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The Church, the Body of Christ

   
The 2020 series
Facilitating study & discussion among Christians
on critical topics that we prefer to ignore.
 

Last modified Oct. 16, 2020

 
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The Place to Start
 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Psa. 46:1-3

 
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
 

Life in the Kingdom of God is based on a walk with God that is centered on finding our identity and our sense of purpose and well-being in relationship with Him instead of in the things of the world. The will and purposes of God replace the former self-centered approach. That naturally results in a view of life that is radically different from our previous earthly, secular mindset, freeing us to see the hand and purposes of God in personal, national and global events.

 
It is important that Christians start to think and talk along those lines. I have written much on that, which can be linked to from the "Inspiration Site Map." However, I have some specific thoughts in "The Church, the Body of Christ." (below) and in "Practical Action Steps."
 
The Church, the Body of Christ
   
The true condition of the church as we have known it will be on vivid display when troubles come, and hopefully the nature of the true Church will come through. My sense is that we have some work to do before that can happen.
   

I am increasingly convinced that the typical organized church is as self-centered institutionally as its members are personally. It’s as focused on building, maintaining and preserving its comfortable facilities and its management systems and image, as its members are in establishing themselves as earthlings who fit comfortably into society. That shouldn't surprise us although it does impinge upon our utopian illusions about the church.

   

The church’s historic lack of commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission in an environment that is shaped by a Luke 9:23-26 mindset, which produces a Jesus-like and Kingdom-oriented lifestyle, which sacrificially takes the Gospel to the ends of the earth by the power of the Spirit - - combined with many leaders' apparent naiveté about our times and disregard for the need to equip its members for difficulty - - robs me of optimism that the church as we know it will be useful in God’s hand in the time to come.

   

We are NOT marked by His glory, nor “one in purpose” with Jesus and the Father, as He prayed for in John 17:22-23. PLEASE try to help me see it otherwise before dismissing me as a negative, cynical old man. I will listen carefully.

   

Jesus wants us to thrive, at least in our “inner man,” regardless of circumstances including “live or die” moments, and we need help with that. We need meaningful giving-and-receiving relationships alongside the institutional church. Some may be with persons inside that church, but such relationships will be more an expression of the Spirit-led and relationally-based I Cor. 12:27 Body of Christ than of the organized church itself. It is unfortunate that many in the pew and the pulpit assume they are one and the same. They are not. (The spiritual Church can exist within the institutional church but it is not safe to assume that it does.)

   

Shepherds & Hirelings
In John 10:1-15 Jesus spoke candidly (His typical style) of good shepherds and hirelings, and the difference was in their response when the wolf was coming. Well, the wolf is at the door and our church leaders declare themselves by whether they stand up to identify danger and respond to protect their flock, or flee to the safety of preaching and managing the institution as usual.

   

If you are in a church whose leaders exhibit Prov. 1:7 knowledge and Prov. 9:10 wisdom regarding our Day, they will be actively warning, equipping and encouraging you. If not, DO NOT TRUST them to act wisely when push comes to shove. If they couldn't see its spirit-nature when it was coming they won’t know it when it’s here. In the midst of the chaos they will entrench themselves even more deeply into the institutional model of church and are likely to compromise by submitting unwisely to governmental mandates in order to preserve the institution.

   
Hopefully you were wise enough to see that coming and had taken steps to prepare and protect yourself and those you love. Hard choices, made and expressed humbly but boldly, are the only safe option.
   
King Jesus
Isaiah 32:1-8
speaks of those who live under the reign of King Jesus. Even in hard times YOU CAN BE one of whom Isaiah 32:2 speaks, and can see the fruit of vv3-8 in those around you, but for most American Christians that will not happen within the life and culture of their local church institution.
   

Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Isaiah 32:2 niv

   
INSTITUTIONAL/RELATIONAL
The present church is institutional in nearly every way including organization, leadership, program and culture, and that won't work in the days to come. Only a relationally-based Church will survive. That has always been God's intention but it will soon be absolutely crucial. See my notes on ICF (Intentional Christian Fellowship) and ICF GROUPS.
   
Current social sentiments and court decisions suggest that it might not be long before churches will be fined and even have their doors barred if they refuse to marry or otherwise affirm those of the LGBTQ community. Such a possibility was unthinkable when I wrote THE COSMIC BATTLE in 2009. Are we ready for that?
   
The book THE COSMIC BATTLE AND THE AMERICAN CHRISTIAN (TCB) helps identify some new models for the Church. We're going to need them if we hope to thrive, or even survive in the time to come.
   
MEN
It is time for the men of the Church to step up and take initiative for the Church and their families. They must talk openly about how they will respond in a time of difficulty and join together in establishing plans of action. This is imperative.
   
FAMILIES/CHILDREN
Children will only feel secure in troubled times if their parents are secure. Many parents have work to do on that and I encourage you to get started.
   
Children can have a simple faith in God that enables them to bear up under suffering if that suffering is connected to their love for Jesus. Its likely that they would not want their parents to compromise in order to protect them, but again, it must be connected to Jesus. Our present, typically self-centered mindsets will disable us and them in hard times.
   
I encourage parents to read Heb. 10:32 - 12:3 to their children, maybe from the Living Bible. Make heroes of the heroes there. For now you don't need to tell them why you're doing it. Just sow those seeds in their hearts and the Spirit of God will make them grow. I also encourage the reading of a children's version of MARTYR'S MIRROR. Please read thisand this.
   
You can also build up your family with scriptures from Words of Instruction, Comfort and Encouragement. Read them yourself and to your family.
   
CHALLENGES TO UNITY:
As stress is placed upon the Christian community it will produce both unity and division. The two primary areas I see at this time are:
   
Left and Right - Our increasingly prominent and volatile social issues such as racism, LGBTQ, abortion, immigration, vaccines, globalism, response to governmental control, Israel, and "the chip" when it comes, are putting unprecedented pressure upon the unity of the Christian community. Their impact has often been subdued by our attempts to be "Christian," but that is changing and It will soon be impossible to preserve fellowship across those lines in the way we have been doing. Some things simply don't blend, and certainly good and evil do not. We will need to be more discerning than ever about dark spiritual forces behind some political and social agendas.
   
Theological/doctrinal differences. Christian churches agree on the few absolute essentials of our faith but separate over secondary issues. This is a time when we need to repent of that and bless each other despite our various preferences on secondary matters. However, some will insist that others agree with them, continuing the disunity and confusion within the church and for those who are looking to us for Light. Any Christian who feels the need to convince other Christians of his/her position on secondary issues will serve our enemy more than our Lord. We must be united in proclaiming salvation through faith in Christ, and the Life that He gives even in times of trouble.
 

 * Consider this: We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by viewing American and world events as a wake-up call. If Christian-Americans were to take this to heart the resultant repentance and new Life would make us more like the people God always intended us to be. This would extend the time of God’s grace upon America; and/or empower us to stand firm and to serve Him effectively through difficulties. If such difficulties are only imagined by some (like me), we would have become a more authentic and vibrant Church and would have enjoyed God in an incredibly richer way. Regardless, we win. And regardless, it would be another proof that all things, even evil, ultimately serve the Lord our God! - Isaiah 46:9-10 - II Peter 3:8-9

 
     
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