TO HIS FACE

What do you do when you realize someone is wrong on something and what they are doing is actually spreading the wrong and even convincing others to go in the wrong direction? It would be easy to go to one particular Scripture and use it as the standard for every situation because there are many times in the Bible when people, even those trying hard to do right, did wrong and needed to be corrected. Jesus said if we saw someone sinning we were to go to the person first just between us and them and try to correct the problem. Only when that failed were we to take one or two with us so that everything might be confirmed and only then should it go to the church if the person refuses to repent.

In Acts 18 when Apollos came to Ephesus to preach the gospel in the Synagogue and was powerfully proclaiming Jesus as the Christ to the crowd, Aquila and Priscilla were in the crowd to hear him and they realized that while he was teaching in a great way most of the things that were right, that he was not teaching the truth on baptism, knowing only the baptism of John. They took him aside talked to him, teaching him more correctly the gospel of Christ and the difference between John’s baptism and that of Jesus. After teaching him better they commended him as a preacher and sent letters to others to encourage them to receive him.

But there is a story found in Galatians 2:11-21 of Paul being in Antioch preaching the gospel when Peter came for a visit. In the beginning, it was all going great. Peter was eating and fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians in Antioch and it was a tremendous experience. But then a group of Jewish Christians came down from Jerusalem that were friends of James and Peter pulled away from fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians and started just eating with the Jews. His actions even led Barnabas to join in the Jewish group and separate from the rest of the church. What would you have done in such a situation? Obviously, it was such a public thing and was doing tremendous harm to the church and the very possibility of real fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Paul opposed him to his face, “because he stood condemned.” He was being a hypocrite and was leading others to do the same thing. “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.”

Paul will go on to point out that he through the law had died to the law so that he might live for God. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

So, when should a person be opposed to their face and when is it right to do so before the whole church rather than in private? It seems obvious that it is always the right thing if we see wrong being done that the right person for us to talk to about the wrong is the one doing it and not go out to tell everyone else we meet or talk with about what we see that they are doing wrong. There is never a right time to go to others, whether on facebook or anything else to attack the wrong on another person when we can go directly to the person and confront the wrong.

But that is different from doing so in front of the whole crowd. Most of the time the best way to handle anything of that nature is as privately as possible so that the wrong can be corrected and life can move on. Sometimes in making such a move we learn that we are the ones who are wrong and what we heard wasn’t true. But there are times when the actions of a person are not only hurting them and a few others that might be talked to personally but is indeed leading a whole group of people astray and may lead to the dividing of the church itself. In such a time the opposition should be public, before the group, with the opportunity for the one we feel is wrong to either repent of the sin or to defend their actions to show we misjudged the matter. But it is not right to allow anyone to do things or say things that are wrong that will hurt the whole body of Christ and say nothing. Sometimes, the only answer is to confront to the face, in front of the crowd.

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NOT MY WILL

“I did it my way” was a popular song a generation ago. But the philosophy certainly didn’t stop being popular when the song wasn’t being sung much anymore. Too often, in life, the attitude is “My way or the highway.” On the job, it’s common for people to demand their way or they will leave or go on strike. In the family, it certainly takes place that husbands or wives declare, “it’s got to be my way or I’m not participating.” Even with the children they usually reach a point of demanding they have their way about what to eat, drink or where to go or what to do.

I suppose it is normal this time of year with the political season in progress that we would become even more attuned to what we want and how can we get it. It just seems to be everywhere you look there is a group marching, demanding attention in some fashion to get their way. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the same mentality comes to church and different people are so sure that their way is the right way that if you don’t do things the way they want then they are either mad, quitting or headed somewhere else where they suppose, at least for a time, that everything will go the way they want it to go.

By the way, let me make this clear, that I’m not just talking about other people. I like things to go my way. I have very definite ideas on how things ought to be and often believe that if that isn’t the way they are done then something is horribly wrong and wonder what is wrong with others that they can’t see that the way I think is right is the right way altogether.

