The Foundation Was Right
Peter and John never seemed to be too concerned with “church growth” and yet the results were probably on the order of 20,000 conversions and dozens of new churches (“Lampstands”) in the first ten years. Not bad. What was their emphasis? What is the Foundation that God demands before He unleashes His infinite blessings?
“If a man cleanses himself, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, and holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
“The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me—I have been blameless before Him and have kept myself from sin” (2 Sam. 22:17-25).
God looked down and saw His people gathered continually. He saw them of “one accord.” He saw them as a people of prayer and faith to see the unseen, and surrendered to a life of holiness in His sight…. It was now His Timing and He found that He could afford to bless them by pouring out something that could not be explained by statistics or sociological studies, by demographics or man-made religion.
A trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptation: “God can use a gold cup, a silver cup or even a Dixie cup—but He will NOT use a dirty cup.”
God has largely withheld His awesome presence (1Cor.5:4; 14:25) because of the slackness and compromise, the utter lack of faith and holiness (and the confrontation of those things) in the religious system. Ananias and Sapphira would have loved today’s church. In most churches of our generation Ananias would be way down on the list of people deserving to be executed. In fact, even with much bigger flaws than telling “little white lies,” Ananias would likely be considered as “Elder material.” “After all,” cry the lukewarm and disobedient religionists, “don’t be so judgmental. He’ll grow into it. We’re all human you know. And besides, look at his devotion to Jesus—he sold his property to give to the church!”
Actually, “We’re only human!” is a contradiction of Jesus and the Bible! If we are really sold out to Christ, we are “partakers of the divine nature.” The “fullness of the Deity” is God’s gift to us! (Col. 1:27; 2:9-10; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 2 Peter 1:4). Let us, as Paul and Jesus said, live that way!
Ananias and Sapphira found out that they were without excuse.
If you are a Christian, a disciple, you and all of the selfishness in your heart, the ugly attitudes and thoughts, and all that is not in the nature of God have been and are being dethroned and crucified. There is no other definition in the Word of God for “Christianity” (Luke 14:33; Mt. 13:44; Mk. 10:19-22; Mt. 10:34-39).
Our Father has infinite patience and mercy for the weak and those maimed by the evil one. Jesus’ very purpose for coming here to earth was to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to release the oppressed,” not to “break the bruised reed” ever (2 Peter 3:9; Heb. 12:12-13; Ezek. 34:1-6; Lk. 4:18; Mt. 12:20). We also long to have the “same attitude of Christ Jesus,” to “make ourselves nothing,” “slaves of all,” as wounded healers and wound healers—never “embittering” those God has brought into our lives by judging their motives (Phil. 2:5-8; 2 Cor. 1:3-5; Col. 3:21; 1 Cor. 4:3-5).
There is, however, a VAST difference between falling while craving the right thing and living in compromise and rationalization and lukewarmness (a little hot, a little cold)—that makes Christ sick (Rev. 3:21; 3:1-2). If we live for pleasure in this world, we “become an enemy of God” and are “dead even while we live” (James 4:4; 1 Tim. 5:6).
What I’m saying is this: God’s purpose throughout history has been to gather to Himself a people who have FREELY CHOSEN to follow Him—without rationalization, and without procrastination. He has won our hearts and we follow the Lamb wherever He goes with eagerness, love, sincerity, and humility (Rev.14:4; Mat.10:34-39; Ex. 19:5-6; Heb. 10:26; Titus 2:12-14; 1 Tim. 1:5-7). He’ll bless such as these “100 fold in this present age” and then give them “in the age to come, eternal life” (Heb. 11:6; Mk. 10:29-30).
The people who God can afford to bless will be an obedient, submissive, loving, compassionate people who lift up Christ in His Majesty as the reigning Lord, and realize that not one word of His is up for a vote! To those of us who recognize what the Father has done in Christ, our Jesus will not be just a figurehead King. It means nothing to dress Jesus up in a robe, put a crown on His head, sing songs to Him—and then make all of our own decisions apart from Him. It can’t be!
