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Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Japanese Garden – Fort Worth

This morning I woke up with a view of tree branches swaying gently, directly overhead.  The first light of the sun illuminated some branches at the tops of the trees, while the lower ones were still shaded.  Morning breaks loudly around here as a flock of crows and a young litter of squirrels compete to be heard above one another.  About a month ago I set up our tent in the backyard as a sanity preservation technique.  The intense heat of our summer began to break, and my craving for being outdoors won out over my inability to go on a camping trip.

We are so blessed to live in a neighborhood of huge, old pecan trees.  Our yard is one of the best camping sites in our whole region, complete with a nature trail out the back gate, and a river to fish in.  (Someday, I’m actually going fishing!) But these old trees come with their hazards too.  As I looked up this morning, I saw a few more dead branches without leaves, and thought of the folly of sleeping under them.

Recently my youngest daughter and I were enjoying a delightfully breezy afternoon in our lawn chairs when one of these branches came crashing down in front of us.  This one however still had all its leaves.  We would have never noticed they had dried up and died because they were still green and blended in with the rest of the tree.  I assume it must have been damaged in the last windstorm and its connection to the tree compromised.   After the shock, we observed it fell from a very high place in the tree and would have caused a substantial injury if we had been standing under it.

While enjoying my backyard paradise this morning, praying for all the tree limbs to stay put, I realized I have been shocked and saddened by the spiritual equivalent of these crashing branches several times.  People I have looked up to.. (the higher I esteem them, the harder the shock), and trusted, have let me down.  Maybe I wasn’t looking closely enough, but I thought they were really connected to the Tree.  The leaves were green!  They had an amazing testimony, or a thriving ministry. Then one day – crash!  I feel let down, betrayed, angry, and saddened by the ensuing injury caused to those around them.   As I observed a few years ago in a post called Ending Well, this is not at all uncommon.  Many begin with life, but then move out of His Life and into the flesh, living on yesterday’s revelation and move of  God.  They sound genuine because they are talking of real things that happened in the past.  But they are no longer being moved or directed by the Spirit.

Why am I shocked?  Why do I put my faith in a human or an organization?  Why do I think I’m immune to the same fate?

Christianity is full of teaching on how to make our life better with Jesus.  But the Royal Law…(love God with your whole heart, mind, and soul, and one another as Jesus has loved us)… doesn’t say anything about following Jesus to make ourselves happy.  I won’t say He won’t bring us peace, joy, and contentment, but there is a greater purpose to our lives when taking on His name.  We are created as branches to beautify the Tree, and to bear fruit.  When we crash and fall, we not only mar the image of the Tree that the world sees, but can potentially cause spiritual and emotional injury to those around us.

Some have entered seasons of severe doubt through these downfalls of prominent Christians.  People wonder, “If they were false, maybe the Tree isn’t real either?”  We can fault their misplaced faith, yet at the same time, Jesus spoke very clearly about religious hypocrisy.  The Church loves to make excuses for it, and demand that the world accept them in this state.  But I believe our Bridegroom desires us to be real, so we may be healed.  (See the message to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3).  Hypocrisy comes not when we sin, but when we pretend we don’t.   And we have a horrible blind-side when it comes to our own heinous sins, while we point our fingers at how badly our culture has spiraled into depravity.

Are the green leaves on our branch dead – just having the appearance of what we think a Christian is supposed to look like?  Or are we rooted and grounded in our Tree, to have His mind and Spirit in us – to be one with Him?  In all our self-serving religion, and all our busyness, and all our pride, it is so easy to forget for what purpose we have been redeemed.  Except for His grace, I am also a dead branch pretending to be hanging on the Tree of Life.  It is all of faith in Him, or it is nothing, and I am nothing.

The Good News is that God can do what we can’t do to a natural tree.  He can graft a dead branch back in and bring it to life.  He can heal, restore, and bring us all to forgiveness of ourselves and each other.  I pray to look only to the Tree for my strength and inspiration!

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.”  Revelation 3:2,3

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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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I recently entered a discussion with someone who expressed concern that I might be a little too heavy on grace and feel-good verses in the Bible and not heavy enough on the requirements of God. He is not SDA or Hebrew Roots, but an evangelical Christian who is zealously living out his faith in a way that puts 99% of us to shame. I have a great deal of respect for him and I understand his genuine concern for Christians to walk worthy of the Name they carry. I am very disgusted to see and hear believers justify their sin on the basis of grace.  None of us are perfect, but a believer should never justify himself in his sin. If he is not grieved, I also have to wonder if his faith is real. Our discussion moved into what defines legalism.  I am not in a position to discern if he is a legalist or not, but am responding here to some explanations he gave me.  I found it interesting to be having this discussion with someone in the evangelical world rather than with members of the various law-centered groups I have belonged to in the past.   I decided to post this so I can refer people here instead of repeatedly explaining my position over and over.

