In this concluding section, we will look at one of the most dividing/unifying principles in Scripture - how to decide if a matter should be used as a test of fellowship.
As the growing threats of ISIS and other anti-Christ forces brutalize Christians in the Middle East, many are asking what Christians can do here at home in order to unite forces and better prepare. While efforts by the media, ACLU, and vigilante atheist groups grow in their bid to silence America's Christians, many are pleading for stronger unity among Christian denominations. While I believe that a fragmented Christian community offers a very poor defense against the coming darkness, I also believe that unity at all cost is a proven mistake. For hundreds of years, the denominational world has suggested that greater unity requires greater compromise. I ask you, how is that working out? Much like the politically correct propaganda of "color blindness" has not solved racial injustice, "denominational blindness" will not solve divisiveness within Christendom. Denying reality is rarely effective.
Perhaps the key to unity within Christendom is not denying our differences, but rather using our differences as a sifting agent to magnify the importance of Divine authority.
Think of a pebble being dropped into a pool of water. Consider the rings that ripple outward from the center. If you wanted to retrieve the pebble, the best place to look would be at the center of those ripples. So it is with life. The source of our beginning and the core of our most intimate fellowship is found in the center. In order to return to the source, we must journey back through the rings.
The journey of life is all about finding purpose. Why are we here? Who put us here? What does He expect of us? What can we do to please Him? By God's design, answers are found while traveling toward the intense fellowship at the center of the rings. Each of us are at different stages along that line of progression and our level of fellowship is governed accordingly.
Our journey begins on the outskirts of life's ripples. As newborn infants, we know only one thing - human value. Self-awareness leads us to place ultimate importance upon our own needs. As those needs are met by others, we bond with them and our appreciation for human value grows even more. When God launches each person onto the timeline of their human experience, He does so at this level. Like a father encouraging his child to take her first step, He coaxes us toward the next ripple of fellowship then the next and the next. Even atheists experience this outer ring and do, therefore, have at least a diluted level of fellowship with those who have journeyed further.
In the next ring, we begin to process more about the world around us. Obvious design leads us to conclude that there must be a Designer. We fascinate over creation and our curiosity leads us to a superficial worship. Even though, for most, curiosity never leads them to a full commitment, the fellowship experienced at this level is much deeper than it is for those who remain at the outer ring.
The journey into the next ring presents the most difficult transition thus far. In this ring, we confront the fragility of the human experience. The physical realm begins to falter and we look beyond our casual acknowledgement of a Designer, seeking hope from beyond the material world. In a state of sinful darkness, our urgent conviction causes us to grope about for answers. We call out, "What must be done to gain the favor of the One Who exercises ultimate control over my existence?" We learn that our sin has led to the death of God's one and only Son. We plead for a solution and we mentally accept that Jesus is that solution.
Fellowship within this ring has the potential to bring unity when worldly issues are concerned. Christians can and should cooperate to achieve goals involving family values, world hunger, poverty, disease, and hundreds of other earthly issues. Unity within this ring is essential for physical survival. This is the level at which the majority of Christians are able to join forces against ISIS, the ACLU, vigilante atheist groups, and any other worldly persecution that threatens Christ-likeness. This is the level that offers the greatest potential of numeric unity.
Even though the potential fortification we can build within this third ring is substantial, it is far from being complete. Unity at this level only allows us to fight for physical comforts. It only draws us together over issues of the material realm. True spiritualism can only be found within the center ring. Only through a water/Spirit rebirth (John 3:5) can ultimate fellowship with the Creator and His children be experienced.
The journey into the center ring is the most important transition of all (Romans 6:3-4). Its importance is so great that Satan concentrates his legions and intensifies his efforts at this point. He invests more of his deceptive energy at the edge of this ring than he does at any other place within the human experience. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, he masquerades as an angel of light. He tickles the ears of the gullible and convinces the masses that their journey is complete. "Conviction is enough," he whispers. "Going any further would only be an insult to God. You can't earn your own salvation! Stop here. Take your ease. Eat, drink and be merry! You've gone far enough." Unfortunately, this is the level at which most religious people end their journey. The damnable doctrines of Calvinism and other denominational teachings distract travelers from fully journeying into the center ring. The masses come so close, yet Satan's minions successfully convince them to pull up short. Truly the words of Christ are most profound when He warns, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)
In order to restore God's blessing to America, the church must look beyond physical security. Spiritual unity at the center of the rings is the goal and we must not pull up short. While many silver-tongued denominational leaders are calling for unity at all cost, it is essential that we resist their shortsightedness and stay on course. To fully take advantage of this temporary reprieve and cleanse the church, we must begin at the entryway.
