Longing for the Real Church

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February 21, 2022

1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

CONSIDER THIS

From time to time I repeat my favorite quotes on the Daily Text. Today I want to remember one of those from the late great Clive Staples Lewis. It comes from a collection of letters Lewis sent to his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien. They are known as The Screwtape Letters. Lewis wrote the letters from the vantage point of a senior demon, named Screwtape, to his nephew and protege’, Wormwood. The point of the letters are to help Wormwood tempt, thwart, deceive, discourage and otherwise neutralize the faith of Christians. 

By the second letter, Wormwood’s assigned person has become a Christian and joined the church. Screwtape says not to fear. 

“There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us.” 

Then this stunning word:

“One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes even our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans.”

When I first read this paragraph as a young law student I began to hear a surprising and disruptive calling to call forth and serve this seemingly invisible Church. Thirty-two years later, I believe in the Church Jesus is building more than ever and yet it remains quite invisible (at least to me). I don’t think I have ever seen it. I have seen and participated and even led enormous amounts of churchly and Christian activity and it has undoubtedly done inestimable good; however, I don’t think I have ever actually seen the Church Jesus is building as depicted in today’s text. 

1. Chosen people 2. Royal Priesthood. 3. Holy Nation. 4. God’s Special Possession. 

I, like most other people I know, have been willing to assume the organization we have called “the Church” is actually the Church Jesus is building. I no longer believe this. My faith in Jesus Messiah and the Church he is building has never been stronger. My confidence in the organization I have known as “the church” is all but gone. Why do I say this?

Look around.

It is not someone or some group’s fault, as though assessing blame would somehow help. We find ourselves at a moment in history calling for excessive humility and extreme honesty. It is not a moment for hand-wringing anxiety but for peace-filled desperation. We have been through long cycles of evolution and devolution; of layering on sociological theory, heretical teaching, and worldly growth principles. It seems time now for a massive yard sale. We must cease pining for a return to the first century church as though that would somehow be possible or even preferable. We can and must return to the Lord with all our hearts for only Jesus can restore us to the church of his making. That’s the Church we all long to see and be part of. 

To that end, we will make camp here for the next several days and rather than ranting, we will seek restoration to our deepest identity and vocation. 

1. Chosen people 2. Royal Priesthood. 3. Holy Nation. 4. God’s Special Possession. 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are the head of the Body, the Church. We long for the Church you are building. Forgive us for getting it mixed up. Would you restore us to chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, indeed your own special possession. Holy Spirit, give us excessive humility and extreme honesty—even truth in love. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

So what if we are coming to the end of a long period of deep slumber; the despite all of our best intentions and laborious activity, what we have thought to be the church has been more of the sleeping giant Screwtape describes? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

5 COMMENTS

  1. J D, I want to assure you that your thoughts on this are shared by many of us. I believe that the Holy Spirit has been busy already awakening many of us to question our true identity: Or we truly citizens of a kingdom of this world or the kingdom of God? John in his first epistle reminds us that we must choose allegiance to either God or the world, but we can’t have it both ways ( 1 John 2:15-17 ) I feel like we’re all in the mist of an identity crisis.

  2. If what we have thought to be the church has been more of the sleeping giant Screwtape describes, then it’s time to go beyond church as usual. It’s time to make church ekklesia again! Google: Beyond Church Ekklesia.

  3. Thanking God for your humility and honesty, J D Walt. God is using you to speak hard and much needed truth. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. ” I Cor 1:10 (is this our reality today?) Combine this with many warnings, one being, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – with is really no gospel at all.”‘ Galatians 1:6-7 and many other words from God that should cause us great alarm. So what is God’s definition of “Church” as Jesus described it in Mt 16:18? It’s us – those recreated by God to be the dwelling place of His Presence – IF – we are “born of God” and the Spirit of God aka Holy Spirit dwells in us. But He doesn’t stop there…that’s just the beginning. “For if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14) True followers of Jesus have been called out of darkness and into the Kingdom of the Son of His love (Col 1:13) to live a new supernatural life – led by Him. He has given us His great authority and power (Lk 9:1, 10:19; Acts 1:8) to do ALL that Jesus did and more (John 14:12). The question is, do we really know Him? Do we really know all He is offering to us ? Have we received this Jesus and all His glorious gifts He is inviting us to receive ? Or, heaven forbid, are we following “a different Jesus” because we believed a different gospel? Without the supernatural power of God alive in us, we cannot be who Jesus is calling us to be and therefore, cannot do what Jesus is calling us to do. Paul sums it up well in his assessment of what a true follower of Jesus looks like in Romans 15:17-19, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit….I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” Do we know this same Jesus that Paul and all true disciples of Jesus knew and served? Jesus must become greater; I must become less…so He can truly work in and through all those living stones He is building into His glorious spiritual house aka “church”.

  4. Wonderful!!!! But then I am in the process of throwing in my own towel when it comes to the current church landscape where it is hard to distinguish whether progress is being made or things are coming further unhinged. And I certainly never hung in with a local church because one day I thought I would get to learn a new way to “do church”, including a bazillion new songs, many of which I cannot even sing! And when did a song playing on the radio become the gold standard for what the church sings? And when did a church ever completely suspend physical gatherings, including worship, because it was the “safe” thing to do? I have found it less frustrating to run an antique mall in the middle of a pandemic rather than try to understand the current church landscape in which churches have to identify as being multi-generational–when was a church ever not multi-generational?

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