Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Dangers of an Independent Spirit

Ephesians 4:11-16
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Colossians 2:8-9
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

One thing that becomes clear as you read the New Testament is that Jesus still has a Body on planet earth. Though Jesus ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, He is not without a Body on this planet. That Body is referred to by many names: The Church, Saints, Bride, Branches, Christians, and Disciples, to name a few.

To be “Saved” means one repents of their sin and is “Born Again”, this makes them a part of the Body of Christ on earth. To seek out others of “like precious faith” is as natural to the Christian as it is for a bird to fly or a fish to swim. Everyone that is Born Again is going to seek out others like them to fellowship with. This is inevitable and universal.

Acts 9:19 (KJV)
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

We are a Body, we need one another. Just as surely as my hand cannot function separated from the rest of my body, an individual Christian will not be able to function long without an attachment to the Body. Anyone separated too long from the Body risks decay and eventual death. The analogy of the Body leaves no other option. What is true of the natural is true of the spiritual.

I have read of people losing a limb in an accident and that limb being sewed back on to function once again as a normal part of the body. This was made possible only because the limb was not allowed to stay severed from the body for a long period of time. The longer the limb is separated from the body the less likely the doctors will be able to produce a favorable outcome. It is imperative that we remain attached to the Body and if for any reason we are severed from the Body that we rejoin as quickly as possible.

There are times where Christians have become separated from the Body in worship, and there are reasons why this may occur, such as imprisonment, sickness, or distance, but the true Christian will long for fellowship and will seek to overcome the obstacles in their way. To be unable to worship together does not necessarily exclude one from the Body of Christ, but an unwillingness or a lack of desire to gather with God’s people does. I have met some fine Christians that were sick and unable to leave their home to attend worship with God’s people. They may have been unable to gather with those that they loved but they were still a part of the Body of Christ.

We must face this fact: we need one another. I need you and you need me. We were placed within this Body and a dependency was cultivated between each of us. There are things that you supply that I do not supply and vice versa. I will remain incomplete without you as will you without me. There is a co-dependency created between each member of the Body that demands unity and service.

Ephesians 4:16 (KJV)
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

I will never be perfected without you nor you without me. There are many scriptures that teach “Christian Perfection” and though I do believe a measure of perfection can be achieved individually, it is without a doubt possible on a corporate basis. Maturity and perfection await the unity of the Church.

Ephesians 4:12-13 (KJV)
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

God wants to be known on planet earth and He achieves that through His Church. God can be realized in His fullness through His Body, which is the Church. We know that Jesus is “God in the flesh” and that He is the “Fullness of the Godhead bodily”. Jesus has already come to this earth and He lived among mankind in a human body. When He left earth, Jesus left a spiritual Body here and you and I are that Body.

The great danger for us as Christians is to develop an “Independent Spirit” and think that we can make it on our own. This is not our natural state, for as a babe in Christ we know that we need to be connected to the Body, but this can develop in people after they have been in and around the Church for a while. Usually people develop an “independent spirit” because of some type of perceived hurt or from disillusionment with church government and leadership. No matter how one begins to fall into a rejection of being an active part of the Body of Christ, this rejection itself must be rejected or we will find ourselves in rebellion to God’s authority.

Let me define this independent spirit a little bit more for you. It is a rejection of the established authority of God, an unwillingness to work within the corporate Body of Christ, and an isolationist attitude of service, supposedly, to God. There is great danger if one falls into this trap of the enemy. The end result will be worse than their prior life in sin.

I speak from experience here, and thank God that I never gave into this independent spirit, though I have ran across many that have. Back in 1991 I left a major Pentecostal Denomination, one in which I had been raised from a child, and one that I had began my ministry within. This was not an easy decision and one in which I struggled greatly. I will not get into the details of that decision but will say that it was a life changing experience for me, and I believe one that has only led me into greater depths in God.

