9 May, 2017 § Leave a comment
Why are there so many religions?
Why are there so many denominations within Christianity?
Proponents of Christianity have fielded these sorts of questions for some time, to varying degrees of intelligibility, and, to an extent, I will answer these questions and offer the biblical citations of my thought process but ultimately I want to deal with the problem of functional apostasy within the Church.
Functional Apostasy is essentially the answer to the above questions and all of their delineations, but before we define what functional apostasy is, we need to understand what the Bible says about the Church.
The Church, literally, the assembly, is a fluid gathering of people who have believed in The Way; the teachings of Jesus on how to be reconciled to the Father through belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, resulting in repentance for their rebellion against the Father and baptism to signify being put to death with Christ and raised with Him to newness in life; identifying as adopted by the Father, in servitude to the Son, their King, and sent by the Holy Spirit. (For more information start here).
In short, we are people;nothing more, nothing less. People who have been saved from the penalty of sin, are being saved from the power of sin and will be saved from the presence of sin–a whole bunch of us. Now, where that is true, a gathering of people being saved from the power of sin will be errant from time to time and in need of correction both individually and corporately. This is where functional apostasy enters the scene. Unlike your run of the mill apostasy where someone has denied some core doctrine of the faith or is living in open sin which results in Matthew 18 intervention, functional apostasy is systemic in nature.
Now, let’s define functional apostasy.
Functional Apostasy is the belief that the Church is anything other than you and me on our journey to the Father with the Holy Spirit as our guide and the Bible as our road map. It is the belief that the internal structure of the gathering can be built on anything other the foundation that Jesus is the Christ as Jesus lays out in Matthew 16:16 or that the feast of communion is anything less than about declaring that as much as it depends on us, we are one with God and man as Jesus prayed for in John 17:21 or that our one function is anything more or less than to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them everything Jesus has commanded us just as Jesus spelled out in Matthew 28:18-20 and in Acts 1:8. It is any deviation from that path set before us.
If you want to know why we need the New Testament it is so that we can read books like Galatians where they were instantly caught in a cycle of functional-church-wide-apostasy. What was the deviation? They believed that there was another way to tell who was really a believer other than to get into their lives and find out. It was the belief that you have to do something other than obey Jesus to signify that you are a believer in the Way–and that my friends is functional apostasy; the belief that we need more than the Bible, and more than the Spirit of God and His ministry of reminding us of what Jesus has said to live the Christian life.
Why are there so many denominations within Christianity? Because at some point somebody decided that the church is more than you and me on our journey, as I’ve said; that the church exists despite its members and is the ultimate authority for truth, which usually comes down to meaning that what they teach is the result of another fallen man or woman who did the hard work of working out their own salvation with fear and trembling but still fell short of the glory of God. What has resulted then is a whole following of that believer in an “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos,” fashion that is essentially building believers up into their figure who is a pale comparison to Christ and as a result their disciples fall in the same ways that they personally fell and find it difficult to believe the same things about God that they struggled with personally. These distinctives were then codified and one by one history marks the start of another fracture in the body of Christ because of their functional apostasy.
Why are there so many religions? Because, eventually, the end result of functional apostasy is faith in someone who is not God. Romans 1:18-25
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
It starts as a deviation and then gradually, over time, your denomination becomes the gateway for your children or your grandchildren or their children to go hell because of the entropy of the full knowledge of God and the continued acceptance of anything other than what the Bible teaches as profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction or for training in righteousness.
7 May, 2017 § Leave a comment
Some of the first evils which we encounter in this life are imaginary; the monsters under our beds and the cretins that creep in the shadows–ultimately what lies in the unknown of our minds preoccupied, on the whole, with snips and snails or else sugar and spice. Our one escape is call for our mommies and have them replant our feet in the knowledge that, “There is no such things as monsters” by which, of course they are saying that what is in your head is of no consequence and ought to be forgotten post haste. And so this has continued from the time when story telling lost its oral tradition and became enshrined on the flat pages that are now the only words which inspire us to face the monsters under someone else’s bed. So we find empathy in the sorrows of another, and feel victory when we read of them conquering their fears and their foes. Yet, we do not face our own monsters with such valiance but with the denial of the actuality of what exists only in our minds. We repeat to ourselves that monsters do not exist, but in our heart of hearts we still believe in them and they still terrorize our dreams and possess the shapes of, “real life,” characters, but we no longer possess the knowledge of the ability to take back what is good from the monsters who have taken it for themselves to cripple us with fear. We have started asking the question, “What if monsters were real,” meaning tactile, and delineating that question to its ultimate ends and making multi-million dollar media out of it but still keep away from the dark mass that is now making us money but leading us surely to our own demise; for in all our imaginative delineations we have been asking the wrong question all the time. We ought to be asking, “What if what is in my mind is a real force with which to be reckoned?” If we do not face our own monsters we must then come to the conclusion that if the monsters in my mind are not real (which we do not ultimately believe) then there is no hero to rescue us and, therefore, no hope. This is why we must face what we cannot see with more than denial and no less than a valiant warrior to do battle with the evils we encounter.
