Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hurt by Churches; Comforted by Jesus

If you have ever been so hurt by church-going people that it’s made you conclude that following Jesus Christ is a sham, I HEAR YOU! Been there. It’s why we do home church, in fact. It’s just that Jesus is NOT the problem, so I don’t want anyone to miss out on him because of the misbehavior of those who claim to follow him.

Church-going, religious people have been some of the most hurtful people I have ever met.[1] Not only do they act in harsh, unloving, judgmental ways, but they create churches in which they are permitted to do so as freely as they wish. They might have rules about how they treat the “core group” of their institution, but anyone outside their group they are free to target in ways quite contrary to anything Jesus taught about being imitators of God as his beloved children, and living a life of love in the same way as Jesus loved us and gave himself for us.[2]

One of the difficult things for me has been accepting that Jesus’ teaching about rejoicing in persecution applies to the mean, rude, unloving things done by church-going people. Here’s how he said it:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.[3]

Jesus did not specify that it would only be non-religious people who would revile us; he simply told us that, whenever anyone reviles us for following him, we are to consider ourselves blessed. If persecution comes from the world, or pretend-churches, we are to consider ourselves blessed for standing out as the children of God.

These churches that allow their people to speak falsely about us on account of our faith in Jesus Christ are doing what Jesus said people would do against his brothers, and we are to consider it a blessing to be so associated with Jesus the Christ that people would treat us the same way as they treat him.[4]

In fact, Jesus told us to “rejoice and be glad” even when mean-hearted church-going religious hypocrites utter evil and wicked things against us on account of our Savior.

Why? Because the momentary troubles of this life are nothing compared to the glory soon to be revealed to the children of God.[5] It is not the loss of reputation from lying church-goers that is our focus, but the greatness of our reward in heaven. It isn’t the loss of employment caused by malicious church-pillars that governs how we feel; it is the great reward in heaven waiting for those who persevere until the end, considering it pure joy when they go through the same things their Savior endured.[6]

So, if you were wondering how someone can bear with the mean, unkind, unloving, evil things that church-going people do, and still have any faith in Jesus who is building his own church in this world, it is actually quite simple.

God’s blessing is on the poor in spirit who face their own need of Jesus no matter how any religious hypocrites are acting; he blesses those who mourn the condition of their own souls even while the religious elite in our town act as if they are faultless; he blesses those who meekly acknowledge they cannot fix what is wrong with them, even while self-made church groups act as if they need nothing from God; he blesses those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness they see in Jesus Christ, even when churches all around them act as if there were no greater righteousness than what they have already attained (unloving as it is).[7]

In other words, Jesus calls these churches to repent and return to him with all their hearts and souls.[8] Their unwillingness to do so is no slight against him for failing to present the invitation. The invitations stand throughout the Book he has written, and his Spirit is constantly working to speak these things to anyone who will listen, few as they may be.[9]

However, no one is at the mercy of those people who reject the convicting work of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. So, Jesus narrows his invitation down to what any one person is able to do, no matter how many around us are unwilling to follow. Jesus says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me”.[10]

Do you see that? If “anyone” hears Jesus’ voice, and hears him knocking at the door of his church, and opens the door to him, welcoming him back into the churches he has left, Jesus promises to come in to that person’s life and have the kind of fellowship with that person that is like friends sharing a meal together.

While my experience of persecution, gossip, and slander, pales in comparison to what my brothers in Christ endure in other countries, I can still say that, no matter what mean-spirited church people have done, God has constantly worked it together for good so that I have come to know God better than I have ever known him before, and I have grown that little bit more like my Savior, “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”.[11]

In the end, I would rather be like Jesus than any of the people who have lied, gossiped, or slandered me. I would rather be part of the church Jesus is building than miss out on him and his love just because of what the pillars of the manmade churches are doing. He would never allow me to be like them just because of what they have done to me, or my loved ones. He knows he is a much better example to follow, and so he calls us to follow him, even if we feel very hurt, and very much alone.

One of Jesus’ disciples, someone who had caved under the pressure of attacks and threats against his Savior by the religious elite of his day, went on to experience such a transformed life that he would write this: “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps”.[12]

Since Jesus’ steps include him fulfilling his Father’s will, and completing all the work his Father gave him to accomplish,[13] even when sinful religious people were conspiring to crucify him, following in his steps will likely include something similar for us. We may avoid the nails through our hands and feet, but must expect the mean-hearted arrows piercing our hearts.

I know that all God’s children are to endure such things. Therefore, let us who experience what Jesus described, seek God to help and encourage and comfort us into considering it pure joy when we and our loved ones must endure such trials. The frowns and disdain of a million mean-hearted church-goers are nothing in the light of Jesus’ looking upon us with the unfailing love of God.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace”[14]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Jesus experienced this in his day as well!
[2] Ephesians 5:1-2
[3] Matthew 5:11-12
[4] John 15:20
[5] II Corinthians 4:16-18
[6] Matthew 24:9-13; James 1:2-4
[7] See the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-12
[8] In Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in revelation 2-3, he called five of the churches to repent because of things they were doing that he had to hold against them. Jesus never approves of things in his church that are contrary to his own holiness and righteousness. He is gracious and patient in transforming us through the renewal of our minds, but he always calls us to confess our sins to him so he can forgive us our sins and purify us from the unrighteousness that remains (I John 1:9).
[9] Jesus specifically used the word “many” to describe deceivers, those who would fall away in the end times, etc, and used the word “few” to describe those who would genuinely find the narrow way to heaven and endure until the end (see Matthew 7:13-14; 24:3-14).
[10] Revelation 3:20
[11] II Corinthians 3:18. Romans 8:28-30 shows how God working everything together for the good of his beloved children is aimed at restoring us to the image and likeness of his Son.
[12] I Peter 2:20-21
[13] John 4:34
[14] From the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, © Public Domain, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

Monday, August 22, 2016

Home Church Video: Living the Crucified Life

The Christian life is a uniquely life-and-death transformation. In fact, it requires a death in order to experience the fullness of life. 

In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul says, 

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

In this home church video message we explore what Paul meant by this crucified life, and how it liberates every child of God to experience the abundant life Jesus promised. As Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). We must be crucified with Christ, buried with him in his death, in order to share with him in the newness of life that comes through his resurrection.

Join our home church in considering how our sharing in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior, frees us to live the abundance of the Spirit-filled life.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)