Mike Ratliff is obviously working on getting closer to the kingdom. There are things we clarify (below) for the edification of those who would become Real Liberal Christians.
by Mike Ratliff
"By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." (1John 3:16 WEB)
What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny himself, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord's sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to His Lordship, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads.
Jesus never said that we are to die for Him, but we are to lay down our lives for Him. Which is easier? It's much easier to die than it is to lay one's life down daily with the sense of the high calling while living very ordinary lives. No matter how much we want to do some grand, magnificent work for our Lord, the reality is that we are called to walk in His light in very ordinary ways.
We take Mike's meaning here, but we want to make sure that people don't fall into thinking that we aren't called to do specific grand, magnificent works. We are.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. John 14:12
Why is this important to say? It is important, because expectations have been and are far too low. We don't expect enough of ourselves and of each other. Our standards have been too low. That is why greater things have not been done. We are commanded to feed the lambs and sheep; yet, for nearly two thousand years, the churches in general have not focused on even attempting to get it done.
Jesus is our example. His ministry was one long journey of Him emptying Himself of His glory to come into this demon-infested world to live a sinless life, and then lay that life down for His sheep. During His ministry there was only one glorious moment. That was on the Mount of Transfiguration. However, He then emptied Himself of His glory and returned to His mission to redeem those for whom He came to die.
Our reading is that Jesus was glorified before his disciples by all the signs and wonders round about him. Whenever his disciples were moved to believe in him more and more, he was glorified for God's sake.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn't know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. You didn't choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. "I command these things to you, that you may love one another" (John 15:12-18 WEB)
Our Lord gave us a commandment here. What is it? It is to love one another as Jesus loves us. What did Jesus do for us? He laid His life down for us. Therefore, we are to lay our lives down for each other for the motivation of that love. If we obey Him then Jesus says that we are His friends. Who then obeys Him and who does not? A servant obeys his or her master unquestionably, but our Lord says that we obey Him because He has revealed the truth to us. This truth, empowered by the Holy Spirit within us, gives us the ability to obey Him. Jesus chose His sheep; the sheep did not choose Him. This choice also included an appointment to go and bear eternal fruit. Notice also that all of this includes that His sheep love one another.
Loving one another is part of our laying our lives down for our Lord. How easy is it that we love the brethren. If we apply conditions to that love then it is not what our Lord is talking about. Not only does that end up with us in disobedience, it short-circuits God working through us in the body of Christ. This disobedience shows that we are being selfish and self-centered. No, this is not what we are called and commanded to do. If we are truly Jesus' friends then we will deliberately and carefully lay our lives down for Him by obeying Him in all things. I promise you that doing this will nearly always mean that we humble ourselves before those whom we would never naturally treat that way.
The brethren are his sheep. They do what he wants. We love each other because of this. We know each other because of this. Those who do not do what he wants are dead of the Holy Spirit of truth, and we don't know them and they don't know us. In this context, this particular kind of love (the love of those of the flock) is definitely conditioned upon following the good shepherd.
This is true even as we are to love (a different love; an exemplary love) those who are the enemies of righteousness. That love and the love of the brethren are not the same; otherwise, we would not love righteousness over evil.
Jesus did not love the Good Samaritan and the hypocritical Pharisees with the same love. Love is contextual. There are different kinds of love for different reasons. Although, on a certain level, all love is of the one spirit of truth. This is no contradiction. It is not ambiguous. It is not a paradox. Reconcile it by applying the language of the revelation.
Is this hard? Yes, it is very difficult because it is part of our sanctification. In contrast to our salvation, our sanctification is much more difficult because what is really happening is the reality of our salvation becoming manifest in us.
The RLC Church doesn't differentiate between salvation and sanctification. The spirit tells us that there is not one without the other. We have though been given to understand that there are degrees. God is in the highest. Glory to God in the highest. This is God's relative and absolute position: Infinitely high; infinitely glorious.
This is bringing into reality that which is totally opposite from what is natural for us. Christlikeness is not something we can conjure up. We can't go to college and learn it. We can't simply decide to be so. No, this is God burning away that in us that is not of Him, replacing it all with that which is of Him.
We say that these things happen simultaneously. We turn to God as God turns us to him. We decide to ask, seek, and knock for righteousness as God begins the process of burning away our iniquity.
The context includes the understanding that God sets the standard of righteousness and shows us through Jesus. Many are called. Many are given to consider. Few make it through the selection process. Most refuse to fill the prerequisites. Clearly they openly reject parting with their excess.
"Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?" Mark 10:21-26
Few come to grasp the standard: Perfection, absolute righteousness, infinite consistency.
To grasp it is to then have no other choice but to do it. To know the commandment to feed the lambs and sheep while not neglecting the other commandments all consistent with that one is to do the commandment. No one can truly ultimately feed his lambs and sheep while being inconsistent (hypocritical).
To give oneself over to this completely is to embark upon the one and only path to God that is following Jesus Christ and his example that was sent to us by God.
Let us conflate putting all our trust in God giving over all our worldly wealth and possessions to the commonwealth (the Christian Commons) that starts with his lambs and sheep but extends in mercy even to those who make of themselves the hardhearted enemies of the spirit of the commonweal. Let us do this peacefully, without coercion, bitterness, or vengeance and punishment in our hearts. Let us do this within the spirit of harmlessness and within the spirit of God bringing forth the real bounty through his children for the sake of each and the many.
Donate to this most worthy of causes (Jesus's cause). Click the button, and be as generous as you can. Tithe or better if you are able, if the Holy Spirit gives you to do it, moves your heart to have the real faith to do it. Thank you, and may God bless us all.
He does this as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We are called to remain loyal and obedient to our Lord while we remain in circumstances that demand and entice us to be disloyal and disobedient. Therefore, we come regularly to the throne of grace in fear and trembling because the battle is fierce and within it, we are commanded to love the brethren and lay our lives down for our Master by loving them as He does.
Now, we must do all of this while also balancing standing in the gap and fighting the good fight. Not everyone is called to stand and not fall while taking on the false shepherds and those who would lead the brethren astray, but many of us are. I pray that you will pray for us that we will never lose sight of our Lord's commandment to love the brethren by laying our lives down for them as we also fight the battles for the truth.