22 January, 2017 § Leave a comment
This is a brief thought that I have been wrestling with the last couple of days:
To give honour to someone is to interact with them in light of their identity in Christ; to recognize the weight that has been attributed to their name because of what God has done through Christ Jesus. Honour leads to respect; our own gift to that person of admission and recognition of their value and identity in Christ. Respect leads to submission as the recognition of God’s name, His servant and His sent one calls us to give them precedence over ourselves and assuming the towel of servitude we wash their feet in an effort to identify with Christ–honouring them through our submission.
Honour, respect, submission, this cycle of selflessness is what we are called to in the scriptures in all of the “one another’s” in the New Testament. But often we come out of the cycle and demand one or other without the rest. Submission without respect is slavery and respect without honour is the blind leading the blind. You cannot come out of the cycle and demand that a wife respect her husband or that a husband love his wife if neither of them honour one another for who God has said that they are; the helpmeet–the headship and go forward from their identity into their deeds.
3 December, 2015 § Leave a comment
This is part 2 of the Love of Money series we are running. For context you may want to start at (un)Converted Income.
A gospel oriented theology of resources starts with a proper understanding of God as our loving Father, who gives good gifts and through whom we receive every good gift starting with salvation. He lavished His love on us by supplying a way to be free from the penalty of sin, and in the same way He continues the work that He started to save us from the power of sin, and when Jesus returns He will save us from the presence of sin. This lavish giving of gifts is not restricted to the spiritual realm but because of His great love for us, He sends the summer rains on the whole planet giving resources to the righteous.
Access to those resources is granted to those who are counted faithful. Faithfulness to God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills means that it doesn’t matter the number of digits in your bank account or whose name is on the deed of the house you rent or want to rent or what the price of diesel is or how much it costs to heat your home. When you are faithful to your Father, He is faithful to see that the righteous does not go hungry. God is our father who loves us, and rewards faithful, devoted and loving service with an endless supply of resources.
Now, if we are honest we ought to be saying at this point, “That rules me out then,” but the gospel is that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life of faithful, loving, devoted service so that His track record could be applied to us. The only reason we will ever hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” is because of Jesus and His total dependency on the Father.
So why write about the faithful, loving handling of God’s resources? Because Jesus makes an interesting statement in Luke 16:13 that I think we need to address. He says that a servant cannot faithfully serve, love, or be devoted to two masters. The idea here is that you can only be the faithful servant of one master. Faithfulness to one master is disloyalty to the other. To love one master is to loath the other, devotion to one is to despise the other. As we addressed in (un)Coverted Income, God’s total ownership of our lives does not and cannot be transferred by a mere conversion from money to wants and necessities. This principle of faithfulness extends to our relationship with God and with each other. In many ways this is a continuation of Jesus’ working definition of faithfulness.
Faithfulness involves total investment. Faithfulness is singular in nature; you cannot be duplicitous and faithful at the same time. Faithfulness to God as our master means that we must jealously guard what has been entrusted to us, even while we seek every opportunity to bless and invest in others in order to maximize spiritual growth and thus be entrusted with more than when we first started. Singular faithfulness to God results in singular faithfulness to what God entrusts to your care. This includes your spouse, your unconverted income, and your converted income etc. Let’s look at the alternatives.
Faithfulness to unconverted income ends when you convert it. This is why a lot of people like to see the number in their account and never bless anyone including themselves with the blessings that God has given them .
Faithfulness to your converted income ends when it is stolen or rusts.
Faithfulness to your spouse ends when they don’t show the degree of faithfulness to you as you might think they should. You start to be jealous of his/her friends and controlling of where they go and with whom they go.
