A number of years ago I was asked to teach Church government in a local congregation.My job was to “set the house (The Church) in order”.There can be no order in the corporate Church until there is first order in the heart of believers.After all, The Church is not the ornate buildings we meet in. The Church is the Ekklesia (the called out ones), the redeemed of every land, the people of God.I feel that most of the Body of Christ would handle some physical changes in their religious tradition much easier than real heart change.
The first order of change: God’s people must develop personal relationship with Him. Our purpose must become the doing of the work that is in His heart and there is no way to know His heart apart from personal time with Him.The priesthood of Eli’s day had fallen into “man pleasing”, excess, and doing their own thing in the Name of the Lord.The prophet told Eli that God would judge his unfaithful priesthood, “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind”.That “faithful priest” is the Lord Jesus Christ and that priesthood is the priesthood of Melchizedek, the priesthood of Christ, the priesthood of Believers.
A Table Set For Me
The church has received and walked in countless false paradigms, dictated by the ideas and philosophies of man.As a child there was a table set for me.When I sat down to that table, I was told, "This table is the fullness of God.Eat it.Eat it all."I was eager and obedient and after I had eaten its fruit, I found myself satisfied for a season.The cup I drank was the marvelous “New Birth."Soon however, as little babies do, hunger returned.I needed another bottle.I was placed into Sunday school and began learning the wonderful Bible stories.For many years the learning seemed to pacify me.I had an intellectual, historical understanding of a living God who loved, spoke to, dwelt among, contended with, and judged people.
However, my life seemed relegated to the single encounter at the new birth.Progressively, my soul became fueled with a hunger to know the God of these great things.I wanted to have another encounter with the God of my Salvation.My “spiritual fathers” answered me with puzzled looks and “busy work”.I became the church janitor, Sunday school teacher, youth leader, delegate to the convention, song leader, and finally in desperation they said I must be called to the mysterious “special service”.I was sent as a witness to the lost.After all, I couldn’t do lost folks much harm and it got me out of their hair.Still none of this filled the longing I had for Him.So I began a personal crusade to answer the question: Is there more?Surely, this is not all!So, I searched for God.I looked for Him.I hungered for Him.I longed for His presence.I prayed, fasted, searched, and pressed and I found Him.I discovered Him in new and wonderful ways.As I pursued God I found that the tradition of men had deceived me.I found the spiritual benchmark that had been passed to me fell greatly short of fulfilling the purpose and plan of God for my life.The error of my fathers was by no means malicious or an orchestrated plot to keep me from growing on.They simply gave what they had and followed the pattern of those that had preceded them.
With each encounter I became more and more awed by the wonder of His person.As I studied the scripture, I found these “new ways” were only new to me.I learned that God created man to fellowship him, to talk with him, to walk with him, to enjoy an intimacy with him that only the dearest friends know.I learned, the customs of my heavenly Father, were not even the ways of mans religious tradition.I began to discover the ways of the living God, and to fellowship the living head Christ Jesus who loved me and gave himself for me.
I found him to be more than a storybook Jesus.I found him to be much more than the God of a single encounter.He has become my “most treasured friend”.In the darkness of troubled circumstance, He has never abandoned me.I have met Him and made Him “The Lord Sovereign” of my life.He has visited me.He has instructed me.He has equipped me.He is the beloved of my life.I cherish talking to Him.I love to sing to Him.In the cool of the day, I love walking under the trees with Him.Never have I known the love and care he gives me.I am convicted of my lack but convinced and empowered by His sufficiency.I am fulfilled as I live my life in the awareness of His presence.
God is calling us to a passionate pursuit of Himself.He wants us to walk and talk with Him.We must be unwilling to lie down and sleep comfortably at the feet of religious dictates and lifeless traditions that do not produce a deeper relationship with him.God is calling us to turn from them to Him.
