LOOKING FOR GOD'S CHURCH
by Michael McPherson
Joe was leaving his local church in Andover. I asked him why? He said “Not enough bread.” He had an unfulfilled hunger to grow into the fullness of Christ.
Joe’s story is true and I hear the same cry from believers across the land that have a hunger for Jesus Christ; “not enough bread.” To understand the problem we need only listen to the witness of the typical Sunday church goer.
Invariably when that person describes their church or invites me to visit, he’ll talk about the great speaker in the pulpit, or the wonderful music and singing, or the many activities for families, or the various opportunities to serve, or he’ll mention the great accoutrements of the church, and finally what warm and friendly people I will meet. Oh, someone once said to me “I think you will like it here, I’m sure you’ll find a place.”
The testimony of the Church
What a strange thing this is, this “church” they have just described. Their witness is often an appeal that attracts carnal men, a witness of the flesh. How unlike and foreign compared to the testimony of God’s Church, a witness of the Spirit. In His book, Unveiling God’s Church, Pastor Paris Reidhead give us insight in to the testimony and invitation of the Church:
Excerpts from Unveiling God’s Church – by Paris Reidhead
“We were the worst of sinners. But God had mercy on us so that Christ Jesus could demonstrate his great patience with even the worst sinners. And we that live no longer live for ourselves but live for Him. We are a local company of believers banded together by the Holy Ghost, with one mind, one heart, and one Spirit. We have utterly abandoned everything to His sovereignty.”
“We are not an organization but an organism, a Body, held together by the Spirit of God in love for Jesus Christ, in worship of the Triune God, and in mutual strength and encouragement and in witness. He is our first love. The only reason our church exists is to glorify the Lord through the lives of our members and to bring Him honor, fame, praise and love.”
“Our hope is that in every day, every circumstance, in every situation God and His sovereign love is going to use our lives to bring glory to His Son as each of us grows into perfection, when each is filled with all the fullness of Christ. Come brother and share Christ with us, for He walks in our midst.”
Is this your testimony?
“I believe there is a high call of the Spirit of God for the Church to see Jesus Christ not as He was, but as He is…And to fall on your face before Him.” The Head of the Church that sits at the right hand of the Father is not the meek and lowly Jesus who was bloodied and scourged and hung on a tree and pitied by men. No, No. In the Book of Revelation we see that the Head of the Church is King Jesus and when we see him, yes even the righteous in Christ; John, Joshua, Daniel and Isaiah drop at His feet as if dead. His eyes are like a flame of fire, His hair is white as wool, his countenance bright as the shining sun, his feet like burnished brass and his voice like the roar of oceans. Lord of Lords, King of Kings, this is the Master and He is to be held in awe and feared by His Church.
The King, the ancient one who appeared to Daniel, who took on the form of man for the redeeming of a people for God Almighty and who died and was resurrected and sits on His throne, this is the King who will judge the world. And all who come to the King, all who have been cleansed by His blood and twice born to enter His Kingdom have become his bondservants, slaves to His will yet joint heirs through His Spirit to the riches in Christ Jesus.
This King has said His Church is like a candlestick made to reflect the light of Him who is light. And in that light there is no darkness but righteousness and truth. His Church is to be a reflection of Him but more than that. His Church, His people are to be His Body through which the praises, purity and righteousness and works of God may be manifest to His glory. And if through sin this ceases to be the truth, the candlestick is removed.
His people, His Church is to be perfect in Him for it is not them that live anymore, the man or woman born from the womb of women but it is a new creature, God Himself in the dwelling place of human flesh. And perfect in that sin is confessed, forsaken and cleansed until the flesh becomes dust and the spirit returns to its maker.
What is this Church, this gathering, this ecclesia, this Body of Christ? It is God Himself in the midst of men and in the midst of a man, in his soul and spirit. And to some he has given gifts to bring all to a full knowledge of Him and to heal them and to comfort and to exhort and to provide.
What is this Church but a group of broken men and women who love him, who would die for Him, would endure all persecution for him, who are his bondservants, slaves to the will of Him who sent the Son. Is this true of you?
And he has said they will be perfect, holy and righteous as he is perfect, holy and righteous. His Church is not a preacher, a choir, a nursery, a building, or group of people gathered under one roof with a cross in their midst. No, not all my friend.
There are not multiple “ministries” and service opportunities in His Church but one - a royal priesthood for every believer. And to some he gave gifts to teach and prophesy and shepherd that every child of God may be brought up to fulfill their role in this ministry as a royal priest, ministering to God Almighty.
And it is the King, not men, not programs, not volunteer opportunities not activities, not leaders, but the King Himself who sends and directs his people to here and there. It is the King and King only who can hear the cries of the lost sheep caught in the briars. And He sends his people to where the needs exist. For His people hear His voice.
And then in the Book of Revelation he tells us he holds the messengers to His Church in His hand. What is this? Whether he be teacher, pastor or prophet he says the messengers to my Body are only those who are in my hand, who I control. I put the words in their mouths, they are beholden to me. As Jeremiah and Paul could not go against the grain but could only speak what God had given them to say because of the fire in their bones so it is for the Lord’s messenger. Is this true of you?
The job of the messenger, the one in the pulpit, is to deliver to the Lord a Bride pleasing to Him. He does not seek to please the people, or emoluments, or tithes but has a single mind to please the Lord. To provoke the people to righteousness and holiness. To guide them into the fullness of Christ so they become royal priests unto God. The messenger has given himself over to the Lord, to let the Lord use his mouth as a vessel for His two-edged sword.
Many times people go to church looking for something that is going to smooth them, and soothe them, and comfort them when they do not need comfort and cannot expect it from an honest God. How true this is today. We find that the Scripture is being fulfilled when it says, “Men will not endure sound doctrine, but will heap to themselves teachers because they have itching ears that the teachers will scratch, and comfort.”
