So You Want To Be A Lover?

Rumour has it I’m pretty much a failure when it comes to loving the brethren.  If you like your dollops of Christian love handed over with bear hugs, chatty phone calls and affectionate enquiries about every tiny corner of your life, I may as well warn you now I’m not the one you’re looking for.   Pass me by and move on to those with the gift of “genial and demonstrative” who’ll be waiting for you with open arms.  I’m simply not one of them.  Call me aloof and antisocial (as some have done, not always out loud), those kind of outward expressions of affection don’t come naturally to me.  I’m one of those solitary people who prefer to sit hidden away unobtrusively in the corner of a crowded room, quietly observing.

I think The Supremes were on to something in their nineteen sixties hit You Can’t Hurry Love: “You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait, love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take;  You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait, you got to trust, give it time, no matter how long it takes.”  It’s a little known fact the song actually was based on an earlier gospel song by Dorothy Love Coates in which the words were:  “You can’t hurry God, you just have to wait, trust and give Him time, no matter how long it takes”.

And while we’re on the subject I don’t think I can bear hearing one more time:  “we just have to love each other more to be more like Jesus”; or “love’s not optional you know”;  or  how about this gem: “love’s what we do, not feel”.

But the undisputed fact is Christ called us to be lovers of each other and humanity in general.  He apparently had so much confidence in us He said the world would recognise Him by our love for one another (Jn. 13:35).  Hmmm…did you get that?  The world will recognise HIM by something that’s in us.  Somehow we’ve changed that to “the world will recognise us as Christians when we love like Jesus.  Therefore we should work really hard at loving each other so we can prove Jesus was telling the truth about us and maybe then others will want to follow us into following Him.”

Huh?  Seems to me we’ve done our usual trick of placing ourselves centre stage when it comes to walking out this love thing.

I tried hard to fit into that ‘work hard at loving to prove Jesus knew what He was talking about’ scene for a long time…..really, a l-o-n-g time.  The revelation that I simply could not love at will, or love enough, or love like He loves, didn’t come with thunder and lightning.  But it did come, softly, gradually, with the still small Voice of the Spirit whispering, ‘when will you wake up to the truth that you can’t love others like Jesus, no matter how hard you work at it, because it’s not in you to do so?’

That was Love Lesson Number One.  Human love, as beautiful and encompassing as it may be, is limited.  It is limited because we are, in our natural state, corrupted beings.  And what we are inadvertently trying to do by proving that we can love like Jesus is, well, prove that we can love like Jesus.  It becomes not about Him, but us. It becomes law.

Love Lesson Number Two began to unfold one day when the Lord asked me with His usual directness:  “Why don’t you receive My love?

“What do You mean?  You know I love You Lord.”

That’s not what I asked you.  Why don’t you receive My love?

“But I do believe You love me.  After all, You died for me.”

Yes, you believe it.  But you don’t know it.  You don’t know it because You refuse to receive it.  You don’t allow Me to love you as I wish to.” (1 John 4:16).

Christian tradition had taught me to ask the wrong question and come up with the wrong answer.  In the face of a religion that said I should strive to love others more, one conversation with Jesus turned my love theology on its head.  He wasn’t concerned about how much I loved others.  He was concerned about how much I didn’t know He loved me.

We each arrive at the truth of the gospel hauling the image of ourselves the world has stamped on us.  We sit beneath the cross and drink from the cup of salvation, thankful to have found respite and rescue.  We love Jesus, who first loved us, and we set out to follow Him faithfully.  But we still carry that image in our mind’s eye with which the world has branded us:  we are too fat, too thin, too dumb, too tarnished, too bad, too ugly, too unacceptable, too sinful, too damaged, too whatever, to ever be lovable.  Then religion steps in with its long arm of the law, telling us God loves us but will find us infinitely more lovable if we just get better at this, that or the other thing.  And so the pattern is set.

The truth is Jesus never ever loved us because we were good at anything.  He loves us because He is so good at loving. 

