His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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The One True Christian Church

(Special thoughts on Pentecost)

I’ve heard the Roman Catholic Church referred to as the one true church. And some protestant denominations may consider themselves more Christian than others. But, what makes one church more Christian than another? What is “church,” after all?

Ask an average Christian churchgoer what church is and you may get answers like: fellowship, singing together, praising and worshipping God together, praying together, evangelism, discipleship, giving, serving. One person once told me that church is a business. And I’ve seen some churches act as if their job is to erect a wall around them to protect themselves from the influences of the outside world.

But how do God and Jesus define church? What would they say is the one true church?

First, a warning. I freely accept that the answer I’ll offer may not be popular with some people. But, as it comes from the Bible, it’s the only answer I can faithfully give.

Okay, so let’s see what Jesus says. Once, having been asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied:

“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

This may not seem like an obvious answer to my question, but it’s a clue. What else did Jesus say on the topic? Well, in his final hours before his death, while praying to his Father, Jesus said:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me.” (John 17:22-23) and …

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known, in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.” (v. 26)

Finally, Paul knew what the one true church was:

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Jesus prayed for you to be so filled with His Spirit that you and He will be one and the same person. His Spirit can so fill you that you are Him. And Jesus blazed the trail for us, setting the example and opening the door for us so that we can follow Him and have the same relationship with Him as He had with God. As He was God-as-human, you can be Jesus-as-human. You too can be fully human and fully God.

On this Pentecost, we remember that day some 2000 years ago when the Holy Spirit entered into each member of the small group of early believers, establishing His church. Jesus’ Spirit wants to share his presence with you too, so you can be God’s temple on earth. THAT, is the One True Church.

The church is not a building, nor is it an organization of similarly minded people. The church is you. If I’ve done an effective job of conveying the reality of this truth to you, then pick up your Bible and read the New Testament with the image of Jesus within you, reading along with you. And you will clearly see how the four Gospels and all the letters that follow are absolutely filled with this picture of the one true Christian church.


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To Church, or Not to Church, That is the Question

“So, where do you go to church?” I use to hate that question. It’s been ten years since I attended the Presbyterian Church in town, and still, I run across people I sat next to in those pews, but haven’t seen since then. We bump into each other in the grocery store or coffee shop, and they always ask, “So CJ, where do you go to church now?”

I always felt awkward replying to the question, for I haven’t attended a regular church since leaving Presby. Oh, in my early days as a de-churched orphan, I test-drove other churches in town, but for reasons I don’t totally understand, I never felt like going back.

So my answer to the question usually starts with, “Well, um, you see. I don’t go to church. Haven’t since leaving Presby.”

My inquisitor usually gets that look, maybe you’ve seen it. Their face fills with concern and fear for my soul. They immediately believe I’ve left Christianity and jumped into the black pit of heathendom.

“However,” I truthfully add, “I feel closer to Jesus and God now than I ever have before.”

The look changes from concern and fear to confusion. How could that be, how could someone find closeness to God and Jesus without attending church? My fellow pew-sitter from the past and I usually part ways, with them still wondering about my soul (I suspect), and me felling I didn’t get my message across.

But now I have a better answer to the question.

Where do I go to church? Well, my Church doesn’t have a name, and there is no building. For me, Church is not a place—it’s a belief. When do I go to church? Whenever I want, and it’s not just Sunday. I go to church every day, any time of the day, whenever I can wrestle my thoughts away from the outside world and look inside, to Jesus within me.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that Church, the one true Church, is wherever His Spirit lives. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit of God resided in the Temple, in the back room called the Holy of Holies. But Jesus changed all that.

As He said, His Spirit now lives within all who believe in Him and believe what He promised. He promised that His Spirit would be IN us, and we IN Him. You’ve heard the phrase, you body is a Temple. So true, if you believe.

Look inside, to the Spirit of Jesus within you, and you will find the one true Church.

