Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
One of the great longings of those the Lord used mightily in the last church age is the fullness, or baptism, of the Holy Spirit. No, we’re not talking about loopy believers today who claim something their life doesn’t exhibit. We are talking about the heroes of old, those like D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, Charles Finney, Amy Charmichael, and so many others. Each of these great servants of God testifies to their deep longing and ultimate baptism of the Holy Spirit that they claim was the source and power for all that God did through them and led to what they called the Higher Christian Life.
But what about us? And what about the church? How does our view and participation in church impact the Higher Christian Life? Does it help? Or does it hurt?
Take a moment and think about how we “do” church today. See if any of these ring true to you.
• The “church” is primarily defined as a building, institution, or tax-exempt entity.
• The members of a church meet in a neutral building.
• Almost all ministry and fellowship takes place in the neutral building.
• Almost all relationships are forged by shared activities in the neutral building.
• There is usually a corporate model of top-down leadership within the church.
• The Sunday morning worship service is primarily designed as a time of musical performance (concert), corporate singing, and teaching and is designed to make the congregation feel comfortable.
• The structure of the facility seating models an educational institution and not a family.
• Primarily, the pace of the teaching is on a “C” level.
• Participation is the goal, not measurable growth.
• Much of the focus is not on the individual believer but on the entity of the “church” (lesser serves the greater).
• Paid professionals perform those required tasks often neglected by the fathers in their own families.
• Self-promotion and marketing are usually designed to point people to the church and not to Christ.
• Most preaching is about personal “felt” needs.
• Church usually meets once a week on Sunday for less than two hours.
• Sometimes, a mid-week Bible study or small group meets with an attendance of less than 5% of those who come on Sunday.
• Women are far more likely to attend and participate in church functions than men.
And if you compare this picture of the church today to what we see in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts, you may come to the troubling conclusion that the modern, Western, contemporary idea of the church may be the greatest hindrance to experiencing the Higher Christian Life.
But first, let’s address the elephant in the room by answering the most pressing question. What is the Higher Christian Life?
Yesterday was a wonderful day together as we committed ourselves to strive after what the saints of old called the “Higher Christian Life” and Jesus described as the “Abundant Life” found only in Him.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” – John 10:10.
The context of this verse is Jesus revealing Himself as the “good shepherd” who “gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11), in contrast to a “hireling” (John 10:13) or “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) who care little for the sheep. And the ones He promised “abundant life” are the sheep, you and I by inference, who only enter into salvation through the “door” (John 10:9), defined as Jesus Christ.
I know it sounds confusing, but this is what Jesus is saying in this passage:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I (the Good Shepherd, Jesus) have come that they (the sheep, you and I) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (perissós – over and above, superabundant, much, great, beyond measure)” – John 10:10.
But what does this promise really mean?
There is uncertainty all around. And we, as the church, are in the beginning of a life of persecution that was promised by our Lord. Often uncertainty leads to fear, and fear crushes faith. But we are instructed in Psalm 56 to not fear but turn our fear into faith. David says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). And then twice, in the same Psalm, he affirms, “What can flesh do to me” (Psalm 56:4) and “What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11).
Great questions. And the answer is, “Not much, other than kill us.” But if we have a proper view of eternity, even death becomes an anticipation and not something to fear. Think about it.
Life is more than what we see and feel, much more than what we can experience with our senses. There is, on the one hand, the true reality that lasts forever with God, when this temporal, transitory, substitute reality ceases to be. And there is, on the other hand, the pre-game reality we exist in today. Jesus said we are living in this kingdom, this reality, but are actually citizens of His kingdom, of His reality, that has not yet physically manifested itself in this world. And the true, “abundant life” Jesus promised is reserved for those who physically exist in this temporal reality that is passing away, yet live and abide in the reality that lasts forever.
This is called living by faith. And it takes concrete action on our part to do.
When fear is brought into (or subject to) the presence of God, it dissolves right before our eyes, just like it did with David in Psalm 56 and elsewhere. And when for some reason it doesn’t vanish yet remains like a lingering cough after a bad cold, it is not because our fear is so large, or intimidating, or frightening.
