Friday, May 30, 2014

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The Body Is Sick, and Getting Sicker

          Due to family medical history of intestinal cancer, I am a person that has to be diligent in having a colonoscopy every couple of years.  It was that time when I was due to have one, and had already seen the doctor to have the procedure scheduled.  However, the appointment had to be canceled because I had a heart attack and had to have a stint placed in one of my main arteries to my heart. By necessity, I was placed on a blood thinner.  As a result, the time between colonoscopies stretched out to a total of four years.  Finally, when the procedure was done, it was determined that there were about seven or eight polyps that had to be removed.  There was only one problem.  One polyp had become too large for a simple removal; therefore, a more extensive surgical procedure of removal of a large section of my intestine was required.  The biopsy determined that the polyp was at stage four; stage five would have been the beginning stage of cancer.  By God’s grace, I had escaped the big C.  As a result, I have had to increase the frequency of colonoscopies.  Six month after the operation one was done, and another has to be repeated one year later.

          I have told this story to demonstrate the importance of having a frequent wellness check for our physical health and well being.  Just as important, if not more so, is a regular checkup for our spiritual health well and being.  This same principle applies not only to the individual believer, but also to the church as a body.  The spiritual well being of the church, the body of Christ, does not just affect one or two individuals, but affects the well being of the entire body.  If sin is allowed to run rampant and unchecked, the whole body will become sick.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how to prevent this contamination of the “salt of the earth.”  In fact, the reason for writing this paper is my attempt to gain a godly perspective for solutions in an effort to prevent further contamination of the “salt of the earth.” Jesus is the great Physician and, if we don’t submit ourselves to a regular wellness check, what began as a little lump, could grow and metastasize, spreading throughout the whole system of the body, resulting in a terminal condition.    

          When we look at the sin that is practiced by those in the secular world, we shouldn’t be surprised when sin is being flaunted without one bit of shame.  They are only acting like sinners, people apart from the knowledge and will of God.  They know not God or His ways, so what they do or don’t do is only limited, or not limited, by their own opinions.  Neither am I of the opinion that Christians are somehow free of sin in their lives.  As long as we are in a human body, we will be subject to temptation and the struggle to resist the devil, the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the world.  None of us will be perfected until we see Jesus face to face, and He gives to each a glorified body.  We are commanded to resist the devil (through the power of the Holy Spirit), and he will flee.  We are urged to give no place to the devil, or any appearance of evil. 

          In order to resist temptation and remove the hold that sin has over each of us, we have to recognize the existence of sin as a problem and take measures to free ourselves from its hold over us.  Freedom from sin requires our cooperation with God in order to be set free.  A simplistic example of the battle against the corruption of the poison of sin is demonstrated in the constant struggle that some of us experience in the “battle of the bulge.”  If one goes on a diet in an attempt to resist gluttony, in an effort to become healthier by loosing weight, one must not stock up on a bunch of candy and snacks, and quantities of pasta, and pizza, etc.  That would be counter productive, setting yourself up for failure before you could even begin.  If a person has as an addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, stocking up on the substance, or hanging around other people who do, does not help in the struggle to resist it, but only encourages further indulgence and abuse of the very thing to which one is enslaved.

          I’m speaking now to those who profess to be followers of Christ.  In the body of Christ, we have come out of similar backgrounds of sinful history as the unbeliever has experienced.  We are all at varying stages in our level of striving toward a greater maturity in Christ.  Some of us are new born babes in the faith. Others may have reached the toddler stage, while others have gone deeper into the waters of seeking the Lord and learning more and more to have the mind of Christ and applying His Word to live it out in our life.  Some of us may be doing pretty well in one area, but may find that we are still continually struggling in another area.  Each of us has to submit our will to the will of the Lord daily. We must purposefully act in cooperation with Him, choosing to do that which is pleasing unto the Lord.  God is always at work in the process of doing a good work within each of us in the same measure that we are committed to following Him. Being transformed by the ‘washing of the water of the Word’ is a daily process.

