The Unsearchable Riches of Christ Amongst His People
Wednesday Night, February 1, 1995
“I Will Build My Church”
What is this thing called “Church” and what is the significance of it? What was Jesus talking about when He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it”? This thing called “church” could be summed up in a lot of different ways.
I will build My Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
My Father seeks worshippers (John 4:23).
It’s “His Father’s House” that He’s consumed with zeal over (John 2:16-17).
You’ve made my Father’s house a den of robbers. It should be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13).
One thing that you could say about the nature of the Church is that it’s meant to be a people of prayer and a people of worship. It’s the Father’s House; and the Father seeks worshippers in the most practical of ways. This thing called “church” is simply this: People who see and experience Jesus on a daily basis, and live to help people around them do the same. They pour their lives out for people who may be sincere but not really able to see Him as well as they would like.
There are different levels of people who can see and feel and experience Jesus in terms of a quality of life—a fragrance of relationship, an aroma of life. You could call it by a lot of different names. Call it a thankful, worshipful person... or a prophetic person who can see God and can see what’s happening in the unseen world. There are a lot of different ways you can describe a person: someone who has revelation versus someone who might not...or previously they didn’t, but now they do. It’s not really an on/off switch, but there certainly is progress to be made in revelation and closeness to Jesus and experiencing His presence through the situations and decisions of life. We are meant to grow and mature and have a very intimate relationship with Jesus. It’s not zoning out and then at some moment of crisis or some moment of ecstasy remembering Him. Rather, it’s abiding in Him and making our home in Him.
In simple terms, I wonder if this thing called “church” is really about people who abide in Jesus and make their home in Him as true worshippers. They walk with grateful hearts in worship moment by moment. You catch them worshipping. If you walk up on them and surprise them, then you will find them worshipping. They’re not thinking about “stuff” and then trying to remember to be a worshipper, but this is their life. It’s their heart, it’s their experience, and it’s the love of their life. They have an infatuation with and a marveling at Jesus—a fascination with the Son of God. They’re always thinking, “Yes, yes, that was good, Jesus. I liked that!”
These religious words—“worship,” “adore,” and “praise” are real words, and they are good words. But, let me add a few more thoughts to that. When you really love someone, there is also a fascination with them. There is something super intriguing and inspiring about being with them. When love is cultivated properly, there is something electric about it—something real. You are not apt to just zone out and forget them for huge blocks of time and then, later on, remember, “Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be a certain way.” With Love, there is something captivating you. A person that’s really walking with God is captivated by and fascinated with JESUS; they adore Him. It’s something that’s very much on their heart.
The Unsearchable Riches
To say it again, “Church” should be defined as people who experience Jesus helping those who are sincere but who don’t quite experience Jesus yet. Those who know Him well are helping others to become closer friends of Him. That’s what Paul meant when he said that he was “in the pains of childbirth until Christ was formed in them.” They were saved; he already said that in Galatians 1 and 3, but they weren’t really experiencing Christ. Christ wasn’t formed in them. He wasn’t abiding in them, and they in Him, the way that it might have been. In Ephesians 3 Paul said, “I came to bring to you the unsearchable riches of Christ, and I also came to bring to you the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ.” In verse 10 he goes on to say that the end product of the unsearchable riches of Christ implanted in men’s hearts and the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ (or the working out of the unsearchable riches of Christ) is that now, through the Church, the manifold, glorious wisdom of God would be made known even to the principalities and powers. All these things are tied together. In the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ, or the working out of the riches of Jesus (the fascination with and the adoration of Jesus), there are things God calls “commands.” There are right ways to do things. And there are wrong ways to do things. It was God who said we must be “very careful how we build” on the foundation of Christ, lest our work be consumed in the fire.
Now, why did He leave this planet in physical form and say, “Go teach them to obey everything I commanded you”? Why did He do that? Was it because He was trying to build some kind of external empire based on doing certain things in certain ways? NO! It was because He knew that in the working out of the unsearchable riches of Christ, that as we stray from His commands, we also stray from His heart.
As we walk in lawlessness, we walk away from the person of Jesus and our ability to see Him, to experience Him, to abide in Him, to be infatuated with Him, to marvel at Him, to love Him from the heart, and to be grateful in every circumstance. We forfeit all that as we stray from Him. How can two walk together unless they are in agreement? Jesus told us to obey His commands... but not because He’s some ogre on an ego trip. It’s because HE LOVES US!
In the Church, we don’t work out the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ because it’s some kind of hard life, and we have to do some thing some certain way, or otherwise people won’t be happy with us. No. It’s about people who are infatuated with Jesus, deeply in love with Him, and experiencing His presence in a way that you perhaps may not be...and now they are showing you the way to walk with Him that you might also be able to marvel at Him and get the junk out of the way.
“Remove this from your life.”
“Why, you ogre! You hard-core person!”
