Random Blog Clay Feet: March 18, 2008
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corporate Body

I just received a question in the comments for a recent post that I think is very good and needs careful consideration. This arises from my series of posts about my visit to a community of the 12 Tribes a number of days ago. I am not setting myself up as an authority here in answering this question but I feel a need to stimulate genuine thinking on the part of everyone including myself to pursue a clearer understanding of reality and what is true and healthy for us as well as what may be enslaving our minds and hearts while leading us to think we are God's chosen people.

First I would like to repeat the question here and my short answer that I left in the comments and then explore further what I feel impressed is some of the important issues raised here. The question from an anonymous reader was:

Do you think God will find a people willing to do His will? Not just scattered individuals, but a corporate body at His beck and call?

This is my posted answer:

I really appreciate your question and I think I would like to take a whole post to address it. In brief here is my belief about this. The biggest problem I have seen in every attempt to duplicate what is described about the church early in the book of Acts is the human interference and manipulation to achieve what only the Holy Spirit has the right and ability to do. I looked up the word "corporate" in dictionary.com just now and here are two definitions. 3. done by or characteristic of individuals acting together; "a joint identity"; "the collective mind"; "the corporate good" 4. organized and maintained as a legal corporation; "a special agency set up in corporate form"; "an incorporated town" Unfortunately the last definition is always closer to what churches and organizations designed by humans always end up being in an attempt to achieve the first definition. Will God find a people willing to do His will as a corporate body? My answer to that is completely conditional on the assumptions buried in the word corporate. Thank-you so much for helping me think about this more and I would love to dialog further about this with you if you are willing. I will write a post on this maybe even today.

Do I think God will find a people willing to do His will? Absolutely. But I will also preface that by insisting that in reality He will not find them – like as in discovering them or running across them somewhere – but will find them because His own Spirit drew them individually to Himself and they were willing to be drawn. The underlying assumptions are vastly different between thinking it is up to us to get ourselves ready and organize a special group so that God can accept us or believing that we are completely helpless to change or do anything as sinful humans unless God supplies all the desire and ability.

If God did not keep us artificially alive we could not even exist to even make any choices. Because we are born into a sinful human race we are disqualified technically from even deserving life at all. But because God is not as interested in technical pre-qualifications as He is in harmonious, love-bonded direct relationships with His children, He has demonstrated His mercy and grace and provided time for us to exercise the only thing we really own – our power of choice. Dependent on the ultimate settled choice that we make, we will either be transformed back into His image as we were originally created in Adam and Eve or we will be deformed into the image of God's enemy and suffer the tragic consequences that will be suffered in the end by Satan.

I think the danger always lies in thinking that somehow we have to perform what God has clearly indicated is only possible in Him. We artificially set up preconditions to salvation that were never God's idea or plan. We fail to realize that there is nothing we can ever do or say to get God to love us or to save us in heaven. Not understanding the real definition of the word salvation we inadvertently believe we have to establish our own righteousness (or at least a certain amount) before God is willing to save us. But an honest study of Paul's writings and the teachings of the Son of God will reveal that God is the one who only can transform us and eliminate sin from our lives. The only real thing we can do to facilitate that process of cleansing and renewal (which is what salvation really means) is to keep giving God permission to live in and motivate us from within our spirit.

One of the most misused texts in the Bible about this subject is misunderstood precisely because it is not viewed in the context of the even more important verse immediately following it. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

The second part of the question is something that I also want to carefully consider with an open mind as I hope each person thinking about this will also be willing to do. Will there be a corporate body of people willing to do His will?

As noted in my first response to this question, there is more than one definition of the word corporate and in that lies the real problem. Depending on which definition is assumed by the person making the statement, the answer could be a resounding yes or also a resounding no. I notice more and more that in trying to dialog with others about matters of importance that too much of our disagreements come about because the two parties are utilizing quite different definitions for the common words they are using in the discussion and that disparity creates a great deal of confusion, heated debate and sometimes even animosity. I find it necessary to sometimes make certain that it is understood what my words mean before I even make a statement so that an honest listener will have a better chance of knowing what I am really trying to convey.

Ultimately however, a common understanding or at least mutual respect, will only come about if the spirit of the people involved is of the right source. There can appear to be wonderful unity and agreement among a group of people who all subscribe to the same ideas or follow a common leader but the spirit that motivates them may not necessarily be of God. Conversely there may also be much disagreement between parties who are coming from different directions on some subject who strive to be understood or influence each other's opinions, but if they are willing to keep their own spirit within the sweet influence of God's true Spirit and pursue diligently an attitude of humility and love toward the other, the world will be astounded at the revelation of God that will emerge as the Holy Spirit brings about reconciliation and progressive harmony. The condition of our spirit is far more important and critical to true unity and fellowship than the correctness of our doctrines.

