New Testament Church Proliferation Digest


Spreading the Gospel via House Churches


Oct 27, 2001 Vol 01 : 082


NT Church Proliferation Digest Saturday, October 27 2001 Vol 01 : 082


[ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word
[ntcp] RE: disciplling cousins
Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word
Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word


Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 15:17:32 +0700
From: hudson@indosat.net.id
Subject: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word

Link to Jay,

Jay wrote,
>>> Religion may not have been a "dirty word" when James wrote his letter,
but what we have done with it, then, and since, has not improved things.
Apparently even then there were problems, or James might not have felt that
he had to provide the clarification.I guess one could have such a theory. But I don't
>see any support for that theory in the Bible. I don't
>see where the Bible condemns liturgy, ritual prayer,
>etc. In fact, I haven't seen any historical evidence
>of a non-liturgical, non-ritualistic church in the
>period just after the apostles.

Jay responded
>> I don't know about "just after the apostles", but before the canon of
Scripture was closed, there was plenty of evidence, once we see the
nature of the struggle between Paul and the Jerusalem leadership. I
could cite the whole book of Galatians, but perhaps this will do for
now:>>"Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by
nature are not gods. But now that you know God--or rather are known by
God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable
principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing
special days
and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have
wasted my efforts on you."Galatians 4:8-11> "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them
openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in
meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or
of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body
is of Christ.>Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary
humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he
hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the
Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment
ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world,
why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch
not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;)
after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a
shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the
body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." Colossians
2:15-23>>I think this has been true for some time. One of the first "evangelical
quotes I heard was "Religion is man seeking God, but Christianity is God
seeking man." This has remained my impression since I first heard it.I remember thinking that if an unbeliever were there
>and heard that, he'd just be confused. If he thinks
>religion is a bad thing, why is he speaking in church?

Jay responded
>>> Why did they go first to the Jew? Sure, there is cold dead, lifeless religion. But not all religion is
>bad.

Jay wrote,

>>Forms of practice which are not born out of our new nature in Christ,
are "menstrous rags", simply evidence that we have had no fruitful
intimacy with Christ..>"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes
Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn
just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the
law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning
with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing?
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you
observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" Galatians 3:1-5Setting aside time for prayer may seem like a
>'ritual,' or a 'religious activity.' That doesn't
>mean it's wrong. Even if a person who prays like this
>doesn't hear God say, 'pray to me at 2:00 every day,'
>that doesn't mean that he isn't in the flow of God's
>grace.

Jay responded
> I have learned over the years, that God knows where to find me when he
wants me, so I don't revert to going through motions when the wind of
the Spirit gets quiet.Unless you have some new justification for preaching ritual, I think I'm
done.

"After this manner therefore pray yeÖ"

"For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered unto youÖ"

"and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Praying the Lord's prayer, having the Lord's Supper (even informally as a
meal), and baptism, all involve some ritual. Some manifestations of
'ritual' appear to be informal and laid back, but it's still ritual.

Link

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Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 11:58:07 +0200
From: "Deborah"
Subject: [ntcp] RE: disciplling cousins

Hey gang! Could I suggest that we get back on the direct subject of
New Testament Church Proliferation? Believe me, I could enter into this
debate with my own special slant, but I don't know how that would
further the stated goals of this listserve. So I refrain. Might we
give the "two-cents-worth" thing, then move on? I am growing weary of
the exchange which is getting far off the beaten track. I bet I'm not
alone.

Michael

Jerusalem


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Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2001 08:23:36 -0700
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word

Dear Link,

I think it was Jesus who said, "but if the light of your eye be
darkness, how great is the darkness..." or words to that effect. I don't
know if you have noticed, but it looks like religion doesn't see very
well, whether in you or me or others.

It's looking more and more like we are wasting each others time, and the
time of those on the list. Perhaps after some more tribulation we can
speak again on the subject of teaching ritual as distinct from the
reality which is found only in Christ.

My concern is that we may have to wait until we have entered into the
season of "loud cries and tears". Hebrews 5:7

As of now, it looks like that won't be too far away.

