Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Perfect Church 2

"Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy,
and have need of nothing,
and you do not know that you are wretched
and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire
so that you may become rich,
and white garments so that you may clothe yourself,
and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed;
and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;
therefore be zealous and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
if anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him
to sit down with Me on My throne,
as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

He who has an ear, let him hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:15-22

“Our Spiritual service of worship … be Transformed by the Renewal of our minds” Romans 12:1-2

One key fact we must be mindful of is that Jesus confronted the religious leaders. If we are to be legalistic about anything, let it be avoiding legalism. We also might want to develop the habit of bringing the Truth of Christ to our spiritual leaders. Legalism enters the picture when we try and force our views on others, but we should never confuse that with challenging other believers with the Truth of Christ.

There is little danger of us becoming legalistic through repentance, and focusing on the gospel and our mission. Humbly following the Holy Spirit and His Word can position us in perfect harmony with Christ and His Word.

A continual danger is also when we unconsciously switch back to making decisions the worldly way. We are experts at shifting gears in an instant and following our old ways. This is what we need to repent. We must be trained by the Spirit to continually abide above.

Now back to the wishes of Jesus for each of us and the church.

4. Jesus wishes we would have patience and persevere. I realize that these simple words are not new to us and we might unconsciously move on as our mind seeks out new input. But Jesus commands us to have patience or to persevere eleven times in the letters to the churches. Our leaders need to teach and model trust, patience, and perseverance. Practicing this truth helps us avoid many mistakes, including calling the wrong pastor to lead us astray.

Jesus loves it when we are patient and stand firm on the Truth of His Word as He has revealed to us and commanded us.

He wants us to stand patiently in times of poverty, tribulation, or prosperity. One danger of poverty is to give up because the enemy of Christ would convince us that our situation is hopeless. His wish is that we will not become weary and return to our old ways, or follow new fads or worldly ideas. And the danger of prosperity is that we lack patience, and do not wait on the Lord; but rather use our wealth and influence to simply fix the problem man's way. It is Jesus Christ who will provide the healthy growth of the church.

Jesus loves when we do not become weary.
Maintaining our focus on Him restores our power and resolve. Jesus loves those who hold fast to His name and His name alone. Those who refuse to deny Him will be rewarded. He is our salvation and our hope. He wants us to be faithful even unto death.

Jesus loves those who have kept His Command to persevere even unto death. We must be patient and persevere.
This teaching from James provides much wisdom from above:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:5-12

The wisdom of men is foolishness to God. His wisdom is a continuing paradox in this world. Imagine: the man of humble circumstances is the one in the high position; and the rich man’s glory is in his humiliation. There would be no need for a survey testing the giving habits by the various age groups of attenders here, unless of course you are attempting to convert poor persevering people to your church.

5. Jesus wishes we would be overcomers, not followers of men. He repeats this command five times. I could have easily combined this truth with patience and perseverance; but overcomers are not only patient and persevere, but the way in which they persevere leads to results. Jesus loves to share His joy with us in victory in Him; when we have followed Him and watched as He brings about His ends. This does not come when we follow the worldly wise leadership of business agnostics and atheists. Lead, follow, or get out of the way is a funny punchline; but it's not Biblical.

It is good to remember the lesson of Gideon where he learned that a few hundred men following God’s Word and His Spirit are more valuable to God than 22,000 men following the ways of mere men. Judges 7:1-25.

Overcomers are trusting in Christ and His promises; rather than focusing on the teachings and philosophies of men. For example it is natural for men to focus on the giving habits of church members rather than their walk spiritually. This might even be one of the primary criteria for elder selection. When an elder board also serves the role of trustees; there is always a danger ... a natural tendency to draw leaders away from the spiritual, and to focus on the numbers.

