Church in Albany

Gathering all around the Albany New York area in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ



Someone has to Change

By Allen Rhoades

By Allen Rhoades

 

Life

So do you want a well balanced life or to be living on the extreme edge? Well, this may seem wishy-washy, but I think we need both.

 

To find the right balance on any issue and to live in the right extreme you must begin with Jesus the Messiah as your Master, a.k.a. the Lord Jesus Christ. A Godly balance is to walk on the straight and narrow path[1] of what He teaches, not turning to the left hand or to the right[2]. Straight in front is the need to be as extreme as possible - to love Him with all your heart and mind and strength and to love your neighbor like you love yourself.[3] 

 

Loving Him with ALL is not a location, at least not here on earth; it really does resemble a path. The picture of a path seems idyllic – a strolling along a tree-lined trail. Or it could seem to be a daring trek through the stars. But what it really introduces is that dreadful agitator to our lives – Change! 

 

I’ve grown up following much of the conventional wisdom from a couple evangelical protestant churches. I learned a lot of good stuff from there. But sometimes I’ll read what God says and think “Lord, we aren’t really agreeing here… so I think one of us needs to change.”  Of course I know which one, but sometimes it feels so weird and out of the norm.

 

The Weird Test

Some will say the Bible teaches many things - Christ died for us, He rose again on the third day, salvation by faith in Him, play with snakes, the resurrection from the dead.[4] Okay, quickly- tell me which one of these things does not belong here?

 

Yep, I don’t play with snakes either.  But some use what Jesus said in Mark 16:18 to say we should. Anyone who’s been around the block a time or two knows that there are tons of weird teachings- quoting a chapter and verse to say things God never really said. Even the devil did that.[5] So any weird thing I read could be just one of those things that God never really said. I think it would be nice if God never had me do anything that I consider weird.

 

But there are times when the right thing is considered weird and some really wrong things have been considered just plain normal. In the Old Testament God often told his people Israel to stop worshipping the idols, even though all the other nations were doing it. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing there while thousands were doing the ‘normal’ thing of bowing to the golden idol[6]. This has happened all through the ages, like in the Reformation when both Catholics and Protestants were drowning those weird people who were being baptized as adults.

 

Do you think that right now the right thing is considered weird and some really wrong things are considered just plain normal?  I do. So as I’m reading His Word and trying to obey God, there are times when I hit those weird things. Sometimes I can relax with the peace that the weird thing is not really what God says.  Then there are the other times.

 

Me…Change?

I was a member of a baptist church as a teenager. My parents started taking me there when I was nine but by my teens I was fully immersed on my own.

 

I was immersed in my way of life. I would start early on Sunday, in charge of the bus picking up many kids and a few adults. On arriving at church I taught Sunday school for a class of seven year olds before interpreting the service for the deaf after which I got everyone on the bus back home. There was Sunday and Wednesday night church, Friday night youth group, and Thursday and Saturday visitation. During the weekdays I attended the church high school after which I worked in the church daycare.

 

I was immersed in the Bible, the King James Bible being the only real version. All my doctrines and practices were to come only from the Bible. I was good at memorizing the Bible too, winning many awards or competitions. My two older brothers were in a baptist college planning to be full time workers as school teachers. I was expected to attend the same college but probably to the much higher calling as a baptist pastor. I had already been in a few preacher boy contests and even once preached from the pulpit on a Sunday morning when the pastor was away.

