All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Relate: When I was working in college ministry at SUNY Binghamton, I befriended a young man who was getting his master’s degree in evolutionary psychology. By culture and upbringing he was a Muslim but by what he believed he was an agnostic. We both loved history and religion but our understanding and approach to it was from such different angles that it made for some great (sometimes a bit too lively) discussion every time we got together. He made a statement early on…
This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him.
And he said: O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou has called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou art about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, my Lord, Thou has stooped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man taketh this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.
My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine, but Thine. Thou has said, “I knew thee – I ordained thee – I sanctified thee,” and Thou hast also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.
Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou will honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.
It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should be come a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that could make life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I should have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.
And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.
Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee, therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with Thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.
Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen
This post is the interpretation of the analogy which I wrote about recently, (The Beauty and Significance of Jewish Marriage Customs). If we look at these Jewish customs in the light of Jesus Christ and His Bride then we will begin to see, not only the beauty of the analogy, but also the bearing this has on us as Christ’s Bride, the Church.
All the Way from His Father’s House
As we saw the young man coming to the young woman’s home, all the way from his Father’s house, so Jesus Christ did this for His Bride. He came from Heaven to earth to redeem His Bride. It was a long way for Him to come. He left the glory and worship of Heaven to enter this dark, sin-stained world. Although He is God, He humbled Himself and took on human flesh:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:6-8
The Bride-Price (Mohar)
In ancient Jewish customs, the Bride-price was a very high price to pay, and for some young men it was simply too high, they couldn’t afford a bride. The higher the price that was paid, the less incentive for a young man to divorce his betrothed. This gave the young woman comfort that her betrothed would in fact return for her.
Jesus Himself paid a very high price for His bride, the ultimate price – He paid with His own blood. His life was poured out for her. No higher price has ever been paid than what He paid. We can take comfort in this, knowing that the price that Jesus paid was so high, His own life, that we know that He will return for us.
In the analogy, the young man and the father discussed in private and agreed upon the price that the young man would need to pay in order to purchase his bride. This too was the case in the plan of redemption, which was formed and agreed upon (or covenanted) from all of eternity within the eternal counsel of the Godhead. (Read: Revelation 13:8; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 2:7, 8)
Paid in Full
The Bride-price is hence agreed upon. And so the young man pays the price in Full to the father in order for the marriage covenant to be established….
…and so we see Jesus. There He is, nailed to the cross, beaten, whipped, bloodied. The Son of God with men’s spit on his face, with self-righteous heads shaking at His humiliation. He cries out with a loud voice “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
“It is finished” is literally translated “tetelestai”.
“The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating that a bill had been paid in full. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this:
“Receipts are often introduced by the phrase tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…” (p. 630). The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking readership; it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins.” (source:Bible.org)
Everything He had come to do, everything that had been pre-determined in the eternal counsel of God, had now been accomplished. He had said to His Father “Thy will be done” and now it had been done. His was a cry of victory.
There at the cross, the sinless Son paid in full the debt owed, our debt, for the sin of mankind to the Father. Oh what a beautiful Saviour!
“And he has blotted out by his authority the bill of our debts which was adverse to us and he took it from the midst and nailed it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:14, Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
The Handing Over of the Bride-Price
The Bride-price was agreed upon and paid, now it needed to be handed over to the Father.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest killed the goat of the sin offering for all of the children of Israel on the altar. He then brought the blood of the sacrifice inside the veil of the Holy Place and presented it to God by sprinkling it on and in front of the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:15) The High Priest could not come into contact with anything impure or unholy before he had brought the blood into the Holy Place.
As everything that happened under the Old Covenant was a picture (or type) of our Lord Jesus, so too did Jesus, our great High Priest, have to hand over His blood (the Bride-price) to the Father.
“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:12
In John 20:17 Jesus meets Mary Magdalene outside of His tomb. He was risen from the dead but, as yet, had not presented His blood to the Father, and so He said to her :
“…Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father…”
Note: that it was the groom-to-be that paid the price in full. The Bride was not required to add anything, nor could she, to what the groom had paid.
The Glass of Wine
A glass of wine is poured.
Now the bride is invited into the groom’s presence. It is the Holy Spirit whom calls in the lost, but we are used as His mouthpiece.
Just as the bride in the analogy was offered a glass of wine to drink to show her acceptance of the covenant with the groom, so too Jesus, the Bride-Groom, offered His disciples a cup of wine.
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. Mark 14:23
This was Christ’s “marriage proposal” to His Bride. And just as that young woman could either accept or reject the marriage proposal, so too can each of us. Every time the gospel is proclaimed through this world it is Christ once again issuing His proposal to the lost sinner.
So by Jesus offering His disciples the Cup, He was instituting the New Covenant, just as the marriage covenant was explained to the young woman. The disciples drank from the cup He offered and thereby accepted His proposal and consented to the covenant He was making with them. As they drank from the cup He offered, the disciples willingly entered into the covenant which was to be established at Jesus’ death. Another important point here is that upon entering into covenant with Him, they also entered into covenant with each other, as the Bride.
When Jesus said “this is my blood of the covenant..” He was explaining to them that it is His blood that is the Bride-price. It is the blood that will institute the new covenant He is making with them. The disciples, being Jews and familiar with the marriage customs of the day, would have understood the implication.
“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25
Here Jesus is referring to the consummation of the betrothal – the marriage and Wedding Feast of the Bride and the Lamb in Revelation 19:7.
Just as the young Jewish couple are now considered husband and wife, although betrothed, rather than that of fully married, so too are we, as Christ’s Bride, wholly set apart, or consecrated, for our husband and exclusively committed to Him. As we willingly enter into covenant with Him, it is now only divorce that can dissolve the union. (ie. Spiritual adultery on our part).
