Drawing on the prophetic vision of the kingdom of God as illustrated in Psalm 48, Nathan Yoder calls for a close inspection of God’s design, as the Psalmist says:
Walk about Zion,
And go all around her.
Count her towers;
Mark well her bulwarks;
Consider her palaces;
That you may tell it to the generation following.
For this is God,Psalm 48:12-14 NKJV
Our God forever and ever;
He will be our guide
Even to death.
Paul’s diagnosis of the Corinthians was that many were weak, sickly, and sleeping. With a passion for a strong, healthy, and wakeful church, Nathan gives a fervent call for renewed vibrancy and life.
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I greet you this morning in the name of the One, the only One Who is worthy here this morning, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the One Who considered you and considered me, and said, “I’m willing to give my life for him and for her.” It’s an amazing thought as we reflect upon that. Jesus Christ died for us, for each individual that is here this morning. But in a dynamic sense, Jesus Christ died for the Church, and I don’t want you to ever forget that. There’s a personal aspect to salvation; each one of us must come to the cross individually. I cannot come there for you, and you cannot come there for me. But we come there together as brothers and sisters. No man is there by himself.
This morning we are talking about a church life. A church life worth dying for. The only way that we will understand what this church life is, is if we begin to see it from the perspective that God sees it. This theme is going to run throughout the message. This is the burden that is on my heart this morning.
If you have your Bibles, and want to follow along, I invite you to turn to Psalm 48. I’d like to begin there with this beautiful portion of Scripture. When I think of something that is worth dying for, it implies that there is a cause, that there is a purpose. There is something bigger than myself that I aspire to and live for. And I find this portrayed in this portion of Scripture in Psalm 48. We will read most of this Scripture. The first two verses of this beautiful psalm have often been sung and set to music. And I’d like for us to do that. I’m asking you to stand as we sing and as we read this portion of Scripture. Will you stand? Let’s sing the first two verses together.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,
Is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
Amen. And we continue on in verse 3,
God is known in her palaces for a refuge.
and now we drop down to verse 8,
8As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah.
9 We have thought of Thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple.
10 According to Thy name, O God, so is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of righteousness.
11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of Thy judgments.
12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
14 For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.
As I ponder this beautiful portion of Scripture, I understand, of course, that David, as he penned these words (if indeed it was David), it was “a song and psalm for the sons of Korah,” the heading of my Bible says. As the psalmist wrote these words, I’m sure there was a practical application and inspiration for them right there, but it’s also no question in my mind that there is a prophetic word here that points forward to the church. He calls it “Mount Zion.”
There are a number of observations – about ten, that I would like to quickly make here, just as an intro-duction to this message. As we think of a church life, the first thing I want to point us to is in verse 1.
1) The first observation is the Creator of Mount Zion is worthy of praise. He says, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” Our life should be obsessed with bringing praise to God. Its Creator is worthy, first of all.
2) There’s another thing that I see there about the church, “Mount Zion” as he calls it here. He says it’s like a city set on a hill. There’s a visibility there. Sometimes we think of the church as the quiet in the land, the hidden, what people don’t see readily. But here he says it’s a city on a hill. It’s a beacon of light. Let us never be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord and of speaking for Him, and let the whole world see it, and be drawn in.
3) There’s another thing that I see there in verse 2. It’s a beautiful place. The church of Jesus Christ is a beautiful place. And I know there are times that there have been the pictures that Brother Ken shared here of stoning and of beheadings and of martyrdom — pictures of pain and suffering. How can that be beautiful? I call those pictures beautiful. I see men there and women who have a cause in their hearts that they are willing to die for, and that’s beautiful when there’s that kind of purpose and passion in the life of a person. “It’s beautiful for situation.” In verse 3, it’s called “a palace.” The implication is that it’s a beautiful place. The church of Jesus Christ is that way.