          In today’s world, it is becoming less and less popular to recognize sin as sin.  We are busily at work creating other labels for sin for the purpose of playing mind games to provide excuses for decisions to do our own thing, whether it is acceptable unto God or not.  In so doing, we think we have taken ourselves off the hook, and removed the necessity to take responsibility for our own actions.  We diminish any need for confession of sin, negate our need for forgiveness, and remove any need for our Savior and what He accomplished for us on the Cross.  Christians are less and less concerned with being melted and molted into the image of Christ.  Less time is spent in being taught of the Lord that we might be transformed by the washing of the water of the word.  Instead, we spend more and more time soaking up the beliefs and ways of the world, being conformed by the intimidation and manipulation of the world.  We are the ones that are supposed to be followers of Christ.  We are supposed to be schooled in His word that we may be equipped to follow Him and become more like Him.  Instead, we are allowing ourselves as individuals, and as a body, to become corrupted by evil, deceiving ourselves and contributing to the spread of sin by increasing the acceptance of sin throughout the whole body.  No wonder it has become so hard to discern any difference at all between the believer and the unbeliever.  The word says we will be known by our fruit.  Oh we might be outwardly doing the ‘works,’ but inwardly the fruit is rotting, and our spiritual growth and development into a more Christ like nature is stunted and practically non existent.  We are becoming Christians in name only, having little or no image of Christ to shine forth from within.  Our churches are becoming of no more significance than the local community center, populated by community organizers and activists, giving the appearance of religion but lacking the power thereof.

          Belief in Christ must be combined with obedience unto Him; otherwise, we are no different than Satan.  Satan believes in Christ.  He can spout off the scriptures as well, or better, than any believer.  Remember, at one time, he was the most beautiful and knowledgeable angel of light.   The difference is that he will never obey Christ.  Christians are becoming weak and powerless because we have become comfortable with hearing parts of the word of God that make us feel good, producing a self centered body that is only willing to listen to messages about the love nature of God and less about his judgment.  Being fearful of God’s judgment or chastisement is a good thing.  It is meant to guard us from harm. We would rather discard the part about suffering His chastisement as a result of continually practicing that which is contrary to His word.  If His word doesn’t fit in with our present way of thinking and living, we don’t want to hear it.  Have you noticed that there is less and less being taught about Hell?  In fact, there are some pastors today who preach that there is no such thing as Hell.  They have tried to allegorize the word, and say that Hell is merely a spiritual symbol. We want to concentrate only on the things that seem to promise us health and wealth; the part that seems to focus on our life in this temporal world.  Satisfied to hear all about God’s love towards us, but unwilling to hear about suffering His judgment as a result of not obeying Him.  I ask each of us to consider what kind of results that would produce in raising our children if we never disciplined them when they went astray?       Without fearing (respecting) and obeying the Lord, we can have no understanding of the fact that the Lord is both a loving and a just God.  We can not have the one without the other.  Knowledge of His right to judge and chastise us is every bit as important as our knowledge of His love for us.  As we diminish our responsibility to obey Him, He will draw back His hedge of protection around us.  As that hedge is removed, we cause His judgment to come down upon us, as individuals and as a nation. In many churches, this man centeredness instead of God centeredness has resulted in exalting the importance of the temporal instead of the eternal.  Ecclesiastes makes it clear that that which is stored up in the temporal is going to fade away.  For this reason we are to store up our treasures in heaven.  It is only those things that we do as unto the Lord that are of any lasting and eternal value.  Instead of thinking about what may seem to make us happy in the here and now, we should be concentrating on what can we do in service to the Lord that would bring glory to Him? 

          We aren’t supposed to come first; God is.  The relationship between a man and a woman in the commitment to one another in marriage helps me understand why it is for my good to put God first, and not myself.  For a marital love to truly blossom and grow, the word tell us to think more highly of our mate, than we do of ourselves.  If this principle is carried out to its fullest by both partners, there is no way that they could not feel loved and cherished by one another.  In our one on one relationship with God the Father and Son, He has already put us first.  He loved us first; God gave His Son first; Jesus left the glories of Heaven and gave His life for us first; His Holy Spirit was sent to us first.  With so great a love poured out to us, how can we possibly not respond in obedience, worship, and love towards Him?  Can you imagine what our life would be like if we always thought of Him first?  Glory Hallelujah, what greater love could we ever hope to know?  If the Church always put God first, we could not be deceived into compromising the word of the Lord.       

