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People of the Way

I was recently talking to a man whose soul I watch over. He asked if my heavy counseling schedule was because I was catching up after our trip to Sierra Leone (West Africa). I told him that when you are in the ministry of soul care the work never ends.

Someone else asked if there will always be work to which I replied that in the world of counseling ministry we never “catch up.” Why is that? It’s because there is chaos and disorder all around us.

1 Corinthians 14:40 tells us, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” While the context is a church Gathering in someone’s home, I don’t think that's the only place we are to be doing things decently and in order. The Greek word translated to “decently” means “honestly”. The term “in order” means just what we think it means... “to do something in succession.”

Long before this (in the Garden of Eden)...but most recently in our history...back in the 1960’s, chaos was introduced as a lifestyle. Living with no order and no routines was celebrated as a way of living. This has hurt people in and out of the church. As is often the case, the world has impacted the Church…instead of the other way around. It is polluting the body of Christ and the order that God has for it.

As I discussed this recently, one man said that it’s amazing that most of the population doesn’t know or understand the concept of honesty and integrity any more. I have to agree. I was talking with another man I pastor about the nature of deception. He made the point that lying wasn’t the core problem, rather that it was a symptom of a bigger problem. At first I disagreed but I think he was onto something.

Deception, at its core, is an attack on reality and reality is truth. Jesus is the embodiment of Truth.

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.’” (John 14:6a)

Integrity has to do with actions matching voiced intentions or unspoken realistic expectations known to the one doing the action. Those actions become habit through patterns of behavior that are healthy. Therefore, an attack on integrity is really deception at work.

The noble concept of “doing the right thing” has been warped by the selfishness that characterizes the flesh, which is the way of the world. The idea of “doing the right thing” has become for so many: “doing the right thing.....for me.” It is called situational ethics and it works in society if what is right for you also benefits me.

Meanwhile the fleshly focus on appearances that so dominates the landscape has caused people to only care about whatever is most evident to them. Because of this dynamic I can do someone wrong and it’s ok if I don't experience their angst that I CAUSED. This relational situation has degraded so much that if you let me see your pain and disappointment I can tell you why it’s wrong for you to feel bad.

The world is training us to try to manipulate people into not feeling the pain we are causing them. Yet, if I poke you with a needle you are designed by God to feel pain. If I poke your soul, it is supposed to hurt. The pain is Truth.

I have this picture in my head. It’s a little boy who is crying for a daddy and at the same time wailing that he doesn’t want a daddy. He NEEDS someone to love and watch over him...correct him into right behaviors…into ways of being that benefit the society...and enhance relationships. The problem is that he’s been lied to forever and he believes the lies. The little boy is the world and he has been trained to believe that he does not need truth (Jesus.)

While it is true that the world has been trained to believe the lie, there is a battle raging to deal with that. When I was preparing for our recent trip to Africa and the deliverance teaching I would present there, I learned something interesting.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19)

There is a clause in that passage that jumped out at me: “to proclaim liberty to the captives”. I did some research and learned that the word “captives” literally means “prisoners of war.”

There is a war on. We were born into it.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (1 Corinthians 10:3-6)

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul…” (1 Peter 2:11)

A young couple came to see me recently and announced to me that they were Christians. I asked them an important question: “How do you know you’re a Christian?” There are some things one can observe that reveal whether or not a person really is born again.

An interesting verse in Acts caught my eye recently.

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)

Saul was looking for a group: the people “of the Way”. Jesus is the Way.

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.’” (John 14:6a)

That word translated as “Way” is a Greek word that means “a habitual and well worn path”. A path isn’t cut by a person walking it for an hour, one to three times a week as he goes to a Christian event (church service). This is equally true of more organic meetings like our Gatherings (home meetings of the body of Christ.)

A path is cut by CONSTANTLY walking it.

The group Paul was after stood out. They were people of integrity all the time, even when they could have lived as those who had no integrity. They were honest when they could have lied because honesty was what they were about.

A couple of years ago Reyburn, a man I pastor, and I were moving some furniture. We had been at it for four hours. It was at night in February...cold...we were tired and it was past suppertime - NONE OF WHICH IS A VALID EXCUSE FOR WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SHARE.

On another ministry front, I had been working to reunite a family and I was about to drive to a north-eastern state to get a wife and child and reunite them with the husband (and father). It seemed that he had repented but it turned out that he was still the same as he had been when he left his wife and child. It was a Sunday night and we were leaving on Tuesday after weeks of preparation and negotiations. Now, two days before we left this young man called me and told me he had done something bad to violate their relationship and asked me if he should tell her.

I told him not to tell her. In effect, I told him to lie to her by not giving her the truth about what he was.

Why did I do that? There is no justification but I’ll share what I was thinking, as I carried furniture in the dark that night. So much was at stake; we had worked so hard to reconcile this family and get a grandbaby down to live near his grandmother. That was in my heart and what came out of me was to advise someone to lie so our plans wouldn’t fall apart.

When we closed off the call I was immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit of God. My logic...which was bad...was that this family needed to be back together and we were SO CLOSE but this guy had timed it like he did to hurt her yet again on purpose.

So, God poked me. That hurt but it was good for me. The first thing I did was to confess my sin to Reyburn, right there in the truck as we drove home.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

As we continued our drive back to Decatur I called the young man back. I apologized for giving him bad counsel. I told him to call his poor wife and tell her the truth. He asked why I was telling him to do this and I said, “She needs to know who you really are.”

