A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Modern Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Modern Church. Show all posts

June 25, 2024

When Religious Leaders Serve Themselves (As It Was in the Days of Jesus)

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself contemplating the state of religious leaders throughout the centuries. From the time of the Levitical priesthood [in the Old Testament] to the scandalous headlines concerning pastors in these past few weeks, there have been incidents of flagrant rebellion and overt sinfulness among those appointed to act as shepherds of God's believing followers. 

I'm not interested in calling out anyone, or naming names. I'm more concerned with the hearts of those who claim to represent our Holy and righteous God, yet disparage His character through their self-interest and unrepentance, thus leaving room for doubt and confusion among those who become discouraged from ever seeking Him. But even more than misguiding those whom they are commanded to equip and train up in the ways of the Lord, I think I am more disturbed by the fact that the religious leaders seem to lose sight of the purpose of Jesus's Kingdom mission and their role in it. 

Jesus, Himself, experienced the mistrust and doubt from the First Century Religious leaders regarding His authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes and other religious leaders questioned His mission and the motives of His teachings. Unlike today, when our society has lapsed in the intentional teaching of Scripture and Biblical history to our young, the Jewish tradition placed a heavy emphasis on teaching their children about the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings [the Poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the Festival scrolls of Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; and the Historical books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles]. 

The Jewish people in general, and especially the Sanhedrin, [who held high positions in the religious and political spheres of the Jewish nation] knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah. The prophets of old spoke of a King who was fit to rule Israel like King David, returning them to a time of power and prosperity over their enemies. At the moment of His birth the wise men from the East came seeking the Messiah, "the one who was born King of the Jews". Those that Jesus healed at the beginning of His ministry hailed Him as "the Son of David". 

When John the Baptist joined with Jesus, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, it's not hard to see the expectation that was placed upon Him. Even His Disciples saw Him in that light, expecting Him to take on the mantle of restoring the kingdom of Israel to its former glory under the Davidic dynasty. They believed the signs and miracles He performed, which were greater than the historical prophets, was clear evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah. But His mission was misunderstood and that led to the religious leaders feeling threatened by His teachings calling for a life of service and humility toward others; the willingness to suffer on behalf of your fellow man.

The priestly rulers simply could not understand the authority He possessed among the people. His teachings stressed loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others. He proclaimed that if one followed Him and His teachings, you were following the Law of Moses. And His ways challenged the strict boundaries of the Law as imposed by the religious Jews. Put in a very simplistic manner, Jesus's mission did not meet the expectations of the religious system that governed the Jews of the day. The Kingdom of Heaven, represented by Jesus, was in conflict with the kingdom of Israel, as administered by the religious leaders [in agreement with the political leaders].

Looking back, we see that Jesus came with a very clear mission and purpose: to establish God's righteous Kingdom on earth, making a way [through His sacrifice, death and resurrection] for all people to receive forgiveness for their sins, and be restored to a relationship with God. The goal was that this salvation from eternal death into eternal life would become the entry point into the Kingdom of God on earth (John 3:1-5), thereby changing the hearts of men and ultimately defeating Satan's kingdom on earth. Righteousness and Justice would rule the world and Evil would be defeated. 

Those leaders of the Jewish faith should have stood in righteousness and holiness, encouraging the people to believe in the prophecies of the Messiah, and welcoming Jesus as the true Son of God. But they were too caught up in their own reputations, arrogance, pride, and power to submit to a life of service, humility, and sacrifice. They exchanged God's laws for their own strict and binding rules that hindered an intimacy and connection with the Father. They missed the mission of the One they were waiting for.

And that brings me to the current state of religion and faith in the modern Christian world. Are we and our religious leaders following the same misguided path towards Jesus's goal and mission for His Second Coming? Are our modern shepherds too caught up in protecting their lofty positions of fame, money, and performance standards to understand the purpose of His Second Coming? Like the Pharisees, are they after self-importance and validation above those they are called to serve? And if the accusations of immorality that are currently being reported are true, then the community of Christian leadership needs to take a good hard look at itself. 

We need to take to heart Jesus's woes that He directed to the scribes and Pharisees, comparing them to the outside of a cup that looks clean, but is filthy on the inside [full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence]. "You spiritually blind Pharisee [leader]; first clean the inside of the cup and plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God's precepts] so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also". The Jewish religious leaders of old looked pious, God-fearing and devout servants of YHWH on the outside. But on the inside and in their private duties within the synagogues, they were back-stabbing, power-hungry, and oppressive hypocrites. They never held themselves accountable, and the celebrity environment within the 21st century Church has lent itself to the same temptations among our shepherds.

