August, 2001 - The Church
NOTE: For some time, I have been thinking of writing a message on THE CHURCH. What it is, how it was formed, and what is its purpose in this present age. So many of you, my friends and brothers, have asked me questions concerning what you feel in your heart might be erroneous teaching on some of the TV religious broadcasting programs, I want to enlighten you and--according to God's own Word--show you God's reason for showing us through the writing of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, the true meaning of being a member of "The Body." Until the Apostle Paul received revelation of this "mystery" God had never revealed it to anyone. Therefore, we must truly know what being a member of the Church is all about, and God's plan for us as members of that Body, of which Christ is the Head.
By Billie Marie Zal
We are living in an age when very little is known or understood concerning the "Mystery" which God revealed to the Apostle Paul which Mystery IS the Church.
God's Word through Paul makes it clear that we are members of one Body. And, in a sense, we are fortunate that God knew beforehand that the nation Israel would reject Messiah, and He would close the door on that era, and offer the Gentiles salvation by grace, and entry into the Body of Christ Himself. This isn't hard to understand if we accept by faith that the Word of God is true.
Jesus gave the Jews ample opportunity to recognize who He was, why He came, and the blessings which would come with the Kingdom set up on earth, with Himself as Head of that kingdom.
But the Jews had within their religious body certain men who had great power. In other words, they were the governing Body and I have always believed that they instinctively KNEW that Jesus Christ, when He walked and talked among them, was indeed their Messiah. But because they refused to accept as reality what God was showing them, in His Son's appearance, God Himself closed their eyes "that they might not see," and shut their ears "that they might not hear."
It's a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and we have no idea how awesome is His anger when we reject the very Person of Himself in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. I've always told converts "don't mess with God." We dare not take chances with Him.
Anyhow, once the door was closed to the nation Israel's receiving Jesus Christ as Messiah and setting up their Kingdom on earth, God would not leave Himself without a witness during the last days. He revealed His Son to the Apostle Paul, gave him the truth concerning the Church, and then set him forth among the Gentiles so that he could pass along this great "Mystery" to us.
This is where the Church today has failed to "rightly divide the Word of God."
When Christ arose, and ascended into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father, and became the Head of the Church. From Him we would receive all revelation and truth, and identify with Him and leave the world behind.
There is no room for "denominations" in this reality. There is only One Church. But people tend to go their own way, and turn aside from the pure Word of God.
So, in the Book of Acts, God sent down the third Person of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), to "lead us into all Truth." Just as the angels sang on the night that Christ was born, and the shepherds tending their sheep heard and saw them, the Holy Spirit came down while the people were gathered at Jerusalem, and manifested His appearance with wind, tongues of fire which sat upon the heads of the disciples, and everyone began to speak in foreign languages. These languages were understand by the various nations represented by those people in Jerusalem at that specific time.
This is confusing to many people--we are often told that we must speak in tongues or we are not "baptized in the Holy Ghost."
God's Word does not say this. God's Word lists the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit and one of the lesser gifts is a language which we do not understand, but which God understands as we speak it.
I was once asked if I spoke in tongues and I replied, "I don't know if I have or not. Once in my sleep I heard myself speaking a language I did not understand. But I believe that my Father in heaven understands English, and so when I talk to Him, I just speak in plain English."
We are warned about being "puffed up with pride" about speaking in tongues. The Apostle Paul warned his people that tongues should be used only one at a time; and before they spoke, the assembly should know if the gift of "interpretation of tongues" was given to anyone present. otherwise, he forbad the use of tongues if there were no interpreter.
Also, he forbad for the members of the Body to speak in tongues if only unbelievers were present. Otherwise, he tells us, "these people will think you are crazy."
So that is that, concerning the Church and "tongues." Some of my little brothers in prison have been told they are not saved if they haven't spoken in tongues. This is not true and should never be accepted as Truth. Just forget it.
Another mistaken belief for the Church is that there must be "ritual" with meetings being "programmed" ahead of time. Since the Church is a spiritual (not earthly) Body, ritual is not necessary. We should be so in touch with God's Holy Spirit that He can bless anyone's getting together, whether there is music or ritual or not.
Often times I think of Jesus' Word: "Where two or three of you are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of you."
