A People God Can Call His Own

Part 11

N earing the end of our series on the ekklesia, it would be interesting to take a look at the ekklesia through God's eyes. What does God see? What does He want to see when He looks at His people? So far we have talked about what the ekklesia means to us. But what is it supposed to mean to the One who is the essence of life in His people? This is important to know, for if we truly love God we are going to want to please Him. In order to please Him you must know what He desires. This becomes the lifelong quest of all true disciples: seeking to please the One who gave His life for them.

Of course we know that faith greatly pleases God. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Yet next on the list of activities that please God is obedience—that definite decision that is directly connected to faith and which automatically results in holiness. So, if we want to please God we must believe in Him, love Him and obey Him. To put it another way we must live the way God wants us to live. That has been the objective of this short series of articles: to show that Ekklesia Living is God's perfect system by which His people should live.

So far we've given many examples of how Ekklesia Living benefits us, including practical, economic, social and governmental aspects. Finally, we want to discover what it is that makes the ekklesia valuable to God—something He cherishes. It is a good feeling to know that you’re spending your life in a way that pleases God, to know that you are part of something important and dear to God. It is this working partnership with God that gives our existence true meaning and helps us keep our heads above water in the rat race for survival. Life becomes a joy, not a burden; a privilege, not slavery, when you know your life is an important part of God's plan for eternity. Life is worth living when you live for God. There is no greater joy than seeing the miracle hand of God in action. The excitement of being used by God to lead others into His Kingdom is hard to beat. This is Ekklesia Living—a beautiful thing in God's eyes.

Upon examining the different ways God looks at His ekklesia people (those who serve Him in loving obedience, not the multitude of Babylonian buffoons who use His name as they play religious games) three main categories come into view: 1. An outpost of God's Kingdom on earth 2. A people God can use 3. His beloved bride. Let’s begin.

1. AN OUTPOST OF GOD'S KINGDOM ON EARTH

"The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). Despite what fallen humanity may think, despite man's attempts to divide the earth with political boundaries and claim particular sections as "their own," God is still sovereign over the entire earth. Make no mistake about it, no matter what man says or does, God is ultimately in control. The Bible also tells us that one day God is going to create a new Heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) where those who love Him will walk with Him as He intended it to be in the beginning. All true believers who walk with the Lord will long for that glorious day when God shall be established as supreme ruler throughout the earth. Until then we're stuck with the mess we've made. Thank God He hasn't totally abandoned us, for we would surely self-destruct. Many do anyway. Yet in His mercy He has made a plan to save us. A little over two-thousand years ago God took on the form of a man and walked among His creation. His name was Jesus. In His unfathomable mercy and compassion Jesus chose to take our place and suffer the penalty for our sins. By doing this He opened the way we can come into the presence of God, walking and talking with Him on an intimate level. Now He can be our God and we can be His people. What a miracle!

Sadly, multitudes will never know the Savior. Babies continue to be born under the curse of sin and wickedness still rampages through the hearts of men. Compared to the vast multitudes that come and go on this earth, only a small number will make it to Heaven; most will end in Hell. How tragic. Yet there is no one to blame but ourselves. God gave us paradise and we turned it into a junkyard. Until God cleanses the earth and starts over, the best He can do is gather those who love Him into groups where He can make His will evident in their lives. Behold, Ekklesia Living: groups of people brought together by the Spirit of God, determined to live according to God's perfect plan. This beautiful way of life is a glimpse, a living example, of better things to come. We truly thank God for the record of how the first believers followed God’s plan (Acts 2:44; 4:32). Their example gives us hope, for we can do the same. Of course Jesus is available to all, yet not all have met Him, nor want to meet Him, and the wickedness of humanity is so great that for many life is nothing but a horrible, hopeless experience, leading nowhere but the grave. Thank God He has a better way.