And that reality could have some mighty serious consequences for the spiritual maturity of the Christian brotherhood as we look forward to Jesus's Second Coming. Will we see the same kind of misunderstanding about what it's going to look like? He wasn't recognized or accepted the first time He came. Will He be the second time? The First Century Jews were expecting a King that would crush the Roman Empire and return them to prosperity and leadership. How many Christians are expecting to be removed from the earth before the Tribulation and "Time of Sorrows" covers the earth? Are they expecting that Jesus will announce that His Kingdom now rules the earth and Peace will exist across the globe? Are they going to be equally disappointed [as the Jews were] if what they've been taught doesn't occur?   

Will they be as lost and confused as the Disciples were when their hopes and dreams of a restored Kingdom of Israel didn't instantly materialize? Just as the religious leaders had not accurately interpreted the Scriptures and prophecies of Jesus's First Coming, I'm afraid that the Church has misconstrued and miscalculated the timing of events regarding His Second Coming. How are we to rightly understand His revelations that His return will mark "the great day of His wrath", or that the kings and leaders of the entire inhabited earth will "gather to do battle on that great day of God, the Almighty". Jesus prophesies in Revelation 19 that He is One who "judges and makes war"; He will "strike the nations" with a sword and tread "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God".

These passages clearly show us that the world will not greet the returning Messiah with open arms. In fact, the world and its leaders will be as hostile towards Him as they were the first time. Are our current religious leaders serving their flocks by preparing them to accept Jesus in His true identity? Sadly, the First Century religious administrators were consumed with serving themselves and did not recognize the truth of Scriptural prophecy when He was in their midst. And I'm not that sure the modern Church has adequately raised up mature Leaders who can move past their desire for celebrity, popularity, and the need to compete for notoriety in order to be ready to receive Jesus and accept the mission and purpose of His return ... to establish the Kingdom of God once and for all and to usher in the the New Heaven and Earth. 

So, it is absolutely imperative that the Body of Christ rise up and join together in praying for our Pastors and Religious Leaders. Pray for repentance, clean hearts, a new movement of righteousness and holiness in the spirits of those God has called to shepherd in this time of world history. I pray for divine discernment; that they will seek the truth of Jesus's mission on His return; that they will seek the Holy Spirit's guidance and counsel in ways to equip and train the Body to prepare the faithful for Christ's victorious return. I pray that the temptations of Satan and this world will be removed from before their eyes as they focus their physical and spiritual eyes on the Heavenly realm from which He will appear. I know there are good, faithful, righteous and Godly men who serve our Lord in the role of Pastors and Church Leaders. I pray for their protection and their emergence as holy representatives of God's Kingdom on earth. I pray that all men will prepare their hearts in Truth and Spirit for King Jesus's return... help us to prepare the way for you, Lord! 

Mark 13:23, 37     But be on your guard: I have told you everything in advance... What I say to you, I say to everyone, 'Be on the alert (stay awake and be continually cautious'.


June 21, 2022

It's Time We Seriously Consider The Fear of the Lord!

At the end of this week, I will be participating in a Women's retreat and speaking on The Fear of the Lord. This topic has ignited my spirit for quite some time. It is a difficult subject to engage in because of where God is taking me. It requires me to call people to a greater consciousness of the Character and Nature of God; calling them out of our 21st Century "relaxed" form of Christianity and into the deeper understanding of the fullness of the Gospel and God's righteousness. I find myself walking on a tightrope ... how do I express what the Spirit is speaking to me without offending someone or calling down the "religious police" upon myself?

And so, I will just begin and see where the Spirit takes me. Throughout the journey of my relationship with Jesus, I have been amazed to find Him on every page of the Bible ... from Chapter 1 in Genesis to the last verse in Chapter 22 of Revelation! And what the Bible has shown me of Him --whether in the Old Testament or New -- is still relevant for today. But out of all the immense vastness of infinite time, those three-and-a-half years spent as a man changed the dynamic of everything that came before and all that has come, and will come after.  BUT ... and here is where I became careful in my discernment; as the Body of Christ, we cannot become stuck on the image of Christ as a man, and must now [more than ever] see Him in His fullness and greatness as Deity.

While we honor Him as our Redeemer and Deliverer, I'm afraid we may cling to an image of Him as He was on earth -- the precious baby in the manger; the prophet and teacher who performed signs and wonders as God; the sinless man who was willing to die to save us from the wrath of Almighty God. True, He was all that and more! But He is greater than He was while on earth, and we must respond to Him as Supreme Creator of all (1 Corinthians 1:16-17); King of Kings (Revelation 17:14); Mighty God and Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6); and Righteous Judge (Acts 10:42)!

