Blogtext: "Together with Him"

"If you have been raised with Him.."

If..

Why the question mark? Well throughout the history of the Christian Church the members have been drilled in responding to a formal creed and once you have learned to repeat them then you are 'in'.  The Creed sums up the basic tennets of that faith. A series of statements are made and if you give your assent to them, then you are considered in the know of what it is all about. If citing a creed is all that matters, that is.

    So the illusion has been deeply entrenched that if you believe these statements to be true in some sense, then all is well with you for time and eternity. However, what a formal creed of the Church is impotent to do, is to actually create the life of which the Creed is a mere abstract. Whether you believe in the existence of God, The Son and the Holy Spirit and a dozen doctrinal statements is of no account unless that belief has brought the very Life of Christ to you.

    If the life of Jesus Christ is not the life principle governing the believer, then conversion and salvation are only words on paper.  Here is the proof text:


    "
Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

    If, you see, big if! When you join a group of God's people in any church then you enter the company of people who have died to themselves, and who have been raised in the very life that Jesus Himself laid down, and took up, resulting in His death for us, and His life in us. You could 'go to the same Church' for forty years and not receive the slightest whiff of anything like that. Why? Because the Church is only trusting Jesus for a future in heaven, not for a life on Earth.

    We will now pursue a special feature of the teaching of the Holy Spirit through the men who were commissioned to write what we are told to see as the word of God. The word, the logos, 'with' is a connecting particle of the language which in the Greek is joined to whatever it is we are said to be 'with' in one word. English will use 'to live with him' as four distinct words, but in Greek that is ONE WORD,  (syzen) so the very language used by God for spreading the gospel embodies a closeness between the believer and the Lord which is made almost invisible by the structure of English. So a looking behind the scenes is needed. In the English language we are familiar with some of these compound words. Symphony is from 'syn' - together and 'phone' - sound. Sounds in harmony are sounds fitted together. Sympathy from 'syn' and 'pathos' - caring involvement. Synergy from syn and ergos - power. The list could be extended. But in the treasure chest of faith the list is different and even more far reaching.

Here is a portion of the glorious list:

A "We will live with him"  Rom 6:8, And 2 Corinthians 7:3 "
I do not say this to condemn you, for I told you before that you are in our hearts so that we die together and live together with you. (Greek Syzen, from zoe, life and  Synapothanein. From thanatos, death.) The believer is inextricably joined in life and death to Christ and to the body of Christ.

B "And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)—if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:17.  Three times over Paul here constructs these consequences of what follows from the above. We are said to synkleronomos, i e be coinheritors with Christ, provided that we sunpaschomen, i e join in his passion, suffer with him, in order to also syndoxasthomen, i e be glorified in him, praise with him, share His glory. Joining a church and joining Christ are two vastly different things.

C "We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." Rom 6:6.  To be crucified with him is 'synestauronthe'. No man or woman can be educated to become acceptable to God. It is not the natural man that can be improved on in order to become a saint. Unless you share in the crucifixion you will not share in the resurrection.

D "
Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead."  Col 2:12 gives the compounded words 'syntaphentes' as 'put in the same grave as, being buried together with' and 'synegerthete'  awaken, be raised with.  Not merely an intellectual awakening but a far more radical being made alive from a total death to the previous life.

E "This saying is trustworthy: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure we will also reign with Him. If we deny Him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, He will remain faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."

To live with him as the parallell in Rom 8:17. To reign with him is  'symbasileusomen', literally, 'becoming king with him in His rule'.  What in the life of the modern church signifies the slightest attempt to prepare for that? It is echoed by Peter in his first letter. "
But you are a chosen racea royal priesthooda holy nationa people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

F "
And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. To be made alive with him is 'synezopoieo'. If he lives we shall live, we are alive only as a consequence of His life. (If Christ is not risen from the dead, neither are we.)

G .."
that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members (sussomos: one with the same body.) of the body, and fellow partakers (symetochos i e equal partakers in the inheritance.of the promise in Christ Jesus."


    Did you know that all this is what belongs to the one who is truly a Child of God. Is this part of your creed? Is this what the celebration of Easter is about? Does Pentecost come into the picture as more than a looking back on a past event? This  is what 'being Church' is all about, this totally embracing completeness of satisfaction in Him. Because all these things are only available to them who have died to themselves, even as Church members, and become alive in Him.

    If going to Church does not bring you to a life changing understanding of what this creed means, then it fails in its God given purpose. And you might well ask: what then is the point of all the confessions of faith if they are impotent to produce what so eminently is  portrayed as the logical outcome of the good news of Jesus Christ.

    If not with Him, then without Him. Without life, but full of human activity designed to impress God and the world? Spectacular failure.

Christianity without Christ is mere religion. And is unable to save a single hair on my head.

.............

Teddy Donobauer  August 25th 2021 Doncaster




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Blogpost: "Fellowship in the Spirit"

"God knows the end from the beginning." 

