When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:13-19)
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor 11:3)
As we approach the 3rd millennium from Christ, certain facts have become painfully clear. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, have always had a tendency to become distracted from the basic essentials of abundant living in Christ. There is hope in many that a maturity can be reached corporately, in which some of these issues will be permanently resolved. Until then, we seem to need constant reminding from the Word of the Lord to keep us on track.
Recently I have realized that certain cycles are natural to those following on to know the Lord. When we become stuck on one end of the cycle, we can easily cut ourselves off from the flow of His Life. The Lord Jesus Christ is the absolute center of our being, the author and finisher of our faith, all we will ever need or desire is found in Him. Anything, whether it be a doctrine, or activity, or person, or thing that distracts us from complete devotion to Him, will lead to death.
It is doubtful that any Christian reading this would deny the fact, but there are an infinite number of paths that different people hope will take them to this destination of fully knowing Christ. I have come to believe that there are three basic phases in our relationship with Christ. Without all three of these overlapping in natural cycles, we can easily develop a Christian walk that is out of balance.
Simon Peter had a revelation of the person of Christ. This is foundational. We must be touched in some way by the awesomeness of His glorious person. A Christian community without this abiding glory is not the church that Jesus is building. He must be a living reality in our daily consciousness.
One of the greatest tragedies in Christendom today, is when our programs and structures have become so well organized, that they can continue very well without Him. As Mary and Joseph traveled home from Jerusalem, it was three days before they missed their 12 year old son Jesus. How long has it been since we knew we could not make it through a day without the consciousness of His Living Presence?
It may become necessary to stop and examine our lives to see if we have become satisfied with a mere religion that simply uses His name. In returning to our first love we will recover the dynamic power of a Living Jesus Who in reality has never left us. We just became too busy or preoccupied with distractions to become aware of His Presence.
Each of us must take responsibility for our personal relationship with Christ. We must take the time to wait before Him quietly, giving ourselves to prayer and meditation on His Word. When He begins to take His proper place in our living experience, He ceases to be merely a great teacher from the past, or the founder of a religion. He then fills our vision with a sense of His universal power and presence. He ascends in our hearts unto a station wherein He fills all things! He becomes to us the Triumphant King that He has always been, Who empowers us to a superhuman existence!
Peter also saw himself as part of something else. He was a stone among many living stones in the temple of the Lord. This is the next phase in the cycle. Fellowship and sharing with others of like precious faith is a corner stone in our relationship with Jesus Christ. While Jesus Himself is the Head, His life is further revealed in the corporate expression known as His body, the church. In you I can see many of His attributes revealed, from His gentleness and grace, to His boldness and power. Coming in contact with a godly mother as she nurtures and loves her children, brings me closer to Jesus. Feeling the strength of a Christian father who labors on a construction site to provide for his family and those in need also imparts to me something of the Lord.
In meetings where open sharing is permitted and encouraged, we can listen and learn of His grace at work in anothers life, and sense His Voice speaking in the midst. When we participate in the daily chores of maintaining our homes together, and stand with one another in crises, we also develop a deeper relationship with Him. In the endless number of ways we relate to our brethren, we find the many aspects of Christ revealed. This, I fear, is also an important foundational principle that the church world has neglected to emphasize.
When everything revolves around a sermon and a program, people can be taught and edified, but learn so little about one another. So many misunderstandings can develop between leaders, between the leaders and the people, between the people themselves, simply because of the lack of genuine communication. I submit to you that a greater unity can come, and the increased spiritual vitality connected with it, as we return to the simplicity of Christ in His family.
Finally, there is a third aspect of our relationship with Christ that cannot be ignored. It is that of servanthood. Jesus came to serve others, giving us an example to follow. Without learning to serve one another and the world, we cannot fully know and understand Him. His very nature was to give, and we must die to the tendency of taking. Do you still want to know Him? In losing a life of selfishness, we gain a much richer, and more abundant one. It is one of lavish, joyous giving out of the Great Heart of God!
Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and he knew that this meant responsibility. He was called upon by the Father to bind certain things and release others. I am particularly proud of his performance in this regard. He became an example of selflessness that inspired many generations to follow. Being a man of purpose, he could impart that zeal and compassion to entire nations in the years to come!
Without a mission from God, the church world has become a business, struggling to simply maintain its own existence. This is not the church Jesus is building. His church is on the move, pressing against the walls of hell! She bows low to Him and to those she is called to serve. She joins with her loving husband, taking delight in lifting up the hurting and abused. In this we find a deeper part of His Heart, and tap into a wellspring of power that never ends!
Those who find themselves in one stroke of this cycle, need not judge others on the other side. If we have been called apart for a time to prayer and seclusion, we needn't question why others are running soup kitchens for the homeless. Likewise, those who are heavy into togetherness, should realize they also need time to be alone with God. The important thing is balance, and allowing God to control the changes of seasons in our lives. All we desire is to know Him in a deeper way, and those who have chosen this narrow path will find a life that truly is eternal.
The mature church: Ephesians 4:11-13, 1:22,23
The Centrality and supremacy of the Triumphant Christ Jesus: Colossians 1:15-18, Ephesians 4:10, Matthew 28:18
Christ, the foundation, Peter, the living stone among living stones, in the spiritual house: 1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:4,5, Ephesians 2:21,22
Open worship meetings: 1 Corinthians 14:26
Losing our lives in Christ: Matthew 16:25
Servants of Christ, and one another: Matthew 20:25-28, John 13:14-16, Galatians 5:23
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