Are you one of the many Christians who cannot find a church anymore that has not sold out or compromised the gospel? In this age of Bible illiteracy and doctrinal error and outright heresy, more and more of the “invisible church” are having to come out of their local fellowship. Yet God’s word mandates that we are not to forsake the assembling together, and even more as we see the day approaching. The ones who recognize that the day of the outpouring of His wrath are indeed approaching quickly, are the ones who find themselves outside the local assembly. But thankfully there are good fellowships left, even if one has to participate with them by live-stream or listen to sermons and broadcast recordings after they take place.
But one thing I want to address today, is giving. If you have no local church, how do you continue to bring an offering to the Lord? I would like to share my thoughts on that.
I am certain that folks who know the scripture and who are true followers of Christ, desire to continue to give to the ministry of the gospel, and finding themselves without a church home, will have already considered this question. I want to make it clear that what follows is my own thoughts and suggestions.
I understand that believers are not to take their differences with one another into secular courts to be decided by unbelievers. However, when it comes to God-given human rights, and the condition of society, as God ordained governments, it is crucial for the nation’s laws to protect and not vilify Christianity, Scripture, and Biblical morality.
I submit that perhaps our giving at this point, if no local church is sound, yes, give to the ministries that bless you, but think of those legal associations and ministries such as the American Center for Law and Justice ACLJ, the Christian Law Association CLA, and the Thomas More Law Center, which defend religious and Constitutional freedoms. Mass Resistance, which fights for sanctity of marriage and family, and the National Pro-Life Alliance are two others.
I am not advocating winning the culture war through social justice. Just facilitating the preservation of what is scriptural and good, which is the purpose of salt and light.
The “social gospel” is not going to save America or the world. God did not save us for the purpose of saving this corrupted and decaying world, or its systems, however, we are meant to serve as preservatives and keepers of that which He has blessed us with.
As I go from day to day, continually engaged with the progression of our world toward the end of the Age of Grace, all around us I see concentric circles of evil, just spreading out over the “sea” of humanity. We can’t afford to be isolated, but many of us are increasingly so. Still, a buoy out on a vast ocean, can be a beacon for someone.
Life is relentless. Christians who truly seek to live their lives as unto the Lord, can testify that just as soon as one hurdle or challenge seems to get worked out, the next one is right on its heels. I really believe God is doing that on purpose. He sees our hearts and our longing for heaven, and He wants to keep them turned toward heaven, rather than this world.
One of Satan’s favorite ploys is to keep us mired in past failures. Especially if we grew up in church, perhaps made a profession of faith early in life, and then left the narrow path to pursue something of the world, only to realize like the prodigal son, that what the world amounts to nothing more than fools gold.
The term “born-again” has fallen out of favor with “modern Christiandom”. But the fact is, when we enter into the New Covenant and our sins are remitted via the shed blood of Christ, by grace and via faith, a new spirit and heart is born inside of us. It is not always easy to grasp this, because just like any newborn, that new spirit in us has things to learn. The sooner we grasp that it is not us who will change ourselves, but the Spirit within us, the sooner we can understand the need to submit to that Holy Spirit that is there to teach and mold us. Christians can and often do go a long time in life, trying to figure out how to “be a Christian”. Someone can go to church, sit under gospel preaching, and realize that he or she is not a good person and desire to be a better person. But the Christian life is not living the natural life on a higher plane, as so many people believe. As Oliver B. Greene says, reformation is not salvation or Christianity. It may make you different from other men, but in order to enter into heaven, you have to be born of the Spirit, washed in the blood of Christ, saved by Grace through faith. What Christianity is, is a Divine Life, manifested in mortal people, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A lot of fundamentalist assemblies, err in their (sometimes outright, and sometimes unspoken) insinuation that once you are saved, it is up to you to be righteous and holy and good. What it really is that is required, is to yield to the Holy Spirit. Since most fundamental churches seem to be rather afraid of the concept of the Holy Spirit, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on aspiring to personal goodness. In theory, that sounds commendable, but doctrinally, it is incorrect.
We don’t sanctify ourselves any more than we save ourselves. But many Christians do not understand this “new creature” with a “new heart” and “new spirit” concept, and Satan loves to hound us with constant reminders of our sins and failures, because it is a great way to keep people from stepping out in faith to serve the Lord or even just share the gospel. He will whisper “who do YOU think YOU are? Do you forget that you broke the law yourself, that you are divorced, that you had an abortion, that you_______(fill in the blank with whatever applies to you). The Bible says there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ.
I understand that I am a sinner. I used to be so ashamed of things in my past, that I was unable to be of any use to the Kingdom, to the Gospel, to the lost or even to other believers. If God has washed our sins away with the blood of Christ, who are we to continue to wallow in guilt. Why should Jesus’ great sacrifice not only buy back our access to the Creator, but also give us that clean slate? Don’t let the devil be writing his lies on your clean slate.
In 2 Corinthians Paul had to delay his visit to the Corinthian church because of a matter of disobedience that had taken place, (among several other issues) and the church at Corinth being like his own spiritual children, the Holy Spirit led him to change his plan, in order that the church itself could have opportunity to address the issues according to how Paul had advised them in the first letter. The main, glaring item was a young man who had taken his own step-mother and was living with her as husband and wife. Paul advised a very tough love approach of not allowing the young man to remain in their fellowship, but after the conviction of the Spirit did its work, Paul also made it a point to tell the church how important it was to receive the penitent believer back into their midst and comfort and encourage him, reassuring him of their love, lest he give up on the faith altogether.