No. It’s because your experience of Christ and fruit-bearing are inadequate to be so certain of yourself. Let’s be honest about it. The “seven sons of Sceva” knew the concepts and the words, but did not have the substance to work it out, and it cost them severely. “We are not ignorant of satan’s devices.” It is very important that you learn from those who can “equip you for works of service”—Father’s solution for “no longer infants, tossed to and fro.” This is not “rocket science”—it’s ten thousand times more important than that, and not a game. I also want to say to you that you can experience Him in a deeper way because He’s inviting you to. But as long as you hold on to and cling to this independent heart—to pride, selfishness, fear of man, lust, miserliness, greed or whatever form of worldliness that is unlike the person of Jesus (i.e. your right to have a temper, your right to be impatient, your right to judge others)—you cannot walk in a friendship and a fellowship with Jesus by His Spirit. Incomprehensible! Absolutely impossible!
Why the commands? Why the administration of the Word of God? Why did Paul write letter after letter, not with just flowery words about Jesus, but with “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace”? “If you have aught against your brother or he against you, lay your gift down at the altar. Go make it right.” In the commands and teachings of Jesus (and of Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude), there are a lot of very practical things. What’s the point to these commands and teachings? Are we trying to create some sort of lifestyle? No, we are trying to walk with Jesus. You cannot walk away from the teachings and the ways of Jesus and the men that Jesus has hand chosen, the teachings that come by the Spirit. You cannot walk away from those and have an abiding, alive relationship with Jesus.
The Administration of the Unsearchable Riches of Christ
The “unsearchable riches of Christ”—you will never see them apart from the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ. They’re not two things. They’re really one. You can’t walk with Jesus, if like the rich young ruler you treasure something in your heart, and you won’t let go of it. You have to walk away sorrowfully. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. “Well, I think that if I do all these other good things, I can hold on to that, because you are just judging, or that’s just your opinion.” Go ahead and harden your heart if you want, but you are only robbing yourself. That’s the purpose of the commands of Jesus. It’s not so He can build some legal empire. Nine out of ten things that Paul said were very practical. They were either large in their scope and the view of God’s working among men, or they were very practical and very commandment-oriented: Do this, don’t do that-oriented. There wasn’t a lot that was flowery about the person of Jesus. Why is that? It’s because if we walk together with Him, if we walk in His ways, if we crucify the flesh and the acts of the sinful nature that are obvious, if we draw in close to Him, then, as James said in James 4, “If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.” The purpose of these externals is so that we can walk in His Spirit together and experience the riches of His unsearchable beauty, a fascination with His immense intellect, a total consuming zeal for His creativity and power, His love, His mercy, and His kindness.
These are just words to someone who disobeys His commands and lives in selfishness, to someone who dishonors Him with certain attitudes or actions in their life. They are just words, because you can only experience Jesus as you walk in His ways.
So, the purpose of a group of believers is that those who have a close friendship with Jesus...those who have a sparkle in their eye when they sing to Him rather than just singing words on a page or in the brain...those who are truly fascinated with Him and are truly brimming with affection for Him...that those people might be able to help others do that too. Like Paul and like Jesus, that doesn’t just come by flowery words. It comes by helping each other walk in agreement with the character and the person of Jesus and His teachings, that we might explore His riches and experience it for ourselves. Our job, then, is to know Him in an unbelievable way and to help everyone around us do the same thing. That’s “Church”!
We will become worshippers as we see Him, rather than ourselves, when we look in the mirror. As we see Him, as we look around at others in other situations, rather than just seeing the externals and our flesh making judgments, the Spirit of God will be allowed to discern the nature of the situation. As we walk together with Him, then we can have fellowship with one another and our joy is made complete. I want so much for everyone to experience Him and not just something external. It occurred to me that that only happens as we submit our wills, our strong wills, our selfish personalities, our external judgments, and our worldly appetites. We can only experience Him as we walk in the administration of the unsearchable riches, the teachings and the life and the character of Jesus. It frees us, by His Spirit, to be caught up into His heart, into His mind, and into His life. “Draw near to Me, and I will draw near to you.”
I hope that’s our passion and what we live for. That we would know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent by His Spirit, and that we would be in the pains of childbirth until everyone around us is also experiencing Him. Someone who’s not living that way is not a person to bristle at. It’s a person to care for, to pray for, and to try to help see the administration of the unsearchable riches, that they might experience the unsearchable riches of Christ themselves.
Bristle means “to freeze up,” “to judge,” or “to think bad thoughts about.” It means “to pull back away from,” as opposed to praying and caring and having a heart of mercy like Moses did. “Unless they go in, I don’t want to either. I don’t want to go into the Promised Land without them. God show me how I can help them walk in Your ways that they might also experience Your life in them.” It becomes an opportunity to serve God, rather than something to feel like is an inconvenience to us.
The administration of the unsearchable riches is to “work out” the unsearchable riches. It’s the practical “working out” of the administration. It’s similar to how a government administration has to work with the policies and people that are in place in order to carry out this more perfect union. You’ve all heard of the “Clinton administration” or the “Reagan administration.” What’s being referred to are the people and policies that have been put into place in order to make it work. There’s an ideal up here, and then there’s the administration that carries out the ideal. That’s the administration that you read about in Ephesians 3. Paul said, “I came to bring the unsearchable riches of Christ and the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ, that the whole unseen world would be awed as the Church lives out the personality of Jesus” (v. 10). That’s its conclusion. Paul said, “I’m on a mission, guys. I want to show people Jesus, and I want to work out what Jesus looks like in their lives, so that the principalities and powers, the angels and the demons could all be in awe of what God has done in the Church.”
