Gathering of the Body (2 of 3)
* Remember to read the previous parts of this series first
The reality is, the Christian majority are a people that do not grasp that they can truly know the LORD personally. God's acceptable plan is for His Body to act like a Body with Christ as the Head of it all. How would they even know how to when they sit idly by each week and get "fed"? The whole religious system is set up to do so. They have been lied to and subdued to think that they are meant to just submit to religious authority all their lives and never question anything. You are either "laity" or you are "clergy" and there is some mysteriously vast chasm in between the two, right? Many leaders will say, that they're just like you, but if that is the case, then why is the ladder so intact? Ask to preach a series for a month and watch things begin to unravel quite quickly. Tell the teacher that you feel like it's your turn to take on the leadership role and you will likely see who holds control. How do I know this? Again, I lived it! I sat in countless staff meetings where all we did was discuss agendas and nonsense. In one church, I must say that we did have meaningful times together seeking the LORD, but it still always had to be cut short in order to address "church business".
If I've said it once, I've said a million times, read what the Word defines the order of the Body to be! If it is about buildings, positions and predictable programs, it is not about God's agenda – period. I know I'll catch flack for that but I won't waver. I've seen both sides my friend.
I am not interested in men's status or position. God is in the business of ordination, not man. If it is true that the last shall be first, then the leadership of churches had better start studying their Bibles and understand that Jesus meant what He said. There is no laity in the Kingdom – period.
As horrible as this sounds, I am thoroughly convinced that the institutional church would be more up in arms if their pastor were removed than if God were. You can tell me that I'm going overboard with this remark, but I say, without hesitation, that I believe God has already vacated most of them and no one has even noticed. But if the pastor doesn't show, what on earth are we to do? How can I say such strong words? May I remind you that this piece is about God designating where He dwells. Man does not dictate God's presence or approval.
Malachi chapter 1, verses 6 through 10 state, "You say, 'How have we despised Your name?' 'You are presenting defiled food upon My altar But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is to be despised.' 'But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?' says the LORD of hosts. 'But now will you not entreat God's favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?' says the LORD of hosts. 'Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,' says the LORD of hosts, 'nor will I accept an offering from you'".
In summary, the people were offering displeasing sacrifices. Their ways of approaching the LORD were deemed unworthy to be accepted by Him and He rejected. It is absurd for us to go about approaching God on our terms now as well.
Further down in verse 13 we read what could be said today about how begrudgingly so many "serve" God, "You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?' says the LORD."
God has not changed. In Christ, we can now approach the throne of God, but we must do so on His terms. Just because we are free in Christ does not mean we are free to do whatever we desire in order to please Him.
Because I feel that what has already been said in the Word sums it all up, here is what is in Isaiah 1:11-14: "'What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?' says the LORD. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them."
What did the LORD say to the rebellious house of Israel in Amos 5? "I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Now I know that people will tell me that these verses are not applicable to the Body of Christ today, but, to me, there is no question whatsoever that God feels the same way about what Christianity has become in this hour. Sacrifices and rituals no longer please the LORD, He has told His people that over and over again, yet institutionalized Christianity continues on nonetheless. It greatly saddens me that so few ever seem to even ask why we do what we do in the name of God. It is not about God at all, it is about traditions and handed down teachings that contradict the Word of God. Most importantly, it is considered vain in the eyes of the One that it is supposed to be for.
I encourage you to read what the Bible defines as "church" or ekklesia. It has so little in common with what we have been taught is church, it will seem wrong but it is in fact, the original plan. I have sat in gatherings where rituals, doctrines and positional ladders are not in place. I have seen God move in ways like never before in structured "services". When one is willing to truly allow the Holy Spirit to be the Guide and order giver, the LORD has room to move. He is the One who dictates the acceptable order. Freedom. Not to do whatever, whenever, but freedom to no longer be bound by the boundaries that men set in place.
Next we'll look at what several more Scriptures have to say about gatherings mentioned in the Bible. Did they ever really meet in houses? Are we really the temple of God? Can everyone really be an active participant when the Body gathers?