When God shakes a local assembly...
Rachael HillMemorial Website
What must we learn?
III. We moved off of the only Foundation upon which God builds.
The Word of God is clear: there is only one foundation upon which God builds, and that is His beloved Son Jesus Christ � period. �For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.� The period at the end of this sentence, while not found in the Greek, is one of the biggest periods in the Bible. It means nothing follows. Nothing is added. It is not Jesus Christ plus what we think is important � such as �baptism�, or �the baptism of the Holy Spirit�, or even �the testimony� or �the eternal purpose�, or �the church�.
Foundation and purpose are inseparable. Add to the foundation, and you've left the foundation. Why? Because God will not build on anything added to His Son, because His Son is everything and includes all else in His heart, because His Son is the All-in-All, the Alpha and Omega, the �all-sufficient� One. To add to His Son is to take away from His Son.
Anything added to His Son very soon becomes competition to His Son. It takes on an importance of its own, a life of its own, a cause of its own � a purpose of its own. Ultimately, it even becomes anti-Christ because it competes with His Son, it supplants His Son. Never overtly, but always ever so slowly, ever so subtlley, invisibly. It is like the story of the frog put in the pot of cold water that is slowly warmed first to room temperature, then to 100 degrees, then to a boil. The frog never knows, because he is made to simply adjust his temperature to the environment in which he dwells.
All through church history, when the Lord has recovered many precious and important truths found in His Son, only eventually to have that truth grow in importance � even to where it becomes more important than the Son Himself. Justification by faith resulted eventually in most protestant denominations; baptism resulted in the �Baptist� denomination; being �filled with the Spirit� resulted in Pentecostal and charismatic churches � and so on. The pattern is in the nature of man, and has never been any different. The only requirement is time. Eventually, man gets his hands, his self-stained fingers, on God's work, and slowly, imperceptibly, turns a wonderful truth into a foundation and center.
And God's sheep, being sheep � follow. Thinking all along that they are following the �true way�, apart from all others.
IV. We left the �simplicity which is in Christ� and the truth that fellowship is dependent upon and centered upon Jesus Christ alone, adding nothing.
God the Father has but one center for His people: the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, is the basis for all fellowship. Because He is the center and basis of all fellowship, we live lives of being in fellowship with any and all who name the name of Christ and who truly know Him.
We never separate ourselves into those who base our fellowship with other saints on something other than, or in addition to, the Lord Jesus. By holding fast to Jesus Christ alone as our center, we continue in fellowship with all saints, wherever they are found � even if they are in denominational, or sectarian groups. We don't join in their sectarian works (works that promote or build their sects), but we maintain fellowship with them. We do not, by our judgment, separate God's people � even though they may separate themselves. We embrace all who are truly �in Christ.�
Our oneness with all true believers is not a theory � it must be a practice. Our Lord's last prayer with His own in John 17 focuses on the oneness of His people, and He even states that it is from seeing this oneness that �the world will believe.� The converse is also true: the world does not believe � and has a reason to not believe � because it sees God's people so divided.
The oneness He prayed for here is not the petty internal oneness of any particular group � even cults have that kind of oneness. It is the oneness of the whole body of Christ. It is the active embracing of all believers in Christ (not ecumenism which is a phony imitation) and the refusal to allow ourselves to become self-contained and separated from our brethren in other circles of fellowship. It is a standing on the fact of our oneness � in Christ � with all true believers.
It should be a bright �red flag� to us when we find ourselves fellowshipping almost exclusively with those in our own group. It is a contradiction to God's purpose and call, His nature, His ways. It is a clear indication that we have become sectarian. (Note: One can be in a sect but not have a sectarian spirit; one can have a sectarian spirit, and not be in a sect. A sectarian spirit is not of the Lord. All sects eventuate from a sectarian spirit, and a sectarian spirit will result in a sect.)
When we leave the simplicity which is in Christ, we add complexities of the faith to our basis of fellowship. And in adding complexities, we divide God's people into two groups: those who �see�, and those who �don't see.� Those who have �vision�, and those who don't �have vision.� We now have two classes of Christians � the �spiritual� and the �unspiritual.�
We develop, again � slowly and subtlely � an attitude that we � and we alone � are those who are really hearing from God. We are the ones moving with God. All other Christians are involved in something less important than we, for we are the ones focused on what is most important to the Lord � it is others that are on a tangent. In reality, we are proud. Proud of what we know. Proud of what we �see.� Proud of what we understand that others do not understand.