The Lordship of Christ is the central theme of the entire creation. Biblically (in the reality of the Spirit and the Heart of the Father), the earth revolves around the sun, the solar system revolves around the nucleus of the galaxy, and the entire universe revolves around “The Lamb that was slain!” (Rev. 19:11; 5:9-13). When we get the Truth of His Magnificent Lordship incorporated into our individual lives, then the Gatherings and dealings of the Church, the glorious Bride of Christ, will be restored to Her rightful Inheritance.
There was a time, in the earliest days of this Heavenly Kingdom on earth, when the People of God tasted a little bit of what was and is meant to be. They simply experienced the power of the normal, everyday (and ONLY) Life of God’s Kingdom of Priests! And then, in just a few decades after Pentecost…the leaven of compromise and hypocrisy was tolerated—instead of wept over and removed, as God commands (1Cor.5:1-13; Luke 14:33). The resulting fall from God’s Intention has been tragic. But is there hope? You bet.
It’s coming! Watch! Fall on your knees (that would not be overly dramatic in the least). Gone will be the days of “I have my rights,” “servanthood and forgiveness are not my gifts,” “you just don’t understand my situation,” “my God is bigger than that—He’s a God of Lovvve,” “I’m sure it doesn’t really mean that in the Greek” and…. Instead, we’ll be a people that are “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27). We’ll be a people who aren’t gathering to be INFORMED or ENTERTAINED, but EQUIPPED for the BATTLE with the ugly snake, satan. The message won’t be some philosophy of living, or some behavior modification or accumulation of knowledge.
Rather, we’re becoming by His Grace and Might a “dwelling place for the Living God” by plugging into the power Source that raised Jesus Christ from the dead! (Eph. 2:22; 1:19-20). God is now raising up a People with ever-deepening relationships (though growing by trial!) where we are confessing sins to one another, bearing burdens, being slaves of one another, and sharing great victories over trial and sin—ultimately over death itself. Praise our God! Christ will build on that foundation. The gates of hell itself will not be able to withstand that onslaught! (James 5:16; Gal.6:1-2; Eph.5:21; Heb.10:24; Gal.5:13; 1Cor.12:26; 15:54-57; Mt.16:18).
Here is my humble observation. In the past we have had the misconception that our relationship to the Father could be based on:
•Baptism (without ever really meeting a living Jesus and repenting),
•Knowledge of the Bible,
•Number of hours of “quiet time,”
•Number of Bible studies taught,
•How many times we’ve “waited on the Lord’s table,”
•Whether we belong to the “right church,”
Are these important? You must know that they are hollow and devoid of power without a life surrendered to the Master “heart, soul, mind and strength.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the defense “Well, I’ve been in the ‘Lord’s Church’ 20 years now!” Let me respond with the words of John the Baptist: “God can raise up a ‘member of the church’ out of a rock! You produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” (Luke 3:7-9; Acts 26:20; Luke 6:43; Mat.21:43; 23:37-38).
Brothers and Sisters, how deeply it grieves God to see His people wandering in the wilderness, fussing and fuming and trying desperately to justify mediocrity. The facts are that “by their fruit you will know them.” The Father is calling out to the groaning creation, “What more could I have done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” (Luke 6:44; Is. 5:1-7).
This is an absolute. In many ways it pinpoints the source of the problem: “If a man abides in Me, and I abide in him, he will bear MUCH fruit” (John 15:5). The diagnosis is clear, no matter what else we may postulate—we’re not doing much abiding in Him. Just religion, for the most part. And like the Israelites who wandered the wilderness for so long, we may begin to believe that there is no Promised Land. Maybe God just wants us to hang in there and do good deeds and try to be basically moral. And “go to church,” of course. God’s not looking for much else, other than some steeples, some Bible knowledge and “faithful attendance.” We can all simply pretend that Luke’s record of the Church’s experience of God’s presence in the Book of Acts is a fairy tale. Or, at least we can invent a first-century-only “theology.” We’ll just say that our God reserved all that Power and Love in His Heart for the expression of His Son (the Church) for one generation only.
