New Testament Pattern

Passing through Jericho

/// Sundry thoughts...

"And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho."

In recent days I have become increasingly aware of ever-growing numbers of the Lord’s people either drawing aside from ‘traditional churches’ so called and/or using such language as returning to/restoring the New Testament church etc. I am one of them on both counts! However, what all must be careful of in all matters that concern the work of the Holy Spirit and the growth of our understanding of The Word is this, and I quote from memory Oswald Chambers I think (?): “Beware of the law of reaction!”

What is the ‘law of reaction’? In my experience and belief it is a tool that satan uses to keep the Lord’s people from ‘walking a straight path’. It works like this: You receive revelation from God that ‘traditional church’ has really missed the mark, and there is in the pages of the New Testament a record preserved for us that shows unto us a more excellent way. Satan (adversary) will try every which way he can to keep you from going that more excellent way. However, when every attempt to dissuade you from such a course has failed he next employs plan B. Plan B is ‘the law of reaction’! He can’t stop you from pursuing some new path so he encourages you to walk that path to the utmost. So much to the utmost that many then swing like a pendulum and instead of walking the straight path in simple faithfulness to what God has shown them, they then, sooner or later, start to behave in ways that are actually akin to that very thing that they have just reacted from, only in the opposite extreme. Does this sound familiar?

I could generalize this principle and go on, but in this article I would like to address a very specific and relevant form of this ‘reactionary’ thinking. The subject is, as already used for example above, ‘Traditional Church’ versus New Testament (style/pattern/authentic/whatever term you prefer) Church’.

From my earliest days of life in Jesus I knew instinctively (later much more clearly doctrinally) that most of what is called Church in this world, both historically and today, is nothing more than a heinous substitute for normal, New Testament Church life and practice. BUT… and this is so important that we do not fail to recognize this; The One True Church, i.e. all people in the world, from all walks of life, throughout the world’s history who are truly ‘in Christ’ exists and has existed both within the ‘systems of men’ and without (outside of) them.

Jesus told us a parable about ‘the Wheat and the Tares’. The point of the parable was that there are those who are the ‘true’ children of God and there are those who are ‘look-alikes’. Ultimately, only God can state with 100% certainty in every instance, which is which. The two are inextricably bound together. Therefore, no action is to be taken regarding this ‘problem’ until the day of harvest. The presence of tares among the wheat is the explanation of many a great ‘mystery’ concerning the history of God’s people.

Now we are coming to the point. Along with the individual impostors (most of whom I do not think for one minute that they are deliberately impersonating Christians!) there has arisen all kinds of ‘systems of men’, all trying to bottle/contain the workings of the Spirit of God amongst His Church. The histories, reasons and developments of such systems are far too broad a topic to even attempt a summary of here. The vital thing that must be understood and accepted is this, whether we like it or not, to varying degrees God’s true people (those who really are His blood-bought children) have always been caught up in this field of mixed crop. Concerning all the different manifestations of these various systems it would again be too big a task to try and identify how far or how near they all are to being a genuine ‘church’ still or a false one. I cannot begin to summarise all these institutions.

Those of the Lord’s people, who know, with both heart and mind, that the New Testament Pattern of things is the proper and right way to go, must of course seek the opportunity to walk such a path. However, the law of reaction can easily come in and swing us to such an extreme that we start to deny that there is anyone at all in these various ‘systems’ who are truly the Lord’s people. This is a grave error of thinking. Not only is this simply not true, but also, such a way of thinking will (on an earthly level so to speak) cut us off not solely from the ‘systems’ themselves, but also from our genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, who are without question caught up among the multitude of tares in these places. By the way, I am not for one second suggesting that the tares do not exist among those who consider themselves to be ‘out of the system’ either. Wherever there is good wheat there’ll be tares as well.

