Discipleship, An Introduction

Paradigms that control our religious understandings

Koinonia, The Fellowship of the Saints for Edification

Discipleship, We are Called to be Saints and to Minister

A Disciple's Guide to Spiritual Worship

The Foundation of the Original Apostles as the Proper Guide to Doctine

Disciple's Handbook Complete in PDF format

   

Link to All Pinkney Commentary Titles


Every Believer Becomes a Disciple -
Matthew 28:19

As many that have received the gift, minister it to one another,
as good stewards of the manifold Grace of God
1Peter4:7


   Charles Pinkney


3 paradigms of truth, Worldly, Religious, Divine

Discipleship 1 Spiritual Growth

Disciple's Handbook 2, Growing With the Body

Jesus' Cycle: Growth, Trials, and Triumph

Learning Christ, Partaking In His Ministry


Receiving True Gifts and not Counterfeit Ones

The Foundation of the Apostles

Every Believer Becomes a Disciple

The Apostles Doctrine

Bearing Witness

Apostolic Doctrines

Paul's Insights into the Gospel

Paul Defines the Apostolic Emphasis

Kingdom of God Versus Human Wisdom

Edification and Ministry as it Pertains to Community

Mentors and Ministries

The Electronic Church

Mega-churches

Positives Associated with Mega-Ministries

Negatives Associated with Mega-Ministries

What is the Glorious Church

Giving for the Sake of the Gospel

Professional Ministries

Giving is Blessed by God

Tithing as Worship

The Prosperity Message

 

 The Spiritual Life
"Be Ye Imitators of Christ as dear Children."

 Learning Christ
ISSUES OF DISCIPLESHIP
God has provided that each believer who is born of the Spirit may grow in the Spiritual life. Learning Christ, in a general sense is becoming familiar with God not only through His word but also through His presence, to gain familiarity with His character and personality. We, in the process of time partake of His glory and His character. As it is written, we go from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18,)and from faith to faith (Romans 1:17.) We learn to hearken to the voice of His Spirit and respond accord to the way we are directed. I call this learning Christ. God's model for learning Christ is imitation of the first born Son of God, Jesus Christ. We are to model his manner of thinking, and his manner of acting. We are to duplicate his interacting with the Heavenly Father and his Spirit-directed ministry. The first disciples were given a living model but they were only able duplicate his Spiritual behavior after they had received the enabling Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
With Christ's life within us, and our egos and wills yielded to him we asked to become as he was in this world. (John 16:16; 1John 4:17)
The total spiritual inability and helplessness of the natural man or woman, places huge limits upon him. We can not be the light of the world if God's light does not burn within us. We can not be witnesses of his resurrection if we have not been touched by the fiery hand of God that raised Jesus from the dead who also quickened our own body and spirit. We can not reflect the goodness of God if he has not made us good who were once reprobates. We come in to this world to know God. This is our first calling and some come and go from this world not having achieved that first calling. If we are fortunate to have God reveal himself to us then we press on to the next stage, that of being a functional witness. It is also unfortunate how many are thwarted in this second stage predominately by the incomplete or ineffectual teachings of religious tradition. As we have noted, the institutional church has either lost sight of, or failed to actualize the provisions of the New Covenant which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Time has eroded true understanding, and spiritual subterfuge authored by an unrelenting adversary has come in to subtlety sidetrack our spiritual lives and foster human understanding instead. I am not interested in presenting any kind of private methodology that is contrary to Biblical teaching. What I share here is not a unique revelation but simply a restatement of the way that was presented by Jesus to his servants the apostles, in the beginning of this gospel age. Any church or teacher (including denominational groups) who are attempting to mentor or direct others into a spiritual life are under divine obligation to be accurate. Private interpretation risks wrong doctrine. Since there is always a danger of deception, it is important that we proceed cautiously, both as teachers and learners. We are obligated to discern all things with the wisdom, the help, and guidance of the Spirit of Truth who is the Holy Spirit. God has told us through the Word that we may ask for wisdom and for truth to be revealed to us. He further instructs us to have confidence in this asking, knowing that God is willing. God is willing! God is willing to give good gifts which bring fulfillment and blessings and not sorrows. When seeking the revelations which are of God, or from God, it is up to the seeker to be on guard against deceptions and to discern the true from the false. In asking for anything from God it is very important to invoke the name of Jesus Christ. This name is the name above every name and above every spiritual entity or authority. This name will consecrate or make pure anything which may transpire. It will guarantee that anything which will be revealed or imparted spiritually will be free of any corrupt or deceptive influence. If you ask in the name of Jesus, the deceiver can not work his way so readily into the workings.

