Message to the Ekklesia
“Where there is no revelation the people are unrestrained” [Proverbs 29:18]
The Obedience of Faith
I do not believe that our problems as Christians have as much to do with our ignorance as they do with laziness and willfulness. We like to structure our Christian activity with those we like, where we like and often do religious things that seem pleasing to us. We form networks of believers who look like us, act like us and believe just like we do. It makes our lives so much easier and avoids the conflicts that naturally arise because of individual’s opinions and preferences. Where is the cross of Christ in all this? Absent, very absent!
Honest with ourselves
If we are honest with ourselves, many of us are not the faithful Christians we would hope to be, nor do we echo the lifestyle of those in the New Testament era. Our lives are often a pathetic example of genuine love and Holy Spirit led service toward our fellow believers and others in this world who need Christ. Sure, there are moments of grace, powerful testimonies and answers to prayer. Our God remains faithful. The question still remains, “Where am I going?” Where there is no revelation the people are unrestrained.
The Need Now
Despite Christians clamoring for revival that is not the urgent need of the hour. Just as death precedes life (Calvary precedes Pentecost) so must repentance precede revelation. Revelation, if believed and embraced, brings restoration, not necessarily revival.
It is not good to see a self-righteous person boasting about performing all of the externals perfectly and yet be corrupt within. It is easy to criticize such people. But who are many of us? Are we not those who know Scriptural truth, who quote the Bible, who speak eloquently (especially about grace) and yet fail in simple matters of obedience toward God and others. Do we dare say the former is more guilty than the latter? We dare not say it. God says we should have gone the extra mile without neglecting our primary responsibilities. So often we leave them undone.
1) Can I honestly say I am living an obedient life before my Master?
2) What have I left undone, unresolved or failed to confess in the recent past?
3) Within the body of Christ, how am I exercising my gifts and how do I fit into God’s eternal purpose?
4) Have I ever made a long term commitment to any one person or group of believers despite failure, disagreement and misunderstanding?
5) Do I really believe God? Believe He is able to make something of me, use me mightily in His service to build up the body and reach the world to Christ?
6) Am I willing to do whatever it takes to live the kind of Christian life God commands and promises to live out through me?
God calls His children believers for a reason. Believers believe, they believe in His existence, His grace, His power and in His suffering. Our adequacy is not in ourselves but in Him to whom we have to do.
As those who believe, our goal is to equip the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Despite the specifics of what this text may mean one thing is sure- to fail to arrive here is to fall short of God’s intended purpose for us as individuals and as a family.
In history there has always been a remnant of God’s people. Let us consider them as those who truly desire and live His very best. We will consider them (A) in the following illustration.
Then there are those who belong to the institutionalized church, some but not all are believers who have for some reason of another lost contact with God’s remnant. Others have been brought into organized fellowships not knowing a remnant exists. We shall consider them, the organized fellowships (B) in the following illustration.
Then we find a scattered group of believers, stubborn as we are with our opinions, preferences and often better than others attitudes and resentments who justify not participating within man made organizations. Many of us left organized religion out of rebellion, petty differences or some, maybe even you because the standard was too low. We may not own all of the above but we best own some of it. We are also part of the body and although we are always looking we never seem to find where we belong. Many of us are presently participating within a home assembly or looking to fellowship along those lines. We sometimes feel abandoned, betrayed and hurt by those who once led us in the faith. We are afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed. We shall consider ourselves (those who will own it) (C) in the illustration.
Functions of (A) (The Remnant)
To be the example of Jesus Christ through faith and obedience- to love the Lord their God with all their heart and glorify Him forever.
Functions of (B) (Organized fellowships)
To fracture the body of Christ through denominationalism, sectarianism, church buildings, leadership hierarchy, clergy/laity distinctions, religious positions and titles, tradition over Biblical conviction, preferences, programs, church services and membership in institutions.
Functions of (C) (Those residing in or escaping the wilderness)
To unite the body of believers without forcing others to adopt secondary beliefs or make them leave their established fellowships.
To be the body of Christ to all born again believers in love, service and suffering where necessary.
To be the example to all those participating in denominational religion what the affect of this unity can accomplish through the grace and power of God which works mightily within us.
God calling you?
For many years God has led me on occasion to pray for one thousand people who fit into category (C) above. Without any doubt there are tens of thousands of these people worldwide who long for more in and through their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions need serious discipleship. Countless others need a Savior.
It is our task, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear to perceive what the Spirit says to His Ekklesia. Is God calling you?
Part Two: Message to the Ekklesia
Think back to the time or day God called you into His service- the day you believed, repented and gave your life to Jesus Christ. Do you remember that day, your surroundings or the people God used to reveal to you His truth? What really happened upon that day- the day you were born again?