Now to the ‘Jericho’ part – the title of this article, this is a personal testimony…

I have long since understood that the better way for Church/Christian life is to follow (with understanding!) the instructions and examples we have in the New Testament. There can be little doubt that an unbiased study of the New Testament Church does definitely lead to a completely different picture to the one that is usually held up for the world to see under the banner of ‘The Church’. I know full well the Scripture that says, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4) and other such similar statements there are in our New Testament. But of course we need to discern the difference between that which is ‘not as it should be’ and that which is unashamedly filthy and abominable. Many of the New Testament churches were not entirely as they should have been but Paul did not instantly and emphatically command all to come out of them.

My personal experience a few years ago was this. I was ‘attending’ (that’s personal code for ‘going along to but not really at heart a part of’) a church in the local area. It was not utterly corrupt but things were certainly not as they should have been. In particular, my big focus at the time was this great subject of the authentic New Testament Church. I had previously been privileged to meet with a small band of believers, very much in what I consider to be the New Testament fashion. However, I, along with my family, had moved location, and certainly at the first God had led us to this particular group and so we started to meet there. It didn’t take long before I was feeling complete frustration in these circumstances and yet God was saying most clearly, “this is where I want you for the present time.” And here is lesson number one. God, for whatever His reasons (He is Lord of all) may put us where so ever He pleases. It is my discovery that when God does lead us to a new situation, be it church, work or where we live, the first and foremost reason is, not because of what He is going to do through you, but because of what He wants to do in you. It is a blessing to be cherished should we also be used to speak or do His work whilst we are there.

My frustrations grew and my desperate desire to depart the situation grew with them. In retrospect, it was not God’s timing (for whatever His reasons) but I couldn’t stand it any longer, I decided that I wouldn’t announce that I was leaving or anything like that, but I would just perhaps not go along for a while and maybe, somehow, the Lord would sort of round it all off and take me elsewhere. For any child of God who finds himself out of God’s will there is no peace, no blessing. I explained my circumstances to a much-respected friend. I told him, with great logic, that thus and thus was God’s pattern for the Church. My only desire was to meet with other Christians in the proper way of things. I really couldn’t see how it could be God’s will for me to carry on going to this place when all it resulted in was my own frustration. In my own words now, this was his reply…

“Jesus passed through Jericho!”

“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” (Luke 19:1).

You’ll know no doubt that when the Lord did pass through Jericho a blind man was healed – Hallelujah! My friend went on to explain that Jericho was a city destroyed by the people of God (under Joshua). Maybe you’ll remember too that a curse was put upon that city afterwards:

“And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho : he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.” (Joshua 6:26)

This prophecy was fulfilled:

“In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.” (1 Kings 16:34).

The spiritual lesson that God, through my friend, spoke to me was this. Jericho was not a city built according to God’s plan and purposes. In fact it had been quite in opposition to the work of God and His people. YET… when Jesus came, He condescended to pass through such a place – “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” Our Lord of Glory passed through such a place and worked a work of miraculous proportions. I knew what God was saying to me at that time, “you know my son, this is a Jericho, but I have decided that this is the place where I want you to be for the present time, for so it pleases me.”

Here I could simply say “THE END.” For so it is when God speaks a word direct into our hearts. I obeyed. I continued at that place until such a time that God spoke quite dramatically again into the situation (but that’s another story as they say).

My message here is this: “beware of the law of reaction.” Of course there is a time to say, “come out of her my people etc.” But I believe that there is a difference between a Babylon and a Jericho. As also there is a difference again in a Jerusalem – the city of God’s delight. Keep aiming for Jerusalem, the Lord bless you in finding those of like heart and mind, but never forget that HIS CHURCH cannot be seen with the outward eye, for it is hidden in the cleft of Jesus side. Discern the tares where you can, seek the corner of the field where the wheat is strong, but remember … you are not The Husbandman of the field. Only He alone can ultimately separate the wheat from the tares, and when the time is right He will.

The Lord bless all who desire the proper way of things in all areas of our Christian walk. But do be careful to discern The Body (recognising that God has those who fear Him in all sorts of places!). Some, for whatever reasons, may be passing through a Jericho.

Passing through Jericho - coping with system church

Passing through Jericho

Coping with system church!