Receiving True Gifts and not Counterfeit Ones Jesus instructs us about receiving gifts from God, especially the gift of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us that the God of heaven gives good gifts and not evil, hurtful or perverted ones. Christ also characterizes the fact that there are two kinds of gifts which might be tendered, the true and the false, but God's gifts are good and true. The scripture is found in Matthew 7:8-11 and in Luke 11:11-13: "For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." :8; "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" :9; "Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" :10; "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" :11. KJV The two objects which are sought are bread and fish. God gives things which are life-giving and safe (bread, and meat.) Luke chapter eleven restates the same teaching about asking from God the Father but expands the emphasis, toward the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the living gift of God's power and presence: "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?"; "Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?" "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" -- Luke 11:11-13kjv. I have emphasized the word son to emphasize that relationship is the key to receiving from God. There are a whole lot of different kinds of seekers; some sincere and some less sincere. If a dabbler negotiates to receive a spiritual manifestation from God, it is uncertain what may transpire. But God wishes to emphasize that he is for blessing His family. He is the giver of Good gifts. Counterfeit gifts are a peripheral issue. The above reference represents the fact that there is the possibility of receiving a bad gift. These kinds of exceptions bear upon the setting and environment where and with whom the "ministry" occurs and the sincerity of the hearts who seek the gift. We have a common enemy, Satan who is always ready to move in to deflect the gift of God or to substitute a counterfeit. He does not give good gifts, nor does he give valid revelations. His gifts are not life giving, they give neither joy, nor health nor liberty. Yet it is possible that he will try to come in unless you exclude him from any part of the seeking and asking transaction Satan's gift is characterized as a stone instead of bread, as a serpent instead of pure food, something infused with poison instead of food. Jesus has portrayed Satan as the deadly counterfeiter who will insinuate himself into the seekers life subtly and at any opportunity. Forewarned is to be forearmed; for this reason, it is wise to initiate safeguards and precautions as I suggested above in order to keep the deceiver out of your life and out of every spiritual transactions. There was a time when our lives were entirely under his (Satan's) control. We may not think that this was the case but the apostle is very clear about it. A couple of apostolic letters bring attention to the nature of the unredeemed life, which includes each and every life before the renewal In Christ. Paul's letter to Ephesus, Chapter 2, verses 2 and 3. "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; Among whom also we all had our conversation (lifestyle) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." KJV Paul's letter to Collosae, Chapter 1 verse 21. "And you, that were sometimes (before now) alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled"The apostle contrasts the previous unredeemed nature our previous lifestyle with the redeemed nature. In the letter to Corinth, Chapter 1 verses 10 and 11, he lists a number of these life styles; "-Neither - thieves, - - covetous, - - drunkards, - - revilers, - - extortionist, shall inherit the kingdom of God.; And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

The Foundation of the Apostles
Every Believer Becomes a Disciple
" Apostles were first disciples. Disciples walked with the Lord in an intimate way. They learned his ways by first hand observation, through hearing his word and knowing his voice. The disciples while they were growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus were also participants in the work of Jesus' ministry. It was they who announced, 'the Kingdom of God is at hand." They showed that the Kingdom could be demonstrated by both the spiritual power and the authority to impact the afflicted, the oppressed, the poor and the broken hearted. Disciples were and are called to be partakers of Jesus Christ's ministry. Each of us continues to share the same access to Jesus Christ. We share the same Spirit, we share in the same commission. "For this reason the son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the Devil." (1John 3:8) We aspire to attain to the same unity and inclusiveness as the original fellowship of disciples. There was no member of the original circle of disciples who was just like another. Yet, there was a unique niche for each of those Jesus called.
Each of the first disciples had a divine destiny and an unlimited opportunity for growing up in the fullness of the Lord.
Jesus chose the original disciples. He singled them out and called them aside to walk with him and to have a face-to-face relationship with him. Descriptions indicate that each had attributes which could label them as plain folks or ordinary people. Some associated with Jesus more intimately than others. Each disciple had unique traits and attributes of character; Matthew a worldly businessman, a publican, a tax collector; Peter a robust, headstrong man who generally spoke without thinking and was always competing to be someone; John a warm, compassionate and trusting youth; Nathaniel innocent and open; Thomas a scientific minded pragmatist who had to have things proven before he could be persuaded and so on. The twelve included men who we might not have chosen, including Judas the deceiver and betrayer who Jesus also called a robber. Outside of the twelve were a multitude of other disciples including women who traveled extensively with Jesus though were not part of the inner group of the twelve.

It is possible that those who were reasonably close and connected to Jesus may have been about 500 individuals.
The apostles were men with whom Jesus visited, taught and broke bread. He also imparted his life and Spirit into them. After he had risen from the dead, he breathed upon the disciples saying to them, "receive Holy Breath (Gr. pneuma)." The word breath and spirit are the same word in the original text. This is the same as to say, "Receive the Holy Spirit." It was this action which imparted Holy life within each disciple this afforded, I believe the new heaven borne experience that we believers today call born again or spiritual renewal. The eleven and Judas Iscariot's replacement Matthias were born from above or conceived as a new spirit being at this time.

The apostle Paul (originally Saul) came on board some time later being called by Jesus for a particular revelation and ministry. Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish theologian, a Pharisee of the strictest sect of Judaic fundamentalism of the day. Saul was an intellectual of supreme discipline and credentials. The zealous Saul, set out to destroy the disciples of Jesus, persecuting and imprisoning all who preached Jesus as Messiah and the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead. Saul was added to the order of discipleship but in a special way after Christ's resurrection.


How did Saul become a disciple and an apostle? Paul recounted and retold his account of the encounter several times, but the original encounter is described in Acts, Chapter 9. God supernaturally intervened in Saul's life, on a journey to Damascus. His travels were interrupted by Jesus appearing to him in a brilliant light. Saul was blinded and knocked him off his horse onto the ground. The voice spoke to him saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
Paul answered this voice saying, "Who are you, Lord?" and Jesus replied, "I am Jesus who you are persecuting." Jesus then gave Saul brief instructions about who he was to visit to received further ministry and instruction. Jesus began to tutor a new disciple after this. Jesus did not give Saul any information that he did not need to know at that time, but he told him the first thing to do. Paul was told where to go in Damascus to get further help. God likewise does not give us more information than we need to get started. He does list all of the stages of our journey, including both the trials and the victories. The journey of faith is an hour by hour, day by day program. The journey of discipleship begins with a first step forward into a new life. In the first chapter of his letter to Galatia, Saul who has been given a new name, Paul, to go along with his new nature, accounts how he was taken aside and how he began to be instructed face-to-face, personally by Jesus. For three years in the deserts of Arabia, Paul learned Christ. being discipled as one "out of due time a description of his apostolic commissioning found in 1Corinthians 15:5-10.

