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I have been thinking about how easy it is to follow a "system" in preference to following God. We Jesus Christians use the term "system" in much the same way that the King James Bible talks about the "world" and its ways. But more specifically, and in keeping, I believe, with the message of the New Testament, from Matthew to The Revelation, we need to see the "system" as being any inclination toward an organisation or institution in preference to the inner conscience of the Holy Spirit. As such, the System (and system thinking) is the total opposite to the mysterious invisible kingdom of heaven that Jesus taught about.

Often, when people meet us, especially if they have already been seeking God personally, they hear what we are saying and are deeply challenged by it in their spiritual walk. They make a decision which takes them out of dependence on their jobs in particular, but which often causes problems with their studies, their families, and their friends. It's a difficult decision, yet a very liberating one spiritually, because they feel they are stepping out from under dependence on the system and figuratively learning to walk on the water by exercising real faith in a real God. As they are doing this, they are venturing into the kingdom of God... not because WE are the kingdom of God, but because they are taking a step of faith.

But then they find themselves working with us day after day and year after year, and soon it becomes easier to just "seek counsel" from the group than to actually ask God. We have seen this most recently with the various disciplines that we discussed and decided on during our reunion, where people would later say things like. "Are we allowed to do such and such?" It is so easy to forget why we decided to cut down on certain consumptions and to just look to the community "rules" to determine how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Ideally, of course, group counsel should be the collective wisdom that comes from each individual seeking God. That certainly is my dream for the Jesus Christians. But I have seen that personal accountability to God tends to run downhill over time, until we are all assuming that others are taking care of that part of the group goal, and all we personally have to do is just listen to what the others are saying and act in accordance with it.

Such a subtle backsliding eventually leads to dissatisfaction. One aspect of that problem is that people become angry that they are sincerely doing everything they can to please the community, and still the community seems to be finding fault with them. What they don't fully comprehend is that the community is probably upset with them because they ARE following the community, or, more accurately, because they are following the community in preference to following God.

So, eventually their anger leads to them leaving the community. For many it becomes quite a liberating experience. At last they are acting as "free" individuals once again, making their own choices, and not always having to counsel with others about what they do. They may have actually "graduated" from being Jesus Christian systemites to being more accountable to God. I definitely believe that leaving the community like this has the potential to become a step forward for many of us.

But, sadly, if they have not been able to listen to God, and to hear things that contradict their own selfish desires while in the community, the chances of them doing that outside the community are very thin. Some, like Ross, have eventually returned to the community. Others have gone on to do other things with their lives, often quite commendable things, with some similarities to things that we have done in the community. It's not our job to decide whether they are better off or worse off spiritually. Only God can decide that.

But then there have been those who have linked up with others who are fighting against us as a group. That is the worst fate of all, because what they do is to join yet another system, and this one has a negative, bitter spirit. Because they are in a system once again, they do not need to think and grow spiritually as individuals, because all they need is the approval of the new system to keep them inspired. And that approval only comes from how effective they can be in destroying us and our message.

There is little we can do for those people, but there may be more benefit in looking for this same trait in ourselves and dealing with it before it becomes that bad. In fact, as I was typing in (above) the words about joining an anti-Jesus Christian system being the "worst fate of all", I remembered what Jesus said about LUKEWARMNESS being the worst fate of all. At least the rebels have become red-hot for a cause. Any one of us who is still going through the motions without having that daily personal contact with God, may actually be worse off than our avowed enemies. It's pretty obvious that our opponents are anti-God, or at least strongly headed in that direction; but we are not so obvious. And the same could be said for some of those who leave us to join other systems which are less fanatical and more respectable than either ourselves or the rebels.

One of the reasons why I have a lot of respect for some atheists is that so few of them have a system to which they belong on the basis of their disbelief in God. Their beliefs (or disbeliefs), therefore, need to be worked out in private, and they have to take personal responsibility for the things they say along those lines. I would like to see more of that kind of character amongst those of us who profess to believe in God. Working in harmony with other believers is great for us in terms of teaching us patience, love, and humility; but it may dull our consciences too, if we are not faithful in our prayer life.

What we need to do, of course, is to get desperate before God, so that we do not degenerate into Jesus Christian systemites. We need to be praying constantly that God will "deliver us from (this) evil" so that we can be seen by him to be building his kingdom and his power and his glory, rather than our own. Prayer has always been a difficult subject for me to write about, partly because I fall so far short in this area myself, but also because it's something that is so private, and which Jesus has said should be secret. Nevertheless, it can be pointed out that the reason it is secret is probably because he doesn't want us looking to others for approval about whatever it is that we do to give the IMPRESSION that we are praying. Instead, he wants us to escape all thought of human approval and get away to a private place with him, where we can talk and think about what it is that he wants us to do with our lives.

As I said at the start, that is often what people are doing when they first decide to join us. They can also be forced into doing it by leaving us. But if we could learn to do it constantly whether we are in or out of, and whether we are approved or disapproved of, by the Jesus Christian system or any other system, then we are on the right track.
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