NOT everyone who's in what is known as the ecclesiastical church is going to be in the bride of Jesus Christ. Not all who say, "Lord, Lord," will enter in. We know that from the Scriptures.
However, existing within ecclesiastical churches all over the world is a called-out body - a holy remnant - that will comprise the bride of Christ. Right now, God is preparing that bride for marriage to His Son. And He will introduce this bride to her Bridegroom at the marriage supper of the Lamb!
The believers who make up this bride may or may not belong to the organized church. But they all share one thing in common: They have a passion for Jesus! This is the first characteristic of all who make up Jesus' bride: They are absolutely lovesick for their Lord. Indeed, they are marked by their love for Him rather than by their knowledge of Him.
The truth is, the church today is being ruined by a dead, intellectual pursuit of theology that has no heart for Christ. Bible schools and seminaries are filled with teachers and students who spend years engrossed in doctrines, dispensations, biblical inerrancy, archaeology, miracles, the historical Jesus.
It is this "intelligence" about Jesus - with no heart for Him - that has produced the present-day Laodicean church. We are a church that intellectually has everything right. We know how to meet the needs of all our people. We possess resources, thinking we're needful of nothing. And we sit back, thinking, "There's nothing we can add. We have it all!"
Some churches here in New York City think they have every need covered. They employ staff counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists - everything needed for the human body and mind. But such knowledge, lacking a passionate heart for Jesus, only produces a twice-dead congregation.
Never in history has there been more head knowledge about spiritual things, with less fervor for Jesus. This last-day Laodicean church is full of intelligence about Christ - but its heart is shut to Him!
A preacher can stand before a congregation and pour out a stream of intelligence - spiritual knowledge he has accumulated through Bible college, seminary or personal study - and yet it can be a complete bore. Without a passionate heart for Christ, it leaves the hearers dead! If that minister knows Jesus only intellectually - if he is not in love with Him - his knowledge produces death, not life.
Right now, the masses who sit in most congregations across the world are drying up. Ironically, they are being fed by the most educated preachers who have ever stood in the pulpit. These men have been trained, and trained, and trained - and yet they've never had a heart of passion for Jesus! I tell you, the church will never have a bride's heart of love for Christ as long as the shepherds' hearts are cold.
Jesus Warned His Bride to
Look for His Soon Coming!
Jesus says in Matthew 24:
"Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).
This is the second characteristic of the bride of Christ: an expectancy of His soon return! Jesus' bride is to live in continual, joyful expectation of her Lover's eminent return - because He may come at any moment.
Jesus warned, however, that in the last days evil ministers would infiltrate the church in an effort to put the bride to sleep. They will attempt to take away her heart of love for her Bridegroom by claiming, "...(The) lord delayeth his coming" (verse 48).
This gospel is preached by men who don't want to pay the price of obeying Christ's commands. They have sinful habits and lead double lives - so, naturally they don't want Jesus to come back. Therefore they have concocted a doctrine to justify their continuing in sin.
The heart of this doctrine is the basis of "kingdom dominion" theology. It is the belief that Christ will not return until the church takes its proper place and gains spiritual authority by winning political offices all over the world. The idea is that Christianity will take over the arts, sciences and education and conform it all to the law of God (or, more accurately, the law of Moses). It's all about legislating holiness and righteousness.
One proponent of the dominion gospel has said, "Jesus could not possibly come back for another 30,000 years. It's going to take us that long to win back control of the earth from the wicked. Only when we've conquered the world and straightened it out will we be able to bring King Jesus back."
I don't know where he got the figure of 30,000 years. But that's as bad as the fellow who said Jesus was coming back in September '94.
No - they're both wrong! The Bible says those who claim Jesus has delayed His coming are "evil servants":
"...that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming" (same verse).
What is the result of this false teaching? First, it ends in the death of all love - the fading of any motivation for holy living, of any passion for Jesus. It also ends in what Jesus calls the "smiting of your fellow man" (see verse 48). The proponents of this doctrine usually end up in heated, mean-spirited debates - fighting with other theologians, scrapping and screaming.
Yet this doctrine also ends in awful worldliness. Most of the preachers of the prosperity gospel have adopted this aspect of dominion theology. They too preach, "The Lord has delayed His coming" - because they want time to enjoy their success and prosperity.
Some compromising Christians say, "Why should I live expecting Him to come if I'm going to die a normal death? I can live it up - drinking, smoking, cursing, carousing. And, like the thief on the cross, I can cry out just before I die, 'Lord, have mercy!'"
