But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
Chip Brogden just made this series, The Ekklesia: A Revelation of the Called-Out Assembly, available on his website earlier this month at no charge. It is the most clear and concise message on what the Church is that I have ever come across. In this recording he is younger and a bit more zealous at times, but the Spirit comes across loud and clear! With four parts, each around fifty minutes, it is an easy listen, and one I believe is imperative at this present hour. Brothers and sisters we are living in increasingly deceptive times. If I could I would encourage everyone I know to listen to these messages. But not everyone is able to bear it.
A few of the many notes I took as I listened:
“The Spiritual ministry of the Ekklesia flows out of the Life and the fellowship we enjoy in Christ, and this spiritual ministry is nothing more and nothing less than the expression of Christ Himself to each other and to the world around us.“
“Spiritual ministry is the expression of Christ, it is the fruit of our abiding in Him. It’s not something we do for Jesus, it is Jesus Himself living through us. That is spiritual ministry.”
As is often the case when the Lord wants to bring a message home it comes from every angle. And, so, it is not surprising that after many months of not reading T. Austin-Sparks, the articles I would choose to read that started showing up in my email on September 20th, would be from a work titled, The Ministry of the Church. During an ever-increasingly difficult year and thus far the greatest test to my faith, these are the things He brings to surround and inundate and encourage. I offer them here for you and for you to share with another that may be in need of them as well.
These are challenging messages to our flesh, brothers and sisters. It is easier to live a so-called life of faith in vain (external) repetition than to accept His work within (within, within, within) conforming us to the image of His Son. It comes through suffering, the Scriptures are full of that fact and encouragement.
Yesterday morning as I read chapter four of T. Austin-Sparks, it was this that brought me to tears:
“Ministry is not in the hall and gathering on the Lord’s day or at special times, the ministry is in our home – that’s where we can be read most clearly. Be read; it is in our business place. It is wherever we are. Wherever we are, that’s the place of our ministry as the church and its members. And the ministry is that we are read, and make no mistake about it, we are read. People who live with us are reading us, people with whom we work are reading us, summing us up, taking account of us, passing their mental judgments upon us. And what is it? What is it? Are we difficult people to live with, to work with, awkward, cantankerous? See? Or do they read Christ? “Epistles of Christ,” says Paul.”
“I haven’t got the ability, I am not fit – fitted in any way for this work but there’s the Holy Spirit equal to it all. I can count on the Holy Spirit”. And from that first until this day, I believe that it’s just been that. On one side the deep consciousness that we are not sufficient of ourselves. On the other, there’s the anointing. There’s the anointing, we can always fall back on the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t be speaking to you so strongly about our ministry if I couldn’t say this to you, that the weakest, foolish, most inefficient naturally, can count upon the Holy Spirit. And to keep to our point: the Holy Spirit’s object is to manifest Christ, to make the impression of Christ by our being present.
There I’m going to stop for the present. That is another aspect of our ministry: living epistles. How, how is the gospel to spread? How is the world to know? Well, the apostle doesn’t say here anything about, or very much about, our going out here and there and everywhere talking, preaching. It may come into it for some. But what he does say is “read and known of ALL men.” That’s how the gospel grows! That’s how the world knows, that people are able to read Christ where we are. We should go to prayer in our hearts I’m sure, and on our knees more and more: “Lord, fulfill this ministry, make me a certificate of Christ. Make me a living letter of commendation of Christ, an epistle of Christ, we pray“.”
Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.
Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.
And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5
Rejoice in our sufferings. Seems almost like a joke, and a bad joke at that. But it is not the kind of rejoicing our flesh makes when we hear something agreeable to our feelings or opinions. No. For suffering always goes against our feelings and opinions. The rejoicing here is much deeper than the flesh. It is a consistent and definitive knowing by way of experience with the indwelling Lord that even this – whatever this might be for you and for me – He will use to conform us to the image of His Son. For our benefit and His glory.
“Sometimes it is just in our quiet, patient endurance, whereas other people would begin to show their resentment and their bad temper and react to what is done and what is put on them in a sulky way, a disagreeable way, with a vengeful spirit. You’re down under it – quiet, humble, patient, enduring, suffering wrong rather than doing wrong. That’s the glory of Jesus.” T. Austin-Sparks
Father, thank You that nothing can separate us from Your love in Christ Jesus. Thank You for Your patient endurance with each one of us! We ask that these trials each of us are facing would refine us to have more of You and less of us. Father, we ask that those who are blind but hungry be given sight as only You can break through the veil that the god of this age has over the eyes of Your people. Father, we ask that the costliness of this way be the last thing on our minds and the expression of Christ in and to and through us be our motivation, out of our love for You, Father; that we would not be found to be like those of old with Your name on our lips but our hearts far from You, but rather be a people prepared by You and for You. Amen.