I’m still in Love School.  I’m still on my LL (Lover in Learning) plates when it comes to fulfilling Jesus words in John 13:35.  I’m learning I don’t have to prove I’m a Christ follower by loving you, but Christ in me will love you.   I’m discovering I don’t have to work at loving, but as I abide in Love Himself the love that pours into me flows naturally outward.  It may not look the way you, caught up in your religion, think it should look.  But hey, that’s OK, I’ll love you anyway and maybe one day you’ll catch on.

I’m learning that loving like Jesus means the love of Christ compels me (2 Cor. 5:14)….. in everything. I’m learning to walk in love by walking continually in the presence of the One who is Love.  I’m learning that the key to this love dilemma is allowing Him to love me because, regardless of how I or others see me, He finds me exceedingly lovable.   He finds me lovable not in a cute, warm and fuzzy sense, but in a strong, fervent, impassioned sense that leaves me unable to resist loving Him back with all my wondering being.

So you want to be a lover?  You will never be a lover after Christ’s heart without first being a receiver of Christ’s heart for youYou will never give love until you know Love.  You will never radiate love until you have surrendered to Love and allowed Him to possess you.  You will never be able to Love without limitation until you yourself have been healed of your own ‘unlovableness’.  You have to take ownership of Love before it can flow unhindered from you.

The awakening bride of Christ is a company of lovers who love just because they are loved; a company learning to dance their love dance like unashamed children in the delighted presence of Him whose Name is Love.

No, love don’t come easy…..but it’s free for the taking.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention He’s simply mad about me?

First published on Bread for the Bride 14 October, 2014.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014, all rights reserved.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

About Those Heavenly Places…..

Caucasian woman sitting on a white fluffy cloud looking at a big, bright; blue; glowing cross

Am I alone in having kept a vague little picture  hidden in my mind that I used to pull out and dust off every time I heard the phrase ‘heavenly places’? (I’m guessing I’m probably not.)

Take this example for instance: ‘But God….made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Eph. 2:6 NKJV).

Back in the seventies and eighties we used to sing a song: ‘I’m a conqueror and victorious, I’m reigning with Jesus, I’m seated in heavenly places with Him, with Him….’ In my imagination I would see myself sitting on a sweet little chair beside Jesus on His much larger Throne, perched on a fluffy white cloud far above the earth in this mysterious locality called ‘heavenly places’, both of us apparently having a great time though I admit I did sometimes wonder should we be doing something other than just sitting there being happy and victorious.

(Oh, and by the way, if you’re still singing that song with a similar snapshot in your mind, now may be the appropriate time to issue a spoiler alert.)

It turns out those imagined heavenly places of long ago aren’t exactly what  Paul had in mind when he was writing to the Ephesians. For one thing, my pretty little picture didn’t take into consideration that being ‘raised up’ means raised up from death, which logically suggests there has to be a burial first (gulp!) (Eph. 1:20).

And nobody told me the original language used by Paul was far more specific than just sitting beside Jesus on my own little throne. The word he used, ‘synegeiro’, doesn’t mean ‘together with’ in the sense of being in the company of someone in the same physical locality. It means being totally bound to them in unbreakable and absolute union and implies an intimate covenantal relationship.

Then there are those undefined, cryptic ‘heavenly places’. Paul mentions them five times in Ephesians ¹. Rather than actual ‘places’ somewhere in Heaven, the word here (G. epouranios) more specifically conveys a spiritual realm, an atmosphere, and a perspective. In fact ‘places’ is not even in the original text and was added by translators.

These ‘heavenly places’ Paul was referring to are better understood as a supernatural sphere where spiritual activities take place. Even Satan and his troops are active in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), but their activities are far below the authority and power of Christ and those who are His (Eph. 1:18-23).

So far my long ago imaginative picture of ‘heavenly places’ is not holding up well under scrutiny, is it?

