Coronavirus is giving us time to do things we would not be able to otherwise. A few days ago I got talking to a gentleman from the close opposite, He was a self-employed shoplifter so had no work. I remarked that we do not need to fear because God is in control.
Coronavirus is giving us time to do things we would not be able to otherwise. A few days ago I got talking to a gentleman from the close opposite, He was a self-employed shoplifter so had no work. I remarked that we do not need to fear because God is in control. He agreed and said that the whole affair said had brought him back to God. He was a lapsed Irish Roman Catholic, but had now realised that he needed a direct relationship with God. That really got us on to the gospel. Would that I were more evangelical!
Have you been able to meet up with Christians on-line? Last week we ‘zoomed’ into a bible reading in Chelmsford, and to a preaching in Warrenpoint N Ireland. In this there were about 70 screens and over 200 people.
May you keep safely within the restrictions the government lays down (See Romans 13:1) – and preserve you from this awful virus.
What are your experiences?
Daniel (or Sosthenes)
Some Good Videos
Our Christian friends have been sending round videos – from You tube, on WhatsApp, Instagram – or whatever. I have found a few myself. Some are from people in high places – some just ordinary people, many in the health service. If you have one you think I should post, email me or use the contact form.
Rep. Randy Weber Tearfully Begs God To Forgive America For The Sins Of Abortion & Gay Marriage
Dreadful straits; millions dying through [the Sudan] famine. [like the Coronavirus epedemic in 2020 – Sosthenes] Is God unmindful? He is not. You may be assured, He will get His harvest through grace
…the masses of humanity, everyone needing a Saviour…and let our hearts share God’s feelings for men. Dreadful straits; millions dying through [the Sudan] famine. [like the Coronavirus epidemic in 2020 – Sosthenes] Is God unmindful? He is not. You may be assured, He will get His harvest through grace in all these calamities; it must be, in all things he has the pre-eminence; it is a great comfort to think of that. God allows these things to happen and we should not do other than reflect His feelings. We should never live remote from the needs of men. A calamity should bring out in us sympathies and express God in them.
Oh, the relief of a living faith in a living Man who bore that load for me. Why did He do it? Oh that “why”; “why hast Thou forsaken me?” Who can answer that “why”? We would have to tell you of the ocean of the love that lay behind the reason why Jesus died. Love held Him there. He could have come down. He could have called on all those angels. He did not. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross…But more than that, as my substitute He bore the judgement due to me because of my sins. Oh, do you not know and love a Saviour like that? Thank God I do and I commend Him to you.
(Extracts from a preaching by Brian Deck, Adelaide,
Charles Henry Mackintosh was born in October 1820, at Glenmalure Barricks, County Wicklow, Ireland, the son of the captain of a Highland regiment. Mackintosh was converted at the age of eighteen through the letters of a devout sister, and the prayerful reading of J. N. Darby’s Operations of the Spirit. When he was twenty-four years of age, he opened a private school at Westport, but it was not long before he concluded he must give himself entirely to the ministry of the Word of God, in writing and in public speaking. Soon thereafter he felt led to establish a periodical, which he continued to edit for twenty-one years, Things New and Old.
Mr. Mackintosh took a great interest in, and actively participated in, the great revival of 1859 and 1860. He died on November 2, 1896, and was buried in Cheltenham Cemetery, awaiting the resurrection morn.
Sadly altered was the poor worn-out body
pillowed in an easy chair, but his spirit rejoicing in his much loved
Lord. He said, “Two months ago, when I
felt this sickness was unto death, I asked Him to reveal Himself to me in
increased loveliness and nearness. He
did. He filled me with Himself. I know the blood has done its blessed,
blessed work for my soul; it is His love, His beauty, His perfection, that
fill my heart and vision”. He then spoke
of feeling a little better that day.
“But ah! That is no pleasure to me.”