The other evening I went down to the basement where we feed and care for the animals that God has given to us, in trust. Shirley and I and Margaret have this task, and it is at such times that God in all of His glory has SUDDENLY appeared among us.
No, we didn't see Him. But who can mistake HIs presence, when all we sense is His perfect Holiness, and Love? We are smitten with a sense of awe and wonderment and deep humility that such Love could have included us. On this day, of which I spoke, I was sitting on the bench where "Rooster," my beloved wolf, used to sit with me. Shirley was sitting on top of one barrel of dog food, and Margaret was sitting on the other barrel.
We were a motley looking bunch of believers---disheveled hair (the dogs love to smooch us); rather worn out jeans, stained T-shirts. And not a place where you would expect GOD to appear in power and Love. But He did. I smiled and said to them, "The angels are probably smiling at us." And the sacred moment was over.
Another time, the three of us were in the basement and Shirley had been told she had a terminal illness. God's Holy Spirit impressed me to PRAY. I caught hold of Shirley's arm, and all three of us held hands and I said, "Father,".....and could say no more for a few seconds. The majesty of His Holiness all but struck us down. He was right here, with us, just as He had promised in His Son. And then I prayed, "Just remember Your promise that if we asked anything in Your Name, You would do it." When we are prompted to pray in this manner, all Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are present in power--the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave. And it was done.
I had known God's ways of answering prayer for many years, and I knew that no matter what happened in the months to come, Shirley's healing was sealed. And I never saw her as sick. She was well, no matter that her hair fell out, and she was so weak she could hardly move or talk. No matter what happened, she was healed.
This was not a prayer of "foolish faith." Sometimes members of the Body decide they want a certain thing and they "reason" themselves into prayer. We must realize that to pray to God the Father means that as far as we KNOW, we have no known, deliberate sins which we are practicing at the time we pray.
We cannot pray to a holy God, without HIS holiness imparted to us. And how is it imparted? Through trials and perplexities, and the acceptance of His Son's Cross. For we are to "fill up that which is left behind of the afflictions in the body of Christ...." We are told that if He suffered, so shall we. If He was reviled, rejected of men, so shall we be. But it must be because we are so much LIKE HIM that we will be treated as He was treated.
I never accept a message from any popular evangelist which promises me anything except entrance into GLORY, and the joy of my salvation here on earth "till we are raptured." We don't get popular once we are born again. We don't get wealthy, we are too busy giving what we have away. We don't stay healthy. Some of the most dedicated believers I have ever known (through books, they are few and far between today) have suffered terribly most of their lives. Amy Carmichael, whom God led me to in her writings soon after I was born again, spent the last seventeen years of her life bedridden. But it was during those years that her life bore the most fruit of God's Spirit. She wrote all the books during her illness which I found about the time she went to Glory, and which inspired me to love the Lord Jesus as she did, without compromise or turning back.
Another Christian, Francois Fenelon, a Priest in France, inspired me by his writings as few people ever will. And he, too, suffered. He was accused of things which never happened, and he spoke the truth, in love. You couldn't get away from the Truth that he wrote down. God inspired him, and when my time came to suffer rejection, it was those words written by a member of the Body who was born in the l7th Century in France that made the greatest impact upon my personal walk with Christ, apart from the Bible itself. God has His faithful ones, and if you study their lives, they never gave in to the popular theories and practices that the professing church practices today.
Another misconception the present day evangelists teach the Church is that "we can have success if we plant a 'seed' in their ministry.
First of all, I feel sure that these men and women know very well that a "seed" in God's Word is not money. Jesus Christ warned against wealth, and the Apostle Paul tells us that it is not the time to become wealthy: he mourned the fact that some of the Body members lived as though the kingdom had already been set up. And he warned them against "living as kings."
A "seed" is God's Word, nothing else.
It seems to me that few individuals have caught the HEAVENLY VISION of what the Church really is. This is no doubt why God has set some body members to be "overcomers....to stand in the gap and take upon ourselves the afflictions of Christ, so that the Church shall stand." We do not hate the Body members who act and live as though we are already THERE, in Glory. We stand in for them, and pray for them on behalf of Christ whose Blood washed all of us clean, and whose Holy Spirit instructs all of us in God's Word, if we will listen and more importantly--obey.
