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THE CHURCH
IN THIS CITY

What Will Bring Unity
To Jesus' Disciples?



By
Richard E. Bieber




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Copyright

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Table Of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1: This City

Chapter 2: Watchmen of Zion

Chapter 3: One Voice in This City

Chapter 4: After the Noise

Chapter 5: Costly, Yet Free

Chapter 6: Our Work Or His?

Chapter 7: A Holy Nation

Chapter 8: Coming Together Where It Counts

Chapter 9: An Essential Lesson

Chapter 10: Romans 14

Chapter 11: Who Are the Elders?

Chapter 12: Free Men

Chapter 13: Reliable




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Chapter 1: This City

The city where we live may be a sprawling metropolitan area with millions of souls speeding along its freeways and subway tubes. Or it may be a valley tucked away in a mountain chain far from the throbbing crowds. But even this valley or this deserted railroad junction, or this lonely fishing cove where we make our home is part of a city in the sense that it fits into a system in which vast numbers of human beings are tied together by common concerns, common fears, prejudices and desires. We turn on the T.V. and hear the weather for our city. We pick up a newspaper and read about the men and women who govern our city. We freeze together if the power fails.

Yet followers of Jesus in this city manifest no unity. The Republicans in our city know each other. The Democrats fit in and work together. The business community, labor groups, musicians, revolutionaries, and even garden enthusiasts are aware of each other in their common bond. But those who claim to be branches on a single Vine live in a hundred different worlds.

There are those who consider this normal. They point to the corruption that seems to set in wherever the church in any given area is structurally unified. Better that believers should be scattered and weak than formed into some ecumenical monster. Looking back over the history of the church or even observing the activity of any large mainline denomination one cannot argue with those who view appeals for unity with a skeptical eye. When the Kingdom of God is turned into an enterprise that bears more resemblance to General Motors than to the apostolic community, it is hardly the Kingdom, even though it uses the name of Jesus in its literature and calls itself a church. And this can happen even to churches that confine themselves to a single geo- graphical area. Money, power, numbers, buildings, broadcasts, telecasts, and large quantities of incoming mail can quickly corrupt a fellowship of believers that began as something heavenly.

And yet there is every indication that the time has come for the church in our city, wherever that city is, to come into a unity which is quite different from any unity we have known or imagined in the past. Believers across the earth are hearing the call of the Spirit to “come out” of all those things which have, up to now, divided them from brothers and sisters. We are being caused to see as unclean areas of our “religious” life which we heretofore regarded as holy. Unclean because they have been dominated by a smugness and a self-righteousness which have estranged us in our very hearts from men and women who are meant to be flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone in the Body of the Lord. Just as truly as a husband’s prayers are hindered by his lack of love for his wife, the prayers of the church are hindered by this un- willingness in our hearts to fit in with those who are fellow heirs with us in the coming glory.

An organism is now being brought forth in each of our cities which pays little attention to the religious organizations of which we are all a part. While we continue to fulfill our responsibilities in our local assemblies, we know that we also have a responsibility to come together before the throne of God with all our brothers and sisters in this city where God has put us and give him true worship. We hear the Spirit warning us that the walls we have raised between us must come down. We see the harvest waiting for a church that is whole and clean and harmonious to come and reap. It will not be reaped until the saints in our city are fitting in with each other in the common work. Beneath all this is the evidence, appearing daily, that those saints who refuse to fit in will be left behind to be absorbed perhaps in a “church” also emerging, which is headed by the anti-Christ.

There is no time left to speculate about these things as if they belonged to the future, We are involved whether we like it or not in the present judgment, cleansing, and quickening of the church in this city.




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Chapter 2: Watchmen of Zion

Upon your walls, 0 Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
-Isaiah 62

A Church Made Ready

The redemptive work that needs to be done on earth at this hour is not going to be accomplished by individual heroes. It is going to be done by the Body. The need is not for one or two flaming prophets, but for a living, burning church. A church that is truly a city set on a hill, truly a habitation of God. A church where the glory of God is so bright, the atmosphere so charged with His presence, that it literally draws into its midst the poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind.

We've been praying for all kinds of goodies for our private ministries, But when it comes to the church, the Body of Christ, we've been satisfied with far too little, If we have a good crowd, if there's a warm feeling and the singing goes well, we are content that the church is in good shape. Yet, time and time again, we leave the assembly only to be met by lepers we cannot heal and blind and to whom we can give no sight, troubled souls we cannot seem to quiet with God's peace, seekers who are unable to find their way through our words to God. This is not just an individual problem. This is a corporate problem, a sign that something is missing in the Body. The fact that we come away from fellowship to become victims of habits and fears and vanities that have defeated us countless times before is a symptom of disease in the Body itself.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

How are we going to reconcile this picture of splendor, this sanctified, clean, holy people with the church as we know it and function in it? The Spirit is calling for a church at this hour that is not this spotted, wrinkled, mediocre thing we've been accustomed to being. The Spirit is calling for a church that is holy and without blemish, that functions as a healthy Body and really manifests the nature of God. The kind of church we considered satisfactory in the past just is not satisfactory now. The club atmosphere, the superficial piety, the unbelief, vanity, lack of commitment that we considered normal in the past will satisfy neither our God nor the need of the hour. If we cannot have a church that manifests Jesus Christ in its behavior, touches heaven in its worship, literally burns with God's love, let's admit that we are better off with nothing than with this spiritless mediocrity that has filled our past years.

The Lord Has To Do It

It is impossible for us to transform ourselves into a church where God is truly present. If we are to be a church where people stepping into the assembly know that they've come into the courts of heaven, Jesus himself has to bring this about. We can have meetings and committees and retreats and wonderful intentions. But until Jesus himself comes into our midst and turns our darkness to light, we are still a wedding feast without wine. "On this rock I will build my church." Only the Lord himself can build, sanctify, cleanse, or send forth his Spirit upon the church.

And he will, provided there are some people who really desire these things. Jesus did not turn the water into wine until Mary came asking. Nor did he heal until he saw some desire for healing. When he picked out the man at the pool of Bethesda he did not heal until he first asked, "Do you want to be healed?" As long as we are satisfied to bumble on, simply not bothered enough to cry out to God for more than this, this is exactly what we're going to have and nothing more.

Thank God, however, that voices are starting to be raised to heaven at this hour, pleading, begging, pounding on the door, demanding, pestering, holding God to his promise, refusing to be still, until God establishes Zion and makes her a praise in the earth; until her vindication goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch.

Upon your walls, 0 Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise on the earth.

The Call For Watchmen

To those reading these words who are satisfied with things as they are in the church of Jesus Christ there is very little to say, except, sleep on! If you really believe that the Body of Christ as you see it and fit into it is satisfactory to God and sufficient for the work that needs to be done, good luck to you. But to those who are dissatisfied, who know that what we now are, what we are now accomplishing, the life we now offer to men in the name of Christ is not enough, comes the call to be watchmen. The need is for watchmen, male and female, to put the Lord in remembrance, to take no rest and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes her a praise in the earth.

The need is for watchmen with vision. People who see beyond their own narrow little program to the church that is in the mind and heart of Jesus himself, the church the Lord will have before the marriage supper can possibly begin.

We have to have the vision to see a church that shines with the splendor of God. Not the splendor of magnificent buildings or fine robes or eloquence or riches or political power, but the splendor of Jesus Christ reflected in the faces and the voices and daily living of his followers. The splendor of saints literally being changed from one degree of glory to another by the Spirit of the Lord.

We need the vision to see a church that is pure. Not merely pure in doctrine. Not pure in what we think to be the New Testament pattern, but pure in heart. Like a pure wife whose heart undividedly belongs to her husband. Like a wife who loves her husband more than herself. A church where the believers never rave about what a wonderful community they have, but only about Jesus.

We need the vision to see a church that is clothed in righteous deeds. “It was granted her to be clothed with fine linen bright and pure. For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” A church where the lives of the saints truly match their message, where the conversation, the handling of money, the imagination, the moral life is Christ-like.

Such a vision is too big to be confined to our own little fellowship or our side of town or even our city or nation or culture. This church embraces Chinese disciples, Russian disciples, African disciples, Latino disciples.

The need is for watchmen, who having received the vision, are persistent in praying for its fulfillment. Very little can be accomplished by those who are excited today and asleep tomorrow. Watchmen, (not sightseers), who stay awake, take no rest and give God no rest until he establishes Zion and makes her a praise in the earth. In season and out of season, summer and winter, good weather and bad.

We are being called to be persistent in our private prayers, persistent in our daily living, persistent in corporate worship, per- sistent in corporate ministry. Pounding on heaven’s door now while the opposition is light so that we may continue to be persistent when it starts getting heavy.

“Oh, but it’s not my nature to be persistent.” Bless your heart, neither was it Peter’s nature to be persistent. But he learned. And so will you.

The need is for watchmen who are always expectant. They’re not just pounding on heaven’s door to make a racket. They expect that door to open. They know it will open. "Lord God, we will take no rest nor will we give you rest until you establish Zion and make her a praise in the earth, until you bring the vision to pass."

Death in the Body comes from our lack of expectancy, which is often hidden under marvelous prayers and radiant smiles and wonderful utterances of praise. But God knows very well that we are not expecting the beautiful things we’re asking for. When Mary came to Jesus asking for wine for the wedding feast, she expected results. “Whatever he tells you to do, do it,” she said to the servants, in spite of a rather unclear answer from her son. And the Canaanite woman expected healing for her daughter, in spite of the unfriendly reception she got from Jesus and the disciples. She knew he would do it!

Nothing pleases our Lord more than people who come to him just knowing that he will indeed give them life. He loves to be pestered by people who hang on to him and refuse to let go of him until he blesses. And there is nothing he waits to hear more eagerly these days than the prayers of those who plead with him to establish Zion and make her a praise in the earth.

The call is for the watchmen to take their places on the walls of Zion and lift up their eyes until they see the vision of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband, and who will take no rest and give God no rest until the vision comes to pass.




