Christianity is like the menu of an Ice Cream Parlour
By Andre Delage, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Why is Jesus' church divided? That is a good question that so many ask and wonder. Division among Christian's communities cause scepticism and contempt from the society toward Christians. We are accused of being hypocrites and with good reason.
Jesus stated in Matt 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it". This means that His church will always exist through centuries until His return. Why so many different denominations? Furthermore, there exist silent Christians, who are not part of any assemblies, and who do not know where to go to share their faith and love for Jesus. I believe that there are silent Christians left alone without a shepherd to teach them and to direct them in there new life with Jesus. I believe that there are individual that have been turn away from being baptize in the spirit because they were viewed unacceptable. I am convinced that there are many who silently accept Jesus in their heart and yet do not know which church to turn to. Simply, because they cannot identify which church is true. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there are some Christians bold enough to claim that their church or denomination is the only one true church. Are they really? How can we tell?
Let us investigate
If a person were to accept Jesus as the Son of God, as a new believer, which denomination should he/she go to? The church, which is meant to be so simple, is today made so complex. For a new believer, recognizing the true church is like looking for a needle in a haystack without knowing what a needle look likes… looking for the truth without knowing what the truth is. Even some old churchgoer cannot recognize which haystack he/she belongs to for the same reason that they forgotten what the truth is. It is a contrast to Christians who are being persecuted in some countries, which have few bibles, no ministries, and assembles in secret. There exist only one truth, one church. Yet, they are willing to lose his/her lives over his/her belief? Would we be prepared to die for our belief? Would we be willing to die for what our denomination stands for? I invite you to read my commentary title, "The Church of Philadelphia "The Faithful Church": Are we as faithful as we are to be?"
If we take the time to search the Internet, we will find that there are 100s of named denominations all-claiming to be Christians. If so, why are we divided, after all Jesus commanded Christians to love one another, not just tolerate one another? Jesus explained that "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against himself will not stand", He concluded with this strong assertion, "He who is not with me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad" Matt 12: 25, 30. So why are Christians divided into so many denominations?
To explain this phenomena I chose this analogy; "Christianity is like the menu of an Ice Cream Parlour".
The cone itself will represent Jesus our Christ; since "He is the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone", Matt 21:42; therefore Jesus is the foundation.
The ice cream will be His Word, His commandments; "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed" John 8:31. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him, John 14:21.
The flavours represent preference of each individual Christian; the flavours are the features that make denomination distinct or apart from one another. Therefore, Christianity is like the menu of an ice cream parlour that offers a wide variety of flavours from plain vanilla flavour to exotic tropical fruit flavours. These flavours represent the people's ideal setting for their church in their community. That is one-of the two reasons for the church, the body of Jesus…, which was meant to be so simple, has become so complex to identify. What I will be focusing on in this commentary is…the flavours. The other reason is the cone…the body of Jesus …well rather what looks like the body of Jesus but is a counterfeit cone that does not taste like one. This other reason will be investigated in Part 2 of another commentary.
The menu listed for Christian preferences consists from a wide range of gospel music type, of church service format, choice of activities, choice of social mission statement, choice of building structure and design, and many more to satisfy all taste. These varieties of flavours are not necessary bad taste. It demonstrates that we exhibit cultural, traditional differences in worshiping The Lord. Jesus declared, "I am the vine you are the branches". Therefore, Christians are not necessarily divided, but distinct. That is OK, as long as…keep on reading.
From the society prospective, it may reflect in hypocrisy since there are some within the Christians communities who claim that their flavours are the only flavourful ones and belittle others for their preferences as being of bad taste. Some get tired of denominational flavours such as constitution and policies therefore start a new group. (1 Timothy 1:4, 1 Timothy 6:4, 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9). It does display too much attention on the flavours and not enough on the cone and the ice cream. " For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires…flavours… because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables," 2 Tim 4:3-4. That is a whole lot of unnecessary flavours. You will notice that in that verse, the members are the ones who chose the teachers. They do not change the truth; they just turn their ears away from it. There are many sincere pastors and ministers, who are believers of God's Word, who desired to serve Jesus, yet are held hostage by the flavours of their church community. If you are one of them, hear what the Lord has to tell you, "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Rev 2:4, and "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent." Rev 3:2-3a.