 

I was immersed in my doctrine. I knew that salvation was only through our freewill faith in Christ who was accepted by saying the sinner’s prayer. That my salvation was eternally secure and that reaching others is the reason I was left here on earth after accepting Christ. I knew that we needed to be a member of a local church led by a pastor who must be obeyed unless he went directly against clear scripture. The pastor could not have any religious authority over him other than God. I knew Jesus will return before the seven year tribulation after which he will set up his thousand year reign. I knew that prophesy and tongues had ceased. I knew not to be part of the world and not to do many things –drink, smoke, drugs, swear, dance, listen to any music with a beat, wear long hair, gamble, play cards, go to movies, or work in a store that sold alcohol. I knew I could wear pants only because I’m a guy. I knew that God demands a tithe and requires sacrificial offerings. I knew all believers are part of the universal church and that we shouldn’t have divisions but there were many false teachings. And I knew not to follow any false teaching - that is anything that went against any baptist doctrines.

 

After reading on my teen years you may be wondering how I could ever be worried about being weird. But I figured I was following God on a lonely path - like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This was my problem though– I was to follow God’s path as He said in His Word, but I couldn’t really find all the things I was doing or all the doctrines I believed in. And worse, there were things He was saying but I was doing the opposite - I needed to change.

 

Jesus is Lord

“Jesus is Lord[7]” has been said so much that sometimes the words may just be cliché, lacking any real meaning. Yet His lordship is the most powerful truth.  Let’s live in this truth.

 

Jesus said[8] “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but you don’t do what I say?”  So the first thing I need to do is to learn what He has said. The second thing is to do[9] what He commands and to stop doing what He condemns.

 

The problem is that we don’t learn from Him. His words were written down and His Spirit is within those of us who believe; however, we have 2,000 years of people ‘interpreting’ what Jesus said. We must go back to what He said. Forget all the traditions of man as that will keep your heart far from Him[10].

 

You…change?

Of course there are many things I need to change in my life and doctrine. My life is made of trying to discern and to follow the path of the simple teachings of Christ, not turning aside after the teachings of any man, including myself.  I’d like to share some of the truths that the Lord is showing me, truths that you are probably not walking in if you follow common religious tradition. Please, test them by God’s Word, but don’t discount them due to man’s tradition. Discern whether it is from God, not whether it seems ‘weird’.  If something that seems ‘weird’ is what our Lord has said, will you change?


 

 

Love Each Other

 

A major area where I went against the word of God was in my practice of church. By my following the traditions of our fathers I failed to do what my Lord has commanded. By not obeying the truth in this area I failed to have a true love for my brothers and sisters.[11]  I did not understand and practice that we are one, that we are to build each other up, and that Jesus Christ is The Head, Husband and Lord of His church.

 

We are One – There are No Denominations

When I was a member of the baptist denomination I learned that all believers were members of His body. But I didn’t gather with brothers who were not baptist. I’m not trying to say my problem was only due to being a baptist as you can insert your preferred denomination here. To a lesser or greater degree each does the same thing - continues to perpetuate the denomination. We use denominations to bring division of His body by establishing our own special gatherings, sets of teachings, and authority systems.

 

Some may argue how God is using their denomination. But no, God is using His people, even when we disobediently divide. God uses us in spite of our own stupidity, but this is no reason for us to be stupid! How much more of a blessing will it be to throw away our own ways and follow His Way. God is against divisions, and sects – denominations;[12] because He wants His people to unite in Him.[13] Let us turn our hearts to Him and love and build up each other. This ‘each other’ is all the saints, not just the saints deciding to be in a particular division.

 

Others may argue that their denomination is necessary to combat false teaching, but should we live the lie of not ‘really’ being one body so that we can promote the truth? Is not a believer in a denomination being arrogant and foolish – thinking that his sect alone has the real truth on what is important. If a believer doesn’t think this then why make a separate group? The proper question on many issues that we decide to divide on is not “Who is right?” but “Who is Lord?[14]

 

We must accept each other as Christ has accepted us[15]. Not to our personal surrendering of what is true but to the acknowledging that Jesus is the Lord of our fellow believers.[16] We are not the lord of anyone. Look at two brothers- one who thinks we should keep the Jewish holidays and another who doesn’t keep any day, not even Sunday or Saturday, as special.[17] Do you allow into your gathering both of these brothers to publicly speak and edify?[18]  If not, then isn’t that disobeying the commandment of our Lord who has accepted both of your brothers?[19]

 

The Lord’s command is that we love each other.[20]  I need to love you – not your 501c non-profit corporation membership.

