Friday, May 21, 2010

The Error of Egotism by Greg Austin & Don Atkin

I’m So Glad I’m a Part of the Family of . . .


Greg Austin

Years ago I met a disciple of Hare Krishna on Alamo Street in San Antonio, Texas. He was excitedly preaching his “gospel,” and I attempted to engage him in conversation regarding the claims of Jesus Christ. He quickly informed me, “We can’t talk: You can’t even understand the language I speak. I am so far superior to you in the exalted Lord Krishna that it would be like a Ph.D. trying to explain the theory of relativity to a Kindergartner.”
Not only was my Krishna friend wrong, he was glaringly and egotistically wrong.
Today’s church is difficult to confine by any single, simplistic definition, because so many appendages have appeared within the body.   Some of these are artificial limbs while others are life receiving and life giving. A challenge is to see and to know the genuine by its fruit.
For the purpose of this discussion, let us consider two prominent courses, which we will broadly call Traditional-Institutional and Emergent.
Something is troubling concerning some on both sides of this “church-coin;” those who have departed their former church forms for a wineskin more to their liking and perhaps more of God’s making, and those who remain in their traditional, institutional church fellowships. It is the all too frequent puffed up and conceited attitude that accompanies their departure from old forms or their continuation among tradition.
Regardless of the titles these forms are given, they are often descriptions that emphasize the superiority of one form of “church” over another form of “church.” It’s the heart and not the intellect that is revealed in the denunciations of old or new and the sometimes-sophomoric attitudes of superiority in our belief that we have been “elevated” in our understanding of the right and proper church.
The buzz words, organic, simple, house, you name it “church” almost anticipate spiritual advantage over those poor dullards stuck in the four walls of a dead, dry denominational church.
On the other side of the house are the blanket epithets: misleading, utter folly, New Agers! Apostates! Christ Rejecters! And on both sides of the issue is the same not so obscure insinuation:  “Poor, pathetic things. They think they know God!”
These negative overtones come from the conspicuous smugness with which those who participate in the “traditional” church are summarily dismissed as being spiritual simpletons, and emergents are consigned to the fires of hell for their perceived apostasy.
The typical retort I’ve heard from emergent folks is, “They’ve (the traditionalists) been captivated by a spirit of pride,” or “control,” or “ecumenism,” or “They’re just dumb sheep, being led to the slaughter.” Traditionalists can be a bit more succinct in their judgments: “All emergents are of the devil!”
Leaders of traditional forms, especially, have been the target of much “sanctified wrath.” The “One Man Show,” the self-important “pastor-king” is seen bilking and fleecing his ignorant flock of spiritual fools for his personal gain.
And while there are legitimate grounds to reject the “one man” solo, senior pastor exemplar, and while there are indeed charlatans in preacher’s vestments, poking fun at or worse, denigrating those who see their calling of God to be pastoral in nature is to commit a more grievous error than misinterpreting a biblical term. Remember, the scriptures do indeed assert, “He gave some pastors . . .” [1]
There are multiplied scores of honest, meek and humble men and women - pastors of traditional churches - who daily and without fanfare go about the business of preaching the gospel to the poor; bringing healing to the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.
There are more than a few of these who conduct such ministry on pauper’s wages, and do so without complaint about being provided no retirement account, no health insurance, or having no HR department where complaints and injustices may be addressed. They do what they do simply because they believe the Master has desired it of them.
I ask: Is one whose life-purpose is to set at liberty those who are oppressed [2]
so terribly wrong, to be so despised, even if he or she has been mislabeled or misled regarding a system (but not a Savior)?
There also are great numbers of men and women - brothers and sisters - who find acceptance, sympathetic hearts and”rightness” about worshiping with others outside the traditional norms of church experience. These cannot be discounted as merely wild-eyed revolutionaries or crazed and deluded escapees from the religious institution. There are myriad emergent people who simply love Jesus and want to see the world transformed by His resurrection power. They have not abandoned the faith of the fathers; “the faith once delivered,” but they have rejected false and man-made systems. To cast them into a pit of suspicion or denunciation is to err in the most grievous manner.
To be sure, there are emergent people who have indeed leaped off the cliff of convention and who have embraced the weird, the mysterious, and the decidedly unbiblical apparitions claiming to be guides into a “deeper realm” of spiritual truth.
My purpose here is not to debate the merits or evils of either camp, traditional or emergent, or to comment on the extreme fringe of either. My cry is rather that we might all conduct ourselves in humility, in love, in Christ-like grace; to seek to come to the unity of the faith in Christ whatever our argument or penchant may be.
All of us who might identify with any conceivable group on either side of the traditional / emergent issue must understand that none of us is privy to an inside secret that the poor bums, stuck in the other, “pseudo-church” haven’t heard, or haven’t believed, or worse, aren’t worthy of hearing.
It happens among the avant-garde, emergent, organic, simple, house folks.
It happens to the denominational, traditional folks.
It happens among the so-called “apostolic” and “prophetic” subgroups.
It happens to the happily liberated who dot the landscape in increasing numbers every day.
They’re somehow smarter, more spiritually minded or more worthy of being “in the know” and God has somehow chosen them to be the wise ones, the informed ones, the “right ones.” Everybody else is spiritual chopped liver.
God help us.
It’s a spirit, an attitude so foreign to God and to His heart that it must be called what it is - devilish.
The spirit of superiority, this smug attitude of spiritual elitism is nothing new to the world or to the church:
