Monday, July 22, 2013


It is common today for certain words to be 'spiritualized' and made to mean either more or less than the context of the Scriptures would allow. This has always been the case though, as man has been warned consistently not to add to or take away from the revealed word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Revelation 22:18).

One such word is relationship, misused by both the world and the church. For example, God has identified a proper physical relationship as between a man and a woman ... and within the boundaries of marriage ... yet the word relationship is regularly used by those engaged in sinful actions such as homosexuality, fornication and adultery.

The word is also misused within church circles. Many congregations have purpose statements that reflect the following: “We desire to bring all people into a saving relationship with Christ Jesus, and a family relationship with one another through Christ.” While that sounds wonderful, many such congregations present differing views of what it means to enter into relationship with Christ, and their relationship with one another is based solely on the fact that they call themselves Christians. In many cases, neither the truth of Scripture nor the evidence of righteous behavior come into play before declaring such “relationships.” To me, it is not unlike the first grade boy and girl on the playground who swap toys and call one another boyfriend and girlfriend. It is clear that in their immaturity they have no clue what they're talking about.

But there is a proper usage of the term … if we let the Scriptures speak. The primary definition of relationship is 'the state of being related.' Technically, all men who are the offspring of Adam and Eve are “related,” but that is only a physical relationship. I'm interested in the spiritual relationship.

According to the word of God, we become "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). We “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

As Christians, we are reminded that we are "of God's household" (Ephesians 2:19). We "are no longer a slave, but a son" (Galatians 4:7). Right "now we are children of God" (1 John 3:2), and in fact considered "as beloved children" (Ephesians 5:1). "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).

This was by God's design. We were "predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). We "have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-6). Even though we “were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21), now we are considered "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17)..

Our relationship with one another though is not one “in name only,” as practiced throughout Christendom. Jesus taught us to pray to "our Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). The only thing then that could possibly make us brothers is having the same Father. If your Father tells you one thing to be saved yet tells me another, there's a problem. God has explained His will within His word. Only by submitting to God do we prove Him our Father, and by extension that we are brothers.

How do I enter into a proper relationship with God? I must be “washed ... sanctified, [and] ... justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). I must repent of my sin, be baptized into Christ, and allow His blood to wash away that sin, never to return to it again.

How do I enter into a proper relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ? In like manner, as the Scriptures say, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? [15] Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? [16] Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE [17] Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; and I will welcome you. [18] And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

It is oh so popular to declare “a personal relationship with Jesus,” but the proof – as they say – is in the pudding. If you know nothing of God's word and live more like the world than like Christ, then I have to assume your relationship status is false. If you claim to be my brother, then act like it. “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

But if you DO have a proper relationship with the Lord, well … “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. [14] For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. [15] She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15).

And if you DO find someone who has equally surrendered to the will of the Lord, someone with whom you can truthfully say you are in Christian relationship, then “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


How many marriages have ended in divorce after ten, twenty or thirty years, because of adultery? How many of those adulterous relationships have come about because the physical relationship with the illicit lover produced within the cheating spouse strong feelings that were supposedly no longer present in the marriage? These are people who “feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ” (1 Timothy 5:11). The adulterer – afterward – will often say something like, “I just don't feel anything for my spouse anymore. I love the other person now.” It is obvious that such an individual does not understand love at all, laying aside the declared commitment to the spouse for the renewed experience of a youthful hormonal rush.

In the modern church, we hear much about feelings. Some churches ask a person who claim Christianity to relate their “salvation experience.” Some – when asked how they know they are saved – simply say, “I just feel saved.” Others attend specific congregations based on how it makes them feel. Some enjoy the warmth of friendships. Some experience the excitement produced by music or drama. Some are drawn in by the emotional pull of a charismatic preacher. Some need a sense of familial safety, knowing that their children are being well cared for. Some have just developed an emotional comfort zone provided by the only congregation they have ever known.