          AA is experiencing more success in helping those who are suffering from the effects of alcoholism than the church is in ridding itself of the corruption of sin from within.  They provide an organization through which the ‘sick’ may openly come to seek help, be diagnosed, and receive treatment in order to be healed and restored to good health.  First, the individual must recognize the source (sin) that is causing them a problem (spiritual sickness).  They can’t get any help if they are still in denial that the sickness even exists.  They have to want help and be willing to do that which will set them free; their cooperation and commitment is imperative.  They have to ‘confess’ their problem; “Hello, I’m Jane and I’m an alcoholic.”  They have to get a sponsor, one who is willing to walk along side of them to assist and give help.  They must attend meetings with others who are in different stages of fighting against the same enemy, the stronger helping the weaker.  All of this is to provide them a support group so they don’t feel like they are all alone in their struggle.  A support group is supposed to be there to provide encouragement and help even when they feel weak, to pick them up when they fall, and set there feet back upon the path to recovery.  No lying, hiding, or denying of the sickness is allowed.  No condoning of the reality of the ‘sickness’ is allowed.  No diminishing of the seriousness of ‘falling off the wagon’ is allowed.  No covering up of the damage done to themselves or others is allowed.  Refusal to take responsibility for one’s own choices and actions is not allowed.  Blaming others is not allowed.  All must be exposed and brought into the light of day before the darkness and decay of the sickness can be dispelled, and its further corruption prevented.  Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.  Depend upon your Higher Power.  You know, God’s principles do work when you put them into practice and apply them to live them out in your life, being a doer and not just a hearer.  The ultimate goal is to rid one’s life of the corrupting and debilitating factor; to rid one’s self of the chains of the past to provide the path to a greater future.

          God’s word contains within it all of these saving principles, plus far more.  Where is the church in its role of support to aid in the battle against the sickness of sin?  It seems that we have withdrawn from the battle for the mind, heart and soul of mankind.  Instead, we have delegated that fight to those who are influenced only by the ways and thoughts of the secular world.  The church is conforming to the world.  The following are just a small and select few of the changes to our society brought about by the intimidation and manipulation of an increasingly secularized world view: the secular world deemed adultery, extramarital affairs, homosexuality, pregnancy outside of the bonds of marriage, same sex marriage, and abortion on demand as being equally acceptable and not as something that is wrong and harmful.  

          The flood gates contributing to the decay of our society were opened wide.  Instead of standing strong to protect the people from the harm of practices that were contrary to the word of God, the church itself began to crumble and become more conformed to the ways of the secular world.  We now see homosexuality glorified, and practicing homosexuals accepted into the church as priests and other positions of authority.  The church sat back while Planned Parenthood took over an ever increasingly influential role resulting in making single parenthood more convenient and more acceptable; dispensing of condoms to an increasingly lower and lower age (schools can not administer an aspirin without a doctors permission, but condoms can be given without a parents knowledge or permission), abortion on demand even without parental consent, and abortion during any stage of pregnancy without concern for the viability of the baby is now totally acceptable.  Abortion is no longer strictly limited to cases where the life of the mother is truly at stake.  It is viewed as just another form of contraception and deemed as simply a right of a woman’s reproductive healthcare.  No longer is the baby called a baby.  It has been renamed as just a fetus to distract from the recognition that abortion is the taking of a human life.  The church is practically silent and has all but given up any major influence in fighting back against the onslaught of an increasingly lawless and godless world.  Some few churches are struggling to be actively influential, but for the most part our voice is silent and our actions as a unified body are few.     