Did you ever wonder why Christ is ‘seated’ in this spiritual sphere we call ‘heavenly places’? Or why we too are said to be ‘seated’? There is a hint in the book of Hebrews:

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… ( Heb.10:11,12)

The writer of Hebrews wanted to prove to his or her readers the superiority of the New Covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ over the former law covenant instigated by Moses. The context of this passage compares the Old Covenant priesthood to the New Covenant, in which Christ is our eternal Great High Priest, whose own innocent blood is sufficient to deal with sin once and forever.

The Old Covenant priests ministered in rostered shifts and were required to stand as they performed their duties in the presence of God, repeatedly offering sacrifices to atone for the people’s sins day by day, year after year.  No priest could sit until his priestly role was completed for the day (Deut. 10:8, 18:5-7; Num. 16:9; 2 Chron. 35:5; Judg. 20:28).   Christ however, after offering His one time, eternal sacrifice, sat down, signifying that His work was forever finished.

The reference in Ephesians 2:6 to being seated with Christ now takes on deeper meaning for us. When Paul speaks of God having raised us and made us sit together with Christ, he uses the word ‘sugkathizo’. Once again, this word implies an intimate, binding connection, not simply sharing the same space. This is the same word that the Septuagint², an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament often quoted by Jesus and New Testament writers, used when Abraham sat by God as a blood covenant was established between the two of them. Later the same word was used when Moses sat before the people to minister the Law (Septuagint Gen 15:11; Ex. 18:13).

So being seated with Christ is something more than relaxing on a fluffy cloud surveying the heavens. It speaks to us of our covenant relationship with Him. And it is positional. In Christ, we are made to sit, because His work is finished and we can add no more to it. These heavenly places in which we are seated are a supernatural realm we increasingly inhabit as we come to rest in the truth that our redemption is finished and we can do nothing to complete or increase it. This truth is known in the Heavens, it is known by angels, it is known by Satan, it is known by creation – it is only human hearts that fail to grasp hold of it.

Hmmm…it seems my long-ago neat little mental picture of heavenly places is so not the truth Paul was trying to convey to his fellow believers.

And yet……do you sense this truth taking hold of us? Do you sometimes momentarily, as a friend recently described it, ‘catch a glimpse’ of something so complete, so restful, so beautiful in its finality and its perfection, that you want to run deep into it and never return to this earthly domain where faith is ridiculed and chaos seeks to rule? Could it be that something new is happening within us, something momentous and without precedent?

Christ’s journey from the Cross to the right hand of the Father did not end with His resurrection. There were three major events in that journey: burial, resurrection and ascension.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6,7)

Our journey into the depths of Christ has led us to the Cross where we have embraced Him in His sufferings, died to our old natures and been buried with Him; it has led us on to an empty tomb where we have been raised to the new living way of resurrection Life and Kingdom dwelling with Him. And now, just as He ascended to the right hand of the Father, we must journey on to learn to live in the glory of His ascension, where we have been lifted into the heavenly atmosphere of His undisputed rule and reign.  (I am not referring to a ‘rapture’ here where believers are bodily lifted off the earth….this is a spiritual realm available to us while we learn to walk in the Spirit here on the earth.)

So….about those heavenly places? They are not a faraway celestial location at all. Could it be they are a spiritual realm that may be apprehended anytime, anywhere, by Christ-followers who have ceased striving for their own righteousness and to whom His finished work of redemption is becoming a moment by moment reality? I believe so.

Christ Jesus, after burial, after resurrection, ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father – a scriptural phrase signifying a position of unequalled divine authority (Acts 5:32; Rom. 8:34; 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1). And here’s the thought I want to leave with you: in Christ we occupy that same position, seated with Him on His throne, just as He sat down on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21).

This authority is not an authority that has constantly to be proven as some apparently feel they must do. It is not an authority we must strive to demonstrate. It is an authority born out of brokenness, forged in a furnace of affliction and sealed with the Father’s approval. Whether we feel we have it is not the issue: whether we are conscious of it is also not the issue. It is not earned by anything we do or think we are, it is covenantal. It is ours by inheritance.