In Christian terms though, Christ is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride. Should a bride care more about her house than her husband? Should she have stronger feelings for the stereo and television than the One to whom she's married? What does the Bible say about feelings? Does it speak of emotion?

Webster's Dictionary defines emotion as “a conscious mental reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling, usually directed toward a specific object.” Such a definition should make the Christian immediately uncomfortable about associating emotionalism with the church simply because of the word “subjectively.” A subjective experience is a personal experience. It is one which you alone feel, and perhaps no one else does.

A subjective approach to Christianity is nothing new, but in my lifetime seemed to strengthen significantly throughout the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Preachers began urging seekers to enter into a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Sinners were entreated to accept Jesus as their “personal Savior.” Such language made salvation a subjective experience, one which could be tailored to each person's individual belief system.

Such thinking has done great harm to the bride of Christ. By speaking of a personal relationship with Jesus, the emphasis of the sentence is upon the individual and not upon the Bridegroom. The divine Son of God is seemingly tacked on as an addendum in a prepositional phrase. This allows someone to “feel” saved, not on the basis of Christ's authority but of their own “personal” emotions.

Do we not know though that emotions are easily swayed? Methamphetamines will stimulate your emotions. Valium will calm your emotions. Anesthesia will numb your emotions completely. A good storyteller can make sure there's “not a dry eye in the house,” while a comedian is adept at making everyone laugh. One song – slow and quiet – can cause you to nod off to sleep, while another song – fast and loud – has you on your feet, dancing about. None of these have anything to do though with the bride of Christ and her relationship to her Husband.

If it was His intention to base this marriage on emotionalism, do you not think that He would have taught such things? Or that His apostles would have practiced such things? Where do we find one instance of Jesus warming up a crowd with a side-splitting joke or a clever anecdote? Where do we see – either in the saving of sinners or the maturing of Christians – the apostles using music to get a crowd pumped up? Or a special gift offered to all the visitors? Where are the words of Scripture which suggest someone just “felt” saved? Where are the passages that describe this “personal relationship” we supposedly have with Christ?

I could not find any form of the word emotion at all in the Bible, but did find reference to affections. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that it is the “LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tries the feelings and the heart” (Jeremiah 11:20). Perhaps then it should be word of the “LORD of hosts” that actually directs the “feelings and the heart” of the bride.

We know that Jesus had feelings, but of greater importance is what exactly moved Him to feel. Matthew 9:36 says, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” So Jesus “felt” bad for those who had no spiritual leadership. What did His “feelings” prompt Him to do? He taught the people His Father's word AND he confronted the bad leaders for their own lack of feeling in Matthew 21:32, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.” What the religious leaders SHOULD have “felt” when confronted by the word of God was … wrong. They should have recognized their sin and repented.

We also know that Jesus actually taught against the kind of emotionalism that is rampant in the church today. In Luke 8:13 – as a part of the Parable of the Sower – Jesus describes those who thrive on excitement. “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” The word joy in the Greek is the word charis, from which we derive the words charisma and charismatic. Such people accepted the word with all the emotion and excitement that human charisma can produce, yet fell away because they had “no firm root.” This is no different than the spouse who marries for lust, and when the sexual passions subside they run off to find another partner that makes them “feel” something. If the byproducts of charisma were to be the driving force of the church, why didn't Jesus - “the head of the body” (Colossians 1:18) – say so?

This does not mean that emotion was not present within the church, but the apostles' doctrine presents it in a far different light than contemporary teachers. In 2 Corinthians 7:15, Paul speaks concerning the minister Titus and what specifically fueled his emotions, “His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” Therefore, it was the obedient behavior of faithful Christians and their proper reception of God's word that produced strong emotion within the preacher.

Meanwhile, in Philippians 1:8-11, Paul doesn't speak of his emotions at all, but reflects the fact that he no longer exists independently of Christ. “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. [9] And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, [10] so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; [11] having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Please notice that the apostle – demonstrating the “affection of Christ Jesus” – is praying for “real knowledge and all discernment.” He is looking for a bride who is “sincere and blameless” in fidelity to her husband. He is looking among those who call themselves Christians for “the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ.” Again, if emotionalism and excitement were to be a defining influence within the marriage, this would have been a great place to say so as he was discussing affections.