          The alcoholic, who wants to be set free, has a place to go for help even in this secularized world.  Where was the church when it should have been prominent in providing the alcoholic help?  Perhaps they were made to feel as if they were horrible people and; therefore, not free to go to their church leaders for any real and devoted help.  Where was someone to walk alongside them through the difficult journey to restoration, freedom, and wholeness?  Where are the pastors, or group of church leaders, committed to helping the person who is confused about his/her sexuality?  Perhaps they too accept the lie of the secular world that there is no escape from those feelings because ‘God made them that way.’  Perhaps they too have been made to feel that there was no one to go to for help from within the church, for even mentioning that one’s struggle with such feelings may have been considered too great a sin.  True, there are those who do not feel that their homosexuality is of any harm to themselves, and do not want any help offered, much less provided.  There have been churches, though few and far between, which have developed support systems for those who wish to be set free.  It is not an easy journey, just as being set free from drugs or alcohol is not easy, and it is often a lifetime struggle to defeat such a stronghold.  The point is to endure and never give up.  The churches who have seen fit to make a commitment to offer help to the homosexual, or freedom from other such immoral behaviors, are being attacked by the secular world for even trying to offer such help to the ones that do seek it.  But then who said that standing for God and against the world was ever going to be an easy task for any Christian or any Christian Body?  This kind of help should be offered, but never coerced.  It has to be left to the choice of the individual, just like the alcoholic must make his own choice to get help or remain in the grasp of its hold.

          Let us read I Corinthians. 5 and Matthew 18: 15-17 to gain an understanding of possible solutions for how the Church is supposed to handle those who practice daily to walk in sin without remorse or repentance.  This is not focused on the treatment of unbelievers, but rather for the church to practice “tough love” towards the believer for his good and not for his harm.  Paul, in I Corinthians, is writing to the church and scolding them for allowing a person to continue as a member in their brotherhood of believers even though he is choosing to continue in the practice of the immorality of incest.  He tells them that they are just as guilty of sinning, for they have not acted in love to reprove and rebuke the one who is willfully and purposely choosing to do that which is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.  In fact, because of their inaction to deal with the problem, not only are they contributing to the harm of the one who is living out the sin, but they are also contributing towards the contamination of the entire membership of the congregation.

          Remember, the practice of sin is not a momentary act of sinning, but rather a willful practice to continue in sin.  When the trespasser is not being confronted with his deliberate wrong doing, he is allowed to sink deeper into sin, instead of being reprimanded that he might choose to turn away from sin and return to the Lord and His ways for his own good.  We are not loving such a person by ignoring his acts; thereby, giving the impression that their action, or sin, is good and acceptable.  We contribute to their harm.  We have lacked the courage to tell someone what they needed to hear instead of telling them what they wanted to hear.  Think of it this way. Do we love someone who is drunk if we tell him, “Sure, you’re just fine; go ahead and drive?”  We know full well that he could possibly crash and harm himself or others.  Ah, but we chose to tell him what he “wanted” to hear, instead of telling him what he “needed” to hear, as if we had no care for the harm he might be headed for.

           I would think that the example that was given in the scriptures as to how to deal with the open practice of sin should be considered as a first step of action. Perhaps the Pastor should go to that person to have a little heart to heart talk.  Not out of self righteousness or anger, but out of love and understanding that we all fall short of the mark and need one another to administer truth and correction when it is needed.  That doesn’t minister condemnation, but is a call of reproof to urge the person to confess the sin and turn away from it before they bring more harm to themselves and others.  Then, if that was not effective, go to him again with the pastor and a group of the elders.  Still all counsel should be administered in love, not in condemnation or by force. The response or choice to ask forgiveness and to remove one’s self from the practice of sin has to be a personal decision, sincerely submitting his will to the will of the Lord.  If this latter action of call to repent is still of no effect, the last and only choice that the church has is to expel the one that is willfully refusing to repent and change his ways.  Even this is to be done in love and not in any attitude of self righteousness.  One of the purposes of the church is to support and encourage one another to stay on the straight and narrow path. 

          None of us is exempt from being tempted to indulge in sin.  We all need a safe haven, support group, or ‘sponsor’, to whom we may go to express the problem with which we may be struggling. We should not have our sin condoned and accepted because it is now condoned and accepted in the eyes of the secular world.  The church must be willing to minister care and correction that the trespasser may be returned to the right path, not choosing to continue sinning until he is up to his neck wallowing in the muck and mire.