The Apostles Doctrine
Why should we place an emphasis on the apostles and the disciples? Because we wish to be connected to the same authentic and pure doctrine and the same spirit and the same manifested spiritual life that was brought forth in the beginning of the "church". It must breath the same purity, power and the same divine order. The apostolic teachings have been described as the foundation upon which the house of God is constructed. We who continue to build the Kingdom of God must continue building upon the same foundation which is true and sound. The foundation is the apostle's doctrine. It is based upon the essentials of the true faith. The "promise of the Father" a nation of kings and priests through Jesus Christ, designated as "the firstborn of many brethren.
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Understanding the Apostle's Doctrine

The writings of the apostles constitute practical, uncomplicated, hands-on teaching of how to live a Spiritual life. The Apostles who wrote in the Bible include Peter, James, John, Paul and Luke is generally credited with authoring the Book of acts as well as the Gospel of Luke, Paul is generally credited with writing most of the other epistles.
Theologians fine tune and over-process questions of authorship and have vain debates over endless issues of scholarship, but such debates bear little relevance to living the Spiritual life if we merely accept the epistles as true.

The apostle Paul has a unique revelation that speaks to a different audience, the gentile world. What he calls 'His Gospel,' also explores power of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The emphasis in Paul's teaching is directed to the entire world (the Gentile world.) His resurrection brings to all, not just the Jews in Jerusalem, the promise of sonship and new life as a Spiritual Creation in Christ. The original apostles, including Peter, James and John, focused on the Jews and Israel. The resurrection denoted the identity of Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel who would eventually restore the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus as the risen son on God was the corner stone of both group's gospel message consistent with the revelation of Christ's grace shared by Peter, James, John or Luke. It is clear however, that Paul was not taught the Gospel by the apostles in Jerusalem but given unique revelation and instruction by Jesus personally, for 3 years after his conversion on the Damascus road.

   
 

Jesus Christ, True son of God almighty, Virgin born, fulfilling the Messianic Scriptures of the Old Testament, Christ Jesus, crucified, resurrected and alive;

  Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man;
  Jesus Christ the lamb of God;
  Redemption through the blood of God's Lamb (Jesus Christ) the perfect sacrifice;
  The new creation in Christ Jesus;
  Enablement through the Holy Spirit who reveals all truth in Jesus;
  Christ Jesus reigns now as the High Priest and intercessor who has been given authority over all dominion and worlds.
  The essential doctrine of Faith and Grace in the Word and the Power of God;
  The law of the Spirit, has bought us liberty and freedom from the Law of sin and death;
  Unity of all believers; All blood bought believerrs are one in Him, Unity produces peace and potentiality.
  All believers must discern matters and maintaining unceasing vigilance over matters of the common faith;
  Believers must continuing to walk in Love and Forgiveness;
  Rebellion and unbelief will be dealt with at the hand of the returning Jesus in divine judgment before & at His second advent;
  The culmination of the church age; Is not the end of the world but concludes when the false prophet and deceiver is revealed
  False doctrines, false messiah and the period of anti-Christ; Rampaging ferocity of anti Christ.
  Safeguarding against false teachers; Awareness of doctrines of Demons that take believers into bondage
  The redemption of Israel as a praise in all of the earth; The second advent. Israel will be the head of all nations
  The authority of the believer against spiritual powers; Deliverance and discerning of the spiritual world
  The potentiality of the children of God. Widely unknown or untaught who we are as children of God.

Paul's Insights into the Gospel
Paul an intellectual's intellectual and a theologian's theologian, set aside his natural credentials when he began to minister the Gospel. Paul presents some of the most powerful insights into the conflict of intellectualism and theology. Paul experienced a total turn around in his life. The features of his traditional achievements were discarded as were the merits of his classical education. Paul declared that the things which he once esteemed and considered meritorious were now no better than "dung". The Holy Spirit drew a line of division in Paul's life. He clarified the difference between the fashion of this world and the world of God. He revealed the matters which pertained to mind and soul and matters of spirit; the thoughts of the mind versus the intents of the heart. Vanity no longer had a place in his life. Personal pride and striving for status was cast down he was given another job description. A "slave" of Christ.

