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79 - The True Bride

The Church has never been the pure and faithful Bride. It didn’t take long for Satan to infiltrate the Church with his alternative form of power, creating an alternative Church. We see that, even in the first century, only seventy years after its beginning, the Church was already a Bride on a Beast. It was mixed in its devotion to God; a mixed field of weeds and wheat. It had already begun to be prostituted to Satan’s power.

This revelation is not just a one-time pronouncement by God through the Prophet John for the Church of his day. It’s a picture of the Church that keeps repeating. The Church is ever caught between these two kingdoms, and their ideas about how the Church should be ordered. God is ever calling His Church out of the Beast with its City/Tower system, and Satan is ever planting his weeds into the heart of the Church, wrangling for control of God’s people.

The hope of the revelation of John is that, at it’s very beginning, God gave the Church a clear picture of the battle we’re in. We are ever in danger of prostituting ourselves to the world culture and its ways. As the Church has grown up through the centuries, these two kinds of Churches have grown up with it. The challenge of the Church is to continually hear the call of God out of the City/Tower/Beast and back to the Spirit and the Bride.

At the end of his revelation John recorded these words from Jesus himself, who said, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you of these things for the churches. I am the root and the Descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). Following this testimony of Jesus, John wrote, “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires, take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17).

Jesus is the one who sends us the Spirit to testify to the truth of our standing as the Church. We are the Church, but we are, and have always been a Prostitute, mixed and mingled between two different and competing versions of Church, from two different kingdoms. God has allowed the weeds to grow up with the wheat, because that is the humble reality of every single Christian, and every church. It doesn’t mean God is okay with this reality.

Every generation has the challenge to hear what the Spirit would say about the Church, and to continually be coming out of that form of Church which is more like a Prostitute on a Beast. That’s why Church through the centuries is continually being refined, and getting better. The Church is always in the process of coming out of Satan’s temptation to be prostituted to his power. But only those who hear what the Spirit says are able to see the difference between these two Churches, in order to help the Church continue in that process of refinement.

It's the call of every Christian to learn how to participate in that process for themselves. Every Christian should be learning how to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Every Christian should be growing through the Cataphatic into the Apophatic. It’s only as we come back to God the way Jesus intended that we truly begin walking the Way of Jesus, in concert with God through an intimate participation with the Spirit. The true Bride is centered on God’s power through the Spirit.

The true Bride and the Spirit say “Come.” The true Bride and the Spirit are ever calling the Church, leading it on an upward journey towards the kind of Church God desires. The true Bride is an ideal set out before us. It’s not where we’ve been. It’s not something we once had and lost. It’s something we are becoming. But we can’t lose sight of the goal. The goal is a community of Christians with spiritually mature Elders and Deacons discipling others into life with the Spirit.

There are nineteen spiritual gifts, and twenty-one qualifications of maturity laid out in scripture to help guide us on our journey. The question is, what does your church look like in light of that picture. Does your church look more like One Leader of One Church with One Truth. Or does your church look like a place with a multiplicity of spiritually mature leaders discipling a variety of people into their gifts, in a diverse church with room for a lot of different ways to understand God and His truth?

God’s picture of Church is Unity in Diversity. Satan’s picture of Church is Uniformity through Division. In Satan’s idea of Church everyone must look like the same narrow and confining ideal, or they get excommunicated, cast out, and executed.

One picture of God’s Church in scripture is that of a body, with thousands of different parts, all doing their individual and unique work, in order to produce one big thing. That one big thing is the Bride of Christ, a people belonging to God. What defines the Church the most is not a uniformity of ideas or actions, but the unity of relationship with One God. We can all have the same Spirit, and partake of the same Spirit, and still look very different in our unique giftings, callings, and understanding of God and His truths.

The Bride of Christ is beautiful in its diversity. It’s spacious in its ability to allow for a great amount of difference without the need to separate. What holds the Bride together isn’t adherence to stringent ideas and confining beliefs, but the presence of the Spirit within every part. It is the Spirit of Unity which unites us. It is also the Spirit of Unity which deliberately chooses to create a Church of diversity, so that we would understand our need for all those other unique parts unlike ourselves.

As long as the Church continues reaching for that ideal, it will be heeding the call of the Spirit and the Bride. As long as we think we’re already the right kind of church, not in need of a continual refining towards God’s high ideal, we’ll likely be sliding back into Satan’s form of One Church, with One Truth, and One Leader.

Satan’s idea of Church is destructive. It’s a twisting of God’s desire for unity in the Church. Our idea and desire for an extreme kind of unity centered on everyone being and believing like us creates the opposite. It creates division and separation. That’s why the history of mainstream Christianity has produced such a fractured Church. When we center unity on being one narrow version of Church, we get a narrow Church that most Christians can’t fit into. That is by design. That is by Satan’s design. Satan wants a divided Church. He does that by challenging God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Just as Satan challenged Jesus with three temptations, so too he continually challenges the Church. His main challenge is a counterfeit to the Trinity.