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Chapter 3: One Voice in This City

I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. - John 17

The Congregation

It is generally agreed that when the Spirit of the Lord broods over his people on this planet, he does not recognize the walls that we raise between this group of disciples and that. He sees his church as one. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Moreover it is obvious that it would be utterly presumptuous for a particular Body of believers to point to itself and say, “We are the church, and we alone.”

Yet, up to now, the only place where we could see what this one church on earth is really like was in the congregation, the local assembly of believers. The congregation is the basic unit. It is like the family into which a child is born. Just as surely as a newborn child, if left to itself dies; and just as surely as an adult marooned on a rock in the middle of the ocean loses his grip on reality as soon as hope of some human relationship is gone, so the solitary believer without brothers and sisters to function with talk to, pray with, love and be loved by, soon dies spiritually.

The congregation is the workshop where God forms and molds and hammers and bends the saints into the likeness of his Son. The congregation is the armory where believers are equipped and sent forth to do battle with the evil one and to spread the good news that Jesus is Lord. Each of us is attached to some congregation where we are responsible to carry our share of the corporate work God has given us. To pray for each other, comfort each other, exhort and encourage each other. The congregation is our home, our base of operation. We thank God that he has set us in the midst of these brothers and sisters.

The City

But as the Lord looks down upon the city, (or village, or country- side), where we live, and sees it as a place that needs to hear his word -- sees it as another Sodom or Gomorrah or Nineveh or Jerusalem -- he also sees his church in this place as one. The Lord sees not so many congregations with so many members each. He sees his church, his Body in our city. If the metropolitan area or rural valley where we live and work is really going to hear the gospel, the sound of the gospel will have to go forth from the church in this place. Not from a certain dynamic congregation over here or a certain forceful preacher over there, but from the Body which the Spirit of God has raised up and unified in the city where we dwell. Until there is such a Body and until it actually has such unity, until every division of flesh, self, pride, fear, doctrine, bigotry has been removed, and the church in our city is one, there will be no clear witness to the death, resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ in this place.

Observe the situation as it exists in every metropolitan area in this land. Hundreds of congregations of believers that, regardless of the lip service they pay to the universal church, actually exist as churches unto themselves. They all claim to serve the same Jesus. Yet this congregation goes this way and that congregation goes that way. Their paths never come together. Their hands never join in common work. They experience no fellowship. And each group excuses itself by pointing to the differences. “What do we have in common with those noisy holy rollers?” Or, “It feels like the North Pole when those gloom and doom super disciples come into the meeting!” Or, “Those people are too institutional!” So the evil one has things pretty much his way. Congregations of believers, each doing its own thing. Often highly critical of each other, suspicious of each other, or openly competing with each other. And we aren’t even ashamed before God! It doesn’t even trouble us.

God does not measure the church in our city by the kinds of crowds that come to fellowship. God measures the church in our city by the kind of witness that goes forth. And on that basis there are few places indeed that can describe the church in their city in any other way than sick.

The church in our city is sick because it is satisfied with things as they are. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” We seem to be satisfied if our particular congregation prospers even though hundreds of flocks across the town are blighted. Can we believe that Jesus is satisfied? We are satisfied to go on our way as if everything is fine in spite of the fact that there is almost no unity between black believers and white believers in our town. We’re satisfied to enjoy our meetings and Bible studies in spite of the fact that there is almost no witness to Jesus Christ out there on those streets. We seem to be satisfied even though healings and other signs of the Kingdom are few and far between.

If it is really the Holy Spirit who descends on our meetings it would seem reasonable to expect him to move hearts to see those things the way our Lord sees them. Would it not seem likely that he would make us dissatisfied with things as they are? Is it not almost a certainty that the Holy Spirit would trouble us until we repent of the pride, the self—righteousness, envy, competition in us which have worked against the purposes of God in our city?

It is the conviction of the writer that the time has come when the Spirit of God is forcing assemblies of believers to decide whether they will fit in with the rest of the church in their city to get the job done, or whether they will go their own way and rot. Nor is it a matter of certain “apostles” coming in from Los Angeles, New York or Hong Kong to pull the church in Cleveland together. It is rather a matter of believers in every congregation in Cleveland answering the voice of the Spirit of God as he calls them to wake up, open their eyes, put away childish things and start doing what needs doing at this hour.

The Vision

God is giving his people in every city on earth at this hour a vision of the unity around the cross of his Son we must have, We need to see that vision. Look beyond your own spiritual life. Look beyond your own fellowship. And see the church that God is bringing together in your city and every other city on earth. The world will believe that Jesus was God—sent when it sees unity in his church in your city. When it sees believers letting go of their favorite doctrines, putting their fleshly loyalties behind them, renouncing their bigotry and coming together around the cross of Jesus Christ.

Picture saints from every part of town, every doctrinal position, every race and tongue, every economic level, every alley and lane made one at the wounded side of the Lamb. This must come to pass before your city can be told with any authority that Jesus is the Christ.

Picture brothers and sisters weeping in repentance for their hardness of heart toward each other, coming together in the name of Jesus and getting things right, forgiving each other, loving each other, taking off their masks and laying aside their grudges.

We need to pray for the vision’s fulfillment and expect an answer. Our Lord prayed, “that they all may be one.” Now we join our prayer to his before the Father. For the fulfillment of the vision is directly tied to the prayers of God’s people. The vision will not be fulfilled until we are dissatisfied enough with things as they are to start pounding on the Father’s door for unity in his church in our city.

“0 God, bring your people together. Father God, break down the walls we have raised and can’t seem to dismantle! 0 Spirit, gather the saints to Calvary. Deal with those things in us that are blocking unity with brothers and sisters!”

We need to fit into the vision in our daily life. Once we have seen the vision of one church in our city, we can no longer be innocent about working only for our own group. Many things that seemed right and good in the past will be seen as sin, because they ignore other brothers and sisters. Our conversation about believers on the other side of town, the conclusions we jump to concerning their motives, our hesitancy to join them in spreading the word... all this will begin to change as we fit into the vision God has given us.

And as we all fit into the vision, the sound of the Shepherd’s voice will begin to be heard from his Body in our city as never before. This city will hear Jesus speaking through his church, his one church... his living church. And this will be one more sign that the hour is late and that the Lord is coming soon.




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Chapter 4: After the Noise

Two Stages

The embarrassing question is sometimes asked, “If it’s really the Holy Spirit who inspires all these groups around the city, why is there so little unity? So little concern for each other? So few kind words?” If it is the one Holy Spirit of God at work in us, are we not going to be drawn together in his love? Isn’t he going to bring us into harmony within our fellowships and across the town?

The power of the Holy Spirit was obviously moving in the church at Corinth. People were getting healed. Miracles were almost commonplace. Supernatural utterance was breaking out in their meetings with great force. Yet this very church was divided into factions, torn apart by strife, polluted by believers living immoral lives. The result was that, while the power of the Spirit of God was indeed there, the ministry which the Spirit gave that church was not getting done. The energy of God pouring into that fellowship was being dissipated by the uncrucified human ego. They were making a lot of noise, but they weren’t bearing much fruit.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul doesn’t deny that the Spirit is moving among them. In fact he thanks God for the gifts of the Spirit they have. But Paul makes clear that for all these things the Corinthian church is in a carnal state.

“For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like ordinary men?”

Until that church in Corinth comes into genuine unity with divisions healed and strife brought to an end, the redemptive work that church was created to accomplish will not be done. The believers at Corinth have to be brought from the stage where they are noisy spiritual children to the point where they are solid, steadfast, unified, Spirit—led men and women of God.

Contrast with this the picture that emerges when you read Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. In this letter are no references to miracles or prophetic utterances or gifts of discernment. Yet this letter is obviously addressed, not to children but to men.

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you.... “

The walls of division have come down. The childish ways have been put aside. Here is a Body of saints which has come into the unity of Jesus Christ so that the power of God in their midst is able to bear fruit and get things done.

When we read Corinthians and then Ephesians, it is like looking at two stages. The first is childhood, noisy and weak. The second is adulthood, much stronger, but considerably more quiet. These two stages appear many times in scripture. When Peter first meets Jesus and until Calvary, he makes lots of noise but shows very little real strength. After the resurrection Peter begins to quiet down, but displays a strength he never had before.

When the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision came together there was a noise, a rattling. They formed bodies but still had no life. Ezekiel prophesied a second time, this time to the wind. Now the only sound that could be heard, if any, was the rushing of the Spirit into these lifeless bodies. And they lived, stood upon their feet, a great army. Or when Elijah fled to Mount Horeb to escape Jezebel and have things out with God, there was noise that was doubtless an echo of the noise within his own soul. A tremendous wind tore the mountains and broke rocks to pieces. But God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake. But God was not in the earthquake. There was a roaring fire. But God was not in the fire. Then came the voice of a gentle stillness. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle, for he knew that this was God.

We have in our fellowships these days a certain amount of noise. Praise God for it! Praise God when a newborn infant begins to cry. Praise God for the shouts of joy that rise from the lips of a man who has been healed or from a woman who has found the Lord or been filled with the Holy Spirit. Praise God even when the joyful noise of his children becomes a bit excessive or disorderly. How much better this than the death that was there before! But the power that is needed for the work God has given us to do is not in the noise we make. It is in the unity that comes over the Body when we really begin to submit to the Holy Spirit, And it is that unity that the Spirit is calling for at this hour.

“...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by the craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.”

Unity

Each of us needs to understand that unity in the Body begins with himself. Not with that brother over there or this sister over here or those slobs who never fit in, but with me. Am I an agent of unity in the Body of Christ or am I an agent of division? Where is my heart when it comes to unity in the Body? Where is my tongue? Do I bring peace to brothers and sisters, or does my raging, disquieted, glory—hungry spirit leave a trail of strife everywhere I go? Do I draw near to brothers and sisters in love, or do I remain aloof from all except those from whom I want something?

