Eastern Lightning: aka Church of Almighty God aka Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom aka The Gospel of the Descent of Kingdom


aka Church of Almighty God


aka Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom


aka The Gospel of the Descent of Kingdom


Cult publishes under these site:


www.holyspiritspeaks.org


www.hearthymn.com


@godfootstepsen


@churchAlmighty


channel: godfootstepsen


THIS MOVEMENT ARE ACTIVELY PROMOTING VIA FACEBOOK.

A Close Friend on mine was contacted via Facebook to connect with a women appearing on the surface as a believer Immediately upon accepting a connection the postings of this movement started coming my wife a a check in her spirit and asked me to look into these posts.

Ive research a couple of her posts and find shes pushing a cult movement pseudo christian Eastern Lightning (Chinese: 东方闪电; pinyin: Dōngfāng Shǎndiàn) 

About this movement: 

Eastern Lightning (Chinese: 东方闪电; pinyin: Dōngfāng Shǎndiàn) is a heterodox new Chinese Christian movement. Its official name is the Church of Almighty God (Chinese: 全能神教会; pinyin: Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì), but it is identified by several other names, such as Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom (国度福音教会; Guódù fúyīn jiàohuì) and “The Gospel of the Descent of Kingdom”.

The group has been described as a cult and a terrorist organization.

The name “Eastern Lightning” is drawn from the New Testament, Gospel of Matthew 24:27: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” [1]source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Lightning

APOLOGETIC REVIEW 

What is Eastern Lightning? | Article Link: carm.org

Beware of ‘Eastern Lightning’ | Article Link: christianapologeticsalliance.com

What Does the Almighty God Cult (Eastern Lightning) Believe? | Article Link: omf.org

Articles on this organisation

Inside China’s most radical cult | Article Link: telegraph.co.uk

Church of Almighty God or Eastern Lightning in Australia: Fears the terrifying Chinese cult is gaining ground | Article Link: news.com.au

Police arrest members of murderous cult who believe Jesus was reincarnated as a Chinese woman | Article Link: shanghaiist.com

China’s Deadly Lightning: Cult violence prompts pastors to ramp up doctrine—and work with state officials | Article Link: christianitytoday.com

A Field Study of “The Church of Almighty God” Cult | Article Link: chinasource.org

Inside China’s Jesus cult | Article Link: channel4.com

Chinese Police Arrest 18 Members of Banned ‘Female Jesus Cult’ | Article Link: breitbart.com

Church of Almighty God’ cult members sentenced in China | Article Link: ucanews.com

Videos and propaganda images of the Chinese Doomsday cult ‘Church of Almighty God’ | Article Link: china-underground.com

References

1 source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Lightning

Christ Only

Fifth of a series of sermons on Reformation themes

READINGS:

Isaiah 9:1-7
Psalm 110: 1-7

Acts 4:1-12
John 14:1-6

INTRODUCTION                                     

If you had been born in Europe in 1500 you would have been immersed into a religious culture whose intensity we find difficult to imagine. The sacramental system covered your life span from baptism in infancy to the last rites in death. The priest would have blessed you at your first haircut, and if you were a boy at your first shave and so on.

An elaborate scheme of pilgrimages, indulgences, penances, tithes and masses was a part of everyday life and when you were in some need you would sought a saint to intercede on your behalf to God e.g. St Christopher for safe travel. You certainly would have honoured Mary as the Mother of God. Unless you were a part of the top 10% of society the mass and Bible in Latin were incomprehensible and you would have simply taken the word of the Church on spiritual matters.

If you visited of the great cathedrals their architecture would have confirmed your heart conviction that God was very far away and the best you could hope for was a quick deliverance from purgatory if you did regular penitence and good works.

This vast powerful and controlling religious enterprise was built on one great heresy; that Jesus could not be personally and directly known as the Way to the Father.

Then in 1517 something happened that would bring indescribable freedom to the consciences of millions.

When Luther began to testify:

The cross alone is our theology he initiated a rediscovery of the gospel that

Christ alonesaves us.

