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Unity of the Faith
Have you ever wondered what God must think when he looks down on the Church on earth? It's fractured, it's divided, it's certainly not united, and it's a disgrace. There are denominations, splinter groups, "Southern this," "First that," "Church of this," and "Church of that." But, where's the unity?
Each denomination, splinter group, and "Church of this or that" believes they have the truth: the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Each one claims to be led by the Holy Spirit and to have a firm hold on the doctrine of God; but it's the differences that make the difference. Where's the unity?
There was a "Protestant Movement," a "Holiness Movement," a "Pentecostal Movement," and on and on. There have been so many "movements" in the history of the Church that it's surprising there is anything left of what it began with.
Have those "movements" really brought the Church to a better place? Each one emphasized what was thought to be a vital and important aspect of our faith and worship; and then, the good that was wrought was overwhelmed by the "movement" and lost in the translation.
In what might have been sincere efforts to bring God's people closer to him, extremes crept in. Honest beliefs became extreme beliefs; and extreme beliefs brought extreme practices. And with each extreme belief, the divisions grew. God's Church became - and has become - a "holy" ground for infighting over "holy" beliefs.
Unity has given way to "right or fight," to "make it or break it," to "I'm right and you're wrong," to name calling and mud-slinging. The splinters have become "beams in their eyes;" and it seems that no one sees clearly anymore to first take the splinter out of their own eye. It's much easier to "behold the mote in your brother's eye."
However, I firmly believe that, before it's all over, there will be a unity of the faith. It seems that man cannot bring it about. We're too busy fighting for what we "know is right." But, a unity of faith will come to the Church on Earth.
The apostle Paul said of Jesus, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith..." (Eph. 4:11-13).
How will it happen?
Unity among those who claim to know God, those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, those who claim to be "blood washed" and "sanctified" will only come by a "movement" of God himself. No man can bring it about. No "Unity Movement" can bring it about. No "Ecumenical Movement" can bring it about. Only God can accomplish unity for his Church.
The unity of faith we must have to be the Church that Jesus will take to himself: "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27) will only come about in the fire of tribulation. It is only through suffering - and suffering together - that we will be the kind of friend Jesus was: the kind of friend that will lay down his life for his brother or sister in the faith.
It is only through the tribulation that lies ahead, "such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21) that the fire will be hot enough to melt off the "dross" from the gold. And, as each layer of "dross," the waste matter, is skimmed off, the gold is slowly purified. It becomes "holy and without blemish."
As those of us who are "alive and remain" live out our days on earth through the Time of Tribulation that is coming, God will work a work in each of us. He will no longer have individuals working in different directions for different purposes; he will have unity in the Body of Christ. We will become One in Jesus - as Jesus is One in the Father.
We will not be called on to compromise our beliefs; or to compromise on the doctrine of the Bible. As each day of the Tribulation brings new experiences - new trials and new testing - we will be brought to a place of acknowledging God's true doctrine; to a place of seeing the "beam in our own eye;" to a place of seeing and acknowledging where we were right - and where we were wrong.
Through the fire, we will come into a unity of faith: to a place of a true "knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
There is no doubt that Lucifer and his followers are enemies of Christ and of God; but there are more - many more - enemies of Christ that, maybe, we don't think of often. And, sad to say, there are some people in this world that are thought of as enemies of Christ; but are not.
James said, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James. 4:4). And, John said, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (I John 2:15).
The world has a strong attraction for many people; and some of those that are attracted to the world and to things of the world are people who somehow believe they are Christians.
Jesus said we can't serve two masters. He offers us a choice: love the things of earth, or come unto him. If we try to have it both ways, we are only fooling ourselves; not God.
If you want to hang on to the things of the world - old people you once hung around with, old places you once frequented, old things you once included in your life-style - then you have not truly repented. You have not truly turned from all that you once were. Anyone who tries to straddle a picket fence is going to get hurt - and hurt bad.
Salvation is all about repentance and obed-ience. Repentance is the first step toward becoming a new creature in Christ. Obedience makes up the continuing steps to maintain that new creation and that new life.
People who try to straddle that picket fence, whether they realize it or not, are enemies of Christ. They are actually denying that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. They are denying the one who died for them. They are "antichrist" in nature and in practice. John said, "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22). Whether they know it or not, they actually oppose Christ by their thoughts and actions. They are enemies of Christ.
Then, there are those people who are thought - by some - to be enemies of Christ; and who are not. In the Christian community around the world, there are many and varied viewpoints of what the truth of the Bible really is. Some of those viewpoints bring about contention and disagreement to the point of name calling and mud-slinging.
While it is true that some beliefs by churches claiming to be Christian; and some beliefs by professing Christians are untrue, unbiblical and even heretical, it is also true that honest, sincere Christians can disagree on Biblical interpretation - especially on interpreta-tion of Biblical prophecy - and not be enemies of Christ; and should not be enemies of each other.