This authority is exercised as we walk in the Spirit and live in the Presence of Christ the King, without any conscious effort on our part. It will flow naturally from us from a position of rest in the finished work of Christ.

Put simply it is the authority of the overcomer. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Bride of Christ is on the ascent. Hold that thought until the thought holds you.

¹ Ephesians 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12

² The Septuagint, meaning ‘seventy’ (also known as the LXX) is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language.  The tradition is that 72 Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek in the third and second centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt. It was the first known major effort at translating a significant religious text from one language into another. Many New Testament quotes from the Old Testament Hebrew are taken from the Septuagint indicating the apostles and New Testament writers obviously felt comfortable using it.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part Two

Bible on a dinner plate with silverware in lent

This is Part Two of a two part post, Where Shall We Buy Bread? It will make more sense if you read Part One first.  You can find Part One here. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!

Part Two of Two

We are taking up where we left off in Part One, considering God’s dealings with the Israelites when they suffered hunger on the exodus from Egypt. According to Deuteronomy 8 God was humbling and testing His people. It was He who caused their hunger so they could realise their total dependence on Him.

You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord… Deut. 8:2-3 NASB

The people were instructed to gather what was needed for their household for one day only. When some of them disregarded this commandment they found the manna they had tried to keep overnight went bad and filled with worms. Furthermore they were not to gather it on the Sabbath, the day of rest. God would provide double on the sixth day so the people could rest on the seventh. There were those who disregarded this commandment also and went out seeking bread on the Sabbath, but there was none. Israel was being tested by God. Would they trust Him unconditionally to deliver them from bondage and provide for them and their children? And His testing was revealing the true nature of their hearts.

So unfamiliar to the Israelites was this bread from Heaven it became known among them as ‘manna’ which means “what is this”.

The Old Testament manna was symbolic of the Living Bread Who was to come: Jesus the Christ. Now, for the second time in Israel’s history, God had provided bread in the wilderness. And for a second time in their history, many in Israel were saying “what is this?” of the Christ.

But Jesus, the Living Bread, read their hearts. Many of them did not seek Him to quench their spiritual hunger. Life under Roman rule in Israel was not easy. The people sought a political Messiah who would vanquish the Romans, become their national king and cause Israel to prosper so that no-one would be hungry. They were following in hope of easier lives, not because they believed He could save them from their sins.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing,He tells them. The words (rhema) that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).

It was not very long afterward that many who just one day before had tried to make Him their earthly king abandoned Him, complaining they could not understand what He was saying (Jn. 6:60-66). They could not understand because His words were of the Spirit.

“Do you also want to go away?” Jesus asks the twelve. But at least one of them had understood the lesson of the Living Bread.

But Simon Peter answered him: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words (rhema) of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-68).

The life Peter spoke of was the Greek word ‘zoe’, the endless, abundant, spiritual life essence of God. The Logos had spoken truth from the mind of God; the Spirit had breathed the God-Life into Peter’s heart. Christ was being revealed.

Law and Life

You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (Jn. 5:39-40).

Life! The Bread is always about Life.

The words Jesus spoke were eternal life, spiritual life, God-life. They were rhema. Eternal life is not life after death. Eternal life is always present. It is the endless, perfect, pure Life that is only found in God and emanates from Him. The written scriptures are only life-giving to the extent they reveal a Living Christ to a searching human heart.

As a very young Christian those in authority over me consistently emphasized the importance of daily Bible reading. Being eager and hungry for more of God I followed their advice. I received comfort, hope, instruction, and training by doing so. But the Bible was also law to me. Reading it was a religious duty. I could quote it but I couldn’t live it.

