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God's purpose for the Church is much greater than most of us in the west are capable of understanding.
Most of us are not used to thinking—believing, I should say—on such a grand scale. We're happy to make it through our computer crashing without cussing and through a financial crisis without worrying.
God has a bigger picture in mind.
He has an eternal purpose, and he intends to show it to rulers and authorities in the heavens …
How's that for responsibility?
Nowadays we're afraid to ask for a lot. We have "seeker-friendly" churches that try to make it easy for people to come hear our gospel. We have a gospel that doesn't easily offend.
And we have pastors who excuse the lack of punch in their message with, "If I said that, I'd lose half my congregation."
Better lose them.
Jesus wasn't afraid to ask for a lot.
He didn't even seem to be afraid of being misinterpreted:
Now I don't believe any more than you do that we should simply hate our families. Jesus said this, however, and since he doesn't explain it, clearly he was willing to risk being misinterpreted.
One thing that's clear, whatever we think about Jesus' use of the word "hate," is that Jesus was demanding a lot. In fact, everything.
He wasn't messing around, was he?
Jesus stood by such words. He told a man—of whom it was said that Jesus loved him—that if he wanted eternal life, he should sell what he has and give to the poor. The man went away sad, and Jesus simply let him go.
One of the reasons we compromise the message is that we don't understand the magnitude of what it's supposed to produce!
God intends to display his manifold wisdom to rulers and authorities in heavenly places.
Now that is a high calling.
But it doesn't stop there.
The Church is said to be not only the body of Christ, but "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23) It is "the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). We are "members of his body, of his flesh and of his bone" (Eph. 5:30).
I'm sure that last verse has a mystical rather than literal meaning, but let's not underestimate that mystical meaning! We are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone! We are the fullness of the one who fills everything! Let us never underestimate the importance of the role we are playing!
Let's be honest for a moment. Our churches are filled with people who don't know anything about forsaking everything for Christ. They not only don't hate their own soul, they can't imagine that Jesus would require such a thing of them. They not only have not forsaken all their own possessions, they will ridicule those who suggest they should. ("What, are you suggesting we all run around naked!")
Ever since the Protestant Reformation freed us from the tyranny of Rome, we have lost a picture of the glorious Church! We have thrown the baby out with the bathwater!
Don't miss those things! The Church …
It is all these things because it is the work of God and not of man.
A really great man taught recently that the Church can only be known by revelation. You cannot simply explain it to people. God has to give them a vision for what the Church is and can be.
However, we will never see the Church while our meeting places are so full of people who scoff at Jesus' requirements for us.
Our savings accounts, retirement funds, and nice jobs are not going to teach the wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The Church—real Church—lived out as described in these history pages, an institution real and worth giving your life for—that Church will fulfill God's purpose and reveal the wisdom of God to spiritual powers in the heavenlies.
My newest book, Rome's Audacious Claim, was released December 1!