Verse 10 starts with, “His intent was that now, through the Church...” What is God’s intent? Surely we would want to know what that is—NOW! Not 1,000 years from now, but NOW, through the Church, it is not going to be through my own personal life and my own personal relationship with God, but through the Church, NOW, that He would humiliate the principalities and powers as we all learn to walk the way of the cross in God’s wisdom. He makes known His manifold wisdom, His many-faceted, glorious wisdom, and the thing that intrigues us and fascinates us beyond belief. He makes known His glorious wisdom now, through the Church by those who are walking in the administration. In other words, He does it through those working out the unsearchable riches of Christ, those who are in love with Him, and who then are working out what that looks like. Don’t tell me you are in love with Him if you don’t work out what that looks like. Doesn’t that sound like something Jesus said? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” There is a direct connection between our love for Him and our willingness to let Him mold our characters, our attitudes, our actions, our tongues, and our hearts. It’s a direct connection between our love of Him and the working out of our love of Him, just like there is with anybody else.
Walking It Out—Practically
Some of the things that we walk in at this point in our history (that we haven’t always walked in, but we almost take for granted now) are revolutionary to others. Something simple like taking other people with you when you go shopping is a revolutionary idea to some. It can be a chance to share some life and interact with people, to help and encourage one another as you go, and a way to be together. It’s very valuable. It’s proved valuable for us. There are also some challenges with that—you won’t be quite as independent, there will be some inconvenience since you can’t go exactly when you want to go, and it might take a little longer.
There are several kinds of responses that you will be greeted with when you talk to others about living life together in this way. Some will be apathetic, “Well, I don’t really get it. I don’t know what the big deal is about doing ironing or laundry or shopping together. I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t see why it’s important, and I probably will never think about it again. Thanks for saying it though.”
Another possible response is that some will be highly offended by the thought of walking that closely with others. Now you have to ask yourself, if that’s offensive, why is that offensive? Exactly what nerve did that touch? Now you are getting somewhere, because you are finding a root of evil in your own heart if you know that that’s offensive to you. If you can figure that out, you now know something about the administration of the unsearchable riches of Christ. You know a little bit more about why you don’t have a relationship with God that even amounts to a hill of beans. It’s because something made you very hostile and very angry. It touched a nerve within you. It’s frustrating to you. Something about that caused energy to well up within you. Where did that energy come from? What is it about my heart that doesn’t love the light and that energizes at that particular point? Do I habitually like to wander through a shopping mall and lust after things in windows? Or do I like to try things on, and I have something in my flesh that just loves to do that? Maybe I love to spend a lot more money than God would really want me to spend. Perhaps I like the convenience of doing things when I want to, as I want to because I want to “get it over with.” If there is some sort of pride or selfishness in me like that, if I love anything about myself or what I do more than I love others and love God, that will touch a nerve—and there will be energy there.
So, it’s one example of 10,000 possibilities. When I find myself grated by something or annoyed seriously by something, if it touches a nerve within me, there’s a very high possibility that the energy came from a place of darkness in my heart.
The rich young ruler was shattered by “...go sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Peter said, “Huh? We sold our possessions and gave to the poor. No problem.” He bragged about it the rest of his life. It was not hard for him to do that. And it wasn’t exactly like he gave up nothing. There was a business going on. They had the largest catch of fish in their lives. They had just pulled it up on shore—and then walked away from it to let it rot. It wasn’t like there was no cost involved, but the priority system that they had did not exalt business and commerce and materialism as god. So, it wasn’t a problem for them to turn, leave their families, leave their jobs, and come after Jesus. It wasn’t the same problem for them to enter into the great, unknown world of following the Messiah, as it must be for all of us. But for the rich young ruler, it touched a nerve. It was a serious problem for him.
There will be things that happen in our lives. Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack...” In other words, you have a nerve. There is something inside of you that you won’t let go of. There is “one thing you lack.” You will not let go of your independence. You will not let go of your pride or of your right to judge others. You will not let go of your selfishness and laziness. You will not let go of your fear of people speaking into your life or your fear of talking to others because “I don’t ever confront.” When any of these things that we hold to as dear are challenged in us, it touches a nerve that causes these impulses or pockets of adrenalin, passion and anger, all the things that are not the fruit of the Spirit, to come immediately to the surface. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are not the fruit when a nerve is touched in us.
When there is one thing we lack and someone touches that, we seize up and maybe lash out. Or at least we become embittered. We begin to build walls. Maybe we are too poised and too cool to lash out. We know that would never be acceptable. We instead begin to undermine or to somehow find something to lash back at, some way to get even. Something begins to happen in our heart that is not love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, or gentleness... Those are the things to watch for. Part of the working out of the unsearchable riches of Christ is to find those things where the nerves are touched, the nerves are raw, and it causes a reaction, an act of the sinful nature. It causes jealously, anger, resentment or any of those other sorts of things, and it begins to well up and to snowball in our hearts.
That’s a really good place to start with God, just as it was with the rich young ruler. In fact, he could not go one step further. Jesus would not relate to him for one moment more until he faced it and dealt with it. And so it is with us. You face it; you deal with it. “Why don’t I want to go shopping with somebody else?” Not that anybody would ever have to do that every time, or anything like that, but you ask yourself, “Why would I want to waste any of God’s time if I could somehow build into other lives and receive from other lives, even in the mundane things of life?”
