Category Archives: apostolic

Are You Influenced by the Political Spirit?

I’ve been concerned for quite some time about the influence of the political spirit upon Christians. While it is most easily seen during election years, it rears its ugly head at various other times as well. It’s currently surfacing a lot in opinions about the Covid-19 crisis, but it shows up in other discussions too, such as immigration or social justice.

This post is sort of a “Part Two.” Discerning the Political Spirit, written a couple of years ago, acts as my “Part One.” That post explains a lot about the political spirit. Today’s post goes on from there.

Here are some ways the political spirit affects people, including believers:

It causes us to be hardhearted.

Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted….” The political spirit causes us to put our “convictions” ahead of kindness and tenderness. Mercy and compassion take a lesser place, because being right becomes paramount. Often those convictions are not biblical principles at all, but opinions we have absorbed from various secular sources with a political agenda behind them. When we take in enough of them, they become part of our worldview. We might think that worldview is unquestionably biblical, because we’ve heard influential Christian leaders speak the same things — but that could be because those leaders have unwittingly become influenced by the political spirit as well.

An example of how this plays out can be seen with the current controversy over how the Covid-19 crisis should be addressed. We hear a great deal of talk about constitutional rights. Preserving constitutional rights is important. However, if we forget that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are for everyone, not just self, it could be a sign that we’re influenced by not only selfishness, but the political spirit. When one’s own rights and wants become more important than caring for the welfare of others, we’re missing the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

It polarizes people.

We should never get sucked into a false unity. Light and darkness cannot mix.. However, the political spirit will cause unrighteous (and unnecessary!) division between believers. Factions form. Paul attempted to correct this attitude in the Corinthian Church:

Now I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you…. For it has been declared to me … that there are contentions among you. …You say, “I am of Paul,” and “I am of Apollos,” and “I am of Cephas,” and “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? …. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

We see this every day, from arguments about governmental policies to theological disputes on matters which aren’t about foundations of the faith.

It promotes finger-pointing.

The devil is “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Unfortunately, too often we cooperate with him! Mudslinging is part of political campaigns, and the political spirit will lead you into that behavior in other arenas too. It has a lot to do with those convictions I mentioned earlier, which are really only opinions.

It fosters pride.

This goes along quite nicely with finger-pointing. We feel so strongly about our position that we assume everyone who doesn’t see it the way we do is less spiritual, asleep at their post, or just plain stupid.

Could it be that those of a different opinion are seeing from an angle we have not yet considered? Can their perspective and mine dovetail together for a more complete picture of the truth? The political spirit attempts to blind us to such possibilities.

It diverts us from Christ and the Gospel.

The political spirit sidetracks us onto temporary tangents, consuming our thoughts with current events which have little to no bearing on eternal matters. We become earth-bound, consumed with anxieties over what will happen if “our side” does not carry the day. Jesus is not mentioned very much anymore. Sharing the “good news” of our viewpoint takes the place of sharing the good news of the cross.

In his book, The Discerner, James Goll comments,

Particularly in these days of instant social messaging, we need to be alert to the influence of the political spirit around us. We have to work hard to keep our focus on God and not on the troubling and divisive contemporary issues unfolding around us, lest we react to them by joining the toxic fray, rather than being part of the solution. While we should fulfill our civic responsibilities and keep a level head while participating in our representative government, the best thing we can do is to pray and intercede in order to break the power of the demonic political spirit that causes divisions, animosity, and strife.(1)

How do we break the power of the political spirit off of our minds?

1. The first step is recognizing its influence over us.

2. We repent and renounce it, asking the Lord to deliver us from it.

3. We determine to, once again, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2). That might require more time reading the Bible and less time reading or listening to the ideas of men.

The Lord will free us, if we ask. He will also help us know where to put our energies in the future. He will give us the wisdom we need to escape the deceptions of the political spirit.

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(1)  James W. Goll, The Discerner (New Kengsington, PA: Whitaker House, 2017), p. 148.