Putting someone out of the fellowship is a biblical principle that has fallen completely out of favor in today’s “judge not” atmosphere. But the Bible doesn’t say that. Believers are not to judge unbelievers, but are actually commanded to be accountable one to another.
In the absence of this checks-and-balances approach, believers, especially new ones, with tender consciences, can fall into sin, as anyone is capable of and if you don’t know that you are just as capable of yielding to temptation, your day is coming, and often these “fallen comrades” are so crushed with the weight of their guilt, they just fall away in shame, and no one is there to say, “wait a minute, you are shocked because you sinned, and you don’t remember that is why Jesus had to shed his blood on the cross? If you are sorry and you have confessed this and know that you have to turn from it, then it’s okay, you are forgiven, and God is not holding this against you”. Satan is the accuser, not God.
So if you have sinned, and you feel tormented by your failures and bad choices, but you truly desire to live a God-honoring life, be encouraged. Yes your sin divides you from Christ, and yes, some sins are difficult to escape, but God continues to be a forgiving God. Don’t you notice that God seems far away when you are being lax and dabbling in sin, that your hunger for fellowship and the Word seems to just dry up?
Haven’t you heard about the little starving children in third world countries, their bellies swollen from malnutrition, that no longer even experience hunger? Appetite is stimulated by taste and smell, and even remembering how good your mama’s biscuits and gravy taste. When you don’t smell, taste, or consume food for extended periods of time, your appetite itself can diminish or disappear altogether. Same with thirst. I am notorious for neglecting to hydrate myself, and I notice that I seldom think of drinking anything, and yet when I make a concerted effort to consume more water, I find my thirst is restored.
If you are like most people, myself included, we tend to think of the Christian life sort of like the experience of school. You start in pre-school and kindergarten, and then you move up to the elementary grades. You finish those and it’s a “promotion” to middle school and then high school. After high school, many people go for “higher education” or degrees, from Associates on up to Doctorates.
Because schools and universities grant degrees and diplomas, it marks that phase as a level having been met and mastered, and it’s up to you how many more levels up you wish to climb. So with our Christian faith walk, we tend to want to classify our growth and “advancement” like stair-steps, and arriving at the “next level”. But that is not actually how it works to grow in Grace. Most of all because God’s ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts. In His “economy” the least among us will be the greatest. To lead we must submit and we must serve. And the way we grow and learn, is that the flesh is denied and the Spirit is given the pre-eminence. Unfortunately, the flesh is pretty persistent, and literally acts against the new heart and new spirit, and so it is really crucial that we feed our spirit on spiritual manna and starve the beastly flesh. Don’t sit around watching X-files and The Haunting, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and every other manner of entertainment that glorifies self, flesh, violence, sex, darkness and death, 20 hours a week and more, and then expect that going to church is going to give you all the “light” to counteract the darkness you surrounded yourself with those other hours. Not to mention our encounters with the world in daily life, co-workers with seedy jokes, or their discussions of “Fifteen and Pregnant” or Beyoncé’s outfit and lack of pants.
GIGO. If all you take in is garbage, that’s what you will have inside, and that is what is going to come out. Be it now, or when your works are tested by fire in Heaven.
We have to lay aside these weights. Baptism is a symbol of our once and for all, washing in the blood, and deliverance from the penalty of sin, and yet in the world, our hands and feet get dirty from things we encounter through the week. So that is why we fellowship with other believers, meditate on the Word, spend time in prayer. That’s akin to washing up in what nurses term the “bird bath” that is often given in bed when patients can’t get up yet for the full shower.
Maintenance. Every relationship requires maintenance to grow strong. The more we know our Lord, the stronger we are in Him and the more useful we are to Him. Until we learn how much of an impediment our own flesh is, we aren’t all that useful. Which is why even as we acquire understanding of the Word, if we have not learned this about our flesh nature, we often feel like it is one step forward and two steps back, and learning the same lessons over and over again.
The flesh has to die daily. The Spirit has to be followed and allowed to take the lead in us on a daily basis. Until it really does become our nature, but we are not going to reach that irrevocable level of completion and perfection in Christ until we pass from this world, either in death or the rapture of the church.
So there may be church orphans, but God’s own are never orphaned. Keep striving to choose obedience and deny the flesh it’s “natural” propensities, and remember that every temptation God allows, He also gives an escape-route. So look for it. Hang in there. Be encouraged. This world is going crazy, that is not your imagination. I don’t see anything about this election that is going to alter the course of America, no matter who gets elected. No matter what you are up against, go back to the Word. Even if it doesn’t seem to sink in or make sense, it’s still having a cleansing effect. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. You have to call upon Him in TRUTH, though. You don’t get to pretend that something is optional or valid that isn’t. Ignorance on your part will not be an excuse when He tests your works, because He gave us His Word.
Have faith that even as we continue into the present dark period, God has a plan which He is implementing, and the things we haven’t thought of, have not escaped Him. That means, if you were trying to put by for lean times, and then you had an injury and were out of work for six months, God is going to still keep His promise that the Righteous won’t be “begging bread”. He wants us to trust Him. So don’t let any “Sky is falling Hennie Penney make you think otherwise. Not that I don’t believe God has led some folks to prepping. But you can only do what you can do. Trust God with the rest. It’s going to be okay. This is a message to born-again believers. You were not born again to just be abandoned. Just as you would not leave your kids to starve no matter how stupid the circumstances that led to them being without food, you would intervene, that is the same way God views his children. He knows how stupid we can be. He remembers our frame is but dust. Don’t be foolish, don’t ignore God-given warnings nor even human ones, but always remember He is overseeing it all. Down to the tiniest Lady Bug and Morning