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Chapter Eight

The Bride Lives … in Fellowship With Light and The Yoke of Jesus:

(The Place of Abiding, The Safeguard Against Error)

 

“…how can light have fellowship with darkness?” 2Cor 6:14 Amp

“Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.  But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1Jn2:10-11 Amp

                When we talk about walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ, walking in the light, abiding in love – these are all expressions that speak to the same process and disposition; that is they refer to taking the yoke of Jesus upon us and living in that place of yielded-ness and Christlikeness.  For the Bride, this continually expansive submission to Christ’s life and vision is not only imperative, without it we are truly nothing of His.  As the Bride is to be the physical presence of Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit here on earth – she can do nothing without Him.  Conversely, with Him she can do all things.  In between these two states the Bride must live and move and have her being in Him.  The Bride must become one with Jesus.  He is her Lord and the Most High God.  To receive Him is to receive His yoke.

 The Yoke

            Jesus’ yoke.  Think of brilliant light –         whiter than any white you have ever seen.  Like the light of Jesus at the transfiguration, where He became resplendent – washed in a glowing light.  Now think of this like a mantel around your shoulders, a sphere or ellipse that is carried aloft by its own power and properties.  It has substance and mass, light can pass through it yet it is not transparent.  It is in fact cloud-like.  Sometimes you can sense Its presence upon you.  It focuses you and leads you – yet you are free to move.  It wraps you in love as thick as honey, and your heart is buoyant with the depth of this love, yet you see people and events in clarity and truth.  You see motives, hearts, and woundings, beyond three dimension. Within the fold of this yoke there is unity, and fellowship, and oneness with Jesus and the Father.  In the parameters of this yoke all the wisdom, power, and giftings of the Godhead are operative.  This is how I think of the yoke that Jesus offers us.  And yet … we are often unaware of it.

            There is a second yoke as well.  Not the yoke Jesus offers – but one of slavery, oppression, lawlessness, darkness, sin, and eternal damnation.  Its weight is immense, pride strengthens its hold, and its grip upon lives is like shackels upon the hearts and minds of its inmates.  It is confining, and enslaving, and unforgiving, and unyielding.  Its bonds are only removed once its hold has been broken from off its captives.

            A brief study will show us that Jesus’ yoke – all that He offers us — arose from His sacrifice on the Cross. It is derived from His Messianic Kingdom and the New Covenant  which Jesus cut with the Father in Heaven.  This yoke is Jesus’ offering to us as His believers and followers.

In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus mentions His yoke is easy, and gives rest for our soul.  One of the Strong’s renderings for this word “yoke” that brings great insight is “balance, for a pair of scales.”  The balance is the post that everything rests on.  All is held at the intersection of the balance post and the arm that holds the scales in place. On the shoulder of that balance or yoke rests the arm for the scales.  All the weight of everything on the scales rests upon that small place.  The balance shoulders every weight, steadies it, and keeps it in place. The stuff sitting on the scale doesn’t carry the weight – the balance does – or more exactly the yoke does.  He gives us His yoke, and He takes all of our weights, cares, and sin.

Now this is my opinion, but I can make a fairly good case to support some of it … but I believe there are multiple aspects to the yoke of Jesus.

For instance, in Galatians Chapters 4 and 5 we find a discussion of a yoke of slavery, and right with it – Jesus’ yoke of freedom.  By extension we also see here a yoke of the law and of grace.  From 1 John 2 and 3 we might also notice there are yokes of light and darkness, love and hatred.  Romans 6, 7, and 8 speak of similar juxtapositions between what could be seen as a yoke of the flesh and the yoke of the Spirit.  But what I hope to express is that while Jesus has one yoke – this yoke has many facets that are all reflective of Him.  They can be spoken of as Love, Grace, Freedom, Light, Spirit, Kingdom, righteousness, and Life.  Yet more than just words that simply define — they carry the characteristics of Jesus Himself.

The other yoke descriptions such as hatred, law, slavery, darkness, and flesh/world/sin/death are antithetical or opposites of Christ.  And while they coalesce as a yoke as well – this yoke stands as one that opposes all that Christ is and what His yoke offers.  These are truly two polar opposites, these yokes. They are antagonistic to each other and opposed to each other just as Galatians 5:17 clarifies that the desires of the flesh are opposed to the desires of the Holy Spirit.

 The Litmus Test for Knowing Him

Now, in Matthew, Jesus asked us to take His yoke upon us and to learn of Him.  First John Chapter 2:3-6 begins to show us a way to determine if we are knowing Him more.  You see – one might just be able to make the statement according to Scripture that without taking on Jesus’ yoke we can never get to know Him.  Thus, knowing Him in increasing measure becomes a means to validate that we have indeed taken His yoke upon us.

So 1Jn2:3 tells us that we can estimate that we are knowing Him more deeply if we are keeping and observing His commandments.  No new commandment is being given here, but rather an old commandment is being restated, and in this restatement it is made clear that it is fully realized or accomplished “in Christ.”  We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Why is this so important?  Because we see in 1Jn 2:9, if you don’t love as stipulated – then you are deceived and in in darkness.  You see, “Love” is the greatest gift of the Lord, and it is the most defining element of Jesus’ yoke.  It stands to reason, as a litmus test, if one thinks He is knowing Jesus more and more and is being obedient to His commands (to love), but does not love – he is deceived.

In Fellowship

There is a need for simple agreement between what we believe, and what we do. It is called “congruence.” There is agreement between what we are inside, and how we are behaving on the outside.  There is even greater need for agreement or fellowship between us (The Bride) and Jesus.  This is the intention behind the discussion of Paul in 2Cor 6:14-16.  The words used to describe the desired relationship are yoked, partnership, fellowship, common, and agreement.  Over and over Paul is making a case for believers to be in full agreement with Jesus, and light, and fellowship, and harmony.  This point cannot be underestimated in importance.

If we think we are in agreement with Jesus yet we hold an opinion in conflict with Him, or His word – we do not have true fellowship with Him, for at that moment we have broken fellowship and we reside in darkness.  If we see His requirement to love – yet we retain hatred, we are in darkness.  If we exercise our own opinion on any Biblical subject and find we are out of agreement with Jesus’ word on the subject – we are in darkness, and we are operating under a spirit of error and rebellion. If we think we are progressing in Christ, yet we do not love – we are not operating under the yoke of Christ.  We have deceived ourselves and are still held in slavery by a yoke – of bondage, hatred, and darkness.

In a sense – we can almost think of Jesus, His word, His Truth, His Spirit, His Life, His Light and all other aspects of His yoke as layers of His Yoke.  Almost like spherical planes stacked one upon the other, distinct, yet comprising one Yoke – they exist in total agreement.  They are one Yoke.  The have complete fellowship, each one with the other.

Likewise, there is similar perfect agreement and unity between Jesus and the other members of the Godhead.  “… Behold, the Lord our God is One.” (Deut 6:4)  Where Jesus is, there is Light, and there is Truth.  Thus to abide with Christ means we abide in His Light and His Truth and His teachings.  Another way to think of this is: as we have His agape love for our brothers, we abide in His Light, and sin and error have no access to us.

          Jesus and His Yoke Frees us From Error

            This concept of protection from error is further addressed in 1 Jn 2:27 which says:  “But as for you, the anointing (the sacred appointment, the unction) which you received from Him abides [permanently] in you; [so] then you have no need that anyone should instruct you.  But just as His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood, so you must abide in (live in, never depart from) Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him], just as [His anointing] has taught you to [to do].”

            And also 1John2:10:

            “Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin.”

            By abiding in Christ and His Light (read Yoke) the occasion for sin or error is removed. To abide in Christ is also to abide in His Truth and His Light, and His Love.  They are perfect overlays of each other. We cannot abide in the Love of Christ, and then fail to adhere to and embrace His Truth and Light.  To abide in one, we abide in all.  To fail to abide in one means we fail to abide in all. This is what we want to focus on more particularly.

            When each of us is saved, we are anchored in Christ, but we are not completely sold out to truth, or light or love.  These are things that get sorted out as we progress in Christ.  It is the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling.

Think of it like the devastation of Katrina within New Orleans.  Once recovery work was started, it took time and effort to overturn the damage.  We too were each damaged and devastated by lives lived in darkness and sin.  But once we were saved, consecration to Christ, obedience to Him, and the renewal of our mind by the word began to overthrow the previously despotic rule of the flesh and sin in our lives.  The moment we are saved, we are all Christ’s, positionally.  But He begins the task of becoming Lord over our lives freeing us from every yoke of bondage to darkness, slavery, and every lofty thing in us that exalts itself against the true knowledge of God.  He does this through His Word and the agency of the Holy Spirit applying the work of the atonement in us.

            Think then, of the danger in these end times for believers to ever imagine that their wisdom can contend with the truth of God.  I speak here specifically of where believers begin to parse the word of God, for any one of various reasons.  Sometimes we have trouble getting our heads around a particular doctrine or teaching.

For instance, think of the debate that rages between believers and denominations (The Bride) over topics such as eschatology (end times prophecy), the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, just to name two.  There are many others.  Matthew 24:12 speaks of the church in the end times when it states: “And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.”

          The Greatest Need is Love

We need to stop here for a second to emphasize something.  Imagine my foot stomping on the ground here.  In three pivotal Scriptures we have looked at – Love was the front-end – the doorway so to speak.  In 2 Cor 6:14-16, where Paul discourses on fellowship and light, just prior to that he is urging them to open there hearts and affection for the people of God.  He is saying they need to love! In 1Jn2:10 we have seen that to abide in the Light and to be free from stumbling or error or sin – we must love!  And lastly, we see (Mt 24:12) that as the love of the end-times church dwindles and waxes cold, lawlessness and rebellion increase. Love keeps us in the fellowship of Light and Harmony with Christ.  Love keeps us abiding in truth.  Love keeps us free from error and sin. So as love in Christ declines in these last days, abiding in Christ also declines, and error and lawlessness increase.

I also want to say that where we lack in certainty in our understanding, agape love can provide the entrance to apprehend in the spirit what our minds cannot yet grasp.  It is also this agape love that keeps us in the right position of submission and humility before the Lord.  Thus, even where I don’t understand – I can still submit and obey (like Abraham with Isaac as an offering).  It is in this place of love that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is propagated and nurtured.  It is here that no charge that can be brought against me.  It is here, that the character and presence of Christ expands – where love is.  God is Love.

         The Warning to the Bride

            Back to the critical point here — you and I and the Bride at large, are not qualified to pick and choose from the Bible what to believe or not based on what we like, or agree with, or what makes us comfortable or happy.  We are not in such a privileged position to do so, nor do we have the wisdom to do so.  In fact, that action constitutes idolatry. As Jesus (the Word made flesh) is in perfect agreement with His Light and His Truth, we are not free to rewrite or edit them to our liking or comfort.  And yet, this is often exactly what believers attempt to do when they cannot grasp or rationalize, in their own thinking, a Biblical Truth.

            If the Word of God, Jesus, Truth and Light are indeed all in agreement, then to reject any part of the Word is in fact like rejecting part of Jesus or His Truth or Light.  It is to move outside of the Yoke of Jesus, outside love, and to welcome and indulge error and darkness into the Bride that should be a body filled with light and truth.  Listen with that in mind, again, to what 2Cor 6:14-16 says:

            “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers [do not make mismated alliances with them or come under a different yoke with them, inconsistent with your faith]. For what partnership have right living and right standing with God with iniquity and lawlessness?  Or how can light have fellowship with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and Belial [the devil]? Or what  has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement [can there be between] a temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in and with and among them and will walk in and with and among them and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

            You and I can, in ignorance, yield to a yoke of darkness and captivity when we yield to a yoke not of the Lord’s.  It is a mismated alliance.  It is a joining together of things that are of God, with things that are not.

Jesus has said to us, Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me (Mt 11:29-30).  His yoke is like His Word, His Light and His Truth.  It is not something to be parsed, edited, or tampered with.  To receive Christ is to embrace His Word and Light and Truth – without our editing them.  He is Lord and we submit to Him, and to His yoke – intact.

            In this day, the Bride faces a great challenge to yield only to Jesus, His word, and His yoke. She must submit to Him, resist the enemy, and he will flee from her.  But the greatest entrance and success for her abiding in Christ and to having fellowship with her Lord is to remain in His Love and to allow it to remain in Her. Let our fellowship with Jesus be in the fullness of Who He is – with no presumption to edit, or parse, or substitute our own creation for the Wisdom from above.  God forbid!

            The crowning accolade for the end times Philadelphia Church (Rev 3:8) is that they have kept His Word and guarded His message and not renounced His Name.  The Bride must wake up to this warning – to forsake the Lord’s yoke in any part is to forsake His word, His Love, His Truth,  His fellowship — and by forsaking His love to instead to open wide the door to error, rebellion, and lawlessness.

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Chapter Seven

“The Bride says… ‘Yes Lord!’”

“For as many are the promises of God, they all find their Yes in Him [Christ]….”

Amp 2Cor 1:20

What Does It Mean To Say… “Yes”?

