A Sort of A Blog
Nov. - Dec. 2005
by Mary Van Nattan
As people we have a natural desire to belong - family, tribe, nation, etc. This was given to us by our Creator. As Christians we have a supernatural desire to be part of a church and to belong to a group that bears the name of Christ.
In these perilous times, those who desire to live by the word of God, rather than man's traditions, too often find themselves being shouldered out of churches and fellowship with other believers. Our Lord Jesus said, Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Luke 6:22 If we know that our "offense" is following Christ above all others, then we can rest in this promise of the God's blessing. This is comforting, but there is still a painful side to being cast out of the church (John 9:22, 3 John 9-10).
There is a sweet promise given to the Philadelphians in Revelation 3. This was the church that kept Christ's word and did not deny His name (v. 8 & 10). While this was a real church in John's day, and also an era of church history, there is an application today also for those who strive to walk as Philadelphians. Their rewards are available to all saints who overcome according to the Lord's promise. Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
This verse really blessed me the first time I noticed the significance of it and the application for those of us who have been cast out of the synagogue, so to speak. There is a human desire to have a building associated with the church. Human nature also wants a name - a denomination, if you will - to describe itself and associate itself with. It usually wants a tribe or nation to claim as the best or "God blessed" ("God bless America," national flags in "church", tribalism and nationalism in the church, etc.). In short, we want a place to belong. Something that can be seen, felt and understood with the natural senses.
By faith, which ...is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, Heb. 11:1; we look ...for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Heb. 11:10 By choosing to associate ourselves with the unseen rather than the temporal, we have the promise of all this and more. But look at what God promises to the Philadelphians who overcome through the end of the Laodicean era: We will have a building - the temple of God Almighty. We will never be cast out again! We will have a "label" - the name of God Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ. We will bear the name of a city not to be ashamed of - the new Jerusalem.
What JOY. Here is a place where where man has no authority to decide if we "belong." Here is a place where one name is sufficient for all. Here is a place where we are saved ...out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; Rev. 5:9 (emphasis added).
Christ Jesus does not ask us to suffer more than He did. Hebrews 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. By the grace of God let us be willing to go forth unto Him without the camp in this life, bearing His reproach for His sake, so that we may rejoice greatly in time to come when we lay hold on a name and an eternal place where we belong!
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;
Malachai 2:7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
1 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; 2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. 3 � Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: 6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. 7 � Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. 8 My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me. 9 But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. 10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.
This Psalm was written by David when he was hiding in the wilderness from Saul. He was an outcast of society, so to speak, and he was unable to worship God in the sanctuary because of this. He longed to see the power and glory of God as he was accustomed to see it there.
Yet, we see that he was not in fear for his spiritual safety nor did he live in terror because he was unable to visit the sanctuary. He knew God still loved him. He still praised God and blessed Him. He was still satisfied with God and joyful in Him. He did not forget the Lord and continued to meditate upon him.
As many of us are finding ourselves "outside the camp" this Psalm is very refreshing and encouraging. David, who was under the old covenant that required sacrifice at a physical tabernacle (sanctuary), still felt God's love and care. Though circumstances had kept him from obeying the commands to worship God at the tabernacle, yet he rested in the knowledge that he was still loved, and rejoiced that he could still worship even where he was.
Notice that he was following God out there in the wilderness. He still loved the Lord and thought upon Him. He had not gone out there because he wanted to, or to escape the worship or knowledge of God. He was there of necessity, and saw the hand of the Lord upholding him in that.
Let us take hope and comfort in these words. Rather than feeling guilty or angry, let us remember to rejoice in the Lord, to praise Him and to rest in His care and love for us even though we are "stuck" in the wilderness as it were. Though others may try to destroy our faith and our souls, yet by the grace of God they will not succeed, and their lies shall be stopped. There will always be Sauls who lie about us, and Nabals who believe the lies, but God is bigger than their lies.
Like David we must follow hard after the Lord and take comfort in the knowledge that we are in His hand.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
When I was playing the piano the other day I played the old hymn, "We Would See Jesus" written by Anna B. Warner. As I followed the words with the music, the third verse (in our book) struck me.
We would see
Jesus; other lights are paling,
For my parents' generation, and for some of my own generation, we remember a time when real Christian friends, sweet Christian fellowship and better Bible teaching were much more common and available. We have memories of a time before and at the edge of the great coldness and dimming that has come over the Lord's church.
But, thinking over the lines of that song, I was reminded that we should be looking unto Jesus. We should be looking ahead to Him instead of looking back and mourning over the past. Our future is with Jesus Christ, and if the lights of this pilgrimage are failing, what of it? Our Light from heaven will never fail! Let us keep our eyes on ...the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17 And, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Revelation 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
In reading through Paul's epistles over the last months, several things stood out in particular in the way of themes. I would challenge you to notice these three things in particular the next time you read through these books.
1. Paul's love and care for the saints (regardless of whether they deserved it or not), and how much he expected and received joy from them.
2. The fact that Paul's authority was to edify and not destroy, even as an apostle. (2 Cor. 10:8)
3. The crucified life.
It is a great blessing.
Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
We are supposed to take the armour of God. It crossed my mind in thinking of that how many different man-made armors Christians try to use instead of taking that of God's own making.
Instead of ...having your loins girt about with truth..., they are often girt about with the traditions of man - a useless support that feels good but adds no strength.
Instead of ...having on the breastplate of righteousness..., it is too often the breastplate of self-righteousness and selfish good works designed to "earn" salvation or indulgences from God (which are both impossible). (Hosea 10:1 Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself...)
Instead of ...your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace..., it is the preparation of the gospel of church attendance and "getting more people out" ("nickels and nose and butt every 18 inches" as they used to describe it in pro-wrestling).
Instead of ...taking the shield of faith..., it is the shield of church membership. Where "going to church" keeps you out of trouble and protects you from the pastors and the "church goers" who judge "rightness with God" upon church membership and attendance. (It doesn't protect from the fiery darts of the wicked, though.)
Instead of taking ...the helmet of salvation..., the helmet of philosophy and vain deceit is taken (Col. 2:8). Man's reasoning answers the questions of life instead of the sound mind (1 Tim. 1:7) of a sure salvation. God's salvation protects and secures the head which then governs the whole body so that the salvation is lived out in daily obedience. Man's philosophy leaves the mind unprotected and even vulnerable to injury.
Instead of ...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God..., the butter knife of human scholarship is taken - a useless weapon that only causes doubt and defeat before the enemies of the Lord.
Can you think of more substitutes people use instead of God's armour?
Is it any wonder that so many Christians are losing the battle? Let us Put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
Post Script - Please notice that it is a command to take the whole armour of God. If we choose not to obey this command, we do not have the armour on. It is not automatically put on us. We must take it. For those struggling with especially hard things, may I suggest that you start each day by reading through this list in Ephesians 6 and "putting on" God's armour in prayer? I did this myself when I was suffering from acute anxiety, and I know others who have done this for other reasons, and it is a great help in the battle! God keeps His word!
graphics by Mary E. Stephens