But then, I remember Jesus in one of the most crucial hours of history and for the future of the entire world. He came into this world knowing the plan of God for his life and ultimate sacrifice for all people so that we might have new hope and new opportunity and a new future. But, he was now facing the final hours on this earth before being beaten, mocked, spit upon and crucified mercilessly for the crimes and sins that others had committed. He traveled along with eleven of the apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane, a familiar place for him to go and pray with them. He left all but Peter, James, and John behind and went further where he instructed them to watch and pray with him because he was deeply troubled. He traveled on a stone’s throw further and fell on his face in agony as he prayed, “Father. if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” His agony was so great that the sweat fell like great drops of blood.

When he got up and went back to the three disciples, they were sound asleep. They wanted to be able to be there for him but they were weak. He asked them again to watch and pray with him that they might not enter into temptation and went again to repeat the prayer to the Father. It happened three times and then he came to them to say arise. The time had come for him to meet the mob, to face the trials, to be mistreated, and rejected. He would carry his cross to Golgotha where they would crucify him even though he had the power at any moment to stop it, to call for twelve legions of angels to come and destroy this whole mob of hypocrites. Instead, he prayed, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”

The single act of history that made it possible for our sins to be forgiven happened because of the heart of Jesus that didn’t demand his way but yielded to God’s way. Many times in life it would be much more godly to simply yield our will to someone else instead of pushing for our way.

But in the church or family or any other part of a Christian’s life, the real test is will we yield to God’s will and pray for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, rather than trying to press our will to be done on earth and in heaven? The church can only be God’s church when God’s will is what really matters. If the essence of our existence isn’t reading, praying, studying and reasoning with each other to know and follow His will in everything, nothing else will matter. If we can gather the biggest crowd, with the most exciting worship and most eloquent speakers but the primary thought isn’t doing what God wants, it is a royal waste of time.

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THE PATH TO FREEDOM

The desire for freedom lives deep in the hearts of all people. We don’t want to be held by chains whether real or ones in our mind or heart. Yet freedom is rare no matter where we live. We can be enslaved by memories of things that have happened years before, sometimes even generations before that we just can’t turn loose of. We may be enslaved by hatred for someone that we feel or know has wronged us or our family to the degree we simply can’t get away from it. We may be enslaved by prejudice so that we look at people of any particular group and think that if someone is of that race, background or religious body, they must be of a particular sort. Often it goes back to someone we have known from one of these groups and we then assumed that everyone of that group must be the same. Think of countries where just being identified as a Christian makes the people there believe that you are out to kill them or destroy them in some way. How many times in your life have your prejudices been shattered because you got to know someone personally who was of the very group you believed was all bad and they turned out to be good, caring and helpful people?

One of Jesus’ primary purposes in coming into this world and living among us was to offer freedom. He said, “If you continue in my word then you are my disciples indeed and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32). In Romans 6:17-18 Paul said, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” In 2 Corinthians 3:17 it says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” But two of the strongest statements about freedom in Christ are in Galatians 5. In verse one “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Then in verse 13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

I know that I can have freedom from my sins as I turn from those sins in repentance and am forgiven by the Lord for the sin, thus bringing freedom from the sin. Even though I may have sinned in some horrible ways, there is no lack of cleansing power in the blood of Christ and even the worst of sinners can be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord and by the Spirit of our God (I Corinthians 6:9-11). But how can I be free from those things that enslave me in life? How do I overcome the hate or prejudice or distrust that fills my heart because of things that have been done to me that were wrong and overcome that kind of slavery?The truth is, it is the very same process involved. Often people that have wronged us in some way or whom we fear or distrust, have repented of the wrong and asked for forgiveness. When such happens, the ball is in my court. I can forgive and move on or I can question their sincerity and refuse to forgive. As hard as it is to forgive in such times, it is worth remembering that Jesus said if a person sins against you seven times in a day and turns again to say, “I repent” forgive them. The disciples realized that would be hard and asked the Lord to “increase our faith.” Notice Jesus didn’t say to examine their repentance. Only God is capable of searching the hearts and minds. Our place is simply to forgive when someone says they are sorry or repenting of the sin.

