Tell the Church

Christ’s prescription when a professing believer offends us is straightforward. [1] Confront him/her privately. (Mt 18:15) If that fails to restore fellowship then [2] involve one or two others to [a] ensure there’s no misunderstanding, and [b] discretely encourage resolution. (Mt 18:16)  Failing here, [3] take it to court: tell the church. Her verdict is considered binding and final; those who refuse it are treated as outsiders, unbelievers. (Mt 18:16) This is ultimate spiritual authority.

Personal offenses being the most common and critical challenge to unity, Christ is actually telling us how to handle any type of corruption among professing believers; whether it be a divisive spirit promoting destructive teachings or blatant sin, this pattern is evidently applicable.

So who or what is this church, the final authority deciding all spiritual matters impacting the well-being of the body of Christ? (Col 1:24)

The word church is from the Greek ekklesia, meaning assembly or congregation (1Co 11:18), and the fact that all are subject to its judgement implies unity. In other words, spiritual authority lies only in a unified brotherhood; without this, the church is lifeless and powerless, nothing more than decor in a broken world.

To destroy a brotherhood, and thus the church herself, impose any type of hierarchical leadership; elevate a small group to exercise spiritual authority over others. This undermines the foundation and subverts the purpose of the assembly. It’s the default model in our churches today, and the result is easily observed: spiritual devastation.

Promoting this destruction presumes that Christ uses “ekklesia” symbolically here, that He must be refering to leaders representing the assembly. Yet, being honest with the text, we must still expect the brotherhood to be informed and unified, or such leadership could not intelligently speak on its behalf.

To maintain integrity in light of Christ’s instruction, we must acknowledge the centrality and spiritual authority of a unified brotherhood. This is what Christ is building, nothing less, the strongest force on Earth. (Mt 16:18)

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Clothed With Humility

If God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Ja 4:6), then humbling ourselves as much as we can is essential (1Pe 5:6), the key to God’s way. What is humility, why don’t I pursue it, and how do I grow here?

Christ in Gethsemane, The Passion of the Christ

Humility is having a servant’s heart, focusing on God and others rather than myself. And when I do happen to think of myself, thinking realistically, not more highly than I ought (Ro 12:3), comparing myself with Christ, not my neighbor. It’s being poor in spirit, needing infinite mercy (Lk 18:13), and being afflicted in this. (Jas 4:9)

Even though there’s nothing good in me I can take credit for (Ro 7:18), humility often seems distasteful, repugnant; in being childlike (Mt 18:4), lowly, less significant before Man (Php 2:5), I feel vulnerable, less valued, yet this was where my Savior found rest, and calls me to follow. (Mt 11:29)

Food for humility is found in Messiah’s Cross: I’ve nothing else to glory in. (Gal 6:14) That cross is for me, and I very much deserve it. But Jesus Christ humbles Himself there (Php 2:8), taking my place and giving Himself to rescue me. (Gal 1:4) When I’m prompted by the enemy to be satisfied in my goodness (Is 64:6), smug in my knowledge, safe in my self-sufficiency, exalted in my own talents and wisdom (Je 9:23-24), I can look to Yeshua (He 12:2) and remember where I’d be without Him. (1Co 1:29-31)

Knowing God is both my Judge, and Defender frees me from fear and shame to be preoccupied with God and others (Php 2:4), to esteem others better than myself, to be clothed with humility. (1Pe 5:5)

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His Own Burden

I’m the only one who’ll die with my beliefs; no one else is responsible for my faith. I’m accountable to God for what I think, say and do (Mt 12:36); no one else can answer for me. Every man shall bear his own burden. (Ga 6:4)

If I believe, say or do something wrong it’s my own fault; no one else will be standing with me on Judgement Day. I’ll be looking into the eyes of my Creator, and He into mine, and I will be alone, giving Jehovah Himself an answer for everything. (Ro 14:11-12) Where I land and who I am will be on display for eternity, exposed for all to examine. (1Co 3:13)

If I believe whatever I’m taught by church leaders or theologians, and I don’t care enough to search things out for myself, meditating in God’s Word on my own and verifying their claims, I’m saying it’s OK to believe a lie, so long as I fit in. I’m saying who teaches me is more important than what they teach; that relationships are more important to me than truth, that this world is more valuable to me than eternity (1Jn 2:15-17); that being honored and accepted in this world trumps being honored and accepted by God. (Jn 5:44)

When I’m in the fear of God I don’t need anyone else to agree with me; I’m not intimidated standing alone. (2Ti 4:16) I’m free to let others challenge me, to listen thoughtfully and carefully (Ja 1:19), and to look for truth in everything they say. I’m free to let others seek after God along with me, and to lovingly encourage them to do so.