Most of us could describe our experience as a convicting one, a day where we saw things as never before. We may remember saying a prayer or making a commitment to God. Most of us remember some or all of our surroundings at the time. But I must ask, “Do you remember what God has done?” Nothing in that day nor any day since is more important to our Christian life and service than this question, “What has God done?” You may well answer the question, “God saved me” and rightfully so, but what does that salvation entail? If it was only to make us fit for heaven then God has left us in a most miserable state- one in which we must attempt to battle our own sins and do the best we can for Him as we attempt to live the Christian life. Sadly, few of us realize that God never asked us to do such a thing.
In the beginning of our new lives we may have set out with an enthusiasm and a determination to be the best Christian we could be. We went to “church,” read or studied, prayed and maybe even shared our faith with others. We often did as others were doing hoping that eventually our sins would disappear and we would become “better” Christians. For many of us the harder we tried the more we failed. Guilt and shame returned and maybe we even started to question whether God really saved us at all. Maybe we just settled down to an ordinary Christian life, the kind where we just assume our difficulties are beyond change, that Romans seven is just the way it will be. Very few Christians really believe otherwise.
Why all this trouble. First, we have assumed the Christian life as an imitation of Christ’s life on earth. As one has said elsewhere, it is not an imitation, but a participation with Christ. Someone might say or think that it is hard to live like a Christian. I cannot agree. It is not merely hard, it is impossible to do. Only as we partake of Christ does His life become real in us. It is much more than simply acting out although many do this, rather it is His supernatural ability working through us as we partake of His life by faith. Why do we continue to try to do what only He can is us? We have neglected to discover, believe and appropriate what God says He has done.
Focusing upon the truths in God’s Word is crucial, for this is the primary manner in which Christ’s life is imparted to us. Our enemy Satan is strongly opposed to this and is the reason he will attempt to shift our faith from the facts in the Word that never change to experiences that always do.
As Christians most of us are primarily focused upon ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses and what we believe needs to be changed in us. Then we go about attempting to “fix” or make changes with God’s help. If you have tried, you have found this method of growth severely wanting and never ending. What is the problem?
We have failed to understand, believe and appropriate what God has done!
All Christian experience is preceded by revelation [Of the facts of God’s Word]
Example #1 (Tenet #1)
Until we understood our position as lost sinners in need of a Savior we could have by no means received Jesus Christ. God showed us our need and we merely believed as we received God’s offer of salvation. What could we have done to save ourselves? NOTHING, salvation is of the Lord. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example 2 (Tenet 2)
As Christians we were justified by faith whether we realized it or not. If I do not understand what God has done, justifying me by faith (resulting in peace with God) I am bound to question God’s gift of salvation. This is especially true if I am focusing upon my own behavior. What could we have done to justify ourselves? NOTHING, only God can justify sinful men. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #3 (Tenet #3)
Upon conversion God accepts me into His family and friendship. I am accepted in the Beloved- in and through my relationship with Jesus Christ. Why does God accept me continually? Because He sees the blood that continually cleanses from all sin. If I am questioning God’s acceptance of me I am actually questioning whether Jesus’ blood was adequate before God for my sins. What could we have done to earn God’s acceptance then or now? NOTHING, only God could provide the perfect sacrificial lamb. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #4 (Tenet #4)
The combination of 1-3 above leads to an obvious conclusion. If God has drawn me to Himself, justified me and accepted me based upon faith in Him alone, then I am and will always be secure. Once again it is God’s promise not something I can earn or attain. What can I do to merit God’s security? NOTHING, only God can keep His own promises. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #5 (Tenet #5)
At some point in our Christian experience God reveals to us a new revelation- that in our flesh dwells no good thing. He shows us our primary problem is not sins, but sin, the principle of sin residing in us through Adam the first created man. This revelation usually occurs when we fail to overcome our sins with God’s help, combined with a continual inward awareness of our failures.
The need to accept that I can offer nothing to God from my old nature is most unpleasant unless I understand my need. Many of us are willing to admit that we are sinners saved by grace but few will admit to being entirely sinful. What can we do to fix such a problem? NOTHING, only God could do that and has done it. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #6 (Tenet #6)
If in and of my natural resources I can offer nothing to God or His service than I am truly undone. I am left to His will and way for there is no other option but misery.
If I can offer nothing of my old self than my need is to understand what I possess outside of my old self, namely through my union with Christ. Once again I am forced to see and rely upon what God has done. God says, I am complete in Christ (through my spiritual union with Him). He also says that through this union I possess everything I need for life and godliness. Why? Because God gave me everything I need. What could we have done to earn such unfathomable riches? NOTHING, God’s spiritual blessings are gifts. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #7 (Tenet #7)
As a Christian my resources for living are found in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Christians all are indwelt by the Spirit though few recognize His power. I cannot do anything to get the Spirit or more of Him. He has been given to all Christians as a result of the exaltation (ascension) of Jesus Christ. This was Christ’s word and promise. What can I do to possess the Holy Spirit? NOTHING, it was a promise Jesus gave to His disciples. It was fulfilled at Pentecost and in Christians the day they believe in Him. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #8 (Tenet #8)
Appropriation comes after revelation (after revealed knowledge of the facts of God’s Word) and is something we must participate in. I must say Yes and Amen to all of God’s truths if I want to be free indeed. I may accomplish this through speaking, singing, praying, teaching, preaching, prophesying or memorization. This is paramount and especially true as it applies to my death and resurrection with Christ. Understanding what God has done to my old nature (crucified it with Christ) allows me to reckon (count upon) Christ’s work on my behalf (what He did for me). I must appropriate what He did. I must appropriate what he finished.
