Contending for the faith once delivered – James
The Standard of Expectation
Seems like, for the most part, we Christians continue to primarily organize ourselves around public, group meetings. Doesn’t it seem like the “Sunday morning meeting” is highest priority in the congregation you attend? This is the one you get the most social demerits if you miss, right? How effective is that approach? Dare not ask. But, if you have questions, please talk to the friendly staff at Guest Services.. ? Can you imagine Jesus saying that?
We have to set our sights higher than this…. (heart=breaking)
I recently posted this question in social media (in paraphrase): “How much of what we learn in meetings today only prepares us for the next meeting?”
Some were confessional, and others defiant, but the question remains, and we don’t offer our proof by what we say, or even our quick reactions or well thought out responses, but rather in what we do, and who we are.
Much of what we have today in churches & congregations is law… not the law of Moses, the law of nominality… to make sure everything falls within expectations. Nominal can also mean “in name only.” That seems strange, and unfortunately, is often so true… Are we Christians in name only, bearing little recognizable resemblance to the Christ. Think about it.
Is the Lord trying to reproduce what was, what is, OR is He trying to do something new?
What are the expectations on the congregant today?
- Pay your tithe
- Complete the obligatory attendance standard (varies from place to place and depending on denomination)
- Don’t cause trouble
Is there more to the list than that?
Is this what Jesus and his martyrs died to give us?
Pecking Order Leadership
This is the responsibility of leadership. Leaders focus the attention of those they lead, in so many ways. What they talk about, how they live, and what they give themselves to, inform those under their influence about what is important and central in life. So much of what we see demonstrated in leadership today is idolatry. And don’t think you, and / or your leaders, are exempt.
Leaders often go so far with God and then quickly establish a pecking order in the rear echelons. This is where they hold themselves forth as the standard, in often obscuring the standard and example of The Lord Jesus Christ! You will get no argument from me about the need for exemplary leadership. But shouldn’t our example look like the One we are supposing to represent?
The telegraphed messaging with this kind of leadership suggests that one not even dream of getting closer to God than the senior leader. What is that about? Pecking order. If you are not familiar with this social mechanism called pecking order, check out this:
If we call our “point person” senior leader or senior pastor, why don’t we call the others “junior pastors?”
Diotrephes always wants, demands the preeminence… (see 3 John verse nine thru eleven)
Why did Diotrophes do this? His name means “nourished by Jupiter.” I am pretty sure that isn’t the eternal Spirit’s name. Maybe what Jesus meant about the “greatest among you becomes your servant” was a description of His (Jesus’) valuation system? It can scarcely be seen in ours.
Maximizing things that aren’t most important
We are making central and of highest priority the things that the world around us values and desires. This is direct disobedience to the admonition of Jesus and the New Testament. We look to men to save us. We put our hopes in them. We should be ashamed. And more than that; some gloat and others whine, only reinforcing that we have let the temporary things of this world divide those who are connected by eternal realities. We continue on in this, drunk with the wine of the spirit of the age, our hopes rising and falling on those great & lofty waves of the sea of deception.
The great commission, and the great commandment, two grand towers of responsibility, still stand and look back at us. We are not going to escape them thru the rapture.
The one-two punch of falling away; evolution and human compassion.
The truth does not evolve. We evolve, as do circumstances and scenarios, but the truth does not evolve. After all, the truth is a Person, who said, “I am the Lord, I change not.” When we feel free to remove the principal tenants of the scripture, and to become a law to ourselves, we walk away from all sound counsel and wisdom. Jesus came to reveal His Father to us. He did not come to say anything goes. There are realities to the truths of scripture that are very specific, and exclusive, in nature. In our inclusiveness, if we walk away from the truth, we remove ourselves and those who hear us from any hope of righteousness or redemption.
When we connect with people on a deep and personal level, we begin to share their plight, and it can become our own. This is where we see another great example in Jesus, friend of sinners, but not the friend of sin. There is a difference. We must NEVER lose sight of that. To join people in making excuse for or justifying sin is to lock them there, and throw away the key. Jesus’ mission in His time among us in the flesh was to set people free from their sin. Human compassion has a different mission… it’s to make people feel better about their sin, and to help us to feel magnanimous for our elevated state of humanity. The anthem of humanism: “With licentiousness, and false justice, and bondage for all.”
Leaders of past decades are fading, passing on and some have lost their candlestick
Some of those who have been people of great influence in our times are losing their influence, or, worse yet, using it to lead people astray. There was one, and I believe only one, church addressed among the seven in the book of Revelation that were admonished with the words of Jesus, “I will remove your candlestick, unless you repent.”
Have you thought about this in depth? I have.
What does it mean to lose your candlestick? Just at first glance, as we consider what a candlestick was, we see that it’s an instrument to elevate the light, to make light prominent. It’s the opposite of “hiding it under a basket”, right? Clearly we know not to hide our light under a basket, but, what of this other thing? Jesus actually puts the ultimatum out there. “Repent” or I am taking away your prominence and stage, if you will. What a heartbreaking reality that would be for so many! <detect sarcasm> Has the stage come to mean more to us than the light?
If the light that is in you is darkness, how great will that darkness be? True, Jesus’ first offer is for repentance. However, If that one isn’t accepted, there goes the candlestick… and believe me, it’s for your (our) own good.
“He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”
It can seem offensive to be called to a higher standard, or even into account. This was the ongoing tension between Jesus and the Pharisees (and other spiritual leaders) in the Gospels.
Some of the standard internal responses are:
- Are you saying I am not where I need to be?
- Do you dare to confront me, calling my devotion and sincerity into question?
- Are you saying you are walking more closely to the Lord than me?
- Who are you to say these things to me?
Trust me, I am no one, and yet I say these things to you.
All of these responses are mechanisms of defense, and may serve only to calcify us in our position or perspective. What happens if Jesus is offering us repentance, and we respond in indifference?