But what if they don’t repent? What if they never show any regret or do anything to try to make up for the wrong done? First, sometimes people don’t repent because they don’t really understand that they have done you any wrong. So, I must go to the person who did the wrong, by myself and between me and them in the humblest way possible confront them for the wrong (Matthew 18:15-17). Many times they will repent at that point and you can forgive and move on. Jesus said if they didn’t then take one or two witnesses to confirm the whole thing and try again. If that didn’t work then take it to the church and if that didn’t work then let the person be to you as an unbeliever.

But let me suggest something else. Jesus was being crucified by a mob who hated him because he wasn’t the Christ they wanted him to be. Their accusations were false and he had done them no wrong, yet they wanted him dead. The amazing thing is the first thing Jesus prayed when hanging on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” You might say, well that was Jesus, no ordinary person could do that, but Stephen did in Acts 7 when he was being stoned to death by an angry mob who hated his message.

Sometimes, the answer for me, whether the other person ever changes or repents or not is to simply forgive it and leave it in the hands of God to deal with the person. When I forgive, it allows the hate, the fear, the prejudice and the longing for revenge to flow out of my life and I can be free from the slavery that has kept me in chains.

Someone might well say, “But Leon, you don’t know what I’ve had to deal with. You just can’t understand how hard it would be to just forgive and turn it loose.” No, I’m sure I can’t. But the truth is no one knows what the other person has been through and how many times and ways they have been injured in ways we would never have dreamed about.

Several years ago I met a lady who had been imprisoned in Germany during World War 2. She was Jewish and her whole family was murdered except her. She was just a young girl at the time when the war ended and she was freed. She was a nurse for a doctor friend that I went to and I became friends with her. She always seemed cheerful and friendly to everyone. When the doctor told me her story, I began to question her when I would see her about it all. At first she didn’t share much but as time went by she became more and more open and told of the horror of losing her whole family. An American soldier had seen her and in the releasing of the prisoners began to talk with her and found out she had no one there to turn to. He asked if she would like to come to America and become part of his family. She was shocked but agreed. Somehow he arranged for her to get to this country and have his family meet her at the dock. He was still serving in the army when she reached the states. The family took her in and treated her as one of their own. I asked one day how she had dealt with the feelings towards those who had murdered her family. Her answer was, “It haunted me for years. But the love the family here showed me helped me to forgive them and realize they were just deluded in their thinking. When I forgave them, it changed my whole life. You know hate is a horrible thing and I’m glad I’m free from it.”

God wants you too to be free.

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IS THERE ANY HOPE

Few things in life are more distressing than to stand either as friends or with a family when a loved one is extremely ill or has been in a horrible accident and the doctor is trying to explain to the family in the kindest and clearest way possible just how bad the situation really is. It is quite common in those settings, to have someone from the family speak up to the doctor with the question, “Is there any hope?” I’ve watched different doctors react in all kinds of ways when that question is asked. Some have dropped their head to say, “I don’t know. That is really in God’s hands.” Others have bluntly said, “I don’t see any way for there to be.” I remember one doctor saying to the family, “They are alive now and we are doing all we can, but you need to pray to God for more help than we can bring. Why don’t we pray right now?” and he led us in prayer for the family.

One of the saddest things that can ever happen in life is when people give up hope. It’s tragic when a family gives up all hope that a child is going to change who has headed down the road of addiction and nothing seems to be working to turn them around. Even in a country it is heart breaking to reach the point when people lose hope that things will ever get better than they are right now.

