SUPPLYING ALL OUR NEEDS
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; Acts 2:44
T he farther we go in our study of the ekklesia, the more we come to the understanding that we are dealing with something that bears the imprint of God's own hand. It is not something man has worked-up and brought together through the scheming and crafty contrivances of religious imaginations. No, the Body of Christ, and its local manifestations called ekklesias, are undeniably the handiwork of Divine wisdom.
In part 4 we began comparing the ekklesia to the human body. Discussed were the facts that every body has many parts but only one head, and that all the parts of the body must be connected to that head in order to function properly. In part 5 we begin by looking at the relationship of form to function, or pattern to purpose, in the body. Next we will progress through other body systems, examining their corresponding equivalents in the ekklesia. But first, let's look at some more good reasons for Ekklesia Living.
If living together in an ekklesia is so great, if it is truly God's pattern for His people, then why aren't people running to join one? This is the perplexing question that we who live the ekklesia way often find ourselves mulling over. Yet if we look back at our own past, back to the time before we joined ourselves to the community, the answer is simple. The general rule of humanity is that people don't want to die. Everyone tries to preserve their lives and secure a quality of life that they are happy with for as long as possible. Probably the greatest difficulty most people face when challenged with Ekklesia Living is dying to themselves—the key component, along with the power of God, that makes Ekklesia Living possible.
No doubt many see the beauty, the power, the comparatively fine quality of life experienced by those in the ekklesia, yet at the same time they see a coffin, a cross, an instrument of death with their name on it. It's enough to make even the most sincere truth seekers run and hide. The thought of giving up their independence and submitting their life to the scrutiny and control of others, no matter how capable or anointed, makes their skin crawl. The ones who make it past this hurdle are the ones who have heard the call of God, who have come to the realization that God is the one leading them into Ekklesia Living, and are determined to follow the Lord no matter the cost. They have come to the inescapable conclusion that they won't have any true peace in their lives until they answer that call.
Sadly, the forces of independence, selfishness, pride and fear are so formidable that most are no match for them. Once they find out that self-sacrifice is the winning ticket they panic, give up the struggle and settle down in the church of their choice, hoping for the best. Eventually they convince themselves that God was never really calling them to be one of those holier-than-thou “fanatics” anyways. These kind are afraid to trust God with their lives. These kind are the ones whose carcases fall in the wilderness of religious death. Yet those who determine themselves to answer the call of God—no matter the cost—find that God quickly comes close to comfort and encourage them, enabling them with the strength they need to obey. The entire issue can be summed-up with one brutally searching question: Who do you love more, your self or God? Jesus eliminated any gray areas surrounding this question. As He so aptly put it, if you love me then you're going to obey me (John 14:15).
Once you hear the call of God to Ekklesia Living you can do one of several things:
1. Flatly refuse, "No way Lord! That's not for me!"
2. Nicely refuse, "Thank you Lord, but I'd really rather not."
3. Procrastinate, "Lord I'm not ready yet. I need more time to think about it."
4. Doubt and accuse, "That can't be you Lord. Those people are crazy, brain-dead robots who live like that. They must be some kind of weird cult!"
5. Make excuses, "Lord my church really needs me. Plus, what about my family, my friends, my financial obligations, blah, blah, blah...?"
6. Obey, "Praise God! This is what I've been looking for! I see the sacrifice involved, but then look at all the benefits. I can hear the call of God, so what choice do I have but to answer? When I consider what Jesus did for me, who am I to say I won't die for Him?"
Which category are you in friend? Think about it. If you finish this short series of articles with an open mind you qualify as one who has heard the call. And remember, you’re accountable for what you know. You won’t be able to plead ignorance any longer when it comes to the question of how God wants you to live. It is my prayer that you will make the only choice that is pleasing to God—answer the call in loving obedience and let God take control of your life!
After living this way for many years, we have come to the sad realization that very few will make the choice to obey. It's not our fault. It's not God's fault. The fault lies with our original parents, Adam and Eve, who made a wrong choice in the beginning, cursing all humanity who was to come after them. When they were kicked out of the garden, God placed a cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the way back in. If you want to get back to the garden you're going to go through that fiery sword. In other words, you're going to let the fire and sword of God slay your proud, selfish, independent spirit. Once that destructive monster is struck down then, and only then, will you be free to partake of the joy, peace, and divine security that Ekklesia Living has to offer. There's no way around it. If you want to live then you must die. It's easy to understand, yet hard to accomplish. Take it from us: You'll never know how good it is until you try it. The dying only hurts for a little while, yet the rewards last for eternity.
