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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