Ch 10: Letters to the 20th Century Church
29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
What would the Lord of the church write if he were to send letters to twentieth century churches? Perhaps it would go something like this:
I am the one who began the church and will have the last ward on the subject. Don't you think it's time to hear what I have to say about the church? Let me ask you some important questions and point up some needed changes.
TO THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH AT BIBLE CITY:
Why do you pride yourself on "holding to the line" on a few negative issues instead of living out the great positive values of life in me? I am God's great "Yes" and "That's true." I am the great liberator, not prohibiter.
And do you not bear my name, as Christ's men and women? Why, then, do you attach yourselves to mere men and systems? Did Calvin die for you, or Luther rise again for you? Is your theology higher than my Word? Did I ever ask you to fight and squabble among yourselves over my Word? Instead, I commanded you to love one another, despite differences of understanding and opinion.
Oh, I know, your intentions are good, but in the meantime I'd like to have the free use of my Body. Won't you let me? Please stop saying, "But we've always done it that way!" Are your traditions more important than letting me be Lord? I may have a better way. Did you ever think to ask me?'
"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 1:19-20).
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God: is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25). "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46).
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34-35).
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching and it will be given him" (James 1:5).
AND TO DIOTREPHES, PASTOR OF THE CHURCH OF SELF LOVE:
Do you really think I would rest the success of my church on a few dominant personalities like you? Have you not read my Word about humility and "esteeming others better than yourself"? Have you not heard that the Body, though one, has many members? You seem to want to make it all mouth. But I say "the Head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of you." Do you remember who the Head is?
Repent, therefore, and go back to your original assignment:
"Pastor-teachers are given to equip the saints for the work of the ministry!" How I groan at the way you have tied me up because you want to be the whole show, while gifted men and women play spectators.
Look! I'm coming soon to evaluate your works! I'd like for you to be able to look me straight in the eye and hear my "Well done!"---not to see you hang your head in shame.
"I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority." (3 John 9)
"Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves." (Phil. 2:3)
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." (1 Cor.
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'" (1 Cor. 12:21)
"And his gifts were that some should he . . . pastors and teachers for the equipment of the saints for a work of ministry . . :' (Eph. 4:11-12)
"And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming" (1 John 2:28).
TO THE FIRST BATTLEGROUND CHURCH OF CHRIST:
Of Christ, you say? There will come a day when I shall do battle, but now is not the time. Who asked you to start the fight? I could have fought instead of dying---and this is still the day for dying.
Do you remember what it was that won your heart? Was it not the appeal of love? I have no greater power, and neither do you. So won't you use my love and my power? How many lonely, longing hearts have you turned away? Oh, I know, you've won a few; I read the statistics in your year end reports. But how many have you turned away?
"From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rile them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Rev. 19:15).
"Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also he manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may he manifested in our mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4:10-11)
"In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to he the expiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10)
TO THE DEADLY ORTHODOX CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST:
Have you never heard, 'I have come that you might have LIFE more abundant?" and, "Obedience is better than sacrifice"? How you weary me with your endless rounds of rituals and dogmas, all paraded in my name, while you live lives of shallowness and shame.
Don't you know: that my name is used as a common curse word among the children of this world because of you? Why should they think I am someone special when you don't? They see you play your "churchy" games, fight your petty squabbles, use your worldly methods, all while you disdain my resources and fail to believe my Word. What else could they think? They could only say, "Who needs this dead Christ and his cross? I want to LIVE!" And all the time I long to give them life.
Do you really know what it is to live? Go back to my Word. It tells you how. They must see Me, alive in you."
"I came that they may have life' and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays dawn his life for the sheep" (John 10:10-11).
"Has the Lard as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22).
"You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles (nations) because of you" (Rom. 2:23-24).
"But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another" (Gal. 5:15). "Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3).
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die'" (John 11:25-26).
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Cor 4:7).