This is why I have hesitated to speak of gross error which occurs in today's religious programs on TV. Sometimes I feel such grief, that God's Word can be twisted and used in such ways as to bring in the money with the promise that we are saving the world.
The world will not be saved. God's Word says so. But out of the world, God has His own, and NOTHING can take us out of His heart. We are put here, if we are born again, to love Him as He so deserves to be loved; to give whatever is necessary to make life meaningful to both the unsaved and the saved; to trust God at His Word; to be an example of goodness and mercy and compassion so that HIS LIGHT within us will shine. And those in darkness will reach for the Light.
We are not to become "entangled with the affairs of this world." Nothing should ever be so important to us if we love our Father with all of our hearts, that we cannot walk away from.
We are not to be LIKE the world in its filth, its manipulations, its indecencies, its putting up of "self." But rather we are to live as strangers and pilgrims on this earth, longing for the day that the Body of believers will be caught up, in the rapture, to wait out the years of the great tribulation on earth. And THEN we will come back with Him, and forever be with the Lord.
If we want to know what the heavenly church is, we must read and study and re-read the Apostle Paul's letters. See how God led him, and then we will know what He expects of us, the ones for whom Paul suffered so much in order to leave behind the very Word of God concerning His Church.
I cannot today go along in my spirit with those evangelists who claim that we are "God's Kids" so we deserve the best: private jet airplanes, $l500 suits, the "best" eating places, best hotels, best of everything. I cannot go along with them, but once in awhile when they preach a really wonderful message of pure Truth, I rejoice, and I ask God to "enlighten the mind of their understanding" and bring them into a life of holiness. God has a way of changing our hearts, once we ask for Him to "make us holy."
I asked Him this once, way back in l963, I think it was. I was making a bed in my home in South Arkansas, and I heard the verse, "Without holiness no man shall see God." I knelt at once, even before I thought it out, and asked, "Father, I don't know how to be holy. Make me holy." If I had known the consequences of such a prayer would I have asked it? I hope so. For God took me at my word; the very next day I broke out in sores all over my body and for nine long months I was in total agony. But those 9 months changed me from inside out. I lost MYSELF, and found the reality of "walking in the Spirit." I wrote letters, asking others whom I had offended to forgive me. I never again, from that time on, have felt that I was anything except a sinner saved by grace and used by my Father in heaven because HE had made me usable.
That time was precious to me; I made a journal of it during the long days and nights when there was no relief from the itching and biting stings, and demonic manifestations of how powerful Satan really is, even to Christians.
And when it was over, I was finished with myself forever. I could only praise and thank God that He could use me in any way at all, to let others know the joy of deliverance and the peace of the Spirit of holiness.
No, I didn't speak in tongues, but my heart cried out night and day to a merciful God who in spite of myself, had seen fit to give me purity of heart and strength of spirit. And most important of all gifts, the Gift of Love.
Those who have been with me these many years knew me then, and they have often said that I had completely changed during and after the skin affliction. Like Job, who broke out in sores and suffered the finality of his own pride, at the end of my experience I could say, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now MINE EYE SEETH THEE. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).
Because my dear brothers and sisters of times past were faithful, and because they suffered on behalf of Christ and wrote of how He dealt with them, and the joy that was set before them, I could experience the same joy.
This is the Church. This is the Body. It is made up of Christ's own body members. We are down here, to be "the salt of the earth" and the "Light of the world." We belong to the Body and there are good members and bad members. Blind members and seeing members. Lame members and strong members. But we are all PART OF A WHOLE. We are part of Christ Jesus right here on earth and yet we are with Him, our Head, in heaven.
The Book of Ephesians tells it all. I pray that those of you who have wondered at the discrepancies within the Church Body will study that Book and learn of HIM, the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write it.
The Church doesn't have to have a building. It doesn't have to have ritual. It doesn't have to have anything at all, except a handful of devoted members who in spite of everything have said "Yes" to God, and have agreed to "stand in the gap" which others make by disobedience and unholy living, and praise Him in whatever comes. And truly, "the gates of Hell shall never prevail against Christ's Church."
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