Of course we are blind to our pride. And blind to the fact that God Himself states clearly that He opposes the proud, He is against the proud � especially when the proud profess to represent Him. Why? Because there could hardly be a greater misrepresentation of His character � meekness and lowliness. We address this matter more thoroughly at the end of this article.
The effect is both internal on our particular Christian community, and external on our fellowship with all other believers. We have divided the body of Christ. We have done what God will not do. We have created an elite group.
In time, this elite group becomes not larger and larger, but smaller and smaller. Why? Because the requirements for �seeing� become greater and greater. The common saint, being clueless, is left out. And as the group shrinks, it becomes even more proud and arrogant. Which means more sectarian, more divisive.
At the same time, we become more �inward� focused, and all ministry and outreach to others dies. Everything is about us, and our whole purpose in being a light to the world is lost.
Without doubt, the call of the Holy Spirit today is for us to return to Christ � simply Him � and the simplicity which is in Him. All over the world we see this, and through many is coming this clarion call.
V. We developed a false understanding of �the Testimony of God.�
All through history, God has rarely � if ever - not had a testimony � a witness � for Who He is and what He is really like. In the worst times, it seems to have been limited to no more than one single man. Often it has been a very small number of people. Sometimes has it been in large numbers of people.
So what is His �testimony�? It is so simple: it is God being Himself in the midst of His own. It is God living in His people. It is God's life. It is God's presence.
What is NOT God's testimony? It is not a TRUTH to be held on to. It is not a knowledge. And it is not something that we �stand for.� Why not? Because it is either a reality or it doesn't exist. Actually, we cannot �stand for� His testimony at all! Why not? Simply because we either have it - or we don't! It is either a reality � in God's eyes and the eyes of His enemies � or it doesn't exist. Regardless of what a people believe.
If we say we are �standing for� His testimony, it is almost certainly a statement that we actually do not have His testimony � we do not possess it in reality. Our only possession is our own declaration that we have it! It is like holding on to air! In scripture, the only things we �stand for� are those which are finished matters wrought by God, those things finished by Christ's work on the cross, His triumphant resurrection and exaltation.
If God's life, His presence, His very character and nature and person, are present � then He has His testimony. Regardless of how much truth is present, how much understanding of scripture, how much �spiritual knowledge�, how much �standing� for His purpose there is � if He is not there � in character, nature and person - there is no testimony. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Most simply put, the �testimony� is Jesus Christ. Period. Not knowledge about Him, not talk about Him, not teaching about Him. It is Jesus Christ Himself, present and real. No more and no less.
Where Jesus Christ Himself, present and real, is there, there is testimony. If He is not present and real, all declaration about testimony is a deception.
The Most Important Issue
If we had to identify one characteristic � of all the wonderful characteristics that apply to our Lord Jesus � that could uniquely signify that He is who He is, and that He is present - what would that be?
Our first thought would be �love.� And there is a solid scriptural foundation for this. But love is seen in many places not having the Lord's presence and commitment, such as the work of Mother Theresa.
We could suggest that it might be �oneness�, for the very prayer of our Lord in John 17 states, �that the world may believe� as a result of our oneness. But this oneness is not the oneness that exists within any small group itself or with groups of its own kind (that is common to all sects), but the oneness of the whole body of Christ.
I would suggest that that unique characteristic not found anywhere in the works of unbelievers, which is incredibly rare among believers and almost non-existent in Christian leaders is this: the humility, the meekness and lowliness of the Lord Jesus.
I believe that Isaiah 57:15 and many other scriptures support this: �For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, �I dwell on a high and lofty place, and with the contrite and lowly of spirit, in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.� (NAS)
Where does He dwell? Where does He live? Where does He commit His very presence? Only one place � among those who are lowly and contrite, meek and lowly. Why? Because this is the way He is and only these are like Him. Only with these is He �at home�. Matt. 11:29, �I am meek and lowly of heart�� (KJV) �He humbled Himself�..� Phil. 2:8.
There is a �must-read� article by Chip Brogden on �The Secret of Spiritual Power� that so clearly shows how God commits where He finds His people broken and humble before Him, and how He resists and opposes the proud. ( http://www.watchman.net/articles/power.html )
In all of the things we have discussed so far about the areas in which we had fallen so far from His original purpose, I realized that this one issue, perhaps more than any other, was at the root of our fall.
I was thinking and asking myself, if I had to identify the one characteristic that so convinced me, in 1974, that God was building something in our midst, what would that one item be?