The interesting thing about legalism is everyone thinks they know what it is, but you can’t find anyone who will admit to being one. The very nature of the problem prevents people from seeing they have it. Only by looking to Jesus is this veil removed.

Your assertion that legalism is not defined in the Bible, as well as your own definition of it (that it is simply requiring more than God does) are both the hallmarks of how legalists often defend their positions. Using the phrases “what God requires” and “in order to be accepted by God” also are red flags to me that someone is confusing their legal standing with God, based on Christ’s all-sufficient work alone, and their own success in living up to the righteousness of God they see in Scripture. Even in your explanation that “what God requires is constant repentance for sin” in order to maintain His approval, you are creating an impossible standard that cannot be quantified. I can never know if I am even aware of every sin in motive, action, or omission. The fact that it may be hidden from me makes it no less a sin and no less in need of cleansing from my life. Our justification and approval before God however can be measured at 100% immediately in the moment of our salvation. It does not diminish to 80% or 25% on any given day based on our ability to keep our repentance up to date. If it is possible to fall back into unbelief (big if) then it would go from 100% to 0%. There are no in between states of being. You are in Christ, or you are not.

Legalism – which is coming to God through any other means than through faith (believing ALL He has promised) – is rebuked in its many forms all through the Bible in the Old and New Testaments. People do this in various ways, and for a wide array of reasons.  We often live by the natural reflex of our fallen nature.  We tend to think something has to depend on us, try to do God’s work in our own way, or accomplish what only God alone can do. We try to get around really submitting to God by looking like we love him on the outside, while still following our own agenda and keeping our secret sins. While it often does manifest as a focus on man-made traditions or standards, it’s definitely not limited to that. We most certainly can be a legalist attempting to obey only God’s commands alone. It can also come in an over-emphasis on God’s laws instead of the Lawgiver (a form of idolatry) and man’s efforts instead of God’s work.

The worst forms of legalism in my opinion are those that teach you cannot be saved (and/or stay saved) unless you successfully meet God’s requirements in your Christian walk. They say, “Yes Jesus died for your past sins, but you better toe the line from now on or He may throw you back out.” There is an element of uncertainty here that can never be overcome and does not bring the “full assurance of faith” described in Hebrews. First of all we can’t find a clear picture of how high the bar is because people come away from Scripture with so many different conclusions about what our obligations are; and secondly, we can never truly know if we have “arrived” or if we have fallen. Even if you do not believe “once saved always saved” there is still much more assurance available in our relationship with Christ than this form of legalism allows. The opposite danger is for the legalist who has not received Christ to take comfort in his obedience as his assurance, filled with pride at his own performance. He is the Pharisee who prays, “Thank you Lord that you have not made me like this pitiful sinner I see over there.”

The New Covenant is conditional only in the sense that God’s covenant with Abraham was. Belief. Read what happened when God made the covenant with Abraham. God did it all, promised it all, and performed it all. He made the oath with Himself. Abraham was involved only to the point that as a bystander, he believed what God had promised. God called it righteousness. He wasn’t perfect either in living out his belief. He fell into doubt and works and tried to make the Promise come about how he thought it should happen.  Galatians equates this action of Abraham with the Sinai Covenant.  Both of these examples are demonstrations of the failure of works.  Works can’t bring about the Promise of God, and works don’t ever hold up our own promises to God.   In Christ, we are of the faith of Abraham. We believe the promise of God, but neither are we always perfect in walking in the Spirit when we find opportunities to do it our way.

Sinai was a temporary covenant intended to show man he can’t fix himself, and to foreshadow the perfect finished work in Christ.  He made this covenant with Israelites and all those who would agree to be circumcised and join them. (God’s principles are not temporary, but this contract and many details within it were.) It contained conditional blessings and curses depending on their obedience – having to do with the temporary physical realm. Salvation was never promised through this covenant, only earthly blessings and the status of being God’s Chosen People.  (Even though Israel broke the covenant, God promised them they would never cease to be a nation before Him.  He has kept that promise.  He has also promised to completely restore them.  God never breaks a promise.) The conditional nature of this covenant based on performance is never implied in the New Covenant. Obedience in the New Covenant comes as a RESULT of an unconditional promise, not a prerequisite.  Some legalists see the New Covenant as nothing more than the very same terms and laws as the Old Covenant – except Jesus gave you the power to keep up your end of the bargain now so you have no excuse for failure.  This is completely out of line with Hebrews, Romans, Galatians.. Acts..    Short of quoting the entire New Testament, this is trying to live for Jesus under Mt. Sinai, still making promises we can’t keep because like it or not, we are still living in fallen human flesh.

