Category Archives: Body of Christ

The Footstool Of Thy Feet

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [Heb. the footstool of Thy feet].
The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

These are the first two verses of Psalm 110, which is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is a prophecy of the ascension of Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of God where He reigns over all the universe, according as He told His disciples before His ascension: “All power (authority) is given unto Me in Heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18).

Why, then, is it taught that Christ is “our soon and coming king”? Why is it taught that He is coming back to reign over all the earth from the throne of David in old Jerusalem? Yes, He is coming back, but it is not to reign. He reigns right now, is king right now at the right hand of God. He is seated on the throne of David in the heavenly Zion right now (Acts 2: 29,30), and has all authority in Heaven and earth. Right now. There is no higher throne in Heaven or earth than the one He has right now.

You ask, then why doesn’t He do something about the evil in the world?

But let’s read Psalm 110 very carefully. Our Lord Jesus Christ has been given a promise. He is to sit enthroned at the right hand of God till all His enemies, every single one of them, are in due time (the Father’s time) made the footstool of His feet. He will one day have complete victory over them all, they will all be put under His feet. I take great comfort in this faithful promise. And, for those with eyes to see…

…There is a powerful revelation in this verse.

Sit Thou at My right hand till I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet.

His feet? This is where you and I enter the picture if we have been baptized in Holy Spirit.

For in one Spirit are we all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12:13).

By the Spirit baptism we are baptized into Christ, and as members of the body of Christ we too reign with Him (Eph. 2:6).

But notice this.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.

This is profound truth. The LORD sends out of Zion the rod of Christ’s strength—the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit—and thereby, even while He anticipates the day when all His enemies are made the footstool of His feet, He rules in the midst of His enemies, whether human or angelic. It is He who is on the throne reigning, not after they have all been vanquished, but right in the midst of enemy activity.

This means that we who are baptized into Him also reign in the midst of His enemies and ours, and in the midst of our evil circumstances, our darkness, our difficulties, our problems, our afflictions, our trials, our distresses, our persecutions—our Cross. We rule in the midst of all our enemies just as Christ rules in the midst of all His enemies. Because of the Spirit baptism, we are seated with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies… not after we die and go to Heaven, but now.

What does this look like?

It looks like victory in the midst of apparent defeat. It looks like composure when one is being reviled. It looks like maintaining one’s cool in the midst of brutal heat—in the face of aggression, whether verbal or physical—because it is Christ’s own cool.

It looks like the kingdom of God in the midst of endurance and trouble. That’s what the apostle John said—that he was our brother and companion “in the tribulation and kingdom and patience (endurance) of Jesus Christ.” Where is the kingdom? Right in the middle of tribulation and endurance. In the very place where we must endure tribulation along with Jesus Christ, His kingdom reigns.

It means that sin has no dominion over us—not our own nor anyone else’s. It means evil does not rule over us, not evil men or angels, nor evil afflictions and circumstances, though we may be in the midst of them. For Jesus Christ is Lord and king at God’s right hand, and as members of His body we are in His reign, which is over all.

God has a great surprise for the inhabitants of the earth. The day is at hand when He is going to reveal openly those who in great and overwhelming trial were reigning in the midst of it all. The day is at hand when their reign shall be openly revealed, unveiled. This is what the second coming is all about. When the inhabitants of the earth thought better of God, and resorted to their own tactics to gain and maintain the upper hand—tactics of fear, force, malice, intimidation, aggression, violence… now He reveals that those who resorted to such things actually had no power at all. For, these things of darkness are not real power, and when people or evil angels were using such tactics and weapons against the Christian, and apparently defeating him, it is the Christian who was all the while reigning. It is he or she who was victorious in the midst of it all because of the victory of their King on the Cross, their King now on Zion’s holy Hill. It is His rule that was over His own, and nothing else.

God has installed His Son in Zion, and those also who are in Him reign in Zion with Him. Those in Christ are not under anything. It may often appear that he or she is. But that’s how it looked the day they crucified Christ, too. It appeared that His enemies had triumphed over Him. It was He who triumphed over them that day—triumphed over them in His Cross. He was reigning in the midst of them all even while they were crucifying Him.

He now reigns on the throne of David at the right hand of God so that those baptized into Him may reign with Him, first in the midst of all enemies and afflictions and circumstances, and ultimately over them all.