It is simply because our God is too small.
Let me share some uncomfortable truths deliberately forgotten today in our land of apathy and opulence. And this truth may be hard to swallow for some, yet it is true nonetheless. In a simple statement: Persecution is an integral part of Christianity. So much so that it is to be expected, even desired. Why? Because persecution, like spiritual fruit, is an outward sign of living and abiding in Christ in obedience. And if so, we must, as a church and as believers living in the West, prepare for persecution.
The Scriptures teach that persecution is an inevitable result of one wanting to live in the image of Jesus. Consider the promise and the conditions of this verse:
Yes, and all (each, every, entire, with the idea of oneness, without exception) who desire (to will, wish, intend, implying active volition and purpose) to live (to spend one’s existence, to pass one’s life) godly (righteously, attributing to God the things which rightfully pertain to God) in (who) Christ Jesus will (promise) suffer persecution (to press, distress, trouble, crush, to prosecute, to pursue with repeated acts of enmity) – 2 Timothy 3:12.
I suggest you read this passage in context. You will clearly see the focus of this chapter is that persecution is to be expected and not feared. Ever. After all, when Jesus was speaking about the relationship between a master and His servants, He was speaking in the context of suffering and persecution. This is a classic if/then statement from our Lord
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, (then) they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, (then) they will keep yours” – John 15:20.
In fact, when you look at the ministry of Jesus from the perspective of Him preparing His disciples, and the church, for the inevitability of persecution, you can see it on almost every page.
There are three major judgments in the prophetic timeline of God: the Sheep and Goats Judgment, the Bema Seat Judgment, and the Great White Throne Judgment. Some of these judgments take place on earth and some in heaven. But there is only one that you should be worried about. And that is the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.
So what is the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ and why is it such a big deal?
The Bema Seat Judgment of Christ takes place after the Rapture of the church and before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in heaven. This judgment does not determine salvation. At this time, believers are rewarded for how faithfully they served their Lord. Some will receive rewards (and be invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, etc.), and others will obviously not receive rewards (or suffer loss). It will be a time of great rejoicing for some. And for others, a time of immense sadness, regret, and shame.
Therefore we make (labor) it our aim (to make our ambition, to aspire to), whether present or absent, to be well pleasing (acceptable, that which one wills, recognizes, and approves) to (who) Him. For (why) we must all appear (to show openly) before the judgment seat of Christ, (for what reason) that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad – 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.
Some will receive a reward. But others will “suffer loss” or not receive a reward and the benefits that come with it. Consider the following.
Now if anyone (what) builds on this foundation (Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s (what) work will become clear (to shine, to make manifest, become evident); for (when) the Day will declare it (to make known), (how) because it (one’s work) will be revealed (to remove a veil or covering to expose to open view) by fire; and the fire will test (approve as worthy or not) each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s (what) work which he has built on it endures (abide, to remain, dwell, live), 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 – 2 Corinthians 3:12-15.
But what are some things Christ will judge at the Bema Seat Judgment?
Often it is difficult for us to visualize Jesus as King, because we are pretty much clueless as to what life is like under a king? All we know about kings and kingdoms come from Netflix mini-series or old British movies. But the Scriptures clearly state that Jesus is King. And it also makes it abundantly clear that Jesus, our King, has a kingdom. But what does that mean? How do we begin to understand the King of Kings and His coming Kingdom?
What do we know about all kings and their kingdoms? Because if what we know about human kings is true, it would be reasonable to assume the same is also true about Jesus and His Kingdom.
Consider the following.
A king must have a kingdom.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” – John 18:36-38.
And within his kingdom, a king sovereignly rules.
Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, (to what extent) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also (where) in that which is to come – Ephesians 1:20-21.
As sovereign king, he has absolute power over life and death, over justice and punishment, over blessings and rewards, over wealth and poverty, over sickness and health, over order or chaos, over everything in his kingdom.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, (which means) so that you do not do the things that you wish – Galatians 5:16-17.
This means that any freedom the king grants to his subjects is granted to them by the merciful grace of the king.
But there is so much more. It gets even better.
