The Problem with “Instant” Perfection

false-holiness

When I was a newly born believer, I was so shocked that God did not instantly make me a perfect Christian. There was still this albatross around my neck called “the flesh,” even after experiencing the love and closeness of Christ in my life and even His healing miracles. Why didn’t He just do the “Tinker Bell” thing with His magic wand and make me an instant “super Christian’? I soon learned that the Christian life is a life chastened by trials and that God’s work of bringing forth His Son in us is a lifelong process.

Over the years I have asked Him why He chose this slow agonizing way to bring forth Christ in us. He has shown me that because of our Adamic roots, we have to learn obedience to the Father by the things that we suffer, often the consequences of doing it wrong. Even Christ chose to come in the form of a lowly servant.  We reason, “but wouldn’t God have made Him more useful for His purposes if He had come with the power of a Roman Emperor or High Priest?” No, He forsook that kind of power to show us that a man born of a woman in the lowest social position can overcome everything that is of Adam and learn obedience to the Father through suffering.

So why is it that God does not make us like the angels, perfectly obedient to Him? The answer can be found here in this description of Satan:

You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were upon the holy mountain of God… You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you… you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub… Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you. (Ezek 28:14-17, KJ2000)

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the farthest sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit. (Isa 14:12-15, KJ2000)

If one of God’s perfectly created beings could be corrupted by his own beauty and wisdom, how much more we who have been born in the likeness of sinful Adam?

God has chosen to bring forth upon the earth–the very domain of Satan–a Son who was first a helpless baby and then a man who had “no form or beauty that any man should desire Him” (see Isaiah 53:2-3). He was the proto-type of many sons and daughters He would bring into full glory by overcoming trials and weakness through faith in His Son.

This life of weakness and living death, dear saints, is for one purpose—so we learn that except for the grace and mercy of God working in us, we would be our own worst devil, capable of the worst sins and pride. God has already lost a third of the angels to this delusion of worshiping their own greatness and perfection and He is making sure that we have the mind of Christ and not Lucifer in His kingdom. He is working by making us weak, humbling us so that we rightly assess our old natures, despise them, and call on Him to do whatever it takes to bring forth the spiritual maturity of His very own Son in us. He wants an unconditional surrender to His perfect will and for us to abide in His wonderful love. We love Him because He first loved us and gave everything He had to save us from ourselves.

So What Is “Perfect” for Us When it Comes to Fellowship?

As I was mulling this over this morning, it became evident that our idea of perfection and God’s idea of perfection are not be the same. Jesus was made perfectly obedient through the things that He suffered. He was also made perfect in love while surrounded by doubters, sinners and twelve disciples who often didn’t get what He was teaching them. To one of them He had to say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” In all honesty, they ALL desired the things of the typical Jewish male — for Messiah to come and set up a worldly kingdom with them in charge — not so different from another one who said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God [the angels and the people of God]: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation”? Some of us have come across that delusion, first in bad church leadership, and finally having to admit that it was in us!

No, dear saints, God uses our imperfection and humanity so that our “iron” sharpens another saint’s “iron” and we call out for Him to form His perfectly forbearing love in our hearts. God puts us with other people (even in marriage) who are not perfect, but that have been made “perfect” in their imperfections to be used by His power to change us! Even Jesus cried out, “Oh you of such little faith. How long must I suffer you?”

In God’s wonderful plan He has been able to turn the tables on Satan by using our flesh to humble us and work forgiveness in our hearts for others just like us. Like Joseph said to his brothers when they came before him in Egypt, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.”

Body life in the body of Christ is not something perfect in our way of thinking, but it is perfect in His if we live in close enough proximity to one another and dwell together in transparency. Fellowship is designed to bring us into His perfection as we work through our own imperfections and those of our fellow saints. John wrote:

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:7-9, ESV2011)

Dear saints, may we look upon the imperfections in one another and see the hand of God working. It is easy to find fault with one another, but it is best to look for those things that are “…true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things… and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9, KJ2000)

“What is Christianity… about?” by Michael and Susanne

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Photo by Susanne Schuberth)

Good grief, that is a strange question, don’t you think? 🙄
Okay, okay, if someone said Christianity was all about Christ, then we would wholeheartedly agree and could stop writing at this point. Nonetheless, that was not what we wanted to talk about here. Instead, we have often wondered whether we as Christians are more known for what we stand against than for what we stand for.

