Practical Application of the Word of God
I suspect this post will be quite unsettling to read. We in the ekklesia have been conditioned through repetition to unquestioningly believe ideas and concepts that we have accepted as truth, but which, in fact, have no scriptural basis to support them.
God’s word alone is truth. It, as God inspired it to be written, must be our sole foundation for our belief, our faith, and our relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
No manipulation, spin, angling, twisting, or adding to or subtracting from the very word of God can be accepted or substituted as the truth of God.
That is why we must be as diligent and wholehearted as the Bereans were about thoroughly and continually searching the scriptures to prove whether or not what we hear and read from humans about scripture, about God, about Jesus Christ, and about what God requires of us as His children and the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ is true.
That is part of your individual responsibility and my individual responsibility as the children of God and followers of the Lamb wherever He goes.
I mourn continually that it seems that most of us have abrogated the responsibilities of our calling to make it and our election sure and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, preferring instead to let other people interpret – or misinterpret or completely pull out of thin air – God’s word for us.
The Old Testament applies to us as much (in fact, more, because we in the ekklesia have been given the gift of God’s spirit, so we are totally without excuse) as it did to the nation of Israel.
Like Israel at Mt. Sinai who didn’t want to deal with God directly, but instead wanted Moses to be the middle man between them and God and to tell them what God said, we in the ekklesia, for the most part, have chosen the same path.
We prefer to have humans (dead and living), who are mere mortals who are nothing more or less than just a little dirt and water like we are, be our middle people between us and God.
Shame on us. This is precisely why the ekklesia is so far astray from God’s word and has been, is, and will be so scattered and shattered irreparably until the return of our Lord, King, and Savior.
To understand what God’s work is, we must first understand where what we have been taught to believe God’s work is originated.
The structure of modern religious organizations is based on a business model. This seed was planted in the 1920’s as the concept of business being a religion became ubiquitous and the seed began to germinate after the Great Depression when some of the more unscrupulous unemployed businessmen saw an untapped potential for wealth and power by making religion a business.
For these salesmen and marketers, religion was just another product to market and sell and another avenue to gain corporeal riches and power.
But to reap the benefits and profits that religion as a business held the potential to bring, these businessmen knew the product they were branding and selling had to have enough credibility to be believed and to develop a loyal and devoted consumer based.
So like all successful advertising people, these businessmen first reinvented themselves as men of God (revising and sanitizing their own personal histories in a mix of omission and exaggeration, although if one looked carefully, the truth of their character could not be hidden).
These businessmen proceeded to take cherry-picked elements of truth, twisted and spun them to the modern world, generally out of context (or not to be found at all), to fit the particular brand they were selling, then mixed them in with a healthy dose of plagiaristic sources – for which they took credit (or which they said God revealed to them) to support and promote their particular brands.
Their mission was never the mission they publicly proclaimed. Instead, their mission was the mission of any business: to be the biggest and to be the wealthiest. To that end, there were no limits on what they would say and do to make that a reality.
Too often, which is wrong and should never be, we see rabid and absolute loyalty to, trust of, faith in, and devotion to the often tyranical, bullying, bombastic, and egotistical (and, sadly, not always emotionally and/or mentally stable nor ethically and/or morally grounded) founder of the business enterprise.
Nothing less is or will be tolerated. We see this in modern business examples with the likes of Steve Jobs (Apple), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Donald Trump (The Trump Organization).
It is no surprise, then, that we see the same kinds of people in leadership positions in the religion-as-a-business model.
Though they give lip service to following God and Jesus Christ and tell their customer base to do the same, everything else they do and say is designed to put all the focus and attention on them, to make themselves the focal point of their customer base’s attention (in their own minds, eventually, it seems that they see themselves as the vital link between God and their customers, forgetting that we have a High Priest and Mediator with this very component as part of His job description) and to have their customer base come to see them as god instead of God.
Every business must have a way to generate and keep revenue coming in to sustain it and to support its operations (overhead).
The religion-as-a-business is no different, since it is a corporate structure with outsized operational (brick-and-mortar operations and employees who must be paid salaries and benefits, as well as being entitled to the additional perks that businesses use to attract potential employees to come to work for them) costs compared to the other business costs.
In the religion-as-a-business model, the biggest on-going expenses – and what most of the revenue is spent on – are operational. Because of that, these expenses must be justified to keep the financial oars in the water.
And so, out of thin air (because we do not find this anywhere in scripture the way it is structured, described, and executed), religion-as-a-business has identified their operations – and the related expenses – as God’s work or the work of God.
And the customer base is continuously reminded (with methods that, at times, are abominable, including dishonesty, bullying, and shaming, among others) that they need to be diligent about financially supporting God’s work and the work of God.
But what does God’s word tell us that God’s work (the work of God) is? Does it square with what we have been told God’s work is?
Have we been and are we being deceived?
Let’s first take a big-picture look at the ekklesia in the New Testament.
We see first Christ’s example in the gospel accounts.
Interestingly, the Son of God and the Head of the body did not talk about nor give as an example a centralized model of operations for the ekklesia.
