Monthly Archives: July 2014

Behold A Certain Man–Part 3

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church we find his message about the body of Christ.

 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor. 12:27).

Just prior to saying this he has emphasized the vital importance of each member.  The foot, the ear, the eye, the hand…   God has set them all in the body “as it hath pleased Him” (1 Cor. 12:18).  His intention is that these, functioning together in harmony, enable the One inhabiting the Body to do what He wants to do, and express Himself as it pleases Him to do so…

…Just as in my own body, the purpose of all the members is that I may do what I want and express myself as it pleases me to do so.  It’s all about me, you might say.  What would I think if someone, hardly conscious of me, marvelled at my hand and how dexterously it ministered to the needs of the other members of my body?  “Oh what a wonderful hand,” they exclaim, wide eyed.  Or my ear with its capacity to hear, or my eye to see, or my foot to step… they marvel at these and are hardly conscious of me—the person in that body.

I long for the day when we are consciously aware of Christ Himself in the body of Christ, and it takes our breath away—we recognize that it is actually Him we are seeing.  At present, although at times we are aware of a measure of His Presence, we are more or less focused on the members themselves.  It is exciting beyond words to anticipate that this will not always be so.  For, our Lord Jesus Christ is going to reveal Himself.

But it is going to take every member of the body of Christ knit together in the Spirit and functioning harmoniously before we see Christ Himself revealed.  Do we really want to see Him revealed?  If we do, let us be prepared for the devastation it will mean in the way we now do church.   For, this will take a kind of church order in which the Head is given His total lordship, and all His members are given liberty to express what the Head has in mind—which is the revelation, the unveiling, of God Himself.

This means a tremendous responsibility for those who are called to “the ministry.”  It is their God-ordained objective to foster and encourage the development and growth of the saints so that they become vital participants in the functioning of this many-membered Man.  You might say that if the ministries do their job well, they minister themselves out of a job, for, it was never God’s  intention that they be ministering week in and week out forever.   God has an objective in mind, and once reached, the job of the minister is done.  Yet sadly this is pretty much the expectation week after week in our present-day churches.  The minister will minister, and the people will sit and listen.

There is another problem.  They, the ministers, are servants of this Man.  But sometimes God’s people get their focus on His servants.

This is what had happened in the Corinthian church.  The saints had become enamoured of their favourite minister—Paul for some, Apollos, or Cephas for others.  It grieved Paul that they were exalting him and the others like this, and he wrote them about it.

 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?” (1 Cor. 3.5).

We are just the servants here, he reminded them, it’s not about us, it’s all about you.

 Therefore let no man glory in men.  For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3.22,23).

What a statement!  What did Paul see, that he held forth so high a thing for the saints at Corinth, telling them it was they who were the very centre of God’s interests?  Oh that they might get their eyes off him and Apollos, and see, “ordinary” members of the body of Christ though they were, what they were part of!  Which was?

 Ye are the body of Christ…

Does that little statement mean for you and me what it meant for Paul?  The phrase “body of Christ” has been so overused that it has become very bland to the palate these days.  But there is nothing greater than to be a member of the body of Christ.  Oh that this one statement–“Ye are the body of Christ”– would grip us all—but especially those in what is called “the ministry.’  If those in ministry were burdened with the same burden that was in the heart of the apostle Paul, it would break their hearts the way Paul’s was broken, and would revolutionize the way we “do church.”  Paul—a servant of Christ—spent himself, his whole life, in the hope of the realization of a Certain Man he had seen on the Damascus Road, the same Man the prophets of old saw in vision—the  New Man, the new creation Man, the Man in whom God and man are one—the corporate man—something that each and every child of God is part of.  This is why Paul laboured so intently, so intensely—to see that Man revealed in all His fullness in “the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).

As he wrote to the Corinthians:

 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that    one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).

Not, “so also is the body of Christ,” but “so also is Christ.”  Christ is a many-membered Man, and we, if we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, baptized into Christ, are members of that Man.

The ministries of the church cannot reveal this One in all His fullness—never were intended to do so.  It takes a many-membered body functioning in the liberty and lordship of the Spirit to reveal Him.  And so may we all—those in the ministry and those who are tempted to laud them—apply God’s eye salve to our eyes so we can see God’s intent in His ministries, and in those they minister to.  God’s intent in His churches is not great ministers, but a great Man.