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inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

character education, Bible study

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam
(Bible character education study for adults and teens)

 

Small Beginnings, Influencers, and Cupbearers

water glassI know I have written on this topic before, but it’s on my heart once again.

In the last thirty years or so, I have seen a mindset within the charismatic/prophetic church which has brought a great deal of discontentment and disillusion to some believers. It’s the emphasis on being somebody special — special in the sense of being more than everybody else. We’ve been encouraged to achieve “greatness.” Many of us have been given personal prophecies that we would be important “influencers;” “world-changers;” great evangelists, prophets, worship leaders, or whatever. In short, we’ve been molded into thinking that if we don’t have some kind of celebrity status, there is something wrong with us.

We’ve been told, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings” — with the implication that we might start small, but it had better get bigger! We’re encouraged to serve first by cleaning toilets, because eventually our faithfulness will be noticed, and we will graduate to better things (where cleaning toilets is no longer part of our job description). I suppose it’s the same “dream big” mentality that pervades all of American society, where every little girl or boy theoretically has the potential of someday becoming President. We’ve just repackaged it a bit in Christianity.

Along the way, though, some have become sadly disappointed when these illusions of greatness did not materialize. They’ve given up, wondering what went wrong or where they failed. Still others continue to chase after that pot of gold (personal importance) at the end of the rainbow, while it always remains out of reach.

I suspect God never intended for us to have expectations of being a “somebody.” We already are somebodies in His eyes, because we are His sons and daughters. We are already “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9) of priceless value, just because we are His. I don’t think He ever wanted us to aim at graduating from scrubbing toilets into something “better.” Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, didn’t He? He said that in the Resurrection, He would seat us at the table and serve us (Luke 12:37). How amazing! Not even Jesus has graduated from serving. It is His eternal nature, and it must become ours.

A few days ago, I spent some time praying part of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might….” I promised the Lord that I would do whatever He brings to my hand, no matter how insignificant it might seem. For me right now, that means devoting myself to serving my elderly mother, making sure she feels loved and well taken care of. It means spending time listening to people, praying with them, answering their questions about spiritual things when I am able, and helping them in little ways here and there which are unlikely to be noticed on a grand scale. It means cherishing my husband and children. It also means that right now I can’t pursue some things I would have preferred to do if I had the time.

I see a lot of other Christians in the same position, some serving with greater dedication than I could ever hope to. Selfless giving in small ways is precious in the Lord’s sight, if we do it humbly and joyfully for Him. These acts of kindness, every bit as much as miracles, signs, and wonders, are the works and greater works which Jesus said we would do, in John 14:12. Don’t think so? Take another look at 1 Corinthians 13, with its message about noisy gongs and clanging symbols versus loving when the rubber meets the road.

Years ago, I taught a Bible verse to our small children when I put them to bed at night: “And whoever will give to one of these little ones a cup of cold water to drink, only in the name of a disciple, most assuredly I say to you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). We recited this verse together over that last glass of water they requested before going to sleep at night. It’s a fun memory.

Whether you ever become well known or not, do with all your might whatever the Lord gives you, moment by moment. Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to serve Him and the people around you while you wait for some big destiny thing. And remember, giving that cup of cold water, only in the name of a disciple, will be rewarded by the King, too.

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peace of mind

 

 

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 8) — Conclusion

balanced churchWe started this series by looking at what “church” (ekklesia) means — a called-out assembly. We are called out of the darkness of this world into God’s family and kingdom, not as individuals only, but as a united body of believers, meant to live and carry out our purpose together.

I also gave you a core job description: The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

Throughout the series, I emphasized that healthy church life means we function as the family of God. When we forget that we are family, some of the other components of who we are — an army, discipleship center, or even a house of prayer — can get out of whack. But if we stay in the context of family, the many purposes God has for His Church work beautifully together. When we overemphasize one aspect of the Church to the exclusion of others, we become like a wheel out of round, or one missing some spokes, but properly balancing who we are and what we are supposed to do causes us to thrive.