Our ancient brother addressed the issue as he wrote to the fledgling and exciting Corinthian church: “ . . . it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.” [3]
He is not finished: “ . . . each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’" [4] He had implored in verse 10 “that there be no divisions among” them.”
Division: The very antithesis to Jesus’ heart cry to His Father, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” [5]
And now, so soon after Jesus asks for unity, Paul asks, “Is Christ divided?” [6]
It is worth notice that Paul deals with this problem first among a number of topics he will discuss with the church. Among these were such difficulties as carnality, immorality - “such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!” [7]
There were the issues of fornication, of bringing fellow believers before secular courts, marriage and divorce, food offered to idols, abuse of the Lord’s Supper. The pronounced lack of love among these Holy Spirit gifted saints was (and remains today) a monumental problem in the church. There was the issue of wrong understanding of the resurrection of the dead, and as now, there was the glossolalia debate.
All these were “big” issues; each of them begged an answer. Yet Paul places the problem of division among the church in first place - first not in order of occurrence, but first in order of priority.
Until the issue of division is dealt the deathblow, none of these other wrongs can be successfully righted.
Paul gets right to the subject of “wisdom.” This was an interesting choice for the apostle, because he knew that at the heart of the “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos” or “Cephas” issue was pseudo-wisdom; an artificial sense of smartness, which is, in reality, sheer stupidity and deadly arrogance.
Here are some things that come to mind today regarding the “traditional church/new church” subject:
u I Don’t Know Your Heart, and You Don’t Know Mine - Only God knows the human heart. Scripture makes plain, not even you know your heart, nor do I know mine. [8]
We must rely entirely upon the Creator of the heart to interpret, reveal and cleanse the heart which is black with the sin-nature and which continues to resurrect itself even after we have surrendered it to God.
The best course for any follower of Christ is to tend his own garden, to allow the Father to guard his own heart, to pray for others, and to leave them to God’s dealings and loving wisdom.
u If They’re Not Against Us, They Must Be For Us. Jesus’ disciples saw others, “not of them” who did not follow (the twelve and Jesus) casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John informs Jesus that he rebuked these “outsiders,” and Jesus responds with a rebuke of His own: "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.” [9]
Before allowing criticism to frame your understanding of someone involved in traditional church ministry, ask yourself, “Are souls coming to Christ?” “Is God being glorified?” “Are these worshipping Jesus?” – even if they aren’t worshipping as you prefer to worship – Too many believers think that their methodology of worship is somehow related to the authenticity of worship. Methodology is nigh on meaningless when compared with the subject of authenticity.
If people are coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior; if they are learning to live by faith in the finished work of Calvary, “Do not forbid them . . . for he who is not against us is on our side.”
u Be Thankful for the Light God has Given You and for the Light He Has Given Those Who Are “Not of You.”
There are legitimate arenas, spheres of understanding in which God has blessed with light and with revelation knowledge. There are some assemblies, gatherings of God’s people where great revelation is shared, where prophetic truth is declared, where apostolic grace is present. These venues are more attractive (to many) than the ancient Sunday morning “church” experience – the singing of a couple of songs, the reading of the weekly announcements, the repetition of a scripture verse and the dull monotony of a memorized sermon before launching out to the local buffet, and then repeating the same experience on the following Sunday, ad infinitum.
If God has given you light – His revelation knowledge, be thankful for it, rejoice because of it, but thank Him also for even the limited light glowing faintly in your neighbor’s window.
u Live in the Grace God Has Given You. If others are in error, pray for them. Trust that God loves them and will give them the same Light He has graciously provided for you. You can’t talk a man out of his “truth.” Neither can you argue a man into your “truth.”  The thing needed for change of mind and heart is the light of God’s grace in the heart of man.
The scriptures indicate that no one can come to God “unless the Father” “draws him.” [10]
All the arguing in the world will not change a man’s opinion. It’s true, “A man convinced against his will is not convinced.” [11]
Ask yourself how you received a revelation of God’s “more perfect” way. Pray that He will likewise issue forth like grace to those ensnared in any dead form.
God is No Respecter of Persons. He loves every man equally. God doesn’t have “favorites,” neither does He have “special” groups of insiders, those in the know, those who are somehow elevated to a plane unseen by lesser men.
Paul testified, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” [12]
At its Heart it’s a Heart Issue. It seems we always have to go looking - to ask, “Where’s my heart?” because the heart is desperately wicked; it wants to go its own way. The Message gives Jeremiah 17:9 like this, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
We are encouraged to “present (our) bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” [13]
Daily we must check our hearts with the Heart Surgeon. Each morning and often throughout the day, we must allow examination by the Great Physician. Only a heart recently touched by the finger of God is a heart capable of right thinking and right attitude.
If God Is Doing a “New Thing,” If God is revealing a “New Wineskin,” So Be It; so let it come, so let us receive it. But for the sake of Heaven’s testimony and for our own spiritual health, as well as the hope for those we deem “stuck” in an outdated vehicle, let us allow God to set them free as we rejoice in the liberty given us and remain thankful for His amazing grace.
Paul began his assistance to the Corinthian church with the desire to kill a divisive spirit and to encourage life. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad place for modern day apostles to begin.