4) In fact, he says next, “It is the joy of the whole earth.” It is the joy of the whole earth! I have seen this in various parts of the earth. There are times I’ve been in Belize, I’ve been in Paraguay, and in Papua New Guinea, and in Kenya, and most recently in various parts of Ukraine. I have seen the joy of the Lord in all of those places, written on people’s faces who know Jesus Christ. And the Gospel has changed them from darkness to life. It doesn’t matter the culture. Sometimes we talk about our cross-cultural situation. Let me tell you something. Where the Word of God is preached and where it is believed, and where the Holy Spirit changes lives, it doesn’t matter if the skin color is black or white or blue or green or yellow. It has no impact on that. And the languages are diverse one from another. We can’t understand them unless there is an interpreter at our side when we speak. But there is joy there, where there is a belief in Jesus Christ. What a blessing it is! It’s the joy of the whole earth!
5) In verse 3, I see something else. He says it’s a refuge. The Church of Jesus Christ is a safe place. It’s a refuge for those who are wandering. I don’t know what your situation is here this morning, but if you’ve never been a part of a safe refuge, I’d invite you in. I invite you to come. Sometimes in a group like this, the moderator says he’s glad to see all those that have “come out.” I’m always a little vexed with that. I’m not glad for the people that have come out; I’m glad for the people that have come in! I see that in Mount Zion. It’s “coming in,” when we come to Church. It’s not “coming out”; it’s “coming in.” (Now, we come out of the world – I guess I can buy that. It’s ok there.)
6) Another thing that I see is in verse 8. Did you notice that as we read across it? This is not something that comes today and is gone tomorrow. He says it’s an everlasting Kingdom. This thing is going to outlive me, brethren. I’m going to come and go. But the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is an everlasting Kingdom; it’s never going to cease. The gates of hell are not going to prevail against it. Oh, I get excited when I think of that!
I don’t know if you do this when you read a book or not. I do it sometimes. We read the first couple chapters, and then we want to know how this thing ends, and so we flip to the back, and we see what the last chapter is. And lo and behold, we find out that the main character is still alive and well and happy. And so when we go back to chapter 3, you know – the airplane is running out of gas, and it’s going down – I can put that book on the shelf and go to sleep in peace. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I know that at the end of the book he’s still there, so everything is going to work out ok.
You know what? I’ve read the last chapter. I know how it’s going to end. There may be persecutions and trials in our life until we get there, but I know that ultimately, regardless, there’s going to be a victorious conquering. There’s going to be a victorious entering of the Church of Jesus Christ into heaven itself, when this Kingdom on earth is finished.
When I think of that, notice what else he says. He says that Kingdom is going to be established forever, and he says he has seen it there.
7) And so in verse 11 he says, “Let Mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad.” That’s why we can rejoice here this morning. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We don’t know when that next catastrophe is going to strike, or when there’ll be that reversal, but we can live here today in gratitude and in joy because we know how it’s all going to end out. He says we can rejoice, and the daughters of Judah can be glad.
8) Then he says another very sobering idea here in verse 12. He says Mount Zion is worthy of close inspection. (That’s how I worded it.) He says, go look at Zion. Go look at the church. He says, “Walk about her, and go round about her, and tell the towers” or inspect the towers of the Church. What are the pillars of the Church this morning? And have you noticed them. He says, “Mark ye well her bulwarks.” As we think of marking them, or taking notice of them, my center column on that idea says, “Consider well her bulwarks.” (I think there’s another word there.) “Set your heart to her bulwarks,” it says. The bulwarks of the Church have the idea of the strength of the Church – the kind of thing that stands when the storms beat against it. He says Mount Zion has bulwarks. There are towers there that are ultimately going to stand. He says consider those things.
9) As I think of those things, I see a passion. I see a joy that is there. You know, Mount Zion – it may not be perfect. This temple – we don’t always get it right. It’s filled with human beings like you and me, and sometimes there are mistakes; there are misguided thoughts. We try, and we don’t get it right. I didn’t say this morning that the Church of Jesus Christ here on this earth is a perfect place, but as there is a passion that burns in the heart of each one.
I think of several authors, poets if you please, who have written words like this:
Oh, to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer
This is my constant longing and prayer.
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures
Jesus Thy perfect likeness to wear.
When that kind of passion burns in our heart, then we can walk about Zion, and we can consider those bulwarks.
Another writer said it this way:
Lord, I am fondly, earnestly longing
Into Thy holy likeness to grow,
Searching for more and deeper communion
Yearning Thy love more fully to know.