“True preaching inevitably is God’s Word spoken to the need of man, whatever that need may be. That one who would tremble at the faces of men, cannot think to be a servant of God, but can only be thought to be a servant of men.”
And in the midst of the Church I see Jesus in the people. I see meek, broken, humble people, subject to and who welcome reproof and reprovers. Thanking the Lord all the while for revelation of sin in their lives so they may be perfect before him and be in the place of blessing so that others may be blessed. Is this true of your church?
You know the only one that should not fear the Son of God is the one who fears Him, to the place where he falls on his face before Him, abandoning all sin, all uncleanness, acknowledging what he is. That one who fears Him is the only one who need not fear Him. It sounds like a contradiction, but the one who has no fear of the exalted Son Of God is the one who ought to fear Him, and the one who fears Him because of who He is and all of His worthiness is the one who will hear Him say, “Fear not.”
John Wesley said, “Give me two hundred men that hate only sin, and fear only God and I will turn the world upside down for Christ.” Is this true of your church?
If you see me and want me to visit your church answer this for me: “Will I meet people broken by the Lord; is the Lord himself in the midst of the people; is there communion of the saints – a company of believers that desire to share Christ and not ceremony. Is the preacher held in the hand of the Lord, a person who speaks not to soothe carnal men but speaks from the heart of God who commands His people to be holy as He is holy, to love your enemies, to mourn over sin in the Church, and to love God with utter abandonment to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ?
In fellowship with other Christians, does your heart overflow with a deep longing to talk about Christ? Will I find people that understand to be blessed is not sensual comfort but the only thing that counts to a Christian, that he is able to glorify Jesus Christ as a priest unto the living God and can cry out as did Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ! It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Is this true of you?
Jeremiah 13:11 – “As a loincloth clings to a man's waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the Lord. They were to be my people, my pride, my glory--an honor to my name.”
How does this happen
How does a local group of believers grow into the Church of Smyrna or Philadelphia, candlesticks pleasing to the Lord Jesus? Perhaps we have a blueprint in the Class Meetings of John Wesley. The Class leader selected was a godly man, a man mature in Christ who walked with the Lord. He would labor every week with those who had a desire to go further with Christ. He would labor not just in the Scriptures but as a spiritual father over his brood, until each person came into the Normal Christian life, filled with the Spirit.
The first step in this process is to recognize the Gospel is the grounds by which you come to Christ, but it is not the message by which you grow up in Christ.
Now, if you have never been born again, this is the message for you. Christ died for your sins. But if you are a child of God, then this is the foundation upon which your Christian life rests, but you will not grow up into Christ by this message. This is the milk of the message that Christ died for our sins, that He loved us and washed us in His Blood. This is the milk. Now it is indispensable that we have that milk and drink deeply of it, for by it we live. But Paul said to one Church, “When you ought to be eating strong meat you have need of milk; when you ought to be teaching others then you are not able.” And so we have to go on, just as the text goes on.
He said, “Christ in you, the hope of glory, whom we preach, warning every man, teaching every man that we might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” full grown in Christ.
Is God content to have you well born? No! It says, “He gave evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of those saints into the work of the ministry, until we all come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Now, everything in the Christian life is postulated on first being washed in His Blood. Being born again. But you see it does not stop there. It also is postulated on coming to the Cross, and dying there with Christ. But it does not stop there. It also is postulated on being filled with the Spirit. Christ taking up His lasting dwelling place in your heart through faith.
When God ever does something through a man he does through a man that has entered into union with Christ in death and resurrection, and is filled with the Spirit of God. It is the basic minimum for service. Not to be in His family, but for service to the Almighty.
You see, as long as you keep a cross on a hill, and people sitting in the pew, looking at a cross on the hill, and they say, “Well, that is where Jesus died, isn’t that wonderful. My sins are under the Blood.” Then you can live anyway, and go anyway, and be any kind, and get a preacher that is going to do it all for them. And their whole job is just to bring people to him. It is well and good. But it is all on the level of milk. It is all on the level of the first floor.
But the moment you say, “Wait a minute. There is not only a Cross on a Hill, but there is a Cross for your heart.” And you cannot be what God wants you to be until you let the Cross come into your heart. Not only a Cross for Christ, but a Cross for you. Not only that He died for you, but you died with Him. You have another matter.
The Cross gets to be mighty cutting. It comes to the place where it is a tremendously expensive thing to go on in this way. And so when you start for something real, you have to be prepared to pay the price. Not just to believe that there is a Cross. It’s terrible to have an easy believism in respect to salvation, deadly, destroying. Multitudes will miss Heaven because of it.
The ministry of the Church
There is only one ministry in Scripture that I recognize the Lord has ordained for every believer who reaches the fullness of Christ. And that ministry is the royal priesthood, wherein Christ is revealed in each believer.
This ministry is manifest by: (1) the burden of the heart of Christ - intercession for sinners; (2) a witness for Christ - proclaiming what you’ve seen and known and experienced; willing to live for the Lord at whatever cost, to the despoiling of your goods, to poverty, to tribulation, and even to death; (3) the character of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit –love for God, love for the brothers and sisters in Christ, love for enemies, joy and peace, long suffering, gentleness and meekness, faith, self-control and a hatred of sin in one’s life and in the Church; (4) authority over the works of the devil to remove strongholds and spiritual blindness, enforcing the victory gained at Calvary; and (5) gifts of the Spirit, used to strengthen the Body of Christ And such a witness from such a church the Lord can and will seal. He has done it in the past. And He will do it again."
- Paris Reidhead
All praise and amen to our Father in Heaven and our Lord Christ Jesus.
Michael McPherson, LLG Ministries