Article by Martin Collison.
I visited the battle of the Little Bighorn last year and it made a great impression upon me as I though about Custer's last stand.
It was impressed upon me during this visit how vitally important it is to get those important strategic decisions right in our own life and indeed within the corporate life of the church, assuming we want the things in place in our lives that Christ wants. This rests in our ability, both individually and corporately, to "see the bigger picture". Sadly, whilst occasionally talking about the bigger picture, the church consistently fails to stay on any course which will actually lead her in the direction of Christ Himself. You see, the single most critical strategic work of the Holy Spirit in these days is the preparation of the Bride of Christ and for the church to come into the fullness of the stature of Christ. This is the bigger picture. The desire of Jesus to have a pure and spotless Bride is His overriding and all-consuming passion. It super-cedes every other work and process. Everything we do should be geared towards this.
The church has utterly lost its direction in this respect. It has become distracted, especially within the Charismatic / Pentecostal streams, by any number of things; chasing after signs and wonders, use of the gifts without the needed character development, an utterly repulsive celebrity culture where certain names are lifted up as being the so-called "movers and shakers" of our time; a generally self-indulgent relationship with God which is based on "getting" from Him. Leaders are "joining" with other churches in an effort to import the "blessing" into their own lives and congregations. They have to keep the bandwagon they have created rolling since they have spent so much time in building it and fashioning it to their design. All distractions. By and large, they have mainly succeeded in creating comfortable little clubs for themselves; exclusive and select. Making wrong strategic choices.
In a vision / prophetic experience last year, I saw a bridegroom (Jesus) waiting at the altar for his bride (the church) to arrive. Time went on and the bridegroom was seen to be looking at his watch. Then I was able to experience the disappointment within the heart of the bridegroom as he became aware that the bride-to-be was not going to come. Indeed, he knew deep within his heart that she was not ready and that more work had to be accomplished in her life. One of the overriding emotions felt by the bridegroom was sadness that His level of commitment to the relationship had not been met by His bride-to-be. More critically, however, was the revelation that the bride-to-be was up to some of her usual tricks again. The bridegroom had hoped in His heart that she had rid herself of these behaviours but now a solemnity struck his spirit deep within. In that moment he knew that the surface commitment of the bride-to-be was simply that. Again, she had promised much through her words whilst her actions, in allowing deeper levels of heart change, had not materialised. Rhetoric, but no consecration.
I was then made acutely aware that the bride-to-be had been prostituting herself in the world. This is what caused the deepest grief to the bridegroom as the prostitution was one primarily in the heart realm; allowing her affections to be consumed by the lusts of this world. False idols had crowded in on the life of the bride-to-be. Babylon has well and truly entered the heart of the church and the worst thing is how many churches simply dance on in their delusion of being acceptable in the eyes of God in these days. You see, the bridegroom, Jesus, IS ready. He has played His part in the covenant. He has taken up His cross. He has been through the wilderness processes. He has allowed the deeper works to be accomplished in His life. He has been refined. His own motives, desires and will have been purged and stripped away. He has been to the Cross. The church talks in childish terms of having resurrection life and pursues healings, signs and wonders without any mature level of consecration. The church lives in avoidance of all the deeper works of maturity. Then, I saw from Gods perspective as it were, looking down on the church as it now is going about its meetings and its good works, with its clubs and activities, its worship bands and leaders; having a form of Godliness but making no real progress to the Promised Land. Distracted in immaturity and chasing after wrong objectives. As they leave the gathered congregations and meetings, where He has heard yet more words and more boasts being made, they return to lives prostituted in the world. He has become familiar with the patterns. But some are sincere, yet trapped within a pseudo-culture.
Becoming the pure and spotless Bride is the very reason for the existence of the church. It is at the very core of Gods plan; it is the master plan. The demonstration of a fully mature likeness of His very own precious Son in the earth. Sadly, the unprepared state and complete lack of readiness of the Body of Christ at this point in time is reaching critical mass. Indeed, certain groupings within the Body who claim to have their finger on the pulse of what God is doing in these days are actually amongst the furthest away. What appears to be "life", very often is not. Wrong focus, distraction and delusion abounds. It is a counterfeit that many happily accept because it spares the individual the rigours of the intense stripping away that has to be done in order to come anywhere near the readiness and prepared state required. To merely touch on some basic issues, the following come to mind - the breaking of idolatry; the consecration; the purity of heart and motive; the utter reliance on Christ in all things; the in-working of true submission and humility; the death to self. Being lost in the crowd will offer no excuses in the eyes of the Lord when that crowd is so wilfully far from submitting to the perfecting process. The Great Refiner is finding few who are gladly yielding to the refining process. Most live in avoidance of it.