Some denominations focus so much on their flavours that they act like an ice cream parlour. The flavours are for sale. They are the ones that are so afraid of losing their church building that all their times and energies are on fundraising. Excessive charges are imposed on pastoral services. The church has become a business. Then there are to the other extreme, the mega churches with revenues that are in the millions, offering for sale their wide variety of books, tapes that are meant to teach Christian living, and accessories such as jewelleries. What does Jesus think about them? "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise," John 2:16. "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a 'den of thieves," Matt 21:13. It is so sad. Consequently, for those afraid of losing their churches will find their door close one day. If they would only apply Matthew 6:33, what a different it would make. And concerning the mega church marketing strategy to sale the gospel and God's Words, they should keep in mind that the gospel had been given freely, Matt 10:8; 2 Cor 11:7; 2 Thess 3:8; Rev 22:17. The gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit are not for sale, Acts 8:19-21.
"In many respects the assembling together has become a huge social club designed to entertain the club members. This membership atmosphere which has become the norm in many congregations, and which is now seen in the eyes of many as the Laodicean Church, might well be the church's waterloo. These folks could well be the ones who will turn against and bring down the organized Christian Church in the last days. Believers might have to give up their coffee shops, book stores, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and all the rest of the unbiblical amenities that have infiltrated our worship halls."
Ron Graham observed the impact on Christian's spiritual growth. He put it across this way:
"Church tradition has come a long way in the last 2,000 years. Most of what is done these days behind the doors of Christian Churches is not so much biblical as traditional. Simply put, years of man's doctrines have crept into our Christian Churches. Even though we practice something every week doesn't mean it is necessarily biblical. And you'll never really achieve any real understanding of your Bibles by simply sitting through three songs and a thirty minute message by a pastor on Sunday mornings."
When we steer away from Jesus and His truth…the cone and the ice cream, and focus too much on the personal preference …the flavours…rather than meeting the spiritual growth of the assembly, as is stated in Eph 4:11-16, it becomes obvious that the denomination or individuals become dead in Jesus' Works. Matthew 5:13 explain this clearly; "You are the salt of the earth… in the pure taste of ice cream…but if the salt loses its flavour, …by adding flavours… how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and tramped underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on the hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,… or mixes with flavours …but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven". According to Jesus statement, a Christian should be very easy to recognize. Instead, it has become difficult. Why? In my opinion, with all these flavours, most Christian had forgotten its root. It is all about Luke 4:18-19, God's Word and God' Works. It is not about the flavours (preference) but rather the cone and the ice cream, Jesus and His Word.
Many comment, "Why then did Jesus allow His Church to wander away into so many different groups, allowing so many different flavours? After all, is it not His responsibility to direct His Church? He is the head isn't He?" Many have forgotten that the greatest gifts ever given before salvation are the gift of existence (life) and the gift to choose. Humanity has free choice. Can we not observe the result of 'free choice'? The world is in disarray. To whose moral standard should God use to intervene in the affair of man, yours? We either chose to follow the directive of Jesus or not. The same is within the Body of Christ; members of all denomination have that freedom of choice.
Jesus predicted that this wound happens. He foresees the days where some of the members of any denomination would not let Him lead the body. Many would focus more on the flavours rather than His Words for instruction. So many do not study the bible, so many are vulnerable to deception, Eph 4:14. So many just do not care to know the truth. Anyone, taking the time to study the Kingdom parables would realize that the church from the beginning started to transform itself into a bureaucratic organization, as is spoken in Acts 20:28-30. It would lose it purpose of it existence. It would become self-serving rather then focusing on the spiritual growth of the assembly, Eph 4:11-16. It either became a one-man/woman ministry or a board of members viewing its followers as spectators rather them being an assembly of participants in exhibiting the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lambert Dolphin in his commentary title; "Description Of The Spiritual Gifts" explains:
"These are supernatural enablements … (Spiritual gifts) …so that we may serve God more effectively in the world and in the church. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift; many are given more than one gift. All Christians are called to the work of the ministry and distinctions between "clergy" and "laity" are foreign to the New Testament. Both spiritual gifts and natural talents must be employed in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the self-energy of the flesh in order to please God and bring positive results."