Romans 6:3-4 (NIV) "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
The church has many areas in need of cleansing, but the most heinous of all are the corrupted versions of God's plan for salvation (entrance into the center ring). This is why I am so relentless with this topic. Why would we start the cleaning inside the front door when the welcome mat is a mud pit?
Q: Have you ever wondered why is it so hard for the religious world to accept the fact that baptism for the remission of sins is essential for salvation? It seems everyone accepts the need for hearing, believing, repenting, and confessing. Why does baptism face such stiff resistance?
A: Satan knows that baptism is the very threshold into Christ (Roman 6:3-4). Satan views those other steps as acceptable losses so long as he can keep us just outside, only one step shy of salvation in Christ.
Until we get back to teaching Acts 2:47, Romans 6:3-4, and Acts 2:38 (God adds those who are baptized into His Son for the purpose of removing sin), our attempts at intimate family fellowship will be without Divine validation. Christendom will try to generate unity, but instead, we will continue to divide along denominational lines of human doctrines.
Because of the entitlement false teachings of grace without any personal responsibility to accept it ("Unconditional election," "Irresponsible grace," etc.), many are trying to have full fellowship with folks who aren't even citizens of the kingdom. These undocumented aliens may have been awarded human approval, but their names are not recorded in the Lamb's Book of Life (Acts 2:47, Revelation 21:27). Only those who are in Christ are in the center ring (Romans 6:3-4) and only those who are baptized for the remission of sins are in full surrender to the Lamb of God (Acts 2:38).
For centuries, Christianity has labored under the intellectual slavery of those who elevate their will above the inspired Word of God. In order to communicate with Heaven that we have learned our lesson and we appreciate this momentary reprieve, the filth of false teaching must be removed! We must cleanse the church!
Note: Because the word Christian means Christ-like, I have intentionally used it within this article to describe anyone who is pursuing a relationship with Jesus. However, being Christ-like and being Christ-bought can be two very different things. The first implies imitation, the other demands identification, a ransom experienced through immersion in the blood of Christ. Don't pull up short! Be both!
Unlike today's popular preaching of a "mild mannered Messiah," Jesus was a lightning rod for controversy. He both attracted it and initiated it.
It was that approach which caused many, including His own family, to conclude that Jesus was out of touch with the needs of His culture.
Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34-36, NIV)
Jesus publicly pointed out false teachers and referred to them disparagingly as children of hell, "blind fools," "hypocrites," "snakes," and "whitewashed tombs" (Matthew 23, NIV).
Jesus' approach disturbed many people, including His own family. Mark says, "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" (Mark 3:21, NIV)
Today, there are many folks thinking the same thing about The Lord's messengers who publicly expose false teachers and call for a cleansing of the church. "We need to 'take charge' of you!" they say. "We don't like it when you rock the boat! We've grown weary of all the bickering. Why can't you just overlook the differences and get along?"
But before you side with this secularized warm fuzzy approach to religion, be sure to notice how Jesus responded to the family members who disagreed with His approach and considered Him to be "out of his mind."
Mark 3:32-35, (NIV) "A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, 'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.' 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! WHOEVER DOES GOD'S WILL is my brother and sister and mother."
Q: Does Jesus think of us as His family if we are unwilling to follow His example and engage in the same level of confrontation in order to cleanse the church?
Missed the first four lessons in this study? Check it out!
The Best Thing We Can Do for America is Cleanse the Church!: "Illegal Aliens Among the Church"
"Draining the Swamp"
"Selfish, Spoiled, and Entitled"
"Building a Wall, Part 1"
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