          Saying “Yes” to the Lord is more than merely an emotional response to a prompting or request from the Lord.  Rather, it has as its core both a level of subjection and trust in the Lord – such that the respondent is able and willing to fully obey.  It is also an utterance of praise for the Lord that will soon be followed by obedient action.  Like living faith – it has wheels – it will take action.  But this coming to “Yes” is very dependent on the heart and mind of Christ first being fully formed in us.  Just like Paul describes in Gal 4:19, His life is growing in us.  Where this life rules in us (where His Kingdom is truly ruling) – we become obedient just like Christ was obedient – because it is His life and His Spirit that then compel us.  This is what makes this saying “Yes” a manifestation of the miraculous!  Now it is no longer our old natural self life that we are living by, but it is the redemptive nature and life of Christ that are being lived and walked out in us (Gal 2:20).  To be obedient – requires our subjection to Christ and the Father.  This necessarily rules out self.  Where self has not been overturned by the Cross, we will not obey.  To be obedient, we are often called to do or say, or bear things that without His life and Spirit leading us – we would never begin to agree with let alone perform.  Saying “Yes” therefore is not only miraculous and supernatural, but it is our highest level of praise to God – “for if the heart of worship is obedience, then the greatest vocalization of praise is ‘Yes, Lord.’” (Word from the Lord – 15Oct11 @ Seville Baptist Camp, Cloudcroft, NM)  Let us explore this notion of saying “Yes” to the Lord more fully.  To do so means we must look at Christ’s obedience.  For if Christ was fully obedient, and it is His life formed in us that brings us to such obedience, than saying “Yes” must have its origin – in Christ Jesus.

                                                                                                   

Obedience of the Highest Degree

          There is a place, beyond what we can know by our natural senses, but a place that exists, in Christ, where every promise and every word of the Lord is yes and amen.  From Scripture we know that this place is a place where Christ reigns.  Psalm 103:22 refers to this as a place of His dominion.  “Bless the Lord, all His works in all places of His dominion; bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul!”  It is important to notice the worship that is evoked in this passage – He is blessed and praised here – not for His works – but as The Lord!  It is an acknowledgment of Who He is: His authority; His worthiness; His deity!

Yet before the foundation of the world, Jesus the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, was scheduled to come to earth to open a way for us to be restored in relationship to the Father.  He was crucified from the foundation of the world because in no other way could the quality of perfect obedience required to honor the Father’s perfect authority – be manifested except through God Himself.  On earth Jesus revealed to us the Father.  He manifested the Father to us.  Ultimately – He revealed the Father in the highest degree of His authority by becoming the sin offering that was needed.  Jesus became the personification of complete and total obedience in subjection to God the Father who is the pinnacle of all authority.  What we may tend to miss – is this.  Out of all requirements which Jesus walked out on this earth, the highest of them all was His subjection to the Father and His obedience to Him, even unto death.  Remember, subjection always requires the death of self to be able to obey.  So in this He not only overturned the works of the enemy (which promoted the introduction of self and rebellion), but in His perfect obedience Christ made a way now realized in His redemptive nature – that you and I can also obey.   So Jesus not only revealed through His death the supremacy of the authority of God, by Himself becoming the picture of obedience, but He made a way for you and me to also walk that way – in Him.  Jesus is … the perfect emblem of obedience!

The Beginning of “Yes Lord”

          In the Son — was the very first place where “yes Lord,” was uttered.  His “yes” was solidified “in Christ” — in Himself :), and manifested as He went to the Cross and fulfilled every term of the contractual agreement (Covenant) between He and the Father.  Because of Christ Jesus’ obedience — we can now receive every blessing prepared for us.  You and I receive these blessings when we abide and have our very being framed within Christ Jesus.  This is because:  where as many are the promises of God they all find their Yes answer in Him!   He said “Yes,” to the Father.  Now He is the very place of “Yes” for us!

The reality of this may be more complicated than we think.  However, our Lord Jesus Christ has made a way for us – where there was no way.  In His perfect obedience He has made a way for us to become obedient.  In His perfect love, worship, and honoring of the Father, He has created a redemptive life where we can “know Him in the power of His resurrection, in the fellowship of His suffering, and even in obedience unto death.” (Phil 3:10)  The entrance to that place “in Christ” is found through our surrender, with faith as the rail system for transit.  But paramount to abiding in this place of blessing – is having a heart of worship for the Lord where obedience forms its central core. The deepest and most Christ-like expression of any worship we may engage in is one where our heart vocalizes, “Yes Lord” and it then flows out of our mouth and out of our lives!

Again, beware less you think this is some ethereal, emotional, transcendent worship of the Lord – that has no practical application.  Indeed, application is both mandated and required.  We will walk out this worship of the Lord, in total obedience, every time we say in our heart and then with our lips: “Yes, Lord.”

Obedience to Also be Manifested Through the Church/Bride

          Before we begin to look more closely at the Bride, we must first understand this point.  That as Christ revealed the Father (and the Father’s Authority) through His obedience/subjection, so the Bride is charged with manifesting the authority of Christ, through her own obedience and subjection.  Christ is the Head of His Church which is His Body, His Promised Bride.  The Word says in 1Jn 4:17, “…as He is, so are we in this world.” So as He perfectly showcased the Father’s authority, so we are to do for Him, by our obedience.  However, there are issues with the Bride’s obedience (that of the Church) that must yet become captive to the obedience of Christ.

The Bride’s Readiness

          The Bride that is the Body of Christ is currently in varied states of readiness to say “yes” to her Lord.  Widely divergent beliefs, levels of faith, and most importantly obedience (or rather the lack of) within the body cause her to not yet be at the place of entering into all that the Lord has for her.  Let’s start our examination here – briefly, with divergent beliefs.

Divergent Beliefs

It’s not my goal to present a matrix cataloging all the differences in doctrines between denominations or in anyway really to discuss the differences between believers.  That is actually not the problem.  The real problem arises when, no matter what our denomination or profession, our belief or system of beliefs departs from the express truth of the word of God.  Where there is variance and actually “error” because of that departure – we block our ability to inherit the word and the promises of God.  You cannot receive what you do not believe or have faith for.  When you do not have faith – you cannot even begin to please God (Rom 8:8, Heb 11:6).  Faith is the mechanism for receiving our inheritance from God.  Romans 4:16 clearly outlines this process of inheriting.  Paul says:

“Therefore, [inheriting] the promise is the outcome of faith and depends [entirely] on faith, in order that it might be given as an act of grace (unmerited favor), to make it stable and valid and guaranteed to all his descendants – not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is [thus] the father of us all.”

So to inherit what God has for us – our faith must be right, but also our truth must line up with what God says.  This is foundational, because God’s truth is our bedrock to cling to.  It is the written counterpart to the One Who is all Truth, and Whose Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.  As we cling in faith to the Word of Truth – so we cling to Jesus, because our first and greatest inheritance – is the life of Christ in us which forms the “Yes” to even greater inheritance!

Levels of Faith

          Again just a brief word about levels of faith – these comments are simply preambles to what is the main point, so I don’t want to bog down in an exhaustive discussion.

Abraham had a level of faith which from the very beginning was able to compel him and move him.  He had living faith.  It caused him to so trust God that he was obedient and left his homeland of Haran under the direction of the Lord.  It later caused him to again move out under God’s injunction to offer Isaac, the son of promise, as a sacrifice upon the Mount Mariah.  It is here that we are given the very first use of worship – as Abraham tells his servants, “I and the young man will go yonder and worship and come again back to you.” (Gen 22:5)  His faith in God is fully operative – He is trusting in God and His promise that Isaac is the son through which the promise will be realized of being the father of many nations.

We look at Abraham in this situation and we might be tempted to insert ourselves – our perspective, our feelings about God’s request. Everything within us perhaps balks at such a request from God – to offer a beloved son.  How can one make sense of such a request?  We will see that one cannot.  But to stay to the point, this was not the first time that Abraham had gone through this process of obedience.  By this time he has already interceded with Jesus for the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah. He has already seen the result of remaining in faith to receive the inheritance concerning Isaac’s miraculous conception and birth – where his “human reason for hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised,…”. (Amp Rom 4:18)  Hoping in faith… is not like hoping in reason at all.  One looks at things unseen, one look at what is seen.  One trusts in God.  One trusts in our own ability to reason and think.  Hoping in faith was not a new process to Abraham, though His final testing of its strength was to come through this offering of Isaac (Heb 11:17-19).

Yet even more important, it is here out of his heart of worship that Abraham is fully obedient to the instruction of the Lord.  This is not mere external obedience – but Abraham is fully vested and united in faith – in spirit, soul, and body. His highest expression of worship is seen from his spiritual posture which has said “Yes, Lord – I will do as You say.”  From the moment he was given the instruction from God, to three days later at the place of Moriah, he moved constantly towards the place of “Yes, Lord.”

Don’t miss this point!  Obedience presupposes subjection to God’s authority, just as Christ was entirely subject.  But there can be no subjection when self is still ruling.  This is one of the things Jesus came to overturn.  So we know Abraham was in that place of subjection and obedience.  We know this because he arrived and did all that the Lord required.  If at any time he had moved into, “no Lord,” he would not have arrived at Moriah – nor would he have inherited the promise given to him by God.  But he was completely obedient – and while the rest is history – it shows us that before our heart can truly worship it must first be framed in obedience.  Again, the highest utterance of that worship framed in obedience is: “Yes Lord!”

A final comment – not only was Abraham fully vested in his obedience, but he actually gained “dunamis” strength and power in his worship of God.  In his prior experience of receiving God’s promise (Isaac) as his inheritance it says Abraham “… grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God.” (Amp Rom 4:20)  The rendering on this word “strong” is derivative from dunamis which is the Holy Spirit’s wonder working power.

What is the point in all of this?  When faith is fully resting on God – believing (like Abraham) that God is willing and able to do all that He has promised, we will obey Him and our obedience will walk out robed as worship.  This is the place of entry for receiving the promises and inheritance already purchased for us by Christ, which is only available “in Christ”.

“Yes” Believes and Obeys Despite Trouble

Even Unto Death

Think back to Joseph and all his troubles.  He didn’t know he was on the fast track to promotion in Egypt to the second highest position in the realm.  It didn’t look like that at all!  Through betrayal, and beatings, persecution, imprisonment, being overlooked and forgotten by men – he was never overlooked or forgotten by God – though it looked like that for a long time.  But the Lord was securing in Joseph a heart of obedience that was constantly expressed in the worship of his heart – a “Yes Lord” response to every adversity.  As I write this, I know it sounds easy.  But I know it was anything but easy – for it involved continual death in Joseph, just like it involved a death in Abraham and even Isaac.  It involved their dying to themselves: their own desires, plans, agendas, dreams, you name it – it all had to be laid down just like Isaac, a living sacrifice – and it had to stay down.

Think of this.  Joseph – having every “right” to hold grievance and hatred toward his brothers – yet continually surrendering that right and dying to it.  Joseph – having every “reason” to be offended by what God has apparently allowed in his life – continually choosing subjection and right relationship with the Lord.  Were there days when he was upset and angry, crying out to God – fearing with despair?  Most assuredly!  But in the final outcome – Joseph’s heart of obedience prevails.  Joseph – having every “reason” to doubt God and become embittered (as the chief butler in prison is restored and fails to remember Joseph to Pharaoh as one who interprets dreams) – instead chooses to remain in faith before God, though the days draw out and his captivity seems unending.  But again, Joseph remains in faith – the rails of his faith a solid and sure vehicle for operating in obedience – but his obedience to God is so profound that he is held qualified by God to be God’s platform to display God’s grace and power (Authority) to the Egyptians and the entire world at the time.  Joseph’s heart – every fiber of his being had to be aligned with “Yes Lord.”  Thus, not only does he inherit the promises of God (presented in his earliest dreams and visions), but the prominence of these promises is such that he is a type and shadow of the very nature of the Savior of the world yet to come as Zaphenath-paneah.

Quality of Our Obedience

          If you have ever worked with furniture restoration you understand that different types of wood have different hardness qualities.  Hence, the stain you use on the wood will penetrate deeply if it’s a soft wood like pine.  But a hard wood will allow less stain to penetrate because of the cell density and hardness of the wood.  Hardwoods have to be buffed sometimes with steel wool to get the level of intensity you want in the stain.

People are similar to wood in this regard – especially concerning the quality and depth of obedience.  This has a direct bearing on our walk in Christ and inheriting His promises.  When we are hard and resistant we have not surrendered.  We are not subject.  Jesus Himself recognizes our love for Him through the lens of obedience. (Jn 21:14)  In fact He disputes love where there is no obedience. (Lk 6:46)

Jesus relates a story of two sons in Matthew 21:28-31.  The father asks each of the sons to go and work in the vineyard that day.  The first son said that he would not, but afterward changed his mind and went.  The second son was asked the same thing by the father, but after replying that he would go – he did not.  Jesus asks the people – “Which of the two did the will of the father?”  When the chief priests and elders say to him the first son did the will of the father, He tells them tax collectors and harlots will get into the kingdom of heaven before them.  This was a revealing test for the elders and chief priests.  You see, they could recognize in the story which of the sons was obedient.  Thus, they condemned themselves as disobedient – because they would not obey.

Jesus was speaking about the priests’ and elders’ hardness of heart.  They would not change their minds nor subject themselves– but rather they resisted Him and the will of the Father, just like hardwoods that have not been roughed up.  The first son changed his mind and went.  His capacity to be moved and turned by the Lord was greater than the second son.  The same question can be posed to us.  Are we able to have our heart and mind changed by the Lord?  Can He move on us in our thinking to bring a different perspective – one that is obedient to the will of God?  Is our thinking able to be brought captive to the obedience of Christ?

This question in itself is like a litmus test to our hardness or to our lack of subjection and obedience to Christ.  2Cor 10:5 instructs us to actually refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God.  Many times such arguments come from outside our own thinking.  Sometimes they are aspects of our own thinking which have not been worked on by the Cross.  These things are introduced and retained by our fleshly, soulish reasoning, and by the enemy.  But they give us insight to where our perspectives are not aligned with truth.  Thus where our thinking is adversarial to the true knowledge of God, our obedience cannot be otherwise.  We will follow what we think until our thinking is overturned by truth!  May that happen with us all!

