Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Ever since the resurgence of the charismatic movement in the last century, there has been incredible controversy in church on the issue of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 10:8). One faction believes it is a sign of a deeper relationship with the Lord that everyone should seek but only few find. You hear this when statements like this are made: “You must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.”
Then there is the other side that throws all the uncomfortable gifts of the Spirit out the window for fear of being called strange, loopy or out of control. And these camps are entrenched, like opposing armies set for war.
But what is the truth? And how can we know from Scripture which side is right?
Simply put, the answer to this great controversy is found in the singular and plural use of the Greek word “glṓssa” – and nothing more. When you get this definition under your belt, the entire controversy vanishes into thin air, like a man-made mirage.
When we look at the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, we are drawn to the fact that some of these gifts are verbal (word of wisdom and knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues) and some are non-verbal (faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles). And within the verbal gifts, we find certain pair that are closely associated with each other. For example, we have the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. Then those who possess the gift of tongues and those who are gifted to interpret tongues. And the gift of prophecy and those who are able to discern the spirit behind the prophecy. It seems one gift is closely related to another.
But a more careful study will show that two of these gifts are directly related to one another, they’re literally different sides of the same coin. “What two gifts?” you ask. Prophecy and tongues. “How can that be?” Keep listening to find out more.
Have you ever wondered why we don’t see the healings and miracles today like they did in the times of the New Testament? Has it left you longing for what obviously the early church had that we, somehow, seem to have lost? Or could it be something else?
We have listened to a litany of theologians try to sell us on the fact that God doesn’t do the cool stuff anymore because we have the completed New Testament in our hands. Or He only did the stuff back then to authenticate the apostles’ preaching and, for some strange reason, our preaching today doesn’t need authenticating. Really? Could’ve fooled me.
But what if the Bible truly means what it says? What if God still does today what He proudly and publicly did back then? What if miracles really happen today, but they are just hiding from us, waiting for us to seek them out? What if the difference between the church in 2017 and the church in the book of Acts is not the way God moves, but the way we believe? What if things could be different?
Are you interested in finding out where miracles hide? Good. Then keep listening.
When we have the desire to know more about the gifts given each of us by the Holy Spirit, and our responsibility in exercising those gifts, we are faced with a couple of questions. Especially when we see that the purpose of those gifts is to give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to manifest or express Himself to others. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 12:7 – But the manifestation (expression) of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
How does the Holy Spirit manifest or express Himself in the world today?
Does the Holy Spirit give His gifts to everyone that belongs to Christ?
Does that include you?
What gift or gifts has He given you?
And why did He give you His gifts?
So He could express Himself to others through each of us.
Do you realize the reason the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts is to manifest Himself to others through us? Let that sink in for a moment.
Many of us make resolutions this time of year. It just seems natural. Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house. But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual. That also seems natural. So we often resolve something like this:
“I want to read my Bible more.”
“I want to pray more.”
“I want to share my faith more.”
“I want to love more, forgive more, worship more.”
“I want to live more like a Christian.”
“I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son.”
But the key to discovering the “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be. It’s living a life of holiness. It’s practicing sanctification. It’s being set apart or consecrated unto God. After all, we belong to Him.
But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God’s if / then promises work. The promise comes after the condition. The then follows the if. Consider the following:
We have previously talked about the importance of understanding our responsibility regarding the if / then passages in Scripture. In these, the promise of God (then) is contingent upon some completed action on our part (if). One always precedes the other. One is always contingent upon the other. When the if is satisfied, the promised then is realized. But the opposite is also true. If there is no if, there will be no then. If no condition is met, there will be no fulfillment of the promise. It’s Contract Law, 101.
For example, when Peter preached his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the birth of the church, he closed his message with an if / then promise. Let’s look at this in context. First, Peter concludes his message with a statement about Jesus and their guilt in rejecting and crucifying Him.
Acts 2:36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified (now it’s personal), both Lord and Christ.”
Then, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the people cry out for an answer. They long and seek for salvation, some deliverance from the guilt of their sin.
Acts 2:37 – Now when they heard this (the words Peter just spoke), they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Peter answers their question with an if / then promise regarding repentance and salvation. They must do something (if) to receive salvation and the forgiveness of their sins (then). If they fail to do what is required of them (if – repentance), then salvation does not follow (then). Watch how this plays out.
