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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Groups of Believers (the Local Church): In 4 Parts-Part 3

Part 3

I have been reading and studying Revelation and working on writing a doctrinal statement about the church.  Both of these projects intersected in the first 3 chapters of Revelation... the letters to the Seven Churches.  I wanted to share and needed to organize my thoughts about what I am understanding on these churches.

 

In summary, there are seven types or seven states that a group of believers (Assembly of Believers in Jesus Christ or the local church) will find themselves in:

1.       Distant from Jesus and Academic (Ephesus)

2.      Jesus is all (Smyrna)

3.      Lost a hold on the truth (Pergamum)

4.      Know Jesus but aren't faithful to him (Thyatira)

5.      Asleep (Sardis)

6.      Paying attention and doing what you know to do (Philadelphia)

7.      Intellectual and Arrogant (Leodicea)

 

As I thought, reviewed, and prayed over this, I see three distinct categories:

A.      Acceptable

B.     Struggling

C.     Dead

 

As I use the term "church" here, the New Testament context of it means "an or the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ".  It does not mean nor imply a denomination or a building.  It includes house churches, Bible Studies, regions, and the church as a whole.  When you look into and think about the "church" you are part of, think about the beliefs, the people, the behaviors, the focus, the things you and those who are part of your "church" invest themselves in, what is "important" to you (defined by where you spend your resources).  Back to the categories...

 

Part 1 focused on "Acceptable" churches, those at Smyrna and Philadelphia.  Part 2 focused on "Struggling" churches, those at Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira.  This part focuses on "Dead" churches.  Those in Sardis and Leodicea.

 

There are "Dead" churches.  Sardis and Leodicea fit this category.  Sardis is declared dead (Revelation 3:1).  There is no work in her coming to completion (Revelation 3:1-2).  Leodicea has no "life" in her, no passion.  She is categorized as neither hot nor cold, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).  In the category of "Dead", Jesus needs to be but is not their source (Revelation 3:1, 14).  The good news for the "Dead" church is that Jesus is life (John 14:6).  He was raised from the dead by the power of God and raises others from the dead.  He can raise a church from the dead.  The "Dead" church needs to wake up, invest in what Jesus offers, humble yourselves, repent, and obey (Revelation 3:2-3, 18-19).  Unless the "Dead" call upon Jesus, they will be separated from him (Revelation 3:2-4, 20).  If they do, in faith, they can trust that he will come to them and redeem them (Revelation 3:2-4, 20).  It is what he does to those whom he loves.  He reproves and disciplines (Revelation 3:19).

 

7:46 am edt 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Groups of Believers: 4 Parts - Part 2

Part 2

I have been reading and studying Revelation and working on writing a doctrinal statement about the church.  Both of these projects intersected in the first 3 chapters of Revelation... the letters to the Seven Churches.  I wanted to share and needed to organize my thoughts about what I am understanding on these churches.

 

In summary, there are seven types or seven states that a group of believers (Assembly of Believers in Jesus Christ or the local church) will find themselves in:

1.       Distant from Jesus and Academic (Ephesus)

2.      Jesus is all (Smyrna)

3.      Lost a hold on the truth (Pergamum)

4.      Know Jesus but aren't faithful to him (Thyatira)

5.      Asleep (Sardis)

6.      Paying attention and doing what you know to do (Philadelphia)

7.      Intellectual and Arrogant (Leodicea)

 

As I thought, reviewed, and prayed over this, I see three distinct categories:

A.      Acceptable

B.     Struggling

C.     Dead

 

As I use the term "church" here, the New Testament context of it means "an or the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ".  It does not mean nor imply a denomination or a building.  It includes house churches, Bible Studies, regions, and the church as a whole.  When you look into and think about the "church" you are part of, think about the beliefs, the people, the behaviors, the focus, the things you and those who are part of your "church" invest themselves in, what is "important" to you (defined by where you spend your resources).  Back to the categories...