There is one more element of the Church that I would like to mention. Really, I’ve saved the best for last:

We are Christ’s bride.

It is definitely a “now, but not yet” part of who we are. We are betrothed to our Bridegroom Jesus, but the wedding celebration will not take place until He returns for us. While we wait for Him, we are in a two-fold preparation time. We are already spotless in the sense that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, blameless and pure through His atonement for us at the cross. But Jesus is also bringing us through a wedding preparation process, “that He might sanctify and cleanse [His bride] with the washing of water by His Word, so that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26, 27).

We have our role to play as well. Just as an earthly bride goes through much preparation to look her most beautiful on her wedding day, we are to give great attention to readying ourselves for Jesus. Revelation 19:7 says of the marriage supper in heaven, “for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”

In this present hour, the Lord is doing His part to cleanse His Church, even sometimes through the painful, public exposure of sin. We must do ours as well, in setting aside every encumbrance, every distraction, which would keep us from looking eagerly for our Bridegroom to come for us. We must get our attention off the temporary pursuits and cares of earth, and firmly fix our gaze on Jesus. He is coming. Let us be eagerly anticipating Him.

Summing things up:

The expression of love, mercy, and compassion should always be prominent in the Church. We carry out the practical functions to which we are called as Christ’s body on earth, but forever in the context of these three attributes. This is why the Spirit led the apostle Paul to insert “the love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) between the the gifts and church order chapters (1 Corinthians 12 and 14).

We must also remember that our Sunday morning services are only a slice of what it means to be the Church. If that is all we ever experience, we are missing out on a great deal. The early Church not only met together in large gatherings; they met “house to house” informally, eating and fellowshipping with one another (Acts 2:46), receiving teaching (Acts 20:20), and praying together (Acts 12:12) too. We can do the same in our day. They also lived out the life of Christ in the world around them, including showing forth the power of God through miracles, signs, and wonders, which are supposed to “follow those who believe” (Mark 16:17). “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

I hope you have enjoyed this series and that it has provoked some new ideas for you. I would love hearing any additional thoughts you have!

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship
Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center
Part 7 — Other Church Attributes

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nature of God

 

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Christian character

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

intercession, prayer

 

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 7) — Other Attributes of the Church

Supreme Court buildingWe’ve talked about the Church being a family, a body, an army, a house of prayer and worship, and a healing center. Here are a few other attributes of the Church which should not be neglected.

 

The Church is a governing body upon earth.

We carry out our governing function in a couple of ways. One is by bringing the power and presence of God with us wherever we go.

We are meant to influence and bring change in our world through our words and actions. We are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20), meaning that what Jesus did to demonstrate the Kingdom of God, we do also. Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38); we do likewise. He spoke light and truth; we are to do the same. Jesus said of His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”“a city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:13, 14). Paul worded it, God “makes manifest by us the savor of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:15). So, we govern by bringing the Lord’s kingdom to our world in how we do life.

Each of us can do this in the process of going about our daily occupations. But in order to be as effective as possible, we should stay aware that this is why we have been placed by God in our particular spheres of influence. We must not miss our opportunities!

The second way we govern on earth is through prayer. In Matthew 18:18, 19, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by My Father Who is in heaven.”

In his book, Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince said this: “The Bible reveals that this world is not really ruled by presidents and governors and dictators. They only seem to rule. The people who really rule the world are those who know how to pray.” We need to grasp this idea and run with it!

Our governing function is carried out both individually and as a church body. While each of us should be an ambassador and a prayer warrior, when we join together in unity with other believers, our effectiveness is greatly multiplied. Corporate governing as a body ties in with what we already saw in Part 4 about the Church being an army. No man fights a war all by himself.

Ultimately, we will physically govern on earth with Christ when He returns (and we with Him) for His millennial reign as King. The governing we do now is a seed, a foretaste of what is to come.

discipleshipThe Church is a center for discipleship.