And so, Lord, help us to get our eyes off the servants in Your House… who, if they are true servants, long for the day when the glory of the Lord fills the House of God and they can do nothing but lie on their faces weeping for joy… no longer able to minister… and no longer needing to.  Amen.

 

Behold A Certain Man– Part 2

Who is this Man the prophets of old saw in vision?

Isaiah saw this One upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. (Isa. 6:1).  Seeing Him caused Isaiah to cry out, “Woe is me, for I am undone… for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  Who did Isaiah see?  John says Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory, and spake of Him (Jn. 12.41).

Daniel saw this One (Dan. 10.1-6) whose face was as the appearance of lightning and His eyes as lamps of fire… and His Voice as the voice of a multitude– the voice of many waters, as John described it when He saw this same Man (Rev. 1:15).  Upon seeing this One, Daniel said, “there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.”  Upon hearing His words Daniel was “in a deep sleep on [his] face, with [his] face toward the ground.”

Ezekiel saw Him enthroned on the chariot of the cherubim– whom  Ezekiel struggled to describe, speaking of them in the plural, “the living creatures,” but then at times in the singular.  (What kind of astonishing harmony was that?)  Ezekiel too fell on His face; the Man He had seen he called “the glory of the LORD.” (Ezek. 1.1-28).

And remember– this is so encouraging to remember– these of old saw this One not in times of great spiritual prosperity and ease, but in times of great apostasy and insecurity among the people of God.  Isaiah’s prophecy came upon the death of their great king Uzziah under whose reign they had known a lot of security and prosperity.  Now he was gone; who knows what would be next?  It was a very insecure time.  And Ezekiel and Daniel prophesied in days of great apostasy, the days of the captivity in Babylon.

This is meaningful for us in this day of great insecurity and apostasy; it is appalling, heart rending, what has taken place in our society over the course of one generation.  But that is not the apostasy I am speaking of; what is heart rending is what has happened in Christianity.  Our churches are so weak; church as we know it has failed to stem the tide of iniquity that has come in… to say nothing of the abominations that have come into many churches.  Scarcely a day goes by without an evil report of some kind; and the media, of course, are filled with glee because of it.  If you’re like me you find yourself dwelling on all this, and it can be so discouraging.

But let us not dwell on it.  For, in the midst of it all, we have a great hope.  Christ is still on the throne, and is working faithfully to bring into being the desire of God’s own heart– the fulfillment of what the prophets saw, and recorded in Scripture.

And the Scripture must be fulfilled.  Church as we know it may be failing; her light may be waning.  But a Greater Light is about to shine; there shall yet be manifested in the earth One who is even now growing in the earth– a many-membered Man whom to see is to see the Christ, the glory of the Lord.  They are one with Him as He is one with the Father.  He was not the Father.  But to see Him was to see the Father.  In like manner these are not the Christ.  But to see them is to see the Christ.  For, they are one with Him as a bride is one with her husband.  They are His glory.  They are one Spirit with Him, and one body.

And they shall yet display a unity so perfect and so fearsome that it will cause principalities in heavenly places to tremble… and the world to believe.  For, they shall not speak the discordant babel of a Christianity splintered by countless denominations and divisions, but shall speak as one Man– as the voice of many waters.  This is what is before us.  It is going to take very powerful operations of the Spirit to bring it into being—and great shakings.  And it shall cause even greater shakings.  But this is what is before us.

This is the whole burden of the New Testament– the revelation of this One Man.

Who is this Man?

Saul the persecutor saw this One, whose glory was brighter than the noonday sun.  He was so one with His own that He challenged, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”  Saul fell to the ground, struck blind, till a lowly brother named Ananias was sent to restore his sight.  He had been blind, and had not known it!  And the burden of the rest of his days was that all men might see Whom he had seen.  It is this Man who is forever in the back of Paul’s mind as he writes his epistles concerning the ministrations of the Spirit in the body of Christ.  Whatever he writes, it is to this end, it is ever this revelation of the glory of God—this Man—that Paul sees before him.  Paul utterly spent himself upon this Vision, spent his life equipping the saints unto their work of the ministry unto the edifying of the body of Christ till all would come unto the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God unto this perfect, full-grown Man… “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  Note that Paul has not said, “unto perfect men,” but rather of all coming together “unto a perfect Man.”

