Over the course of this series we have discussed some of the things which are imperative if we as individuals are to be found faithful in contributing to that which are Lord Jesus promises to build. We have discovered His promise to be presently bringing together a household of living stones, that these individual living stones (those recreated by Christ via the Holy Spirit) are to become in practice ONE MAN, even as they now are perfectly united in Christ raised.
In order to be of use as God desires, it is necessary for us to first acknowledge that despite the formation of smaller individual groups or assemblies known as local ekklesias being formed in various places, that these all comprise together the ONE EKKLESIA that Jesus is presently building. This one ekklesia, also known as the spiritual BODY OF CHRIST shares ONE FAITH and ONE EXPRESSION of that FAITH IN PRACTICE- that which is to be consistently lived before other believers as well as before the world at large. If we either fail or refuse to acknowledge these scriptural facts, we cannot be found building with Jesus but in reality opposing that which only He is capable of building.
OUT WITH THE OLD
As new creations in Christ, we hopefully were quick to learn that we were transferred from this present world system into a new kingdom which Jesus has initiated. Here it is spoken in Colossians 1:13, 14;
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
This is no superficial act of God but a entire unhinging of what once was for that which now is. Here it is spoken in 2 Corinthians 5:17;
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ (has a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ), he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” and where does this originate in verse 17:
“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation….” (gave us the responsibility to share the love of Christ with the people in this world for Jesus’ sake) here in verse 20:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”
The word “reconciled” means to bring back into harmony and presupposes that in our natural state of birth this harmony of relationship does not initially exist. Mankind is inherently sinful and God entirely holy; therefore their is enmity from birth between mankind and God; therefore the need for mankind to be reconciled to God.
As those having been reconciled (by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-10), we have a responsibility to work with God and to make sure we have not received God’s grace in vain:
“And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain- for He says, “AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”- then this striking phrase, giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited…..” [2 Corinthians 6:1-3]
This last part of this verse is very important. These Corinthian believers were accustomed to judging things from what they saw (with their own wisdom) and not with the wisdom of God. Paul many times reminds them of the vanity of doing such (see 1 Corinthians chapter 2, then in 2 Corinthians 4:18, 5:7, 5:12, 5:16 just to name a few times. Why is this so important?
Close observation shows that the verse above in 2 Corinthians 5:17 isn’t a reference to new behaviors per say (there will be those of course in time) but in a new reality- in the better things that are found in this new relationship with Christ. See the whole book of Hebrews for some of these “better” things.
For too long, professing Christians have reduced “the work of reconciliation” to a simple profession of faith by this or that individual and after the fact pronouncing them “saved.” Is that the work of reconciliation or is that the work of men? In other cases, the practice of one who has been reconciled amounts to “church attendance” and a degree of “church related responsibility.” Again, is this practice to which we’ve been called or is this the work and mandate of well meaning men alone? How can we know?
The Scriptures are very clear about the message of reconciliation and on who’s behalf that message is proclaimed. It is proclaimed in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. It goes without saying as well, that the practice of one’s Christian life must also follow that same train of thought. Just like reconciliation itself, the practice of our faith is not merely FOR HIM, but also FROM HIM. We must make it our aim to discover the practice of truth that is from Him.
In Part 1 of this study it was made clear what Jesus is building. Jesus is building one spiritual body and that through spiritual resources. Because it is spiritual and derives from Him, this world, its people and resources cannot prevail against it (those individual blood bought saints who comprise the one body). They will prevail against all adversaries that may stand against them.
To know if I am building with Jesus I must ask myself:
- Am I helping to build one body or something else?
- Am I using spiritual resources or worldly props?
- Am I prevailing over sin, self, this world system and the devil? (A Christian’s adversaries)
If any of the above are questionable in my life, I may want to consider three pitfalls that will inevitably lead me astray:
- Allowing any other person to usurp (take the place) of Jesus in our lives
- Believing anything anyone tells me is Christian or Biblical without proper scriptural evidence
- Following previous precedents (practices that as far as we know have always been considered “Christian”
Upon discovering anything that is inconsistent with the Scriptural record or Jesus’ new and living way I must reject that outright without hesitation. For example, despite the 1800+ years of church related practices, are any of these practices part of the Bible record or are they merely the traditions of men? Does Jesus say that churches, non-profit organizations, para-church groups, NGO’s are the foundation of the truth? Does God allow any of these man made entities to be a support of the truth as well? Or does the Bible say:
“I write so that you will know how to conduct yourselves in the household of God (within the ONE SPIRITUAL HOUSE OF LIVING STONES) , the pillar and support of the truth. [1 Timothy 3:15] WE together are the support of the truth, Jesus in our midst. It’s far more than a small stretch to turn such a spiritual reality into the practical formations of the institutions above- NONE of which are necessary.