I learned something. If the Bibles we carry around don’t deliver a living Christ to us, they are nothing more than a temporary fix, just like the bread we eat. You will be hungry again tomorrow, as the Israelites were. The Logos is not to be quoted, He is to be lived. Rhema is the Spirit-breathed revelation of the Living Bread being unveiled within our own hungry spirits.

The ‘word of God’ we call a sword is only effective, dividing between soul and spirit, when wielded by the Spirit of God. Scripture on human tongues can convey life or can be used as a weapon of destruction, condemning rather than convicting. Scripture does not convict the world of sin unless it is delivered as rhema, by the power of the Spirit, because it is the Spirit’s role to convict of sin, not ours (John. 16:8).

Some people may as well carry around stone tablets under their arm as their Bible  I have heard people rattle off scriptures like machine gun bullets believing they are speaking for God and carry His authority. They do not. They are speaking condemnation and death. They are merely quoting, but they are not imparting Life. Scripture is only holy as it reveals a Living Christ to us or to others. Otherwise it’s  just another set of moral guidelines like any other religious book, with no life and no power. Many don’t want to hear this but the Bible is not to be treated like a book of magic. We need to stop worshiping the ‘good book’ and start seeking its Author.

Somewhere in my journey I caught a glimpse of the Living Christ in the pages of my Bible and from that point on I began searching for Him every time I opened it. Gradually, the scriptures became a delight to me because I met Jesus there. Everywhere I looked in them I found the Beloved, revealing Himself to me, beckoning me to follow and seek more of Him.

Our attitude to ‘the word’ is determined by who or what we’re looking for. If we are taught, or teach others, that reading the Bible will make us  good Christians, we will find only a moral framework – law. It’s tough to chew and will soon become lifeless ritual.  If, however, we are truly hungry for Christ,  He will reveal Himself to us within its pages.  The word of God really is living and active when wielded by the Spirit of God.

These days I go to my Bible looking for a living Jesus. If I am not beholding Christ within a few minutes of opening my Bible, if I am not receiving a tangible impartation of His Life, I put it down and walk away. I refuse to look for the Living One among the dead letters of law. I love the written Word of God, both logos and rhema, more than I can tell you, because it has become a sacred meeting place to me, where the One who is Life awaits.

The bread I seek to impart through Bread for the Bride posts is always Christ. Truly, if you are not receiving a portion of the living Christ when you read these posts, please do both you and me a favour and unsubscribe. Go somewhere else where you will be fed Christ-Life. I have absolutely no desire to pass on anything but the Living Bread through my writings.

The Word of God, written or spoken can only be two things: it is Life, or it is Law. Law is for the satisfied. But Living Bread is for the hungry. We don’t need an ever increasing choice of Bible colours, covers, styles, and formats to prove we are Christ-followers. Christ does not live in black, white and red print. He lives in His people.

We need Living Bread, the Spirit-breathed revelation of Jesus Christ, in our hearts and on our tongues. That’s when we’ll turn the world upside down.

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Where Shall We Buy Bread? Part One

 Bible on a dinner plate with silverware in lentThe following post has been on my heart to write for some time.  Due to length I have divided it into two parts for easier reading.  It could not be fully covered in a shorter article and I believe this subject is worthy of  serious consideration by all committed Christ followers. Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two will be posted shortly after Part One. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!


I stumbled over our town’s only Christian Bookstore recently. I say ‘stumbled’ because the last time I remember seeing it the store was two streets south of where it is now. When I asked the man behind the counter how long they’d been in the new place, he replied “two years’. Uh huh, I definitely need to get out more.

I admit I barely glanced at the latest book releases – I was too distracted by the bibles. Buying a Bible these days is evidently a minefield. Hard cover, soft cover; women’s, men’s, youth or children’s; study, parallel, large print, travel, compact, slimline, new believer’s or orthodox. How about the ‘thirst quencher’, a ‘manga’ bible or a’ creative journaling’ bible? And several Christian celebrities like Joyce Meyer and Jack Hayford have even come up with their own bibles….who knew?