Then I called Don, the man who watches over my soul and I confessed it to him. He needed to know what was happening in the life of someone he pastors.

The world doesn’t want us to be like Jesus. It wants us to be like itself and the prince of this world (for now anyway) is satan.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

My problem was not what that young man was doing to himself, his wife and his child. My problem was that I, for a moment, chose my desires to see the plans work over what I knew to be true. My mind was set on the discomfort that would come into my own soul if our plans fell apart.

This is wrong because we are designed to live with the other person in mind.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5)

We are designed by God to manifest Jesus in how we live. We are designed to show Jesus to the world through our ways. We are people of the Way but most of us in the body of Christ do not know it and, therefore, we don’t live as People of the Way.

That’s what broke my heart about what I did that day and it’s what prompted me to turn to Reyburn and say, “I just sinned against God and __________ (the guy’s name)”. It is what prompted me to immediately do what I could to repair what I had damaged.

So many Christians are compromising what we know to be right and true because it is easier to do that. We are squandering our inheritance. We are wasting our place - our realm in which to individually and personally rule and reign in the arenas handpicked for us by Jesus in God’s kingdom.

Why do we do this? We do it for passing fancy, for the approval of people…for the seizing of things God would either not have for us or would rather present to us in His own timing. Sometimes we do it simply because it is easier to compromise.

I’m not proud I did what I did....but I did it. It’s done. It’s reality. It’s truth....part of my permanent record. Jesus has blotted that out with His blood but I know I did it and I want to turn what satan did for evil through me into good. I’m sharing it now in order to boomerang it into something good.

Our enemy, satan, is at war with God. The battleground is on the earth, but it is NOT the earth. Rather, the battleground for this war is the hearts of men and women. Our enemy craves effective control of people....especially people of the Way. We were born into a war and we must fight!

When I choose to live in integrity and truth I am allowing God to advance His kingdom in me. More exciting than that, when I live this way I allow God to advance His kingdom THROUGH me.

THIS is how the battle is fought, not on satan’s terms; rather, we fight it on the Father’s terms. I’m tired of seeing satan work in the lives of people who call themselves Christians. It’s tragic and heartbreaking. Many are doing things they KNOW are wrong but they think these things are wrong to do because people disapprove of them. While it is good when people disapprove of sin, this is not why people should know what is right and what is wrong. There has to be a better standard than the capricious thoughts of other mere humans.

We are NOT to live an outside to inside life. Instead, we are to be so aware of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our spirits and souls...that we know something is wrong because we sense it immediately and it grieves us….so we stop.

Once I spoke to a woman who was practicing adultery. She was born again...but adrift. I asked her if the Holy Spirit lived in her heart. She said, “Yes.” I asked if she believed He convicted of sin. She said, “Yes.” I asked if adultery was a sin. She said, “Yes.” Then I asked, “If this is all true, why don’t you feel bad about cheating on your husband and dishonoring your marriage vows in the sight of God?”

That one question led her to seek His input and the conviction was wonderfully awful. She quit the job she had where the man she was with worked; she broke off the affair and she confessed it all to her husband. (This is how integrity and truth work.) The enemy's kingdom in her crumbled and God's Kingdom was established in earnest.

From my vantage point it seems pandemic: Christians all around us are compromising and tolerating sin for short term gain and squandering their place in the kingdom. They aren’t losing their salvations; rather, they are wasting their opportunity to serve God in ways He has handpicked for them. Because God loves them He lets them go to their true loves, then He finds others to step into their former places. No one is exempt from the temptation to do these things but EVERYONE in Christ has what it takes to resist those temptations.

Sometimes I think I exist to be that sign in the mall that says “YOU ARE HERE”. While I treasure what God does through this ministry, I don’t always enjoy the mechanics of it. However, it is crucial that someone be in this place to help unveil the deception that blinds us to allow us to see where we truly are, so we can proceed to where He is leading us.

This brings us back to my irritating question, “How do you know you’re a Christian?” which leads to another one: “If Saul was running around today seeking the People of the Way, would you be in danger of being arrested because you lived so evidently like Jesus did?”

It is a tragic fact that Saul would never have arrested most of us - because we don’t look all that different than the world does. We compromise our birthright for our own comfort and safety and ease.

It’s a good thing to feel bad if something is out of order in our lives. If the question brings discomfort because you see things in yourself or in how you live that you know look more like the world than like our King, there is something you can do about it.

(John the Baptist speaking): “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

Repent! You can choose to agree with God about what it is you are doing (or not doing that you should do.)

Then find someone safe to talk to about it. Share where you are and ask that person to pray for you.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Finally, be restored. Galatians 6:1 teaches that when we go to someone with our sin they are to “restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”. The Greek word translated as “restore” is “katartizo” and it means “to complete thoroughly, to repair.”

“In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:2-4)

When we are restored we are positioned to step into those places or realms that Jesus has planned for us.

Let’s resolve to do this. Let’s step back into the places that Jesus has for us. Let’s not allow a temporary detour into the ways of the world to keep us from our places in the Kingdom of God.

Let’s live as the People of the Way!

Lord God, make it so in us!

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, Texas

© August 14, 2011

(For use with permission)

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