 

Edify or Build Up Each Other – Not the Sermon

I remember as a teen reading from I Corinthians 14:26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.”  I thought that would be so cool to come together and edify each other. But being a baptist meant we needed to come together around a sermon and be edified by the pastor. Again this is not unique to the baptist division as it is the practice of most every division.

 

God commands us to gather together to encourage each other[21]  many times, but I’ve never found God commanding a gathering around the pastor’s sermon - even though He could have said so rather easily. The only thing I’ve found that is close to a sermon is preaching; however, it is nearly always referring to reaching the lost. This makes sense considering that the English translations use the word ‘preach’ chiefly from two Greek words meaning ‘proclaim’ and ‘evangelize’. Never does it mean what we would consider a sermon or rhetoric. Even the famous passage where Paul ‘preached’ all night is actually the Greek word ‘dialogue’.

 

Of course Jesus and His followers did speak to large crowds as well as to small groups and private persons.  Although they spoke without it being such a monologue as a sermon is today, that doesn’t mean that a sermon is wrong. Listening to sermons has blessed me many times. However, when I ignored God’s command to edify each other I failed to consider my brothers and sisters, provoking and being provoked to love and good works[22]. By replacing the edifying of each other with being a performer or audience of a forty-five minute monologue I was forsaking God’s command for the empty traditions of our fathers. Let it not be so.

 

So a sermon or no sermon isn’t what counts but faith working through love to each other[23]. Being knit together in love[24] cannot happen unless we talk with each other[25], unless we are committed to each other. Sitting in an audience with a thousand other lonely people will not help. Speaking the truth to each other in love will help. That’s why God speaks through His people. How much of what God wanted to tell me did I silence by meeting with my brothers week after week only for a sermon and a few words afterward?  I never met with an expectation to speak God’s word to each other. Weeping with one who weeps and rejoicing with one who rejoices is real when it comes from the many discussions and experiences shared, growing to know each other’s heart for God and the life He has given us - the hopes, dreams, anxieties and fears. Doing so with someone I haven’t bothered to get to know tends to ring hollow. Praying for each other because of a love and a bond is beautiful and cannot be replaced by praying for each other because of names in a bulletin.

 

The Lord’s command is that we love each other.[26] We do this by listening and speaking to each other, seeking what God would have us say to edify His child, our brother or sister. Sitting in an audience together is a shared experience but not a requirement or a replacement.

 

Jesus is The Lord, The Husband and The Head – Not Any Other

In the old covenant God set up a hierarchal priesthood as a shadow of the promised Messiah to come.  When Jesus came He set up a very clear hierarchy – “you have one Teacher [Jesus Christ], and you are all brothers”.[27]

 

In no area did I substitute man’s tradition as God’s word more than in my creation of the pastorhood doctrine. I read the verses on obeying those who “rule” so that if you failed to follow the opinions of whichever flavor of a divisional pastor I chose, then you sinned against God himself.  By doing this I was truly abominable to God and man by condemning the innocent and justifying wickedness.  I usurped the Lordship of Christ by saying “Jesus is Lord so do what this other guy says.” And believe me I would have condemned you if you had listened to music with a beat or read a bible version other than the King James (not even the New King James) or about a thousand other things that our Lord never said. All these sins that God forgot to mention but I was really wise to discover them and I had the chapter and verse to prove it – “Obey those who rule over you”.

 

This same spew of false judging that I had given (in a humble and loving manner of course) was then directed towards me as I started trying to discern the legalism of my division from the teachings of Christ. As a young man I made many grave errors and wronged some people greatly when I followed the pastor and even more so as I sought to be untangled from the legalism.  It was a process of many years of God calling to me as I’m sure He does to you - reading His words and seeing the need to change. I needed to love my brothers and have no Lord but Christ. I needed the life that is the Word of God[28], not a knowledge of the Bible like the Pharisees[29] who added so many traditions and were far from God in their hearts.

