From Personal Covenant With Patriarchs To Group Covenant With Israel To Personal Covenant With All Through The Blood Of Jesus.
"It was he who sent his messenger and took me from my father's sheep and anointed me with his anointing oil." Psalm151,4.
"Conform no longer to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable and perfect." Romans12,2
I have a friend in New Mexico who grew up in a large family with like eight sisters and two brothers. I guess they used to have to compete really hard for individual attention from their parents and each other. Now as a mature adult whenever one of her sisters gives me any attention she says "What do you think it is- your birthday?
I suppose this beautiful family said that to each other 364 days a year as they were growing up.
Families and churches and nations are more about groups, the commweal, than individuals. That's not a good thing in one sense.
Before Jesus came to earth, God primarily made his covenant with the group, the people of Israel. He made this through circumcision, and then the giving the law of Moses. This law insisted that all His people keep the sacrificial cult. While nothing could be more personal than circumcision or making a sacrifice for one's personal sins, the expression and lived experience of the faith was primarily familial, by neighborhood clan, that is group oriented.
But we look at the whole pattern of scripture and we see that before God could make a group covenant with His people, he makde personal covenants with Adam, Noah, and Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs. These provided examples of the Lord's faithfullness that paved the way for His eventual covenant with the group, with the nation of Israel, and then later with each of us as Christians.
The pattern was individual-then group-then back to individual over the course of revelation history.
Covenants are essentially about God's mercy and our corresponding and rightful service. They treat specifically of mutual rights and responsibilities, both at the individual and group level.
In the New Covenant, instituted by the final blood sacrifice of Calvary, Jesus not only died to save the nation of Israel, that is to give new freedoms to His people as a group. He also died to give individual freedom and responsibility for each and every person on earth: "come to me [personally-individually] all who are weary and heavy laden, and I [personally] will give you rest." Matthew11,28
He also said "No man comes to the Father except through me." John14,16
And "I am the way, the life and the truth" the way and the life and the truth for both nation and each and every individual. (John14,6)
The most famous verse of the New Testament is about our individual new covenant responsibility, our personal "Yes" and "Amen" to Jesus: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever [individual] believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John3,16.
So we see that God always had both an individual and a group or national view of our faith responsibility. This individual view, however, was not fully expressed or lived until Jesus came and instituted his manifestly individual covenant, where He talks to each of us individually, and we, in turn, know his voice (John10).
He talks to us and guides us, and pays attention to us individually, not just on our birthdays, but every day. This covenant is summarized by the fact that God consecrates, lives in, not just a few patriarchs, or the Temple priesthood, but now in everyone that He individually chooses, and whoever individually chooses Him by repentant faith. With ongoing faith, confidently acting on the biblical promises of God again and again (Scott), we receive our individual consecration of adult water baptism, unto individual Holy Ghost baptism, and then we become individual Temples of His Spirit, and thus His priests (1Peter2,5 and 9).
What could be more of an individual responsibility, and a joy, than by faith, becoming an individual Temple of God, sperated unto the Lord, unto becoming, one and all, by baptism in the Spirit, a Holy Priest for our Lord!
God Still Deals With Israel More As A Group And Christians Individually
Bible students often say "God deals with Israel as a group and us Christians individually."
There is still truth to this scriptural assessment even up to and through the end times when Israel as a group will get a second look at Jesus, Zechariah12,8. They, as a nation, will look upon the one whom they pierced, and so receive a second shot at the new heart prophesied to them as a group, all according to Ezekiel36,26-28:
"I will give you [ Israel] a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees, and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live [forever] in the land I gave your forefathers."
On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit broke into the hearts of the Jewish Christian faithful Peter promised his fellow Jews that they, after repentance and adult water baptism, would also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit:
"Hearing this three thousand Jews were water baptized in Jesus' Name (Acts2,41). These Jews were the first to be Spirit baptized and water baptized on the day of Pentecost. They were the first fruits of the Ezekiel36,26's promise to all Israel.
But the effect of this promise to Israel as a people wasn't limited to Israel alone. Instead, the Apostle Peter, by the inspiration of God, recognized it also as a personal promise to both individual Jews and gentiles. He declares baptism in the Spirit both a group and an individual promise at Acts 2,39. This is essential biblical Christian doctrine for all human beings, for all time: "This promise [gift of holy Spirit usually after water baptism in Jesus Name] is for you [Jews in Israel] and your children [next and every future generation of Israel] and all who are far off [Jews outside Judah] - for all who the Lord our God will call [individual Jews and Gentiles].
In just this brief sketch of God's universal salvation plan and pattern, and in the time of the gentiles, time for their salvation to be central, we see that God after the incarnation of Himself largely transitions from group salvation to individual salvation. But this transition does not change the fact that God never gives up on the group salvation of his first people, Israel. As it says in Romans11,26 "all Israel will be saved." That is, they will be saved after seeeing him, as a group, they will be asked to trust on him by way of a personal faith, after Jesus shows himself to them all, Zechariah12,8.
Do You Prefer To Be A Faith Groupy Or An Individually Responsible Witness?