He invites us to draw that water out of the wells of salvation.
Oh, when that kind of a cause, that kind of a passion begins to work in our hearts, then we begin to understand what it is to have a church life that is worth dying for.
We’re not finished here yet. Did you notice the last couple of verses?
10) He says the God of the Church will never leave her. No! He says, “This God is our God for ever and ever.” This God is our God, not just today, not just tomorrow, but forever! Our God will be with Mount Zion. And he says He will be our Guide even unto the end. Even unto death, He will stand there with us.
This picture of the Church of those pillars – I don’t know if Paul was thinking of that when he wrote to Timothy, the young bishop at Ephesus. (Ephesus was an amazing city, but a few more details on that in a bit.) In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul wrote to young Timothy, and he says,
These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
He didn’t say that you are the pillar. He said the Church of Jesus Christ is the pillar and ground of the truth. And as you approach the Ephesus harbor, there was a huge temple that was there. Now this tabernacle is big, but if I understand it right, that temple there was so large, you could probably set this tabernacle in the one corner of it (I don’t know exactly). But it was called one of the seven wonders of the world. It was a temple to Diana of the Ephesians. And you know the story in Acts how they worship there. But the prominent feature of that temple was the pillars. They tell me that there were 127 pillars that supported that roof system, and each of those pillars was six feet in diameter. He says, “It was made of marble, six feet in diameter, 60 feet tall, weighing 46 tons a piece. There it was a forest of gorgeous marble pillars.”
And Paul said, “Timothy, don’t be so impressed with those pillars.” He said, “It’s the Church of Jesus Christ that’s the pillar and ground of the Truth.” What a beautiful picture it is!
Now I know today, the Church is not seen as very important by many. There are people that criticize the Church.
For some, going to church is just a weekend inconvenience. They’d rather go play golf, or go fish on Sunday morning, but you know, I’d kind of be looked down on, so I guess I’ll go to church this morning.
Some people claim that it’s more of a habitation of hypocrites than of God. I’m sorry about that, but I frankly don’t feel like that’s a very good excuse. I’m sorry that there are hypocrites in Church. There are probably a few in your church. I’ll stop short of suggesting who that might be. But there are probably a few in your church, too. But when I think of people who have left the Church because of the hypocrites that are in it, could it be that the ones that are still there are closer to God than the ones that have left? I’m not sure. But it’s something to think about anyway.
There are others that say, “Well, my church is dead.” My church is dead. I wonder what they mean by that because you see, the Church isn’t cement blocks and carpet and pews. The Church isn’t two by four’s and tin on the roof. The Church is people. And once again, if the Church is dead, I wonder if we should check our own pulse, at least our spiritual pulse. And is it me perhaps? Is it me that’s not in tune with the Spirit of God? Is it me that’s not bowing? Is it me that’s not walking the way of the Cross? Is it me that has self still sitting on that throne instead of hanging on the cross, as we were so eloquently taught yesterday? Could it be that it’s me? You see, the Church of Jesus Christ is only living when you and I are spiritually alive within that Church. That’s what gives the Church life. It’s the life of Jesus Christ through the believer in that congregation. It’s not the paint on the wall or the pew you’re sitting on. It’s you and me! If your church is dead, I invite you to do something about it.
Now, I also recognize that there is a huge diversity here this morning. There are probably people here that have never been a member of a church, and they’re not quite sure what that means. And then there are those, I’m sure, that have been part of a church, and maybe you’re disillusioned by it; it’s been a difficult journey and so on. Maybe this morning, you’re alone; you just claim to be part of that universal Church, that great universal Church that God is coming back for, but the idea of submitting to a local brotherhood and being a part of that, uhh – it’s maybe something that you shy away from. I hope there are many here who have been otherwise, and I will come to that in just a bit.
I was thinking about that, and I find Several Models in Scripture.
Stephen talked about this when he was preaching in Acts 7:38. He said, “This is He that was in the Church in the wilderness.” Now when you think of the Church in the wilderness, I see there a wandering Church – a Church that was just kind of meandering around waiting to die. They were on their way to the promised land, to be sure, but the promise was that they weren’t going to get there – many of them. A wandering Church.