What God requires is absolute and complete perfection. No less. To say He demands less is to find a loophole somewhere (maybe another form of legalism?) I fully admit I can never meet God’s requirements. Only in Christ are they met. In Christ I stand fully and completely forgiven, past, present and future. If this is a dangerous truth – it would be only to those who have not truly known Christ. No one who knows Him can take Him for granted and respond to this flippantly. Result, not Requirement. It’s what God deserves from us, and develops in us – our reasonable service – a living sacrifice. There is no fear of condemnation in failure, but hope and victory when we give it to Him. If we are stubborn, He is faithful to discipline, not reject. (speaking as one who has been more stubborn than submissive). Can I fall into unbelief and throw His gift back into His face? Theoretically I guess it would be possible, but I can’t imagine it. Paul says the “The Love of Christ controls us.” That’s a pretty strong power. It flows from Him to Him and through us to others.

Jesus commanded us to obey Him and He said if we abide (not strive) we will have fruit. I have heard sermons detailing the “to do” list of how to abide in Christ. But Jesus gave a very simple explanation of His own command. “And this is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.” To have the love of Christ – that is our command. “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other.” But we don’t trust love. We run back to the many details of the letter of the Law, not realizing that Love IS the highest law. It covers morality, justice, compassion. It speaks to every situation. It raises the definition of sin considerably higher as well. I Corinthians 13 shows love is a more excellent way in every way. Self cannot exist on the throne in its presence.  It is the very essence of God Himself.  But this is not a reason to reject the Word of God which reveals He is also a God of wrath against wickedness and sin.  God is full of paradoxes we struggle to balance out. But children do not fear his wrath. We may need to stand in fear of his rod, but not his wrath.

We cannot be transformed to resemble the life of Christ by gazing at the ministry of death (the Law engraved on stones). It serves to show us our depravity, but does not offer any help or hope. (hence the name Paul gives it)

2Corinthians 3:17, 18: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

You cannot behold the Glory of the Lord and not be changed. Isaiah’s instant response was, “I am a man of unclean lips…” We realize our need AND we get the coals from the fire under the throne of God – to cleanse us – the power of our death to sin and a resurrected life!(Romans 7 & 8 )

The legalists in Judaism asked Jesus,

John 6:28, 29 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The very next word a legalist says is “But…” There is no but. As with Abraham, so with us.

Everything else grows out from there, and the Promise of God does not depend on the level of maturity we achieve from this point onward. Our rewards in the Kingdom are, but not our destiny of eternal fellowship with God.

If we belong to God I believe we will love Him and bear fruit, but I also think we need to be careful in judging the fruits of others. Not only can we be fooled by fake fruit that looks real, but we can also sometimes miss genuine fruit and pass judgment when we have no right to do so. I do believe we need to be accountable to one another in humility, with a great deal of discernment and love, not being puffed up – remembering what we are without Christ. Very few people can hold others accountable in love and humility. Paul said he wrote to the Corinthians, those hard sounding letters, in tears. I don’t see that too often in those who wish to expunge sin from our midst.

I am deeply grieved as you are by “believers” who live as if they have been set free to sin. I don’t know how anyone who has truly seen Jesus and realized the gift of God could not care if they spit on Him an bring shame to His name by calling themselves a Christian. But as I’ve already stated and continue to be redundant, this horrible situation is not cured by placing external demands on people. They must see Jesus as He is and fall on Him in brokenness, either as a lost person, or an immature believer either one. The solution is the same. It is the only way the heart is changed.

