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"I have reserved to Myself 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant."
Romans 11: 4, 5
         I have a thought-provoking question for you. If Jesus were to return to earth today, which church would He be a member of?
        When I sent that question out to those on our mailing list, I received over 117 responses. It was designed to challenge our thinking and perhaps even be a wake-up call, as I pray this chapter will be as well!
Here are a few more questions we all need to ruminate over:
  1. Does Jesus need to belong to a church?
  2. Doesn't the church really belong to Him?
  3. Isn't the church really just an extension of Himself?
  4. Isn't Christ the church? "For upon this rock I will build my church." Matthew 16:18
  5. Aren't we all united as "one body in Christ"? Romans 12:5
  6. Aren't we only "complete in Him"? Colossians 2:10
  7. Don't real Christians only "live and move and have their being in Him"? Acts 17:28
  8. In heaven, what constitutes the church?
  9. On other planets, what constitutes the church?
  10. Are they Adventist, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Mennonite, Pentecostal, or one of the other 45,000 recorded denominations?
  11. That's right-45,000 distinct denominations!!!
  12. How does that answer Christ's final prayer in John 17 that we would all "be one as He and His Father are one"?
  13. On our planet, what really constitutes the church?
        I suggest that the answer to this last question is quite simple. It is all those who live in accordance with God's Word and are ' UNDER GOD, IN CHRIST , and Guided by His SPIRIT!'
         Lucifer refused this at-one-ment, this infilling, and set up his own rules for living. Then he became the antichrist. He established his own church and religion, the body of those who choose to be 'In Charge.' That's the direct opposite of being under God and His Word.
        So, which church do you really belong to, by your choices and actions?
        Are 'You' presently under God and His Word?
        Are 'You' in Christ and imbued with His Spirit from on High? Or are you only into your church culture, your denomination, your liturgy, your distinctive doctrines, and your church lifestyle? Perhaps all of these have become your religion. If so, you will find that your religion isn't enough. You are perhaps only on first or second base, and you need His help to get to home plate.
Hall of Faith
         Hebrews Chapter 11 is an astonishing chapter. It lays out for us those who were found in the church of the 7000. There was Abraham, who slept with his handmaid; Jacob , who was a deceiver; Moses, a murderer; Rahab, a prostitute; Samson , a womanizer; and David, a murderer, adulterer, and concealer. All were in the hall of faith. Why???
         Then you can add to that men such as Wycliffe, a Catholic, who is considered the morning star of the Reformation; Luther, who was considered the instrument in advancing Protestantism; Wesley, the founder of the Methodist revival, as well as many others. All were part of the church of the 7000. Why? Because they all came to be found ' In Christ,' with the Bible as their foundation. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26
         This should be the connecting link for all. Unfortunately, our distinctivenesses have become a badge that we wear differentiating ourselves as being superior to others. We allow our distinctivenesses to become fences, cross fences, and barriers, while missing a God centeredness 'In' Christ. We marginalize others and see them as inferior, while we ourselves are marginalized from having a daily baptism in Christ.
         I know scores and scores of professed Christians who have been baptized into a church and its culture but have not practically and daily put on Christ as their life and companion. Their distinctiveness becomes their greatest deception, because they rely upon their ' Intellectual Assent ' to truth as well as their church culture and have not brought the truth into practical life. In other words, there must be a demonstration of Christ living in you, as well as the proclamation of and a warning of your distinctive message and truth.
         So, were you baptized into Christ today and have you put on Christ as your daily life, Lord, and Savior? Or do you have on substitute clothing? "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one 'In' Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
My Personal Statement of Faith
"Christianity is Christ. In Christ, regardless of denomination, there are only blood bought, born again, Spirit-led, Bible-believing Christians. Therefore, my creed is the Bible; my empowerment is grace; my life is of faith; my salvation is in Christ alone; my denomination is Christ!"
        This to me is the irreducible gospel-bare-bones, unadorned, and irrefutable. Christ, and Christ alone, is my life. I belong to Him! It is from Him that I receive life and power to live life. It is in Him that I live and move and have my being. Anything that keeps me from this experience I now view as a bunch of fences, cross fences, barricades, and obstacles. That includes not only the distractions of this world, self in charge, and sin ruling over me, but also a lot of Christ-less theology, religious routines and forms, doctrines, reforms, standards, and professions that can be a substitute for the Savior. Whatever fails to bring me into a practical daily experience in Christ amounts to no saving good!
        Let us beware of the 'Gospel of Substitutions' that contains a lot of good, a lot of energy, and a lot of facts and focus. But if it is missing the core, it leaves you wandering the endless mazes of religion, while still wearing pretentious leaves. These pretentious leaves are present whenever we turn a truth into 'The Truth' and hold to this truth more than to Jesus Christ, to love as He loves. That's what the Jewish nation did with the Sabbath truth. They had just crucified the Lord of the Sabbath when they went to Pilate for permission to take Christ down from the cross to not violate the Sabbath. Ooh . . . Ouch. Is that you? Do you do that with your focus on last day events, Bible prophecy, religious affiliation, or any other overly focused doctrine or reform in your culture? If so, BEWARE!
