The verse is thrown out as a prooftext: "You have to follow the commands of God!" though nobody's expected to follow all the commands: they don't promote blood sacrifices or stoning sinners. It's just an attempt to coerce believers into submitting to their own favorite part of the Law.
This is an attempt at control: whether from ignorance or malevolence, this is an attempt to wield the Law, as it has always been wielded, to exercise control over you: "You must do what I say you must do, because of this verse!" This is part of "the curse of the Law." And implicit in it is "If you don't do what I say, you're guilty!" and this is the rest of "the curse of the Law."
Let's look a little closer, shall we, at what Jesus said? Jesus doesn't say, "If you love me, keep all the commands of the Law," or even "If you love me, keep this particular group of the Law's commands."
What does he say? "Keep MY commandments." Keep the commandments that Jesus has given. Not the commandments of the Law: the commandments of Jesus!
What did Jesus command? Let's pull out a concordance and look, shall we?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
This is my command: Love each other.
You're welcome to look it up yourself (http://nwp.link/1HpK278); these are actually the only commandments that Jesus gave. It's pretty clear that, while he has commanded it several times, he only gave one command: love each other.
So yeah: if you love Jesus, keep the commandments he gave: they're all about love each other. That's it. This isn't about obeying the law, or about religious traditions, or about dietary requirements or even a command to "do good works."
It's about loving each other.
It probably is appropriate to point out that love - true ἀγαπάω love - is a pretty big topic. It's all about pursuing their good over your own good, and that's a costly love that will itself require much of us. But the command is love; the command is not about submitting to the Law, either the Old Covenant Law, or the rules that someone is trying to control you with.
Brothers and sisters, the Law is dead. Long live the command of love.
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I also observe that when the church was meeting among the Jewish people, it used Jewish methods and settings (temple grounds), but when it met among the gentiles, it used gentile methods and locations (
My point is NOT that mass-producing Christian fellowship is inherently evil. My point is that it that it is equally not evil to choose a different model for fellowship.
It was late on a Sunday morning, and I was just waking up. I’d slept in, knowing that I wasn’t healthy and that I needed rest. I was thinking, “I’ll miss church if I don’t get up soon.”
For context, my Sunday morning “Church” is online and I attend by webcast. My “in real life” fellowship is another time during the week. This train of thought applies to both, really.
So I was thinking about what would happen if I miss church this morning, and that turned into an interesting train of thought. “What is my tradeoff? What am I missing if I miss church?”
The accusation crossed my mind that my online church is unnatural, not really what God has in mind for me, so I considered that for a moment. There actually is some merit in the argument that an online “fellowship,” where I am only an observer, not an actual participant, is not really what God had in mind as ideal for me. OK, let’s follow that thought for a moment?
But wait! Isn’t that what most Sunday morning gatherings are like? I’m an observer there, too. Oh, yes, I stand up when they say to, and sing the words they tell me to sing, and sit back down when they say to. But there’s no point during our time together at
Someone will say, “That’s not what Sunday mornings are for. That belongs in a home group.” [And here is where I’ll add my commercial: if you’re not part of a fellowship of believers that meets in an informal setting like a home, then they’re seriously missing out.] that kind of “sharing” is not an appropriate expectation for a Sunday morning gathering, though it would fit in the hallway or the lobby, maybe. There’s merit in that statement: Sunday mornings aren’t really designed for those kinds of things (which is rather a strong argument in favor of my online church – or for house church – but I’m going a different direction here).
So what are Sunday mornings for? What is the church gathering for, really?
Is Sunday Morning for worship? That can’t be right. My best worship is private, and I hear others tell me the same. I find that I believe that corporate worship is at its best when the worshippers have worshipped privately, and I know that I am a far better worship leader when I have worshipped privately. So while I affirm the value of corporate worship, I suspect that it is not the primary motivation, at least in God’s mind, for the gathering of the Saints.
I hear people talking about the value of getting fed at church; maybe the value of the church gathering is in the teaching. And I do value the teaching of my online church! But the Book is clear, and I’m fully committed to the concept that I must learn to feed myself first. The teaching there is good, but it is to supplement my own feasting on the Word. That can’t be the main value of church gatherings.