But here we start at the end and go back to the beginning.

2 Corinthian letter chapter 13:11-13 "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice, set things right, be encouraged, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Cor 13:11-13)

    If you have spent any length of time in any Church of any denomination you will recognize the last part of these three verses more than the first two. They are as assured to be read as the "amen" after almost every prayer. "Lets say the blessing.." or "Lets say the Grace" and dutifully the congregation chimes in. And so it has become another set piece in the religious program and becomes part and parcel of yet another man-made agenda giving an air of  being a thoroughly "scriptural" procedure.

    What is the origin of this emphasis on fellowship? Simply this: it is not good for man to be alone. And that is the only thing in all the creation that even God the Creator picks up on and amends as soon as possible. "The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be woman for she was taken out of man." " 
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become one family. ("Flesh" is used to signify more than the physical frame, so the extension of the fruit of the flesh, i e offspring and hence family, are used here in the Net  Bible.
 
    The purpose of mankind is only one: to express on earth the eternal and divine Creator, bringing together the Heavenly and the earthly in an incarnation. Man is no man at all without the divine element. The Fall from that dual reality leaves the earthly behind and this being can hence forth only reproduce his own kind: the animal man only. "
When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female; when they were created, he blessed them and named them “humankind”. When Adam had lived 130 years he fathered a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and he named him Seth." God made man in His own image, Adam can only reproduce his own likeness. And, as the saying goes, the rest is the history of mankind in all the complexity and consequences. The godlessness of man is the bane of the Earth.

    Mankind acting on his own as if mankind was without accountability is the original definition of every sin ever committed. "They had no king over them, they did, each man, what was right in his own eyes." Judges 17:6  The entire message of the bible is that a man without God is no good, and only God within man makes him good. "No body is good except God", was the answer of Christ to some people, thereby establishing that 'if you call me good, then you have acknowledged that I am God in human form.' The balancing weight against the sins of the man going solo is a 'companion'. Someone of his own flesh and blood, someone who is both mirror and counterpart at the same time. Consequently the major attack of Satan is on the companionship of Adam and Eve. Their falling out with each other in the Eden is emblematic for every break down of fellowship to follow. Same elements reappear again and again. To separate the two elements of "The image of God" is the beginning of breakup and starts by throwing suspicion on God, their origin and sole source of life.

    Seen in that light "fellowship" is then God's antidote to the separation desired by the Enemy of our souls.  So whenever it appears in Scripture it should arrest our attention. It may just be one of the foremost tools in our kit to thwart Satans constant attacks on everything of Divine origin. The key word in the NT is the word Koinonia.  It brings several things to the table. But first this:

"No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known." NET

"No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known". AMPC


   This is John 1:18, where the idea of fellowship as being enclosed in the bosom of the Father is pronounced about the Son. To be within the embrace of the loving Father is the very essence of fellowship in the Spirit, as God is Spirit. The word "bosom" which some translate as 'fellowship' is reminiscent of our primary mother child relationship, a partnership on many levels and a sharing of that intimacy which provided us with our first absolute security. Jesus himself spins that thread later on in John: "“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one— I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me. Do we need to have the essence of 'fellowship' better explained?

    Koinonia is understood as partnership, communion, participation. It goes way beyond the basic meaning of "being of the same opinion", "meeting in the same place", "doing the same thing" , "having a similar interest". Th
ose are no real investments, but merely communal products which do not involve any great cost on my part. They go  along nicely with a sort of congenial friendship which is shared by believers and non believers alike. 

    But the Church of Christ is more. Much much more. The members of the body of Christ participate in each other the way the cells of a body do. Because they are not merely additions of similar bodies next to each other, as in a cinema or a theater, or a church assembly of the most common type. They are seen as interdependent with each other, and if one member suffers all are affected. That is the downside of participation. It is the same in marriage as in body life of the Church: for better or worse. 

   " 
For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."

    
 "Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it."

    Yes, this the 'body talk' of the Holy Spirit. We have heard of it, but few have as yet seen it. But the phrase from the 'Grace' maintains it as a distinct possibility, indeed, a necessity because it is this understanding that amounts to the Church of Christ. And no other organisation can take its place. 

    In the world of sports this essential element of fellowship is the difference between an assembly of players and a team of players. In the optimized team the common goal is the basis for the common discipline. What they train for is to have every player totally instructed in his role based on his skill and the coach's overall plan for each event. Concepts like 'team spirit' are well known, but they are a different kind than the 'team made by the Spirit'.

    This word common is at the heart of communion and fellowship both in the secular world and in the spiritual. The language of the NT is the "Koine" Greek, meaning the common hedgerow basic language, the 'lingua franca', which most people knew at the time of Christ. Whether Roman, Greek, Hebrew, Aramean, or any other, they all had this basic means of communication.  The Holy Spirit choose to let Koine Greek be the language for the transmission of the Good news. To make it available to all, to make it the common basis for all communion. The common is then shared between those who enter into companionship with each other. The result is Koinonia, i e shared fellowship.


