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The real church

Reformation and restoration is coming.

 By Andy Zoppelt

 When Martin Luther, in 1517, nailed his Ninety-Five thesis to challenge Pope Leo at the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, he wanted to remedy a religious system going awry. This lead to a period known as "The Reformation." Though it was called the reformation, there was much to be reformed. The reformation was quickly halted when the reformation turned to be a theological movement. There were more seeds of deception sown in that period than seeds of truth. Many of those seeds have come to haunt us in this day. Salvation, grace and faith had become no more than a system of theology void of real experience. The passive, lethargic, intellectual church of today finds it roots in the theology of that period.  The structure and format of the church during the reformation had experience little change. Men looked for teachers and "correct" doctrine. Debate, division and death to the dissenters followed its path. Though I believe in correct doctrine, but doctrine for the sake of doctrine was not the purpose of the Word of God. What we believe became more important than what we do with what we believe. The focus on the building and a strong one man leadership had not changed since the time of Constantine. We went from priest to preacher and never healed the clergy/laity gap that still exists today. Great teachers emerged and we worshipped their eloquence. Crowds jammed to hear these silver tongued orators and we built bigger buildings in celebration of our idols. Christianity became defined by men of skill and not men of power. We sought to be fed and not changed.  We sought doctrine and not holiness. We sought the definition of words and not the experience of those words. We talked of everything being free without cost. Our lackadaisical Laodicea church in America found its birth in the reformation period. Though men discovered justification by faith, they stripped the responsibility and works out of faith. Faith lost its "verb" root...."believing,"  and became nothing more than mental accent. 

 I would say, the present deterioration of much of what we believe from the scriptures would indicate a need for a major restoration and not a reformation of theology alone. If we are to consider the church today in light of the New Testament church, we cannot help being overwhelmed with the vast difference... in all areas. We must face this truth without bias to the number of people involved, our emotions, the charisma of men, the teaching, our sincerity and the overall outward appearance of the church. God's word must be the determining factor and we must accept it as truth and its warnings as utmost.

 I would like you to closely examine what I have written and compare it to the scriptures with an open mind. We cannot make assumptions and judgments concerning the church based on anything else. If we want to really know the condition of the church today, we must look to scripture and scripture alone.

 The Archbishop of Mainz by the name of Amama, coming upon a Bible and looking into it, expressed himself thus: "Of a truth I do not know what book this is, but I perceive everything in it is against us." (Bennet's Memorial of the Reformation, p. 20; Edin., 1748)

 If we are to know the truth about our salvation and the church, one must look closely and examine the real church of the New testament to be able to discern the difference in the church we have today. The scripture is the only source to make such a judgment.

Jesus warned His disciple against deception, "Watch out that you are not deceived." (Luke 21:8).

Much of what we have done with the gospel has been to compromise it for the purpose of pleasing the numbers and to make it easy for one to be a member of the church. We have preached a faith without works and reduced faith to a mere confession, to knowledge and mental assent.

We have made "what we believe" more important than "what we do" with what we believe. Because of this, we have a belief that knowledge = spirituality.

 To the early Christians, the bible was a book that told them how to live with God, their brothers, their families and the world. The bible speaks of love, encouragement, commitment, loyalty and worship in a context of relationships. The focus is not on the pastor and the building, but on personal growth and bonding of relationships.

 How could our family structure survive outside of intimate relationships? The church was meant to be a model for all relationships; it should be the place where we learn to relate, converse in love, forgive each other and where we learn to minister to one another, etc., etc.. In Ephesians 5, where Paul is instructing the husband and wife of their biblical duties, he concludes with this statement:

 "This is a profound mystery (relationship between husband and wife)-- but I am talking about Christ and the church." (Eph 5:32, NIV)

 You might say that the greater (the church) includes the lesser (the marriage). When the church is full of love, it becomes the first line of defense for the marriage. Consider the number of couples that fall away after going through a long grueling struggle, only to find that there is no one to give them the needed support.

 Love is the defining word that describes the true church

When the nations observed the early Christians loving one another and sacrificing to help each other, they responded in amazement at their love. regarding the early church, a man named Aristides, sent by the Emperor Hadrian to spy out those early Christians, returned with this testimony: "Behold! How they love one another."

 Example of the love in the early church

 1 Thess 1:2-3, 8 –9, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.... Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.  For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God," NKJV

 2 Thess 1:3-4, "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, (Why?) because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,  so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure" NKJV

 I can't think of a single church in America where the world looks upon it and says, "behold how they love one another." A religion lacking the ultimate principle of Love coming from God through man is not New Testament Christianity.

 Body ministry:

Our biological bodies demand that we possess both function and purpose. Today the Body of Christ in America possess little or neither. The early church stressed coming together: they met from house to house sharing with one another. The church (people) went to homes; today the homes (people) go to church (building). In the early church Saul (Paul) went from house to house to persecute the church. Today we would have to go from church to church to persecute the house. In the early church everyone felt and knew the church was the people. No one went to church, they were the church.