Say, “Yes” to Whatever He Says

(The Power of Agreement)

 

          Before Jesus could minister the Gospel to the Gentiles He was required to present it fully to the Jews.  It was the order of things given to Him by the Father as part of the Covenant obligations.

In Matthew 15:25 we have an amazing story of the Canaanite woman who runs after Jesus and His disciples, crying out to Him, begging for the healing of her demon possessed daughter.  When the Lord did not answer her, the disciples asked to be able to send her away.  He says to her that He is sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.  But she kneels before Him, worships, calls Him Lord and continually implores Him to help.  It is then that He speaks to her.  Jesus says, “It is not right (proper, becoming or fair) to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  (Amp Mt 15:26)  Now something incredible happens.  Where the door on the matter seems to be closing, the faith of the women (in agreement with the Lord’s words) finds a way to squeak in her toe of faith to block that closing door.  She says to Him. “Yes Lord, yet even the little pups eat the crumbs that fall down from their master’s table.”  Jesus turns to her, commends the greatness of her faith, and concludes, “Be it done to you as you wish.”  Her daughter was healed from that moment.

This passage reveals a number of really important things.  At the moment she was petitioning the Lord – she was tacitly outside the sphere of His ministry.  Do you see this?  Anyone –has the power to turn the Lord’s Head! She was Canaanite. But it was her faith and worship which gave her access to the benefits of His Kingdom.  How could He refuse her – when her faith and worship had declared her heart as being His?  Her faith and worship gave her entrance where natural birth would have disqualified her.

This next point may be more difficult, but it concerns the power of agreement.  She did not attempt to vindicate herself, or to deny His association of her as a little dog. What is really interesting is that as I researched the usage of worship in different Scriptures, in this text, Mt 15:25, the word used for worship is Strongs# 4352.  The word is “proskuneo.” It means to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand; to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (lit or fig) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): — worship.  Here is this Canaanite woman – worshiping the Lord in just this way, and as she is engaged in worship like a little dog kissing His hand – the conversation turns to the little dogs eating the crumbs from the master’s table! Amazing – but not coincidence! May we all have such faith, and such worship springing from the posture of obedience, and such devotion which causes us to not only be completely Christ-focused, but free from any worry or issue of offense as well.

In her subjection, she leapt over the Lord’s hurdle (of her ineligibility) on the springboard of “Yes Lord.”  In Matthew 18:19-20 we see the truth of this event depicted in the word.  It says, “if two or more of you on earth (harmonize together, make a symphony together) about whatever [anything and everything] they may ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For wherever two or three are gathered (drawn together as my followers) in (into) My name, there I AM in the midst of them.”  Here the Canaanite woman was completely in agreement with the Lord.  She was drawn in as more than a casual follower – for she pursued Him as her very life depended on him. Dead to the potential insult put before her, she instead used it as a stepping stone to reach Him. Many times we quote this verse but still do not receive what we are asking for.  If we are His followers, our first order of agreement is always with Him, His Word and His nature.  It is not agreement just between two believers.  It is two believers coming to the place of agreement — in the Lord.  These are very different things.  The reason is this: every word and promise is yes and amen in Christ Jesus!  So our agreement must be founded in Him believing like Abraham, that He is willing and able to do what we ask. The Canaanite woman found her agreement in Christ – she said “Yes Lord,” I am a little dog – but I am Your little dog Lord.

When my thinking and believing are framed in agreement with truth and the fullness of Christ is formed in me – I will find entrance, and the granting of my petition, just as the Canaanite women did.  But like her, our heart must rest in faith in Him, knowing He is Lord. However, it is our faith which remains steadfast in a heart of worship — walked out as obedience which secures the promise. Before we can ever receive what the Lord says, we must meet Him in subjection with a heart of worship that says, “Yes Lord!”

So must the Bride become — so she must do!

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Chapter Six

The Bride is…Without Veil

“But whenever a person turns [in repentance] to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away.” 2Cor3:16

 

We have been looking at various characteristics of the Bride of Christ all in an effort to clearly and with accuracy – “Imagine the Bride.”  We have seen how she has a focus which is different from the church.  We have looked at the profit of breaking in her life.  We have seen how she practices being un-offended.  We have explored how she is like a “dance at Mahanaim.”  And in the previous chapter – how she “is a wall.”  Now in this chapter we will examine the distinct likelihood that contrary to custom, and unlike tradition — the future Bride of Christ will be without a wedding veil.  Not that she will have committed a fashion blunder – and forgotten her veil.  Nor will she recklessly break with bridal protocol and choose to forgo wearing a veil.  No, I believe that that Bride will not wear a veil because she cannot.  Thus, just as Jesus himself often came in a line of Truth that clashed with established precedent – when it comes to wearing a bridal veil, I believe the Bride will be just as unconventional as the Lord.

Before launching into the full discussion consider this additional point which establishes the importance of this issue – because it is about more than simply fashion, or protocol, or an outward statement.  Recall in Mt 22:11-14  Jesus is teaching the Pharisees concerning attire at the future wedding feast.  Jesus reveals that a man has slipped into the celebration without having on the appropriate wedding garment.  Jesus addresses the man kindly, calling him “Friend.”  He asks him how he came to be there without the proper attire, but that man is unable to respond.  The man is then gagged and tied up, and thrown into the darkness outside.  In the heavenly realm it appears that there is a great correlation between our spiritual state and what we get to wear at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  This is further validated by Rev 19:8, where the Bride’s fine linen and her right to wear it – is because of her righteous deeds and godly living while on the earth.

Hence, what we are and do here on earth is knitting a future wardrobe for us in heaven, and there will be no falsity in that process!  It is imperative that we recognize this fact now, and chose a course today which will store for us treasure in heaven, even bridal wear!  So then, onto the discussion at hand – why won’t the Bride wear a veil?

 

 

Divine Trouble-making and Destruction of Tradition

 

Jesus came to upset the order of things as a prelude to deliverance and freedom.  He upset ideas about what could properly be done on the Sabbath.  He literally over-turned and upset tables where temple priests were selling animals for sacrifice, thus terminating their practices and traditions of commerce in the outer courts. He upset the people over washing practices, and forever destroyed misconceptions that external rigors or oblations perfected or protected anyone from being defiled.   He taught that what defiles comes from within – well beyond where we can scrub clean.  He blasted ideas about monies promised to the synagogue being a legitimate excuse for anyone to not take care of their families.  It goes on and on.

Jesus came to upset the old order, and to usher in a higher, more perfect order.  Yet He is very clear in Mt 5:17.  He did not come to undo the law, but to fulfill and complete it!  Jesus’ very nature was to upset the old older – and yet fulfill all aspects of the law.  That is why it is not difficult for me to believe that at the future marriage supper of the Lamb, the Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords – will be without veil!  Against every general bridal protocol and custom practiced historically and today – I believe there will be a great departure ahead.  To understand the significance of this we must investigate history concerning the veil and what is to come.  Let us begin our exploration in the Old Testament.

The Temple Veil

 

The veil within the Temple created a division between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, and as such served to both protect and separate.  It kept even the priests out of the Holy of Holies except for just one day of the year – the Day of Atonement.  In position, the veil hung immediately before the Mercy Seat, which was upon the Ark of Testimony.  Upon this Mercy Seat the cloud of God’s presence would appear and rest.  This Mercy Seat is where the Lord would receive the praise of His people.  It is also where He would manifest His Presence – the Shekinah Glory.  So the veil was a separator (of legal and protective importance) from the all-powerful presence of the most holy God.

Now however, you and me, believers in Christ Jesus – we are the very temple of God.  We are told in 1Cor 6:19 that our body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit – it is His sanctuary.  We were bought with a price, we are no longer our own.  When did this happen – this movement from a temple of stone and mortar to one of flesh and blood that is in-dwelt by the most-high God?  It happened at the Cross, when Jesus laid down His life to purchase us as His own.  Stay with me here now – this gets exciting!

Immediately after Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, the curtain of the temple (also known as the veil) was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth also shook at this time, and rocks were split open.  Tombs opened and many bodies of saints who were dead were raised to life and walked around the city of Jerusalem.  But focusing on the veil – it was torn from top to bottom.  This was not something any man could do.  This veil was immense and very thick.  It was only the hand of God, of Jesus Himself, making a way and opening up what previously was shut to us.  Only He could perform such a feat!  He made a way before us – that is open forever!  Our access to God the Father will never again be for one day a year, but His Son has made a way for continual, open access.  You and I have freedom of access to the God and Creator of the Universe that can never be taken away or diminished!  You must get this – the veil blocked our freedom to come before God!  The veil then stood as a proponent of slavery or bondage under the law and opposition to freedom.  This shall become clearer as we proceed.

Two Covenants:Types and Shadows of Slavery & Freedom

 

In the book of Galatians, chapter four, Paul sets up a profound and striking parallel.  He revisits the story of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis (especially Gen 22:17), and re-acquaints us with both of Abraham’s sons.  Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, is the progeny of his union with his wife’s maid Hagar — who is a slave or bond-maid.  Abraham’s second son, Isaac, is the offspring of his union with his wife Sarah — who is a free-woman.  Paul explains that this is an allegory.  Hagar and Sarah actually represent two different covenants, two different lineages.  One covenant had its foundation in the law given from Mt Sinai and concerns children destined for slavery.  This first covenant (Hagar) also corresponds to present day Jerusalem, for she is still in bondage/slavery with her children to the law.  The second covenant (Sarah) has its foundations in the Jerusalem that is above (the Messianic Kingdom of Christ) which is free, and she is the mother of free children – in Christ Jesus.

So there are two covenants and two lineages in operation and force today that we must recognize because they have great bearing on the discussion of the veil.  The children of the first covenant (from Hagar who was a slave) and even the present Jerusalem, remain under slavery even today.  They are of natural, physical decent; they have had an ordinary physical birth.  Hence they remain under the first covenant law – that which was brought by Moses.

The children of the second covenant (from the Jerusalem above/the Messianic Kingdom of Christ) are all free.  They have had a second birth, beyond natural decent – in fact supernatural!  They owe their freedom (and being born again) to the second covenant, brought by Jesus, Who came to make us children of promise – like Isaac!

Now carefully follow the path we are about to take.  Don’t wander off!  This is very profound because of the promise the Father gave Abraham back in Genesis.  Remember, God, as a Theophany (the pre-incarnate Christ) visited Abraham and Sarah and promised them a son – Isaac. Again – Isaac was the son of promise.  He was the son who had a miraculous birth because Sarah and Abraham were well beyond child bearing years.  It was God’s creative miracle that made it possible for them to bear Isaac.  But listen!  This promise to Abraham was given (Paul says in Gal 3:17) 430 years before the law was given by Moses!  Therefore, the promise of freedom and son-ship was given way before the Mosaic Law was ever established!  While the covenant of promise to Abraham could bring new life (Isaac), the covenant of the Law could only produce children from Mt. Sinai (of natural birth, bond-servants)!  However the covenant of Law can never supersede the covenant of promise because the promise was given first.

What does this have to do with a veil?  Look at 2Cor 3:16:  “…whenever a person turns [in repentance] to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away.” Everyone who has come to Jesus and confessed Him as their Savior has had the veil stripped away!  The Bride is devoted and follows Jesus.  She is born again of a supernatural birth!  Jesus stripped her veil away when she came to repentance! She would not now go back and put that veil on again!  It would be like reverting to the Law as if it was the supreme arbeiter! This is why the Bride cannot wear a veil. You cannot be supernaturally birthed as a child of promise and then return to a natural birth.  You cannot be freed as a child of promise and return then to slavery.  You cannot put your hand to the plow and then look backward and remain fit for the Kingdom of God!

The word says in 2Cor 3:13, “Nor [do we act] like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze upon the vanishing [splendor which had been upon it].”  The best the Law can ever do for you is bring a splendor that vanishes;  it can only be a ministry of doom (decline).  The glory and splendor that abides and remains is the glory of the Gospel in the face of Jesus Christ!  This is a surpassing glory that never diminishes.  No veil could compete with it – nor is the veil needed anymore to protect or separate!  But even to this day, when the law is read to the Israelites, it affirms and fortifies the veil that still lies [on their hearts].  It has not been yet lifted [to reveal] that in Christ it is made void and done away with. (2Cor 3:10-15)

The final point is this.  Christ has made us free!  Through His sacrifice He has made us like Isaac — children of promise.  We are told to stand fast in that liberty, and to not be hampered and ensnared ever again and submit to a yoke of slavery which has been put off! (Gal 5:1)  The Bride will stand fast in this way.  She will never again submit to a yoke of slavery, for her Lord has made her free.  No veil (denoting slavery to the law) will ever cover or hide or obscure her again!  May we in Christ embrace this fact! To the Lord be the glory!

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©Sandra Gilloth 2010

Chapter Five

“The Bride … is a Wall”

“[Well] I am a wall [with battlements], and my breasts are like the towers of it.”

Song of Solomon 8:10

As we look at this particular aspect of the Bride, we must first examine her name and the meaning of her name in Song of Solomon – the Shulamite.  In the Hebrew, Strong’s #7759 is derived from #7999.  The first – is Shuwlammeeth.  It means peaceful, and is a pet name.  It is derived from Shalom, of which most of us have heard.  This #7999, is a primary root meaning: to be safe (in mind, body, and estate; fig. to be (cause. make) completed; by impl. to be friendly; by extension to reciprocate (in various applications): — make amends, (make an) end, finish, full, give again, make good, (re-) pay (again), (make) (to) (be at) peace (-able), that is perfect, perform, (make) prosperous, recompense, restore, reward, x surely.