After Adam sinned he heard the voice of God in the midst of the garden and ran and hid himself.He was hiding from the presence and word of the Lord.Moses told Israel to sanctify themselves and to prepare to meet with the Lord at Sinai.For three days the children of Israel cleansed themselves and got ready.Moses went up on the mountain and the people gathered around.The Lord came down on the mountain and began to speak to Moses and the people.The people were so terrified by the voice they ran away from the mountain and told Moses, “You go talk to God for us”.Much of the Church lives this same way.They are afraid of the voice of the Lord.It is much easier to pay someone to hear the voice of the Lord for us.Then, if we don’t like what we hear, we have someone to blame.We fire the messenger.We keep our lives so busy. We play tapes, read books and listen to music.The TV and radio are our constant companions.We are amused, mindlessly entertained.We keep the atmosphere of our lives filled with activity and most of it serves to keep us from having to deal with an encounter with God.
When Jesus asked his disciples the question, “but who do you say that I am” Peter quickly responded,“You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”Peter had the right answer.Jesus made a remarkable statement to him, “ flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven”.What Peter new about the identity of Jesus didn’t come from a conversation among the apostles.It didn’t come from the latest teaching, Jesus had done.Peter didn’t read this revelation from the current issue of “Christianity Now”.He didn’t hear this word through a Tele-evangelist.He got this revelation from following the example of His Lord.He had watched as the Lord Jesus regularly stepped away from the crowd and inner circle to communicate with His Father.Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”The prevailing successfulness of the life and ministry of Christ came from his unceasing relationship with the Father.Peter had watched, taken notes, and followed this example.He had developed his own close, personal, and intimate communion with the Father.Peter received the revelation of the Christ while in the presence of the Father.Paul declared that the word he preached, “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”.Paul ministered the mystery that came out of his intimacy with the Lamb.These men only tapped a resource that is available to every believer.Many times we settle for the scraps, when He has prepared a treasure of understanding and insight for us.
Genesis 2:9* And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Man was created by God, placed into the garden of Eden and given access to the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. He was forbidden to eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. While, having access to the “tree of life”, the tree of communion and community. He had opportunity to eat of the tree of growth and relationship. Yet, man opted for knowledge over his relationship with the Lord. The “tree of life” is the tree of relationship. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” is the tree of revelation and insight. It is the tree of death. Man wanted a personal understanding of what’s pleasant and enjoyable and what causes misery and unhappiness. When man ate off the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, he died. His sense of community and belonging died he felt alienated from God and fear took him over.
BACK TO THE “TREE OF LIFE”
Experiencing relationship and communion with Him affects change in us. The “tree of life” eternally changes us. We have chased the tree of revelation, what we think, what we believe, our doctrines. We must come to the tree of communion and relationship with Him. The first order of man is, he and God intimately sharing and fellowshipping with one another. Man was created to be part of a community. That community began with he and God, Elohim. They walked together in personal intimate communion.
ACTIVITY, WORK, KNOWLEDGE VS. RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM
We are torn by busy lives, unable to choose the [i]better part, the way of Life. Sadly, we continue to pursue the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are left spiritually emaciated. If we could pull back the veneer of the hustle and bustle of life we would see the gaunt eyes of haggard spirits, unkempt, untended, empty. We live by the virtues of politicians, consensus and compromise. In decision making we sit down and come up with a good opinion among ourselves. We make reasonable plans and decide our futures without the hesitating thought of the will of God. We do this instead of seeking out our Father and finding out by relationship what [ii]He has for us to do.
EXPERIENCE - OR - RELATIONSHIP
Much of the church focuses only on an encounter or an experience with God rather than an ongoing, intimate, interchange and communion between the heart of God and the heart of man. The Lord is wanting to bring us to the place where we swim in that river of relationship. We are thankful for the pivotal experiences of our Christian walk but must learn to live in that moment by moment place of communion with Him. It is the living, vital, vibrant, vigorous relationship of the present that God is calling us to. The occasional visit is not enough. The purpose of God is to bring us to the place to where [iii]he is our life. He is our breath. What we do, we do because the Father said for us to do it. [iv]Our works are a testimony of whose we are. [v]What we speak, we speak because the Father said for us to speak it. Until finally, where we walk and the way we act is a reflection of our [vi]Fathers will. John 5:30 (KJV) 30I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.The only way a person can take on the character and attributes of the Lord is by living in communion with the Him deeply and intimately. An intercourse birthed by a hungry heart and soul a pressing in and drawing close to Him in the privacy of our lives. The scripture says if we will [vii]draw near to him he will draw near to us.
