STEP TOWARD REVIVAL AND UNITY IN THE BODY
By David A.
What is this Gospel that Christians
are commanded to proclaim?
We can be clear about what it is not.
It is not a set of ethical rules.
It is not a religious system.
It is not a philosophy or theological system.
To be sure, it embraces all of these elements to
a greater or lesser degree, but it is not to be confused
with any one of them.
The Gospel is not primarily a belief.
It is an invitation-an
invitation to meet and become an intimate friend with a
Person who is both truly God and truly human and who gave
his life so that we may live in the presence of God forever.
But Jesus is not just an historical figure; not even
a unique Figure who performed something that nobody could
(i.e. his atoning death and resurrection). He is full of these, but he is also a very contemporary
Person who stands before us now as a living figure. Beyond the Jesus of ancient history is the Jesus
(Yeshua) of the present moment;
the Jesus who waits to come and dwell within our
spirits and through his Holy Spirit transform us increasingly
into his own image. The Gospel is the good news that this miracle
has been made possible by the atoning death and victorious
resurrection of Jesus. It
is also the good news that this same Jesus now waits for
us to turn away from a self-centered life and toward him,
by inviting him to come into our spirits in a real and vital
True Christianity is not a religion.
It is a relationship.
A relationship between a man or
woman and God in Jesus. A Christian is one who has Jesus spiritually
within. But this
relationship with God is not something simply to be enjoyed
by ourselves. We are saved and transformed, not simply that
we may become holy people and go to Heaven when we die,
but so that we may become parts of a community of people
who are similarly being transformed inwardly and who, collectively,
maintain the presence of Christ in the flesh within today's
world. This company
of genuine Christians, the church (not to be confused with
any denomination, or even with the institutionalized church
per se) is the Body of Christ today.
In a very real sense, it is the continuation of the
incarnation of Jesus down through history. Jesus Christ is the Head and the church is his
Body; his corporate Body in the world.
Through the church, God is involved in human society,
just as Jesus was involved in human society.
Society is influenced by God to the degree that each
of these church members is surrendered to the will of God.
The healing of society and its transformation toward
a holy and just community is, I believe, a consequence of
the sanctification of the individual and the sanctifying
influence of many sanctified individuals upon the broader
we are both the light and salt of the earth, holding evil
in check and preserving the good in society as long as we
dwell within society.]
The church must
spiritually unite, not necessarily by merging into a single
denomination, but by awakening to a single vision.the vision
of itself as it ought to be; a vision of the church in all
its sundry and diverse manifestations united in a higher unity as
the Body of Christ, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, with
Christ alone as its Lord and Head.
Nevertheless, the church can only be a unifying and
transforming factor if it does not succumb to the divisions
of human society itself. Alas, this is just what has happened. The church as a whole and the people who are
its members have lost sight of the unifying vision of being
in the Body of Christ and have allowed the false gods of
human society to usurp the place that belongs to Christ
has become divided from Christian along line of race, politics,
class (and sundry other "secular" divisions) as well as
the peculiarly "religious" divisions of denomination, worship
style, theological doctrine and so forth.
These (divisions) become "gods" when they assume
a greater influence than the simple but profound fact of
belonging to Christ, being in him as part of his corporate
Body and being indwelt by his Spirit.
For example, one's theology may become so critical
to one's definition of a Christian that anyone having a
different theological position is regarded either as a non-christian
or as a "sub-standard" Christian. (I am not talking about
essential theological doctrines, i.e. the Deity of Christ,
but such things as predestination, eschatological [end-time
prophetic] doctrines, apostolic succession, etc).
A Calvinist (say) may so highly regard the doctrine
of Predestination that it effectively becomes his Gospel,
such that anyone rejecting it is thereby not considered
a true Christian, even though he or she may be truly committed
to following Christ. Similarly,
a Pentecostal may place speaking in tongues so highly as
to believe that anyone not speaking in tongues is unsaved.
Or, from the other perspective, an Arminian may reject
the Calvinist position as heresy and a strongly anti-charismatic
may dismiss Pentecostals as being inspired by the devil
[or demons]. Yet,
if all of these people have truly given themselves to Jesus
[having asked Jesus to come into their respective lives],
in reality they are all members of the Body of Christ.
Surely, this fact is more important than their differences,
important though these may well be.
Of course, they [all these various belief stances]
will not all be correct and I am certainly not arguing that
we take a position of theological relativism.
I am only saying that we should recognize that it is relationship
with God in Jesus that determines whether or not a person
is a fellow member of the Body of Christ, not whether they speak in tongues (or reject speaking in tongues) or whether
they believe in Predestination (or reject belief in Predestination).
Similarly, there are some who prefer a highly formal
style of worship, while others like free expression.
But if both have experienced the saving grace of
God in Christ, are they not equally Christian?
