Thursday, February 26, 2009

Church Vs Kingdom


By Charles Carrin

Church failure is directly related to congregations isolating themselves from the Kingdom of God and re-organizing according to their own ideologies. Failure is unknown in the Kingdom. Jesus promised the church that the "gates of Hell shall not prevail against it". Matthew 16:18. The New Testament acknowledges the reality of the church's persecution and pain but not her failure. She can expect tyranny and trial but not defeat; demonic attack will come but she need never surrender.

Jesus preached about "The gospel of the Kingdom," Matthew 24:14, "The mysteries of the Kingdom," Matthew 13:11, "The keys of the Kingdom," Matthew 16:19, "The word of the Kingdom," Matthew 13:19, "The heirs of the Kingdom," James 2:5. Jesus "loved the church, gave Himself for it," Ephesians 5:25, all the while He pointed men's hearts to the heavenly Kingdom. We are to love the church as Jesus did but our emphasizing segregated parts of the church independently of the Kingdom is a contradiction of His message. Denominationalism is an illusion, a phantom in the desert.

In the gospels, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom more than 130 times but made only 3 references to the church. Matthew 16:18; 18:17. The modern church, in contrast, has reversed the Divine order, ignoring her Kingdom-identity and relating only with select, visible congregations. Do I need proof? World-wide, there are more than 30,000 different registered Christian denominations. Each makes the claim that it is the correct one, has more truth than the rest, and is God's guardian of Scripture. To be spiritually correct, you must belong to it. Such bigotry guarantees the loss of Kingdom identity and power. To whatever degree churches promote self-centeredness and sectarianism, they cut themselves off from Kingdom authority."The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you.'" I Corinthians 14:21. Yet, that is precisely what congregations have done. The result is dysfunctional churches and impotent ministries.

Scripture speaks of the church in two distinct capacities: The church as the Bride of Christ, empowered, undefeated, eternally joined with the Redeemer in Glory, and the "church" as visible earth-bound congregations that are provided with miraculous power–but most of which is refused. In this writing, I speak primarily of the latter–the visible church. Today, this local church is far removed from what God intended her to be. In His offer of Kingdom authority, Jesus explained to the disciples, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." Acts 1:8.

Pentecost was the Holy Spirit's act of replacing the disciples’ earthly-inferiority with Kingdom-of-Heaven superiority. In that wonderful moment, God infused the 120 believers with heaven-sent power, Acts 2. At that time, a conception took place much like one occurring in the womb. With the impregnation of the first disciples by the Holy Spirit, the church was formed. Though the church in the earth was new, the Kingdom was not; it was as old as Heaven itself. In a progressive way, the Kingdom has come, is coming, and will yet come. It is my personal opinion that in Heaven we will witness an ever-expanding, never-climaxing, endless progression of the Kingdom into a Glory that is never fully attained. There is a parallel of this endlessness in the visible Universe as it continues expanding outward at the speed of light.

A gospel without the Kingdom is a powerless gospel. Apart from the Kingdom, the church has no message, no mission, no purpose, and no future. Once identified with the Kingdom, the church has an astonishing timelessness that connects her both to the future and to the era before time began. My heart-cry is for others to see the Kingdom in all its Glory. It is awesome! The mission of the church is to reveal the Kingdom and its heavenly King. At Pentecost, the Kingdom of Heaven invaded earth with glory. The invisible Kingdom with all its mightiness was placed within reach of ordinary men.

This segregated condition exists solely in the earth-bound church; no trace of division, lovelessness, and absence of power, can be found in the Kingdom of God.

Most failures in the Western Church exist because of competitive, sectarian groups, who treat each other spitefully and grieve the Holy Spirit. I need to be very plain: Churches who emphasize membership with the church more than union with the Kingdom are betraying the people. Not only so, but churches who do not acknowledge the Kingdom’s superiority and the church’s inferiority are betraying Christ. He persistently preached the "Kingdom" message. For that reason, church members who are Kingdom-minded make better supporters than do people who are church-minded.

Doctrines and denominations do not create godliness or right-standing with Jesus. Relationship with God is the only source. In spite of theological differences, a godly Baptist is just as pure of heart as a godly Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Methodist, or something else. Grace–not human titles–produces holiness. Sectarianism produces loneliness. Count Zinzindorf expressed truth when he advised Christians who held different views, "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity."

Jesus said, "All power has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, make disciples ..." Matthew 28:18,19. The Kingdom is as invincible as the King who reigns over it. God wills for that same invincibility to be duplicated in the church. But, many Christians are convinced that being born-again identifies them fully with the Kingdom; this is not so. The Kingdom of God is much greater than church doctrine can ever comprehend. It totally encompasses all the known dimensional realms in which we live plus the other dimensions which remain unidentified. The Kingdom–as the Government of God--transcends all there is, the seen, unseen, physical, nonphysical, discovered, undiscovered. Relationship with this incredible Kingdom is what is offered to us in the gospel.

Our interaction with the Kingdom is the real issue. Jesus illustrated how the Kingdom coalesces with other dimensions when He said, "If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God no doubt the Kingdom of God has come unto you." Matthew 12:28. The demonic realm, the Kingdom, and our earthly sphere, are dimensions distinct from each other but Jesus brought them together every time He cast out a demon. Not only so, but He expects the modern church to do the same; we are to invade the demonic realm and exorcize demons with Kingdom power. Is that happening? Only in a few churches.

Liberalism has gutted the main-line denominational churches and left them in hellish unbelief. In many evangelical, "fundamental" churches, denominational interpretation has produced the same results. Though it is not usually recognized, the effects of liberalism and fundamentalism are similar. The first denies the inspiration of all Scripture; the second denies only selected parts. Both are deadly. One produces rebellion, the other creates religious legalism. Churches from each group will continue to die–as will some full-gospel congregations.