Of course, someone may read all of this and dismiss it, claiming that it doesn't matter what I say since they know how they “feel.” Some have claimed that its not about Bible knowledge, but about their “personal relationship” with the Lord. If that is the case, then why is it that the Scriptures only use the word “personal” twice … and both times in a negative sense?

In Philippians 2:4, Paul says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”And in James 2:1, James says, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.”
Personal interests? Personal favoritism? Perhaps its time to relearn the primary directive offered to those who would follow Christ. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Perhaps its time to be reminded that your “personal relationship with Christ” is less about you and more about Christ. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). As John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Or as Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Emotionalism within the church exalts self. It declares, “I want, Lord!” Obedience though exalts Christ to His rightful place of authority in the body. It declares, “I will, Lord!” Likewise the subjective nature of the “personal relationship” needs to be disarmed by the objective word of God. Jesus told us what was necessary to enter into a proper relationship with Him (and one that is based on genuine affection). In John 14:21, He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Then – once we are a part of the holy family – “we” no longer exist as a “personal” entity. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. [14] For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14).

Considering the discussion that Paul offers in the rest of that chapter, it is hard to imagine a hand saying, “I just don't feel like I'm a part of the body,” or a foot saying, “I would feel more excited if the hand would turn up the music!” No body part functions individually apart from the instructions of the head. Whether or not a member of the body is useful is determined by the head. The knee doesn't have to “feel” excited and the elbow doesn't have to “feel” loved. The head leads the body, and the members of that body follow.

“Well, I need to feel something to believe its real.” Really, Thomas (John 20:25)? “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).

I find it interesting in discussions of feelings and emotions how Jesus' feelings and emotions never seem to brought up. “I like this kind of music.” “I need a preacher that preaches positive messages.” “We have to give people what they want or they won't come back!” What about what the Bridegroom wants? Is that not a valid consideration? Did we not declare our love for Him when we made our good confession? Did we not enter into a marriage covenant when we were baptized into Christ? What more do you need within the relationship than what is provided by your husband?

We know exactly who will be in heaven someday. The Revelation reveals them as “the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). In the traditional wedding, vows are made to remain faithful to the marriage “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, till death do us part.” Yet the bride of Christ demands that she never be uncomfortable? If I had a bride who insisted on excitement and thrived on emotionalism, I would call her high maintenance to say the least. Why is the bride not content with the provision of the Bridegroom? Is she going to leave Him if things get difficult?

Then start walking … the door's that way … because according to the Scriptures, Christ may lead us through weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties (2 Corinthians 12:10). Marriage to Him may offer “dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, [and] dangers among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26). We may have to leave behind our comfortable friendships, turn off our exciting video presentations, say goodbye to the praise band and work beside our husband “in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, [and] in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:27).

Listen to the heavenly music recorded in the Revelation: ““Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. [7] Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” [8] It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:6-8).

Have you not thought of how your actions affect the Bridegroom? He declares, “I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9). The modern push toward emotionalism is wrong. The Lord doesn't want just any bride, but one that is chaste and faithful having "made herself ready." The constant desire for entertainment and excitement makes the bride nothing more than a harlot in pursuit of other lovers.

The apostle writes in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. [12] But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. [13] For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. [14] And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

It is not the church's job to teach Christ, but to receive instruction from Him. As the bride, we have no business making demands of the Bridegroom, since He is Creator and we are creature. Christ must come first in this relationship. What we “feel” is of little regard, since it was our base instincts and natural feelings that caused us - like Eve - to commit sin in the first place. The only way this marriage will work is to "quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness" from the One who redeemed us from our transgressions with His own blood.

I just pray that those who claim to be the bride of Christ will renounce their exciting worldly lovers, repent and return to their faithful Husband before it is too late.