Some of us Christians might prefer a god who primarily deals with us as part of a group. It's great to be part of a group, in which we are known and loved. Groups are fun. But sometimes in a group we just become groupy Christians who haven't found the inspiration to worship God and spread the gospel individually.
We might say something like "I attend so and so church." Or, "I'm a member here or there with The Very Pastor and Reverend Fulano, o Fulana, de tal." Or, "I'm a Protestant or Catholic," as if that makes for a personal and responsible faith. Or, "my auntie prays for me" Or, "my deceased Dad believed and was a righteous man, and I ask him now and then to put a good word in for me 'with the man upstairs.' "
Many of us like to be associated with Christianity and its groups, not so much with individually practicing our faith, day in and day out, hour by hour, not just when we are preaching or dressed to impress in church.
Do You Trust Religious Groupies?
Jesus' primary enemies were religious groupies who said: "Abraham is our father" John8,39. His enemies were relying on their association with the group and the group leader- why do we need you?" Just as people today say "I'm such and so denomination..." as if that group is going to save them. Or, we speak in the name of our church, or one of our fill-in-the blank religious leaders: "my pastor or my church says this or that." Well, more importantly, what does Jesus teach in His word, and what's he telling you and me to do right now? That's a question each of us needs to answer.
I met some young gung-ho Pentecostals who stopped on the side of the road where I was ministering one day. And they declared they were prophets in their denomination. So asked them why they hadn't gone to their national hedquarters to tell their leaders that Jesus wants a biblical based Lord's Supper, like we have at he end of each of The Preaching Hours.
Jesus said "unless you eat my flesh [spiritual flesh, which has spiritual blood too] and drink my blood [spiritual blood] you have no life in you." (John6,53) "Flesh" here is according to 1Corinthians15,40 and Job19,26 where Job says that after he (Job) is dead that "in my flesh I will see my God." So Job knew what Paul was saying and Paul knew what Job was saying. We all have an eternal Spiritual body, Spiritual flesh, and physical body here on earth.
A risen body, like Jesus', has spiritual flesh, that is flesh to eat, bread from heaven, and Spiritual blood. Anyway, these, two "prophets" were not ready to go to headquarters as individuals and prophesy. They were content with their plastic cups and grape juice and symbols and the refusal in the face of 1Corinthians10,16 to bless "the cup of blessing which we bless." They struck me as young in the faith and groupies. Gung ho for the group- but with God's inspiration, and in time, I trust they'll grow into their claimed prophetic gift.
Are You An Individual Christian Yet?
The word also teaches us that Jesus can write every one of our personal sins in the sand, and that he will judge us individually, and that every knee will bow. He wants strong individuals to work for Him, not just members of brand name groups.
Groupy Christians often refuse to get squared up to a personal relationship with Jesus, that leads to service, and that brings on Holy Ghost baptism, that leads to acts of individual as well as group obedience. Satan's team loves the fact that we primarily identify so often by our church denominations, by our brand names, and then we sit on on individual hands, and leave our faith and religion to the handlers and hierlings (or worse the wolves) that often set out to make us groupies who love our groups more than us being disciples of Jesus who love Him first.
But the first qahal in Jerusalem, the called out ones, weren't groupies. They were folks who had individually found the Lord, who were water baptized and then Holy Ghost baptized, born again as individuals. They were nobodies in the social and political scheme of things. But God gave them the power of His revealed Name, Jesus, a name above all Names, a Name, that when used with faith, Spiritually overpowered everyone on the wrong team. And they became somebodies, strong individuals.
Yes, Satan's team fears and hates our individual savior, hates His individual Name, the Name of Jesus: "But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn men to speak no longer to anyone in this name. 18 The they called them in again and commanded them not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."
The Apostles Peter and John weren't groupies. They were leaders ready to take on the individual responsibility of witnessing to the Name. 19 "But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts4)
In response to Jesus' group and individual call to faith, His people said "we have Abraham!" But our individual Jesus, our one and only eternal king, proved once and for all that individual faith responsibility is our ticket to heaven, and our welcome to the kingdom reign from Zion.
It's as if God before he incarnated himself, and revealed His personal Name, had done such a good job of developing the group sense and responsibility of Israel, as to worship and serving God, that he had to now highlight the reality of personal faith responsibility to Him. This personal quality of Israel's faith sort of got overwhelmed by the cultic and priestly aspect of keeping the law. He reminded them often that he desires their individual obedience and heart rather than lukewarm sacrifice and worship.
Individual Responsibility Even In The Hebrew Scriptures
That idea of individual obedience was always there in the in the whole of our scriptures. Numbers14,29-31 is one such example. Only the younger generation, that didn't grumble against God, got into the promised land. The next generation of children in the desert were not responsible for the sins of their disobedient elders, who rallied around the golden calf rather than wait for the law and Moses to come down the mountain. The younger ones weren't the ones that complained about the food in the desert. Nor did they lead Korah's rebellion against Moses and Aaron.
So Exodus 32,33-34 prophesies their individual responsibility. Moses wanted to take responsibility for them, but instead God says this:
"Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go [Moses], lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However when the time comes for me to punish I will punish them for their sin."