1 Corinthians 11 talks about several other models of Church. In 1 Cor. 11:30 he says, “For this cause, many are weak.” Is your Church weak? And then he said, “Many are sickly.” Are you part of a sick church? And he says, “Many sleep.” Is your church sleeping? Paul mentioned those three possibilities there, and they’re very sobering possibilities, as we think of a sick church, a weak church, a sleeping church.But that possibility exists.
There are churches that are drifting. There are churches that are divided. There are churches that – yesterday we heard about “the way of peace” where two are brought together into one. What beautiful Scriptural math! Two becoming one! That middle wall of partition being broken down. Today we find churches where that middle wall of partition is being built, and one becomes two!
Maybe you are disillusioned with that. I’m here to tell you this morning, not everything is wrong! Not everything is wrong! There are churches today that honor the Lord Jesus Christ. There are churches that take seriously the Word of God and attempt to apply them. I invite you to find a congregation of believers like that and become a part of that. Or your own congregation – build it up. Not everyone is on the slippery slope. There are many brotherhoods that are trying hard to put the Living Word into everyday life.
There are many congregations today that can rightly claim that the gates of hell are not prevailing against them. They are moving forward; there is a living vibrancy that is going on within that brotherhood. Oh, I rejoice in that! These are people where there is a beauty in that church because self has been put on the cross, and Christ is on that throne within the brotherhood.
And it makes a Church life worth dying for.
Now before we consider that, perhaps we should ask, “Well, what is the Church?”
We don’t have time to do any exposition on that. I love what the Dordrecht Confession says. I was going to read this portion. I don’t think I’ll read but a few sentences. The paragraph there in the Dordrecht Confession written in 1632, begins with,
We believe in, and confess a visible Church of God, namely, those who, as has been said before, truly repent and believe, and are rightly baptized; who are one with God in heaven, and rightly incorporated into the communion of the saints here on earth. These we confess to be the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, who are declared to be the bride and wife of Jesus Christ, yea, children and heirs of everlasting life, a tent, a tabernacle, a habitation of God in the Spirit, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ Himself is declared to be the Cornerstone. This Church of the living God, which He has acquired, and purchased, and redeemed with His own precious blood; with which, according to His promise, He will be and remain always, even unto the end of the world, for its consolation and protection, yea, will dwell with them and walk among them, and preserve them, so that no flood or tempest, nay, not even the gates of hell, shall move or prevail against them. This church, we say, may be known by her Scriptural faith, doctrine, love, and godly conversation, as, also, by the faithful observance, practice, and maintenance of the true ordinances of Christ, which He so highly enjoined upon His disciples.
(I did read the whole paragraph there. I didn’t know where to stop.) What a beautiful picture of the Church!
Now what is “Church Life?” I tried to just synthesize a few ideas from that.
Church Life is Brotherhood. Church life – we’re talking about the interconnectivity of brothers and sisters within the Church of Jesus Christ. That’s what church life is all about. The Bible calls it brotherhood.
“But ye are a chosen generation,” in 1 Peter 2. (We could read that whole chapter with profit.) He talks about us being a “priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him Who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”1 Peter 2:9-10
Oh, what a beautiful picture of brotherhood!
And then he says in 1 Corinthians 12:25
“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”
The same care. That’s what builds brotherhood. The thing that amazes me about this whole business of being a body or a brotherhood, with the members caring one for another, is that many times, it is members that look out for each other. You know, we often think of the body, and we have many members in one body, the Bible says. Now if I’m walking along, and I see a sharp piece of glass on the path before me, and I’m barefoot, guess what happens. My eye sees it; my brain reacts; my muscles tense up; there is a drawing back; maybe my hands fly up. But did you notice that none of those members would have been hurt had I stepped on the glass. You see, it would have only been my foot that would have been hurt. So why is my eye concerned? Why do the hands fly up? Why do the muscles tense?
It says, “the members have the same care one for another.” That’s a beautiful picture of church life, beloved. Maybe it doesn’t affect you, but you’re concerned for your brother. So you’re going to make a sacrifice personally, for his well-being. That’s brotherhood. That is brotherhood.
