Question: It seems as if you are saying that if people really believe in the Son of God, then they are going to all love each other and live in total harmony without any divisions. That’s a little hard to believe. We live in the real world, after all, and the bottom line for most people is: You’ve got to look out for yourself, or else you won’t survive.
Answer: Yes, exactly. That’s a perfect description of the world.1 But the church is supposed to be a separate society2 — a “royal priesthood and holy nation.”3 Holy means set apart. So the church is organized on a different basis from the world. We’re not looking out for our own interests but for God’s interests (which means, for the interests of others).4
Question: That sounds nice, but what about human nature?
Answer: Let’s get one thing straight. Human nature isn’t just another word for selfishness. Human nature was created just a little lower than divine nature.5 We are His image bearers.6 And the nature of God is love.7 That’s why most people want to love and to be loved. That’s why we long for and dream of great things. But there is a flaw in human beings that keeps people from attaining to the things they desire.
Question: And you people don’t have this flaw?
Answer: Of course, we have it! We come from the most damaged generation in human history. We’ve got more gaps and cracks and hairline fractures in us than anybody. But we’ve also got a lifetime supply of “super glue.”
Question: Meaning what?
Answer: Meaning that the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.8 And He, the Spirit of Love, compels us to live, not for ourselves anymore, but for the One who lived, died, and rose again entirely for our sake.9
Question: Okay, so you’re saying that you were born with the fatal flaw, but you’re all patched up now, because you’ve been born again? Is that it?
Answer: Not exactly. Organized religion usually portrays salvation as a one-time experience — something that happens to you when you subscribe to a particular set of beliefs and/or say a prayer asking God to forgive you of your sins. But according to the Bible, there’s a lot more to it than that.
Question: Like what?
Answer: Well, in the first place, you have to hear the commands of our Master from a qualified messenger — someone who isn’t seeking his own glory.10 And you have to truly believe in your heart that God raised Messiah from the dead enough, so that you would put your trust completely in Him, and it wouldn’t matter what became of you.11 Then you could actually be “baptized into His death” and begin a life of laying down your life for your brothers.12 This is what it really means to confess Him as your Lord — not that you would merely say, “Jesus is Lord,” but that you would actually obey His commands.13 And from that point on, you would live to see His purposes accomplished on the earth, not your own.14
Then, in the second place…
Question: Hang on a minute. How is that different from organized religion? There are lots of people in lots of churches who are convinced that they’ve done just exactly what you’re talking about.
Answer: Yes, they probably are convinced, but is the world convinced?
Question: What do you mean?
Answer: This is the whole point of what we are saying about the fatal flaw in human beings. You can have all sorts of religious opinions. Your beliefs can totally line up with hundreds of Bible verses. But if you don’t love each other the way Messiah loved us, then the world will not be convinced that you are His disciples.15 And if you are not one with each other just as the man Yahshua is with His Father in heaven, then the world will not be convinced that the Father loved them enough to send His Son to die in their place, in order that they could be reconciled to Him.16 There has to be a demonstration of God’s love on the earth in order to convict and convince the unbelieving world.17 If they don’t see such evidence, they have every right to ask us, “Hey, if you have all been reconciled to God — if you are all in fellowship with Him, hearing from Him in your hearts — then how come you can’t agree with each other? Doesn’t this God that you’re united with tell you all the same thing? Or is He schizophrenic?” They’ve got to see fruit in our lives that proves our repentance.18 If John the Baptist had the right to demand such fruit from the Pharisees, how much more does the world have the right to demand it of us, who claim to have the Spirit of God dwelling in us?19
Question: So are you saying that you people have the true religion, and therefore you’re not bothered by this “fatal flaw” anymore?
Answer: It’s not just a matter of “joining the right church.” Yes, it is true that salvation can only happen if a person hears the Master’s words from a qualified messenger — someone who accurately represents the demands of the gospel, just as the Son of God spoke them. And the one who hears must put his whole trust in Yahshua. He must believe that God raised Him from the dead, forsake his own life in this world, and choose to live completely for the One who died for us. But that is just the beginning of our salvation. Then as we live a life of obeying His commands,20 He exposes the areas where sin has inroads into our lives. Our souls start being saved.21 The flaws in our personalities start being dealt with.
Question: Like what?
Answer: All sorts of things: fear, presumption, subtle forms of greed, feelings of inferiority, mistrust, pride, and so on — the very things that work in all human beings to divide them from one another, to stir up hatred, to bring about war and oppression and injustice.
Question: So how does that work? Do you have counseling sessions, or quiet times of meditation and introspection, or what?
Answer: The way our Master designed it is that we would just start obeying His commands. If we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him,22 if we give up our own possessions23 and embark upon loving one another as He loved us, then a common life together is the result. It was the result in the beginning, as recorded in the early chapters of Acts.24 It has been the result every single time people have heard the true gospel from a true messenger — one who makes disciples and teaches them to obey all the Master’s commands. A common life of love will always be the result of preaching the gospel with authority.25
Question: So a person has to live in community to be saved?