I’m going to be blunt here: It seems clear that the idea of “the message is the most valuable part of church gatherings” has come from those who preach. And it is from worship leaders that I most often hear that worship is the most important part of the service. (Please don’t assume that I don’t value a well-preached message from a gifted teacher, or that corporate worship isn’t glorious. If that’s what you’re hearing, you need to read this again more carefully!)
The thought crossed my mind, “What does the Bible say about the church coming together?” and as it did, a verse from Hebrews came with it:
It hit me like a freight train: God’s purpose for us coming together is to encourage each other. Specifically, it’s to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” which is how we are to encourage each other.
That’s the reason for coming together as a congregation: encouragement.
There is more extensive teaching on the church gathering together in 1 Corinthians 11, and it’s focused on meals together. Paul touches again on the topic in the midst of teaching about spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and in that context, he says, “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” Same thing: encouragement. Apart from these passages, there is no definitive teaching on church meetings in the New Testament, though Acts shows that the early church met daily in homes and weekly for apostolic teaching.
We could take it all together and form this model: When the saints come together, let’s gather around the dinner table, and let’s encourage one another, and let’s use what God gives us to that end.
My recommendation: learn to worship by yourself, not dependent on a leader and a band, though worship with them when you can. Learn to feed yourself, though supplement that with good, inspired teaching sometimes. But choose the congregation you gather with by this: “Is this a place where we can encourage one another?” And then go there, prepared to encourage, prepared to encourage others.
Multi-Level Marketing is Expensive:
1. It costs relationships. Multi-level marketing (MLM), by its very design and nature, changes my relationships. People are no longer only my friends or family, but must become—to some degree—prospects for the business. MLM requires by its very nature that you bring others into it. I have not been willing to pay that price.
Furthermore, some of the relationships that are spent are those of my family. MLM works well only if both husband and wife are equally committed to and enthused about “the business.” But even then, the time and attention siphoned away from my family relationships is hard for me to live with. Besides, I’ll miss our golf games on Fridays if that’s part of the cost.
And beyond all that, every successful MLM that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!) virtually requires my joining their social subculture in order to be “successful.”
2. It costs time. Any business endeavor will require an investment in time. Ten hours a week (such as is often quoted) strikes me as idealistic, but even if it is true, I have other uses for those hours that are more consistent with my long term (eg. ten thousand years and beyond) goals. Ten hours a week usually means ten hours on a quiet week and more on other weeks. But even ten hours a week comes out to 520 hours in a year, or the equivalent of three months of full-time work every year. I’d rather spend that with my family, or with baby believers, or even raking out my lawn!
3. It costs money. Likewise, any business will require a significant financial investment. Even if I don’t buy product to sell (but then what would I show my customers?), I must buy advertising, brochures, gas to attend meetings, costs for meals & conferences, meals for some meetings, bookkeeping paraphernalia, office space, etc. TANSTAAFL, you know.
4. It costs focus. MLM is, by its nature, an opportunistic business. That means that when I find an opportunity, I must seize it and make the presentation. (Rather like evangelism, though it’s an either/or situation. One can’t evangelize for both MLM and
5. It costs reputation. Thanks to Amway, MLM has a really bad name in America: a low-life, get-rich-quick reputation. Of course, people involved in MLM aren’t always “low-life, get-rich-quick” people, but you’d be hard pressed to convince many Americans of that. They hear MLM and they begin to look at you differently.
6. It costs my values. The last thing I need is a values war inside me. Many people have observed a spirit of greed in MLM adherants. In my experience, this is a very (I repeat, very) common problem with MLM. Soon, often before they even sign up, people stop seeing a business and start seeing dollar signs. This is largely related to the way many MLM members promote “the business:” “Look at the potential,” they say. “Think of the things you could do with the money!” I know, this is not a given. It is a serious danger; one that I choose not to expose myself or my family to. I don’t want any of my family flirting with the lust of the eyes or the boastful pride of life.
7. It costs my self-esteem. When I am in MLM, I am associated with values that are opposed to my personal core values. I am part of a group that is considered “low-life, get-rich-quick” by people whose opinions I hope to influence. I get a dozen “No thank you” and a handful of “Hell No’s” for every “I’ll think about it.”