          One time, I got so upset, because my husband had chosen to return to smoking after being free of it for three years.  I was stooped in continual crying, throwing fits of anger, and demanding that he stop immediately.  Finally, I realized my actions were tearing me up from the inside out.  I went for counsel from my minister’s wife.  She gave me some very good advice that lifted a false burden of responsibility from my shoulders.  She told me that my problem was greater than my husband’s problem of smoking.  I was involved in the sin of trying to control him.  The spirit of control is related to the spirit of witchcraft.  Besides that, at the same time, I was trying to take on the responsibility of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who is capable of speaking to the heart of the believer to convict of sin unto repentance, and lead and guide him into all truth for instruction and correction for his good.  In addition, I needed to understand that I wasn’t in control of God’s agenda for him; only God knew what my husband was most in need of at that point and time in his life.  This is only one example of how someone within the body of Christ was used to bring understanding, reproof, and correction into my heart to pull me back from the edge of disaster and harm.  It might not appear like a big thing to you, but it was for me.  A false burden was lifted from my shoulders; I truly experienced what it means to have the chains of sin taken off and to gain the glorious reality of being set free.

          I Corinthians 5 states that the purpose of expelling the continual trespasser was not for his harm, but for his good.  Through experiencing the lose of fellowship with the Lord and his brethren in Christ, he might realize that being given over to Satan and his ways was no picnic.  Hopefully, he would come to realize what he was missing in following the Lord and His ways, and make the choice to repent, leave his wicked ways and sincerely seek God’s forgiveness.  If and when, this repentance was true and sincere as demonstrated in his deeds and words, the Church should be forgiving and willing to welcome that brother to return once more to the fold.

          Do we see this kind of reproof and godly discipline being exercised in the church today?  Unfortunately, it is all too often weak or none existent.  Instead, it seems the Church is finding it easier to cave into the ways of the world.  Rename, redefine, tolerate, condone, exalt, and celebrate that which is evil as good, and call that which is good evil.  Conform to the ways of the world; join the ranks of the worldly masses and forget about God and His ways.  Do that which is pleasing in the eyes of mankind instead of standing strong for God and His ways.  Compromising and perverting the word of God is the acceptable practice in the church of today.  Let a little leaven in, and the whole loaf is contaminated.  All are harmed, and few if any receive correction and help in resisting the devil.  We just join his ranks of deception.  Sin is an ‘equal opportunity master,’ and none are exempt from its invitation to enter in.  

          In conclusion, what is the church doing today?  If the church, who is supposed to know and follow God, deletes homosexuality as a sin, what other sins are we going to also deem as good and not evil.  Where and when is the church going to say, “Stop the compromising; stop the deceit, stop the perversion and twisting of the truth?” When is the church going to stop bending to the will of the world?  When are we going to choose to take a stand against the advancement of evil?  When are we going to retake the position of being that High Tower of strength to help one another in the struggle against the enemy, the one who roams too and fro seeking whom he may devour?  When is the church going to stop not only tolerating sin, but now even exalting and celebrating it as good and right in the eyes of God?  Have we backslidden to the point of no return, becoming satisfied to be neither hot nor cold in our faith in the Lord?  Have we gone so far from the Lord, the Great Physician, that we are no longer willing to go before His throne of grace to sincerely submit ourselves to a spiritual wellness check?  Is there any salt left within the Church to be God’s hand and voice in a dying and perverse world?  Can we no longer reach out to give a helping hand to one another as we are struggling with sin in our life?  Have we become so involved in the renaming game of deeming good evil and evil good, that we have now joined forces with the world to forget God and all of His ways? Have we gone so far away that we no longer even remember the benefits of submitting ourselves to the will of God, whose watchful eye and loving heart is always willing and able to forgive and remove our sin if we will only repent, ask His forgiveness, and turn from our wicked ways?           Let us return to the Lord in love and obedience.  He has promised to heal us and heal our land. O Church, we are so needed in a world that is increasingly being swallowed up by doubt and unbelief.  Awake to the voice of God; “let God arise and His enemies be scattered!”  Let us turn back to the Lord, that the Body of Christ, the Church, might be healed and once more become the salt of the earth.

"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint."  (Isaiah 1:2-5)

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7: 14)


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