Beloved, the following two lengthy excerpts are being offered today for your prayerful contemplation.
The first is by T. Austin-Sparks, from a work titled: The On-High Calling, and is taken from Chapter Five: The Changed Position of the Companions. The work is from a conference in Switzerland, 1963. (The link to The On-High Calling in its entirety will be at the end of the excerpt.)
“As a subject, we have pointed out that this is a key to the whole of this Letter to the Hebrews, which is an appeal for companions of Christ, and for companions of a heavenly calling. We have also said that this Letter is a summary of the whole of the New Testament. In making that statement, of course, we provide you with a very large field of consideration. We simply have to say that all that is in the New Testament is gathered in some way into this Letter. Therefore, all that is in the New Testament is gathered up into this one thought: God is seeking companions for His Son in a heavenly calling.
We are now going to dig more deeply into this Letter, always with this one thought in mind: It is companions of Christ which are in view.
Let us say one brief word about the point of view taken by this Letter. We understand that it was written and given to these Hebrew Christians at a time of very serious crisis, when a whole system which had existed for many centuries was about to pass away. The whole system of the Old Testament, from Moses onward, was about to go. After the writer had put down all that is in this Letter he put over it a quotation from the Old Testament: “Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:26,27 – quoted from Haggai 2:6). By quoting that Scripture and putting it at the end of this Letter, the writer indicated that this was just about to take place, and he proved to be right. It is evident that this Letter was written just before A.D. 70.
The Roman legions may already have been gathering around Jerusalem, and we know from history what happened. The city was besieged and destroyed, not one stone of the temple being left standing upon another, and the whole land was desolated. The priestly service ceased and all the functions of the temple came to an end. The whole country was put into a state of utter desolation, and from that day, even until now, that system ceased to be.
And this Letter was written because the Lord knew what was going to happen and because, in the Divine plan, the time had come for it to happen. Always read this Letter in the light of that great historic crisis.
That was the dark side of the story. But you will notice that this Letter is just full of that ‘better thing’ which had taken the place of the old, and we shall be dwelling upon that ‘better thing’ as we go along. As the people of an earthly calling were being set aside this great Letter of a heavenly calling was presented to them.
Before we go further with the Letter, let us remember that its message abides for us. It would be a very blind person who today could not see that another such event is very near. There has been built up on this earth another great system of Christianity. It is very earthly as a system, and , just as the hearts of the Jews here were very much bound up with their system, so in our time multitudes of Christians are just bound up with this historic Christianity. I do not claim to be a prophet, but there is much in the Word of God which points to the time when this whole system will be shaken. It is very impressive that in our lifetime we have seen this in a small way, when churches have been destroyed, congregations scattered, and it has not been possible to go on with the old forms. People have had to find the Lord for themselves without any earthly helps. They have had to get their help from heaven and not from earth. We have seen this happen, in a comparatively small way, on at least two occasions. The Lord has smitten the earth on two terrible occasions, with not so many years between them, and it is not difficult to see that it could happen again on a very much bigger scale. That event may not be very far off. We Christians speak of the coming of the Lord. That is our hope and our salvation: but we must remember that the coming of the Lord is going to be accompanied by a terrible judgment upon this earth, when everything that is not heavenly is going to be shaken, so shaken that it will just collapse.
So this Letter has a real message for us. As was said to the Jewish Christians at that time: ‘Your whole system, in which you are so bound up, is going to pass away’, so this Letter says to us today: ‘All the earthly system is going to be shaken, and shaken out of its place. But there is a better one coming’ – “God having provided some better thing” (Hebrews 11:40).
Well, that is the standpoint of this Letter. I am sure we can see that it is very applicable to our time. We are not just studying a book of the Bible which relates to many centuries ago. God is the eternal God and He speaks to all time, but the message is intensified as we get nearer the end.”
Link here —> The On-High Calling
The second is by Chip Brogden, from a book titled: The Church in the Wilderness, and is taken from Chapter One: Escape From Churchianity. (Chip’s book was first published in 2011, and is currently offered on Amazon. It comes highly recommended. The Amazon link will be at the end of that excerpt, as well as a link to his article of the same name – Escape From Churchianity – on his website.)
“We simply see things the way we have been trained to see them; we do not see things as God sees them. It is very easy to quantify and describe things in terms of Organized Religion because it is earthly, worldly, and natural. As someone on the street, ‘What is the church? ‘Why it is that building there with a steeple on top.’ ‘What is a pastor?’ The fellow who does the preaching.’ ‘What is a Christian?’ The folks who read their Bible a lot and pray a lot and go to church a lot – you know doing good works.’ You see how easy it is to define. It is tangible, concrete. We can get our hands on that, we can see that.