Study the parables of "the tare, the mustard seed, and the leaven." Jesus parables were not meant to be a warning but rather a prediction that division would happen. He gave instructions to those who love His Word, the pure taste of ice cream. We are not meant to root out the tare among the wheat but rather to leave them to Jesus' angels to sickle them apart from the wheat at the end of the age, as explained in Matt 13:30. These parables are prophecies. Those prophecies came to pass. What Jesus is teaching to each individual is this; lets us concentrate to do our part in representing Him by being part of His Works. That is the meaning of being the salt and the lamp. Moreover, we are to leave the distraction such as the tare, the birds in the mustard tree, and the leaven to Jesus.
The letters written to the seven churches in the province of Asia found in the book of Revelation reveal that Jesus knew of the Church's transformation through the centuries to come. Those seven churches really did exist in the time the letters were written. Their struggle to stay true to the Word was an everyday challenge. The advice given by Jesus to each of the churches was to guaranty His Church continual existence through century to come, see Rev 1:19. All of today's denominations and individual Christian's do possess one or more of these churches characteristic. Do you have an ear? Are these letters not meant to be read to the churches? They were meant to anyone who has an ear to hear, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches", Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, Rev 3:6, 13, 22. For that reason, read them to yourself aloud.
All seven churches in Revelation are part of the body of Jesus, His Church. One out of the seven churches received no reprimand but instead praise. Rev 3:7, "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My Word, and have not denied My name."
Could we recognize this church today? Whoever they are or which denominations it could be, they have kept His Word, and have not denied His name…the cone and the ice cream. His Word is His commandments. Therefore, we need to know and understand, what are His commandments? Is Jesus talking about the Old Testament commandment? Not likely. After all, there are close to 613 of them. The Jewish population after the return of their captivity from Babylon tried to keep every one of them and more in the fear that God would sent them into another captivity if not kept. Keeping the commandments became their lifestyle to the extreme. Do we understand now why Jesus was so frustrated with the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the priesthood? There was too much emphasis on the keeping of the law and not enough on the human need, Is 58. They went from one extreme, "by not observing His commandments before their captivity into Babylon" to the other extreme "by being over zealous in keeping the laws". Read the Book to the Hebrews, it is instructions given to the Christian Jews to let go of the Old Covenant and to enter into a New Covenant. I encourage you to listen to this excellent study in MP3 format by Jack Kelly title; A study of the Letter to the Hebrews. The New Covenant 'made simple' was a fearful decision for them to observed. They were fearful to displease God, fearful of returning into captivity. It is ironic, because their fear of returning into captivity lead them to be scattered worldwide, Luke 19:43-44. "If you had know, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes," Luke 19:42. "The things that make for peace" is part of the New Covenant with Jesus. As Christians, are we not behaving the same way? Before our salvation, we were condemned, fearful of God judgement. After our salvation, some are still fearful of God judgement and continue to live by some Old Covenant law: working so hard to be accepted by God. That is an undesired added flavour. It is distracting us from focusing on God's Work. So let us focus on His grace and His mercy and accept salvation as the most undeserved gift of all…. praise the Lord.
Eph 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast". Titus 3:4, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit".
So, what are the commandments Jesus was talking about? What are the commandments of the new covenant? Matthew 28:18-20; And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen." Therefore, what are we to teach, and what are the things we must observe that Jesus commanded?
We see here the great commission of the Church (individual responsibility) to make disciples, preaching, "Jesus resurrected" as a witness 1 Peter 1:3, John 11:25, Acts 4:2. That is the purpose and the outcome for each individual by being the salt of the earth, a lamp. As a witness, we are to testify what Jesus had done for us (John 3:16), and made available to all. We are to show mercy and grace to all in as much Jesus gave to humanity, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:37. We tend to take for granted the gesture of mercy and grace from Jesus and the Father. Mercy, meaning we do not get what we deserved (death, Luke 13:3, forever separated from God), and grace, meaning we receive the thing we do not deserve (life, forever be with God, and to reign with Him for eternity, John 5:24).
The New Covenant commandments are sum up in three aspects; Believe, trust, and love; these are what we are to teach and things we must observe in which Jesus commanded.
Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, Matt 16:16, the One that God had sent so that whoever believes in Him may receive the gift of eternal life, John 3:16. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live"", John 11:25. Salvation is an event not a process. All it takes is to believe. I am a firm advocate that once saved always save, Hebrews 13:5. Jesus died for all sins, pass, present, and future. Once we made that choice to believe Jesus as the Son of God and accepted him in our heart, we are forever His. If we believe that we are saved because we belong to a congregation, or by our good deeds, we are deceiving ourselves. It is through Jesus obeying the will of the Father that we are redeemed and given eternal life, nothing else, John 6:38-40. We are not saved by our conduct or our works. We are saved by believing only. I encourage you to read this excellent commentary by Jack Kelly title, "OSAS, The Whole Story" Once Saved Always Saved. Sin will never separate us from God…. our guilt and shame will. Just do not do what Adam did, run away and hide. Run toward the cross. God is merciful; His Son Jesus is sitting beside Him as a beacon of the price Jesus paid for our sins. We are His Children; therefore, He acts as a good father even better then our earthly parent. He is rebuking us to teach us not to condemn us. Got that?
Trust. This is part of a process called sanctification, "to set apart for special use or purpose". It is a life long process in learning to trust God to do His work in us. Some call it "walking with God" and other calls it "Resting in God". The factor that helps us to achieve this is by understanding that God knows our destiny, 1 Tim 6:15, 1 Cor 4:8. He knows what is important to us, Matt 6:32 therefore let us trust Him with all our need, Pr 3:5-6. We show a lack of trust toward God when we sin against Him and against others. It is important to acknowledge our sin and to ask for forgiveness for our lack of trust. We do not loose our salvation; we are temporary on hold from His fellowship and from receiving His favours. This is "one" of the many other reasons why God does not answer prayers. This is the way God rebuke us, gets our attention. As Jesus explained to Peter, only the feet need to be wash not the whole body. Jesus took care of the body by washing it with His blood. We only need to take care of our feet, John 13:10. God is quick to forgive and to restore our fellowship with Him, 1 John 1:9.
Look at the life of Enoch. Enoch lived for 365 years and walk with God (trusting God) for 300 years. It took 65 years for Enoch to learn to trust God, Genesis 5:21-23. I wonder sometime how he faced life before the flood. I read that it was as bad as it is today, Luke 17:26, 2 Peter 2:5. How long will it take us to learn that lesson? How long will it take you to take Jesus at His Word? Frankly, I would be afraid to go through life today without Jesus. The Israelites were 40 years in the desert, sent in captivity for 70 years in Babylon, and yet as of today Israel as a nation have not learnt to trust God. Israel is still God's people, Zec 2:8, Ezekiel 37:11-12. Hard to believe…. this only proves how secure is our salvation. More may be found on this subject on trusting God by reading my commentary on the subject titled "Economic Crisis: As Christians, what are we to do? Answer: "REST"" Trust is the element where 90% of Christians fail to apply in their life with Jesus. Most live a defeated life; appear worrying, sad, and show a life of sacrifice instead of a live full in abundance of joy as it was intended, "I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly", John 10:10. They either had bad teachers or just did not learn. Too many are among thorns as I was: "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the Word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and he becomes unfruitful", Matt 13:22. Failing to trust does not take away our salvation. It just makes life miserable and unfruitful. The sooner we learn to trust God the better so that we could go on and do what Jesus set us apart for and purpose. To trust is a decision. To please God is to trust Him. To trust God is to please God. We have heard of this saying; "God help those who help themselves", surprise…that is not in the bible. God help those who depend and hope entirely on Him.
Blessed is the man…/woman… who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. Jer 17:7-8
On a personal note. I accepted Jesus in my early 20's. For a major part of my life, I have lived the experience of not trusting God. Through the experience of two fail marriages, I became bitter, and ran farther away from God. I married again. I invested in the establishment of a vineyard with the goal to turn it to a Winery retail store. We ended up with incredible debt and on top of that my wife health was deteriorating. Nothing seems to go right. No matter what I did, my vines gave no fruit or hardly. My mine was full of fear and doubt. I prayed and study the bible. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and it righteousness" was my motto. Yet, my life did not improved.
