Chapter 5: A Prepared Life
TO recap, because we are all to be Priests before God, with Jesus Himself as the Head of His Church, the gatherings will need to reflect this Truth. With no spiritual apartheid, every member of the Body of Christ will be free to offer to the rest of God’s People the Life with which Jesus is filling them. In God’s most fruitful Work, this will not include a spiritual equivalent of “Bob Barker” or “Donahue” directing traffic and controlling.
As a couple of Church historians have remarked regarding the church that Jesus has started:
“The fellowship was an organism rather than an organization. The members had a common experience. They were fused. They were baptized into one Spirit. They ate a community meal, all partaking together of one loaf, and all together drinking of one cup…. There was no rigid system. ‘Custom’ laid no heavy hand on anyone. Routine and sacred order had not yet come. There was a large scope for spontaneity and personal initiative. Persons and gifts counted for everything. Procedure was fluid and not yet standardized…. The fellowship was more like a family group than like the church, as we call it. Everything was unique, and nothing repeatable. No leader dominated the group gatherings. The body met as a community of the Spirit; and, as Paul said, ‘where the Spirit is, there is Liberty’— not bondage or routine.”
“The one single characteristic of apostolic worship and life was truly its spontaneity. The resurrected Christ was simply free to be Himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in His Church! In His Body He freely moved and had His Being — again in marked contrast to what we shall see develop in the ensuing centuries.”
One hundred years ago, another had written of the fluidity of the Christianity of the Bible, the Church that Jesus began. He wrote, “The gift and guidance of the freely-moving Holy Spirit was the only valid, original Church order.”
Now, all of this is well and good. Yet even before any gathering of God’s Saints might be considered, we should address a preliminary issue. If this issue I’m about to mention is not in order, anything we might say about letting Jesus Himself, in all of His Glory and Wisdom, direct the gathering, will be relegated to the imaginary and emotional. There is a prerequisite for knowing how to walk with Christ and letting Him reign in a meeting of the Elect. Ready? The first question must be this:
Who are you? To whom does your life belong, really? (Probably your family, co-workers, and your checkbook stubs would confirm your appraisal of yourself?) Because the Kingdom is “neither here nor there, but within you,” it is of no use whatsoever (in fact it will be rather dangerous!) to have a “different kind of meeting” to replace the old…unless your own personal life reflects a current response to the current Lordship of Jesus.
If you are not walking in Fellowship with, and under the Government of, the Holy Spirit continually as a way of life, then don’t get excited about a chance to have some “loose format.” That is not the issue at all! What I am attempting to share with you has everything to do with reality in the inner man, and destroying everything that stands in the way of that, and nothing to do with “informality” in gatherings. The “meetings” will take care of themselves when a Body of Believers are dedicated to living radically and obediently, by Faith, for Jesus 24-hours-a-day, and they are “compacted together” in His way. Start by dealing a death blow to selfishness, fear, laziness, gluttony, materialism, job or family or entertainment idolatry, legalism, boastfulness, shyness, talkativeness, gossip, religious pride, and the rest of the assortment of sins that come between ourselves and our Father. Any change in “meeting format” is a bad gimmick if the reality “within you” is not present. Start there!
And then, when the Church meets together, and you’ve come with a prepared life to the gathering of His People, you will come with your heart already toward God. Be mentally fruitful and prayerfully desirous of giving God honor all day long, and your part as a responsible brother or sister in a meeting will be a cinch. Lay down your life in humility and honesty, being sensitive to others’ needs. All of a sudden, God’s Word takes on meaning when it says, “Consider how you might spur one another on to love and good works.” This will not be just THEORY for a life that is truly prepared in Christ Jesus!
When you do come together as the people of God, don’t just wander in like you’re going bowling or something. As in all circumstances of your day, have your life so hidden in Christ that you are keenly aware of all that is at stake in the Spirit in the lives of those that are at the gathering of the Saints. Be vigilant! If two or three are gathered in His Name and “there He is in their midst,” then the reigning King and Creator of the universe is in the room! Of course, we are always in His Presence if we are walking in fellowship with Him. Yet there is something special, according to Jesus, when His Body is gathered in His Name.
Sometimes in a gathering we may have ten minutes of total silence. (Though this is rare for us, even in Heaven it can happen — Rev.8:1.) If this were to happen, unplanned, where you are, how would you feel? If you KNEW Jesus was sitting in your midst, you would not be uncomfortable in the least. Nor would you be concerned for “what the visitors thought.” That would be Jesus’ concern. For you (as long as it wasn’t due to empty hearts), it would simply be some precious time with your Lord. It’s okay to sit at His feet, as Mary did! Slow down, Martha! Yet, if you were not inclined to recognize the Presence of Jesus when “two or three are gathered in His Name,” you would likely be bored or nervous or judgmental. If you did Know that the Creator of the galaxies was sitting in your room, that ten minutes of silence would be tremendous!
Here’s what I’m saying: come with your life and your heart toward God and prayerfully desirous of giving God honor. Be bent on laying down your life for Him and others. Be humble, honest, and sensitive to others’ needs. And maintain an awe of God Almighty, in gatherings of the Saints and anywhere you are!
As your heart is prepared, so also should your mind be prepared. But not in the way the world does such things….
28 There are particular gifts that God has given to different members of the Body of Christ that manifest themselves in different ways. We’ll talk more about this in the chapter on leadership, and elsewhere along the way. Back
29 Matthew 23:5-15. Back
30 Rufus M. Jones; Root Out of Dry Ground, Schmitt. See also Acts, God; and with varying degrees of usefulness: The Pilgrim Church, Broadbent; The Torch of the Testimony, Kennedy; The Spreading Flame, Bruce; The Early Church, Frend; The Rise of Christianity, Frend; Letter to Diognetus, second-century writing; The Early Christians, (Die ersten Christen nach dem Tode der Apostel), Arnold; Church History, Shelley; The Early Church, Chadwick; Church Adrift, Matthew; Thy Kingdom Come, Baxter; Nicolaitanism — the Rise and Growth of Clergy, Grant; The New Testament World in Pictures, Stephens. Back
31 Kirchenrecht, Vol.1, Sohm. Back
32 Apostolic Foundations and Apostolic Patterns. Back
33 Hebrews 10:24-25. Back