Another thing that I find in Church Life is Fellowship. It’s such a beautiful thing. Fellowship! So many verses we could read. A few verses from 1 John 1. I’ll start in verse 5.
This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.1 John 1:5-7
What an amazing gift! This whole thing of koinonia, of sharing together, of fellowship one with another.
Revelation 21 is, of course, a future prophecy. I find a good bit of it a reality today. He says,
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
And, like I said, there is, of course, a future reality to that. But today, as God dwells with His people, in His tabernacle, in the Church, there is a lot of this going on right now. There’s a wiping of tears; there’s a caring and a sharing together that is beautiful in the idea of fellowship.
Today in the Church of Jesus Christ, there are a number of Enemies that Militate Against Church Life. I’m going to mention just a couple of them.
1st. The first one is the “consumer mentality” that is around us. What’s in it for me? If you’re going to your church with a consumer mentality, the way you go to Walmart, or to Sears and Roebuck company, you won’t find it. You know, when I go to town to shop, I might go to find a set of tires, and I’ll go into one store, and if I don’t find what I want, I simply go next door. There’s a Firestone store just down the street. Or University Tire is down the other way. I don’t have to go to one. And I’m not even committed to it. I’ll go where I can get the best bang for buck, and there’s where I’ll buy my tires, right?
Did you know there are a lot of people that go to church that way? They go for what they can get out of it. They go for a spiritual pill. They go for a shot in the arm. They go for a bit of encouragement. – And of course, they’re fair with it; they put their ten bucks in the offering plate. They want to make it a fair deal. How would it work if you operated your marriage that way? You shopped around, and you only put into your marriage what you could get out of it. You know, I want a nice house; I want good food; I want some intimacy, and so I’ll just do what is necessary for that to happen, with the least amount of input possible. It’s a tragedy!
2nd. There’s a second enemy in the Church. This one is the idea of attending without being. I’d like to illustrate that with a contrast here. You know, you were not born a godly unifying member of a brotherhood. That’s not how you entered the world. So how can I become that? I take you to the example of Jesus our Lord. In John 10 where Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd.” He said, “I AM” many other times. What did He mean by that? The “I AM.”
I use this illustration. I hope you understand where I’m going. There are two groups of people here. Did you know there are men who can plant corn, who can fertilize it, who can make things grow? But they are not farmers. I can play ball if the pitcher is kind and the catcher misses it. I can never be called a ball-player. What’s the difference between those two? I can cook water. And if I get hungry, I can even make an egg sandwich. I can never be called a cook. What’s the difference between those two? There are carpenters who can nail and saw boards, and then there are craftsmen. What’s the difference between those two? There are people who do good deeds that Christians should do. They go to church the way a Christian should go. They tithe the way a Christian should tithe. But they are not Christians. If I want to be very practical, I would have to say there are men who father children, but they are not fathers. There are females who bear children, but they are not mothers. What’s the difference between these two groups of people? I would love to open it up for discussion. You can do this afterwards.
The difference here is obvious, is it not? These people over here, their heart is in it. Their passion is there. They give time to it. And if I want to summarize it up, for these people over here, it is something they ARE. They ARE craftsmen. They ARE cooks. They ARE farmers. But these over here just ATTEND those things. They just do some of the things that those kinds of people do. I’m asking you this morning, in the quietness of your heart, which side are you on? Do you just attend church? Do you just do some of the things that church members should do? Or can you humbly and before God declare, “I am the church. I am part of the body of Jesus.” It’s something that just comes out of the very core of your being. It flows forth from the fabric of your life. It’s not something that you put on Sunday morning and take off Sunday afternoon. It’s something that you ARE. Jesus said, “I AM the Good Shepherd. He didn’t shepherd because it was high paying; He didn’t shepherd because it was an important job; He didn’t shepherd because of prestigious position; He didn’t shepherd because He loved those wooly animals. He shepherded because He could do no other. He WAS the Shepherd. He IS the Shepherd. It’s simply the way He IS.
