It is hard to think of anything bigger than me. In our world, in the enveloping narcissistic, self-loving culture, self is at the center. It's all about me. We are gods and our idols are our things because they are our things. Our pictures, our kids, our phones, our cars, our opinions--oh, how clever and important we are. We're smarter than God.
But God says that His Church is a fortress which He holds in a revolted world:
The Lord has a people, a chosen people, His church, to be His own, His own fortress, which He holds in a sin-stricken, revolted world; and He intended that no authority should be known in it, no laws be acknowledged by it, but His own (Testimonies to Ministers, p 16).
God says that He will have an outpost, a fortress, even on planet earth. On this lone planet in rebellion, here, He will have a people who keep not the commandments of self, a people who are not Hollywood pretend gods, but a people who have turned their eyes upon Jesus and modeled Him. They are representatives of Jesus in a world controlled by self-seeking.
Midst all the strutting, fake, would-be gods, God's people are as sheep and lions. They follow the true Shepherd while walking through the crowd of self-tatooed people who think they own the planet. They cut a path through the empty clutter of the world, through posturing, boring claims of human progress. They are helped by Jesus, they overcome the world through Jesus. They resist the devil and he flees from them because in them is the power of Jesus. It is not inherent in them but they are in full cooperative mode, and so in God's strength they choose to do God's will. God provides the power.
They are an experiment. They are a spectacle. How does God do that? How does He build this fortress? How do I, the follower of Jesus--with all my inherited and cultivated dispositions to self-service--in my experience, how are all these overcome? How do I cooperate in building God's fortress rather than operate as an undermining agent?
Making His Fortress
Understand the Sin Problem
Sin has turned people outside-in. We were designed to be social beings. The only way one can be a social being is to live unselfishly. Anything else would reduce others in our sight to mere objects to serve our wants. Sin makes the creature a god; sin make's self the center. Sin puts the creature in the place of God. To make all things serve the creature is to feed delusion.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).
Instead of recognizing God's true way singular, we are born distorted and damaged; we enter life as untrue human beings; we start as shadows. Our social interest is limited to three: me, myself, and I!
Beginning at the trailhead, almost instantly we are forcing our way through nettles, briars and thorns. Rather than advancing in the steps of Jesus we blaze our own glorious trail through the poison ivy.
Our self-perceptions are untrustworthy. We need guidance from outside ourselves. We are given a conscience but it is not self-contained. We need the influence of the person of the Holy Spirit. We need God to communicate through the conscience He has given us.
Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. One might be able to present the letter of the word of God, he might be familiar with all its commands and promises; but unless the Holy Spirit sets home the truth, no souls will fall on the Rock and be broken (The Desire of Ages, p. 671).
The conscience is of critical importance, but as the GPS device needs to receive the transmission of the satelite to know its true position, we need to be in communion with the Holy Spirit or even our conscience will be useless.
The sin problem means that we need God's help both directly and socially. We need His direct influence upon us and the influence of Jesus through His followers. The Church is His agency for that.
Join the Church on Heaven and Earth
There is a whole family in heaven and on earth.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-17).
The holy angels who have never fallen, they are part of this family. I want their influence to be upon me. I need the help and influence of pure beings, selfless servants of the Most High. I am lowly, I have made myself a sinner. I am fallible. I am easily misled. I need help from God's fortress.
Where are we at our best? I hope it is in the Church. That is the influence I need. I need to be in a place where I hear the things of God, where I rejoice with fellow believers, where I worship with like-minded servants. I need to be in a place where I am spiritually accountable, where there are Bible-based standards of behavior, and where those are upheld.
Hear this carefully now. The Church is where we are most godlike and therefore most human. In worship before God, there we come to the highest place a human can be.
Receive its Influences, be its Influences
Paul said that his work was to reveal the wisdom of God "through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 3:10). "To Him [God] be the glory in the Church and in Jesus Christ to all generations forever and ever" (Ephesians 3:21).
The Church is on God's journey. The Church is on the move. But the Church is also under continuous assault. Pushed and pulled from every side--to the extant that its members do after the world and listen to the values and voices of the world, and not to the Lord Jesus the Head of the Church and to His appointed servants in the Church--Heaven's influences are diluted.
God has a voice and His voice speaks. He speaks to us through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, through the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, by the voices of angels, through apostles and pastors and elders and preachers, through the appointed officers of His Church, and through our fellow members. We are not alone as long as we are truly seeking His ways. But let yourself slip back into self-service, and each and every source just listed are blotted out of our hearts and minds and we find justification to do what our lower impulses wanted us to do all along.