Admittedly, the ekklesia is by no means perfect. Our sin-stained nature makes sure of that. Nevertheless, our intention is to get as close to perfect as possible. Why not strive for the highest? The Spirit of God is with us, encouraging, guiding, and strengthening us as we continue doing what many claim to be impossible. We have proven that with God's help all things are possible. Ekklesia Living has existed in various degrees ever since Jesus walked and talked with men. Just over two-thousand years ago He established His Kingdom in our midst with power and many have come into it. The Kingdom of God is here—NOW! The desire of God is that it be made manifest in the physical for all to see. Despite our faults and failures, the ekklesia is designed to be a living example of how God's people are meant to live with each other under the government of His Kingdom. Though many do not understand our way of life, some even persecuting us, we are determined to let the whole world see that God has an obedient, loyal people who belong to Him and Him alone. What a privilege to be part of something so meaningful to God.

—RECOGNIZING THE KINGDOM

Jesus told those following Him: "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (Matt. 12:28). Here we learn that you can recognize the Kingdom of God (KOG) by manifestations of the power of God among men—such as the casting out of devils. Jesus also made it known that the KOG is within us (Luke 17:21). Looking at these verses we see that the KOG is actually a dimension in the Spirit where the power of God moves through a people. The supernatural manifestations of God's power are a sure indicator that His Kingdom is present. These manifestations can take many forms: divine healing; prophetic utterances; supernatural words of knowledge and wisdom; miracles of protection and provision; true salvation, conversion, and dominion over sin, along with the breaking of demonic bondages and casting out of devils. Of course we would never limit the KOG to any one group of people, for the KOG is worldwide. Yet, even though God controls the entire earth, His Kingdom is primarily manifested among those who wholeheartedly serve Him and allow His power to move through them. So what does all this mean to us? It means we can experience the power and glory of God’s Kingdom HERE AND NOW! We don’t wait until we die to meet Jesus and enjoy His presence. Why should we wait until death to experience the power of His Kingdom? God has good things for those who love and obey Him—TODAY! Ekklesia Living is the best way to make those blessings a reality in our lives.

To keep things in perspective let us not forget that, despite God’s wisdom and power, there are multitudes claiming God's name who are full of the devil and their lives reflect it by their actions or lack thereof. Nice trees—no fruit. Jesus is in their mouth but not in their heart. He’s only a name they use to make friends and influence people, but by no means does He control their lives. If you want to meet folks like these just go to church, for that’s where they love to congregate. Let us also keep in mind that the manifestations of God's power aren't always dramatic or spectacular. God doesn't need to put on a show to impress people like so many notorious TV evangelists. It can be as simple as a miracle of provision, a divine healing, a prophetic Word of comfort or guidance. What to look for is whether the manifestations of God’s power are consistent or not. For often God moves upon people purely out of mercy and compassion, and we praise God for that, yet upon close examination it is obvious that those people are living far from God's standards. The point is that when God has control over the lives of His people His power will be continually present. We are out to prove that the power of God’s Kingdom can be experienced on a regular basis here and now by those willing to trust God and let Him control their lives. With God's help it can be done.

Because God is in our midst people come to the ekklesia and find help for their problems that only supernatural power can solve. God can make His direction for their lives known through His prophetic Word. They can be healed when nothing else has worked. In other cases God brings people to the ekklesia in order to judge their sins, expose the working of the enemy in their lives and deliver them—if they cooperate. Many times people do not expect to have their sins exposed and demonic strongholds pinpointed. That wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Consequently many come and then go. The truth is when you come into the presence of a people living in God's light, sooner or later the darkness in you will be exposed. Either you deal with it or leave. Unfortunately, many are uncomfortable with such high levels of concentrated light. Too much honesty bothers them. They are perfectly happy to put on their pretentious costume called religion, settle down and play church. The end result is man's attempt to set up God's Kingdom their way—without God involved. These folks are missing out on so much. Truthfully, if you long to experience the miracle-working power of God then you must let Him control your life.

—A NOTE ABOUT CHURCH

No doubt there are many sincere, well-meaning people in churches across the land.  Many of them may have even met the Lord. Praise God for that. The main problem with the church system is that it is deficient in what it has to offer. It is not God's best plan. Those who settle for a dead church existence are being cheated out of the glorious inheritance God has for His people in two ways: 1) watered-down false teaching, 2) an appalling lack of Holy Spirit conviction and power. God wants to give His people power and dominion over the enemy. Church keeps them weak, tied to the world and bound in sin. God wants His people to experience the joy of 100% commitment. Church says that 10% is enough to satisfy God. What a mockery of the One who gave His life’s blood to redeem us from sin. In contrast, the ekklesia strives to let God control every aspect of life and fill us with the power needed to continue steadfast until the end. We don't tell God what we're going to do; we humbly ask Him what He wants us to do. No sacrifice is too great if it pleases the Living God.