The Spirit of the Lord is calling us to practice unity in the local Assembly. These people with whom we are in closest contact are the most likely to annoy us, irritate us, disappoint, slight, hurt or misunderstand us. But now we are to have the mind of Christ toward them. Every one of them. We are to do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than ourselves. If my brother doesn’t live this way, before I murmur against him in my heart, or talk about him or rebuke him to his face; what about me? What about my attitude toward him? Is he really in my prayers? God set us in the family of the local congregation to teach us to forgive. How can we tell the world with any authority about the forgiveness of Jesus Christ on the cross if we are loaded with hard thoughts toward brothers and sisters? What healing will flood our fellowships when we yield to the urging of the Spirit to forgive our brothers and really be one!

We are being called to practice unity with brothers and sisters across the city. The church, praise God, does not begin and end with our fellowship. If our only concern is with our own fellowship and perhaps a few others that belong to our chain, then it is very likely that we are caught up in a religious kingdom of our own rather than the kingdom of God. Do I see believers on the other side of town as brothers, or as “half-brothers?” Do I really weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice, or is there a secret tinge of envy in my heart toward them? The Spirit is becoming exacting with us when he finds attitudes in our hearts toward other fellowships. Or when he finds us raising walls, and sowing seeds of mistrust. Or when he uncovers jealousy or sees us despising them in our hearts. If there is a problem with brothers on the south side of town, let’s solve it. If there is a misunderstanding, let’s get it right. If there is a need to be reconciled, let’s do it. There is only one Body in our city and it extends far beyond our own little circle.

We are to practice unity with brothers and sisters across the earth. Believers in Macedonia sent help to believers in Judea. When we hear about needs in Cleveland or Nairobi or Santiago our natural tendency is to ignore them. “Nan, we have enough problems around here!” But if we’re listening to the Spirit, he wipes away the miles and tells us, “Send them help; they are your brothers.” This is going to be happening more and more as the age draws to a close. Brothers and sisters in China need our prayers; and we need theirs. Brothers and sisters in Bolivia may need some material help. And we, for our own good as well as theirs, need to fit in with them.

There has not been a time since the Day of Pentecost when the power of the Spirit was more evident in the church than it is now. But for that power to accomplish what it is being sent to do, the saints of God must be in unity. If we want him to, the Spirit of the Lord will show us what this means for each of us.




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Chapter 5: Costly, Yet Free

It’s easy enough for us to put our arms around each other and sing, “We Are One In The Spirit,” or to sit in our fellowships and pretend that we have unity with the saints around the world. But when we begin spending time with each other, as we are bound to do if we’re going to get on with the job of spreading the gospel, when we start having some real contact with saints in other parts of town, and when we begin to bring our homes into the dimension of the kingdom of God, we quickly discover that unity with brothers and sisters is much easier to sing about and talk about than it is to live.

The Price

How can you live in unity with a professing believer who’s forever trying to push you around? How can you work in unity with a brother who always tries to make you carry the heavy end while he carries the light end? How can you have unity with this superspiritual sister who is constantly giving you that pained look as if she just took another x-ray of your soul, and found cancer? How can you have unity with a brother who always manages to get a headache at the last minute? Or this sister who endlessly complains? Or this brother who is mercilessly critical? Or that “walking Bible,” who has all the answers? Or Calamity Jane who wants to send you on an ambulance run every third day? When you have to live at close quarters with brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, it isn’t exactly Paradise. To live in harmony with brothers and sisters is a very costly thing, as our Lord makes clear in the following passage:

A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.....

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, (plural), that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, (singular), that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

Those men around Jesus weren’t as subtle as we are. We would never think of coming out in the open and having a dispute about which of us is the greatest. We just spend ninety percent of our waking hours trying to prove which of us is the greatest. Our disharmony, strife, cynicism, and suspicion of others, our ingratitude and our sullen moods are all evidence of how much of this is going on in our hearts. The advice our Lord gave these men is just as urgently needed by us. To live in unity with brothers and sisters near and far is going to cost us three things ---three things which presumably went down with us into the waters of our baptism and should never have surfaced again, but which are in glaring evidence every day of our lives.

To live in harmony with brothers and sisters is going to cost us our ego.

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves.

Instead of gunning for the top of the pile, or striving to stay on top, (if that’s where we think we are), we now settle joyfully for the bottom. If I’m on the bottom of the pile and walk up to someone after fellowship and say, “Hello, my name is Fred,” and get the Sphinx response...“Who do you think you are?” how can I be crushed? I’m already at the bottom. If I’ve really chosen the lowest room and offer five people rides homes, and they’re all going out for coffee with others, my joy in the Lord is still truly unshaken. If nobody appreciates my testimony or notices my accomplishments, I’m still together because, praise God, Jesus is with me down here in the lowest room.

If we are not willing to pay the price of really losing our ego day-in-and-day-out, if we’re afraid to be the youngest, the littlest, the lowest in the actual knocks and wounds of living, then we really aren’t serious about living in harmony with one another in Jesus Christ.

To live in unity with brothers and sisters is going to cost us our convenience.

For which is the greater, one who sits at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.

And one who serves never has anything at his own convenience. He’s always on call. His plans are always being interrupted. He can be roused in the middle of the night; torn away from the dinner table. His shoes have just been kicked off in preparation for a rest when the phone rings and he has to get into his shoes and go. Of course, Jesus calls the shots. He tells us when to put on our shoes. He makes clear which of five simultaneous calls we are to respond to. And he tells us when to sit still and rest even if ten people are paging us. But when he calls we cannot say, “Not tonight, Lord, I’m too tired.” “Not this week, Lord, I have a cold.”

The Christian who somehow manages never to go out of his way nor to allow any disruptions in his plans is hardly likely to taste unity in the Body or harmony in his home. In our fellowships there is often an unspoken desire to keep things shallow, so that we won’t have to be inconvenienced; to stay a certain distance from those people with problems: getting involved with them will be just too disrupting. But convenience is for Gentile kings and middle class vegetables. Serving the Lord with gladness in the Body means learning to live a life of interruption, learning to constantly be going out of your way with no one keeping track of all our heroic self-denial or appreciating our service but the Lord himself. It means spending time doing things for brothers and sisters who never even say thanks, and still to go on rejoicing.

To live in unity with brothers and sisters is going to cost us our heart.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have (all of) you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail; and when you are turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

We do not strengthen our brothers and sisters by merely quoting scriptures and giving them hug. It takes a heart that goes out of itself and really starts to care. A heart that weeps, prays, pleads, encourages. A heart that remembers when every one else forgets. Jesus put his heart into praying for Peter. And Peter is to put his heart into strengthening his brethren. And we are to put our hearts into doing the same. How can our hearts be open to God and closed to each other? How can our hearts be open to Jesus, yet cool to brothers in Germantown or Hamtramck?

Why are we afraid to put our hearts into caring for our brothers? Are we afraid our heart might get broken? What about our Master’s broken heart? If we insist on hanging on to our little hearts and protecting them from all bumps and scratches we shall never taste unity in the Body.

A Price Already Paid

Unity in the Body is going to be costly, so costly that not one of us could live this life if it depended on us. Praise God that the power to pay the price and walk this blessed road is imparted to us as a gift from the Lord. Notice that the entire passage we’ve been looking at in Luke 22, with its high demands, revolves around the sustaining presence of Jesus.

“I am among you as one who serves...I appoint you a kingdom... I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail...”

This changes everything. For it means that costly as the life of unity may be, it comes to us free.

“I am the way. I enable you to do these difficult things. Come and get under the yoke with me and I will teach you from within your own heart. Just as surely as I am your salvation, just as surely as I am your life, I am also your unity with brothers and sisters. Let go of your ego and take hold of me. Let go of your compulsive need for convenience, and take hold of me. Let your heart move out upon the stormy waters and rely on me, and I will make you one with each other.”

Unity in the Body of Christ comes by the same hand that made us part of the Body in the first place. We cannot bring it about. Only Jesus can bring it about--and he will. Just as surely as we partake of the one loaf of his body and drink of the one cup which is his blood, Jesus himself will give us each the power to be as the youngest, to live as one who serves. He will enable us to put our hearts into strengthening our brothers and sisters, so that we can get on with the work God has given us to do.




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Chapter 6: Our Work Or His?

There is more to following Jesus than getting saved, joining a church, and living a “good clean Christian life” until the trumpet blows. The call to follow Jesus is always a call to work.

“Go work in my vineyard...Here, trade with this money until I return...Lift up your eyes and see the fields ready for harvesting... I will make you fishers of men.”

In man’s order we have “religion” where the work is done by missionaries and preachers while the rest of us provide a few painless dollars. In God’s order the work is done by the entire Body. There are no professionals. Everybody works. Everybody gives. Everybody prays. Everybody rejoices as the harvest comes in.

But as we begin to catch on to the truth that we all share in the actual work of proclaiming the gospel and gathering men into the kingdom, another danger arises: the danger that we get involved with a work indeed, but a work which is not our Lord’s at all. We may be busy with our work, excited about the progress we’ve been making and planning for even greater things when suddenly the Lord is at the door.

“Let’s see what you’ve been doing. “Of’ course, Lord. Look at all the members we got for our church. Look at the reputation I’ve built up among the saints. Look at the sick I healed. Look at the signs I performed. Look at all the misguided believers I straightened out with my pure doctrine.“

And he will answer;

“But where are the men and women of God I sent you to bring to birth? And look at the condition of the church in this city! While you were busy building up your fellowship and your reputation, the church in your city was floundering. While you were busy correcting all the saints on their shoddy doctrines, their hearts were crying out for encouragement. Your door was being stormed by desperate souls looking for me, and you went on building your own kingdom.“

We need to make sure that the work in which we are engaged as fellowships of believers is really his work. Are we harvesting men for the kingdom or for our own cause? Are we edifying the church, or enriching our own club?