Luther

This gospel of the supremacy, centrality and all sufficiency of the person of Jesus burst like a bombshell on Europe. All the religious complexities of the day were made absolutely secondary or rendered useless. The foundational power of the Protestant Reformation was its undeviating Christ-centredness.

REFORMATION

The Swiss reformer Zwingli realised that the Catholic Church’s emphasis on good works was a dreadful burden and testified,

Christ is the only way of salvation of all who were, are now, or shall be.

Zwingli

Expounding on union with Christ Calvin states,

“our salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12).

Calvin Institutes II. 16.19

Calvin… We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.  [{If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him’ (1 Cor 1:30).  If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.}]

 If we seek  strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth… If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross (Gal 3:13); if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection… [{In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him,}] let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.’

“[{Those who presume to say that every person shall be saved by the rule of life, religion or sect that he professes, provided he makes diligent efforts to live by that rule and the light of nature, must be regarded as accursed. For}] holy Scripture declares to us that it is only in the name of Jesus Christ that men must be saved.”

In its emphasis on Christ as the only Way the Reformation was being faithful to what Jesus said about himself.

JESUS

In his Farewell speech in John’s Gospel (ch.14-17) Jesus explained to his disciples that he was going to leave them and return to the Father, “that where I am you might be also” (John 14:3). This confused the disciples so Thomas replied to Jesus, ““Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”” (John 14:5); Jesus responds; ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”” (John 14:6).

Knowing he was the full and final expression of the life of God Jesus went on to say to his disciples, ““Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”” (v.9). He did not point to his teachings as the Way, like Buddha did, or to a book as the Word of God, as Mohammed did of the Koran, nor to his example of leading a good life as the way to God, like liberal Christianity does, he points to himself as a person as the way to God.

The writer Thomas à Kempis tried to expound what Jesus was saying in his Farewell speech by speaking as the voice of Christ;

Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way which you must follow, the Truth which you must believe, the Life for which you must hope. I am the Way unchangeable, the Truth infallible, the Life unending. I am the Way that is straight, the supreme Truth, the Life that is true, the blessed, the Life everlasting. If you abide in My Way you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and you shall attain life everlasting.

Imitation of Christ Book 3, ch. 56

Archbishop Michael Ramsey memorably said, ““God is Christlike and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all.”. Since God is completely Christlike this means there is no eternal life outside of Jesus; this is the gospel of the apostles.

APOSTLES

Confronted by the Jewish leaders for healing a man in the name of Jesus Peter boldly testifies; “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men and women by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12). Anyone and everyone may come to God, but there is but one point of access, only one who brings the Most High down to our level, Christ (Luke 1:35).

The relationship between God and humanity is like an hourglass; God being the top chamber and humanity the bottom one.

The two chambers of the hourglass meet at a single narrow point and this is the only passageway between them. Being God in human form Christ is the central point of the hourglass.

There is no other saving point of contact between God and humanity other than Jesus (von Balthasar).

The Reformation rediscovery of the person of Christ as the exclusive hinge point and sole mediator of salvation is as much needed today as it was 500 years ago.

NO WAYS TO THE WAY 

One contemporary challenge to the gospel is called religious pluralism. God willing, Donna and I will be in Myanmar next month, a country where 88% of the population are devout Buddhists.

Can Buddhists get to heaven without hearing about Jesus and believing his gospel?

Can people be saved through trusting in the teaching of the Koran? Or saved just by being “good people”?

Is the spiritual quest of humanity like climbing a great mountain whose peak is the presence of God?

The mountain has many sides but in the end we will all meet together at the summit. This lovely image completely contradicts Jesus’ words about his own identity; ““No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”” (John 3:13). Anyone who believes there are many ways to God is denying that Jesus is the Son of God and cannot explain why the needed to die on the cross. Religious pluralism always robs people of the passion to preach the gospel.

But there are far more common ways in which the “Christ Only” rediscovery of the Reformation has been weakened. Very many Christians live like there is a way to the Way: Baptists are tempted to think understanding the Bible and praying are ‘ways to the Way’; Pentecostals often treat speaking in tongues and powerful spiritual experiences as ‘ways to the Way’, many Catholics are more devoted to the sacraments than they are to a personal relationship with Christ.