—THE RESERVES

To better illustrate the contrast between church life and Ekklesia Living we can use a military analogy. Church life can be compared to joining the Reserves. Ekklesia Living is like joining the Special Forces. Let me explain. In the military you have soldiers operating at different levels of commitment starting at the Reserves and climbing up to the Special Forces. No doubt soldiers in the reserves are part of the army, yet they are only required to go in once a month for light training or just to show up and be counted. The rest of the time they are civilians, living and working in the world. People often call them "Weekend Warriors." The requirements aren't too tough and almost anyone who's interested can make that grade. The reserves rarely see battle. Yes they are technically part of the Army, yet in reality the majority of their life is bound up in the civilian world.

Of course those in the Reserves like to identify with the army. Many even consider themselves very patriotic. Yet when the bullets are flying it's not the Reserves who are dying. They're at home on the couch watching the action on TV, hoping they don't get called up to serve in a real conflict. It's fine to play soldier once in a while, but thoughts of life or death sacrifice paralyze them. This is the church: weekend warriors for God, claiming all the benefits of His name yet refusing to lay down their lives in any meaningful way.

—SPECIAL FORCES

In contrast to the reserves you have the Special Forces. These are the real soldiers. The difference lies in the overall attitude and level of commitment. With the Reserves, soldiering is a weekend thing, a chance to socialize and act patriotic. Yet when someone joins the Special Forces soldiering becomes their life. You’re going to live and breathe soldiering. Every aspect of your life is affected by the fact that you belong to something that aspires to the highest level of military excellence. You're striving for the top and you'll do whatever it takes to reach that goal. When the mission is critical, when lives are in the balance, these are the men called into action. They are trustworthy, dependable, highly trained, and they pride themselves on getting the job done.

From the very beginning, those who join the Special Forces are made aware that very high levels of discipline, self-control and obedience are required. In addition to rigorous physical training, the Special Forces focus on disciplining and educating the mind. This kind of training the lower grades of soldiers don't receive. Altogether, between the physical and mental training, men that make it through are defined and refined into what the military considers one of its most valuable assets. Many aspire to reach this level yet only a handful succeed. Most can't make the grade. This is Ekklesia Living: a spiritual Special Forces.

To avoid confusion we want to make it clear that God is not interested in making people into "killing machines." People kill each other quite well without any help. It's the high level of commitment, the willingness to sacrifice, the obedience, training and discipline that God is looking for. And just like the Special Forces, very few make the ekklesia grade. Not because they can't, for with God's help all things are possible, but because they don't really want to. Even though the rewards are great, few are willing to die to themselves to that degree. Few are willing to follow the footsteps that lead to Calvary. Self-preservation and independence dominating forces in humanity. Naturally, it only makes sense that the few who do decide to give it all are very special in God’s sight. This is Ekklesia Living: an army motivated by love; an army made up of people who have decided to give God their utmost—holding back no reserves. In reality what you have is a spiritual Special Forces, women and children included—for these are often the greatest lovers of God. Soldiers of love, warriors of mercy— these are the “Special Forces” who fill the ranks of God's army.

2. A PEOPLE GOD CAN USE

As we study the finer points of Ekklesia Living it’s important to keep in mind that true Christian ekklesias are in essence small parts of the body of Christ. Of course not everyone who belongs to the body of Christ lives in an ekklesia (unfortunately). Nor do you have to live in an ekklesia to belong to the body of Christ. We believe that if you truly belong to Jesus, sooner or later you will desire to join yourself with other members of His body. Our point is there's no better way to do it than Ekklesia Living. The ekklesia is God’s way of proving to the world the benefits of life lived under His loving care and control. God knows people can be very dull. Often they have to see something in action in order to understand it. His plan is to use His people, both individually and collectively, as real-life examples for all the world to see. Like Paul told us, we are meant to be living epistles, read by everyone (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). God’s love and care is so great that He makes sure there are living examples of it in the earth. He does this in hopes that people would see the wisdom, blessing, and joy His way of life offers and choose it. What a privilege to be among that company.