Tithes and offerings were not given to Him (or to His disciples), even though He specifically said that and He was doing the work of the Father (God’s work).
Never once in His entire ministry on earth did Jesus Christ model the money-for-ministry.
Nor did He model a centralized “preaching the gospel” organizational construct for His disciples to follow after His death and resurrection.
In fact, Jesus Christ told His disciples (of which the 12 were only 10% of the total we see in Acts 1:15) to literally – by picking up and moving (the Jewish converts, however, stayed around Jerusalem until 70 A.D. when they were forced to do what Christ had told them to do to begin with) – spread out through the entire world to preach the gospel, in part (and this is the critical part that has been ignored and omitted in the religion-as-business model) by their very lives, applying and living by every word of God.
Jesus Christ also never sought financial support for doing the work of God that He had been given to do before the foundation of the world.
It is important to remember that the first members of the ekklesia had direct or indirect contact with Jesus Christ in person. Had Jesus Christ given the religion-as-a-business model that we see in modern religious organizations to them, it would have been preserved in the word of God.
You can study the entire New Testament and find nothing that looks anything like modern religious organizations.
You cannot find a headquarters from which humans directed (and received tithes and offerings from) – as long as the temple was in Jerusalem, it was still where the majority of the ekklesia came to observe the annual holy days that God had established – the individual congregations that were planted by God through the work of Paul, Barnabas and others.
So, what then, is God’s work? And what have we lost about its personal and serious relevance to each of us as individual members of the body of Christ since it has been redefined to a non-biblical definition that inherently suppresses the individual spiritual responsibility that each of us has to God and Jesus Christ while promoting the idea of a collective “pay and pray” responsibility to a centralized humanly-created organization that is purportedly doing God’s work?
The work of God and Jesus Christ, which concerns bringing all of humanity into atonement with them, in their time and at their will, to ultimately include them into the family of God.
This plan and their focus – as well as their work – is plainly evident throughout scripture from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.
We’ll highlight a few Old Testament scriptures in Isaiah and Ezekiel showing the work of God and Jesus Christ come: Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:25, Isaiah 49:5-6, Isaiah 51:12, Isaiah 53 (notice verses 10-11: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”), Isaiah 55:11, Isaiah 61:1-3, and Ezekiel 36:26.
This work of God through Jesus Christ is just as extant throughout the New Testament. Jesus Christ Himself declares what His work is and explains to us that we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).
I’ll list a sampling of other scriptures (there are too many in both testaments to list here, but this would make an excellent Bible study for each of us) that also talk about God’s work through Jesus Christ: Mark 10:27, Ephesians 2:10, John 6:29, and the entire book of Hebrews.
Paul also plainly states what God’s work is in Philippians 2:13, as well as throughout his letters to the ekklesia.
Let’s lay this on the line. God, through Jesus Christ, does His work. As the I AM reminded Job, neither God nor Jesus Christ need us to do their work.
In fact, God’s work, which is transforming, through His power and through the work of our High Priest, the inner person in each one of us is work that none of us is capable of doing on our own.
But we do have work to do in conjunction with what God and Jesus Christ are doing with and in us once we repent from our sinful way of life (we still sin and we still need atonement and forgiveness through our Propitiation, but sin is not the way of life we are committed to and are actively pursuing and living) to God’s way of life, are baptized, and God gives us the gift of His spirit.
What does our work, then, look like?
We fully and wholeheartedly respond to their work in us.
To do that we have to build an intimate relationship with our Father and Older Brother. We do that through continual prayer (our end of the conversation) and Bible study (God’s end of the conversation), seeking God’s will, God’s wisdom, God’s understanding and God’s way.
If we are totally committed to and wholehearted in the work we’ve been given to do, this will be our lives 24/7 (it’s an integral part of who and what we are and what’s always on our minds as we live our lives).
We surrender and yield our lives and our will to them completely, committed to perfect obedience to their word, emulation of the example of Jesus Christ, learning, growing in, and doing what God requires of us, and we cooperate with them and fully participate in, through our thoughts, words, actions, and who and what we are in every nook and cranny of ourselves, the process.
It is a total, continuous, active process that we never stop working at, because we can be sure that God and Jesus Christ, as we see in their word, never stop the work they began before the foundation of the world and will not stop until it is complete (don’t expect, however, that no more unknown work lies beyond this phase of work they are doing – work is part of who God and Jesus Christ are and it must be a part of who we are).
We also have additional responsibilities in response to God’s work in us through Jesus Christ. We are to actively and continuously serve others as we are able and have occasion to (this is not just our brothers and sisters in Christ, but all humanity). We are to continually use the individual and unique gifts that God gives through us in service to others.
This is part of our calling as individuals. I can’t work out your salvation and you can’t work out mine. Our gifts – yours and mine – are likely very different. But you and I are expected to use the gifts that God has given us, not to serve ourselves, but to expend on the rest of humanity, just as Jesus Christ modeled for us with His example as the Son of God. Nothing less is acceptable to God.
This is God’s work and our part in that work. Do we believe it? And, if we do, then what are we doing as work in response?