Add to those a seemingly endless number of translations and the choice becomes even more head-spinning.

As a younger Christian I was taught the Bible, aka the word of God, was my daily bread. Spending time in the ‘word’ first thing every morning was the eleventh commandment, usually preached by a male pastor whose wife fed the kids, got them ready for school and ironed his shirt while he clocked up his essential time in the word.

My little visit to the bookstore prompted me to do a quick, non-exhaustive internet search on the Bible as our ‘daily bread’. Here are some unaltered quotes from my search:

Website One: “The holy Bible is our bread.”

Website Two: “(Ministry newsletter name) delivers the Word of God as the bread of life daily via email. With a few verses from the Bible and a short word of ministry it will nourish you and strengthen your faith.”

Website Three: “I will eat the word of God every day.”

Website Four: Bread represents God’s Word. The Bible is spiritual food. Bread is a symbol for Scripture. The Bible says, ‘People do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ “

So is the Bible our daily spiritual bread? Can reading the written word of God every day really strengthen our faith and make us grow spiritually? I believe regularly meditating on scripture can certainly edify, encourage and comfort us. Here’s what Paul wrote to Timothy about scripture:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work  (2 Timothy 3:14-17 Net Bible).¹

And this in Romans:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

The word used by Paul for written scripture was the Greek ‘graphe’, meaning a document. As we’ve just seen, the purpose of the written scripture is teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, patience, comfort and hope – “that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

However, nowhere in the New Testament do we find bread as a symbol for written scripture. Maybe this is going to be news to some, but our Bibles are not our spiritual bread – Christ is.

But what about this?

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matt. 4:4).

Let’s unpack this a little.

Logos and Rhema

There are generally two distinct New Testament Greek words for ‘word’: logos and rhema. Without getting too deeply into linguistics, logos conveys the idea of ‘reason’ and is our source for the English word ‘logic’. In the New Testament logos can be used for the spoken word or the written word. Jesus is called The Word – the living ‘logos’ that was with God and is God (John 1:1). Rhema, on the other hand, usually emphasizes divine utterance.

For instance, Hebrews 4:12  uses the word ‘logos’ in referring to the living Word of God:. 

For the word (logos) of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

But Ephesians 6:17 uses the word rhema for the Word of God:

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.

People sometimes define ‘logos’ as exclusively the written word and ‘rhema’ as exclusively the spoken word, but it is not that clear-cut. Logos can be both spoken and written, and rhema can also be written or spoken. Here is one of the best statements I have seen on how both the logos and the rhema can represent God:

“God the Son as the logos word defines, explains and expresses the Father’s thought, and God the Spirit as the breath conveys the rhema word to the recipients and applies God’s essence to them.” (Roger Good)²  

Now getting back to our verse in Matthew 4:4, Jesus is responding to Satan who has tempted Him to turn stones into bread  to satisfy His physical hunger. He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:30.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word (rhema) that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ “

So here we have Jesus (the living Logos) quoting written scripture (graphe) stating humanity should live by the ‘rhema’ word (revelatory utterance) of God.

Logos and rhema are not opposites. They are simply the word of God in different stages of declaration as expressed by our three in One, One in three, living God. Logos and rhema are separate yet connected parts of an unfolding process, beginning in the mind of God as divine thought, taking form in human flesh through the Son who is the Living Logos, and quickened as revelatory truth in humanity by the Spirit who is the Breath of God.  In this divine process the written word can, when uttered under the unction of the Spirit, become rhema, or revelation, of the living Christ. Equally, the same written word when uttered under the influence of human flesh, is not rhema, and is no more than a quotation devoid of supernatural power. Even Satan can quote the logos word of God, but the result is death, not life.

The “every word from the mouth of God” that Jesus said we are to live by was not written scripture, but rhema: always fresh, always Life-imparting, always Spirit-breathed, always revealing some aspect of Christ.