This is why God permits evil in His world at this time. It will not always be so: one day there will be not so much as a trace of evil in His universe. But even while with great longsuffering He permits it at this time, even while the enemies of God and His Christ seem to have free rein to work their wicked works (they do not have free reign, they are on a leash) there is a great eternal purpose unfolding. Christ rules in the midst of them. He rules in the midst of His enemies. He is on the throne ruling in the midst of His enemies, anticipating the inevitable hour when they shall yet be made the footstool of His feet.

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

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.)

 

 

 

 

 

I Was Sick

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“Behold, He cometh with clouds,” the last book of the Bible proclaims, “and every eye shall see Him…” (Rev. 1.7).

This is the long-awaited appearing in glory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; it is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2.13).

But note.  That passage in The Revelation continues, “and they also which pierced Him.”

Every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.   Even so, Amen.

This prophecy first appears in Zechariah, where it reads, “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12.10).  Me?  Who is that?  The words are in the mouth of the LORD, that is, Jehovah.

They appear again in the apostle John’s account of the crucifixion of Christ.

And again another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced (Jn. 19.37).

I wonder how many of the onlookers that day on Golgotha realized that when the soldiers drove the nails into the hands of Christ, and pierced His side with a spear, it was actually Jehovah they were piercing.  We make no attempt to dissect the holy unity between the Father and the Son; the prophecy simply states that the hour would come when those who crucified the Son of God would realize that it was Jehovah God the Father they had pierced.

I wonder, too, how many realize that Jesus Christ is still being pierced.  Saul of Tarsus got that astonishing revelation one day.  He had been persecuting the Christians, delivering them up to prison and death.  One day he saw a light brighter than the noon-day sun and heard a Voice calling to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

What a stunning revelation it was to him.  “Who are You, Lord?”  “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

You mean, Lord, these Christians… You?

He devoted the rest of his life to sharing the sufferings of the One he had been persecuting, and his writings are filled with the revelation he saw that day.

Now ye are the body of Christ…

Matthew in his account of the Gospel tells of the day when the Son of man shall come in His glory… and reveal to the dismay of all that even before then He was here, though many did not recognize Him.  He said that He was here… hungry.  He was here… thirsty.  He was here… a stranger, here… naked.  He was here… sick.  He was here… in prison.

How so, Lord?  You said “I was hungry, I was thirsty… I was sick.  I was in prison.”  How so?

He reveals that it was when “one of the least of these my brethren” was going through these things, it was He Himself who was suffering…

…And He Himself who was being ministered to by those who reached out to them, even though they were not conscious that this is what they were doing.

We anticipate the appearing of the Son of man in glory, and our cry is, make no tarrying, Lord!

But, beloved, do we see Him even now?  Do we recognize Him… not in robes of glory, but in His humiliation?

Let us not miss out on His appearing even now in His humiliation—His privation, His alienation, His sickness, His distress, His shame, His unjust treatment… His sufferings.

We don’t want to be numbered among those who are wailing in that hour when they finally realize who it is they pierced.

 

 

Thank God For… You

Have you ever been frightened by the sudden awareness that you were in the presence of something very holy?  This happened to me recently while reading one of the letters of the apostle Paul.  A certain fear came unexpectedly upon me; I suddenly became aware of the deep love for the saints that dwelt in this man.

Paul, it seems, was always thinking about the saints of the Lord that he knew in various places.  Like a parent whose children are scattered far and wide, they were always on his mind… and continually in his prayers.

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers… (Rom. 1.9).

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers… (Eph. 1.15,16).

…Praying always for you… (Col. 1.3).

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day… (2 Tim. 1.3).

I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers… (Phm. 4).

We (Paul and Silvanus and Timothy) give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… (1 Thes. 1.2).

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you making request with joy… (Phil. 1.4).

If you will take your New Testament and (when you have time) read the last two passages I quoted—Philippians Chapter 1 verses 3-11, and the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians—I  think you will come away from your reading the same way I have, awed by the depths of the love you have touched in this man.  His prayers to God on the behalf of the saints were the consequence of the love in his heart for them.  He loved the saints.  He loved them deeply.  And so he couldn’t help it, he had to be on his knees for them.