The fellowship of the Holy Spirit includes these specified areas:

In the gospel

    "I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you  because of your participation (koinonia) in the gospel from the first day until now."  To the Philippian Church Paul attributes a sharing in the blessings and obligations that follow from the gospel. From day one, when he had shared the good news with them, he found those who had understood and committed themselves to take part in this revolutionary world view and revelation of God in Christ. And because they had become 'shareholders' in the eternal inheritance to come, they were willing to take their part in the propulsion of love which made it impossible not to pass this message on. The gospel was not an alternative world view. It was the only true one.

In the Faith

    "I pray that the faith you share (koinonia) with us may deepen your understanding of every blessing that belongs to you in Christ. I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother." To the apostle it was absolutely clear that growth in understanding of our blessings in Christ came from the sharing of what each was taught to the others. This again is an echo of what he elsewhere declares to be the way Church works: "The building up of the Church by the support given by each and every member of the Body." Hearts are refreshed by contact and sharing of the common Faith with each other. It is never said to be the result of evangelical monologue.

In the Son

     "God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship (koinonia) with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord." The use of the word 'to believe' is in the NT generally connected to 'entrusting myself to him in whom I believe.  And to believe is immediately connected to the "faithfulness" of the One in whom I believe. It is consistently declared that the fact of my faith is on a lower rung of the ladder than in Whom I believe, That is why doctrinal correctness not infrequently is a perfect escape from knowing HIM, because theologically you 'know it all'. "He who thinks that he knows, knows not as yet as he ought to." And in the most concentrated form of all: "But I am not ashamed, because I know the one in whom my faith is set and I am convinced that he is able to protect what has been entrusted to me until that day."  In whom, not only in what..What has Christ entrusted to his own? Himself.


In the fellowship of the right hand

  "..when James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, (koinonias) agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised."  The apostle Paul, who even in his own eyes was the least of the apostles, as one late born, was so totally convinced of his mission and task that he had little concern for the approval of any hierarchy of the Church until after 14 years of ministry. And then his journey to Jerusalem was by a direct revelation from the Lord. He presented his ministry, gave account, and was found to have received the same grace as the 'pillars' of the Jerusalem apostles. (So much for apostolic succession.) To the eternal recognition of those giants of the Church they totally and fully acknowledged that this ex-murderer and pursuer of the faithful was fully accredited by the Lord and therefore they could not possibly withhold from Paul and Barnabas the full 'right hand of fellowship'. In other words, on the strength of the testimony of the fruit of their work they we accepted in the most encompassing way. When this grace is in operation then the church shows the true fruit of fellowship. "He who is not against us is for us."

In the fellowship of the Lord's supper

 "I am speaking to thoughtful people. Consider what I say. Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing (Koinonia) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread."

    Evangelical tradition has been repulsed by the hocus pocus of  'transsubstantiation' of the Roman  Church to the extent that it has fallen into the opposite ditch of denying any other element of the 'breaking of bread' than 'do it in remembrance of me'.   In so doing the evangelicals deny the very idea that the communion means anything at all to do with 'sharing' Christ.   It is therefore offering the believers less than the Holy Spirit declared about this utterly different meal. The lack of discernment between the Lord's table and the common dinning table that was rife in Corinth had led to spiritual anemia and even death because the partaking was done with no sense of the holy. Partaking wrongly had disastrous consequences, partaking correctly therefore has lifegiving and faith strengthening consequences. But if all you do is use it as a postcard from a place visited in the past, then you will not partake of Christ but only of a memory. That is the more serious as it empties the idea of fellowship and mutual sharing which Jesus in his last supper laid down for the Church's first supper.

    "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

    "Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him." Read: koinonia..

    But of all this all that is left is a formality: remember his death. But participation means something utterly and totally different. Discerning the difference is a life and death issue. By remembering a meal that you once ate no belly is ever fed. To reduce the fellowship in Christ to a memory is like answering the need of a starving man by painting a ham sandwich to him in response to his hunger. Fellowship may be based on the very fundamental concept of 'having in common', but common it is not, in fact it is rare.

Fellowship of the Holy Spirit

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship (koinonia) of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

To walk in the Spirit, to fellowship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit, are all part and parcel of the work of the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit, they who worship must do so in Spirit, and can only do it by the indwelling Spirit. Koinonia is participation and communion, if it is anything at all except words. That is why this last greeting of Paul is more than a way to end his letter, It is the capstone to crown a building. "
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice, set things right, be encouraged, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

    Surely it seems absurd that this final greeting is used only as a way to tell God and each other that "now we have done with our worship for this time, see you all in a week." When in fact it is a direct call to action for the next 6 days: "Rejoice, that your names are written in heaven." "If there is anything wrong, start setting it right, translate your worship into work." "Encourage every faint hearted believer"."Be peacemakers if you want peace." "Where enmity is maintained the peace of God is not." "Greet, receive, acknowledge and respect one another in the symbolism of a friend's kiss."  "All saints are recognized by them greeting all other saints, being no respecters of persons, denominations or Church affiliations."

