PART 4 YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
PART 4 YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
Now that you are born again and are beginning to understand what your gift or gifts are, which you have received from the Holy Spirit, and have started to be aware of those kinds of teachings that will promote your spiritual growth, there will also be some roadblocks along the way that you will encounter. These might cause you either to advance or regress in your walk with God. What these roadblocks are and how to address them will be the focus over the course of the next few chapters.
Who Should I Associate with That Will Help Me to Grow Spiritually?
When I was saved, I received an incredible saturation of God’s divine love, joy, and peace. However, as the anointing of the Holy Spirit dissipated, my former mental tendencies (as they were before salvation) began to resurface. Here I was a single guy in his mid-twenties. Even though I was attending worship service on Sunday morning, along with a Bible study mid-week, there were still five other nights for which I was not accountable. I continued to go to night clubs, dancing, drinking, and looking for girls. The difference this time was that the messages I would hear twice a week would remind me that I should start to make better decisions concerning these involvements.
Due to certain circumstances, I left the original church in which I was saved. As time went on, I found a church that was newly established. I attended the twice a week worship service. It was dynamite. The Holy Spirit would impact me with His presence. The Word was insightful. But again, I had five other nights free. Eventually, a third night for gathering was established by an affiliated branch ministry at a place not too far away from where I lived. Now I had three nights where I attended the worship services to hear the Word of God and be impacted by the Holy Spirit’s presence.
On one particular occasion, I attended a worship service with two of my friends, both of whom were born again. When the service ended, a fellow believer asked us if we could give him a ride home. On the way to his house, he pulled out a couple of marijuana cigarettes from his pocket and asked us if we wanted to indulge in this drug. We all agreed. I found a hidden place to park the car, and all of us participated in this foolish endeavor. After a few minutes, we were in a zombie-like state. A period of time went by, and eventually, I drove everyone home.
This interaction of going to church, hearing a message, being impacted by God’s presence, driving this particular person home, and then indulging in marijuana went on for about three weeks. At that point, I told him this had to stop. If he still needed a ride home after church service, then fine. However, I said that if he asked any of us again to smoke marijuana, we would no longer be giving him a ride. A short time later following worship service, he asked for a ride home. While on the way he asked if anyone wanted to get stoned. I spoke up and told him that was it. We would no longer be giving him rides.
As most of us are aware, Jesus called some unsavory people to be His disciples, some of whom later became His apostles. During His three years of public ministry, I’m sure there were plenty of instances when the disciples’ flesh-driven tendencies were on display. However, their sinful ways didn’t cause Christ’s walk to deviate from God the Father’s plan for His life. Why not, because He was continually submissive to the Father by listening to His voice and obeying His directives? As a result, His life impacted His disciples instead of their lives impacting His.
If you want to have God’s wisdom in making decisions concerning who your associates should be, it first starts with you listening to the teachings of the assembly. Some of these teachings should assist you in addressing areas of weakness that have inhibited the ministry of the Holy Spirit from operating in your life. As you learn to appropriate new thoughts for those areas of mental dysfunction and reflect upon them throughout your day, you will begin to recognize the responsiveness of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
What I would like to present to you next are some Scriptural sections that will help you in determining your associates.
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners
1 Corinthians 15:12-33
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:12)
There were some skeptics in the church of Corinth who believed there was no bodily resurrection.
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
The Apostle Paul said that if this were true, then our preaching would be in vain (have no meaning), and your faith would also be vain (without value).
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
He goes on further to say that if this were the case, then he would be considered a false witness of God. Therefore, the Gospel (good news) of Christ that Paul preached would become useless and worthless.
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Again, he stated that if Christ was not raised, then their faith likewise was vain (without results) and they would still be in their sins (meaning that they are unpardoned sinners). It is only by means of Christ’s atonement (sacrifice) for sins, that sin is no longer an issue concerning the demands of God’s justice. By Christ giving of his own life, He annulled the devil’s power over death, a sovereignty which the souls of all who died would go to one of the two compartments of hell, Paradise or torments, never to be released from either place.
Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.
Romans 4:25 speaks of the judicial act of God the Father delivering God the Son to the justice that required the payment of the penalty for human sin.13 After which he was raised from the dead for our justification (to reconcile us to God). The Resurrection was God's validation that the redemption paid by Christ on the cross was accepted.14
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
To rationalize their sins, some of the Corinthian believers rejected the resurrection. According to them, if there were no resurrection then what they did with their bodies would have no bearing on their future. Paul goes on to say, be not deceived (believe something that is not true). Conversations or companionship with those who deny the resurrection will result in the ruin of your morals and good character, and will cause your faith to be weakened. Don’t associate with them, not even for the sake of their pleasing conversation, literary accomplishments, and glozing (to explain something away) speeches.