Then clasping his dear thin hands together, he said, while tears flowed
down his face, “My precious Lord Jesus, Thou knowest how fully I can say with
Paul, to depart and to be with Thee is far better! I long for it. They come and talk to me of a crown of glory,
— I bid them cease; of the glory of the heaven, — I bid them stop. I am not wanting crowns – I have HIMSELF!
HIMSELF! Ah! With the Man of Sychar;
with Him who stayed to call Zacchaeus! With
the Man of the 8th of John; with the Man who hung upon the cross; with the Man
who died! Oh, to be with Him before the
glories, the crown, or the kingdom appear.
It’s wonderful, – wonderful! With
the Man of Sychar alone; the Man of the gate of Nain; and I am going to be with
Him for ever! Exchange this sad, sad
scene for His Presence, the scene which cast Him out. Oh, the Man of Sychar.”
Golden Nuggets are published by Saville
Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton-on-the-Naze, CO14
The Church – the Body of Christ here on earth is to serve Him. Christians preach and teach. The Church itself does not.
Why I am Saying that the Church does not Preach
I was born in 1945 so they call me an ‘early baby boomer’.(1945 to 1960).I was writing a letter from my generation to Millennials, also known as Generation Y (born 1981 to 1996), but all, the intervening generation as well would be interested.
Things were very different for those of us who grew up immediately after WW2, easier times I would say, and that affected our spiritual development.Now as we are getting older we have to see many wasted years – reminding us of that scripture:‘Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten’ (Joel 1:3-4).God in His mercy goes on,‘And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God’ (ch 2:15-26).So, we have to redeem the time because the days are evil (see Eph 5:16).That applies to my generation, and to all, including those left of the pre-war generations.
The world is evil now – it always has been, but there are certain pressures unique to the 21st century.On the positive side we are generally better off, and benefit from modern communications, technology and ease of travel.When I was young mobile phones were science fiction, and the world-wide-web had not even been conceived.We had our bikes and a lot more freedom, which I think made us happier and healthier.
We admire our Younger Brethren and their Testimony
1·Peer pressure was nothing like what it is now.You did not have to have the latest gizmo, and your status was not available for the world to see 24/7 on Facebook or Instagram.
2·Social liberal attitudes had not developed: ‘Gay’ meant ‘living merrily’ (not necessarily happily), divorce and abortion were frowned upon, if not illegal, and people would be horrified by the idea of selecting one’s sex (I don’t use the word ‘gender’). Whilst you could be mocked for standing for what was right as a Christian, there was not that militant secularism.
3·People regarded evolution as a theory not a fact, though most accepted it.
4·You could get a good job without having to go to university (You still had to study) – and if you did go to uni, there were no tuition fees and you could get a grant towards living expenses
5·It was easier to get on the property ladder.
I could go on.
Under these circumstances, I admire the way that many young brothers and sisters are applying themselves to the Lord’s things and studying the scriptures. I hear of meet-ups for prayer, study and evangelisation.In the break at meetings I have seen (and sometimes entered) into discussion groups on spiritual matters and I witnessed a group of young sisters with their study bibles out.
Younger people in many places are enthusiastic – and for the things of the Lord they should be.But so often the enthusiasm is ‘church-centred’ not ‘Christ centred’.
At a recent meeting the subject was our preaching the glad tidings.What was emphasised was that preaching was an individual, not an assembly matter.I heard an aside remark suggesting that what we were talking about were ‘technicalities’.Sorry, I see these things as being pretty fundamental.
In the early days preaching started in the open air.Peter’s first preaching was such.Paul would go into a synagogue and preach there (if he was allowed to) – not a Christian assembly.John Wesley and others were renowned for open air preaching. His preaching was individual – because the church as an entity does not preach.
The Church and the Gospel
I fully understand the concerns of my younger brethren.My generation was not active enough in preaching to others.I think that we – brothers and sisters – are coming to recognise that we had gone on with a line that put the collective position, not the Lord, at the centre.We ended up smugly in a socially happy group of white middle-class Christians, content with a stack of ministry, claiming (some would even say exclusively) to represent the assembly in a broken day.If you ask me, that was pretty Laodicean.Looking back, we had probably been let down by our parents’ and grandparents’ generations when we were young.Where I was brought up, Godly influential and gifted men, whom we looked up to, tolerated the 1960’s Taylor Exclusive system.As a result we werecoloured by it, even if as young people, we rebelled against it.