It is Paul who addresses two points of doctrine which are at times in tension or contrast. First the purely Spiritual nature of the Gospel and the God-connected source of life; and secondly teachings on leadership, headship and government impacting the long-term course of this entity called "the church," the body of believers.
Contradictions have occurred in this respect, that individuals are placed in positions of leadership and authority who do not have spiritual credentials but merely human approval. Spiritual enablements allows the kingdom of God to be manifest according to the apostolic model. Even in the first years of the church age we hear accounts of men like the apostles Paul and John struggling with individuals who have assumed leadership though there motivation were entirely wrong or their doctrine was corrupt. We hear Paul describe associates who tried to undermine or destroy his ministry, or who departed because their hearts turned again to the world; or of the associates who preach for personal gain; or the associates who wanted to be pre eminent and gloried in having control over people. (See 1Timothy 1:19,20 1Timothy 4:14)regarding Alexander the Coppersmith; 2Timothy 4:10 regarding Demas; 3John 1:9 regarding the person of Diotrephes.)
Paul Defines the Apostolic Emphasis
In his first letter to Corinth Paul presses a very important foundation point in the first two chapters. This particular emphasis stressed the difference between a Spiritual message contrasted to a conceptual one. In chapter 1 verse 17 he states that his gospel emphasis is not based upon words of human wisdom but in power generated from the cross of Jesus. The cross of crucifixion is where the exchange of righteousness was made. The cross of crucifixion is where the sacrifice was made. The cross of crucifixion is where God paid the price in blood for every sinner. This doctrine of the cross does not end with a man's death but with a divinely-powered resurrection. Thus the doctrine that Paul speaks of includes the death and the resurrection of Jesus. It was Jesus who was crucified, dead, buried and resurrected. The holiday we call Easter concludes three Jewish Festivals; Passover, Unleavened bread and First Fruits speaks of the resurrection. As Jesus became the first fruits of those who have died. (1Cor.15-2)  It is truly unfortunate that so few Christians understand the Jewish roots of Christianity, including the fact that Yeshua and most all of the first disciples and apostles were Jews. Jesus (Yeshua) rose from the dead, ascended on high, took captivity captive, and gave gifts to the human race. Paul's statement of the cross does not address sorrow or loss, it addresses rather, victory, effulgence and power. The resurrection speaks of the power of an endless life. It speaks about the Father's plan to extend grace and peace to every man, woman and child. It speaks about the ability to become a new creation in Christ.
Kingdom of God Versus Human Wisdom
Paul going on in his first letter to Corinth, introduces the theme of "wisdom." Paul contrasts human wisdom to divine wisdom. He explains that man who deems himself wise through reasoning, can't accept the wisdom of God. God's wisdom is framed in paradoxes and conundrums. For example the paradox of the least being the greatest; the weak being the strong; the first being last; the wise being foolish; the living being dead; the dead being awakened to live. If these concepts make any sense to you, perhaps God has already opened your eyes in a very significant way. God framed truth in such a way that when they are articulated sound preposterous, unbelievable and irrational. The world says, "Be someone, do your own thing, express your individuality." God says, "Decrease to yourself, take your cross and let the outward "you" be crucified so that the Divine (Christ) can have effective sanctuary and expression in you. The scientific mind requires proof. The eye measures and discerns the things which we call real or reality. Yet Christians are entreated to disregard outward manifestations, the outward world. Neither is the mind the highest organ to lead and direct, children of God are led by the Spirit, not by acting purely out of reason. The truth is not determined according to science and rationality. God requires faith on our part. Paul, again in the same letter speaks to the matter of making Spiritual realities manifest, "I did not come teaching and preaching with enticing words of man's wisdom but with demonstration of the Spirit and of power that your faith should not stand upon man's wisdom but upon the power of God. (1Corinthians 2:4,5) The Spiritual life first begins to manifest, because of the grace of God and secondarily by acting in faith. The gospel states with respect to the Kingdom of God that we are all pressing into it. (Luke 16:16) The Lord stands at the door knocking, the action of faith opens that door to him. Again, grace is the initiatory cause, it is God's hand in matters concerning our life, stirring, directing and empowering. Grace is the hand of God outstretched to us, beckoning; he bids us to come forth. We respond to him and we press in to the world of Spiritual life that awaits. The hand of grace is outstretched in love. Grace speaks of loving kindness, compassion and giving. This love is caring and constructive in nature. Love builds the bonds of faith and defines the character and the parameters of the spiritual life. It is not knowledge that defines the spiritual life although there is a knowledge component. Scripture reminds us that knowledge ultimately has the affect of "puffing up" our egos. There is an adverse relationship to our character when knowledge becomes pre eminent in our orientation to God. We will always find "knowledge" being closely linked to "religious systems". It is a realm defined by expertise and expertise is usually defined by knowledge.
How much do we have to
know before we become Spiritual? I began to describe the Apostle's doctrine by mentioning doctrinal content, followed by emphasizing the power (Gk. dunamis) that God provides, through his Spirit, to empower our lives and relationships. The attribute of spiritual relationships may lie closer to the center of Spirituality than any other factor. The apostle's doctrine has fellowship and relationship within the very heart of it. Here is a glimpse into the New Testament church of the Book of Acts, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and breaking of bread, and with prayer." (Acts, Chapter 2:42) The apostles who knew the way of God fully through first hand experience were to guide the novices into the same area of common experience; the community expands, the Kingdom of God is entered by more and more converts. A community is being built and stands in the midst of a world of unbelief, carnality, and unrighteousness. God calls us into a family-like community in which God is not only glorified but in which God continuously interacts with the community.

True fellowship is what this community is about. There is a sense of family, it is characterized by the joy of redemption (salvation, the first step in pressing into this community.) This intimate fellowship of believers is the closest thing to heaven God has for us on earth. We share a common mind, a common testimony, a common hope. We are baptized into one Spirit and into a common destiny. This community is redemptive owing to the fact that the smoke and tarnish of this world can not endure in the presence of the Living God, neither can the things which defile the flesh stand in his presence.
We come together in this community of faith where we find restoration, strength and edification. We come together in fellowship to repair the bumps, bruises, and blemishes that life in this world inflicts upon those who are "not of this world."

Edification and Ministry as it Pertains to Community
We have been conditioned by a religious world to go to church to receive ministry. After all, the church is where the minister is. I believe this is a viewpoint which needs to be reexamined in light of true fellowship and the question of what true ministry ought to be. Those to whom church is a place to be ministered to, are still conditioned to think in terms of priest (clergy) and laity. In this model which has been the tradition for the past 17 hundred years, we are taught that we need someone else to do our spiritual work for us. We come to the priest; we have him pray for us, teach us, bless us, absolve us. We presume that ministry is what happens in a church (fellowship,) and this kind of ministry is some kind of a "Band-Aid" to help us salve the current bruise. I believe there is an alternative, apostolic way of viewing the community of fellowship. It is the notion of coming to a place of restoration and strengthening; some have called this a "spiritual filling station." In this setting of fellowship there is rest, repose, and encouragement. There are occasions for teaching but the manner of teaching need not be formalistic. Those who know and who have experience victory in one kind of challenge or another, are able to share and encourage others with less knowledge or experience. Edification can occur without formalized, programmatic services. There is sharing of food and the life of God. Spiritual fellowship provides a redemptive community in which the bond of fellowship is not the bond of obligation but of the heart. Love is true and not an affectation. This kind of fellowship is far less structured, yet there is common motivation which guides everyone to seek first the things which are from God. God is purposely the focus and reason for being of all of the people who gather. God is not necessarily first in the lives of many, but in the right community this will change.  I do not see this kind of fellowship either taught, practiced or encouraged within the institutional church. Those who come to church for a formalistic program come in unsatisfied and they leave unsatisfied. They come feeling estranged or alienated from God and they leave feeling just as far from him. They can however, pretend to be listening while they sleep; or they can pretend to be praying while they dream of their next adventure with the girl at the office or the guy at the club. The actions of formal ministry can not touch the heart of those who need to have a spiritual heart transplant. 