These verses are very clear. If there are those who are teaching or holding to the belief that Christ was not raised from the dead, don’t associate with them in any way, shape, or form! Some might say that this response is not very Christ-like. Was Christ’s response to the religious tenets of the Pharisees Christ-like? Was His reply to Peter Christ-like when Peter said to Him that He would not go to the cross and suffer and die?
The next verse that we will look at is taken from the Old Testament.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. (Proverbs 13:20)
He that habitually and continuously keeps company with people who have wisdom shall be wise, but one who has intercourse and companionship with those who act stupidly will lose their mind and suffer moral ruin. This verse is addressed to the Jews of the Old Testament. We will use it as an application for Christians today. Wise men will refer to Christians who operate in Godly wisdom. Fools will refer to those who are ungodly (unbelievers) and operate in human reason.
After reading this verse, you might respond by saying that the message being conveyed is telling us to not associate with those who act stupidly. If this were the case, it would imply that as Christians we should stay in our own circles and stay away from unbelievers. But what this verse really is saying is that we should not be chummy with them, but rather friendship should be with those who have divine wisdom. Why should we be around those who have divine wisdom? Simple answer: so that we will grow in the divine wisdom which is needed to impact those who act stupidly.
Are you having problems with alcohol abuse? Get divine wisdom.
Are you having problems with lust toward men or women? Get divine wisdom.
Are you having problems with your temper? Get divine wisdom.
The following verse conveys this idea very well.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Let’s take a look at one more section of Scriptures which conveys the idea of not associating with certain believers. I think the circumstance which will be presented next is one that many in church leadership positions would rather not address. If they did, I wonder how many of the assembly would disagree with their approach.
Purge out, therefore, the old leaven
1 Corinthians 5:1-13
1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife.
Paul had received a report concerning someone in the church who was involved in an illicit sexual relationship with his stepmother. This sin was so public that it could not be concealed, and it was so certain that it could not be denied.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
Paul told them that they, the believers in Corinth, were living in pride because they were afflicted and troubled in taking the proper means for removing the offender.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
If he (Paul) were present, he would know what judgment to administer to him that had committed this sin.
6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
7 Purge out, therefore, the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:
A single sin corrupts the whole church. Therefore, they were to remove this person from their company.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?
It is our business to judge [used of the disciplinary judgment to which Christians subject the conduct of their fellows, passing censure (to find fault with, to criticize harshly)15 upon them as the facts require] fellow believers, when the sin committed is commonly known by the church assembly.
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Evidently, there were plenty of witnesses (one who can or does state as the truth what he has seen, heard, or knows)16 to the egregious sin. The protocol for handling this sin was as follows: the accused was rendered innocent or guilty before the judicial court of the elders or those who served in this judicial capacity with input from the eye or ear witnesses but without the congregation being present. If the accused were found guilty, an announcement of the offense was made before the church assembly without the accused believer being present, along with such a censure as the case demanded.
Paul described here an official church meeting at which the offender was dealt with according to divine instructions. Public sin must be publicly judged and condemned. The sin was not to be "swept under the rug"; for, after all, it was known far and wide even among the unsaved, who were outside the church.17
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
If the offending Christian were found guilty, then the believers in the assembly were instructed to not have contact or fellowship with him/her.
The same judicial process would be followed if any of these habitual overt sins were evidenced in public. Some of these transgressions would be fornication (sexual immorality), covetousness (greed), idolatry (giving reverence to idols), railing (using words to vilify the character of another), being a drunkard (one who is continually drunk), and extortion (robbing someone of their goods or valuables).
Just as a reminder, I will say it again. If the offender were found guilty, then the believers in the church were not to associate with him/her. Some of you might ask how long we are to separate ourselves from this believer. I believe this depends on whether the believer acknowledges his/her offense before the judicial authorities of the church. If he/she refuses to acknowledge his/her sin after having been found guilty, then he/she probably would be removed from the church indefinitely. If, however, he/she chooses to acknowledge his/her sin, then a censure probably would be imposed where he/she would be withdrawn from the fellowship for a fixed period of time. No one would say that this is easy. This is as difficult for the leadership as it is the assembly of believers.
Before we go on to the next chapter, I would like to leave you with another one of my stories about personal associations. Sometimes things happen in our lives which appear to come out of nowhere. Associations with others that we thought were solid, especially those which involve fellow believers, can crumble very quickly.
After I had retired from teaching high school mathematics for thirty years, I decided that it was time to take some of the thoughts that God had given me concerning various Biblical topics and write them down in the form of a manuscript with the hope of eventually publishing them. I wrote my first book, Overcoming: Living Victoriously in Christ, in 2012. That book is now referred to as Overcoming: Learning How to Live Victoriously. The second book, in 2014, is entitled, My Search for the One True God.
The storyline of the second book is as follows:
“Does God really exist? If so, how does one find Him? Where does one look? These are fundamental questions most people ask at some point in their life. My Search For The One True God aims to answer those questions while directing readers toward a life of meaning and purpose from a spiritual perspective.
