Sunday, May 23, 2010

From I to We


If Christians are to express the Life of the Godhead and come into the fullness of fellowship that Christ intended them to have, they must be ready to change their lifestyles. If there is any intention to change the loneliness and isolationism that defines most Americans, it will take a radical departure from their present lifestyles of pursuing the “American Dream”. That is true even if their lifestyles have been Christianized. The pursuing of this “nightmare” has resulted in there presently being twice as many suicides in this country as there are homicides. I often ask people if they like their “church” and the reply is most always the same. “Oh, I love the preacher; he is so biblical… I just don’t have any real friends.” If that is your answer, you are probably not in a church, at the best you’re in a Christian school. A true church is not just a place of learning it is the habitation of friends.

Loneliness and isolation is killing Americans and the stats show that progressively there isn’t much difference between Christians and non-believers. Contrast that depressing picture with the scriptural view of the corporate Life in a people who walk together by the Spirit of God…

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither did any of them say that the things which he possessed were his own; but they had all things common. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,” (Acts 4:32, 2:44-46)

If those who called themselves followers of Christ gave themselves to living in this manner with other like minded people, it could radically change the United States. It would do more to turn our unbelieving neighbors into seekers of God than anything else we could do. It would also curb the growing hatred for anything associated with Christ. It is the very thing Christ stated would “convince” the world that He is from God and we are really His followers.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.”       (John 17:20, 21)

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

This would do more to turn people to Christ, than all the sermons, big buildings, and rock concerts, or for that matter, anything else. It would not only turn unbeliever’s hearts toward Christ, it would turn the ones practicing this lifestyle to Him as well. This lifestyle would change everything, because this lifestyle is the Life of Christ.

So what would this look like in the 21rst Century? What would living this super abundant life really feel like?

Think of all the painful situations you have been through this year; all the fears, worries, surprises, and problems. Consider all the joys; birthdays in your family, all the holidays, celebrations of accomplishments. Now multiply that by 280 and you will get some idea of what it means to live in unity of the Spirit with the local gathered people of God in Rose Creek Village. The scriptures state that the true unity of Christ’s Spirit binds the local body together in such a way that allows them to feel everything…. together.
“…And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”                     
(I Corinthians 12:26)

Often after visiting us a while, people usually say; “Oh, I admire so much what you do, I just could never do it”, or “I couldn’t live like that even with my closest relatives!” We really do understand that sentiment, and always reply “neither could we, if it were not for the “Great Grace” that comes from heaven.

Ҧ And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that anything which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33)

The Life that Christ has asked us to live cannot be lived without Christ becoming our way (lifestyle). He wasn’t kidding when He said He was bringing a life that was extremely full and it would need a brand new lifestyle to fully contain and express it. The old wine skin (lifestyle) cannot hold the new wine.

Part of the explanation of that fullness is understood by understanding; it is not the Life that He gave me, it’s the Life He gave “us”.

“… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (Beyond measurement, more than needed) (John 10:10)

To understand the nature of this abundant life one must not miss the word “they” in the above verse.

It is true that as individuals He makes us alive, but the corporate Life of Jesus Christ is the Life He gives to His gathered people … not to individuals. The early Christians walked in this incredible corporate life and by it were able to reveal to a dying world what heaven really looked like. That new Life changed their world as it would ours. That life was not the independent Christianized life of individuals; but a spiritually dependant Life of a corporate body. It was a Life of mutual care and involvement with each individual part.A Life that had been joined together through Christ’s Body in that local area. The normal Body Life of Christ is not for one member, it is for the “two or more”.

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Let me say again the corporate Life of Jesus Christ’s Body is a shared life. It is a gathering of friends who had been made alive by Christ to share the very same Life He shared with His father. To be a part of this Life meant leaving their independent lifestyles and living together with new friends. Friends who would share more than just attendance at meetings or having a simlar belief in the same doctrine; they shared a common Life.

Friends whose friendship was not based on their personal choices, likes or dislikes, but of mutual respect and love for the people that Christ had chosen them to be with. Friends forming friendships based on the commands of Christ to love each other all the time. Friends who made sacrificial changes to shape their lifestyle to accommodate their new life together. Whatever your life centers around will determine your lifestyle. Let me explain.

