… what are we supposed to do? …

… i have a confession to make.  for the last 8 years or so, i have been embarrassed to call myself a Christian and that i believe in the Bible.  it has nothing to do with how i believe a true follower of Christ should conduct their life and everything to do with how the people who loudly claim that they are Christians conduct their lives.  and it seems to be getting worse …

… let me explain …

… it was just about forty years ago that my 12-yr old mind understood and accepted the message of the gospel in it’s simplest of terms and i made a sincere commitment to study the message of the Bible and the teachings of the Man called Jesus the Christ.  over those years i have failed many, many times to keep that commitment, but i was sincere when i made it none the less.

… the message as i understood it then, and still basically do, is that God created everything we see and everything we can’t see which included the first man ‘Adam’, and his wife ‘Eve’.  Adam disobeyed God and sin came into the world and cursed it which required regular blood sacrifices to cover the sin, but God had a plan to send His Son into the world to live a sinless life and be sacrificed as the final blood sacrifice for all time.  if we have changed our minds and believe this, then we need to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus in order to reestablish our relationship with God.

… the condensed version of how He taught us to live can be found in a comment from a conversation that Jesus had with His disciples on the night that He was betrayed, that is recorded in the book of John.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:34–35, ESV)

… and to fulfill that one and only commandment that is recorded that Jesus ever gave, He gave us a simple test to follow.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:31, ESV)

… it is the simplicity of the Gospel message that makes it so relevant to me.

… KISS (keep it simple stupid)

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:3–4, NKJV)

… the message is simple.  if you believe, then you treat others how you want to be treated.  you love them.  simple.

… but something else seems to be happening now.

… now don’t get me wrong.  although i believe the message itself is simple, following it’s message is something else altogether.  it can be difficult and full of pain.  an amazing amount of people will come out against you for defending the weak and encouraging people to share with the needy – but i would want them to do that for me if i was in their shoes.

… the message of Christ is to give up on this world and it’s systems – to walk contrary to those systems by living ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ – what Jesus prayed for, where everything is free.  the world system, a system that fosters the ‘haves and the have nots’ syndrome by supporting a ‘greed over need’ philosophy is contrary to the teaching of a Man Who taught that we are to “give to everyone who asks.”(Luke 6:30)

… and we are told in the book of Acts that the first believers did exactly as Jesus told us to do.

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:40–47, ESV)

… and again ..

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32, ESV)

… the message is the same that is has been throughout the history of the scriptures.  the prophets of old had the same message.  we are told that the Prophet Isaiah, around the year 720 BCE or so, spoke these words,

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:16–17, ESV)

… and then the Prophet Ezekiel, around the year 580 BCE or so, spoke this warning,

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, ESV)

… and now we have people who call themselves ‘christians’ who fight against the poor – who pass laws that make it illegal to be homeless.  people that call themselves apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers that live in mansions and drive luxury cars while in this country alone we have over 1,000,000 homeless schoolchildren.

.. so what should we do?

… in the book of Luke there is a passage about this crazy guy who is out in the desert near a river ‘preaching a baptism of repentance’ wearing a camel’s hair robe with a leather belt who ate locusts and wild honey.  now, ‘repentance’ simply means to ‘change your mind’ and ‘baptism’ means  ‘immersion, submersion’ from a word meaning ‘to wash.’  so his message was to ‘change your mind’ about the way you live your life, be ‘washed’ of the old way and ‘immersed’ in the new way.

… fine and dandy, but please just make this simple.  what should i do?

The crowds asked him, “What should we do?”

He answered them, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who doesn’t have any. Whoever has food should share it too.”

Some tax collectors came to be baptized. They asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
He told them, “Don’t collect more money than you are ordered to collect.”

Some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He told them, “Be satisfied with your pay, and never use threats or blackmail to get money from anyone.”” (Luke 3:10–14, GW)

… same simple message as all the prophets before.

… and thou shalt not judge … (… or something like that … )

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… anybody on the planet who has ever heard about Jesus knows that He said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37, ESV)

… but does that mean that He supported every kind of behavior?

