The Spirit prepares the Bride

Spirit Bride

Sunday 11/28/21

Message –  The Spirit prepares the Bride

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The Spirit prepares the Bride

Every year God seems to give us a theme

Every year I know it’s going to last through the year even though I don’t see how

This year even more so. Not because there was so much material, which there is, but because I felt more compelled to  carry-on with this topic. 

As you may remember, I was earnestly seeking the Lord last year about this time, asking Him how I as a Shepherd of the sheep – how ANY spiritual leader or even parent for that matter – stirs up a sustainable…maintainable earnestness in our walk. 

How to keep from getting side stepped in our devotion – being drawn off into the mundane by the trappings of life and this world we live in.

God’s answer to me was in the partial quote of a verse “Those who maintain this hope in themselves, purify themselves even as He is pure.” 

I have to admit that at the time, I couldn’t remember what that verse was referring to. What hope

I assumed it was our Great Hope of Christ being formed in us, but I was wrong – it was the return of Christ, which of course, DOES have implications for Christ’s formation in us, but it is more than that. It is not a simple theological truth. It isn’t escapism…it is a cry of the heart of the body of Christ who longs to be with Him – not just to escape the wickedness and drudgery of this fallen world.

So we have explored this since before January of this year and have found that it is a theological backbone of the entire gospel message. Final and eternal union with God at the return of Christ for His bride.

We’ve discovered marital language used frequently in reference to this so that it has become clear that the entire gospel, just like the entire Old Covenant is predicated upon passion for God. 

Think about it… THAT is the first and greatest commandment. That is significant! 

  • It isn’t obey the Lord you God with all diligence. 
  • It isn’t live holy and righteously before a holy God. 

In fact it isn’t anything any of us would have thought of. 

What it says is quite surprising really. 

In fact, we’ve become so over familiar with it that it’s shock value has worn thin.

The first and (according to Jesus Himself) the greatest of all the commandments is to Love the Lord your God with EVERYTHING THAT YOU ARE! 

There you have it…passion, from the beginning!

So is it really any wonder that the backbone of the gospel message is eternal union with God?!

As we have advanced through this subject this year, one thing has become clear. Even THIS topic of passionately longing and looking for His return can itself become mundane if all it is…is teaching.

At some point, you are going to have to respond…you are going to have to keep the first and greatest commandment or at very least cry out in faith and desperation to God to help you do so.

So, as so often happens this time of year, I have been reflecting on all we have covered and I still find it wanting. 

I find myself asking under my breath… Lord, how do we get this from the printed page to the heart in a way in which it is believed enough to live it?

And one name comes irresistibly to mind…the Holy Spirit of God!

Turn with me to John 14

I was telling Teri about this yesterday and I find myself wishing you could somehow eavesdrop on that conversation because it flowed so naturally and logically. 

Teri asked me why John 14-16

The conversation that ensued took us from… 

  • the 10 virgins which have been on my mind for weeks now.
    • Oil
    • Holy Spirit
    • Filled with or empty no middle ground
  • The idea of a lukewarm heart and the response that elicits from Christ. 
  • Being filled with the Spirit…
  • and the koinonia we have been invited into with Him.
  • The passion we saw in the offerings of the Old Testament. 
  • The passion of Christ Himself
  • The work and influence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s heart. 

So in John 14-16 is where we see Jesus first bringing Him up as the future, full-time person of the Godhead Who will be with each person in the body until Christ’s return and so it seems like a logical place to start.

John 14:1-17,

“(1) Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. (3) If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. (4) You know the way where I am going.” (5) “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (7) “If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” (8) “Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” (9) Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (10) Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. (11) Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. (12) “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (13) Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (15) “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (16) And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. (17) He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.”

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!