I firmly believe in the truth of a Post-tribulation Rapture of the Church: that we will be here on earth through the Time of Tribulation prophesied in the Bible, that we will face the Antichrist, "the man of sin, the son of perdition" (II Thess. 2:3) and will have to take a stand against the Mark of the Beast.
But, there are many honest, sincere Christians who believe otherwise. If they are sincere in their repentance toward God and in their obedience to God's Word, I do not - in any way at all - consider them to be my enemies.
I am concerned that their belief - in a Pre-tribulation Rapture, for example - may come to be the cause of them "falling away" from the faith and taking the Mark of the Beast when that time comes; but I do not think of them as enemies of Christ - or of myself.
However, I have read professing Christian writers - in books and on the internet - who have used the tactics of politicians (name calling and mud-slinging) to try to make the case for what they believe.
I have read Pre-tribulation Rapture writers who say that anyone who believes in a Post-tribulation Rapture are deluded, deceived - are "cultists" working for the Devil - and maybe even worse, blaspheming God. And, I have also read the reverse: Post-tribulation Rapture writers who say that anyone who believes in a Pre-tribulation Rapture is deluded, deceived cultists who are working for the Devil blaspheming God.
Interpretation is an effort to understand and explain the Word of God - and an honest, sincere interpretation is an honest, sincere effort to understand and explain that Word. Our belief in the timing of the Rapture of the Church is not a matter of salvation: of repentance or obedience; and does not define who is a Christian and who is not.
I do believe, however, that the Mark of the Beast will come to be the "salvation issue" of the End Time.
Adam and Even partake of the "forbidden tree." They were cast out of God's paradise where they continued their physical life; but because of their disobedience of God's Word, they died spiritually. In the End Time, those who partake of the Mark of the Beast will be cast out of God's Kingdom where they will continue their physical life; but because of their decision, they will die spiritually.
A final note: Dear Pre-tribber:
Even though you are not my enemy, I must say to you that a belief in a Pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church turns our eyes away from the difficult time that lies ahead - and moves us away from an attitude of preparation for those times.
As fellow Christians - and friends, rather than enemies - let's all take another long look at what the Bible tells us - and what God plans for his Church.
Are We Listening?
The world is full of noise: background noise, static. And, it never stops.
We hear it everywhere, all the time: on television, on the radio, on the internet - and even in our everyday lives as we go to work, to school, to the store, the doctor's office - where-ever we go.
The world is full of background noise: static - and it gets in the way. Jesus said, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34). And, he was certainly right.
We hear of murders of children, cruelty to animals, abuse of the elderly - all those that can least take care of, or protect, themselves. We hear of airplanes missing and people dying, trains crashing and conductors falling asleep. We hear of wars of all kinds - revolutions, nations being annexed by force, genocide in the name of racial purity and pride - and, it's all background noise.
It fills our ears, it fills our minds, and it fills our hearts.
We have background static for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only the national, so-called world news; but also the local news, fills us with evil: hit-and-run drivers, drunk drivers, crashes on the freeways, shootings in the downtown area, shootings in the suburbs, shootings in the parking lots, shootings in the driveways of houses.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Father in heaven, you know our hearts, you know our minds, you know our ears that are meant to hear your word - your truth. Help us to listen for that "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12): that sound that is meant to silence all other sounds. Help us to know your voice - your word - through all the noise this world may bring. Help us to have "ears to hear" and "eyes to see."
Jesus said, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
The background noise of this world would have us focus on fear: fear of what may be coming, fear of what the "morrow" may bring, fear of those things in the world over which we have little or no control. And, in that fear, we look around us - and we look down. We look into the world and we fear what we see - and we fear what we hear.
We listen to those loud, raucous voices that pour out of the television, that face us on the internet, that shout at us from the news of the world around us. In all that static, we are in danger of not being able to hear that "still small voice" within us. We are in danger of taking thought for the "morrow." We are in danger of not hearing the voice of the Lord.
Are we listening? In the Old Testament, God spoke to his people through men, through prophets, and through kings. In the New Testament, God speaks to his people through Jesus, through the disciples, and through the Holy Spirit.
God has always spoken to his people; and he still speaks to us today. Are we listening? Or are we torn by the noise around us? Are we overwhelmed by the "cares of this world?" Is the static too much for us?
Has the fear built a wall of "sound and fury" around us? Have we been "hemmed in" by the background noise of a world gone mad?
Father, we ask that you help us to have "ears to hear" and "eyes to see." Help us to know the sound of your voice - that "still small voice" - and help us to hear it through the static in the world.
"Whosoever hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil" (Prov. 1:33).