 

Part 1 focused on "Acceptable" churches, those at Smyrna and Philadelphia.  This part focuses on "Struggling" churches.  Those in Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira.

 

Under the heading of "Struggling" are the churches at Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira.  They too are different within this category.  Each is uniquely approached by God.  A "Struggling" church needs to remember that Jesus is their right to exist (Revelation 2:1).  He gives them permission to be and can revoke their permission to be called by God as a fellowship of believers (Romans 13).  He can scatter believers just as he scattered Israel.   The "struggling" church needs to remember that Jesus is the truth, God's Word (Revelation 2:12).  The "struggling" church needs to be in awe of Jesus with fear and trembling (Revelation2:18).  The "Struggling" church may be doing the right things and have a love for Jesus (Revelation 2:2-3; 2:12; 2:19) but their chief issue is that God is not their only god (Revelation 2:4; 2:14-15; 2:20).  They have lost a grip on the "truth and only the truth" (Revelation 2:14-15; 2:20).  They teach the traditions of man as if they were the laws of God (Revelation 2:14-15 xref. Matthew 15:6-9).  Idolatry (Defined:  "putting anything ahead of God") is an issue for them.  The answer for a struggling church is to repent (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21).  Stop what you are doing, turn away, and head back toward Jesus... conclude that He is your reason, the Truth and do it out of respect and awe for who you are dealing with... The Son of God!  To do otherwise is disaster.   It could cost you your light (Jesus - John 1:4-9; Revelation 2:5).  It could cost you profound conflict (James 4:4; Revelation 2:16).  It could cost you pain and suffering (1 Corinthians 11:27-32; Revelation 2:22-23).  Persevere!  (Revelation 2:26-28)  Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8; Revelation 2:7, 17).

5:32 am edt 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Groups of Believers: 4 Parts - Part 1

Part 1

I have been reading and studying Revelation and working on writing a doctrinal statement about the church.  Both of these projects intersected in the first 3 chapters of Revelation... the letters to the Seven Churches.  I wanted to share and needed to organize my thoughts about what I am understanding on these churches.

 

In summary, there are seven types or seven states that a group of believers (Assembly of Believers in Jesus Christ or the local church) will find themselves in:

1.       Distant from Jesus and Academic (Ephesus)

2.      Jesus is all (Smyrna)

3.      Lost a hold on the truth (Pergamum)

4.      Know Jesus but aren't faithful to him (Thyatira)

5.      Asleep (Sardis)

6.      Paying attention and doing what you know to do (Philadelphia)

7.      Intellectual and Arrogant (Leodicea)

 

As I thought, reviewed, and prayed over this, I see three distinct categories:

A.      Acceptable

B.     Struggling

C.     Dead

 

As I use the term "church" here, the New Testament context of it means "an or the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ".  It does not mean nor imply a denomination or a building.  It includes house churches, Bible Studies, regions, and the church as a whole.  When you look into and think about the "church" you are part of, think about the beliefs, the people, the behaviors, the focus, the things you and those who are part of your "church" invest themselves in, what is "important" to you (defined by where you spend your resources).  Back to the categories...

 

Under the heading of "Acceptable" are the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia.  They are different.  They are characterized differently.  God approaches them differently.  Yet neither church needed correction.  They were only encouraged and counseled.  "Acceptable" churches are sold out to Jesus.  He is their beginning and ending... not in their minds only but in Jesus' relation to them, in the way he presents himself to them (Smyrna, Revelation 2:8).  "Acceptable" churches believe Jesus and what he says.  They know truth and they act out based upon truth.  If Jesus opens a "door" for them, they believe they can walk through it and that it cannot be shut.  If Jesus closes a "door" for them, then that door is closed and cannot nor should it be opened.  In all things for them Jesus is their reason (Philadelphia, Revelation 3:7-8).  An "Acceptable" church will face challenges:  they will be slandered, persecuted, some will be killed, imprisoned, pressured, and confronted with false leaders.  The "Acceptable" church is counseled to hang on ("...be faithful..." - Revelation 2:10; "...hold fast..." - Revelation 3:11), to be fearless (Revelation 2:10).  In spite of being "Acceptable" I perceive there to be a risk of losing themselves.  Revelation 2:10 says that "If you are faithful..." and Revelation 3:12 speaks about "Those who are victorious...".  It isn't over until it is over.  The "Acceptable" church needs to stand firm, be alert, be humble, and completely dependent upon Jesus.  (See Ephesians 6:10-18)

