Friday, 31 May 2013
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
Definition- Transfigured: Transform into something more beautiful or elevated
I'm one of those people that believe everything in the Bible is there for a reason, even those little things we often believe to be insignificant. In reading this passage, it never struck me before now that Jesus led Peter, James and John up to a mountain to have Church AFTER THE SIX DAY; in other words the SEVENTH DAY; the day that traditionally we've come to accept as being a good day to have Church! That being said, and upon reading what follows, we get a great example of what God considers to be real, down-to-earth Church.
1) God's heart is for it to be characterised by the spiritual, not physical. When Jesus had gotten the three disciples by themselves, immediately He was transfigured before them; giving them a clearer vision, revelation and understanding of the spiritual revelation of the person of Jesus Christ. Then Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus, because the entire Word of God (Old and New Testament) is to be listened to and conversed with in order for us to grow in our love and knowledge of Him.
2) The focus is to be on Jesus Christ alone. Not only is ONLY Jesus transfigured (there was no beautification of the disciples in His presence), but He is also the only one who we are told is to be listened to and focused upon: 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
3) The transforming beauty of the Church is Jesus Christ alone. There were no things from the culture of the day to beautify that Church meeting! Far from it- instead, Jesus took the disciples as far away as possible from everything that could clutter up such a time, and distract from what was important- taking them to a high place on a mountain!
4) Our eyes are not supposed to be on the house and the place, but on Christ. Peter wanted to create a physical place of worship and build a shelter, but God didn't recognise their place, and seemed to make a point of turning Peter's attention away from such an idea, onto what really mattered; a focus and listening to Jesus. Jesus never said my sheep go to Church, but 'my sheep hear my voice,' and 'a stranger they will not follow.' Christianity is in the following and listening to Christ, not in the places and shelters of men's Church buildings. There is nothing wrong with a Church building, and a place to meet as the people of God, but God's desire is to constantly turn our attention on what matters. If he has to interrupt us in our ideas and visions about Church, He'll do that, just like He did to Peter. Christ is to important for us to focus on those things that don't matter!
5) The place of Church is a fluid thing; it is meeting with Christ and two or three others, for 'where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them'. It is an incredibly simple thing: focus on Jesus, listen to Him, listen to His Word, and converse together about it.
6) The transfiguration of this Church meeting was what the Spirit did to open their eyes to the beauty of Christ. We as a Church must take careful note of this. The Spirit's desire, when we come together in His name, is to open our spiritual eyes to just how beautiful our Lord is. In order to do this, He purposefully brings us apart from everything that could distract us or clutter up this beautiful vision of Jesus. The Spirit knows how apt we are to become distracted by physical things and our own ideas and visions for spiritual worship, so He reminds us here about what our focus should be.
7) There were no complaints from the three disciples about the kind of Church meeting they, and they'll be no complaints from us if we learn to trust that the Spirit of God is more than enough for us!
This was one of the most beautiful and special Church meetings that has ever taken place, and God ran the whole thing! This took all the burden off of the disciples to set up anything special, and to do any special, and they simply listened to Jesus, focused on Him and listened to what the Word was saying. So simple! So special! No special effects needed, no shelters needed, no props of culture or palaces, no adornings or special programs running; just small, simple and straight forward. The best kind of Church always was this, and always will be this. Praise God!
At its simplest and purest, the Word shows us that Church is the people of God coming together in His presence to encourage each other to love others, love Him, know Him better and walk after Him.
What Church never was about in the New Testament was a palace, what it was never about was outward appearance, entertainment, selfishness, and a shallowness created by a worldly culture and a people in love with such shallowness. As a Church we are called to take a stand against these things, recognising them to be completely worldly and fleshly; and forces which corrupt and contaminate the ways of God, rather than enhance them.
What we often have today is mostly a fleshly machine, instead of a Church. There is a half hour of songs which are designed to hype the emotions, lights designed to do the same, cameras intent on projecting images of leaders and singers on massive screens in the presence of the Lord (where angels hid their faces!), just in case you couldn't see them from your seat (can someone please explain to me why the heck we do that!?!). Smoke machines try to symbolise the presence of God (again, what the heck?), and instead give the appearance of a night club, and detract from a focus on God rather than enhance one. Offers of business courses abound in the notices (not too many keen on turning those tables). Pastors delight in their own personalities and frivolous jokes which make light of serious scriptures and people that take them seriously. Offering messages abound in every message (even when scripture doesn't go on about it!), and we are told how much we will prosper (for God's kingdom of course…) and how much man's, sorry 'God's' kingdom will prosper if we give more. The messages end and the coffees begin, and just like we've got our 'couple of scriptures' fix, we get our caffeine fix. Thoroughness from the pulpit is exchanged for one liners and foundational stuff which is never built upon with the whole counsel. And so, by and large, 'His' Church remains satisfied with Him plus the world, plus our flesh, because, if we're completely honest, that's what it really boils down to. But sadly now we can hardly ever discern the difference between the three. Or put even more simply; we add Him, plus idols. The problem with this is that both cannot remain together for long, just ask the Laodicean Church of Revelation Chapter 3.
