"We love you Americans, we really do. But you're all a bunch of liars!"
I was shocked to hear this from the wife of one of the international Bible school students, her husband nervously standing by with a roll of his eyes that said 'Oh please be quite dear let's go' in his eyes, but her tone wasn't condemning, more like frustrated. She had baited me so I bit: "What do you mean?"
Softly now, to make her point: "We admire the American way of life, your freedoms, you know - conquer the west, follow your dreams, be anything you want to be - we can't do that in my country. But you are all liars. You say 'I'll call you next week' or 'Let's get together for lunch' or 'I'll call you', but you never do!"
Looking for the right thing, but...
She was looking for genuine relationships in church and had no idea that just a little while later the Director of Music for a mega-church would sit in my office and express the same desire using different words; "I'm surrounded by people here at church, but I'm all alone. I don't have any real friends and no one really knows my wife and I. What do I do? Is there anyone real out there, without an agenda for using me or manipulating me? Are there any genuine friends in church?"
Both these couples, who became good friends of ours I might add, were searching for something the structure of the way church has been done the last 1700 years isn't designed to do: Promote relationships.
Why the IC (Institutional Church) is the way it is
Jethro watched his son-in-law Moses, settle disputes and answer questions from the people to the point of exhaustion. He told him in so many words that he needed to create the infrastructure for the Federal Government of Israel - the newest nation on the planet, born a few days earlier when they had walked across the temporarily dried up Red Sea.
"Set up captains over 1,000's, and 100's, and 50's, and 10's, and let them handle the small stuff so you only have to deal with the upper leaders and problems too big for the lower captains." (Exodus 18:17-26)
Moses did that, and the Federal Government of Israel was born. In that same time frame the priesthood for temple government would be established on the same principle, with a High Priest who presided over lesser ranks of priests, down to still lower ranked priests and eventually down to boys in training to be priests. (Samuel, for example)
The church adopts Moses' Federal Government structure
Flash forward to about 300 years after Pentecost - It is the year 313 AD, and Emperor Constantine legalizes Christianity, calling believers out of their home based meetings and into former pagan temples and their pews, establishing the system of Moses for the new auditorium style meetings of 'church'. The body stopped being the church and started going to church. By necessity one gift became elevated, the pastor/priest, and 'captains' of lesser rank were established over the people.
Thus the 5-fold, deacons (servers), helps, gifts of the Spirit, motivation gifts like exhorting and giving and organizing and all the other graces, were pulled out of the context of scripture which was the home, and made it fit into the auditorium - and it has been that way for 1700 years. That's why there are so many books on this program or that, because God designed home based meetings but man lifted it out of the home and put it in an auditorium. Man has been trying to fit that square peg in the round hole ever since.
What changed at Pentecost, and how church was for 300 years
In Exodus 19 God came out of eternity and down to the mountain to talk to Moses, then moved into the newly constructed Ark of the Covenant, residing between the cherubs to commune with Moses there. Some 400 years later David still knew Him as 'the God who lives between the cherubs'. He then moved from the tent of David into Solomon's temple with such glory the priests lost their strength as the bright cloud of His presence filled the temple. (Exodus 25:21-22, 33:1-11, II Samuel 6:2, II Chronicles 5:7-14; 7:1-3)
From that point on God lived in the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem - that's all Israel and the world knew for 1,000 years. That is 1,000 years of knowing if you wanted to meet with God, you had to go to the temple in Jerusalem, and you couldn't meet Him directly, it had to be through one of His priests, the chosen few who were in ministry to God. The rest had 'secular' jobs.
That all changed on Pentecost, for that same God who came out of eternity to meet Moses on the mountain, Who came off the mountain to live in the tabernacle's Holy of Holies, who still lived between the cherubs 400 years later in David's time, who moved with glory and fire into Solomon's temple when they brought the Ark of the Covenant and His manifest presence into that building - on Pentecost He moved into human beings! Human beings became living temples of God!
Paul 'got it' that we are now the temples of God and wrote continually about the realities of that fact, but nowhere is he more to the point that Colossians 1:25-27:
"...God is revealing the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is; Christ in you! - the hope of glory."
Christ in us! When people became living temples of God, it made the temple building irrelevant, not needed, an archaic expression of a previous time. God had revealed a mystery - He couldn't move into people who were sinners, so He had to recreate their spirit by His Spirit, then He could move inside them and they could be walking, talking, portable temples for Him, taking Him and the knowledge of Him and His ways over the face and breadth of the earth!
The consequences of Christ in you
This is a major consequence of Christ in you: You can stop doing things to impress or move Him; you can now start walking with Him.
Christ in you means no formulas are needed. He lives in you so you don't need to shout - He is not hard of hearing. You don't need to pray for an open heaven, Christ is in you. You don't need to put a specially anointed square of cloth under your pillow for 7 nights straight and then send it and your best offering to brother so and so he can pray for you.
You don't need to drop $100 on the platform of x speaker to get God to answer your prayer or give you that breakthrough you need. You don't need to be afraid of the devil - not only is Christ in you, you've received both the authority to use His name and also the power of the Spirit as well - just command demons to flee, and they do.
It means there are no special days of the week to worship on, for Christ is in us 24/7, so every day is worship day. It means I can give freely to those in need, to leaders, to help others according to how Christ in me and my heart are directed.
It means there is no such thing as sacred and secular because Christ in me makes all I do and all I am, sacred. From my job to my home to my computer - I take Christ with me to work, to play, 24 hours a day, so all is sacred. We all have sacred jobs. We are all in ministry because Christ is in us.
The other side of the coin
It also means I am personally and instantly accountable to Him who resides in me. It means I have part of His personality in me, and every other brother and sister in the Lord have part of His personality in them, therefore being in relationship with other living temples becomes my #1 priority in how I worship. I am so eager to see what He is doing in others, to see Him in them, I love to be around them in real life, through the ups and downs, the defeats and victories.
It means we are all equal, the apostle and giver of a cup of water to a child, for we are all saved by the same blood - the only difference is our function in life and the body of Christ. Christ in me means I am free to be myself as I continually grow in Him, taking every challenge in life and relationship to ask, 'How can I grow more in Him through this?'
It means - I can swim in the open ocean, no more tied down to an aquarium, but schooled together with other 'fish' of the same kind, for Paul said there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, we are all one in Christ.
Righteousness comes through faith in Christ, but it is unproven - anyone can say they are a Christian. God has designed that the proof of our righteousness be manifest in relationships, and those start in the home just like it did with Adam, Eve, and the Lord in the garden - where 2 or more are gathered, He is in their midst - why? Because He lives in them both!
And that raises the question for next week in a new series...until then!