Nevertheless, the kingdom of darkness has been hard at work doing anything and everything to undermine and discredit God’s true witness. If he can’t stop you outright, his goal then becomes to keep Christians locked up in starvation camps called churches where they can’t do him much harm. He doesn’t mind if you have a form of godliness as long as you lack the power thereof. Unfortunately the retarded church mentality misleads many. The ekklesia is not some fanatical “Jesus freak” abnormality. Quite the contrary. The ekklesia is God's ultimate plan for His people. In other words it's the way God intended His people to live. The truth is the church crowd, for the most part, lives to please the flesh. As a result their vision is clouded and their understanding is darkened. The thought of dying to self, carrying your cross and following Jesus without question frightens them so much that they attack any who attempt to walk in this higher way of the Spirit. They call us fanatics, extremists and cult members—labels we wear with pride. We have heard the call of the Crucified and we follow.

—THE HEART OF THE ISSUE

The heart of the issue can be summed up in two simple questions. First, honestly ask yourself what percentage of control does God exercise over your life? It's easy to say you love God. It's another matter to let Him tell you what to do and how to live. Are you willing to let God control your life the way He desires? We answer "Yes!" That’s great! Then comes the second question: how much will you let God tell you what to do? You can already see where this line of thought leads. If God is allowed to control only a small part of your life then that control means very little. How can He use someone He can’t control? If you believe God is really who the Bible says He is—all-knowing, all-powerful, the very definition of love, mercy and wisdom—why wouldn't you want Him to control your entire life? Good question.

The answer? Self-centered rebellion. Yes, believe it or not, many claiming they belong to God are selfish, flesh-pleasing rebels. Yet aren't they religious! They think God is so proud of them because they give Him a couple hours a week and maybe 10% of their income (if that). Plus, they’ve taken time to learn all the religious phrases and cliches and they can repeat them when needed. Yet inside they are rebels. They rebel against God’s laws and standards. They despise God’s order. They loath the thought of dying to themselves. In their book “sacrifice” is a dirty word, unless it has to do with pleasing their idols. These types love to play church. And the church is happy to have them as long as they pay up. Church is nothing but man's feeble attempt to have his cake and eat it too. In the ekklesia we offer the whole cake to God—no strings attached. 10% won't cut it. Giving two or three hours a week to God is mockery. With God it has to be all or nothing. Play church all you want. In the end you'll find that you missed the boat. If you happen to be one of the few sincere souls trapped in church (and there are a few) then you better flee from that mess of rotted religious garbage. Your life with God may depend on it. Make up your mind to give God your entire life, seek God with diligence and let Him tell you what to do.

—SOMETHING SPECIAL TO GOD

Sadly, the world is full of people who don't know God. Inevitably they worship false gods, whether it be themselves or some satanic deception pretending to be God. Yet as soldiers of the cross continue to lift up Jesus as the only true God, many followers of false gods are provoked to anger and become enemies of God and His people. With all these other gods around, conflict is inevitable. God's true people will always be persecuted to some degree. Why? Because the darkness that rules the lost reacts against the light shining from God's children. Though we don't seek persecution, we are not surprised when it comes. We have been forewarned in the scripture. It's part of the package when you follow the Crucified. Yet the Scripture also promises that those who suffer for righteousness will be blessed. How? As we willingly endure suffering for the Lord’s sake we become special in His eyes.

It’s a point worth making that the ekklesia is something valuable to God. In it He gathers His people, creating a concentrated beacon of light He can use to guide others into the best was to live. And not just the best way, but the right way—the way that is pleasing to God. At the same time, because living the gospel means preaching the gospel, the ekklesia is also a vocal reminder to those living the wrong way that they will be damned. Light exposes darkness, and when it shines brightly it hurts the eyes of those who have been imprisoned in the dark. This irritation causes different reactions. Many get angry and try to turn the light off. They prefer to sit in the comfortable darkness of idolatry. Others rejoice, for even though it hurts their eyes, they are thankful to have found the way out of the darkness. It is God's plan that the ekklesia be that bright and shining light, illuminating the way out for those who desire to escape. The truth is unless God opens the door and shows the way, there is no escaping the darkness that enslaves humanity. Thank God for His mercy.