This was not unique to one company of Christians.Formalism and authoritarianism permeated Christendom.Well organised, successfully managed operations, be they churches or businesses, have outward success – one may be measured in ‘converts’, the other in profit.But who are the measurers and who is determining the criteria for success?
Some Preaching is like Entertanment
Alongside this, there has been a line which matches Christian service with worldly entertainment. Many Catholic and Protestant establishments put on spectacular performances and processions with wonderful form, clothing, pomp and circumstance. Elsewhere the show may be more modern and charismatic, helped by the latest technology – sound and light systems, a good band (modern music) and a church hall which is more like a theatre or music-hall than anything else.Is this to the glory of God?
So, where does that leave us?Paul, when he came to Corinth (Maybe the entertainment hub of the Mediterranean) said, ‘And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God’ (1 Cor 2:1-5).Paul would not have been successful by worldly standards.Small wonder that sober Christians are not either.
I believe that in the early 1800’s there was a line of scripturally correct teaching which had a strong influence among evangelically-minded Christians worldwide.I have little doubt that this was a movement of the Holy Spirit similar in character to the Reformation.Brethren and other evangelicals departed from that, some institutionalising the teaching, and others taking certain aspects only. Both were wrong.
Here are some of the scriptural truths to which Christians were recovered:
1. The understanding that the church (ἐκκλησία/ekklésia/Strong 1577) is heavenly in origin and destiny.It is not part of the world system and is here comprising all believers.Christ is its Head (See Eph 1:22 – 2:6) – Christ has been made Head over all things to the church, and we have been made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ).
3. That the church publicly is in ruins, having departed from the Lord and the teaching of the apostles.This was already anticipated by Paul in Acts 20:19-30, and when it had taken place, we have a path for the believer in 2 Tim 2:19-22.
Some of us who are older, and therefore more responsible, are concerned to get back to basics.Our worlds have been turned upside down.The more we look at our histories, the more we realise that we had departed from what we really knew (or sometimes misunderstood).Small wonder that we want to get back to fundamentals with the Lord’s help and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Preaching and Teaching
Now, to get back to our subject of the relationship of the church to the preaching of the glad tidings, I need to make two things clear:
1. THE CHURCH DOES NOT TEACH!
2. THE CHURCH DOES NOT PREACH!
Of course, this is contrary to what might be accepted generally in churches who regard themselves as authoritative corporate entities.These bodies cannot be the church – the body and bride of Christ, whatever their intention, they are man-made organisations.If you look at church websites, they usually emphasise what they are in the community, and include a ‘canned’ statement of faith. What is more, they usually have a single leader – pastor, vicar or whatever, and run on human management lines.That person will have a line of teaching, partly related to his ecclesiastical hierarchy, and partly his (or her) understanding.Hence you hear people say, ‘What does your church teach about XYZ?’.
We must be thankful that many places preach Christ as the one and only Saviour for sinners.He bore our sins on the cross and shed His blood.(I trust every reader of this letter is fully in the enjoyment of the certainty of these things).You find many devout souls who love the Lord everywhere.However, they are often defective in several ways:
Some Error in Evangelical Christendom
1. Often (in Pentecostal, Adventist and Methodist) establishments there is Arminian error, for example – saved today and lost tomorrow, despite what the Lord says as to His sheep in John 10.
2. In very few cases there is no real expectation of the Lord’s coming.Many are striving to make this world a better place, with a view to the kingdom being established here (into which the Lord can come).
3. Many deny the rapture despite its being clear in 1 Thess 4.
4. Few understand that the church is heavenly in origin and destiny, typified in the sheet in Acts 11 – it came from heaven and went back.It is the body of Christ here caring for His interests.
