A. Brother

“But there were false prophets among the people,
just as there will be false teachers among you….
Many will follow their shameful ways and
 will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 
In their greed these teachers will exploit you
with stories they have made up…
With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning;
they seduce the unstable;
they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!” 
--2 Peter 2:1-3,14

“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this,
be on your guard so that you may not be carried away
by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.
But grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To Him be glory both now and forever!  Amen.
--2 Peter 3:17,18

            Gradually, the churches in affluent America have been seduced into believing and practicing religion that actually runs counter to the truth of the Scripture.  So we bring the Way of Truth into disrepute.  We have been drawn away from the simplicity of the good news of Christ, and have followed lawless men into error.  We have lost our secure position in the Lord Jesus, and have followed the ways of the world, becoming like the world, and so losing the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
            This was predicted, and should not come as a surprise.  The Apostles and prophets spoke of it, and warned us repeatedly about it.  Why would we be shocked that the affluence of America has spawned false religion among Christians? 
            The typical American Christian today is in nearly every way a derivative of the world.  Except for a few outward differences, such as going to church once or twice  a week, or reading a Christian book, or having a short devotional in the morning, the average “Christian” appears to be, and is, a copy of the average nonbeliever. 
            The nonbeliever might drink more alcohol, though many who claim Christ drink plenty of alcohol; or the nonbeliever might watch more filthy movies which glorify wrong attitudes toward God and people, though many who claim Christ watch plenty of these movies and television shows; or the nonbeliever might spend his money selfishly on himself and his pursuit of pleasure, though many who claim Christ spend their money on themselves and their pursuits of pleasure; or the nonbeliever might concentrate on creating the lifestyle he wants and desires and not have any investment in the Kingdom of God, though many who claim Christ concentrate on creating the lifestyle they want and think that by putting some money into the church coffers they have an investment in the Kingdom of God. 
            Having grown up in the evangelical churches of America, and being steeped in their traditions and their ways, I have been called by God to speak out on His behalf against the waywardness and apostasy of our current generation and the past generations that have brought us to this shameful point.
            How lost are we?
            We are so lost that we don’t know we’re lost.
            Our self-congratulatory religion--so full of pride at our fine achievements, so full of boasting about men, and the ideas and plans of men—is a stench in the nostrils of the Lord who called us.  Our entire so-called “Christian” subculture reeks of our own wonderfulness—how cool we think we are—and how well we think we’re doing things for God.
            Yet we are spiritually poor, blind and naked.
            We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are to be firmly rooted and grounded in Christ, and to live as Christ lived, for God and for others, not for self.  We are to be willing to give up our very lives to follow Jesus, standing against the world and its way, calling this adulterous and lost generation to God; yet we have compromised so much that the world can’t distinguish anything about Jesus Christ in us. 
            We have not begun right, so we haven’t been able to live right.  We don’t even know what it means to be a “Christian,” so how can we live as true followers of Jesus?
            There is no resemblance between the life of Christ as exemplified by Paul, Peter, John, James, Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Timothy, Silas, Priscilla, Aquila, or any of the other New Testament believers, and the life we live in modern America as so-called Christians.
            We haven’t begun with Christ at all.  We have adopted a faith in faith, a faith in our ‘belief system,’ not a faith in Christ.  We have faith in our religion, in being part of a big thing called Christianity, with its huge church system, and cultural standards.
            We have not stepped over any threshold into a New Life, and become New Creations in Christ.  We are not required to abandon our worldly ways, and to give up our sinful practices, or our pleasure-seeking self-driven lives.  We are now required only to “receive Christ as our personal Savior” and begin centering our lives around church attendance and following the right traditions that Christians have adopted over the centuries. 
            We can’t of course participate in certain sins, unless we do them covertly.  The really bad ones must be given up, such as drunkenness, and being gay, and having abortions, and having sex outside marriage.  However, the acceptable sins, such as greed, covetousness, lust, pride, love of self, and many other manifestations of the spirit of this age, come through loud and clear among so-called believers.
            Where is the Body of Christ?  Where is the love among the brethren?  Where are those who lay down their lives for one another as Jesus commanded, giving up all worldly preoccupations to build up their brothers in the faith?  Where are the men and women and children who hate their own lives in this world, in order to find life with Christ, carrying their crosses, going with Him outside the camp, as outcasts and aliens, to suffer with Him?  Where are those who know Christ as a Friend, and an Older Brother, the first born among many brothers?  Where are those who say to the stranger, “Come in, my house is yours?”  Where are those who love enough to give up their own comfort for those in need, and who don’t just give out of their excess?
            Where are the men and women who will follow the pattern of the life of the Body of Christ given us in Acts, to pursue being of one heart and mind with others who follow Christ, and to sell what we possess to meet the needs of our brothers?  Who gives a job and help to their brothers in need when it is in their power to do it?  Who gives a hurting Christian family their second home to live in while they get on their feet?  Who sells houses or land to meet the needs of the brother next door or down the street, instead of sending a check overseas to help an unknown person in a far country while the brother they can see here is in agony?  Who doesn’t say, “Be warmed and filled” to his brother in need?
            Who gives the cup of water to the least of Christ’s followers, and so fulfills His purposes on the earth?  Who in our affluent and comfortable Christian subculture takes the time to weep with those who weep, and to stay alongside his brother in suffering and pain until together we make it better?  Who lifts his brother up when he falls, just because he loves him?  Who washes the feet of his brethren as Jesus did, doing unasked for acts of kindness and love for him?  Who rescues his brother from sin, and his own foolishness, by loving him back into the fold?  Who forgives, who loves, who is unselfish, who lays down career and structured time frames and plans, goals and dreams for his brother and for Christ?  Who goes out at night, in a storm, on foot, through the mountains, to rescue that one lost sheep who has gone astray?