It is probably even worse when Christians are divided
over secular matters such as race or politics.
It is a terrible thing when Christian fights Christian
because their countries are at war. In past ages, wars were even fought over theological
differences (although these were always bound up with politics
[and I might add, secular nations
and apostate churches]) and many Christians have been persecuted
and put to death at the hands of other equally committed
of the persecution of early Quakers by the Church of England,
to name just one example.
If only they could have seen Christ in each other.if
All of these false gods must go.
The church must spiritually unite, not necessarily
by merging into a single denomination, but by awakening
to a single vision.the vision of itself as it ought to be;
a vision of the church in all its sundry and diverse manifestations
united in a higher unity as the Body of Christ, indwelt
by the same Holy Spirit, with Christ alone as its Lord and
Head. The church must awaken to the vision of itself
as the New Jerusalem into which stream all the diverse strands
of human society, merging there as the single citizenry
of the Holy City. It must have the vision of this citizenry going
forth into the world again, still being members of whatever
race or faction they previously were, but now with this
one great difference; that from henceforth they carry first
and foremost the badge of a citizen of the Heavenly City. Ambassadors
now of Heaven, being transformed inwardly by the continuing
workings of the Holy Spirit, in the process of being moulded
into the likeness of the Man of Heaven, they enter the world
again, bringing with them the vision of humanity redeemed,
of society transformed and of a world truly reflecting the
qualities of heaven.
This is, unfortunately, not what we have today.
But how do we get from today's church to the ideal? How can this great renewal-unifying revival-occur?
Is it just a dream?
Although many Christians would disagree with me,
I do not believe that it is just an unrealizable ideal.
After all, Jesus taught his disciples to pray that
the Father's will be done on earth as in Heaven.
God's will is followed in Heaven totally,
otherwise it would not be Heaven. And in praying what we have come to call the
"Lord's Prayer", we are praying for the same to apply on
earth as well. [And I might add, we're praying for God's will
to be done within the Body of Christ on earth, as it is
in Heaven. We cannot possibly enforce God's will on earth
as it is in Heaven until after the 2nd coming
of Jesus Christ. We
are talking about a unity of Spirit within all or a majority
of believers--bringing the Body of Christ into the will
of God in Heaven.] And
in praying what we have come to call the "Lord's Prayer",
we are praying for the same to apply on earth as well.
Surely Jesus would not have taught us to pray for
something that would not come to pass!
However, even if you don't agree that the church
will one day be "without wrinkle or spot" in this present
age, you would surely agree that we push toward it as an
ideal. Did not William
Law (though speaking of the individual Christian rather
than the church as a whole) advise that we should strive
toward perfection, for by so doing we might at least arrive
at something a little better than mediocrity?
In my opinion, the present-day church must recapture
the vision of holiness; both the absolute holiness of God
and the thirst for purity that is an inevitable consequence
of true conversion. [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/holiness.htm
.] A. W. Tozer lamented
that there were too many "half converted" people in the
church. Of course,
we cannot really be "half converted".
We either are or we are not, as Tozer himself well
knew. But what he
meant was that too many church members are satisfied with
settling down at a point below full commitment to Jesus.
They believe, they go to church and they live
relatively moral lives, but true spiritual transformation
is simply not there. Or
if it is there, it is too weak to have any real impact either
on their lives or upon the life of the church and world.
There are, alas, many within the visible church who
seem only to have been converted in the mind.
They believe truly enough, but their belief bears
little fruit in their lives.
The real impact of the Gospel does not penetrate
into the deeper recesses of their being. Some of these people become those of whom Jesus
spoke in the Parable of the Sower as the seeds that fell
on shallow ground. Because
the ground is shallow, the seeds germinate quickly in the
warmth, but their roots are so close to the surface that
the plant soon dies. It
takes little for such people to lose their faith, because
theirs was never a saving faith in the first place [i.e.
it was a mental conversion, but not of the heart via the
indwelling Holy Spirit taking genuine root in that person's
life-i.e. false conversion].
It was simply an interesting belief that they held
until something more appealing came along, or an emotional
response to an energetic preacher that evaporated once the
emotion cooled. Nothing
penetrated into their deeper spirits.
Not all people with a merely "surface faith" fall
away however. Some go through life with the sort of faith
that James spoke about; a faith that has no spiritual impact
whatsoever and which, as James said, is a faith that is
shared even by the devils [demons].
At least, the devils have enough appreciation of
the holiness of God to tremble. Unfortunately, the holiness of God has become
such a taboo subject in so many pulpits today that the nominal
Christians with their surface-only religion do not even
do that. If they did, presumably they would take their
relationship with God more seriously!