 

Here are some of my favorite Bible verses on the subject:

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

He also said, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22)

“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6)

As Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)


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I Confess

What’s religious confession all about? I’m remotely familiar with Catholic confession – I grew up on the fringe of the Catholic Church. And this morning I spent ten minutes researching via Google. I should be an expert by now. By what I read on a CatholicsComeHome website, confession looks like a pretty cool thing.

You ask for forgiveness of your sins and express your regret. I’m not sure if this is the way it is today, but years ago Catholic confession also included accepting a small penalty, like reciting certain prayers.

There’s something about confession that I like. It’s a safe and confidential way to unload burdens. I think it can be emotionally healthy to confess our mistakes. It’s a good exercise in humility. Whether you confess mistakes to a priest or a friend, it can be a good thing to do.

So why do I feel uncomfortable with it?

I see a dark side to such things as Catholic confession. Asking forgiveness and paying a token penalty seems harmless. BUT, I think it dishonors Jesus, it disrespects Jesus, and maybe it disgraces Jesus. I see such forms of confession as completely ignoring the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

Look, we are already forgiven. God forgave us when His Son died on the cross. To ask for forgiveness is to ignore the fact that we’re already forgiven! Also, Jesus already paid the penalty for all sins. Taking on penalties of our own ignores His sacrifice!

I see confession as a distraction from Jesus. Its focus is on the church and on the person who’s confessing. It insulates people from the love and grace of God.

As I said in the beginning, I think confession is good and everyone who loves Jesus should confess their sins, but not to a priest. We should go directly to Jesus and God. Jesus said as much in teaching us the Lord’s Prayer. But when we go to him with such prayers, maybe instead of asking for forgiveness, we should tell Him how grateful we are. And we should remember the penalty He paid for our sins. And the gratitude that swells within us will feed our love for Jesus. And as our love for Jesus grows, so do we grow.

I think this should be the nature and outcome of confession. It’s all about gratitude, love, and Jesus. What do you think?


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The Manmade Church – a Prison?

The manmade church; a building, the establishment,

rules, traditions, obligations, deceptions, false ideas about Christianity.

A prison?

Many are prisoners of a manmade church,

fastened to the church by a heavy chain of lies.

Picture in your mind… the church, the prisoner, and the heavy chain,

shackled to her ankle, holding her fast to the manmade church.

Now here comes Jesus,

with His love, and grace, and forgiveness, and truth.

And with His sword of truth Jesus shatters the chain, and sets the prisoners free.

His truth will set you free!


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The One True Church

You don’t see it much these days – the One True Church of Jesus Christ. Yet even if you glimpsed it, you might not recognize it. What does the One True Church look like?

The true church is those people who believe and who let the Spirit of Jesus into their lives. It’s those whom Jesus has taught humility, and by that humility, they have recognized and accepted their utter feebleness. And in their feebleness, they also accept their utter inability to obey and follow God in their own strength, by their own effort. And in their utter helplessness, they realize their only hope in this life is to surrender themselves to the Spirit of Jesus.

The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6) The mind controlled by the Spirit IS the One True Church of Jesus Christ… the dwelling in which His Holy Spirit lives.

You don’t see it much these days. So how can the One True Church grow and become more visible? Through encouragement. To encourage those who believe in Jesus to give up their religious efforts by their own strength, to give up seeking any religious fulfillment by their own work; to instead, humbly yield themselves to the Holy Spirit. Surrender is the path to the One True Church.

 


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Chasing Peace – Day 18 – What the…?

That’s not what I expected.

I wanted to escape stress. Specifically, the stress-pit I tend to fall into everyday at work. And then God showed me a new way to look at this; to escape stress by chasing after peace. And then God showed me that I will catch true peace when I surrender my self to the Spirit of Jesus within me. I’ve been on this journey for 18 days now.

And now that I’m feeling a taste of surrender, Jesus is starting to fill me with Himself, and His Love! My selfish ways seem to be fading. And His Love is consuming and filling me with a compassion for everyone who does not feel His love themselves.

