Rightly Discerning the Body of Christ

Aduterous woman and Jesus 2

What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (Romans 14:4 CEV)

What an amazing verse this is! Here Paul wrote that only God has the right to decide whether one of His saints is doing as they should and not only that, He has the power to put them back on the right path. There are many people in the church today who want to take this right into their own hands and speak out against anyone that is not toeing the line as they think should be done.

Another form of judging involves people who judge others in their hearts but do not verbalize it. They think they are okay because of their silence. Yet, the scripture says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. God hears our thoughts and knows our hearts. Do you still think you are doing just fine when it comes to judging? Well, listen to your thoughts the next time you are driving in heavy traffic. Paul wrote,

“For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.” (Romans 12:3 RSVA)

Thinking of ourselves as God sees us is a rare thing. We usually think of our spiritual estate as better than it is. Not many of us see ourselves according to the measure of faith that God has given us. Satan is the accuser of the brethren of Christ. Often we find our thoughts agreeing with him as if we are the one who has the right to judge, taking the place of God to ourselves! Funny, but this is exactly what Lucifer did (see Isaiah 14:12-15).

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never went around claiming that He was the Messiah? Even when pressed by the Jewish leaders to say so, He seemed to avoid taking the title to Himself. Instead He let men tell Him what He was while they observed His actions and words (see Matthew 16:16). The title does not make the man, and neither do his degrees. On the other hand, Jesus did take the title “the son of man.” There was nothing special about being “the son of a man.” We read that when He found Himself in the form of a man, He became a lowly servant, not a Prince in a palace or a High Priest. As he grew in Christ the titles Paul the apostle claimed diminished until finally he called himself, “the offscouring of the world” (1 Corinthians 4:13). When we rightfully compare ourselves to Christ, the Father’s Standard of righteousness, it should humble us as it did Paul.

Jesus took the lowest place His whole life. He was born in a barn, and laid in a feed trough in the least of all towns in Judea. He grew up in a town in Galilee that was considered least by the Jewish leaders of that day. Referring to Him they said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He spent most of His life in what was called “Galilee of the Gentiles,” disdained by the Jews. He was loved by the common people, but was rejected by the leaders of His own people. Finally, he was tried like a common criminal, crucified between two thieves and His body placed in a borrowed grave. If being born in the right family and having a place of respect in the local community was an asset for gaining power and respectability, somebody forgot to tell God.

We often have this “uppity” attitude toward one another as if we think we are something when we are really nothing. It is a dead give-away when we hear ourselves saying to another saint, “When I was a younger Christian like you I thought that way too.” “I know what you are going through.” “Here is what you need to do…” And the all time classic, “I feel your pain.” We are all too quick to put ourselves in a higher place in our thinking than the one we are “reaching out to in love” or speaking to. We are all too quick to try and do the convicting work of the Spirit of God in each others lives.

One of the subtle ways we elevate ourselves over others is by posturing. We do so by flaunting our experience, our titles, our degrees, even with our attitudes and body language. “Touch me not, for you are unclean!” “I am holier than thou.” We might not say this, but we often act it out and others can sense it. Yet, Jesus, who should be our example as Christians, allowed Himself to be touched by women who were bleeding, and unclean according to the Jewish law. He hung out with sinners and prostitutes and even touched lepers!

Jesus identified with the multitudes (Greek, ochlos by definition – the common people and the rabble) and was often found mingling with them. He was criticized for it by the Jewish leaders. How often we see people who love their titles and respectability keeping the common people at arm’s length or even further, but not our Lord. This attitude is not the Spirit of Christ. He did not have an appointment secretary who acted as if she went to guard dog school. But I am afraid this is all too common today among recognized church leaders. By looking to people such as these as an example, we take on the wrong attitude toward others. Like so many children, we learn more from what we observe in our leaders than by what they say.

In contrast we find Jesus rebuking His disciples for trying to keep women and their children away from Him. He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In short, Jesus was a servant to all and always accessible to the “little people,” even saying that they will fill His Father’s kingdom, not the elevated ones.

Saints, there is no substitute for the work of the cross and the excellent knowledge (intimate knowing) of Jesus Christ in our lives. There is no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly teaching that comes from Him as we open our hearts to God. Institutions can teach you the history of the church and details about the Bible, but they cannot give you the rhema word and moment by moment guidance of God. No, you must walk by faith in humility if you are to be an effective witness of God’s kingdom and love.

Remember that Paul had the best education the Jewish system could provide and he counted his history, bloodline and education, etc., as less than nothing, except for his intimate relationship (“excellent knowledge of”) with Jesus. Mark his words, “We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2, NKJV). It is not what we know that counts, but whether Jesus knows us and we intimately know Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). We cannot effectively teach what we have not become. As with John, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). There is nothing more detracting in us from portraying Christ to the “lost world” than pride. And pride keeps us from becoming truly one with God and with each other as well.