Their individual punishment was they didn't make it into the promised land. In fact, Moses himself was personally punished in just this way too for striking the rock rather than speaking to the rock when the Lord's people needed water.
About six hundred years later, about 600BC, after the Exodus, Israel has enjoyed a long time in the promised land. They think they are sitting pretty. They think they are saved just by attending church, by being among God's chosen people, just because the men are circumcized, just because Abraham had faith, just because they have the law and a beautiful temple, just because they are part of the group. While these are very important gifts, and facts, not one of them guarantees salvation.
So disobeient idolatrous Judah is about to be exiled to Babylon for their corrupt cult, for their refusal to accept individual responsibility in their faith. We know this from the inspired word of Ezekiel18. In the grander scheme by this chapter God is readying his people to say a personal "Yes" to a personal messiah, not just a national-messiah, but a personal messiah. You see before we can personally say "yes" to Jesus, and realize all He is, we are called to experience that God individually, as he did Adam and Eve, and Noah, and Abraham and Moses etc, just as we deserve according to our faith and our conduct, and according to his great mercy and love.
Ezekiel18 is about what we say In our culture: "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Or, "like father, like son." In Jerusalem in 600BC the people said something really similar. And God totally rejects this pagan based fatalism, this non faith at Ezekiel18,2: "What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel 'The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' "
This proverb says the son will not only copy the sins of the father, but gets morally and spiritually worse. It's one thing to have the temporary taste of sour grapes in our mouth (father) it's another worse thing to have our teeth always set on edge (son). This is a very destructive proverb. So the father, worse the son.
It definately is the wrong answer in the face of the fact of His grace and individual care for all of us.
God's point here is that few are coming to him and accepting individual responsibility for their own sins. They are blaming their ancestors. We preached a two part message on 1Peter1,18-19, whereby "the blood of Jesus frees us from the futile conduct [generational curses], the sins passed down from one generation to another."
We have no permanent excuses as Christians. There no more blaming one's unrighteousness and lack of salvation on our ancestors, on our father and mother.
Sinner or saint- we each answer for our own specific sins, our choices, and our repentant faith or lack of it.
The Individual Soul Who Sins Is The One Who Will Die
Ezekiel18,3-4 is the God's faith rule for everybody on earth and Christians too: "As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die."
We are all God's property. Not the property of our forbears. In modern days we might feel owned by the corporations some of us have to work for. But the biblical fact is we are not the property of families, elders, spouses, clans, or even any business-church arrangement, but property of Jesus alone.
In other words, your father may teach you to sin, or rightly teach you the precepts of faith, but sooner or later you are an adult, and therefore a responsible individual. Sometimes parents do their children wrong by refusing to allow responsibility and consequences do occasionally fall on their children. God knows the circumstances of every family, and every generation of it. He knew the senior generation of partiers and grumblers and the rebellers in the desert, and He did not allow them into the promised land, while the MTV generation got in.
"All ate the manna, all drank the water from the rock that followed them" (1Corinthians10,3), but not all of them made it into the promised land.
Likewise all of us Christians eat and drink at the table of the Lord. Or, check that all of us must eat and drink there if we're going to get to heaven. But watch out, if we do so without the right individual and responsible adult faith, 1Corinthians11,29-30, we won't get to our version of the promised land either. We won't get to heaven. And we won't inherit the earth and reign forever from Zion with our universal King Jesus.
Individual responsibility before a living God is no joke. Every knee will bow in in judgment (Romans14,11), so we might want to bring some individual and true faith to that meeting when our knees will be bowing.
The Body Of The Saved Is Not A Political Interest Or Pressure Group
Our Christian faith is not racial, or ethnic, or tribal, or cultural, or political, or national, or denominational or familial based. People ask from time to time how can God judge a Hindu or a Buddhist by personal faith in Jesus and the cross of Calvary?
First of all, anyone these days can read the gospel for himself or herself. It's in almost every language ever spoken by anybody. It's mass produced and available at the dollar store. For a dollar almost every person who is asking questions can get answers, just by reading the book. In this information we don't necessarily need a church to tell us how to read the bible, we need the Holy Ghost that comes by way of actual faith. We humans can read the whole New Testament in a week. It's a lot shorter than your average paper back, and worth way more than a dimestore novel.
One of my best days as a pastor was when a 15 year old gal told me she was reading the whole bible cover to cover. She was taking personal responsibility for what she put fed her spirit on, what knowledge she put into her own mind.
In the New Testament I'm sure she got to the part that says all the world is going to hear the gospel (Matthew24,14; Mark13,19), and then Jesus comes back. That's ou fair God talking. That's the gospel truth. Do I know exactly how God makes this happen for everyone. No, but God is faithful and just and we'll allow him his ways and means.
Everyone will hear, and every individual gets a chance. The Hindu, the Buddhist, the Taowist, the Yogi, the atheist, the skeptic, the New England Brahmin, the local political posers, the cultists, all of them and all of us get our chance to repent and faith on Jesus. The saving grace of Jesus comes our way, at least once, and oftentimes dozens of times, and then we are all faced with a choice. That's our bible faith, and that's an answer to everyone who says our Jesus and our gospel is unfair.
