There’s a bit of rhetoric going around these days that goes like this.
You can tell how popular your church is by how many show up on Sunday morning. You can see how popular your pastor is by how many show up on Sunday night. You can find out how popular God is by now many people show up at prayer meeting.
Catchy, and probably intended to carry some “you ought to” with it. Hey, it could be that prayer meeting is a miserable time. Maybe the intercessors of your church are the depressing–God’s glass is almost empty and His bowl is almost full–kind of people. Maybe the prayers offered carry so little faith that it actually leaves you less in love with God than when you came.
And yet, Paul says this:
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; – Colossians 4:2 NASB
Hey–I know you can pray in secret. I know prayer meetings can miss the mark. I know some people loath praying out loud. I know some people (I’m sure there are those who would point this finger at me) seem like they love the sound of their own voice.
But we must pray.
It’s the first thing to slip in our lives.
Private, personal prayer is the first thing to go as we drift.
The first thing to slide in the Church setting is corporate prayer.
My inclination is to end with a “you oughta’…” but instead, I’m just going to ask you to meditate on this one phrase today:
I just want to throw down a quick thought for the day.
Unity is NOT built on agreement.
It’s natural to come to the conclusion that if we gather with people of the same mind, there will be unity. But that is more like conformity, and honestly, it’s not healthy.
Paul tells us in Colossians, we can choose unity, and it’s all about what we’re wearing.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. – Colossians 3:12-14 NASB
Let me give you that list of clothing again.
A heart of compassion
Bearing with one another
Forgiving each other
And–beyond all these things (does this mean as an overcoat, or as underwear–I’m not sure how this should work in the analogy–anyway)–most importantly…
Yep–unity comes from putting others first and turning your love on. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to be the same. We just have to love.
I’ve heard folks say… “I read the end of the book and…God wins!”
True enough, but there is some other stuff in the end of the book that is a little mind blowing.
If you know me, you know I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that God takes up residnece in the believe’s life.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. – John 14:23 NASB
Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Jesus, by His shed blood, breaks down our walls and fits us together as a dwelling place for the Father.
I pointed to Paul’s statment in 2 Corinthians, pulled forward from Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He would be our God and we would be His people.
Well guess what! That is were the book ends, and with a bang.
Check this out:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. – Revelation 21:2
Wait—what? The bride of Christ is what? I thought I was the bride of Christ. I thought the Church was the bride of Christ. What am I missing here?
I want to show you something wonderful. God’s deepest desire for man, from the day He breathed the breath of life into Adam and made him a living soul, was to walk with man, to dwell with and in man.
The greatest picture of this is Jesus, the God-man. As man as man can be, and yet all the fullness of the Godhead dwelled within Him. All man. All God.
Jesus came as our Savior, God taking the punishment for sin upon Himself.
Jesus also came as a picture of God’s desire for man. Christ in you, the hope of Glory (or can I tweak it a tad and say, Christ in you, the fulfilment of Glory’s hope.)
So here it is, in the 2nd to last chapter of the whole book:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, – Revelation 21:3
This is not the echo of those other word, they were a foreshadoing of this moment. The moment when God reveals the bride, the wife of the Lamb!
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, – Revelation 21:9-10
The bride is a city! Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God Himself.
This triggered something huge in my heart. Jerusalem, sometimes called Zion, represents the body of believes, the bride of Christ. Jesus perpared this dwelling place for the Father by His blood and through His body on the cross.
I promised I would change the way you read the Psalms, well, here it is.
Next time you run into a reference to Zion in the Psalms, plug yourself, and your local community of faith into the text and see what happens in your heart.
Here are a few examples to chew on.
“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:6
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad. – Psalm 14:7
Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. – Psalm 48:2
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. – Psalm 50:2
His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion. – Psalm 76:2
The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. – Psalm 87:2
Hope there’s a wow in your spirit as you ponder this.
I have to tell you, believers need community. You’re a building block, a part of the body. Don’t live your life like a lone leggo lying on the living room floor. God’s plan includes you, fitted in place.
To be clear–I don’t care if you sit in a pew or a coushined chair and “attend” a Sunday meeting. I don’t care if your community meets in a living room, a hotel conference ceter, or a diner. You simply need to live life with other believers.
You need to “one-another” somebody.
We are the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, Mt Zion, the Holy City, a dwelling place for the All Mighty!
Today, I want to talk to you from the back end of Ephesians 2.
Paul’s talking to the gentile believers in Ephesus about how God, by the blood of Jesus, has taken down the dividing walls that separated them from the Jews.
If you can believe this, there were divisions in the Church!
I know, hard to grasp, right?
We all know our society is split up a dozen ways. In the US at least, there are fractures everywhere, and these breaks are growing day by day.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, – Ephesians 2:13-14 NASB
This dividing wall between Jew and Gentile is not the only wall the blood of Jesus can break down.
All the walls of hate that separate us are fodder for His blood.
Walls that devide the races.
Walls that devide denominations.
Walls that devide rich and poor.
Republican and democrat.
Educated and uneducated.
by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, – Ephesians 2:15 NASB
But to what end?
Why take this fractured mess and bring it together as One New Man?
What’s the point?
Frankly, it’s so He can build something new.
He had to tear down the walls we built between us so that He could erect walls around us. More precisely, He desires to use us as building materials for a new structure.
This is the part I really love!
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, – Ephesians 2:20-21 NASB
He breaks the walls down that separate us, then, as a master builder, fits us together.
But to what end?
Jesus is not building a temple where we come to remember a distant God and His works from long ago.
He’s not making a museum or library.
in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:22 NASB
He destroyed all that separates us and built a home for our Father.
God didn’t send Jesus to build a memorial to a God of the past. He sent Jesus to prepare a place where He Himself could be at home with His family. A place where He could—well, I like the way Paul puts it, borrowing heavily from Jerimiah:
just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. – 2 Corinthians 6:16 NASB (check out Jeremiah 7:23 and Ezekiel 11:20
Frankly, daily relationship is all God wanted from the day He thought of Adam. God’s heart yearns to commune with you, with us. He longs for the day when He can walk with this One New Man in the garden in the cool of the day. When our conversations would include Him. When His voice would be heard in the congregation of the saints.
We tend to put off this level of relationship with the Father to the day we go to heaven, but that’s not God’s plan. His desire is to dwell among men. Emanuel—God with us.
That’s enough for today, but next time, I want to talk with you about Zion, the city of the great King. It’s a revelation that will change the way you read the Psalms.