We could say, for example, that Armenians are against Calvinists and vice versa; fundamentalists are against gifts of the Spirit; Pentecostals tend to depend on what they “feel” regarding divine matters; house-church people are against organized religion and most Christians are against abortion, homosexuality, getting pregnant outside of wedlock…the list goes on and on.
It seems that all too often our identity is not in Christ, but in what we cannot tolerate. It is so easy to be against something. That is human nature! But to be moved by the love of God, THAT is a miracle of God that causes us to transcend our old adamic nature! Jesus told us to love those who hate us and do good to our enemies, yet is that an earmark of Christians today? If our identity is not Christ and His love for all, especially among those of us who believe (cf. Gal 6:10), what witness do we really have as being any different from those in the world without Christ? The Bible tells us that the (unbelieving) world will only believe that God sent Jesus when we are one in God and Jesus, just as our heavenly Father is in Jesus and as Jesus is in His Father (see Jn 17:21).

So, back to our question, “What is Christianity about?” Jesus Christ said, “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Are we as believers in Christ really about our Father’s business? Or have we made a business out of what we believe? When we take a stand against a perceived evil in the world, we as Christians want to organize. We make a business out of the stand. But is that what Jesus did when confronted with the woman caught in adultery or the needs of a hungry people? He just kept it simple and dealt with each need as it arose and did not dehumanize people in their individual needs by turning it into “a ministry.” In fact, our human nature tends to get so focused on the forest that we cannot see the trees any longer. Jesus, instead, never missed out on a chance to reach out to the individual, even when being pressed on by the crowd. While surrounded by a vast number of admirers, he focused on a hated tax collector, Zacchaeus, up in a tree. While being pressed in upon by sick and needy people, He focused on one woman who touched the hem of his garment because she had faith that she could be healed by Him in doing so.

Well, one might argue, aren’t we called as Christians to take a stand for what is right and what is wrong in our world today – by any means? Yes, you are right, but maybe not so much by telling the world what is still wrong, but rather by doing what is right. Or in other words,

Never look for justice in this world, never cease to give it.― Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Who Needs Love?

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

cub-playing-with-its-mother-s-tailIt is not the loveable person that needs to be loved. It is the unlovable person, the clamoring child, the rebellious adult, the nasty friend, the raging parent, in a nutshell, it is the SINNER that needs to be healed. If we react to misbehavior by speaking mere words alone, they might be able to bring across what we mean, but without love they will never touch the heart of someone who has gone wild. “Words” alone are based on knowledge… what we think we know or what we feel. But if our words are not tempered with grace, they can kill and wound. For it is written,

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
(Proverbs 15:18 RSVA)

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.
(James 1:19-20 RSVA)

Just yesterday I (Susanne) read about some pastors’ concern regarding the need to continually preach the gospel to the sinner. That is not wrong, so far. However, if they only preach it and are not yet able to live what they preach, can their message really be trusted (or taken to heart)? They believe if a message is or was true, it must be preached anytime. Yet preaching a message without listening to the Holy Spirit can be like reading a phone book to your audience. If the Spirit does not make a message alive, the words are “dead”and they fall to the ground, unheard.

Praying for God’s guidance before we speak is always good, especially when dealing with those who are in rebellion. Teenagers go through rebellion as they try to get free of parental controls over them and want to find out for themselves who THEY are and what THEY want to do in life. On the one hand they want the security of their parents’ home, but on the other they hate the rules and value system that make it a secure place. Even adults rebel at times for different reasons and it is not any easier to deal with them, is it? And how often do we rebuke someone that is “going off” on us with our own flesh in mind wanting to get even? But when we REACT to another person’s flesh with our flesh, we only pour more fuel on the fire. Indeed, lavishing a plethora of “wise words” on others is always more of a hindrance than a help as the following Scripture confirms.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. (Proverbs 10:19-20 RSVA)

And then we have Paul’s words of “choice silver” from the Lord,

And though I… understand all mysteries, and all knowledge… and have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2 KJ2000)

Words spoken, no matter how wise and filled with knowledge they are, are worth nothing without love. Or in other words,

“It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”
Teresa of Ávila

❤ Brothers and sisters, LOVE is all we need. ❤

The World System, Are Christians Its Citizens?