Well, the average person in this world would say, “We don’t have time to build this way in the Kingdom of God.” But we know for a fact, because we have every form of occupation (doctor, lawyer, Indian chief), that everybody has the time to build into the Kingdom of God. Seek first the Kingdom, unless you happen to be very prominent or you happen to be very hard working, then you seek that second. Jesus said to every man, to every woman, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” He never asked us to do something we couldn’t do, regardless of our occupation.
So then, what is the secret that unlocks the door of how we might then be able to build together—“whether food or drink,” all the mundane things of life? The secret is to do all to the glory of God. How can we then build in such a way that we have intimate relationships—a hundred fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, as Jesus said we could have? How can we do that when we are sooo busy?
Well, the answer to that question is that we can build together in the mundane things...rather than doing our things separately, and then when we finally have enough time and energy, we bounce off of each other for a brief window of time and then go back to our worlds to work out all of our busy, important things. Maybe our heart is even, “Wow, I can hardly wait to get done with my busy, important things so that I can bounce off of people again for another hour.” That’s the way most people build, and it’s one of these fundamental building blocks. Is it important to do mundane things together? And I answer you: Can you build together, day in and day out, be intimate in life and relationship, see each other in the activities of life, be able to have windows into their soul and them have windows into your soul, can you do that without merging your busyness?
I haven’t seen it happen much, if ever, where a person can live his whole life with all of his stuff and then come out of his world to do his spiritual thing and go back. I’ve never seen anyone able to keep it in two worlds and ever prosper in Christ. I’ve never seen it. I’m looking for people that walk with God in an intimate, powerful way, without all kinds of flaws and contradictions in their lives. I only know that people who have merged all their lives into one, who have truly prospered in Christ and made an impact in people’s lives on a daily basis, are in the midst as one who serves.
You don’t have enough hours in your day to ignore this administration of the unsearchable riches. This administration is to draw in people on a trip to the post office, on a trip to the bank, on a trip to the store, on my chores and your chores. If we wait until these things are all done, there is not much time left, is there? We can either throw all our chores, business, and errands to the wind, which could be irresponsible, or we can merge our lives into building together in every corner of our lives, that it would all come together as one. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this age would not be in competition with one another, but they would become one in our hearts and in our lives. That has to be a priority, lest you find yourself with no time to do what Jesus said is the only thing that will last. This is the call. It’s not this mundane extra thing that you do. It really is what frees you to do all the other things God has called you to do. When you merge these things in a really special way, good things begin to happen. Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am. Jesus shows up when you begin to build recognizing the Body of Christ. “I have need of you” as opposed to “I have no need of you” (1Cor. 12).
As we build that way, as we recognize what God recognizes and walk that way, then the flowering of relationship with Him and with one another begins to happen. We cultivate it in the rocky ground of daily life, and He turns beauty from ashes. The ashes of our chores, the ashes of our busy lives, the ashes of our fears and our failures, and the ashes of our responsibilities and all the “important” daily things that we do... He builds beauty out of that if we are willing to humble ourselves and merge our lives together.
If you use Jesus as an example, you find Him merging everything of His life. “Christ left you an example, that you should follow in His steps,” Peter said. Peter walked with Him every day. Peter knew what he was talking about. John, another one that knew Jesus pretty well, said, “Anyone who claims to be in Christ must walk as He walked.” One of the things that characterized his life is that every element of his life was woven into his love for his brothers. You don’t see him doing “his thing.”
One example that’s been pretty prominent recently for a lot of different reasons is when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, as we call it. In the most important, most urgent, and most painful moment of His life, the time we would normally say, “Boy, I just have to be alone with God,” Jesus brought three people with Him into that garden. And He was willing to interrupt His own prayer three times to go back and talk to these men who were sleeping. His love for them eclipsed His own agony, His own pain, and His own death sentence that was right in front of Him. He was willing to break what He was doing, even with His Father. I’m not saying it’s a competition between the two things; I’m saying it’s the same thing. He brought brothers, even at this time of total agony and pain, when they couldn’t even possibly understand. And they didn’t; they fell asleep.
The Key to Knowledge
Yet, that sort of heartfelt commitment to our brothers and sisters is not something to be taken lightly. To some it’s a burden. To some it’s something to be despised or judged. To those who really want their lives to be whole, in Christ, with one another and with God, it’s really good news. For the first time, I can find a way to have time, that “whether food or drink, all would be to the glory of God.” Now I can be one person instead of five. “I’m a father; I’m a worker; I’m a taxpayer; I’m a member of this and a member of that, a doer of this and a doer of that, so I have God, family, country, employment...” There are all these weird worlds that we try to figure out how to prioritize. It all ends up being something rather mystical and far off someplace, and the job doesn’t get done. But God has brought, as Jesus used this phrase, “the key to knowledge.” One of the implications of this phrase is that we don’t live two lives. It’s all brought into one thing, in the light, together.