Traditional Anglicans are likely to think that being a good person is their ‘way to the Way’. From a slightly different angle people from all spiritual traditions are tempted to treat gifted charismatic church leaders as mediating the grace of God. There is however no way to the Way. Countless times I have found myself dealing with folk suffering from spiritual disappointment, depression, burn out and confusion because they have put their trust and energy into some way other than the Christ the Way.

HEAVEN OR JESUS?

If you are still confused about the main point of this sermon let me try to make things clearer with an illustration. On Thursday this week Donna had a visit at home from a nurse who came to take a blood sample. Afterwards she was feeling emotionally hurt because this lady had put a needle into here multiple times but had shown “no interest in her as a person”. (Does everyone understand what I mean by “being interested in her as a person”?)

Those who are truly interested in knowing Jesus as a person will not make their first focus his teaching, his miracles or his good life, they know who Jesus is as a Person is fully revealed in his suffering for us at the cross. Knowing that the final revelation of the character of God comes through the crucifixion Paul taught, vs.5There is one God and one Mediator between God and humanity—the human, Christ Jesus, vs.6 who gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1 Tim 2:5-6). The cross was Jesus Way to heaven, but most people don’t want to know this Jesus.

People want to get to heaven/paradise/nirvana as a final state of blessedness free from all strife and suffering but they show little or no interest in Jesus as a person. This is understandable for folk from other faiths but what about professing Christians?

A friend of mine was disturbed when some members of his home group admitted that they didn’t think much about or find the thought of eternity interesting or inspiring.

This is what I replied to him; “Christians long for heaven because there we will see Jesus face to face and become just like him 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2….seeing just how wonderful Christ is so we become “lost in wonder love and praise.””

Living forever without Jesus would not be heaven it would be hell. Christ is not a means by which after death we are reunited with lost loved ones or released from the agonies of this world; heaven is the place where fully and finally Jesus will share with those who are interested in him as a person his own relationship with his Father.

CONCLUSION

I had a demanding time last Monday. I had three very draining appointments with people who needed to deal with deep and sinful issues in their lives. Later in the day I went down by the river to pray and I had such a deep longing in my heart just to be with Jesus.

Do you want to be with Jesus?

Do you know Jesus personally?

Have you been freed from trying to find a way to the Way?

Have you experienced the revolutionary power of the gospel that to be saved and to keep on being saved (Rom 1:16-17; 1 Cor 1:18) all you need to do is to truly believe what Christ said;

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

John 14:6

Let us pray.


MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th October, 2017 | St Mark’s Bassendean

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE AUDIO PODCAST:   


Related Link: Nil

Joseph of Arimathea

Gen 23:3-9, Gen 23:17-19; Ps 16:5-11; Isa 53:1-9; John 19:38-42

Introduction[1]Message presented at St Mark’s Bassendean Western Australia 11/10/15

People may debate whether the gunman in the recent American massacre actually targeted Christians, but what is not debatable is that the government of Victoria will not allow faith-based organisations to opt out from arranging adoptions for same-sex couples.

The cost of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus is growing.

As far as I can see such anti-Christian pressures is the one thing that can bring us closer to the spirituality of the New Testament.

Joseph of Arimathea is one example of what it cost and so what it meant to follow 2,000 years ago.

Everything we know about this man is contained in a few verses the Gospels concerning Christ’s burial. (Stories about Joseph’s missionary journeys have no historical credibility.)

Status and Character

The first thing we are told about Joseph was that he was “a rich man” (Matt 27:57).

Wealthy people rarely associated with Jesus, after all one of his most famous comments was, ““It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 10:25 cf. 1 Cor 1:26-31).

Owning his own personal stone tomb meant Joseph was one of the elite in Israel, and when Joseph and Nicodemus laid Jesus’ corpse to rest they used spices equivalent to roughly what an average worker would earn in 100 years (30,000 denarii John 19:39). These men treated Jesus as a king.