But the reality is that everything which makes up the Ekklesia is spiritual, and thus, it is invisible to the naked eye. It is non-corporeal. It cannot be measured by dollars and statistics. Now ask the same questions of someone who knows better. ‘What is the church?’ ‘The Church, the Ekkelsia, is the synthesis of individuals who have the Revelation of Jesus and have to Him to receive Him as their Life.’ ‘Pray tell, where do I fond that? What do I look for?’ ‘You can’t find it or see it, it’s like trying to find the wind at 101 North Main Street. It is beyond geographical description; it is everywhere and nowhere.’ … This Life defies explanation because the truth is that it has nothing to do with the external, only the internal. Like the wind, you can see the effects of it, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes’ so are those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:8). This invisible Life is the characteristic of the Ekklesia. When you can capture the wind in a bag, then you can stuff Christians into a building and call it ‘church.’ ‘Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21 NKJV).
So, from our vantage point here on earth, Organized Religion can be easily seen, felt, touched, experienced, quantified, denominated, characterized, categorized, analyzed, and explained. We can chart its progress and hang the data up on the wall, point to it and say, ‘See? We’ve got this many million converts here, and this many million converts there. Church growth is up (or down), we collected this many billions dollars last year, and in relation to the rest of the world’s religions we rank number whatever. We’ve got this many thousands of churches in this part of the world, we have this many thousands of pastors and Christian workers, and we’ve translated the Bible into this many different languages.’
Meanwhile, what drives the Real Church, the Ekklesia, is invisible, spiritual, ethereal, hidden, veiled, in the world but not of the world, and hard to describe in terms we can understand. We can’t generate date and hang it up on the wall. Even those who know what the Ekklesia is sometimes have difficulty expressing themselves. Ask them where to find the Church of which they so longingly speak, and they are apt to reply, ‘I’m not sure if I know where the Church is, brother, but I sure know where it ain’t.’
Now imagine that the Lord wakes you up one night and says, “Come up hither, and I will show you the Church.” You expect Him to carry you down the street to the Family Worship Center or across the country to where the crowds say they are experiencing revival; but instead you find yourself rising high into the air, leaving the earth behind, and in the blink of an eye you travel beyond the edges of the temporal universe and into the spirit realm, seated with Christ in heavenly places, there in the throne of God.
Seated with the Lord and looking back down upon the world, we find from this perspective that the cathedrals, the church buildings, the worship centers, the sanctuaries, the denominational offices, the seminaries, the tithes and offerings, the membership drives, the movements, all vanish from sight. Everything melts away. He does not see the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptists, the United Methodists, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, or the Roman Catholics. He does not see Charismatics or Fundamentalists or Bible Belts or Christian Conservatives or Religious Rights. He does not see the building devoted to religious meetings as anything more special or significant than the grocery store or barber shop. He sees pastors, yes, but strangely, He does not see every director of a non-profit organization who owns a building devoted to religious meetings as a pastor. And it is not just the pastors that are different, from our heavenly observation point. Everything seems odd. Backwards. Apostles are not where you expect them to be, and they are not doing what you expect them to be doing; neither are prophets, evangelists, or teachers. Yet, they are right where He wants them to be, doing exactly what He wants them to do. Interestingly enough, He is not concerned with a rise or a decline in church attendance because He does not see the Church as something which can be attended. Hmmmm.
Standing next to Him we see as He sees. We realize when we look upon Christendom that all God sees there is His Church, the Ekklesia. He deems those who abide in Him, those who possess the Son, as those who have Life. His Church is not declining, it is growing because His Life cannot be contained or restricted. His Ekklesia is outside the matrix. His Church is spiritual, and as such, it is eternal, transcending time and space. Just as He is, and does.
You look upon His Face and see the curve of His smile, so you follow His gaze – and there it is, the living stones and precious gems which make up His Church. You couldn’t see them before, because you were right in the middle of it while still on earth. But now, far removed from it all and looking down upon it from the Lord’s perspective, you see that the living stones are being assembled together into a brilliant, gleaming, dazzling building which covers the entire earth! An angel stands apart from it, shouting, “100% pure: never touched by human hands!” You zoom in closer and discover that the stones and gems are not literal stones and gems, but people! Wonderful, beautiful, joy-filled people, joined together into a striking mosaic of vibrant colors, a tapestry of interwoven beauty, a medley of lives in perfect twelve-part harmony, all pulsing with His heartbeat, His Life, His Essence. You begin to weep at the unadulterated purity of it and oneness of it. There is no spot, wrinkle, or blemish to be found.
Only God could make something this gorgeous. Only God. Only God. And there in the midst of this wonderful place, you see what makes it so splendid…
There HE is, walking around in the midst of this Temple, adding living stone upon living stone, precious gem upon precious gem, and what do you hear? Singing? Yes. The Living Stones are crying out in praise. And He is smiling, and – whistling! – while He works.
