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Why Does the Church Suffer Deception

Have you ever noticed that the Church seems to be so divided in its purpose and intent? Oh I’m not talking about its choice of curriculum or its many social programs, I’m talking about at the very foundation of its existence is a question as to who is in charge of the journey.  You see Jesus (Yeshua) was clear to point out that He would be the one to build His church, but all too often it has been the desire of man to help God along. Hence we see a wide variety of religious kingdoms that have the appearance of godly approval, but all too often men are the ones getting the glory.

What this man centered pattern of performance has done is created over 40,000 denominations that call themselves Christian. This monster of a number does not deserve our praise, nor does it adequately describe the wishes of but one God. Hence mans multiplicity often usurps God’s oneness. The reason that this is even a problem in the first place is because we missed a foundational aspect of the gospel which keeps us on the strait and narrow.

First lets confirm that there is one pivotal event that all believers look to which define them as Christian. That event is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Without it we have no chance of gaining salvation, relationship with God or any hope of changing our sinful heart. This valuable sequence of events begins with the crucifixion of the Christ and what He accomplished on the Cross.

When Jesus died a number of things took place. First, His blood was shed in order to redeem us back to God. This selfless act literally purchased us for God and paved the way for man to gain right standing with the Father.

Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

 As wonderful and amazing as that redemption is there are still other benefits that were provided by Christ’s encounter with death.

  • We were freed from the curse once imposed upon mankind for failing to live up to God’s standards. Galatians 3:13
  • The Serpent lost power over those who are now found in Christ. Colossians 2:15
  • The Law of Moses was moved out of the way as our chief standard of performance. Colossians 2:14
  • The fallen nature of man has been crucified. Romans 6:1-3

 Now we bring these points to light in order to make a point; the Christian life finds its greatest freedom by first identifying with the death of our Savior. Paul the apostle brings it all into perspective by saying;

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 What Paul discovered for himself and for us all was Jesus’ death was also the place of our death. No, we didn’t die physically, but rather Jesus took us into His own death so that we could come to know His life.  Here, take a look at these many verses that reinforce the same principle;

Romans 6:2…………….. We died to sin.

Romans 6:3…………….. You were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:6…………….. The old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with.

Romans 6:7…………….. Anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:8…………….. Died with Christ… alive with him.

Romans 6:11…………… Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 7:4…………….. You also died to the law through the body of Christ.

Romans 7:6…………….. By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law.

1Corintians 5:14……… Christ died for all; therefore, all died.

Galatians 2:19………… I died to the law so that I might live for God.

Galatians 2:20………… I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Colossians 2:20………. You died with Christ to the basic principles of this world.

Colossians 3:3………… You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God..

2Timothy 2:11…………. If we died with him, we will also live with him.

Colossians 1:22………. You were reconciled by Christ’s physical body through death.

Colossians 2:12………. You were buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God

By supernaturally entering into death with Him we discover a tangible and powerful separation from the world, the flesh, the devil but also from every religious substitute. You see this purpose driven death not only rescued us at the time of salvation but it has properties that must be embraced if we want to continue to serve one God and Father. Identifying with Christ’s death on the Cross is how we finally settle how we become more like Him and less like ourselves. Up to this point many have thought it was up to them to bring in the kingdom, but we’ve been trying to hard. We’ve also gone so far as to depend on our own natural reason to make life and faith work. This tendency to trust in natural strength began with man in the garden.

Initially mankind found purpose by taking dominion. Having been blessed by God he was released to steward God’s creation as he saw fit. Of course, this commission was soon interrupted as the first family gave over their power and authority to the Serpent. In the process the god of this world perverted man’s attempts to ever achieve true success from that time forward.

This is why Jesus had to come; not just to return us to relationship with the Father, but to provide us a way to escape our fallen humanity. Think of it this way; at one time God was pleased with man’s natural ability to succeed, yet God is now more pleased with the success of His Son.

John 15:5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Having since ascended into heaven and having seated Himself at the right hand of the Father, Jesus now invites us to succeed in life by the council and direction of His Holy Spirit. A stewardship that once encouraged us to succeed by fleshly means is now dependant on the Spirit of God for each and every step we take. If you have trouble seeing what that actually looks like then let me ask you a question;

“What do dead people do?”

Dead people do nothing, dead people are owned by nothing, dead people are free of their fallen nature and they stop striving in their own strength. Yet dead people must also wait upon the Spirit of God if they intend to ever experience resurrection life. You see the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to quicken our mortal bodies. Jesus doesn’t leave us in the grave, but rather offers us a greater purpose based on His own power to save.