What about the scoffers, mockers and skeptics? The ekklesia is a powerful reminder of how God blesses those who believe in Him and let Him run the show. Through the ekklesia God proves to the entire world that He does have a people He can truly call His own—a people determined to obey Him because the reality of His love has changed their lives. It's not that God has to prove himself to unbelievers, yet in His mercy He reaches out to them, hoping they will see the light and be saved from eternity in Hell. In essence, God gives the world a message through the ekklesia: “Even though man messed up my perfect plan, got kicked out of the garden and caused me to destroy everything living with a flood, there are still those who choose to love me, obey me and let me control their lives.” These people are precious to God, for there are not many of them around, and you can be sure that God takes good care of them.

3. HIS BELOVED BRIDE

Finally, we come to the last and most important way God views the ekklesia—a way dear to God's heart. When God looks at the ekklesia He is beholding His dearly beloved bride—a many-membered bridal company with whom He intends to share the glory of His Kingdom throughout eternity. This powerful revelation should fill any serious disciple with awe. The thought of holding such a privileged position, the object of God’s love and desire for all eternity, should bring us to His feet in reverential adoration, especially when we remember that we are nothing but sinners saved by His grace.

What we have here is the most incredible love story in history, a story still unfolding today. The Bridegroom loves His bride dearly, yet she is trapped in the wicked castle of sin. There is only one way to ransom her from cruel oppression—He must die. Heroically He faces death, yet, miracle of miracles, death cannot hold Him. He is risen! The power of His love is so strong it breaks the chains of death. In His resurrection glory He calls His bride to prepare herself for the great day of their wedding. Being weak and scarred from her imprisonment to sin our Hero tenderly cares for His beloved. He generously provides all she needs to make herself ready for that wonderful day when He will take her in His arms and carry her over the threshold of His magnificent mansion where they will spend eternity together in love. The best part about this story is that it’s true. Jesus is the Bridegroom and we are the bride. What an honor! What a privilege!

Paul the Apostle was also familiar with the idea that the ekklesia is meant to represent the bride of Christ. In II Corinthians 11:2 Paul tells us that he desired to present the Corinthian believers—the ekklesia in Corinth—as a chaste virgin to Christ her husband. Paul mentions the bride again in Ephesians 5:25-27—"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the ekklesia*, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious ekklesia*, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."

**In these verses the English word "church" has been replaced with the actual Greek word, "ekklesia" as it is used in the original text. Throughout the New Testament the Greek word "ekklesia," meaning a group of called-out ones or a Christian assembly, has been wrongly translated as "church." For more details write for our tract: "The Difference Between the Church and the Ekklesia."

—WHAT IS GOD LOOKING FOR?

Exactly what is God looking for in His bride? Paul's idea of what the bride should be is made clear in these verses, and we can safely assume that he had the mind of Christ. To summarize, Paul tells us that Christ's bride should be a chaste virgin, glorious, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. A fitting description for one who is going to be Christ's companion for eternity. Yet how in the world are we ever going to fit a description like that? When you consider the miserable, sin-ridden state of humanity, the idea of becoming the bride of Christ seems unbelievable, if not impossible. Yet despite all our problems, we know with Jesus all things are possible. So how is He going to accomplish this seemingly impossible task—the task of transforming garbage (for without Christ we are nothing but trash on the rubbish heap of humanity) into the golden character of His beloved bride? Simple! We have been pointing out all along that Ekklesia Living is God’s way to refine and define, teach and train, mold and shape any and all that truly love Him into those fit to be counted among that privileged number called the bride of Christ. Amy Carmichael, who spent the majority of her missionary life leading an ekklesia in India, taught her children, “Difficult things take time. The impossible take a little longer.” We live by this same rule, patiently looking to God in faith and hope, watching Him as He does the impossible in our lives.

