Hello all, for the last month or so I’ve been writing some things about ‘who is your church’ and felt it was good to blog them, but if you are interested in reading back through them, I have put the whole group of writings up over here.
As I have been writing, we are in the midst of a restoration of what it means to be the mystical body of Christ, the spiritual house of God. There is so much to be mined here… what does it mean that God wants to dwell in us? This is so much bigger than even what the garden of Eden was all about. There, God walked with Adam, but did not live inside of him. The church is cosmically a new creation.
Christ is making himself in us. Paul called this a mystery. It was “kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (colossians 1:26). Why would it have been kept hidden? Well, one thing about mysteries is that they need to be searched out. Even as the hidden things of God are revealed, they are DEEP hidden things, as David said, and they beg to be searched. “Christ in us” isn’t just some twinkie truth and it is not just about salvation. It is about revolution. Jesus is going to sweep the earth with his presence, and once again God will dwell among men–through men. The king of all reality is going to inhabit people. This is radical, and it is going to shake the heavens and the earth. Everything as we know it is going to change!
Even though we might say, ‘yeah, yeah, Jesus is in me,’ this reality goes far beyond salvation. Even after 2000 years of it being revealed the church walks as if it has not heard the mystery. But where we are going, no people have walked before. And he is going to reveal this mystery to the earth when it needs it the most. A fresh restoration of this truth is coming now to the body of Christ in many different ways. It is a fresh stream from heaven that is trickling and then pouring down on his people. As it begins to dawn on us, there will be many expressions of what it looks like to be church.
At the moment there is a lot of excited interest around New Testament Christianity. We want to get back something that has gone missing for so long. What was the divine spark? We are going nowhere if we just try to copy their form. They had no rule book, no scriptures, except for the Hebrew scriptures. As the apostles went out to the Gentiles, the only guiding light was the Holy Spirit.
We are going to taste what they tasted if we hold to the same light. That kind of light is already becoming more and more normal in our present. The important thing is to keep our eyes on him and not necessarily on their forms or methods. Even the most basic things that were given to the early church–breaking bread, baptism, even prayer–can be religiously interpreted and taken from their deeper, spiritual significance, and even the early church in various places struggled with misunderstanding and abusing these things. The practices that emerged in Acts came out of revelation and overflow of Christ in their midst, and they will come to us if we are devoted to His presence growing in us.
Those from the early church are watching, excitedly, on the edge of their seats from heaven because they are about to see the church grow into her final stages of maturity. This means the restored body will have much greater and world-wide apostolic power and glory than the New Testament church. The first church was the beginning, a seed, but we are called to walk in their same power… and more.
The glory of the second temple was greater than the first, and that is because the work of restoration and redemption is always more amazing than the original creation. Something that has been made new from rubble is so beautiful to behold, and the pain it went through to get there make it a living testimony of who He really is.
God spoke to the king of Judah this promise:
“Who is left here who saw this house in its former glory? Doesn’t it look like it’s nothing now?
But now be strong… Because I am going to fulfill my promise to you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit is still with you, so don’t be afraid of all this mess.
In a little while I will once again shake heaven and earth, the ocean and the land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is mine and the gold is mine. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house. And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
There are a lot of prophetic parallels between the stages of the temple’s life and the history of the church. The church as a whole is going through a restoration process–an amazing beginning, an ugly and drawn out fall, and then a rebirthing.
So I write this because it is easy to get caught up in looking like the New Testament Christians–and while at times it seems we are far from how they lived–we are going to witness something that goes beyond New Testament church. The authority and the power of the first-century church were great because its foundation was the Lord Himself. They were utterly dependent on His Spirit for everything they did. People saw the Lord everywhere the apostles went. Miracles happened. Their methods and practices were given as instruction but these methods were not their foundation. They had no books, they had to follow Jesus at every bend and turn. Our foundation will also be this rapturous love and attachment to Jesus. We are going to be restored to their way and also to a redeemed church that has come through centuries of fire and weakness.
Even when we talk about “building the church” the talk is usually about something that is outside of people, whether its buildings or programs or networks. This needs to change and will–into a devotion to building Christ inside people, because people are the church. We have to love people and really want to see each other grow up to know Jesus better and better. Christ wants the “fullness of his stature and maturity” to come alive in us.
So also this means not just getting people into God or saving them, but growing people up. He wants to dwell as fully as possible in us. What it looks like is different in every nation, city, neighborhood, circle of friends.
In the meantime, you might be wondering who your church is, or where you are supposed to get your spiritual juice from… Is any of us willing to let this be a mystery? I don’t mean sit around in the unknown, but let Him bring Himself together in a way that you probably don’t expect? He has so much to teach us about how he is building Himself. Are we willing to wait for Him to do that?
All the valves and proper connections, every joint supplied… all of this is yet to be fully flowing. When He is operating and flowing through His whole body it will be the “Day of the Lord”–and aha, that day is not yet. So nothing’s perfect, and nor should we expect it to be. But among us we can let the circles flow. First we let him build around us what He wants. It may be one or two or three or four–maybe much more. But we will know who He brings around us. He can flow to the degree that we are available personally.
I want to end all these writings on the church with a piece from one of my favorite writers, Austin Sparks. He was an English teacher and pastor writing at the beginning of the 20th century.
Then again, the temple was the embodiment and expression of God’s thoughts. Every stone, everything used, all size, dimensions and measurements, materials, they all represented some thought of God. God’s mind was expressed in all. It was a symbol of a spiritual attribute. Peter, following up that word which is before us – “a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5) says a little later that the object of the spiritual house is to “show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The temple was to show forth the excellencies of the Lord, the embodiment of Divine thoughts, and the Lord’s people in any place should be the embodiment and expression of Divine thoughts. There should be there a disclosing of God’s thoughts in a very blessed way, a coming to know the mind of the Lord for His people, a rich unveiling of what is in the heart of God concerning His own. That is how it ought to be: not just addresses or sermons, but a ministry of revelation under the Holy Spirit through an opened heaven. That is of value to the Lord and to His people. But it wants a living company for that: and oh, how we know it! Sometimes we are not all alive to the Lord for some reason or other when we come together. Perhaps we are tired, or have been bothered, something has come in to cast down, and although the Lord has prepared for us some rich feast, something He wants to make known, He cannot; He is held back, and there is just a state of lifelessness. But let us come together in the Spirit, alive unto the Lord, and the Lord’s thoughts come out and they flow. The condition of the company of the Lord’s people very largely determines what kind of time we have. It very largely depends upon us how much the Lord can give us. The company of the Lord’s people is to be the expression and embodiment of God’s thoughts. That is what it exists for.