In the last Chapter we looked at the Bride (in SoS 6:13) as a Dance at Mahaniam – where because of the glory of God upon her the Shulamite was a specatacle to look upon, someone singular in her appeal.  Chapter 7 of Song of Solomon presents a description of the Shulamite’s loveliness, and culminates in the Shulamite and her beloved determining to go out into the fields and to lodge in the villages.  They wonder if the vines of the vineyard have blossomed and whether the pomegranates are in bloom.  Now, beginning with Song of Solomon Chapter 8 — she is no longer referred to as the “Shulamite” — but rather the Bride.

The activity and conversation in Chapter 8 (SoS) moves toward the wedding, and in fact verse eight finds the bride and family with wedding guests at her mother’s cottage.  The bride reminisces about what her stepbrothers said to her when she was little:

“…When I was a little girl, you said] We have a little sister and she has no breasts.  What shall we do for out sister on the day when she is spoken for in marriage?  If she is a wall [discreet and womanly], we will build upon her a turret [a dowry] of silver; but if she is a door [bold and flirtatious], we will enclose her with boards of cedar.”  (SoS 8:8-9)

The Bride then goes on to declare that she is a wall, with battlements, “…and her breasts are like the towers of it.”  It concludes with …then she was in [the king’s] eyes as one [to be respected and to be allowed] to find peace.  (SoS 8:10)

First, we see that a primary determinant of the quality and character of the bride’s future – is whether or not she is discreet.  Webster’s defines discreet as “being careful about what one says or does; to even be prudent, and able to keep silent or preserve confidences when necessary.”  So being wise about what you say in any given situation is not only paramount, it has strategic importance in terms the bride’s future state, but also of her future warfare.  It determines whether the bride receives a dowry of silver as opposed to “boards of cedar.”  In this case the dowry is framed in the form of a turret – a military structure. Let us therefore, begin to examine the bride in her militancy.

The Bride is Militant

The Bride is militant in her faith!  How does that come into being?  She describes herself as “a wall with battlements.”  Think of the walls around the city of Jerusalem.  At each corner, there is a tower – a rounded structure that has cut-outs from which one can look-out.  The structure itself is called a parapet.  The cut-out is the battlement.  The bride is a wall with battlements!

These battlements are look-out points that provide early warning of an enemy’s approach.  They are also used as defensive posts to fight from, and to defend the wall perimeter.  Realize the vantage point you have with a parapet – you are able to defend your walls up close from flanking maneuvers, as well as launching attacks against the enemy when still at a distance.

The battlements on top of the parapet also provide places of increased visibility!  From this vantage point, the bride can see farther and in greater field of vision.  Apply this to the operation of spiritual gifts of the bride:  she has clarity in her insight and range of vision (seeing beyond).  She has the Holy Spirit providing her with advanced warning (prophecy) and clarity (words of knowledge), and guidance.

Recall the fact that the Bride is discreet and how important that characteristic is.  This has great bearing at this point.  Being discrete indicates that she operates in discretion.  Tied to that definition is the notion that she operates in discernment (from discreet). To discern is to be able to separate one thing from another, to recognize their difference.  The bride can see spiritually — what is in operation.  She can distinguish what is from the enemy, and what is from the Lord.  Now consider that ability in the light of Prov. 19:11:  The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger.  And his glory is to overlook a transgression or an offense.”  We could say this verse another way.  The Bride’s ability to distinguish light from darkness – good from evil – causes her to see what is in operation and thus to be slow to anger.  It is to the Bride’s glory that she overlooks another’s transgression or offense. It is this same gifting (of discernment) through the Holy Spirit that gives the Bride the ability to discern the signs of the times – and makes her accountable to understand what is going on (but that is another chapter).

Think of how Jesus always saw what was truly occurring in a situation, or what even was ahead of Him, but was never distracted by others’ comments into anger.  Again, we recall Peter’s rebuking the Lord about going to the cross – and how the Lord responded.  In the last chapter, we talked about offense and how it is a trick of the enemy to distract and detour us (and to even bring us under judgment).  Jesus was very careful how he spoke (He was the soul of discretion).  He always saw what was truly in operation – and spoke only from the Father’s perspective.  He saw our ignorance in operation – even from the Cross, and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Seeing with discernment will make the Bride, slow to anger (to take offense), and it will be to her glory to overlook transgressions and offenses just like Jesus.  She will no longer be distracted or detoured by the enemy’s tactics to derail her course.

Additionally, discretion carries with it the inherent understanding of the authority and freedom to make decisions and choices.  Discretion says, by its definition, you have the power (because of carefulness and insight) to judge and act.  Understand the implication for the Bride here.  As her maturity increases in Christ, (she develops – breasts) – she more fully understands the issues of sovereignty and authority.  Back in SoS 7:10 the bride proudly declares, “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is toward me!”  With this insight the Bride is no longer content to watch the enemy aim his attacks at her relationship with the Lord.  She determines to elevate and guard her relationship where the enemy can no longer pilfer it.  She asks the Lord to take for us the little foxes that spoil the vine (SoS 2:15).  This then becomes a place the enemy can bring no attack.  She is no longer susceptible to the enemy’s attempts to impugn the Lord or His purposes.  She will not question the Lord’s motives or actions ever again.  She takes authority over her own disposition toward the Lord (her own vineyard), and will not allow anything that would exalt itself against the true knowledge of God – to have a foothold of operation within her thinking.  So she is militant in protecting her relationship with the Lord.

She is also militant in protecting all that the Lord has given her – in mind, body, and estate.  Remember the meaning of the name Shulamite?  She is safe in mind, body, and estate – by very definition.  This gives her great confidence defensively for herself, and offensively for others in the Body – because she knows the gates of hell will not prevail against her or her brethren.  It is also here that we must be trained in our understanding of what is the “estate” that the Lord has given us through the cross.  It must expand to the fullness of His truth, just like His divine fullness dwells within us corporately and individually (Col 2:9-10).

The Bride also becomes militant in her intentions towards the Kingdom of God.  She understands that the violent take it by force – even to the certain eradication of her lower life, and potentially her physical life as a result.  Let us first look at Mt.11:12.  “And from the days of John the Baptist until the present time, the kingdom of heaven has endured violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize – a share in the heavenly kingdom is sought with the most ardent zeal and intense exertion].”  Again as the Bride understands the issues of authority and sovereignty, she understands what has been made available for her by the Lord at the Cross.  Her desire is for oneness with Him, and nothing will keep her back from it for she has seen Him in His glory and beauty.  Go also to Philippians 3:10.  Paul is speaking here out of the depth of his love for Christ.  He declares:

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, …”

The possibility of death – the requiring of our life, is not something to be ignored or treated lightly.  But in the above passages, I believe it is first and foremost speaking of the death of our lower life (that old nature), that we may find the higher life in Christ.  Just like with Isaac, the Lord only required willingness on Abraham’s part to offer his only son.  The Lord – Himself – provided the ultimate sacrifice.  This is not to say that actual lives are never given for the Lord.  We know that they are.  The norm, however, as well as in these passages refers to us who are in Christ being ready to lose and offer that lower life, that we may have His higher life in its stead.  That is our reasonable sacrifice according to Romans 12:1.

What we are seeing then, is just as the Lord carries a warrior side (called Jehovah Sabbioth) — the Shulamite Bride expands into a similar warrior nature as she increases in Christ-likeness.  Her fundamental motivation is the protection of her relationship with Christ, and by extension, the protection of that for other saints as well. 1Peter 5:8-10 clarifies this posture of the Bride:

“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of your, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger] seeking someone to seize upon and devour.  Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset – rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world.”

This is the militancy of the Bride to come – it is her love for the Lord and her desire for unity with Him which compels it.  But there is another facet of this militant Bride that we must examine here. It begins with an investigation into the meaning of the “wall” from SoS 8:10.

The Bride is a Wall

The word, “wall,” is rendered in Strong’s as Chowmah from #2346.

It is part of an unused root that means to join, also as a wall of protection – (like a walled city which is not vulnerable).  Ephesians 2:20-22 speaks about the Bride as a wall in architectural terms:

“You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.  In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise (grow, increase) into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord].  In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves are also being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit.”

The emphasis here is on “joined,” and built up, and a fixed abode.  You and I are becoming a holy temple – dedicated to the Lord.  We are bound and welded together in Christ by the Spirit. We are set apart for Him!  But we are one wall – unified: one structure – with one identity. Anything that brings division, strife, contention – anything that would separate the wall is from the enemy!  It can’t remain.  This speaks of the future unity in Christ that is to come. We see more of this future Bride – the New Jerusalem – described in Revelation 21. But even today — within the Bride there should be only peace.  The Bride has peace with God – even today!  Every enmity, every division has been abolished in Him at the Cross.  He even abolished every gulf between Jew and Gentile believer (recognize the end times importance of that)!

This termination of division and any violence for the Bride – the “wall” who is to become Christ-like harkens back to the book of Isaiah.  In this description we will find something so incredible – something so beautiful so just hang on!  Let’s turn to Isaiah 60:11 and then verse 18.  Describing that future city of Zion – the New Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah speaks:

“And your gates shall be open continually, they shall not be shut day or night,  that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations – and their kings led in procession [your voluntary captives].”

It continues with verse 18:

“Violence shall no more be heard in your land, nor devastation or destruction within you borders, but you shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”

Your walls shall be called Salvation. This word is #3444 in the Strong’s Hebrew.  Amazingly enough it is rendered as, and is the very same – the name of Jesus:  Yeshoo aw; something saved, deliverance, hence aid (help), victory, prosperity, health, salvation, saving welfare.  Remembering the meaning of Shulamite – can you see how close these two words are?  Not only is the Schulamite/Bride/Wall joined and welded to Christ in a bond forged by the Cross and His blood – but in this place our love begins to become reciprocal to the love that Christ has for us – His Bride!

We are joined today to Jeshuah!  And In Him to deliverance, healing, health, aid, prosperity, something saved, and welfare.  The wall that is the Bride will be forevermore joined to the wall that is called Salvation – and their future will be glorious!  There — violence shall no more be heard in the land! Nor devastation!  Something else – even more personal for each one of us – listen now!

As the Bride declares herself a “wall” in SoS8:10, she is declaring she is forever joined to her beloved!  In that very moment – she says: “Then I was in the King’s eyes as one to be respected and to find peace.”  As we realize the full truth in Christ (both Who He is and that we are in and joined to Him) – it will be a realization for us of a fulfillment of the greatest love we will ever hope to find.  In Him we find the value our hearts have longed for (which He paid for and gives freely), and for the peace that passes all understanding.  We have peace – with Him!  And when we meet Him face to face, we will see reflected in His eyes the acceptance we have needed, all that we have hungered for.  There will be kindness, respect, and peace shining in His eyes for each of us.  Indeed, it is available as we come before Him, in this very moment!  Romans 14:17 helps us see this: that the kingdom of God is not about getting the food that we like, but it is about having righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – even today!

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©Sandra Gilloth 2010

Chapter Four

“The Bride is Like ‘A Dance at Mahanaim’”

“…and now I have become two companies.”Gen 32:10

We have been looking at the Bride of Christ from many angles, from how she is becoming perfected and Christ-like through brokenness, to how she is becoming un-offendable in Christ.  We have also looked at the mind-set conducive to becoming the Bride, and Scriptures which draw us to focusing on the Bride.  Here we will focus on a passage from Song of Songs which provides a glimpse into the true attractiveness of the Bride and her magnetism, and the reasons for it.  We begin by looking at our primary text, Song of Songs 6:13.

What is there for you to see?

First from the Amplified text:

“[I began to flee, but they called to me] Return, return, O Shulammite; return, return, that we may look upon you!  [I replied] What is there for you to see in the [poor little] Shulammite? [And they answered] As upon a dance before two armies or a dance of Mahanaim.”

Now from the New King James Version:

“Return, return, O Shulamite; Return, return, that we may look upon you!  What would you see in the Shulamite – As it were, the dance of the two camps?”

I acknowledge right off the bat, there are difficulties to working with Song of Songs: the rendering is a bit uncertain; you don’t always know exactly who is speaking; and meanings can be a bit obscure because of its allegorical nature. Yet, I believe that this particular passage holds great insight for us about the Bride and is worth mining it even given the issues of clarity.  So with that caveat, let us begin.

Meaning of Mahanaim

The word “Mahanaim” is literally translated as two armies or two encampments in the Hebrew.  Strongs #4266 is dual of #4264 encampment – thus double camp.  Strongs #4264 is an encampment (of travelers or troops) hence an army, whether lit. (of soldiers) or fig. (of dancers, angels, cattle, locusts, stars, or even the sacred courts – army, band, battle, camp, company, drove, host, tents.

What can we observe initially, then, about the Shulamite?  There is a dance of some sort, or movement of two camps or armies.  This will hopefully become clearer as we progress.  It is interesting to note, also, that in Song of Songs 6 verses 4 and 10, the Shulamite is described as “comely as Jerusalem, [but you are] as terrible as a bannered host.”  In verse 10 she is also complemented: “…Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear and pure as the sun, and terrible as a bannered host?”  These are provocative descriptions which move us to pursue further what they are saying, and what are they intending as their meaning?