To summarize: Learning Christ according to the Apostles Doctrine requires that we:
 
Be spiritually renewed by faith in Jesus Christ
Receive the empowerment of the Holy Spirit
Renew your mind by studying scripture
Seek personal fellowship of God
Seek the fellowship of God's family - - where your loved and valued
Imitate those who have mature spirituality
Walk in faith, (the knowledge that God cares for us in our present moment)
Minister to others, the same gifts and wholeness that we have received from God

THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
How Much Do We Have to Learn
Before We Become Spiritual?
Mentors and Ministries

Part of the spiritual life is to make a connection with those who can supply valuable connections. The joints are connections to individuals in the body of Christ. Fellowship supplies input to areas of knowledge which will be encouraging, and edifying. When we are born into the kingdom, we must move forward or we will retrograde back to the old life in the world. Here according to most voices of ministry is where one would be encouraged to get connected to a "good" church. This should be a simple fact but it is not. There are few church bodies of believers who hold more than a traditional evangelical viewpoint. Most are adhering to forms and traditions as well as doctrines which do not advance the Spiritual life to a significant level of maturity. Once in a church you are expected to "play by their rules." My best advice is to search for the church and set your sights on particular features which will allow you to be discipled and grow not in tradition but in spirituality. If one does provide "life" move on until you sense that it is where God would have you. In the mean time find a home fellowship where you can grow with others in an informal setting. God does not discriminate against home meetings. They are apostolic! It is how the "Church" began. If is obvious that formalized Christian ministry is everywhere in one form or another. As I have already described a vast majority of these churches or ministries are a manifestation of institutional and traditional religion in which the expectation is at best conformity to the norms of a Saturday or a Sunday ritual. Most offer no more than comfortable routine or ritual and little hope of gaining spiritual knowledge and understanding. Neither can they prepare us to fulfill Christ's gospel in the world. Most churches, which are struggling to maintain membership, interest, or involvement, are extremely jealous of their members going astray or getting involved with meetings or activities which are not sponsored by their own fellowship. There was a time when such unfaithfulness could be met by excommunication, but today the usual rebukes from the pulpit are just admonitions or doctrines created out of hand which indicate an obligation to support the local body. Yet it would seem to be close to a cardinal sin to consider "church hopping" or being active in any outreaches from other congregations. This is, in effect the fruit of division which institutional religion enforces.

The Electronic Church
There are many other kinds of ministries that may be accessible to us. Among these are media ministries. Men or women who have some special gift of teaching or evangelism or certain personal charismas have been able to share their spiritual understandings and insights with any who will watch or listen. If we appreciate the content of a given message we write to them or request their tape series or perhaps, we think that they have enough clout with God to pray for our special needs. These ministries, sometimes called the "electronic churches" are not always highly regarded by pulpit ministries.
We hear all kinds of castigation directed toward the names of such ministries, whether Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Robert Schuler, Benny Hinn or countless others who fill the airwaves of radio and television and short wave broadcast channels.
In view of practical matters of church survival and management, local preachers and church leaders need to maintain membership and viability. 'Grandma Smith' might write a check to a radio or television evangelist and forego giving her five dollar donation to the church collection plate. A pastor might make the following remark to parishioners, "Grandma Smith, if you want to support Reverend So and So on TV maybe you should call them when you need a trip to the doctor; or need someone to pray for you when you are sick; or have them officiate your funeral."

What has the Electronic Church ministry to offer? In some cases they be offer better teaching or preaching than some tradition-bound churches where so many to languish in their pews around the world? Televangelists usually have some unique strengths and certainly the ability to preach and persuade. There are important matters to consider in choosing any ministry to support whether remote or local.
However, they do subsist on donations from listeners which at times becomes problematic.
How may media ministries provide value and features that provide edification?

Let's look at some attributes of ministry:

  • First and most importantly is the message; Do we hear the correct gospel being taught?
  • How much of the appeal of this ministry is performance and dazzling rhetoric which attracts us and how much is a sense of devotion to the truth of the Gospel?
  • Does the minister seem to model Jesus Christ? The best mode of discerning a minister or a ministry is to imagine Jesus behaving and saying the things as the evangelist or teacher.
  • Is devotion and reverence modeled and portrayed?
  • Does the person try to draw attention to themselves through colorful mannerisms?
  • Does he seem preoccupied with authority and followings?
  • Does the leader indicate as we listen to his messages that he wants influence, control, or worship?
  • Does there seem to be more of emphasis on one aspect of the Gospel than another?
  • Is it a Gospel of power and wholeness or just continually underscoring sin?
  • Is it a Gospel in which we can become partakers of God's life or are we blessed because of our supporting the "Super Ministry of Brother X?" There are some media evangelists who I listen to and support because they have helped to mentor me in understanding the Word of God. I support them because they teach the full Gospel message, (more or less) and believe in the potentialities of becoming children of God, partaking in His Divinity. They teach what we should be taught in the local fellowship or church but are not.
  • We need to practice discernment and note any inconsistencies in doctrine which place the teaching outside of norms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostles Creed is recited by many denominations in the context of a worship service, but in spite of this, the content of the Apostle's Creed may hardly be addressed in teaching and preaching in sermons. Based upon denominations which I have belonged to or visited before and after I became a believer, unbelief and spiritual deadness till characterize most of the churches today even those who recite the Credo!  

