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The Grown Up Church
Restoration of the New Testament Church
By EARL LAMBDIN
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Earl Lambdin
All rights reserved.
Tradition, Religion and Revelation
"This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments (or traditions) of men." Matthew 15:8, 9.
Religions are a curious and varied mixture of man—decreed tradition and God-given revelation. There are precious few times when man has found himself walking in lockstep with God, and free from the trappings of traditions or encumbered with strict and irrelevant religious practices. The greatest strengths of religion's traditions are that they can provide some sort of order and discipline to an otherwise pagan or law-of-the-jungle existence. When time honored traditions and religion break down, then society is in real trouble. But, are mixtures or concoctions of traditions and revelations forming various religions really the best that man can ultimately attain to; and can religion by itself, sustain itself into Christ's coming Kingdom?
"They answered and said to Him,' Abraham is our father.' Jesus said to them, 'If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." John 8:39.
Understand this—Abraham was a religious man before He met the Living God. After Abraham left behind his idolatrous lifestyle in ancient Babylon (Iraq), he walked with God by obedient revelation. He no longer had a religion, but a very personal relationship that was tested and blessed for all eternity. Jesus instructed the Jews, who were sons of Abraham by flesh only," do the 'deeds' of Abraham." The Covenant of Circumcision was carried out by Abraham because of obedient revelation to God's request and plan, and not purely religious in action. Revelation creates a road map and reveals an intended relationship with the Living God, but over time, religion can foster the opposite of revelation—as in blindness, passivity and institutionalism. Revelation must be renewed and unfolded in the hearts of every new generation of believers, until God's plan for mankind is fulfilled.
"This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" Matthew 17:5.
This verse ends with an exclamation point, God is saying, "Listen". The most important part of a Christian's walk with God is to listen, keep an open heart and listen. When Jesus was transfigured or glorified on the mountain before Peter, James and John; and Moses and Elijah appeared to them, Peter wanted to build three tabernacles. It seems that we humans are incurably religious by nature. A great revelation of God occurs, and we want to build a shrine, statue or something else for basically, worshipping that experience. Many times our own ideas and ambitions only get in the way, as religious clutter, to knowing, growing, and worshipping God through further revelation. Philippians 3:13,14.
And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." "... and upon this rock I will build my church." Matthew 16: 16-18. This time, Peter had it right, the Lord is forever right, forever Lord, and He will never fit into the boxes we try to make for Him.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it." Psalms 127: 1.
"And the Lord was adding in number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2: 47.
Christ fulfilled the God-instituted Feast of Passover, and His church fulfilled the God-instituted Feast of Pentecost. As Samuel Wesley wrote in one of Christianity's greatest hymns, "The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is His new creation by water and the word ..." The great words to this Spirit inspired song best describe the true church in her relationship to God, her struggles in this world, and the outcome of the intercessory hope and prayers of her Spirit-filled members. The goal has always been simple and pure, and true and inspired; but the battle has always been relentless and ruthless, deceptive and obstructive. But as that great reformer Martin Luther penned in our victorious song, A Mighty Fortress is our God, God's unmatched truth, by grace alone, will abide, prevail, and triumph, ultimately.
As the early church was birthed, she was formed and shaped by the Spirit-filled Apostles' teachings and instructions. Specifically, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians and James can divulge to us priceless keys to the function and operation of the church in action. The church, fresh in her revelation of Christ, was a powerful and irresistible force of God's glory. Acts 17:6. But, like anything in nature that is beautiful and strong, the forces of storms and pestilence began to be activated against her. For nearly two-hundred and fifty years or from about A.D. 64 through A.D 312, Roman Caesars began to issue decrees bringing untold persecution against Christ's followers. Like the underground church in China, who probably has the purest form of Christianity, the early church continued to grow and spiritually thrive.
"Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men." "thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that." Mark 7: 8, 13.
After 312 A.D., Constantine goes to war to become the next Roman Emperor over all of Rome—both East and West. Before the battle, a sign in the shape of a cross appears in the sky to him, and with the inscription—"by this sign conquer." After Constantine won his battle, he issued proclamations of Christianity as the new paradigm to follow for the official state religion. Roman subjects from the far reaches of Roman dominance became new converts of a hybridized Christian belief system. Original Christianity was wrenched away from its strong Judaic celebration of the fulfilled prophecies and law, and it became the pagan world's blending of its elemental spirits and heathen observances. Christianity was now official, politically expedient and strongly man-centered with its hierarchy, austerity and shadowy superstitions. This toxic mixture of truth and falsehoods would bring about a long period of what is known as the Dark Ages. Colossians 2:20-23.