Where the Spirit has fruit (Gal. 5:22) legalism also has fruit which is cold, hard, unmerciful, and demanding. It is also often arbitrary because when rules are the focus it becomes impossible to be consistent. It doesn’t understand “exceptions” as Jesus tried to explain to the Pharisees, reminding them of how David ate the bread that was only for the priesthood. It can’t bend for mercy. Judaism has written volumes of Talmud trying to clarify and protect the Law. Legalism of any form always has to do this. People react to the the FRUIT of legalism without realizing the root problem. That’s why they can’t put their finger on what it is.. they sense something amiss, but the root is hidden deep. Often people who are the most disturbed by it have the same problem and they don’t even realize it. There are few things more fierce than legalists battling each other! 😀

After I had lived as a believer for several years, I came to a place that felt like spiritual death, in spite of all my fervent religious activity. I was in misery and thought I must need to try harder. I lost all desire to worship, to reach out, and wanted so badly to just give up because I saw no transformation taking place in myself or anyone else around me in the group we were in. We were very proud of some aspects of our “obedience” but it had not done anything at all to change the things that mattered the most. Finally through reading the gospels and hearing the words of Jesus I was terrified to realize the fruit I valued and was striving to produce had nothing to do with the kind of fruit Jesus said His followers would have. Mine was based on performance, His were centered in having my heart motivated by love – no fake imitations. I was so far from what I saw there that I knew I couldn’t even claim to be His follower at all, even though I appeared very religious, and led a very upright, moral life. It was a time of intense grief and repentance, but I am so thankful God revealed this sin to both me and my husband independently and nearly simultaneously. My deepest sorrow was that I had put Jesus in the backseat and had my “obedience” riding up front with me for all to see, and I was driving!! Now I endeavor to let Him drive, and I try not to be a backseat driver.  (He is now my chauffeur.)

Since then I pray for real fruit and God is continuing to answer. He is changing my heart and attitudes. I love people I couldn’t love. I am becoming less cold, hard, and judgmental. Instead I say, “But for the grace of God, there I am. Father help them!” It’s not the old me.  Because of the love He is pouring into me and through me, I read I John’s words where he says, “I write these things to you so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” and agree – not because of what I do, but precisely because I know I didn’t do it, and none of it has come from me. All of God, none of me. The litmus test in I John, in context, is love – over and over he says this. But for some reason, people see the word “commandments” and run back to a list of rules on stone tablets. Those rules fall so short of what God wants to create in us. We are not without law. We have a higher law and a better promise.

Some legalists are not saved because they have never trusted the work of Christ, but believe they earn their way to heaven. But I know some have received the gift, but are not aware of what they possess. Both the legalist and the freedom-loving antinomian spend most of their time pointing out each other’s faults, but both need to see Jesus and the fullness of the Promise and the Sacrifice.

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My four year old daughter and her younger brother excitedly ran to the playground they had been begging to visit for three days.  I sat on the bench watching them slide and climb.. for about 10 minutes.  When my mind stopped the habitual space travel of a lazy Sunday afternoon, my eyes and mind focused together on what my children were doing.  After dreaming of this place as if it were Disneyland, they were in fact playing around the playground on the landscape timbers that bordered the play area, trying to balance and walk around them.  Soon they tired of this and took to running and chasing each other around the wooden borders, wandering off to pick flowers, investigating a bird bath full of rain water and exploring the contents of a metal pail used as an ashtray in a nearby gazebo.  How could they so quickly tire of this thing they desired so greatly?  I saw a perfect example of human nature which demonstrated what the Holy Spirit began speaking to my heart over two years ago.  Two weeks ago,  the burden returned in full force and will not leave me in peace.  As the National Day of Prayer comes this week, what this picture symbolized to me will be the focus of my repentance and petition to God.

To be a Christian is a call to love and follow Christ in a very real way.  Our identity should never be in a subset of beliefs, often a name ending with an “ism” or  movement of some kind.  When we love HIM as we should, our focus becomes more clear.  Our desire is rekindled.   We find we cannot take one step without Him.  We realize all we do outside of Him is of no consequence.

I recently picked up a book my husband had purchased at a church planting seminar a few years ago.  I restlessly opened up to a random page as I often do trying to get  feel for what a book is about.  The page I turned to had this to say:

While I was an impressionable seminary student, I was given a definition (of church) that was really more of a description.  Church was explained as embodying these five characteristics:

1.  A group of believers that gathered regularly…

2.  That considered itself a church…

3.  That has qualified elders present…

4.  That regular practices the ordinances of baptism and communion as well as church discipline…

5.  And that has an agreed-on set of doctrinal beliefs.

These are all good qualities for any church to have.  Most of our churches, in fact, would meet these standards, but I think that this list is missing something very important.  I often ask groups what is missing from this description.  After a few minutes of responses, I generally tell them what I think is missing if they haven’t already found it.

Jesus is missing!

One of my most respected mentors, a theologian and career missionary, once told me that Jesus is assumed in the definition because it is believers who are gathered.  My response was, “Why would you assume Jesus’ presence but make sure that a qualified elder is present?”

