Are YOU Exclusive?
Monday Night, December 1, 1997
(Transcript of part of a time when a large number of Believers were together. Probably in some far away land, in the 1740s?) : )
Jesus Draws the “Line”
There have been times over the years when someone would say, “Oh, you’re just exclusive,” or “You think you’re the only ones.” I’d like to make a few comments regarding that flippant accusation; an accusation that probably all of us have heard from someone at some point in time.
It is pretty well-known that most religious bodies in the world only “fellowship” with people of the same brand. It’s virtually unheard of that there would be fellowship between brands. A Baptist would never have a Presbyterian minister come into their congregation and let him have the pulpit. Usually an Assembly of God person would never have a Baptist come to teach their congregation. It just doesn’t happen very often. If you go to your average Baptist camp meeting, you will not find anyone but Baptists there. That’s just the way it is. I’ve been around the block a few times, around the world a few times, and that’s just flat the way it is.
Most flavors stick together and that’s the end of it and there is no interrelationship. Assembly of God members don’t get letters from and visit places that are Nazarene and vice versa. It just doesn’t happen. Most of the religious world is very exclusive, very narrow and cut themselves off from every other brand virtually universally.
Contrast that with what it ought to be in every religious body, here or anywhere else. That is, we draw a very hard line based on whether or not someone wants to obey God. A very hard line. Jesus said the road is very narrow; few will be those who find it, and the ones that are on the narrow road are those that “do the will of My Father.” Not the people that believe the right thing or grew up in the right organization, but those that “do the will of My Father.” Those are the ones with whom He has fellowship.
On the other hand, many will say to Him on that day, “Lord, Lord, we went to church constantly, we did a lot of good deeds, we memorized the scriptures,” and He will say, “Depart from Me. I never knew you. You didn’t do the will of My Father.” God draws a very hard line separating those who choose to obey Him and those who don’t. And that’s the only line there ought to be.
If we get letters from all over the world and all over the country, they ought to be with that thought in mind. They ought to be not from one particular brand, but ought to be from every kind of person regardless of their flavor or upbringing or their particular spiritual heritage. If we’re drawing the line where Jesus draws the line, we ought to get letters from everyone that loves Jesus. From people that want to obey Him without regard whatsoever for their brand name. If they want to obey Him and they want to grow, then we must extend fellowship, because we don’t choose our brothers and sisters. God does. Just like your children didn’t get to choose who their siblings are. They were birthed into the process and they didn’t get a vote. It was something that God did. And the same is true for our spiritual birth. It has nothing to do with the heritage; it has to do with whether or not we want to obey God from the heart and whether we want to walk in the light.
Loving the Light
So, “exclusivity” must be there where Jesus draws the line. The lukewarm, for example, He vomits out of His mouth. Is He going to vomit His own Body out of His mouth? No. So, the people who we embrace ought to be those who are not lukewarm, just as one example. If we are part of His Body, if we have the mind of Christ, we are not going to be able to embrace that which makes Jesus sick. God has drawn a line. Lukewarmness is unacceptable and we will be exclusive on that issue. Lukewarmness has to make us sick or we are not connected to God.
The line is drawn there, but it’s drawn by God. Exclusivity? “The road is narrow and few will be those who find it.” Exclusive? Amen, if the line is drawn around the Lordship of Jesus Christ. However, if it’s drawn around what you happen to believe about the end times or wrangling about words or this or that, if the lines are drawn around a label that someone grew up with, then that kind of exclusivity is very wrong. We extend the grace of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit to those that love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, regardless of their past, regardless of their spiritual maturity at that moment in time. Those are not issues.
If they love the light and want to grow to be like Jesus—they just want to know Him and they want to live their lives for Him—then fellowship will be there. If that’s not what they want, then, as Paul said, “A curse be on everyone that doesn’t love the Lord.” I would say that Paul was pretty exclusive, and so was John and so was Peter. Read the second book of Peter. Serious stuff. Very serious, narrow-minded stuff. But it all centers around those that want to love Jesus and want to walk in the light versus those that don’t.
So we must be exclusive based on the Lordship of Jesus, regardless of heritage, regardless of current belief system and any other baggage. We’ll work the rest of that stuff out together as we grow into the unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God. But that’s only possible if at the name of Jesus every knee bows. That is not optional.