The next thing you know someone is quoting Peter Drucker, Warren Buffet, or Bill Gates. From the world’s perspective ... very wise businessmen, but their wisdom is not grounded Biblically. For example, Drucker teaches; “The three most important questions are: “What is our business?” “Who is our customer?” and “What does the customer consider value?” These are great questions for business management, but where is the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit in this … and where is the truth of God’s Word? Is it wise to have agnostics and atheists mentoring the most influential pastors in the world? I think not! In the context of building a church filled with Christians living by the power of the Holy Spirit and God's Truth; these three questions would not even be in God’s top ten. Church leadership cannot follow these types of ideas all week and then call upon Christ on Sunday … expecting for the Holy Spirit to rescue them from the darkness.

Pastor Rick Warren describes his church as follows: “Saddleback is kind of the Research and Development department of the church at large.” (Oh really now, that shows humility ... brush the roses off your shoulders, sir.) “We're not afraid to fail. We've always tried more things that didn't work than did. Every once in a while we find - usually by accident-something that works. Then we teach the seminars and pretend like, we planned it all along, when really it was just the result of trial and error.” This might sound humorous, but it also sounds deceptive and foolish to me. Does God expect us to discover His plan for His church by accident as we test worldly ideas? No … never. As appealing as the numbers that church growth advocates promise might be; this sort of teaching will lead to a church with many lukewarm followers. The church of Jesus Christ is not a trial and error business experiment. It is the body of Christ following and worshiping their Lord by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

We should base our church on tried and true Biblical principles … not on worldly tested business school principles. These are people’s lives we are dealing with here, and there is no room to experiment at their expense. People can be hurt as well as helped. The problems come when we attempt to appear cool and appeal to the trends of the day, and the ways of the worldly; rather than the Truth of God’s Word.

6. Jesus wishes for us to return to our first love. He wants us to love Him as He loves us. This could have easily been the first point in my post, but He only mentions it once in the letters. As we look deeper we will most likely conclude that this is most important. This is probably the biggest problem in the all churches. We worship Jesus in our songs and with our words but then … we deny Him when it is most important ... when making decisions. This is the worst hypocrisy. If the church board I was previously serving on, had filtered their pastor search decision through this one principle, we would never have called the wrong superstar "church growth people" following pastor, as we did.

Remember now; we are considering how to build the Perfect Church, by the leadership of the Holy Spirit and God's Truth. The Perfect Church may not exist here and now, but Jesus has given us all the key ingredients. Unless the elders and pastors are focused on teaching the love of Christ, modeling the love of Christ, and ministering the love of Christ; it only makes sense that the results are very likely to be worldly and lukewarm.

So how do we show God we love Him with all our heart; all our soul; and all of our mind? A number of verses come to mind. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15. This verse pretty much says it all ... don’t you think? Well not quite, Jesus also says: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46. And then Jesus clearly explains the consequences if we do what He says; and also the consequences if we choose not to obey Him.

Those who obey Him will have victory and ... the Perfect Church.
Those who do not: a lukewarm church ... headed for total destruction:

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. “But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:47-48

Is my earlier point stressing the need for repentance starting to make more sense? Can you now see why an elder board seeking a pastor focused on following church growth principles rather than following God’s Truth will surely lead to failure? That amazing pastor, with those great numbers, and that teaching style everyone loves so much is not necessarily the pastor that Jesus would choose to lead His church.

His wish for His church should clearly be the only choice that should be considered.

Now back to the question of this love that Jesus wants to control the Perfect Church. Here are some more verses that give clear direction: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:10-12.

And Paul gives further clarification on the love of Christ that provides us further insight: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10.

And of course here is Jesus Christ’s wish list for the elders, pastors and each member of the church. This is where the meditations, focus, prayers, teaching and planning for the future must be. Just imagine a church with pastors, elders and three thousand members reflecting this power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ ... and modeling the qualities noted below.

There would be a serious revival … all on fire, born again, believers in Jesus Christ. No room for lukewarm there.

The overflowing net His disciples pulled from the other side of the boat comes to mind. John 21:1-10

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians: 13:1-13


I have five more points to cover and will post part three of this message in the next few days.

God Bless you my friends, Bob
Copyright: Robert West 2011

1 comment:

  1. A lot to digest in this one. The command to overcome struck a note in my heart. 5 times? I didn't know that. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. I have a few areas I need to overcome.