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Purge the Leaven

The feast of unleavened bread teaches us to purge sin from our lives and communities; we are unleavened, designed to live without sin, because Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1Co 5:7-8)

Ice Cave in Mutnovsky Volcano, Kamchatka, Russia

Those who sin deliberately, as a manner of life, don’t belong to God (1Jn 3:9), so as believers we’re already obeying God as best we can (Ps 119:22) and asking Him to help us where we’re powerless to do better. (Ps 119:35) So the sins and faults we’re to purge are often hidden from us: secret faults, where we’re deceived about the way. How do we purge those kinds of sins, those we don’t yet know about?

Our spirit is God’s candle, searching all our inward parts. (Pr 20:27) Since God knows us better than we know ourselves, we can ask Him to take us on a tour of our own hearts (Je 17:10), pointing out secret faults where we need cleansing and healing. (Ps 19:12) We can do this because we’re safe with Him: He loves us infinitely just as we are, with all our brokenness, so there’s no need to be defensive or elusive with Him, even when He’s indignant with us.

With Him inside helping us, we can search our own hearts for hints of secrets faults, looking for clues both in our failings and in the accusations of others. We may be blind to our own sin, but others can generally see them, at least partially. When someone takes the time to blame us for something, or if we can easily see on our own that we’re at fault, let’s despise the shame (Heb 12:2), looking for the underlying belief or character flaw and asking God to deliver, heal and cleanse us. Let’s not fear finding faults in ourselves; let’s fear to allow hidden sin to continue to corrupt our fellowship with God. (Php 2:12)

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Christ the Firstfruits

Christ our Passover (1Co 5:7) is also the firstfruits of God’s harvest (1Co 15:23); He’s the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first of many to rise again eternally. It’s a savor of both life and death. (2Co 2:15-16)

The resurrection of Christ proves everyone shall rise from the dead (Jn 5:28), some to endless splendor and joy, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) As when we plant crops and expect a harvest, we see the same in spiritual things: we reap what we sow, later than we sow, and more than we sow. (Ga 6:7-8)

Regardless what we sow, our sowing comprises God’s eternal harvest as well as our own. (Re 14:14) He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:41), and He will also gather a harvest of His saints together to Himself to enjoy forever. (Ps 50:5)

On this day of Firstfruits, let the resurrection of Jesus remind us that we’re destined for eternity. We’re part of an everlasting crop, a harvest in God’s eternal plan, so let’s bring forth fruit befitting of resurrection life. (Mt 3:12) Jesus overcame death in every sense that it could be conquered, and He lives in His elect to do the same. (Col 1:27) There is no temptation or trial too strong for Him. (Jn 16:33)

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Save a Soul

Two friends strolled down a beach littered with starfish that had washed ashore. One began picking the creatures up as he walked along, tossing them one by one back into the sea. The other remarked, “Look at how many there are! You can’t save ’em all. What difference does it make?” His friend replied as he tossed another life back into the water, “It made a difference to that one.”

Being overwhelmed with the suffering of the world can paralyze us into thinking the little we can do doesn’t matter.

But impacting a single soul does matter; we’ll all live forever somewhere, somehow, someway. Every little difference we can make in another human life is infinitely worthwhile. (Ja 5:20) As we have opportunity, let’s do good to everyone. (Gal 6:10)

Let’s be on the lookout for ways to serve. Every single human life is supremely valuable … every man, woman and child. For those who are suffering greatly, orphans, widows, the poor and destitute, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Human worth is ascribed by God; He values every single soul enough to die in their place. (Jn 3:16) As we serve the least of humanity, we serve Him. (Mt 25:40)

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Well Done

The secret of fulfillment lies in being loved, received and recognized. If no one will ever notice you, who you are and what you do, never acknowledge your service or work, what’s left? What does your life mean if it never impacts anyone?

What’s left is the animal life, nothing truly human: it’s a life devoid of worth, significance, meaning and purpose.

