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

Showing posts with label Religion vs Kingdom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion vs Kingdom. Show all posts

January 17, 2024

What Happened To the Power of the Church?

I know that I probably have a false reputation as a "Church Hater". But that would come from people who misunderstand my motives and my heart when I am critical of  "the Church". First of all, I draw a distinction between the Church as the organized religious structure, and the Church as the Body of Christ; the individuals who are the family of Believers and are God's children.

While I am greatly encouraged by the Body of Christ, who are my Brothers and Sisters seeking to understand their relationship with God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit at a greater, more intimate level, I am also discouraged by the lack of equipping offered to these Believers for their ministries -- which is the job of the institutional Church. Power and authority belong to both groups called "the Church", but it is used for very different purposes by each.

As Christians, we can no longer avoid the uncomfortable conversation ... there is a growing schism among the Western Church. People who, five or ten years ago, were comfortable "in the box" suddenly find themselves at odds with what they are coming to realize is a powerless Church.  And they also find themselves in conflict with people [who are quite content with where they are]; people who they've worshipped beside for decades. So more and more Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo of the Western Church.  And I would suspect that there are more than a few who are caught between those two paradigms ... out of the box, but not yet comfortable to let go of their traditions. 

But we have come to a point in history, where we can no longer remain apathetic -- or even sympathetic -- to a powerless Church. Both the Body and the Institution must step into their purpose to influence the culture of our country and resist the evil that threatens to engulf us. As simplistic as it sounds, it is time for both factions to Wake Up! We cannot hold on to our man-made [or worldly] identities and traditions and expect to be effective against a spiritual enemy. It's those identities that the devil laughs at, because he knows they are incapable of defeating him. 

For each of us, there is a grid or a system that we relate to. And that's called Religion. Everybody says that by following their steps, you can know God better, you can be happier, you can...(insert claim here)". So, everyone's faith comes with attachments. And those attachments differ, depending on which religious traditions you embrace. But here is what we need to understand: Jesus wasn't promoting man's traditions. He came representing the Father, with a clear message to His Disciples of how His Father wanted the Gospel of the Kingdom advanced. The Disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then baptize people in both water and the Spirit; healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Good Word that all this is possible because our Father in Heaven wants to partner with us to bring Heaven to Earth. All that -- the works and the Gospel Message -- is all about POWER.

The problem is that a lot of our denominations haven't preached the Gospel with the Power component [which is the Holy Spirit] for so long, they are freaked out when they see it!  The Western Church proclaims they have the correct knowledge of the Bible (in all their variations), but what we need is the obedience the Bible calls for.  Therefore, the institutional, religious Church has become a system. We even take tests to see what "gift" we have, or what "office" we should occupy. But if we look for a model, or instructions, on how Jesus told the Disciples to "do Church", it is the Church that sprang up in the Book of Acts.  It is the only Book of the Bible that clearly shows that the Disciples were doing all that Jesus taught them while He was on earth.

But how many of your fellow Christians do you see healing a sick person, then baptizing them in water, and then urging the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to come upon them as it did in the Book of Acts?  Right now, some of you may be thinking, "But I'm not a Pastor. I don't have the authority in the Church to baptize someone". But we are called by Jesus to do it! Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Those disciples were not part of the religious system of their day! They were not rabbis and they were not recognized as having the authority to do those things -- neither by the public nor the religious leaders. Yet Jesus told them He had the authority to commission them to do far more than the religious establishment was accomplishing. Furthermore, He told His disciples to then teach others to do what He had taught and shown them! Remember: Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit are the same today as they were then, and will be forevermore. So, why aren't we being obedient to His teaching?

Notice the difference in how Power was used .... Jesus transferred His power from the Father and the Holy Spirit [to heal and baptize and make disciples] to His followers, [thereby defeating the Enemy in those lives]. The leaders in the religious system used their power to maintain their status and authority, and to control the masses. Furthermore, their power was man-driven, not bestowed upon them by Heaven.

Our religious traditions have reduced millions of Christians to sitting in a pew, or a class. They get taught and receive knowledge, but unless you go out to do "all that Jesus commanded us to do", you are not going to bear fruit or advance the Kingdom. So how much is that knowledge really worth in the Kingdom of God? Since we are not just supposed to be "hearers of the Word", how much does that model result in "doers of the Word"?      

The reality is that more and more Christians are awakening to the fact that Church, as we know, it is no longer satisfying to their soul and spirit.  They can no longer deny that the world doesn't look or feel any better because of the Church. In fact, the Church is looking more like the world. They are recognizing the Truth about what the Great Commission really is -- that it's more than sharing the Message of Salvation; more than Jesus dying to cover our sins. He died to remove our sins and to create in us a new man or woman -- one that bears fruit for the Kingdom by doing what Jesus did and doing the things the Church in the Book of Acts modeled for us. And so they are leaving the traditional Church model and seeking ways to observe all that Jesus commanded those Twelve Disciples.