First Mention of Mahanaim

The rule of first mention assists us again here as we look for where the name, “Mahanaim,” was first applied.  Genesis 32:2 is the text where it’s first used.  Jacob has just left his Uncle Laban – they have just reconciled.  Jacob has gone on his way when a band of God’s angels meets him.  As he sees the angels he declares, “This is God’s army!” He names the location Mahanaim [two armies].  Implicit in this encounter is that he has his own company with him, (which is borne out in later verses). Thus, the designation of two armies:  one is his, the other is God’s.

As Chapter 32 progresses, we see Jacob receive word from his scouts that his brother, Esau, is approaching with 400 men.  Remembering that Jacob cheated his brother, you can understand — Jacob is afraid.  He divides his assets: people, flocks, herds, and camels into two groups.  He reasons: if Esau attacks one group, the other can escape and will survive.  It is here we begin to get our first glimpse of the underlying meaning.  Two companies are present.  One is intended to be offered as a sacrifice so the other can survive.  Jacob intends to appease his brother with a present of the first company if possible. If not, then he will use it as a shield so that the second company may escape.

Through various passages of Scripture from Joshua, 2Samuel, and 1Chronicles we see additional references to the city of Mahanaim.  First, it becomes the possession of the tribe of Gad.  Then it is assigned status as a city of refuge.  In 2Samuel, it becomes the place where the armies of King David and King Saul (Ish-bosheth) clash to the death over who will truly reign in Israel.  The concept of two armies is strong in the history of this city, but to fully understand the significance of a “dance before two armies” we must now visit the Book of Exodus.

A Dance

The nation of Israel has just crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, and the Lord has delivered them from the pursuing Egyptian army.  That army has been swallowed up in the waters of the Red Sea – not one individual has survived of the Egyptian force.  It says in Exodus 14:30, “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore.”  Exodus 15:19 expounds, “For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the Israelites walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea.”

It is at this point that Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, takes a timbrel and she and the Hebrew women dance at the edge of the Red Sea to celebrate the victory.  She declares, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously and is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.” (Ex 15:21)  This, then, is the picture of a dance before two armies! One army is the victor, the other is completely defeated. One army has been put to death in the water of the Red Sea, the other army arises out of the waters to a  new life forever free from the hold and captivity of the one destroyed.

Baptism

Of course, you may recognize the picture of Baptism here.  Israel’s experience at the Red Sea stands as a foretaste of the Baptism the Lord establishes for you and me in His death at the Cross.  It is worth exploring that event further as it has strong application for our investigation.

For us, just like for the people of Israel, the Lord’s way in delivering His people is through the sea (Ps77:19).  For the Israelites, it was through the Red Sea – where their enemy (the Egyptians) was subdued by the waters which overcome them.  For believers today, our deliverance — accomplished at the Cross – is appropriated by faith as we enter the “sea” of the baptismal waters.  We are baptized into Christ’s death (through water) where we leave our old sin nature (buried in the likeness of death). We are raised in the likeness of Christ when we come up out of the water – now to a new life in Him.  The picture is complete when we understand that nation of Egypt was considered a picture of sin, so as the Egyptians died in the Red Sea – so did the old sin nature of the nation of Israel.  Unfortunately, if you don’t know you are free from that old sin nature – you don’t live like you are free. To cement this understanding, let us turn to Colossians 2:11-13.

Colossians describes what is accomplished for us during baptism and the victory we now have over our old enemy – the sin nature and the flesh:

“In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, but in a [spiritual] circumcision [performed by] Christ by stripping off the body of the flesh (the whole corrupt, carnal nature with its passions and lusts).  [Thus you were circumcised when] you were buried with Him in [your] baptism, in which you were also raised with Him [to a new life] through [your] faith in the working of God [as displayed] when He raised Him up from the dead.  And you who were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (your sensuality, your sinful carnal nature), [God] brought to life together with [Christ], having [freely] forgiven us all our transgressions, …” (Col 2:11-13)

Having been baptized into Christ, you and I can freely celebrate the death of our enemy (sin and flesh), just as Miriam and the Israelites did, and just as the Shulamite exemplifies before the king’s retinue.  Listen to this:  “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear and pure as the sun, and terrible as a bannered host) (SoS 6:10).  She carries the banner of the victory dance over the flesh within her – even without fully comprehending its fascination and mystery for others.  For that reason, she is a curiosity to look upon and stirs the interest of the crowd.  Such glory of the presence of God within her is hard to not notice.  There is the humbleness of her defeated flesh (one army) covered by the glory of God radiating from her spirit (the victorious army).  Remember — flesh can have no part in nor can it inherit the kingdom of God, nor ever share in His glory.

The Application

So what is the application for you and me out of this portrayal?  It is this: to walk in full victory over the flesh we must appropriate the work the Lord did for us at the Cross – by faith in baptism.  Romans 8:10 tells us that if Christ lives in us – then our natural body is dead by virtue of sin and guilt.  So as we are saved by Christ, our old self –our flesh is judged and made ineffective for evil.  Then when we follow Christ in water baptism – He performs a spiritual circumcision which strips off our corrupt and carnal nature.  Thus, we walk out victory day to day, not by living according to the flesh but instead by agreeing that our flesh is dead, and living by the spirit of Christ.  When the flesh rears its head and tries to make demands – we remind it that it was put to death by baptism with Christ.  This is a strategic empowerment that being baptized into Christ’s death affords us!  Even though our old self was nailed to the cross with Christ, prior to your baptism you cannot remind your flesh that it is dead with quite the same force, nor can you have the full victory over that old flesh (army) because the flesh is not stripped away by Jesus until you undergo baptism.

To finalize this understanding, let’s go to 2 Cor10:2-5.  Paul is revealing this truth of our lower nature’s death, and the great superiority of the new redeemed nature in Christ.  He also validates the posture of victory for the Shulamite:

He says: “I entreat you when I do come [to you] that I may not [be driven to such] boldness as I intend to show toward those few who suspect us of acting according to the flesh [on the low level of worldly motives and if invested with only human powers].  For although we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.  For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),”

The Victory!

From the above passage it is important to note:  we are in warfare; but we have weapons to overthrow every stronghold!  These strongholds can be of the world – but most certainly the first ones we should deal with – are the ones which reside within our own fleshly nature and thinking! Because of what Christ has done – at the cross and by our spiritual circumcision, we can fight from His victory – to victory!

This is the victory that we can walk out today.  This is the victory that was portrayed so vividly by the Shulamite!  The Shulamite (the Bride) is like a Dance before two armies (Mahaniam).  She celebrates the victory of the army of God (His higher life in us – the redemptive nature of Christ), over that of the natural army (the lower nature of sin and flesh).  Like Jacob’s two encampments spoken of in Genesis 32, where one was offered (surrendered) so that the other could live, Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for us to take every penalty for us, so that we might now live in Him.  The victory, first established at the Cross, requires that we recognize and receive His sacrifice, and then join with Christ in baptism as a declaration that we have died with Him (if One died for all then all have died).  We have this victory today – just like the Shulamite – nothing more is required to be done!  So dance for the victory that has been completed by and ushers forth from Christ!  Dance!

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©Sandra Gilloth 2010

Chapter Three

“The Bride is Un-offended”

“I have told you all these things, so that you should not be offended…” Jn 16:1

A Great Challenge

One of the greatest challenges facing the Body of Christ today is being dead to offense from others – within the Body as well as within the world.  In fact, John Chapter 15 reads as a litany of the Lord’s cautions about not taking offense.  He explains that the Body will experience difficulties (hatred, persecution, suffering) because of Him, and because we bear His name.  He reminds us once again, that the servant is not greater than his Master.  As the world treated Him this way, so it will also treat His Body.

Why should we care about offenses or our reaction to them?  For one thing, they are a way the enemy tries to derail our focus and get us on a detour from our assigned purpose.  Look at Mt 24:12 as it provides an ominous view of the end-times Body and the state it has deteriorated to.  It says that the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.  Jesus warns His disciples about deception and error, and about coming attacks.  He further warns that many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert Him whom they ought to trust and obey.  They will stumble, He says, and fall away and betray one another with hatred.  These are all escalations of a decline that starts with – taking offense.

The Issue of Offense

Let’s look at the issue of offense to get a better picture of what is taking place. Just prior to His warning against being offended in John 16:1, Jesus has been talking to them about love.  He tells them what it means to dwell or abide in Him, and to have His words abiding in them.  He also defines what it means to love Him.  He says that keeping His commandments will ensure that we abide in His love and live on in it.  Then He gives them the commandment to love one another.  Remember the lyrics of that old  song, “they will know we are Christians by our love”?  If we can presume love is the hallmark of being a Christian — it would appear, then, taking offense is the enemy’s primary strategy to try and preclude that love.

Return for a moment to the warning in Mt 24:10-12.  It warns of how the love of the great body grows cold because of lawlessness and iniquity.  The greatest danger we currently and daily face – is letting our love grow cold.  How does cold love react against offense?  It picks it up!  The word “offended” in John 16 is from Strongs: #4624.  It is:  skandelize/skandelizo – to entrap from #4625, to trip up (fig. stumble) or entice to sin.  Strongs #4625 skandolar: is a trap stick (bent sapling, i.e. snare (fig. cause of displeasure or sin); occasion to fall (of stumbling) the thing that offends.

There is a trap, a snare, — actually bait that the enemy places in our path which we pick up. We pick up the offense.  The result is – the love for the brethren, and even God, begins to grow cold.  Remember the candle example with the wax?  Offense is a hard wax accelerator. Picking up an offense is a sure way to multiply your coldness towards the Body and God, and make way for lawlessness and iniquity to increase.

First Use of “Offended”

One of the first uses of the word “offended” is found in Genesis 20:9 and involves Abraham and King Abimelech.  In this situation, Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife – and calls her his sister.  They have gone to Gerar after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  King Abimelech acquires Sarah as part of his harem.  God Himself warns Abimelech in a dream that He is a dead man because he has taken another man’s wife as his own. As Abimelech confronts Abraham about this, their discussion gives great insight into what generates offense.

Abimelech asks Abraham, “…And how have I offended you that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin?” Gen 20:9.  Additionally, he asks, “What did you see in us that justified you in doing such a thing as this? (Vs 10)  Abraham reveals his own heart in verse 11.  He confesses, “Because I thought, surely there is no reverence or fear of God at all in this place, and they will slay me because of my wife.”

Two things were operating here.  Abraham was acting out of self-preservation and fear, and also out of disdain for Abimelech and the people of Gerar.  Both of these emotions result when you think too highly of yourself, and do not value others.  In a way, Abraham loved himself too much (which caused fear), and did not love Abimelech (which caused him to disdain or devalue Abimelech).  Ironically, Abimelech is very gracious to Abraham and Sarah, even after this incident.  But then Abraham is able to pray for Abimelech and his people, to deliver them from the barrenness that God visited upon them as His judgement.  It ends well – people are healed and God is exalted.  But the underlying heart of offense is revealed.  It is a heart that regards itself more highly than it should.

Philippians 2:3 instructs us to: “Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance.  Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do yourselves].”

Times of Offense

We don’t have to think overly hard to recall times when we have ourselves been offended – or at least been tempted to begin the process.  Generally, we have been treated in someway that is displeasing to us, or demonstrates what we interpret as disregard or lack of courtesy.  It can be a very small and insignificant thing, maybe that we are mistaken about.  It can be a very large and deliberate thing, of which there is no mistaking the intent to offend.  In both cases, you and I have a choice to make, but our choice should be made way in advance of either of these events.  That is what we hope to accomplish here – advanced planning.  I’m talking about the cross.

Matthew 10:38-39 reads: “And he who does not take up his cross and follow me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be in dying also] is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his life on My account will find it [the higher life].”

When we “die to ourselves” and our rights, we are losing the lower life – and we are taking up our cross and following Christ.  The Apostle Paul makes these intentions even clearer in Acts 20:24.  When speaking about the fact that he is going to Jerusalem and knows that only suffering and imprisonment await him there – he states very directly: “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy… and faithfully attest to the good news…”.

We begin to see that our best offense (so to speak) against being offended – and eventually becoming cold in our love – is to have Christ’s love in us and follow His example.  Remember how Jesus was speaking of his command to love one another just prior to speaking about offense in John 16?  Self-love and self-regard will make you easily offend-able, but Christ’s nature and intentions given to us through the cross, and a spirit of humility will keep you “dead and unmoved” by offenses. Offenses after all only act as a distraction and detour from the thing or course God wants you to take.  The danger is however, the more you have surrendered to offense the stronger the hold this lower nature has in you, and the harder you will now have to resist and turn away from it towards Jesus in repentance to regain lost ground.  You can’t fight it – that only makes it stronger.  You must drop it in the dust of death and turn away from it.  You must also ask forgiveness and cleaning from the Lord, not just for the wrong choices, but for the very nature that must be put to death in you that has precipitated these choices.

Mortification

There are two places in Scripture where we get our guidance for dying to self – or mortification.  The first is Romans 8:13.  The second is Colossians 3:5.  They are different words in the Greek, but they both get translated as mortify, kill, deaden, put to death, etc.  In the Romans verse, it is the Holy Spirit putting to death.  In Colossians, it is us being active in depriving of power the evil desires in our members.  Both of these Scriptures are strong imperatives for us to commit to memory and walk out.  They are vital for our growth and maturity in Christ!  The more we die to ourselves, the less we are apt to be spun about by the enemy and tripped up by his bait.

