When God Is Not Enough

God “in” Himself is enough. God “by” Himself is not. We need one another.

We will never receive directly from God the grace and power for life He intends for us to receive indirectly through His Body. Pray, fast, shout, jump, run, declare, sing, worship, intercede, prophesy . . . whatever . . . they are all ineffective in trying to receive God’s goodness out of heaven, when He has prescribed otherwise. But they make us feel spiritual, so we keep doing them. A form of Christianity that is mystic and pseudo-spiritual, that is always looking for, and hoping for something out of heaven is deceiving millions.

The Holy Spirit was released on the Day of Pentecost. He never went back. He is not hiding. Christ is here, in one another. Rather than being taught occult techniques of mysticism (“how to access the heavenlies” seminars), we need to teach people how to access the power that is before their eyes, every week . . .  in their brothers and sisters.  Oh, that is just too mundane for us. It doesn’t sparkle. No pizzazz. No sizzle. No catharsis. Nothing stimulating.

Don’t look for your provision solely from Jesus in the heavens. Your provision is likely in Him, in a person you know . . .  or perhaps that is the problem. Because of our common meeting formats, we really don’t know anyone intimately.  As long as we are content to have a class of religious professionals and entertainers feed our religious addiction to worship music and sermons, our professed desires for “revival” are misguided and irrational.

We have already been given EVERYTHING necessary that pertains to life and godliness.  We don’t need to open heaven’s portals. We need to open earth’s hearts. The treasure is present . . . not coming . . . it is present in EARTHEN vessels. Shriveled hearts and fat Bible School notebooks are a bad combination, a sure formula for accomplishing nothing, touching no one, while being impressed with our self-perceived spirituality, which, is not spiritual at all. It is idolatrous deceit. We need to stop all the inflated talk about “prophetic” this and “apostolic” that. We need to just get on with it. Close the notebooks. Stop the singing. Quit the non-incarnational praying.1 Enough with prophesies about what God is going to do in some mysterious future day and how great we are going to be in that day. Skip some meetings. Try actually touching a human being. You might be surprised at how easily the resurrection life of our Lord is accessed and released, and how great God IS today, not WILL BE tomorrow.

Loving God, loving others, and walking as living dead men and women is not complicated. It is costly. Let’s get on with it.

_______________________

1 Non-incarnational prayers are prayers that cost the petitioner nothing. For example, it is wonderful to pray about, let’s say abortion. But if you are unwilling to help a single mom with food, or adopt a baby, or take in a single mom into your home, or contribute significant financial support to a struggling single mother, your prayers are tinkling brass. God in the flesh is the epitome of . . .  “getting involved!” Incarnation, not endless prayer, is the essence of biblical Christianity. If a canoe is to avoid going around in circles it is necessary to paddle on both sides:  pray and do something.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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Relationship Building

Relationships in the church are like apple trees. Everybody wants to eat the fruit. Few want to plant a tree.

 

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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Wholeness Versus Correctness

If we care more about our opinions of Scripture, than Christ and His interests in humanity, He will faithfully discipline us. He frequently does this with pain, often relational pain. Strongly held religious opinions about Scripture are often a mask to hide personal brokenness. We would rather be “right” about a point of doctrine than “healed and whole.”  Being right about doctrine does not cost us our pride. Being made whole does.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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Love the Truth and Truthfully Love

All over the world today the body of Christ is awakening to a new understanding and experiential awareness of the love of God the Father, the grace of God, and the significant change from the Old to the New Covenant. This is great! It’s a much-needed antidote for decades (if not centuries) of inaccurate misrepresentation of God as harsh, judgmental, and demanding—an eternally unhappy heavenly taskmaster with a whip and measuring stick.

However, just as there was a snake in Eden, there’s a snake lurking in the current renewed emphasis. If we’re not careful, ruination is ahead. The snake in the present hour is the tendency in the Church throughout the ages to swing from one extreme to the other in reaction to past under or over emphasis on any given facet of God’s character. The hazard regarding the love of God is embracing a concept that is Western, sentimental, psychological, individualized, and emotive rather than biblical.

God’s love must always be understood and presented within the context of Christ and Him crucified.  God’s love may accrue  to us without merit, but that does not mean it is without cost. The reason we can experience God’s love is because a Lamb was slain before the foundations of the world.[i] If we do not maintain a Christ-centered presentation of the love of God, we will drift into some very unhealthy places both objectively regarding Truth, and subjectively in our own experience. Let’s remember some things from the Scripture.

