Memphis Belle

Messianic UMPG
To log onto UNITYINCHRIST.COM’S BLOG, Click Here
Unity in Christ
Introduction
About the Author
Does God Exist?
Gospels
Epistles
Prayer
Faith
the Prophets & Prophecy

Psalms

OT History
Early Church History
Church History
Sabbatarian Heritage
The Worldwide Church Of God
Messianic Believers
Evangelism


America-Modern Romans


Latin-American Poverty


Terrorism

Topical Studies
Guest Book
Utility Pages
Mission Statement
Share on Facebook
Tell a friend:
 

A STEP TOWARD REVIVAL AND UNITY IN THE BODY

By David A. J. Seargent

I.

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 way.

          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 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 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 alone.  Christian 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 Christians.  Think 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 only!

          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 and http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/GoandSInnomore.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 of Christ?

          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.

 

II.  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.

Click here to continue
This will print the whole Teaching
Click to Print

Content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
Questions or problems with the web site contact the WebServant - Hosted and Maintained by CMWH, Located in the Holy Land