As we see Evil increasing in our lives, and as we get closer to Jesus's return, I believe we are going to see a split in the Western Church. One side thinks we have evolved beyond the actions of the Disciples in that First Century. They think that laying on of hands to heal the sick, delivering a Christian from demonic torment, or baptizing in the Spirit is not for today. They believe we are to submit to the authority of the Pastor and the Church system. The other side has been awakened to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Believer [to bear much fruit for the Kingdom], and they believe they are to submit to Jesus's authority and see the Body of Christ become the Church Jesus intended it to be.

The bottom line is this .... I don't care if a Christian goes to a 5,000 member mega-Church, or is part of 20 devoted Believers who meet in a home. If there is no fruit being produced by either group, then the Holy Spirit is not present. And when the Holy Spirit is absent, there is no power to fight the spiritual battle against the sinful nature of this world.  And that is not what Jesus had in mind for His Church.  Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. But I want the Fire of the Holy Spirit to be recognizable in my life! Remember that John the Baptist said He baptized with water, but "He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire".  It was that fire and Power that changed the world; and it is that same fire and Power that will change the world today.

God poured out His Holy Spirit with fire and signs, healings, and spiritual gifts on the Church of the Book of Acts. He knew if the Early Church was going to survive the horrific attacks that would come against it, Believers would need the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit to counter those attacks and advance His Kingdom on earth. He has awakened us in the 21st Century Body of Christ to the same truth. We need the joy of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to counter the ambivalent, compromising, and weak institutionalized Church.  As we begin to walk out the power that Jesus and the Book of Acts Church modeled for us, we will see God renewing us; restoring us; and equipping us to do what must be done if mankind is going to resist and defeat the system that Satan is bringing.

The question is, can the institutional Church join hands with the Body of Christ who are walking in that heavenly Power? I am in total agreement with Gabe Lyons, a Christian media/culture expert, who recently wrote "A Letter to Christian Leaders", in which he said, "Together, we can be smarter, more informed and creative than if we try and go this alone. I write with a desire for unity, clarity and sharpening as we consider how Christian leadership ought to be exercised during our time of confusion. To be blunt, I believe we are in a spiritual, psychological, biological and informational war accelerating into a crisis of isolation, distrust, polarization, censorship and physical harm. Discernment and wisdom from Christian leaders will be critical, but the time to be convicted, clear-minded, and courageous is now. The enemy wants us divided, but the strength of the Church has always been in her unity in the essentials, and charity in the non-essentials". 

Spiritual leaders -- both in the Body of Christ, and in the Church building -- have an opportunity to stand in their God-given authority, resisting the temptations to follow what the world systems are mandating. It is time to keep our lamps filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that we might constantly be supplied with His wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear [awe and reverence] of the Lord. There is no time or room for fear and compromise. We are at a pivotal moment. We must be faithful to all of God's commands, while standing firm in our resistance to Evil, and we must prepare our Brothers and Sisters in Christ for the season ahead. God bless you as we boldly advance the Kingdom of God in all its Truth.

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Jeremiah 6:16     Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 

October 4, 2023

"At the Right Time", Jesus Came & Died to Bring the Kingdom of God to Earth!

Our Home Church is studying Romans, one of my favorite Books of the Bible. It is full of Paul's theological terms [regarding God's character as it relates to our faith]. We have read these terms for years, but how many of us have really understood the weight of these religious expressions? Could you explain what Justification means to a non-believer? Or how about Righteousness, Sanctification, Propitiation, or Repentance? I will admit that when I was a new Christian, I just skimmed over these heady words and tried to grasp "the meat" of what Paul was trying to teach.

But now, as our group is progressing through our study in Romans, we are able to show them the significance of age-old doctrine in a new light. The sacrosanct words that have been preached from the pulpit for hundreds of years, are taking on real meaning, as we come to understand how God's Righteousness and Wrath are both designed to draw us to Him. Until Jesus came, we were God's enemy because we were born into sin. Neither the religious Law nor our works could bring His favor -- God is pure good, and His Divine standard cannot tolerate impurity and sin. So it is only by our faith [complete trust and confidence] in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross, that God is able to look upon us as meeting His standard of righteousness and acceptance.

But this post is not an exegesis on theological terms in the Bible. Rather, I wanted to share one of the hidden treasures that we unearthed; a jewel that was there in plain sight, but so easy to overlook. It is Romans 5:6, which reads, For while we were still weak [without faith, and deserving of God's wrath as a sinner], at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. So, why am I highlighting these seemingly inconspicuous four words?

To begin with, Romans is one of the most powerful and important Books in the Bible. So many concepts of God's character are loaded into these 16 short chapters. If you want to get a glimpse of how God's heart and mind works, and His plans for reconciling the world back to Him, read Romans -- and read it with purpose! I have read this chapter numerous times, but a few years ago, as God was revealing His concept of His Heavenly Kingdom coming to earth, those words jumped out at me. And so, my husband and I embarked on a journey and began digging to find out what "at the right time" meant, and did it have any significance for us today. I mean, we knew when in history Jesus came, but why was that time the "right" time? 