Beloved, do not give heed to this damnable doctrine of delay! If you're a part of Jesus' bride, you'll be so lovesick for your Lord you won't be able to buy into it. Instead, you'll cry out, "I will not hear of such evil. My Lord said I am to be ready at any moment for His return. I know He is near - I can sense it. My heart cries out within me, 'Behold, the Bridegroom is coming.' Why should I believe such foolish doctrine as this?"
Christians Go to Sleep When
They Stop Looking Expectantly
for Jesus' Soon Return!
"...while the bridegroom tarried, they [the ten virgins] all slumbered and slept" (25:5).
Up to the time this doctrine came about, there were no sleeping virgins in the church. The early church was wide awake, heeding Jesus' words. Their lamps were trimmed and burning, and they had a good supply of oil.
Peter summed up the spirit of the early church this way:
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (2 Peter 3:12).
Likewise, Paul said:
"...(We wait) for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:7).
Then came this evil preaching: "He has delayed His coming!" And that's when slumber and sleep fell upon the church. But the bride of Christ has always seen through this deception!
In every generation the devil comes to the bride and whispers to her heart, "Your Lord isn't coming anytime soon. Go ahead - sin. Don't even think about it. You've got a whole lifetime ahead of you."
But the bride always answers, "Look here, devil - Jesus told me to get dressed! He told me to adorn myself and wait for Him. He said He may come at any time. So you can do away with all your charts and reasons and dates.
"If He isn't coming soon, then why is the pulse of my love beating so fast? Why does my yearning heart cry, 'Yes, my Beloved, come quickly!' And why has He spent so much time with me lately, weaning me away from the world?
"If He has delayed His coming, then why do I hear His footsteps nearing? Why do I hear His words in my ear, 'Soon, very soon'? Why do I feel His hand under my neck already [Song of Solomon 2:6]? His Spirit tells me, 'Rise, for I'm coming! Get ready to pack up and leave!'"
In John 20, Mary Magdalene epitomizes the bride whose heart is wholly given to Christ. This woman's life was marked by her love and affection for Jesus. Evidently she was a woman of means, because she ministered to His needs alongside the other three Marys. Most likely she did this out of sheer gratitude, for the Bible says Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. (Many believe Mary was a prostitute, but there's nothing in the Scriptures to suggest this.)
As far as the world was concerned, Mary Magdalene was not an intellectual. Nor was she any great theologian. When the male disciples got together to discuss the deeper things of the Cross, she was probably silent, keeping her thoughts to herself. Women of that day rarely spoke openly of spiritual matters in the presence of men.
Nor did she ever speak before the men of the synagogue, as Peter did. She never debated with the scribes, Pharisees or Sadducees. They could spend all day talking about every jot and tittle of the law, describing morality, arguing whether there was a resurrection.
No - insignificant, little Mary Magdalene was different from all these learned, intellectual men. Yet she had something they did not have - something deeper than was known even to Jesus' disciples. She had a revelation!
"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre" (John 20:1).
This would have taken place at three or four o'clock in the morning. Mary came to the sepulchre early, while all the others still slept. When she found the stone rolled away and Jesus' body missing, she ran to find Peter and John.
When the disciples arrived, they went into the tomb and saw the linen clothes neatly folded - but no body. They understood clearly that Jesus was not there. Then, the Bible says, the two disciples "...saw, and believed" (verse 8).
They remembered Jesus' words to them about His resurrection on the third day.
Their seeing and believing was perfectly commendable. But two verses later we read,
"Then the disciples went away again unto their own home" (verse 10).
They were satisfied with the knowledge that Jesus was no longer there. So they went back to business as usual.
Isn't that just like the church today? Many Christians say, "I've seen the power of the gospel. So, of course I believe." They identify their present relationship with Jesus by mere head knowledge.
Not so with Mary! Intelligence was not enough for her. She wanted Jesus Himself - and she was not going to move:
"But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping..." (verse 11).
Her spirit was crying, "This world is intolerable without Him! I can't go home. I must be with Him!" She was determined to stand there, gazing into that tomb, until her breaking heart was answered:
"...they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him" (verse 13).
Mary would not let go. She had a devoted heart which could not be satisfied by anyone or anything other than Christ. She simply loved the Lord. He was her life!
Beloved, that is a picture of the bride! It is that kind of love - that burning passion for the Bridegroom - that brings a revelation of Jesus.