Answer: Putting it in those words might lead to a misunderstanding. But one thing is for sure: You do have to believe in Yahshua in order to be saved. And another thing is certain, also: If you do believe in Him you will obey His commands.26 And if you do obey His commands, the chief one being to love one another as He loved us,27 it will produce community. And when you live a common life with other disciples, denying yourself and taking up your cross daily, striving to love one another as He loved us, you quickly find out the inroads that sin has in your life, and your soul starts being saved.
Question: So, then, you see salvation as a process that happens in community?
Answer: If the community is based on obeying the Master’s commands, yes. The continual demand to love exposes selfishness of every kind. The fatal flaw in mankind — self-concern — which is at the root of all human problems, quickly comes to the light. We see it for what it is — the very image of the evil one.28 We face the reality that self-concern is the venom of the serpent, a paralyzing poison that keeps us from being able to love. And if we wish to continue following our Master, if we want to be transformed back into the image of the God who is Love, then we have to deny self every day.
Question: So you are saying there is no other way to follow Messiah?
Answer: Anyone who asks that question needs to face the fatal flaw in himself that is hoping for an easier way. There are only two ways that our Master talked about: the broad way and the narrow way. A false prophet who comes to you with a “sheepskin” might tell you that you can take the broad and easy way, and find life. But anyone who is honest will have to admit that, according to our Master, only the narrow and difficult way of obeying His commands leads to life. The broad way — calling Him “Lord” but not doing what He says — leads only to destruction.29
Question: But can’t people obey His commands within organized religion?
Answer: They are welcome to try. But just imagine what would happen if a few people in a large congregation decided to be truly obedient disciples, forsaking their personal possessions and loving each other with the same self-sacrificing love that our Master had. They would, of course, be sharing whatever they had with any of their brothers who had a need, because that’s what love does. And in a large congregation there would be plenty of needs.
Within a short space of time, they would find that there were more needs than they could personally meet. And, filled with compassion, they would go to their more prosperous brothers, and point out the needs of the less prosperous members of the congregation, gently reminding them that if they see their brother in need and close their heart against him, the love of God cannot be abiding in them.30 What sort of response do you think they would get from the doctors and lawyers and bank presidents in their congregations? What response would they get from their pastor when they humbly suggested that he would sell his Lincoln Continental so that they could meet the needs of the single mother with four children who just joined the congregation?
Of course, we would like to think that everyone would put the Master’s commands into practice, and love with the lavish and unselfish generosity of the One who did not withhold even His own life’s blood in meeting the needs of others.31 And if they did this, then a community would certainly be the result. But given the religious history of the last 2000 years, it would be highly unlikely. The odds are that they would probably kick the obedient zealots out,32 or at best, that the congregation would split.
Question: Isn’t that a pessimistic attitude?
Answer: If it is, then it is one that is shared by the Son of God Himself. He told us that nobody puts new wine into old wineskins.33 They only use new wineskins. New wine would burst an old wineskin wide open, and all the new wine would be wasted. Anybody with any sense would never try to put the new wine of the love of God into the dry, inflexible forms of traditional religion. The only possible result would be more schisms. Instead we must go outside the camp of organized religion to a place where the original life of the early Church — a life of love and unity — is being restored.34
Question: You put a lot of emphasis on the disunity in Christianity, but are the people in your group perfectly one?
Answer: Not yet. We go through struggles. We fail each other and have to forgive each other. But our Master prayed for us to be perfected in unity,35 and we believe that His prayer is being answered.36 So, if we believe He is righteous enough to get what He prayed for, how can we settle for division? Disputes, dissensions, and factions are nothing more than the obvious deeds of the flesh.37 They prove that people have their mind on their own self-interest, and this results in death.38 How could we possibly be satisfied with that?
Question: Don’t you think that the Christian Churches, like you, are one in spirit, but they are just working toward a more perfect unity?
Answer: How could we think such a thing? The Eastern Orthodox and Western Christian Churches have been split for more than 950 years over whether the Holy Spirit was sent from the Father alone, or from both the Father and the Son. Nine centuries are more than enough time to resolve the issue if they really wanted to. And it seems that the answer to the controversy is obvious. The Word of God specifically commands us to resolve our differences before we pray or present offerings to God.39 But ever since the eleventh century, the Eastern and Western Churches have been praying and presenting offerings while tolerating division. Nine hundred years of dissension and disobedience to the Word prove that they are simply in the flesh and don’t have the Holy Spirit at all40 — so it doesn’t really matter how He was sent.
Question: So, then, does a person have to join your group?
Answer: If a person is really serious about doing the will of God, if he wants the Kingdom of God to be expressed here on earth as it is expressed in heaven, and if seeing the unity and love that our Master prayed for become a reality means more to him than his own life, then here is what he should do: He should immediately leave any place where the Master’s commands are not being obeyed, and where self-sacrificing love and unity is not being expressed. He should quickly go to the nearest place where such obedience and love and unity are the daily reality. When he gets there, he should tell them he wants to be saved, because if he comes from a place where the Master is not being obeyed, then he has not received the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit is only given to those who obey Him.41 The reason that we are here in this place is that we wanted to do His will, and this is the first and only place we saw it being done.
Question: So the bottom line is…?
Answer: The bottom line is this: Are you willing to do His will?42