I am not a big fan of using inanimate objects as metaphors for the things of God. This is mainly because we are dealing with the living God, and not some statue or carved lump of wood. However, on this occasion, I feel that I might be forgiven for such an indulgence because what I have been learning could prove very useful to all believers in the coming days.
It would seem clear to many that we are indeed approaching the end of days, and the warnings that are detailed and recorded in the Bible have yet to be taken seriously. The modern church appears, on the whole, to be oblivious to the obvious. In general, the church seems content with patting itself on the back and waiting on the Holy Spirit to gift revival. This stance should be deeply concerning to everyone who understands even the vaguest concept of the coming wrath.
Now, I am no prophet of doom – we have plenty of those already, but I am like Christian from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: I am determined not to get caught in complacency nor allow sin to drag me down, especially as I know the truth. For us; those to whom the full light of the gospel has been told, have no excuse. That we choose, on the whole, to think that it doesn’t apply to us because we are ‘once saved, always saved‘, or we think we still have time on our side to repent and change our ways, shows a level of short-sightedness that is well worthy of a name such as you might find in Pilgrim’s Progress. To those of you who haven’t read it, read it. To those who have, read it again. Here is a link to a revised edition in modern(ish) English that is free to download. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
Church has become a business enterprise and that is clearly not its purpose. Everywhere I look and see the church at work, I see a business model behind it. I understand fully the need for organisation and good practices – that is truly Biblical. But, what I see has gone way beyond any Biblical model. The patience that Y’shua showed when He sat and quietly made a whip out of cords before driving out those doing business in the Temple, is the same that He shows now towards those that fail to see church as anything other than a money making business (John 2). He might be unnoticed by those trading in His Father’s name as He prepares His whip, just as He was back then, but be confident of this – He will drive them from His church in exactly the same fashion.
In fact, it won’t just be the chasers of money whom He will drive out. If you want to see revival, you will have to accept that He will seek to rid His church of all ungodliness. We have no excuse for living anything other than holy lives.
It has been suggested that as we don’t attend a church on a regular basis, we shouldn’t be allowed to comment on what goes on inside them. Further to that, that if you want to change something like church, you have to be on the inside. I see their point of view, but I totally disagree with them. The word church that we bandy about so much, which, depending on what we speak of, can mean anything from a building to a member’s only club, is rendered from the Greek word Ekklesia. Ekklesia itself, is made up of a compound of two other words; ek – origin and kaleo – call. Combined, its original meaning was to be called out from the world in which we originated. Sounds about right when we understand that we are called out of the world in order to live lives of holiness, apart from the world. The word ekklesia, in all its 70 odd mentions in the New Testament, almost always refers to a group of such people who are called out from the world to follow Y’shua, the Christ. So, as we are both followers of Christ and have been called out of the world in order to follow Him, we consider ourselves to be part of the overall church or body of Christ, thus qualifying us to comment.
What I write here will only be taken as criticism by those who choose to do so. Many people may well feel offended by my words. But I say nothing out of bitterness or sour grapes. My concern is simply that time is running out and, for us to be a church worthy of the Christ, then we need to amend our ways. We need to get back to being holy. We need to be what ekklesia means – called out from the world. We need to be different to the world and not trying to be like it. I cannot emphasise this enough – trying to be attractive to the world won’t bring a revival, only reform will.
The warnings contained in the revelation of Y’shua Mashiyach (Jesus Christ) to the seven churches of Asia Minor are not applied to today’s churches, and, as a result, we are in danger of falling prey to the consequences that are promised to all but one. If there was a time to wake up, it is now. If you are in any doubt of just how short time is then turn on any news channel and see what is unfolding before our eyes. These things are the beginnings of the birth pains.
We accept easily that we are ‘one’ body for the letters of Paul tell us so. But this is evidently lip-service only. The fact that there are almost 40,000 different denominations worldwide, all in Christ’s name, testifies to that. We are divided. Not one, but many. Divided by ‘Statements of Faith’; by ‘Mission Statements’; by the way we take communion; or by the way we baptise. But we were designed to function as a single entity – the Body of Christ.
Now, it would be easy to sit here and pontificate over how we got to this state. We could have conferences on it and launch focus groups who could discuss the past until the proverbial cows come home…or the Son of Man returns to the earth and finds us all asleep. Or we could agree that the one thing we all have in common is the most important thing of all – that we all accept that Y’shua died for our sins. Instead of trying to outdo each other, we should unite. Under His banner, for we are His church. His.
Someone once told me about going to hear the late John Wimber speak at Westminster Hall in the mid 1980s. They had been expecting him to talk for sometime but, apparently, he got up and said “God says the church is His, and He wants it back.” Then he sat back down. Strong words. But he was right. The church, the body, belongs to Christ. Our man made rules and divisions are just that – man made. We need to learn how to walk in the Spirit and not by the flesh. We need to follow the Spirit’s lead, and not just forge our own paths.
Those of you astute enough to take biblical prophecy seriously will already be aware of Isaiah’s warning to Damascus. In chapter 17, the prophet warns by proclamation that Damascus will cease from being a city. It may be of interest to you that, at the time of writing, Damascus is still standing and is still inhabited. It may also interest you, that the city of Damascus is the only surviving ancient city that has been continuously inhabited since its existence. It has never fallen. But fall it will. Today, at least, it is safe, but the focus of the world’s eyes are all settled upon Syria. It is officially a ‘hot zone’ because of the continuing civil war – although, as a rule, a civil war usually only involves one nation fighting against itself. Syria has several sovereign nations all bombing different factions. Watch Damascus. If it falls, then we are very close. Things in Syria are about to get a great deal hotter.