    And it takes all of the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit to do it.

    So why is it reduced to a formality in the program for what we, totally without any warrant from the Word of God, call Divine Service, and not a marching order? The answer is along the lines of the analogue to the sports team. The team is not functioning until they are on site at the Cycle racing track, or on the Football field. It is when the match is on that the team spirit manifests itself. All written manifestos and ambitions come up trumps or fall down as wannabees only once the game starts. While sitting in the bus on the way to the venue then all there is is mere words. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

    The Church of Christ is forever sitting in the bus travelling to a match which never starts. Or it sits in the locker room praying to receive what it needs for the fight, but stays there until it receives something that allows them to avoid going out into the field. It is talking of a fellowship rarely realized, claiming to possess powers barely visible or in use. And often, when she gets to the park, leaves walk over.  Why is it not triumphant? Jeremia knew.

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,
Then how can you contend with horses?
And if in the land of peace,
In which you trusted, they wearied you,
Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?
For even your brothers, the house of your father,
Even they have dealt treacherously with you;
Yes, they have called a multitude after you.
Do not believe them,
Even though they speak smooth words to you."


While sitting in the bus all are still heroes. And saying the grace almost always means 'closing time', no need for further action. The commander of the Army of the Lord says: about turn! "You did not so learn Christ."
...

Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster 24th August 2021

    



    








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Blogtext "Taste and see that the Lord is good"

 "Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

    The previous blogpost ended with a question about how to move on from identifying the anorectic Church to what to do about it. Some who have real clinical experience of how Anorexia works with some people, will say that in some cases it is impossible to cure. Some will say it is very hard and is very taxing on the helpers and none have a miracle cure. But two things are absolutely needed for any hope of success.  First: the changed self image. "No you are not fat, not overweight, not healthy." This must become the individual's own recognition; I am gaunt and nearer to a corpse than a living being. If I want to live I must know myself as I am." No more deception, no more lies, no more evasion of the mirror. And most importantly: to allow acceptance of the concerns of the people around them as signs of true love.

    For the church in that same state the only mirror is the explicit description of the normal church life as in Paul's letter to the Churches as well as the direct commands in the letters to the Churches in Revelation. The anorectic will fight against the truth about him or herself to the utmost simply because even a false self image is better than none at all. An objective view must be allowed to replace the subjective. It needs a true change of heart and mind. That is the meaning of 'metanoesate', (μετανοήσατε) 'turn through your present mindset and come out on the opposite side of where you are now.' (Acts 2:38) )If you have watched the Massed Bands at the Military Tattoo you know the manuever of walking straight towards the camera and then turning 180 degrees and marching back through their own ranks.) And it is this initial and deliberate turning which is the knock on the door to a radical change. The follow-up is equally important. 'Then shed the old image and person in a deliberate death!' That is what baptism means, and a baptism of fire it truly is. And only as a consequence to that will you receive the gift that will affect the permanent cure: the Holy Spirit.  It is inconceivable that any church described as anorectic would ever be consisting of a people filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit. "So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God." Romans 8:12-14. The anorectic has shrunk within the flesh until there is nothing but the flesh left. And that old man must die.

    The anorectic cannot ever cure itself. 

    The Second absolute must is the new feeding regime. The preferred food which was, if at all, eaten in order to give a showing of normality, must be examined as to its nutritional content. When you do so you will find that the otherwise rather vague idea of 'becoming what you eat' holds a lot of truth. So the Apostles know to speak of two qualities of food. One is always called milk, the other is always called meat or strong food. Peter and Paul and whoever wrote Hebrews are a threefold witness to this fact. In the passage to the Corinthian Church Paul shows how they have become what they eat in this manner:

    "So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people?"  So even Paul could get no where with all his insight in 'the mystery of godliness' because the minds of the Corinthians were still on the baby stage of the Christian life. Evidenced by their divisions, by their prevailing sins of the flesh, and by their adaptation to live the way the world does. Overgrown babies which one could not fit in any baby cot, but while having the appearance of full size, are still babes in understanding. Read carefully through the letters to the Corinthians and you cannot but notice how many areas where severely affected by this rampant immaturity.

    Among their immaturities are some most important markers of what the Christian is. Spiritual things can only be ascertained and understood by the spiritual person, not by the merely religion curious natural man. The essential reality of the spiritual rebirth cannot be bypassed. Religion tells man that he needs to conform outwardly, the Word is in absolute contradiction to that:  "
 Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’  The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The merely religious soul may hear the wind but cannot be driven by it.
    Unless a human being is being born of the Spirit it has not the slightest chance of understanding anything of the spiritual realities, neither can it understand a single word of Scripture, since they are interpreted by the Spirit to the believer. If the Bible is a closed book to anyone it is because that person is a closed book to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul spoke of the veil hiding the truth from them who have the written word in plain view without understanding it on the one major most important point: The life and death of the Messiah.  
    "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective. But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away."