Jesus told Peter to let down his net. The net came up full beginning to break. Notice that Peter beckoned to his partners in the other boat to come and help. Peter did not insist that the fish were his since they came up in his net. He knew that he had no claim on those fish. Peter didn’t draw those fish into his net. The power that drew the fish into Peter’s net was not magic. Nor was it Jesus’ “charisma.” Nor was it the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, so that he can make those fish do anything he wants them to.

The Power That Draws

The power that drew the fish into Peter’s net was the same power that drew people to Jesus, caused the bread to multiply in Jesus’ hands, made the water solidify under Jesus’ feet that stormy night on Galilee. Jesus was moving toward a goal that was going to change the destiny of this planet and everything on it. Although Jesus wasn’t there yet, the heat of this baptism of fire which was soon to consume him was already moving out upon his body and mind. Jesus knew well why demons shouted his name, why those Greeks came looking for him at his last passover, why children sang his praises. They were being drawn to him by the power of his coming crucifixion. Somehow, by the Father’s mercy, these people, and even the winds and waves and rocks and trees, were being made to know that Jesus’ cross was their only hope.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, (on the cross), will draw all men to myself.”

What was it that attracted the multitudes to Jesus to hear the word of God and be healed, but the power of the cross that was already burning in his heart? What drew that woman to the house of Simon the Pharisee to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair? It was the power of the cross which her tormented conscience could already see resting upon him in all its weight. What made Zacchaeus climb the tree to get a look at him or drew that tortured demon-bound man out of the tombs to cry to Jesus, or guided those mothers to bring their little ones to Jesus to have him put his hands on them? It was as if somehow they could already see the cleansing blood and were drawn by its power.

When people who have even an ounce of integrity left in them see the Lamb of God laying down his life to atone for their sins, when they see holy, divine, self-emptying love doing the ultimate this love can do: dying....they cannot help but be drawn. At Calvary they stood at a distance, but the memory of that thing was something they could never again erase from their minds. It drew them.

You wonder why the ministry of the apostolic believers was so effective in those early years after Pentecost? The answer is simple: they relied on nothing but the word of the cross. Read the sermons in Acts. Every one of them revolves around the cross. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost:

“This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up.

Or Peter’s sermon after healing the lame man:

“But you denied the holy and righteous one and asked for a murderer to be granted to you and killed the author of life whom God raised from the dead.”

This relentless testimony to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the healing and the forgiveness that flowed from it drew men like a magnet, not into some “church” but into the kingdom of God, the real church.

Paul ministered on the same basis:

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.....

When I came to you brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words of wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling, and my speech and my message were not, in plausible words of wis- dom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

To this day people wearing every conceivable front are inwardly beside themselves trying to figure out what to do with this burden of guilt that weighs on them. They know that the gimmicks they try for relief never work. But when they see Jesus, not as the greatest man who ever lived, nor as the prophet of all prophets, but as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, they come.

If we draw men into our net by any other name or any other power than by Jesus Christ and him crucified, we are doing our own work. And even if we coat our ministries with Christian jargon, quote the Bible, say prayers and pretend that we’re busy saving souls, these people haven’t been drawn to Jesus! They have been drawn to us. They start looking to us for things that only Jesus can give and soon they’re disillusioned. When someone else’s net comes up with a beautiful load, we’re jealous. When souls that came into our net decide to leave our boat and go to another, we’re angry. And when the Master comes to try our work by fire it all goes up in smoke.

Only if we draw men into our net by the power of the cross of Jesus are we doing his work.. .or those who come into our net by the power of the cross haven’t come to us at all. They’ve come to him, We have no claim on. them. They are his exactly as we are his. And they will serve him even as we serve him. And they will serve Jesus wherever Jesus chooses to have them serve him. They may come into our net today. Six months from today they may be serving Jesus in Windsor, Atlanta, Dallas, Shanghai, or New York, praise God. They may come into our net today. A year from today they may be working on the other side of town bearing a hundred times more fruit than we, praise God! Then we are drawing men and women into our net by the power of the cross, and our brother’s net a mile away comes up five times heavier than ours, we rejoice with him without a tinge of envy. For the work is the Lord’s and the glory is his, and the only thing that matters is that human souls are drawn to him and see him as he is.

Can we honestly say that in the place where God has put us to work we have been relying on the power of Jesus Christ and him crucified? That we are determined to know nothing else? To add nothing to the cross If it is Jesus only and him crucified, then we are going to be working in harmony with all who love him, patient with those who consider us doctrinally unsound, compassionate toward those who intentional1y twist what they see or hear us do. We will go on working, for it is not our work. We do not have to defend it. It is his work and it will be done and it will bear fruit.

May God help us remember that the power to draw people into the kingdom has nothing to do with how well we can speak or how fine we look or whether we have a heavy reputation. The power to draw men to - the kingdom is in Jesus and him crucified.

“I will draw all men to myself. Let down your net. And remember, - the work is not yours, but mine. And you will see things happen you never dreamed of.”




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Chapter 7: A Holy Nation

But as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a Lamb without blemish or spot.

As we follow Peter through the gospel narratives, we find that holiness was something he had difficulty recognizing. It almost had to hit him on the head before he knew he was standing on holy ground. Peter didn’t see Jesus as holy until the net came up loaded, with fish. Then Peter fell to his knees. On the Mount of Transfiguration, even though he saw his Lord’s face shine as the sun and his clothing giving off an earthly light, Peter was his old talkative self until the Father spoke.

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Then Peter fell on his face. And the reason Peter had such a hard time recognizing holiness was because he himself was so unholy, so full of himself.

But by the time Peter wrote his epistle, he was a changed man. A sense of the awesome holiness of God breathes through the epistles of Peter.

As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

Everything God touches and everything God claims for his own is holy.

Recognizing Holy Ground

If you want to discover the reason for the pitiful difference between the apostolic church and Christendom today, don’t waste time comparing their organization with ours or noting the difference in our ways of worship or researching whether they owned buildings or rented them. The difference was that those people had a healthy respect for God’s holiness and we don’t. They trembled at God’s word. They bowed their necks before God’s glory, while we keep ours stiff.

Where the church loses its sense of the holy, it also loses its vision of God, and its authority. We can chase around all we like looking for power, but God’s power is not safe with men and women who don’t have enough sense to take off their shoes when they stand on holy ground. In the apostolic church the door was wide open to all kinds of troubled sin-stained souls. The dregs of society kept pouring in wherever the word of God was proclaimed, and every one rejoiced. Nobody was turned away. Everybody was welcomed. But once a man rose up and entered the door of the kingdom and put on that new robe, then he either brought his life into conformity to the will of God or he was thrown out.

Ananias and Sapphira did what seemed a minor thing. They lied. But they lied to the Holy Spirit as people who had already entered the kingdom. And they died on the spot. Or the man in I Corinthians 5 who had a thing going with his stepmother....This wasn’t too unusual in a place like Corinth. Had he been coming to the assembly as a seeker he would have been welcome. Come and seek, never mind what goes on at home. But this man was a believer. He knew the truth. And he had the audacity to go right on living that way and to come into the fellowship praising God. So Paul says,

“Deliver this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

....But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation....

Becoming A Holy People

When God looks down upon the believers in our city does he see a holy nation? Are we living as a people whom God has touched? Are these bodies temples of the Holy Spirit? The words that come out of our mouths, the thoughts we think, the imaginings of our minds....is our life lived out in God’s light, opened wide and unashamed?

Some of us are quick to say,

“I’m not ashamed of anything that I’m doing. God understands exactly where I’m coming from.”

Easy words. They sound so frank and sincere. But when God starts sending the beam of his light straight into certain things in your life that you know are displeasing to him, and you stand there without blinking an eyelash, this does not prove that you’re frank and sincere.

It merely proves that you’re too full of yourself to recognize the holy. God is showing you things that must be brought to the cross and buried under the blood, and you don't even have enough sense to fall on your face!

Instead, you’re going to do favors for God. You’re going to build God a little temple in your living room. And God answers,

“Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine,” says the Lord. “But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."

Where are the people who tremble at God‘s word? Where are the people who fall on their faces when God speaks? Where are the people who confess the truth when God puts his finger right on it? Wherever you find such people you are looking at God’s holy nation. And where this trembling at God’s word is lacking, we can call ourselves by every wonderful name in the Bible but we have no part or lot in God’ s kingdom.

You think you’re holy because you don’t drink, smoke, or play cards? Or because you’ve separated yourself from the “institutional church?” Or because the only transportation you own is a bicycle? Or because you’ve seen a vision or speak in tongues? God is calling for a holiness which is never measured by how you compare with other people, a holiness that comes directly from him.

To be holy begins with the fear of God. How can Jesus come and say to us, “Rise, have no fear,” until we first learn with Peter, James, and John to fall on our faces....

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up and heard the seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” he didn’t pull out his pocket camera and start taking pictures. He melted with dread!.....”Woe is me, for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips..."

“Oh, but I don’t fear God, I love God.” My friend, you don’t know the first thing about loving God until you learn to fear him. May the Spirit of God show us who it is that we’re dealing with when we draw near to Jesus Christ.

Lord, make me to know mine end,
And the measure of my days, what it is,
That I may know how frail I am.
And what I am beneath thy blazing glory.

To be holy is to listen to Jesus.

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

If I really tremble at his word, how can I go on living in the sin he told me to forsake? How can I prolong that lie? How can I keep nursing hatred for those brothers? How can I continue bad-mouthing every fellowship in town but my own? Are we listening to what our Lord is saying, or are we still busy running around trying to get people to listen to us?

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear (listen) will live. “

Those who stop their mouths and begin conforming their lives to what Jesus says. If I’m not sure whether it is Jesus speaking to me, then I wait until I am sure. But once I know it’s the Lord’s voice, then I shut down my own and listen and obey.

To be holy is to have a sincere, God-fearing love for brothers and sisters.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart.”