5. There is much confusion as to the millennium, with some thinking we are there already – not the period between the first and second resurrections (see Rev 20:4-6)
The fact they are teaching and preaching different things, often not in accordance with scripture, just emphasises this.
When a company of Christians assumes – officially or unofficially – a corporate identity, it is time to leave.This may be painful, as my wife and I found in 2017.But the Lord promised a hundredfold (see Matt 19:29). We have met other Christians leaving other man-made organisations too.‘The Lord knows those that are His’ ( 2 Tim 2:19).
Having left one company there is a temptation to look round and borrow things from elsewhere.One could say ‘Where we were, we got things wrong – elsewhere they might be right’. This is the human way.I know there are some exciting things going on in many churches, but you and your work will be truly effective if you are with the Lord individually.
I have attended several meetings recently in which the Lord has given a distinct word as to the maintenance of what has been established (the ancient landmarks) and doing things according to the due order (not like David in 2 Sam 6).We all have to take this to heart.
Iranian Christians – from the Joel Group
Finally, I would like to reproduce something I read a few weeks ago, concerning a group of Christians with whom, I guess no reader of A Day of Small Things enjoys practical fellowship.I get emails from the Joel Group, which I like because they give a positive view about what God is doing, in this case, in Iran.Over the years the ayatollahs have descried churches and nominal Christians have given in.The writer says, ‘The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth, according to ‘Sheep Among Wolves’, an outstanding two-hour documentary about revival. The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.He goes on:
Efforts by the ayatollahs to destroy Christianity have backfired but have served to refine and purify the church. “What persecution did was destroy the churches that were only about converts,” the Iranian church leader noted. “Converts run away from persecution, but disciples are willing to die for the Lord in persecution.”Often a disciple-making movement begins the first moment someone comes into contact with an unbeliever. “Everything is founded on prayer. We find people of peace through prayer. We even find locations through prayer,” the Iranian church leader noted. “Jesus has gone faster than us. He has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.”
…”the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matt 13:46). It is a merchant, a man who knows his business. He is seeking goodly pearls, something that is not spurious. It says,”when he had found one pearl,” not a string of pearls, one pearl of great price. It speaks of the peculiar beauty that attaches to the assembly as having but one object for her affections. It is the beauty of undivided affection for Christ. That was of great value in the Lord’s sight…and He was prepared to surrender all that was His legitimately with a view to securing this one object of His affections. Think of what joy it was to the Lord to live here as a Man ministering to the heart of God every day of His life, and conscious of His pleasure! Yet He would surrender that—He would go down into death for the sake of the pearl.
(A J Gardiner, Clacton, 1938)
Golden Nuggets are published by Saville Street Distribution, Venture, Princes Esplanade, Walton-on-the-Naze, CO14 8QD UK
Thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, not comforted! Behold, I will set thy stones in antimony, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah, and great shall be the peace of thy children, (Isaiah 54:11-13).
Spoken prayer is audible, and normally it is distinct, and generally, it is public. Unspoken prayer is inarticulate – it is too deep to be voiced in words, but it is heard– heard in secret by God.
When passing through seasons of trial and sorrow, when the waterfloods of grief and bereavement overflow the soul, when depressed by one’s moral state or circumstances, when the pressure seems well-nigh at breaking-point, and prayer seems torpid and dead, what a relief, what a comfort it is to know that the priestly eye of Jesus “searches the hearts” (Romans 8:27), eager, as it were, to detect, to decipher anything there that is for God, and that He interprets the groanings of the spirit and makes intercession accordingly.
Can He heed a groan? Yes, even a groan. He counts a groan as a prayer – not only the groanings of the Spirit, “which cannot be uttered,” but also the groanings of our own spirits. A groan may speak anguish or longing desire. We may “groan, being burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4) – groan for deliverance. We may likewise groan because what is awaiting us up there is so enchanting that we yearn to enter into it (2 Corinthians 5:2). “The whole creation groans,” and Paul adds, “we also ourselves groan,” Romans 8:22,23. Sometimes that is all we can do. Sometimes we may even groan, “O wretched man that I am!” But we never add: “Who shall deliver me?” (Romans 7:24) if we know who He is. But every groan to God is heard. “Lord, … my groaning is not hid from thee,” Psalms 38:9 (KJV). Thank God, it never is.