Don't argue with us. Argue with your own conscience, argue with the Spirit. Better yet wrestle with God and His Word and lose just like Jacob did.
Our faith is full of hard questions like this. If you want an easy God, make one up for yourself. Knock yourself out! Its been done before, and is still being done. And if you are you not happy with the one you make up, there are lots of easy-pleasy-sort-of-into-Jesus-churches who have also made up a gospel which you might also like.
And mayby, just mayby, you'll have enough personal faith to overcome your exceptionally easy pleasy idolatrous church.
Christianity is full of tough questions. Every one of them comes back to a challenge to each of us individually to have faith or not. Just because faith is invisible does mean it is not real, or that you are individually off the hook as to choosing it or rejecting it.
Here's another tough question- a scoundrel all his life truly repents on his death bed. Is he saved? Yet His law abiding, God fearing son goes rogue at the very end of life, and leaves the Lord, and gets damned?
Yes. That's exactly what Ezekiel18 says. It's the clearest scripture for individual responsibility in the whole bible. It will shake you in your boots, your individual boots, the ones that fit just you. It reminds us to do more than light a candle (now that even some Baptist church have candles now) or ask someone else or some group to pray for us.
Individuals Before One Mediator
At one time I was working a sales job, and a young man, an adult son, was making a serious purchase on his own. And His father came along to celebrate, not so much to oversee or contribute. And I wrongly assumed that the dad had more to do with the deal than he did. I wasn't privy the finances so I was conflating the father and the son. I treated the father as if it was a joint deal and my manager rightly corrected me "it's the son's day."
That was a lesson learned. We often fall for that false "like father like son thinking," when we are truly ignorant about who and what is going on right in front of our faces.
We come into this world as individuals, with our own individual birth certificates, which are public documents. Our individual birth certificate proves that you and I have our very own individual existance. Similarly, we have one individual mediator between us and God, and His Name is Jesus. One individual seeking mediation and salvation from one other individual, who wants to put us in His personal employ.
I see sons who are called to preach and lead. And they are so eager to serve in church and taste that leadership. But in some cultures, as soon as the son's service contradicts the fathers wishes, the sons are done with the Lord leading their lives. Their desire to please an individual man is greater than their desire to serve our individual God.
The young shepherd David was a shepherd boy. I like country folk, friendly, capable, not religiously fastidious. But God snatched him out of his father's country rule and made him king of the biggest kingdom Israel has ever had yet. Thus, Psalm151,4: "It was he [The Lord] who sent his messenger and took me from my father's sheep and anointed me with the anointed oil."
Our families don't call us and truly anoint us from God, nor do they ahve the power to continually curse us. No, we grow up and become individuals who take our own responsibility, like Peter and John on the day of Pentecost, come what may.
Our individual lives belong to Jesus.They do not belong to our ethnic clan, or our family, or church, or nation, but to Jesus alone! As our personal Lord and savior. He gave each of us traits, skills, personalities, and after faith and His infilling, service gifts that demonstrate beyond and dispute that we are His property alone.
Having said all this, my heart goes out to parents. Perhaps your biggest fear would be that your children mess up, get in trouble, and even again and again. "What did we do wrong?"
Again read Ezekiel18. You parents often do the best you can. It's not necessarily bad parenting. Perhaps your children messed up because they are human, or they thought that they had more time to stall Jesus when He wanted them to drop their nets and follow Him now. God calls people individually when they are young especially because that's the one time in life that they can drop their nets and immediatly follow.
But regardless parental failures or lack of faith, or good or bad example, the bible says at Ezekiel18,4 that one who sins is the one responsible for his sin.
There is a healthy separation of generations, and fault lines, and moral and faith responsibilites and choices as children become adults. There's also a time when adults no longer live vicariously throughtheir kids, and kids no longer overly vicariously through the name or influence of their parents, or church affiliation, or past glories, or past sins, a time when we steadfastly and joyfully grow up to be born again individuals using the Name of Jesus.
"Whether word or deed do all things in the Name of Jesus." Colossians3,17. That's the kind of individual I want to know.
I'm not overly fond of name droppers, though it's fun to remember names. But we Christians are allowed to drop the Name of Jesus into everything we do and say. He's our best friend. He's the one individual we really need to know.
So to review, God's word, and God himself, has always expected individual responsibility and faith as the means to salvation. He taught the patraiarchs individual responsibility, and this is an essential and pronouced part of our liberation in Christ Jesus. While it is still and always vitally important to worship as a group, and find our voice and place in the body of Christ as servants, first Jesus has to develop responsible individuals before He gets a useful servants for the group.
Is Our PC Culture Copping Out When It Comes To Individual Faith And Responsibility?
I want to take a little time now to address political correctness in our modern day. Political Correctness is a detour from from our biblically revealed individual faith and morality. It contradicts 4000 years of biblical revelation that is primarily based on individual morality, saints and sinners.
This PC juggernaut, according to English historian Paul Johnson (author of "The Jews"), is a modern day poison and a real threat to our intellectual and American sense of freedom: "The U.S. has been inundated with PC inquisitors, and PC poison is spreading worldwide in the Anglo Zone."