        That was me, and that has been so many millions of people down through the ages, starting with God's first denominated church. When the Roman soldiers surrounded Jerusalem, God's first denominated people put their trust in the Temple instead of in Jesus Christ. They ran to the Temple saying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these." Jeremiah 7:4 They were slain with their false hopes, doctrines, and ideologies , and their blood ran out the temple doors into the streets.
God's Family
         God 's true family is made up of tax collectors, a Roman soldier, a Samaritan woman, a Nicodemus, and the Sons of T hunder , who allowed Christ in and His Spirit and Truth to rule instead of themselves. Are you one of them?
         God 's true family is made up of all of those who have surrendered all to Him-all who are allowing Jesus to live in them in the present, by means of His Word. Are you one of them? Are you one of those who have not only accepted what Christ has done for them in the past, but are allowing Christ to live in them and work through them in the present moment. Those are the ones who make up the church of the 7000. They demonstrate they belong to God.
         They have discovered that there is no safety or security outside of Christ in them, and they in Christ. (John 15 & 17) They no longer rely on their church affiliation, their distinctiveness, nor their lifestyles as their security -only God and God alone.
My Favorite Churches
           Do you know, of the hundreds of churches and institutions that I've been blessed to speak at around the world, which one is my favorite? It is the Delta prison in Delta, Colorado. When I go there to speak, about seventy-five prisoners show up in the chapel. These men are convicted felons-murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and thieves. To worship God in a prison costs these men something. They must walk across the courtyard with their Bibles in hand in front of hundreds of other prisoners. These men are truly aware of their past and their need of a present, living experience in Jesus Christ. They no longer use force to control others. They genuinely love one another as brothers. They not only desire, but are learning to cooperate with God, to be changed into His glory. I always go away uplifted and truly blessed. They admit their condition and love to hear of God's power and love to redeem them. My second favorite place to preach is in a poor, little, modest church in the Amazon. These people are so poor that all they have are a couple walls and a roof over their heads, with no windows. They are so humble and so meek that you never hear a word of complaint from them. When you walk into their midst, the presence of Christ surrounds you. Their faith is a living faith, a dependent and surrendered faith. They know their need, and you are blessed by serving their need. These two churches remind me of the Statue of Liberty. 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.' There is no indifference in these groups, no Luke warmness, just people that want more of Jesus and His truth. Does that describe you and your church?
A Peculiar People
         God states in Titus 2:14 that He will "purify unto Himself a peculiar people." So, what are the identifying marks of God's peculiar people? Here are four of them. See if you line up.
        The first is whether we are God-governed or man-managed. In other words, are we going to do it God's way or our own way? How would God score you on this one? Would God say you cooperate with Him 25% of the time, 50%, 75%? What would your percentage be? In your daily life are you one of His peculiar people, or do you merely attend a church or assent to a peculiar way of thinking? Just because a mouse is in a cookie jar doesn't make him a cookie. And just because you go to a certain church, believe a certain doctrine, live a certain lifestyle, doesn't make you a Christian. Only being a living follower of Christ makes you a Christian. What percentage of the time did you follow Him last week?
         A second identifying mark is what I would refer to as liberty versus control. How do you treat those who disagree with you? How do the professionals in the church regard the blue-collar workers? How do the conservatives consider the liberals? How do the liberals talk about the conservatives? When your spouse crosses you, are you the real or the counterfeit? Would your children say you are one of His peculiar people? Rather serious questions to ask, wouldn 't you say? Based upon your fruit, are you one of God's peculiar people? "For every tree is known by its own fruit." Luke 6:44 Do you pass the fruit test?
        A third identifying mark is honesty versus cover-up. When God comes to you and speaks to your conscience, do you hide? Do you excuse? Do you blame? Do you cover up? God's peculiar people always have "a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." (Acts 24:16) Is your conscience right now void of offense towards your brother? Have you slandered or twisted the truth against anyone? Have you transgressed or smeared anyone? If so, and you are truly God's peculiar people, you will make it right. Are you going to make right what God is whispering to you right now?
         A fourth identifying mark is found in Exodus 33:14: "My presence will go with you." Do you have a vividness of God's presence and His companionship with you throughout the day? Do you cultivate a sense of His presence with you before you open your mouth? Doesn't God say that we are "the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people"? 2Corinthians 6:16 Wow, are we missing it as professed Christians? Do we go out into our daily lives without His presence? Or do we, in the midst of our day, leave off His presence? These are very serious questions, and ones which we need to not only answer, but also enter into.
        What makes us His peculiar people is that we are distinctly in 'Oneness' with Christ-always doing His will and not our own!