Four Ways to Build God’s Way
And if we don’t build that way, innocent people will die. Innocent people are destroyed or are at least immature their entire lives because of building improperly. The beef that we have is not with a person that loves Jesus with all their heart. The beef that we have is that a person who could love Jesus with all their heart is never given a chance to, because their environment is filled with leaven and the leaven leavens the whole batch. By God’s decree, by God’s ordained word, a little leaven “leavens the whole batch.” And if we build in a way that has men’s hands all over it, we end up with a lot of people who don’t make it that could have. Unless we are building in the four ways that I am about to mention, unless we are building these ways as volunteers from the heart, it is nothing more than an institution and innocent people will die.
Firstly, we have to voluntarily bare our hearts. That’s a choice that we make. We have to voluntarily bring our lives into the light, that our deeds are exposed. We have to find a way to do that, to soften our hearts and humble ourselves and not put on some kind of external show.
Secondly, we need to be willing to receive the light from others. If someone brings light into our life, we need to be willing to really seriously think about it. When I hear something being read, or listen to a tape, or whatever, I have to keep bringing myself back into focus and keep applying it to my own life. The tendency is to glaze it over in our mind’s eye and stop hearing it, and watch the continuous stream of children in and out of the bathroom, or pay attention to the babies, or get distracted thinking about other people or things, or what happened to us today, or the headache that we have. The fact is, we have to discipline our hearts to pay attention to what is being said, whether it is something being read from 1741, or something being said to us face to face, we have to discipline our hearts and minds to pay attention to it and to apply it to our own lives. That’s what Jesus called loving the light. That’s what the apostle John called walking in the light.
When things are brought to us (in whatever form they are brought to us), we have to find a way to push it down into our hearts and say, “If there is just 1% of this that applies to me, I want to get everything I can out of it. I don’t want to miss it.” That’s loving the light. “I want to embrace this thing. Yes, I know how weak I am. Yes, I know how many times I have failed. Yes, I know how dull and senseless and foolish I am. But God help me to grab this seed and bury it in my heart that some day, some how, by your infinite mercy and power this can bear a harvest in my heart—thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.” First the seed and then the head and the full grain in the head and the multiplication of that. That’s the second thing. Being willing to receive the light from other sources, and to cherish and treasure it with all of our heart.
Thirdly, we must be willing, as a kingdom of priests, to do that for others—be willing to be responsible and care about other people’s relationships with God.
Again, I’m speaking of a building process. I want to contrast that with the way men typically build, which is to have something to attend to hear a speech and to go home. To feel good because we “worshipped real hard” and we listened closely to a sermon and then we went home to our own lives…but we are not a priesthood! Not “joined and held together by every supporting ligament.” Not “admonishing one another daily so that none are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
God builds a certain way for a reason—we need each other. These aren’t meant to be neato-popular Scriptures to memorize. “You are baptized by one spirit…” “…into one body,” so that no one can say to the others, “I don’t need you.” I DO need you as a person that has been baptized by one Spirit into the one Body. I need you to speak into my life. I need to hear the word of God, the treasure in your earthen vessel.
“How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” That came from a very intelligent person—one of the officers of a very prosperous nation. “How can I understand?” It wasn’t about intelligence. It was about, “How can one hear unless someone is sent to him?” It is about a supernatural transaction that comes from the voice of God through others. And we need to be willing to offer ourselves into that process. We need to not be afraid to do it. We need to not think that we are not qualified to do it. We need to not to be disconnected or uncaring or unloving, so we choose not to do it. But rather, we need to offer ourselves into the process.
That’s the way to build, as opposed to an institutional setting with all the cogs and gears all shiny and bright and seeming so spiritual as they do this and that over land and sea, but none of what I am talking about happens on a daily basis. That is man’s way to build. God’s way to build is through relationship, not institution and program and hierarchy. Through relationship. Through a kingdom of priests that He always wanted to have from the beginning of time.
The way we build has to reflect first of all the humility to open our hearts to others, voluntarily. Secondly, we must have the humility to receive the light and even love the light and to cherish every little bit of light that we can get from whatever source, even if we don’t get it all. Even if 99% of it doesn’t make sense, or we don’t feel anything, or whatever…still, we cherish it. Don’t resent it, don’t throw it back in someone’s face, don’t turn the tables and try to make someone feel bad for risking. But receive and cherish. Honestly. Not with a false face of, “Thank you sooo much for bringing this to my attention. I will pray about it. Bless you for coming.” We must open our hearts honestly and try to find a way for God to bring a tear to our eye. Beg Him to bring truth all the way to the core of our being. It takes conscious effort. It won’t happen by accident.