The result of living holy lives, devoted to faithfulness to God in His entirety is that we live the lives that God intended for us to live. Not conflict free lives, or lives that are free from want but lives that are free from worry, and anxiety because of our unbelief. Believe that God is who He says He is. Believe that God owns what He says He owns, and act accordingly. God is a much better master than money, because money only desires to perpetuate itself, God desires to perpetuate you.
30 November, 2015 § 1 Comment
10“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:10-13
Jesus makes a connection here between faith, love, devotion and service that if we ignore we will perhaps inadvertently be pulled into the worship of something other than God–Jesus cites money here because the worship of money is so prevalent. To worship is to build your life entirely on or upon something or someone.
Jesus uses the analogy of one who is a steward of a much richer man’s belongings. The richer man gives a small amount to the steward who deals faithfully with it. Based on Jesus’ other teachings on stewardship, I’m inclined to believe that the result of having dealt faithfully with another man’s possessions is to present them back in better condition and/or more voluminous than when they first came into your possession. This takes a certain amount risk tolerance on the believer’s part when they invest God’s resources into the mission. This, consequently, is where we start to be unfaithful and build securities other than wisdom (Prov. 3:4; Ecc. 7:2) into the structure of our lives and our churches. What we have down in our little black books as God’s rightful possession, that all important 10%, goes to God, but because of the conversion of the other 90% from money to fuel, food, rent and leisure, we lose sight of the fact that they are still God’s possessions with which we must deal faithfully. This is what Jesus meant when He said that, “…life is more than food, and the body more than clothing,” (Luke 12:23). To seek God’s Kingdom is to assimilate yourself into God’s Kingdom where paying rent and buying groceries are seen as no less of an act of worship than to tithe 90% of your unconverted income. Through the continual submission of all of life to Jesus, we ought to be able to count every percentage of our whole lives as tithed unto the Lord. This mindset comes only from the proper belief in God as our Father who provides for every need according to His riches in glory–even that which would cost Him His only Son in order that we would be made beloved children and extend that offer to all of humanity through all of life. What God has done to you, He desires to do through you.
27 November, 2015 § Leave a comment
You’re joining us at the end of our What is a Missional Church? series. If you want a bit more context you can start two posts back at Foundation.
In case you haven’t been getting the message; just because we know how the Church started and why the Church is the way that it is, doesn’t mean that we are justified when our traditions cause people to have a wrong understanding of God’s true nature and therefore cause them to be in sin. It is a must that we allow God’s redemptive story to overshadow Church History in the same way that we are being continually transformed into the image of Jesus. The true Church body has been saved from the penalty of sin, each individually started on the straight and narrow path of sanctification, submitting all of life to Jesus as we go. This brings us to Mission.
The last verses in Matthew 28 are some the most famous verses among those who are striving to live on mission. What I want to cover today is the truth that led me to plant in Milford. When we isolate people from their everyday lives with the intention of affecting their position in Christ, we save only one person, but when trust that Jesus’ authority still holds weight and obey him as we go along, then we will be fearless to speak the gospel into all of life thereby making disciples by baptising them and teaching them everything that Jesus has commanded.
As You Go
It has been a real test to apply the gospel to all of life after having been raised in the current church culture of separatism. My standby has been to hold a meeting if I want to share the gospel, or invite someone to a meeting if I want them to hear the gospel–not to speak directly into their situation and give them the God who dwells in me for all of life instead of the God who only applies in certain situations. At times I fail to believe Jesus when He says that He will be with me as I am going, or that the Spirit will be give me the words to speak, or that the Father will provide for me as His totally dependant child if it goes wrong and I lose a friend or alienate myself from a neighbor or my boss. Obedience to the mission means faith in who God says He is as the father who gives good gifts, the Spirit who channels those gifts and the Son who lends us His authority and what He has said He will do which is never leave us. When fulfilling the mission it must happen in the context of the people we are trying to reach.
I need to be frank for a second. Jesus does not call us to go unto all the world and implement church structure. Discipleship precedes church structure. I’ve covered this at length in another post so I won’t beat a dead horse. My point in bringing it up is that when we are going with the gospel, we go to a people not a location. Jesus divides disciple making into two steps.
Baptism is the only proper response to the gospel that we see in the scriptures. There are no post resurrection believers who come to Jesus by any other means than through the waters of baptism, being put to death (figuratively) and raised to newness in life. This is another article. It is the primary marker of having come to the gospel. The second is to be increasing in the knowledge of God.