The official figures are that one out of every twelve presentations will be interested in the business and one out of every ten persons who signs up will do anything with it. (These figures come from Amway.) That means one out of every 120 people I take the time to make presentations to will be influenced by “the business.” That’s a lot of work.
The concept of “If you work hard at your business, you can be very successful,” is true for most businesses, most jobs. If I own a drug store and work with as much focus and dedication as is required to make a success of the MLM business, I’ll be a wealthy drug-store owner before long.
Benefits of Multi Level Marketing
Now, lest I be found guilty of one-sidedness, I should present some of the “other side:”
1. If your boss is involved, it may be the “politically correct” thing to do.
2. If you are willing to pay the price(s), MLM can indeed make you rich. My personal opinion is that nobody does it better than Amway, but then Amway has so many people and so much exposure that it’s hard to make it to the big time with them. (A note about startup MLMs: the support services are usually pretty skimpy.)
3. If everything goes exactly as planned (not a regular occurance in our world, but it does happen), you can end up with a sizable residual income, if the MLM company doesn't go bankrupt. (Most do.)
Having said all that, it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain where my opinions come from.
I have studied MLM quite closely. I have a friend who is in an Amway offshoot and is probably going to be rich before he’s my age. He and I have spent probably 100 hours or more discussing Amway and other MLMs (he had studied several before joining his organization). He is a single man who is fanatically devoted to his group. He got a job as a taxi driver simply so he can have contact with more people to “present the business” to. He reads dozens of books, listens to hundreds of tapes and CD’s, hangs out with his “upline”, and attends lots of meetings. He makes several presentations a week and has built a substantial organization. He probably spends (or spent, when I knew him), 15 hours a week actively working on the business, but it consumed him.
I have also studied several MLM companies fairly intentionally. I’ve gone to meetings, read magazines and books, evaluated programs, propaganda, and merchandise. I’ve interviewed both winners and losers in a load of programs: NuSkin, Herbal Life, NSA, Quorum, Amway, Shaklee, Fuller Brush (yes, they went through a MLM stage) and a dozen or more others selling everything from diet plans to insurance and annuities to houses to home security systems to home computers. I’ve named Amway in my concerns above, but every single issue (or “cost”) that I raise above has been found in every single MLM organization I’ve looked at. No exceptions that I’ve yet found.
And last but not least. I have been personally involved in two different MLM programs. My experiences from the inside have confirmed everything I had observed from the outside.
Why did I join? I wanted to invest some of my “spare” time and make some money. It seemed like a good thing at the time. I had been approached by a man I respected. What did it cost? Every thing I’ve mentioned above and more. For years, I carried a sizable debt from the last endeavor. I know whereof I speak.
Multi-level Marketing opportunities are everywhere, and they have a measure of truth in them. If you are willing to give your life to “the business”, you can make a lot of money in some of them. They are naïve (or worse) in their communication of how much work is required. That work is better spent, more cleanly spent, in other places.
Observations from 1
It seems that there are seasons in our lives when maybe we’re a little more gutsy than we otherwise would be. There are seasons where we take on some larger enemies, either in own lives or in our communities, like
1. Brothers accusing us of wrong doing. (“I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” v. 28)
2. Leadership or people in positions of authority say, “You can’t do that!” (v. 33) These folks are often – if not carefully Spirit-led – very good at pointing out our weaknesses and the difficulty of the circumstances.
3. Others trying to put their own revelation/tools/limits on us (v. 38: “So
4. The enemy also will speak to us:
a. Some enemies will disdain us (v. 42) (Hebrew: “to despise, regard with contempt;”)
“Who do you think you are? What makes you think you can take on this kind of thing. You’re nothing but a ‘wimpy, wimpy, chicken, chicken!’
b. Some enemies will curse us by their own gods (v. 43) (Hebrew: “to make despicable; to curse,” but in a verb form that indicates intensity and repeated action.)
c. Some enemies will make threats. (v. 43: “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”)
In contrast to the enemy’s words,
A. Before the challenge:
B. During the challenge:
I really don’t like the fact that so much of our culture is informed by television. Now our kids learn about relationships from sitcoms, reality shows, and made-for-TV dramas. They used to learn about how to relate to their friends by watching their parents relate to their friends, or by relating to others themselves. Now, we learn how people relate from America’s Next Top Model or House MD.