The Church. His Church. It’s hurting. It’s wounded. It’s aching to be filled with His love. But much of the church has wandered from the path of surrender. Much of the church has surrendered to manmade rules, and traditions, and concerns, and agendas – rather than surrendering to the Spirit of Jesus.

Oh, the church worships Jesus, but have they become Jesus? The true church, as Jesus designed it, is the collection of believers in whom His Spirit lives – we are His Temple, His Church.

Where will this go? Where is Jesus taking me? My journey to find peace is shaking up my life.

Dear Jesus, your Love is greater than life. My life is yours. Thank you. Now let’s go heal wounds… with Your Love.

 

Day 17                    Day 22 →

 


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Beyond Church

Church is a great place to learn about God and Jesus, strengthen your faith, and establish long lasting relationships with new friends. But when it comes to your most important relationship, church can sometimes be a distraction. You’re relationship with Jesus is not established and strengthened in the midst of a crowd. You will find and feel your relationship with Jesus in your quiet time with Him.

In His instructions for how we should pray, Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6) That’s where we will find Jesus, in the quiet and solitude of our own private place.

Do you hunger for a stronger relationship with Jesus? Then look beyond church. Look to the quiet and solitude within your heart, for that is where the Spirit of Jesus lives.


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What is Christianity?

Being good, loving others, going to church, having faith in Jesus. These are all good pieces of the Christianity puzzle. And then, being hypocritical and judgmental … oops, I wandered off into people’s perceptions rather than the truth.

But what is the core truth of what it means to be a Christian? The Apostle Paul might summarize it as having faith, hope and love. I like this answer. But for me, the core answer goes even deeper … to trust.

It’s my trust in Jesus that allows me to have faith, hope and love. Christianity is trusting what Jesus said and promised as recorded in the Bible. It’s trusting that Jesus alone will save us, rather than our own efforts. And it’s trusting in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, here within each of us who believe. And to believe requires trust.

Christianity is trust.


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Non-Christians in Heaven

I’ve been thinking about people who don’t believe in Jesus. What do they think of certain hot-button Bible verses, such as when Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)?

Well, there’s no way I can know what anyone else thinks. But I still remember some of my thoughts about such things, before I started believing in Jesus and when I thought I was an atheist.

First, if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus because they don’t trust the Bible, well… they won’t care about anything in the Bible. It’s all fiction to them. Oh, they might get annoyed by some verses – I did before I started believing. But something you don’t believe in isn’t going to have much power over you.

But I’m more interested in those people who get really upset by such verses as John 14:6. I’ve known many people, even Christians, who refuse to believe what Jesus says in that verse. And I’ve struggled with it myself. How will heaven possibly be joyful for me if people I love aren’t there with me? Though I don’t understand, I choose to just trust God. He’ll work things out somehow.

But back to non-Christians who get really upset at the Bible when it tells them they’re not going to heaven: what is it that gets their emotions stirred up? Well, maybe they hope everyone will go to heaven, no matter what they believe. Or at least “good” people will be let inside.

But wait… that would mean that they believe in heaven, even if they don’t believe in Jesus. That thought gets my mind churning a bit, and this is what has been spit out as what I believe…

I believe the Holy Spirit of Jesus speaks to our soul, deep down below the surface of our mind. It’s our soul that hears and believes the truth of Jesus, God, and heaven. And it’s our soul that feeds our heart and mind with the belief in and craving for heaven.

So I’m happy for those people who get really upset at certain Bible verses, for it tells me they are listening to their soul. And it also shows me that Jesus loves them, for He’s reaching out to their soul in His own special way.

What do you think?


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The Spirit Speaks – of Being Churchless at Christmas

Are you newly dechurched? Have you decided that the institutional church isn’t for you, at least for now? And will this Christmas be the first one in a long time where you will not be celebrating with a church? Or is this just one more year of a churchless Christmas?

However your answers make you feel, I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, wish no guilt be upon you. I know what you’re going through. And it’s okay.

