Chapter 2: The Context: LIFE to the FULL!
WHAT does the Church of Christ Jesus, our current part of the Kingdom of God, really need to look like in order to delight her Betrothed? Let’s start with the “Helicopter View” of a daily life together before we touch the details and the substance. What would the Spirit of Christ and a Family of Believers living in obedience to His Word look like in our generation? What does a church today walking in God’s Presence and full of Grace look like? How can I recognize the Life of Christ, alive again today in His Body, the Church?
It looks amazingly similar to the Life of Jesus in His physical body two thousand years ago!
Here are twentieth (and twenty‑first?) century nurses, restaurant workers, contractors, engineers, teachers, business owners and managers, carpet cleaners, and secretaries — clothed in the garb of the teaching and Life of Jesus; a Church that was formed from His victorious death (Gen. 2:21‑22; Rev.5:9; Eph.2:11‑22, 5:22‑32).
This is typical, natural Life in the Spirit of Christ. This is a touch of the Life God’s Family is meant to have — where Truth touches individuals specifically in its gatherings. Meetings are filled with openness, faith‑filled confession of sin, teaching, and praise in response to all that is currently happening. Disciples bring songs they’ve written, praise they’re brimming with, chapters from books that have elevated or challenged them, video teaching‑tapes that have been a catalyst for growth in them, and ten thousand other possibilities. God’s Family is gathered, circled in barns, parks, hotel conference rooms, living rooms, apartment clubhouses, gymnasiums, or stadiums. Every barrier between God’s Children is destroyed. This is a small part of the New Covenant, expressed from Acts Chapter 2 to Acts Chapter 2000:
Monday Early AM… Many of the saints are gathered at different homes to open up their lives to one another before they head off for work. What was it like? Some laughing; nearly half of the Hebrew letter was read in one of the homes; some passionate prayer for the souls of co-workers; and jubilant praise to Jesus everywhere. Nothing “goo‑goo” or hyper‑spiritual. Just some rock-solid gratitude to a Living King and terrific friend.
Noon time… Different brothers are together for lunch with each other and some unbelievers with whom they are sharing God’s love. Back in the homes, various mothers of young ones are together praying, and encouraging and teaching one another in the challenges of their situations. Practical, challenging time. Some tears are shed, God is honored, and satan is hammered again as the Word of God is spoken into the difficulty. Courage is renewed by Jesus’ Victory.
Late afternoon… Some disciples are out on a run and meet an unbeliever. He likes the idea of coming over for dinner.
Evening… Because all the Saints were “seeking first the Kingdom,” what started out to be a barbecue with a couple of families and the hungry runner who they found on the running trail at the park, is now 25 people who have found “where God’s Action is” this evening. They’re sitting in the hallway, up the stairway and into the kitchen as various ones share their hearts and pilgrimage with the newcomer. Prayer and worship are the natural product of the move of God this evening. Of course. “Religion” isn’t something we do on some day of the week. It isn’t an emotional pacifier, or a nice little sprig of parsley on the big, important plate of life. Christ and His Kingdom are real. Jesus is now alive, and reigning as the head of a living body — provided we are not disconnected from Him. Consequently, tonight He has used a Priesthood of Believers to do His Will (as He will where we have not denied His Headship by hierarchies, name tags, and pre-programmed liturgy). “And thus the secrets of his heart were revealed; and so, falling down on his face, the non-Christian worshipped God and reported that God was truly among us.” And thank Him that He was!
Tuesday Early AM… Again, especially after last night’s cutting‑edge time, a number of the Saints are together to seek God’s Face. (“My Father’s House shall be called a House of Prayer.” Without being known for prayer, at least by the Father, it’s not His House.) This morning, too, one of the women confessed that she was not sharp in the use of her time at home. She earnestly desires some input and a lot of prayer that she might bring her heart joyfully into the Government of God and His Grace. Prayer. Tears. Laughter. Some really excellent time together to start the day.