Too often we get caught up in the dos and don’ts of a church’s theology, without ever having a deep and true relationship with God.
Author, James Rondinone, takes the reader on his own personal journey through various religions and experiences, illustrating that God indeed exists.
The reader will have an opportunity to find the one true God for themselves, and like the author will be able to experience His personalness and have assurance of a heavenly dwelling place after physical death.”
After I had finished writing this manuscript, I gave a copy to certain fellow believers asking them to read it over, and as they did to edit it and provide feedback. One of the readers got quite upset because in it was a critique of a particular faith with which he was still involved. As a result, he accused me of no longer presenting Christ’s teachings. Not only was this person a member of the fellowship that I oversaw, but he was an officer of the church and had assisted me at times in teaching.
What I mean when I say he was an officer in the church is this. For any religious group to be considered a Domestic Non-profit, a form needs to be filled out with the Office of the Secretary of State that requires there be at least three people who occupy various positions--such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, etc. The advantage of this filing is that if approved the religious group not only would have attained non-taxable status in regards to financial offerings, but this document would also allow the group to place its messages on-line with the local newspaper (which required proof of its non-taxable status).
I have to admit that I was taken aback by the charge of not presenting Christ’s teachings. I tried to address this misperception, but it was to no avail. This, however, was not the end of it. Another charge was forthcoming which completely blindsided me. It was alleged by this same believer that I had taken church funds to pay for the eventual publishing of this book. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Here was someone with whom I had co-labored in the Gospel for a considerable period of time; one who was even entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the assembly. I responded to him by insisting that this was not true. He decided to resign from being an officer of the church along with making the decision to no longer be in association with the Fellowship.
What I decided to do was call a friend of mine, a pastor from New York, and ask him for advice as to how he would handle this situation. He told me to give this person the financial records of the fellowship for as long as it has been in operation. In this way, he would have proof that no wrong doing had taken place. So, this is what I did. After making copies of the financial records, I called him and asked if he would meet with me so that I could give him these records. He agreed.
When we met, he asked me again if I had used church funds to eventually publish my book and I replied,” No, I didn’t.” He said that this response was good enough for him. He decided that he didn’t want the records, and so we parted ways.
When things like this happen, you first need to check your mental state. Have I done something wrong? Were my motives pure? If you are convinced that you have done nothing wrong, then go to God in prayer and request guidance to restore the relationship with your fellow believer. When you are confident of your direction, see to it that you follow it through. Hopefully, it will be well received by the offending person. If not, then there is nothing more you can do other than leaving it in God’s hands to resolve. By the way, this person did eventually apologize to me for making this accusation.
Let’s summarize what we have learned.
- If a believer has decided to no longer believe in a foundational doctrine of the faith (e.g. the resurrection of Christ; the deity of Christ; Christ’s payment for sin and forgiveness; etc.), then we are no longer to associate ourselves with them.
- If a believer has committed an egregious sin that is publicly known by the church assembly and is brought before those who will address such matters and is found guilty and repents, then we should have no contact with them until the time imposed by the church censure is fulfilled.
- If a believer has committed an egregious sin that is publicly known by the church assembly and is brought before those who will address such matters and is found guilty and does not repent, then not only will they be removed from the church assembly indefinitely, but along with this we should have no contact with them.
- We should walk with those believers who have divine wisdom so that we can receive divine wisdom from them.
- As we grow in the Lord, this will allow us to exhibit Christ-likeness when in the company of unbelievers, some of whom we can describe as being fools (of bad moral character). In this sense, we are told to not be their companion or have intimacy with them because if we do this will cause us to be destroyed (to be morally lower down).
And lest I forget, how should we treat our family, friends, and associates who we were close with before our salvation? Now that we are saved, should we sever all ties with them? It can be difficult for a new believer to make an assessment as to whether to continue on in the relationship with them; and if so, to what degree. My suggestion is to get immersed in listening to the teachings of the assembly that you have decided to attend. Allow God’s word and presence to guide and impact you. If you find that further association with them causes you to get caught back up in engaging in certain behaviors which are inhibiting your walk with God, then lessen your time with them.
As far as your own areas of weakness are concerned, go to God in prayer and ask Him for guidance in addressing them so that you can become mentally strong according to His word and be impacted by the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, over time you will not only recognize your spiritual growth in this area but will, according to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, demonstrate a Godly testimony.
In the next chapter, we are going to look at another roadblock, which I think for many believers acts upon them in a habitual manner; for example, something like the reoccurring of the same day events in the movie “Groundhog Day.” This roadblock, if not addressed, will occur over and over and over again, thus severely inhibiting our walk with God. Let’s see what this roadblock is all about.
14Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament, 2000, 02 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
16The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989, 03 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www. biblesoft.com>.
17The Bible Exposition.
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