Now I realize that a personal death, burial and resurrection experience with God may be a foreign concept to many. However without passing all our works through the Cross it is likely that our “old man” has often been the one going to Church. By dismissing this very important aspect of the gospel many have been spinning their religious wheels. In fact, all too often the Cross has remained an icon of the past rather than a pillar of present stability. I use the term “stability” because the Cross lets us finally let go and let God. It declares that we are “dead” and if we have any hope of ever experiencing true purpose in the kingdom it is only found on the other side of the Cross. If that’s the case then maybe we should be willing to hand over a life time of instability. In so doing Jesus by His Holy Spirit is able to instill within us a healthy blueprint for life, love and commitment. That even includes how we have previously defined the Christian experience. Since He did the work for us and revealed to us His way of escape we can let Him finish the transformation process.  Here’s a verse that shows us how to apply this aspect of the gospel to our lives.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

How do we do this? In the same manner that we asked for salvation we also get to ask God for transformation. Here’s another verse that confirms it’s about trusting Him for renewal.

 Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We separate from our former way of life by trusting the Holy Spirit to do the work for us and in us. As we call upon Him to deal with any point of human frailty, He applies what Jesus did for us on the Cross to our current circumstance.

What is set before us is a way to reevaluate our current quality of life but also our perceptions of faith. Certainly we can begin by trusting the Holy Spirit to take away our sinful actions, however it doesn’t end there. You see all our actions need redeeming even the good ones. Isaiah hints at this by saying;

Isaiah 64:6a All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…
As believers who desire to live a godly life, we have at times added unnecessary rules, regulations and commitments to the mix. Many of these hindrances appeal to our natural attempts at gaining perfection, but these fall short of the glory God. This is probably the greatest reason why we need to let the Cross challenge our previous attempts at living the Christian life.

If you are willing, in the days ahead you can expect that the Holy Spirit will bring to mind some of the things that distract you from living a happy, productive and organic life in Christ. Some of these issues may include how you improperly relate to men, organizations, the world and even a faulty faith. Basically wherever we once placed too much emphasis on our own ability to make life and faith work; He will be suggesting a course correction. At that moment of introspection, plan on recognizing how Jesus separated you from that improper connection at the Cross. You can then expect that He will complete the task by raising you up anew by His resurrection power.

 Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him (Jesus) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

 Application Jesus, on my behalf take my religious trappings into death with you so that I can know only one faith, one hope and one God.

 

 

 

The Shadow of the Spiritual — Introduction

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Have you ever wondered, what life is supposed to be like for the Christian? Nearly all of us have. The reason this question arises is simply that many believers don’t have a way to properly gauge the quality of their Christian experience. Certainly we can all find a myriad of religious alternatives all vying for our attention, yet can we be confident that they offer us a proper view of the Savior? The good news is that most of the people that will read this book have already begun a search for spiritual truth. Having initially said yes to Jesus they know that encounters with God are possible, if not proper; but there is a problem. If God’s perfect Gospel is interrupted, unanswered, or is not actually given its proper place, then we will find ourselves jumping into all sorts of error. Instead of achieving God’s highest, we will only produce results that remain limited to creation. For some that might seem like a worthy cause; this world offers all sorts of imaginative perks; however God does offer a better reward. As we trust Him with the journey we are invited to live a renewed life based on His power to save and our residency is now set in heaven. Think about it; our highest call is to be brought up into a heavenly reality; one rooted and grounded upon eternal principles. This means everything that guides us can be immersed in the nature, character and Spirit of God. The life we live and the fruit we produce, even while on this earth, can be of a greater quality than that which we have previously known. The truth is we sometimes miss the way; there are times that we become confused about what actually represents God and His Kingdom. Consequently if the “Adam in us” (the fallen nature) decides to take charge of the journey, then we will quite often open ourselves up to all sorts of damaging spiritual detours. For some, this is their current predicament. When the journey is all about “us” it means we are making choices in life and even in faith that fall short of God’s marvelous provision. Subsequently man’s fallen nature has negatively impacted our faith by adding religious ideals and spiritual trouble to our walk. In the chapters ahead we will seek to define healthy relationship with God from a biblical perspective, as well as offer fresh insights regarding His Kingdom. Our goal is to help believers get back to the “basics” so that their relationship with God can take precedence. A new life is waiting for us free of the limitations of our old man. This is all made possible because God first gave us His Son and then offered us access to His Holy Spirit. Actually, for the believer the Spirit of God is now the most essential ingredient in maintaining a healthy Christian perspective. Our freedom and maturity is totally dependent on walking by the Spirit. How do we walk by the Spirit? Though the Spirit of God has been given to all that ask for salvation, we have not always understood how to be pliable to His continued instruction. In error, we try to add God to our agendas, rather than recognizing the importance of being added to His. When we walk by the Spirit it is simply a matter of allowing the Spirit of God to guide our choices and make changes within us. This is the plan of salvation; God is making us new and inviting us into all the benefits of His life. Where we were once moved by Adam’s rules regarding life, love and commitment, we have now found a better way to live. All of this is made possible by Christ’s work on the Cross. The most over looked Bible truth When we refer to the “Cross”, we are talking about a foundation of Christianity which is based on every benefit delivered to us by Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Certainly we should first understand that Jesus was crucified and shed His blood in order to redeem us back to God. This selfless act literally purchased us for God and paved the way for an eternal relationship.

Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

But, on further inspection we find that there were other advantages that the Cross offered us.

The Curse —  We were freed from the curse once imposed upon Adam. Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 

The Serpent — The Serpent has had power over Adam’s race, but he has lost power over those who are now found in Christ. Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The Law — The Law of Moses was moved out of the way as our chief standard of performance. Colossians 2:14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil —  The Tree which is synonymous with how fallen man thinks and acts has been moved out of the way. No longer do we have to gauge the meaning of life based on our own standards of good and evil. Colossians 2:20-21 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21”Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 

Sin nature — The fallen nature of man is always set towards rebellion, but every act of disobedience has been crucified. Romans 6:1-3 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 

Romans 6:6-7 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Sin behavior — Behavior that is unfitting for God’s people is the result of men moving and acting upon their old nature; this is the Adamic nature. Acts that lead to sinful behavior have been removed at the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Romans 7:5-6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The above verses make another important point. Unbeknownst to many Christians, it wasn’t only Jesus that died on the Cross; it was also the place of our death. No, we didn’t die physically; instead Jesus supernaturally invited us into His own death so that we could come to know His life. In this way everything that once bound us to the fall or made us improperly relate to the world can get moved out of the way. Even today there is no limit as to how many ways our lives can be changed at the Cross of Christ. This process can be summed up in one simple statement:

Jesus died for your redemption; but you died with Christ to gain transformation.

Once we let the Cross separate us from our former way of life, the resurrection power of God begins to move in our hearts, minds and actions. Jesus raises us up into a new and living way which is empowered by His Spirit.

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Romans 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

What a wonderful gift! Our present and future lives can now be free of all sorts of added clutter and the things that have lied to us about life with Christ.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The power of the Cross and the resurrected life of God’s Son can provide us a perpetual platform for change. It is here that we begin to participate in what the Word calls “sanctification” or “renewing the mind”. We set aside all the limits of Adam’s fallen ways and put on all the advantages of Christ’s own nature. This is one reason that the Christian life can be seen as a progressive journey. It is simply that we have yet to realize all the benefits of walking in God’s strength and salvation. Yes, we are eternally saved, but our daily choices and actions may still need a Savior. The miracle of the Gospel (the good news) has offered us a way out from the trappings of our old man and entrance into abundant life with Christ. This was all given to us right from the start and it now sits before us just waiting for a convert. So how do we believe and properly respond? Our only true means of making the Gospel work is to agree with the One that provided it without defect.

Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes and so is justified, and with the mouth he confesses and confirms salvation.

In the Greek, the word “confess” is “homologeo” and is defined as: saying the same thing as another, i.e. agreeing with; conceding to confess, declare; professing to declare openly, speak out freely; praising and celebrating. Other scriptures that bring forth the same truth are: Mat. 10:32, 1 Tim. 6:12, Heb. 13:15, 2 Cor. 4:13.

The emphasis on agreement with God is alive throughout the scriptures, and if we want, it can be alive within each one of us. Paul the Apostle trusted in this very thing; he believed that a new life was available for him by agreeing with God’s work on the Cross. Let Paul’s confession be a precursor to our own declarations of freedom.

Application I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)  

My old way of thinking was tied to performing for God, rather than letting Him and His gospel change me. This meant that I improperly sought for examples in the Word, or in other men, that I could act upon or imitate, rather than believing that God had provided me with a Spiritual means of transformation. Basically, I was too busy trying to follow a rule book that admonished me to change, yet these actions simply made me religious. Up to this point Christianity was all about me. Simply stated, if we don’t allow Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to resonate within our faith, then there is nothing that can properly carry us on into God’s abundant life.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Now, please consider that if we haven’t properly separated from Adam’s folly, then the Christian experience has been frustrated along the way. If our natural man (Adam) has been leading with his own brand of reason then he has improperly put his hands on every aspect of Christianity. He not only complicates a simple salvation message, but due to his fallen attitudes he aggressively dominates the scene in physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual ways. For our study we will define the difference between religion and true faith in this way;

—-Religion is a search for God, but subject to man’s own strength and definition of a savior (We are in control). 

In contrast “Christianity,” or our “faith,” refers to a pure expression of relationship which has been initiated and delivered to us by God (God is in control).