Traditions die hard, for men have killed each other concerning them; and religion changes ever so slowly, for Jesus in Luke 5:37-39 mentions the fact that people are satisfied with old wine, and do not desire the new—for it is unstable or untried. Since the Reformation of the 1500's, and even up until now, the heart of fire or passion to see the church restored to her former glory will never go out. I believe that there resides within the hearts of all who seek a closer and unfettered walk with God a gnawing and a hunger for more spiritual reality; and less hype, ritualism and the old, tired methodology.
Vision and revelation come to the searcher of God, and one must be willing to "give it up" in sacrificing the good for the best. Titles, positions, investments and comfortable appeasements that all render little spiritual power must all be placed on the altar, if we are going to be willing to rediscover the New Testament Church experience. Its Christ's designed cross that we must learn to carry, and not the cross of religion's dictates. Matthew 16: 23,24.
Jesus answered Him and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3: 3.
I have been a believer in Jesus Christ since I accepted Him as my Savior at the age of 11 years. As a youngster, I faithfully attended church, and went through all the required motions, but religion could never hold me. I could see, taste and touch religion, but I was blind to His Kingdom which is transcendent. Lacking real spiritual mentoring and attending a mostly cut-and-dry traditional church, I turned away from Christianity for a season. Since my return to Christ in 1972, I have never looked back. His Spirit overwhelmed me and broke me for His Lordship, His Kingdom, as well as His salvation. After this encounter, everything changed—instead of rituals, life came into my worship, my scripture reading, and my prayer time—being prompted and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. A born again life is a changed life that no person or organization can ever take from you, intimidate, condemn or control you. You become, solely, the possession of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:23. No man can ever be freer!
"For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions". Galatians 1: 11, 12, and 14.
I love and appreciate the Apostle Paul, because he was a miracle—delivered from his bondage or servitude to his religion, and commissioned, by God, to lay the master foundation of the true Christian church. Before his born again experience, he was serving his religion with absolute ambitious conviction. Now, he would serve Christ alone, and as he stated in verse 10—"If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ."
"It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me." John 6:45.
When a ministry preaches or teaches God's word, it is he or she expressing words, but it must be the Spirit teaching, imparting and inspiring the hearer. When we relinquish our rights, pride and prejudices, then we can be of use to God. Surrendered to the Lord and not to our religion, or sometimes, the expectations of men, will place us in a position for the marvelous workings of Jesus Christ. We plant, we sow, we pray, we speak, but, "always", God gives the increase, as He touches, instructs and heals.
"But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also." Galatians 4:29.
That which is conceived and upheld by religious flesh and all of its outward, sub glorious efforts will always hate, belittle and malign the true. As the older Ishmael (the product of the flesh) mocked little Isaac (the fruit of God's spiritual provision), so, the elitist pride of human religious entrenchment can't stand God's approved plan for His sole glory. Therefore, as it says in verse 31, we Christians are not "children of the bondwoman, but of the free woman." So it is, and so it will be with us, if we can say as Paul, "I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision." Acts 26:19.CHAPTER 2
Christ's Manifesting Church through Worship
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16.
Along with prayer, corporate worship is at the core of a church's expression. Timelines on worship should never be a constraint as we should worship God freely, yet focused with the purpose to glorify and honor Him; until His Spirit directs us to change course or receive a living word for that moment. To worship God is to enter into His special presence where we learn to revere His Lordship and develop spiritual discernment. I have been in services in which worship was sustained and energized on a level of 2 to 3 hours of unexplained blessings. Experiencing real worship is to taste a little of Heaven to come for all true believers. Once a person has experienced this kind of worship, he or she will never be the same, and understanding the Creator and creation relationship will become a revelation of peaceful clarity and spiritual identity.
The true purpose of church is to go beyond the Old Testament veil that covered access to the Holy of Holies, and to enter into worshiping communion with God the Father; and then, freely and lovingly share with others the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Church service leadership that understands, respects and guides members into unfettered spiritual worship will see the makings of precious church expressions. Everything that occurs in a New Testament Service centers around and from the expression of a completely devoted worship of God, not only as our Savior, but as our Lord—to the very core of heart and spirit—it takes us back to the first commandment that God gave the children of Israel in Exodus 20:13. Church worship that is not contrived and controlled, but governed by the Holy Spirit should be the utmost and desired goal of worship leadership. In Matthew 23, Jesus warned the Pharisees of keeping the door shut to the kingdom of heaven. Going to church to hear the preacher preach should follow, confirm or explain the encounter with God through sanctified worship. From worship, the Holy Spirit is in charge to dictate the direction and benefits of an involved Body of Christ service.