Numbers correspond to the Stongs Concordance, definition from Brown Driver and Briggs
Moses went up on the mountain and spent time with the Lord. As he spent time with the Lord, as he communed God something precious took place that caused his person to be altered. When he came down his face glistened with the glory of God. Everyone could see the change. However, the further he got away from that communion, the more the glory of God in his face diminished. In desperation he covered his face to hide the fading glory.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHIZEDEK
We are not the sons of Levi. We are of the priesthood of Melchizedek. [ii]Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. [iii]This priesthood wasn’t instituted by some natural lineage or earthly commandment. Jesus became a priest after the order of Melchizedek by the power of the endless life. Who was Melchizedek? He was king of Salem, priest of the most High. [iv]Melchizedek had pressed into God until he was one “made like unto the Son of God”. Melchizedek had taken on the very character and nature of God by intimate, personal, close fellowship with the Lord. Before the writings of Moses, before the law, before the new covenant, this priesthood was established by relationship with the “Most High”.
The purpose of God is not to make us priest after the order of Levi. The Levitical priesthood is based on natural lineage, and the keeping of the Law. The Levitical thought went like this, “because my father was a priest and his father was a priest, now I am a priest. I was born in a family of Christians, I am a Christian.”
Jesus came to this earth, died, was buried, and rose again so that [v]“as many as received him to them gave he the power to become the sons of God even to as many as believe on his name”.
Often, we contrast fellowship and relationship. I’ve been taught that relationship is positional and stable while fellowship is variable. Relationship must be more than positional. Relationship should be real, organic, and intimate. Fellowship is the fuel that feeds true relationship and nurtures it into effective reality.
Jesus was the [vii]firstborn among many brethren. The purpose of God is to bring us to Him as sons. There are to be many sons of God. However, we do not have [viii]preeminence over Jesus. His influence, honor, and rank are without equal.
John 14:1 - 3 (KJV) “1Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also”. The place Jesus was preparing for His disciples with the Father was just like His own. The position with the Father was as His own. The access to the Father was the same as His own. The relationship with the Father was as His own. This is son-ship by relationship with God through the blood and work of Christ Jesus. There must be intimacy. There must be a communion between our hearts with God. The opportunity to walk in this special place is for every believer.
Unfortunately most often we opt to take religion over relationship. We want knowledge more than we want him. We are more comfortable with rules, forms, and rituals than the person of God. We even let our experiences with him be a substitute for Him. [ix]We want what he can do for us but we don’t want to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Recently I heard the indictment that the American church has become a consumer based church. New comers evaluate each fellowship depending on how it will best serve their needs. So many times we do the Lord the same way. We serve or press in as long as there is some encounter or experience hanging in front of us… if we need revival the revival is the experience that we follow, if healing then healing, if we need deliverance then deliverance we seek - etc. These encounters get us past places of complacency and the walls of hindrance in our lives. The Lord has ordained special experiences to punctuate our walk at different points. However they are to serve only as doors into a personal intimacy with Him. He wants us to learn how to “hang out” with him, to experience him, walk with him, commune with him. Salvation was never meant to be a substitute for God. Salvation was meant to be the door by which we come into relationship with God. Relationship is more than an encounter or experience. However, without the encounter of salvation, without the encounter of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, without the different wonderful divine appointments there would be no relationship..