The truth is hope is what keeps up moving and believing that there is going to be some better situation. Hope is an equal mixture of desire and expectation. It isn’t wishful thinking or just a leap in the dark. It is what gives us assurance or confidence that things are going to improve. In Romans 8:22-25 Paul laid out one of the great statements of all time about hope. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Often in Paul’s writing he ties hope with faith and love and in Colossians 1 declares that our faith in Jesus Christ and love for all God’s holy people is built on the hope we have of eternal life in Christ. Peter said our hope is laid up for us in heaven from which we look for a savior who will change our lowly bodies so they can be fashioned like his glorious body.

Our hope for a better world, a better fuller life, one that isn’t hindered by death, disease, or challenges in the hope laid up in heaven. When we place our hope on the things of this world, we face the sad reality that they are in a constant state of change and that many of the things we depend on to be there for us turn out to be gone when they are needed most.

Look at Paul’s words to Titus in chapter 3:3-8 that seem to size up the whole topic of hope. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so then, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

It’s pretty common to have people ask if one is a positive or negative thinker, I prefer to think of myself as a hopeful thinker that sees hope for the world, but knows that the ultimate hope for us all isn’t found in this life but the one to come when Jesus returns and we have a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell and that we can be part of that world, living in the loving presence of God all the time.

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WHAT CATEGORY​ DO YOU FIT IN?

I suppose it has always been the case that people looked at one another and immediately sized them up in some way to place them in a particular category. Let’s face it the amount of categories you can put another person in today is so multiplied I can’t keep up with them. Think of someone you met today and just had a few words with, perhaps in a coffee shop, a restaurant or on the street. How many ways did you size them up? If you carried on a conversation with them that lasted more than 30 seconds you were given several other slots you could put them in. Just from sight we can size them up by race, age, well-dressed or shabby, confident or a beggar, fashionable or either don’t care or just poorly dressed. But if you talk with them for a while you begin to put them into other slots as well. You can decide if they are from this country, from the south or north or if they are friendly or not.

But, if we are honest we have to admit the slots we have for people can be based on a multitude of other things. Are the liberal or conservative? Are they pro-life or pro-choice? Are they religious or not and if religious are they the kind I am or some other brand? Are they athletic or not at all interested in who wins or loses?

I know I fall into the same pit fall of sizing people up and putting them into some category, but isn’t it downright aggravating when someone returns the favor and sticks you into some category that you don’t even like much less think you belong in? Have you been misjudged lately? I think of the days when I was selling real estate and people would meet to look at homes or to discuss what they wanted and I would look at the car they drove and how they were dressed often to make a quick judgment of what they might want. One day an elderly couple came into my office wanting to look at a house. They didn’t give the appearance of having much money at all and when I saw their car it was old and pretty worn out. But they were asking about a house that was very expensive and wanted to go see it. I immediately thought this was a waste of time, but agreed to set it up to show them the house. After all I wanted to look at it myself. As we waited for the time for us to be able to see it, I started talking about things like if they had a house they needed to sell to be able to buy it and they said, no. I asked if they had visited any mortgage companies to see what kind of loan they qualified for and they said no. So, I showed them the house thinking the whole time this is a waste of time. At the conclusion of the showing I asked how they liked the house and she answered, I really like it and see a few changes we will need to make but we want it. I waited for the man to speak up as well, but he was quiet until we got back to the office and I said let’s go in and start the paper work. He said, O.K. and I pulled out the offer and acceptance and asked if they had in mind what they wanted to offer. He said they would give the asking price. I asked if they needed to make preparation for loan and he said, no they would pay cash and that they would be negotiable on when they people needed to move out. They signed the contract and he handed me a quite large check for the earnest money just to make it clear to the sellers this was real. After they left, I begin to do some checking and found out that they were extremely wealthy and could easily have afforded a dozen such homes if they wanted them. I had totally missed it when I tried putting them into a compartment that I thought they would fit into.