Not only have we been crucified with Christ and made dead to sin through our union with Him, but we also share His resurrection power. As we reckon ourselves dead to sin (dead to our old nature) and alive unto God (as a result of our new nature) Adams nature in us shall be kept increasingly inactive which allows the Holy Spirit to freely operate in and through us. What we could have never done with our sins and sin nature God did by means of His blood and cross. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #9 (Tenet #9)
Those appropriating their own death and resurrection with Christ seek after God’s very best as it is in Christ Jesus. The opposition is strongly opposed to this and will attempt in numerous ways to shake our beliefs (1-8) in Christ’s finished work on our behalf. This always includes suffering in one form or another.
As it was necessary for Jesus Himself to be perfected in human form through suffering so shall it be with us. At this stage of trust and development with God we no longer run from our sufferings but rather have learned to embrace them. We view all of life’s difficulties as being a gift from God, whether directly or indirectly they all are producing endurance in this life and an eternal weight of the glory in the next. We do not merely carry Christ’s cross because He did but also because of the effect his cross has upon our lives in keeping us humble and Adams nature in us inactive. It is this process of death working in us that brings resurrection life to others in salvation, growth and service. This is the path of the true disciple.
What did we do to earn the right to embrace such high privileges? NOTHING, our Lord set the example and it is now for His children to walk in the train of his triumph. We derive the benefit of believing.
Example #10 (Tenet #10)
The result of conversion, justification and acceptance lead us to recognize the security God has given us in Christ. Without a belief in this security it would be difficult if not impossible to trust Him for further development. These are foundational beliefs.
The awareness of our complete sinfulness in ourselves and before God, our completeness in Christ and the knowledge of our death and resurrection with Christ all lead to a willing cross embracing lifestyle that will include suffering. These are the growth stages of a true disciple, one who loves not his own life but rather lives it on behalf of Another. Not I, but Christ.
The result of such a life union could not be anything other than our lives glorifying God in whatever we say and do. This is the result of believing– a lifestyle of being built up and established in the faith for the work of service. It is– a daily salvation, one which is freed from sin and able to live out the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.
The prior growth stages of a Christian outlined within the tenets of the faith are necessary though few can live out these aspects of our faith alone. They are truths given to individuals although these beliefs must be incorporated within a body of believers- preferably the Ekklesia of God. This is the reason for our need to discover just how Jesus is building His Ekklesia verses just accepting the status quo of what is termed “church.” It’s imperative that we follow the apostolic example of daily interaction and fellowship if we are serious about entering in to all God has promised us. The occasional “meetings” we’ve become so used to attending each week will not establish us for they were never meant to do so. For any man to walk faithfully, he cannot neglect true fellowship, study nor attend to prayer. He must act, although these actions are not the basis for his growth but rather the environment in which God is able to cause growth to occur. We can and should attempt to fellowship daily according to the New Testament pattern provided we understand that the pattern itself does not and cannot change us. We can replicate the environment of the New Testament Ekklesia, but only God Himself can bring the increase as we focus upon His Christ and what He has done. Do you believe God?
What could the devil do to a man who was ever resting in what Christ accomplished on his behalf? Forever speaking not of his own failures but of the overcoming blood of The Lamb. Singing the kings praises as a hobby.
What could the devil do to a man who spoke his identity in Christ despite all havoc breaking loose around him? Who continually reckoned himself dead to sin, dead to the law and crucified to the world? One who really lived like and believed he was an alien upon earth, who sought the unseen kingdom from above. I think I’d call him my best friend!
What could the devil do to a man who saw all things coming from the Master’s hands as a gift? One who could embrace his sufferings rejoicing all the while. What could he do to a soul so trusting in His Father and learning and loving to distrust himself- even his own desires? The old devil would have no place to stand. He would be completely undone and at ends with himself. He would have no choice but to run like hell!
Consider my friend what you alone by the grace of God could accomplish for His name’s sake. Consider other individuals. Then what of five or ten or one hundred? Certainly with God the few always topple the many just as the foolish shame the wise. God’s ways are not our ways. Would not the world or at least your neighborhood be turned upside down? Could the power of God be so manifest that those in our presence be immediately convicted of sin? I have no doubt.
Our fellowship together is the means my brothers and sisters. It is not a name, some leader, the structure, the meetings or the discussion that will make the difference. It is none other than the Lord God we serve in our midst. He is able, not merely to set our hearts solely upon Him, but to do exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask or think. How? According to the power that will work mightily within us (as a result of discovering, believing and appropriating Him as the truth). To Him be the glory in The Ekklesia of God, and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.