    It follows naturally and logically that if this cardinal truth is unknown, then the likelihood of missing out on, or making a mess of virtually everything else is very predictable. Sexual and domestic relationships, the gifts of the Spirit, the order of life in the Church, the understanding of communion, of resurrection and of the responsibilities of the local Church to the Universal, are all consequentially impossible without the Spiritual Birth at the outset. You can dress up a Chimpanzee in a velvet boy size suit, but he will never sit for his A levels. And will most likely never run for parliament.

    It stands to reason then that unless the life of Christ is established in me, then the words of Christ, i e the teaching of Christ, wont make much impact. The flesh cannot be taught to become spiritual by sermons, lectures and homilies, however true they are. But once the new birth is a reality the testimony to the new status as a son or daughter of God is incontrovertible. The children know the Father! The Sheep know the Shepherd! The testimony comes from within those who are taught by God. And only those taught by God and learning from the Father will come to Jesus.

    So the task of feeding the disciple presupposes that the 'anorectic' is no longer that but has changed identity. Is it not a terribly effective trick of Satan to allow and promote a physical disorder which causes us to identify a physical condition as the worst evil, when in fact our sinful nature never has anything to do with a eating disorder except maintaining our right to hold fast to it?  You may die physically because of Anorexia, but you cannot die spiritually from it. Once they have been taught about this major shift of position relative to God and themselves, then the teaching can begin.

    The task given us was twofold

    "Proclaim the Kingdom of God", that is the preaching of the gospel which leads people to the King in order to become members of his kingdom by the new birth.  This is both invitation and beckoning, since being left outside His kingdom leaves mankind in the kingdom of the enemy. (They are already there, they are not sent there.) So the primary task is the first priority: to call all men to repentance. But that is bringing people to the entry gate and just over the threshold. If left there the gate will remain open but the piled high mass of babies never growing one inch further will make the door narrower than necessary for those thronging to the kingdom. Because the continued work of evangelism is done through those won. That is the importance of "when the Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and you shall be my witnesses."  As it was with the deliverance of the People of Israel from Egypt, so it is with the ones born again. They are brought out in order to be brought in, not to stay on the threshold. Equate the threshold with the desert in which a whole generation died, because they would not go in to the land promised. 

    In plain language: if the major part of the preaching ministry never gets beyond the call to enter, then those who are saved will stay saved but will never be taught to serve in the capacity for which they were saved. It is not in accordance with truth to say that we are saved in order to get to heaven after walking through the valley of the shadow of death. We are saved in order for the whole counsel of God to be revealed in and to this world by the Church while it is here. There is not one line in scripture that supports the idea that THE PURPOSE of salvation is to bring us to heaven. The purpose of salvation is the restoration of mankind to the conditions before the fall of Adam into sin, a restoration that begins here and now and which will be carried through into the eternal future. But growth comes only from exercise and food. Hence the second message as contained in the word of God about milk food.

The second command was 'Teaching them to keep all that I have given you.'

    "On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain since you have become sluggish in hearing. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God's utterances. You have gone back to needing  milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil."

    Not only does the author testify to good beginnings going backwards as in the case of our starting point in the Church at Laodicea, but it is obvious that the danger of apostacy and falling away from truth once known is an even constant factor It is so in Paul's writing to the Galatian Churches, in the Letters of John and in Revelation. The very next verses speak volumes in that direction: "For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, become partakers of the Holy Spirit, tasted the good word of God and the miracles of the coming age, and then have committed apostasy, to renew them again to repentance, since they are crucifying the Son of God for themselves all over again and holding him up to contempt." It is a passage that brings fierce dragons to gnaw at the 'once saved always saved' theology.

    Note first: the amount of teaching that the Church had received ought to have made many of them able to teach others also. They did not since they had not been taught to teach. The issue of teaching in the Church is infected by another evil: teaching as only seen in the official "teachers" of the eldership. What was a service to train the saints to do their work (Eph 4:10f) has become a position in a religious hierarchy and made any teaching outside of the pulpit a no no.  The daisy chain of 2 Tim 2:2 is ignored entirely, the task of bringing to mind as indicated by the word 'admonish and warn' as in Rom 15:14 likewise. Jesus said to the disciples "Teaching them to keep on holding fast to all that I have given you." Teaching is different than preaching. Teaching obligates to pass on to others what I have received. Preaching leaves it all up to you what you do with it. And obviously in the Churches addressed by the Hebrew letter it was up to the individual to do what they liked with what they heard, and they did not do much with it. "You ought to be teachers by now.." When a church has heard the same messages for forty years, then then at least those oft repeated fundamentals should be solidly lodged in the believers.