What if we just stopped all the sizing up of people in every way and really took time to get to know people without judging them, what would happen in the world? There is no question that Jesus was the absolute best at taking people where they were and offering them hope and new life no matter what their race, color, background or sin they had been involved in. He touched the unclean, ask for a drink from a immoral Samaritan woman, forgave one caught in adultery and even took a man named Saul who hated Christianity, and wanted to destroy it and turned his whole life around to become his apostle to the Gentiles.

Instead of focusing on what people are or what wrong they have done, what a different world we would live in if we could look at them and see what they are capable of becoming with our help and God’s help. Let’s try something for a few days, at least. Let’s try to eliminate or at least cut way back on the number of categories we have to put people into and then refuse to put anyone into any category until we have actually taken the time to learn about them and know what kind of problems and concerns they are dealing with. I believe it will take a lot of pressure off us but will be uplifting to the whole world.

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THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE

We have worlds of things in life to be thankful for, especially if we are followers of Jesus Christ. He truly blesses us in more ways all the time than we can even imagine. Often in the worst of situations from our point of view, God is still blessing us in ways that we can’t see now but will later. I often thank God that I’m not the one who has the job of judging everyone on whether or not their life is what it ought to be and even more I’m thankful that it isn’t other people who will be my judge in the last day.

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul is writing the last letter he would write before his execution at the hands of Nero. It is a plea for Timothy come to him as quickly as possible. “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” What if Paul had to face the judgment of so many of the people who were alive during that time? It is certainly the case that most of the Jewish religious leaders were ready to see him put to death and felt like hell would be too good for him. They were willing to lie or whatever to try to get him killed. Many of those Jews who became Christians but who believed that Gentiles who became Christians must also be circumcised and keep the law if they are to be real Christians wouldn’t have felt that Paul had a place in heaven. Even among the followers of Christ, Paul talked in Philippians one about how some were preaching Christ out of jealousy for him hoping to add to his problems. It must have blown their minds when he said he was glad, whatever their reasons that Christ was preached and that some were believing the gospel. Few people in all time, if any have done as much to spread the gospel to the world and suffered more for their faith in Jesus than Paul, yet many would have condemned him if they had been the judge.

No wonder Paul was thrilled that he would appear before the Lord, the righteous judge along with all who were anticipating with joy his appearing. I think that was also the reason that in Romans 14 as Paul talked about areas where faithful brethren in Christ disagreed on matters that they not judge one another but realize that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Brethren believed very different things about eating certain foods that had been unclean under the law. They believed differently about observing particular days as holy. They disagreed on whether or not a Christian should drink wine. But in all these matters he laid down three strong teachings that need to be remembered. First, don’t judge your brother or sister in the Lord. They are God’s servants not yours so leave the judging to him. Second, be careful in your actions and in what you believe is right not to put a stumbling block before those who disagree so that some who are weak might be lost to Christ. Third, live by your conscience. If you think a think is wrong, even though others don’t and even though the Bible says nothing about it being wrong, don’t violate your conscience. Instead with our conscience we need to be constantly retraining it by what God says in his word. Paul himself demonstrated how utterly wrong our conscience could be when he said in Acts 23:1 that he had lived in all good conscience until that very day. He had blasphemed Christ, persecuted Christians, sanctioned the death of Stephen and was worst of sinners, yet he did it all with a clean conscience. Sometimes we feel guilty about things that aren’t wrong at all. It is just something that doesn’t feel right to us because of what we have always thought.