So, thirdly, we volunteer ourselves to the process. We receive light graciously and with hunger and humility. We are willing to offer light to others in humility on a daily basis as a kingdom of priests.
Fourthly, as priests of God, we bring the word of God to each other on a regular basis in its many forms. We offer each other the word of God, not just as a personal challenge about some specific thing, but we also carry around within us the Word of God, the treasure of life, and we offer opportunities. It is vital that we do this for each other.
We need this. Maybe something that is read or a tape that you hear isn’t something that was originally directed specifically to you by name. Maybe it happens to be a precious gift of God speaking through a man in 1741 that has the seed of Life in it and could bring those with soft hearts great benefit. So we offer those things to each other when we don’t have anything specific to say. We still hold up the light that lights men’s paths for them on a regular basis. Whether it is a cassette tape, or a writing, or opening up 2 Timothy and reading it together. Whatever we do, we do it for each other on a regular basis.
We bring it to work. We bring it wherever we go. Always ready, in season and out of season to bring the word of God into each other’s lives. Maybe it is something specific. Maybe it is something general. But God will get something out of it if we have those other qualities. Right? If I have that quality of being willing to bring something out in humility, that has never been dealt with or noticed by anyone else (or at least no one ever said anything), if I have that kind of humility to love the light, and if I have the humility to receive light from someone else, then when someone brings something that’s of the word of God in a more general sense, I will be treasuring that. And I will want it to find a place in my heart to divide between soul and spirit, bone and marrow. So you have done me good. Even if it’s the fiftieth time I’ve heard it this year.
The word of God is like food. It’s not, “I’ve heard that before,” “I’ve read that before,” “I already know that.” That’s not the way it is when you are really in love with Jesus. “Like a newborn baby craving pure spiritual milk of the word.” How many babies say, “Oh, I’ve already had that milk, I don’t need that. I’m bored.” It doesn’t take very long before they start crying again because they want the food. They need the food. They live on it. Not by bread from earth, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We are craving that, and we don’t mind hearing 2 Timothy or Deuteronomy 8 for the thirty-eight thousandth time, because God feeds us through it. We are watchful. We are praying. Every sentence is different than it was the last time.
This is a building process. This is how we must build together. It is through relationship and through the living Word of God, through treasure in earthen vessels.
Everybody Deserves a Chance
Does it matter if you are a Baptist or a Methodist or Assembly of God? Doesn’t matter to me. Does it matter if you love the Word of God and you want to obey Him with all your heart? Yeah, that matters a lot to God and to me. Does it matter that an institution would create an environment where God’s people are not daily interacting with each other; where it’s just not important if they do that? A few in the committed nucleus do that, but as a general rule, the vast majority feels no need to do that. They have not been taught to do that. There is no example of that in their personal and practical lives. The leadership isn’t doing it, and the vast majority of people they know aren’t doing it because something very much like a treadmill was built where people are running in circles every Sunday morning from nine to eleven, and never go anywhere, but feel like they got exercise, and think that’s good enough. Does that matter? You bet it matters. I have a problem with THAT. I don’t have a problem with the people, but I have a problem with the fact that people have been robbed because they are not living in an environment that God has ordained for His people to grow in, where there are relationships every day, where they don’t have to die and fall away. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The pillar and foundation of truth is not just an individual thing. It’s the Church of the living God. “I will build my Church that the gates of hell will not prevail against.” All these things are essential from a personal level. When we cease to live this way, we cease to have the life of God flowing through the Body of Christ and the gift of Christ on a daily basis, and are no longer living and walking in the light. The Lampstand will be removed. There are no tricks to this. There is no slight of hand; there is no rabbit out of a hat. There is no exclusivity in the sense that one group is better than another group. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with God’s wisdom and how to build properly. And that’s a volunteer process that each of us have to participate in. And if we choose not to participate in God’s way to build, we are writing our own epitaph. Because this is God’s way to help weak people, to His Glory, to depend on one another and to learn how to love Him, and to keep us safe from the holocaust of satan’s hatred.