Teaching Them to Observe Everything I have Commanded You
I think I’ve said it elsewhere, but I believe that when Acts 2 talks about the believers continuing in the apostles teaching along with prayer and breaking bread, I believe that this is what Luke meant; that the apostles actually obeyed Jesus when He commanded them that the second step in making disciples is to teach them how to observe the commands of Jesus in all of life. To be uncertain in this point is to exude a type of gnosticism that clouds the apostles teaching in mystery so as to say that they did their own thing after Jesus ascended.
I Am With You
We cannot forget this point. We are able to make disciples because Jesus gives us the authority first to be Children ourselves and then to extend the offer of salvation and adoption to the rest of humanity. He remains with us through the entire experience of life. Jesus supplies what He demands of His Church. If we ask anything in His name He will do it. We can rest in His work because we know that while we work He is alongside of us reassuring us of His power and presence.
I hope this series has helped clarify for you the identity of the missional church. If you have any questions please comment.
20 November, 2015 § Leave a comment
There is a lot of misinformation within the Church when speaking and writing about being Missional. Christianity Today has been running articles written by Ed Stetzer defaming the majority of Missional Churches as being rather unguided and silly, claiming that to be missional in these churches is paramount to reading chaotic ink blotches (See Rorschach Test) and making inferences about the world around us without the Scriptures. I’m reminded of Romans 3:7-8
“ 7But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.”
If what Stetzer says is true, than his condemnation is just, but is seems to me that he lacks any basis for his allegations, he makes no reference to the churches based around the fallacies he is denouncing. But the reality is that for a Church to be truly missional, it must first be repentant of the way that we have turned the body of Christ into the Business of Christ. It hits us first in our pocket and is revealed most evidently in the way that we go about expanding the Kingdom of God as if they were franchises of a Fortune 500 Club business. In order to move forwards, the body of Christ must first breath in and examine the roots of Christianity. We have one foundation, one feast and one function and when we stray from these three we cease to be missional. Let me be clear. A missional church must first be a repentant church. Let’s examine our foundation.
When Jesus left the original disciples on the mount of Olives, He did not leave them as a foundationless, unorganized people with commands to obey but no foundation or blueprint with which to build His church. Earlier in His ministry He established the foundation of the Church as the fact that He is the Christ the Son of the Living God.(Mtt 16:13-18) He acknowledges this from His disciple Simon whom He gives a new identity to, because God had revealed this to him. Jesus changes his name from Simon, meaning, “like the grass,” to Peter which means, “Rock”. This is pretty basic, most Christians have no issue confessing that the foundation on which we build is Christ. But our confession doesn’t match our practice. If we are under the impression that God left the design of His kingdom in the hands of a bunch of fishermen and tax collectors, and zealots to come up with a brilliant, reproducible, interdependent organization with which to continue the ministry of reconciliation to the world, then we need to read our Bible again.
Our practice reveals our belief in a God whose sol purpose was to dictate what we believe about Him, but the end justifies the means. I have heard teachers waffle about what the teachings of the Apostles were to the church that they were continuing in along with prayer and breaking bread. I tend to think that they were obedient to Jesus when He commanded them to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that He had commanded them. (Mtt 28:16-20) I also tend to think that they were listening to the Spirit who was reminding them continually of the things Jesus taught them. (Jn 14:26) We, however, are under the impression that they immediately came up with their own gig. That right out of the gate they built on Jesus as the foundation but that the structure itself was man made. We proclaim this to the world by the fact that the only thing that links some of our churches is what we believe about God (some of it). We have white towered the truths about who God is and what He has done and not let it define who we are and as a result where we live, what we drive, where we work, who we marry, how we parent, how we do business and ultimately how we structure the church. For us to move forward we must repent of building with wood hay and stubble and repair the breach in our practice that exists because the fiery darts of the devil keep burning a hole in our defenses. In order for people to be the living stones that the Church is built out of, they must actually be be built up in the gospel (Eph 4) otherwise they’re only bundles of kindling and hay bales masquerading. The way that we return to our foundation is through repentance of wrong belief in God. I won’t say that I have completely repented because there are still areas that God pulls me on but here are a few that started me down this path.
Repent of my unbelief in who God says He is.
Repent of believing that God’s blueprint for the church won’t work in the 21st Century.
Repent of decentralizing myself from the mission.
Repent of centralizing my belief in God around a location instead of His people.
Repent of making church a mere Bible Study, Support Group or Activist Group.
I’ll work on bringing Feast and Function in the coming days. In the meantime don’t forget to comment.