BACK TO THE BODY - FORM DETERMINED BY FUNCTION
Did you know the cells that make up your brain are quite different than the ones that make up your bones and skin? Why? Each group or type of cells has been engineered to do a specific job. Their form or design is determined by what they have to do. And what's more, each type of cell is generally gathered in one location so that together they have the strength they need to do their job. This is why bones don't grow inside your lungs. If they did the machine wouldn't work like it should. This fact, that the cells are created and grouped together according to their function, is irrefutable proof that we are intelligently designed and organized by God himself in order to operate according to a perfectly engineered plan. The marks of intelligent design in the human body are so apparent that only a fool, or someone completely ignorant or brainwashed by too much humanistic education, would try to say that such a complex machine could have evolved by chance. That’s like saying the car you drive or the house you live in just appeared over time by chance. Yet, sadly enough, the world is full of fools and over-educated idiots.
Just as it is in the human body, the function, purpose, and needs of the Body of Christ determine the shape or structure it must take. What this means, the point we are trying to make, is that there are many obvious and important reasons connected to or stemming from God's will for His people that make plain the fact that God's people are meant to live together. In other words, the design or pattern the Body of Christ must follow is determined by the purpose or task it is meant to accomplish. The purpose determines the pattern. The function determines the form.
For example, as Christians we are commanded to bear one another's burdens, to love, serve and support each other in the Spirit. These activities are not just lofty platitudes we practice when we’re feeling spiritual. No, this type of activity is supposed to take place regularly, day by day throughout the course of our Christian life. How can these commands be effectively accomplished in any real way unless we live in close proximity to each other? How can God's leaders watch over, care for, and protect those under their care, which is their solemn responsibility as God's shepherds, unless they live with them? How can we fulfill the great commission, or accomplish any other major task for that matter, in ways that really count unless we live and work together as a team, combining our strength into a cohesive unit?
The truth is that none of the many functions or purposes which God's body is supposed to do will ever be accomplished, they will never reach their fullest capacity or maximum potential, without the structure that Ekklesia Living provides. In fact, many will not even function at all, to the great detriment of God's people. Obviously, the nature of the tasks the Body of Christ must accomplish demands that the members live together. God has so much He wants to give us as obedient sons and daughters, yet we effectively cut ourselves off and limit His goodness by our choice of selfish, isolated, compartmentalized lifestyles. How can we expect to live with our brothers and sisters in the Lord for eternity if we can't stand to live with them now? We're only fooling ourselves if we think we can.
THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB
Most everyone can easily figure out that the job needing to be done determines the tool you select to do it. You don't drive nails with a saw, nor do you cut wood with a hammer. Well God has a job to do—perfecting, refining and transforming His people into the image of the pattern Son Jesus. Yet God can’t accomplish this wonderful plan, nor can His people truly serve Him in the fullness of what He desires, benefitting from the many blessings He has for them, if they are living isolated lives, separated from each other, like they do in 99.9% of the church world today. In order to drive a vehicle you have to get into the driver's seat and take hold of the steering wheel. You must be physically connected to the car in order to make it go where you want. How can God's leaders expect to guide God's people unless they live with them? Sure, the church world puts on a show with lots of boasting, man-made schemes, and inflated membership roles. They even include words like "community" and "support" in their religious jargon, but if you scratch the surface, underneath you'll discover a sickly, powerless, sin-ridden substitute claiming to belong to God. What a tragedy! There's no excuse either, for we have the pattern clearly laid out in God's Word. The problem lies with us. We're selfish, greedy, proud and independent, and the idea of living closely with anyone other than our immediate family repulses us. Take some time and ask God what He thinks about the idea. Be honest and don't put words in God's mouth He isn't saying. Ask Him what He thinks about Ekklesia Living.