If we, by His grace, remain sensitive to the Spirit, we will constantly hear the still small voice saying to us, 'Is this what Jesus loves?' He simply won't let us be content with it, won't let us fall in love with it, and will constantly be leading us away from it, to a Church that at its heart loves the simplicity that is in Christ. Eve was deceived the simplicity of Christ, much like we often are today. Whereas God created a garden that emphasised the spiritual and kept God at its centre, man chose to introduce into that same garden something that would satisfy their flesh. Even in perfection, they chose deception, because they chose to trust their own understanding, and convinced themselves that it was God's will for them. Their understanding was based on trusting their physical sight, and how it tasted. We believe now that much of what the world has is 'good' because of the same two reasons. We now have a Church that is both a garden of Eden (Christ's and His presence is that Eden) and a garden of the flesh, and a place where the enemy of our souls is given an audience and listened to. Yep, it's that serious. But most are fine with it… Because they trust their view, and their 'leader.' But we must remember that there is only one true shepherd of our souls, and all others, and everything else must submit to Him.
God is not 'like' us, and He was not made in our image. We must image ourselves and the image of our meetings in His name based off of the pattern of Christ, and the pattern of His Word- the heart of which was revealed in the opening of this post. It's not complicated, we've just made it that way. Lets uncomplicate it, His way.
2 Corinthians 11-4:
11 I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! 2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
These days it seems as though most people are happy with knowing the basics about Christianity, that is, the fundamentals. They often seem deliriously proud of knowing and believing what are simply the straight forward basics of a belief in Christ, and because they know it, they think that they've reached the pinnacle of what faith in Christ is all about. These people fail to recognise the fact that a new believer usually grasps such things within a few weeks of being saved, and they are simply the foundation of faith in Christ. Furthermore, because they are so contented with spiritual childishness, they reject anything that resembles something harder to understand than the cross of Christ, failing to recognise the fact that because of the cross of Christ, we have a whole New Covenant revelation of who Christ is, what He provides and desires, how worthy He is, and what our walking after Him should look like. Because of this there are also incredibly silly interpretations of scripture that are floating around, which are taken from very tiny sections of scripture and then professed to be foundational themselves. Such things come about simply because people would rather live in a spiritual fantasy land with no service and responsibility than actually have to become workmen of the word, accurately handling the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2v15). They would rather sit back and continually receive from Christ whatever they want, instead of actually doing something to help others with it. Again, these things happen because of silly doctrines which are easily undermined and disproved by many other portions of scripture, but such people, rather than desiring to come to what is true, desire to believe their own truth and refuse to be open and teachable. These people believe that Christianity is about one-liners and one-liner theological statements. So bad a thing, so negative and so dangerous is it to stay at a belief that only foundational things of Christ matter, that the writer of Hebrews gives us a very clear warning of doing just that:
Heb 6v6 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, 3And this will we do, if God permit.4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes oft on it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: 8But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is to be burned. 9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. eternal judgment.
This scripture plainly says that if we are not growing in our doctrine, we are falling away spiritually. Think about that for a second. THAT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO RECOGNISE. To stay at only the basic foundational things of the faith is to leave ourselves wide open to the very real and probable possibility that we shall fall to the temptations of the flesh, the enemy and the world, simply because we have no theological basis by which to defend ourselves. In the wilderness, Jesus used the VERY WORD OF GOD to defend Himself, and to keep Himself following God. Nothing else would do it. And for us the same thing is true; we must know the Word of God well, otherwise we are leaving ourselves without a shield of faith (faith comes by hearing the Word of God) and without a sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). Yes, the helmet of salvation is important, but the other weapons and spiritual armour are just as important if we are to stand our ground against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Furthermore, the enemy didn't come to Jesus in the wilderness with something that required quoting the gospel message for defence, but rather very specific scriptures, pointing out very different aspects of truth; things that are actually quite complex to work out in our lives, and therefore things that need to be understood well. ]”
Just because we know about salvation, does not mean we also know about spiritual warfare, who God is, how He works, how we should serve, how we should act and worship, what is evil and what is good and how to follow and love the Lord. To remain at the basics is to remain a child spiritually: Heb 5v11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. / If we remain a child spiritually, except by the grace of God and His mercy, we will be attacked and likely destroyed by the enemy. Those that attest to loving God and living for Him without having a love for the Word of God deceive themselves, for Jesus was the living reality of the Word and the Word Himself, and you cannot love one without the other. It's always so very disturbing to me how many profess to love the Lord, and yet have very little love for His Word, a desire to know as much of it as possible and any kind of indication that they love to fellowship and be involved with it. How can we love Christ and yet not have a desire and love for the multitude of His Word which reveals all of His many characteristics and the whole scope of His wonderful image? Similarly, we cannot pick and choose what we love; we cannot love one part of scripture and not the other, for then we love one part of Christ and not the other, and that cannot be, because Christ isn't divided, He is whole, and we must love Him wholly. If we are ashamed of some parts of Christ, He too will be ashamed of us on the day which should be the day where we inherit the Kingdom which Christ has promised to those that love Him:
Luke 9v26: Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Jesus, however, is confident of better things for us, things that accompany salvation; Heb 6v9: Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case--the things that have to do with salvation. Notice that, things that ACCOMPANY SALVATION. The salvation message will always be precious, vital, foundational and praisworthy- thank God for it always! It is the cornerstone of all that is lovely about Christ, and all that we should be thankful for. But it is Christ's desire that salvation should be adorned with the rest of His Word, fruitful because of it, and the basis by which we move on to maturity in Christ by growing in the knowledge of Jesus by growing in the knowledge of His Word.