Jesus

No one would argue that Christ spoke of and embodied the Father’s love and our sharing in it.[ii] It is, however, very significant that when the Scripture describes the essence of what that love looks like in human form, love itself is not mentioned. Jesus is described as being full of grace and truth.[iii] There’s no mention of love. As the incarnation of God’s love, Jesus called people names and insulted them. [iv] That does not fit our cultural definition of love. Our culturally conditioned ideas of the nature of the love of God in Christ Jesus bear no resemblance, at all, to the biblical Jesus.

It is also fascinating to me to read the words of someone who saw Him, heard Him, handled Him, lived and ate with Him, and find no reference to the love of God in the experience of it[v] – just reference to light and life. That such an experience with the Living Word would not include by default, a primary revelation of the love of God, is inconceivable to us today.

Paul and John

Paul did not preach the “love of God” as a topic.  He preached (and admonished others to do the same) Christ and Him crucified, which is the manifestation of the love of God. Paul did not admonish young preachers to “make sure you preach the love of God to them.” His last words to Timothy were to remember the incarnation and resurrection of Christ,[vi] and the judgment at His appearing again.[vii] In Acts 20:21-25 we have Paul’s departing words to the Ephesian elders. He would never see them again. If there was ever a moment to emphasize the importance of preaching the love of God, this would have been it. Instead, Paul tells us the essence of his message:

  • Repentance toward God, faith toward Christ
  • The gospel of the grace of God
  • The kingdom of God

John is amazing on the essence of the “message” from his perspective. In 1John 1:5ff he describes it in terms of light, darkness, truth, sin, forgiveness, blood, cleansing, fellowship, etc. There’s no mention of the love of God until he starts talking about obedience in the truth and our responsibility to one another.  Wow, the so-called “apostle of love” himself, not even mentioning it in priority as we would.   He presents the message first, then in later chapters, its source and outcome: love. We can argue the significance and application, but not the facts.

The Book of Acts

As much as the Scriptures speak of the love of God, the specific phrase “God loves you” is never used. It was never preached by any apostle.  One would think by looking at the road signs of churches in America that “God loves you” is the apostolic message.  I once did a categorized compilation of all the messages preached by the apostles in the book of Acts. I was shocked to discover what they preached, and what they didn’t. The love of God is not mentioned once in the book of Acts. They preached (primarily) the resurrection.[viii] That’s a record of 30+ years of apostolic preaching and God’s love is never mentioned.

Now, this will get people squirming (maybe manifesting?) Again, we can (and probably will!) argue about the significance and how it applies, but it is a fact. It is irrational for us to have New Testament Church and book of Acts expectations for revival, if we don’t even preach what they preached in the Book of Acts!

God’s love accrues to us as the result of the apostolic preaching of Christ and Him crucified, raised from the dead.  “God loves you” is not the apostolic message. It is the apostolic motive behind the message[ix] and the experiential fruit of the message. Yes, God is holy love, and that love is manifested at Calvary. We appropriate it through faith in Christ’s work, not as a freestanding metaphysical cosmic commodity that exists solely so we can feel good about ourselves.

One Another

Certainly there’s a healing and therapeutic element that accrues to us personally as we understand and enter into the wonderful love of God. However, the love of God in its full expression involves more than the joy and psychological benefits that accrue to me personally.  The love of God is manifested by our care for others. We experience the biblical love of God in one-anotherness, not in Western individualism. Our relationship to one another determines if we are in the biblical love of God or not.[x] The biblical love of God is not some warm feeling I may subjectively experience in a meeting after a preacher has worked the crowd into an amening frenzy. The biblical love of God derives from Calvary and is expressed through Calvary, in and through you and I.

Conclusion

Love never fails and is the cement of maturity. However, love is not an emotive feeling. In John 3:21: truth is a verb—something we cannot even express in English. The tense is “truthing it” (KJV: doing truth). Someone who is “truthing it” is abiding in the light, and the love of God.[xi] Truth and love are inextricably linked. Sacrifice truth, and you do not have the love of God. Any concept of the love of God that diminishes the importance of truth is not biblical.

I realize that as soon as these things are said, many voices will be raised about how doctrine divides, and doctrine is the problem, and we just need to emphasize love and not theology, etc. These are all subjective comments from individuals’ past bad experience. The Scriptures themselves speak favorably about the role of doctrine and the apostolic commands to maintain it. Any expression of love that requires the diminishing or downplaying of doctrine and a commitment to Apostolic Truth is not genuine love from God, regardless of how wonderful it may feel. By doctrine I do not mean monolithic agreement to every nuance of Scripture, or the dead cerebral presentation of propositional truths. I mean a commitment to, reverence for, and the primacy of the disciplined study and presentation of Scripture and a relationship with Him who is the Truth. The Scripture is not an end in itself. The Scriptures are the revealer of Christ and point the way to have relationship with God and humanity through Him.