If you can’t bring yourself to enter a church during this annual time of celebration, then bring yourself to enter into me. If you can’t walk through the doors of the church sanctuary, then walk through the door of the sanctuary of your heart. That’s where I worship. Join me within the depths of your heart this Christmas, and we will worship and celebrate together.


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The Spirit Speaks – of the One Greater than the Church

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, see the turmoil in my Church. I see the division and the politics. I see the dysfunctional collection of dissimilar churches. I see those children who are pushed out. And I see those who run away.

My children abandon churches for many reasons. Some are escaping behaviors that don’t make sense to them; things that don’t seem “Christian.” Yet this is the nature of church, for the church family members are all typical broken and flawed people. As sin is a part of human nature, you will find the fruits of sin wherever there are people.

This may seem like a dilemma; how can you have a Christ-filled church when it’s full of sin-filled people? As in everything in life, the answer to this question is to look away from the manmade weaknesses of church, and look to me. For I am greater than the church. Problems flourish when people forget it’s not church traditions that rule, but that I am Lord of the Sabbath.

To those who leave and those who stay, look to me, the One greater than the Church. As I said, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:6,8)


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We Are The Church!

church

I belong to several Facebook groups for Christians who no longer attend a church. We each have our own reasons for leaving what some call the “Institutional Church.” But this morning I was thinking about what we do in these groups. We share experiences, we share inspiration, we share our struggles, and we share support and encouragement. But what I think most of it boils down to is this – as a group, we praise and worship God and Jesus.
And then it struck me: We Are The Church! Each Facebook group is a type of church. And by “church” I mean God’s definition of church, which I believe is the collection of Spirit-filled believers. So though we’ve left the institutional church, I think we’re still in the true church.
What do you think?


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The Spirit Speaks – of Dechurched Christians Living in Fear

Dechurched2

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, see many of God’s children living in fear of judgment. Oh, they don’t fear my judgment; they fear the judgment of other Christians. Dechurched Christians, those who no longer attend a church yet still believe, fear the judgment of churchgoing Christians.

There are two victims in this: those who are judged, and those who do the judging. But my plan for my church and my children does not include judgment and guilt. Look, I don’t judge dechurched Christians because they no longer attend church. And I don’t judge churchgoing Christians who may have a hard time understanding and accepting dechurched Christians.

What’s most important to me is where your heart is, not where you’re sitting on Sunday morning. My desire for all of you is the same: that you have a personal and intimate relationship with me, Jesus Christ. Your relationship with me is more important than your relationship with a church.


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The Spirit Speaks – of Relationship with a Church vs. Him

Dechurched2

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, was browsing Facebook yesterday (yes, I cruise Facebook, even through your eyes). I was reading comments on a Group page for Christians who no longer attend church. Some call these people “dechurched” Christians.

I am sad, but not surprised. Not only because these people don’t go to church, but because of their personal feelings of guilt and shame. You see, some dechurched Christians feel so badly about no longer going to church that they don’t use their real names in the Facebook groups. They fear the judgment and potential wrath of church-going friends and family who may discover they no longer go to church.

Are you a dechurched Christian? Or are you devoted to a church and know a dechurched Christian, maybe a close friend or even a spouse? My desire for all of you is the same: that you have a personal and intimate relationship with me, Jesus Christ. For your relationship with me is more important than your relationship with a church. And your love for me and each other is also more important than your love of a church.

And know this: I won’t judge you by where you go, or don’t go, on Sunday morning.


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The Spirit Speaks – of feeling Monday on Sunday

Monday

It’s Sunday, a day where you commonly dedicate some time to worshipping God and me, the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Maybe you went to church today. Maybe you sang some songs that calmed your soul. Maybe you closed your eyes and prayed to me. I hope you felt better as you walked out of church this morning.

Yet maybe, if you’re like a lot of working people, your thoughts of me were clouded by the approaching storm of Monday. Oh that wretched day when you have to go back to work. How often is the joy that should be your Sunday, overpowered by the dread of Monday? Many of my children suffer from the illness of Monday.