As we asked God for the answer, He led us to a teaching by the late Dr. Myles Munroe, a Bahamian minister and avid professor of the Kingdom of God. It is his teaching about "the right time" that I am paraphrasing [and expounding upon] today. As he explains it, there was 4000 years from the time of Adam's sin until Jesus came. That's thousands of years during which the world was in dire straits; when sin defiled the earth and mankind was in desperate need of a Savior. Why didn't God send Jesus in Chapter 3 of Genesis, when sin first appeared? Why not in Genesis 6, with the incursion of the Fallen Angels? Why not in Noah's or Abraham's time? Moses's or David's? Why didn't He send Jesus when the Assyrians, and then Nebuchadnezzar, took His chosen people into captivity? What was wrong with those times?

Dr. Munroe's theory is as profound as it is simple... God waited until a kingdom on earth (Rome) was the closest to resembling the government of His Kingdom in Heaven. The timing had to be right so that people would understand what Jesus meant when He talked about His Father's Kingdom. In all of previous history, the kings who conquered lands took the people they invaded back to their country. But Rome was the first kingdom in history to leave those they conquered in their own land. They didn't uproot them. The Roman kingdom would take its government to the lands it invaded. The king of Rome [Caesar, which also meant Lord] would handpick someone from his courts and appoint them as Governor of the conquered territory. That Governor [Tetrarch or ruler] would live in that conquered land, and his assignment was to convert that territory [and its inhabitants] into Rome. As Dr. Munroe said, "In other words, the Romans didn't bring the people back to Rome to make them Romans, they took Rome to the people to make the people Rome".

Do you see the resemblance to His plan in sending Jesus to earth? The timing was right! Rome was using God's system of government, so everything Jesus said should have made sense to the inhabitants of the kingdom of Rome. Wherever the Romans invaded became "little Rome". They made you speak their language, eat their food, follow Rome's laws and culture, pay Roman taxes -- they became inhabitants of Rome, and everything in that land became Rome. Wherever you were, was Rome! 

Is the picture becoming clearer? When Jesus declared, "Repent [renew your mind]! The Kingdom of God is near", He was announcing that He was invading earth and bringing the Kingdom of God [and its government] to all the people. For three years, His ministry was for the purpose of teaching the people to become like citizens of Heaven. The parables were to teach them about the culture of Heaven ... each parable begins with "The kingdom of Heaven is like...". 

He also began teaching about the commandments and rules of Heaven ... about fasting and laying up treasure in Heaven; about judging others, the Golden Rule and what defiles a person. He taught about Heaven's position on anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation and loving your enemies, teaching them, "You have heard it said... but I say to you...", distinguishing the difference between their old standards of behavior and Heaven's new paradigm.    

That's why Jesus Christ was a problem to the Roman Empire -- because He declared that HE was Lord and He was bringing a new government! It was a political issue not a religious one. Read your Bible! Jesus never claimed He was a Priest; He claimed He was a KING! 

And the religious Jews [Pharisees and Sadducees], who were also the ruling faction of the Jewish people, saw their delicate balance of power and rulership with the Roman government threatened by Jesus's position. Jesus declared Himself King and brought a new government to earth and it was a political conflict -- two kingdoms clashing! The Pharisees wanted to use Religion to control Jesus [and protect their liaison with Roman political leaders] but His message was about Lordship [rulership and kingship]. [NOTE: the conflict between Religion and the Kingdom of God on earth continues to this day].  

God's purpose for Jesus coming was not to establish a Religion, but to establish His form of government on the earth; a government that mirrored the government in Heaven. Jesus taught 12 men the principles of changing the territory of earth into looking like Heaven -- the very system the Romans used, and it should have been identifiable to the people He came to. But because it wasn't, the very people who were looking for the kingly line of David to restore them, didn't recognize His kingdom message and what He was doing. They let the religious leaders offer Jesus up as a sacrifice to ease the hostility and strained relations with Roman authorities. They couldn't see that He was offering them a position in the Heavenly Kingdom that surpassed all the kingdoms in human history! 

Jesus declared He was born to be a King and to testify of the Truth. But His kingdom was not from this world -- in it, but not from it. When Pilate threatened Jesus by telling Him he had the power to save or take Jesus's life, Jesus responded by telling Pilate he would have no authority at all, except that it was given to him by God through His government system in Heaven. You see, the truth is that when Jesus came to earth, He invaded it, bringing the government of Heaven with Him to transform this territory and the people into Heaven. That's who we're supposed to be -- acting like citizens of Heaven, where there is no lawlessness, no crime, no corruption, no famine, no war, no persecution, and no religion... 

So, Jesus came at just the right time ... At a time when the world could understand what His Father's government system would look like. And the benefits were great -- Salvation and a Reconciled Relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father. We haven't done a very good job of implementing that system. But it's never too late! As long as there is a remnant that understands and clings to it, I believe that our Father will honor our hearts. And it begins with each one of us, as we take territory in our lives and declare that it is Heaven, governed by Heaven's laws and love! Everywhere we go should look like Heaven, as we walk out Heaven's culture and system of spiritual government. Let it be your "right time" and see how much territory you can convert and transfer into the Kingdom of Heaven! The world needs a transformation and a spiritual rebirth -- one life and one piece of ground at a time. 

Matthew 6:10   Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.