Un-offend-able

Now being un-offend-able to the world and other believers is one thing.  But paramount, and of even greater import is to become un-offend-able towards the Lord. Why you might ask?  Ultimately it is because even if offense comes from other people – it has been allowed by the Lord for His reasons.  Proverbs 16:33 is so clear on this:  “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him].”  An offense may come because we need to see the initial response of our own heart towards it –that we would be moved to repentance.  Realize repentance is not a one time thing for believers.  It should happen often – especially as the Lord is stirring us to grow in Christ-likeness.

We are a people that constantly must stay on guard against the flesh to be a force to sway us.  We need to be able to see the truth about ourselves and our motives, to stay in that place of lowliness and humility.  The Lord Himself is humble and lowly.  How much more so should we be — to remain in close unity with Him? He addresses this need in Matthew 11:6.  “And blessed is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”

Think back to the nation of Israel and the Pharisees.  As Jesus reflected truth to them – often an undesirable truth about themselves, they would rail at Him and desire to kill Him.  Depending on the state of their heart at that moment, they are moved either to kill Him, or to kill themselves (figuratively).  This is our litmus test for the character of Christ operating in us.  The more you are “like” Him, the more likely you are to embrace the working of the Cross in you. Not from some masochistic mind-set, but because it is needed. We are not much different, unfortunately, from the Pharisees, although we might generally reject that notion outright.  We must resist becoming a lover of our own press.  We may want to believe the best – but just like Abraham we need to be careful – it is easier to think of ourselves more highly than we should.

What About the Bride

Connecting this back to the Bride then, what does the she say about offense?  What is her posture towards it?  From Song of Solomon 1:4 we see her comment to the Beloved: “The upright [are not offended at your choice, but sincerely] love you.”  Once again – there is that juxtaposition of “offended” and “love”.  This is not accidental.  The righteous are not offended at Jesus, because they truly love Him!

The enemy’s greatest strategy is to try and move the saints to some adversarial position or questioning and unbelief in our position towards God.  Satan would have us believe God would withhold His best for us (like in the Garden).  He would have us believe that God would take us out of Egypt to just let us die in the wilderness (like the Israelites coming out of captivity from Egypt).  He would have us somehow believe that God is uninvolved or distracted from our problems, or doesn’t care enough to be concerned with the little things (but Job dispels this – Job 36:5).

The true challenge before the Bride is to not just to love God and believe He is good, but to believe it in the face of seemingly contradicting evidence.  To stand in faith against whatever the Lord allows in our life – this is what we are called to.  The Bride is called to walk by faith, not by sight.  She is called to be led by the Spirit of God.  This means being in a state that we can be led, because we are like Christ.  What did Job call out:  Though you slay me, yet will I trust you.  What did Joseph find – it was God all along who took Him to Egypt.  What his brothers meant for evil God meant for good – that many would be saved.  What did Jesus experience? Didn’t He say: Father why have you forsaken Me?  Didn’t He experience the most grueling death on the Cross and the separation from the Father even while the Father’s judgement and wrath was poured out on Him?  It is not our plight to carry our own sin —because He did.  But Jesus, who is perfect, trusted the Father perfectly.  You and I, who are not perfect, can in Christ trust the Father the same way.

Ultimately, this is what it is all about.  Who are we going to believe – who will we trust?  Will we trust our own fallen perception, or our own fleshly nature to decide issues of offense for us?  Or will we allow that lower nature to be put to death, deprived of power – and instead walk out as an instrument of righteousness fulfilling the Spirit of Life in Christ? This is the ultimate of what the Bride is called to do, in the power of the Spirit working in us, for the glory of God.

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Chapter Two

The Bride Falls…and is Broken

“And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Mt 21:44

There is a passage from the unpublished manuscript Sifting Oklahoma that relates an incident between two of the characters, Michael Goodman and Archer Reed.  They are preparing to perform a laboratory experiment when the glass bell jar Michael is holding falls to the floor and smashes.

“His lab-partner, Archer, bent down to help him retrieve the broken pieces.  As he worked, he paused momentarily to look with kindness into Michael’s troubled eyes.  He spoke softly, ‘You know, in the world’s natural order, things are useless when they are broken.  But in God’s supernatural order, things are useless until they are broken…’” (p.28)

Someone gets saved and suddenly they are suffering loss, or illness, or some sort of attack.  Later in their walk – devastation again occurs and it shakes their world to the core.  Depending on where they are in their relationship with Christ and their maturity, the event can leave them shipwrecked in their faith, or stronger than before, or absolutely becalmed and unable to move forward for lack of understanding (why this happened).

I want to step back for a second and refer to the Scripture at the title of this chapter, Mt 21:44.  Jesus has just related to the chief priests and elders of the temple the story of the wicked vinedressers.  He explains how the landowner decides to send his son after previous servants have been killed by the vinedressers.  The landowner’s thinking is: they will respect my son. But the vinedressers see the son and say, “This is the heir. Come let us kill him and seize his inheritance.”  So they take him and kill him.

Jesus quotes to the chief priests:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.”  He continues by telling them the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it, and then He quotes Mt21:44.

A Perfect Patch

Our Lord Jesus came to the world as the Word of God, in the flesh.  He came to free us from our sin nature, to cleanse and deliver us from all unrighteousness, and to give us His new redemptive nature.  Think of the world at that time as one single garment – a piece of cloth, terribly marred and rent by an imperfect fabric content that could not stand up to the pressures against it.  Jesus comes as the perfect patch, to permanently cover that rent for all time so that the garment will be of use and service as it was designed.  But the Scripture in Mark 2:21 is revealing – it says:  “No one sews a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.”

The world (mankind) is the old garment needing repairs.  Jesus is the piece of cloth that repairs us – but here we are shown an important thing.  The patch for the garment must be shrunk, or conditioned, to be in a similar state to the old garment – otherwise it won’t adhere.  Jesus had to come in the same form as the garment.  He had to come to the world in the form of flesh – however He was free from sin!  He is the Son of Man for that reason.  But also, He had to suffer, and be crucified – literally shrunk, divested of all fluids, and to be conditioned for His role as the eternal patch and restorer of mankind.  Therefore, His work is forever.  He will never be pulled away from His service as The Perfect Patch.  There is perfect adhesion because of His coming as He did, and His willingly submitting to being shrunk by the Cross.

Like Him in Brokenness

Now as disciples of His, we are told in Luke 6:40 that we are not above our teacher, but when we are perfectly trained we will be like Him.  Interestingly enough, when we look at the patch verse in Mark 2, verse 20 talks about days to come when the friends of the bridegroom will fast because he has been taken away from them.  Fasting is an activity that brings us into a place of greater obedience in our flesh, and allows the spirit man to rule in us.  It too is a form of conditioning – just one such practice of discipline that helps us to become more perfectly trained.  Brokenness is also such a training that allows us to become like our teacher.  But it is not something we can schedule ourselves – we can only hold on tight and allow the work to be accomplished.

We are going to look at some of the instances of brokenness that have occurred for the Lord’s servants in the Bible.  But first let’s layout some introductory perspectives, to get things lined up.  Back for a moment to the Matthew 21:44 verse, it uncovers some important information about people.  In fact, you could almost make the statement – there are really two categories of people in the world (as seen from the Matthew verse).  There is one who falls on the stone and is broken, and there is one upon whom the stone falls, and they are crushed and winnowed like dust.  This is all from their experience with the same singular source – the Stone or the Chief Cornerstone – Jesus Christ.

When we come to Christ as a new believer we indeed do “fall” upon Him.   We put our trust in Him — we rely and lean on Him.  Strong’s concordance renders the word “fall” from #4098 in the Greek, pipto.  It says that it is probably akin to #4072 through the idea of alighting; to fall (lit or fig): — fail, fall (down), light on.

That’s all good and understandable.  The Lord is like the mother ship, and we are little tiny drone ships coming to land on Him.  He is home, like an aircraft carrier perhaps (forgive what seems irreverent here) and we are always aware of our distance in flight from Him.  He is our constant reference point, our source, and provider.

That’s all well and good for later flight operations and landings.  But when we first come to Jesus, depending on many factors, we may not be very much “like Him” or compatible at that time.  We may not sync-up very well! Our systems may not even be able to receive well or communicate accurately with Him. That’s where remembering the previous patch discussion becomes important.  Thank God – He knows how to triage quickly.  He knows what immediately needs to be redeemed in us to have a common ground.  It seems different for everyone.  One drug addict can come to the Lord and be fully delivered from that habit, while others will struggle and have to die to that hold in their life.  The point is the Lord knows what He wants to do, and what will anchor our life to His.  He also knows exactly our substance, and what will agree with and what will resist His life.  So what connects in our life to His life has to be approvable to Him.  It has to be, in-fact, holy like Him.  His ultimate goal is to have all of us able to dwell within Him – and to have union in Him.  That is a work of sanctification and consecration.  We agree with His ownership and submit, and He sets us apart and makes us holy.  Consecration is my active cooperation and choice in being His and becoming like Him.  For good or bad — we can all choose the level of His Lordship in our life.

Now imagine where the world has had a great hold on someone, or where for whatever reason, their ideas and belief systems are at complete odds with the Lord.  To redeem that area, a breaking sometimes has to take place to change the construction and constitution of that area and bring it into alignment with God and His word.   Ultimately, like the earlier story shared, what is useful in the Lord’s kingdom – has been broken, sometimes often, sometimes deeply.  But it is a distinctive of the child that the Lord is using and will use greatly – they will be broken.  How much more, will He also allow His promised Bride to experience brokenness — who is destined for singularity in union with Him, and is on this earth to carry His glory that the world will know He is the Son, and the Father sent Him?

A breaking is none other than a collision of sorts of ourselves with God, which brings about change in us.  It can be a breaking of pride, or self-sufficiency, or error, or sin and its hold on us.  Sometimes even with time following Christ as Lord, you and I hold onto things that are very detrimental to the His life in us or even our own health.  Holding anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, — these put us at odds with the Lord and even bring us under His judgement if we continue to resist His conviction and are not bringing  ourselves captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus.

Think of a candle burning.  The wax closest to the heat is fully liquid.  But as it moves further from the flame it cools and hardens.  The working of the Lord in our life sometimes requires a breaking up of these cooled and hardened areas – to allow His Spirit to flow more freely within us, and to have a larger base of holiness in us from which to operate.

“Whoever falls on this Stone will be broken”, the word here is sunthlao: to crush, to dash together, i.e. shatter: — break.  Where you and I need more in common with Christ, or as He seeks to increase His life in us for greater use, there has to come a breaking, a shattering, that He can reassemble and make like Himself.  Like a bone that has grown wrong, crooked and bent with sin, He allows it to be broken for greater strength, health, and likeness to and a future with Him.

We must realize though, as the sovereign Lord – He knows exactly the level and kind of breaking that will effect the change He desires.  Sometimes it can simply be accomplished by an understanding of His Word that causes us to see ourselves as we are.  Then, our perfect illusion of ourselves is shattered.  Other-times it may require significant loss or change to bring us to that place of repentance.  But the Lord always knows exactly the level of force to effect change.  He doesn’t apply more than is needed – although we may want to debate that.  He is a God of exactness and goodness!

There is a very different future ahead however, for whom the Stone falls upon.  When the Stone falls upon you, it is terminal in the direst sense.  It is a crushing blow, followed by being winnowed like dust.  It is complete destruction — but is reserved for only those who permanently refuse and resist the Lord on every turn.  He gives them the right to choose, but to choose willfully and adversarially against Him ushers in death.  In refusing Him – they also refuse the very life which He brings, thus they reap death.  People may balk at this exercise of the Lord’s sovereignty.  Sometimes from our natural perspective it can seem overly harsh perhaps, at the very least unfair.  So we must see from another perspective.  To understand in any fullness we must see it from God’s perspective and with trust in His character. (I refer you to Romans 9 — and we move on.)

Now let us finally examine a variety of instances in the Bible where breaking has occurred.  We do this in an effort to trust more fully that the Lord knows what He is doing.  In this there is much profit!

Broken Job

We first look at the life of Job.  We see in the first verses of the Book that Job is blameless and upright in the eyes of God, and feared God and shunned evil.  He was the greatest of all men in the East.  So his life was very likely to be noticed by many people (point of importance.)  For the sake of brevity, and to actually get to the point I want to make, Job gets selected for a trial to demonstrate that those who love God do so not as robots, mindlessly, or because of His protection, but because we believe in Him – that He is good.  In a day, Job loses everything, and yet still gives thanks to God, for giving and even for taking away.

Then Job goes through another set of trials only to lose his health, his friends, his stature in society, and then be chastised as a closet sinner by those he counted as friends.  Finally, after much obfuscation, a messenger is sent to speak to Job.  As I see it, Job’s spiritual panties had gotten into such a twist he didn’t know which end was up (no disrespect intended).  As the Lord plans to speak to Job, He first allows Elihu to bring him into a better focus, where he can actually receive what God is about to tell him.  Elihu brings clarity and untangles some of Job’s confusion, and even cautions Job against seeing himself as more righteous than God.  After the Lord’s words to Job, he makes some profound observations and admissions.  These are what I want to focus on, for they are the heart of the issue.

Job begins with an acknowledgement. He knows the Lord can do all things and that no thought or purpose of His can be thwarted.  This is amazing and poignant!  You see we now have the Lord’s thoughts, purposes, His very character as “the Word of God” — in writing.  We can know more fully His nature because of His Word.  In fact, the Lord has elevated His Word (in honor) over His very name.  Hence, what is in His Word, you and I can trust and rely upon because He is protecting its truth.  He is ensuring that it comes to pass. Scripture says the Lord watches over His word to perform it.  He makes sure events happen as He desires.  Psalm 119:89 says that the Lord’s Word is settled in heaven – a place where there is no corruption, all things are perfect and good – and that’s where His Word is settled ( there’s no debate on it there).

