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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FREE Book, but time is running out

The ebook version of my new novel is still FREE on Amazon, but only about 8 hours more.

The free promotion ends at midnight tonight (Pacific Standard Time, USA).

Please get your free copy, while you can. And I hope you really enjoy it. Click on the image below to go to the Amazon book page.

By the way, if you’ve been reading the sample chapters I’ve posted, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. More reviews might help draw more people to the book, and therefore, more people might get their free copy. My goal is for as many people as possible to get the book for free. Thank you.


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Bringing “Christ” back into Christianity

Though most Christian churches talk about Jesus, He’s sometimes not present within their brand of Christianity. Talking about Christ and living with Christ is not always the same thing.

The true church of Jesus Christ is the collection of people who believe and have let His Spirit into their lives. The true church is the dwelling in which the Holy Spirit lives, not some man-made organization.

We all have a chance to help bring Christ back into Christianity. And it starts with our selves.

 


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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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Satan is Terrified

Jesus confronted Satan many times during His life on earth. This morning I was reading about one of those times in the gospel of Mark. Jesus came across a demon-possessed man causing trouble among some tombs. In referring to the man, Mark writes:

“When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!’” (Mark 5:6-7)

The demons of Satan were absolutely terrified of Jesus. Satan fell on his knees at Jesus’ feet and begged Jesus for mercy. I stopped reading and just focused on that fact. What does it mean to me, that Satan is terrified of Jesus? Think about it – what does it mean to you?


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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 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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Merry xxxxxxmas

Merry Christmas - not

Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

Of course his prediction was true. Christians are persecuted. But why? Why do so many people attack Christianity and Christians? Why do so many people attack Christmas, and try to take “Christ” out of Christmas? You can’t call it Christmas anymore; instead call it the holidays. Can’t call it a Christmas tree; instead call it a holiday tree. It all seems silly to me, and I don’t understand what’s going on.

Yet, people usually attack something because they feel threatened by it. Could that be why Christianity is under attack, because some people feel threatened by Jesus? But if that’s the case, what’s so threatening about Jesus? If he’s a legend, as a lot of people claim, where’s the threat in a legend? Something that’s false can’t hurt you.

Maybe, and this is where I’m really using my imagination, people attack Christianity because deep inside themselves, something is telling them that Jesus is real and true.

What do you think is going on?


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Divorced? No Communion for You

Pope Francis

You may have read about it in a newspaper or a news website. If you’re Catholic and have gotten a divorce and then became remarried, the church will not allow you to receive communion. The Pope wants to remove this rule, and allow such people to share in the sacrament of communion, but conservative bishops have successfully resisted him. The rule stands.

In defense of their position, one of the leaders of those opposing the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, was quoted in one article as saying, “Christ’s teaching on adultery and second marriages is very clear.” Very true. But so is His teaching on forgiveness and second chances.

The Bible is full of second chances and forgiveness. And God’s forgiveness of our sins is obviously more complete than human forgiveness. For as God said, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34). For those who believe, God forgets the sin of adultery that results from divorce and remarriage. Too bad the Catholic bishops cannot forget as well.

And look at what these bishops are trying to do. Communion is sharing the symbolic body and blood of Christ. Communion signifies the most intimate relationship God’s children can experience… Jesus within us and us within Him. This is what Jesus prayed for, as He said to His Father, “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.” (John 17:26, emphasis added) It looks like the Catholic bishops are trying to deprive adulterers from having a personal relationship with Jesus.

Yet I feel sorry for those who oppose the Pope on this issue. They have surrounded themselves with so much manmade church doctrine and personal opinion that they cannot see Jesus themselves.

If I could contact the Pope, I would encourage him to respond to the bishops in the same way Peter responded to the stubborn religious leaders of his day, when he said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.” (Acts 4:19)


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The Spirit Speaks – of the Church

One true church

What is the one true Church? What is the Church that I, the Spirit of Jesus Christ created? The Church of which I am the cornerstone, is not an organization run by people. The Church is not a collection of buildings.

My true Church is the collection of God’s children who let me live through them. Look inside yourself; look for me there. I am within you. The Church is within you.

Do you believe this? If you do, then YOU are the Church, the one true Church of Jesus Christ. For the Church is the body in which I live, and if you believe, then I live within you too.

 

“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)

“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)

“For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)


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Catholic vs. Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Baptist vs. Presbyterian

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

comparing churches

My friend had just been to a potluck dinner, the house filled with good food and great friends. Everyone attended the same church. As the evening progressed, little discussion groups started forming. As my friend later told me, the discussions in each group all followed a similar theme.

One group was comparing Roman Catholicism to Anglican Catholicism. The second group was comparing Catholicism to Protestantism. The third group was comparing the Baptist Church to the Presbyterian Church. Heavy stuff, especially compared to things I usually talk about at a dinner party.

Each discussion was comparing different forms of the Christian Church. But no one was talking about the real Church. No one was talking about Jesus. No one was talking about the Spirit of Jesus living within those who believe. That’s the real Church… the Holy Spirit within you. And no one was talking about that.

My reaction is sadness. I think Jesus and His true Church deserve more attention. Am I making too big a deal out of this? Maybe. What do you think?


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Catholicism and Christianity

I was watching the news last night and the commentator mentioned Catholicism and Christianity as if they are two different things. I found this odd, but I’ve heard people talk this way before. You’re either Catholic or you’re Christian. But Catholic’s are Christian, aren’t they?

What do you think?


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Christian Decline in US

PEW Chart

The PEW Research Center recently released the results of its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey. Since its first such survey in 2007, the number of Christian adults in the US has shrunk by an estimated 5 million people. Yet over that same time, the US adult population has increased by 18 million. Why is the Christian church shrinking in the US?