One thing more—did you notice this in the verses quoted above?  Paul is always thanking God for the saints.  Why would he be thanking God for them?  It was because of their faith (Rom. 1.8, Col. 1.3) and their growing love for God and for one another (1 Thes. 1.2, 2 Thes. 1.3), that is to say, for their fellowship in the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1.3).  How it comforted Paul’s heart in this dark and wicked world to know that some here and there had turned from darkness to walk in light.  Paul was in fellowship with these ones.

It’s a word that has lost much of its strength these days—fellowship.  It means, simply, sharing together, or commonness; but what Paul and these other saints shared and held in common was an uncommon cause, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They were vastly outnumbered in this cause, were persecuted and despised and hated in this cause.  So when they came together it was something very precious, and tender.  They were brothers and sisters who loved one another and were ready to die for one another.  And so they were greatly thankful for one another.

This got me thinking.  It hadn’t really occurred to me.  Am I thankful for my brothers and sisters?  Yes, I pray for them, but how often do I get on my knees and thank God for them?  I mean, really thank God for them!  They are my comrades in battle.  They are my fellow pilgrims on a dangerous journey.  They are an oasis of green in the waste and howling wilderness of this world.  They love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, and they want to do His will.  Many there are who love darkness rather than light, but these have turned from darkness to light, and with the help of the Lord’s grace they are determined to be faithful.  At the cost of their lives if need be.  This caused great thankfulness to well up in Paul.  He thanked God for these ones.  And prayed continually for them.  It is far from an easy walk; it is fraught with peril in this present evil age.  And so Paul found these saints continually on his heart, and continually in his prayers.

Do we want to be like Paul?  It will mean coming into a love that, in its continual preoccupation with others, loses sight of itself.  But let’s not stop at the desire to be like Paul.  There’s another reason why Paul prayed so continually for the saints.  Paul was like Jesus.  And Jesus is preoccupied with the saints.  Jesus at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints.

He ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 7.25).

It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Rom. 8.34).

And so if Christ at the right hand of God is continually praying for the saints, this is what Paul found himself doing also.  He prayed continually for the saints because the Holy Spirit of the ascended Christ dwelt in Him—and so the same love that burned in Christ burned in him also, continually firing his prayers with the fire of the Spirit.

Are we short of this, brothers and sisters?  Does the same love that dwelt in Paul dwell in you and me?  Oh how we need this more and more in the body of Christ in this difficult hour—the love of Christ.  We could not help but pray for one another, then.  I mean, fervently.  It’s the only way we would find release from the burden of love in us.

Release, I say… yet like a fire, this love grows when you feed it.  If just now it’s not much of a fire, let’s feed it then!  It will grow.  And grow.  And grow…

Let there arise in our hearts a new appreciation—Paul’s appreciation, the Lord’s own appreciation—for our fellow saints.  We need one another.  Let us be praying for one another.

And thanking God for one another.

God’s Answer For The Famine Of The Word

We have been talking about the famine of hearing of the words of the Lord—words that the Lord Himself speaks, and therefore are living words that sustain us and give us the strength we need for our daily walk in this world.

That’s what bread is for—to strengthen man’s heart (Ps. 104.15).  And we need this daily.  It’s simply impossible to go through the day and meet its demands without the strength of the bread of life.  I know, as long as things are going okay and we are prospering nicely, it seems we can get along without this living Bread.  But the hour is at hand when many people—even many Christians—will suddenly see that their spiritual plates are empty, in fact have been empty for a long time.

Jesus Christ is Himself the bread of life.

I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on my shall never thirst (Jn. 6.25).

Jesus is not speaking here of a one-time thing—when I came to Him and was converted.  He is speaking of a continual coming to Him, and in doing so, discovering an unfailing supply for my daily need whatever that need is.  His promise is that “as are thy days so shall thy strength be” (Dt. 33.25).  In other words, there cannot be a day that proves too much to handle when we come to Him for the bread we need for this day.  This is the experience of many Christians who take their need for the living Bread seriously and come to Him expectantly day by day.

But let’s look at this in larger terms than the twenty-four hour day.  For we are now entering upon a very difficult day, and it is going to require great spiritual strength to get through it.