Yet what would it mean in the end to be appreciated, acknowledged and received by all but God? If God loves you, acknowledges you, accepts and receives you, is He enough(Ps 16:5-6)

The secret to happiness lies not in what we do, but in why we’re doing it, who we’re looking to please. Purpose lies in relationship, in shadows and reflections of one paramount relationship: our walk with God. Whether we’re washing dishes or curing cancer, in the end only one thing matters: hearing God say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)

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Your Lamb

In preparation for the Lord’s Passover (Ex 12:11), we’re to choose a spotless lamb to represent our house and keep it for four days, a lamb for each household. (Ex 12:3) At this stage it’s any blemish free lamb, a generic lamb.

Once a lamb is selected, a determination is made as to which household(s) it represents. Then a lamb becomes the lamb (Ex 12:4), the one lamb to represent the household(s) for which it is chosen.

Once the lamb-to-household relationship is established, the lamb becomes your lamb. The family spends time getting to know their lamb, verifying that it has no blemish. (Ex 12:5) They inspect it, and become deeply familiar with it. Then, in place of their own firstborn, they kill their lamb on the 14th day. (Ex 12:6)

As in all God’s feasts, He’s giving us a window, a picture, a hint of how to walk with Him.

Jesus Christ is not just a passover lamb; He is not just the passover lamb. It’s not enough to know that Jesus is a savior, one among many. Neither is it enough to know that Christ is the savior, the one and only. Yeshua, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, must become our passover (1Co 5:7); until He is our savior, whom we have chosen for ourselves, to represent our souls in the day of judgment, getting to know Him, and He us, we have nothing. (Mt 7:21-23)

Let’s choose Christ deliberately and deeply, giving diligence to make our calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), getting to know everything about Him we can (Php 3:10), personalizing His work and connecting with His nature and character. Let’s behold the beautyfeed in the majesty, and enjoy the unfathomable riches of Christ! (Eph 3:8)

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The Wicked Flee

How do we react when someone accuses us of wrongdoing? Do we welcome the opportunity to grow, or do we become defensive, retaliatory and evasive? Do we engage and listen patiently looking for righteous closure, or do we immediately flee, departing moral grounds without seeking proper resolution? (Pr 28:1)

When the wicked are blamed they don’t stop and prayerfully search their hearts. They justify themselves (Lk 16:15) without hearing their accuser out (Pr 18:13), they blame-shift and/or retaliate to turn the focus away from themselves, or they ignore accusation as unworthy of their time. (Ps 50:17) Not wanting to actually be upright, but only to appear so on the surface (Mt 23:28), they feel vulnerable and weak on moral grounds, so they turn tail and run when approached for inspection.

The righteous are in the habit of asking God to help them search their own hearts (Ps 139:23-24) and cleanse them of faults they don’t yet know about (Ps 19:12), so they approach accusation entirely differently: as a win-win. Confident God is seeking their good and that He loves them unconditionally, they hope to find some merit in their accuser’s claim, as if in a gold mine looking for gems. (Pr 8:10) If they can find any truth at all in it, they see a precious source of instruction to enable them in the way of life. (Pr 6:23) Otherwise, knowing God’s their defender, when they find accusation entirely groundless, the wise see an opportunity to help free another soul of confusion, misunderstanding, lies and deceit. (Ja 5:20) The righteous have nothing to lose and everything to gain; they remain in moral ground bold as a lion(Pr 28:1)

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Of Man’s Judgement

Our ability to intimidate through accusation is stunning; it puts metaphysical reality on display real time. When accused of wrongdoing we’re troubled, so the enemy’s often falsely accusing us (Re 12:10), sometimes in our spirits and often through others. It makes most of us instinctively defensive, for living under unwarranted or excessive guilt or shame can damage us. (Ps 123:3-4) Why is it so powerful?

Evidently, this is one of the primary ways we reflect God’s image; He’s the ultimate Lawgiver, Accuser and Judge (Ja 4:12), and He’s designed us with similar power to create shame in others, even through unjust criticism. (Ps 119:22) Perhaps it’s a hint at what’s to come.

God will ultimately invite saints to preside in judgement over the angels; He empowers believers in community to judge between each other even now. (1Co 6:3) It’s unfathomable authority. In the end, the elect will join with God in condemning all outside Himself. (Lk 11:31-32)

While we all have this power, our judgement is often clouded and biased, limited in wisdom, understanding and justice. (1Co 4:3) When others accuse us we should humbly search our hearts (Ps 119:51) while looking to God for help (Ps 119:39), and comfort ourselves if we can’t yet see how we’re missing God’s standard. (Ps 119:52) Knowing His righteous decree will ultimately prevail and that He faithfully afflicts us (Ps 119:75), we trust He will teach us how to align ourselves with Him. (Ps 119:66)

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