Daytime… A couple of the men who work third shift have given up some sleep to go from house to house amongst the church and some neighbors doing odd jobs for them. Several non-Christian ladies are over for lunch. Down-to-earth, non‑dramatic, God‑centered life.
Evening… Two of the men have a strong desire to teach some of the older children some Truths about reverence for our Father and response to His Life and Love in a practical way. The nine of them all head off for a trail through the woods and “rise up, sit down, and walk along the Way” (Deut.11). When they return, they discover that one of the brothers has called the whole church together to share some things that have been stirring in his heart. Some powerful teaching about “the full armor of God.” A brother from India who we met in Bombay is visiting with us. He has become a true man of God. He too shared his heart and experience about the weapons and armor of God. All are agreed that we should “declare a Holy Fast” in the church for tomorrow, and really pursue God’s application of these Truths to each of our individual lives. We have Bread that the world knows not of. (I hope this Bible verse is your experience, as well — to the extent that you could have written it, even if you had never read it?)
Wednesday Early AM… Some on flex‑time decide to call in to work and go in a little later this morning in order to join those that would be praying together. The walls, and satan’s dominion trembled this morning as we sang the song “The People of God” towards 7:30…
“We’re the People of God — called by His Name, called from the dark and delivered from shame. One Holy Race, saints everyone, because of the Blood of Christ, Jesus — the Son!”
Daylight hours… It seems quiet on the home front as most who are home have been apparently seeking out their Father’s Love and Word individually. A sister has met a married couple at McDonald’s who are nomadic carnival workers. They’ve received showers and warm food at her home, and I guess they will be with us for a while. Pray for them.
Evening… It started with fifteen or twenty showing up for one of the little guy’s Little League games, and then an excursion out for ice cream. The coach came with us, and was drawn up into some profitable conversation about his soul.
As some of the saints were together elsewhere, I understand that it was a frustrating time in some ways. The challenge from Heaven for each of us is to learn to take responsibility for that which God gives us, in gatherings and in our daily walk together. For many, the years of being a passive audience have taken their toll, and unlearning that dreadful religious habit (stained‑glass spectacles) sometimes results in awkward meetings. The beauty of being a family, rather than an organization, is that we aren’t trying to put on a show. We can talk about stuff like this. In fact, we live to talk about, and draw each other up into, the practical realization of the highest ways of our Lord, Jesus.
Thursday Early AM… I assume many were together this morning. I spent some time at home praying that God would work in everyone’s lives as they met, and as they live their lives for Him today.
Afternoon… Several of the mothers go to the park with their children and meet two ladies who live nearby. One is a Muslim. Jesus was exalted today, and the Seed of God will not be forgotten. The saints called quite a number of the others in God’s Family at work and at home. They asked that they pray for Rasili and Paula while they are at this critical time in the “Valley of Decision.” Tomorrow’s time with them should be revealing.
Evening… Believers gathered, as it happened, in several homes this evening. At one of the homes, a video teaching tape was stopped only twenty minutes into the teaching when a non-Christian had a puzzled look. As he opened up about his particular confusion, God again used the Royal Priesthood to speak His Word. One “had a psalm, another a word of instruction,” another a song. Another had a clear word from Heaven that took everyone’s breath away by its simplicity and convicting power. There was little else that could be said, and we all left quietly, knowing that God had visited His People. Prayerfully, the non-Christian won’t be in that condition long.
Meanwhile, a few miles away, three brothers and a sister were sharing Christ and His Kingdom with a circle of urban tough guys. A “stray” gunshot nearby drew the attention of the police, resulting in the Saints being frisked alongside of the guys on the street. One of the brothers who wasn’t feeling all that guilty got reprimanded for not jumping as quickly as some of the others: “Hey! You in the green shirt. Grab a piece of wall!” Possibly all of this will open some doors, in a backwards sort of way, with the “40th Street Gang.” Drugs and violence can’t really meet their needs. Our God, Creative as He is (and even with a sense of Humor sometimes), can help us reach them through an avenue that we could never have orchestrated.
