Leaving the Congregation and Entering the Body

nehemiah_wall

Zechariah 12:10 states:

And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.

This prophecy specifically addresses the siege of Jerusalem due to Israel’s idolatrous acts towards God. However, if we meditate on this passage, we will find great meaning for us as New Covenant believers. The first question that should be addressed is why was Christ crucified for us? For what reasons was He pierced for us in the context of this passage? As believers, we know that Christ was crucified for our sins, serving as a substitute for us on the cross. However, in this passage, the emphasis is not placed on individual justification, but the emphasis is placed on “the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. Looking through the New Covenant, this is a picture of the Church. So, the question becomes in this context, why did Christ give Himself for us? Why was it necessary for Christ to be crucified on behalf of the Church? Part of the answer lies in John 14:12-14

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father

In speaking to His disciples, Christ says that the person who believes in Him in the full conviction of faith will not only perform the same works as Christ (such as miracles, signs, and wonders), but they will also do works that are qualitatively different and greater than Christ’s works on the earth. What works are greater than the works that Jesus did on earth? The answer is the unity and completion of the Church. When Jesus was on Earth, he healed the sick and raised the dead, but He could never make the apostles one. This became the ministry of the Holy Spirit. So on God’s priority list, so to speak, the oneness of the Church on earth with Christ is of highest priority. This was so important that the last prayer in John before He went to the cross was a plea to the Father that we may become one:

“…they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in you, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You did send me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, even as You did love Me.” John 17:21-23

This is the heart’s desire of our Lord and Savior; He believed that the oneness of the Church is so important that it was worth giving up His life for and sending the Holy Spirit for. The same desire still exist; the Church is still the bride of Christ and Christ constantly repeats this prayer to our Father, pleading that we may become one. Our Father also seeks to find those who has the same passion for the Church as He does. Sadly, in today’s church, we don’t see an united Body of Christ growing together in love, power, and grace. What we see today is a congregation of isolated members- an Old Covenant representation of the church. Many do not know that this isolation is a form of bondage and captivity because a person’s spiritual development is intricately tied to their fellowship with others. Listen to the words of the apostle John

“We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death…We know love by this that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:14

In modern times, we do not see the deep abiding love from the Holy Spirit among believers, but what we observe is apathy towards one another, selfish ambition, jealousy, bitterness, and a number of other issues that demonstrate our lack of love. According to John, a Church without true love is a dead Church. The question that should concern us is whether anyone has a burden and zeal concerning the state of the Church. As stated Zechariah 12:10, is there mourning and weeping over the state of the Church? Nehemiah was an individual who felt a similar burden personally for Jerusalem and decided to actively respond to this burden by restoring the walls of Jerusalem. When he heard about the state of the remnant that survived captivity, he responded as follows:

“.. I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, ‘I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven… let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel You servants, confessing the sins, which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.” Nehemiah 1:4-6

When Nehemiah heard about the distress of the captives, it convicted him to the point where he left the comforts of his life and dedicated himself to rebuilding Jerusalem. Moreover, his conviction prompted him not only to confess his own sin in causing the captivity, but he took responsibility for the sins of everyone around him- the heart of a true intercessor. Where do we find men and women like this who will leave their comfortable Christian lives and dedicate themselves to the rebuilding of the Church? Where do we find individuals who are gripped with this burden and will spend their lives re-building the walls of the Church? According to Zechariah 12:10, this attitude occurs when the Spirit of grace is poured upon our lives. It is only the work of the Holy Spirit that will gives us the passion to become zealous for the Church and will gives us the strength to build the Church. However this process begins only when we reject the counterfeits seen around us and endeavor to build His Church. We must reject the belief that we can exist as believers on an island; the one who desires to walk the Christian walk is seeking his own desire and as Proverbs 18:1 states “quarrels against all sound wisdom”. It is this person who will remain in captivity for their entire lives.

To those who are desiring fellowship, I want to encourage you to remember God’s sovereignty- because your heart is turned toward Him and His desires, He will not allow you to walk this path alone. He will bring others from unexpected places so that you can build fellowship. Remember the testimony of Elijah; after running from Jezebel, he believed that he was the only prophet zealous for the Lord. However, the Lord rebuked him, saying that I have 7000 who haven’t bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19). So let all of us with all humility and gentleness, with patience and forbearance in love, be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit at all cost and knit our hearts together as a body(Ephesians 4:2-3). Our union as a Body is proved when we refuse to allow any breaches in our fellowship due to unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, or selfish ambition. Let us be filled with His Spirit of grace because grace is the strength that enables us to forgive quickly, to become transparent with one another, to live humbly before one another, and most important, grace is strength that enables us to knit our hearts together as a body so that we can become the Church that our Father has called us to.

Psalm 126 states

“When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’. The Lord has done great things for us… Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him”

The context of this passage refers to the remnant who survived the captivity finally leaving Babylon, a picture of the counterfeit church, to enter Jerusalem, a picture of the true Church. Imagine being an Israelite- for several generations, everyone you ever knew lived in captivity and eventually, after living in captivity so long, you begin to adjust and accept that it is the fact of life. Imagine the joy on the faces of Israelites, after being in harsh captivity for several generations, when they have the opportunity to leave. The moment is so surreal that it feels like a dream, until you realize that it is real. All of the prayers and crying to God has finally been answered as you pick up your belongings and leave captivity. Therefore, all of the tears turn into joyful shouting and all of the prayers that have been sown, so to speak, have now come to harvest.

This is a picture of the multitude of individuals who will escape from the congregation and come to the Body of Christ. Many have been living in a second-rate Christian experience of fellowship that they have begun to accept this as normal. However, there are some who look around them, observing the captivity, and refuse to accept this as God’s best. They will leave the congregation and actively in faith pursue the rebuilding of the Church. They will give up their lives and comforts for this because they know how valuable our Father views the Church. All of the labors, tears, and hardships that will be faced will all be worth it because God will fulfill His promise. God promised that He will build and establish His Church and it will be as a blameless and spotless virgin for Christ. So, all of the tears that we shed for this to occur will be transformed into joyful shouting when we see the completion of this marvelous work. Moreover, all of the saints before us who labored in prayer, who were martyred for keeping the faith, and who left their professions for the gospel will all be made complete (for we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses according to Hebrews 12:1). We all will rejoice together because God will complete, perfect, and establish His work through us! Therefore, let us leave the comforts of our live; let us leave the congregation of the Old Covenant church and begin the journey of entering into the Body of Christ.

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