As you live in the ekklesia you begin to realize that you have found a way of life unlike any other. In fact it is the system God gave the first Christians (Acts 4:22) and Satan has been attacking it ever since. Ekklesia Living is definitely something God uses to make His bride ready and keep her ready until that glorious wedding day when she will be sealed with Christ for eternity. In other words it is probably the best and easiest way to ensure you make it into the Bridal Company. Of course you don’t have to live in an ekklesia to belong to the Bridal Company, but it sure makes it easier. When you consider the internal and external enemies dedicated to our destruction it should dawn on you that you need all the help you can get. Go ahead, live your own way; enjoy your freedom and independence; take good care of your flesh; revel in the pride of life; go to the church of your choice, and see how far you get in God. Ekklesia Living is the answer.

—A PURE HEART

From a purely human perspective what do most normal, sensitive people look for in a spouse? Some of the more notable attributes are: a pure heart; faithfulness; cooperation; oneness in mind and heart; sincerity and courage. As pointed out earlier, the intention of those belonging to a true Spirit ekklesia is to walk as closely with their Lord as possible. Therefore characteristics like the ones mentioned above are naturally what the ekklesia system seeks to develop and maintain in those who belong to it. Why? Because ultimately the control of the ekklesia rests in the hands of God. And when God is in control He will always refine and purify those who love and obey Him. He will help the bride make herself ready. Probably the first and most important thing the bridegroom looks for is a pure heart, for it is this purity of heart which ensures the love between husband and wife is true.

So how can we find pure hearts when every human being on the planet is born into sin? It seems we've lost the race before we even start. The purity of heart God is looking for has nothing to do with the heart we're born with, for He knows we are tainted by sin. God is continually searching for hearts that will respond to the call of His Spirit. He longs to find those who will humbly admit their need of Him, be cleansed from sin, converted, and then express their love through a life of obedience to His commands. In essence God is looking for hearts that He can change; hearts that desire to be made pure towards Him. For everyone has the capability or capacity within them to be made pure towards God if they so choose. If not, then some would automatically end in Hell. Unfortunately, the truth is that due to circumstances and situations of life, together with inherited curses of sin, some have very little chance of getting to Heaven. Nevertheless, thanks to God’s mercy, theoretically they do have a chance. No one is predestined to Hell. Realize that when people do end in Hell, and many do, it is never God’s fault. The blame is fully ours, for we—humanity as a whole—have messed up God’s plan from the very beginning. In fact, the essence of the great commission given us by the Lord Jesus before He departed (Matthew 28:18) is to let the whole world know that they have a chance to be free from sin, escape Hell and gain the joy of eternal life with the Living God.

This chance, or potential to serve God, is something very valuable. God sees this treasure, this golden opportunity hidden in our hearts no matter how little, and He desires to bring it to the surface. In other words God is looking for those who, when given the opportunity, will fall in love with Him. When He finds one of these hidden nuggets the work of the Master refiner begins. God’s Spirit first makes us aware of His desire to refine and define us into the image and likeness of His Son. Now it's up to us to cooperate. The refining process is not always comfortable, for it involves heat. In order to remove the impurities, the gold must be heated to the melting point. It's the fire of God burning in our lives that purifies us, bringing the gold of what we were meant to be to the surface. Yet we must allow the fire to burn. We must embrace God's chastening and correction, discipline and humility, for these are the tools He uses to do His refining work. As we recognize His loving hand in the process we will be able to endure no matter how painful it gets. If we truly love Him we can prove it by letting His refining fire do its work. The Bible tells us, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6-11). Sadly, most run from the fire of God, taking refuge in the man-made system called church where you can imagine yourself to be some super spiritual Christian without worrying about the fire. This crowd will never see the beautiful spiritual gold come forth in their lives but remain nothing more than worthless base metal, destined for the scrap yard called Hell.

—LET THE FIRE BURN

In the ekklesia we make it a point to let the fire of God burn. In fact we intentionally beg and beseech God to send the fire of His holiness into our midst and burn up anything not pleasing to Him. As more hearts yield to the purifying process it's like fuel added to the fire. Soon the blaze is bright and hot. When God is in control you can be sure that He will continually work to purify those hearts that are yielded to Him. When man is in control, comfort and ease will be the top priorities. Not much gold comes out of that plan. Yet more than just God’s control, we need His help. Truthfully, the depths of wickedness, the strength of deceitful, stubborn selfishness, are beyond our power to deal with. If we are ever going to live above sin we must humble ourselves under the realization that we desperately need God’s purifying, refining love to help us. Without God’s supernatural intervention in our lives we are hopelessly lost.