Praise God that Jesus is the righteous judge. He has walked in our shoes, suffered the pains we’ve been through, known the temptations we have had, been rejected in ways far worse than we have ever imagined and yet he was made like us in every way so that he might be the merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. At the same time, the thought that Jesus is the judge should cause me to step back and realize that if I think I am keeping something hidden from the Lord that I don’t want anyone to know about my heart and life, I am fooling myself. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of him with whom we have to do. No one will be welcomed into heaven because they tricked the judge or got off on a technicality. He is the righteous judge who knows our hearts, our minds and our actions. His memory never fails. The only way anything can be hidden from the Lord’s view is through it being forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus is the righteous judge is encouraging, eye-opening and real. It is easy to fool ourselves, our friends and even the church, but no one has ever fooled Jesus the righteous judge. But when I turn to him for forgiveness he is faithful and just to forgive all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Judgement Day is real. It is coming. It is a blessing to look forward to if I am being faithful to Jesus and living the life he calls me to live. It is scary if I’m living a sinful life trying to ignore the Lord. It will be a total surprise for many who have denied His existence and thought this life is all there is. But what a glorious day for those who have lived for him to be welcomed home with him in glory forevermore.

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FINDING THE RIGHT CHURCH

We are live in a very interesting time with regard to church. So many of the different churches are losing members all the time. It is pretty common to hear someone say, “We don’t have any young people in the church where I am a member.” Others talk about the fears they have for the future of the church. It also seems there is a new church of some sort being started every few weeks. Besides that churches that have been strong, united and growing, suddenly face lots of members that are unhappy because there is something they want that isn’t happening. Often the result is the church tries to react to the longing for something different by trying to change to make those who are unhappy become happy, the result is that many of the ones who liked things the way they are become unhappy and end up leaving to either find a place that looks like what they want or they set out to start one like they like. The result is that the churches all over are struggling and wondering what to do. Everyone seems to have some special things they are looking for from church and look for a church that fits that standard.

One question I would like to encourage every person to think about if they are on a church search or maybe even if they aren’t. Does it matter what the Lord wants in the church? Sometimes it seems that we are so carried away with what we want or like that it makes no difference with the Lord and that every kind of church that does everything people like is fine with him. I suspect it would be worth a ton if every person who is doing a search for a church that fits them if they took the time to read Revelation chapters 2 and 3. These two chapters of the Bible pictures Jesus writing letters to seven different congregations that were part of what we know as Asia Minor today. Some of these are old churches that had been strong in days past and others were younger and newer. It is amazing that most of these churches have both some good in them and some that don’t please God at all. Many of these churches thought of themselves as great churches doing wonderful work and very pleasing to God. Some of these same churches were told that if they didn’t repent they would lose their place as a church of God. One that believed it was rich, increased with goods and in need of nothing were told by God that they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. They had Jesus outside knocking to get them to open the door for him to come in. So, one powerful lesson we all need to get is that the church that fits me, may not fit the Lord and He is the one we want to please.

It is vital that we remember that the church is the body of Christ. He was the one who built the church. He is the one who adds people to the church that belong to him. He purchased the church with his blood on the cross. While the church is the body of Christ, there is only one body. I fully realize the different congregations in different places were different from each other in some ways. But there have always been fundamentals that God placed in the church that has to be there for it to be acceptable to Him. Far too often we act as though all that matters is what we like. But it should be clear that we didn’t build the church, didn’t die to bring it into being, and it isn’t our body. Think of Ephesians 5:25-27 for a moment. “Husbands, love your wives, just like Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water by the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” He even challenged us to “glorify God in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

So, what if we started asking what the Lord wants for us in regard to church instead of what we like or want? If we listen to Jesus it won’t take long for us to realize that Jesus prayed that those who became his followers would all be one as he and the Father are one, that the disciples might be one in God and Christ so that the world might believe that the Father had sent him (John 17:20-21). When we look at the division that has become so common that churches divide over every kind of difference imaginable, it is certainly no wonder why there is so much unbelief in the world. Every year more people declare they are not religious and have no faith in God. What becomes even more troubling is that most of these new churches and divisions spend most of their time and effort trying to steal members from other churches instead of trying to win the lost to Christ. The church is supposed to be a mission to the world to bring the lost to Christ. When we lose sight of the mission we stop being the church that belongs to Christ.

It is time to put Christ back on the throne when it comes to church and who we are as his people. If what I want is not what God calls me to be, I am the one that needs to change, not ask the God of glory to change.

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