Me, Myself and I
In this life, there are two worlds we can live in: a self-serving world or an other-serving world - a world of selfishness or a world of selflessness.
The world of self-service is like scientists describe the "black holes" in space. In time, they collapse in on themselves and become so heavy or dense that nothing can exist in them.
The world of other-service expands outward from itself to become like "a grain of mustard seed... which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest amongherbs" (Matt. 13:31-32).
Lucifer lives in a self-serving world: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isa. 14:13-15).
Jesus lives in a totally other-serving world: "When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me... for I do always those things thatplease him" (John 8:28-29).
In this life, we must choose one world or the other. For the first half of my life, I served myself; and by so doing - without my conscious knowledge or decision - I was serving Lucifer because that is his world.
In his perfect timing, Jesus reached out of his selfless world and called me to change; not because it would be good for him, but because it would be good for me. Jesus reached out of his selfless world and called me to expand my world into all that it can be - to "do always those things that please him."
Me, myself and I died that day - and now, in Christ Jesus, I have been given the greatest gift anyone could ever receive: eternal, everlasting life with my Lord - a world so expansive as to be unimaginable and indescribable in its size, expanse, and limitlessness.
Ponder: to weigh; to think deeply about; deliberate.
[Websters New World Dictionary]
The End Time Church
The End Time Church is - and will be - more than just the local church. It's more than just a denomination. It's more than all of the Baptists put together. It's more than just the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Methodists, or even the Catholics. It's more than the Four Square churches or the Assembly of God churches. It's more than all of the Pentecostal churches in the world. It's made up of all the true believers in Christ worldwide.
The End Time Church will be a collection of Overcomers. It will be a collection of those who will be "redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Rev. 14:4). It will be "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). The people who will make up the End Time Church will hold to the "faith that was once delivered to the saints". (Jude 3). It will be the Church that will "endure unto the end" (Matt. 24:13).
It will be the Church that will be ready to meet the Lord when he returns: the Church that will "be counted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). It will be the Church that will "be counted worthy to escape" the things coming upon the earth, not because of a Pre-tribulation Rapture that will supposedly take us all away before hard times come - and not because of any righteousness of our own - but because of the grace of God who will care for his people right here on earth.
That's the Church I'm talking about! That's the Church that will do the will of God in the times that lie ahead. I'm talking about the Church that has a mission ordained by God; a mission that is like unto that of John the Baptist. John was the "voice crying in the wilderness" (Matt. 3:3); and we must be that "voice" in this time of the end. The End Time Church must be the voice that cries out in the wilderness of today.
There can be no doubt that our world, our society, our nation has become a wilderness. Just look at the violence in the hearts of men, women, and even some children. - even in our schools. Just look around at the coldness and cruelty of mankind to mankind - and toward the animals they call their pets. Just look around at the abortions that take place every day, at the homosexuality that has been legalized and is supported by the law of the land.
John the Baptist preached repentance, he warned of things to come, and he announced the coming of the Lord (See Matt. 3:1-3 & 11). In this End Time, we must preach repentance - not some watered-down version, but true repentance. John demanded that the people of his day show proof they had truly repented: "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:8).
It's time to quit playing games with God! It's time to have a true walk with our Lord and our God: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah and Savior of the world: a walk that is filled with "righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24). God is looking for a "stedfast, unmovable" people (I Corinth. 15:58). He's looking for a people that will "endure unto the end" (Matt. 24:13).
As the End Time Church, just as John the Baptist did, we must warn the people of "the wraththat is to come" (Matt. 3:7). We must tell the people they will be here on earth through the most difficult time the world has ever known - the Great Tribulation Jesus spoke of: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).
I believe the way we worship God will change for the End Time Church. In the time of the end, all of the traditions and trappings of present-day Christian worship will fall by the wayside; and we will be left with no choice other than to worship God in spirit and in truth - as if we really knew that Christ is actually in us. At that time, the indwelling Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth - and will leader us to a closer walk with God. There will be no need for - and most likely no time for - a programmed worship agenda.
The Holy Spirit will bring us together when the time is right. We will just feed like we want to go somewhere - perhaps to the house of a fellow Christian, perhaps to a place outside we know of. When we get there, we will see others of like-mind who have just come because they, too, had a feeling they should be there. Then worship will begin.
In spirit and in truth, without tradition, without ritual, the Lord will be blessed. Perhaps it will start with a conversation about why the Lord has brought us together. Perhaps it will begin with a song. Perhaps it will begin with a prayer. Perhaps it will begin with a word from the Lord - a word of instruction for his people. When it's over, it will just seem right to go our separate ways. The HolySpirit will lead us there; and the Holy Spirit will lead us away.
When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, he told us how the people of God would respond to the Holy Spirit. Speaking symbolically of the Holy Spirit as "the wind," he said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth; and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).