“so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10
With Covid restrictions lessening, believers in our nation are resuming in person corporate worship and small group involvement. While I’m thrilled with this, I’m also concerned. My concern is this: Fruit that God is pleased with is never guaranteed just because believers gather together. The kingdom of God will not necessarily advance just because believers come together. The church will not necessarily be found pleasing to the Lord when it gathers in whatever form or place.
Corporate worship, group prayer and group Bible studies, home groups, etc., will never go any deeper than the individual rootedness of its members. As the apostle Paul tried to explain to the church in Colossae, it is only as each member “….holds fast to the head,” that “…the entire body” is “…supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments.”Colossians 2:19. “Joints and ligaments” refer to the God ordained relationships that He has for each of us in our spiritual communities and beyond.
Jesus – the Head of the church - wants to pour out “supply” – His very life through those who gather together. But He can only do that through those who are “holding fast to the Head” as a lifestyle.
Getting firmly rooted in God or “holding fast to the Head” is our highest calling, highest priority and our greatest privilege. Whether we look at it through the lens of “loving” God, or “knowing” God, or “seeking” God, or “walking with” God, this is our highest and greatest pursuit in life, and by far the most satisfying and centering. Only when every member of Christ’s church makes this highest priority their own, will we see His will and purposes accomplished through our corporate gatherings – however large or small. (Our lack of not living by this highest priority is not a reason not to gather. Rather it is a reason when we gather to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we might increasingly live by this highest priority).
For us to be able to discern His will and working and voice when we gather corporately, those gathering must be learning to discern this at an individual level in their daily lives. If we members of the body, rely on our own understanding and resources at our jobs or in school, or while at home being homemakers and caregivers; if we are not learning to abide in Him, rely on Him, hearing and responding to His voice and direction in our normal daily lives, then when we gather what He has ordained for our gatherings will be stifled and short circuited.
One of the reasons I want to talk about this for a while is we have a great propensity to get side tracked or distracted with lesser things in our normal daily lives. Whether it be obvious lesser things like playing too much golf or watching too many movies, or not so obvious lesser things like getting involved in too many ministries or Christian activities, or pursuing too many friendships, or becoming news junkies, workaholics, etc., the temptation to pursue less important if not down right destructive things is always a danger. And when we do, our gatherings are adversely affected.
I believe God has used the Covid pandemic, and the election drama (in the U.S.A.) to sift and purify His church, and to shake up the lost. As a result, we in the church are going to see more and more people turning to Christ or turning to the Church for help. This is a wonderful opportunity that we need to steward well. And the best way to steward these opportunities well is by getting these people focused on the main thing or the most important thing early and firmly, which we can only do if we are focused on the main thing ourselves.
So if this is so important, and is what God always wanted and expected of us, wouldn’t He have communicated this from the very beginning?
Interestingly in the foundational book we call Genesis, there is no command to love, know, seek or walk with God. Part of the reason for that is the nature of Genesis as literature - that is it is not didactic literature or wisdom literature, but rather narrative literature. In the book of Genesis we see stories. We see people walking with God (or not), and the fruit of that in their lives and in the lives of those they touch. Sadly, many believers are somewhat familiar with the stories in Genesis, but have not through meditation and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit seen what lies beneath the stories.
Think with me about Adam and then Adam and Eve. both of whom were created "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:26,27), which among other things gave them the ability to think, work, and carry on relationships with Him, and with one another in the midst of their work.
God created Adam first (Gen. 2:7) and placed him in the garden God had created. Please don’t think of this garden as the one you might have built in a few planter boxes in your back yard. The garden of Eden was more likely acres wide and acres long. It was probably filled with all kinds of fruit trees and other kinds of vegetation that had to be managed daily. God instructed Adam to “cultivate it and keep it” (2:15). Now please note there was no precedent for this; no neighbors to share notes with; no parents to get advice from; no Cal Poly online classes or online forums. The only source to learn from and get tips from, and to solve problems with (e.g. how to prune all those fruit trees; and how to protect crops from animals, birds and insects, etc.) was God.
We don’t know how long Adam lived before God created Eve. It could have been weeks, months or years. We do know that the Lord God brought to Adam every beast of the field and every bird of the sky to name. And that project itself could have taken many days or many weeks because while God never sleeps, man does; and he has to eat and use the bathroom, stretch, etc., and Adam probably observed the Sabbath (see Gen. 2:2,3), which gave him only six days a week to work at this.
Please note that God brought the animals, Adam named them. God has always been into partnerships with His creation. He never meant to give us a mission or calling or career or task, and then watch us pursue it alone (or without Him), leaning on our own resources.
I’m confident there was lots of conversation back and forth with Adam and God, and then with Adam and Eve and God. It is very possible that Adam and Eve enjoyed relationship with each other, and fellowship and partnership with God for months or even years before they fell for Satan’s trap. One of the reasons we can be reasonably confident of this is after Adam and Eve fell, we learn from Genesis 3:8 that they were used to His regular visits. “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” In this massive garden there were all kinds of sounds. But they had learned God’s sound, and before the fall it was a most wonderful sound; a sound they ran to and welcomed. Now because of sin and the shame it produces, they hid themselves when God, as He had routinely done, came to fellowship with them. Knowing from the rest of Scripture how much God delights in our fellowship, and how much is in His heart for each of us, it is reasonable to believe they heard God’s sound and enjoyed His fellowship multiple times a day.
One final observation about Adam and Eve’s relationship with God, and God’s desire and intent for them to know Him and walk with Him and love Him is this: While we are not told in the book of Genesis that God instructed them to pursue knowing and walking with Him and loving Him, God definitely wanted Adam to know how deeply grieved He was that Adam chose to ignore God’s voice, and rather listened to man’s (in this case his wife’s). Read these words carefully: “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’, Cursed is the ground because of you….” Genesis 3:17.
One of God’s greatest complaints and reasons for His many judgments of His people Israel is that they did not listen to and obey His voice (see Num. 14:22, Deut. 8:20, Judges 2:20, Jer. 22:21, etc.). God is a living, personal, relational God who has much to say to His people. When we choose listening to a fellow human out of a desire to be pleasing to them, rather than listen to our Creator and Maker’s voice out of a desire to relate to and please Him, He cannot and will not overlook this great sin until we repent.
BTW Husbands, Genesis 3:17 is not an excuse to not listen to your wife. We cannot obey I Peter 3:7 without doing so. And He is very much into married couples learning to discern the voice and the will of God together by listening to and honoring one another’s perspective in that pursuit.
Gen. 3:17 is a negative example and a warning to never allow the voice of a human to replace the voice of God, or to cause us to disobey what God has clearly said to us. It is sobering to realize that all the sin and misery and depravity and desolation we see in our society today is a result of Adam choosing to ignore the words of the living God, over the words of his deceived wife.
Well I think I will stop here, and we will spend a little more time in Genesis next time before we move on. Genesis may not give us specific commands to know, love, seek and walk with God, but it does give us foundational examples and patterns that we dare not gloss over. That’s why various examples in Genesis are referred to often in the New Testament.
May the Holy Spirit give us an ever increasing hunger to know, love, seek and walk with our God. May hearing and obeying His voice, regardless of how loud the voices of men are screaming at us, be our ever growing passion!
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