What provision does God have for this day now dawning?  Apart from a major spiritual revolution we face grievous spiritual famine in our western lands in spite of all the Bibles and Bible studies and Internet resources and weekly sermons by our favourite pastor.  All this, good as it is, was never meant to be the answer for the needs of the world around us.  What is God’s answer then?  Yes I know, Christ Himself.

For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world (Jn. 6.33).

I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever: and the bread which I shall give is my flesh which I shall give for the life of the world (Jn. 6.51).

His flesh?  This caused a strife among those listening.  “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

Even His own disciples found this hard to comprehend.  They couldn’t imagine themselves eating His flesh.  Jesus answered their perplexity with another perplexity.

Doth this offend you?  What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?  It is the Spirit that quickeneth (that giveth life): the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life (Jn. 6.62,63).

In other words, it wasn’t eating His physical body that Jesus had in mind.  “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.”  He would ascend into Heaven and by the Holy Spirit speak living words from Heaven, words which to partake of would be one and the same as eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

But there is something else here—a very important implication in Jesus’ statement that “it is the Spirit that quickeneth.”  In sending the Holy Spirit, Christ means you and I, ordinary Christians in the body of Christ, to become His very flesh, the bread that He gives for the life of the world.

For we being many are one bread (or, loaf) and one body; for we are all partakers of that One Bread (1 Cor. 10.12).

Partaking of this One Bread causes us ourselves to become vitally a part of that One Bread.  For, as the saying goes, you are what you eat.

And how is this accomplished—that we become this one loaf and one body?

For by one Spirit are ye all baptized into one body… (1 Cor. 12.13).

This is the implication of His words, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth…”  He is talking of the sending of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, by which, wonder of wonders, we are made one with Him who is in Heaven– are made one Loaf with Him, one Body.

Fellow Christian, we must be earnestly seeking this kind of intermingling and interaction with the Spirit of Christ—something that produces an entirely different kind of church, one in which every single member is a vital participant in the Bread of Life, and there is a very real sense of all having become One Loaf with Christ Himself.

And those in leadership must seek earnestly to give the Spirit of the Lord His liberty and lordship so He can bring this One Loaf into being– His answer for the spiritual hunger of the world.

We have many good pastors and teachers these days who can deliver a good word.  We are thankful for them.  We have many great ministries who through modern media feed multitudes of Christians all the world over with powerful messages. We are thankful for these as well, for they certainly meet a need.

But this will not meet the need of the day at hand.  God has something greater in mind.  In fact even now—can we not recognize this?—we are in a state of famine.  Is not this abundantly clear when we look at the needs of our world around us, first on the local level and then out further?  With all our present provision we are still in a state of famine.

And we will be in a state of famine until this One Loaf begins to appear.

It is this Loaf—the body of Christ—that the Lord has in mind for the day at hand, and is even now preparing.  It is this Loaf that He breaks in His hands to feed every need of the hungry.

This is the Bread that Christ gives for the life of the world.

This is the Loaf that finally brings to an end the famine of the words of the Lord.

The Minister Of The Holies

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The following passage of Scripture has been much on my heart of late.

Now a summary of the things being spoken of is, we have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the greatness in the heavens; a minister of the holies, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man (Heb. 8.1).

This is from my Interlinear Bible; the King James Version has, “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle…”  But the original Greek has, simply, “a minister of the holies,” that is, of the holy things, or holy places.”  I think the context lends itself to holy things, that is, the holy duties of the priest relative to the things of the tabernacle—his ministry relative to the brazen altar and the laver, the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the golden altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant.

What is the true tabernacle?  It’s that Tabernacle you and I are part of—Christ Himself, the Dwelling Place of God.  The old tabernacle in the wilderness was but a type of the true tabernacle.  Aaron ministered in that one; Christ Himself is the High Priest in this Tabernacle.  He is the Minister, ministering about the holy things of the Tabernacle.  We catch a glimpse of this in The Revelation, where John saw One walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands—our great High Priest trimming the lampstands.

The Lord Jesus Christ, then, is the Minister of the true Tabernacle.  How can this be so?  He is in Heaven, and we are here in the earth.  But—and this is the most wondrous of truths, and utterly astonishing to me, as I wrote last time—by the Holy Spirit here in the earth, Christ Himself is present here in the true tabernacle ministering about the holy things of God.  For Jesus told His disciples when He was about to leave them, “I will not leave you comfortless (orphans), I will come to you.”  And He was speaking of the coming of the Comforter, the Spirit of truth.

