Mt. 7:22-23 π Mt. 23:15 π Mk. 6:31 π Lk. 9:23 π Jn. 7:24 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn . 21:21-22 π Rom. 2:16 π 1 Cor. 5:9-11 π 2 Cor. 6:17-18 π Phlp. 2:15-16 π Col. 1:18 π Heb. 10:25 π Heb. 13:12-13 π Rev. 14:4
Being a Christian, one dire warning goes, is like being a burning charcoal briquette. So long as you huddle close to other burning briquettes, your fire for the Lord will remain strong and fervent-hot. But if you go off alone, watch out, because your fire will soon go out. Overlooked is the fact that the entire audience, just a few minutes before, was singing in unison, “Though none go with me, still I will follow…” Equally overlooked is the fact that the charcoal briquette analogy cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures.
The briquette analogy also causes us – very subtly – to shift our source for our sufficiency away from the Lord and onto the fact that we gather with a certain group of people and perform certain rituals (“worship,” hear a sermon or Bible teaching, “fellowship,” eat a meal together, etc.) In modern churchianity, especially in the mega-“church,” one has no way whatsoever to ascertain if the people one gathers with really are genuine followers of Christ or not. Equally vague in modern churchianity is whether one’s particular preferred rituals do actually come from the New Testament or whether they are actually imported 1st, 2nd or 3rd century pagan practices. Some even go so far as to say that this entire question is irrelevant!
There is a forgotten truth that peers out of the confusing mess of religiosity and cuts through the fog that men have placed around the true way of following Christ: The definition of one’s character is found in the words, actions and thoughts we indulge in when God is the only witness to what we say, do or think. Whatever we will or will not do when no man is present or watching us is the clearest evidence of just how deep the work of God has gone in our life. The “Christianity” of many charcoal briquettes huddling together to “keep their fires burning” fails miserably under this test and one day, if these have not repented, they will be judged for what they have done. ( Rom. 2:16 , etc.; top)
Equally forgotten is that God has said, “Come out from among [the “Christian” idolaters] and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” ( 2 Cor. 6:17-18 , also see 1 Cor. 5:9-11; top ) We cannot expect to enjoy all the blessings and benefits that God gives if we still mingle among and spiritually embrace any and all who claim to be “brothers in Christ” yet who still routinely practice blatant sin except, of course, when they are gathered together to keep their “fire for the Lord” burning bright by means of their “church” attendance and religious rituals. Hypocrisy and following the Lord have always been diametrically opposed to one another. One cannot grasp the unclean hand of a false “brother” and cling to the Lord at the same time.
The 144,000 who stand on Mount Zion (the identity of this group is not as important as are their qualities) are commended for following “the Lamb wherever He goes.” ( Rev. 14:4 ) The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood. Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp…” ( Heb. 13:12-13 ) Jesus, in the midst of all of men’s busy-nesses, still calls His followers to “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” ( Mk. 6:31 ) Jesus still commands us, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” ( Lk. 9:23 ) What happens to any other brother remains of secondary importance to us than is the question of whether we ourselves follow the risen Christ or not. ( Jn . 21:21-22; top )
Certainly no one should voluntarily go off alone and seek to be the “only Christian” who follows “the right way” of Christ and God. Such a self-exalting thing is as equally idolatrous as is elevating the “pastor” to the place of being the only one to hear and dispense “the word of God.” But neither should one run off to seek the comforts and consolations of men when the Lord, at least in our lives, is walking toward an empty and desolate wilderness, away from the abundance and luxuries of this world or even simply away from our own notions of how “Christianity” ought to be done.
When one seeks fellowship with other believers, one runs the risk of idolizing the gathering together of saints and one can even dislodge Christ from His rightful place of Headship over the assembly ( Col. 1:18 ) by placing the assembly under the dictates of the calendar, the clock, our “theological” and denominational notions or even the demands of our own overly busy life. Certainly one should not forsake the building together of saints that God has genuinely and personally placed in our lives ( Heb. 10:25 ) but neither should we travel land and sea to find converts to our way of thinking (like-mindedness) and succeed only in making more sons of hell who are worse off than we are. ( Mt. 23:15; top ) If we will but simply follow Him, He knows when we need fellowship and He will see that others cross our path or He will enable short encounters or even long distance relationships to encourage and sustain us for relatively long periods of time or when unusual circumstances prevail. He knows when we are sufficiently purified so that we won’t contaminate the others we encounter or be contaminated by them (their practices, “theology,” philosophy, etc.) He knows – better than we ourselves know – exactly what we need, when we need it and in what quantity and quality we require it. He is our sufficiency if we would but trust Him and follow wherever He leads.
If we will not follow Christ wherever He leads – whether alone into the wilderness or into any size gathering of His saints seeking only to obey His will – then let us no longer delude ourselves into thinking that we belong to Christ. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” ( Jn. 10:27 ) The obvious inference to be made here is that if we do not hear His voice and obediently follow Him wherever He goes, there is every reason to believe we are not His sheep. But numbers alone – either how many or how few people we do or do not “fellowship” with each week or month – are no sure answer to the question of whether we are obediently following Christ or not. In fact, using someone’s usual tendencies in gathering together with others as a standard by which to evaluate their validity in Christ is simply a leftover “church”-ism that judges according to appearances and not according to the underlying spiritual reality. (see Jn. 7:24; top ) The notion that we could not possibly survive alone or with only one or two companions at a time (as depicted in John Bunyan’s allegory of the Christian life, Pilgrim’s Progress) is a remainder from all the scare tactics used by “church” men intent on keeping their followers faithful to themselves or at least to their “church,” those men who require a growing audience to fill their wallets or at least stroke and gratify their egos and desires for preeminence.
Let he who has a heart after God repent of all the ways he has failed to separate himself from all forms of “Christian” idols and idolatry and truly be a blameless, pure and faultless child of God who shines like a star, holding out Christ’s words of life in the midst of a crooked and depraved generation. ( Phlp. 2:15-16 ) Anything else is mere “church” and may well result in earning Christ’s ultimate and eternal dismissal: “Depart from Me you who practiced what was right in your own eyes. I never knew you!” (see Mt. 7:22-23; top )
Let he who has ears hear.
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