When we partake of communion we are showing forth the Lord’s death until He comes. This is not just an empty religious ceremony but a loving way of the Bride remembering her Groom and confirming her faithfulness to Him. It is her way of saying “I have not forgotten You, nor the covenant we made with each other. I am remaining faithful to You, my Groom, while I wait for You to return for me. I remember the Bride-price you paid for me, Your blood was the price you paid to gain me, and so how can I not be faithful to a Groom who would pour out His life for me?”
Being part of His Church, the mystical Body of Christ, we also enter a covenant relationship with others within the Body. His Body is made up of individual believers, but once we enter into covenant with Him, we are also entering into union with other believers. Christ never intended individualism within His Body, it is a mystical community of unity and oneness with each other. This is why it says in 1 John :
“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another….We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other…. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Just as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, so too are we expected to do this for each other.
After Jesus instituted the New Covenant with the disciples, and offered them the cup of His “marriage proposal”, which they accepted, He then prepared them for His soon departure. Just as the young man prepared to depart from the young lady’s home after their betrothal, so Jesus too must go away for a time.
Just as the young man comforts his bride-to-be with these words at his departure, so Jesus Himself comforts His Bride-to-be with the same words:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
But Jesus went further than the young man in His comforting promise – He not only promised that He will return, but also that in His absence He will provide a Comforter for her:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you…. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:16-26
Jesus made His departure 40 days after His death and resurrection. In Acts 1:9-11 it says:
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Once again we, as Jesus’ Bride-to-be, are comforted with the knowledge that He will return the same way in which He departed.
And true to His Word, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was given 10 days later at Pentecost.
The Waiting Bride – To – Be (That’s Us!)
As the betrothed of Jesus Christ, what is our role as we await His return?
Watch as did the young woman. Watching is to stay-awake, to be sober, to be vigilant against the enemy, to use our mind to interpret end-times Bible prophecy and to pray. Jesus and the apostles connected prayer with watchfulness.
Wait for Him. This is not a passive state, but rather we need to actively await Him. We need to live in a state of expectancy, for we do not know when His return will be, although we can tell His warnings in scripture that it will not be long now. And as we wait we should be preparing ourselves as a Bride.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)” Revelation 19:7, 8
Be faithful to our Bridegroom, just as that young bride was faithful to her betrothed. We have entered Covenant with Him and this not to be taken lightly by us. A covenant relationship is just as binding as a marriage. We should not look upon another while we wait for Him, our eyes should be steadfastly fixed upon Jesus, as we “set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). It is possible for us to commit spiritual adultery whilst He is away. How do we do this? The Bible says quite clearly:
“You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world and breaking your marriage vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 AMP)
Be Not Deceived by false prophets, false Christs or false doctrines. Jesus Himself warned us to :
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many…. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time” Matthew 24:4-25
The best way to recognize the counterfeit, is to know the real thing. So get to know your Betrothed, Jesus Christ. Spend time with Him and study the Word of God.
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Consecrate Ourselves to Him. To be consecrated is to be declared or set apart as sacred and holy. This is something we willingly do for Him. It is surrendering our own will and our very lives to Him. We have been bought with a (bride) –price, at the huge expense of Christ’s own blood, therefore our body is no longer our own to do with as we choose. It is now His property:
“But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
Be Sanctifiedby Him. We consecrate ourselves to Him, but we are sanctified by Him. This is what He does in us, by His Holy Spirit. Sanctification is a process of being purified and made holy.
We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in us as He sanctifies and cleanses us “with the washing of water by the word, (so) that He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:26, 27
This will include trials, tribulations and suffering on our part, but we must yield to the Holy Spirit and to the loving discipline of the Lord to His children.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11
“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” (CT Studd)
Sitting passively in our favourite seat in a comfortable building every Sunday…Is this really what Jesus intended when He said,
“The gates of hell shall not prevail against my church.”
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)
“”All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20) ?
Hmmm….. not sure that’s what our Lord meant. I think He had adventure in His mind, entailing both extreme hardship and extreme joy for His Church as it continues His work in seeking and saving the lost.
When I look at the Church in general this not what I see.
What do I see?
What does the world see?
And what does Christ Himself see?
I see predominantly a group of middle-class people driving expensive cars to a big, lavish, comfortable church on Sunday morning. They sit and clap at the right time, they worship and praise and feel joy sometimes when the music reaches its crescendo. They might hear a short message from the Word of God. It may be inspired by the Holy Spirit or it may be a self-help motivational talk with the Bible as a convenient back drop.
I see a people whose comfort and convenience cannot be upset or unsettled.
I see a people who will not be disturbed for the sake of the lost on their way to an eternal hell.
When I think of the early Salvation Army getting pelted with rotten tomatoes and eggs as they marched into villages preaching the gospel, or I think of the Wesley brothers riding on horseback over miles and miles of countryside to take the gospel to the poor, my heart breaks and I wonder how it is so that we have lost our Lord’s heart.
Is there anyone that weeps over the lost multitudes on their way to hell?
Who will go out into the battle and warn them?
Are there any that even care?
I have found that when I speak or write on this topic it is the one that upsets Christians the most. It is the topic that causes the most offense to Christians and the one that brings the most resistance. Often I hear in response, “Well if Jesus tells me to go then I will, but He hasn’t told me.”
Actually He has. Read the Great Commission. He didn’t say that to a handful of evangelists, He said it to His followers. Each one. Unfortunately there is no way around it.
You don’t have to go to the city streets, but you do have to go to the lost. There are people in your life, whom God has put around you, who do not know the Saviour. If there is no heartfelt grief for the lost in your heart, nor desire to see them saved, then check your heart. Go to the foot of the cross and ask Christ why not. For this is His very heart.
If you’re upset or offended by this post of mine, then I think that may be a good thing.
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