Yours in Christ,

Jay

hudson@indosat.net.id wrote:

> Link to Jay,
>
>Galatians may have been written just before Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem just before Acts 15, and there were some Pharisees in the church at that time who thought the Gentiles had to be circumcised.
>
Not to drag this out any longer, I just wanted to mention that I have
been working on a manuscript for about 15 years now, which began with
the title: CIRCUMCISION, THE BEGINNING OF THE END. A friend thought that
was perhaps a bit to graphic, so I retitled it, CIRCUMCISION, THE BATTLE
OF BELONGING. In any case, I mention it, because, among other things the
timing or chronology of the writing of Galatians relative to the
circumcision of Timothy was a major focus of the years of study: I would
be happy to send you the manuscript, about 100 pages or so, book form,
but for now just the following might be an appropriate to response to
what you have written above:

INTRODUCTION

The subject of circumcisiom, occupying as it does so much of the New
Testament Epistles, is not just a relic of Church history or a matter of
historical interest. The focus of deception during the ministry of Paul,
by the time John was writing his epistles, the problem had broadened to
friendship with the world, and finally "war against the saints".

Unfortunately, since the time of Paul's writing, the church has looked
at circumcision as a historical problem of the past, the "mark of the
beast" as a problem of the future, and ignored the man handling of the
present. In the present study we see this Biblical subject in its
generic outworking, "don't let man do a number on you", thus, better
enabling us to understand its application in the present.

The controversy over circumcision is a type of a much greater conflict,
a pervasive as well as an ultimate conflict, which will end only with,
and by, the return of The Lord. In the early Church, circumcision was
the outward sign of belonging and acceptance required by the Jewish
believers. Throughout most of Church history, it has been institutions
and institutional membership or loyalty that has been the outward sign
of belonging and acceptance required by Gentile believers. So far from
being Biblically required or even indicated, both are "the work of man's
hands", and as such condemned by Scripture.

Viewed from one perspective, the central theme of the Scripture is the
matter of place. In the Old Testament, the conflict is over an earthly
place, and the warfare was physical. In the New Testament, the conflict
is over a spiritual place, and the warfare is spiritual. The purpose of
God, in its most generic expression, is to bring people to a place that
does not shake. God does not want people to shake relationally,
spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc. The Scripture calls this place
by a number of names, most notably, "a City with foundations, whose
builder and maker is God". In its highest revelation, the name of this
city is "The New Jerusalem".

There are many alternative places, but they have one thing in common,
they are all "created things, "... the work of man's hands". From
physical circumcision to Babylon The Great, they are man's doing, and,
for that reason, fall short of the glory of God. Between man's doing and
God's doing there is a conflict reconciled only in the person of Jesus
Christ. He alone, undefiled by the marks of man is "the way, the truth
and the life". In fact "The New Jerusalem" is a place in Him.

To the degree that we associate ourselves with the doing of man, we will
be shaken. In the end, the doing of man is summed up in "the mark of the
beast". The battle raging in the pages of the New Testament over the
matter of circumcision is there as instruction so that we might be able
to know the difference between the doing of man and the doing of God,
particularly as it relates to the fundamental longing of the human
heart, the need for an eternal place, the need for acceptance, the need
to belong. God is very clear in His Word about "place" where the unity
of the body is concerned. The degree to which the matter of "place" has
become confused, is the degree, and extent to which we have already
been "drawn away" in our own day. Any relationship, be it personal,
corporate or institutional, which acts on you in such a way as, for your
part, to reduce your ability to get along with the Body of Christ in the
"place where you live" is either an ungodly relationship, or is
impacting you in an ungodly way.

