The Church grows through fits and starts. There are cycles and seasons to how God moves the Church forward into becoming more the True Bride of Christ. Old movements grow stagnant. New movements rekindle the fire of God’s intent for the Church to be as Christ in the world.
About every five-hundred years, the Church experiences a big leap forward. In between those big leaps are small steps. In the upward call of Christ, we cannot sit back and rest on what has already been, and already been done. We’re not saved to occupy a pew. As the Prophet Keith Green once wrote, “the world is sleeping in the dark, which the Church just can’t fight, cause it’s asleep in the light” (En.19). As the Apostle Paul once wrote, “This is why it is said: ‘wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Ephesians 5:14 NIV).
Sometimes the Church falls asleep. Sometimes we forget what we’re called to do and be. Christ has made our mission clear. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I command you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 NASB).
Christ is always with us. Even though he left the earth and is seated at the right hand of the Father, He has sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33). That’s why he told his disciples to wait to fulfill that Great Commission until they received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8). To walk with the Holy Spirit is to walk with Jesus. To walk with Jesus is to walk with the Father. As we walk in relationship with this Trinitarian God, then we are able to carry out the commission of Jesus for the Church.
During the Apostolic Age, the first four hundred years of the Church were much more focused on the centrality of life with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Church during this time was a more organic community focused on a diversity of spiritually mature Elders and Deacons discipling others into Christ through the life of the Holy Spirit. Then came Ignatius, and Constantine, and Augustine of Hippo, and others who began to shift the focus of the Church away from more organic communities towards a more institutional power structure in bed with nation-states.
During the five hundred years of the Patristic Period, the first seven Church councils moved the Church in a new direction. They made Orthodoxy a litmus test for being a Christian, and put the control of the Church in the hands of a few leaders. There were good aspects in those changes, and God used them to protect and grow the Church during that time. But these changes also opened the door for Satan’s Plan.
The weeds of Satan’s Plan grew stronger during the Patristic Period, and grew up into mature plants by the time the Church entered it’s hey-day of power and influence during the Medieval Era. By that time mainstream Christianity was well established in the City/Tower/Beast power structure of Satan’s nation-states. At that time the Church as an organic community of Elders and Deacons discipling others into life with the Spirit was mostly cloistered in the Contemplative practices of convents and monasteries.
During the Middle Ages the Church was more defined by relationship with an institution than a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Mainstream Christianity at this time was much more institutional. To be a Christian was to continue attending mass and receiving the sacraments. The sacraments became symbols of things the Church no longer had, of communion with a God no longer central and present in the day-to-day functioning of the Church. There were still those cloistered monks who sought the face of God. But the average Christian was mostly concerned with fulfilling the requirements as set out by the Catholic Church in order to go to heaven when they died. The kingdom of Heaven that Jesus came to bring here on the earth became some place else we couldn’t get to until we died. The Bride of Christ became estranged from Her Husband. The Bride of Christ became a Prostitute on a Beast. This was Satan’s Plan all along.
This wasn’t just Satan’s Plan for the Church. It’s been his Plan from the beginning, since the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Satan’s City/Tower has been growing for a long time. It shows up early in the history of humanity, in Genesis chapter eleven. Satan’s power structure is a Beast. The Beast is the power of nation-states in control, enslaving humanity to Satan’s City/Tower. The Tower is a pyramid structure that feeds power to the stone at the top. Satan is the stone at the top.
God’s power structure is different. God’s power structure is the Garden/Mountain/Desert. God is not drawing power from us to empower Himself. God is the power in all things, for all things. Satan must take power, because he doesn’t have any on his own. God doesn’t need to take power, because he has all power on his own. Satan operates in his power for himself. God operates in his power for others. Satan’s power enslaves us to a system that kills us. God’s power sets us free in a system that brings us back to life.
Satan’s system is the City/Tower/Beast.
God’s system is the Desert/Mountain/Garden.
God’s Mountain is a shaped like a pyramid, but much more organic and wild. You can climb up a mountain. You can live and find space, shelter, and freedom on a mountain. On the Mountain, God is also at the top, but calling us upward to where He is, and letting His power flow down to us like rivers to empower us to reach Him. God’s Mountain is designed to lift us up to His place and power. It is a path we can walk, led by the Holy Spirit and Christ, further and higher up into the heart and presence of God. This is the path God has laid out for the Church to walk. This is the place to which the Spirit and the Bride say “Come”. God’s Church, the Bride of Christ, is a Mountain that grows. The Prophet Daniels gives us a picture of this growing Mountain.
Daniel had been taken captive to Babylon, and was one of the many wise men who counseled the king. One night, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and Daniel was given the interpretation by God. In the dream the king saw a great statue made of many different kinds of metal. Its head was gold, its chest and arms silver, its belly bronze, its legs iron, and its feet iron mixed with clay. Then a stone made without hands struck the statue and crushed it. After crushing the statue, the stone grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth.
The statue represented different kingdoms of the earth. The stone represented the kingdom of God. This is what Daniel said about God’s kingdom. “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdom, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). God’s kingdom crushes Satan’s like Jesus the serpent’s head.
The kingdoms of the earth represent Satan’s nation-states. The stone represents the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom doesn’t start out big. It starts out as a stone that grows, and eventually crushes all the other kingdoms of the earth. God’s kingdom is a stone that grows into a mountain that eventually fills the whole earth.
We are that growing mountain. We are the Temple of God. It is through us that God has chosen to move, act, and advance His Kingdom. We are living stones in the house of God (1 Peter 2:4). Living stones move and grow. We are the Church, the Body of Christ. We are the space and place of God in the world.
God has given us dominion over the earth. God intended us to partner with Him in that dominion, in order to bring about His will upon the earth. At the beginning, in the Garden, Satan wrecked that partnership by enticing Adam and Eve to break relationship with God. He did that so he could use us to bring about his will on the earth, through his kingdom.
Satan’s kingdom is the statue of mixed metals, the nation-states of the earth. He enslaves humanity to those nation-states to accomplish his will, to set himself up as the god of this world.
But God has a counter Plan. That Plan is a stone that grows into a mountain. We are that Plan. God’s Plan is People. God’s Plan is a People belonging to Him. We are the Desert/Mountain/Garden of God.
Satan’s Plan is to control humanity for his own purposes. To do that he enslaves us in his City/Tower/Beast.
But why does God allow for Satan’s Plan at all?