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For the past five months we have looked at the church: what is the church, the identity of the church, the purpose of the church, why we gather together on Sundays and at midweek Community Group, why we worship. We touched on the two ordinances of the church, baptism and communion. We spent several concentrated weeks on the power and presence of Jesus in His church through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, fills us, leads us, illuminates, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. This is holiness. We defined holiness as being set apart, sanctified or peculiar. We have learned that God’s holiness permeates all that God is and all that He does; it is His otherness. When we become followers of Jesus He gives us His holiness. We are unique in Him and set apart in Him. As we begin to walk with Him our life begins to be shaped into His image or His uniqueness by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus places inside of us. Our uniqueness is not in our moral code or behavior but flows from our new hearts that beat in rhythm with Jesus.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
The Spirit works within and transforms us from one degree of glory to the next. As we walk in holiness, we start to look more like Jesus. When Christ declared, “It is finished,” the veil in the temple separating the holy of holies from the common area or unholy place was torn. Before that moment no one dared go behind that curtain into the presence of God except the high priest who represented all the people once a year. He entered only after extensive washings, sacrifices and separation from all others and even then it was with great fear.
When the veil was torn, God was saying, “Come to me, you are holy through Jesus.” Jesus paid it all. We now walk in the holy presence of God gaining access through our Savior Jesus. As we look at His glory, the Spirit works in our lives to transform us into the same image. The process of holiness takes place individually and corporately. We are saved into a Body, the church, the bride of Christ, the family of God.
In Jesus we have been given a new race (not Jew or Gentile) and a new position. We are now a royal priesthood with a new citizenship; we belong to a holy nation. We live in America but our citizenship is in heaven, under new ownership. We are God’s possession with a new mission to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:9-10
Remedy, we were not a people. We were individually children of wrath, following the father of lies. But God has made us a people because of His mercy and we belong to a Body, the Church. We are saved personally and individually but not to be independent or individualistic. We are saved into the Church as a group of people who are interdependent on one another to function fully as God intended.
We need one another to encourage, to exhort, and to pray for our personal growth with Jesus and fulfillment of our mission. On a micro level, we are called out and into a family, the bride of Christ. On a macro level, this relates to the nations. Christians in the U.S. are needed by Christians who live across the world, like in Iraq.
Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3
Persecuted believers worldwide remind us of the suffering of Christ. As they represent Him and minister in His name, they suffer for Him (Colossians 1:24) and continue to demonstrate His love and sacrifice. They are a part of our mission.
As believers, we have been made new in Jesus. We are not who we once were, so we need to stop giving into the mindsets and desire of the world (and the past) and start acting like a part of a Body. If we want to develop a sense of belonging and experience all that God has for us, then we give! We give our lives to Jesus, to His Body, because that is what He did for us on the cross. The church doesn’t exist for us, it exists for Jesus.
Peter takes the time to contrast who we were and who we are now. He reminds us what we have been saved from and what we have been saved into. BUT YOU… are new and different, a holy nation. BUT YOU are a royal priesthood, BUT YOU are a chosen people. When we think of old and new, we often think of behavior issues like drunkenness or greed or anger or jealously but we’ve also been saved out of our moral striving. We’ve been saved from self-sufficiency and self-reliance, many of the things the world looks favorably upon. This is where most of us struggle. We fall back into thinking, “I’m not so bad” or “I was a good person.” We forget how much we need God. We need Jesus and we can’t do it on our own.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,…I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-8; 13-14
Paul said that he forgot everything that was behind him and set his eyes on Jesus, to be like Him. He said it was all nothing compared to Jesus. We’ve been called out of darkness into life. God didn’t save us out of hell into nothing; He saved us into relationship.
The people of Israel were slaves to Egypt, in bondage for over 400 years. They worked long days with little food, and at one point, Pharaoh ordered all of the firstborn sons to be killed to control the population. They cried out to God and God heard them – He told Moses that He saw their affliction, heard their cries, and understood their suffering (Exodus 3). God sent a deliverer, Moses, and He delivered them from bondage in a great display of power and love. His deliverance was a great display of grace and He gave them more than they could even grasp – He split the sea and provided manna from heaven.
The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Numbers 11:4-6
Israel forgot the bondage, the suffering, and God’s delivery. God set them free and provided for their every need, but they wanted more. They falsely remembered a life of bounty, of fish and meat. Their flesh deceived them, just as our flesh deceives us.
The manna God provided met their needs, but Israel thought they deserved more, that they were entitled to more. They also didn’t want to depend on God. The root of both of these attitudes was pride. Israel lost sight of what God called them out of and what He was calling them into. He was making them a nation and leading them to the land He had promised. All Israel had to do was follow God into the Promised Land, but instead they died complaining in the wilderness.
We are the church, the Bride of Christ, children of God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, God’s people, chosen, called, empowered, indwelt by the Spirit of God
Himself to proclaim the greatest news in the history of mankind. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, to make a way, when there was no other way. So how do we want to live? We can live in captivity, carnality, or consecration.
Captivity – Living in captivity means returning to our “Egypt”. If we think our days of bondage to sin were better, then we have not tasted the manna of life, Jesus, who meets our deepest hunger and quenches our driest thirst.
Carnality – Living in carnality is a life wandering in the wilderness. Do we struggle to depend on God? Are we discontent with His provision? Do we misremember the past as better than it was? If we look back to Egypt, it will rob us of joy. Lot’s wife turned back toward Sodom and turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19). She turned back because that’s where her heart and affection was.
Consecration – Living a consecrated life means understanding that we are on our way to the Promised Land, with our eyes on Jesus. Do we want to live as a child of God, a holy people, set apart for the most significant mission today, to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light?There are no politics, no amount of money or goodwill to stop the evil in this world but there is the love of God. Against the love of God there is no law, meaning nothing can stand against Him. While the world frets and stirs and worry we proclaim the amazing love of God.
How are we living? Are we giving our time, resources, gifts and thoughts to the advancement of God’s kingdom as an ambassador, a royal priest, as a child of God? Or are we chasing the desires of our flesh, hoping to quiet the conflict in our heart while the world crumbles around us, families fall apart, kids are abused, and good intentioned people walk off the cliff following self-righteous religion? Are we willing to watch our brothers and sisters suffer and die in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Somalia, Myanmar, without a thought, a prayer, a hand?
• An abundant life
• Joy overflowing
• Contentment in all circumstances
• Peace that surpasses understanding
• Love, real love, perfect love that casts out fear, never-ending love
• If we follow Him. If we walk in who He has made us, who He redeemed us to be.
If we aren’t experiencing what God has promised, then we aren’t following Him. There is no neutral. Revelation contains seven letters to the churches, where God commends and rebukes:
To the Church in Laodicea
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22
This church had lost its dependency on Jesus. This church had lost its understanding of the great need they had spiritually. They believed they had it together, but they weren’t useful in the kingdom of God. They weren’t hot, bringing warmth, or cold, bringing refreshment; they were lukewarm, worthy only to be spit out.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock” was written to a church, to Remedy, to stop being complacent and apathetic. God is saying to stop being middle of the road and lukewarm, or He will spit us out of His mouth. His message is in love – because He loves, He is saying, “Take heed! Listen up! I love you, this is why I’m saying this to you.” God is knocking; it’s not too late. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This is God’s invitation to us today.
Together we walk into the promises of Christ and become the church He designed us to be, and we experience all the things God has designed the church to do and be, and He is glorified, and many will come to know Him. All this is done in Christ and Him alone.