There are increasing numbers of relational structures, and authority
structures, which are being imposed on the Body of Christ, and which, by
design or fruit are causing, encouraging, or maintaining the division of
The Body. Their time demands alone are sufficient so that there is no
time left to relate to the rest of the Body where we live. This should
not be. Those who are presenting these structures to the Body of Christ
in the Name of The Lord, as being representative of God's purpose and
perspective, are, to that degree, in the place of false prophets.
"TELLING IT TO THE CHURCH"
PAUL'S LETTER
TO THE CHURCHES
OF GALATIA
Jesus tells us in Matthew 18, what to do when we have ought against any.
He tells us, "Go to them in Private." If that doesn't do it, "Go to them
with two or three others." If that still doesn't do it, "Tell it to the
church".

In the following presentation, I have taken the position of those who
would date Pauls' letter to the Galatians later in the chronology of
Acts, sometime later than Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, and,
since Paul mentions Timothy in the greeting of that letter, 2CO 1:1,
later than the circumcision of Timothy. In II Corinthians Paul writes,
12:2 "I know a man who fourteen years ago..." It is my understanding
that Paul's surpassing revelations came while he was in Arabia,
Galatians 1:17. This is when Paul received his individual and very
Spiritual discipleship from The Lord. Whether from the time that he
arrived in Arabia, or perhaps even earlier, or from the time he arrived
in Damascus, Galatians 1:17, he arrived in Jerusalem three years later,
and only for the purpose of "getting acquainted with Peter, Galatians 1:18.

Fourteen years later he went back and met with the Jerusalem leadership
in private, Galatians 2:2 Sometime later than that he wrote the letter
to the Galatians. Anyway you look at it, the Galatian letter had to be
later than the second Corinthian letter, and therefore after the council
at Jerusalem in Acts 15, and after his circumcision of Timothy, which
took place later than that council.

This is the challenge that I would like the reader to consider, If Paul
could circumcise Timothy after writing the Galatian letter, then
anything is possible. Rather it is our very strong impression that
everything is not possible, permissible or helpful, least of all the
manhandling of the saints as typified in physical circumcision this side
of the Cross of Christ.

The influence of the Jerusalem leadership had been spoiling the churches
that Paul had paid such a high price in pioneering. Paul tried to get
this matter cleared up in private, Galatians 2:2. He took two or three
others with him in Acts 15. By Acts 21, the problem was clearly not yet
solved, and in Galatians, Paul tells it to the church. Not only the
churches of Galatia, but by his letter, all the churches downstream of
the judaizers, and right on through the mark of the beast.

Paul does not speak well of the Jerusalem leadership, even James, Peter
and John, as he is writing his Galatian letter, and this is because
circumcision was only the beginning of the problem. His message
generically speaking; Don't let man do a number on you!

I could have named this, "Circumcision, the real border of the Kingdom,"
or "the border war of the Kingdom."

The Kingdom of God is Righeousness, peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit .
So then, where is the war? Jesus christ Himself is the Kingdom of God,
the government of God, and that government resides inside of all who
believe. It was placed there as an incurruptable seed by a divine act
of love. Inside that seed, the war is over, but there is a border war
within each one of us. That border is somewhere between soul and spirit,
and the Word of God has been given to us to fight that war. The Word of
God or sword of the Spirit is so sharp that it is able to divide between
soud and spirit any way you swing it. God has only one remedy for the
soul of man, and it is not a self-improvement program, it is the cross
of Christ.

The writing of this has taken place over th past 15 years. Over that
time there have been some very deep valleys designed, it would seem in
the purposes of God, not only to test the content, but to deepen and
focus it.

To understand someone, you have to get where they are, you have to "do"
them. Certainly this true in connection with The Word of God, "It's not
the hearers but the doers who understand". In a sense then, it's not
the hearers of Jesus, but the doers of Jesus who understand Him, and so
Jesus boils it all down to "Get away from me you evil doers, I never
knew you". No intimacy; no relationship; no understanding of what He is
all about or were He is coming from.. The same could be said for Paul,
as an instrument in the writing of the Word, you have to "do" Paul, to
understand Paul.

Most specifically, the present insight or revelation has to do with
Paul's highest priority, not at the beginning of his ministry, but the
end. In the end when his depth of insight and revelation was at the
full, and before he no longer had any choice about where he went or what
he did. In the end, the last time he had a choice about where to go, his
highest priority was to get to Jerusalem, if possible in time for
Pentacost.