And, sure enough, Mary's heart of devotion brought her a wonderful revelation:
"...and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain" (verses 11-12).
It was a revelation of the mercy seat! Perhaps you remember the description of the mercy seat from the Old Testament: There was one angel at its foot and another at its head. These angels in the tomb now signified that Jesus Himself was the mercy seat. They were giving Mary a revelation of the mercy seat of Christ!
While the other disciples were back home, Mary was having a visitation of the divine. She was seeing things nobody else could see - because her heart was given to Jesus!
I want to make a statement that - if you can accept it - will revolutionize your life: Those who have a heart for Christ will receive the intelligence of Christ!
If you seek the knowledge of Jesus without having a heart for Him, you're going to miss it entirely. You can spend your life studying Christ or sitting under great Bible teachers and yet never know the heart of God. Yet, if you simply have a heart of passion for Jesus, you will receive His revelation!
The bride says, "My Beloved is in glory right now, as a glorified Man and as God. He has been rejected by this world. And because the world has rejected my Christ, my Lover, I can't love anything here. My heart is not in this earth. It's wherever He is!"
The bride's heart is with her Bridegroom - seated in glory at the right hand of the Father!
Mary Was Given Divine,
Supernatural Intelligence Beyond
Any Intellectual Knowledge!
Jesus appeared to Mary and gave her further revelation:
"...she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away" (verses 14-15).
Mary was saying, "Let me have Him. He's mine - mine!" I ask you: Can you believe that, even if no one else on earth knows Jesus, you know Him? Can you believe that, even if no one else on the earth has Jesus, you have Him? After all, He is a personal Savior! "He is - mine!"
"Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master" (verse 16).
Jesus knows the names of those who love Him - and He called Mary by her name!
Jesus then told her something He told no one else. And, in doing so, He made her His messenger to all "the brethren." The next verse reads: "...Touch me not..." (verse 17).
The original Greek here means, "Stop clinging to Me." Jesus knew Mary wasn't going to let go of Him. Her heart was crying, " lost You once. But I'm never going to lose You again!"
It must have taken a lot of courage for Mary to heed Jesus' words to her. You see, He told her He was going to be gone for a while. He was going to ascend to the Father:
"...go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God" (verse 17).
Beloved, here is another great revelation! Jesus was saying, "I'm going home to My Father, where I will be the Head of My church. But you're going too! Yes, God is My Father - but He's your Father as well. And you're going to come with Me!" Jesus was speaking prophetically - of being seated in heavenly places with His church.
Mary quickly returned to the disciples. They were all in one room together, probably cleaning off their old fishing gear. Now, these men were no theologians, either. But even though they were just fishermen, they had been trained for three years at the Master's feet.
And now, in walked Mary with the revelation. These men had to sit and listen to a woman who had heard from Jesus. Can you imagine the scene? "What'd He say?" "What'd He look like?" Mary answered simply, "All I know is, I saw Him. And He told me to come here and tell you something!"
I love to hear devoted men and women of God say the words Mary said: "I've heard from Him - and I have something to say!" Such Christians have been shut in with Jesus, yearning for Him passionately. And in turn, He has given them His heart and mind. What they receive from Him isn't mere theology. No, it's something much greater than that. It's revelation that so burns within their hearts, they run to their friends, crying, "Listen to what Jesus told me!"
For the past eight years or so, I have received numerous invitations to speak at ministers' conferences and conventions. Yet I have only accepted two of these. Why? It's because I haven't had Christ's revelation for most of these particular men. I won't speak anything unless the Lord speaks it to me first.
That is the cry of my heart every time I prepare to preach: "Lord, if You're not going to talk to me, I'm not going to talk to them!" If all I have is a lecture, it will mean nothing. I want to be like Mary Magdalene - to have a heart so given to the Lord that He gives me His mind and says, "Go tell the brethren!"
You might be saying, "But, Brother Dave - Mary Magdalene could spend all her time ministering to Jesus. She could wait on Him devotedly all day long, because she didn't live in our hectic time.
"She didn't have to get up early five days a week and work in a wicked environment. She didn't have to be pushed, shoved and jostled on the bus or the train to work. She didn't face sexual harassment on the job. It's much different for me. How can I live a deeply devoted life in these wicked times?"
I freely admit - we Christians in New York City do not live in a quaint, quiet, religious, law-abiding environment such as Jerusalem or Bethany. No - we live among the most wicked, vile, corrupt, godless, mean, ugly, filthy generation of all time.