Think of your lifestyle as the container holding the various elements of your life. Are you a college student? Then your lifestyle revolves around going to college. That college life demands a college lifestyle. It dictates how you spend your money, the cloths you wear, place you live and the priorities you set. It will dictate the friends you seek out, the amount of time you spend doing what you want, and how you plan your future.

If you choose a life in the Armed Forces; then your lifestyle will revolve around military life. The way you previously lived as a civilian will no longer do, everything about the way you lived will change to a military lifestyle. If you keep your old civilian lifestyle while trying to fit your new military life into it, something will have to give. You will either lose your military life or your old civilian lifestyle or both. Trying to put a new life in an old life container will not work. When Christ talked about this new life and lifestyle he likened it to wine in wine skins; old wine skins cannot hold new wine.

Neither do men put new wine into old wine skins: else the wine skins tear, and the wine runs out, and the wine skins perish: but they put new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:17)

This is especially true for Americans. Our rugged, independent, self-styled, "compartmented" lifestyles are not capable of holding the wild, bubbly, spiritual fullness of Christ’s corporate Life. Most people’s lifestyles are just not flexible enough to avoid tearing or blowing apart.

The life Jesus Christ brings to His people is truly remarkable. Yet it can only be contained in His lifestyle. It is one that adapts constantly to facilitate whatever the together Life needs. Anyone who has experienced that Life, knows how truly full and different it can be.

His desire is not to come into, change, fulfill, enhance, or improve our previous lives and lifestyles…. He wants to end them. The reason is simple; our old lifestyles cannot hold the fullness of His new Life. That fullness which is only found in His Body, the Life of His gathered people, the Church.

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.(Ephesians 1:22, 23)

People often ask …. “isn’t it hard to live a sharing all your possessions, knowing each other’s heartaches, sharing each other’s joys, being responsible for and accountable to each other, kind of life?” Our answer is… “At first it is a little scary, but only until we began experiencing the “fullness of Christ Life.” With all the difficulties and learning experiences it is truly as the Psalmist says ….good and pleasant. Today it would be very difficult for us to live anything less.

Now, don’t be mislead, I am not talking about everyone living together on 100 acres in rural Tennessee as we do. God doesn’t call everyone to live in the country with two or more families to a house. I am talking about Christ becoming your lifestyle. It is about embracing any change that would accommodate this new corporate Life. What facilitates the building up of His Kingdom dictates the entire church’s life’s style. Until you lose your previous individual life’s style, you cannot fully understand Christ’s life style. If you try and save your present “station in life” you will lose experiencing what is normal in the Life of Christ. His life only can be contained in His peculiar lifestyle. In fact, either your lifestyle or His lifestyle will win out. Sort of like trying to serve material gain (mammon) and serve Christ at the same time. One of them has to go.

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)

Now there is little doubt that someone will point out exceptions to this thinking throughout history and they would be right. Yet they are the exceptions not the rule. The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of following the Holy Spirit and not our Holy Desires. The American dream will become a Kingdom nightmare if we are unwilling to abandon not only our fleshly lives but our fleshly and worldly lifestyles as well.

There is a song written by one of our brothers that puts much of this teaching into perspective. For all of us who are called to become the Lord’s bride, it is exhortation to leave our cherished isolated Egyptian lifestyles, and hurry to the promise land of Unity.

Here are the words of the song, may they encourage us to seek the fullness of our Heavenly Lover found in His Bride’s corporate life.

She is Beautiful
I’m seeing myself for the first time.
It started when I glimpsed your bride.
And now I’ve gone from I to we.
I’m leaving the Egypt of isolation,
And joining myself to thee. And she is beautiful.
For she won’t let me stay in my Egypt ways.
Our God in the heaven has given himself for us.
Christ in the earth a people who fear his word.
Let us speak to each other the love of our father.
Keep us forever and always abiding within you.
The day comes when we shall go forth
and leap like a calf from the stable.
If only you give us the grace that enables for us to be holy,
Just as you are holy. Make us beautiful.
We are your bride, make us your radiance. You are wonderful.
Dress us in white we long to be obedient. Make us beautiful!

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