This makes it very important to understand why he wanted to go, when
everyone else was warning him "in the Spirit" not to go there. Luke went
with him, and so was a first hand observer of what happened, writing it
all down for us in the Book of Acts, and Luke was also among those
urging him not to go.

On the way Paul said his goodbyes to the Ephesian elders, reminding them
that for three and a half years he had not stopped warning them with
tears that, after he left, savage wolves would tear the church apart,
even some from their own ranks would rise up and participate in this,
not nice wolves, but savage wolves. This was ipart of what was n Paul's
heart and mind, by the time he was headed for Jerusalem this last time.
His highest priority had been to take the message of "his gospel" to the
Gentiles. Now he was determined to get in the face of religion, the
earthly Jerusalem, just as he had gotten in Peter's face in Antioch
because of the influence of certain men who had come from James.

I had seen some years ago, that the reason he did this was because
religion was wrecking, and would apparently continue to wreck, the fruit
of his ministry. When something like that is your chronic experience,
it's time to get it fixed somehow. Paul had not been able to fix it.
Sharing his gospel with the leadership in private didn't fix it. The
Jerusalem council didn't fix it. His confrontation with Peter didn't fix
it. His falling out with Barnabas didn't fix it. Nothing he had done to
that point fixed it.

On this last trip to Jerusalem, Paul was determined to have God fix it,
and he himself was willing to be a curse if that's what it took to get
it fixed. God saved him from that, however, by having him arrested the
day before the blood sacrifice which would have completed his
purification rite. Paul was never free again to decide where he would
go. God saw to it that all of this got written down for us so that,
among other things, we could learn from what happened to Paul.

If you are going to preach the onenness that is ours in Christ, the
focus of Jesus' prayer in John 17, the first thing you have to get clear
about is circumcision. Circumcision is the token of the covenant between
God and Abraham, which is to say, God and His people. Before intimacy,
comes circumcision, not, intimacy, then circumcision.

Circumcision takes blace at the frontier of intimacy, as a matter of
first importance. It was so important that God was looking to kill Moses
after He had succeeded in talking him into going back to Egypt to rescue
his people. That rescue would begin with Passover, the first month of
the rest of their lives. Actually it would be as though they had never
been alive before. But Moses had failed to circumcise his own son, and
it was only due to the intervention of his wife, the boy's mother, that
Moses was spared. She circumcised their son. Having done so, she threw
the forskin at Moses feet, and said, "Surely a bloody husband art thou
to me." Exodus 4:24-26. In verse 26 it is explained that she said, "a
bloody husband thou art", because of the circumcision. This was taken
care of prior to Moses speaking to the elders of Israel, verse 29.

By the end of Paul's writing on the subject of circumcision, we know
that physical circumcision is nothing. It was a sign of a different kind
of circumcision, an inward one of the heart by the Spirit. It's the same
with intimacy; its not the outward, but the inward intimacy which really
matters. The one is a picture or a parable of the other in fact, sex
itself is a parable, designed to reveal otherwise invisible truth about God.

Those who are hung up on the outer forms make war on those who would
live in the inner or spiritual reality. Paul put it this way, "If I am
still preaching (outward) circumcision, why am I still being persecuted
for the cross of Christ?" The Cross of Christ is the circumcision of
God, it was there that the barrier to intimacy was taken away, the heart
of God was obscured by the flesh. For God's part, the circumcision of
the cross, made true intimacy possible, intimacy without barriers or
uncleanness. 19: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the
holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath
consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;"
Hebrews 10:19,20. Male circumcision is only a sign of this reality.
After the death of Jesus, all that was left was its internal outworking
to take place in us who would be His bride. The bride also would have to
undergo circumcision, not as a mere token, but as an inner reality, the
circumcision of the heart. This is a foundational issue, a matter of
primary importance.