When you walk into a house that really holds God in awe, there you will find love. People who really respect each other, care about each other, help each other. And when you come to a city where the saints really hold God in awe, there you will find love among the brethren that runs deep and causes the Body to work in harmony.

To be holy is to be real. A holy man or woman doesn’t put holiness into his voice or parade it with a yard-long face, or make people feel that they have to hide the beer when he comes into the room. If you’re holy, you’re out in the light. Nobody has to be afraid that you have some spiritual ace hidden in your pocket. Nobody has to be afraid of what scheme you’ve got going now. You’re walking in the fear of God, so you’re free from the fear of man. You can be exactly what you are.

“You shall be holy for I am holy,” says the Lord to his church in this city. Not one or two holy souls to add a little flavor of holiness to the Body in this place. But a holy people. A holy nation. And God is able to make us what he calls us to be, if we will answer his call with hearts that tremble at his word.




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Chapter 8: Coming Together Where It Counts

Every so often friends are shocked by the news that a husband and wife who were regarded by everyone as the ideal couple are throwing in the towel. Why should these two beautiful people who were always so devoted to each other be getting a divorce? What none of the friends suspected was that this man and woman were having it rough for years. Countless times they sat down and talked about their problem and promised each other that they were going to do everything in their power to make it work. And they tried. They took a vacation in Florida, which they could ill afford. Later, they started entertaining friends a great deal. As finances improved they joined a ski club. They bought a boat.

And always they seemed to be so in love, so devoted to each other. But when their friends went home and they were alone, there was nothing to talk about, They had nothing to share but their common hell. So the resentment in each heart continued to build. The distance between them grew, until they were a universe apart while they lived in the same house and ate at the same table.

You ask how this could happen to two people who were once in love. When they saw their marriage starting to totter, why didn’t they try to save it? Did they not come together again and again in a genuine effort to be one? Yes, they came together on their trip to Florida. They came together in beautiful harmony when they had to put on the show of a successful marriage for their friends. They skied together and boated together. They tried terribly hard at making love, but they never came together where it counts.

They never came together at the meal table, for instance with their children, blessings from God, at their sides. No opening of the heart. No listening. No thoughtfulness. Or when the children were asleep and they were alone, they never learned to talk or to listen or even to share the silence of a peaceful room. When a crisis hit the family, they never learned to stand and face it with arms around each other. Instead they let the crisis divide them, each blaming the other for the money problems, the loss of the job, the mess their child got into.

If a man and woman are going to make it in a marriage, they have to learn to come into unity with each other in the places that really count. Not up on the surface for their friends to see, but down deep.

Not just with their bodies, but with their wills, their hearts. If they learn to have unity where it counts, the rest of the marriage will take care of itself.

In exactly the same way brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ have a tendency to put a great effort into achieving superficial unity. We try to stage it, to engineer it. We know that unity is lacking both in our local assemblies and across the city. So, like the couple who think a Florida vacation is going to heal their marriage, we try naive cures. Coffee hours. More entertaining. Recreation. “Maybe if we get to know each other better.....” To bring the city together we start holding meetings for all the leaders around town, working perhaps toward a city-wide campaign. “Maybe if we bring in a well known evangelist and fill Convention Hall for two weeks, the church in our city will start coming together.” We can try all kinds of things to bring the Body into unity and in the end we find ourselves like that couple, farther apart than ever.

We have to learn to come together where it counts. There are three places where brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ need to come together, If we will draw near to each other in these three places, we will soon have heaven-sent unity in our assemblies and across our town.

We need to come together before the throne of God. The first thing we’re conscious of when we come into the presence of the living God is not ourselves, nor our differences, nor our similarities, but God himself. We see our heavenly Father. We see his love. We see the Lamb seated at his right hand. We see the blood, the seven torches burning before the throne, glory. Seeing these things, what can we do but worship? We lose ourselves in the worship of the true and living God. And as we praise him, the Spirit of God lifts us out of ourselves and brings us together in the mind of Christ. When Mary, carrying the Christ in her body, and Elizabeth, carrying John the Baptist came together, they worshipped! When the disciples met the resurrected Lord on the appointed mountain, they worshipped!

When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father, David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples imagine vain things?”’

Worship was the normal atmosphere of the apostolic community. And surely if we want to come before the throne together, God will help us find our way. And the trivial things that have absorbed our minds will vanish as we stand in awe before glory that never fades.

We need to come together where the walls between us still stand. Why is that wall still standing? Can I honestly say that it’s all the fault of the man or woman on the other side of the wall?

“He put up the wall, man, and he’s going to have to take it

down!”

When is the last time I went to that wall and called the name of the person on the other side? When is the last time I wrote that person a letter? Or held out my hand? If I’m so sure that I am not the slightest bit at fault, what’s the harm in going to that wall and making some attempt at reconciliation? And if I know that I am wrong, why am I not admitting it and doing what I can to make it right? God is not nearly so interested in declaring who’s right and who’s wrong as he is in seeing the wall come down. The main thing is to get rid of the wall. This will never happen so long as we go on pretending that it isn’t there and carry on our lives as far from the wall as possible. God help us to admit where the walls are. To repent before him, and go make it right in whatever way he shows us. A handshake. A word of concern. A letter. A plea for forgiveness. Sometimes it will take two or three “knock-down-and-drag-out” air-clearing conversations.

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Every time we tear down a wall, the Spirit of God rushes in with life.

Will anyone dispute that there is a wall between black and white believers in our city? Are we relieved of the responsibility for that wall by hanging with our own kind as if it doesn’t exist? Or the wall between the charismatics and the non-charismatics? Or the wall between the Catholic and Protestant followers of’ Jesus? Or the wall between Jew and Gentile, suburban and urban, young and old? There will never be unity in the Body in this city until we come together at these walls and by God’s grace, tear them down, painful and humiliating as this may be to us.

We need to come together out in the harvest. Unity meetings with other believers in the Hilton may be pleasant, but in the long run they are about as useless as they are painless. When will we see the day when brothers and sisters from all sides of our city start fishing together in the main shopping districts or on the waterfront, or on skid row. How quickly our narrow minds will crack open to God’s light when we all start combing the streets and lanes and highways and hedges together. When sisters in a particular neighborhood start pitching in together to minister to women who need transportation to the hospital to visit a sick child, or a ride to the welfare office, or somebody to talk to when they’re coming off a drunk, or some groceries to put in their empty refrigerator, more happens to bring healing to the Body than in a dozen meetings. If we have to miss a few Bible studies to take care of these things, then we have to miss. If we spend all our time going to Bible studies and no time ministering to others there will be no life in us and no unity in the Body.

There is a place in the harvest for every single one of us. God will show us where it is, And when we get out there we will always find saints we never knew before. We will see God’s hand at work in them too and we will have to praise him.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

And we can be sure that the laborers God sends will be one. They will not be competing. They won’t be at each other’s throats. Their very unity will be a sign to the world of the reality of our Christ.

May God help us to come together where it counts. Saved by the death of his Son, washed in the blood of the Lamb, may we come together before God’s throne and worship. May we come together where the walls still stand and tear them down. And may we stick like a brother to every disciple of Jesus we meet out there in the harvest, no matter where he comes from.




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Chapter 9: An Essential Lesson

And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

As we find ourselves involved with the drawing together of the church in our city we share with brothers and sisters a brighter hope than we have ever known. Our Lord is gathering, cleansing, healing, and purifying his church before our eyes. The bride is being made ready for her husband. The banquet hour is near. But even while this hope burns brightly, another kind of hope seeks to mix itself with the glory in our hearts. Our vanity goes to work, with some help of the Father of Lies, and we begin to build a vision in our minds of great things we will accomplish for the Lord.

A Mixed Vision

Perhaps the numbers in our fellowship are increasing. So we joyfully start setting our sights on even greater numbers. Subtly numbers become extremely important to us. Brothers and sisters in other parts of town are impressed with the ministry that is being exercised by our assembly. Subtly we begin considering ways in which we can package and sell our ministry in far-flung places. We pray for a man in a convalescent home. To our amazement he gets up and starts walking around for the first time in years. Immediately we’re planning ways to turn the whole convalescent home into a miracle revival center. Before we know it we have a vision of the kingdom which is not God-given. God is not the center of it. We are.....

Our hearts are not in the Lord anymore, but in our plan, our project.

Then the Lord, in his mercy, comes and touches our ambitious kingdom and, like that fig tree with leaves but no fruit, it withers. We get up one morning and go to the window of our palace to look out over our expanding kingdom, and it’s gone. Nothing left but ashes. And just that suddenly our faith is gone too. “Where is God? Why did he let this happen? All the work I did for him has gone down the drain!”......For him?

Instead of faith there is nothing in our hearts but depression. The thing we were living for is in ashes. What’s the use of going on? But is the Lord in ashes? Has God’s kingdom fallen apart? God’s plans aren’t in ruins. Just our plans. And praise God they are. Because we had made an idol out of them.

It’s not that God is against our working and building and doing things, as if God wanted us to do nothing but sit around and meditate all day long and never take any initiative, never be aggressive. Not at all. There are those who seem to take pride in the fact that they are slobs. They are forever daydreaming and call it “waiting on the Lord.” The Lord is going to say to these people, “Show me what you did with your talent." And some of them won’t even be able to pull their minds together enough to remember where they buried it.

Of course God wants us to work, build, go out looking for the lost sheep, heal the sick, and cast out demons.

“Go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that the Master’s house may be filled.”

As long as we make sure that we don’t let any of these things subtly steal our hearts away from Jesus. if these things become my satisfaction instead of Jesus himself, if I start rejoicing that spirits are subject to me instead of the fact that my name is written in heaven, and I belong to God, then God’ s power is no longer safe in my hands.

Reality

We need to learn---and no matter how talented or successful we may think we are, we are of little use to God until we do learn---that Jesus is all we have; that Jesus is all we need; that Jesus alone is our satisfaction.