What did Jesus tell His disciples before He left earth? “Go, therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations… teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Paul called this discipleship “the perfecting [equipping] of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come, in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, into maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we are no longer children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery and cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

Some of our local churches are fulfilling the discipleship function well. However, based on the amount of serious doctrinal error which has become commonplace in the Church today, apparently many of our churches are not getting the job done. In Charismatic / prophetic / apostolic circles, we often focus on “equipping the saints” in how to do the supernatural works of Jesus, but we have neglected to lay the firm foundation of the core doctrines taught by the original New Testament apostles. Indeed, we have neglected teaching the Bible as a whole. On the other hand, in fundamentalist / non-Charismatic streams, there is often a great adherence to Bible teaching, while not emphasizing pursuing intimacy with Jesus Himself. As you can see, the Church needs a lot of improvement in the discipleship area!

The discipleship function can be worked out in a variety of ways. The Word of God should be preached from our pulpits (in many cases, this is not happening as it should). Home Bible studies and Bible classes within the local church can further enhance the work. One-on-one discipleship, with mature believers mentoring newer Christians, is just as vital as what we receive through sermons and structured teaching.

I personally believe we should see more teaching from the Bible on God’s nature. If we understand Who He is and how He acts, we can then apply that understanding to develop Christlike character in our own lives. Too many believers in our day have little understanding of either God’s nature or how to live like Jesus. These things can be taught systematically, however.

It is a large task, and may seem overwhelming, but each of us can do our part by being connected into a local fellowship where true discipleship is taking place, and by being willing to disciple others who are just beginning their life in Christ.

In our next post, we’ll wrap up this series with one more aspect of who the Church is and a few final thoughts.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship
Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center
Next: Part 8 (Conclusion)

________________________________________

nature of God

 

 

Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Christian character

 

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

intercession, prayer

 

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 6) — We Are a Healing Center

healingJesus is the Healer, and He has commissioned us to labor with Him in that capacity, because “…as [Jesus] is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

Jesus commissioned His disciples, in Matthew 10:7, 8, “And as you go, preach, saying, ”The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons; freely you have received, now freely give.”

We are His ambassadors, so we should be doing the same things He did. Indeed, He said we would: “Truly, Truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do, he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father” (John 14:12).

We all love miraculous healing stories, whether in the Bible or in modern times, don’t we? While we’re excited and delighted to see people healed instantly, some healing takes a long time — especially inner healing. Yet I have heard it said, time and again, by multiple preachers, “The church is not supposed to be a hospital!” Ahem. Yes, it is.

If you travel in apostolic circles, you are probably having fits with me about now. Because, most likely you are into hosting spiritual boot camps to equip the saints for battle, right? But let’s think this through a bit.

You want a harvest of souls, don’t you? What kind of world do we have around us? One full of hurting, traumatized people. More than half come from broken homes. At least one in four has been a victim of sexual abuse. Still others have suffered other types of physical or emotional abuse. Some are refugees and have lived through the greatest atrocities imaginable in their home countries. Some have tried to commit suicide because they can’t deal with the pain anymore.

Now tell me the Church is not supposed to be a hospital! What are you going to do with them once you have brought them to Jesus, if you won’t provide a place of healing for them within the Church? Will you just push them through boot camp and out to the battlefield?

And what about Christians who once were healthy, but now are not? Should we just ignore their hurt, perhaps write them off as unfit? Do we pressure them to pretend everything is all right, when it is not? Or should we instead be compassionate enough to be an active part of their healing process, realizing with a heart of humility that any of us could also experience a stretch of life where we aren’t in top form?

That’s my human reasoning, but let’s look at what the Bible says about it. “We, then, who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). Jesus bound up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1). “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, until He sends forth judgment to victory” (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20).