I finally realize that I was putting all my attention on "Seeking ye first the kingdom of God, and very little on "His righteousness". I was putting to much attention on studying bible prophecy and not enough on applying God's Word in my life. There was a sin that I kept ignoring and justifying, considering it non-important. That is where I was wrong. God as a loving Father considered it serious enough to bring it to my intention.
Then there is a matter of trusting God. Proverb 3: 5-6, I kept reading "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths"…..until it finally clicked. It is a commandment, not a suggestion to trust. I finally realized what pleases God the most is a trusting heart. I made a decision to trust the Lord. I stood up at an assembly and declare my commitment to trust in the Lord. I read the same verse by adding "I". "I will trust in the Lord with all my heart, and I will lean not in my own understanding; in all my ways I will acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths".
We moved to my wife hometown, in Newfoundland over 1000 miles away from our children and grandchildren. My wife health got worse. Her employer filed bankruptcy protection…we hit bottom. I kept the decision to trust Him no matter what…. We showed to God our trust toward Him by contributing to our local churches. I continually praised Jesus in my mind whenever doubt and fear enter my mind. Our live suddenly made a 180-degree change. Our debts were consolidated. My wife received medical leave of absent. The blessing we received was unexplainable. God is great. God is wonderful. God is merciful, and I mean it.
Lately, with all this proof of His blessing in our lives, I failed again to trust the Lord, and allowed insecurity and doubt to enter my mind and the consequence was that I upset the one I love, my wife. I asked God forgiveness and He was quick to forgive. My wife also forgave me. She showed good example of what forgiveness is all about. I am now more committed to trust the Lord. Now I say, "I trust the Lord with all my heart and I lean not in my own understanding; in all my ways I acknowledge Him, and He direct my path. Jesus is not reigning to get even with us when we fail to trust Him. He reigns to teach.
I learned the importance to praise the Lord: Romans 15:11, "and again, Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!" I learned that trust and praise go hand in hand, Ephesians 1:12, "that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory".
It is all about making the decision to trust. STOP SINNING AND TRUST. Romans 6
Love. Paul couldn't emphasised more on this subject, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love", 1 Corinthians 13:13. Read all John's three letters. It is sum up in this; 1 John 5:3: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome", and in 1 John 4:21: "And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also". It does not say 'should try, tolerate or worship apart', Gal 5:14, 1 Tim1:5. Mercy and grace we want, but how quick are we to do to others as Jesus did to us? We may want to take the time to read the parable of the unforgiving servant Matt 18:23-35. We are to show love in the form of mercy and grace not only toward a few and when ask for, but as an act of compassion without his/her asking, Luke 23:34. To dispute over preferences, that appears to be common sense for some is not sinful, but is a good opportunity to show mercy and grace. For someone to prefer different flavours then ours, which is important to us, is also a good opportunity to show mercy and grace.
The New Covenant is based on love. God's love toward us and love between each other; 1 John 2:7-11, Matthew 22:34-40. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another," John 13:34. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another," John 13:35. "ALL" meaning the whole of society will know that we are God's disciples, if we love one another. Do we understand now, why division hinders God's Works? "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against himself will not stand". Take a good look inside of many churches. There are many empty pews and some who attend are too busy to live with all these added flavours and avoid living with love. The churches are brought to desolation. In my opinion, this is the one major cause for the prophetic event called the "falling away", 2 Thess 2:3. Jesus concluded with this strong assertion, "He who is not with me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad" Matt 12: 30. Let me put it this way; he who is not with Jesus by practicing love in the form of mercy and grace within the church communities is against Jesus, he who does not practice love, does not gather with Jesus but scatters abroad, breaks up the church or keeps people away. Let us start practicing loving people in the church. We may find it easier to love those within the world.
It is very sad. The loyal aging attendees are the one that suffer the most. They remember the time when the church was alive and the pews were full. Sunday was an all day family gathering from church to home. Family would share meals, sing songs, and share their life experience. Now it is only memories. The church is empty, they return to an empty home. Sad…very sad.