We need to learn that Jesus is all we have. Thank God for the building where our assembly comes together. But that building could be gone by next week. Thank God for our husbands, wives, children, brothers and sisters. But one day they will be taken from us, or we from them. Thank God for our skills, our jobs, our houses and cars. But these things are all temporary. When our Lord was ministering, he had dis­ciples, a faithful mother, popularity. But Jesus knew that these things gave him no security. Soon they would be gone and he would be left alone.

“The hour is coming, indeed it has come when you will be scattered every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”

The Father was all he had, and he knew it and rejoiced. Knowing that the Father was all he had, Jesus was free. He didn’t have to soften his message to keep his disciples from leaving.

When Joshua looked across the Jordan to the land that still had to be conquered and occupied, he was nervous. Moses was, gone. The people were like sheep. Joshua felt quite alone, until the Lord spoke to him.

“Have I not commanded you, be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go?”

-....“I am with you what else do you need?”

No prophet was ever exposed to more ridicule, hate, danger, and isolation than Jeremiah. And Jeremiah had no wife to talk to while she cooked his supper or rubbed his back. But Jeremiah was refreshed again and again by one companion no one could take from him,... “the word of the Lord.” Again and again we read how “the word of the Lord” came to Jeremiah. Seldom was that word easy. But always it was life. Jeremiah had a scribe, Baruch, who wrote the prophecies down. Baruch was becoming depressed over how badly things were going.

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, 0 Baruch: You said, ‘Woe is me! for the Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.’ Thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up---that is, the whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not; for, behold I am bringing evil upon all flesh, says the Lord; but I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”’

“You will have your life. You will have me. What more do you want?”

So with us, Jesus, the word of God, is all we have. God is breaking down what he built, plucking up what he planted. Nothing is stable, nothing certain, but the Lord Jesus himself. We have him. And though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, we still have Jesus, praise his name.

We need to learn that Jesus is all you need. We say this repeatedly, but we are not living it. If we really believed that Jesus is all we need, how free from anxiety our lives would be! What peace would rule our hearts as we walk through this vale of confusion. I don’t need the approval of man. I don’t need guarantees of tomorrow. I need him.

“If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.”

Do we really believe that we have a Lord who takes care of us as we abide in him and do what he tells us? Do we believe that we have a heavenly Father who gives us more than we could ask or think as we walk with his Son? If, while I walk with Jesus, I need bread, I'll have bread. If I need a friend, I’ll have a friend. If I need brothers and sisters, rest, wisdom, guidance for what faces me tomorrow, I’ll have it. On the other hand, if I have to turn away from Jesus in order to go out and obtain that thing I think I need, I am deceived. If I have to turn from my Lord to get it I don’t need it. Whatever I really need will surely be given to me as I walk with my Lord and do things his way.

During the last twenty years of his life, Watchman Nee was allowed almost no contact with his wife, or with brothers and sisters in the faith. He had hardly enough clothing or blankets to keep him alive. His health was broken. But Nee had one companion in that prison cell who not only sustained him, but turned his suffering into fruit for the kingdom in countless lives across this planet: Jesus. God knows that most of us are not yet ready to go through what Brother Nee endured. But even in our minor discomfort and isolation the same is true.

“In the world you have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”.... “and I am with you.”

We need to learn that Jesus alone is our satisfaction. We tasted this satisfaction at our rebirth, or the day the Spirit fell upon us, or at certain special moments in the past. Suddenly we knew that in spite of our wretched lives and all the confusion in and around us, everything was all right. There was that perfect inward peace. A direct taste of God’s presence. It was almost as though that one encounter with the Lord was enough to keep us going for forty years. We felt as if nothing vile could ever touch us again. A thousand years would not be enough time to praise God adequately for that moment. But after a while the satisfaction began to fade, and we were back in the old rat race. And we said, “Why couldn’t it last? Why couldn’t it go on forever?” And the answer is that it can last. It is meant indeed to go on forever. But not by trying to cling to the feelings of some blessed moments in the past. You don’t keep joy in a marriage by endlessly looking at old movies of your honeymoon. So Jesus satisfied you yesterday. That satisfaction you felt yesterday won’t satisfy you today. No matter how hard you try to re­member it, or imitate it, or duplicate it, it’s gone where yesterday went---into oblivion. But if you will take your eyes off yesterday’s satisfaction and look at Jesus who is alive nd here today, he will satisfy you today. Jesus is our satisfaction as we gather in his name, Jesus is our peace as we break bread together in remembrance of his death. Jesus is our Joy as we step forth into each new day he gives us. His presence with us makes the sky bluer, every meal a royal banquet, every day a holiday.

“I will not leave you desolate
I will come to you....

Because I live
You will live also....”

He who has the Son has life, not Just bare existence, but continuous satisfaction. May God help us to gather our hearts in from all the side roads where they have been wandering, looking for satisfaction where there is none. May the Lord Jesus deliver us from all distractions, that we may fix our hearts anew on him where alone true Joy is to be found. Hourly refreshed by his peace, may we go forth and gladly and faith­fully do his will.




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Chapter 10: Romans 14

Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.... Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

As long as we think of the church of Jesus Christ as a religious society that makes only minor demands of us, we don’t have too many problems. We join, pay our dues, go to meetings, help recruit new members. And we have that comfortable feeling inside that we belong to something good. But when the church of Jesus Christ becomes for us the Kingdom of God, when we find ourselves set by God in a Body of saints that is called to fulfill his redemptive purpose on this earth, when we start getting a vision of the work that is to be accomplished and begin to realize that we don’t belong to ourselves any more, but to the Body, and that our lives are now at the complete disposal of the Head, who is Jesus....this can be frightening.

Believers near and far are beginning to receive from the Spirit of God a sense of what the church of Jesus Christ really is, what it means that God has set them in the Body. When we see this vision of the church, every one of us experiences fear. “You mean I have to function with these people?” “Lord, why can’t I just keep going the way I have been? Why can’t I withdraw from all this and just commune with you here in the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses?”

Escape Routes

Because we’re afraid to fit in, we’re dreaming up all kinds of escape routes. Some of us are trying to back away from the church and keep our relationship with brothers and sisters as superficial as possible. We’ll go to meetings. We’ll share. We’ll pray. We’ll give everybody a nice hug. But we’re going to remain in charge of our lives.

“Don’t be trying to shove responsibility on me....Don’t expect me to commit myself to anything definite...Don’t ask me to give up my Monday evenings...And don’t think I’m going to account to anybody for anything!”

And with that we dig our spurs into good old Silver and gallop off into the desert where spiritual death waits for us with open arms.

On the other hand, some of us dread having to make any serious decisions alone before God. We want somebody to take this burden of freedom from our shoulders. We want somebody to tell us what to do and when to do it. So we escape the call of Jesus to fit into his Body as responsible men and women by submitting to the arbitrary authority of a man or a small group of men who have usurped the place of Christ. They tell us where to go and what to do. They relieve us of our guilt by digging every vile thing from our troubled consciences. They lay down the rules. For a while we think we've found the answer in this tightly run community. We think we've learned how to submit to authority. We're all in step together like a mighty army, and when we praise God it sounds like a roar of Niagara Falls.

But one day it hits us: Are these things we’re being told to do really the word of Christ? Are these rules truly from heaven? And suddenly we discover that this is not Jesus Christ. This is the tyranny of man. Man’s doctrine. Man’s ingenuity. Man’s thirst for power. This isn’t spiritual life, this is death! This is the kingdom of the anti-Christ.

But perhaps the most popular escape from fitting into the Body is the old treadmill where we spend fifty percent of our time judging other believers and the other fifty percent defending ourselves against their judgments of us. You cannot spend all your time judging others. Be­cause when you judge others, people who have the same critical spirit come out of the woodwork and start judging you. And the person who judges others cannot stand to be judged. He cannot be wrong. He must be right. He will go to ridiculous extremes to defend himself. Now when you get a whole assembly of people who are going round and round judging others and defending themselves, you have a place where people are very busy and where absolutely nothing redemptive ever gets done. We’re too busy checking everybody’s fruit, investigating everyone’s motives, testing everyone’s sincerity, sowing seeds of doubt and de­fending ourselves. We don’t have any strength left to bring men to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We‘re too busy being right to lead any one to the blood that justifies.

Fitting In

The Spirit of God is calling us to get off that judging treadmill and fit into our place in the Body. He is not calling us to submit to the tyranny of some man or some elite elders or some new set of rules. He is calling us to submit to the Lord of the church who is Jesus himself.

“You call me Teacher and Lord, you are right, for so I am.”

We all agree that Jesus is Lord of the earth, yet we seem to think he’s out to lunch when it comes to ruling his church day by day. We think we have to get in there and take things into our own hands and straighten out everybody else’s life. Or else we think we have to run away from our brothers and sisters before they dominate us to death. But my friend, even before Jesus is Lord over this world, (which he is), Jesus is Lord over his church. And he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to straighten things out, how to cleanse and how to guide. And he is in our midst.

When the firemen arrive at the burning hotel, the fire chief is the boss. And the firemen had better cut the chatter and forget their opinions and quit trying to boss each other around and submit to whatever the chief says.

We’re not back at the station chewing the fat around the coffee urn. We’re at the fire, and the Lord is in charge. This is the hour of Romans 14. There is no time to argue, free lance, or build our own kingdoms. Each of us is called to fit into the Body by submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And this means three specific things that will have to be done among us before we will ever see his power more freely in our ministry to this city.

Let us no more pass judgment on one another in matters of eating, observing days, doctrinal position, etc. Does the man love Jesus Christ? Then he is your brother. Is that woman seeking to follow the Master? She is your sister. That man does not stand or fall before us. He stands or falls before his Master, who is just as able to make him stand as to make us stand. We are not the fire chief, Jesus is. And if we concentrate on the job he gave us to do we’re going to have our hands full. Jesus knows what’s going on with the saints on the other side of the fire. Jesus knows who’s having trouble up on the ladder. And unless he sends us up the ladder we keep on where we are. And if the Lord assigned you to work in partnership with a brother who is mean and ugly, stick with it. That’s just what you need.