Now, I just got done saying that none of us were born that way. So what hope is there for us? I’ve heard a lot of excuses. I’ve heard people say, “I can’t cook because I wasn’t born a cook.” “I can’t teach because I wasn’t born a teacher.” I’ve seen ten babies born. I’ve never seen teachers born, or farmers born, or preachers born, or fathers born. Only babies. But I’ve seen them become that as it became the passion of their life. And as they gave their heart to Jesus Christ, and as they espoused a cause that was bigger than themselves, they became that. I’m telling you this morning that you can become part of this living entity of the Church of Jesus Christ, as you become that. Not just do some of the things that they do.
3rd. Then there is the minimalist. Minimalism is a tragedy in our churches. It’s prefaced by the question, “Is it a salvation issue? You mean I have to do that? Is it a salvation issue? You mean I have to dress modestly or wear plain clothes? You mean I have to help sing? You mean I have to give up certain kinds of music if I’m going to do that? Come on, is it a salvation issue?”
Those of you who are married, I want you to go into your marriage, and let’s try that there. “Honey, would you wash the dishes?” “Is it a divorce issue?” “Well, if it’s not a divorce issue, then I’m not going to do it.” And the wife says, “I’m tired of cleaning up. I think I’m going to stop.” She says, “Is that a divorce issue?” How would your home operate if we’d live that way? That is how people are coming to church: “Is it a divorce issue? I want to get into the church with the very least a commitment that I have to give to it.”
No, Beloved! I’m happy to wash the dishes if that’s what makes my wife happy. (Now, I’m not going to come and wash yours) but I’m happy to wash hers. I’m happy to help vacuum. She’s happy to pick up after me. It’s because we love each other. It’s not a matter of a divorce issue. It’s a matter of a love issue.
And that’s what brings us to the climax here, and the real heart of our message.
If you have your Bibles, and care to, you can turn to Isaiah 62. (The enemy on the wall continues to spin. I’m not sure what to do about it.) I’m going to read the first few verses.
For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord,
(This is talking about Mount Zion again. It’s talking about the Church.)
a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.Isaiah 62:1-5
Do you understand this verse? Verse 4 is what is just precious to me, and has just completely – it has just been delight in my heart as I began to ponder this here. He says the church is going to be Hephzibah. What does Hephzibah mean? I suppose many of your center columns in your Bible have it. That word means, “My delight is in her.” My delight is in her.
And brothers and sisters, this whole message will not make much sense to you until we begin to see the Church of Jesus Christ from the perspective of God. You see, when we say that God’s delight is in the Church, think back to the Creation. Out of that mess that was there, God made light, and He said, “It was very good.” And it’s something He could have delighted in. It was beautiful. Then the firmament. And the trees that grew and the grass. Then there were the animals and the fish and birds. Each one of those things was a glory in itself; it was amazing. And in this verse, He could have said, “I delight in that light. I delight in My creation. I delight in all these things that I have made.” He didn’t say that! He looked at the Church, and He said, “My delight is in HER.” My delight is in her!
I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, when our delight turns away from our truck, and our delight turns away from fishing, and our delight turns away from our wallet, and our delight turns away from our job, and our delight turns away from all those distractions in the world, and our delight is in HER, all of the sudden this whole thing will begin to make sense! And we will begin to see the Church as the glory, the diadem, the crown, in the hand of our good God.
He that toucheth her toucheth the apple of His eyeZechariah 2:8
It was for this reason that He loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son. It is for that cause that it was worth dying for, that He sent His Son to die for you and for me, because of that love.
I was going to turn to Ephesians 5 and just look again. So ought men to love their wives even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). And if you think of that, that’s a Church Life worth dying for! Its already been done! He was our Leader in that. Then there was, of course, many martyrs that came behind, and did that as well.
I have one more illustration. I’m going to just skip to the end. I’m going to close with this. I’m going to need a few volunteers. A couple of volunteers. And because time is of essence, and I don’t know who would volunteer, I’m going to volunteer for them. I’d like for Brother Dale and Brother Ken to come up here and take these chairs, if you would please, brothers.
The memory portion that I was deeply challenged with – I worked on it, but I wasn’t worthy to stand up here and recite that entire portion in 1 Peter 4 the way these dear people did last night (or yesterday afternoon whenever it was.) That was beautiful! I loved that!
