This is a Big Problem

Don't try to change meFoundations determine the future of anything that is being built.  Ask any contractor, if you get the foundation wrong it will always show up later.  Jesus had an amazing way of asking questions or telling stories that went right to the foundational issues between people and God.  One of them is in Luke 18. 

Luk 18:10-14 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11  “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12  ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  13  “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  14  “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

There is something corrupt in mankind that wants to think that other people have “issues” while we ignore our own.  This breeds a self justification in us while at the same time makes it easy to condemn others.

In our current cultural climate it is easy for one side of the Gay/Lesbian debate to look at the other side as having the “real issue.”  One side looks at the other and sees them as not accepting or full of hate.  The other sees people rejecting the creation order.  If both sides are not careful they can facilitate a foundational problem that the Pharisee had in the above story that Jesus told.

This was exemplified in a story I recently read about a wise church leader’s response to a caller inquiring about his church.  The caller was a lesbian looking for a church to attend.  It began with the caller asking the leader if the church was “welcoming?”  Here is how the dialogue went.

Leader: We welcome everyone to join us in worship.

Caller: Are you welcoming to gays and lesbians?

Leader: Yes, anyone and everyone is welcome.

Caller: What I mean is, are you welcoming and affirming? I’m a lesbian and I want to know if I will be expected to change in order to come to your church.

Leader: Anyone is welcome to come to our church. But when we meet Jesus—really experience Him—we all change. No one gets an opt-out of that. No one comes to Jesus or His church and gets to stay the same.

Caller: Would I have to change my sexuality?

Leader: Jesus is in the business of changing everything about us – our sexuality, our relationship to others, our money, our desires, and just about any aspect you can think of. So yes, coming to Jesus and His House means change – not just for you, but for all of us.

Caller: Well, then this church isn’t for me.

The Foundational Issue From Another Angle

I want us to lift this line of thought out of this context and look at if from another angle.  Why, because it reveals a foundational problem in many people’s approach to Jesus and His house, no matter what side of any issues they stand.  It was the problem with the Pharisee and it can be in any of us.  .

The foundational problem has to do with how we think about coming to Jesus and following Him with His church.  Jesus clearly lays out the way He intends for us to come and follow Him.   It has to do with Him being in charge of us and Him setting the pace.    Luke 9:23-24 23 He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  He mentions this same thing in every Gospel.   Luk 14:26-27; Mat 10:38-39, Mat 16:22-25; Mar 8:34-38; Joh 12:25-26.

Could we get serious for a moment in light of Jesus’ call?  Who do we think we are that we can come to Jesus and tell Him what we are willing, and not willing to change!  Let’s put the shoe on another foot and look it from a similar fictional phone inquiry.

Caller: If I come to Jesus and your church, will I be expected to change my prejudice and bigotry toward those of different races? I am comfortable with people who think and believe like me.

Caller: If I come to Jesus or your church will I be expected to change my living arrangements with my girlfriend/boyfriend? I like cohabitation and see no problem with it especially in light of all the divorces nowadays.

Caller: If I come to Jesus or your church will I have to reach out to non Christians with the gospel?  I am not that outgoing when it comes to evangelism.

Caller: If I come to Jesus or your church will I have to give much of my money?  And what about that tithing thing I have heard about, I am not comfortable with it?  I don’t want to be around a church that talks about money very much.

Caller: If I come to Jesus or your church do I have to serve?  I have a very busy life.  My schedule is very packed and I don’t have room for anything else.

We can go on and on but you see the foundational problem here.  When it comes to following Jesus, or being part of His house it is never appropriate to do so “on my own terms.”  Once we begin following Jesus our lives are to become open to Him, “working in us what is pleasing to Him.”  This is what walking with Him and being part of His house is all about.  This is what it means to “walk in the light” with Him.

Eph 5:8-10 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light  9  (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),  10  trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Heb 13:20-22 Now the God of peace…even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.

We either come to Him on “our” terms, or we realize the He is Lord and we come to follow Him as He works in us what is “pleasing in His sight.”  This is actually the only way to live if we are going to receive the life that He came to bring.

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Waking up to Jesus “Who Is”

God who isThe Apostle John was shown an amazing scene in heaven in which heavenly beings surrounding Jesus were so overwhelmed by who He is, that the do not cease to say “Holy, Holy, Holy.

Rev 4:8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”

The “repetition” of a name, or of an expression three times was quite common among the Jews. The Hebrews usually expressed the highest degree of an idea by comparison with the repetition of a word.  Holy is the opposite idea of common. By saying Holy, Holy, Holy they were indicating that God’s Holiness is like no other.  He is holy in the highest regard of perfection.

John’s vision was similar to what Isaiah received.  Isa 6:1-3 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple… 3  And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

John also heard an amazing thing after the declaration of His holiness, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.”  This covers past, present, and future.  When God’s people encounter Him in a real way, He will be seen as Holy in the past, present, and future.

Not just “Who was” or “Who is to come” but “Who is”

There was a recent prophetic word given at a corporate meeting that referred to John’s revelation. “I want my people to continually encounter Jesus, so He will not be reduced to ‘Who was’, or ‘Who is to come,’ but ‘Who is,’  right now!”

Because of the corruption that is in our flesh, Christians can become susceptible to drifting away from daily encounters with Jesus.  Throughout the history of God’s people recorded in the Bible we see that there are times that they fall into spiritual ruts/backsliding/sleeping.  In those times He becomes more “Who was” or “Who is to come” rather than the Living God “Who is” right now.

I have recently been drawn to Jesus’ personal messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor listed in the first three chapters of Revelation.   Before going on to talk about the end times, Jesus visits seven specific local churches to commend them for what was good and admonish them about what was lacking.  As He moves to fill the earth with His glory through the church Eph 1:22-23, it is important that each local church is full of His life.  The church at Sardis had fallen prey to drifting away from His life which produces a form of spiritual sleep.  i

Rev 3:1-4 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write…’I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  2  ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.  3  ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

Just because churches are “Spirit filled” or have a name that indicates they are alive, doesn’t mean they are in everyday practice.  There is always a need to stay awake or “wake up” as Jesus said, when we begin to drift away from Jesus “Who is.”   Staying awake and full of God’s fire is “job one” for individual Christians and local churches.  God get’s no glory out of Christians who only know Him in terms of the past, “Who was” or the future, “Who is to come.”

The only way to break out of these times or avoid them is daily encounters with Jesus.  Isaiah puts it in terms of waking up to the Lord.

Isa 51:9-52:10 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago…52:Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city… 2  Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion… 6  “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.'”

We must “wake up” to seek God daily.  As we encounter Him, He again becomes the amazing holy God “Who is” right now.  We need to wake up and overturn ground in our heart/experience that has grown fallow (unused or uncultivated ground that was hardened) and encounter Him face to face.  As we see Him afresh He again becomes the God “Who is” to us.  Hos 10:12 AMP Break up your uncultivated ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, to inquire for and of Him, and to require His favor, till He comes and teaches you righteousness.

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