We are also told that Joseph was “a respected member of the council… a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action” (Luke 23:50-51).

The council in question is the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel made up of chief priests, scribes and elders who had power to legislate in religious and civil cases. Joseph was a senior leader who had not agreed with the other dignitaries that Jesus deserved to die a blasphemer’s death (Mark 14:63).

When Luke calls Joseph “a good and righteous man” he puts him in the company of godly Jews such as Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, who appeared at the time of Jesus’ infancy (Luke 23:50). What makes Joseph notable however is not any moral purity but his desire to experience God’s reign upon the earth.

Seeking the Kingdom of God

Two of the Gospels tell us that Joseph was “looking for the kingdom of God,” (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51).

In the Gospels kingdom-seekers always receive Jesus’ approval: Jesus promised “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and he will give you everything you need.” (Matt 6:33).

Joseph had no material needs but he recognised he had plenty of spiritual need.  While Joseph was “seeking” the kingdom of God he was not yet “in” the kingdom of God.

There is a lot of confusion about the meaning of “the kingdom of God”, and some of it stems from the history of English translations of the Bible. The K.J.V. translated some of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21)

Since the Pharisees hated Jesus there is no way he would be telling them that God’s powerful rule lived in them. Modern versions correctly have “the kingdom of God is among you” (NRSV; ESV etc.).

The kingdom of God was amongst the Pharisees because Jesus himself was in their midst.

When we meet as a church in Jesus’ name his kingly presence is amongst us; but that does not mean that the power of Christ’s kingdom is living in everyone here today.

As we go on looking at the story of Joseph it will become clearer what it means to belong to the kingdom of God.

Secret Discipleship

There is a statement about Joseph in John’s Gospel that is truly remarkable, he “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).

How on earth can someone be a “secret disciple”?

Surely if you are a disciple of Jesus you want everybody to know about it so that they might come to know and love him too.

But Joseph was hiding his faith “for fear of the Jews/Pharisees”; this statement always appears in John when people keep their faith in Jesus to themselves out of fear of being thrown out of the synagogues (7:13; 9:22; 12:42 cf. 20:19).

Excommunication from the synagogue meant being disowned by family and friends, a fate faced not only by early Jewish Christians but one that must be endured by new believers in many Moslem, Hindu or Buddhist nations today.

Persecution is considered “normal” in the Bible; as Jesus said, ““If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”” (John 15:18 cf. 2 Tim 3:12).

I am deeply concerned about how the world has come to treat Christians as harmless and irrelevant.

When I first came to Christ my family though I had gone nuts and had joined a cult so they soon turned up at the Pentecostal Church to protect me! (With time they all came to Jesus and became members of the same church.)

Something was different in those days, something not easy to describe.

It was not unusual to hear the testimonies of young people being baptised of how their families had rejected them for following Jesus.

Somehow our Christianity has become too domesticated, too tamed.

Someone once said Christianity has performed a greater miracle than Jesus, “Jesus turned water into wine but we have turned the strong wine of the gospel back into water.

What occurs next in the Joseph story reflects the transformation that can happen to us to make us the sort of public disciples of Jesus others can imitate.

Honour and Dishonour

Joseph “asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.” (John 19:38).

Joseph’s request might seem to us simply the decent thing to do; but to understand how this step was a life changer for this once “secret disciple” we must re-enter the culture of those times.

Firstly, this public act jeopardised his whole identity as a Jew.

According to the Old Testament law a hanged man is “cursed by God”; someone who is no longer a part of God’s chosen people (Deut 21:23).

For Joseph to identify with Jesus would mean the loss of all his political, social and religious status among the Jews.

In touching Christ’s bloodied and excrement covered body he would become unclean and excluded from the celebration of the Passover for a month (Deut 28:26 Num 9:6-11).

Excommunication from Israel was bad enough, but the risk to Joseph from the Romans was even more severe.

In Mark’s version of events he “took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43).

He needed courage because the Romans were cruel people.

At this time the burial of condemned prisoners was officially prohibited by the emperor.