But He can also heed a sigh. A sigh has not that intensive force which a groan has, it is softer. Yet how affecting it sometimes is. The weeping prophet was full of sighs: “I sigh” “her people sigh” – “her priests sigh” – “my sighs are many,” Lamentations 1:21, 11, 4, 22. The weeping Saviour, Jehovah’s servant-prophet, often sighed, yea, “He sighed deeply,” Mark 8:12 (KJV).
For ever on Thy burdened heart,
A weight of sorrow hung,
Yet no rebellious murmuring word
Escaped Thy silent tongue.
The Psalms breathe His sighs. They reveal what Jesus felt as He suffered. In the Pentateuch we have the figures; in the prophets, the forecasts; in the gospels, the facts; in the epistles, the fruits; but in the Psalms, we have the feelings of Christ as He suffered.
Every sigh He heaved was to God, and, like the frankincense of the meat-offering, it went up to God. Every divinely prompted sigh we utter to God is heard. Ay, and, poor weary soul, it may mean more to Him than ten thousand words, however eloquent – “For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord,” Psalms 12:5 (A.V).
No faintest sigh His heart can miss,
E’en now His feet are on the way,
With richest counterweight of bliss
Heaped up for every hour’s delay.
He also heeds a tear. The great men of the Bible were often great weepers – Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah. “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. The Man of sorrows mingled His tears with those of His bereaved and beloved ones. He wept, too, over Jerusalem. He wept also in other ways – ways too mysterious and sublime for us to understand (Hebrews 5:7). Oh! let us ponder His tears well – ponder them till every fibre of our moral being pulsates with holy emotion.
Whilst guarding against what is natural sentiment, yet we should cultivate spiritual emotions. A tear in the eye of a child may be very appealing and do what words fail to do. God treasures the tears of His people. He has a bag for their transgression, a book for their thoughts and words, a bottle for their tears (Job 14:17; Malachi 3:16; Psalms 56:8). David was not satisfied with a divine record of his tears being kept – he wanted them preserved. “Put my tears into thy bottle.”
Even in public let us not check the tear when it starts. John Bunyan said he liked to see “Mr Wet-Eyes” among the saints. I once saw a brother in tears at a prayer meeting, though he spoke not a word. I murmured, “Amen,” to his unspoken prayer. The woman of Luke 7 said nothing with her lips, but her tears said a good deal. Paul speaks of his “many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4); John wrote, “I wept much” (Revelation 5:4); Timothy was in tears about the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:4, 8). We need to steep the gospel seed in tears (Psalms 126:6). Who can estimate the worth and power of a tear shed before God in prayer?
Then there is a look. Solomon prayed, at the dedication of the temple, “When they shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house,” 1 Kings 8:38. What a mute appeal, yet how pathetic! How many a pious Israelite, in captivity or alienation from God’s house, feeling the plague of his own heart and otherwise oppressed, looked towards God’s house, like Daniel at his open window, and got blessing. We can look toward heaven to a Person. “They looked unto him, and were enlightened (Psalms 34:5) – that is the way of relief and happiness. Try it, dear troubled one. Perhaps you say, I have looked but have got no relief. Look again– look till your spiritual vision becomes calm and clear. Jonah said when down among “the weeds” and at “the bottoms of the mountains” and tempest-tossed by “the flood,” “breakers,” and “billows,” “I will look again toward thy holy temple,” and he did. Then he was able to add, “And my prayer came in unto thee,” Jonah 2:3-7.
Then there is a desire. How cheering and reviving it is that even a desire can cleave the mighty space between earth and heaven and be heard above. “Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek,” Psalms 10:17. Every desire born in the renewed affections after Him is cherished and fostered by Him. “Lord, all my desire is before thee,” Psalms 38:9.