If we accept that we are indeed at the sticky end of time, then we must also accept several other premises. Firstly, we have to accept that things are going to get a whole lot tougher for anyone willing to confess the name of Y’shua. Secondly, we have to accept that the Man of Lawlessness is probably already positioning himself for his rise. Thirdly, we should accept that the nation of Israel is going to play a major part in all that takes place, and that the church will need to recognise that we are only grafted into their branches by grace – the Hebrews are still God’s chosen people. In fact, it isn’t going to be just Syria that is hotting up…we all are.
And that brings me, somewhat clumsily, to my metaphor.
Since we moved into this house just over three years ago, we have struggled to get to the bottom of the inconsistent central heating system. For the first year, it was very unusual for the radiators on the top floor to get any heat to them, whilst the first floor was patchy and the ground floor piping hot. Then, in the second year that appeared to change so that all the heat was on the top floor and ground floor, but not the middle floor. Earlier on this year, during the warmth of the summer, when the central heating was off, the radiator in the lounge would get piping hot (too hot to touch) whenever the hot water was on. This meant we had a sweltering room when we really needed it to be cool. The final straw came when we came to switch the central heating on a month or so ago and we could only get heat from one or two radiators around the house. For the past month or so I have been struggling to come to terms with the problem, and God has been using my frustration to talk to me.
I should say at this point that I am no plumber. I have a rudimentary understanding of how a central heating system should work – that is to say that if I turn it on, the radiators should heat up, but that is as far as it goes. I have had many jobs in the past, from making picture frames to fixing computers. I have even built my own extension on a property. Plumbing, however, is a dark magic to me. But sometimes God forces us into situations (with our permission) in order to teach us something important.
Our situation meant that calling a plumber was a complete no-no. We have no money. So, I set about teaching myself plumbing. Well, the fundamentals of an open vented central heating system, for that is what we have.
The symptoms generally all pointed to a system clogged up with silt and sludge or an actual blockage. Someone we know, who knows a bit about plumbing himself, gave us a container of ‘power flush’. Good, I thought. I followed the instructions by part draining the system and topping up it at the header tank with the flush. Then I ran the system for a while to try and shift whatever obstruction it was. Even as I was doing this I could sense that God had something to say about it.
I should say, at this point, that I believe that God sent us the Holy Spirit as our helper. Partly. So, I asked for inspiration. I felt inclined to drain the entire system. I was expecting loads of filthy water to drain off but it was pretty clean. So, I refilled the system and added some more of the power flush and let that run for several days. Only I couldn’t. After a few days the boiler started to make some funny noises and then wouldn’t fire up. The error codes that appeared on the boiler’s display were not really very helpful, even when I asked the Holy Spirit, and my other helper, Google.
I decided that as the weather was fairly mild that we would have another go at sorting it out one Sunday morning. A friend and I started to work through what the problems could be. We quickly realised that the reason why the boiler was not working properly was because the pump had failed. So off we went to King’s Lynn in search of a pump.
With the pump fitted we thought that everything would start working. After all, the clean water coming out when we drained it didn’t suggest sludge or a blockage. It could have been a faulty pump all along. But when we fired it back up, we had no heat at all in any radiator. So we drained the system completely and this time lots of filthy water came out. We hoped that refilling the system would finally clear the problems, but it had served only to make it worse.
The boiler was working perfectly. The pump was working perfectly. But there was no heat in any radiators. After around two hours some heat did manage to reach one radiator, but not the 13 others. Dejected, I gave up and left it for another day, grateful that the weather was still fairly mild for November.
The next day I got up and spent about an hour praying about it. I tried again to see how the water ran around the system by closing off all radiators save one. I discovered something about the route the hot water would take. More time in prayer and I was suddenly struck with the idea that the water only appeared to be flowing around a small part of the entire system. I had a very strong feeling to remove the pump and put it back the other way. It made sense that the original pump could have been on wrong all along. It would certainly explain why it broke. However, with the pump running the other way the boiler threw a complete wobbly.
Despondent, I decided to do all that I know now. I gave thanks to God for the trouble and praised Him that He was using it to teach me. And that was the turning point.
Later that evening my friend and I returned the pump to its rightful position. We also felt inclined to shut off a manual override valve that appeared to be on for no good reason. We bled the radiators and found a great deal of air in the system. A plumber once said to me that air is the enemy in any central heating system – it stops the flow of water. We expected that nothing much would change. But do you know what? The entire system worked perfectly. Every radiator we wanted on came on.
The point of my metaphor? Well, imagine that the body of Christ, as a whole, is made up of individual churches that together are the whole body. Imagine those churches to be like radiators in a central heating system – designed to be hot. Imagine that the water is the Holy Spirit flowing around our system keeping us hot. Imagine that the sludge is the sin that is holding us back from working properly. Imagine that our prayer life is represented by the pump. Imagine the sludge breaks the pump. Imagine that each radiator is meant to be connected to each other and not running on shorter circuits of the system. Can you just imagine how efficient, how effective the church would be if we all functioned as God designed us? Can you imagine the heat of the Holy Spirit bringing comfort to all?
That is why I seek agreement and not division. We need a new pump – a new prayer life. We need our systems cleaned out – we need to be rid of the sin that stops us working as we were designed to do. We need to get the hot air from the system by bleeding our radiators and making sure we are all filled to capacity. Only then, when we are running correctly, will it be suitable to add new radiators.
Shalom, be blessed.