Indeed, many are choosing to play out their lives by surrounding themselves with similarly minded people who have bought into the un-truth that there is no accountability before God in these days. Sadly, they are making wrong strategic decisions about who they align with in this critical hour. Whole systems have been created by them which they have the audacity to label and package as "the church of Jesus Christ". However, they are pursuing the blessings of being saved and not truly working out their salvation with fear and trembling. We are "saints", they say, as they build around a partial revelation concerning our identity in Christ. You see, even in this they speak an unbalanced message. Yes we are saints. Yes we are a royal priesthood. However, this righteousness did not come from us. It came from Christ. Leaders in churches are careful to omit the very words of Jesus concerning what He requires of us; taking up our Cross daily, losing our lives in order to save them. In so doing they have been taken captive by pride and do not even perceive it.
They are so busy living in their pseudo-sainthood, as a pseudo-royal priesthood, that they have lost sight of the deception that has overtaken them. Only in our own death will greater works be done. Even in the whole area of signs and wonders and miracles many "leaders" miss the deeper significance. Raising people from the dead is easy for God. Healing people is easy. Miracles are easy. These are a side order within His ministry; not the main course. I repeat, MANY simply do have the appetite or the stomach for the main course in these days. The teaching is too hard. The level of commitment too great. The consecration too all-consuming. The main course and what it consists of is decided by God. This is why the church continually shuts out anything of the true prophetic and chooses to build their own way. Like the golden calf, they spend time, effort, money and resources on fashioning what will be acceptable to themselves.
Forming the genuine likeness of His Son; THIS is the hard part for Him to achieve. Why? Because of the dying to "self" that is required and because He is rarely given the opportunity to do this work within the hearts and lives of His people. Are we anywhere near willing to die His death? In the end, all fled from Christ in the hour of testing. The teaching was too hard. In the same way, the church today is still on the run. Saying the words, going through the superficial gestures but not laying down its life as a living sacrifice. God looks on as He observes the masquerade of the church; in His infinite power and greatness. He is greater than we can ever comprehend, He is awesome. He created ALL things and by His hands the Universe was made and this day He seeks for the likeness of His Son to be shown forth in the earth, for His Bride to be a reflection of the very image of His Son. We do not even know the fullness of what He is asking from us. We have no awe before Him.
The church as it exists now serves only to cheapen and denigrate the humble, self-sacrificing, meek, pure of heart and utterly submitted nature of Jesus in a shallow pursuit of power for the sake of signs and wonders - a generation of thrill seeking Christians who chase and compete for the "more anointing" in order to advance their lives and ministries. Again, it is a self-centred and not a self-abasing pursuit. Power, power, power.....it becomes repulsive in its imbalance. Who is chasing death? The death of self. The death of worldly desires and ambitions. The death of our idols. The death of pride. Who is preaching death, death ,death ? Who is seeking the anointing and the power to serve, purely for the sake of serving as a means of reflecting of Christ? How many hands will go up in the churches when Christ asks for volunteers to carry a heavy cross; one tailored for our own individual lives and fitted to us?
As a fact, in many churches the Cross has been removed altogether. Why? Because the Cross is an offence to us and it challenges us on the deeper truths. Comfort and ease is the order of the day now. The problem is the little foxes that have been allowed into the church which have eaten at the vine and grown fatter. These have killed our devotion to Christ. They have robbed God of the true followers He seeks and have deprived Jesus of His Bride. There are a multitude of these "little foxes"; the pride of life; the desires of this world; love of money; love of recognition; selfish ambition; fear of man; craving to be popular and acceptable to the world; lack of prayer; lack of knowledge of the word of God....and so on....all played out amid the façade of the harlot church deluding itself that it is already the actual church of Jesus Christ. Many are blissfully unaware and ignorant that any modifications are even needed. In their eyes, all is well in the camp. However, there is a long way to go in terms of readiness within the church. The true state of affairs is that we are all accountable before God.