Because, you see, as John says in the first chapter of his Book, Jesus was God. And He loved the world so much that He sent a part of Himself to earth to live as a man, not only so that He could identify with our struggles, but also as the payment due God for our sins. God established in Leviticus 20:26, "You are to be holy to Me; for I the Lord am holy, and have set you apart from the peoples (nations) to be Mine". This was spoken to the nation of Israel, but Peter reiterates it to the Early Church, who are our ancestors in the Faith, "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  He then goes on to say, " If you address as Father, the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, [then] conduct yourselves in [reverent] fear [of Him] and with profound respect for Him throughout the time of your stay on earth" (1 Peter 1:15-17). We must discern that God takes sin very seriously, and that Jesus [who is called Everlasting Father in Isaiah 9:6] will be the One who judges us!

So, I've been asking myself the following questions for awhile now: Is it my daily practice to be holy in everything I do and say? Do people encounter me and see me as set apart and different from everyone else? Or do I look like the world? Do I conduct my life in "reverent fear and profound respect for Him"? Or do I justify and excuse my actions by claiming the Atonement on the Cross? Do I truly understand what it means to "fear the Lord"?

I agree with and accept the definition of "fearing the Lord" as gazing upon Him in awe and reverence; [to respect God for who He is, mixed with a sense of fear and wonder]. I recognize His power and position and give Him the proper respect. And I understand that this reverence and godly fear implies that I must restrain myself from any and every ungodly act because of His honor and reputation. I must not diminish what the Word says about how He regards sin! And so, I recognize that Jesus is greater than the angels, greater than Moses, greater than the High Priests of old.  

And, here is where I am afraid the Modern Church has ignored Scripture. There is a passage that should have every Christian examining themselves to see if they are living a holy life ... and what is plainly declared in Hebrews 10:26-31: "For if we go on willfully and deliberately sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice [to atone] for our sins [that is, no further offering to anticipate], but a kind of awful and terrifying expectation of [divine] judgment and the fury of a fire and burning wrath which will consume the adversaries [those who put themselves in opposition to God]. Anyone who ignored and set aside the Law of Moses [was] put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much greater punishment do you think he will deserve who has rejected and trampled under foot the Son of God, and has considered unclean and common the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and has insulted the Spirit of Grace [who imparts the unmerited favor and blessing of God]?  For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine [retribution and the deliverance of justice rest with Me], I will repay [the wrongdoer].” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a fearful and terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God [incurring His judgment and wrath]".

Wow! That is a passage from the New Testament! It is a warning about not treating the New Covenant as common, or something ordinary, or average. It is affirmation that the one who insults the Spirit of Grace [who is the Holy Spirit who imparts God's power as grace to us] will be repaid with vengeance by the Lord. We have ample evidence of what that looks like in the lives of Ananias and Sapphira when they lied to the Holy Spirit in Acts, Chapter 5

I know there will be those who accuse me of being legalistic and corrupting the concept of the Fear of the Lord according to the Church.  But a complete and exhaustive study of the Book of Hebrews will give you a more accurate understanding of what Scripture says, instead of ascribing to Church culture.  And I am NOT saying that if you are sincerely trying to live a righteous and holy life and encounter struggles, which result in confession and repentance, that you will suffer vengeance by the Lord. 1 John 1:9 shows the heart of God and Jesus: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

But if you are a Christian that is indifferent or callous towards your own sin, thinking you have nothing to worry about because we are under the New Covenant of Grace, then I would suggest that you examine your attitude and see if you willfully and deliberately continue to sin without any consideration of consequences, or just because you think all you have to do is continue to ask for forgiveness and it will be yours. And I would recommend you take to heart Psalm 25:14:  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant. That means fear Him out of reverence and respect, as well as fear His righteous anger for those who willfully and deliberately continue to sin, mocking His costly gift of salvation and redemption.

In conclusion, I just want us to be continually aware that the Fear of the Lord is not only awesome reverence for who He is and what He has done for us, but should be seriously considered if we, who have received that knowledge of Truth [of eternal salvation due to His sacrifice for us] should willfully and deliberately continue to sin. For Scripture very clearly states that there is no further atonement to be made for us, and there is a terrifying expectation of divine judgment. Just as Jesus is greater than the Law of Moses, so is the punishment greater for us than it was under the Law.  This is the undeniable truth of Scripture and no amount of 21st Century Church doctrine or softening of the language can negate the Word of God.  That is why we should all work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  It is a process, and your eternal life [and my Lord] are worthy of this admonition.

2 Corinthians 7:1   "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the Fear of God".