 

Is your group, your assembly of believers, are you "acceptable" to Jesus?

8:16 am edt 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fruit Trees

How do you know what kind of tree you are looking at?  You look at its structure, its leaves, the bark that covers it, and the seed or fruit it produces.  It is interesting to me that God chose this metaphor to speak of the disciple's life.

 

Jesus and Paul used the idea of a plant when referring to the Assembly of Believers.  Jesus referred to himself as the vine (Matthew 15) and he is referred to as the "root of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1, Romans 15:12) out of which all believers live and thrive.  Paul refers to the Assembly as an Olive Tree (Romans 11) with Jews being the native Olive and Gentiles being the wild olive grafted in.  Isaiah wrote (27:6) "Jacob's posterity will take root and Israel will bud and blossom and they will fill the whole earth with fruit".  The Assembly of believers and redeemed Israel are that fruit along with the works produced (Matthew 7:15-18; John 15; Romans 7:6-7; Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesian 5:8-11; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossian 1:9-10).

 

The disciple of Jesus Christ will be identifiable and not completely unlike the method a tree is identified. 

1.       How is your life structured?  How are your values structured?  What are the "roots" (foundations) of your belief system that guide the decisions you make, the things you do?

2.      How are you ornamented or clothed?  Not what you wear (although that matters) but the things you surround yourself with that feed you.  What are the images, the messages, the "cultural statements" of the things that fill your life?

3.      What do you do?  What do you produce?  What do you leave behind?  What impressions do people have of you?  What is your "fruit"?

 

If, as a disciple of Jesus, I am indistinguishable from those who are not disciples of Jesus, guess what... people won't see Jesus in or through me.  If I live my life by the same values, the same agendas, the same priorities as those who haven't had their lives saved... If I fill myself and surround myself with things that don't send the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but rather send the message of the here and now, a message no different from everyone else...  If I act as an entitled, selfish, consumer or I invest myself in causes but causes that conflict with God's message... how will anyone hear what God wants to say to them?  How will the message, even if it is delivered, be credible to its hearers?

 

What we do and say matters.  What we think and believe matters because it is the source from which we say and do.  What we expose ourselves to and take in matters because it influences what we think and believe.  The discipline of discipleship (i.e. putting the "disciple in you") is guarding and governing the source of all matters so that the downstream things align.  Solomon wrote... "Guard your heart (the core of who you are) more than anything you treasure, for it is the source of all life" (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus echoes this idea in Matthew 15:18... "But what comes out of the mouth has its origins in the heart; and that is what defiles a person."

 

What kind of tree are you?  Make time to take inventory and question the "what" (content) and "why" (motives) of your life.  If it isn't clear that God is your God, that Jesus is your Master, that God's Word is your authority, that Heaven is your home and you are a transient here, and that what you do is because God calls you to do it, then act on the Good News, the Gospel... confess (tell someone, especially God you need and want to change), repent (do it different), be forgiven (accept, submit, and yield yourself to God in and through Jesus Christ).  As the Apostle Paul wrote: "For the love of Christ controls us once we have reached the conclusion that one man died for all and therefore all mankind has died.  He died for all so that those who live should cease to live for themselves, and should live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life.  With us there worldly standards have ceased to count in our estimate of anyone; even if once they counted in our understanding of Christ, they do so now no longer.  For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation:  the old order has gone; a new order has already begun." (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)   

5:42 am est 


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