Are we so overwhelmed that we cannot even groan or sigh; so low that we cannot give vent to even a tear or a look: so utterly cold, inert, and hopeless that the soul feels it is prayerless? Yet, surely there must be a desire after God if there is life! Beloved, that is prayer!“With my soul have I desired thee in the night,” Isaiah 26:9. Amid impenetrable gloom that may sometimes enshroud us, when the soul seems shut out from God, and the heavens seem like brass, when there is neither moon nor stars to lighten the darkness of our night – then, even then, we can rest in a quiet waiting, heaven-inwrought desire after God, and be encouraged by knowing that even the desire of the heart is graciously heeded and interpreted by Him as unspoken prayer.
I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.
As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.
A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now. Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12). Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed. As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted. At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.
A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly. It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place. We cannot; we never will. Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .
A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.
So, what do we see? Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling. You ask ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’ If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future? Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).
God’s blessings in 2019.
PS – A thought about Corinth
Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:
Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics
Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love
Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love
A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14). You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously People gathered round the speaker they liked.
The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
Why do we like to Fall Back on Labels?
I am guilty of a serious thing. This week I met a fellow believer and we enjoyed a happy conversation. Then came up the inevitable question ‘Who do you meet with?’. My friend said something indirectly pointing to a group of Christians. Immediately I pigeonholed him into a division of that united vessel (I wish I could think of another word) and associated this with preconceived negative thoughts and doctrinal differences. The result – our warm and happy conversation was marred, and we went away thinking of differences, not of our Saviour, His glory and His return to rapture His saints. I owe that brother an apology.
Why do I do such a thing? Doubtless, Satan has us resting on this or that group of Christians. We are comfortable with the fellowship, the structure and the part we can play.
This is so different from what we have been taught. There is only one church – the assembly of the living God, purchased with the blood of our Lord Jesus; there is only one fellowship – the fellowship of God’s Son. We have confused the true function of the church – something perfect, with its origin and destiny in heaven with what we as Christians can and should do down here. In God’s grace, we may have been led to reject human organisation and church leadership, sectarianism, the building up of things here.
The question comes up. ‘Who do you meet with?’ –
Answer – ‘We don’t have a name’.
Question ‘I see, so which of the many groups of Brethren are you?’
However much we try, it seems as we cannot get away from that label.
The Church with No Name
Here is a picture of a little chapel or meeting room, about an hour’s drive from where I live. Formerly an evangelical church, it was disused and in a bad state when a few lovers of our Lord bought it and painstakingly renovated it. When finished they invited many from the area to join in prayer – not to bless the room or any group, but to seek the Lord’s guidance as to what they should do. I was led to give a little word from 2 Cor 8:5 – ‘They gave them selves first to the Lord, and to us by God’s will.’ (Darby). (See ‘Have we had it the Wrong Way Round?’)
There is no name. All you can say that is where there is a gathering of a few simple Christians who seek to be true to our Lord in very confused circumstances. They break bread in obedience to the Lord’s request ‘This do in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19). Those who go there regularly know the certainty of their eternal salvation and have received the Holy Spirit. They are not connected with any humanly organised sect – nor are they in that meeting by membership. Collectively, they do not know who they are, apart from a collection of lovers of the Lord Jesus, and, though bound for glory, do not know where the Lord is leading them in their testimonial pathway. May it remain that way!
Over the past year or so the Lord has shown me that many of my thoughts as to the working of assembly administration have been based on man’s ideas not God’s.
I may have been looking at such things in other denominations hand have been quick to criticised. I needed to look closer at home and to see that much was based on prescriptive thoughts of godly men and gifted servants – but taken to be ‘rules’ rather than help.
What is primary is the Lord’s view – it is His assembly. Who is here to help us the Holy Spirit. Is there a written guide – the Holy Scriptures. Did the Lord give us any commandments – just one ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another’ (John 13:34) .
As a result I am pulling temporally several pages whilst I review what I have written.