STEP TOWARD REVIVAL AND UNITY IN THE BODY
David A. J. Seargent
What is this Gospel that Messianic
believers in Yeshua 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 Yeshua 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 Yeshua of ancient history is the
Yeshua of the present moment;
the Yeshua 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 Yeshua
haMeshiach. It is also the good news that this same Yeshua
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 way.
True Messianic Judaism is not a religion.
It is a relationship.
A relationship between a man or woman and God in Yeshua.
A Messianic believer is one who has Yeshua 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 Messiah in the flesh within today's world. This company of genuine Messianic believers
and Christians, the church (not to be confused with any denomination,
or even with the institutionalized church per se) is the Body
of Messiah today. In a very real sense, it is the continuation
of the incarnation of Yeshua down through history. Yeshua
haMeshiach 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 Yeshua 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
world. [i.e. 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
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 Messiah, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, with
Messiah 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 Messiah and have allowed the false gods of
human society to usurp the place that belongs to Messiah alone.
Messianic believers and Christians alike, have become divided
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
These (divisions) become "gods" when they assume a
greater influence than the simple but profound fact of belonging
to Messiah, 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 Messianic believer that anyone having
a different theological position is regarded either as a non-believer
or as a "sub-standard Messianic believer". (I am not talking
about essential theological doctrines, i.e. the Deity of Messiah,
but such things as predestination, eschatological [end-time
prophetic] doctrines, apostolic succession, and the differences
between Torah-observant and non-Torah observant groups).
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 believer in Messiah, even though he or she may be truly
committed to following Yeshua.
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 Yeshua [having asked Yeshua to come into their
respective lives], in reality they are all members of the Body of Messiah. 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 Yeshua that determines whether or not a person
is a fellow member of the Body of Messiah, 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 Messiah, are they not equally believers in Yeshua haMeshiach?
It is probably even worse when believers are divided
over secular matters such as race or politics.
It is a terrible thing when believers fight believers
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 believers in Yeshua have been persecuted and put
to death at the hands of other equally committed believers
in Yeshua. Think of
the persecution of early Separatists by the Church of England,
to name just one example.
If only they could have seen Messiah 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 Messiah, indwelt by
the same Holy Spirit, with Yeshua haMeshiach 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 Messianic believers may disagree with
me, I do not believe that it is just an unrealizable ideal.
After all, Yeshua 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 Messiah 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 Yeshua
haMeshiach. We are talking about a unity of Spirit within
all or a majority of believers--bringing the Body of Messiah
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 Yeshua
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
believer in Yeshua 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 Yeshua.
They believe, they go to services 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 Yeshua
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
believers in Yeshua with their surface-only religion do not
even do that. If they did, presumably they would take their
relationship with God more seriously!
[Some age-old Christian churches are filled with people
like this, although many are empty now.]
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 Yeshua.
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 Messiah 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 Messianic believers continue
to struggle with sin, but it is not true that a genuine believer
in Yeshua 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.
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. Messianic
believers in Yeshua must see themselves as individual members
of the corporate Body of Messiah and must be submitted to
the Head and work together in the unity of the Spirit so that
the will of the Head (Yeshua) 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 of Messiah?
All of this must, I believe, be "shone" into the innermost
spirits of Messianic believers and into the corporate spirit
of the church. Like everything else in the Messianic 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 Messianic believers
in Yeshua haMeshiach who have made a personal commitment to
Yeshua 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.