This assumption betrays a problem in our churches, a serious one.  The church is often more about what we bring to the table than what God does.  I heard a Korean pastor who made a tour of the United States and at the end of his visit summarized his observations by commenting, “It’s amazing what you people can do without the Holy Spirit.”  I believe it was A .W. Tozer who once announced that if the Holy Spirit were removed from the churches in America on Saturday, most would go on the next day as if nothing had changed.”   (Neil Cole, The Organic Church p. 49,50)

This same Sunday that I took my children to the playground, our pastor preached a powerful message on Ezekiel 9-11 detailing how the presence of God had left Judah and his judgment was sure.  He asked if this happened to America, and the Church here, “Would anyone notice?  Would anyone care?”   Those are the questions burning in my mind as well.

My thoughts go back to Moses and the children of Israel.  After their sin of idolatry with the golden calf  they were punished, but still did not have the presence of God in the camp, but in the tent of meeting set up outside.  God had told them to go up into the Land of Milk and Honey, but He was not going to go with them.  Moses begged and pleaded with God,

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”  Exodus 33:15, 16

Why do we, with a better promise and better Covenant,  so confidently march on with our agendas, not seeking the direction of Jesus, our Head, the Commander in Chief?  Why do we speak of the Holy Spirit as an abstract idea or theory, and have no expectation for the reality of His Presence?   We would not notice if Jesus left the building because we have not cared to invite Him into our affairs in the first place.

Why do we give God lip-service but behave as if He is not actually real or expect Him to move among us?

I could write pages on probable answers – but if we keep asking “why” after each answer, I believe we would eventually reach down past many symptoms and secondary failures to the ultimate source of the problem.  We love ourselves and our pride more than we love our Savior.  If we truly loved Him with all our heart mind and soul, as the first great commandment given, we would seek Him.  If we sought Him, we would love Him more and fervently desire to be in His presence.  We would be like David who longed for Him like a deer pants for water, a primal desire for life itself.  If we loved Him more, we would believe Him more fully in everything He promised.  If we believed Him, we would trust Him in all our ways.  If we trusted Him, we would follow and obey Him.  If we obeyed Him, the world would see Him through us.  If the world saw Him and not us, it would be drawn to also love Him, or hate Him, being confronted to make a decision.  As it is, we don’t bring anything of eternal value into the world when we promote ourselves and our “isms”.   The world may accept or reject us, our special message,  focus, or movement, our attitudes, our agendas.  But do they ever see Jesus?  Why did we stop longing for and earnestly following the one we call Lord?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?   Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”  Luke 6:46-49

How many Christians have much of a grasp on the actual words of Christ?  I hear so little of Him in churches it astounds me.   Why do we find it more interesting to talk about anything and everything and everyone else?  In the gospel of John Jesus repeatedly draws attention to the importance of His WORDS.  They are life.  John says Jesus is THE Word, both in his gospel account, and in Revelation.   His Word is still alive and ongoing through His Spirit, and how many of us are listening?  Some don’t even believe it’s possible to hear it in the first place.  He is a resurrected living and active Word.  He called us to be disciples, not passive pew sitters.  Disciples follow and do as they are instructed, in all humility and trust of their loved Teacher.  He has called us to take up a cross and follow, but He also promised that the burden of His yoke was light, and He would give us rest.  Seems to be contradiction, but only if we have not been sitting at His feet to understand.  The cross is what brings the rest.

Jesus,

Forgive us for loving so many things and leaving our first love.  Draw us to fall on our faces in grief and repent of being self-willed, idolatrous, covetous, proud.  Restore us to our first love –  a desire for nothing but You alone.  Fill our mind’s eye with a vision of your love for us and teach us that our high calling is in You, not ourselves.   Forgive us for our unbelief as we go about our lives as if  You are a distant spectator from heaven and not in us or among us as You have promised to all who would call on Your name.  Forgive us for seeking you mechanically without faith and longing, and often, not at all.  Forgive us for being amused with objects of so little consequence.  Grant us the ability to forgive our brothers and sisters, remembering we are no better than any other and have received the same mercy.   Give us true sight – to seek genuine fruit of Your Spirit and not the false external performance men so often admire.

Jesus, call us, your people, to humble ourselves and repent.  Fall on us with a fire that cleanses and empowers us for the days ahead, unless we be like Israel in the days of their judgment who said,  “If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.”   Isa 1:9

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

Rev 2:4,5

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