In another place he said:

 We all with unveiled face mirroring the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory… (2 Cor. 3:18).

We all?  The same image?  The glory of the Lord?  This is an encounter with God for you and me no less than that of Ezekiel or Isaiah or Daniel… or Paul on the Damascus Road.

And how does this take place?  It takes place as an operation of the Spirit of God in the members of the body of Christ as the different ones see aspects of the glory of the Lord and shine forth that glory, that power, that character, that beauty… and Christ Himself is revealed in our gatherings– yes, the same One the prophets of old saw.  Let us anticipate this… yes, in our little gatherings.  Like Ezekiel and Daniel of old, we too shall be on our faces when aspects of the glory of the Lord are revealed in and through the members of the body of Christ in the local churches of God.

 The apostle John, too, saw this One on Patmos.  He had seen Him earlier in a vision on the Mount of Transfiguration.  On Patmos he saw Him again ministering among the seven golden lampstands.  Do we wish we could have the same experience John had, and see the Christ, the Alpha and the Omega– this One who is in such union with the Ancient of Days that to see Him is to see the Ancient of Days?  Hair white like wool, as snow, eyes as a flame of fire, face shining as the sun in its strength…  Upon seeing this One, John fell at His feet as dead.

But John saw Him… where?  In the midst of the seven golden lampstands– the churches.  Do we wish we could have the same experience, and see the same One John on Patmos saw?

Beloved in Christ, we are very part of it–members of this Man, this New Man, this New Creation Man, the Man in whom God and man are one, the same Man the prophets of old saw in vision.

And so we rejoice in the revelation.  But… unless this “great vision” impacts you and me the way it impacted Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah and Paul and John…   unless this causes us to fall on our face… unless we too are undone… unless this causes all our comeliness, not only in ourselves but in our churches, to turn to corruption in our eyes… until we can no longer settle for less than this Reality in ourselves and in our churches… we do well to question if we have really seen this.

(Part Three next time.)

 

 

Behold A Certain Man

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In a time of prayer a while ago I began to think of different ones in Scripture who had an encounter with God.  I was crying out and saying, Lord, I don’t want to hear another message.  I don’t want to read another Bible passage.  I must have an encounter with You!

I thought of Moses.

 And Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.

Over the years I have loved to read that passage—how he saw the bush that burned with fire yet was not consumed… how he turned aside to see it… and found himself face to face with God.

I thought of Isaiah who in the year that King Uzziah died saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.  Above the throne are the seraphim, the fiery ones, crying one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is filled with His glory.  And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”  Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am undone: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

I thought of Ezekiel the priest among the captives by the River Chebar; the heavens open and he sees a vision of a storm of wind coming, and out of the storm appear four living beings moving together in fearful harmony and upholding a throne upon which sits One like the Son of man.

 And when I saw it I fell upon my face.

I remembered Daniel, who saw the Ancient of Days upon a throne that appears to have been a chariot of fire similar to the one Ezekiel saw.  Daniel saw many mysterious and intriguing visions.  But there is one he called his “great vision.”  What was so great about it?  He saw a Man.

 … Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and behold a Certain Man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and His face as the appearance of lightning, and His eyes as lamps of fire, and His arms and His feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of His words like the voice of a multitude.

This vision utterly devastated Daniel.

Then my thoughts turned toward the New Testament.

Paul on the Damascus Road saw this same One in brightness above the noon-day sun.

John on Patmos saw Him; his description is similar to Daniel’s.

And so I was crying out to God—oh for an encounter like this!  Is it too much for a garden variety New Covenant Christian to hope for an encounter with You like You granted those of old?

But… as I prayed along this line, another thought dropped into my heart.  I suddenly realized that the only reason God revealed Himself to these of old was for our sake, His intention being nothing less than that we in New Covenant days behold, and become, the reality of what the prophets of old saw in vision–the glory of the Lord.