            Where are the men and women who would abandon their successful “ministries” to love like this?  Where are the men and women who claim to be of God, who live like Jesus?  Where are the leaders among us who claim no places of honor at banquets, and who would rather be with the poor, the lame, the outcast, the sinners in the gutter, than the rich, the comfortable, the successful people who claim Christ’s Name?  Where are the leaders who would share their very lives instead of just a well-crafted sermon with their people, getting down into the trenches with them each day to make sure they were understanding and living the true gospel?  Where are the leaders who would walk down dusty paths to a river where the women were gathered washing clothes, just to share with them the Kingdom of God, and to do this day after day until many came to Christ?  Where are the men and women among us who would give up their entitled lifestyles as leaders in the churches to walk with Christ on the narrow road, denying themselves these privileges as Paul did, so that there would be nothing to boast about but the love and power of Jesus?
            Who will follow Jesus to the death?
            Do we really think that the life we’re living for Him now is preparing us for our own crucifixion?  When we have faltered on open ground, how do we expect to do well in the thickets of the Jordan?  When we have trouble going without a latte, how will we face true deprivation for Christ’s sake?  When we can’t imagine being without a large, well-produced and choreographed worship service, what will happen when our big churches are shut down, and we’re forced to meet quietly, without lights, camera and action?  When we have trouble remembering to read our Bible when there is no opposition, how do we expect to persevere in hungering for the Word when it is denied us?  When we are spoon-fed now by the words of others, how will we survive when it is just the Holy Spirit and God’s Word inside us to nurture and sustain us?
            What has happened to God’s people, to lead them so far down the path of self-delusion?
            They have abandoned the true faith for a false religion, led by false teachers who don’t teach what Scripture teaches, and who don’t example lives that are like the life of Jesus or the original apostles and disciples.  Scripture teaches us clearly about all the things I’ve mentioned in this teaching.  Everywhere we look in the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Word speaks to us clearly about these basics of following the Lord.
            Yet we ignore the Word, and pursue our own selfish interests.
            Why do we think Paul and Peter and Jude and John gave us such life and death instruction about false teachers, and being led astray by ideas and plans that are not of the Lord, though they appear religious?
            Because they saw it already coming into the ekklesia, the called out to be together people of God, even back then.  Immediately the wolves gathered.  From among their own people came men and women who began teaching lies, and ignoring the Way.  The apostles and true disciples were called to lives of love, righteousness and self-sacrifice, and yet immediately there were those saying as they do today—“Come on, Jesus didn’t really mean that.  If he had, nobody would follow Him!”  There were those wolves ready to pounce on the naïve and foolish, to lead them astray into a comfortable, smooth, cool Christianity, which didn’t make those impossible demands.  This nice Christian religion allowed them to live lives that looked a lot like the world, but gave them the comfort and security of knowing they had “Jesus as their personal Savior” to take them all to heaven when they died.
            So, we ask again, how has this happened to us, and what can we do about it?
            It happened because over the generations, more and more of man’s traditions and his religious ways have been substituted for the simple Truth of Scripture about what it means to follow Jesus.  Each generation in America has accepted additional lies, and has bought into them.
            What to do?
            Christ calls us to repent of these sins of presumption, and to start fresh in His Word, finding out what it means to be His disciple on the Narrow Road.
            We need to feed on His Word, letting the Holy Spirit teach us, as instructed in the Word of God.  We need to stop following leaders who don’t example Christ’s life of self-denial and self-sacrifice, and become Jesus-Followers ourselves, whether other so-called Christians continue in their worldly ways or not.
            We must rely completely on the Lord Jesus to teach us through His Word, and ally ourselves with other brothers and sisters who want to live lives of love and self-denial, lives full of the Holy Spirit and power.
            We must begin understanding the Word of God, and quit ignoring all the passages that our leaders ignore or water down.  Jesus said many hard things, but they were the Truth, and many stopped following Him when He revealed the true meaning of discipleship. 
            So—many today will fall away on account of the Stone which the builders rejected.  Many today will stumble over the Rock which makes them fall.  Many around you want only the easy Jesus they’ve been taught—you know, the “personal Savior” who’s kind of like a personal spiritual valet—getting you things when you need Him, but making no demands of you, who stays in the shadows quietly and is a good servant.

            But it was the Lord Jesus Christ, head of the ekklesia, God’s called out to be together people, who said:

            “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of My Name, for they do not know the One who sent Me.”  --John 15:18-21

          Is this passage part of your arsenal of life today?  Is it true of you?  Does the world hate you, or does the world think you’re a pretty good person who just happens to have a “personal Savior” that doesn’t intrude on anyone else’s space? 
            Are you a sold-out slave to Jesus, who loves Him so much you can’t bear the thought of spending one minute without Him?  Are you His friend, who wouldn’t think of compromising one Word that comes out of His mouth?  Do you love Jesus and obey His Word, and is that the focus of your life?  Do you believe, truly believe, that the Body of Christ, the people of God, are your family now, and that you must do anything you can to help them, to build them up in the faith, to feed and clothe them, to share your very life with them?  Do you love Christ above your job, your home, your lifestyle?  Will you give it up to live without worldly goals and ambitions, and be led by the Spirit daily?  Are you willing to literally give up all you have to follow Jesus?
            You must get on the Narrow Road to true discipleship, or be lost with the multitudes of religious pretenders.


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