If you have noticed the importance of this matter, you’ve done well. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1Cor.4:20). Anything else is not His Kingdom at all. It seems that we have rationalized away the verifiable presence of God without Biblical substantiation. In other words, we’ve made what we’ve seen and experienced to be the norm, even the ceiling, of God’s activity amongst men. We have tried (in a rather unconvincing way) to establish a theology that says “God isn’t really involved anymore—He’s just wound us up and sent us off to fight it out.” I can’t buy that anymore, though at one time I did. No more can I speak or bear to hear of a “theology” that is simply an excuse to justify our powerlessness. The real explanation of the poverty of the past generations is far more related to our sin than to which century we happened to be born in.
God took good care of His people while they wandered the wilderness—He fed them and kept them clothed…but they never saw the Promised Land. They lived, and died, outside of the victorious Will of God for their lives.
Brothers and Sisters, our 40 years are up—it’s time to rise up and claim all that God has for us! Together, let’s begin to purge, “to uproot, tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant”—in that order (Jer. 1:10). If we refuse to “Remember the height from which we have fallen, and repent and do the things we did at first,” Christ will “remove our Lampstand.” We’ll go on meeting and singing and praying—but Christ won’t be here, and we won’t truly be called a “Church” from Heaven’s perspective anymore (Rev.1:12, 20; 2:1, 5). Even though there may well be saved folks in this religious organization that meets in a building on Sundays and Wednesdays, we’ll be a religious do-gooders club only (Rev. 2:4-5). That’s not what Jesus died to establish! His Kingdom is clearly and observably from Heaven!
There is no other kind of Christianity or Church than that which is saturated in “the Power of an Indestructible Life.” This Power is that same “exceeding greatness of His Power to us who believe, according to the working of his mighty Power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” The same Divine Energy that rose the body of our Lord—cold and battered beyond recognition—to a glorious new and indestructible Life is that which now lives in us! (Col.1:27; Eph.5:18; Rom.8:9; 2Cor.1:20-22; John 7:37-40; Eph.4:11-13). That’s no small matter! Do you suppose anyone in your family or at your workplace would notice such a thing if it were visibly true in you? You could more easily detonate an Atomic Bomb on a busy street without anyone noticing. No matter how cold and lifeless and battered you are, rejoice that our God specializes in such cases, to the praise of His Glory! Turn to Him, as a person, and tell Him your story. He loves you and longs for you to come to Him that He might show Himself mighty to deliver. Yet remember:
Though God has so much for us, He won’t build on sand. As the precious possession of the Living God, let’s immediately purge the leaven in our lives, and the church (immorality, materialism, job or thing or family worship, slander, drinking, deceit or divisiveness—2Thes. 3:6; Titus 3:10; 1Cor.5:11). If we shrink back, the leaven will destroy us. God has spoken—there will be no exceptions to God’s Word on the matter (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal.6:7-10).
Here is one glimpse of the “Bride Prepared,” “Made Ready” (Rev. 19:7; 21:2; etc.):
“In the last days, the Mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established as Chief among the mountains…all nations will stream into it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord’” (Isa. 2:2-3).
Where is the “arm-twisting evangelism” in this verse? Did you know…you never have to advertise a fire! People just come.
Does all of this seem unlikely, or out of reach? Maybe. But we’re like Sarah. At age 90 she may not have been pregnant—but she was pregnant with promise! With the faith of Abraham, we praise God, and “without wavering” are “fully persuaded” that God is faithful to do what He promises. “Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” (Rom.4:18-21; Heb.11:6; Isa.66:9). Let’s do our part and give our King, Jesus Christ, a Foundation of surrender and purity to build on!