As this series comes to a close, I want to focus on the Church, the bride of Christ. In Jesus’s eyes, we are the pearl of great price, as He is also to us. I feel His lamenting over our fallen condition; so often we fall very short of what we could be, what He intends us to be. Truly did Jesus say, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18 v8b). We could be so much more! Yet, so often we find the ‘comforts’ of Egypt to be preferable to His promises. Why? Because it is hard, and we prefer the precariousness of false comforts. Still, He loves us so much, it will not stay this way….
The snake and the Church
16th February 2006
I saw a giant snake, long and thick, coiled around a reclined human figure. The figure was pasty white and bloated, obviously unhealthy. The figure seemed oblivious to his position (the figure seemed masculine, but the sex was not important), and was stuffing his face with cake.
It’s as if I was seeing this with the Lord. I perceived the snake as satan / the world, and the reclining figure as representative of the Church. I saw the grip that the world had on the Church, and the oblivious nature of Church to the entwining coils. Indeed, for me the relined posture and the cake represented an active complicity in the whole picture.
I guess I expected the Lord to be angry. But instead I became aware of his great compassion and unbounded love for the whole Church. Even a Church that was willingly complicit in its own enslavement. It often seems that way, either I get a sense of profound judgment, or of unlooked for and undeserved compassion and love. This time it was most definitely the latter, and I had the sense that I was given some understanding of how the Lord views our (western) Church.
As I was looking at this, I became aware that the Lord was totally in charge of this situation, and that He was biding His time. “When I’m ready……..”. I saw an axe in place to lop off the snakes’ head. The impression I had was that it would be an immediate and cathartic action – an overnight judgement. For the man, the human figure representing the Church, it would be to his ultimate salvation and healing. I saw that if this was not done, the Church would undergo a slow death through engorgement. The Lord made me aware of this, and that His judgement on the snake was to be to the Church’s salvation.
However, it would be far from easy, not comfortable in any way. For the man, it would be deeply painful, just like a drug addict forced to kick his habit. For a Church entwined by the world, and deeply complicit in that entwinement, this would be a most painful salvation; indeed to the Church it would seem nothing like being saved, at least to begin with.
The Lords’ ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts (Is 55 v8).
Consider also His judgment of the false teachers that lead His flock astray….
2 Peter 2
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. ……. 17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
For those who assume that Christianity is (or should be) ‘nice’, ‘kind’ or ‘gentle’, may find the above a little disconcerting. Why such a harsh denunciation? Well, before answering that question it’s worth considering first the genuine article.
That fact is Christianity is not safe, it is not timid, it is not about being nice and kind. Aslan is not a safe lion. He is, however, good. The Way of the Cross costs everything, and nothing, simultaneously. The path of salvation is free, and it will claim everything you have. It is the pearl of great price that costs both the finder and creator everything. It is our only hope, and it is a Hope that leads us to a Life that is beyond compare.
It is the beautiful sunrise, the music of angels, the new seed risen from the earth in springtime, the tall redwood lifting majestically from the forest floor, the white expanse stretching to the horizon in the deep cold of winter, the mysteries of the ocean depths, the high peaks of the distant mountains. It is all these things, and more, moving to places where words and human imagery do not suffice. Sometimes, when the veil is thin, we know. Othertimes, the weight of the world seems to all but crush that hope from us. This is our Hope, our only Hope, that Christ died, and rose, and even now prepares a place for us who have believed in His name, taken up our cross and followed Him.
When you understand this, when you can see these things, even though they seem far off, you must therefore understand why the harshest judgment is rendered to those who would lead the people astray. These false teachers and prophets who, not having the Truth within them, take the things of God, and turn them to the doctrines of demons.
The greatest heresy is the one that contains the greatest amount of truth. We respond to the truth, and then run the danger of swallowing the lie too. The things of God are used for the most debased ends – rather than conforming ourselves to the word of God we conform the word of God to our own image, twisting and perverting the Bible so that it will say what we want it to say, using it as a cheap salve to our rapidly deadening consciences.
No wonder there is such a great condemnation to those who ‘return to their vomit’, and more than that, actively encourage others to enter the same degradation. Those who would call good evil, and evil good. There is such a Life, such a Prize ahead of us, no wonder that those who seek to deceive, to offer a cheap gaudy imitation, are judged most severely.
What do we do when we discern those who are unrepentantly preaching heresy? Who will not be corrected, and whose consciences are seared? We know, for it is in the Book – flee from them, flee far from them. The Lord knows our frame, knows we are dust. Grappling with them is like grappling with the tar baby. The more we try to correct, the more they twist and turn, adding a dash of heresy here, and unorthodox thought there, until it is hard to discern anything. We are at spiritual risk while we stay near such people. Hence – flee from them – their mouths are like the open grave and their way leads only to death.
We must be sober, alert, and aware, for the time grows short. Deception will increase, even deception that will sway the elect. What then are we to do? For, in our humanity, we cannot discern, or understand the nature of all heresies.
Well friends, we can do no other and no better than to turn everything, including ourselves, over to God. He knows our hearts. If our hearts are for Him, it is because His heart was first for us. He knows our frame, and if we do not lean on our own understanding, but on Him, then we are leaning on the Rock of Ages that cannot crumble. There is no better place to be. He will keep our feet from stumbling, our eyes from blindness, our heart from hardness.
If we always keep our eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we will run the Race to the finish line, there to claim the great Prize for which Christ died.