So the first step is to become truly aware of the
holiness of God . and not just "aware" as an intellectual
assent, but as a deep spiritual experience. [again, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/holiness.htm
.] Watchman Nee used
the term "the shining" to indicate a type of inward spiritual
illumination, brought about by the Holy Spirit, that made
the truth of a spiritual fact experientially real to the
individual. Genuine conversion is a "shining" on the fact
that salvation lies in surrender to Jesus.
Simply believing this in the head, however, saves
no-one. But when the Holy Spirit illuminates its truth
and applies it to the individual, a true spiritual conversion
takes place and the person is saved.
What the church, and its members, needs is
a "shining" on the fact of God's holiness.
But the fact must be heard before it can be "shone"!
Once the holiness of God is truly revealed to us,
the full force of sin begins to be correctly appreciated.
We read about people falling to the ground during
the revivals under Wesley and Edwards, often in a state
of great terror as they experienced the double-edged "shining"
of God's holiness and their own sinfulness.
Even someone as holy as John [the apostle] told,
in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, how he fell
at the feet of the glorified Christ like one who was dead.
Such is the effect on people of the holiness of God
when truly revealed to their spirits.
A genuinely converted person will feel inwardly drawn
toward personal holiness.
If one claims to have been converted and yet delights
in some deliberate sin, something is seriously wrong.
It is true that even a converted person will, at
times, commit sin and it is true that Christians continue
to struggle with sin, but it is not true that a genuine
Christian can continue to wallow in deliberate sin.
Unless true holiness becomes increasingly attractive
and sin increasingly distasteful following conversion, the
validity of that conversion must be seriously questioned,
irrespective of the intensity of sobs and fervour of promises
at the penitent form. [underlined portion, a term not familiar
in American English, please redefine.]
The church and all those within it must also be clear
that Jesus is their personal Lord and that allegiance to
Him must come before allegiance to anything or anyone else.
Christians must see themselves as individual members
of the corporate Body of Christ and must be submitted to
the Head and work together in the unity of the Spirit so
that the will of the Head (Jesus) is carried out through
the corporate Body. We must realize that in trying to put in motion
our own plans for the way in which we think the church should
operate, we are treating the Body as our own bodies would
be treated if the limbs and organs acquired wills of their
own and started operating independently of the brain.
Our own bodies would tear themselves apart; so why
should we expect any less disastrous result for the Body
All of this must, I believe, be "shone" into the
innermost spirits of Christians and into the corporate spirit
of the church. Like
everything else in the Christian walk, intellectual understanding
is not enough. The
truth of it must go deep down into the spirit; be "shone"
as Nee would say and "engrafted" into our spiritual nature,
as Selwyn Hughes expressed it. Then, and only then, will the spiritual unity
of the Body (which the church has been given already . it
is not something to be acquired) be realized in fact and
the church made ready to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit
in driving back the gates of Hell.
Unity Meditative Prayer Groups
We will now look at a practical suggestion.
This is in the form of a "spiritual exercise" that
can either be followed alone or with a small group of up
to six or so people. You
can either chose to be part of groups forming up in affiliation
with this website, UNITYINCHRIST.COM, or you can, if you
choose, form an independent group of your own.
It is, however, strictly for committed Christians
who have made a personal commitment to Jesus as their personal
Saviour, Lord and God and who hold the Bible to be the revealed
word of God and that everything necessary for salvation
is contained therein or provable from what is written therein.
It is important to be sure about this, as the belief
in spiritual illumination of truth already revealed in the
Bible can easily slide over into a belief in revelation
beyond what the Bible actually says. We need to be very clear about this from the
very start and remain firm in our resolve to test every
illumination and word of prophecy against the revelation
recorded in the pages of the Bible.
We must also be clear that this "exercise" is a form
of quiet time intended to open our spirits to the gracious
work of the Holy Spirit. It is not a form of spiritual relaxation and
is not intended to produce "warm fuzzy glows".
Indeed, it should constantly present us with challenges
and there may be times when we are made to feel decidedly
uneasy. But this is how it should be, for only through
challenge and confrontation (under the guidance of God)
with those aspects of our lives that are still not surrendered
to the Lordship of Jesus, can we expect to grow spiritually.
Although following a set form [described below] may
be challenged by some as incompatible with freedom in the
Spirit, we nevertheless feel that it is essential for the
initial times of spiritual exercise. We therefore strongly urge all those participating
in these times of quiet (whether as individuals or as small
groups) to follow the format at least for the first four
times, i.e. while the meditations listed below are being
used. One of the
following four meditations is to be used each time, in the
order in which they are given below, and included in the
form of the exercise which we will soon present.
These sessions may or may not be weekly, but after
these four are completed, we ask that you prayerfully consider
what the further meditations will be and whether the session
will continue in the same format or whether this will be
changed. We do advise
that, if you feel led to change, that the change be gradual
unless you feel especially called by God to proceed differently.
We therefore urge that, at least initially, the personal
or group time of meditation and reflection follow this form.