I have been quite drained lately but have learned that beneath painful symptoms the Lord is always addressing a deeper life issue. I began to realise I had given up hope of influencing the broader state of the Church through my teaching. So when the website http://cross-connect.net.au/ finally came online, which contains all my teachings, I went through a paralysing crisis about how to make the site public knowledge. Seeking deeper discernment I began to sense the core issue at stake was the attractability of my life and ministry to God. Then the Lord started to join the dots together not only for me personally but for his Church.
Cling To Me
Yesterday I was reading the familiar passage in Genesis 2 describing marriage; “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and cling (dabaq) to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Gen 2:24). Some hours later I was in deep conversation and prayer with Donna about the importance of mutual attractiveness between husband and wife. Two things became very clear. Firstly, that the Church as we know it is not inwardly convinced that she is deeply appealing to Christ. (If we really believed that Jesus passionately loved us we would spend much more time in his presence.) Secondly, I became aware of a profound inner connection between Father, Son and Spirit and how this flows over to Jesus’ love for his Bride. Then I opened up an email from a friend which began to tie these things together.
He pointed me to Jeremiah 13:1-11 regarding the “Father’s desire for intimacy”. The story climaxes with a declaration, ““For as the loincloth clings (dabaq) to the waist of a man, so I made…Israel and…Judah cling to me declares the LORD that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory…”” (Jer 13:11). The relationship between God and Israel was to be as close as the clingy-ness of an undergarment to a body, and the word for “cling” is the same as that for marital clinging in Genesis 2:24. This passage speaks of a deep covenantal attractiveness between the LORD and his people. This appeal is also central to our identity as Church. “Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty…radiant with holiness….No one abuses his own body…he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery…I am speaking of Christ’s marriage to the Church.” (Eph 5:25ff.). If Jesus loves us as much as he loves himself what is blocking our experience of this attraction (1 John 4:17)?
It’s Who You Know
Adam and Eve were naked and “without shame” because they were free from the inner knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:25). Shame is not grounded in emotion but is an inner knowledge of personal failure. Shame is knowing something is wrong with who we are in the presence of God (Gen 3:7-10; Rom 3:23). Chasing idols and seeking affirmation from others can never convince us that we are appealing to God. There is a completely different approach to knowing who we are; it is sharing what God knows about us.
The scriptures tell us that we are “known by God” (1 Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9). In his “foreknowledge” the Father is possessed by an inner assurance that we will be perfectly conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Rom 8:29; 1 John 3:2). This means that we are just as attractive to him as Christ is; “as Jesus is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). What the Father knows about us is matched by the knowledge of the Son. Jesus knows that the Father “chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:3). The Father’s choice of the Bride is the unfailing source of our attractiveness to Christ our Bridegroom. As the one who knows the deepest thoughts of Father and Son the Spirit is given to us as a seal of our beautification in God’s love (Isa 60:7; 1 Cor 2:11; 2 Cor 1:22). To know that we have been given the Spirit is to sense that we are enfolded in the preciousness of God’s own inner life (1 John 3:24; 4:13). These things are wonderful, but to know ourselves as God knows us involves a tremendous ongoing struggle which proves too difficult for many.
Scripture warns that in the last days “seducing spirits” (1 Tim 4:1) will lead people into legalism. The apostle John receives a vision of “the great prostitute…. arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full…of her sexual immorality…. mystery Babylon drunk with the blood of the saints…(Rev 17:1ff.). This mysterious spirit is a hedonistic world system that opposes the true mystery of the holy inner attractiveness of Christ’s Bride. The people of God in Jeremiah’s day did not experience themselves to be “a name, a praise, and a glory” to the LORD because they submitted to idols promising prosperity. So it is for so many of the followers of Jesus today.
Whenever a Christian inwardly knows they are “known by God” those regretful shameful things we know about ourselves are dissolved in God’s greater knowing and we come to realise we are personally deeply appealing to the Lord (1 John 3:19-20). Paul confidently states “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1). The apostle senses that what the Spirit has formed in him is so attractive to God that he wants to impart and reproduce it in others. The lack of motivation amongst most Western Christians to spread Christ and to disciple others testifies that we do not sense the attractiveness to the Father of who he has made us to be in Christ.
This article began with me struggling about whether my life and ministry was attractive to God. My path through this struggle has involved a profound reorientation away from self-knowledge to how God knows us in Christ. In the light of Christ my, and your, attractiveness to the Lord is indisputable. Additionally, if Jesus keeps entrusting me with others to disciple he must see things of himself in me which he believes are worthy to be imparted and reproduced in others.
Whilst our attraction to our Bridegroom, his Father and the Holy Spirit are indisputable, this truth will always be fiercely challenged by evil powers and shame-filled men. This paper is a call not only to recognise that each of us is infinitely appealing to the Lord, but to pray for and encourage each other to stand in the light of this marvellous revelation of attraction.