In asking for Jesus’ body Joseph was presenting himself as a friend or patron of a man condemned by Rome for setting himself up as a rival king to Caesar (John 19:12-16).

Joseph could not predict what Pilate might do to him, a judge who had the innocent Jesus put to death for purely practical reasons might do anything to advantage his own position. Roman law treated people executed for treason, like Jesus, as less than human.

The cruelties of crucifixion and the subsequent treatment of dead bodies were aimed to maximise the dishonour of the executed person.

In popular parlance such people were, to quote from the time, “food for crows” and “scraps for dogs”.

For Pilate to release the crucified body of Jesus could make it appear that he acknowledged that Christ’s death was an unjust one.

Joseph’s request was a dangerous one.

For us to fully appreciate the cost to Joseph of identifying with the dead Jesus I need to say some more about attitudes to crucifixion in the ancient world.

Two thousand years of respectable Western Christianity has domesticated the scandal of the cross.

Donna and I were in jewellery stores this week and there were dozens of ornamental crosses in there.

But here is what the Roman statesman Cicero had to say for his time;

the mere name of the cross, should be far removed…from the persons of Roman citizens—from their thoughts, and eyes, and ears…the mere mention of (these things),—is unworthy of a Roman citizen”.  Cicero was a member of the nobility, but in the ruins of ancient Rome rough graffiti has been uncovered showing what the average pagan thought of the worship of a crucified god

(see image at end of sermon). Alexamenos worships [his] god”  c. 200A.D. – slide at end of document showing a Christian worshipping a crucified man with a donkey’s head. This is a picture of sheer mockery. Jews and pagans despised the cross (1 Cor 1:18ff.).

In some countries the cross is just as much reviled today as in Roman times.

When a mob in Egypt last year spied a cross hanging on the rear vision mirror of young woman they proceeded to maul her to death.

Her Church issued a declaration,

Oh how lucky you are, Mary, you who are beloved of Christ.  They tore your body because of the Cross. Yet they offered you the greatest service and gave you a name of honour as one who attained the crown of martyrdom.”  

I remember being at a saints’ day celebration in rural Egypt a few years ago watching a toddler have a cross tattooed on his arm (he was screaming); every Coptic Christian carries the mark of the cross on their body as an emblem of pride (Gal 6:17).

To all his friends Joseph must have appeared as a crazy man who had lost all his life achievements to honour someone crucified as the worst sort of criminal.

What about family pressures?

His large and expansive tomb was designed to serve generations of family members to come. In giving away his tomb Joseph fulfilled prophecy and made it clear that his love and honour for Jesus were greater than that for his family (Isa 53:9; Matt 10:37).

Putting Jesus before family is a hard thing. Without my knowledge my mum once bought me a block of land and proudly presented me with the deed so I could “settle down” with Donna and our two young children. I immediately handed it back to her explaining this was not what God wanted; she was offended for quite some time. Let me explain what I think this was all about.

Some years ago as I stepped off a plane in Tonga for a prayer assembly I was told I would be preaching at a local church in a couple of days. As I started to pray about what to say a couple of Mormons walked past, Mormonism has become very big in the South Pacific. Immediately I knew what I had to preach, Jesus had a reputation for associating with those in society that were disrespected (Luke 7:34). To own your own home in Australia is highly respectable, to follow a crucified Lord will always lead you to make decisions that are not respectable.

Transformation

By one simple act Joseph passed from being a “scaredy –cat” disciple to being a model of the discipleship for us to today. On the face of it he had everything to lose and nothing to gain by identifying with the crucified Jesus. His heart transformation from fear to courage can only be explained in one way.

Whatever he had previously experienced of Christ’s teaching and miraculous power it was only what he saw and heard at Calvary that strengthened his heart to publicly take up the way of the cross, whatever the cost (Luke 9:23).

In seeing Jesus die Joseph had a life changing vision of the love of God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

For the love of Christ leaves us no choice, because we are persuaded that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor 5:14-15).

Conclusion

What is it that is keeping so many Australian Christians as “secret disciples”?