Mega-Churches
When a brilliant preacher or evangelist proves his (her) ability to move and edify people they begin to develop a following. People follow spiritual anointings. They follow men or women who have demonstrated their abilities to impact the lives of others.
The largest churches today grow around the giftings of a single person. People are searching for a greater revelation of God. When they see God using an individual they naturally are attracted to that person. Nearly every Christian I know has a natural desire to be in the presence of "anointed" preaching. Mega-churches are built around mega-men. I believe there are in America today well over a hundred such mega-churches. I have attended a few and have seen others via telecasts and cable networks.

Positives Associated with Mega-Ministries
There are both negatives and positives in following this kind of ministry. A few positives: God shows favor to his servant by anointing him (her) just as God anointed Jesus and the Apostles for ministry. God's favor indicates his approval to bring forth a particular gift or understanding to the body. God's approval indicates that he foreknows that many will be touched and blessed by this individual. God allows a such a man or woman with special abilities to reach more people with a Gospel message they would ordinarily hear or be exposed to. Many are born again through the media ministers.  

Negatives Associated with Mega-Ministries The gifted minister may be persuasive or charismatic in purely human terms, without necessarily walking in a divine anointing. The media evangelist may be preaching a partial or flawed gospel, a non Christian gospel or simply traditionalism. There is no way for the novice seeker to know whether this person teaches true doctrine or not except by natural reasoning or mental judgment. There is a temptation for the minister to become puffed up in mind and think himself to be great. There is a tendency to focus on money and power. Though there may be concepts, doctrines and information imparted there is a serious limitation for immediate fellowship. To deal with this home fellowships or satellite congregations are set up to allow blessings of human interaction and loving community. Recipients of any ministry need intimacy and a human touch. It is not good for man to be alone. Ultimately the spiritual life is more than the acquisition of information about God.

Those who attend services in a mega church are committed to be audience or onlookers. This is a terrible loss and limitation.
But the most serious limitation is that individual believers are never really trusted or free to lead when they have achieved revelation or status in God's eyes. Typically, they are told that they must be submitted to a greater ministerial authority who must oversee.

An Impression of Mega-churches
I have attended worship services in several 'average size' mega-churches with bodies in attendance numbering 2 or 3 thousand. Some great churches have numbers approaching 10 thousand and those with 10 thousand that aspire to 50 thousand. While there may be brilliant teaching and preaching and outstanding musical worship, performance; one could not help but feel that those in attendance came mainly to view the show or to hear the inspired address of the mega-minister. What I saw was an enterprise in which each person was committed to make the mega-church even more of a mega-church. Something was missing. There was little or no contact between the "pastor" and the individual members. Individuals may have known and recognized a handful of people in the auditorium but they did not seek each other out for closeness, sharing, breaking of bread or lingering in the afterglow of God's presence. It seemed that the super Christians who were attending the super church quickly rushed home to resume life in whatever form life that awaited outside of church.  If the members who number thousands each give their tithe religiously, one can only imagine the amount of revenue that affords luxury and resources of a personal and ministerial nature. 

What is the Glorious Church? The Roman Catholic empire numbers in tens of millions. Is this the glorious church?
The issue of a glorious church may well be addressed in the context of the mega-church. There is evidence that many ministries of mega-churches teach an emphasis of the gospel that introduces the concept of a "glorious church." Will the church function as a dynamic economic and political force in the earth as well as a moral power to renovate society as well? For those who judge on externals this may appear to be the case but God does not regard externals. How can the size of a building or the number of people attending a mass or a service have any bearing on Godly glory? Glorious must bear more on the quality of the heart and the sincerity and earnestness that allows the love of God to be shared.

See the doctrine of Kingdom Theology. In secular societies, Christians have been regarded as the bane of society because of their conservative and fundamental viewpoints but quite the opposite is true. The true Spirit of Christianity is compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Moral precepts include personal honor and righteousness, integrity and responsibility; kindness, mutual support and family stability. Though the world does not like to recognize sin and unrighteous behavior as anything other than a "choice," Christians see that we humans all share alike, having a need for a redeemer along with the essential need of being hopelessly lost until God extends mercy upon our lives. In recent decades, Christians were too long absent and silenced from the counsel of social values and political ideas. In the present hour it is surely appropriate for those who have so much cause to rejoice and give voice to the life-changing testimony in the arena of public opinion. Men and women of integrity need to stand up publicly and politically and exercise their rights on behalf of issues of righteousness.

Yet, I believe that ultimately the glorious church does not extend to exert itself in empire or political power. Why? The spiritual life is essentially a non secular and a non materialistic life. Social or political activism may be a Godly calling in some. Those who follow a leading to become apologists for social and political issues it should be presumed have their own foundations in correct doctrine and not equate activism with the gospel. The emphasis of the Christian life can not be focused too strongly upon the things which are social, political, or economic at the expense of Spiritual relationships. These are not lines that I draw, but lines that the Holy Spirit has drawn. These parameters have been in place since Jesus spoke these words, "My kingdom is not of this world," and "You are not of the world." (John 18:36; John 15:19)
The nature and operation of the world is contrary to God's ways and I do not look for this situation to change until Jesus returns to set up an unending righteous Kingdom. Just how far into the future this event will occur is open to debate, there have been hundreds of book titles addressing it but the Bible itself has "sealed up" many of the answers and insights into the "second coming" of Jesus Christ. This is another area of scholarship.