Furthermore, the whole of Judeo Christian revelation, 4000 years of it, is not based so much on how we think, but on how we act. Yes we Christians are called to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
But it is when we act, not just when we think, that the biblical sense of faith and morality comes into its fullest play. The law of Moses was precisely concerned with how we humans act with and before our neighbor, not what we think about our neighbor. Yes, make no mistake Jesus was also concerned with our thought life. He did suggest that we could sin with our mind in being covetous and mentally lustful or judgmental.
But even if New Testament revelation does amplify the importance of our thoughts, it amplifies them because actions tend to follow our thoughts. Such as when the word at Matthew9,29 says "be it done according to your faith." Faith begins in our mind and then results in God's actions and our own actions. Thoughts are important to our moral life, but this doesn't change the fact that our actions speak louder than words. People tell me all the time that they believe in Jesus. Great but faith is more than mental belief. It also involves the actions of individually following and obeying Jesus and His word.
Jesus is savior of the Jews. He didn't overturn the primary moral and faith focus of our lives which remains our choices, our actions. We pick up our cross and follow Jesus. We testify. We treat others how we would want to be treated. We are not Greek philosophers who do one thing with their thought life and another thing with their bodies. Our faith and morality is still primarily based on our individual actions, that hopefully follow from our inspired thoughts.
But we Christians have seen more than our fair share of man's ugly and sinful actions in Jesus Name to know why the word says it is not our thoughts that will follow us into heaven but our "deeds that will follow us" into heaven. Revelation14,13 Talk is cheap, actions of faith are precious, so precious they will follow us into heaven, and perhaps into hell if that's our destination as Dante clearly perceived.
Political correctness in our digital age of "liking" this and that, without much thought, is changing the action based nature of our morality and faith. It threatens our faith in that our faith is not primarily about our mental life than it is about active obedience to God and His word. As such PC potentially changes our faith because it shifts the weight of it, and our spiritual and moral lives, from choices and actions, right or wrong, among and between people, to crawling into each others minds and demanding that we all meet each others' minimum thought standards.
This is going way too far, and we lead us to an increasingly incoherent and subjective view of ethics morality and faith.
This is judgmentalism, and subjective judgmentalism, not what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God is within us.
This PC judgmentalism is even worse than judgmentalism upon a public sinner. Why? Because it simply doesn't wait to judge anyone on his or her own actions, or until knowing the facts, and instead just authorizes everyone who is the least bit offended the public ability to divine and judge the minds of others without any real knowledge about their actions and personal integrity.
PC run amok is merely a modern form of social intolerance, and the new and easier and more anticeptic way to assasinate the characters of those who think differently from us. And in this digital age it is also a real threat for our freedom of action and thought, and faith, and free speech. Why? Because so many good folks are being cowed into leaving the whole arena of public discourse, religious and political, in the hands of the politically correct and the insiders, the handlers and the spin meisters, and the wolves in sheeps clothing.
All this is contained in the fatal political and Satanic stroke of political correctness- it potentially silences the very voices that God wants heard.
Worse still, PC is a constant invitation for the faithful to prize being liked, just to stay current in a group of some sort, more than faith and obedience to our personal Jesus.
The political correctness right before our modern eyes is changing our God given sense of individual moral responsibility, and handing it over to PC group think, in and out of the church. It threatens to neuter our faith actions and testimony, as individuals. If we Christians don't get our faith act together, PC will have us playing by all the new rules of ever shifting modern morals and rather than assessing our actions and faith and testimony to Jesus in terms of His Word and Spirit.
I'm not against anyone espousing, and even shouting their political stances, values, policies, lifestyles, atheisms, false messiahs, no matter how subjective and obnoxious to me. And I also think one can articulate and develop and wrestle with politcally correct values, and also be a responsible individual, a person that takes responsibility for his or her individual choices and freedoms.
But I also think there is a swath of political correct folks inside and outside the Christian ranks who are just going with the flow, blown by the winds of changing doctrine, who have itching ears and incoherent minds, who are just giving in morally and spiritually to the politically correct ways of the world without bringing much faith or Spiritual discernment to where this PC revolution is taking the church.
Who can fight the beast?
Have we inside, and outside the church, as individual and as groups, thought out issues or are we so eager to like and be liked, to press "like" and "follow" and "accept", before the necessary faith and WORD homework.
Are we individual faithers just plain copping out, and fooling ourselves, into thinking that if we just go with the flow, things are likely to get better for us?
Is There Any Faith Fight Left In Us Christians?
The Christian right used to be cocky and count victories and prostrate themselves before the powers that be. And some still do, rendering to Caesar that which belongs to God. But the battle today is about way higher than political stakes. Now we are not fighting for ideologies and political parties, we are fighting for our very lives and souls amidst a tidal wave of political correctness that not only aims to win every political battle, but also aims to quite simply shut up all gung ho biblical Christians, that aims to erase our individual and group testimonies, that we would retreat into our little churchy closed up cubby holes.
But being quiet is not an option for us. It's now time to focus and strenghten the things that remain as Bob Dylan put it in a song: "When are you goin to wake up and strengthen the things that remain," the core things of our faith, things that still spread the gospel above the din of political correctness and still keep us authentically in the public square.