Secret discipleship however is not a fixed sentence; if the Lord could transform a man like Joseph of Arimathea, when everything was stacked against him, we who know the resurrection can also risk everything to identify with Jesus.

When I was a young Christian the Church in the Soviet Union was fiercely persecuted.

Prominent Christians would be kidnapped by the KGB placed in mental asylums and drugged into mindlessness.

I remember listening to a preacher from Melbourne share about how the Lord prepared him to go into Russia. Before crossing the Iron Curtain he stayed for a time in a convent in West Germany where his fears of suffering for Jesus began to torment him.

Then one day he was walking in the convent garden through its Stations of the Cross.

As this brother walked amongst the Stations he experienced a most amazing transformation, from fear of suffering for Jesus he began to desire to honour Jesus at whatever cost. Paul puts it like this; “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:20).

Or more pointedly, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14). Possessions, reputation, family and respectability will all pass away but whoever identifies with the crucified Christ will live forever.

If you look around the walls of St Mark’s you will see that we are surrounded by the Stations of the Cross portraying the suffering and death of Jesus (traditionally) climaxing in Joseph of Arimethea’s role in the story of Jesus.  

As God had a special role for Joseph 2000 years ago in Jerusalem so he has a special role for us in the ongoing story of Jesus in “Bassendean and beyond”. Joseph made a decision that he would no longer be a “secret disciple”, that whatever it was going to cost him he was going to honour Jesus.

Each of us is faced with a decision, to be a person living a life of costless discipleship or to be someone who knows Jesus intimately and is misunderstood and dishonoured in the eyes of the world.

Will we glory in the cross? 
800px-AlexGraffito.svg
Alexamenos worships his god”, Palatine palace, Roma

References

1 Message presented at St Mark’s Bassendean Western Australia 11/10/15

The Identity Crisis in the Church: Christianity versus Jesus

by Dr. John Yates

Being a professional Christian for over 25 years (ordained in 1982), and having taught theology for about 15 of those, I am always amazed at the identity confusion amongst Australian believers.  Relatively few seem to be conscious of what their union with Christ means, not only at a personal subjective level but in all spheres of life.  Many struggle, self – confessedly, to live in a state of intimacy with God.[1]contra, e.g.1 Cor 6:17 , “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” For some time I have come to the conclusion that at the root of the problem is not simply indwelling sin nor the forces of the world, but Christianity.

By “Christianity” I mean the construct of organised religious practice that developed in post – Constantinian Europe and was then progressively exported around the globe.  It is the dominant form of religion we are familiar with to this day – church buildings, professional ministries, set services, academic training for ministry and so on.  My agenda here is not to go over the usual ground covered by church renewal advocates, like the house church movement and  the “emerging church”. Rather, I am interested in a more fundamental issue, Christian identity itself.

Disciples of the Church vs Disciples of Christ

The Holy Spirit has been subjecting “Christianity” in Australia to humiliation for some years.  One incident particularly comes to mind.  In 2003 we had the very public scandal of Archbishop Peter Hollingworth resigning from our highest political office, Governor –General.   This was because of his failure to deal with clerical sex abuse while he was archbishop of Brisbane .  The list of scandals involving respected Christian leaders could easily be multiplied, but few commentators touch on the heart of the issue –we have become more focused on church culture than Christ.  I think we are making disciples of the church more than disciples of Christ.  This became very clear to me during a recent pastors breakfast.

Generally when the boys get together there’s talk about “who’s got the biggest” and “who can do it the best”; things were a little different this time as the guest speaker was not a church leader.  His talk drew attention, amongst other things, to the creeping dangers of secularism and Islam.  These topics excited the audience to a palpable degree, but I sensed their acute fear was not of Christ, whose “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18 ).  In fact, the centre of the anxiety seemed to be the loss of our “Christian heritage”. No one present seemed to imagine that the kingdom of God could grow whilst the influence of Christianity on state policy and structures be in decline.

We Missed the Real Issue

While all this was going on I had an awareness that the Holy Spirit was drawing my attention to an earlier conversation at our table.  One of the pastors related how he had recently taken the wedding of a divorcee whose first wife left him for another woman. It turned out that the repressed thought that had been traumatizing the man was, “Did I cause my wife to become gay?”  The entire situation was permeated with confusion about gender identity – the woman was clearly not living in the truth of her femaleness, and her previous husband was uncertain about his masculinity.

Gender identity is generated in an oppositional or bipolar manner.  Adam becomes aware of himself only after the creation of Eve, a helper “corresponding to”, or “standing over against” him.  “A helping being, in which, as soon as he sees it, he will recognise himself.”[2]Delitzsch, my emphasis Before the creation of a woman Adam is simply a name for humankind.  It is in through the illumination, ““This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. ”” (Gen 2:23 ), that Adam becomes a self – consciously male person and Eve a self –consciously female.  Whilst Adam was alone, it was impossible for him to know through introversion his gender identity.

Counselling experience reveals similar patterns.  Where the male-female pattern of intimate bonding is not imaged in a human family the result is always some level of confusion about who we are as sexual beings and how this can find genuine fulfillment.   Auto-eroticism in various expressions is a necessary consequence.  This is more pervasive than we generally imagine, as a (Christian) psychologist said to one of my parishioners, “You need to stop masturbating through your wife.”  Since the “one flesh” of marriage is a type of Christ and the church (Eph 5:32 ), the divorce/gay situation immediately spoke to me about the real spiritual crisis in our midst today that was being overlooked in the pastors breakfast.

Confusion between Christianity and Christ

The primary spiritual struggle in contemporary Australia is not between Christianity and secularism, or Christianity and Islam, but between Jesus’ kingdom and Christianity. At the root of the widespread apathy in the church and the broadly acknowledged lack of intimacy with God, is confusion between Christianity and Christ.  Contemporary Western Christianity largely defines itself by its relationship with itself and its history.  It is extremely introverted.  This is indicated, for example, by the inordinate focus on leadership, ministry, church growth, gifts, the Bible, anointing, prosperity, revival etc. rather than on the person of Jesus and his living presence amongst us. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”” (Rev 2:1)

The people of God can only know their deepest inward identity as the Bride of Christ through an immediate and passionate awareness, in the Spirit, that Jesus is their Bridegroom (John 3:29; Rev 19:6-8).  Where this is lacking, much of what transpires as Christian spirituality is simply “spiritual masturbation.”   It may have the appearance of godliness, but is part of a religious culture that lacks the interpenetrative power of holiness (2 Tim 3:5).  (For those with a trinitarian bent, it is not a participation in the perichoretic glory of God, (cf. 2 Pet 1:4).  Nothing less than a back to Jesus movement that emphasises the mystery of Christ at the centre of  “our religion” (1 Tim 3:16) will see any significant change in the spiritual landscape of Australia .

The Jesus Test

On a practical note, for many years I have been teaching my students “the Jesus test”.  When you are listening to a sermon pay attention to how long before the name of Jesus is mentioned, and whether he is used as an illustration of the principle being advocated or its substance.  Practicing this rule has caused many of them (especially in Charismatic – Pentecostal congregations) much distress.  “test all things” (1 Thess 5:20 ).

The greatest obstacle to the advance of the kingdom of God in most of the West is not secularism, religious pluralism or Islam, but a resurgent Christianity.  By this I mean a religion dominated by mega churches, super pastors and political influence. What we are most in need of today is a post – Christianity church.

My thinking on this was confirmed by a recent email sent out about the British religious scene under the heading, “Excarnating Christianity, Incarnating Islam”.  

what-thumbThe Church of England Newspaper May 26, 2008 says, 

Islam is being institutionalised, incarnated, into national structures amazingly fast, at the same time as …. the ‘excarnation’ of Christianity… out of state policy and structures”.  

Whilst this may be sad for those who sentimentalise about the loss of the fides historica (inherited conventional religion), it is surely a sign of the judgement of God on the human construct of privilege and compromise called “Christianity” and a preparation for a return to radical Christ- centred faith that disappeared from Western society long ago.

References

1 contra, e.g.1 Cor 6:17 , “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”
2 Delitzsch, my emphasis