Does this "glory" refer to the size, influence and authority of mega-church to rule upon the earth; does glory refer walking in the knowledge of truth; does it refer to all of the above or none of the above? Is it possible that the glorious church refers to the whole body has among it the faithful remnant who somehow remains separate, pure and faithful in the middle of a reprobate generation of spiritual pretenders and flaccid, Luke warm church goers?
Church as empire is not an new idea. It was in fact the goal of the early church since Constantine's day, both in Rome and in Constantinople, where power, influence, authority and might married the political and the religious. For a time church membership and theological belief was forced upon the whole world. A person was then a Christian because of political decree and not by the grace of God and such ordinances do nothing to enhance the life and promises of the Gospel. In such an empire men were exalted who held the power of life and death over others; who acted as spiritual judges over others; who were mediators between God and man and who rewarded themselves with worldly luxuries while being exalted to the point of worship in their offices. 

Meanwhile, certain men lust for power, clamoring for recognition and striving to achieve self exaltation. They lift and promote their own names as someone great, "as the great power of God." Acts 8:10) No, I do not think this is the Glorious church. The true glory remains shrouded with humility. This cloud of glory can only be penetrated with meekness, self-effacement and kindly service. Success which comes from such is contrary to the apostolic foundations of the Gospel which we need to follow.

Giving for the Sake of the Gospel
If you want to experience anger, dissonance, or heated theological debate this is the topic to broach. Giving is the bread and butter of ministry. It is support for a man and his message. It is the financing of the Gospel to world. It is the support of both the local church missionary outreaches. Because men and women go forth with good intentions and have devoted a large part of their lives to preparing for "ministry" they proceed believing that they are now prepared to live by the Gospel. "The Lord hath ordained that those preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel." (1Corinthians 9:14)

Professional Ministry
The concept of the clergy, professional ministry is a well establish and unquestioned paradigm. (See the power of paradigms.) The concept of Ministry has been traditionally connected to career or occupation. The concept of clergy as a professional career extends into the dim past of Chrisendom. The traditional church operates in accord with, and is enabled because of the professional clergy concept. The question of institutionally accredited, "professional ministry" appointed to churches and church giving is something that I believe each of us has to examine in light of Scripture and draw our best personal conclusion in the light of the Word. It is not my desire to subvert a system that you may believe in for your own best reasons, but rather to encourage each person to strive to know God as fully as possible and to experience the potential of Christ's Gospel, even if it means setting aside certain long held traditions. Every person should support the Kingdom of God as we judge it to be best expressed. We need to see the life of God as a Divine promise and a human potentiality. We need to see ministers bringing others into this potentiality. Once that criterion is met, we can go on to other matters concerning Giving. It is not my desire to subvert a system that you may believe in for your own best reasons, but rather to encourage each person to strive to know God as fully as possible and to experience the potential written of in the Gospel, even if it means setting aside certain long- held traditions. Every person should support the Kingdom of God as we see it best expressed. We need to see the life of God as a potentiality and the people who minister bringing others into it. Once that criterion is met, we can go on to other matters concerning Giving.

Giving: Giving is Blessed by God
There should be no laws (rules) for giving in the Kingdom of God. God has set us free from rules including rules about giving. Giving is good. Giving supports the man of God and also supports people who are not necessarily "ministers" of churches but who God wishes to bless through us. Various kinds of worldly commitments which touch upon the Kingdom of God need support, whether it be church buildings, outreach expenses, travel or any of a wide variety of needs which can only be met by others sharing the cost. God wants his will to be done through selfless sharing and contributions of money resources. Yet we need to be able to hear God leading us in these gifts so that it is truly a work of God for the Gospel sake and not just another good sound cause or charity.

Some basic principles identified on the pages of the Bible shed light on the subject of giving.

It is more blessed to Give than to receive
Give and it shall be given unto you
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven
Those who give to the poor lend to God
The Tithe is the Lord's - (Old covenant principle)
In the measure you give it shall be given to you
Sow sparingly, reap sparing
Give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven
Give as you purpose in your heart, Let no one give out of obligation
God loves a cheerful giver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The above scriptures are a few of many references to money and giving as introduced in the Bible. When we become more spiritual when are able to discern that God wants us to give to special ministries or to special servants of God. But we would miss God will if we only gave to ministry professionals and not to individuals and especially the poor. God love is about giving. Ministry is about sharing. Koinonia is also about mutual support. This whole world thrives in the light of a generous heart. "God so loved the world that he gave -" "God so loved the world that he gave -"

Christians who have a reborn or redeemed nature do not resist giving and sharing. The unredeemed do not want to let go of anything. The world thinks that their well being and survival are threatened by releasing necessary assets and resources. Believers know that when they give they are really investing in returns that are certain to come back to them, either now or later.

The Tithe The doctrine of the tithe (a tenth of one's increase) is taught in churches often not just as a principle but as an obligation. Very few congregations actually enforce the giving of tithes by recording all receipts and maintaining scrupulous records of the income although some come very close to this. Mostly what we hear is teaching which explains that tithing is a practice pre-dating the Christian era and the era of law. We find Abraham tithing before the era of law in the Book of Genesis. Thus with Abraham giving to Melchisedek we have a type of giving which all Christians should wish to embrace. The Book of Malachi supplies the greatest picture of God's displeasure at those who withhold the tithe. God calls it robbing Him. "The Tithe is mine," says the Lord, therefore to withhold it is to rob him. Malachi describes the "storehouse" where we are supposed to bring our tithe to God. Pastors love to teach that the storehouse is the local church, where all of the sheep are fed. This model has some problems associated with it, as follows:
 
   
Is God there?
Is his presence manifested?
Is His Word being taught?
Is the Spiritual life a reality and accessible?
Are the needs of the poor and needy being met?
Are important voices for the Kingdom of God being supported who also edify us individually?
 