Exclusive? Yeah, in a way. But it’s not about club or name or brand. And it’s not about anyone being better than anyone else. It’s because we are all so needy that we must build God’s way. Everybody deserves a chance to live in that. They deserve a chance. Not that everyone will choose to live that way. Not that everyone will love the light, given the opportunity to love the light. But they will die if they don’t love the light. If they resent the light, they will die regardless of the environment. But everybody at least deserves a chance to love the light. And that is only possible if there is enough light around them to know whether they love it or not, a chance to choose to soften their heart if they hear His voice today. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.” Most people don’t get to hear His voice today. All they hear is the Wall Street Journal, and Good Morning America. That’s all they hear. They don’t have a chance to soften their heart today if they hear His voice, because men are building with their hands all over it and calling it “church,” out of greed, out of ambition, out of ignorance and a hundred other reasons, I suppose.
He Will Build His Church
All I am saying is this: Let’s be devoted to building personally in those four ways, the way God said to build. And let’s encourage everybody, whatever their heritage is, wherever they live, to build with those four things every day of their life. And God will be glorified, and God will get His Bride, and God will use the Gifts in the Body of Christ, and intertwine them into a cord that cannot easily be broken. Divine synergy. That’s God’s heart for His people and for His Church.
Call it exclusive if you want. But I don’t think it is, except for the exclusivity that the only qualified people are those who want to love Him and want to obey Him and want to walk in the light. In that sense, it has to be exclusive because He made it that way. In as far as a person wants to know Him and to love Him and wants to walk in the light, then together we need to help each other around the world to do that. And in all of our weakness, all of our frailty, our lack of giftedness, our lack of talent and intellect, our lack even of commitment, our lack even of holiness, our lack in every conceivable area that would bring us any credit at all, and yet somehow, together, by the grace of God and the love of Jesus and love of one another—a true devoted love of one another—we are all going to make it and make Him very proud of us in spite of our weaknesses.
How we build matters, and how we offer ourselves to the process matters a lot. Let’s make sure we help each other and fulfill and walk in all four of those things that make a church truly a Church, and help other people, wherever they may be, to do the same. And if they love the light, God will take good care of them. And He will build and He will bring lives into their environment that bring Him glory. He wants to build it far worse than we could ever imagine. “I will build my Church.” And if we will be faithful in those four ways at home and abroad, God will do some marvelous things.
I want you to hold two things in your mind:
First of all, what “exclusivity” is and why it must be properly defined. It is not defined by separation based on heritage or any other externals, but God does have a thought about it. And, I want you to understand what we need to fight for in terms of exclusivity. That is, Jesus’ Lordship and how we are supposed to build in our lives and others’ lives.
How we build has always mattered. That’s why God went to such great lengths to define in exact detail how the lampstand was to be beaten out of one piece of gold, and how many stems in the almond leaves, the ark and the angels on the lid, and the gold and the kind of wood…extreme detail down to the kind of materials, the exact colors that are supposed to be in the tabernacle. Immense detail. God cares how we build His Lampstand, the Church. Uzzah found out the high price of trying to do “God’s things” in man’s way, because the end product of what He wants to accomplish in us is very much connected to how we build.
Here is one verse that establishes the whole point 10,000 times over—“A little leaven leavens the whole batch.” How we build matters drastically. There ain’t no way, Sunday morning from 9 to 11, you have any clue what leaven is, what weakness is, or what rebellion is. You haven’t any clue. There is no way to get at it. You can preach your little head off, and you will never know what the difference between leaven and rebellion and weakness are. You will never know. How can you get leaven out of the batch in such a situation? When you build improperly, there is no way to obey God in even that one simple matter. A little leaven will leaven the whole batch, by God’s decree.
So, being exclusive has to be around the Lordship of Jesus and loving of the light only, regardless of background. And, how we build matters immensely to God, and how we build in those four things matters. A relationship that isn’t centered around fellowship for my own personal needs; a relationship that is centered around being mutual priests and bearers of the treasure of God—that is how we must view ourselves. That’s what a relationship is for. Not for entertainment, not so we won’t be lonely anymore, but it’s so we can help each other know God better in those four ways. And if we will build that way, that is how dumb, foolish, weak people like us will actually, somehow bring a little bit of glory to God and avoid the trap of the devil. Let’s work together on this and offer ourselves into that process, both here and to the four corners of the earth for Jesus’ sake.