In 1517, Martin Luther changed the course of history by nailing an inconspicuous-looking protest on his church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That day, the Reformation was born. By 1991, more than 30,000 different Christian sects existed worldwide as the result of his hammer. In other words, every year for nearly 500 years an average of 60 new divisions have occurred within the church. While Luther wanted change, his results in part were catastrophic. Within a short time Protestants burned other Protestants at the stake with the same intolerance that Rome had used earlier to victimize them. The fact is: Centuries after Luther, Protestants are still protesting–this time, against themselves. The question arises: What went wrong? How can so many different Christian bodies make the same claim to "orthodoxy"?

I appreciate Luther and the tremendous blessing brought by the Reformation. In spite of obvious failings, God used him to bring a genuine spirit of reform to the church. The problem is that while thousands welcomed the spirit of Reformation, another spirit entered the movement undetected. That was the spirit of rebellion. Rebellion and Reformation seem so much alike that the intrusion of this dark power caused no alarm. But we must not let its’ quiet entrance deceive us about its' violent nature: "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft," I Samuel 15:23. As an aspect of witchcraft, rebellion is dominating, totally unrelenting in its' demand to have control. Once established in the Reformation, it worked as an abortive, counter-revolt against the movement. In the language of warfare, it was the "Fifth Column". Through it, Satan confused issues, lessened the Reformation's power and devastated fellowships.

In many parts of Europe, Reformed Christianity became as inseparably wed to government as had Catholicism. Within a short time, many denominations established themselves along dangerous–political–national boundaries. If you were German or Scandinavian, you were Lutheran. If you were Scottish, you were Presbyterian; Dutch, you were Reformed, English, you were Anglican. Spanish, Italian, Polish, French, etc., you were Catholic. To differ from the State Church often brought political wrath. In effect, Kingdom-identity was also burned at the stake. Religiously and secularly, it was not the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom that controlled the church but the spirit of rebellion.

Long after the fires of Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, and others, became embers, this alien spirit continued to enforce its' will over the people. Jesus was obscured in fierce theological battles and good men were sentenced to death at the hands of other Christians who claimed to be more theologically "correct". At this point, the legitimacy of the Reformation was lost to the damnable spirit of rebellion. For nearly five centuries this ghost has continued its' menace against the movement it pretended to promote. Its' most effective tool in fostering schism in the Church has been this legitimate sounding claim:

Christian unity must be based on doctrinal agreement.

This claim seems reasonable. Doctrinal agreement is needed.–But doctrinal agreement is the wagon, not the horse. By its' very nature, doctrine is not a leader. Religious systems that use their creeds to determine their fellowship produce run-away wagon trains. Christian history and current reality consistently proves this to be so. Only love is qualified to lead. Christians must accept each other on the basis of Jesus' redemption; all other considerations–no matter how important–are secondary.

The only instrument that can safely bring Christians into unity is the Holy Spirit; He does that by drawing us first into mutual love for Jesus. There is no exception to this truth. Without the foundation of a mutually-acknowledged redemption there can be no agreement on theology or anything else. Freedom to correct each other's errors depends on a secure relationship. Even the original Apostles disagreed on key issues but maintained unity through the commonality of their redemption in Christ and their determination to "preach the Kingdom of God". So must we.

Satan does not fear us; he fears the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Far better than we, he knows that unity in the saints releases that power against himself. Fragmenting the Body is therefore his major objective. He does that by isolating believers from each other, denominationalizing their view of Scripture, and convincing them that the Holy Spirit's power is no longer available. He not only assures each Christian group that their faction is superior to others but simultaneously deafens them to truths which would bring them closer to each other and to correctness. He allows a sect to see itself favorably, through its' own eyes only--never objectively through the eyes of others. Having achieved that goal, he then proceeds to frustrate each separated group from within. Without exception, he tirelessly presses issues that cause more disintegration. It is important that you hear me carefully: This spirit is not only rebellious but religious. As an "angel of light", it will wear any godly-looking garb that deceives the saints.

It is impossible for Christians who have been overtaken by this spirit to have an unbiased understanding of Scripture. Instead, each group persistently searches for reasons to maintain its' present course. Self-approval becomes the goal. I know. I spent years of ministry in that kind of system. But! Having seen the "Kingdom" I can never go back!

The fact that Christians accept division in the Body of Christ as normal is proof they already have a distorted view of Scripture. Division is disease. It is' disorder. Abnormality. It is in direct opposition to the unity for which Jesus prayed. John 17:21. Is there hope for restoration? Yes! "A little cloud, as small as a man's hand, is rising out of the sea." I Kings 18:41-45. With it comes the sound of "abundance of rain". Rebellion has been discovered and will be cast out. Be encouraged, better days are ahead for Kingdom unity!

What can I do to hasten the day of change? Avoid rebellion, be in faithful submission to God. As He directs, stay in whichever church or denomination you presently are. At the same time, become a "Kingdom" believer. Ask the Holy Spirit for Kingdom power, to give you a Kingdom identity, fill you with Kingdom courage, and to lavish upon you Kingdom love. Pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven," then watch Kingdom-authority transform your life and ministry. You will crawl out of your denominational tent to see the mountain ranges of God's Kingdom surrounding you. The sight is breath-taking. Indescribable. Glorious.

You will like the new Kingdom-person you have become. In a new way you can sing, "All hail the power of Jesus’ Name, Let angels prostrate fall! Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all!"

Your church failure will give way to Kingdom Power.

Charles Carrin


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