Don Atkin

·      Present your bodies a living sacrifice.
·      Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.[14]
Forty years ago, I knew EVERYTHING.  Thirty years ago, I knew MOST things.  Twenty years ago, I knew SOME things.  Ten years ago, I knew VERY LITTLE.  Today, I’m with Paul:
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
For me, decreasing so that Jesus might increase in me has been a lifelong challenge.  Whatever the question, I was the answer (at least in my mind).  I am so thankful for those dear, patient saints who put up with me during those early years.
I specifically remember * (almost thirty years ago) being part of a local group of ministers who met together for fellowship and prayer each week. I always had the answers—until, one day, when the Holy Spirit was ready to discipline me about ruling my own spirit.
He who rules his own spirit is better than he who takes a city.[15]
I already had visions of  “taking cities.” But was still very carnal—earthbound—in how that was to be accomplished.  The school of the Spirit was opening (for me) for a new session.  I had my first assignment:  “I want you to remain silent for four of these weekly meetings, beginning today.”
Someone asked, “Where does the Bible say _______________________?”  I immediately responded with book, chapter and verse.  Conviction enveloped me.  I was GUILTY to the max!  “Oh, Father.  Please forgive me!  “No problem, My son.  Your four weeks can begin next week.”  BTW, I was wrong in the Scripture I referenced, adding to my humiliation.
It took me seven painful weeks to learn this lesson.  Ruling our spirits is a primary governmental (kingdom) essential.  By so doing we are able to rightly steward divine truth, the mysteries of the kingdom.
The high road that leads toward the oneness of the body of Christ is paved with sincere humility and navigated by diligence and discipline.  By the grace of God, I am what I am.
Jesus—the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world[16]--has been, is now, and will be forever, the foundation of our gospel[17] and the Head of His body, the church.[18]  This has been, is now, and will be forever, the Seed[19] of eternal truth.  “I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”[20]—I AM, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.[21] 