I am aware how threatening this article could be to many who are currently enjoying a wonderful and legitimate season of being renewed in the love of God. To them, it might sound like I am trying to take them back to some abusive experience and faulty understanding of God in their past.  I accept that many will misconstrue what I have said. However, I believe I have accurately presented the Scriptural record. We either believe the Scriptures are unique, or we do not. If we don’t, well, the floodgates are open and nothing I say herein matters anyway.

I’m very concerned for unhealthy trends I see emerging across a broad spectrum of the body of Christ regarding the love of God.  Danger is lurking. Let’s not ruin something divinely prescribed for good with undisciplined attitudes toward Scripture and our own culturally influenced ideas about the nature of God’s love.


[i] Rev. 5:6.

[ii] John 17:21-23 for example.

[iii] John 1:14

[iv] Matt. 16: 23, John 8:44, Matt. 23:33, Luke 24: 25 KJV: “fools” – Gr. idiotes – English – idiots! – those who are morally and intellectually deficient and responsible for their condition. There are many other examples.

[v] 1 John 1:1-10.

[vi] 2Timothy 2:7-9

[vii] 2Timothy 4:1 ff.

[viii] An Excel spreadsheet of my work in this regard is available to the interested upon request.

[ix] He loved us first when we did not love Him, and in His love He sent His son.

[x] John 2:711, 1John 3:16-17.

[xi] 1John 2:8-9.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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When Caution is a Vice

Any virtue can become a vice when not animated from Calvary and administered by the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is just that: of the SPIRIT. The fruit is not merely amplified and highly refined human personality attributes. “Very nice person” is not the tenth fruit of the Spirit. Jesus was decidedly not “nice.” Nice people do not get crucified. Jesus was full of the Spirit and the virtues of shepherd and prophet in Him were not in conflict. Both these qualities are to be reflected in His Body, the Church.

The virtues in our faith are characterized by great tension. For example, worship without service is self-deluding, intoxicating, religious narcissism. Service without worship is barren, striving, superficial, religious altruism:  the overflow of the anxious Adamic soul.

Our faith is both a rest and a race.[i] Without the Spirit, rest becomes passivity and the race becomes striving. Regrettably, there are individuals and groups that get a glimmer of one or the other of these legitimate virtues, build an identity around them, and engage in fractious and futile infighting. Rather than seeing each other as God-ordained complementary necessities making a whole together, the others are viewed as being of inadequate revelation, in error, in need of remediation, or worse . . . enemies. “Be more like us and you will really be on the “ins” with God.”  It’s common and tragic.

Without the Spirit’s ministry all virtues will degrade. Honesty becomes brutality, frugality becomes miserly, kindness becomes sentimentality, gentleness becomes timidity, courage becomes cheeky audacity, and so on. The virtues of wisdom, patience, and caution easily degenerate into vices, and when they do, the community of faith stagnates.

Elton Trueblood phrased it this way:

One of the most harmful forces in the spiritual life may be the counsel of prudence [caution, care, fear of making a mistake]. Whenever any exciting venture is proposed, there are always some to advise caution. The giving of cautious advice is the easiest and cheapest way of achieving a reputation for wisdom, because anyone can qualify.[ii]

There are times when patience becomes a positive vice, closely associated with cowardice.[iii]

A healthy body requires requires functionality of all its parts. God’s gracious provision within His body for avoiding community stagnation is the prophetic and apostolic ministries. In using these terms, I am not referring to the manipulative psychic prognosticating and the authority/honor/loyalty-intoxicated rubbish littering the contemporary landscape. I mean the real ministries characterized by Calvary love, power, service, and insignificance.

Among other virtues, the prophetic and apostolic graces provide Spirit-wrought energy for progress, change, challenge, risk, and adventure. Without them, the community will inevitably settle for the virtues of nurture, care, and relational fellowship at the expense of discipline, sacrifice, and mission. Nurture and care will become dominantly detrimental and the grace gifts and ministries reflecting these virtues will become very unhealthy in their expression.

Gentle shepherding is not the totality of the leadership motif presented in either the life of Jesus or the full testimony of the New Testament. The realization of God’s purpose requires more than gentleness. It requires courage also.

