Is Christ Enough? Your Life

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Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’

(Matthew 16:24-25)

Here is the problem with the quote from Jesus above:

1.) We over-spiritualize it

2.) We disregard it

3.) We disdain it and avoid it at all costs

4.) We take it to mean that we must be willing to sacrifice for Jesus.

Matt 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.

CAUTION! Hang on to your bloomers… this blog post is going to be as blunt as I can possibly get in order to attempt getting through to you, my readers (all ten of you!).

I honestly believe that when we read passages (like those above) about the Lord’s call for us to follow Him that we really don’t get it.  That’s also true when we hear these things preached or written about.  That’s why my prayer for this blog post is that your eyes (spiritual) and ears (spiritual) would be opened to truly hear what our Lord is saying.  Are these statements important?  Yes! In fact they are everything!

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So Lord Jesus, I ask that those who will read this post will be touched by your Spirit to see and hear these things as perhaps for the first time.  Lord, may they not think: “oh yeah, I know that!” but instead humbly (like a child) receive what you have said as if they had never heard (or read) it before.  And Lord, may it cause a complete revolution to take place in their hearts and within your Body throughout the world.  Amen

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You might think I’m crazy, but I honestly believe that I can boil down the problems within Christianity and among most Christians today in one simple statement.

We don’t really believe what Jesus and the New Testament writers said!

That’s because if we did, then our lives would be very different than a typical Christian of today.  We would be radical, even revolutionary people.  Instead, what we see around us today is this insipid, anemic, lukewarm version of so-called Christianity.  For the most part, a people who are not willing to lose anything, let alone their very lives!

I can speak this way because I have been a believer for over 43 years and have seen a lot of Christians in that time.  My wife and I have been working for 25 years of that time to help start and plant something we call “organic” churches.  And in that time I can honestly say that I believe I have the main problem with believers who are attempting to return to a genuine, authentic, New Testament expression of the church.

They are just not willing to lose their lives!

And yet Jesus said that you could not even be a follower of his unless you were willing to lose your own life.  But I ask you dear brothers and sisters: IF WE ARE NOT EVEN FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST YET HOW CAN WE BE HIS CHURCH?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone is desiring to come after me, let him” forget self and lose sight of his own interests, and let him pick up his cross and carry it, and let him be taking the same road with me that I travel, for whoever is desiring to save his soul-life shall ruin it, but whoever will pass a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake, shall find it. For what will a man be profited if he gain the whole world but forfeit his soul-life. Or, what shall a man give as an exchange for his soul-life? For the Son of Man is about to be coming in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall recompense to each one according to his manner of acting.” (Matthew 16:24) (Wuest)

But whatever things were to me a gainful asset, these things I have considered a loss when it comes to my acquisition of Christ, and still so consider them. Yes, indeed, therefore, at least, even I am still setting all things down to be a loss for the sake of that which excels all others, my knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord which I have gained through experience, for whose sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I am still counting them dung, in order that Christ I might gain, yes, in order that I might in the observation of others be discovered by them to be in Him, not having as my righteousness that righteousness which is of the law, but that righteousness which is through faith in Christ, that righteousness which is from God on the basis of faith. Yes, for His sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I count them but dung, in order that I might come to know Him in an experiential way, and to come to know experientially the power of His resurrection and a joint-participation in His sufferings, being brought to the place where my life will radiate a likeness to His death, if by any means I might arrive at the goal, namely, the out-resurrection from among those who are dead. (Philippians 3:7) (Wuest)

As I hope that you can clearly see, all of these statements hinge upon one thing: A LIFE LAID DOWN!

If our individual relationship with God is hinging upon us laying down our lives then how could we ever think that His Church would operate by any other principal?

People all over are asking for “organic church” life but they haven’t even totally given their lives to the Lord yet! I ask you, how can this work? It can’t, it can’t, it most absolutely cannot!

The Great Contradiction

As I stated earlier in this post, my wife and I have been working in the area of helping and planting organic churches. We have noticed a very strange phenomenon concerning this. Many of the people who are helped by us in the churches we plant and others who hear or read about our work make statements such as those below:

  • “I really appreciate all that you have done to help us”
  • “You folks have sacrificed a lot to help us”
  • “We really honor and look up to you because of your sacrificial service”
  • “You have given up so much to do this work, thank you!”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, we really appreciate these statements made by precious believers where we have worked.  We take their love and encouragements to heart in every way.  There is a special and strong bond between us.  We thank the Lord for that every day!