But the Lord saw down through history to this age, and He knew exactly what our generation was going to be like. He foresaw everything we're facing today. And He does not expect us to evacuate New York City and run to some quiet farm or mountaintop, so we can meditate, pray and stay devoted to Him.
Please don't mistake me: I thank God for all who are able to do just that. In fact, I've often thought that's what I should be doing. When our headquarters was in Texas, I thought I would retire there and simply write books until the Lord took me home. But now, here I am in New York City - in Times Square, of all places!
To be sure, it's good to get away to seek the Lord and restore your physical body. And it's true that Jesus slipped away to pray and meditate. But He usually did that only for part of a day or during an entire night.
I believe the greatest devotion is that which is practiced on the front lines - in the heat of battle, with fires raging all around. In fact, I know many believers whose devotion has been strengthened in the midst of hectic activity and spiritual warfare. They don't have to be on a mountaintop to love Him with all their heart; they don't need to live in some isolated village to yearn for His coming. They've learned to love Jesus as passionately during their drive to work as when they're in their prayer closet.
Beloved, your sense of Jesus' nearness to you cannot depend on your feelings. When you feel down, depressed and blue and don't have time to seek the Lord, the devil will flood you with feelings of guilt and unworthiness. You'll think Jesus has left you and is saying, "I'll come back when you've got time for Me."
No - the nearness of Jesus is maintained by faith! It has nothing to do with your feelings. So, when somebody is pushing or shoving you on the subway or in an elevator, just say, "Oh God, I believe by faith that You're here, that You're near me. Protect me, Lord - keep me. Don't let this junk seep into my system!"
True love yearns for His company, no matter how hectic one's circumstances. In fact, living in a city can have its advantages. In New York we see and hear so much of murder, rape, greed, violence, crime and perversion that we're compelled to love Jesus all the more. And I believe some of the most devoted people who will make up the bride will come out of wicked urban areas.
Let me give you what I have called "the devoted life for commuters and subway strap-hangers." It outlines devotion for "city bridehood." It's a simple way for busy, city-dwelling or commuting Christians to lead a deeply devoted life. There's nothing mystical about it. On the contrary, it's very practical:
Devotion to Jesus Christ
Is Being Wholly Dependent
On Him for Satisfaction!
Simply put, devotion to Jesus is trusting Him alone to meet every need of your body, soul and spirit. It means giving up looking to any person or source besides Him to meet those needs. I hear many single people say, "I'm sick of being lonely. I need a mate. After all, I'm only human. My need would be met if only God would give me someone!"
No, a mate would never be able to meet such a need. In fact, a mate would only make you twice as miserable - because you'd have not only your own headaches but his (or hers) as well! Until Jesus is your focus - until you see Him as your only true satisfaction - you will sink deeper and deeper into despair.
A husband or wife may say, "My marriage is dead! My needs are just not being met. I'm terribly unhappy. The only reason we're still married is because I don't believe in divorce."
If this describes you, then you have never learned what the bride of Christ must learn. When you are suffering in your soul - when things are not satisfying you - you must run to Jesus as Mary did, until He becomes the source of all your satisfaction!
At one point, Jesus wanted to prove to His disciples that He was on top of any situation. So He called Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water to meet Him. Peter obeyed - and as long as he remained focused on Jesus, he too was above everything, actually walking on water. But when the disciple began to focus on his surroundings, he began to sink.
The lesson here is elementary. Yet, I ask you: What do you do when you get that sinking feeling? Do you turn to your brethren in the boat, calling out to a friend for help? Or do you keep your eyes glued to Jesus and cry out, "Lord, save me!"
The bride of Christ will be comprised of those who have given up trying to find help, solace, comfort or satisfaction from anything on this earth. They have learned to depend wholly on the One they love to fully satisfy their every hunger and thirst.
Do you have this kind of walk with Jesus? I urge you - keep your eyes focused on your Bridegroom. Expect His return at any moment. And don't look to anyone or anything else to fulfill you.
Stay passionately in love with Jesus - and trust Him to manifest Himself in His fullness to you.
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This data file is the sole property of World Challenge. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice [i.e., "Copyright (C)1999 by World Challenge"]. This data file may not be used without the permission World Challenge for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations. Please give the following source credit: Copyright (C)1999 by World Challenge, Lindale, Texas, USA.
Copyright © 1998 - The Lorain County Free-Net Chapel
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