Progress (in any human endeavor not just the kingdom) will upset someone, no matter how sensitively it is pursued and administered. The social scientists tell us that 66% of humanity instinctively dislikes and resists change from within their personality configuration.[iv] Add the tendency toward entrenchment in “religious” circles, throw in a pinch of devilish fear, a dash of leadership control and voila, we have a first-class stronghold of stagnation.  It’s not possible to progress without upsetting someone.

One reason among many that the legitimate expressions of apostolic and prophetic ministries are either denied or resisted is because their functional presence will remove strongholds and upset people. Upset people leave, taking their money with them. Need I say more? The uncomfortable dots are easily connected.

The prophetic and apostolic ministries help maintain spiritual momentum. Without them, the community will degenerate into an assembly of nice people, trying to be nicer, enjoying each other’s company, with just enough sporadic acknowledgment of missions to soothe the conscience. God gave a diversity of gifts and ministries for a reason:  they are all needed. Let’s not excise some gifts through unbelief, fear, or reaction to past abuse, and over-emphasize others because they are somehow perceived to be “safer.”

Conclusion

It’s irrational for us to have New Testament expectations, if our values and methods are not the same as the New Testament apostles. The expression of God’s kingdom that many of us hope to see in our lifetimes will not occur within the margins of American (Western) cultural value systems of success and social propriety.

Progress and advance require more than prescribed caution. In a season of realizing inheritance, Joshua was exhorted to be strong and courageous, not cautious and prudent.[v] The first evidence recorded in the New Testament of being filled with God’s Spirit is boldness/courage, not decorum and sensitivity.[vi] If caution were an ultimate kingdom virtue, Abraham would never have left Ur. Do not sacrifice the vitality of faith on the altar of prudence and caution. It is simply not the season for it. Let the Spirit marry wisdom and faith. He is the only One who can do it.


[i] Hebrews 4:9-11.

[ii] Trueblood, Elton. Alternative to Futility. New York: Harper. 1948, 106.

[iii] Ibid. 107.

[iv] DiSC personality profile analysis.

[v] Joshua 1:6.

[vi] Acts 2.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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Does “Religion” Cause Wars and Death?

In interactions with unbelievers, it’s common for the phrase “religion has caused so many wars and deaths” to come up in the conversation. This is aimed primarily at Christianity because of popular misconceptions concerning the Crusades. The problem is, it is a factually baseless and persistent myth.

The 20th century (1900-2000) was by far the bloodiest century in all of recorded history.  It has been called the “Genocidal Century.” Historians refer to this aspect of this period as a “Hemoclysm” (“blood flow”).  By taking a look at the lives taken during the 20th century we can get a more accurate picture of the true motivations for the killing of other human beings. The 20th century has seen 180,000,000 people murdered. Here is a summary of  just the top five “killers” of the 20th century which account for 150,000,00 of those deaths.

1) World War I, 15 million (Geopolitical)
2) Russian Civil War, 9 million (Lenin: 4 million) (political)
3) Stalin’s purges, 25 million (consolidation of political power)
4) World War II, 50 million (Geopolitical)
5) Mao Zedong (Cultural Revolution in China), 50 million.

These are ONLY the top five 20th century totals, caused by atheists and for geopolitical secular reasons. Lets add in some others:

Mongol Conquests: 35-40,000,000 deaths
African Slave trade: 20,000,000 deaths
Taiping Rebellion: 20,000,000 deaths

Now, let’s take a look at deaths caused by religion.  The first thing you will notice is how far back you have to go to hit some significant numbers:

All Crusades (both sides, Christian and Muslim) 900,000-1,000,000 deaths
The Inquisition: 250-350,000 deaths
Salem Witch Trials: 19 deaths
30 Years War – 7,000,000 (arguably geopolitical reasons, with religious undertones)

Deaths due to “religion:” approx. 1.3 million ( 8.3 million if you count the 30 Years War)

While any death of a human being in the name of Christ or religion is a moral travesty, the popular notion that “more people have been killed in the name of religion . . .”  is  is pure nonsense. Deaths due to “religious reasons” are less than 1% (5.5% if including the 30 Years War) of the top five secular or atheists murderers of the 20th century. The 20th century secularists and atheists make everyone else look like amateurs in the war and death department.

So the next time you are at a party or in a dialog with an unbeliever and this tired cliché is brought out, respond with some facts. A lie, if repeated often enough, becomes truth in the minds of hearers.

I am indebted to William Suttles, Ph.D., Raleigh, NC,  for source data.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

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