Bend the Knee
Sometimes I sense the Spirit of God speaking clearly about something I do not want to hear. This seems to be a regular feature of prophetic communication, at least in the Old Testament. Jeremiah complains of “a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (20:9), Ezekiel talks of “bitterness in the anger of my spirit” (3:14). As I was at a Perth Prayer meeting this morning interceding about the relationships between Christians in this city I sensed something that my flesh simply hated. Knowing that the Lord was in the process of crucifying my pride and arrogance I believe that this message holds great authority for the maturing of the Church in Perth (cf. Gal 2:20; 5:24). The word is that Christians of different traditions, denominations and spiritualities need to humble themselves before one another and ask from one another the blessing of the Father. The first and foundational step in this process is a fuller revelation of Christ.
Christ in the Cloud
At the climax of the great faith chapter in Hebrews 11 we are exhorted by the writer; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV). In prayer I could sense that when Jesus ascended into the glory of the Father he entered into the midst the “cloud of witnesses”, into the array of all who had gone before him and testified faithfully concerning the coming of his kingdom (Heb 11:26; 1 Pet 1:10-12). In the presence of Abraham, Isaac, Moses… the Lord enjoys the fullness of the presence of joy for which he sacrificed his life (Heb 2:10; 12:2). In his exalted state, beyond the limits of his earthly mortal humanity, Jesus has entered into the fullness of the heart of the Father. This is the great goal which he desires to share with us his Body today.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
When God called Abraham and gave him special favour in becoming the father of all the faithful (Rom 4:16) he promised, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.” (Gen 12:2). As we look across the breadth of the Body of Christ we see men and women who the Lord has endowed with great gifts to be mothers and fathers in God. What part of the Church they belong to, Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, is totally irrelevant to the Father’s sovereign dispensing of grace. In relation to receiving such men and women Jesus said, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” (Matt 10:40). In line with recognising those who are “blessed to be a blessing” I see Anglicans bowing the knee to the gift that God has given to Pentecostals for evangelism, Baptists asking Catholics to pray for them in the realm of oneness, emerging Church folk seeking a blessing in the realm of God’s sovereignty from the Reformed, progressive Christians seeking the intercession of the Coptic Church for a revelation of the sufferings of Christ, Uniting Church members asking wisdom from Churches of Christ… marketplace believers wanting an impartation of the witnessing power given to some pulpit ministers, local church pastors seeking a share in the anointing that marketplace Christians have for community connection….
Such net-weaving under Christ’s Lordship involves interlacing strengths and weakness, gifts and needs into one seamless tapestry over a city with the common goal of glorifying God’s kingdom. Most profoundly, what is offered through this vision of Christ is the fullness of the blessing of the Father.
I Need You
The apostolic testimony is clear, “When he ascended on high he gave gifts….apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers… for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:9, 11-13). Since the present denominational boundaries are the work of man and not God, the various gifts of ministry for the perfecting of the Church are given to the whole Body in a city. Before God there can be no such a thing as a “Baptist apostle”, a “Salvation Army evangelist” or a “Lutheran pastor”. Nothing is lacking in Christ’s distribution of gifts to his Body, the problem lies in our recognition and reception of these gifts.
Psalm 110 is like a hub to the whole of scripture; “The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Ps 110:1-2). Those who recognise the Lordship of Christ bend the knee to his authority. This involves mutual submission to brothers and sisters whom the Lord has raised up in denominations and spiritualities very different from our own (Eph 5:21; Phil 2:3). For Christ’s sake it is time to put to death those petty sibling rivalries over title, tradition and doctrine which are impeding the outpouring of the fullness of the blessing of the Father in our midst (Acts 2:33cf. Heb 11:40).
God’s promise to make Abraham a blessing to “all the families of the earth” is recognised by Paul as finding its fulfilment in the Church, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named….that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:14-15, 19). Only the utmost childish arrogance could make us believe that any single expression of the Church holds all the fullness of God. Our desperate need today is for mature fathers and mothers in God who will take the lead by bowing the knee before the presence of Christ in one another so that the whole Body might be perfected in love and masses of lost people turn to Christ. It is time to overlook the imperfections of faith that God overlooks and welcome one another unreservedly in Jesus name (Rom 14:1; 15:1). The perfection that Christ seeks will come as we overlook the imperfection in one another (1 Pet 4:8). This is no easy call.
Sometimes we are told that Jesus gladly bore my sins to the cross at Calvary. The sentiment is sincere but superficial. The struggle of Gethsemane, “And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) indicates that the flesh of Jesus was in total recoil from what his Father was asking of him. Unless we share in Christ’s recoil-and-submission, we have not understood what the Lord is asking from us today. May he grant us simplicity, childlikeness and humility like never before.