Jesus was never given any platform for his politically incorrect views. He made a platform up for himself by refusing to be poltically correct. Given the PC tidal wave where are we Christians being heard in public- except in our own echo chambers, preaching to the choir, honing the mailing list? Where are we even attempting to be heard save by the folks who already agree with us?
The gospel always challenges us as individuals to show that we are not ashamed of it. Hiding and hunkering down is not an option for biblical Christianity. This challenge to individual faith responsibility is not going away any time soon. It's not a challenge to win political battles, but a challenge not to dissapear down a church gopher hole, where we store up our spiritual nuggets and lament our political wounds in the face of the tidal wave of poltical correctness.
Speaking of this tidal wave, I was talking to a recent arrival to the good old USA and we got taking about Christianity. She wasn't from a culture where any form of Christianity was widespread and didn't profess to know too much about it. It was great to talk to someone who didn't think they had us Christians all figured out as if were a retrogade species. But then again she did profess to know enough about us to think that we wanted to micromanage the sexual activities and personal relationships of every individual in the world.
I told her I did not aspire to this in any way, shape or form. And to be honest, I have met this clerical type, from various denominations, and boy are they nosy. Dissapointed when they don't turn up anything! Creepy creepy creepy fault finders! Church vice cops- overly fond of their work!
My follow up to my inquisitor was that we Christians didn't make up 4000 years of revelation and individual biblical morality. So I told her that I personally couldn't rewrite scripture and discard four thousand years worth of revelation.
I told her that the whole of God's word was given to us at the cost of Jesus' precious blood. I said His blood paid for, atoned for, all the sins of the world, not some of them, but all of them. And yet now some of us in His church, and using His Holy name, are adopting the PC agenda and stating in other words Jesus just died for some sins and not others, the ones we decide are sins.
Lets get this strait- Jesus died for all sins past present and future, and now PC christians say He just died just for some sins. I'm not very smart, but I'm thinking that Jesus might not be too happy when we tell him that the washing of His blood is no longer needed regarding certain sins.
Biblical revelation has been handed down as a precious gift. It comes as a package deal, the whole gospel, yet in the face of political correctness so many of us Christians just hope either sell a narrower and narrower gospel to a narrower and narower set of tithers, or sell a broader and broader form of PC worldliness whereby we entertain, and give political advice, and take people to casinos, and put on parades, and have dinners and sing alongs, and wink wink at biblical revelation.
And both these narrower or broader strategies, contain our own forms of political correctness. We tend either choose to focus on pre-destined future tithers, or choose to please the PC crowd rather than God.
Our prophet, and Israel's promised prophet, made no provisions for any political correctness on Calvary. No provisions for group think, in and out of the church. There's too much goup think and group conformity in Christianity. Whereas, when Jesus' first group leader, Peter, told him not to go to the cross, he called him "Satan" and said "get behind me."
In other words, Jesus told his first group leader to "sit down and shut up" when he wanted to go the way of PC.
Instead of a groupiness faith, oh my, Jesus acted with an individual! He didn't wait till his message became politically correct, and popular, nor did he announce the gospel in any politically correct ways. In fact, He wanted to separate the church from poltics and political correctness when he clearly made the Christian policy, almost always ignored, "to render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar [like taxes and respect for laws that don't infringe on our relgious freedoms] and to God what belongs to God [glory, honor, faith obedience, praise].
What was so great about Jesus is he didn't try to hide behind politics and took full responsibility for who he was, King of the Jews, savior of all, the promised prophet of Israel.
My inquisitor also said that back in her country they don't trust religion because the government puts out propaganda through the churches. Well, I gently reminded her she started in favor of political correctness, and now she was against it.
Political correctness put Jesus on the cross. It has no part in any Christian church that claims to be washed in the blood. And the way I read the endtimes is this: whether we are tepid and politically correct, or biblically minded and gung ho, there's going to be a price to be paid just from bearing the name "Christian."
So if we are going to be put on the cross by the politically correct tidal wave outside and inside the church, we might as well still make some attempt to resist sin, and expose darkness, and live a bible based faith, not to mention still aspire to heaven and the kingdom, rather than just be put on the cross for being a lukewarm and groupy Christians in name only.
God's Permissive Will Often Allows PC But His Perfect Will Makes The Best Individuals
This part of the sermon may sound a little like inside baseball, but it's completly biblical.
We Christians have become very comfortable with God's permissive will and not quite ardent enough about His perfect will.
His permissive will is what God allows us to do without apparent punishment, or without any punishment at all. God lets most of us Christians speed in our cars without much punishment. So does law enforcement for that matter. Nowadays "speeding" isn't speeding until it's at least 15 mph over the posted limit. But add texting to speeding, which is the new norm, and sooner or later there's going to be dire punishments. The wages of sin are death, sooner or later. Texting and driving is a sin. Texting and speeding is going to end up with God's punishing hand at work.
Any type of speeding happens by God's permissive will. He doesn't strike us down then and there, or take the keys. His perfect will however is that all of us would obey the posted speed limit.