Hardest Task
            The hardest task of my life has been to peel away the layers of nominal Christianity and ordinary religion to uncover the unadulterated gospel, which is the power of Jesus Christ living in and through me, enabling me to live above the flesh and the world.
         Others of all faiths are finding this as well. I call them the church of the 7000, who, by the grace of Jesus Christ, are not bowing their knee to the image of Baal. This scattered flock "hear His voice and follow Him." John 10:27 "They worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth." John 4:23 They don't just know their Bibles-they are also so sensitive to the Spirit that the lightest whisper of Jesus moves their souls to do the right over the wrong.
         Is that you? That was Jesus!
         But Jim, what about my distinctive beliefs?
         It 's great to own and share your distinctiveness. However, your distinctiveness should never replace or become a substitute for God-centeredness! Yet it almost always does! Mental assent to truth is very much needed, but is hypocrisy without a demonstration of it in practical life. Romans 1:18 talks about those who "hold the truth in unrighteousness." Is that you?
         Let us all make sure we are distinctively in Christ every day, all day long!
The Pure and Simple
         " He has shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." Micah 6:8 Does this describe you? It's what God values the most. To act justly means you are impartial, honest, and fair-one who others would say has integrity. If you love mercy, it means you are forgiving, compassionate, and understanding for the journey that others are on. To walk humbly says you are unpretentious; there is no air of arrogance about you, no ego centeredness. You are respectful to all and possess a servant's attitude. You nurture and encourage others to come into Christ and out of self's rule. You forgive others as Jesus has forgiven you. You never hold yourself up as Superior or see others as Inferior.
        Don't breeze over these character traits lightly. Why? Because before the return of Jesus Christ there will be a revival of primitive godliness as has not been seen since apostolic times. It's a faith that is lived out in each relationship of our life, including our marriage, family, church, and society.
         Seriously now, what would it be like if our churches were primarily made up of those who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God?
        I may be stoned for saying this, but I have not found a denomination or local church fundamentally made up of the pure and simple. Pure doctrines, perhaps; a living demonstration, no! Shouldn't they be Siamese twins?
        However, I have found the pure and simple-those living a genuine biblical faith. Some are Adventist, some are Baptist, some Evangelical, some Mennonite, some Pentecostal, home churched, and even nondenominational. I would like to round them up and gather them into one community of believers. What sweet fellowship there would be! My soul longs for such an encounter: God-focused, Spirit-filled, Word-centered deep fellowship. I feel so lonely Lord!
        The spiritual complacency in the church is an enemy to our souls. It dumbs us down; it numbs our spirituality and breeds an alarming indifference and a mediocre existence. Lord, the epicenter of our spiritual lives must be You and You only! This is how it was for your Son Jesus, and this is how it must be for us as well. We must find this or perish as foolish virgins.
        The pure and simple are always counterculture to the world, society, and even their own churches. They never quite fit. Just like Jesus never fit in His own church. Can you picture Jesus cheering for the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks? promoting Hillary or Trump? watching the latest Hollywood movie? earbuds in His ears listening to Christian rock? No, Jesus was too pure and simple. And so are his followers: straight-laced, single-minded, and out of touch with the world and nominal Christianity; in touch with God, their family and community, and the needs of the hurting.
           The pure and simple have their own language of full surrender and complete dependence. They are "swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger." James 1:19 They are in tune with God. They daily choose a God-governed life over a man-managed one. Thus, they don' t fit! Religion can 't satisfy them. Church office can't satisfy them-only God and God alone!
        Their model verse: "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2 Almost all of them have gone through disappointment, smearing, suffering, rejection, heartache, and loneliness. But they have come out the victor rather than the victim. As Jesus lived, so do they!
Power to Live
            Do you receive Jesus and let Him in to subdue your irritation and anger? Do you allow Him to rule over your appetites and lusts, over your pride and jealousy, and over your backsliding and church politicking? Do you surrender your doubt, despair, and despondency, allowing Him to be Lord of your life instead of your emotions?
         " But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." John 1:12 The 7000 have power!-power to not bow the knee to Baal!-power to live above nominal Christianity and ordinary religion!-power to put their spouses first!-power to love the one instead of just hanging out with the ninety and nine! The church of the 7000 are "one body and one Spirit, even as they are called in one hope of their calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Ephesians 4:4-6
         Therefore, their denomination is Christ: "the fullness of Him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:23
Questions for Discussion
  1. What is the cost of being a member of the church of the 7000?
  2. Are you willing to pay that cost?
  3. Is your trust in a church organization, or a living God?
  4. How do you view others who are not of your own denomination?
  5. How many people have you honestly discipled?
  6. Would God say you belong to a church, or do you belong to Him?
  7. Do you understand the difference in question six?
  8. The pure and simple, a peculiar people-when are you going to get all on board?
Jim & Sally
                             What Will You Do With Jesus Today?