 

On the path of change the Lord led me from the baptist division for a brief stay with a plymouth brethren assembly in Buffalo. Although these two divisions had similar main doctrines, their leadership structures were very different.  It changed from a head pastor to a group of elders who oversaw from among the brothers.  They actually practiced taking turns for all the brothers to speak!  Of course this was a great challenge to my particular baptist group and therefore I was deemed to have left God by leaving them. One person in explaining why it is evil to have many elders instead of a single pastor said “Anything with more than one head is a freak.”  I only smiled and thought to the teachings of my Lord who is THE Head[30] of the church. What a freakish thing that we keep adding another.

 

Some may argue on the good work a pastor does and truly God will not forget to reward anyone for good works done.[31] The goal is not that the brothers who are admonishing, encouraging, teaching, witnessing, and praying would stop caring this way for others, but rather that each brother and sister would partake of the same care towards each other.[32]

 

The problem is that we possess no authority that we can place in ourselves or another saint other than what God has given.[33] What I read God say was different than what is practiced in the key area of authority.[34] The common practice is to create a new authority by usurping some of what belongs to God and some from what He gives to the entire royal priesthood of believers and then give it to a position established by catholic and protestant traditions.  Even the most mature, humble saint whom God has gifted with leadership cannot maintain the proper relationship with God and fellow brothers while assuming authority not given from Him.[35]

 

The Lord’s command is that we love each other.[36] We do this not by lording or controlling others[37] and not by being lorded or controlled by another saint,[38] but by establishing the Lord’s commands with all authority[39] and submitting to each other in the fear of Christ[40] - realizing that we need to seek Him to be in control of all our thoughts and actions[41], anyone else would just mess it up.

 

The Lord has gifted us in many ways including leadership; however, Jesus never gifted anyone to be lord. It is not any better to establish a saint as a lord and then call this lord a leader.  Some teachings listed below of catholic/protestant traditions are compared with God’s word and they show why I cannot take these traditions upon myself (or give them to another).

 

division teaching -

God Says-

They would gather around my sermon

Gather as gifted believers

I would have sheep

Only Jesus has sheep

I would determine on which doubtful things others needed to obey me

(“You must obey me unless I go against the clear teachings of the Bible”)

Jesus is the Lord of all believers

I would be the head of the church

Jesus is head of the church

I would be called of God

Every believer is called of God

I would be anointed

Every believer is anointed

I would be responsible to pray for the entire church

Every believer is responsible to pray for the entire church

God would speak through me

God speaks through His people

I would be like Aaron the High Priest and all who thought they could do my job would be like Korah.

Jesus is the High Priest that Aaron was a shadow of and anyone who thinks they can do His job is like Korah.

I would have dumb sheep

Jesus sheep aren’t dumb

I would be an intercessor to God

Jesus is the only intercessor to God; we all are to be in intercessory prayer.

I would be called ‘Pastor’ or ‘Reverend’

Jesus said not to use religious titles because we are all brothers

I should be honored

We should outdo honoring each other

They must follow my authority.

Only Jesus is Lord. He gave all believers authority.

I would need to look after the weak

Every believer needs to look after the weak

The congregation would always be immature

We are all to grow up into maturity

I would officiate the Lord’s supper, baptisms, weddings, and funerals

Believers are to eat the Lord’s supper together and to baptize. Weddings and Funerals don’t seem to be mentioned.