One of the most sobering truths you can discover about your salvation is that it is not all about you. That’s right. Your salvation is actually about the Kingdom of God. We just happen to be the beneficiary of a great blessing from God in our salvation, but the overriding purpose of our salvation is not just about us, but about the Kingdom of God.
It seems, when we think of salvation today, it always begins with our justification and ends with us spending eternity in heaven. And it always seems to center on us.
Think about it.
Salvation begins when we ask the Lord to forgive us of our sins and ask Jesus to come into our lives as Lord and Savior. We usually follow this with the believer’s baptism. Then we try, to the best of our ability, to live according to the profession we made in Christ, but often fall short on a daily basis. And when we die, we go to heaven to be with the Lord and all those in Him who have died before us.
And what happens when we get to heaven?
We get a new, glorified body that doesn’t age or have any of the problems our old bodies had. We can fly like angels. There is something about a supper we are invited to. We get a really big house, a mansion, and we get to travel down streets that are paved with gold. All our needs and wants are taken care of. We are pretty much rich and live like kings.
Also, there is no sadness or sorrow or pain or suffering or tears or death or anything like that. So, I guess we’ll be happy all the time. And we’ll be surrounded by other believers who have also died and are happy all the time just like we are.
Does this view of heaven seem a bit narcissistic?
When you survey the subject of popular, contemporary preaching and compare it to the content of the message of Jesus and His disciples found in the New Testament, you will clearly see there is something missing. Jesus and His disciples and the early church almost exclusively preached about the Kingdom of God or the Gospel of the Kingdom. And today, we preach about getting our felt needs met by the Lord. How He is going to hold us, calm us, bless us, heal our boo-boo’s, and make our life in this world better. Really? What happened to the forgotten gospel of the kingdom?
If we look at the flow of the New Testament, some patterns quickly emerge. Consider the following:
Gospel – presents the Message (Gospel) of the Kingdom
Acts – from the Message (Gospel) of the Kingdom to the Church (the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom)
Revelation – from the Church to the Establishment of the Kingdom
And again, the message of both Jesus and John the Baptist were identical at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There were both preaching about a coming kingdom as they revealed to the people the King standing before them.
John the Baptist – “Repent, (why) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:2
Jesus – “Repent, (why) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17
But this is only the beginning of the forgotten gospel of the Kingdom of God.
There is an old saying that goes, Success Breeds Success. And this is true. But the opposite is also true. Failure Follows Failure. In other words, if we do the same thing we have failed in the same way, yet expect it to be successful, we are fools. This also goes for how we do church today. The book of Acts shows us what church should be like and yet we fail to heed its advice. Why is that? And what can we learn about church from the early church?
How did the early church “do” church, as we call it today? What was their worship service like? The following are some things they incorporated into their time of corporate worship. When you read these, ask yourself this, What are we doing that they didn’t do? And what have we added to our worship service that they did not? Your answer may surprise you.
• There was a time of singing.
• There was a reading of His Word.
• There was an exposition of His Word.
• There was a time of ministry to each other.
• There was a time of sharing for others in need.
• There was a time to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
• There was a time of prayer.
• There was a time of praise and testimony.
• There was a time of humility and confession.
• There was a time of verbal commitment to Him.
• And there was a time of fellowship and the sharing of a common meal.
Does this look like your Sunday morning time together?
One of the great things about the Lord is the fact He is slow to anger and abounds in mercy. In fact, Lamentations says “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They (His compassions) are new every morning; Great is Your (His) faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). Do you know what that means? It means no matter how bad yesterday was, we can always begin again tomorrow with our God. Always!
Do you believe that? Do you truly believe that?
If so, it means that no matter how great your sin, or failure, or disappointment, or bitterness, or unanswered prayer you suffered from yesterday, it is just that— yesterday’s news. And today it is all forgotten, all forgiven, all put to rest.
God promises His compassion is new, fresh, and in abundant supply every time we open our eyes and behold the new morning. They are new every morning. Not some mornings, but every morning. God provides His mercy and compassion to us each new day, regardless of how we defiled the day before.
Therefore, in wonder and appreciation, we cry out to our God, “Great is Your faithfulness!”
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…
Sit down and let's talk.
“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.”