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Returning to Our Roots

As the burden to “fulfill the purposes of God in our generation” has begun to weigh more heavily upon the Church, we have found it necessary once again to turn back to normal New Testament Christianity.

That may sound strange coming from an elder in a ‘New Testament Church,’ but through our generation the enemy has launched an attack on the Lord’s body to eliminate certain truths from our midst and neutralize the propagation of the Gospel.

For instance, for many years now Christians have avoided the term ‘Children of God’ because of a religious group known by that name. It was considered a cult (in the negative sense of the word) and the term was basically dropped from the Christian vocabulary. The same has happened in varying degrees with words like discipleship, shepherding, nurturing, evangelism, admonishment, sin, and so on.

The fact that sinners used these words wrongly in the past does not invalidate the truth; it only corroborates what the Bible has to say about man! And in spite of our many shortcomings, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to write these words: “see how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”-1 John 3:1. Beloved, we are the children of God and as such we must adhere to the truth.

We must once again be fully devoted to the Way, returning to our roots where we found life in Him-ruthlessly obeying Him with complete disregard to the personal costs involved. This is how we began the race; this is how we must run it. Then, at the end of our life, we will be able to say as Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”-2 Timothy 4:7-8

Over ten years ago the Lord began to bring some measure of revival into my home church. Before this occurred, however, the Lord had to show us some areas where we, and the Body of Christ as a whole, had been falling short.

One of the first things He brought to our attention was the difference between forgiveness and repentance. We had begun to act as if receiving forgiveness was the same thing as repenting. Receiving forgiveness from the Lord is a glorious thing indeed! It makes us feel clean and right again. Forgiveness is freely granted to us because of the One perfect and complete sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Himself. Repentance, on the other hand, is often hard work. It is something we must set our will and strength to. It is to walk a new way. It is our response of love to the Love who so freely gave His life on our behalf. That is repentance.

As we recognized our failings we would ask for forgiveness and our Lord, who is rich in mercy, would freely forgive us our sins and we would experience relief. Unfortunately, it seemed many found themselves seeking forgiveness for the same things over and over again, saying that God was just doing a ‘deeper work’ or peeling back another layer of the onion. But the fact was, we were still committing the same sins and not walking a new way. God affirmed to us over and over again each time we cried out to Him for forgiveness that He, who is rich in mercy, would freely forgive us. At the same time He began to challenge us to do our part as fervently as we had in the beginning.

He reminded us that our response to Him when we first tasted of His mercy, when we first savored His forgiveness, was to go and sin no more and to turn away from the things that he had died on the cross to forgive us for. We needed to stop sinning and to live a new way. Repentance then became a normal part of our life once again.

We also began to change our terminology. It had become common among us to ‘apologize’ to those whom we had ‘offended,’ telling them we were sorry. We talked about our sins as mistakes, our unrighteous attitudes as character flaws. There is some measure of truth to that, however, we found the same jargon that was heard so often in the world was now being heard in the church-and we are called to be holy!

As God began to admonish us we noticed an old word creeping back into our vocabulary: SIN. It was not as if the word had been completely eliminated, but its importance in our lives had diminished. More often than not, when we used that word it was the other person who was wrong, not we ourselves. We found that to the degree that SIN was identified as such, to that degree was repentance fruitful. As we began to look at our ‘mistakes’ and ‘character flaws’ etc. the way the Lord did-as SIN-we had to stop acting in those ways. When we asked for forgiveness, we also had to stop sinning! We had to live a new way.

When that happened, when forgiveness and repentance started working hand-in-hand again, revival sprang up in our hearts and people began to be drawn into our fellowship. Some were new converts, some were from other places, but all were drawn by the Presence of God that abides if we will but follow His Way.

Along with the new people came the old questions: how do we train these children of God “to observe all that I [Jesus] commanded.”-Matthew 28:20? How do we care for and nurture them? How should we be shepherding the flock?

Nurturing the Flock
Whenever we talked of these things we found ourselves avoiding the terms “discipleship” and “shepherding.” There was still a bad taste in the mouths of many of us from having been involved with the heavy-handedness and abuse associated with those terms. We had been heavy-handed ourselves, and we had been beaten down by others. In our concern for how to care for the new people, however, we began to explore these issues afresh.