Friday Early AM… I messed up and didn’t set my alarm correctly, so I can only say that I know that God’s Army and His Truth were surely moving on this morning.
Daytime… It seems like several had the same idea today. Four different people have spent much of the day taking turns watching each other’s children as the others read from the prophet Joel. We’ve all got much to share and so much to learn. But what fun!
Evening… A few of us men are spreading out to various homes to accumulate children in a few places. We’ll teach them, love on them, and sing as it seems appropriate, no doubt. (And watch a video with some popcorn, if it seems right at the time! We’ll see what happens.) We figure this will also free up the maximum number of parents to have a “Kingdom evening” — an evening where they can get into the homes or streets to do God’s bidding.
Saturday Car repair day today, I guess! The whole church has also enjoyed a cookout together, and some brothers and a few sisters have filled up three basketball courts at a nearby school. The B‑ball time was pretty special as one of the guys asked a question about Revelation, Chapter 11 while we were choosing up teams for game four. Forty‑five minutes later the large circle of Believers sitting on the blacktop stood back up to continue the “bodily exercise.” A good time for the non-Christians with us as well, though not what they had necessarily bargained for. The only singing most non‑Christians are used to during a basketball game is the national anthem!
We didn’t expect this as the day was coming to a close, but one of the brothers who was working that evening called a few dozen of us together at 8:30 PM after he got off work. He wanted to confess a trauma from his work place to which he had had a fairly poor response. As others heard of some gathering, more and more poured into the apartment. Calls were made to all ends of the city, everyone moved to the apartment complex clubhouse and grounds, and the children were cared for by those sensitive to see the needs and free up parents. The gathering climaxed sometime after midnight with a Celebration of the Lord’s Goodness in breaking the Unleavened Loaf together. I suppose we already had been breaking the Bread of Life much earlier, in a sense. What a fitting finish to such a time. The songs that were on the hearts of God’s Elect as different things happened amongst us this evening were enough in themselves to change every life in a four block radius. “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Sunday We had thought to get together for one of our famous taco salad lunches for the whole church. We did. Six hours later, there wasn’t an untouched heart amongst us.
Monday Early AM… As we gathered in the morning, for some reason only a handful were there. What a treat the others missed! And some say that God doesn’t answer prayers about practical things like illness anymore. Tell that to Dave!
Afternoon… A couple of us spent time with a brother who had moved from another city to be with the church here. It seems that his chronic (though curable!) “stiff neck” is making him and his new roommates suffer needlessly. Maybe the “root” in his heart that is driving him is fear, or possibly ambition. Certainly selfishness. We’ll work it out, though. He seems to desire God’s Ways, and that’s the best any of us have to offer. God help us all. What a challenge we face…to learn the Cross, and yet not neglect His “applied” Righteousness, as we work Truth out together (Col.1:28; Heb.3:12-14; 1John 3:1‑10). Regardless of the pain, of this we are certain: “I will build my Community, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” Jesus will overcome…in, and through, His Church! God said so. (Eph.3:10, 20; 1Tim.3:15; Mat.16:18).
Evening… One of the brothers had called everyone together this evening. After a little while of trying to “force” things (of which we repented), we decided that Jesus doesn’t author boring gatherings (it was a real dud). It was recommended that we needed to go do something else with our evening. A fairly large contingent took off for a restaurant, some went to spend time with people they were reaching out to, and others went to be alone with their families. It was, in the end, a nice, peaceful “Kingdom night” — after the twenty‑minute “meeting” was adjourned twenty minutes too late!
What religious “category” does this kind of church fit into? What label would the advocates of the “empty traditions” want to assign to this kind of life and church? Forget all of the old labels — they don’t work. Truth be known, this is Biblical “Fundamental” Christianity! This is the kind of “Pentecostal” church that you read about in the original Acts Chapter Two Pentecost! This is “Evangelicalism” at its best! This is Christ Jesus — expressed in His Body in our generation. The corporate Life of Jesus “joined and knit together by every supporting ligament.” This is Church. A wedge of Light driven by the hammer of God to annihilate the fellowship of darkness. God’s Family.