Say that somebody walks in on me at work and hears an attitude as I’m on the telephone that they surely wouldn’t expect to hear at home. Now I might resent somebody stopping in on me at work, impinging on my freedom and being so indecent as to interrupt my workday. How insensitive! Well, that’s not the real problem, is it? The real problem is that I want to live in two worlds, and I don’t want light in my life. I don’t want to merge my worlds. I don’t want to be accountable for my attitudes. I have a nice religious life over here, and everybody knows that I have to do my business over there. “You have to act that way in order to get the job done. That’s just the way it works.” All of a sudden, I’m a hypocrite. I’ve lost the key to knowledge. That’s why the seemingly small things that touch a nerve actually end up being a road to a glorious relationship with God if we will humble ourselves and listen and pursue to find out why that grates me, why that irritates me. It opens up a whole new world.
We enter the Kingdom with much tribulation. A sword will pierce your own heart. You want to find the real thing? You have to open your heart to be pierced. You have to. There isn’t any cute, fancy, or intellectual way to arrive at it. You have to open up your heart to be pierced, and it will be. You have to be willing to fall on the rock and face some things.
But the benefit, the fruit, the life that flows out of that is beyond your wildest imagination. Listen to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, listen to people around you when you begin to hear some faint echo off in the distance of “this one thing you lack.” Listen for that, because that’s the key to a fabulous new future for you if you are willing to face it.
Keep It Revolutionary
Something that struck a nerve in me was that we could say, “Yes, that’s a good teaching. I’ve heard that before,” and be indifferent to it in our hearts. It was revolutionary in the past. But if we aren’t applying Truth daily, allowing it, even forcing it to pierce our hearts and refine our motives and instincts, we are like the foolish and slothful man in Jesus’ parable. It is a Command to stay white hot with passion and penetrable with Truth at all times. “Keep your zeal, never losing your spiritual fervor.” We should keep our hearts forever fresh before His Throne, so that we could never sit back and say, “Yeah, that was right,” but not apply it to our lives. We must never allow our hearts to harden with lack of fervor and simple joy and obedience so that Truth and discovery that was revolutionary four years ago has been allowed to become mundane to us now. It is a choice as to whether we “plow up the fallow ground” and rototill the “hardened path.”
Something that makes me angrier than just about anything I can think of is somebody doing something just because they are “supposed to.” That person has missed God worse than the person who refuses to do it. You have to keep it revolutionary in your heart by seeing what God’s after. Am I doing this because somebody might think badly of me if I don’t? Am I doing this because everybody else is doing it? Am I doing it because it is fun, or am I doing it because this is a chance to lay down my life for someone? Do I sense that when two or three are in a car going to Wal-Mart, rather than me by myself, that Jesus has agreed to be with us and therefore I want to take full advantage of that?
Let’s use the time to pray because Jesus is here in a more special way than He has been when I’ve gone by myself. He promised He would be there with us when we do it in two’s and three’s. Do I sense that? Do I care about that? Am I more apt to sing in the car? It’s not because it’s a neat thing to do or because I like to sing or anything like that. It’s just that if I really believe what Jesus said is true, I might want to take advantage of that time to do it because it honors Him. He loves that. I want to look at the time, when there are two or three of us together at a restaurant, as a chance where Jesus has promised a special presence, a special authority, a special leverage with Heaven because we are there together. I want to look at that and say, “How can we make a good opportunity here with one another and with our waiter or waitress?” “How can we use this to glorify God?”
To not see the spiritual reality of it and just do it is sickening to me. I think maybe it’s one of the nerves that it touches in someone from the outside who says, “Oh, they do that. Oh, yuck!” What they sense is that perhaps it’s possible to do it just as some kind of cheap cliché, and it makes them sick to think about just doing it for the sake of doing it as some sort of social thing. Well, it ought to make them sick. It makes me sick. Do it because you are looking for spiritual reality and you demand spiritual reality, not just because it’s the thing to do. Go for the real thing. Find out how “whether food or drink to do all to the glory of God.” Find a way for Jesus to be honored in this. Find a way that you can help them to know Jesus better or draw on their life with Jesus to know Him better. Find a way to make that happen. Don’t let it be some kind of social junk. Let it be reality, because you demand reality of your own heart and your own spirit. Demand it. Discipline your heart, your mind, and your spirit to see it God’s way and to drive into that—not just on a social level. That’s ridiculous. I don’t even want to do it if that’s what it is.
I agree with all the people that don’t want anything to do with that if it’s ridiculous, external nonsense. I agree with everybody that feels like that’s utter nonsense if it’s nothing more than just some social cliché or some cutesy way to do things. But if it’s real, in the Spirit, if it’s an opportunity, if it’s a window into their soul and a window into my soul, and leverage with God because He is there with us to do the work of God with one another and with unbelievers, if that’s what it is, then I want to take every opportunity to gain that leverage.
Even when I go to the “garden” at the time I’m most likely to be by myself because nobody else could understand, I’m going to bring Peter, James and John with me. I don’t want to miss this way that God builds by being lazy or shallow or independent. I don’t want just some superficial thing of “I always do this.” That’s a terrible way to look at it. Don’t do that.