The Bread

Many are familiar with the narrative in John 6 which relates the feeding of over five thousand people. A great crowd, after witnessing His healing miracles, had followed Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 9:10). Realising the people are hungry Jesus asks Philip “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” The best the disciples can come up with is five loaves and two fish and Jesus, despite His own weariness, miraculously multiplies them so that everyone can eat and be filled (Jn. 6:1-15)

On the following day many who had eaten the miraculous meal came searching for Jesus. They had seen Him multiply a few small loaves, had tasted and been filled. They knew this was no supernatural food they’d eaten – it was ordinary, everyday, belly filling bread. And they wanted more.

It reminded them of a similar event recorded in their scriptures when their ancestors ate bread in the wilderness on their journey out of Egypt. They started comparing Jesus with their greatest national hero, Moses. Could He provide them with bread for themselves and their families every day?  After all, Moses had done so for forty years, hadn’t he? So they asked Jesus for a sign to prove He was as great as Moses. The sign they wanted was more ‘manna from Heaven’.

Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. (Jn. 6:31-36)

God provided Israel with bread, or “manna”, for forty long years. Think of it, for forty years every Israelite woke up each morning to find fresh bread had appeared in their camp overnight.  God would rain down the manna each morning, which fell as fine dew on the ground and solidified into paper thin wafers that tasted like honey. Six days a week for forty years the Israelites would collect and eat fresh, heavenly manna until they reached the Promised Land (Exodus 16).

What was going on here?  We’ll investigate further in Part Two of Where Shall We Buy Bread.

¹ I quoted the Net Bible in this instance because it is the only translation I found that says ‘person’ rather than ‘man of God’.   If Paul had wanted to be gender specific he would have used ‘aner’ the Greek word for a male, but he used ‘anthropos’, which is a human being, male or female. Why do translators persist in translating this phrase as ‘man of God’?

² God As The Word: Logos and Rhema, by Roger Good

Related Article: Where Shall We Buy Bread Part Two

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

The Vine And The Grain

vineandgrainSix years have flown by since we moved into our current home. The recent anniversary of our move came with a jolt. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the home we left six years ago: a huge two storey brick and tile on 1.4 acres near the edge of our town. We lived happily there for seven years.

When the time came to leave the hardest thing was saying goodbye to the orchard and the garden. Both the house interior and exterior grounds had been severely neglected and were in a sorry, run down state when we arrived. I am not much of a gardener, but my husband is. Often assisted by our youngest daughter he expended untold hours of hard, sweaty labour on making the grounds both beautiful and productive.

Tiny citrus trees were planted out the back of the house during our first year there. Various varieties of lemon, orange and lime were hunted down and the baby plants lovingly placed into well-prepared ground …… in the middle of a cruel summer in one of the worst droughts our region had seen in many years. Wiser, more experienced heads scoffed at our apparent foolishness for planting in such an unkind season and declared we would lose every one of our little saplings within months.

Whether it was stubbornness or faith I don’t know, but every morning of that summer would see my husband gently hand watering the saplings, tending each one with loving care, willing them to live. Every evening would see me just as determinedly circling our little orchard, blessing, praying and calling forth the hidden life and fruit I knew each one carried.

Gradually a garden arose around us. In place of dry grass, weeds and dead plants, colourful beds of roses, azaleas and gardenias emerged. A verdant, green lawn was nurtured and maintained. And best of all, our citrus orchard flourished, producing sweet, succulent fruit so abundant it was gladly shared with friends and neighbours. Much to the surprise of some, not one of our little saplings succumbed to the drought. The ugly, uninviting grounds that had greeted us a few years earlier had been transformed into a peaceful, lush, life-filled environment, even providing an appropriate venue for our daughter’s wedding.

That lovely transformed garden and the fruitful, healthy orchard we left behind when it became clear God had plans to move us on have been on my mind lately. The developer who bought the old home didn’t dream of juicy orchard fruits or fragrant roses on his dining table. His mind was set instead on dividing the grounds into multiple lots to build profit-producing dwellings for young couples needing their first homes.