There's no way around it, there are no excuses that will stand up under the fire of real Holy Spirit scrutiny. The glorious truth is this: because of who they are and what God wants to do in and through them, God's people are meant to live together. How do we expect His Kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven, if we can't stand to share our time, resources, and living space with those who serve the same God we do? We're nothing but liars and hypocrites, and the man-made church system supports us in our lies and hypocrisy, assuring us that God is pleased with our paltry 10% offerings and self-centered existence. God's people have been defrauded. They've been deprived of the incredible blessings, the unsearchable riches God has for an obedient people who will let Him totally control their lives. As for us, we intend to continue as living examples of the wonderful treasures Ekklesia Living has to offer, and with God's merciful help we will do it.
SUPPLYING ALL OUR NEEDS
Continuing with our comparison of the ekklesia to the human body, let's look at another important system. We understand that the life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), yet how does that life get to the billions of cells that make up our body? We each have what is called a circulatory system: an extensive network of tubes or pipes-miles worth in fact-that supplies every cell in our body. These supply lines range in size from the major rivers called arteries down to the tiny rivulets called corpuscles through which only one cell at a time can flow, and amazingly, they are all interconnected. In addition to this amazing delivery system we have a powerful pump called the heart which begins working in our mother's womb months before we see daylight, and which keeps on going until the day we die; all with very little maintenance. In order to keep the blood flowing smoothly the pressure is regulated and fine-tuned by the pipes themselves as they contract and expand so that the blood flows efficiently throughout the body. To top it off, if our pipes get cut or punctured in most cases they can stop the flow of blood and repair themselves automatically! The miracle of blood clotting keeps us from bleeding to death. Undoubtedly, our circulatory system is another masterpiece of Divine engineering.
The reason this system is so important is because every cell, or group of cells, in our entire body has to have what the blood supplies. If any part, even one cell, is cut off from the supply, it dies. Obviously all the cells must be connected to the flow one way or another in order to live. Jesus gave us the example of the vine and the branches in order to illustrate this important principle. He is the vine and we are the branches. As long as we are connected the life flows between us. If we are cut off from the vine we wither and die. A farmer could invest much in drilling a well and installing a pump, but if the water doesn't reach the plants they die. There are so many examples of this principle in the world that even a child can grasp the importance. Yet Christians are so dull, so dumb, selfish and rebellious they think it doesn't apply to them. They convince themselves that the tiny trickle of polluted water they get at church once a week is all they need. No wonder the Body of Christ is sick and dying; devastated by sin. Christians cut themselves off from God's life-giving flow by the way they live.
Back to our comparison, in the ekklesia the flow of the Holy Spirit is like the blood. Each and every member needs to be continually connected to the "blood supply" in order to survive. The Spirit flow brings the life we so desperately need. Every aspect of our spiritual existence: growth, strength, joy, peace, love, and wisdom, is dependant upon how much we receive of that flow. Ekklesia Living is God's way of making sure we stay connected and get what we need. The Holy Spirit flows freely throughout the community of believers as they live in close proximity to each other all the time. Our network of pipes is in the Spirit; invisible to the human eye, yet the reality of its existence is easily proved by the quality of our life in Christ. Just ask a true Ekklesian about the life-flow of God's Spirit they receive on a daily basis. The Spirit life and the power of God flows continually through the body. From the leadership at the top who are swimming in God's rushing Spirit river, to the new convert who is splashing in the shallows, everyone gets what they need because they are all connected. Remember, being connected to Jesus and to each other is the key that unlocks the door to a vast fortune of spiritual experience in our lives.
In contrast, the vast majority of church goers live miserably isolated lives. Unbeknownst to them they have convinced themselves that their independent, self-centered lifestyle is worth more than the continual flow of God's Spirit. They are comfortable with church. When they are faced with something more demanding than the paltry sacrifices and lukewarm commitment church expects they get nervous. If you press too hard they panic and start hurling names like “fanatics,” “works-oriented,” “self-righteous,” even “heretical,” in order to fend you off. We’ve heard them all over the years. Proponents of the church system will tell you that every believer has access to the Spirit flow through Jesus no matter if they live in community or not. Theoretically that's true. But what about the young, the new converts, the spiritually sick (demonized)? They need extra help, special attention, and God meets that need through the older, more mature members of His body. Yet if everyone lives in their own isolated space, coming together once or twice a week for a couple of hours to act out some dead church routine, how can those that need special attention get what they need? The truth is many don't. God looks down in disgust as precious souls backslide or remain spiritually retarded because His people are too selfish to live together, too independent to let God integrate them into a system which can help people (including themselves) in meaningful ways.
