The cost of true fellowship/2
For most people it takes many years to be willing to admit that the majority of their activities through church fell far short of our Father’s intentions for fellowship. It seems the longer one is attached to a specific manner of doing things the harder it is to break free from it. It’s extremely painful to first admit we’ve fallen far short of God’s intent, likely more painful to suffer the consequences of attempting to right the ship.
For those of us who have left institutions, this is where we find ourselves these days- on the outside looking for where we belong, asking ourselves the question, “What now?” That isn’t easily answered, though there are some things we do well to remember.
Everything we might desire or need within our lives as Christians is ultimately dependent upon how much we rely upon Jesus for everything. We have to diligently guard this special relationship and keep Jesus as the focal point and love of our lives. We cannot ever allow something or someone to take precedence over Him. That includes making any form of fellowship a priority over Him.
Called out for a reason
Our Father did not call you, me or anyone out of institutions for no reason. Sure, over time we each receive the various revelations He alone can show us, but that doesn’t mean we are all called to exactly the same service. There are specific truths we all need to embrace uniformly, but within that context God has a unique purpose and plan for us as individuals as well.
Despite the loneliness that each individual faces upon exiting the church, the very real temptation to immediately plug into some form of fellowship is almost always a mistake. The primary purpose for Him bringing us out is to set us aside so He can begin to teach us Himself without the distractions of other men. Getting out isn’t enough, there are things in us that need to come out too- stuff we adopted along the way in church that has nothing whatsoever to do with Life in Him. It is much more than simply conforming to a standard, anyone could just adjust I suppose, rather, He desires to transform our thinking entirely from what is earth bound to that which is heavenly in nature. This takes considerable time, in my case 15 years and counting.
These years are not without any fellowship, it’s just that God will rarely allow our efforts to cling to a person or groups of persons to last long in this stage. He knows what we need better than we do, and if we are to be fully prepared we have to accept His timing is best. Rest assured that if you have learned to abide in Him regularly, nothing you have or go without will escape His notice. You will be walking exactly as you ought to.
I am sure that the last thing My Father had to pry out of my hands and heart was this desire I had for my own ministry. Just about everybody struggles with this one. We’re so convinced our ideas are just a little better than somebody else’s, but that doesn’t matter- they’re not better than God’s own. You must allow Him to bring you to the place where you have no agenda of your own and become entirely content even if He chooses to never use you again. When you have arrived here, maybe He might let you out for a glimpse of His will for your life. Maybe not.
The wilderness experience, the road of seemingly never ending loneliness, broken friendships, multiple misunderstandings, crushed aspirations and the like- a road of stripping you down to where you likely despair of life itself is necessary. Any attempt to skirt the fiery trials He allows will only have you learning the same lessons over and over again. There is only one way out- straight ahead embracing the pain, accepting the heartache as if from a loving Father. He knows what it takes to bring you to the end of yourself, that He alone might have the sacrifice He’s always been after.
The cross/A friend for Life
Despite where we might be heading on any given day, we usually have an idea where we’re going and the means necessary to get there. Paul the apostle knew as much too- he knew that if there was any hope for fulfilling God’s will for his life he would have to admit;
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
(Paul was born into many privileges (Philippians 3:4-6) as are some of us. For some of us today that might mean wealth, prestige, influence or a whole host of other things. For a religious professional that would include a religious position, a spiritual title, institutional authority and likely quite the reputation as a religious professional) A first step in dying to oneself is foregoing all the obvious things that exalt us over our fellow men.
…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
(Our individual testimony must be one of uncompromising justification in Christ. Anything or anyone who mixes the Law with Grace must be marked, refuted and rejected. There can be no ecumenical compromises with those who fail or pretend to share our love for the gospel itself) Another opportunity to die to self and embrace the hatred of those who call us narrow minded and bigoted.
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
(This becomes our primary message for anyone professing the name of Christ. That the road to intimacy with Father is filled with difficulty but well worth it in the end as our influence upon others will prove over time) This is where our Father grants us opportunities to embrace our sufferings instead of running from them. This becomes the primary test to see whether we really can be trusted in the heat of battle or whether we will quit when the going gets rough.
…in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
(…not heaven, but resurrection power to share Christ with the unsaved and equip the saints) God will only share His power with those who are DEAD serious about putting and keeping Him first in their life.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
(An ongoing attitude of humility regardless of how our Father chooses to use us. A continual ongoing walk always discovering a deeper revelation of Christ and never arriving this side of heaven)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:7-14]
(Paul’s eyes are on the prize- He sees everything in Christ, for Christ is his very Life.)
When He has brought you here, you will be prepared for whatever He has in store for you.
-continued in part 3