This is where Ekklesia Living shines. How’s that? God appoints the leaders of every true ekklesia. As those leaders seek His face, yield themselves to God, and make His will known to the rest of the body, they create an atmosphere where the fire of God is welcomed. As they allow the fire to burn in their own lives they become living examples to which others can look. A covering is created under which the fire of God can freely work to purify others. The end result? A people striving to shine with the brightness of God's holiness; a people who allow God to burn up the poisonous roots of worldliness no matter how deep or dear they may be; a people who willingly throw their idols into the fire. These are the people who make up the Bridal Company. These are people precious in God's eyes.

Along with letting God purify them, this company will also let God tell them what to do. Mutual, loving obedience between a husband and wife is important in any marriage. Of course the requests or commands made by either party must be given in a spirit of love. If the marriage is going to last they must not be motivated by selfishness, vain ambition, or pride. In our spiritual marriage with the Lord the Living God deserves our total, unwavering obedience, for we know He always has our best in mind. He proved His love for us on the cross. Now we can prove our love through obedience. It’s note enough to tell Him how true our love is. Talk is cheap. Words can be nothing more than empty prattle. God, like any husband, expects us to prove that we really love Him. Jesus gave us the key in John 14:15 when He told us, "If you love me, keep my commandments." We prove our love by willing obedience. And often this obedience involves sacrifice, suffering, and the willingness to endure hardness. Remember, the more the obedience costs, the more valuable it becomes in God's sight. When God looks at the ekklesia He sees a people who are willing to obey His commands no matter what it costs. They have found that when God is giving the commands they can never go wrong. Just as an obedient child delights the heart of his parents, God is delighted with us as we strive to obey Him. Remember, God has feelings just like we do, for we are created in His image. You can be sure God will bless those who prove their love through obedience.

—SHARING HIS SUFFERING

Another important aspect God looks for in His bride is the willingness and courage to fellowship His sufferings. In old-fashioned marriage ceremonies this idea is found in the phrase "...for better or for worse," implying that the couple intends to stick together no matter what life brings. Despite cultural corruption and the growing trend of easy divorce, when it comes to the bride of Christ and her Husband, “for better or for worse” is still part of the vows. Even a brief look at the history of true Christianity reveals that the "for worse" part often involves suffering, persecution, imprisonment, and in some cases even death. Why? God wants to know that His bride has the love and courage to face whatever comes and still remain faithful. Undoubtedly it takes courage to willingly face suffering or persecution when you could easily compromise and get out of it. God knows we are weak, and often we lack what it takes to stand up like we should. Yet in His mercy He can give us strength. What He really longs to see is a people willing to let Him give them that strength. When faithfulness involves suffering it takes it into another realm, a higher, more meaningful realm. This is where true love reaches its highest caliber, its purest form. This is the love Jesus has for us—suffering love. He’s looking for a bride who will do the same for Him. And it's not just for Him alone, but He will use that suffering love, that willingness to sacrifice and endure persecution, for the sake of winning others not yet in His Kingdom. It takes courage to willingly lay your life down. It takes courage to follow the Crucified. We may lack, but if our heart is willing God will supply.

—WRAPPING IT UP

In conclusion, consider how God looks at those darling church folks who claim His name yet offer Him only partial, halfhearted obedience? They want the benefits yet refuse to pay the price. What does He do with these characters? What does the farmer do with a tree that year after year bears no fruit? Eventually he cuts it down, throws it in the fire, and puts one that bears fruit in its place. With God's covering and help the ekklesia is determined to bear fruit—quality fruit that will please the Master. Of course bearing fruit in God's Kingdom is really a personal decision. If you want to you can. God will help you and no one can stop you. The beautiful thing about the ekklesia environment is that it provides the perfect atmosphere, the ideal growing conditions so to speak, ensuring that anyone desiring to grow and bear fruit in the Spirit will have the best possible chance to do it. This is the Bridal Company God is looking for: a people who share His sufferings and enjoy His blessings; a people who bear the spiritual fruit He desires—a people God calls His own.


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