It was so clear to me today. It was this one thing: a spirit of true humility, meekness, and lowliness. I had been all over the world of Christendom, and not found this one thing anywhere. I sensed then that in all those involved in this little group, this one characteristic above all, and IT WAS THAT ONE THING THAT CONVINCED ME THAT CHRIST HIMSELF WAS IN THE MIDST. I had never seen it anywhere else before.
And, correspondingly, it was the absence of this one thing (except in a few), and the presence of its very opposite - pride, presumption, arrogance � that was the "clincher" for me that the Lord had moved on from this particular group of saints and was no longer present.
Of course, this is only the view of one who himself is proud and arrogant, and who "sees through a glass darkly...."
When these things described above begin to happen, at some point, a group of Christians becomes �a camp�. Hebrews 13:13. Regardless of its origins and history, it becomes something separate, something exclusive, something God did not intend and does not support. Eventually it becomes something God not only does not support, but something that God opposes, something that God resists, something that God is actually against. Ezekiel 21:9, �A sword, a sword sharpened and also polished! Sharpened to make a slaughter. Polished to flash like lightning!�
God had to destroy Israel. His very prophecies had repeatedly stated that if Israel did not repent, she must face His judgment.
Why? Because of its origins, its history, it once truly represented God. It bore His name. But it had come to represent everything that was the exact opposite of Him. It became a lie. It said it was one thing while in reality it was another. It became something actually against Him. The great deception was that Israel thought that because of their origin and history that they had God's unconditional support regardless of their beliefs and practice.
Because it became a lie, it became such that it could only be maintained by lies.
For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts. Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
Isaiah 9:13 � 16.
How deceived they were.
Whenever a company of God's people � again, regardless of their history or origins � becomes �a camp� � a separatist group, an elite group, a group that has left its Head, its Center, and its Foundation, we have no choice on what we must do.
We are not called to reform the camp. We are not called to change the camp. Few are even called to expose what the camp really is.
We are called to leave the camp. �Hence, let us go out Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.�
When must we leave the camp? There is no specific answer for this. We must listen to the Lord and obey Him. First, we must be so close to Him that we discern when a company becomes a camp. We must be able to sense whether or not His very presence is there, whether His life is there. If He is there, we must stay. If He is not there, how can we stay where He won't stay?
Is the Lord Jesus alone the Head? Is He my Head?
Is the Lord Jesus alone the Foundation? Is He my foundation?
Is the Lord Jesus alone the Center? Is He my Center?
And most importantly, is His Presence there? His presence that is verified by not only love, and oneness with the rest of the body of Christ, but most clearly by a spirit of meekness, lowliness, and humility � which must be exemplified in leadership even more than in the saints.
Where do we go if we leave the camp? Hebrews is most clear: �to Him.� Note the stark singularity of the word. Only �to Him.� We never go to a place. Another group. Another camp. Only to Him. Keep in mind while God had to destroy Israel, it was only so that He could rebuild and recover her eternally. It is the same today � the destruction is not the end, but part of the process that God may eventually get that which He is truly after � something that represents Him, His beloved Son, faithfully and fully.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, it is very interesting that there seems to be a move of God all over the world to call saints back to Himself, back to the simplicity that is in Christ, back to that one-on-one, intimate relationship that He has sought with man since Adam and Eve, that relationship which was finally obtained by His shed blood and finished work on the cross.
Well known men of God such as Peter Lord and Larry Crabb are hearing and speaking this word. The Lord has also raised up eloquent but less well-known men like Wayne Jacobsen and Chip Brogden who are also letting the Holy Spirit speak clearly in this matter.
Could this be the present move of God (not �movement�)? If so, it appears it may be the one to usher His very return. It appears the result is that many are being drawn to again fall in love with the Lord Jesus and walk closely with Him. It appears that it will not and cannot be something that can ever become a �movement� controlled or taken over by men.
May we have such grace as to sense and to know and to cling to and follow only the Lord Jesus, His leading, and to His presence, seeking Him with a whole heart, loving only Him, and letting His Holy Spirit convict us of sin at all times that we, only by His grace, can stay in a place of continual repentance and recovery.
Note: I strongly recommend reading an article written by T. Austin-Sparks entitled, �I will Overturn,
Overturn, Overturn� based upon Ezekiel 21:27. It is a far clearer description of some of the same issues I have
touched here. It can be found at www.el-shaddai.org/overturn.htm
Other recommended and related articles:
By Chip Brogden:
Is Jesus Enough?
The Secret to Spiritual Power
By Wayne Jacobsen:
We Already Have a Shepherd