Let’s look to Jesus in the present perfect tense.  His sacrificial death was a reality in the mind of eternal God from the foundation of the world.  God was not surprised by Adam’s fall or Israel’s failure.  Provision had already been written into the schematics of God’s master plan for His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 
The time/space limitations of our humanity have been swallowed up into the context of God’s eternal personhood.  Jesus—current fix for all generations—reaches both backward and forward from Calvary’s cross, to draw those who believe unto eternal life in Him.[22]
The bronze altar in the Outer Court of Moses’ Tabernacle[23] was a type and shadow of the cross/crucifixion. The cross of Calvary was Jesus’ springboard to victory, the appropriate prototype for all mankind.[24]
Our cross is the ante-type, and our springboard to victory!
“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him.”[25]
There’s a whole lot of mocking going on!  There’s a whole lot of unfinished business in the church!  The way to royalty is through the cross.  When leaders step away from the cross to judge and criticize brethren or to quibble over paradigms, they leave their crowns on the mercy seat.
The only recourse or remedy is to return to the mercy seat through repentance, and in the hope of having the plank removed from our own eyes.[26] This is the only way that we might be renewed in hope, and graced once again to obey the new commandment—that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.[27]


Above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”[28]
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it.  Love makes up for practically anything.[29]
First priority—above all things—most of all—be proactive in sustaining fervent love for one another.  Do so as if your life depends upon it.  The resources are available (in resurrection life) for us to obey in faith and to find our delight in releasing this love among one another.  Love has taken up permanent residence in us, and is always available to fill the place we give Him.  We are without excuse.
Jesus will meet us at the cross, be with us in dying to self, and bring us forth into newness of life.[30]  He is the way, the truth and the life—the access to the Father.[31]  If we want to be in Him and have Him in us in resurrection power, then we must meet Him in the cross.  Authentic spiritual service precludes any other options. 
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.[32]


The bronze altar (typifying humanity) is immediately available to us in the outer court.  We leave all of our human judgments and other limitations there on the altar, by faith, and move into the Holy Place, where the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us.  It is there in the enlightened realm of the Holy Place that we find our particular identity and placement in Him, ala the golden table of shewbread.
Whenever we step out of that place (backslide) and begin again to judge others, we are no longer in the flow of the Spirit.  We’ve once again put off Christ, and clothed ourselves with filthy rags.  We have chosen to arm ourselves with the strength of our own flesh. 
We have returned to the dung heap, forsaking gold, silver and precious stones, and are building with wood, hay and straw.
Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it (the foundation—Christ) endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.[34]


There is a huge weight upon us; a stricter judgment awaits us.[35]
It is good (not) to do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.[36]
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.[37]
Perhaps our highest service to our King, perhaps our greatest devotion to our Father, is our example to the flock of God.  People need to see love in our actions and hear love in what we speak. 
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.[38]
  • Where there are brethren, fellowship them.
  • Where there are issues, deal with them. (Wisdom is ours for the asking.)
  • Where there are problems, solve them. (God has the solutions we need.)
  • Where there are differences, embrace them.  (God is not finished with us yet.)
We need to back into our brothers’ tents with blankets, and cover their nakedness![39]  Moreover, we should make tunics and linen trousers to cover their (our brothers’) nakedness, so that when they come near the altar to minister in the holy place, that they do not incur iniquity and die.[40] 
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.[41]

[1] Ephesians 4:11
[2] Luke 4:18
[3] 1 Corinthians 1:11
[4] 1 Corinthians 1:12
[5] John 17:21
[6] 1 Corinthians 1:13
[7] 1 Corinthians 5:1
[8] Jeremiah 17:9
[9] Mark 9:38-40
[10] John 6:44
[11] Dr. Laurence J. Peter
[12] 1 Corinthians 15:10
[13] Romans 12:1
[14] Romans 12:1-2
[15] Proverbs 16:32b
[16] Revelation 13:8
[17] 1 Corinthians 3:11
[18] Ephesians 1:22-23
[19] Galatians 3:16
[20] Revelation 1:8
[21] Hebrews 13:8
[22] John 3:14-15
 [23] Exodus 25-27
 [24] Hebrews 2:14-16
[25] Luke 14:27-29
[26] Matthew 7:1-5
[27] John 13:34-35
[28] 1 Peter 4:8
[29] I Peter 4:8 TM
[30] Romans 6:3-11
[31] John 14:6
[32] Galatians 2:20a
[33] Ephesians 4:14
[34] 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
[35] James 3:1
[36] Romans 14:21
[37] Matthew 18:6
[38] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
[39] Genesis 9:23
[40] Exodus 28:39-43
[41] 1 John 3:16

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