Walking in His Steps
In part, if you make good choices, the people you hang around with are going to impart who they are to you. Simply recognize that it’s God’s way; it’s the way that Jesus lived. Paul continually and constantly had people around him. You can only find one or two cases in 25 years of Paul’s life that’s recorded where it looks like he might have been by himself. It just doesn’t happen. So you pick up on the pattern, not something to copy for copying’s sake, but you can kind of see that there is a way that God builds. It is “we being many are one” not “I like you so I will spend time with you, but it really revolves around me.” It doesn’t revolve around me. It revolves around US. We being many are one. We see that; we sense it. “I have need of you” is the cry of our hearts because it’s the cry of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 12).
So we agree with God even though we may not feel it like God feels it. In the process of agreeing with God and living like God called us to, like Jesus and others did, we begin to see the fruit of it, the impartation of those that we spend time with. It begins to change us, and we begin to see the value of the way God has called us to live with one another. Maybe we didn’t see it in advance. We see that it’s true, we see that it’s what God wants, but we may not understand the full implication of it until we go there. Like someone said, “Step-by-step You’ll lead me.”
You kind of know that out there someplace is Jesus in the Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem. You see something out there that you know by God’s promise is glorious. You see a hundred fathers, mothers, sisters...a hundred intimate relationships rather than just a hundred next door neighbors that you say “hi” to over a barbecue grill. Instead there are a hundred people who are your life, your heart. You see that this is what God wants. I may not want it myself—“I’m a loner.” But I see that there is a Heavenly City out there, whose builder and maker is God. I see Jesus high and lifted up.
I want to be like Him. I am fascinated with Him. I’m allured by His personality, by His wisdom, by His authority, by His grace. I am allured. I’m driven to be like Him. So step-by-step He leads me. He left us an example that we should follow in His steps. So we live His way, and we begin to draw more and more into the reality of His experiences. If you follow in His steps, you begin to see the same scenery that He sees. It begins to register, “Oh, I have it now.” As you choose to be with people who are walking with Him, they begin to impart to you the life that’s within them, maybe without even a word.
If bad company corrupts good character, then good company glorifies character. So you begin to see an example. You begin to see Jesus in them, and “we see in you the beauty of our King.” There is a drawing up into the image and likeness of Jesus.
They see things in you that are standing in the way of your experiencing Jesus. You didn’t even know you were like that. You didn’t know that you had a short temper, or you never thought about the fact that you were impatient or that you were overly consumed with some area of worldliness. It never crossed your mind. You were innocent in the sense that you never thought about it, but you were guilty in the sense that it’s keeping you from God without you even knowing it. So, you put yourself in situations where you are with people who are walking with Him, and someone says, “Hey, that’s really not the way to respond to a co-worker. That’s not really the right attitude towards an employer or an employee.”
As the worlds begin to merge, you can begin to find the things that are separating you from God. As the nerves are touched, you find a way to draw closer to Jesus. But if you don’t put yourself in that situation, then you may never understand what it is that God has for those who walk with Him. It will just be something hypothetical forever, and you have shortchanged yourself by not walking in His steps.
“Well, I don’t understand it entirely.” Do I walk in something before I fully understand it? Well, the answer is this question: “Is it really God’s way?” If the answer to “Is it God’s way?” is “Yes,” then you do walk in it before you understand it.
There are a lot of things that Jesus said that I didn’t understand at all ten years ago that I do understand now. And, there are still some things that I don’t understand very well about what Jesus said. But I trust that He is where I want to be, and I need to walk in His steps in order to get where He is. I don’t have to have a perfect comprehension of it nor totally understand or agree with it theoretically in order to know that if I go this way, I will begin to get what Jesus has. If I understood it perfectly, then I would already have it, wouldn’t I?
Being a disciple means changing. It means letting go of some things and embracing other things that I’m not already doing. It means you walk in His ways, and you embrace what He embraces and reject what He rejects, even if your flesh says something different. As you acquaint yourself with the ways, the teachings, the life of Jesus and the administration of His life, as you walk in those things and are in agreement with those things, then you begin to see what He sees and it changes you from the inside. You begin to then say, “Oh, now I get it.” Then you become very convicted and supportive of things that previously sounded obnoxious to you, or at least trivial.
You begin to see the importance of it. You begin to see, as you get in the middle of life, people who kill themselves spiritually with some of these so-called trivial things that lead to death. Someone takes on a second job, and everyone says, “Well, they don’t really need the money, but hey, what’s the problem with working a second job till all hours of the night? It’s America; they can do what they want.” That’s true; they can. But who warned them that they were saturating their life with people in the world and saturating their time with an effort to make money? Who saw that would result in a spiritual obituary for them? Now you would not let someone die without throwing your body in front of them.
You learn over time to watch for things that sound trivial and you would have accepted as a normal way of life. You begin to see that there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. You throw your body in front of it. Even if they spit on you and step on you, you have to try. The experience of being in the middle of life begins to mold our convictions. People who are far away, who are not in the middle of life, and who have distanced themselves from walking as Jesus walked, base their convictions only on things in their own minds and on their own opinions. There is no basis for understanding God’s ways when you are somewhere else.
If I’m outside the house trying to speculate about what might be in the kitchen on the front burner, I’m foolish because I don’t know. I have to go in the house to see what’s on the front burner. I have to smell it. I have to touch it. I have to taste it. I have to be there in order to have a real conviction about what’s on the front burner. How foolish of me to speculate and form opinions and judgments about something when I’m not even in the house! So what I would say is to go in the House, walk in His steps. Go where He went. Follow His teachings. Live out His life. Sacrifice. Do what He said. Walk around, and then you will see what He sees. It will make sense to you. Your convictions will form as you see people live, as you see people die.