Realizing that the Church should be a healing center — including a “hospital,” if you will — doesn’t mean that we let people sit around and lick their wounds for the rest of their lives. The whole purpose of doctors and hospitals is to get people well, so they can lead healthy lives when possible. Indeed, healing people of emotional wounds is an element of equipping the saints — because part of healing is giving them the tools to stay well and strong, so that they can go out there and make a difference in God’s kingdom.

I think that might be a worthy reason to think the Church should be a hospital. How about you?

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship
Next: Part 7 — Other Attributes of the Church

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healing

 

God’s Word on Healing
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

Christian encouragement

 

 

Encouragement from God’s Word
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 5) — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship

church worshipMy pastor often said God’s desire for the local church is that we be a house of prayer, which thereby becomes a house of His presence, which results in us becoming a house of power.

Isaiah 56:7, 8 is often used to describe the house of prayer function of the local church: “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. The Lord GOD Who gathers the outcasts of Israel says, ‘Yet will I gather others to Him [the Messiah, Jesus] besides those who are gathered to Him.'”

In context, these verses are about the temple in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ millennial reign upon the earth. They speak of God joining Jew and Gentile together in united adoration of Jesus.

Communion with God through prayer and worship, both individually and corporately, is one of the central themes throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul said we are to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, [and] in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The early church took corporate prayer quite seriously. One hundred twenty disciples gathered together in the upper room, waiting according to Jesus’ instructions for the coming of the Holy Spirit. What did they do while they waited? “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14).

In Acts 4:24-31, with the threat of persecution hanging over them, together they cried out for the Lord to give them boldness to preach the Gospel with healing, signs, and wonders following. Their prayer was answered. The Lord responded by physically shaking the place where they were gathered, filling them all afresh with the Holy Spirit, and giving them the boldness they had desired of Him.

When Peter was in prison awaiting execution, his situation looked hopeless, “but prayer was made without ceasing by the church to God for him” (Acts 12:5). In response to their prayers, Peter was supernaturally released from prison by an angel. We know that this was not only individual prayer going on, because Peter then went to one of the homes “where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12).

Jesus gave us an encouraging glimpse into what can be accomplished through group prayer in Matthew 18:19, 20: “…If two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father Who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Worship is a vital function of any house of prayer. In John 4:23, 24, Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

True worship is not an activity we engage in just because it is part of the “order of service.” It is not a preliminary to get through so we can move on to the sermon. It is not a set of songs calculated to stir our souls because of the catchy beat or the excellent abilities of the worship team. Many churches engage in praise at that soul level, never getting to true worship, which brings heart intimacy with the Lord. But if we do focus on the Lord, worshiping Him from the heart, it draws Him to manifest His presence among us in ways wherein we know we have touched God. Indeed, those of us who have tasted of His presence find it hard to be content with anything less thereafter.

While prayer and heartfelt worship are not the only things which the Church is meant to do, if we are to be the people God intended, we must shift worship away from being an entertainment activity back to that true worship of the heart in our gatherings. And, we must turn prayer from a lukewarm, obligatory part of our services to something we look forward to with expectancy, having faith that God will answer us. I am so encouraged that this change is already beginning to take place in many church gatherings around the world. I believe the momentum will continue to build, and as a result, God will release powerful miracles through His people. House of prayer > house of presence > house of power.

Keep in mind that prayer and worship don’t have to happen only in a Sunday morning service, either. They can be accomplished by meeting at other times during the week, even in homes. A prayer movement is arising throughout the world. Some of these gatherings are connected with particular local churches, but many are not. They don’t have to be. The Church is not confined to official buildings. It is present in power wherever God’s people gather, formally or informally. Perhaps God is even calling you to lead a home prayer group. If so, my book, House of Prayer ~ House of Power, can help you get started.