KEEPING IT PURE
Just as there are several organs in the body whose purpose is to cleanse and regulate the blood flow, in the ekklesia God fortifies, enriches, purifies, and regulates the Spirit flow through the five-fold ministry consisting of: Apostles; Prophets; Evangelists; Pastors; Teachers (Eph. 4:11). Just like the physical organs in the body affect the blood, these five ministries act like major organs that affect the Spirit flow. Remember, every part of the body needs what the other parts supply. It is the responsibility of the leaders and elders whom God has entrusted with these ministries to monitor the Spirit flow, making sure it stays pure and uncontaminated from the poisons of sin and worldliness, as well as ensuring no one is cut off and everyone gets what they need. As we obey the command of our King to reach out and evangelize, we can share the wonderful blessings of the Spirit life with those in the world around us. Ekklesia Living is a wonderful system that works beautifully when God's people will die to their selfish desires and cooperate with His plans.
From studying the human body we have learned that the condition of the physical environment greatly affects how well the circulatory system works. The multitudes that perish from heart disease every year bear witness to this grim reality. If the arteries become clogged the blood doesn't flow properly. When the blood doesn't flow people die. Don't expect to live long if your kidneys or liver fail. So it is in the body of Christ. If we don't keep the Spirit flow clean and unhindered it's just a matter of time until we perish. Christians that live by themselves are forced to fight much, much harder to establish and maintain an environment conducive to the Spirit flow. The odds are against them. It takes a lot of energy and determination to fend off the continual encroachment of the world. Let’s not forget the vicious attacks launched by Satan and his cohorts combined with the relentless pressure of our inherited sinful nature. The hard truth is until Christians reach Heaven they are in for a hell of a battle. Thank God for His merciful help, for without it we don’t stand a chance. One reason why so many go to church is because they honestly long for fellowship. They know they need help to maintain God's standard in their lives and they look for it at church. What a cheap, shabby, insufficient substitute church offers God's people! In contrast, Ekklesia Living provides the unified strength and militant structure needed to maintain a pure, holy, uncontaminated environment in which God's Spirit freely flows and God’s people flourish. God desires to make it easier for us to love and serve Him, yet it's up to us to follow His plan.
Many times throughout life we are impacted by forces beyond our control. We get hurt; bitterness, accusation and unforgiveness set in. Maybe we don’t get what we want; anger and ungratefulness flare up. Countless things can cause poisonous reactions which will cut us off from the flow. What's worse is once we get sick we inevitably start to release our own poison into the flow which adversely affects others in the community. Situations like these must be quickly remedied or else others will suffer. Just as the liver cleanses the blood of toxic elements which have somehow entered the body, a properly functioning ekklesia, whose leadership is governed by the Spirit of God, will cleanse its members from the many toxic problems that inevitably crop up as we walk with the Lord. We need God's merciful grace!
THERE'S POWER IN THE BLOOD
So far we have compared the blood that flows in our physical bodies with the flow of the Spirit that permeates the ekklesia. Yet it would benefit us to take a closer look at the actual blood of Jesus that stained the soil of calvary. The blood of Jesus is so important that one of the only two sacraments Jesus gave us is concerned with it. When we take communion we are partaking of His blood both symbolically and spiritually. We know that Jesus physically shed His blood on the cross in one location, at one time in history, yet in the Spirit that few quarts of blood became a vast ocean which covers the entire earth. Since that monumental sacrifice which forever did away with all other sacrifices, the blood of Jesus became a life-giving spiritual substance available to all men everywhere. In fact, you must come into contact with that blood, and by it be cleansed of your sins, in order to become an actual member of the body of Christ. The power in that blood is unequaled anywhere in the entire universe, for it is the very blood of God which He willingly spilled in order to redeem us and rescue us from the power of sin. It is the supreme expression of His love towards us.