Ray C. Stedman commentary on the Parable of the Leaven titles "The Case of the Sneaky Housewife" wrote:
"That is what is often lacking in the church today. We have taken away the koinonia, the commonness of the body of Christ. We have lost that to a great extent in the church in general. But we have held onto the kerygma, the preaching, the proclamation. We expect to convince everybody by an intellectual presentation of truth. But the reason why the evangelical church of our day is rejected and set aside in so many quarters is that people who come to it are disappointed because they hear great Words but they don't see great lives; they don't see warmth, they don't see love and acceptance, they don't see understanding and forgiveness. What they too often run into is strife and bickering and fighting and quarreling and unforgiveness, jealousy and bitterness, grudges and splits and feuds and divisions, hostility and anger, worry and anxiety. They listen to the preaching of these great Words that the church has to say and then they look at our lives to see how it works. And what they see convinces them that the Words are not true. What they see is exactly what they find in their own lives and homes."
So they say to us, "What are you Christians talking about? What's the difference? What do you Christians have that we don't have---without the inconvenience of having to go through all the rites you go through. What is so great about this message? Why doesn't it do something for you? Why should we believe it and go to all the trouble of becoming a Christian when we can live the same way ourselves? We don't need the church or the Bible to teach us how to fight. We don't need the gospel to help us to be angry and resentful and bitter and divided against each other. We can do all that without it." And so there is an immediate loss of attention to the message that we are proclaiming because there is no evidence of the witness of communion. What is missing is the oneness, the precious fellowship together of the people of God living the life of God.
Hypocrisy is what we display in the society. The society is right to accuse Christians of being hypocrites. What is so ironic is that many Christians do not want to face this truth…they prefer to be in denial and view themselves as victims of Christians persecution. We are rightly being judge by the society and we do not listen.
Ray C. Stedman continued with this strong accusation toward today's churches:
"What is the result of all this leaven that has come in? Well, we can see it abounding on every side, can't we? People come to church. They listen, they sing a hymn, they stand at the right time, they bow their heads at the right angle, they close the book together, they sit down. They go through the motions, but there is no exchange of life. There is no oneness, no sense of openness, no acceptance, no forgiveness. And homes, which are supposedly Christian, are often filled with strife and bickering and fighting, even physical attack. These things are the result of the leaven which has permeated and pervaded the body of Christ."
Ray Stedman then explain the cause and the solution:
"If the leaders of the church through the centuries had faithfully stuck with the Scripture…' the cone and the ice cream'… and had taught it as it is, these unhappy developments would have been prevented. But everywhere I go as a pastor today, speaking to groups of other pastors, I find out that this is the great weakness -- pastors are not teaching the Bible. They are not instructing their people from the Word of God and teaching what it actually says about how they are to live together. They aren't saying a Word about that. They are discussing remote doctrinal questions and giving their opinions on the social and political issues of the day…the flavours… instead of instructing in what the Bible is really aimed at -- the very personal lives of individuals and their relationships one with another. If the leadership of the church were carefully going over the Scriptures together with people, unfolding the Word of God, the whole effect of leaven would be greatly minimized within the body of Christ."
How sad to see what all these undesired flavours do. It has destroyed the purpose of the Body of Christ.
Lambert Dolphin commentary title "The Church at the End of the Age" point out:
"The church described as the body of Christ, with Christ the head of the Body (Ephesians 4, 1 Cor 12-14) is a reminder that the true church is a living organism, not an organization. We need one another and depend on one another as the various organs and systems of the human body are interdependent. Each member of the church reports directly to the Head, there is no hierarchical leadership in the church. All members have spiritual gifts and all are called to the ministry. "If one member suffers, all suffer, if one rejoices all rejoice."
Lambert Dolphin again in his commentary title, "Keeping Ready for the Return of the Lord" explained;
"One of the haunting problems in the church today is its identity crisis. In many places, it seems to have lost the sense of what it was intended to be. Instead of a body, with each one "members one of another" and ministering to one another in love and concern, it has become an organization operating various programs. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). But today's Christians often touch each others' lives on only the most superficial basis, and do not want to hear another's problems because they "don't want to get involved."