TO THE FIRST RIGHT WING CHURCH:
What is my gospel? Is it meant for political liberals as well as conservatives? Democrats and Republicans alike? Can it change a hippie's heart? Can it break a heroin habit? Or is it meant just to maintain the status quo of comfortable American complacency? Have you not read, "My kingdom is not of this world---if it were my servants would fight"? If political action were all I had in mind it would have been accomplished by "twelve legions of angels." Instead I chose the Cross. Are you stronger than twelve legions of angels? And wiser than I?
How many hours have you squandered on pointless political intrigue? Have you told my Good News to anyone? Are you so foolish as to think you can change governments without changing men's hearts? You can still change your mind and do it my way! Ask me, I'll enable you.
"Jesus answered, 'My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world'" (John 18:36).
"Do you think that 1 cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53).
TO THE CHURCH OF GLOSSOLALIA:
My heart hurts for you. I know your hunger for fulfillment and your frustration from not being fed from my Word, but do you really think you can gain spiritual ends through emotional means? Stop and think! Is speaking in tongues even mentioned as part of the fruit of the Spirit? Is it listed in the qualifications for elders, as a mark of spiritual maturity? Does it accomplish my purpose for spiritual gifts so as to edify my Body? Don't you realize the true spiritual gift was given to show my people Israel their day of privilege was over and the church age begun? And that this purpose was fulfilled?
The tongue is a most unruly member. Why then would I give it the prominence you have assigned it? Is there so little fulfillment in the spiritual qualities of my life in you that you must seek another way? Seek rather to speak for me in clear, under-standable words, motivated by loving concern for others' needs, not just to express our own emotional cries understood only by me! Your intentions may be innocent enough, but the result is distortion and confusion. Change your mind, therefore, and let me show you a better way.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law" (Gal.
"Nay, but by men of strange lips and with an alien tongue the Lord will speak to this people" (Isa. 28:11). "In the law it is written, 'By men of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.' Thus, tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers" (1 Cor. 14:21-22)
"So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. No human being can tame the tongue--a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:5-8).
"In church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Cor. 14:19).
TO THE CHURCH OF BROTHERLY LOVE----WORLD-WIDE
At last, the place of my rest! How good to settle down arid be at home in your hearts. How great to find expression for my life and my love through your yielded lives! Oh, I know you're full of flaws, and you still give me lots of problems. But at least you give me room to be who I am, to do my work in you. You pastors and teachers---I'm grateful you are being my voice, letting me speak through you amid all the conflicting claims of men who say, "Hear this, listen to me. I have the truth."
In the face of all the pressures and pulls of man's philosophies you heeded my Word and proclaimed my truth to a battered and bewildered world!
And you set my people free to find their gifts and fulfill their ministries. How good to have the use of my Body instead of being tied up in knots.
Well done, you elders, You who have ruled well are counted worthy of double honor. The leadership of love is what we've always longed for in the church, for this is the way I lead.
And all you saints who have learned to love and be loved: what a joy you are to my heart. You are my beloved Bride, and ours is the love story that will be told for keep the Word of my grace arid go on to maturity. Don't marvel that the Enemy fights you and his world system hates you. That opposition is directed at me through you. And I have already won the battle! And don't forget, it won't be long before I see you face to face. That will be a great day for you---and for me."
"Thus says the lord: 'Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made and so all these things are mine,' says the Lord. 'But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word'" (Isa. 66:1-2).
"...that Christ may actually live in your hearts by faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may he able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ----and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you he filled through all your being with God himself!" (Eph. 3:17-19).
"I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name"' (Rev. 3:8).
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor. l2:7, Phillips).
"Let the elders who rule well he considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching" (I Tim. 5:17).
"In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).
"We love, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband" (2 Cor. 11:2).
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (John 15:l~19).
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere" (2 Cor. 2:14)
"He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20)
A FINAL WORD... TO ALL THE SAINTS:
"I will build my church . . .
I have said that's what I would do, and I'm doing it! Now the question is: What are you doing?
Do you recall my words? Let me remind you once again: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. That means I have all there is. Does that sound like enough? But if that's all I said you might just be afraid of me. I said also: Look:
I'm with you.. . all the way, what more do you need?
One more reminder: I will never, never desert you or leave you in the lurch. No, not ever! Could I put it any stronger?
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 2:29).
Or is it the beginning?
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