The storehouse is associated with a view of the Levitical priesthood which existed in early Israel.The Levites were the tribe chosen to minister to the house of Israel. It was only the Tribe of Levi (Levites) who were the designated priesthood, This tribe, had no other source of livelihood and were sustained by the rest of the tribes of Israel.
With the ascension of Jesus Christ into the heavenly temple of God it is my belief that the nature of the storehouse has changed as radically as the priesthood. The people of God are not fed by natural bread today nor by the lambs and oxen of sacrifices once given up to the Levites. Now we are a new priesthood before God; we give spiritual sacrifices unto Christ who is now King and High Priest over all.
(Read Hebrews which explains the transition from the old covenant to the new.)

From what place do these blessings flow? From a heavenly place. Unto whom are our sacrifices given? To God in heaven. What is the sacrifice? It is the sacrifice of our lips; both praise and thanks giving. Who is the accountant who watches over our gifts and measures a blessing today and in the time to come? It is Jesus The Great High Priest who accounts for those things given in his name, whether money in a church collection plate or food to a hungry child, or a visit to an invalid or a drink to a thirsty man, or a visit to a person sick and alone in a hospital.
God sees every act done and the motive of every heart in which that gift is bestowed. God loves a cheerful giver. The motive of the heart touches faith. We know that Jesus sees our love and kindness to another in need. Giving as one giving to God that is faith. We know that he will also meet any of our needs in a time of lack because we did not withhold to others.
We do not give out of obligation. We are not debtors to the law. We are free to give because God is a giver. Giving is sowing seeds. We sow bounteously we expect to reap bounteously. We expect something to come from our planting. Sower of seeds also believe in the crop which will come at harvest time. This is surely a part of giving to the Kingdom of God. God will meet our needs at a future time because we have planted. God stores up treasure for another day in a heavenly place, because we have given.

Tithing as Worship
The giving of tithes is not just a simple token gift placed in an offering plate or bag. Tithing in the scriptural sense relates to act of worship in presenting the "tithe" to God. We find the act described in Deuteronomy Chapter 26. "Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it." "And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possesses it, and dwellest therein;" (- 26:1-) "That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name there." (- Deuteronomy 26:2-15)
Note this is during the dispensation of The LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD

Now regarding this worship as tithing, it is not my desire that you should memorize it and recite it a rite though awareness of the noted text is quite meaningful. The giving of the tithe should be something which touches our own understanding of our previous "captivity" and God's hand at work to take us out of that place of bondage and oppression, want and sorrow. The spiritual life acknowledges that we were also taken out of bondage. It is a faithful saying which needs to be spoken. Notice that all of this tithing worship is spoken to God in the place which has His name written upon it. Today we are redeemed and the house of God is not a special place it is the human house where the spirit resides.
The tithing worship reminds us of God's covenant with us and how he is taking further towards strength, blessing and victorious living. Speaking these things tells God that we know what he has done for us and that we are truly thankful that he knows and remembers us each and that he will continue to be with us supplying good things.
The Prosperity Message
The past several years has seen a great emphasis on the Prosperity message. Poverty and lack are seen as a curse throughout scripture. God does want us unprosperous. The redemption from the curse of the law also freed us want and lack. We believe that "God shall supply all of our needs according to his riches in Glory by Christ Jesus." In gauging any matter of doctrine we have to hold it up not only to common sense and scripture but to discerning what the spiritual life needs to be. Though we should not lack nor want, God wants more of us and not less of us. Therefore anything which takes our focus away from God and places it upon unfruitful things, those things which only decay, is really a stumbling block for a believer. Those who preach riches and wealth are leading people away from intimacy unless they are able to handle wealth and prosperity more graciously than I. Many are able to assume possessions of wealth and money and property without being seduced away from God's presence. But sometimes the aware of the futility and the emptiness of wealth comes too late when are already victimized by excesses, this was the case of the writer of Ecclesiastes, Solomon who realized late in life that with wealth comes other griefs and spareness of the soul. Gain is not Godliness, the apostle writes in 1Timothy 6:5, withdraw yourselves from such doctrines. but Godliness with contentment is great gain, (1Timothy 6:6) God wishes to supply our needs, to bless us in our going out and our coming in to make us fruitful in body and in all of the pursuits of our life. (Deuteronomy 28:3-6)

The doctrine of prosperity has blessing connected to it to be sure; but the negative side of it is its link to selfish motives both in the giver and the receiver. Many who preach the prosperity message are in a position to directly benefit by the unrestrained giving that is encouraged in sermons and in seminars. Some of those who preach the doctrine exceed the Word of God by suggesting that gifts given to their own ministries have the greatest return connected to them. Of course faith is infused into the process to insure a greater degree of return, thirty, sixty or one hundred fold according to scripture as is described and taught as a consequence of giving.
(There is greater insight in the 30, 60 and hundred fold metaphor than mere cash and assets. The prospering of the soul is accounted above all, in Spiritual richness.) Giving, according to Jesus, should not be in the manner of the Pharisees who "sound a trumpet" to give notice that they are doing an alms deed. Jesus teaches to give in secret and for the left hand not to see what the right hand does. All of these teachings address anonymous giving rather than a public display in which people are applauding the giver for his excellent generosity. The Lord says of such people, they receive their reward by the act of receiving public acclaim and applause. It is far better to give when only the Father who sees in secret knows. He will be the one who insures a return in the best possible time. Any man or woman can give or contribute in any 'kind' or commodity. One can give a gift of service another a gift of a song. Another a gift of kindness. The same principle applies when the motive is right, God who is the author and overseer of every good and perfect gift knows when our giving is free from self exaltation. He will insure the return.

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As many that have received the gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the Grace of God
1Peter4:7

 


© Charles Pinkney, 1995 - 2009