Index to previous posts:
Jesus has won the war
But we attack the gates of hell
In a war that is not a war
Against an enemy that we cannot easily find
Now, to our regularly scheduled post...
John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
Jesus shattered the gates while He was here. He healed the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf. He raised the dead. Hell could not deflect His power nor distract His purpose.
In Jesus' mighty answer to John the Baptist, He lists these things as reassurances that John had truly proclaimed the Messiah.
Luk 7:22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
Notice the capstone of the list. Right beside the dead being raised, Jesus places the preaching of the gospel to the poor. It seems astounding that preaching the gospel to the poor is as miraculous as raising the dead. Nobody did that before the Messiah? Jesus understood the hardness of our hearts much better than we do. The kingdom is about a lot of things, and some of them are very surprising.
The simplest things will mean the most to our neighbors. Unless we figure those things out, they will live and die without ever knowing the love and healing Christ has purchased.
In our own backyards, the devil convinces the lost that the church is just a bunch of hypocrites. Every man and every woman needs fellowship, but the devil hushes his prisoners at the teat of television, and dares us to be more entertaining. He satiates their deepest longings with the shallowest of lies, and we stand by trying to "draw them in" with seeker-sensitive services.
We have actual weapons. Let's use them! The devil's captives will continue to suffer until we shatter the gates barring their way to freedom.
Jesus says the church will surpass His works. He says works His church does will be greater than raising the dead. The gates of hell will not prevail against His church.
So, what is the miracle that Christ expects of His people, His church?
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 'Lord, when ...' And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.
I am a small man. I cannot fight the devil hand to hand, but I can love my neighbor. I cannot solve the huge problems of America, but I can figure out something to do when my neighbor is struggling with one of those problems. Pick your problem. Homosexuality? Love your neighbor. Abortion? Love your neighbor. Welfare? Love your neighbor.
1 Cor. 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
There is nothing more powerful that you can do, I can do, or the church can do.
I know how very silly and small this answer sounds. Love your neighbor. But really, how world-shattering did having a shepherd boy heave a rock at Goliath sound?
The gates of hell cannot prevail against love.
America has been shattered into millions of lonely little islands. If God were to send a prophet to our land, and give him the gift of healing as Peter was gifted in 30 AD, it would accomplish nothing. Joe American would sit at home, alone, watching the prophet's mission unfold on his TV screen. Joe might even believe the words of the prophet, and repent - at home, alone, in front of his TV screen. Joe might even go that next step, and find a church that suited him - and watch church services week after week, as if they were another TV show.
If, however, Joe were to see love lived out in his neighborhood, even brought to his doorstep, that would be a miracle. That could change his life.
So, how do I do that? How do I bring the Love of Christ to Joe?
It's more than that.
Joe needs to see the Father's love lived out. He needs to see men and women loving each other, and loving the Lord together. He needs to see community, not charity. We need to bring him that cup of water, but he needs to see that our whole lives are built around bringing each other water daily. We are a community of love.
That is a kingdom job. The church has to do it. Neither you, nor I, nor Paul himself could do this. It is the Lord's church that prevails against the gates of hell, not any member alone.
Full-hearted love for my neighbor can only flow from the Father on high. His Love flows to the Son, and then to the church. In the church I love Him, and I love my brothers and sisters. Our love is mingled with thankfulness, and worship for the grace of our God. We learn to have grace for our brothers and sisters, and next we learn how much grace they have for us! We learn to be truly thankful for the love we find in the church.
When the church is charged with the Love of the Lord, and when it lives in community every day, it is the most natural thing on earth for Joe American to feel the love.
And when the church grows in this love, the gates of hell crumble.
I hope all these posts have been valuable. They were a delight to type, and I learned a lot doing them. This is especially true of this last one, because it did not come easy! I learned a lot as I threw away two or three drafts.
There is one more post to write. Not surprisingly, it is the post that I orginally intended to write. I was going to write one post as kind of an intro to that one, but I got carried away. The next post hopes to be a practical, step-by-step proposal to build this kind of fellowship. Unless the Lord builds the house they that labor, labor in vain - but if nobody labors you never know what the Lord might have built!
Psalms 144:1 Blessed [be] the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, [and] my fingers to fight