The unveiling of the Church.

The Unveiling of the Church.

“You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News”. “                                                                      Colossians 1:21-23


For as long as most of us can remember, our desire as Christians has been for the Church in our generation to experience the same explosive growth that the first century Church knew. In looking for a reason why we have not seen what we have long desired, we appear to return constantly to the conclusion that it must be because we are woefully inferior in our purity of life and devotion to God. This conclusion has led to one message being constantly presented as the solution to all our problems. This message is preached in churches every week the length and breadth of the nation. It comes in a thousand different forms, with ten thousand different titles and illustrations and a multitude of scripture verses are called upon to justify it. What is this great message, that the Church is pinning her hopes upon? This message, running through every one of those thousands of sermons can be summed up in just two words; Try harder!

It comes as a surprise then, to discover that the early Church wasn’t as different to us as we think. In its early years, the Church was in the main made up of Jews, not Gentiles. They were a New Covenant people, brought up on stories of Old Covenant heroes. They too in their thinking, were a mixture of Old and New covenants, of Law and Grace. They were as mixed up as we are today!

These Jewish Christians carried over into their new life, the old time religion; a deep reverence for Moses and the Law. That mixture of Law and Grace, many Christians today call “balance”. The apostle Paul had quite another name for the belief that the old wineskin can hold the new wine. He simply called it a perversion of the Gospel (Galatians 1:6,7) and recognised immediately that this ‘balanced’ message was undermining the pure foundation of Christ alone, that he had laid in his churches. He saw the seductive appeal of the “try harder to be holier for God” message and repeatedly warned believers not to “drift away” from the Gospel of God’s grace that he had preached to them (Gal.5:1-9). He recognised how it appealed to the pride of man, the idea that we can move God by our piety (Rom.10:1-4). He saw it begin to infect the body of Christ and the division that inevitably resulted and in his letter to the Galatians he attacked the “try harder” message with the same zeal that a surgeon takes a knife to a cancer growing on the body. His scalpel was the Gospel of Grace and with it he set about to unbind a people who were alive, yet wrapped up so tight in their own performance that they were blind to the fullness of what had been gifted to them; a totally new life, dead to sin, dead to the Law and alive to God (Gal.2:19. Rom.7:4). They were very much like Lazarus; risen from the dead but not aware of his new life because he was still bound by grave clothes. Lazarus though bound and blinded, was not half dead or half alive. He was fully alive. He was just wearing the wrong clothes for someone fully alive! Jesus instruction was “Loose Him and let him go!” For those who loved him, the first part of Lazarus they would surely have unveiled would have been his eyes.

That is a report of what is happening across the body of Christ, in every place where the Holy Spirit is opening the eyes of Christians to reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). The veil is being taken away, the veil of guilt and condemnation that lies over the hearts and minds of believers who have not seen themselves as righteous in Christ, but still as sinners under the Law (2.Cor.3:9, 2.Peter.1:9). That veil has been a hindrance to believers boldly drawing near their Father, in full assurance of His love for them and for the world (Hebrews 10:19-22). The result has been a church full of elder brothers, who have sought to impress their distant father by the strength of their devotion to Him. When sons live for so long like slaves, the danger is they will end up resisting the message of their father’s generosity, for it appears to take no account of their sacrifices (Luke 15:29,30, Romans 10:1-4).

The angel did not ask Mary to produce Christ, but to bear Christ (Luke1:31). To not understand the difference between producing and bearing, will condemn you to a life of misery, as you strive to produce holiness through church life, rather than bear holiness through Christ life. The gospel of grace is the revelation of that difference

The basis for receiving and experiencing the wholeness of life in Christ, is Jesus’s life. The work of the Holy Spirit is to unveil this life in every believer, and the effect of this unveiling is transformational (2.Cor.3:18).

This year, let us continue to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the greatest and most profound mystery, that in Christ, we stand before God holy and blameless, without a single fault (Col.1:21-23). Let us allow Him to root us and ground us so deeply into this truth, His life, that Christ is manifested in our lives as never before, to the glory of God and the salvation of this generation (John 15:4,5)