I would decide who needs to be excommunicated

The entire church decides who needs to be excommunicated

I would have special requirements to meet

Every believer has the same requirements

 

 


 

What Path to Follow

 

After I left Buffalo for the Albany area I sought out a plymouth brethren assembly here. Unfortunately, they followed the protestant model instead of gathering to encourage each other. You know the model – silencing the saints who are to sit in a pew week after week to be enlightened by the sermon.  I mostly sat for 10 years. I knew we were to encourage each other with Jesus as Lord, but knew of no place where saints gathered to do so. What could I do? Often during the sermon I could only look around and think “I wonder what Ray has to say?  I wonder what God has put on Phil’s heart? I wonder what Ed has to say?”  

 

I began to speak to many other believers as the Lord impressed these things on my heart more and more. But traditions are powerful things and there was not much reception.  In the height of my exasperation from reading the word of God and seeing what we are doing, I moaned to my wife “I can’t be the only one to read this.”  Not long after I talked about our need to encourage each other with Kevin – an acquaintance I had known from a baptist gathering.  I found out that he had been “home churching” with another family for a few years. So I invited myself over to the house the next Sunday afternoon and began to realize how I missed the “each other” in what God tells us to do.  I continued to go to “church” on Sunday morning and tried to get the plymouth brethren assembly to gather to encourage each other as they do in Buffalo.  I was unsuccessful, so after a year of doing both I stopped going Sunday morning. I knew it was what God wanted me to do, but it still felt really weird staying home. The same weird feeling I had when first starting to read the NKJV Bible in my late teens; traditions die hard.

 

My brother Lou who I met at work was rightly concerned about my leaving church altogether.  He knew of others who were fed up and quit meeting at all. But actually I am now encouraging and being encouraged with more believers than ever before. I gather as a church in several homes and have believers over to my home for a supper who would never consider such “church”.   I even visit different buildings (falsely called churches) to meet the real church –the brothers and sisters. We all belong to each other.

 

I am not your lord so I don’t know exactly how He’d have you to meet with brothers and sisters. I do know and speak with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ that you are one with all the saints, that you are to build up others and be built up by them, and that Jesus Christ is your Head, Husband, and Lord.  I encourage you to look to the word of God - not for support of traditions but to see what He says.

 

Most of all, love each other. Practice this by being hospitable. Invite others to your home even if they are not the kind of person you are comfortable with. Listen to them, let them know it’s alright to talk about God. Accept them as a person and be a person yourself, not a program. Seek God for what words would encourage them.[42]

 

The truth is not a list of precepts; Truth is a person. Jesus is the Path – the Way. Follow what He says so you will have Life.[43]

 


 

Change

 

“Change your heart and life” is the message of the kingdom of God. Most translations use the word “repent”.  I had used the word repent in my religious dialect to refer to those heathen evildoers. But the call to change was often given to believers in the one true God.  Even to the believers gathering in Ephesus who had all the correct teaching, Jesus warns to change or to be taken away. Will you heed your Lord’s call to change? If you’re not agreeing with God then someone has to change.

 

Mt 3:2 - Show Context
John said, "Change your hearts and lives because the kingdom of heaven is near."  

Mt 4:17 - Show Context
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Change your hearts and lives, because the kingdom of heaven is near."  

Mr 1:15 - Show Context
kingdom is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!"  

Mr 6:12 - Show Context
So the followers went out and preached that people should change their hearts and lives.  

Lu 5:32 - Show Context
I have not come to invite good people but sinners to change their hearts and lives."  

Lu 13:3 - Show Context
No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were!  

Lu 13:5 - Show Context
No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will all be destroyed too!"  

Lu 16:30 - Show Context
The rich man said, 'No, father Abraham! If someone goes to them from the dead, they would believe and change their hearts and lives.'  

Lu 24:47 - Show Context
and that a change of hearts and lives and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, starting at .  

Ac 2:38 - Show Context
Peter said to them, "Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

Ac 3:19 - Show Context
So you must change your hearts and lives! Come back to God, and he will forgive your sins. Then the Lord will send the time of rest.  