I knew upon leaving that organization that I could not dangle out there all by myself, that I needed spiritual oversight, fellowship, and cohesion into a Body of believers. Thank God, I found just what I was looking for. This is where so many believers and preachers miss the mark: they leave a group that they had been in fellowship with and instead of joining up with others, they attempt to make it on their own. They create their own little kingdom and they boldly make the statement to everyone, “I am independent! I don’t need them. I can make it own my own!” At first things may go pretty well, as a matter of fact it may look well throughout, but without proper fellowship and inclusion in a sound Body of believers it is not long before a bad attitude, heresy, and a general anger at anything organized develops. The independent spirit is now growing within them. Left unchecked it will lead to a deep bitterness and resentment of everyone else and a general sense of their own supreme rightness in contrast to everyone else’s wrongness. Folks, there are literally thousands of “Independent” churches and preachers out there with just such an attitude.

Now, please do not get me wrong, for there are many denominations that are wholly corrupt, and I will be the first to tell those within them that they need to get out. For the scripture says this:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (KJV)
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye 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.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Revelation 18:4 (KJV)
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

These two scriptures make it clear that remaining within a religion, denomination, or organization that has rejected the truth, rejected holiness, and embraced worldliness, makes those that are members a part of the sin of the leadership. The only recourse is to “Come Out”, but did God call us out so we could walk alone? No! We must seek out others that desire to walk in truth and join together with them. To attempt to stand alone brings us into violation of God’s Word and courts certain disaster.

There are three great dangers associated with an Independent Spirit. I want to address each of these three.

The first danger is heresy, which may also be referred to as apostasy. To put into terms that is more readily recognizable: doctrinal error. When you isolate yourself from other spiritual people then you increase the risk of falling into a wrong way of believing. There is an increased likelihood that the independent man or woman will do this. Why? Because there is no one over them, or near them, to warn them when they fall into doctrinal error. Our fellowship with others helps build a doctrinal hedge that keeps the snake out. I have said for years that heresy begins with isolationism: first, isolation from other Christians, and second, the isolation of certain passages of the Word of God. Those two combined will eventually produce the weirdest beliefs that can be imagined. I thank God for my fellow ministers that I work with, because it is my fellowship with them that helps keep me from falling into the grossest of doctrinal heresy.

The second danger of the independent spirit is immorality. Now, I will be the first to admit that immorality can appear in an organization just as readily as independence, but within an organized structure there should be measures in place to deal with it. When immorality crops up in an independent work there is no structural leadership to condemn it or to offer assistance in reconciling the fallen brother or sister. Many times when immorality occurs in an independent work those that do so make excuse for the infraction and they may even use a heretical corruption of scripture to do so. Immorality, be it adultery or any other form, must be dealt with in a Biblical way so that everyone understands that God will not tolerate such behavior. The independent can be immoral and there is no one to call them into account for it.

The third danger of an independent spirit is worldliness. Now the subject of worldliness is somewhat hard to define because there are so many that have a different idea of what it is, so let us boil it down to its original meaning. The word world in the Greek is taken from the Greek word “Cosmos”. You may recognize the word for we get such words as “Cosmopolitan”, “Cosmetic”, and “Cosmology” from this Greek word. So we understand the word “World”, the “Cosmos”, is not talking about a globe spinning around in space, but rather it is talking about a system that is in opposition to God. To be worldly is not just the way a person dresses, though “adorning” is part of the meaning of the word, but it is a way of thinking. Some people may be what is considered holy in their dress but if they are more concerned about the football game than they are winning souls for Christ they are worldly. When a person embraces independence from the Body of Christ they can walk in worldliness and there is no one to rebuke them for doing so. They can begin to adopt worldly ideas, such as the current self-esteem teachings we find so prevalent today in the prosperity movement, and there is no leadership to call them back to the “Old Paths”. There is a great danger in developing an independent spirit, and one of those dangers is in becoming worldly without any word of warning.

In closing I want to share this last thing with you. The great need of anyone that is independent is these three things: Fellowship, Leadership and Correction. All three of these are clearly outlined in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. Israel could not survive without it and the New Testament Church could not survive without it. Anyone that feels the need to leave an organized structure that they are now a part of because that structure has compromised and ceased to function under the guidelines of the New Testament, must do so, but they must seek out these three things elsewhere. You must not attempt to row this boat by yourself and the good news is you do not have to. There are others out there that have already made that transition, though painful, and have found others of “like-precious faith” that are striving for the purity of the New Testament Church. It is with those people that we must align ourselves. In the end, no one is independent.

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