Intimacy in Christ as Paul had come to understand it was being
destroyed by the influence of the Jerusalem establishment, (See Paul's
confrontation with Peter, and the cause of it, Galatians 2.) For Paul,
there was no longer Jew and Gentile, that had all been done away in
Christ. Paul had come to a place where he considered his own heritage in
the flesh as rubbish.

As long as Paul had gone along with the program of religion, he was
getting away with murder, in fact, he was licensed to kill, but when he
stopped going along with the program, he was persecuted by the religious
for the cross of Christ. And the fruit of his ministry was being
persecuted for the same reason, Galatians 5:12-15: 12: "As many as
desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be
circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of
Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law;
but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus
Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature."

All of this to say, that intimacy of relationship is not possible before
the matter of circumcision is both clear and taken care of at, and by
the cross. But for this to be fully understood, there is often
tremendous pain, the pain of failed relationships. this is the pain
which comes of being wounded in the house of your friends, those who are
closest to you. Part of that pain is that there is no place to talk
about it, because to do so would only compound betrayal with betrayal.
For me this explains Paul's silence on the issue. Paul had suffered that
pain, and was headed for Jerusalem with blood in his eye.

Clearly, at that point, Paul was all alone in his understanding of the
reason he went, and of what was at stake. Beginning to understand his
heart, I'm forced to wonder, if perhaps, two or three, armed with the
Biblical record, might succeed in making his point for the church in our
own day. By now, we are armed with the evidence of what failure to
resolve this issue cost Paul, and historic Christianity. The price has
been very very high. There is only one reason to go to the earthly
Jerusalem and that is to die. In the end, that's why Jesus went there,
and that is why Paul went there. It is the same in our own day; to get
in the face of religion is to have come to a place where there is a
willingness to die. Jesus on the cross, clearly demonstrates what
religion will do for you. Anyone who would confront religion must have
reckoned themselves dead already.

Jay Ferris - May 2001


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Date: Sat, 27 Oct 2001 07:01:09 -0700
From: jferris
Subject: Re: [ntcp] 'Religion' is not a dirty word

Dear Link,

As I continued to think on our discussion, and the reaction of others, I
felt I owed you and the list just a little more of an explanation. I
shared what I shared, out of love and concern for those who have the
passion to do God's work, not to replace them or their work with myself
or mine.

I would like in this note to try to come at this a little different way.

We are in a war. "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints,
and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and
tongues, and nations." Revelation 13:7 The "him" might have an ultimate
personification, but in principle the war was been going on from the
beginning. In its simplest essence, it is a war against love.

"... God is love." "... we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as
he is." In other words, to make war against the Saints is to make war
against those who are ultimately like God. The Saints are or ought to
be, the expression of God's love in the earth.

"Because iniquity abounds, the love of most will grow cold." "The love
of God constrains us..."

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings
of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their
bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." Psalms 2:1-3

Notice what a great army as arrayed against "the Lord, and against his
anointed". The Lord is love, and His anointed is the expression of His
love in the earth. as Paul said to the Corinthians, "The love of God
constrains us..." The love of God is a constraint. Ultimately it is the
constraint of His love, the "bands" of His love, that we, in the first
man Adam, would "break asunder. It is the "cords" of His love that we
would "cast away".

Of all the external commands that would put us to death, the command
to love is the most deadly. We love only because He first loved us. When
we set about to love as He loved us, we very quickly discover what
miserable failures we are at this, the highest call of God. It is this
discovery that drives us into Christ. It is only He in us, who is
capable of fulfilling this otherwise lethal command. It is not those who
oppose us who are the problem. My problem is maintaining the look of
love in my eye, the wedding garment, when I am being wounded in the
house of my friends. In case you haven't noticed, those are the most
painful wounds there are. Who knows, perhaps even Mohammed was wounded
there, and perhaps some of his friends called themselves Christians.

"Why do the heathen rage?" They rage because for them, as for us, the
cost of love is just too high. "Even so, Come Lord Jesus."

Yours in Christ,

Jay


End of New Testament Church Proliferation Digest V1 #82
 


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