We are to decide to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. If a certain exercise of my Christian liberty is confusing some hassled brother, then it’s no longer my liberty, it’s his stumbling block. My eating habit, or my sense of humor, or my small talk...God accepts me with it. That’s fine. But I’m making problems for my brother, and this is inexcusable.

“Lord, show me the things in my daily living that are mis­leading and confusing my brothers. Show me the things I do that are turning off my own children! Show me, Lord, how my concern for myself is driving souls clear away from the door of the kingdom!”

Let us pursue the things that make for peace and mutual up building instead of pursuing things to criticize. What a change comes over a home where a man and woman who have picked at each other for ten years reverse their attitude and, deliberately begin to appreciate each other, accept each other, thank God for each other, honor each other, edify and love each other. And what heavenly things start happening in the church of the Lord when his disciples pursue the things that make for peace and mutual up building.

But what about brothers and sisters who are going off the track? Don’t they have to be rebuked? Of course. But how much more helpful is the correction that we give when the bent of our mind is in harmony with the mind of Christ. When we are pursuing the things that make for peace.

In the church of Jesus Christ that is now emerging there will be order. There will be elders and people with authority. But the people with authority in the Body will not be those with the biggest mouths or the sharpest tongues or the heaviest rap. Rather those who, like Moses, yea like the Lord himself, are truly meek. If our hearts are submissive to Jesus Christ we will know how and when and where to submit to authority in the Body. The elders won’t have to wear badges or arm bands or a special kind of hat.

Meanwhile, let’s learn to submit to Jesus in these areas:

1. Let’s submit to Jesus by no more passing judgment on one another.

2. Let’s submit to Jesus by never putting a stumbling block in the way of a brother.

3. Let’ s submit to Jesus by pursuing what makes for peace and mutual up building.

We will then find ourselves working and living in supernatural harmony and the power of God will anoint our labors as never before.




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Chapter 11: Who Are the Elders?

"An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Twenty centuries later the argument among the disciples continues.

“Which of us is the greatest?" So it's going to be a group of men who will govern the Body of Christ in this city in the name of the Lord. Who are they? Perhaps we are among them. Or, if this is too much to hope for, maybe one of our friends. Wouldn’t it be thrilling if our pastor were one of the elders in this city! I just heard of a man who has arrived in town recently, unknown to almost all the believers. They say he possesses great wisdom. Perhaps he is being brought forth by the Spirit at this time to draw the elders together.”

Speculation of this nature is on the increase in every city. And it is not far removed from the ancient dispute among the apostles. It springs from the same source that caused the believers in Corinth to split into factions around Paul, Cephas and Apollos.

There will indeed be elders in the Body in every city. But it is highly probable that the saints who are at this moment busy speculating as to who the elders are will never have the satisfaction of knowing. The pride and curiosity that cause them to try to trace the rein of power in the Body to certain human hands, or perhaps make them presump­tuous enough to want to reach out and grasp those reins with their own hands are the very things that blind them. They become like the men of Sodom trying to find Lot’ s door, or like Elymas the magician who sank into darkness after exalting himself against the word of God.

Looking back upon apostolic times, men like Peter and Paul and James, the Lord’s brother, stand out as important. Yet at the same time Paul was so unimportant that when he arrived at Rome the Jewish com­munity there hadn’t even heard of him. And we have the impression that Paul never did make a particular hit with the inner councils of the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s importance was visible at the time only in the eyes of God.

We are doubtless in for some surprises on that day when all things are uncovered and we learn of men and women whom church historians have never mentioned who turned the tide and opened the floodgates of life for the church again and again in the name and power of the Lord. So it will be with the elders in city after city as the saints come together in unity. They will be far more visible to God than to men. They will function as elders in the Body. Their counsel will be so wise it will almost inspire fear in the hearts of those who have godly vision. Their word will be anointed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Yet most of the time they will be covered by the hand of God as to be almost invisible as elders in the Body....even to themselves. Very few saints, if any, will know who these men are until the very end.

But certain things will be true of the elders in this church in every city on earth. They will be men and women who seek no glory. Those who are striving to establish their names among believers have obviously disqualified themselves. Godly men are satisfied that their names are written in heaven. They have no need to be recognized on earth.

They will be men and women who do not lust for power. Countless human beings through the history of the church have been content to operate behind the scenes so long as they were able to derive satisfaction from seeing their counsel effecting change through others who received the glory. Doors open and shut at their suggestion. People who thirst for power, who know when to grasp it and how to use it are the prime movers in the kingdom of this world. But not in the church. In the church power-thirsty saints are an obstruction to the Spirit. The genuine anointing of the Spirit will rest on those who have long since laid their power-lust to rest under the blood of the Lamb.

They will be men and women who are self-disciplined. Of course this discipline will be an inner thing. But it will be relentless and intense. We are talking about seasoned men of God who know how subtle self-indulgence can be, and how thoroughly it dulls the mind to the things of God. So they will watch and pray and consistently deny self. They will welcome the power of Christ’s death working in them that his life may flow out to others. Yet while all this is going on within, their outward lives will be so natural and simple and down-to-earth, that no one will ever feel threatened by their “spirituality.”

They will be men and women who have manifested faithfulness and humility in the work God has given them in past years. Men who were diligent even when the results were meager, who put forth their best even when almost no human eye was near to appreciate what they were doing. In season and out of season they were faithful over little. Now God places them over much. And their heads do not turn. They know that they are still working for the same Lord.

Their backgrounds will vary in the extreme. Their number will include Jew and Gentile. And the Jewish elders will vary among them­selves as extremely as the Gentile, It will be obvious to them as they deal with each other that they have nothing in common but Jesus.

The left hand will know what the right hand is doing. To keep them from becoming tempted by pride, the bulk of their ministry will be exercised in the darkness of God. These men will not be conscious of their importance as elders. They will be conscious only of the work placed before them by the needs of the Body, and the necessity of spending themselves to get it done. They will rely on the Spirit of God moment-by-moment, extremely aware of their inadequacy apart from the Master. They Will put stones in places, but they will not see the building as a whole until the Job is done.




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Chapter 12: Free Men

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

There is a word we shall be hearing more and more as the church is being drawn together. It is the word submit. Wives are to submit to their husbands. We are to submit to one another in the fear of God. We are to submit to authority, both in the world and in the Body. We are to bring this spirit of rebellion and lawlessness which is not only abroad in the world, but stirs in our own hearts, into subjection to Jesus by submitting to him and to every authority that stands under him.

In the Kingdom of Heaven there is order. The glorious creatures that stand before the throne gladly submit to the Holy God. The elders gladly fall on their faces and cast their crowns before the ever-living One. Every one standing on that sea of glass freely submits to God. Our Lord submitted to his Father’s will at every point.

“I do only those things which please him. I do nothing of myself.”

And when we are walking in the Spirit, we submit to Jesus exactly as he submits to his Father. We do it with joy and without reservation.

Misguided Submission

But we need to be sure when we submit, that we are really submitting to Jesus. There is a danger that we start making the act of submission itself into a virtue. We can become so busy submitting that we forget to watch who we are submitting to. I am held account- able if I submit to a false prophet. For our Lord warns us to beware of false prophets and explains how we can know them. And I am held accountable if I submit to the yoke of slavery, to legalism.

There are men who are just waiting to get their hands on those who submit indiscriminately to any voice that claims to have authority. Wherever they see an assembly where believers are learning to submit, they’re right there ready to take advantage of the situation. And they are subtle. They have us doing things that seem very very good. They convince us that we have gained so much by submitting to their clever additions to the gospel, that we have advanced far beyond the simple walk with Jesus Christ we once had. But when our walk with Jesus is no longer simple, clear, direct, chances are we’re not walking with Jesus any more. Chances are we have fallen into bondage to a tyrant who dominates us through some form of religious legalism.

Paul brought the gospel to the providence of Galatia. Through him people saw Jesus crucified for their sins. They believed. The Spirit fell upon them and the word was confirmed again and again by miracles working in their midst. A church came into being that bore all the marks of God’s presence. These people were the Body of Christ in Galatia, But when Paul left, men came into those churches who got the people to submit to things that had nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Circumcision. Special days and months and seasons that Paul never told them about. New rules. New disciplines. All these things were added to Jesus Christ., Paul got wind of it and wrote them strong words.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel--­not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

What those false teachers did was very simple: they took the principle of submission which the Galatians understood well, but switched the object. They substituted themselves and their beautiful teachings for Jesus Christ, And while on the surface those churches may have seemed to be thriving more than ever, while the name of Jesus was still being used and the Spirit was still being talked about, the people were back under a yoke of slavery heavier than any they had ever known in the past.

When the principle of submission is detached from Jesus Christ and used by a man or a group of men who presume to stand in Christ’s stead, the results are often very impressive to the natural eye. You walk into the place and you can feel the power. You are staggered by the numbers who have flocked to this thing. And you say to your­self, “Why this movement surely has the blessing of God on it." But as you allow yourself to be drawn in, you discover that you are being asked to submit to what Paul calls "another gospel." You are subtly being brought into bondage to things that Jesus never commanded.

These movements turn out men and women who, are joyful and productive only as long as they can feed on the atmosphere of the cult. Take them out of the cult and make them stand on their own two feet in this real world among these real people and real problems, without getting that periodic spiritual fix and they fall apart. Then it becomes obvious that these people are not the joyful victorious saints they seem to be., Beneath their identical smiles and identical “praise the Lords” they are spiritual robots. Puppets. Jesus Christ does not produce such people.