However, there is also something very strange about all this …

We are not special Christians!  We are just “normal” Christians.

Yes, we have laid down our lives for the Lord and His House.  But that is just what a normal believer does!  Now, not everyone is called to his work of planting churches, traveling, preaching, etc.

  • But we are ALL called to follow Him completely by giving up our lives and living His life.
  • We are ALL called to forsake all to follow Him.
  • We are ALL called to take up His interests and His purpose and lay down all of our ideas, dreams, hopes, agendas, programs, wants, and even needs.
  • We are ALL called to take up His all-encompassing interest which is His Church!
  • We are ALL called to go wherever and do whatever He needs for His eternal purpose (the expression of Christ in His Body).

In other words: A true follower of Christ is someone who has given up all rights to himself and his/her own desires, wishes, dreams, and goals.  That’s just a normal Christian.

But we are so used to living a sub-standard Christian life that we actually believe that those who are “sold out” for Christ are either fanatics or called to the ministry!

But wait!  Our Lord Jesus even went beyond that!

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matt 16:23)

 

Do you “see” it? Do you “get” that? Here our Lord makes such a terrible and frightening statement that our minds tend to either blot it out or minimize the statement.

Let me put it in other words.

Jesus is telling Peter here that because he is setting his mind on man’s interests (his own) and not on God’s, he is not only a stumbling block to Christ, but he is also functioning by the life of Satan, the enemy of God!

Folks, I really don’t know how it could be stated any clearer:  When we put our own interests above that of Christ and His Church we are a satanically inspired stumbling block to Him!

You see, it’s either going to be your life or His!  Both will never work and will actually work against God’s purpose.  That’s why the Lord told us to leave all to follow Him.  That’s why He told us to deny (literally: to disown) our lives.  Organic church won’t work if you try to retain your own life!  It will end up being some watered-down version of the true expression of Christ.  It may be better than institutional church in some ways but it will not be what the Lord wants or live up to His own vision and passion.

The Foundation

When we come to plant a new organic church we always tell the believers that they will need to clear their schedules and simplify their lives.  We also tell them that the Church cannot be just a adjunct (add-on) to their lives.  THE CHURCH MUST NOW BE THEIR LIVES!  The biggest hindrance to organic church life is not the devil, the religious system, or even your background.

The biggest hindrance to true organic church life is your own life!

I get people coming to me all the time wanting to join an existing organic church in their town.  They tell me that they have earnestly wanted this life for many years and are willing to do whatever it takes to find it. When I tell them that I don’t know of any such churches in their town but that I do know of churches in other cities then they begin to make excuses why they could never relocate to another town or state.  I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t have much compassion for believers in this condition.  They say one thing with their mouths but their hearts are far from the Lord and His purpose.

I can honestly say that most people don’t experience organic church life simply because they are willing to live without it!  You MUST be desperate for this life!  I mean REALLY desperate!  My wife and I were not willing to live without it.  We were willing to go anywhere and do anything to find it!

The Bottom Line

One of my favorite movies is The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery.  It’s about the taking down by law enforcement officers of one of the most notorious criminals of all time; Al Capone of Chicago.  Costner (Elliot Ness) works for the Treasury department and has been commissioned to put Capone out of business.  Connery is an older Irish cop on the beat in Chicago.  He has obviously been around the block several times and knows what is really going on with crime in the city.  Costner recruits Connery to help him put Capone down.  However, Connery’s character makes one thing clear to Ness by asking him one simple question: “what are you prepared to do?” He then goes on to tell him that this is an “all or nothing” endeavor.  That if he goes after Capone it will cost him everything.  Then he tells Ness, “here endeth the lesson.”

Brothers and sisters, what are you prepared to do?  Are you willing to go wherever and do whatever your Lord wants?  Don’t answer too quickly!  It’s so easy to say “Yes” to such a proposition without having counted the cost.  So… what is the cost?  The cost is simply everything!  Your Life!  Living organic church life means that you no longer hold any claims to your own personal life and now He IS your life.  And believe me, this rabbit hole goes much deeper than you ever imagined!

Is Christ REALLY enough?

“Here endeth the lesson.”

 

Special Note:  If this message (and the Lord’s dealings with you) have been tugging at your heart and you are willing to lay it all down for His calling and His purpose then you may be ready to engage in the most glorious adventure ever – true body life!  If this sounds like you then please email me at: milt@therebuilders.org and I will give you information on some possible new organic church plants that you can get involved in.

