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Shifting Saints

By J. W. Jepson, D.Min.

Life In Christ Center, 3095 Cherry Heights Road, The Dalles, Oregon 97058

(541) 296-1136

copyright � 1988 and 2000 by J. W. Jepson

All rights reserved, including the right to grant the following permission and to prohibit the misuse thereof:

The Author hereby grants permission to reproduce the text of this article, without changes or alterations*, as a ministry, but not for commercial or non-ministry purposes.

*Permission is given for publication of excerpts and condensed versions.

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(First published in The Pentecostal Evangel, February 28, 1988)

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You might know this couple. They bring excitement to the church services. They worship openly and are always ready to give a message in tongues and interpretation or a prophecy. They testify and exhort with confidence and authority. They want to get involved.

Younger, spiritually eager Christians are attracted to them, and soon they have a circle of friends. They say little or nothing about where they came from or where they had been fellowshipping. Sometimes they bring friends with them.

They are also the kind of people a wise pastor keeps an eye on. Sometimes they turn out to be genuine, solid saints who are a blessing to the church.

Sometimes something else happens. They start inviting certain people to their home for Bible study and prayer. Those invited are usually the spiritually eager believers who have become impressed with the "spirituality" of the new couple.

Usually the pastor is not informed of these meetings, nor is he invited. Among the prayer requests are "that God will anoint the pastor" (implication: the pastor is not now anointed and therefore lacks spiritual authority); "that God will either revive the church or lead His people out of it" (implication: they are the elite and the church is not spiritual enough for them).

Soon young Christians, who had been sincere and teachable, lose confidence in their pastor and church. Their spiritual egos are inflated, and they become critics instead of disciples. Their once solid commitment to the church is now negotiable. It is easy for them to leave.

In time they usually become disillusioned with their new spiritual gurus. Some lose out altogether; some float around - connoisseurs of churches - never finding one spiritual enough for them. Thankfully some come home to their church and pastor, apologize, and take their place once again in the body of Christ - sadder but wiser.

An emphasis on the church is long overdue. It is urgent that we look seriously at what God says about the nature and integrity of His church. Here are some biblical truths:

1. The Church is a universal body that consists of all true believers in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6);

2. The Church exists and functions in local churches, bodies of believers in which God has set every member as it has pleased Him (1 Corinthians 12:18);

3. These local churches have scriptural doctrine, order, and discipline, and are governed by elders (ministers) and deacons;

4. The leaders of the Church are ordained of God, are charged with the oversight of the flock, and ought to be recognized and honored in that charge;

5. Whatever is done in the name of Christ must be done with due regard to His church and accountability to its scriptural leaders.

The new birth brings us into a vital relationship with Christ, the Head, and with His body. We cannot live in relationship with the Head while in isolation from His body.

"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together …" (Hebrews 10:25).

The New Testament does not permit Christians to stay out of church. If physically possible, every believer is to take his place in the church and be faithful in it. We can stay home and read the Bible, but we cannot stay home and obey the Bible. The Word of God commands us to get into the church and become part of its life and ministries.

These are restless times. There are a lot of shifting saints in the body of Christ. They will remain out of order, unsupportive, ineffective, unproductive, and undiscipled until they humbly submit to God and allow Him to set them in the body as it has pleased Him.

Sometimes a decision to change churches is in order, but never a decision to forsake the Church. Even those who are physically unable to attend need to identify with a congregation and remain in relationship to it, support it, and receive support from it.

The Church is not perfect, but it is where we grow together to perfection (Ephesians 4:11-16). Sometimes it is where we get our hurts, but it is also where we get our healings.

The church is essential to our growth and maturity. Any immature believer can run from the people, problems, and responsibilities in the church; but the person who is determined to grow will stay with the people, work through the problems and be faithful to the responsibilities.

Some influential voices are attacking churches and pastors. Even if not purposed to do so, these indictments tend to lessen people’s respect for the church and undermine the influence of God’s ministers. Some charges might contain an element of truth; however, an element of truth can be dangerous. If Satan cannot defeat us by appealing to our weaknesses, he will try by appealing to our strengths in an effort to misdirect our commitment. Scripture has some sobering words for any who might wish "to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).

At this crucial time when God is working to answer the prayer of our Lord for the unity of His Church (John 17), we must guard against every counterproductive influence that sows discord, mistrust, and factionalism. There are to be no divisions among believers (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25); God forbids it.

The Lord has called us to holiness and spirituality. He has also made it clear that unity in love is essential to holiness and true spirituality (John 17:23; Ephesians 4). Unity in love is our most visible form of holiness and spirituality before one another and before the world. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

So let us all stay with the Church, love, it support it, and grow together in the nurturing soil of its precious fellowship.

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