If your resolution this year is to “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:5), then you must begin this vision quest by understanding how the if / then passages in Scripture work. Simply put, you do the ifs, and God provides the thens. One is contingent upon another. One comes first, and the other follows after. One is a condition that must be met, the other is the result of meeting that condition. One is your responsibility, and the other is His.
Consider this passage from Proverbs 2:
Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if (condition) you receive my words, and (if you) treasure my commands within you, (to what extent) so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if (condition) you cry out for discernment, and (if you) lift up your voice for understanding, if (condition) you seek her as silver, and (if you) search for her as for hidden treasures; then (result of meeting the condition) you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
As you can see, the promise of understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God only comes after the if conditions are met. One is contingent upon another. Meeting the if condition is the key that unlocks the then promise, If I want to understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God, then I must meet the condition set forth to receive that promise. It is foolishness, according to this passage, to assume we will receive the promise without meeting the condition.
When we read the reason God gave each of us spiritual gifts, we find they are an expression or representation of the Holy Spirit to a lost world in dire need of Him. Think about it, the Holy Spirit lives in each of us as a deposit or guarantee of our future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:14). In essence, no Holy Spirit, no salvation. And because the Holy Spirit now lives in each of us, He also graciously gives us certain gifts that come from Him. Some of these gifts we readily embrace. Others we feel less than excited about. But regardless of our personal feelings about what the Holy Spirit has blessed us with, we are given these gifts for the benefit of others. They are to be used for others as a clear expression of Him who now lives in us.
Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 12:7 – But the manifestation (expression, to make visible or observable) of the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is given (to bestow, to give freely of one’s own accord and with goodwill) to each one (to each and every one separately and individually) for the profit (benefit, advantage, usefulness, help, to bring together for the benefit of another) of all.
Does this also apply to the “gifts of healings” and the “working of miracles” in the verses that follow? What about tongues and the interpretation of tongues? How about the gift of discerning of spirits? Now it gets a little squirrely, doesn’t it? Do you have questions about these gifts? Are you wondering how your experience lines up with the Scriptural teaching about spiritual gifts? Do you feel confused and somewhat in the dark when it comes to these controversial gifts? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most of the church feels the same way. Want some answers? Then keep listening.
When we think of the cost of Christmas, most of us think about how much it is going to cost us and how long before we pay our credit cards off. But that’s the horizontal cost. The cost of presents that feel good for the moment but have very little lasting value.
There’s also a vertical cost to Christmas. And that cost was paid by the Son of God who “emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave” (Phi.2:7), the lowest of men.
What did Christmas cost Jesus? You’d be shocked, surprised and humbled to know. He exchanged the praise and adoration of angels for the spittle of men.
Before we look at the book of Acts, let’s step back a bit and examine those chosen by the Lord to be His disciples. Let’s look closely at the cast of unlikely characters Jesus assembled to make up His church. Let’s see if we can determine what it was about them that He used to build His church (Matt. 16:18) and what it is about us that needs to change to be more like them.
First, unlike us today, Jesus did not spend His time building an army of half-hearted, mega-church followers whose spiritual lives were a mile wide and an inch deep. Jesus wasn’t interested in creating multi-campus institutions, church brands, best-selling books, popular podcasts, blogs, or prime-time television shows. He could care less about how many Twitter followers He had or His likes on Facebook.
Jesus focused His ministry on a handful of common men that He poured His life into, 24/7. And He entrusted these men to faithfully share His message after He was gone.
Least Likely to Succeed
None of those Jesus chose were rich nor educated. None of them were well-trained. Some were fishermen, some probably merchants. Others were common, day laborers. One was a tax collector. Another a closet revolutionary, a zealot. They were just ordinary, blue-collar people from rural Galilee and the surrounding areas. The only thing they had in common was that they had very little in themselves that would point to future success.
But Jesus called each of them unto Himself. And as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Something About Us
This is a collection of the many questions I have struggled with and the answers I have found regarding the relationship between authentic faith in Christ and much of what is portrayed today as Biblical Christianity. Especially with the coming darkness looming over all of us, including the church.
Come with me. It should be a wild ride!
To find out more about us and what we believe, just continue reading…
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“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”