 

 

Knowing Your Identity – The Cross in the Church

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” 

Philippians 2:3-8

This post is actually number three in a series in the power of the cross in the life of the believer and the church.  You can read the other two installments here:

Knowing Your Identity – W.W.D.M.D.

Knowing Your Identity – Zombie or Christ?

I work in the field planting organic churches in the United States and overseas.  Recently, I witnessed something in a group of believers that I have believed in and taught for over 22 years.  The cross of Jesus Christ.  What I am referring to when I say that is not the substitution of the Lamb of God for our sins for redemption.  Instead, what I am referring to is the work of the cross in the life of the believer and in the church.  This is the opportunity that you and I have all the time to lay down our lives for the Lord and His Body.  It means to put the Lord’s interests and others interests before your own.

Paul says in the scripture quote above that this is the mind (or attitude) of Christ Jesus.  He emptied Himself of His rights and privileges of deity in order to become a servant, the lowest kind of servant, a bond-slave.  He did this for us; His body, bride, family, and house.  This is the life of the cross.

Recently, I witnessed an astounding example of this emptying for the sake of His purpose.  Two brothers came to a meeting of the church and lowered themselves by asking the church to forgive them for some unintentional misunderstanding and hurts that had taken place through some things they did and said.  Of course, they had no intention of hurting anyone and causing offense.  They were not even aware that the offenses had occurred.  But once they were made aware, they were more than willing to humble themselves before the body.

First of all let me say that this is not an easy thing to do.  When you are confronted with such a thing, your flesh wants to immediately justify your actions and defend yourself.  To admit that you were wrong (even when you may not have been) does major damage to the power of the flesh.  And what does much more damage is taking the next step and apologizing for what you said or did.

Many believers are into the so called “power of the Holy Spirit” and power gifts with miracles and signs following.  But this humbling of oneself.  This lowering and emptying of oneself brings the most powerful results you will ever see!

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

Let me tell you, when those two brothers lowered themselves before the body in that meeting it was an incredibly powerful event.  In fact, the whole atmosphere of the meeting changed after that.  It was lighter and the only way I can describe it was that the life of the Lord was released in the group in a whole new way.  Forgiveness flowed that night.  It was definitely a breakthrough meeting for this particular group.  The walls of separation came down and something major happened that night.  The group has not been the same since.  The intensity of the life and love of the Lord has tripled since then!

The Power of the Cross

This shows us the incredible power of the cross in the life of a believer.  This emptying or lowering of ourselves for others is to be the normal way of life for the body of Christ.  We should always be preferring and deferring to others.  Not out of some sense of religious duty, but as an outflow of the indwelling life of Christ.  1 Cor. 13 (the love chapter) is not some prescription for loving one another properly.  It is a description of the very life of Christ!  This life is the actual Person of Christ Himself.  And this Person lives inside of us!

We have no ability whatsoever to lay our lives down for one another.  But the indwelling Christ has been laying his life down for the Father in the Spirit for all of eternity.  If we take the higher road and allow this Christ to express Himself through us, we will see this wonderful self-giving and self-sacrificing life be lived out in human flesh.

The Spirit if Willing But the Flesh is Weak

However, if we resist this work of the cross in our lives we will not see the power and restoration and healing of resurrection.  In order for there to be a resurrection there must be a death first!

On the other hand, I have seen other groups of believers where there was no one, or at least not very many, who were willing to go to the cross, so to speak.  They were not willing to forsake their own interests and lay their own lives down for one another. But rather they wanted to justify and defend themselves when confronted.  And it’s very sad, but these groups don’t make it for very long.  They end up biting one another and devouring one another.

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” 
Galatians 5:15-16

Part of walking by the Spirit is having this same attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus.  I have said it many times and I will continue to say it:

Organic church has never worked and will never work without the embracing of the cross of Christ!

I have found this to be so true in my own life.  There was a time when I was in business for myself and once in a while I would have a customer confront me on something and insist that I had made a mistake and should therefore reimburse him for his payment.  My first impulse was always to defend myself.  But after many years I learned to pause before I did or said anything.  Then, I would apologize and refund his money.  Except for one case, this always completely turned around my customers attitude and my apology softened their heart.  Many of them remained my customers for many years because of my response to them.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13