Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Devil has Deceived the Church into Accepting a Limited Gospel and a False Understanding of Church

In my other posts "What is the Gospel and What is church?" and "Paradigm Shifts", I talked about how the church had withdrawn from the world. How is it that we have been so stuck in our narrow understanding of the Gospel?

I believe that it is because the devil has deceived the church into accepting a limited and much smaller scope of the gospel than what the gospel really is. The devil deceives unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel. But the devil has been deceiving the church also, because the church is God's agent for His kingdom to come on earth. If the agents are limited in their understanding of the scope of their task, then they won't be able to bring the fullness of all that God intended for His kingdom to come on earth.

The key to understanding this is to consider what Jesus said :

"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

How does the devil steal, kill and destroy? From what Jesus told us, it is obvious -by lies.

Lies lead to death. Truth leads to life.

Jesus wants His abundant life to be experienced by all. But the devil wants to take away life. So he deceives people by getting them to believe in half truths (see my other post "What Happened in the Garden of Eden?") - half truths that blind them from seeing the real thing and causing them to accept what they have as the whole truth. He does that with unbelievers. He does that with believers also.

The church clings closely to a salvation only gospel and miss the wood (forest) for the trees. Meanwhile millions around us live in squalid conditions with simple lack of sanitation and clean water killing between 30,000 - 35,000 children everyday, and other poverty related problems like human trafficking, child abuse, etc spiraling out of control, but the church doesn't care. When we keep 96% of all tithes and offering in the church and less than 1% go out to the poor, aren't we deceived? (see my other post "Awakening to a World of Need" for poverty and giving statistics)

Not only that, just as the apostles were stuck in Jerusalem for 25 years with an introverted vision of building up the church in Jerusalem as the center of worship, the church today is stuck within its four walls totally focused on building up a stronger church, and does not see the scope of the Gospel of the Kingdom penetrating and reaching into every sphere and aspect of life so that Jesus would be Lord of all.

The church is not the center of the kingdom. Yet all of Christian activity today is centered in the church. How many times did Jesus mention the word "church"? Only twice; and he did not even care to explain what He meant by "church". Instead He kept talking about the kingdom. What do we talk about today? We keep talking about church and hardly ever about the kingdom. No wonder we have more than 38,000 church denominations in the world today. What does that tell us of ourselves? Each denomination is trying to re-define what the church is. Otherwise there is no need for yet another denomination, is there? And everyone of the 38,000 think theirs' is right one.

Imagine if you are Jesus. You know you are about to be crucified, wouldn't you give a seminar to your disciples about church - what church is, how to organize and run it, etc.? After all, they are going to have to set up something called "church" for which they have had no idea or previous experience how to do that, right? Wrong! Clearly Jesus did not care to do that, either before His death or after He rose from the dead. Why? I think it is because He did not intend us to be introverted and focusing on ourselves. He wants us to get on with His kingdom advance. He wants us to look up and look out at the needs around us and bring His love to them. Not get them to come to "church".

The terms we use in missions "church planting" and "church growth", are so revealing of how we've got the ladder up against the wrong wall / we're climbing up the wrong wall. It is like we have been innoculated with a little bit against the real thing. We are so stuck on "church" we don't see kingdom. Why are we so focused on ourselves? Can we stop focusing on ourselves - how we can be a better and more complete church, and get on with God's kingdom advance instead?

I have highlighted only a part of the gospel of the kingdom that we have missed out and become blind to - of the need for us to engage with the poor and bring His kingdom to the poor. There is so much more of the gospel and power of the kingdom that we have yet to see and experience and become channels of to the world in every aspect of life.

Lord, have mercy on us. Open our eyes and set us free. Help us come back to You, surrender our concept of church, our ministries, our structures, our systems, our identity, our dreams, our fears, who we are, everything .. to You. Share Your heart with us. Help us feel afresh Your heartbeat for the people around us, especially those who are trapped in deep poverty. May we be transformed by Your love, and be agents of Your kingdom. Let Your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as in heaven. Amen.

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