Also, Job makes an observation.  He says to God that before (previous to the trial) he had heard of God with the hearing of the ear, but that now his eye sees Him.  This is the heart of profit in the trial.  It was not capricious on God’s part to allow this situation.  It stands as a testament for God’s power for all time.  He shows for Job and us that He is bigger than any trial or issue that can come against us.  His goal was to increase in relationship in Job’s life, and that in fact happened.  Additionally, Job lived in fear of bad things happening to his loved ones.  He even confessed, “what I feared has come upon me.”  The Lord wanted Job to know Him more fully, and to be delivered from the captivity of his fear to threats of loss or harm.  It becomes a win-win situation where Job becomes acquainted with the Lord deeply, has all things restored to him, is no longer in bondage of any sort, and gets to pray for his three friends and their healing!  But the point is – there was a breaking for Job which resulted in good in the final outcome for all involved.  This was a breaking which the Lord allowed in his Job’s life, but it also becomes a testament for us all of the Lord’s nature.  This book of Job stands not as a warning of, “Oh watch out – here comes a breaking!”  Rather it says from the Lord, “Be confident in Me.  I am good, and My Works will be no less good than I am!”  This is a book that helps us trust the Lord fully, and correctly.  It expands our understanding of who He truly is, and that He cares for us!  Amazing!

Broken Joseph

The life of Joseph is another place we can look and find greatness and awe-inspiring service because of breaking in his life.  Joseph became a target for his brothers because of what began as parental favoritism.  Eventually, he was thrown down a well and left for dead, only for the plans to change and to be sold into slavery by traveling Egyptian traders.

The story-line worsens.  He gets purchased by a man named Potiphar who is powerful and works for the Pharaoh.  After serving his master faithfully, Potiphar’s wife decides to lustily pursue Joseph and he gets thrown into jail accused of rape.  It gets even worse from there.  What seems like a chance to be released backfires when the Chief Butler forgets to bring his name before the Pharaoh.  Meanwhile, Pharaoh has been plagued with nightmares and he asks for help to interpret them.  When his own team of magicians fails to come through – Joseph’s name is finally remembered and brought before Pharaoh by the Chief Butler.

At the point that Joseph is brought before Pharaoh, it has been years since his first being sold.  Throughout this time, even with discouragement upon discouragement, Joseph encourages himself in the Lord.  And the Lord does not forget Joseph, but He gives Him favor in every situation and prospers him.  But He has also worked carefully on Joseph during the abandonment, the selling into slavery, the false accusation, and the jail-time, to bring his heart to a state of grace and mercy concerning his brothers.

At the moment that Joseph is remembered and brought out of jail before Pharaoh, his life changes.  He is rewarded for correctly interpreting the dreams through the power of God.  He is also promoted to Pharaoh’s right hand man above everyone else, and is tapped to lead (on Pharaoh’s behalf) Egypt through the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine.

Let’s take a moment to now look at Roman 5:1-4.  It makes a number of points that are apropos to the topic of brokenness.  One, it says now that we have been absolved and acquitted of guilt because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can enjoy peace with God through Jesus Christ.  Two, through this same Jesus – we have access to a state of grace in which we firmly stand.  Three, we are called to be full of joy now!  In fact we are called to exalt and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.  Fourth, this endurance develops maturity of character, and this character produces a joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

Joseph was definitely a recipient of many sufferings, but they were rightly suffered and therefore produced patient and unswerving endurance.  How do we know this? He displayed the maturity of character to deal with his brothers in grace and forgiveness.  The truth of Joseph’s developing the character of Christ-likeness is seen as he treats his brothers not only without malice, but with kindness as they arrive in Egypt to purchase grain to take back home.  The Lord’s humbling of Joseph is clearly evident as he is able to forgive and reconcile with his brothers, even though he had the power to dispose of them quickly.  But the Lord’s intention was for Joseph to be more than just a forgiving brother!

Joseph not only stands as a prime example of this Romans 5 description, but he is given a new name to demonstrate God’s pleasure and validation of him – Zaphenath-paneah.  This means savior of the world, and stands as a foretaste of the Lord’s own coming to save us from eternal death.

The Link

Now, you may be uncertain of the link between such breakings, and the Promised Bride of Christ.  That explanation could it-self fill a book!  However, to make the connection clear and concise let us first go to Romans 8:29.  This verse constitutes the Lord’s promise and justification for all that He introduces and allows in our lives.

“For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 Amp)

In this Scripture we first hear a harkening even back to Luke about a servant being trained like their master.  But additionally, the wording is even more specific.  If we are a disciple, a believer in Christ – we are being actively molded into the likeness of the Son.  Why?  We are His Body.  He purchased us with His blood, and Corinthians says your body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you?  You are not your own — you were bought with a price, and made His own!

Being “molded into His image,” and becoming the firstborn “among many brethren” – these both reveal the Lord’s purpose and justification.  The Body of Christ and the “many brethren’ referred to here, are the same thing.   The Body is also another name for the Promised Bride to come.  Hence, you can begin to see the tie in.  The Lord’s intention is that we (the Body of believers – His own Body) would become Christ-like – that is, share inwardly His likeness.  The more “like Christ” we are, the more we are able to have oneness and union with Him.  That union begins here on earth as the Body (The Promised Bride) gets further sanctified by the truth.  It is that sanctification which allows us or makes us safely able to carry His glory into the world.  But the process begins with being made Christ-like.  That is the promise and purpose for being broken.  He is the Lord God – “He changeth not”!  To be like Him – to be qualified to eventually carry His glory before the world – we must be changed!

Just like we fall or alight-upon Jesus when we are saved – He also alights upon us with His enduement of power.  This is what makes it possible for us to be His witnesses, and it is for this purpose that we are given power, efficiency, and might by the Holy Spirit.

One of the things that Watchman Nee says can delay our receipt of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not having a full work – or full enough working in us of the Cross.  This point requires a moment of our attention to round out our understanding.

We know that Christ suffered in the flesh for us.  We also know He is the Head of His Body.  Philippians 1:29 explains that just as we have been granted the privilege to believe in Christ, so we must also suffer in His behalf.  1Peter 2:21 reveals that as Christ suffered for us, He left us His personal example so that we should follow His example.  But why do we need to suffer? Let’s look at this briefly.

Christ suffered on the Cross for you and I and His work is finished!   However, what stands to be completed is the suffering of His body.  Remember we need to become “like” Him – compatible.  Remember the patch story.  Colossians 1:24 speaks to this:  Paul speaking here, “Even now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf.  And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed on our part of Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.” There is nothing lacking for salvation – but there is a need for the Lord’s body to be conditioned (just as He was) to be like Him through its suffering.

Look also at Paul’s comments in 2Cor 12:9.  We all get caught up in Paul’s description of his thorn, but miss his later claim.  He says he will glory in his weakness that the strength and power of Christ may rest (pitch a tent over and dwell upon him)! Short of suffering and going through a work of the Cross and sanctification in the truth – there doesn’t seem to be a shortcut to this process.  To have Him in abundance “upon” our lives will require a falling, and a breaking – that the power of the Cross can possess and reign over our lives.

Lastly, the truth is nailed by Peter as he speaks directly to the Beloved – the body of Christ.  1Peter4:12-14:

“Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you.  But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory [full of radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [exultantly].  If you are censured and suffer abuse [because you bear] the name of Christ, blessed [are you – happy, fortunate, to be envied, with life-joy, and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward condition], because the Spirit of glory, the Spirit of God, is resting upon you…”

In Christ you and I as His Body have an amazing destiny – to be fashioned as His Bride.  But in the process – to be usable and of service in His Kingdom — we will fall and be broken.

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Chapter One

A Right Focus

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Col 3:2

There is a need to actively, deliberately, change our mind-set from being the church (Christ’s body) to being the Bride of the Bridegroom.  We have long been focused on being the church, but in fact when we see the Lord and are presented to Him – it will be as the promised Bride, not as the church.  Paul alludes to this future meeting in 2Cor 11:2-3.  He says, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.  For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

The Chaste Virgin/One Body

As you see from this passage – our presentation to Christ will be as a chaste virgin to our Lord, not as a corporate entity, or in the form of a multi-faceted church.  Between now and our imminent future as the Bride, things must change.  More specifically, we the saints must change. Those areas of change are what we will explore here, beginning with our mind-set.

It is not possible for the enemy to steal the salvation which Jesus has already purchased as our Kinsman Redeemer for His Bride, but it is possible for the enemy to help us be corrupted and deceived in our thinking.  What am I trying to say, you may be asking?

Currently, all the believers on earth, and those saints already in heaven comprise the church.  Strong’s Concordance renders the word as ekklesia, from a compound of 1537 and a derivation of 2564; a calling out, a popular meeting especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both).

Positionally — in Christ, we already exist as one body, His body — the body of Christ — straddling heaven and earth, vivisected from full fellowship with each other, and from full fellowship from Jesus our Lord as well.  This has been a time of training for all parts of the body — a divine dress rehearsal in a sense for getting skilled and practiced in our roles, and transformed ourselves for making His impact on the world at large.  Indeed, the church is a training organization!  However, our goal here is not to perfect being the church – it is instead to perfect becoming the Bride.  One does not perfectly overlay the other.  They are different especially in their focus.

Two Illustrations

My best illustration of this different focus is when I was in training at Officer Training School (OTS) as an Officer Trainee (OT) for the United States Air Force – a “90 Day Wonder” as we often were called.  On the last day of training, just prior to being commissioned as a new 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, it suddenly hit me.  I didn’t quite know how to behave.  I didn’t know what to do.  Up till then, all my training was as an OT.  In very little time I was going to become an officer – but I wasn’t sure of the transition.  Was I going to need to be different?

Thankfully, the training as an OT prepared and carried me over into the performance of a successfully functioning officer.  But the point to understand is that they were not exactly the same.  One prepared you to become the other.  But we were never meant to continue as OTs for the duration of our careers!  The training as an OT was required to walk as an officer.  The training was necessary to help me function in a similar but higher capacity.

Another illustration is seen through examining how the lock system of the Panama Canal works.  As a ship enters the lock system, it is raised to a new level by water being pumped into the lock that holds the ship.  When raised to the desired water level, the lock opens and the ship is now able to function at a different level of water and to enter the places at that new elevation.  We are ourselves being prepared to be raised by a great influx of the Lord’s presence.  We enter the process as the church, but we exit as the Promised Bride about to enter the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The Next Destiny

In the same way, we are the church for this time of training and preparation, but that is not the ultimate destiny.  Making ourselves ready or preparing ourselves to become the Bride is in fact the next target goal, as we see in Revelation 19:7-8: “…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

These righteous acts are what we are led to accomplish on earth as the church, but in our focus – our mind-set – even now we are called to be heavenly minded.  In truth, we must see that there is a distinct difference between having the mind-set of the church, and having the mind-set of the Bride.  Let’s look at some examples the Lord provided to help distinguish between these two mind-sets.

Two Examples/Two Mind-Sets

When we have the mind-set of the church, we view evangelism in a process-oriented, particularly administrative way.  To be clear, I must describe this in the extreme state — although there are degrees and variations of this description that may apply.  I mean no offense to anyone who evangelizes.  It is necessary, however, to describe how the two mind-sets differ.  With the mind-set of the church, evangelism is predominantly a programmatic and planning function.  It is something to be managed.  Statistics, and strategizing – a focus on numbers served and numbers converted provides the impetus as we pursue the Great Commission.  There is a difference, as the church, in knowing we have achieved this goal with quantification being the ultimate measure of success.  We will know, for instance we have succeeded when “this many” people groups have heard the gospel message and responded with a commitment to Christ as Lord.  Its focus is less associated with the heart than with a plan.  In no way do I condemn these goals or methods of evangelism, for we are called to spread the gospel and make disciples.  But here – intent of the heart trumps method.  What is our heart focus as we evangelize is more important even than our focused goal.  Please stay with me as I clarify the mind set of the Bride.

To understand the mind-set of the Bride, we must look at the Scripture in Song of Solomon chapter five.  The Shulammite woman is describing how she has taken her rest after working in the vineyard all day.  The voice of her beloved comes to her as he knocks at her door.  As she deliberates about opening the door, since she has already retired for the night, the words of the beloved move her heart to arise.  She opens the door, but he has already departed.  She begins to search for him, and even enters the city where the watchmen strike her and take her veil and mantle.  She addresses the daughters of Jerusalem, and it is here that we apprehend the heart of the Bride for evangelism.  The Shulammite charges the daughters of Jerusalem to tell her Beloved (if they should see Him), that she is sick from love (the Amplified renders this “simply sick to be with him”).  They of course ask her a provocative leading question: “What is your beloved more than another beloved?”  In essence, they wonder what does he have that she is out here in the city seeking him, being struck and robbed?  What is he that prompts this search and makes it worth the cost?  This very question opens the door for the Shulammite to proclaim the nature and worth of her beloved  from her heart – which begins: “My beloved is fair and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand!”  She offers a soliloquy of such praise that it becomes a bookend of equal force to match her passion of pursuit.  There is a “marriage” (foretaste) here of believing and doing that are irresistible as a testimony to her beloved.  This is not a four-point conversion strategy, nor is this a promise to make your life’s journey more comfortable.  In fact this is not a strategy of any kind to elicit a commitment.  The goal is not to gain a response from the daughters – but to express a truth so formed in the heart of this Shulammite that she can do nothing but express it.  Her soul and her body cooperate to form the foil of expression for this deep love in her inner man. It is a picture of profound love and devotion.  It is the essence of the difference between the mind-set of the church and its academic preparation which tends to present academically. The Shulammite, however, is more like the picture of the Olive press, when indeed pressed – the olives give forth what is hidden within them.  What is hidden within the Shulammite that is expressed is something to be sought after — that experiential love and knowledge of Christ that has no counterfeit.

