Yesterday I told how, after I picked up a hitchhiker, the Lord began to bring all of this home for me. What I learned is that our God is building a new community. We are going to be like a city on a mountain, an example of a community that loves one another. We are to love one another as Christ has loved us. Now that could completely throw us except for the fact that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5). In fact, one translation says that we cannot round up enough containers to hold everything He generously pours into our lives. Our Father never requires anything of us that he does not first make the power available to do it. So grab some “buckets” and begin to slosh His love around those we meet.
By the way, there is a third type of love that the Lord desires to work into our lives. It is the same type of love the trinity has. It is a love for mature people. It is an eternal kind of love. It is a type of love that is never offended and builds complete unity. The Trinity type of love makes three to be one. Jesus prayed that this degree of love would be in us. He prayed, “Father, I have made You known to them, and I will continue to do that so the love that you have had for me may be in their hearts—and that I may be there also.”
So the love that the Father has for Jesus is supposed to be in our heart? Wow! Obviously today, we are not one. We are in many different groups. We are Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals of many kinds, Nazarenes, Salvation Army, Episcopalians, and Plymouth Brethren, Baptists of many kinds, Catholics, Lutherans, and on and on the list goes. There are over 300 different denominations! However, The Lord of The Church is regrouping us. He has already begun. He is not using our categories, however. He has only two groups—those who love one another and those who do not. Ouch! Yes, it is that simple.
So how does this look? On the Discover Channel, I was watching a middle-eastern shepherd tending sheep and found it interesting to see someone try to move a flock of sheep. They all head in the same direction; they become one body. However, I learned that if you try to do the same thing with goats, they all begin to butt each other and fight with each other.
In the Church, t is very easy to tell a sheep from a goat. You do not need the gift of interpretation or discernment or anything. You just talk to the person one or two minutes. If he loves, he is a sheep. If he fights, he is a goat (and I have met a few of those).
How did Jesus separate the sheep from the goats? On the basis of whether they had given water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, companionship to the sick and the prisoners, and so forth. He called the people who had shown love to their brothers “blessed of My Father” (Matthew 25:34). The others were called the opposite, the “accursed ones” (v.41).
The Lord is doing more than regrouping his people. He is uniting them. Let me explain this with another beautiful illustration from Ortiz. He used potatoes to describe what the Lord was doing. Each potato plant in the garden has three, four, or five potatoes under it. Each potato belongs to one plant, or another.
When the harvest comes, all the potatoes are dug up and put into one sack. They are regrouped and put into one sack. Oh, but they are not yet united. They may say, “Oh praise the Lord! Now we are all in the same sack.” But they are not yet one.
They must be washed and peeled. Now they are closer yet. “How nice is this love among us!” they say. That is not all. They must be cut in pieces and mixed. Now hey have lost a lot of their individuality. They think they are ready for the Master now.
Still, that is not what our God wants. What He wants are mashed potatoes. Not many potatoes—one mashed potato. No potato can stand up and say, “Here I am! I am a potato.” The word must be “we.” That is why the Lord’s prayer begins, “Our Father, which art in heaven . . .”
Along with this I want to take a sidebar and say that I often meet ministers who proudly announce their presence and proclaim their ministry. As if it all revolves around them.
Brothers, the fastest way to lose my interest is for you to focus on what you are accomplishing. You need to seek to edify—to build up—”The Church” and forget about “your” ministry and start thinking about “His” ministry. You are just one in a thousand gifted teachers and preachers. I discovered several years ago that I might have a particular calling and gift, but if I think too highly of myself, He can easily remove me and find someone else. I discovered firsthand that He will draw us into a “wilderness” to tame us and teach us.
(Sorry. I had to get that off my chest).
Several years ago, a Pastor friend and I were having dinner. He was new to the area and Pastoring a new church, with new faces. He loved the church and the people in it, but he still confessed, “I want to tell you the truth that the church scene to me these days is just one blur of potlucks and committee meetings. Frankly, it is a drag. There are plenty of times when I want out.”
I guess I could understand his dilemma, I felt that way sometimes, too. But then we started talking about marriage, and how you start off with such high ideals and eventually, inevitably, some morning you wake up, look across at the lump in the bed, with their mouth open, and you think, “I’m married to this?” At that point, love becomes an act of the will, and of conscious obedience to God. “I am committed to her (or him), and that is that! I choose to continue to love, and love with all my being.” The emotions and ideals will come later—and I promise, they will be there again.
Being born again is a wonderful and happy experience. However, eventually, inevitably, every Christian wakes up to the yuck feeling! At that point loving the Body with all our hearts, becomes a conscious act of the will—a commitment no-matter-what.
Beyond that, the Christians in Acts 2:6 had potlucks, and in Acts 15:4 they had committees, and we need to see these things through spiritual eyes. What are potlucks and committees, but opportunities for people to rub off on each other—people who have Jesus Christ inside. When they interact, a mystical thing begins to happen. Ten years later, after all the potlucks and committees, with the ingredients of love and laughter, of pain and patience, of hard times and difficulties and misunderstandings and fighting our way back again to each other—after and through all that, looks of glory begin to grow on our faces.
Hey, did you ever think, it is just hitting me as I write, surely committee and committed are from the same root word. (Hey! those of you who are devout Grammarians, tell me if this is true). Either way, I love the thought. You have to remember that the Christian’s sanctification comes from two influences: Internally, from the Holy Spirit, and externally, from the Body of Christ.
As Elton Trueblood wrote,
“The endurance of our faith (referring to our Christian faith) is that of Ezekiel, that no matter how dry the bones may be, breath can come into them and they can live. This has been demonstrated many times in both Jewish and Christian history. When the great Timothy Dwight took over the presidency of Yale College not one student would admit publicly to faith in Christ. When Dwight ended the presidency twenty-two years later, in 1817, the entire intellectual climate of the college had changed: it changed because Dwight did something about it.”
With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.