If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, (the old bondage), behold, the new, (freedom), has come.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

A Time To Submit And A Time To Refuse

But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped into spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage...to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

To know when to submit and when not to submit it may be helpful to keep several things in mind. First, we are bondslaves of Jesus Christ and of no one else. It is true that we have found our freedom through submission, But not indiscriminate submission. Not stupid submission. Not blind, unthinking submission. Submission to him who laid down his life for us, atoned for our sins with his blood and who is our only Lord. We belong to him. Father; mother, wife, husband, children, brothers, sisters, even our own lives are deliberately cast from the throne of our hearts. Jesus alone reigns there. And everyday when we get up, we make sure that Jesus is still alone on that throne. And from that throne Jesus teaches us where to submit and where not to submit. He fits us into the Body. He stirs us in with brothers and sisters who not only comfort us, but often irritate us and misunderstand us. He convicts us when we’re lax and warns us when we are hardening our hearts. Our fitting into the Body is always tied to our relationship with Jesus, our direct, personal living, trusting, obedient relationship with Jesus.

We are to be manipulated by no man and we are to manipulate no man.

Yes, we are under authority in the Body, but authority that conforms to the Spirit of Jesus Christ, And the Spirit of Jesus Christ never violates the human will. If God wanted to disregard our wills, he would not have had to send his Son to the cross. He could have snapped his fingers and turned us into a race of sweet smiling zombies. But that’s not what God is after. He’s after sons and daughters who are free. Even if he has to run the risk of allowing multitudes to look into the face of his Son and deliberately choose hell.

God will not manipulate people. Only Satan does that. And when in our fellowships we allow ourselves to be programmed by those above us in order that we can program those under us... even if we are being programmed to praise God...the thing is false. It is satanic. In the wilderness Satan was trying to program our Lord. Jesus didn’t give an inch. And Satan is trying to program us every day of our lives. If you have a passion for programming, find a computer. And if some man is trying to program you, tell him to get lost.

Finally, we need to remember that our link with God is faith not legalism.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so many things in vain?...if it really is in vain. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?

If I believe in Jesus, I’m going to obey him. I’m going to do what he says. People who say, “I believe,” but never do his will, only think they believe. But if I try to produce works, if I try to do the good things that are required of believers, without having my eyes and heart on Jesus Christ in faith, I end up in the worst kind of bondage. Satan will always send somebody along to tell me what I have to do. And it sounds very correct. But Satan never tells me where the power comes from, never tells me about the cross, And the harder I work at obeying the rules, the more enslaved I become to the rules and to the people that lay them down.

“What must we do to be doing the works of God?” they asked. Jesus. And he answered, and still answers, “Believe in him whom he has sent. Look to me, trust me, walk with me, and I will guide you and give you all the power you need to do the Father’s will, And you will be slaves no more to any man or spirit or doctrine or rule. You will be free men and free women, doing the Father’s will, hastening the coming of my kingdom, fitting in with brothers and sisters, enduring persecution with a joy that will never leave you, in this world or the next.”




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Chapter 13: Reliable

“So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.”

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

If you want a sign that will make the people of God who are now emerging as the church in city after city across the earth, don’t look for what people normally call love. You might say to yourself, “Oh, there is so much love in that place! These people have such compassion for one another!" ....only to discover that beneath the surface there is no love at all. And don’t look for “power X.” There are many displays of spiritual power that do not come from God at all. Exorcists are getting to be a dime a dozen. Don’t be carried away by numbers. The fact that a fellowship is crowded does not necessarily prove that God is there. If you want to see the mark of the emerging church, look for the one thing that distinguished the Son of God in the eyes of the Father.

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. “.

Why was the Father well pleased? Because for the first time since Adam fell there was a human being on earth that God could rely on, a man who said, “Yes,” and it was yes, and “No,” and it was no. Yes, Jesus opened the eyes of the blind and made the lame to walk, fed the multitudes and raised the dead. But the thing that caused the poor and the maimed and the halt and the blind to draw near with their hearts was that they knew this Jesus was on the level. You couldn’t say that about the scribes or the Pharisees or the revolutionaries, or the government officials. Sooner or later the best of them broke down and displayed something false inside. But Jesus’ life and his word were a perfect match. If he said it, he did it. If he promised it, he delivered it.

“Did I not tell you that if you would believe, you would see the power of God?”

And it was so. He raised Lazarus from the dead. If Jesus said he was going up to Jerusalem to die, that’s how it was. If Jesus said he would meet the disciples in Galilee, they could know that when they arrived at the appointed mountain, he would be there. If Jesus pro­mised that the Holy Spirit would come, they might as well stay in Jerusalem as they were told...for it would be exactly as he said.

And whenever we quiet down enough to listen to his voice, we find that Jesus’ words to us are attended by the exact truth of what they say. If Jesus points to his cross and says, “Your sins are forgiven,” immediately the guilt which has tortured our conscience for years falls away- and we have peace. And if Jesus gives us a promise it is fulfilled. Many times we even forget the promise only to wake up months or years later and find ourselves standing right in the middle of its fulfillment.

The Contrast

But what a contrast between this meek man who does what he says and fulfills every promise and the church of this present hour! Some of the most unreliable people on earth are found in the professing Christian church. There is more exaggerating, more twisting of truth, more evading of issues, more excuse making, more sheer pretense in the professing Christian church than almost anywhere else on earth. There are people of considerable integrity who won’t get near the church with a ten-foot pole, because somewhere in the past they had their fill of “Christians.” We promised, but didn’t deliver. We said there would be a change and nothing happened. We expressed con­cern with our mouths, but never backed it with our deeds. We said we would be there and we never showed up. We agreed to take care of it, but it never got done.

If salvation means anything at all it means that we have become like our Lord especially in this respect. How can we say we are born of God and go right on living according to our old deceitful nature.

“He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free."

How can the truth make us free if we don’t live the truth?

Servants As Their Lord

The church which is now emerging, which Christ will soon present to himself in splendor without spot or wrinkle, is formed of a people who, like their master, are reliable. No longer children tossed to and fro and carried about with every kind of doctrine. Their "yes“ is yes and their “no” is no. They are the Body of Christ, the word made flesh. They are real. The fruit they produce is good, and it endures.

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The only ones who enter the kingdom are those whose, “Lord, Lord,” is reliable, This means some specific things that we are inclined to miss. It means, first of all, that we are reliable servants of the Son of God himself, If the Master says, “Come,” we come. If he says, “Go,” we go. If he says, “Do this,” we do it. If he says, “Stop,” we stop. When we get up in the morning we don’t look out the window and see the rain and decide that we’ll stay depressed today. We don’t belong to ourselves. We are servants of a Master who has things for us to do today. Even if we have the sniffles. Even if every one in our household is in a surly mood.

Reliable, not just predictable. There are some people who are very predictable. You know they’re going to stick to their routine even if it snows in July. But when the Master calls them to change their routine, they don’t even blink an eye. They keep right on doing things their way. These people often think of themselves as reliable. But they are not. They are simply in a rut.

We’re going to be reliable with our bodies by continuously presenting them to God as living sacrifices, So that day in and day out our bodies serve the glory of God instead of themselves. These appetites that God planted in our bodies will now be satisfied on God’s schedule and in God’s way.

“Thou openest thine hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing.”

He does. So fornication and all uncleanness, all self-indulgence, gluttony, drunkenness are buried under the blood of the Lamb.

We’re going to be reliable with our money. This means, to begin with, that an assembly of believers lives by faith in the area of money. It lives by the knowledge that if it seeks first the Kingdom of God, the material things it needs to do its work will come. If our assemblies have to resort to telethons, prayer letters, bingo, pledge cards, or arm twisting to finance our grand plan, we’d better junk our plan. It isn’t worth it. Before we appeal for funds we board up our churches and meeting places.

But it must also be stressed that any follower of Jesus Christ who is unfaithful to God in the way he handles his money will never get to first base in his walk with the Lord.

“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches?”

One of the first lessons the disciple needs to learn in his walk with the Lord is to be faithful, disciplined, diligent in the way he slices his paycheck. God will show you where to put it, when you decide to let go of it. But he won’t pry it out of your hand against your will.

We’re going to be reliable with our thoughts. No man can look into our minds and see the weird excursions we take with them. But every time we mentally walk down a path that is unreal, vain, vengeful, adulterous, we open our spirits to the Father of Lies. We weaken ourselves so that we‘re in no shape for the real thinking that has to be done. It’s very hard to think with a sanctified brain in the afternoon when your mind has spent the whole morning rolling around in the dung heap.

We’re going to be reliable with our mouths. Every time Jesus talks about the good tree bringing forth good fruit and the evil tree bringing forth evil fruit, he connects it with the mouth. Your mouth shows what is in your heart. If your mouth lies, your heart lies. If your mouth is vicious, your heart is vicious. If your mouth is vile, your heart is vile. If your mouth is sloppy, your heart is sloppy. And if your mouth is reliable, so is your heart.

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We’re going to be reliable toward each other. In Joseph Bailey’s book The Gospel Blimp the believers form an organization for getting out the gospel. But when sickness hits one of the wives, the Christians are too busy with their gospel blimp to see about that family’s needs. It takes the heathen fun-lovers next door that everyone has been trying to evangelize to come through with a little practical help.

And friend, if you see that a certain brother or sister is being neglected, don’t be coy until the crisis is over and then complain on the phone to twenty people that nobody in the fellowship did anything for Brother Tom. You do something! Round up the help now, while the crisis is on. What you see, you are responsible for. Not someone else.

We're going to be reliable in our walk in the world. When an employer says, “Don’t send me any more of those Christians. They’re unreliable,” that’s not persecution. That’s judgment! God never told us to read our Bibles on company time. God never gave us permission to evangelize when we should be pushing the broom. Nowhere does our Lord excuse us for being late for work because “fellowship went past midnight last night.”

“Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrong­doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals crying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure...." for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

God grant that we may now be clothed with fine linen, and that he may still find us so clothed when the Marriage Supper begins. For the church that will go in with him to the marriage will be the Bride who has made herself ready....she alone.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”




To: Table of CONTENTS

The End