    "But you have need of hearing it again, and again.." In one ear and out the other.

    Note secondly the clear statement as to what constitutes the way of learning: By practicing, having learnt to discern between good and evil. That means doing somethings right and somethings wrong, and learning from both. The preaching ministries with which I have been familiar for about 50 years in about 20 denominations all share one thing in common. They never specify anything that is practically 'doable'. And few, very few, sermons are ever followed up with "What did you learn to do from what you were told last Sunday."
    Despite the massive teaching of doing the will of God in book after book of the Bible, doing is the last thing that happens. Hearing and hearing and talking about what someone else ought to do, is all that is required for membership. The disciples however, were taught up to a point, then they were kicked into action by specific commands buttressed by spiritual gifts and power.  Making disciples is what the Church should be about. Why such massive disobedience?

    Note thirdly what is said to constitute the basics that we are to build on top of. Things so established that the rest of a maturing life can rest solidly on them. I now will list the doctrines or basic truth patterns which belong to the ABC of the believer.

    "Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this is what we intend to do, if God permits."

    Faith in God. Having faith in God is in the language of the NT always connected to the idea of utter abandonment och trust in Someone whose character is assured because it is unchanging and eternal, Gods consistency through the ages and God's unchanging being is understood as the very foundation for my own existence. In Him we live breathe and exist. He is the I AM of which "i am" a derivative, because I exist as an expression of Him. I have said it many times: everything else is made in its own image, only human beings are made in someone else's image. And our purpose of having faith is in letting God be God in us. That is what biblical faith means, and without such faith it is impossible to please God.  In the NT 243 times the word 'believe' is used.. for a good reason. Faith is fundamental. How can it be that people who have heard the preaching about having faith in God and trusting Jesus still need to hear it every Sunday? Because they don't believe it, neither do they practice the presence of God. Faith of this kind is seen as a basic level of any spiritual building. Growing on from that is what is rare.

    Repentance from dead works.  The true curse of religion is that it affords a hundred does and don'ts which have an air of godliness, but lack all power to change the basic attitude: 'God must be pleased with me because I do my best, even God cannot ask more than that.'  But the unanimous testimony is that working out salvation is a follow up of salvation, not a way to be saved. Setting "doing good" before becoming good is severely frowned upon by the Lord himself. "Many will come on that day and say Lord,  Lord did we not..." "And He will say: I knew you not.." Being filled with Goodness and Wisdom is a result of being born and filled by the Spirit.  You are not rewarded with the gift of God because you are good and acceptable in the sight of your fellow men. Dead works come from dead men. And they never earn righteousness.

    Ritual washings would include all kinds of ablutions and most likely the issue of Baptism. Few things have divided the Church to such a degree as the disagreements about the mode and manner of Baptism. And consequently nothing is better evidence of an immature faith more adequately that the ongoing arguments about it. Faith and repentance before Baptism, death to the old man in it as the old sin nature is buried in the water on account of the cross, and completion by the receiving of the resurrection power of Christ in order to live in newness of live. But every inch of it is disputed and depraved and twisted and ignored. Rather than majoring on the expected result of Baptism the Church has lost its mind about the outward form of it. 

    Laying on of hands has two elements in it. On one hand the ministry of healing and on the other hand the conveying the gift of God to a servant who is chosen to be a sent one, an apostle. Both elements are quite visible in the run of the New Testament Church and both have been points of division between believers for as long as the Church has struggled to come to terms with them. The idea of unbroken apostolic succession and the matter of the Vicar of Christ being direct in the line of Peter is one of the bones of contention, laying on of hands for healing and forgiving of sins is the other. Both ought to be settled before maturity can set in.

    Resurrection of the dead. In Pauls writing about the resurrection one can easily see what misconceptions seemed to harass the Church in Corinth. They did not understand the nature of it, neither the order of it, nor the result of it. Some of them thought that we could be baptized for the already dead in a sort of post mortem saving ac.t. We shall be changed, the mortal will rise in immortality, our resurrection is secured in Christ's resurrection. Without it we have no eternal hope and are Christians in vain so to speak. We forgo the pleasures of the present world and have nothing to expect in the next world, unless the resurrection is a truth known and built upon.

    Judgment. In every context of the saving work of Christ the assurance that He will come to judge the living and the dead is firmly painted as the back drop to salvation.  What we are saved from is what we else would be judged for. 
    "He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he (Christ) is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead." To ignore the judgments makes the saving act meaningless because if there is nothing to be judged for salvation is not necessary. It is appointed for man to die and thereafter to appear before the judgment.  No exceptions.

But hold on: why would God not permit this? Because of the either/or character of the truth. God does never build a holy temple on a corrupt foundation. He will permit it but only if it is not compromised by the will of man.