The first thing we found was that Jesus said to make disciples. If we were going to obey Him we had to fulfill His command. The fact that biblical words have been misused in the past is no justification for throwing them out today or failing to do what the Lord has commanded us to do. It became clear to us that we had to have some real hands-on relationships again. We also knew that the possibility would always be there, given the nature of man, that someone would again abuse the privilege of discipling a new person and teaching him or her to obey all that Jesus commanded. However, we have found that as the people of God begin giving themselves to what they were redeemed for, they have a new zeal in their hearts along with a deeper awareness of the awesome responsibility of discipling one of His children. Let us all remain disciples of the Lamb, obeying Jesus and making disciples.

Out of His great love for us, “He gave some as...pastors.”- Ephesians 4:11. We need the care of pastors, the impartation of pastors, the guidance and discipline from pastors. We need shepherding in the body of Christ. The children of God-all of us- need to be cared for, yet, we noticed many still ‘flinched’ at being shepherded. However, the bible remains clear that not only do we need the counsel, wisdom, food, water, etc. from the shepherds among us, we also need to submit to and obey our leaders. We determined to set our course to stimulate an environment that allowed people to be cared for. As we leaders asked for wisdom from above, the Lord revealed His strategy to once again care for His flock in a Godly manner.

Have all responded to these changes? Yes! Some in a spiritual manner, some in a carnal manner. We observed that those who pointed their fingers of accusation at others never became healthy, normal sheep. Almost without fail, a ‘root of bitterness’ sprang up in their hearts-Hebrews 12:14-15. We also saw that those who pointed their finger at themselves, those who humbled themselves and took responsibility for their actions [Almost everyone who was discipled or shepherded in a carnal manner did the same to those who they were discipling or shepherding!], became healthy growing sheep who are now a blessing to those around them: in their families, in their fellowships, and in their communities. The problem has always been our own hearts and the solution is always found in our Lord Jesus Christ for “In Him [is] life, and the life was the light of men.’-John 1:4.

Proclaiming the Gospel
As the Lord so often does, when He began to speak to us concerning our own hearts He also began to speak to us about evangelism, addressing our attitudes first. Like many who were born-again within the last 30 years, we had assumed that mainline denominational churches had taken the personal relationship with Jesus out of the Gospel and had substituted mere talk about the historical Jesus Christ for relationship. We had pointed our fingers at them or, at the very least, had harbored judgmental thoughts. It seemed that we ourselves had fallen into the same snare.

I saw it happening this way: we had a circle of people that we talked to about Jesus. We would tell them of things that Jesus did in our lives and the lives of others. We would tell them about Jesus in almost the same way that we might tell someone about our children or grandchildren, or our cat, or even our computer. We gave them an historical account of our lives. In the same way, we tended to give them an historical account of all Jesus did and does. (Now, history is important, but it is behind us in an instant.) That is not very different from those churches that talk about their historical Jesus. It seemed to be a far cry from the proclamation of the Gospel; it seemed to be a far cry from setting free the captives, healing the sick, raising the dead and making disciples. The Church needs to be that people of whom God said, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:33. From that people, conviction is proclaimed and God's creation is set free. As we faced our sin and failures we found ourselves no longer concerned about what some other fellowship was preaching, but instead were concerned about falling more deeply in love with our Lord Jesus. It is that controlling love (“the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”-2 Corinthians 5:14-15) that compels us to proclaim the Good News!

End Time Dream?
The Lord showed us a dream depicting the end time harvest. In the dream a woman rose from the dead. She came out of her grave without a head, then reached to the ground, picked up her head and put it on. As she gazed out towards us, the first side of her face that was seen was very ugly, but as she turned her head, the other side was very beautiful. After this, seven other women came out of the grave, one at a time but very quickly, with their heads already on and they very beautiful. The dream ended.

We believe the Lord showed us that the first woman was representative of the harvest we were experiencing right then. People were gloriously coming from death to life. Many were responding to the Lord out of their physical needs. He was raising them from the dead, but their thoughts, emotions, desires and goals were still lying in the world instead of in the grave. When they came out of the grave the bodies worked hard to put their heads on correctly, yet most of them were double minded converts. That was the day we were living in then.

Now the day is almost upon us when the harvest will come in its fullness-and quickly. People will come out of the grave whole and complete with their whole being (body, soul and spirit) set apart to the King. People will be born-again in an instant by the breath of God. No hands slipped up, no special prayers needed to be prayed, but the Father causing His Life to spring forth in His creation through His Son. We eagerly await that day.

Come quickly Lord Jesus!