world,
yet claim we are free.
We are slaves to our own affluence,
rich in land and homes, cars and businesses,
electronic gadgets and leisure time,
yet are grindingly poor in Your eyes.

We have ignored You, and so You ignore us.
Our meetings, our festivals, our celebrations, our banquets,
our concerts, our shouting and loud worship, our solemn
assemblies, our processions, our programs, our curricula, our
advanced degrees, our fine educational institutions, our vast
entertainment industries, our constant activities—all are
an offense to You, and a bore.

Please forgive me, and forgive the sins of Your people.
Have mercy, Oh, Lord, and don’t sweep us away
with the lost on the Day of Christ.

May Your people return to You,
in true repentance,
in true saving faith,
in love for You and one another.
May we leave all other ways behind,
and follow Jesus, the Way.
May we sell all we have to obtain
the pearl of great price,
the Kingdom of God.

May we be willing to lose our own lives
so that we may gain Christ.
May we decrease and become nothing,
so Christ Jesus may become everything in us.

May the churches abandon their own plans
and schemes in favor of your revealed Word.
May our leaders repent of their sins,
leading us to You instead of away.

May you forgive us, and Your great
mercy be upon the modern, affluent,
self-satisfied ‘Christian’ churches.

When you discipline us, remember
to keep a remnant for Yourself, as
Your Word promises.  Have mercy on
us, Lord, and save us.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CROWDS OF CASUAL OBSERVERS

"Then you will say, 
'We ate and drank with you,
and you taught in our streets.'
But He will reply,
'I don't know you
or where you come from.
Away from me
all you evildoers!'"
Luke 13:26,27

Many are avoiding the Narrow Gate.  Many want to hang around Jesus like pals at a party, eating and drinking, coming for the fun stuff, the big event, and counting themselves part of the crowd of Jesus' followers.

Jesus dispels any thoughts of the effectiveness of this ruse.  In Luke chapter 13 He tells us in harrowing detail what will happen to those who make this error--this completely arrogant assumption that they are Jesus' true friends--just because they come around at party time.

Jesus told this crowd of casual observers, as He tells us now, that the only Way into the Kingdom of God is through Him.  Not by being on the A-list at the local Christian celebrity event, but by walking with Him on the Narrow Road, the road of sacrifice and peril, the road of risk and loss, the path that leads through Gethsemane and Golgotha, the Way of the cross and the empty tomb.

Are you asking Him today for this life?  Are you willing to change what you're doing to achieve a different result?  Are you and I willing to forsake the crowd of casual observers, the safe play-callers and color commentators, the theater-box of the critic and the armchair of the spectator, for the blood, sweat and tears of a contestant?  Like Paul said, are we willing to enter the real race to win the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus?

Are you a participant or a spectator?  Don't find out on the day when Christ is revealed.  Then it will be too late, and Christ will turn to you and speak those terrible words He spoke to the religious partiers in Luke 13.

"Enter through the Narrow Gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it.
But small is the gate
and narrow the road
that leads to life,
and only a few find it."
Matthew 7:13,14

Your brother,
A. Brother

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