The day is fast approaching when those who have called themselves "leaders" will be removed. Men and women who have built their own houses and empires ahead of the task they have been commissioned with, namely, allowing themselves to be changed into vessels which God can use in order to prepare His true church. However, God will have His Bride and the day is coming when drastic measures will be taken. Like Custer, presumptuous and unprepared and yet living in a delusion of readiness, the church carries on in its delusion; underestimating the task ahead and what will be required in order to overcome and gain victory. It is too busy believing the lie that it is already victorious and therefore so many believers are going round and round in the same circles, aligning their lives with the wrong teachers and actually drifting away from God, yet entirely unaware of it. In actual fact, not even knowing the true essence of the task ahead and just living a superficial spiritual life. Choosing to believe their own hype. Just like Custer, the church has become its own supreme self-publicist of the worst kind. And yet, God is seeking a response from every individual believer and making excuses before Him regarding deficient leadership will not cut it in His eyes. For, in this day, the Lord is already at work in bringing forth true pastors and leaders who carry His heart and zeal for His true church to come forth. He has prepared His true prophets in the hidden places.
Those who have been through the fire of testing in their own lives and hearts and whose own motives have been purged. This is a work which springs forth now, but MANY do not perceive it and will choose not to. They will continue to stick with what they have made themselves comfortable in because people love comfort. The inferior brand that they have created for themselves is actually what they want. Will they actually let God build? Not likely. However, God is raising up vessels that will speak a true word of death to the apostate-church and it will be marked with a headstone in the spirit realm, just like Custer; "Here fell the pseudo-church". But then, glory to God, the true church will come forth in resurrection power and those that have built on faulty foundations will be shown up for what they are and will be swept aside. The church landscape will be changed. Make no mistake; absolutely everything that can be shaken, will be.
We read in Revelation 19:.5-7 "And a voice came from the throne, saying, Give praise to our God, all you His bond servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great. And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunders, saying, Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.
As Zac Poonen writes;
"Notice it doesn'tt say that the Lord made the bride ready. It says that the bride made herself ready. It is WE who are to make ourselves ready for the coming of the Lord. Many believers know that if we walk in the light as God is in the light the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn.1:7). But that is only one side of the truth. The other side of the truth is that we too must cleanse ourselves. This is how the bride makes herself ready. It is also written in Rev 19:8:
"And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints".
The fine linen spoken of here is her own righteous acts are her garment. She got it by taking the Lords commands to cleanse herself and to purify herself, seriously. She worked out her own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil.2:12). Every time she worked out her salvation with fear and trembling in the power of the Holy Spirit, she put one more stitch, as it were, on her bridal garment. Over a period of years, she wove the whole garment. The deception of Babylon, the mystery of iniquity, the magic spell that Babylon has cast on so many Christians is this: Dont worry. You are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. It doesnt really matter how you live. James clearly warns us that faith without works is dead.
Yet Babylon has prevented believers from taking such warnings seriously. There is a difference between our own righteousness, which are like filthy rags in Gods sight (Isa.64:6). and the righteousness wrought in us in the power of the Holy Spirit as we take up the cross and walk in Jesus footsteps in our daily life. It is the latter which is the bridal garment. When we first come to the Lord all we have as clothing are the filthy rags of our own righteousness and even filthier rags of our sins. But when we are born again, God first of all justifies us - imputing the righteousness of Christ to us (Rom.3:24; 4:5). Then He writes His laws upon our hearts and minds (Heb.8:10), fulfilling the righteousness of the Law within our hearts (Rom.8:4). This results in that righteousness gradually becoming our outward attire, and our outward character becoming Christ-like".
Custer, like the pseudo-church, ultimately found himself found himself on the retreat. Like Custers men, the church is ill equipped, ill fed and poorly prepared. Underestimating the task ahead. On the run and hemmed in. It has hemmed itself in with its own untruths and warped self-publicity, its false teachings, its delusions and distractions. The saddest part is this; it is so deluded it is not even aware of it.