I wanted to visit all of that as a prerequisite for addressing this question about a corporate body because it has so much potential for controversy and alienation if not related to in the right spirit. What I want to say about this may appear to be wrong or antagonistic to some people but I believe that God will guide each of us who are willing to listen with a priority of staying in tune with His attitude.

Our beliefs about religion are always reflective of our preconceived pictures of God. If a person believes that God is one who is sitting up in heaven waiting for humans or some group of humans to get their act together before He can act, then it would be easy to see how we might believe that it is up to us to get the world prepared (whatever that happens to mean depending on which religious brand you subscribe to) so that He can return to earth. I understand that kind of mentality for I grew up in that kind of belief system, but I no longer feel confident in that kind of man-centered religion. One thing I have noticed is that all religions tend to focus attention on man and his performance more than on God and the real truth about His character. As a result we have all the millions of multiplied ideas and formulas about how to be saved as seen in the world today, most of which claim to be the exclusive truth and denying the rightness of all others.

Because of the egocentric nature of most religion it is only natural to follow that it is up to men to accomplish God's purposes here on earth. As a result we look at the words of God or the prophecies in the Bible and come to believe that to a great extent we are going to have to make them happen. Or we might take the stance that God forces His prophecies to take place even if He has to personally interfere with the natural flow of human history and activities to accomplish that. We have such a difficult time trusting that God could simply be relaying to humans through prophecy what He can see more plainly than we can predict what happened in our lives yesterday. God does not need to force into reality what He already knows will happen without His intervention. Our perceptions of God are amazingly puny.

But that is a little off the main point here. Will there be an actual group of people on earth that could be described as a corporate body acceptable to God? Again I would say a resounding yes given that we make this statement with the right underlying assumptions. Let me first be very explicit about what I believe is the real truth and then address my concerns about what I believe are false assumptions or misguided applications of this idea.

I firmly believe based on what I find in the Word of God and other inspired sources including the impressions of the Holy Spirit, that God is going to personally oversee the assembly of a corporate body of believers who have allowed the sweet Spirit of Jesus to so infiltrate their hearts and transform their minds that they will individually be directed and orchestrated by the Spirit of God to act in harmony and unity with all others who are also thus led. But most importantly I want to point out that this assembly of true disciples (those mentored directly by the Spirit of God) will not be following any human intermediaries claiming to speak for God. When we look to a human as our source for truth it is a direct assault on the freedom of conscience so fiercely protected and valued by our Creator. Anyone claiming to be an authority and a source of truth that others must conform to or be lost is attempting to usurp the place of the Holy Spirit and is really taking on the spirit of anti-Christ. No matter how convincing or appealing, persuasive or emotionally comforting they may be, no human has the right or authority to intimidate others or speak as God to the conscience of any other human being. To do so is to set one's self up as a false god. The first commandment clearly forbids having any other gods in our lives as a priority or influence other than Yahweh, the supreme God – no exceptions.

When I use the word corporate in relating to the body of Christ, I only use it as relating to the meaning as in: done by or characteristic of individuals acting together; "a joint identity"; "the collective mind"; "the corporate good". I even qualify this to add that all of this emanates from purely the coordination of the work of God's Spirit and not by any human devices, teachings or programs.

The counterfeit and the characteristics most widely seen in demonstrations of this is the other definition noted above: organized and maintained as a legal corporation; "a special agency set up in corporate form". This is the artificial human model of organization utilized by governments and societies for human-oriented purposes. Do you realize that in our country a corporation is also considered officially as a person? It is really only a fiction on paper but in the fictional world created by governments of men it holds great importance.

Since this man-controlled model is pretty much the only one seen on earth except on rare occasions, it is easy to see why we settle for this model mixed with the previous one and believe that this is what God intended for His body. But this is not God's design for His people and anything that has the fingerprints of humans in its construction is not going to be the true corporate body that God is going to demonstrate before all the universe at the close of this earth's history. To believe that we must assist God in patching together a body of like-minded people imitating the outward symptoms seen in the early Christian church is to play God with the hearts of innocent people and will ultimately lead to disaster sooner or later. To subscribe to this way of thinking means that the God we believe in is simply not big enough to handle the job and He needs our help to bring to pass the final events of the Great Controversy.

God does not need us – not really. But He is intensely desirous of our fellowship with Him and as such chooses to offer us the privilege of participating with His work in the wrapping up of His trial before the universe. For if one takes a look at the much bigger picture of what is really going on in the Great Universal Controversy it is God who is being accused, who is on trial and who is calling everyone forward as witnesses to state what they think about Him. Everyone is a witness whether they claim to be religious or not. He offers to transform the lives of anyone (religious or not) willing to cooperate with His plan of salvation (restoration) and in doing so transform their testimony about Him to be more truthful. We are not the focus of the trial – God is!!! When we get this into our selfish, egocentric minds and realize our true role in this universe we will be much more likely to cooperate with God's desire for us to be conformed into His image and be released from the bondage of fear and the slavery of sin. Anything other than this is a cheap imitation that will collapse in the light of the glorious truth about our loving Father.