God has a perfect will about everyone and everything. He has an opinion and discernment about everything. His perfect will is His perfect assessment of a matter.
When we only act and take advantage of God's permissive will, we Christians will be ripe for PC and we will never become the strong and faithful individuals that God wants.
His perfect assessment of marriage is that we Christians would marry each other, and not be unequally yoked (2Cor.6,14). That's not to say we can't marry outside our little church group. Sometimes it's like you have to marry the little church before the grown up gal in the little church. That's not scripture. It means it's God's perfect will that along with the other things marriage provides it also provides supernatural fellowship, spirit to spirit, soul to soul. That's his perfect will. We could marry a Muslim and God would permit it, but it would not be his perfect will.
Moses married a foreign girl, and God kept working with Him, not God's perfect will. Before that, he manslaughtered an Egyptian in wrath. Not his perfect will. He didn't circumcise his boys apparently because his foreign gal, Zipporah, didn't believe in it. Not his perfect will to defer to his wife in this matter (cf Bob L. ichthys.com/mail-moses%/20and%20zipporah.htm).
Not much of anything Moses did was God's perfect will, but he agreed to lead God's people, and went back to Egypt to round them up, which was God's perfect will. So God doesn't necessarily curse us when we are outside his perfect will, but he doesn't bless us as much.
It was also God perfect and expressed will that Moses speak to the rock so that Jesus could provide living water for his people in the desert (Numbers20,11). But Moses struck the rock, a prophecy of Calvary, but yet God gave the water to His people anyway and continued to work with and through Moses. But Moses was penalized for his sin. He didn't get into the promised land.
It was not God's perfect will that Jacob steal his brother's first born blessing, but he did just that, with the help of his mother, and still Jacob became the namesake and standard bearer of Israel. His punishment for often fighting God's will was he walked with a limp. But he did do the perfect will in going home and making up with Esau, which strengthened God people. He did do the perfect will with exactly blessing each of His sons, each of the tribes, just as the Lord said and wanted (Genesis49)
It was not God's perfect will that Samson chased three Philistine women when his parents clearly spoke the prefect will of God that he marry a Israelite gal. But God didn't automatically take the spirit of strength from Samson and allowed him to kill a whole lot of Philistines. One of the Philistine gals left Samson with a bad haircut, blind, and soon to be dead, wallowing in His own personal vendetta (Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion 1997) against the Philistines.
How much more could God have done with Samson, and how much stronger Samson could have been as an individual, if he had followed the perfect will of God rather the permissive will? Same for all the main characters of the bible? Same for you and me? How much of our testimony and witness to Jesus have we left on the table, have we wasted because we chose or choose the permissive will over his perfect will?
There's a couple of times in scripture, however, when God insists on His perfect will no matter what. Firstly, the pagan Canaannite prophet Balaam was hired by the local strong man king Balak, of Moab, to curse Israel as they came into the promised land which was the perfect will of God. The Israelites had defeated the kings of Og and Bashan, so the promised land on the east side of the Jordan was almost theirs.
At first Balaam is smart enough not to curse the Lord and His people, but when Balak upped the price (Numbers22v.17) Balaam warms to the latter task. Then he finally receives His permissive-will, you're going-to-do it-anyway-OK from God (cf Branham). All the while God knows how to get even with such a greedy prophet who goes around appearing to obey God, while all the while doing His own will.
Ordinarily God might permit the cursing of his people. Israel has been cursed many times all throughout its history. It's still be cursed today by nations and individuals around the world. It is no part of His perfect will to always let his people be cursed again and again. And at this sensitive moment of taking the promised land, He is not going to permit it. It's his perfect will, at this time, not to permit it.
The word says at Numbers 23,8 you can't curse what the Lord blesses. Oh people always have cursed Israel and still do, but it never sticks to Israel. She rises up again, by His perfect will. Jesus was cursed by the Temple priests, lied about, and crucified and hung on a tree. Deueronomy 21,23 says "cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree."
And yet he rose again.
So when the greedy pagan and headstrong wizard Balaam, at the behest of the bribing king Balak of Moab, goes to curse Israel, the angel of the lord steps in (Numbers22,22). You might know the story. The female donkey, the ginny, on which Balaam is riding sees the angel, and she turns off the road and goes into a field.
A so called "prophet" won't obey the perfet will of God, but any old inspired donkey will. Balaam beat his donkey like a rented mule, so the donkey went along a bit after the field detour and ran into a wall, so Balaam's heel got crushed (v.25). Then the angel blocked the whole road and the donkey prostrated herself before him (v.27). Even any old donkey can be inspired to true worship. Finally, the donkey cried out and spoke to Balaam, and only then did he agree with the angel that he would not curse what the Lord had blessed.
It was politically incorrect to be in favor of Israel coming into the promised land. The Amorites didn't want them and they were defeated. The Bashanites didn't want them and they were deafeated. Moab was their last enemy before they got over the Jordan and into the promised land. But the perfect will of God was they kept moving and they get fully established. It took merely one donkey and one angel to do the perfect will of God for God's people to finally get into the promised land. That's what our church needs, folks with at least the character of an inspired donkey, and the watchman persistance of a Holy angel.