 "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (saints are to work the ministry), for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Why?) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine (which we do), by the trickery of men (sincere pastors), in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up (us together) in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Eph 4:11-16, NKJV

"To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known (How?) by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,  according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eph 3:8-11, NKJV

"How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification." 1 Cor 14:26, NKJV

 "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Eph 2:20-22, NKJV

 From "the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God." Col 2:19, NKJV

 "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function (How is it that we don't see all members functioning?), 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 (We {understood}) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry (serving others), let us use it in our ministering (serve others); he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts (comes along to console and exhort), in exhortation; he who gives (giving to those in need), with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." (Rom 12:4-8, NKJV)

"But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things (through people), distributing to each one individually as He wills. 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many (diverse in ministry), are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one (pastor) member but many." (1 Cor 12:7-14, NKJV)

 "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Eph 1:22-23, NKJV)

 "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (body ministry), singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Col 3:15-17, NKJV)

 "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.'  9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:8-11, NKJV)

"Grace," "Glorified," "one another," "one body," "having gifts," do you see it? Grace and truth will lead us to be like Jesus.

 The real temple of God, the people, are being destroyed for the sake of "our" church buildings. No greater heresy has been foster on the people than the institutionalization of His body, the deceptive changing of the focus from the people to the building and the one man minister.

 We fail to realize that unity is not a doctrine for information, it is what we should be doing. Love is not a great sermon title, it is a great commandment from Jesus that solidifies the Christian experience.  Love is the evidence of our being Christians. If we do not participate in loving others, we are betraying ourselves and sabotaging any real experience that we could be experiencing. It is only through love that we can know Him and build the church.

 It is difficult to visualize how anyone could affect the thinking of the American church and cause its followers to return to the biblical pattern. We will have to surrender our traditional system of doing church and follow the apostolic traditions.

  Luke 7:31-32, "To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'" (NIV)

 We have created a "user friendly" religion built on false freedom centered on the uncrucified flesh. We have created a man-pleasing gospel centered on man's opinions. If God rose up a prophet and challenged us today, could we hear him? Would we search the scriptures in search of truth? Would we follow a man, the crowds and presume a path of least resistance? 

Listen to what Jesus had to say to the churches as they began to fall away:

 The church in Ephesus
Rev 2:4, 5, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; (So what is He going to do if they don't?) or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand (the symbol of them being a church) out of its place-- unless you Repent" (NAU)

 The church in Laodicea,
Rev 3:16-17, "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." (NAU)

 Where are we in light of the above warnings coming from Jesus Himself?

Clergy/Laity
In the bible a name often points to the character of a person or a movement. For example in Revelation 2:13, we have the name Antipas, the name means "against all." It depicts a man who has made an uncompromising stand against all, all that is not of God. Jesus made special notice of Antipas,' he was recognized as a great martyr. The Lord changed Jacob's name from Jacob to Israel to send Jacob and the world a message. Evidence abounds on this subject, in Jesus' seven letters to the seven churches, we find the above words to the church at Ephesus and Pergamos, "... the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." Make a special note that Jesus hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. If Jesus hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans, it would be to our advantage to seriously look into its meaning and to know what these "deeds" are. To be involved and practice such deeds is to be involved in something that Jesus hates.

 The root word comes from Greek nikos, to conquer or overcome, and lao, which means people. Our word laity comes from lao. The two words combined constructs a statement: to conquer the people. The people were no longer one people, but were divided into clergy and laity, of which the clergy has divided us into denomination and nondenominations. We see in 3 john that Diotrephes loved "to have the preeminence." He sought to be separate from the people to have the preeminence, the prominence. The Nicolaitans were those who conquered the people. The people no longer had a function and purpose in the meetings and were quietly placed in a passive and subservient rule as an audience seeking to be entertained (fed). The Clergy won and we lost. We have become speechless and mindless souls in need of a baby sitter.

A better interpretation of the original for Nicolaitans would be "those who conquer or prevail over the people." This established a distinct class of clergy with specific responsibilities, authority and qualifications. This led up to a kind of "pecking order" within the Body of Christ": elders to bishops to a Pope.  Jesus hated this competitive and authority structure and warned the people to "Repent; or else I will come unto you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."

God hates the ambitious jockeying and jostling for religious power and preeminence. The scribes and Pharisees loved respected and exalted "positions." The religiously ambitious seek to be called "Pastor." To be front center stage. Everyone comes to hear the one person.... the teacher.

 Matt 23:1-12, "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.' (Teacher, teacher) But you, do not be called 'Rabbi' (teacher); for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (NKJ)

 The ministry was not meant to represent titles of ascending order; it was to define the responsibility and function of those chosen of God. If John is a carpenter, we don't call him carpenter, we call him John. Paul was an apostle, not by title but by his gifting from God. Titles have given the leadership of the Church a triumphal victory or conquest over the laity. They no longer serve to bring the people into ministry (Eph 4), but have dominated the entire ministry. The Laity is a silent submissive audience, stripped of all its function and purpose for the sake of one man's rule and ministry. These leaders have become "Lords over God's heritage."