… one of the teachings that has been very prevalent in the so-called ‘church’ of today is ‘touch not mine anointed’ –  meaning basically, you are in ‘sin’ if you speak against the lifestyle and teachings of anyone who has told the world that they are a ‘prophet, priest, pastor, minister, apostle, bishop’ or any other title that can be pulled out of the bible.  most of the people who believe this, will say ‘who are you to judge?’ followed by some form of trying to quote the Luke 6:37 verse.

hinn002And so blessing and cursing come pouring
out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters,
this is not right!
” (James 3:10, NLT)

 

… i believe that there are a couple of key verses in the bible which lay a background for understanding ‘what it’s all about’.  in a letter written to the group of believers in Corinth, Paul writes :

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11–12, ESV)

and in the book of Ecclesiastes it is written:

History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9–11, NLT)

… so what does that mean to me?

  1.  – the stories in the Old Testament were written down as examples for us.  an example shows us what happens if certain decisions are made, and
  2.  – history repeats itself.  if you look at the ‘cycles of history’ you will see that is very true.  people don’t remember what happened before, so they don’t know where they are in the cycle of things.

… wisdom would say ‘study history’.  how many times do we see today ‘never forget’, and yet, sadly, we as a society forget and the same consequences will be had.

… we are told in the bible that the LORD took a people group who had been slaves for 400 years, and turned them into a mighty nation.

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son,” (Exodus 4:22, ESV)

… the ‘purpose’ of the ancient nation of Israel, was to show the world that the LORD truly exists.  they would be His example to the world.  the scriptures teach that it was about 400 years after the ‘firstborn son’ came out of slavery until the Kingdom of David followed by his son Solomon, of whom the scriptures say :

Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.” (2 Chronicles 9:22, ESV)national-geographic-december-2010-207x300

… there is, to this day, debate about the actual existence of the Kingdom’s of David and Solomon today as there is very little actual evidence of its existence.   but there is evidence – besides the scriptures – to adequately verify it in my mind.  i believe that is significant for many reasons, but primarily because i believe the LORD does not lie.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)

and it was written in the scriptures :

“ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.” (1 Kings 9:6–7, ESV)

… and we read in the scriptures that ‘Israel’ becomes evil.  here are a few verses about what was, and is, considered ‘evil’ by the LORD:

Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.  Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. Therefore the Lord declares, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.” Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.” (Isaiah 1:23–27, ESV)

As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom:  she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me.  So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:48–50, ESV)

Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.  But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”” (Jeremiah 22:15–17, ESV)

They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (Amos 5:10–12, ESV)

… do you see a pattern?   all of the Prophets of the Old Testament – our examples – spoke of how the people treated the poor and the needy.  every single one.

… and then Jesus shows up.  this Man was born in a barn.  His first cradle was a feeding trough for animals in the barn.manger… there isn’t a lot of stuff written about Him until: “Jesus,when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,” (Luke 3:23, ESV) so at 30, He shows up and goes out to a man of which it’s written: “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matthew 3:4, ESV)

… now, the ‘camel-hair-clothes-wearing-guy’ who eats bugs and wild honey says stuff like:  “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned yjohn-the-baptistou to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” (Matthew 3:7–12, ESV)

… and this Man, Jesus – submits to the ‘camel-hair-clothes-wearing-guy’ who eats bugs and wild honey.  He announces to the world – ‘this guy knows what is going on – listen to him – he knows the truth’.

… then, this Man, Jesus, starts saying stuff like : “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:30–31, ESV)

homeless

… and :  ““If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.    And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.    But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:32–36, ESV)

… and then He said something that should be important for us today.  He said :

And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” (Matthew 24:11, ESV)

… and :  ““Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15–20, ESV)

prosperity-gospel

… how can i acknowledge that a prophet is false and still ‘not judge’ someone?  isn’t that a contradiction? it seems that Paul was asked a similar question.  he was asked about who we should associate with once we say that we have started following the teachings of Jesus.  in his letter to the church in Corinth, it is said that he wrote:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”” (1 Corinthians 5:9–13, ESV)

… we live in a world where there are people who have over $1,000,000,000 – who idly stand by while 15,000 – 17,000 children die every single day from starvation alone – and claim to the world that they are ‘christians’ – followers of the teachings of Jesus, the guy born in a barn, laid in a feeding trough who said that the ‘‘camel-hair-clothes-wearing-guy’ who eats bugs and wild honey says stuff’ showed the true path.

…aren’t these the people that we were warned about?

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Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12–13, ESV)