As we walk through our life with God the blood of Jesus is ever-present to cleanse us as we repent, for nothing else can deal with the sin problem, only the blood. If we intend to continue with the Lord and eventually reach Heaven, we must have constant, uninterrupted access to that blood. God understands that need and has already moved to meet it. The way a Spirit-led ekklesia is designed to function ensures that the members have the opportunity to come before God on a regular basis, repenting and being cleansed by the blood. Just as our heart keeps the blood flowing throughout our body, the leadership makes sure the blood of Jesus circulates freely throughout the community, doing their best to make sure everyone stays in contact with it. It's the leaders' responsibility to keep the camp clean and in right standing with God, and the blood of Jesus is the only cleanser that can tackle that kind of job. As soon as the blood stops flowing the sin starts growing. Inevitably, that loathsome disease called idolatry sets in and we cut ourselves off from God. It becomes obvious why Jesus told us, "this do in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), referring to that solemn sacrament called communion wherein we partake of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord. The blood can't do its job unless we regularly partake of it. Again, the burden rests with us. Jesus made the way, now it's up to us to walk in it.
Another very important reason why we must have continual access to the blood of Jesus is because, as His disciples, we are engaged in an ongoing battle against evil spiritual forces that seek to destroy us. We are in a war, and the blood of Jesus is one of the most powerful weapons at our command. As we face the battle and apply the blood to circumstances, situations, and people through which the enemy is working, he is smashed, confounded, and decisively defeated. He cannot stand against the blood of Jesus. This is but one more important reason why the circulatory system in the ekklesia must remain free-flowing. Our very survival as Christians depends on it. Attempting to walk with God without the blood of Jesus would be like going to war without any weapons—spiritual suicide! There is no substitute for the blood of Jesus. As our lives are brought together by Ekklesia Living, we are constantly reminding each other of the power we have available through the blood of Jesus. No one wants to see their brothers or sisters defeated. Nobody wants to see their fellow soldiers die. The blood of Jesus guarantees us the victory if we will only use it. The ekklesia pattern is God's way of turning a bunch of worthless, no-account sinners into spiritual soldiers who are able to fight and win. By God's merciful provision we are able to secure our survival in the Spirit and ensure the survival of others as well. The blood of Jesus is the key.
In contrast, churchgoers may theoretically know all about the blood, even hear sermons and read books about it, yet as soon as the service is over they scamper back to their own world and dive headfirst into the sick syndrome of a self-centered existence. In word they belong to Jesus, in deed they belong to the world. There is no separation. Their lives are a mixed bag full of covetousness, fleshly lust, the pride of life, and all manner of idolatry. The tragedy is that they attribute the whole ugly mess to Jesus. They may have even had an experience with Jesus at one time, yet because of the lack of sound teaching and the undisciplined church environment they've been bogged down in the treacherous quagmire of ritualistic religious death. They’ve partaken too deeply of the world’s poison all dressed up in its Sunday best. Instead of proclaiming the gospel truth and battling against sin in order to rescue lost and dying souls, they play the twisted, fantasy game called church. What a shame when the blood of Jesus is there all the while waiting to cleanse and empower them that they could live a victorious, sin-free life dedicated to the cause of Christ.
THE BLOOD MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
How wonderful it is that the nature and design of the ekklesia pattern ensures continual contact with the blood of Jesus. The Body of Christ enjoys great circulation. No sign of heart disease here, just free-flowing Spirit life. The nature of church life ensures a painfully slow spiritual death; often physical death too because the church crowd is quite fond of satisfying their carnal appetites. When man is in control people die--for the wrong reasons! Ekklesians are constantly reminded that they are different. God is in control! Regular Spirit-filled teaching, preaching and exhortation clarifies and reinforces the understanding that they are meant to be in the world but not of it. The blood sets them apart. They know who their King is and they spend their days worshiping Him and laboring joyfully in His service. They value their spiritual health. Being mercifully rescued from the death sentence of sin they are determined to fight long and hard to maintain their liberty. Creating a clean, consecrated atmosphere in which true spiritual growth can flourish is high on their priority list. As they consider the beautiful, innocent children with which they've been blessed their hearts are set aflame with the desire to fight desperately against the destructive forces of worldliness and sin. In the end it proves out that all the struggle, discipline, and self-sacrificing submission is worth it. Ekklesians enjoy a quality of life enriched with true peace, joy and fulfillment unequaled by any other way of life. The secret? Jesus is in our midst. That explains it all!