When the Lord’s people get a new spiritual Holy Ghost revelation of the Sovereign Headship of Christ, and begin to hold fast the Head, they let go of everything that is local, and personal, and different, and scattered on the earth. That is the place to which to come for unity. We cannot be at variance with one another as the Lord’s children if Christ is absolute Sovereign Head in our lives. When the Lord Jesus gets the complete mastery as Head in our lives, then all independence of action, and life, and all self-will, self-direction, self-seeking, self-glory and self-vindication will go. These are the things which set us apart from one another. You pass from Isaiah [Isaiah 6:1-8], and as you do, so you remember that you have the results of such a vision seen in this man Isaiah. Such a vision immediately has the effect of humiliating him to the dust. Oh, yes, we lose all our pride, all our importance when once we see the Lord in glory. “Woe is me….” That is humiliation! Then, after humiliation, there is consecration: “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” And, after humiliation and consecration, there comes vocation: “…who will go for Us?” “Then I said, Here am I; send me.” ~ T. Austin Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/001461.html

Love Personified

By Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth

woman-at-the-wellSusanne wrote in an earlier blog,

“I was just pondering on the fact why we as human beings are not always the same. I mean, there are people with whom we dare to be more open than with others. People of whom we know that they love us and that they will forgive us whatever we might say or do. But there are other people we do not know that intimately and therefore we are a still bit cautious of how to deal with them.” (https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/be-who-you-are-since-there-is-no-other-you/)

There is something that the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well felt about Jesus that made her dare to be totally open with Him. When we hear the story about her preached, many like to say that Jesus confronted her with her sins. Susanne and I hold that this was not the case, but rather she was confronted with how much Jesus loved and respected her in spite of knowing what her past history was. She was shocked that He was even talking with her and asked her for a drink, knowing that Jews did not have anything to do with Samaritans, much less a Jewish man with a Samaritan woman! She was the dog of dogs in the mind of an orthodox Jewish Rabbi.

Yet, Jesus personally shared the gospel with her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 RSVA). Jesus told her that He was the Gift of God and that as such He could give her the water of life that flows freely. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 RSVA). What is amazing is that she did not for one moment doubt His offer that He could give her living water and eternal life! She responded, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:15 RSVA). She wanted all that He had for her because she realized that she had met the lover of her soul, the first man in her life who was not interested in what she had to offer him, but who wanted to give her what she really needed. We know that this man was God, too. A human being can never fill the void in our hearts which were created by God to only be filled with His Spirit. His love is the only love that can make us whole again.

Jesus, after offering her eternal life and she wanting it, pointed out to her that she was living with a man who was not her husband. Yet, where was the condemnation? It was not there! Rather He commended her for telling the truth, “I have no husband.” This woman felt no shame or condemnation from Him, only love and respect. And what was her response to this divine encounter? She said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he. ” …So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (John 4:25-29 RSVA). Jesus had shown her in a few words the very inner thoughts and longings of her heart. Messiah had come and showed her all things including that men would no longer worship God in special buildings or in special places, but that true worship would be done by God’s Spirit within them from lives filled with and demonstrating His truth.

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did!” I don’t know about you, but we believe that if this woman had been shamed by what Jesus said to her, would she be telling everyone she knows that there is a man down by the well that knows every sin she ever committed? No, she would be hiding out in her house, hoping He would go away and keep silent! But she ran into her village and rejoiced for having met the Christ. THAT IS THE GOSPEL. She met LOVE personified. He showed her compassion and understood WHY she had sought love in men and had been married five times before. But He did not condemn her in the slightest, but rather told her about where to find eternal life and what real worship of our heavenly Father is all about; therefore she trusted in Him.

All too often the gospel today is presented to people in one of two extremes. On the one hand people get the idea that they have to “clean up their act” before they can come to Christ. The other extreme is that we can be a Christian without ever having to change a thing, we can just go on living in sin with impunity. Neither is true. But we finally see that the love our Father has for us is not contingent on our performance, for He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall of both the bad and the good. We love Him because He first loves us. What follows from that love relationship is a longing to please the One who loves us so much. We are given the Spirit of God who speaks in our hearts when He wants us to change and what it is that pleases Him and it is because of our love relationship with our Father that we are empowered to change. Love is the most powerful motivator known to man and GOD IS LOVE.

Neither Do I Condemn You

Susanne Schuberth of “Entering the Promised Land” blog and I were sharing our thoughts on God’s mercy and this is what we wrote together.

Entering the Promised Land

Bleeding Hearts (Photo by Michael Clark)Bleeding Hearts
(Photo by Michael Clark)

Michael Clark of ‘A Wilderness Voice” blog (*) and I were sharing our thoughts on God’s mercy and this is what we wrote together.

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