Jesus is building His Church.
Then, as quickly as it began, it is over.
You open your eyes and find yourself back on earth, having returned to your three-dimensional world. It’s a sunny day, the birds are singing, the church bells are ringing, and you see men, women, and children walking down the street, carrying their Bibles. You rush out into the road and grab an elderly gentleman.
“Where are you going? What’s going on? Why are you so dressed up?”
“Get your hands off me, you crazy idiot! It’s Sunday morning, and I’m going to church!”
“You’ve seen the Church??”
“Seen it? Of course I’ve seen it. My great-great grandfather helped build that church!”
“No, I mean have you SEEN the CHURCH,” you repeat emphatically. “The Church that JESUS is building!”
“I don’t know what the devil you’re talking about, young man. Now let me alone, or I’ll be late!”
You let him go and before you know it you are swept along by the crowd and find yourself sitting within the four walls of a building that calls itself “First Hypocritical Church, International.”
The service is just beginning. The pastor approaches the lectern and announces, “Let’s all stand and sing!”
Not sure what to do, you join in the chorus:
Know ye not, know ye not ye are the Temple?
Know ye not, know ye not ye are the Temple?
Know ye not, know ye not ye are the Temple?
Ye are the Temple of the Holy Ghost!
At the end of the song the pastor appears at the lectern again and matter-of-factly shouts, “Isn’t it good to be in the house of God today!” It’s more of a statement than a question. And all the people say, “AMEN!”
Hope rises! The House of God! Maybe he’s seen it too! Forgetting where you are, you stand up and excitedly shout “Have YOU seen the House of God, brother?”
“Amen!” He replies. “It’s good to be in church this morning!”
“Amen!” the people agree.
“No, wait a minute,” you interrupt, mouthing the words ever so slowly and deliberately, as if you were talking to a deaf lip reader. “Have you SEEN the CHURCH, brother? The Church that JESUS is building?”
All heads are turned now, facing you. The old man, one of the deacons, whispers, “That’s the weirdo I met on the way to church this morning!”
The pastor is growing impatient. “This IS the church, brother. Hallelujah!”
“But sir,” you press, “KNOW YE NOT YE ARE THE TEMPLE???”
The silence is deafening.
“You are the Temple. WE are the Temple! Jesus is building His Church! I’ ve seen it! It’s a wonderful House of Living Stones, filled with His Life! We are the Church that He is building! We are the Living Stones, the Precious Gems! I saw Jesus, and He was smiling and placing the stones together, and…”
Some teenagers on the back row are giggling.
“I’ve seen it! It’s true! The stones… the jewels… it’s gorgeous!”
The people are looking at the pastor to see what he will do.
Slowly it dawns on you. You realize that to them you are an alien from another planet trying to communicate something that is so real to you but is totally foreign to the rest of the world.
Desperately you grab the man standing next to you by the shoulders, thinking to shake it into him. “You don’t believe me… But it’s true! You sing about it… but you don’t believe it! YOU ARE THE TEMPLE! You have to believe me! I’ve seen it! Jesus is building His Church!”
The ushers are making their way over to your place in the pew.
Sweating and shaking, you look around the sanctuary, wild-eyed. “No, something’s wrong here. Everything is different… this isn’t the Church! I mean, you’re calling it church, but this isn’t what I’ve seen at all. No, the Church is… is… One Flock with One Shepherd, not divided up into denominations and sects! It’s a mosaic of people! It’s a tapestry of rich colors! It’s a medley…” You begin to sob. “Listen to me! Know ye not ye are the Temple?!?”
The congregation is uncomfortable and agitated. The old deacon is ashen-faced, glaring at the pastor to put an end to this.
“Friend,” the pastor finally manages, “if you’ll go with the ushers I’m sure we can better minister to you in private. With every head bowed and every eye closed, why don’t we go to the Lord in prayer right now.”
While every head is bowed and every eye is closed, except the pastor’s head and eyes, the ushers quickly hustle you out the back door and throw you down the steps.
The pastor smiles. “and the church said… AMEN. Amen. You may be seated. Well, praise the Lord. Today my message is entitled, ‘What It Means To Be A Christian’. Turn in your Bibles to…”.
Amazon link here —> The Church in the Wilderness
Website article link here —> Escape From Churchianity
Father, that You would grant us, Your children, a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the deep knowledge of Your Son, Christ Jesus; that You would grant us, Your children, out of the rich treasury of Your glory that we be strengthened with mighty power in our inner man by Your indwelling Spirit; that we would hear Your voice To-Day, Father; and harden not our hearts by unbelief, but lean on You solely in trust and in Your faithfulness we shall find in You our Source for all rest and peace and living. To You alone be the glory throughout all generations, for ever and ever – Amen.