This is our battle in a nut shell. Will it be Adam’s view point that rules our hearts and minds or is it time to truly trust in the life of our Savior? Fallen activities may not disqualify us for heaven; however dabbling in Adam’s world and his religiosity can certainly divert our course.

The Christian Journey 

This brings up another important point; our Christian journey is Spiritual. We call upon a Spiritual God for Spiritual answers and find victory while participating in a Spiritual new life and Kingdom.                                                                                                 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

As we trust Him to be supernatural in our lives we find that transformation leads us into effective service and connection with God. Yet we are not the only spiritual people on the earth. Fallen mankind is also moved to make choices that are spiritual and this tends to alter his quality of life. Yes, even the unsaved depend on spiritual encounters to define their way. Subsequently maintaining freedom in Christ does require that we make right Spiritual choices. In the pages ahead we will be looking for truth in Jesus and His Word, but we will also be considering many of the spiritual pitfalls that currently blanket religious thinking.

(For our study and throughout this book you my also notice that I have capitalized the word “Spiritual” to coincide with the work of the Holy Spirit and represent a true definition of salvation in God. Likewise I have left a small case “s” in “spiritual” to represent a generic understanding of spiritual things as well as describe the fallen works of creation.)

What we want to offer the reader is an invitation to become Spiritually aware and Spiritually awake to a greater victory that is available in Christ. Don’t be overwhelmed by this task; once you understand the importance of the Cross in your daily walk, you will find that Spiritual victory is a breeze, as well as your most perfect security. The Cross of Christ clarifies our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual connections for us.

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

By embracing the Bible’s way of transformation at the Cross we can begin to gleefully challenge any spiritual fallacy or misconception that interrupts a pure faith. Here are some key subjects that we will be discussing in the chapters ahead.

Covenant: The right to agree with God is a privilege, but going beyond the fullness of God’s covenant plan can cost us dearly. Added agreements with men, organizations or a demonic realm have put us under serious spiritual obligation, leaving us powerless to show forth a true faith. 

The Serpent: Through intrigue and deception the Devil has taken hold of Adam’s world and declared himself a god. This fallen angel also tries to entangle believers in an alternate example of spiritual success.

The Anatomy of a Contract: The Serpent holds mankind captive to a very old contract. If we can recognize how that contract still impacts our lives, then we can escape many of the strongholds that have accompanied our fallen choices.

Tale of Two Kingdoms: If we become spiritually subject to a fallen world it is likely that we won’t reach for heaven and heaven will have a hard time reaching for us. It all depends on where we choose to dwell.

The Shadow of the Spiritual: When religion is central to our faith it means that “we” are central to our faith. This can make the Church a dangerous spiritual minefield and rob believers of their God given innocence.

Duality in faith: When true faith becomes joined with ideas and concepts that are merely religious in nature they end up supporting a different agenda and invite other gods to speak. The Church and its ministry have taken a turn for the worse under such influences.

The Religion of Old Testament Covenants: An improper dependence on the Old Covenant message by a New Covenant Church can become an unhealthy template for success. Old Testament ritual has fueled many of Adam’s attempts to be good and godly, yet a better Covenant is now available in Christ.

Spiritual Ministry: Ministry that seeks to confront spiritual trouble from a religious perspective can find itself just as vulnerable as the people it is trying to help. By challenging our ideas about Christian practice we can return to a pure expression of ministry guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Search for Christian identity: The question of who we are and what we are made for can never be answered based on human reason and fallen principles. This includes how we seek after God. A lack of clarity on how we gain Christian identity keeps us running around in religious circles. Yet God has made the answer to this question simple as we find transformation in Him.

The chapters ahead will address numerous beliefs rooted in man’s religious search for the divine. This may challenge some of your own connections with religion and make you wonder about various church movements. This author’s own journey followed numerous church groups as well as Charismatic faith; some of it was Jesus and some of it was not. Though we seek to challenge our foundations, please keep in mind that I am not suggesting setting aside a supernatural life. No, just the opposite; I am merely suggesting that we call upon Jesus to be our only example and resource of Spiritual truth, power and success. The foundation of our faith should remain singular under one God and one Spirit. Every need has been satisfied in Christ, and God remains available as we draw near to Him. In fact the miraculous has happened simply because we started to trust God with the answer. He fulfilled all things long before we existed, so that we could draw from a Source of Life that is always constant and never fading. That is actually the most comforting thing I have ever known, especially as I have begun to walk free of many years of spiritual and religious distraction. Are you ready to take a journey; a journey that will show you a powerful way to separate from Adam’s spiritual madness? Come along and experience the freedom for which Christ has set you free. The most precious of promises can be realized when you come out from,

“The Shadow of the Spiritual”

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