Further, in his commentary Lambert Dolphin clarify the intent of the church:
"Being ready means loving, trusting, and waiting for Jesus Christ, of course. The faithful servant is faithful because he is expecting his Lord's return. But it also has to do with faithful service, that is, continuing to carry out what Jesus has left us in this world to do. We find the same idea in two of the three parables in chapter 25. In one parable faithfulness is demonstrated by the wise use of the talents Christ has given (Matt. 25:14-30). In the other it is seen in selfless service to those who are hungry or thirsty or have other pressing needs (Matt. 25:31-46)."
To live in the spirit of the church of Philadelphia we are to keep His Word, and not deny His name. It is accomplished by believing, trusting, and loving. The pure taste of ice cream should take precedent over all other flavours. That is the simplicity of the church. That is 'in a nutshell' the signification of the talents in the Parable of the talents in Matt 25:14; the talents are His love. "For to everyone who has…love… more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have…love… even what he has will be taken away."
Love in it true form of grace and mercy is what we have received to invest. The
Parable of the Creditor and The Two Debtors in Luke 7:41-43 explain in plain Words what the servant in the Parable of the Talent received. Let read Luke 7:41-43
"There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?"
Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." …mercy and grace…
And He said to him, "You have rightly judged."
The one that owned the most is the one that sins the most. It is the one that suffer the most of the consequences of his/her sins…family broke up, lost of a job due to a dysfunctional behaviour causes by sins, ravage by health problems due to promiscuous sex, and left alone. He/she is the one most grateful for receiving forgiveness and acceptance in God's family compare to those who have little consequences of their sins. These are the one that are rejected and set apart by some traditional denominations…they do not fit their mould.
Now let us put 'grace and mercy' in perspective in the Parable of the Talents Matt 25:14-16
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents…(five hundred denarii) the one that received most forgiveness "mercy and grace"… to another two…(fifty denarii) "mercy and grace"… and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
Now according to these two parables, which servants will have a greater return on the goods…forgiveness 'mercy and grace'…they received? Which one would actively forgive, showing mercy and grace to others? The answer is, "the one that love him more for receiving abundance of His mercy and grace", the one that appreciated more the gift of forgiveness. That is according to his/her own ability to do the same. Ability to do what? It is in the ability to love as Jesus loved us…the ability to love Jesus by obeying His commandment to love, to do the same…got it?
This is how we obtain a return on our goods that we have received; "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy", Matt 5:7. Paul express in his own Word the demonstration of love…grace and mercy…defining the talents as 'treasure in earthen vessels' Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-15. In v15, we see the return of our investment, "For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God". How do we spread grace? The message from the parable of the Good Samaritan is all about what we are to do with the talents (love…grace and mercy). "Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise" Luke 10:37. Love is what we received in goods. For what purpose, "that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" 2 Cor 4:10.
Some have defined the talents as God's Words with good reason…. however within the context of the New Covenant, love (koinonia) is more likely to be the right description of the symbol of the talents.
In Micah 6:6-8 illustrate precisely, what Our Lord required from us, that is to love mercy over flavours:
"With what shall I come before the LORD,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?…Sunday after service barbecue…
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?…fund raising….
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,…donations…
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?…service to the community…
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God
The Philadelphia church and the Thessalonians church had this in common. They did not need to be taught. To the Thessalonians church Paul wrote:
"But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 1 Thess 4: 9-10. To the Philadelphia church Jesus stated: "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My Word, and have not denied My name, Revelation 3:8. Paul understood the important of living in love between each other, "But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more".
We are to spread mercy and grace to all. That is what sets Christians apart from this world.
Love in the form of mercy and grace is what we lose if not invested, separated from God forever. "And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt 25:30. The unfaithful servant was a hypocrite, and a pretentious christian. He/she was a tare. He/she did not accepted Jesus love in the form of grace and mercy, he/she buried it, therefore never had the desire nor the intention to do the same to others. They look and act like a gentile under the guise of Christianity but they are not saved. They fail to apply love…mercy and grace. So again, what are we to do with the tares in the church communities"? Nothing. It is not our business. It is not for us to go on a witch-hunt to disclose them. It is Jesus business. Him only knows the heart. Our business is to love in the form of grace and mercy. We never know, we might even influence a tare to accept Jesus' love.