Next time, we’ll talk about the local church as a healing center.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Part 4 — We Are an Army
Next: Part 6 — We Are a Healing Center

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start a prayer group

 

 

House of Prayer ~ House of Power,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 4) — We Are an Army

In Christian circles, we often refer to the Church as an army. We sing Onward Christian Soldiers, God’s Got an Army, and the children’s song, I’m in the Lord’s Army! Unquestionably, warfare is a major theme throughout the Bible. The physical warfare so prevalent in the Old Testament becomes the spiritual warfare of the New.

Surprisingly though, while the Old Testament frequently refers to the armies of Israel, the New Testament only uses the word “army” or “armies” for the Church once, in Revelation 19:14: “And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” The context is Jesus’ return to earth to rule and reign. He is accompanied by the already raptured and glorified Church. We know this is the Church because of the emphasis upon their apparel, which is “white and clean.”

We do have a number of verses which speak of Christians as soldiers engaged in combat:

Ephesians 6:11-18 — the familiar passage about putting on the whole armor of God

Romans 13:12… Let us put on the armor of light.”

2 Timothy 2:3, 4 “Therefore, endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man going to war entangles himself with the affairs of this life, so that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 — “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds), casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

We also have several verses on overcoming and triumphing in the context of spiritual warfare.

One of the clearest implications of the Church being an army is given by Jesus, in Matthew 16:18. Peter has just professed His belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (v. 16). Jesus then comments, “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That sounds like the Church will be engaging together in warfare — assaulting the gates of the enemy and winning the battle.

So, that’s what we’ve got in the Bible — Israel fighting together as an army for the sake of their family inheritance, several references to the Church engaging in spiritual warfare individually and together as a group, and finally, the Church appearing as the armies in heaven who follow Jesus back to earth. Yet, in some Christian circles, the Church is referred to as an army incessantly, while Church as family is rarely spoken of. That’s where we run into problems, with the extreme emphasis of the one over the other.

We hear much talk among Charismatics in particular about leaders being “generals,” and various levels of leaders having “rank” above others in the Body of Christ. I think we should be very careful to avoid that language and the attitude behind it. While God has put in place an orderly hierarchy for church leadership, using terms such as bishops and elders, He calls them shepherds of the flock, not military officers. Indeed, Jesus warned his disciples against lording it over others:

But Jesus called them to him, and said to them, “You know that those who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever of you desires to be chief, shall be servant of all.”Mark 10:42-44

In Matthew 23:10, 11, He also said, “Neither be called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

Peter encouraged church leaders to be shepherds: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who also am an elder, … feed the flock of God which is among you … not as lords over God’s heritage, but as examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4).

The functions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher were not ever meant by the Lord to be positions used to levy power over others. They are gifts to the Church to help train us for ministry and to build up the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:8-13 explains this, with verse 8 saying Jesus ascended and gave gifts to men,” and verse 11 saying “He gave some to be apostles and some to be prophets….”

When church leaders view themselves as army officers instead of fellow brothers and sisters in God’s family, they can easily become heavy-handed. Abuse takes place, and people get hurt. When kingdom purposes become more important than valuing the people who make up the kingdom, we’ve lost the vision God intended. God does not see the individuals in His army as expendable cannon fodder, and we shouldn’t see anyone that way either.

How can we change these attitudes, when they are so prevalent? Being aware of the truth is a big step, so that we no longer buy into man-made misconceptions. And, if we have the opportunity to lead others in any way, we don’t have to make the same mistakes which have been made before. We can bring change through how we treat others. It all comes back to the core description we started with: The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

I know some of you have been deeply hurt by leaders who were not gentle, who used, rather than cherished, the church flock. I do not write this to stir up bitterness, but in hopes of bringing some truth to bear so that adjustments can be made, even if it is only in the thinking of a few. May God give those of you who have been hurt grace to forgive, to receive healing, and to be instruments of change for the better in the Lord’s hands.

Ultimately, when we think of the Church as an army, if we keep it in the perspective of the Church being first and foremost God’s family, we’ll be all right. We will carry out our warrior calling in the way God intended, without harming our fellow soldiers in the process.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Next: Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship

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prophetic teaching

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam