The Great Wilderness Exodus is coming for the Fellowship Weary
In the days to come true ministries and godly fellowships will start to be recognized by nomad Christians and other dissatisfied believers, including hordes of church-hoppers. With events in the world and in this nation growing worse an exodus of the fellowship weary and consumer Christian alike will begin to take place. A multitude will begin to rush towards any kind of seemingly true leadership and true fellowship desperately looking for answers and true Holy Spirit manifestations.
The issues will be many, and true leadership will be strained in mentoring and making sincere and teachable disciples into a mature body of believers prepared to minister and live in extreme difficulties. The main challenge for the nomad Christian (and those leaving churchianity) is having a willingness to submit to the discipline of the Lord. In that discipline will be the constant directive by the Lord to embrace sound doctrine brought forth by true servant-leaders who are examples, who have learned the ropes and are walking the walk.
This will be difficult for the nomad Christian who has learned to be independent and often uncommitted to the hard work of character and relationship building amongst other Christians. God calls his people to live and work together in godly body life, where other likeminded believers learn to die to the works of the flesh. A true disciple of Christ is called to relate to others in Christ-likeness, not hide from others. Those others, in healthy fellowships will also be in process learning to die to carnal motives, carnal spiritualism, insecurities, jealousies, self-reliance, competition, and other thin-skinned reactions and selfish behaviors.
Any solid last day fellowship having God’s hand upon it will strain towards unity in love and purity, making Christ head of all. This is the call of God today, making disciples who work together walking in the kingdom life (in the fullness of Christ)—to refresh your memory concerning this commission, read again Ephesians 4:11-16.
Suffering from a Skewed Wilderness Faith
Lack of sound instruction on Christ’s teachings and New Testament principles concerning fellowship and people relationships is one of the major defects in churchianity. Indeed, most church going Christians succumb to leadership idolatry, where arrogant ministers crave the accolades of men and dare not preach how to walk in godliness. The Apostle Paul exhorts, “Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Likewise, the lack of knowledge and training in working out godly relationships between the members of a fellowship is also a major issue with most nomad Christians. The sacrifice of learning relationship accountability is a costly side effect for the nomad Christian when they can not find a healthy church home. Granted, nomad Christians hide in the wilderness as a means of survival, learning to avoid the false and the corrupt that has invaded most fellowships—however, learning to work together in fellowship and dying to carnal motives is a vital necessity for maturing in Christ.
The inability to discern and ward off the wolves and game players that churchianity collects and even helps produce was a major reason the wilderness became so appealing. However, the safety of the wilderness does not allow a deepening of discerning skills or the development of spiritual strength for the end-of-the-age challenges of everyday living and ministry. (See John 17:15-19 and 1 Corinthians 5:10).
In escaping to the safety of the wilderness, the proverb, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17) is lost in the isolation of no man’s land. In our fellowship we give this principle our own adage—that the gunk in others brings out the gunk in ourselves.
Thus, in growing up into Christ, fellowshipping with others will have relationship challenges that, if understood will help facilitate healing, recovery, and character development. It is very important to realize, for any believer in Christ, that relationship accountability is not to be avoided. It is God’s training ground and the main arena for his discipline.
Wounded, Bitter, and Anti-Authoritarian
Renegades to any form of organized church
As mentioned, many Christians will soon be leaving false and carnal fellowships and many wilderness trekked saints will also appear at the doorsteps of solid ministries and true fellowships. With most that do come there will be great difficulties in becoming part of a healthy, growing family of God. Most nomad Christians coming will either be unable or unwilling to see, understand, and crucify their own entrenched carnal motives for serving the Lord. To them, they have learned to be content in their anti-establishment attitude and carry a self-imposed cross where an inner martyred self-righteous stance covers up their own lack of grace, truth, and Christ-like character.
Through years of seeing national leaders fall and personally experiencing failed leadership, a bitter expectation towards authority has formed. Thus, submitting to proper authority and accountability within a true fellowship will grate against their ingrained nomad ways. (That grating will not stop unless a proper understanding is reached concerning how the work of the cross in the believer’s life is facilitated by God).
Years of disappointment makes it difficult for the nomad Christian to realize and sort out their own deep fears of rejection or being used and abused as they try to become part of a true fellowship. The nomad Christian will tend to be standoffish, making others feel uncomfortable, and then misread any carnal reactions in others as snootiness or cliquishness. To compensate, the nomad Christian will express their knowledge of scripture to counterbalance the insecure feelings and try to assert themselves as a spiritually more advanced Christian.
These and other issues will hinder leadership’s efforts to facilitate team work and the development of Christ-like character within the body life of a fellowship under the Lord’s discipline. Unless there is a breakthrough in understanding, eventually the nomad Christian will likely recoil from embracing sound doctrine that exposes and helps crucify hidden carnal issues of the heart.
A Super-Saint’s Spiritual Pride
Faith that Lacks Grace and Truth in the Inward Being
To maintain an inner self-righteous stance the wilderness surviving believer becomes prone to project spiritual elitism that subtly elevates themselves in the eyes of others, yet they learn to deflect any praise by humble self-abasement. They appear to be on top of their sin nature and carnality by presenting an austere almost monk-like lifestyle. The Apostle Paul warned of this kind of Christian walk by stating that self-imposed mortification has “an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23 RSV).
Confused within by a hidden and subtle self-fulfilling endeavor to serve God, the devil slowly diverts the zealous nomad Christian from becoming a true servant-leader. Like sword packing Peter, he had zeal to fight for Christ and clipped off the ear of one of the temple servants then later denies even knowing Christ. In similar fashion many nomad Christians pack a trouble making attitude. When they plunge into confronting the carnality in others, often they run and hide when the confrontation gets too hot and requires grace and truth in the Lord for healthy resolution. Learning to die to our own carnal zeal in serving Christ is very hard and requires mentoring from others who have succeeded in dying to an inner self-righteous stance and associated motives.
The hardest aspect of following Christ for most Christians, including those struggling in the wilderness is to understand and walkout Christ’s covenant of grace and truth. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-18 ESV) Thus, many devout believers in Christ, especially the nomad Christian will often struggle with the Old Testament laws and regulations, and the prophets—missing how these apply to us now—which should be applied only in light of the Gospel of Christ.
Few Christians today are able to work with the Holy Spirit and the written word of God in detecting hidden carnal motives that are mixed with genuine faith and obedience.
Hidden Wounds and Defilements
Neglectful, dysfunctional, or abusive parenting during childhood poses great difficulty for nomad Christians in their attempt to grasp the grace and love of God. The need to perform in order to be approved by God becomes the central drive in serving God. This drive subtly becomes a self-righteous inner stance for all of life, especially in dealing with churchianity (a term we use to describe an apostate condition where the grace of God is trampled upon and the Spirit of grace is often outraged).
This makes the Christ-like attribute of patience and grace towards themselves and others a vague or hazy concept. Legalism and perfectionism creep into their motives in serving God and interacting with others. Thus, many attempt to become a super-saint unconsciously.
As they see the waywardness in Christians everywhere they are prone to become zealots in decrying churchianity. This zeal (to point out lukewarm-ness and apostasy in others) increases whenever the Holy Spirit attempts to convict them of any inner issues they can’t or won’t see within their own hearts. Their zeal and drive for Christ and restoring righteousness to the Church actually helps cover up their own wounds and damaged emotions that sustain their own brand of carnality and denial thereof.
Wrong Side of the Cross
Suffering from a John the Baptist Faith
Many nomad Christians look to the cross as a way of life they must enact as they carnally drive a death-to-self lifestyle and at least attempt to become self-abased and holy. However, most nomad Christians are insecure and competitive and suffer from deep jealous feelings within their secret heart. Truth in the inward being and applying wisdom toward discovering the motives of the secret heart is a threat to their wellbeing. Becoming broken of their inner self-righteous stance is akin to literally destroying their life as a super-saint. (One of the very things the work of the cross within the believer’s life is meant to do).
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the nomad Christian’s walk is overcoming their lack of understanding how to facilitate the work of the cross within the believer’s life. (For that matter most believers in Christ are challenged in properly understanding how death to the carnal self-life is accomplished).
Note: A John the Baptist approach to following Christ becomes attractive for the sincere saint fed up with churchianity. This type of faith is used by Satan to blind the need to die to an Old Testament type of faith that John the Baptist lived. John the Baptist looked to the coming Christ and practiced the law faithfully, and that required a wilderness life of self-imposed hardships and extreme self-pummeling to suppress the desires of the flesh. That approach, like the prophets of old was to end when John the Baptist died as a martyr. John the Baptist dying signified the death of the old covenant and a handing off to Jesus the work of bringing and establishing the new covenant of grace, truth, death to the old nature, and resurrection into a Christ-like nature. (See Hebrews 8:13).
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11-15 ESV underlined added).
The principle of the cross and its death to all self-driven adherence to the law brings freedom. Christ in this passage is setting forth a transition from the Old Covenant faith to the New Covenant faith, where newness of life, power over the sin nature, and freedom from flesh driven religion is found only in Christ. End of note.
The commands of Christ are very poignant concerning dying to the carnal life, such as “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27 underline added).
One cannot choose their own death-to-self processes or circumstances. When we present ourselves as a living sacrifice (see Romans 12:1-2,) we must understand and submit to what and how God brings us into various death-to-self situations. Moreover, we must recognize each event and then pick up our cross by submitting to the situation and embracing the pain of seeing our hidden selfishness and self-glorifying motives be exposed—that we might die to them.
Another saying we often share with each other is: the flesh cannot crucify the flesh. When we try to bring death to our inner motives by way of our own volition and ingenuity, we ultimately suppress the inner carnal desire and reprogram our outer nature to live in pious control of our life. Piously controlled living will quickly impinge upon those around us—in family life, with friends, and within the family of God in fellowship.
We short circuit Christ’s work of exposing, showing, and applying his life-giving power that renews. Many Christians, especially sincere believers who are waking up to the sick condition of the body of Christ, easily fall back into carnal religious bondage—enslaved to self-imposed holiness by reprogramming themselves, only to unknowingly walk in self-righteousness. True brokenness and humility that is to be obtained in Christ’s discipline is replaced by false humility and hypocrisy.
It is God’s purpose to conform us to Christ. This is to be done in freedom from any religious self-effort, in his discipline and timing. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
When we try to crucify our canal passions and desires in self-strength, we open ourselves up to the hordes of false teachings delivered by teachers who claim to know the right methods in becoming Christ-like—methods that supposedly produce successful, prosperous, and happy believers. To this, a counterfeiting spirit assists the deceived with reprogramming themselves, which ultimately preempts the transforming power of the Lord.
In part three, our final installment, we will look at the more deceiving and destructive aspects of carnal driven holiness and the zealot activist approach many nomad Christians give way to. In addition, we will discuss God’s ultimate plan in calling the nomad Christian, the lukewarm Christian, and those stuck in churchianity into true fellowship as Christ restores his bride in purity, splendor, and power.
To be continued in Part 3
Copyright © 2015 Charles Pretlow All rights reserved