It was said in an earlier part of this series: “To interject any other entity on any scale is in the least to water down and suppress God’s intentions and in the worst to promote outright lies and deception- which by the way directly oppose and compete with what Jesus is building” God will uses a series of things, situations, various trials and difficulties, methods and even other people to shake what is foreign in us and opposed to His spiritual kingdom. This may take a few months to many years depending upon how willing and determined were are to know and embrace the truth. He knows exactly what has to go in us and what He will allow to remain. One thing is for sure, unless we’re willing to die to all of our own interests entirely, we can’t be useful in the manner He requires or to help establish His one spiritual household of saints. All individualism must die before we can proceed further. The cross of Christ is more than just the place wherein we can find ourselves reconciled to God, it must also become the place where we die to any and all self interests and appetites.
Paul made this statement about the Corinthians themselves: “You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained by your own affections” [2 Corinthians 6:12] It appears these Corinthians had an issue with associating themselves with other people who had not their same interests at heart. They were bound to these people by some mutual agreement (or so they thought) and yet Paul reminded them that this was not really the case. Until they were willing to let go of these unhealthy relationships with others and be separate, they could not fully obey God and be used in the manner He desired.
IN WITH THE NEW
This starts with an ongoing acknowledgment that only ONE TRUTH and ONE PRACTICE of that truth exists, then jettisoning whatever is inconsistent with that truth, then establishing the actual truth upon the foundation of Christ alone. Again, in order to work with Jesus in what He is building we each must:
- Acknowledge that there is only ONE BODY, ONE TRUTH concerning that body and ONE PROPER PRACTICE of the truth. In other words, I cannot promote as an individual Christian anything that has me at the center such as “my ministry.” We all have a place within the framework of the one body, but that place is neither mine, nor mine to possess or control. It is merely the place Jesus knows is best for me, His one body and what will ultimately glorify Him. This is not some fixed position but a temporary responsibility that can change from one day to another or from one moment to the next as God leads.
- A willingness to relinquish whatever is inconsistent with Jesus’ spiritual kingdom despite the cost. Daily we each much learn to live in the reality of our heavenly spiritual position and reject that which poses for spiritual wisdom (that which derives from earthly and worldly resources). For example, any attempt to build a physical earthly empire, even in the name of Christ, is not worthy of our admiration or support. We must reject even the good intentions of men, even spiritual men.
- A willingness to discover (likely alone first) and (later among likeminded believers) the heart of Jesus for His body on a moment to moment basis. Those whom God is refining will no doubt suffer the pangs of loneliness and isolation to some extent. This author spent some 10+ years unlearning falsehoods taught of men and another 5+ discovering and learning to apply the new and better way of the Spirit. Needless to say this discovery is about Jesus Himself, thus never ending.
TO WHAT END ARE WE CALLED?
If I asked you to specifically tell me what you thought every individual was called by God to become or to do, what might you say?
Would you simply say we ought to discover God’s will for our lives and attempt to live that out. That certainly sounds proper. How about seeking to glorify God with our lives. Surely this is true. Or what about the earlier command to be an ambassador for Jesus’ sake, this surely is one necessity among many no doubt. Then again we should preach the gospel, live by the Spirit and seek to obey Him day by day.
The truth is, despite each Christian having various spiritual gifts and therefore responsibilities, there really is one specific answer to the question I asked above. There really is one purpose that excels above the rest and without keeping this purpose in mind we likely will never succeed much at any of the rest. Want a clue? Here’s a question that can reveal the answer, “To what degree do you trust another human being?”
The Scriptures say in John 17:3;
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” and in Philippians 3:10;
“…..that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”
To what degree do you trust another human being? Answer: To the degree that you know them.
TO KNOW HIM
In 1 John 5:11, 12 it says;
“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life”
Here we find the key to living in the manner that God requires and with what resource: Life, the Life of Jesus Himself. He who has the Son has life. Not just in an instant as in the moment of salvation, but in every instance and in every circumstance. This is what we are after, to live and move and exist (have our being) in Him.
Next: The men God is making/Surveying the local landscape