But 1 Peter 4:1 has been referred to a number of times. And it simply says it as this way:
“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind (the mind of Christ): for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.
And Philippians 2:5 says a very similar concept. He says,
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
What does that mean, brothers and sisters, to have the mind of Christ?
Now, I thank these two brethren to being willing to volunteer here. I don’t know – how do we understand the mind? I’m going to be a little practical here, and I’d like to think of it within the realm of the brain. The brain is a physical organ. The mind is much more fuzzy and nebulous. I wonder this morning, if it’s possible, if mankind will ever get to this place that they will be able to do a brain transplant. I don’t know if that is ever a possibility, but I’d like to do that this morning. I’d like to just for illustration’s sake, take this brother’s mind, and put it into this brother, and take this brother’s mind and put it into this brother. And I guess we’ll use brains because we said the mind is kind of hard to get a hold of.
Hmm – (to Ken and Dale) I don’t know if there are any last words you want to say before we attempt this or not. (One of them said, “It’s my gain.”) Chuckle.
So we take these brethren, and we put them to sleep, and probably trim a little hair off here so it doesn’t get mixed in with it, and we do an incision right around here, and they’re sound asleep; they don’t feel anything. We take this cap off, this top off here, and off here, and we take this brain and we lift it out, and we disconnect it, and we put it in here. And we do the same thing here. We disconnect this brain, and we put it in here. And these brethren are sound asleep. And we connect the plumbing and the electrical connectivity that’s there, and by God’s grace, it’s successful. They’re still breathing. We disconnect the machines, and they’re still sound asleep. But now they begin to wake up. They begin to wake up.
And this brother here, as he wakes up on his pillow, he’s beginning to think, and he thinks about Costa Rica, and he begins to think about the churches of Costa Rica, and he wonders what’s happening with those dear brothers down there because he left them, and he came to Roxbury Campground, and he put them in charge of somebody else down there, and he’s wondering if things are going like they should down there in Costa Rica.
And this brother here, he’s also just waking up, and as he comes to, he’s thinking about Christian Light, and he’s thinking about how they put this warehouse in there, and he’s responsible for some things in that warehouse, and they weren’t quite finished. He took off work on Friday to go to Roxbury, and he’s thinking about what he needs to do when he gets back to work on Monday or Tuesday as he gets back there.
And then, as he’s thinking about this, there’s a bit of clarity coming into his mind, and so he stands up and looks in the mirror. And he cannot believe what he sees because there looking back from the mirror is a dear brother from Costa Rica that he has known for many years and loves and appreciates, and he says, “How can this be? What is going on with this?”
And this brother the same way, he wakes up and he looks in the mirror, and there he sees a brother from Stewarts Draft, and he doesn’t understand this. Something is going on here.
Are you with me, brothers and sisters? You see, the brain is the whole controlling factor of the body, and what the brain says, is what happens in the body. When there’s a disconnect between brain and body, we have a huge problem. But where the body is functioning the way it ought to, as the brain gives its commands, the body responds and functions. Now what we have done here is – we haven’t done a brain transplant. We’ve done a body transplant! We’ve put Brother Ken inside this shell, and we’ve put Brother Dale inside this shell.
And now, go again to Philippians 2 and 1 Peter 4: He says, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” And brothers and sisters, when that stony self-willed heart is taken out of our heart, and the mind of Christ is put in there, then suddenly He is in charge of my hands, and He is in charge of my feet, and He is in charge of my love, and He is in charge. He is able! All of the sudden I find myself laughing at the things that He would laugh at, and I weep at the things that He weeps at. And the work that He wants done, my hands do, and my feet go, because His mind is in here, and He is the controlling factor of my life. He says, “Let this mind be in you.” “Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” because he that has this mind has ceased from sinning.
(Now we need to put these two brothers – let them get back into their right mind. And thank you so much for taking part.)
Brethren, when we see the Church as Jesus saw it, and as God sees it, and this mind is in us, suddenly there will be a change, a dynamic change, and it will indeed be a church life worth dying for.
Amen. God bless you.