For, when we come into our New Testament this is the very thing we discover.  Yes Ezekiel and Isaiah and Daniel saw the Lord of glory… as did Paul.  But what seeing this Man did in Paul… he realized that this Man would not just drop sovereignly out of Heaven.  He would grow in the earth, and come into fullness only as the result of the labour and long-patience of God by an operation of the Spirit of God in those who respond to His call.  Paul laboured intently to this end; it was his whole life’s work– and ultimately would take millennia to come to full fruition.  It is the work actually of Him who was to baptize in the Holy Spirit and fire, the work of Him who died on a Cross to bring one man to an end, and rose again to bring another into being– a new Man in whom God and man are one.

And so I need not envy Daniel and Ezekiel and Isaiah, or  Paul and John.  God’s intent in revealing Himself to them was for my sake.  I too shall see Him–shall see Him with many others who together are participants in the revelation.

This vision is holy ground; we must take off our shoes.  But beloved, with our shoes off, let us expect no less than this in the gatherings of the body of Christ.  Let us be filled with this anticipation.  Let us expect no less than this–the outshining of the Lord of glory Himself–in and among the ordinary members of the body of Christ.

Do you catch that?  The body of who?

(Part 2 next time.)

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer of Repentance–Carter Conlon

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The following is a transcript of Carter Conlon’s remarks and prayer during the Sunday June 29th, 2014, Times Square Church service.  The prayer was part of a U.S. national initiative calling all churches in the United States  to pray for that nation.  After reading Psalm Two, Carter Conlon said that it was a psalm that talked about  times when leaders get together to cast off God’s restraint.  Conlon then continued:

This morning we have the privilege as a church congregation of joining with two million other believers across the country… who at this moment or thereabouts are going to fall to their knees… and say, Lord God, heal our land.  Lord, do what we have not done; forgive us for how we have misrepresented you.  The Scripture says that “When there is no vision the people perish.”  And that means that when there is no demonstration of the power of God, when there is no visible manifestation of who Christ really is, society throws off its moral restraints, and that’s what we see happening in our day.  We can point our finger, we can blame government leaders, and we can try to blame various elements of our society, but really the blame belongs in the house of God.  It belongs in the pulpits of the churches across this nation.  Where we have turned, and focused on ourselves, and have not preached the cross of Christ, we’ve not fully embraced the power of prayer, nor allowed God to make us a visible testimony of who He really is to this generation.

But I want to remind you that even though judgment seems to be abounding in every corner of our nation, mercy still rejoices over judgment.  I believe that with all my heart.  Now I want you to picture in your mind that perhaps for the first time since this country was formed, people from all across the nation are going to be falling to their knees in the house of God for about five minutes and asking the Lord to have mercy on us, and come and do what we have failed to do, and heal our land and let the testimony of Christ abound one more time.  Give us a spiritual awakening  in our generation.  It doesn’t mean that all things are going to carry on as they have in the past.  It’s not about saving sand castles and retirement accounts.  It’s about people.  Christ  died for people.  And I thank God that we have the privilege of prayer this morning…. we’re going to pray with believers from all across this nation, and we’re going to ask God to do what we have failed to do, and I want to remind you that God is a God of mercy.  Remember in the Scriptures that Daniel saw the power of God’s mercy in the Scriptures, he saw it written, and he opened his window and began to pray toward Jerusalem, and he said, “Lord, we have sinned.”  He had not been among those who had been responsible for the captivity, nevertheless he didn’t exclude himself in his prayer: “We have sinned.”  As a testimony of God, we have fallen greatly short of what we ought to have been.  We took the blessing of God and began to worship it, we built a golden calf in the house of God, created our own Christ that we could carry on our shoulders and point in any direction that we wanted Him to go, and subsequently  the nation looked at us, and laughed, and cast us out as salt to be trodden under the feet of men.  Though we have churches on every corner throughout the cities and towns in this nation, we have failed to represent Jesus to this generation.  God, give us the grace to walk humbly now before you.  Give us the grace to put away all finger pointing.  Give us the grace to look within, and say, Jesus, we call on you one more time to do what only you can do in this country….