    If these be the basics that every believer ought to know at least within three years of his coming to Christ for salvation, then how come that you would not find ten in a thousand who could give a short account of these basics. Even though they have been members of a church for 5 decades. They are all absolutely within the scope of this well known exhortation by Peter: "Be ready at all times to give an account for the reason of the hope that is within you." Said to the ordinary believer not to a clerical elite! 

    (Three years of discipleship seems a suitable time span to proclaim the entire counsel of God. Christ spent that time with the twelve and seventy, Paul spent that time in Ephesus. And  told them that "I have not withheld anything of the entire counsel of God, and therefore I am not guilty of the blood of any of you."  What is the whole counsel of God?)

    On to maturity.

    It is well known that the full measure of maturity is the stature of Christ. We are very well informed about his character and personality through the Gospels. It can therefore not be that we do not have a goal for the discipleship, because becoming like Him is the sole purpose of our development as believers. He is the gauging tool of growth, he is the Plumb line that shows our deviation from the core straightness of righteousness. 

    Here is an oddity: We bring our children to be weighed and measured in their infancy and if they fail to grow according to the expected "rate of growth curve", we are immediately told to supplement or change their diet.  This is seen as very important for a healthy child. Why is it not important for the spiritual children? How many churches have a leadership which prioritizes the growth of the people in the Church? What indeed are the various points in an expected growth curve? Is there such a pattern in scripture? 

    Try this: "
May grace and peace be lavished on you as you grow in the rich knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord! I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge;  to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness;  to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love. For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming  ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately."

    What better 'growth curve' for a spiritual and newborn babe in Christ can there be?  Partakers of divine nature, and still admonished to make every effort. Promises given but also individually pursued. On the premise of the faith that saves there is a check list for character development and ethical outworking of the law of God in our hearts. Each of these are surely measurable in the sense that we our selves may notice how various aspects become established as we grow along. Other people may notice them more than we ourselves because the Apple tree does not bear its fruits for itself but for the owner of the Orchard. But He will be the last hand in any pruning, not the other branches on the tree.

    In the basic tool kit of every pastor-teacher are several different items. "You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work."  These different aspects are to be used for an allround growth of every believer in the charge of the Oversight. 

    Teaching lays down guidelines to be learned by all. And to be a common and constant insight close to the heart and mouth of all.
    Reproof is the holding up of that plumb line which will draw the eyes of all to the absolute moral standard of God and cause all to look at themselves in the light of the straight and narrow.
    Correction can and must occur when a certain course of action has been tried and found wanting, Correction can not be done in a vacuum, but is done against a framework of what is good and was is less good.
    Training in Righteousness is training in acting and doing things the way that pleases God. This is deliberate, not accidental. And is seen in the life and work in Christ Jesus, the author, originator and finisher of our faith.


    All and any spiritual food is always lastly the Lord Himself as I quoted from John 6.
He is the heavenly bread and the manna. He is that mysterious bread which feeds the Church.  And the only menu available to cure the anorectic Church is always the Lord Himself. So why will we not come to him, when we have tried every other diet and still lack strength and ability to bring to birth?

    What is the image of yourself or your fellowship that you would be glad to see changed? One look at the Saviour and you may see through His eyes. And whatever you say of your self may be corrected by Him. Through all the means that I have hinted at in this paper.

-------
Teddy Donobauer Doncaster 11 August 2021



    
    



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The eating disorders of the Church; The Anorectic Church

"You are what you eat"


If you have at all followed my writings here you will have noticed that I have a hobby horse. I insist in repeating over and over that the word of God, the bible as interpreted by the Spirit to the regenerate heart, is the sole needed food for the inner man. In this and all ages, in this nation and all other. In this time and in all times. That is what makes the Church built on a rock.


    In the last fifty years or so more and more eating disorders have made their debut and today any talk about food immediately awakes a series of neurotic responses to the very issue of food. The simple faith of the born again is expressed by the apostle Paul: Everything which is received with thanksgiving is sanctified by the grace that first provided the bounty of the earth and then made it suitable for the body. Or as in the  NET version: "They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For every creation of God is good and no food is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.
 For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer." 1 Tim 4:3-5

    "Forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from foods" are then prophetically seen as things to come. And we could spend "time, time and a half time" to describe how these two factors have created a world in which all sorts of marital and dietary abnormalities have replaced the sound mind approach to God's laws and creations. Everything from celibacy to same sex marriage, from ascetic starvation to the evangelical obesity of the present century is included in those two parameters. But although that would maybe have some interest for a few of my readers, I want to dwell a little while on the "eating disorders" of the Church in the 21st Century.

    The clear command of the Lord to Peter and all would be ministers is without any difficulty to understand. "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do? Yes, Lord you know that I love you. Jesus told him (if you do then:) Feed my lambs, Shepherd my sheep, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17 in summary.  But when you look across the world and listen to what is served up to the people in the pews you cannot readily see what is on the menu for thousands. The matter of what is food for the sheep is one of the most obfuscated issue of all.  We have no trouble using Psalm 23 and somehow trusting that the sheep are being led to green pastures and still waters. If they are then a few things stand out as the consequence: they are well fed, they are not thirsty, they are safe, they know about the shadow of the valley of death, and they have a hope of dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever. Surely these are the essentials resulting from a well fed flock, and surely the starving sheep outside that fold would throng to know their secret and share in their abundance?