The Church is meant to be founded and grounded in relationship with the three persons of the Trinity. We’re all meant to be discipled and baptized into the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:16-20). Each of these three provides a different aspect of God for the Church.

To the Father belongs the Kingdom. The Father is the authority figure in the Trinity. In his earthly ministry, Jesus continually deferred to the will of the Father, and taught us to do the same. In Matthew chapter seven Jesus said “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter” (Mathew 7:21 NASB). Jesus also once said “very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19 NIV).

Jesus had an intimate and direct connection to the Father. It was a Oneness that he prayed we would also have. As Jesus prayed before his crucifixion, “that they may all be one; just as you, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent me. The glory which You have given me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me.” (John 17:21-22 NASB).

Satan’s challenge to a direct and intimate connection with the Father is the institution of One Church. Institutions are organized around rules. Individuals and leaders may come and go, but rules define the institution. Since Satan cannot be directly involved with every person and church, he must operate through a system of rules and ideas. The weeds of his ideas produce reliance on a system of organization in opposition to the direct leading of the Father. Satan wants us to think that following the will of the Father is paramount to following some good ideas about the Father. Satan’s challenge to God the Father is One Church organized institutionally around the right rules, instead of a right relationship with God.

To Christ belongs the Church. He is the husband; we are the Bride. Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). Jesus as the Head of the Church modeled an upside-down idea of leadership. It had to do with maturity, not position. More mature brothers and sisters are meant to serve those who are less, in order to help them grow to know God as Jesus did. The higher up you grow into maturity, the lower you go in serving those below you. We can all be leaders in the Church, because we all have someone we can disciple. Leadership in terms of Church has to do with placing yourself below those you’re leading, for their sake. The greater you are in the Kingdom, the greater the servant (Matthew 23:11).

Satan entices leaders in the Church to take charge, and take advantage of their position. Satan’s leadership paradigm is the Tower/Pyramid. In Satan’s leadership paradigm, only one can be at the top of the Pyramid, and everyone else must be delineated beneath them by degrees. This is a top-down, totalitarian authority structure, with everyone drawing power from the one at the top. The one at the top chooses the few stones directly beneath them with the second most amount of power. Those stones give some power to a few more stones beneath them, and so on down the Pyramid until you get to the most stones at the bottom with the least power, or no power at all. The Tower/Pyramid is a power structure meant to disempower the large majority of those within it. It only empowers everyone to draw their power by being beneath some, and above others.

Satan’s challenge to the Son is One Leader in power over everyone else in a human hierarchy that cuts us off from the true power of the Son as the only Head of the Church.

To the Holy Spirit belongs Truth. He is the Spirit of Truth. In Ephesians Paul tells us that “the sword of the Spirit” is “the word of God”, and the Hebrews writers tells us that “the word of God is living and active” and “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12 NASB). As both of these passages reveal, The Holy Spirit is like a sharp sword, able to penetrate and pierce to the heart of every person, to reveal who they are, and how they need to change. It’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit that leads us on our journey to become more like Jesus, who was perfectly in tune with the Father’s will. The Spirit as Truth isn’t about right ideas and doctrines, but a right relationship with the two other persons of the Trinity. As we grow in relationship with the Spirit of Truth, our truths also become more in line with God, and how God thinks. All our truth-seeking separate from God isn’t enough to lead us back to God.

Satan’s counter to the Holy Spirit isn’t unbiblical truth. It’s biblical truth in separation from the original Author of that truth. Satan knows that as long as we aren’t immersed into the Spirit of Truth, we won’t be able to come to the truths of God as God understands them. We’ll be guided by the light of our own understanding into our own ideas of truth. Our own understanding of truth may be biblically based, but if it’s not spiritually rooted, it will be off-base. The Spirit of Truth unifies us in relationship to the Father through the Son, not to believe everything the same, but to hold together under the same house, the House of God, the Church.

Satan’s challenge to a direct and intimate connection with the Holy Spirit is the institution of One Truth. Satan’s specialty is truth as ideas in place of Truth as a Person.

God’s Plan is a people belonging to Him. Satan’s Plan is to challenge God at the center of His Church. Satan’s Plan is a trinitarian counterfeit to the Trinity. Satan’s Plan is One Truth with One Leader over One Church. God’s Plan is relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The True Bride is in relationship with Her true Husband.

The True Bride is defined by relationship with a Trinitarian God.

The Spirit and The Bride are still calling us into that today.

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