Conlon then got down on his knees with the TSC elders and continued with the following prayer:

God Almighty, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Lord, you are the only Creator, beside You there is no other God, and Lord, we gather together today to pray with brothers and sisters of all denominations throughout this nation.  And we realize the perilous times we are now living in, where evil is becoming good and good is becoming evil.  We are living on the precipice of a social, political, and moral, and financial collapse.  We have rightly judged ourselves, God, we have rightly brought ourselves into these rough waters, because we have ignored Your word; we have ignored Your warnings; even in the house of God we have crafted our own Christ; God, forgive us for this abominable evil; forgive us, Lord, forgive the pastors of this nation, for what we have done, standing in pulpits and not preaching a Christ that people can lay hold of.  Lord Jesus Christ, we ask you, God, for a season of mercy, we ask for a spiritual awakening in this land, we ask You, Father, in Jesus Name, to touch our hearts, touch our homes,  God, touch our churches.  Lord, you are the God in the book of Ezekiel who breathed on bones and brought them back to life, even though they died around the altars of their own making.  You showed how merciful You can be.  Oh God, You are the one who stood before the grave of someone you loved who had been dead for four days, and You called him back to life again.  So this is Who we cry out to this day, Lord.  You are able to breathe on us again, You are able to call to us again and bring us back to life.

I pray, God, forgive us our ignorance, bring us back together as a body all over this nation, bring us back together in prayer, singleness of purpose, bring us back to the Scriptures again, help us to cast off the gods of our own making.  Oh Jesus Christ, we ask You, Lord, for a season of mercy in this nation, we ask you for a time, God, such as You gave the apostle Paul in the book of Acts Chapter 27, when men and women had an opportunity to hear who You were one more time.  God, give this generation an opportunity  to hear about You.  Turn back the flood of evil, turn it back, O God, Your word says that He who sits in the Heavens shall laugh, and vex them in His sore displeasure and have them in derision.   God Almighty, we ask you, God, to blind those who are trying to drag this nation into a moral abyss, and we ask You, Lord, to open the eyes of this generation, open the eyes of the people of God, open our eyes to who You are, and what You desire to do, Your ability, God, to move Heaven and earth as we begin to pray.  You Yourself said that if My people will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked way, I will hear from Heaven, forgive their sin, and I will heal their land.  Now, My eyes shall be open, My ears listening, for the prayers that are going to be prayed in this place.

And so Lord God, we are asking not for ourselves, but we are asking for others, we are asking for a great turning of our young people who in our schools and colleges have been lied to and told there is no God.  Lord, we’ve allowed the Enemy to build fortifications around all of our institutions, and God Almighty, we ask You to bring these walls down, for David the king said, By God I have leaped through a troop, by God I have leaped over a wall, by God my arms have been strengthened so that a bow of steel is broken by them.  Oh Jesus Christ, Son of God, give us power, give us strength for this last moment of time. Let our praises truly be birthed in God, let the word of God be preached again in the house of God.  Oh Jesus, Lord, we ask for mercy, Lord, for all of our pastors across this land in every denomination.  Lord, those who are still alive, cause them to be encouraged, those who barely have a flicker, breathe on them, bring them back to life again, those who are dead, call them, raise them out of the grave, but oh God, let every man and woman of God  have a testimony, Lord, of the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ.  Bring the Cross back to the central focus of our theology; deliver us, Lord, from all of the foolishness that we have presented as being from You and Your kingdom and Your heart, and bring us back to that which really matters– the shedding of Christ’s blood, the power over sin and death, the resurrection life that belongs to everyone who turns to Christ for redemption.

God, we yield ourselves to this purpose, for New York City we ask that You would breathe on… this city, and bring it back to life; let there be a massive touch of God come into our streets, our boroughs, our homes, our colleges, O God, let even our park benches become places of prayer meetings.  God, stop all the commerce, let men and women begin to turn to You with all of their hearts.  Father, be merciful, O God, to those who parade their sin in our streets, be merciful, God, to those who do these things, we’re asking, Lord, for mercy, we’re asking for salvation, we’re asking, God, for a true joy, a true peace, and true life.  Father, we’re asking for these things, we praise You, and we bless You in the mighty unmatchable Name of Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords, in His precious name we pray, Amen, and Amen.  Thank You, Hallelujah, thank You Lord, thank You, mighty God.

All I can say to this is, Amen, Amen.  Regardless what nation we are living in, the moral collapse Conlon speaks of is all around us; we groan for this, sigh and cry for this; our need for the shining forth of the living Christ is beyond words.  And He, for His part, is breaking to manifest Himself.

And will.  Let us not, then, miss the hour of our visitation.   Let us in this difficult hour– this tremendous hour, which is the prelude to that visitation– give ourselves to Him utterly without reserve.