You won’t have to interpret Scriptures based on your mind anymore. You can experience the Life that wrote those Scriptures, and you will understand it. This, in part, is the meaning of John 7 where Jesus said, “You want to know who I am and where I came from? Do what I said.” This, in part, is the meaning of where Paul said, “The pillar and foundation of truth is the Ekklesia.” The Life becomes the light of men. I want to have light about where I am going, about what I am doing. The life becomes the light of men. Live it and see what you then understand about it. Don’t speculate and judge and make decisions externally. GO LIVE IN IT! Go in the house and taste what’s on the front burner. Then you have the right to have a conviction about it.
Until then, our challenge as disciples is to be explorers. You don’t understand something? “Go find out the meaning of these things” is what Jesus said. That’s what He is calling us to do. Go stick your head in the window and look around. Don’t just stand outside and form judgments. Go in. Experiment. Sit on the couch. Bounce on the bed. Taste what’s on the front burner. Go in and live Jesus’ life and see if that doesn’t allow convictions to form in you that you thought were ridiculous. You couldn’t see it. You didn’t understand it. Why not? It’s because the Life becomes the Light of men. You have to risk. You have to go forward and experience Life in order to understand the writings of Life, namely the Scriptures.
Building Relationships With One Another
I recently read a letter that I had gotten from someone several years ago. It was, to me, a demonstration of the love of someone who loved me very much. It was someone who risked, who threw himself out in front of a car for me, who dared enough to come in my front door and tell me that whatever is on this front burner stinks. “It’s burning and you better take it off the stove. You better get it right and see me within the next two days so we can talk about your recipe.” What it stirred in me, which has been a theme in my mind over the last few months, is that I am convinced that the hardest thing I will ever have to do on this earth, the hardest thing that I will ever have to work on, is how to build a relationship. That is absolutely the hardest thing that God is asking me to do with regard to walking in the light, opening my life up, and being with people. It is hard to find ways and strive for ways to be creative and unique in spending time with people. I am absolutely convinced there is nothing on the face of this planet that is harder to do.
If you question that, look around at your own life, look around at the people you work with. You’ll see a lot of busyness and a lot of other things going on. They go home at night, close their doors, they are by themselves, and there is nothing. I say that because it’s true if in fact we are not seeking ways to build our lives with one another and seeking how to build those relationships. It’s true. If we’re not living out Scriptures about how the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, the people of God, and the relationships that we have, it’s not “church.” “It’s not the steeple. It’s not the organization. It’s the people.” But it’s not even the people. It’s the relationships that people have with one another that’s going to stand the test of time in those last days.
Here is the bigger picture of all that: If we are not building relationship with one another, if we are not striving to turn every corner, to turn over every stone for one another, to expose all of these things out of love and throw ourselves in front of moving vehicles for one another, if we are not doing it for those we can see right now, we are probably not doing it for our relationship with Jesus, either. You need to see that if you are not doing it with the people who live next door or the people that you bump into as you are doing laundry, then you are probably not doing it for your relationship with Jesus.
Just the practicality of living very close to each other is that you can’t even go out your door without running into someone that you know. We can’t ignore that or take it for granted and not see it as a very special thing God’s given us. If we don’t work hard at trying to build those relationships, we probably aren’t working any harder and probably are working less in our relationship with God.
I say that because I’m convinced that there are very few things that are lasting in this world, that are tangible, that are real, that are worth it. Relationships are right there at the top, because when we stand before Jesus, the thing that is going to separate us from the rest of the world is the fact that we had a relationship together, and we worked at building a relationship with Jesus. It’s not going to have anything to do with all the good things we did for the “church,” like buying sound systems, giving money and doing all these other neat things. The fact of the matter is that those who stand before Jesus are going to be judged by whether they strove to build a relationship with Him and to hear His voice. Did they strive to have the same relationship with Jesus as He had with His Father, saying everything the Father says, doing everything the Father does? That’s really going to be the measure of time. It will affect our eternal life if we are not putting into practice relationship building in the seen life, in the here and now.
It is building toward the eternal, and it does affect the eternal unseen. It’s hard. When you are alone and you are separate from the people of God, you tend to struggle. You tend to spiral down and to get depressed. Imaginations come in, or you withdraw—any number of things happen. There is something about “safety in numbers.” There is something in the spiritual realm that is unique about people who bind themselves together based on relationship and caring for one another and loving one another.
I don’t ever want to take that for granted, but I also know that it’s not going to come easily. It’s going to cost me everything. I’m going to have to pay the price. But it’s the only thing that’s going to last. The only thing we are going to be judged on in the last days is if we knew Him or not. The way you’ll know Him is through the people in the Church who you live next door to, the people who you work with who are Believers willing to walk in the light, who are willing to lay down their lives, who are willing to strive to care about one another and to really pull out all the stops to see not only Christ formed in them but Christ formed in you also. Keep pursuing that path, and do what it takes to make that happen.