Paul cautions the Corinthians to be aware to what is added on the cone and to the ice cream, 1 Corinthians 3:10b-15;
"But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…all different kind of flavours… each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work, which he has built on, it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
It is interesting to see that the result after being tested over what was built on Jesus is to receive a reward. Salvation is not the reward. We already acquired salvation through believing. The reward is for those who had increased the talents even to a minimum. To the ones who did not buried it.
The fire that will test our love for Jesus and others is in our every day life challenges. How do we react toward diversities? Do we still trust God? How do we react toward someone who deliberately makes our life miserable? Do we still act in love…mercy and grace? Do we forgive especially those in the family of God, our brothers and sisters in all denominations? So, let us be conscience of what we put on the ice cream cone. Our flavours hinder God's works and hinder our understanding of His Word. We live by His Word by being pure salt and true lamp.
Philippians 1:27 "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." It is our conduct, by trusting Jesus and loving each other that make an impact in the society. Here is a revelation for some; it is not a wide range of church's activities that draw people to Jesus. It is not by preaching moral values or the 10 commandments or of all the do's and don'ts that draw people to God e.g. on how to keep the Sabbath, not to play cards, not to drink wine, not to wear make-up, these are personal flavours…. God's kindness, grace, and mercy are what draw people to Him.
Acts 2:46; "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of hear." With one accord by loving each other.
2 Corinthians 1:12; "For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you". Conducting ourselves in the society in love, in grace, and in mercy.
As I mention in my introduction, there are many silent Christians, who are not part of any assemblies, and who do not know where to go to share their faith and love for Jesus. "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd," John 10:16. I believe that there are silent Christians left alone without a shepherd to teach them and to direct them in there new life with Jesus. I am convinced that there are many who silently accept Jesus in their heart and yet just do not know to which church to turn. I believe that there are many Christians that are tired to be part of a denomination that put to much emphasis on the flavours and they are crying out to be part of a real family surrounded with love.
This is a message to the true Christians, who live in the spirit of the Philadelphia church, who have kept His Word and had not deny His name. Let your lamp so shine in these last hours before are Lord return so that whoever believe in the Lord may find their way to true fellowship with the body of Christ "The Church".
To all new believers who are looking for a Christian church that is as true as to the original apostolic church; look for the one that have the less flavours on it menu. The body of Jesus consist of people who have chosen to have a personal every day relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They live by trusting in the Lord. They grow in and practice righteousness, 1 John 2:29. They practice love,1 John 3:11.
They are ordinary simple people who are exemplary walking in the spirit of the Philadelphia church: Jesus' Church. Pray that God the Father would bring into your life such people. I did. One of them deceases lately at 83 years of age. She was not loud to attract attention but quiet. She probably did not think that someone would notice. Ecclesiastes 9:17. She believed, she trusted, and she loved.
Pray with me for the unity of the Body of Christ, all the communities, and individuals whom live according to the spirit of the Philadelphia church. Let us be united; let us practice mercy, grace and kindness toward each other even toward the tares…they are the one that need it the most for no one taught them. Let us "LOVE ONE ANOTHER".
I know who I am because Jesus tells me so. I am first and foremost a son of God, Gal 3:26; my citizenship is in heaven, Phil 3:20; I am neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:28, neither circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all, Col 3:11; I am not of Paul, or I am not of Apollos, or I am not of Cephas, I am not of Christ, 1 Cor1:12-13; I will reign with Jesus, 2 Tim 2:12; I am a holy brethren, and partakers of the heavenly calling, Heb 3:1; I am free, John 8:32, Rom 6:22; hence, I know who I am and I know where I belong …in the body of Christ. I do not belong on a menu of an ice cream parlour. Thank you Father, thank you Jesus, thank you Holy Spirit.
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good Word and work", …(not flavours)…2 Thess 2:16-17.
References and reading suggestion:
· List of Christian denominations at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations
Permissions: It is FREE to be use in any shape or form for the purpose to reach all Christians for the unification of the Body of Christ. All right reserve to Jesus our Lord and King.
Contact: Andre Delage, at email@example.com
Part 2 of "Why is Jesus' Church Divided?" I will focus on the cone, Jesus the foundation. "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many", Matthew 24:5. Look like a cone but does not taste like a cone. Stay tuned.