In an atmosphere of worship, we will begin to discover the genesis of gifts and offerings to the Body of Christ from each member, and from His Throne. Ephesians 5:18-19. From worship, we can begin to hear, believe and give to each other for faith building and comfort. "Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as also you are doing." 1Thessalonians 5:20. "But beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith ..." Jude 20. In church, everything is about lifting up and building up, and this is accomplished by the many—facetted expressions of faith. Meetings that operate in an atmosphere of surrendered worship will experience God's greatest blessings and gifts. Spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, operate out of an environment of worship. As believers, if we desire God's best and not mediocrity, then we must discover the absolute importance of worship, and the operations of faith's expressions through the corporate Body of Christ. "What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." 1Corinthians 14:26. Christian faith, through love, is for expression—be free.CHAPTER 3
The Grown-Up Church
"And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ'. Colossians 1:28.
With the subject concerning the grown-up church, there is much to be covered. Of course, there is no church that is completely mature, nor is there any fellowship that has "arrived". But there are definite signs, conditions and evidences which point to the health and direction of all church assemblies. From my exposure and experience in various denominations and churches, I am becoming increasingly convinced that there are widespread and chronic symptoms of a Christendom unequipped and underdiscipled. The need to rediscover the New Testament Church in its pure, deep, yet simple form is glaringly apparent in this world of increasing pressures and boldness to sin without a flinch of conscience.
"But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds have been led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ". 2 Corinthians 11: 3.
The momentum of the Jesus Movement was given power by a special visitation of the Holy Spirit—it gave needed refreshment, new energy and renewed focus on Jesus Christ. Not all churches embraced these new Jesus fanatics, though, with their new liberty in worship, church attire and expressions of faith. But much of it was powerfully genuine and far from being superficial. To those who were caught-up in the movement due purely to the energy, excitement and charismatic draw—they washed out when the trials and battles began. To me, it is a pity that what the Holy Spirit began to generate did not continue to build and bond the Christian Church in a more united effort of prayer and power evangelism. As it fizzled, so the spiraling down of the culture began to accelerate.
Many mistakes and compromises were eventually made in the movement; and I think that the biggest void in the churches to accept and grow with God's intended work was "maturity". The desire in the Lord's work is obviously, salvation, but what He longs for—is a grown-up church. What was so lacking back then, and what I believe is still lacking, is a crop of available grown-up ministries. With many new and unperceptive converts on fire for God, and the Lord's gracious anointing and power in the pulpit—immature men began to desire special places, titles and self-focused attraction for themselves. When this occurred, many were hurt, pure doctrine was twisted or slanted, and the Holy Spirit was largely replaced by soulishness. Gifts and anointing began to fade as a past memory.
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain". Philippians 1: 21.
A grown-up church starts with established ministries who have gone to the cross with their ambitions and ego, and who continue to go there. We will not gain more; we will not grow more, unless we continue to die more—to that nature within all men which loves attention, entrenched power and position, and self adulation. A church that is on the Lord's designated road to "growing up" is difficult to find, but if it can be discovered and committed to, it will produce a spiritual powerhouse of gain in the New Testament Church model.
Excerpted from The Grown Up Church by EARL LAMBDIN. Copyright © 2014 Earl Lambdin. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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Table of Contents
ContentsAbout the Author, vii,
Tradition, Religion and Revelation, 1,
Christ's Manifesting Church through Worship, 6,
The Grown-Up Church, 8,
God Directed Services, 19,
God Desired Services, 22,
New Testament Church Concept in Action, 24,
The Church of Living Stones, 27,
The Church by God's Design, 29,
Church Leadership or Government, 36,
The Church as a Family of God, 46,
People of the Word, 50,
God's House, 54,
Going Beyond the Church Bulletin, 56,
The Lost Meaning of "Church Service", 58,
Beginning Steps Into Dynamic Services, 60,
No Caged Eagles, 62,
Put Down the Coffee Cup, 66,
Spiritual Growth Through Love, 68,
Do I love My Brother?, 70,
The Primacy of the Holy Spirit, 72,
Christ's Designed Leadership, 76,
Traditional Title or Function, 81,
Whatever Happened to Divine Order?, 83,
Prophecy Over Your Life, 85,
The Word of the Lord, 87,
The Exemplary Christian, 91,
The Authority of Sacred Scriptures, 93,
God's Complete Word, 96,
The Essential House Church, Part, 198,
Hospitality, a Forgotten Practice, 102,
The Intrigue of This Late Hour, 104,
A Cain and Abel World, 106,
The Believers' Passover, 109,
The Sleeping Church, 111,
How We Endure (The First Sign of a Healthy Christian Church), 113,
The Good, The Better and The Best, 115,
Christian Solidarity, 117,
Jesus the Supreme Teacher, 119,
Deeper Worship, 121,
The Nature of Prophets, 123,
Who Will Lead Us?, 127,
Conclusion to the Book—The Grown Up Church, 132,