But I have a cure for you; I offer you a way to fill your Sunday with joy, and be free from the dread of Monday. No, I’m not talking about quitting your job. I’m talking about spending more time with me.

Go to a quiet place free from distractions. Close you eyes and open your mind to me. Focus all your heart and soul and mind on me. Look inside yourself and visualize me in your mind’s eye. Use your imagination if necessary, but don’t give up until you see me, within you. Chase random thoughts from your mind as they intrude, and wrestle your mind always back to me. It will take effort, for the world will ever struggle to hold your attention. But with persistence, you will truly have moments of intense intimacy with me, within you. And in those moments, you will find absolute freedom from dread… you will find peace, my peace that I give to you, the peace that goes beyond human understanding. Please, look for the peace that is me, the Spirit of God and Jesus within you.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)


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The Spirit Speaks – of Second Chances

new life

You have a second chance at life – it’s my promise to you. For I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, give to you the chance of a new birth into a new life. If you’re not happy with your life, or simply bored with life, look to me. And I will deliver you to a new life, filled with hope and joy and love and excitement. For living with me is never boring.

Oh, I know some out there may give you the impression that life as a “Christian” is boring. And I know there are some who paint an image of Christianity that is not very pretty. But that’s just their own human flaws showing through – all people share similar flaws. There’s no blame… it’s just the way it is.

But please don’t judge me, please don’t judge the promise of a new life I offer you, by what you see in others. Look beyond what you see in them, and look directly to me. And you will see the truth, and my truth will set you free to live a new life, to have a second chance.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)


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The Spirit Speaks – Hey, I’m Right Here!

Im right here

So patient. I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, won’t push you. I’ll honor your free will and let you come to your own conclusion about me, in your time, when you are ready.

But I wish my Church didn’t ignore me so much.

When someone needs counseling or spiritual guidance, they go to their pastor. When they feel the need to confess their sins, they go to their priest, or maybe a close friend. There’s nothing wrong with any of this…

… But hey, I’m right here! My purpose for living with you is to be your counselor, to be your guide, to be your confessor. Of the three persons of God, I, the Holy Spirit, am the most important to your life on earth, for I live with you, within you, as you toil your way through life.

Yet I am frequently absent from sermons. Oh, someone may mention me in a prayer, but my true purpose for living often goes ignored. This is ironic, for without me, there is no Church. For the One True Church of Jesus Christ is the collection of believers in whom I live.

So please, look always to me. I’m right here, within you. And remember my promise… “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)


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The Spirit Speaks – of The Wall of Pride

Wall of pride

I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, have spoken of The Wall before, the wall of false ideas that stands between you and me. The stones in this wall are all the beliefs about me and my Church that are not true.

This wall of lies is built on the foundation of natural human pride. For it’s pride that twists the truth to meet the self-interests of humanity. Look, pride focuses on self rather than others. Pride focuses on personal preference, rather than truth. Therefore, pride stands in the way of a healthy relationship with others, and with me.

Though I despise the wall of pride that blocks your view of me, I still love my pride-filled children. For pride is not a choice you make. Pride is a plague that infects all of humanity. Yet it’s a plague with a cure, and I’m the doctor who can cure it. Look within yourself to me, within you. As you focus more on me, the wall of pride will begin to fade, as will your own prideful nature.


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Church for the Dechurched

Dechurched

Are you a dechurched Christian? I am. Survey’s show that there are millions of us American adults who once were active in a church, but attend no more. We are called the “dechurched.”

Yet there is a church for us. Though I don’t attend church on Sundays, every day can be a church day. Every day can be a day with God.

Jesus founded the church and then passed it onto the apostles. The apostle Paul defined the new church as follows: referring to Jesus, Paul declared, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23, emphasis added)

The church is the collection of believers in which the Holy Spirit of Jesus lives… the body of Jesus Christ. As Paul also said, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? … for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Church is not a building or manmade organization. Intimate and quiet time with the Spirit of God within you is what real church is about. As long as we look to the Spirit within us, we are not “dechurched.” We ARE the church.