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Chapter 20 - 'Doing' Replacing Growing
Christianity as described in the New Testament has as its objective the maturing of each believer into Christ-likeness.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: - Ephesians 4:11-13
This was transformed during the formation of the early church from spiritual growth to a litany of acts such as the observance of holy days, celebration of mass, confession, acts of penance and contrition, and sacraments like baptism.
It is human nature to seek that which we can do as a measure of our accomplishment. This is what the Pharisees did.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: - Luke 18:9
We are told that God established salvation by faith (trust) in Jesus. The reason is that the alternative is to trust and glory in ourselves.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
One reason our accomplishments are not included in salvation is that faith in ourselves is of our flesh. The bible lists works of the flesh.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21
In the long history of the church one can observe many instances of the works of the flesh. Even in the early church in Galatia, Christians were turning away from being led by the Holy Spirit to works of the flesh.
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? - Galatians 3:1-3
In the church at Corinth there were also demonstrated works of the flesh.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? - 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
It is not surprising that 2,000 years later we have such a muddled understanding of Christianity. Christianity is supposed to be about love (selflessness).
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. - 2 Corinthians 5:15
The flesh is all about selfishness. This is that which resonates with the world. It makes what is claimed as Christianity often indistinguishable from the world.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. - James 4:4
Even today many churches are known for the list of rules they wish to impose. Consider the view of fornication which is so endorsed by the world today. Liberal churches often see nothing wrong and many conservative churches seek a rule declaring prohibition to achieve control. While prohibition may foster an environment where less damage results, control in the Christian life is supposed to come from the Holy Spirit.
If one seeks wisdom, which is freely available from God to all who ask, one might see reasons for avoiding fornication. Physical intimacy is something that can only be discovered once in life. If two people marry and discover this (often with tenderness and even laughter) between themselves, they build a strong relationship that can last a lifetime. Those ignorant of this wisdom harm themselves by crippling the ability to deepen intimacy.
A lack of wisdom is reflective of following the path of the flesh. Cathedrals are built, churches erected, creeds promulgated, performance monitored, and compliance coerced all to serve the ambitions of men, but are in the strength of the flesh. The advice given to the Pharisees is still valid today.
But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. - Matthew 9:13
By elevating what can be accomplished and neglecting the inner transformation that the Holy Spirit desires for each of us individually, we follow the same path that the Pharisees took. Much of the confusion regarding Christianity comes from those who claim to be Christian making declarations, assertions, and presentations that are not true. The Pharisees were called hypocrites by Jesus. This was not so much because they were intentionally deceitful, but because they had deceived themselves as well. Jesus called this type of self-deception ‘leaven’ because it spreads like yeast.
The confusing and conflicting claims of Christianity often carry the sincerity of those who have deceived themselves. What is more sad is that truth is found in Jesus but people prefer their own ideas to the truth that could be found in him.
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