The interesting thing about God is: the scripture says he is God, [i]he changes not. That means as we relate to him, there is no change in him. He remains the same. At the same time as we commune there has to be change in us. We are transformed into the likeness of His dear Son. The assimilation is only truly accomplished by time spent with Him. Our personalities and persons are altered and changed into reflections of Him.
Acts 4:13 (KJV) 13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
The very definition of Christian is Christ-like. Believers were first called Christians at Antioch. They became reflections of the Christ. In other words the love, the compassion, the caring, the serving, the genuineness, the truth, the faithfulness, and the integrity of Jesus transformed that church. They became the signet of the Son. The world said to them, “you are Christians”, you are Christ-like.
Paul said in Colossians 1:25; “Wherefore I am made a minister according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints”.
The mystery that was hidden to all other generations and ages has now through Christ been made manifest to his saints. [ii]God wants to make known what is “the riches of the glory” of this mystery among us. The mystery is “Christ in you the hope of glory”. What is the hope of glory? The “hope of glory” is Christ in us. More “knowledge” about him is not the fullness of God. We are called to Him, intimately, personally, privately. And as we come to Him in vital communion we are changed to be like Him.
What has happened to our hunger for Him? [v]Has our love waxed cold? [vi]Paul didn’t live his life as a man who had already attained. Philippians was Paul’s last letter after an incredible Apostolic life yet he didn’t have the “I have arrived” mentality. When we get to the place that we feel like we have already attained, then we are in pride and really find ourselves being resisted by God. Paul had a hungry profile. He was thirsty for God. He was teachable and a disciple until he died. He was always one in great need of God, one whose heart and life was given to the pursuit of God. He didn’t listen to the accolades and the applause of man. He ignored the “at a boys”. He refused to sit on the throne of his mind. He was determined to stay at the feet of Jesus pressing in to that relationship all the days of his life. He chose to [vii]“learn of him”. He was compelled to know him and he came to know Him.
I FOLLOW AFTER
[viii]Paul said, “I follow after if that I may apprehend that for which I am also apprehended of Christ.” The Lord Jesus had apprehended him. [ix]He had literally seized Paul in the midstream of his life. He had come into Paul’s life violently and interrupted it’s course. Jesus eternally altered his future, changed his plans, disrupted his goals, and gave him a new dream. Paul was so changed and altered by the encounter that he began a lifelong concentrated pursuit of God. Paul went after Him with all the passion and zeal that Jesus had apprehended him with. Let me spend all the days of my life passionately pursuing and pressing into that relationship with him, not taking a satisfied profile, not taking a seat of complacency or of self sufficiency, but taking my place at the feet of Jesus.
We must forget those things that are behind. Things of the past trying to weigh us down. To be controlled by the things of the yesterday causes a disruption of the preeminent thing. [x]Pressing on to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The calling of God, is in Christ Jesus. We are being called into Christ Jesus. Now “Christ in us is the hope of glory”, but we are also called to be “in Christ Jesus”. It’s not just a matter of him being in us. It is a matter of us being found in him. The journey is two parts; first, what He has done for me, the other - my pursuit of him because of what he has done in me.
[xi]Amos said, “the Lord took me as I followed the flock”. The Lord came down and just captured him. Even so, the Lord interrupted my life. He touched me. He took me. From that day, from that hour, from that very instant, my life has been spent on a quest to procure that for which I was apprehended. Why did he take hold of me? He has taken hold of me for His own purpose. He is in my life by his own hand. By faith I shall be found in him. That is the high calling of God.
[iv]Jesus said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you”. The reason our prayers and lives are powerless could be the result of where we are living our lives. Where am I going to be found? Am I going to be found in him not having mine own righteousness, which is the keeping of religious rules and ordinances. Or through faith in him, through relationship with him, will I be found in him? Shall I be found standing in my own works, in what I have accomplished, and what I have done? Father let me be found in Him, clothed with His righteousness. I put my whole trust in what Jesus did, His work, what He did on Calvary, in his burial, in his resurrection, and in His life now. He didn’t only save me but He came to empower me and give me a life of communion with the Father.