We live in a time of ease, satiation, and non-responsibility. But Christianity requires diligent attention. The life of faith is a battle and a march.
Live by the Law of Receiving to Give
God has appointed the Church for service. We lead others to Christ and we encourage and strengthen our brothers and sisters as we see the last day approaching. The Church is where truth is lived-out, where faith is built-in. Church is the last place in our world where we are kept accountable.
God has a plan for His people. He is building them up. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not triumph over His Church. In His Church will be a spirit of service.
Our prayers are not to be a selfish asking, merely for our own benefit. We are to ask that we may give. The principle of Christ's life must be the principle of our lives. . . The capacity for receiving is preserved only by imparting. We cannot continue to receive heavenly treasure without communicating to those around us (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 142, 143).
We gather to hear truth, to be changed by truth, to become more like Jesus. And we gather to serve, to reach out. We are joined to God's family. Angels desire to speak through us, to non-believers, and to believers. Many times godly counsel from a brother or a sister have corrected me and set me more into the path of Jesus. Let's admit it. On our own we are dismal failures. But when God speaks to me through a brother believer, then I am helped by my family.
Again in Christ's Object Lessons we read,
There are conditions to the fulfillment of God's promises, and prayer can never take the place of duty (p. 143).
Duty is an old word today. Who talks about duty? But the Church knows about duty, or at least the true church does. We hear from our God, we receive from our God, we obey our God. We must pray but we must also do right. Jesus shows us how this works in Matthew 12:46-50:
While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside seeking to speak with Him. Someone said to Him, Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you. But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.'
We do what Jesus says. Then we are family. We're not saved by the doing, but we do because we are joined to Him and He to us.
All His gifts are promised on condition of obedience. God has a heaven full of blessings for those who will co-operate with Him. all who obey Him may with confidence claim the fulfillment of His promises (Christ's Object Lessons, p, 145).
In recent times obedience has been heavily attacked in the Church. But the Bible still records the truth of Jesus.
We find it hard to do what God says. We find it hard to submit to our brother and sister Jesus-seekers. Its because we don't want to trust God and we don't want to trust God's servants. This quotation says it all:
Many have not a living faith. This is why they do not see more of the power of God. Their weakness is the result of their unbelief. They have more faith in their own working than in the working of God for them. They take themselves into their own keeping. They plan and devise, but pray little, and have little real trust in God. They think they have faith, but it is only the impulse of the moment. Failing to realize their own need, or God's willingness to give, they do not persevere in keeping their requests before the Lord (Ibid., pp. 145, 146).
We stop doing for God and stop trusting, and we replace that doing and trusting for Him with doing and trusting in ourselves and for ourselves. Then we fail miserably.
Trusting God and Building and Being Built as His Church
God is bigger than me. Or, in my mind, I am bigger than God. It is one or the other. If God is bigger than me then I want to be completely serious about His Church. If I am bigger than God, I won't think very much of His Church.
When we have turned to our own way, God calls us to turn to His way. Let me share one last warning, this from Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 52-53:
The Lord has His appointed agencies, and a church that has lived through persecution, conflict, and darkness. Jesus loved the church, and gave Himself for it, and He will replenish, refine, ennoble, and elevate it, so that it shall stand fast amid the corrupting influences of the world. Men appointed of God have been chosen to watch with jealous care, with vigilant perseverance, that the church may not be overthrown by the evil devices of Satan, but that she shall stand in the world to promote the glory of God among men. There will be fierce conflict between the church and the world. Mind will come into contact with mind, principle with principle, truth with error; but in the crisis soon to culminate, which has already begun, the men of experience are to do their God-appointed work, and watch for souls as they that must give account.
Will we work through His appointed agency, His Church? Will we hear His speaking through her? Will we cooperate in His plan to ennoble men? Or will we set our wisdom against His, our opinions against His, or set the ways of the corrupting culture round us in place of God's views? Will there be fierce conflict between the Church and the world, or will the Church acquiesce to the world, surrender, plucking and eating its poison rebel knowledge?
God will finish His work. Jesus will triumph. We will triumph through Him if we are willing to walk with Him in white. He is worthy. But this will only be our future when we accept that God is bigger than we are.
Chewelah WA SDA 2017-04-22