I have to admit: I have pretty much never regretted blowing up my TV a few decades ago. The fruit has been very pleasing.But I’m not talking about television today; I want to talk about our relationships.
I have a core value that says that relationships – particularly relationships among believers – need to be things that work for our growth, our well-being.
The relational skills we pick up from
The catfights on Top Model (or The Apprentice, or Project Runway, or how many others?) don’t qualify as encouraging relationships.
This may come as a surprise, but the relational skills we learn from the television are not good examples for our lives. They’re designed, crafted, for entertainment, to capture our attention, and to discourage us from flipping the channel to some other over-the-top show.
I’m fascinated by the reverse lesson: those are the world’s ideas of relationships. What would godly relationships look like?
I’m captured by the idea of relationships among us that are focused on building each other up. Since we live in an era in which prophetic gifts are commonplace, I’m captured by the idea of prophetically discerning the calls, anointings, plans for blessing that God has established for others, and relating to each other on the basis of what God says about them, rather than what we see or hear.
In fact, I’ll go this far: we can relate to each other from at least three different perspectives, three different viewpoints that I can work with as I relate to you:
· What’s best for me in this relationship? What do I need in this? How can I relate to you in such a way that I get my own needs met? I see you as a means to my ends, as a repository of resources to meet my needs. Sounds pretty ugly.
· What’s best for you in this relationship? I’m not sure that this perspective has any real value beyond the theoretical. I have neither the capacity to discern what it is that you truly need, nor the means to provide it, but it always sounds good to say I’m working for your best interests.
· How does God see you? I think of this as the prophetic perspective: I can’t know all that God knows of you, of course (my brain would explode), but I can know what He chooses to show me. And if I choose, I can relate to you as if you already were the person that God has described you as.
I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to persuade each other of how we’re right (and therefore you’re not), and instead focused on “What can I do to help you become this person God sees you as today?”
For example. Let’s assume that you’re an ordinary with ordinary issues, like you get angry when people treat you unfairly, or if you haven’t had enough sleep. Or whatever.
Now let’s imagine that we have a chance to pray together, and in that process, God reveals that a) He loves you a whole lot (no surprise there), and that b) He sees you as a leader among His people. Now if I’m working on the concept of relating to you according to a prophetic perspective, then I’ll treat you as someone loved by an omniscient God, and as a leader and teacher.
I’ll treat you with honor. Yeah, I really don’t want to piss off the guy that’s in love with you, but that’s the short view. More significantly, as a lover of God myself, I probably want to love the people that He loves, and that includes you. It’s true theologically, but if He’s pointed it out personally, then it’s an even more powerful motivator.
I’ll also regard you as a leader, even though right now the characteristic that’s most evident about you is that you get angry a lot. God sees you as a leader, and if I’m going to agree with Him, then I’m going to see you – and therefore treat you – as a leader as well. I’m going to respect your opinion. Heck, I’m going to listen to your opinion!
Note that God has not put you into a position right now of leader. Those are your calling, your destiny. You can grow into those (or not), but they’re part of how God sees you. I don’t defer to your leadership above that of my existing leaders.
In at least three ways, I treat you differently because I now see you according to the revelation of your calling as leader:
A) I treat you with the respect that a leader and teacher would deserve. If the President walked into our room, how would I respond? If a business leader I respected walked in, how would I respond? How much of that response would be appropriate with you? More, how far can I push it: How much of that respect, that honor, could I get away with before it became inappropriate or excessive?
B) I look for signs of a leadership anointing in your life. I expect leadership gifts from you. Subject to a whole lot of other things (like the role of established leaders in both of our lives), I look for the gift to show up.
C) I look for opportunity to equip the gift. If I have the authority, I might give you opportunity to demonstrate the gift in a limited setting. I might see if I can find an environment where you can benefit from training in leadership; I might invite you to hang around with leaders, and talk with leaders.
If we want to do what God is doing, to agree with what God is saying, how can we do that in our relationships?