One way to view relationships is “We are going to dinner at ‘so and so’s’ house. I’m going to go there and find out how things are going. During the afternoon, I’m going to do laundry with ‘so and so’ or go to the store with them to see how they are doing.” That happens frequently. But we need to take a step back, and before that happens, have the interaction with God, the transaction with God of “God, what is going on with this person? I’ve seen him. He lives close enough to me that I do know of different things he struggles with. I do know that he is married, etc. How can I make this time something of You? How can I make it be made of the deep things of God? How can I mine out those things? How can I dig for those things?” I guess turning the corner came when I realized that I will find out by asking God first. My mindset was that I visit with the people first and spend time there. But then I would always come away very frustrated because I thought the time was shallow and that it didn’t mean anything. A lot of the time it was because I didn’t have the interaction with God, the time before God in prayer, asking Him on a daily basis about the people around me, the co-worker for instance. Again, turning the corner was asking God, asking Jesus about the person before the dinners happened or before going to the store. It was considering ahead of time instead of just going into it.
It wouldn’t even be just “I’m about to go to dinner, so let me spend some time in prayer asking God about this dinner we are about to have.” If the air I breathe is to be praying for others, caring for them, and loving them, then there is a flow of life as I am laying down my life all the time for everyone that I can get anywhere near. It’s not even so mechanical as “Oops, I shouldn’t talk to you. I haven’t talked to God yet.” It’s not like that. It’s a life that is saturated with loving and praying and caring for others. It’s being consumed with zeal for the Father’s House, as Jesus would put it, which allows us to be able to flow into those things. You are not bouncing off of individual, mechanical situations and then wondering what to do with it when you get there. It’s your whole life and heart, and it just flows from one thing to the other. It’s an accumulative effect.
There have been times when I would say to someone, “I reached a conclusion in prayer this morning about this situation.”
And they said, “Well, we just talked about that last week, and a couple of weeks before that.”
“You’re right. But it wasn’t until I was praying this morning that it emerged as a firm conclusion. It was a series of things as I kept trying to align my life with God, and He allowed me to see a little more and a little more. Step-by-step He led me, and all of a sudden, Boom! I was there. I thought of it as being the first time I really realized this, but I looked back on it, and God was building this conviction into me through other circumstances. Now it finally all jelled. Now I understand. It’s like that in this situation, too.”
God leads us step-by-step. We hear something; we see something; we pray; we feel something; we think about something... It’s just a cumulative effect to where our life is hidden in Christ. We desperately love righteousness, love the Father and love everyone else to love the Father. So when it’s time for dinner, it’s not any problem. It’s not jumping from one thing to another. “Oops, I can’t jump from one thing to another. I’d better pray first.” It’s a life that’s like that. By all means, pray first, too. But it’s a flow; it’s a river. It’s not jumping from lake to lake. It’s a river that moves. There’s a dynamic to it.
Seeing the Unseen
In order to do anything that’s worthwhile, that will have a permanent change and eternal benefit to it, the actions we take, the words we say and the thoughts we think must be motivated by seeing something in the unseen world. We’ve all heard 100 times that Jesus didn’t say anything He didn’t hear the Father saying, and He didn’t do anything He didn’t see the Father doing. Well, where’s the Father? The Father is in the unseen. Jesus had direct connection all the time with that. I dare say there is not one person who really loves God and who really wants to follow Jesus heart, soul, mind and strength who wouldn’t do anything to have that constant relationship.
Just imagine what your life would be like if you knew that every word you said and everything you did were exactly what the Father was doing and saying. You could walk with such peace, with confidence, with surety, with no fear of retaliation or what anybody would say or do to you. It would be tremendous. You would never make a mistake. You’d get killed, but OH, what a way to go! The point is: How did Jesus heal five and walk by two, then heal one more and ignore the rest of the group? How did He heal anybody at any point in time? There was no right or wrong.
If we are able to see into the unseen, if we see eternal things, if seeing those things is what motivates us to do the practical things, then we are on the right track. If you can get a picture in your mind of someone eternally burning in the fires of hell, it will motivate you to do something in the practical about it. We have to see in the unseen if we are to be seated with Jesus in Heavenly Realms. If we see our lives from that vantage point, then certainly that has to be what motivates us to work these things out, to build these relationships. We have to see that it’s more than just becoming good friends with one another and having common things to do together, or even times in the car singing and praying. We have to see that in the unseen world we are doing damage to satan. We are tearing down his kingdom and we are ushering in the things that Jesus died for. And the thing Jesus died for is a people who are being prepared, a people who are spotless and pure.
It talks in the Old Testament about the Israelites never entering His rest. That rest is being in a position where you know what God is saying and you know what God is doing. That’s where the rest of God is. That’s where the peace comes from. That’s why Jesus could move through the countryside or through masses of people. He was at rest all the time. He was never frantic, never frazzled, and never worried. There was peace. There was rest. We need to learn to nurture that and see that in the unseen.
We need to let those unseen things motivate us to see that we need to spend time with one another. We need to come out of our closets of selfishness and fear and whatever else might motivate us to be separate from one another and not build those relationships. If we can see that, then we are on the right path to making the permanent changes that please Jesus and destroy the devil’s foothold in lives. When we live for Jesus, we will love to impact one another for Him, and we will also then see change in ourselves. “Do you really love Me? Then FEED MY SHEEP.”