Sometimes when I consider this momentous truth I feel like one asleep in the dust being awakened by fits and starts.  I am barely conscious to this reality.  I awaken for a moment and the revelation is so wondrous I can scarcely take it in… and I sink back into sleep.  Why can’t I stay awake?  Then I am awakened again… and am struck with wonder again.  This truth is so overwhelming in its beauty, so rich with reality… you mean this is what God has for us?  It’s too much for me to take in.  By comparison my present experience is so puny; I feel I am too far behind.

But this has been quickened to my heart again the last few days… and I must trust Him who is awake to continue to awaken me.  And I know He will.  I am anticipating a greater consciousness of this Minister of the holy things in the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.  I almost said awareness, but consciousness is the better word, because it’s by the Holy Spirit in us that we are made one with this Minister of the holy things.  It’s by the Holy Spirit that we are made conscious of Christ Himself—that we are One with Him. 

Jesus said:

For where two or three are gathered (that is, have been gathered) together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them (Mt. 18.20).

How is Jesus in the midst?  Not invisibly, somehow.  He is in the midst of those gathered in His Name because of the Holy Spirit in them.  The High Priest of the true tabernacle is in the midst of the tabernacle because of the Holy Spirit in those who are part of this Tabernacle.  Oh for eyes to see Him, then—that it is He Himself who is ministering in the midst of those who are gathered in His Name.

In fact Christ Himself is the only valid Minister in the tabernacle.  Only what He Himself is doing is sanctioned by God.  How attentive, then, you and I must be—how sanctified unto Christ—that our ministry and involvement in this Tabernacle be His very own involvement.  Think of that, beloved.  Even at this moment the High Priest of the true tabernacle is ministering therein.  What is He doing?  I say to you, only as the Holy Spirit in you and me communicates to us that knowledge, that awareness—that consciousness—are we able to minister in this Tabernacle in any valid way. All else is futile, even counterproductive.  What He is doing, this alone must be our own doing.

The writer of Hebrews calls us “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3.1).  He is talking of the heavenly priesthood.  And notice the word partakers there.  In other words, there is only one calling—Christ’s calling—of which we are partakers.  He is the apostle and high priest of our confession; only as we partake of His calling are we functioning acceptably before God in His Tabernacle.

And so this must be more and more our cry and prayer—oh, to become more conscious of this Great High Priest who is ministering in the true Tabernacle while at the same time being seated at the right hand of the Throne of God.  How can He be there and here at the same time?

Again, because of the Holy Spirit.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Oh for the scales to fall from our eyes!  The Holy Spirit in the earth and the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven… they are one.

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.

His Unspeakable Gift

When I was a boy I used to think on certain great people I admired… and secretly wished I could be.  It’s been a while, and I can’t remember now who was on my list.  Except for two.  I remember two.  Superman was one.  I used to wish I could be Superman.  To have that superhuman strength, and, wow, to be able to fly…  Wouldn’t that be something!  I knew of course that Superman wasn’t real, and I could not be Superman.  But I liked to imagine being Superman and astonishing all my friends.

The other one I remember was—and I can never forget this one—Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  I knew He was real.  At least I had been taught He was real, and it never entered my mind to doubt it back then (that came later).  I would think on Him and… none of my thoughts about Superman contained the same sense of… of reverence, of awe… that thinking on the Son of God did.

And I would think… the Son of… God?  He is the Son… of God?  And I would be deeply disappointed.  For I knew I could not be Him.  And it didn’t seem fair to me.  Why did He get to be the Son of God and I had to live such an ordinary life?  Why did He get to be the Son of God, and not me?

It wasn’t till many years later that I discovered the most wonderful truth.  If I couldn’t be the Son of God Himself… I could be one with Him.

I was sitting at my kitchen table in Burmis one day; this was after I’d had to quit my job because of my affliction.  By this time I’d come to know the Son of God was real, had known this for many years.  And I was going through the Gospel of John verse by verse, and Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament on the book of John, and at the same time reading George Warnock’s book Crowned With Oil, in which he goes through a portion of the book of John verse by verse (John Chapters 14-17).  It seems this is my lot; I don’t get revelations the way some people do—with the Lord revealing things to them in dreams and visions and other awesome ways that I envy; it seems my lot is to have to plug away at reading the Bible earnestly seeking to open my heart to the Lord.