Anytime there are counterfeits it means that somewhere there will soon be found the genuine that is extremely superior to all counterfeit imitations. So far all I have seen is counterfeit “bodies” claiming to be the body of Christ. I am eager to see the real body emerge from the fog with the clear trademark glowing from their lives of the perfect humility and sweetness of the Holy Spirit and the likeness of Jesus. It will not be manipulated or designed by any human being or be under the domination or control of any human being. It will be an amazement to all the world in its ability to perfectly function and coordinate without any visible control system and will by its very presence expose all other counterfeits for what they really are. Then everyone will be faced with a final choice as to whether to cling to the comfortable systems they have enjoyed for so long or to be out of step with everyone around them and become part of the radical Christianity spontaneously motivated by the Spirit of God and His Spirit alone.

I want to refer at this point to stories that come from the old Soviet Union and the dark, oppressive days of communism when Christians were in danger of their lives for worshiping together. There were times when the spies and secret police were so effective that true believers did not even dare to share with each other the place and time when they could meet for worship. Obviously this would normally prevent them from doing so at all except for one very amazing secret that the spies could never penetrate. The believers learned that if they listened individually to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that still small voice that Elijah was reminded to listen to, that miraculously they could all come together at the same place and time and then worship in perfect peace knowing that no one among them might be a dissenter since it was not any human directive that had brought them together. Since only those who were in tune and harmony with the Spirit of God could hear that Spirit and respond to it, all those who thus worshiped together were assured that each person there was safe to trust and they could fellowship together without inhibition or fear. That is the very same Spirit that is going to operate in a similar manner to assemble the true body of Christ in the final days of this world's tragic history.

When this true body is seen “corporately”, it will be very similar to that seen in the early days of the Christian movement. But there will be absolutely no force or fear or control to motivate them just as there was none in the early days of the Christian believers. The early church did not have a rule that new believers must give up all their possessions to join the body, they did so only because they were motivated by the liberating Spirit of Jesus and their heart priorities were so radically turned upside down that they felt no more attachments to what they previously had clung to so strongly. Jesus became the overwhelming and overriding passion of their lives. The disciples did not have to create and enforce rules to hold the early believers together because the power of the love of Jesus was so intense in each heart that all they could think of doing was to press together in sweet, unselfish fellowship and look out for the need of those with whom they were bonded in perfect love.

Some may claim that the story of Ananias and Sapphira proves that the apostles had a rule about giving up everything to join the church and that they employed fear and intimidation to hold the believers together. But after a careful study of this chapter and with consideration of the context I have come to the conclusion that we have dreadfully misinterpreted this story to support our mistaken notions and our desires to control the church of God. It is very clear in the story that they did not have to do what they volunteered to do. The problem was not that they did not bring all the money but the real problem was in the deception and pride that they harbored in their heart. The reason they died was not because God was mad at them but was because evil hidden in the heart when brought into proximity to the pure and holy passion ever present where God is produces such intense inner conflict that death is the inevitable result. They were trying to introduce a human-based, corrupt spirit of pride into a pure atmosphere still charged with the electric presence of the pure sweetness, humility and unselfishness of God and the two are always a fatal mix.

Likewise, when the true body of real believers begins to coalesce in these last days, there will likely be scenes similar to this story that will easily be misconstrued to slander the truth about God and His people. As the pure passion of God becomes more evident in the purified lives of His true followers, that rarefied atmosphere will became dangerous and even lethal to anyone trying to bring their selfish heart into fellowship with those who are completely devoted and swallowed up in the love and kindness of God's true Spirit. The final polarization will take place as everyone is compelled by default to either surrender fully to the sweet influence of the Spirit of Jesus in personal, direct communion with Him or they will embrace some brand of counterfeit that claims to unify the religious and moral agendas set forth by their human leaders.

When this true glory of God fills the whole earth with the real light of God as prophesied in Revelation 18, the darkness of all counterfeits will be exposed and the myriad false systems of beliefs about God represented in Revelation as Babylon will collapse. No humans will orchestrate this event just as no humans can put together the body of Christ. Only the true Creator can create His body and when it becomes evident I want to be a small part of that body. In the meantime I want to be part of the pre-assembly process of learning to fellowship with small parts of the body and learn to be moved and guided by the Spirit that promises to accomplish this work in the true power that God uses – the power of unadulterated love and love alone.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)