Ac 5:31 - Show Context
Jesus is the One whom God raised to be on his right side, as Leader and Savior. Through him, all Jewish people could change their hearts and lives and have their sins forgiven.  

Ac 17:30 - Show Context
In the past, people did not understand God, and he ignored this. But now, God tells all people in the world to change their hearts and lives.  

Ac 26:20 - Show Context
I began telling people that they should change their hearts and lives and turn to God and do things to show they really had changed. I told this first to those in , then in , and in every part of , and also to those who are not Jewish.  

Ro 2:4 - Show Context
He has been very kind and patient, waiting for you to change, but you think nothing of his kindness. Perhaps you do not understand that God is kind to you so you will change your hearts and lives.  

2Co 7:10 - Show Context
The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death.  

2Pe 3:9 - Show Context
The Lord is not slow in doing what he promised -- the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost, but he wants all people to change their hearts and lives.  

Re 2:5 - Show Context
So remember where you were before you fell. Change your hearts and do what you did at first. If you do not change, I will come to you and will take away your lampstand from its place.  

Re 2:16 - Show Context
So change your hearts and lives. If you do not, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword that comes out of my mouth.

 

Re 3:3 - Show Context
So do not forget what you have received and heard. Obey it, and change your hearts and lives. So you must wake up, or I will come like a thief, and you will not know when I will come to you.  

Re 3:19 - Show Context
"I correct and punish those whom I love. So be eager to do right, and change your hearts and lives.  

Re 9:20 - Show Context
The other people who were not killed by these terrible disasters still did not change their hearts and turn away from what they had made with their own hands. They did not stop worshiping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood -- things that cannot see or hear or walk.  

Re 9:21 - Show Context
These people did not change their hearts and turn away from murder or evil magic, from their sexual sins or stealing.  

Re 16:9 - Show Context
They were burned by the great heat, and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these disasters. But the people refused to change their hearts and lives and give glory to God.  

Re 16:11 - Show Context
They also cursed the God of heaven because of their pain and the sores they had, but they refused to change their hearts and turn away from the evil things they did.
 

 



[1] Matthew 7:14   

[2] Proverbs 4:27

[3] Matthew 22:37 - 39; Mark 12:30 - 31; Luke 10:27 - 28

[4] 1Corinthians 15:3-4

[5] Matthew 4:6-7

[6] Daniel 3

[7] Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3

[8] Luke 4:46

[9] Luke 11:27-28; James 1:22

[10] Mark 7:6-8

[11] 1 Peter 1:22

[12] Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:4-7

[13] John 10:16; John 17:20 - 21; Romans 12:5; Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 4:3,13

[14] Romans 14:1-12

[15] Romans 15:7

[16] Romans 14:4,10

[17] Romans 14:5

[18] Romans 15:14

[19] Romans 14:1

[20] John 13:34-35; John 15:12, 17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 1:5

[21] Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11 - 14; Hebrews 3:13; 10:24 - 25

[22] Hebrews 10:24 - 25

[23] Galatians 5:6

[24] Colossians 2:2

[25] Ephesians 4:15, 25

[26] John 13:34-35; John 15:12, 17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 1:5

[27] Matthew 23:7-8

[28] Matthew 4:4

[29] Matthew 23:4-5

[30] Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians  4:15; Ephesians  5:23; Colossians 2:19

[31] Colossians 3:23,24; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 22:12

[32] Hebrews 6:10 - 12

[33] 1 Corinthians 4:6

[34] Matthew 20:25 - 26

[35] Romans 12:3; Galatians 6:3

[36] John 13:34-35; John 15:12, 17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:23; 2 John 1:5

[37] 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Corinthians 1:24

[38] 2 Corinthians 11:19 - 23

[39] 2 Corinthians 10:3 - 6

[40] Ephesians 5:21

[41] 2 Corinthians 10:4 - 6

[42] 1 Peter 4:8-11

[43] John 14:6

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