What do we seek?

Ultimately, another clarification in this mind-set might be stated, “what do we seek?”  If we seek to evangelize as the primary thing, it will fall short.  If we seek first the kingdom (and to first know Him above all else) then we will have sought the better portion like Mary did, and it will not be taken away from us.  Then when the opportunity arises to speak about him, it will be as easy as bragging on the beloved – and our actions will validate our passion and provide a testimony that rings of truth.  The point here is not that evangelism from the mind-set of the church is wrong in any manner or way. It is that evangelism from the mind-set of the bride is better!

Perhaps it is best understood by a comparison.  It would seem the early church set itself to walk out the believing life as the Spirit led.  Along the way, they evangelized wherever opportunity arose.  Today’s church seeks to evangelize all over, and along the way to find the leading of the Spirit.  So with the Bride, the mind-set’s first and foremost focus is relationship and devotion to Christ, secondarily it is to share that as a life testimony.  You must possess it first before you can give it out, or break is as bread to share.

This, then, is the danger alluded to much earlier, that 2Cor 11:3 speaks about.  It is simplicity to follow our heart’s devotion to a natural event of sharing that heart.  However, the more we focus or construct the event of sharing over simply focusing on the object of our affection, the more the event begins to take precedence and our witness can actually suffer loss and weaken.  In a sense, we are distracted from the greater portion just as Martha was wearied in a multiplicity of her ways.  She did not have the single, simple focus that Mary did – which would not be taken from her.  Also, our heart can become torn and entangled over the conditions people are experiencing, and we can be more caught up into their plight than in our first love when outcome-based results take precedence.  The enemy is very cunning, and when it comes to the sympathies of our heart, we are called to “guard our hearts above all that we guard, for out of it flow the issues of life.”  Nothing is to be of greater value than our devotion to our Lord, not even our witnessing about Him, or our ministry for others.

Why Imagine the Bride?

In the Book of Revelation, we hear a profession of amazing unity between the Spirit and the Bride who say, “Come.”  This is a call to those remaining on the earth to receive Christ as their Savior.  The Bride here has aligned herself with the call of the Spirit.  Through His power working in her, she will convict and convince the world and bring demonstration to it about sin and about righteousness.  This is not simply an academic teaching of who the Savior is.  This is a demonstration of His truth and power by the operation of the Holy Spirit.  The call is directed to those who are listening, those who are thirsty, and those who desire it.  This unity with the Spirit is what keeps the Bride safe from corruption and seduction away from Christ, and keeps her protected from any other devotion except that for Christ Jesus.  Like the Holy Spirit – all of our promotion will be for Jesus.

As the church adopts the mind-set of the Bride we will focus with one spectacular unifying vision of Christ before us.  This vision is the heart that is fully set on Him and trumps all other causes.  The believers will coalesce as one flow.  Unlike today where the church holds multiple visions which serve to dissipate and channel our force – there will be just one vision – the Beloved Jesus, soon coming King.  Things like evangelism, discipleship, doctrine, gifts, etc. all should hold a secondary place to the unifying vision of devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul talked about knowing Christ (and Him) crucified as his preeminent focus.  As the church, we have become beset by cumbersome weights and causes that vie for supremacy with devotion to Jesus.  As the Bride, out perspective is simple: nothing is more important than loving and serving Him.  This then gives an important insight into the question: why have the mind-set of the Bride?  The answer: as the bride we become single focused with a unifying vision of Christ.  We become single-hearted as His love.

So, we first contrasted the way evangelism is perceived from the mind-set of the church, and then the mind-set of the bride.  Let us now look at another application of the two mind-sets.

Faith vs. Faithful

We turn now to contrasting the virtue of faith/faithfulness as would be perceived by the respective mind-sets of church and bride.  Luke 18:8 part b asks a provocative question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Again, first looking from the church’s mind-set – this more often is focused on the qualities that we demonstrate to the world or even other believers.  Are we operating in faith?  Do we still believe as we should?  Is our salt still salty?  Can we still affect change in the world?  So it points as a warning against losing faith.  It emphasizes the need to keep the faith resident within us, but as a means of demonstration to the world, or to those in the church around us.  In the church mind-set we seem to look for validation to others and/or the world.

For the Bride, the rendering of this Scripture’s intent is profoundly personal, and much more directed towards the Bridegroom than anywhere else.  It is a caution against unfaithfulness in our relationship with Him.  It is the Bride remaining faithful to her vows of devotion and having nothing else before Him – like a newly engaged couple, or newly married pair – it is about remaining faithful and allowing no ground to an outside element to have a foothold or place that would erode the relationship.

Imagine you are a newly wed.  You are a professional in the work environment.  Think of how staunchly you have to guard against encroachments in your affections, your responsibilities, and your emotions with your new spouse.  You strive to give no reason for jealousy, no reason for doubt, no foothold of allegiance to any obligation over that of your new spouse.  If you let it, time spent at work can contest available time with each other.  The important question is always, who is serving whom?  Do I perceive my occupation as providing a base of service to support my marriage relationship?  Or do I see my marriage as a means to support my occupational goals and pursuits?  Precedence it everything: in this as well as in our relationship with the Lord.  So, concerning the Bride’s mind-set on faithfulness, it is all person-oriented: to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bride desires to have or hold nothing before Him, and her faithfulness is all towards Him.  He is the object of all her allegiance.

It is this mind-set of the Bride which ultimately steers us toward Christ-likeness.  As we focus our thinking on higher things and not on earthly things (Col 3:2), we bring ourselves into the position of being renewed and remolded into fuller and more perfect knowledge after the likeness of Him Who created it (Col 3:10).  As our eyes behold Him our thinking is renewed, and we are transfigured from glory to glory, which is from the Lord (2Cor 3:18).

I raise a caution, here, to not discount the importance of pursuing the mind-set of the bride. To do so would be like disregarding a compass heading affected by magnetic north.  Initially, we would seem to be on the right path, but as time and distance wear on the error is both great and ruinous.

Our next chapters explore some of the nature and specifics of the Bride and these will form the remainder of the book.  May the Lord go before us even now for a witness to His truth, and for protection against the enemy’s deception.

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©Sandra Gilloth 2010

Imagine…The Bride

Introduction

An Eternal Promise

From the very moment the Lord touched my understanding on the topic of the Bride, He used Genesis 11:6 as the basis and foundation for my investigation.  As a classic end-times prophecy movie aficionado, I am aware of the misuse of this Scripture by the New Age community and others for their own call to a bizarre mind-meld unity principle.  But this is not at all how the Lord presented this Scripture to me.  Let’s first review Genesis 11:6 as it is found in the Amplified Bible:

“And the Lord said, Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them.”

What was conveyed to me was this verse stands as an enormous eternal promise that God honors for all mankind.  For good or for evil, whatever we pursue with united effort we will have.  Even in God’s benevolence, He will not withhold a reaping of ill that will occur from this pursuit.  It is also the rationale and explanation for every breakthrough that we have experienced on earth from man’s direct effort and intervention.  Every medical  discovery, every breakthrough in science, every discovery in new technologies, every “find” in archeology and other disciplines can be attributed to God honoring this promise.  However, whether we put our collective minds to pursue nuclear annihilation, or strategies to benefit mankind — when we have gathered in one effort, it will not be withheld from us.

The negative side of this promise is dramatically seen in Romans 1:26, where it is describing the press of man to pursue sexual impurity and specifically detailed “vile affections and degrading passions.”  Ultimately it says that God gives them over to these — He doesn’t hold them back even for their own safety.  But He gives them over to their base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome.  This stands as a very grave warning for everyone, to beware what you pursue.

When the United States became interested in atomic energy for weapons development –they too became one people (identifiable by their focus and the efforts to pursue that focus).  They had in common, one language — the language of science (Chemistry/Physics etc.).  And as we can see, the results of that pursuit entered us nationally into the atomic age.  There we launched atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we considered it more humane than continuing and escalating the scale of the war.  Debatable!  But my point here is, even concerning detriment and harm, what we imagine will not be withheld from us.

Now take that same promise and apply it to the Body of Christ.  As we have been redeemed and adopted into the Kingdom, we are all one people.  We are the people of God.  We also have one language — a holy language.  First, we have the Word of God, and as a companion to that we have the language of tongues as given by the Holy Spirit.  What makes the Body of believers different, however, from the world — is our anchor and plum-line in Christ Jesus.  So now what motivates us is not our fallen nature which (without Christ) could lead us to pursue the power of God (atomic/nuclear/etc.), without any accountability to God.  Nor do we seek to scientifically unseat God, and place man’s thinking on the altar of our worship as an idol.  Instead, we have within ourselves the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  His Spirit moves us to pursue what pleases Him.

In a defining passage, 2Cor5:14 reveals that as believers we are of the opinion that as One (Christ) has died for all, thus all have died.  For that reason, now the love of Christ urges, controls, and impels us.  What defines us as a believer is that we believe Christ has died for our sins on the Cross, and we have received that sacrifice.  As we receive His death in our place, we are in fact baptized into His death — all have died.

So now as the Body of Christ, we have laid before us a very awesome promise.  Become the Promised Bride — for according to Gen11:6, what we imagine will not be withheld from us!

The Presentation

As I sat before the Lord for insight on how to present this topic, it became apparent that there are other parts to the overall process.  That is, before actually imagining the Bride one must first Behold, Believe, then Imagine, and finally Become the Bride.  It is, however, “imagining” the Bride that the Lord has called me to focus on.  That is why the other described parts are omitted.  For clarity though, I will touch on each briefly for a point of reference.

“To Behold” refers to actually seeing or recognizing the Scriptural call upon the Body to become the Bride.  In 2Cor3:18 we find as we behold in the Word of God the very truth of God, and we are actually changed from glory to glory into His image.  Hence, we become what we behold.  Likewise, in beholding Christ’s image through the word, we also move more and more into the image of the Bride — the very likeness of Christ formed in His Body.  The Chapter titled “Finding the Beloved” would actually fall under this area of “Beholding”, but has been included as an addendum.  The goal was to present a comprehensive work on “Imagining” without dissipation in any way.  While “Finding the Beloved” is an addendum, it must be seen that it is actually paramount and a precursor to the whole process.  You can only launch into “Beholding the Bride” if you have already said yes to the Bridegroom.  You will only say yes when your heart has found Him and you become cognizant that He is Lord, Savior, and soon coming King!

“To Believe” is appropriating the Word.  To use a boat analogy, if  beholding is to “see the boat”, then believing is to “trust the boat and climb into it.”  It is to cling with trust to the belief in Christ and His word and His promises.  It is to possess these things as your very treasure.

“To Imagine” the Bride (continuing with the boat analogy), is to fill the sails of the boat with the vision for the Bride.  It is to harness the power and momentum of that vision in preparation to the obedience of walking that vision out.

That is what “To Become” the Bride is — walking out the fullness of the vision in obedience.  So to “imagine” is to consolidate momentum and power for the culminating stage — to become the Bride or to walk out being the Bride.  Like the wind which fills the sail enables you to get underway (cast-off), this movement is the righteous deeds of the saints that establish the Bride’s right to wear the bridal attire found in the Book of Revelation.  It is the fluid, unified, powerful churning of well oxygenated living water that is a force to reckon with!

So you see that there is more than just to “Imagine…The Bride,” although that is our challenge here.  There is first: to behold, to believe, to imagine, then to become the Bride.  But our focus and target of this work deals with –imagining the Bride.

Let the imagining begin!  I pray that you are not only blessed by this effort, but that it ignites the Body of Christ to be filled to overflowing with God’s Word and His promises, to not only imagine the Bride, but to usher in the time when the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.  Blessings — Sandra

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©Sandra Gilloth 2010.

The following is the full text of Sandra’s work-in-progress: Last Days Prophecy for the Church, Genesis 11:6, Imagine…The Bride.

Preface

The Vision

In 2002, when my family and I set off for a trip to Niagara Falls and to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF), God released a revelation within me.  I was the official trip navigator in the front passenger seat studying the Rand McNally map.  My husband was driving.  My two children, were tucked in the back seat.  My sister was also traveling with us, so we were all piled into the Chevrolet Caravan rental for the trip.

We were driving north, away from Pittsburgh, on the PA Interstate — first heading north toward Erie PA.  Then we picked up I-90 heading northeast towards Buffalo, NY.  From Buffalo, we picked up I-190 heading north to Niagara Falls.  As I changed maps from the New York State map to the Buffalo/Niagara map inset — the Lord spoke to my heart.  What He conveyed was this:

For the last two-thousand years you have been the church.  Now pursue being the Bride.  This is not a new course, or a new destination.  Just as you have navigated from general maps to their insets — now is the time to focus on the inset: the final and greater detail.  Just as you used one map to get near your location, but used the inset to navigate in closer, you are now closer to the destination than you previously were.  It is time for the church to have more specific instruction to reach the destination of becoming My Promised Bride.

We indeed arrived safely on our trip to Niagara Falls and TACF.  We had a wonderful time and experienced many beautiful things.  But the leading of the Lord to pursue the Bride stayed with me, and has grown and expanded.  What I will ultimately share are some of the specifics for how and why to Imagine…The Bride. But first, I need to lay some groundwork for understanding how things are arranged to prevent confusion.



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