“I will build My Church…and the gates of Hell (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it (or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it).”
“Now, through the Church, the manifold, many‑faceted, Wisdom of God, in all its infinite variety may be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly world.”
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be GLORY in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Our objective in living, our very reason for drawing breath? For God to get His way on this planet. And, in turn, for Jesus Christ to have a Companion for Eternity — a Spotless, Beautiful Bride, His Church. Can you see it? The Father’s Heart, and ours, is a devotion to the Son, “That He might present to Himself the church in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, that she might be Holy and blameless!”
13 In today’s version of “church plantings” it is imperative that there be an in‑depth study of the culture. Great attention is given to the economic, cultural, and other “valuable” demographics and nuances of the society, with an attempt to appeal to, and not offend, the greatest population groups. Consider how far removed this approach is from anything we read of in the Bible! (Some try to justify it by “verse plucking,” but it is only a rather vain attempt to cover over how lacking we are in the fundamentals of walking in God’s Life and Power.) All of this is amazingly unnecessary when the nature of the Church is described by eyeball-to-eyeball touching of people’s hearts and “laying bare their motives” with Heaven‑sent Wisdom. Meeting men’s needs and exposing the shadows and fears of the heart span every language and cultural barrier. Keep reading, and you’ll see why demographic studies, or “all white,” “all black,” or “mostly young professional” kinds of churches become a thing of the past when we’re really letting Jesus have His Church back. Back
14 There are no “sacred” days in the Christianity of the Bible. Biblically speaking, the “Sabbath” did not move from Saturday to Sunday. Paul actually said he feared he had “wasted his time” on those who still considered one day more sacred than another. In another letter, he allowed for the fact that those with “weaker faith” might still have a holy day, rather than “every day alike,” yet that is not God’s intention. God spoke of CHRIST as the fulfillment of all special days. Live fully in CHRIST and you will not count one day as more sacred than another; you will not need “holy days” (Col.2:16‑17, 20‑23; Heb.4, 9:1‑10, 10:1; Rom.14:1‑5; Gal.3:10‑11; etc.). The recorded Biblical history of the first sixty years of the Church of Jesus Christ never mentions holy “seasons” or holy “days” as “Christian” — the church of Christ Jesus and His Apostles did not continue to do such things as they learned to shed the Jewish “shadows” of the “reality that is in Christ.” The Biblical record of the Church only even MENTIONS “the first day of the week,” or Sunday, TWICE. In sixty years. Is it not true that a record of sixty years of the churches that most are a part of today would have far more than two references to Sunday? Remember, it must be an “orderly account” by a someone like a medical doctor of perhaps apostolic stature, a man such as Luke — the author of the original church record, the Book of Acts. “The Lord’s Day” as Sunday, a special day to have a two hour “service,” is a shortcut that has replaced the Reality of Christ’s Church — we find such a church nowhere in the Scriptures.
For you history buffs, it seems that the concept of “the Lord’s Day” as Sunday arose in Ephesus six decades after the Church was born (Christ in the Churches, Logos Tapes, Hazlet, NJ). Interestingly, the phrase “the Lord’s Day” only occurs once in the entire New Testament (Rev.1:10), and likely has no reference to a special day of the week even in that instance. Such would be contrary to the very nature of Christianity — the celebration of Life and Reality that fulfill and enlarge the types and shadows of the “externals” in the Old Covenant. The phrase should likely be translated, as it is in every other case (in its Old Testament usage), in the possessive case as “the Day of the Lord” — rather than “the Lord’s Day.” The entire book of Revelation is, in fact, about “the Day of the Lord,” not about “Sunday.” What a difference! At least consider the fact that Jesus’ Life was never centered around a two hour “service” while He was here, so why should it be now?! Back
15 The Church Prepared For the Return of Christ. Back
16 1Peter 1:18. Back
17 Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:10 (Amplified Version), 3:20. Back
18 Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:2; 2Peter 3:12a; Acts 3:19‑21. Back