Jesus knew the answer: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

I believe that some churches have moved from a solid foundation of the truth of Jesus Christ, to a foundation of sand. Resting on manmade traditions and rules, and preaching popular opinion rather than the true essence of Christianity – this is the foundation of many of today’s churches. And they are crumbling. The PEW research shows the result.

Yet turning those survey results around is easy.


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Religion verses Christianity

Pinocchio

Religion is complicated; Christianity is simple.

Religion is often burdensome; Christianity is freedom.

Religion is often false; Christianity is the truth.

Religion is manmade; Christianity is God-made.

Where religion is rules, Christianity is a relationship, built on a foundation of love.

Religion should be considered as a set of tools, not rules. Religion should work for you, not you for it. Yet sadly, man’s prideful ways have turned the table and created a religion that oversees the followers.

A “religious” Christian is like Pinocchio, a puppet manipulated by strings. The strings are all the rules, traditions, and obligations. Yet, God can cut your strings, and the Holy Spirit will fill you with His presence, making you truly alive and free.


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Catholic Catechism vs. the Bible

Catechism vs Bible

This morning I looked up to see the Catechism of the Catholic Church sitting on my book shelf. It came from my parents house, after my father and stepmother had passed away. It had been my stepmothers. The thicknesses are almost the same. But I believe the contents are different.


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The Power of “And”

AND

I’ve been reading Paul’s letter to those in Rome. This morning I was in chapter 3, where I read this: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, AND are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24)

I sin AND I’m justified, that is, I’m declared righteous by God, by my faith in Jesus. I’ve read Romans many times over the years, and at first I didn’t see the “and”; I didn’t recognize it’s power. I sin and I’m righteous, in God’s eyes. My sin does not affect God’s opinion of me. Where sin will not harm me, it’s faith that saves me. Instead of worrying about sin, I should focus on faith.

By the way, it’s my faith in God and Jesus that feeds my love for them. And it’s my ever-growing love for them that feeds my desire to not sin. Avoiding sin is therefore motivated by love, rather than fear.

AND, God loves you no matter your sins.


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What Does it Mean to be Christian?

unChristian

I didn’t expect to start my Friday with a sad discovery. But that’s what I found as I again picked up the book I just started reading, “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… and Why it Matters,” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book is based on extensive research by the Barna Group, where they conducted studies to find out what “outsiders” feel about Christians and Christianity.

I’m struggling to find the words to convey what I’m thinking, without coming across as judgmental. By the way, 87% of young adults see Christians as judgmental.

Anyway, the results of one particular survey question left me feeling sad… sad for Christians and Christian churches. The surveyors asked born-again Christians to describe what the most important priorities are for being a Christian. The top of the list was being good and not sinning, followed by discipleship, evangelism, worship, relationships with others, service and stewardship. What made me sad is that I don’t see the most important thing about being a Christian.

Yet who am I to say? I’m no expert. I’m just a flawed human like everyone else. How do I give my answer to this question about being Christian without sounding snotty and arrogant? I don’t know, so I’ll just go for it.

I believe the most important priority for being a Christian is a personal and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. I believe the most important good deed or form of worship is to give your life, to surrender your “self” to the Holy Spirit, to give control to the Spirit. As Paul said in his letter to those in Rome…

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

The entire Bible is about a personal relationship with God, especially the New Testament. But it looks like Christian churches have not made that clear. And Christians suffer because of that. This too makes me sad.


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Don’t You Trust Me?

potter and clay

Very gradually, over many years, God has been forming me into the person He wants me to be. He’s been going very slowly – I think because He knows I couldn’t handle a faster pace.

Yet sometimes I resist, pushing back on His efforts to shape me. Other times, like today, I wish He would work faster. Even though God has made some great changes in my life, I rarely seem to be satisfied with where I am in my journey to be less like me and more like Jesus.

So this morning, while spending my favorite time with God, I asked Him to speed things up. What came into my mind was this: “Don’t you trust me?” Well, of course I trust God. But I think He was reminding me that His pace is the best pace. I just need to relax and trust Him to mold me in a way that I can handle.

God works in each of us in a very unique way, each at the pace that is best for us. And I’m grateful.


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Put Down the Book

books

Ever hungry for more knowledge of the truth and nature of my relationship with God, I read books. Brother Lawrence, Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, and William Law – these are the guides I’ve been following. And great guides they have been, bringing me a long way over rocky ground, guided themselves by their own relationship with God.

But a shattering truth blinded my mind this morning. As I again opened yet another book, looking forward to finding words that would help strengthen my relationship with the Holy Spirit within me, He burned these words into my mind: it’s not the words of man that will open my mind and heart to His love and nearness, but only Him.

If I really desire an ever-growing relationship with God, instead of engaging my mind in the words of man, I will silence and open my mind to His Spirit within.

I closed the book, closed my eyes, and opened my heart and mind to the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to do the same.


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Self-Inflicted Wounds

wounds healed

Wounded Christians – some churches have wounded many followers with false messages. These messages are like spears, piercing our hearts and minds, often leaving grave wounds. Yet not all wounds come from a church.

I’ve met many pastors who have a very intimate and personal relationship with Jesus. Yet other pastors have fallen into the pit of intellectual self-importance. Their theological knowledge is more important to them than their relationship with the Spirit of Jesus. This disconnection leaves them wounded and weak, and often subject to despair.

Yet not just pastors. Any of us can fall victim to our own ego, our own desire for self-importance. Self-inflected wounds come from accepting false messages into our hearts. Yet we all have a shield for deflecting the spears of false messages, the shield of truth, given to us by Jesus Christ.

If you too have wounds and would like to meet with other wounded Christians, please consider joining the Facebook group For Wounded Christians – A Place for Healing.”