ChurchServiceNazisFor the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. (1 Corinthians 10:26 KJV)

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31 KJV)

Consider these two verses closely. The earth is the Lord’s, and in Genesis everything He created He declared as “good.” But is the world good and are we to be part of it? To answer this question we have to go to the Greek meanings of these two words.

gē (“earth”)

Thayer Definition:

1) arable land

2) the ground, the earth as a standing place

3) the main land as opposed to the sea or water

4) the earth as a whole

4a) the earth as opposed to the heavens

4b) the inhabited earth, the abode of men and animals

Obviously this Greek word means the planet we call “Earth.” It is the Lord’s. Now how about this word that was translated world— this same world that is under the judgment of God that was translated from the Greek word kosmos?

kosmos

Thayer Definition:

6) the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
7) world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
7a) the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ”

W.E. Vine defines kosmos as the “present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God.” There is a teaching in many churches that we who are Christ’s have an obligation to support the country we are a citizen of. Yes, Jesus made it clear that we are to pay our taxes and obey the laws of the land… to a point. And here is the rub! Just what is that point, and at what point does obeying those laws make you disobedient to Christ who has purchased us with His blood?

As an example, take patriotism. This can be an evil deception when it calls for us who follow Christ as our Lord to murder our fellow man in the name of our national interests. Jesus was very clear about this when speaking to the Jews.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”(Matthew 5:43-48 RSVA)

What drummer will we march to? Will we obey all that our country requires us to do at the sacrifice of listening to the voice of God and doing what He requires of us in His kingdom as His children? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it plain that the Father loves all mankind, not just the ones that we agree with or that agree with Him. He links loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us to being God’s children! But He does not stop there. He goes on to relate such loving actions to the perfection of our heavenly Father in us, who makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon both the good and the evil. When the disciples wanted to wipe out a Samaritan village simply because they would not let Jesus and the disciples pass through, Jesus had an interesting reply,

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:54-56 KJ2000)

Anne Lamott said, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do.” When we get our patriotic and religious juices all worked up and are willing to take part in killing our fellow man, we do not know what spirit we are of. Jesus came to save the lost, not kill them! Jesus said that Satan was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Beware of any murderous thoughts you are listening to because it is not God’s Spirit that is speaking in you.

When Peter and the apostles preached Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit on the days following Pentecost, the leaders of the Jews forbade them. To this Peter had one simple answer, “But answering them Peter and John said, Whether it is right before God to listen to you rather than God, you judge.”(Acts 4:19 LITV)

There is a higher Authority than secular humanistic governments that often are doing the will of the devil, the Prince of this world system. The kingdoms of men are becoming more and more anti-Christ by restricting Christian religious freedoms while promoting perversion and the murder of the innocent. The early church obeyed the Holy Spirit and it often cost them their lives. We can expect the same if we obey the Spirit and manifest Christ’s kingdom openly in this kosmos system. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world [kosmos] you have affliction. But courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 CLV)

Dominion Theology

“Dominion Theology is the idea that Christians should work toward either a nation governed by Christians or one governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.”- Wikipedia

Some preachers today are advocating that their members become active in the political arena. I do not see Jesus teaching any such thing. When Pilate during Christ’s trial asked of Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered succinctly, “My kingdom is not of this world…”

These same preachers point to a verse in Revelation they say gives Christians the authority to go out and take political dominion of our respective nations for God. They usually quote this part of a verse out of context, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ.” Let’s look at it.

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, who sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who is, and was, and is to come; because you have taken to you your great power, and have reigned. And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward unto your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great; and should destroy them who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:15-18 KJ2000)

Notice first that the setting of this passage is at the end of the age during the wrath of God. Second, it is God who takes to Himself the power over the peoples of the world, not Christians through political or military force. Let’s look at this word translated kingdom in this passage.

basileia
Thayer Definition:
1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule
1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom
1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah
1c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom

As you can see, this is not about political kingdoms, but the right and authority to rule over the kingdom. Christ’s rule will be established over what was once the kosmos of Satan at the end of the age when God pours out His wrath. His rule has nothing to do human power or with national and political boundaries because it is a singular kingdom.

Jesus said:

“If the world [kosmos – in each case] hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:18-20 RSVA)

My God, my Savior and those who are His are not of this kosmos or its worldly kingdoms, For our citizenship is in heaven; from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 KJ2000 – see also Gal. 4:26, Eph. 2:19 and Heb. 12:22).