The last few years, it seems I have been on an subconscious quest to rediscover true Christianity. That may seem strange coming from one who was raised in a Christian ministers home, yet I'm beginning to think it's more common than we realize.
Many of us seem to be on this journey together and we are beginning to recognize and appreciate our fellow pilgrims who dare to challenge cultural Christianity. There seems to have been a clarion call by the Holy Spirit to a return or revival of the true New Testament Church.This is more than a rebellion against religion and traditions of men, but a true passion to rediscover the Kingdom and embrace the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have been astonished at how illiterate our churched culture has become on the basics of Biblical literacy and the teachings of Jesus. I'm not pointing fingers or preaching to the choir. I am just as guilty, if not more so, of practicing and preaching an emotion driven pento-centric form of the Christian church culture that excites more than it informs. That being said, I'm sure because of my gifting and personality I will always be passionate about the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. I was called as a boy to yield to a miracle ministry, and have seen signs following Christ's believers all over the world, but we must not confuse the sensational with the supernatural nor emotionalism with the anointing!
Is it possible that while we have been trying to be relevant, emergent, missional, prophetic, apostolic, or whatever your favorite buzzword of the week is, that we have raised up a generation of church goers that have no idea that they are in a war? That Jesus was a revolutionary! That kingdoms are in conflict and that there is a hell to lose and an eternity to gain! That our churches should be the boot camps of the kingdom revolution! If so, we need to re-dig some old wells, restore some old foundations and shore up some old fences.
With this thought in mind I began to pray and think about what I need to ensure what my own children know and believe. We can no longer assume that they will catch it by osmosis because if we would take our head out of the sand we would realize we are living in a non Christian culture. In our beautiful city of Austin it is reposted that only 9% attend any type of church assembly in any given weekend. We also can't rely on youth ministries or Sunday school, because if we are honest those have become even more "dumbed down" than our Pulpits. Dawson McAlister wrote that “90% of kids active in youth groups don't go by the time they are a sophomore in college.” Also he states that one third will never return to a church of any kind. I certainly don't have all the answers and am actually just coming up with some of the questions, but feel a tremendous responsibility as a husband, father and minister to guide this generation back to the simple truths of Judeo-Christianty.
It's amazing how many "spirit filled" believers don't even know, much less practice the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes or even the Lords Prayer.
We'll start with the Ten Commandments and how they are not suggestions but still relevant for every age and culture.
1 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
3 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
4 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
5 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
6 “You shall not murder."
7 “You shall not commit adultery.
8 “You shall not steal.
9 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
10 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Then we'll look at this amazing Jesus who actually acknowledged he was a king of entirely different kind of Kingdom. Why the writers of the Gospels used the Greek word skandalon when describing him. A stumbling block, an offense, a scandal! He was the leader of rebellion against the cultural religion of his day and was executed for it!
I love how Richard Stearns says that the manifesto of this kingdom revolution can be found in the great messianic passage of Isaiah, read by Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth. We find this event recounted in Luke four, as a declaration of Jesus' identity and mission:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
What was amazing about Jesus is that His actions spoke louder than His words! What were his teachings? What did he really say? I remember how excited I was several years ago just to study the "red letter" parts of the New Testament for a season. Like Paul of old, I just wanted to know him more intimately. I can still remember how moved and challenged I was by Matthew chapter five.
I think I agree with an esteemed elderly friend of mine who once told me he felt The Beatitudes were the Ten Commandments of the New Testament.
So that's the next thing I want my children to know, love, live and practice.
The teachings Jesus gave in Matthew Chapter 5 as part of His sermon on the Mount:
1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, 2 and He began to teach them, saying: 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,or they will be filled.7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Wow, isn't that incredibly profound teaching? What if every believer was a doer of just these sayings of Jesus. Frank Damazio wrote an incredible book a few years ago, The Power of Spiritual Alignment. In this book he brings out what he calls the "Seven Firsts of Jesus". These are the seven times where Jesus commands us to do something as a "first". It stresses the urgency and importance of what I have discovered to be seven core values that Jesus left to his followers. This study by Pastor Damazio changed my life. I have used it over and over again and am now teaching it to Allister and Alayna
Here's the list:
1 Matthew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
2 Matt 7: 4,5 "Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
3 Matt 5:24,25 "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
4 Matt 12:29 "Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
5 Matt 22:36-38 " Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.
6 Matt 23:26 " Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
7 Mathew 28:1 "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.
I hope this isn't boring you as the reader, but what if we started with the Ten Commandments, The Beatitudes and the Firsts Sayings of Jesus as our introduction to the Christian life? What if we detoxed from the dregs of cultural, consumer Christendom and embraced this new Kingdom of which there will be no end?
I'm going to try it. As far me and my house we will serve the Lord! I end with another cultural nugget discarded with the excuse of relevancy. The prayer Jesus used to instruct his followers how to pray. What is commonly called The Lord's Prayer.
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.