 The present-day Nicolaitan attitude is seen in the drive for self-importance within them, they want to be called Pope, Your Eminence, Cardinal, Bishop, Father, Reverend, Reverend Mr., Pastor, and Minister with a capital M. The competition for recognition is so fierce today that many clergy persons want to be called "Doctor."

 Itching ears
2 Tim 4:3-4, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (NIV)

Are we jumping from church to church seeking to be "fed?"

"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb 10:25, NKJV)

 We have lost the meaning of "ourselves together."  Who is "ourselves?" Is our meetings some nondescript meeting where if some person doesn't show up, is has no effect. Is our presence only a duty of attendance? If I was speaking of my family and told my children not to forsake the assembling of "ourselves," wouldn't they know exactly who the "ourselves" were? If the hand failed to show up in a joint connection with my body, wouldn't my whole body know it and miss it? The people have lost their purpose, connection and therefore their relevance. We only "go" to church, rather than "be" church because of ignorance.

Teaching has become the focus on our going to church. The messenger and message has become the defining word of whether or not we are being fed.

 Our search for a place and seeking has nothing to do with finding our function within the body. We instead, are looking for a place with all the right programs to entertain us and satisfy us. Our passivity and audience-driven participation has led to the lethargy and indifference of the people. God forbid our coming together should depend on our being there and our being a part of the meeting.

 If you feel my position somewhat askew, read this statement made by the great revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill:

"The church as we know it today seems a million miles from the New Testament church. That may be a great generalization, but I'll stand on it. There is a gulf between our average Christianity and the church of the New Testament that makes the Grand Canyon look like a cavity in someone's tooth."

 Consider Charles Finney and his position on the meaning of salvation.

"The Church is now filled up with hypocrites, because people were never made to see that unless they made an entire consecration of all to Christ - all their time, all their talents, and all their influence - they would never get to heaven. Many think they can be Christians, and yet dream along through life, and use all their time and property for themselves, only giving a little now and then, just to save appearances, and when they can do it with perfect convenience. But it is a sad mistake, and they will find it so, if they do not employ their energies for God. And when they die, instead of finding heaven at the end of the path they are pursuing, they will find hell there."

 Our gospel and church life is poison-steeped in division and doctrine. Our gospel is fun, it is entertaining and it is sterile. We have no King and therefore no kingdom. We need desperately to read our bibles and believe what we read and not read into it what we already believe.

 Perhaps you feel that this is making a mountain out of a molehill. Well, show me the beef. I have observed the church for 40 years; I have seen fighting, unforgiveness, indifference, splits, doctrinal debating, betrayal, powerlessness, sickness, emotional disorder, unfriendliness, disobedience to God's word and work, unruliness, unfaithfulness, false security, false gifts, and hypocrisy.

 Hear the cry of Habakkuk,
"Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife (division), and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Hab 1:2-4, NIV)

 My heart longs for that city whose builder and maker is God. I am drunk from religion and stagger from its intoxication. The world laughs at our folly, we cry for prayer in the school and we don't have prayer in the church. We want political reformation while we live in luxurious passivity.

 Many have suffered more from the hands of the church than the hands of world. Where are the heroes, the role models, the faithful leaders, and the true shepherds who support body ministry?

 The Christian in the course of time has taken the liberty of softening and softening Christianity until at last we have contrived to make it exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament. Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men's lives. The apostasy from Christianity will not come about openly by everybody renouncing Christianity; no, but subtly by everybody assuming the name of being Christian.

 If the Devil devised a plan to destroy and divert Christianity, the church in America could not have been a better plan. We have salvation without repentance. we have water baptism without a death to self. We have programs instead of power. We have pew sitters instead of a functioning body. We have dynamic orators instead of bondslaves for Jesus. We have a building that we call the church. And further we have had the audacity to name His body into our brand of division or denomination. Our choirs, Sunday school, pastors, building funds, programs, etc, none of which are biblically based. Could Satan have devised a better plan and diversion?

 We have thrown out the weightier matters of true Christianity: the function of the body, unity, love, meetings with committed and devoted relationships.

 I realize much of what I have written is against the accepted norm of what we have accepted as church. I am standing on something so absolute, no one can deny. These following questions depict my point.

  • Is love important?

  • Is the unity of the body of Christ important?

  • Is fellowship and relationships important?

  • Is body function important?

If the answer is yes, the answer stands in condemnation of what we have done to the simplicity of Christ and the freedom and function of His church. We have taken those absolute condition, commandments, apostolic traditions, words of Jesus for His church and place them out of reach and replaced them with: pastor/audiences, programs, professional worship teams, Sunday school, youth programs, staff salaries, building funds, denominations, divisions, compromise, buildings, personalities, advertising, media funding, dove awards, indifference, lethargy, powerlessness....

 "Of all forms of deception self-deception is the most deadly, and of all deceived persons the self-deceived are the least likely to discover the fraud." Tozer

"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first." 2 Thess 2:2-3, NKJV

 In speaking of the last days, Jesus said, "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many (most) will grow cold." (Matt 24:11-12, NKJV)

May your heart truly be burdened for HIS real church.

Andy

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