    Listen to any ten sermons, teachings, homilies or preachings from any single church and then ask the impertinent but necessary question: what was the quality of the ingredients, and how did they cook them? But even if we came up trumps on those issues there might still be lots of underfed sheep about. Neither the cook nor the food guarantee that the guests at the table eat what is prepared. Food served is not food appropriated. Food eaten may not be allowed to be digested by the eater, so how ever often they eat, they retain nothing of the nutrients. That is where the eating disorders come in. 

  The spiritual person in whom Christ dwells is familiar with the way that the life within puts eating in its place by learning: "I have food to eat that you know nothing of... My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to complete his work." But starvation and or fasting is not the norm for a believer. The born again grow by advancing in their eating habits, from pure spiritual milk to meat. But never does their eating become a goal in it self.  Paul was well aware of some whose misguided religious favour resulted in "them having their belly as their only God." There are sects of Chinese  House Church origin where eating and drinking together has been elevated to the major "divine worship that they know of". Anything in the word can be abused, and everything.

    The anorectic person has a totally wrong view of him or herself. Their perspective is not based on any objective standard but stems from some internal warping which in turn are caused by a variety of events or traumas. Common to them all is that they leave the person unable to see themselves in any other light than the warped image of what normality is, and their failure to meet some requirements of their own making. Once their self image is askew  there is no easy way to shift the mindset. So in pursuit of a false image they will starve themselves and they will live in compact denial of either their illness or their outward appearance.

     So far the poor anorectic. But our issue here is a larger. Can a whole Church be said to be anorectic? Can a fellowship of believers suffer from a wrong self image? And even elevate their gauntness to heights of spiritual pride and self righteousness? Listen to what the Head of the Church confides to us about one of the many local bodies in existence at the time of the last years of  the Apostle John.

    
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit  you out of my mouth!  Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see!  All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!  Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me."

    The Church at Laodicea was in every conceivable aspect anorectic. It nurtured a totally false view of it self. It was lied to by itself and it allowed no voice from the outside to touch the core of its being. The lies about itself were self propagating, self justifying and self repeating. And until the day that the Head spoke to the church it had never listened to anyone else but the voice of the people. Laodicea is a composite of two Greek words. Laos= people, and dike=judgment, In other words: the very name of the Church in Laodicea hints  that it was one where the consensus of the people called the shots and ruled themselves entirely.
    The result? A massive fault in the self perception. "You say of yourself I am rich and need nothing."  But you are unable to perceive the truth: "You are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked." The accumulation of many people's ignorance never arrives at the truth. Not truth that can only be given by revelation. The work of the Spirit of God is a word from Him who judges the living and the dead. But to him the 'democratic' church is not used to listen. They decide truth by majority vote. Not by "it seemed good to the Spirit and us".

    Even the entire Trinity has only one vote in Laodicea. When the patient deems himself wiser than the Medical expert then the hope of recovery dwindles. The wisdom of the fool's justify themselves over and over again. The added catch phrase "let the churches hear what the Spirit says" are sadly not heeded, then and now.

The ominous signs

    When a human body is victim to the anorexia two things are prominent in the detection of the problem by outsiders and bystanders. Stunted growth, reduced body mass and such signs are telling, but what may not be apparent is that the reproductive vitals take a beating. In girls menstruation stops happening and pregnancy is rare. The body view of the sufferer tends to assure her of being unattractive and ugly. Not ideal for romance. The anorectic church likewise stops reproducing. And as older age groups disappear through natural causes the Church dwindles. It may still talk of evangelism but it simply lacks the ability.  It goes hand in hand with the second prominent anorectic effect: lack of power, being weak, lacking strength to withstand outward pressure except in one respect: that of clinging to the false self image. No strength for much else, but that is never allowed to be challenged.  Typically 
by its theology the anorectic Church is also  "cessationist" and has no room for more than a slim volume of the Gifts of the Spirit. The anorectic church may not be swayed much by the outside influences of the world, but will cling to its powerlessness as part of a self sought martyrdom. "We are weak, but ok."

    It may speak as if it was empowered but again, by their fruits you shall know them. The one significant effect and consequence of the Baptism of Christ in the Holy Ghost and Fire is empowerment. The Anorectic Church dreams of it but lacks it. It comes down to the reality of having a form of Godliness without any power.

    "I am the Lord your Healer."

But if the patient has no awareness of the true condition? "Jesus could not do his work there, because they did not believe."


    So where do we go from here?

.....................
Teddy Donobauer  Doncaster  August 6th 2021





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