The second time in the bible that God insisted on his perfect in the face of lack of human character and responsibility was the case of the Christian couple Annanias and Saphira (Acts5,1-11). These two were quite a power couple, prominent members of the Jerusalem church born on Pentecost. This holy roller original church was characterized by great generosity and sharing of goods and even property, and praise Jesus, a whole new lifestyle of sacrificial giving and faithing (cf 2Corinthians12, regarding the collection for the poor Christian saints in Jersusalem).
In this atmosphere of generosity and exuberance this couple apparently promised to donate the whole proceeds from the sale of a parcel of land to the group.This was the perfect will of God. And I suppose the begining church, newly established, had really needed and already counted on receiving the whole of the money. But then this couple changed their mind. Mayby they wanted a fancy new chariot, and or fancy furniture, and then thought better of it and only donated a portion of the proceeds of the sale. Peter spoke for the group, and God, and says "You lied to the Holy Spirit." (Acts5,3)
For failing to carry out his perfect will, they were both struck down dead.
Sometimes it is just such a costly generosity that makes us better individuals.
Does PC make us better individuals, or just leave us weasling out of individual faith responsibility?
At Some Point We Won't Even Have The Choice Between His Permissive Or Perfect Will
God doesn'ordinarily insist that we do his perfect will, but as we have seen there are times when His Spirit insists on it, when He requires us to step up above the common level of faith and morality and spiritualiy and answer his call to excellence. These times raise our level of repsonsibilty and character and usefulness in the service of God.
The prophet Daniel in Babylonian captivity comes to mind. How can a Jew in foregn captivity be expected to keep God's dietary law, let alone only eat vegetables?
But this was just one of Daniel's excellent ways of faith to rise up and become the prophet who pastors his people in time of crisis. We don't need ordinary pastors in the body of Christ in these days. We need prophet-pastors like Daniel that refuse to compromise, refuse to allow their souls snatched by the world, refuse adopt a sly oily religious PC attitude that lacks the Spirit of God.
As we in the church wrestle with PC, are we keeping our eyes open to the lateness of the day, and the possibility that the Holy Ghost may exit the earth at any moment now? Are we dithering and withering in front of the PC tidal wave, while the very restraining force, the restraining goodness of God Spirit (2Thessalonians2,6) is leaving the church and the earth?
We are told by the word of God to come out of th ordinary congregation and "be ye separate" (2Corinthians6,17). The prophet and pastor Daniel was no ordinary man and neither was Jesus, neither was content with the permissive will of God. Instead, they both chose, and then did, His perfect will. Daniel survived his capitivity and kept the true faith of Judah alive, and Jesus rose from the dead.
Will we Christians survive our Babylonian mediocrity, and our brands of political correctness, our half way and dumbed down gospels, our cutting corners, our excuses, our lack of witness and power, our greed and self interest, our wealth and indifference, our lukewarmness?
The future king David, on the run and hunted by the madman king Saul had every right to defend himself from him, except David knew the perfect will of the Lord, that no man violently touch the Lord's anointed. (1Samuel26,9)
God's perfect will is found in His word and His precepts, and in His Spirit. We need to lay hold of his perfect will, grasp it in faith, once in awhile, even if we feel holed up and on he defensive like David before the madman King Saul. Despite his weakness David before Saul, once and again, experienced the power of doing the right thing and the perfect thing, the non PC thing.
Such perfect actions stood him in the highest stead with God. Oh that some of our faith actions would raise us above the PC wave and storm that is cascading over the body of Christ.
One day God's permissive will for his people, and all peoples, is going to end. And at that time we will be left only with the perfect will of His judgment and His kingdom. At judgment watch out- we will lose our right to act in his permissive will forever, so while we have gotten so used to it, now might be good time to re-introduce ourselves to God perfect will!
Our challenge as Christians in this day of PC at the church door, and the weakening of our foundation on Jesus alone, is to stay strong in faith and become stronger as individuals, by our steady acts of faith. We need these individual acts to be the man or woman, the very person God had on mind all along, to finish the race, to not get swept up ourselves.
"Be ye perfect as you heavenly father is perfect." Matthew5,48 That is, be ye excellent, that is, we follow through on what we profess, finish the race of salvation, serve our living God with all we have.
How many souls and lives and countries would have been saved by one individual doing the perfect will of God, rather than the permissive? How much more would Samson and Moses and Jacob have shined if they had hewn a little closer to his perfect will?
Yes it's nice to learn from our mistakes and sins, and yes "all things work together for good for those who love God," and we do love Him. But oh what heartache and bondages are we saved from when we leave behind his pernmissive will and move on to his perfet will, when we seek out and discern His perfect will of God, when we can say with the word "we know what is good, acceptable and even perfect (Romans12,2)
Praise You Jesus for your perfect faith on Calvary! For your perfect life lived for us. For your perfect mercy for each of us. Wash us clean again today, renew in us right and perfect spirits in us again today, so that we would serve you in gratitude, and love and excellence, unafraid to be an individual, unafraid to speak up for you, unafraid to lift you, and your cross, and your whole perfect gospel on high.
In Jesus Name I pray.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...