And so, I was reading these books, along with the Gospel of John… verse by verse.  I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary; I was just doing over again what I love to do—labouring in the word.

And I came to John Chapter 14.  And I came to verse 15.

If ye love Me, keep My commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

And then I read verse 18.

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.

And suddenly… I saw!

This is a passage of Scripture I had read countless times; it had also been ministered to me many times.  But now suddenly… my eyes were opened… and I saw!

I will not leave you comfortless (orphans): I will come to you.

The Paraclete, the Spirit of truth in you and me… it means that the Son of God Himself is here in you and me!

This is utterly astonishing.  The Spirit of truth here in the earth is one with the Son of God in Heaven.

I tell you, this revolutionized my whole thinking.  My Bible, even after many years of reading it, became a brand new book to me.  Light had dawned, and as it shone upon my Bible, I was able to read familiar passages in an entirely new light.

Like Psalm 22, for example.

I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.

How does the Son of God praise the Father in the midst of the congregation—but by the Holy Spirit in you and me?  The Son of God Himself is in the midst of congregation—because of the Holy Spirit in you and me.

What a wonder.  It is true, brothers and sisters, it’s really true: because of the Holy Spirit in us, we are the very body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.13).  Our Head is in Heaven; we in the earth are one with Him—one body—because of the Holy Spirit.

We are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwelleth in us (1 Cor. 3.16).

He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6.17).

Jesus had been telling His disciples He was about to leave them, He was going away, and it grieved them deeply to hear this.  But He told them this was actually a better plan than if He were to stay.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you (better for you, more profitable, to your advantage) that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send Him unto you… (Jn. 16.7).

We are inclined to think this cannot be right.  Surely it would be better for that Man who walked the earth two thousand years ago to be still here with us.  For if we had Jesus still with us He could continue to do the wonders He did back then; we would have His perfect input into every difficult situation we face; we would have His protection; He would resolve all our troubles… He would be able to speak the perfect word of God just as He did back then; He would be able to continue bearing witness to the truth just as faithfully and perfectly as He did back then.

The point is, with the Holy Spirit we still have this!  For in the Holy Spirit, Christ Himself is still with us!

I will not leave you orphans; I am coming to you.

The Holy Spirit is able to manifest as perfect a witness to the truth as the Son of God Himself did.

But there is One Thing more we have in the Paraclete that we would not have if Jesus Himself were still here in the flesh.  Because of this wondrous Advocate not just with us, but now in us, we too share the same relationship with the Father that Jesus the Son of God did… which the disciples back then did not have.  Truly, it was better for them—and for us—that He went away.

He told them He was leaving them… and coming back to them again (Jn. 14.28).  He told them He was going to the Father, and therefore they would not see Him.  That’s understandable enough.  Why would they see Him not?  Because He was going to the Father.

But then this enigma.  Because He was going to the Father, they would see Him.  Why would they see Him again?  Because He was going to the Father.

He was going to the Father, and would send to them the Promise of the Father—the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth.  And in this One, He Himself would be in them.  And so He said:

Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me: because I live ye shall live also (Jn. 14.19).

And He said:

At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (Jn. 14.20).

What day?  The day of the coming of the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit… because of whose coming Jesus Christ Himself is with us—even in us!  Oh, the wonder of this!  Whatever is yet to come with regard to the revelation of Jesus Christ, oh, let us not miss out on the fullness of this revelation—that Jesus Christ in Heaven is with us, even in us… because of the Holy Spirit in us!

Jesus Christ the Son of God in Heaven… and the Holy Spirit here in the earth in us… they are one.

…I know what you’re thinking—that because of the Holy Spirit in me, I too am a son of God now.  Yes, and I am growing up into Him in all things, into His very image and likeness.  What a wonder.  My boyhood wish has been realized after all.  To think that a loving God had prepared such wonder for a wondering boy…  it is too much.  I too get to be a son of God.

…But I tell you what is more meaningful… if that’s possible.  It’s the realization that the Holy Spirit in me that makes me a son of God… is one with the Son of God in Heaven. It’s this that leaves me with my mouth open.

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!

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