The gardens were ripped up by bulldozers, making way for builders’ trucks and materials, and ultimately new houses. The sturdy native trees we planted to border the property were replaced by metal fencing. And our cherished citrus orchard, a waste of good building land, also had to go.   In place of attractive gardens and a prolific orchard brick and mortar homes now stand, where people return each night to rest their weariness before tackling the troubles a new day will bring.

We had known this would happen when we left. And there was not a thing we could do about it. You can’t dream, plant, nurture, and bring forth something beautiful and fruitful without experiencing sorrow, sometimes even deep sorrow, when that which you’ve carried in your soul and built with your own labour becomes seemingly annihilated, as if it had never existed in the first place.

Today when I stand on the verandah of this present home of six years I look out on young, thriving new plants that are growing steadily into a beautiful, established garden. And this year we had our first crop of citrus. Sweet juicy oranges sit alongside newly picked lemons and limes on my kitchen bench. A vegetable garden too has been planted and I hear plans are afoot for apple trees. Life is flourishing around me once more, but it didn’t come without cost. The former had to be relinquished so that something even more fruitful and productive could be birthed.

This principal of death before life is one we must wrestle with in our spiritual walk too. Jesus spoke of Himself as the Vine and we as the branches that are pruned in order to bring forth abundant fruit.

‘I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.’ (Jn. 15:1-2).

At another time He gave the example of a wheat kernel that is buried in the ground and subjected to death for a season, so that it might emerge and multiply into a harvest of grain.

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.’ (Jn.12:24-25).

We pass through seasons in our spiritual lives. There are seasons of pruning, when that which is unproductive, diseased or simply an impediment to the healthy flow of life in us is revealed and removed.

There is another kind of season also where our dreams, hopes and labour suddenly come to naught. It is a season of obscurity, of burial if you like, where all that we have been building, all that we have identified ourselves with sometimes over many years, is brought to death. In such a season we may even see the hard-earned fruit of our labour placed into the hands of someone who has a different vision or purpose.

To our dismay, the pall of death hangs over all we have expended our lives on. What’s more, there is nothing we can do about it. It is taken out of our hands. Furthermore, we seem to be cocooned in a dark, barren place, stripped of all we thought we knew and left with nothing but raw, naked faith that there is a God, that He is good, and He will not leave us alone in this place of burial. Apart from that, we cannot say we know anything, nor can we say we are anything.

Whether we find ourselves in a season of pruning, or a season of death and burial, God’s purpose in us is always Life.

As branches, we are not sent off to be pruned while He waits indifferently. He will never leave or forsake us, but will sustain us during every season. His grace is sufficient for the pruning season.

Nor will He abandon us to the cold, dark soil of our grain season, for He is Lord of both the light and the darkness (Jn. 1:5; Job 12:22). He will do that which is true to His eternal nature of Love and Life, He will complete the work He has begun in us – He will bring forth Life both in us and from us.

Both the Vine season and the Grain season are integral to our Christ-following journey if we are to be reduced and Christ is to increase (Jn. 3:30). Perhaps you have already discovered this. But these are not the only seasons we will encounter on this journey. The branch is pruned only in preparation for the coming season of Fruitfulness. The grain is buried into death only in preparation for the coming season of Resurrection Life.

God’s purpose is always Life. He cannot be otherwise. Life must bring forth life. His intention and plan for us is always fruitfulness. Where Life is present, fruit must be evident.

This principle of death before life is something Jesus’ first disciples had to experience also. All that they had worked towards, envisaged, talked about, planned for, hoped and dreamt came to a thundering crash at Calvary. It was a shocking, sudden and brutal end to their expectations. It tested their faith to the utmost and nearly broke their spirits. Only a handful of disciples, one male and several female, could even bear to witness the crucifixion (Mark 15:40-41, Matthew 27:55-56, Jn. 19:25-26).

Those first disciples experienced a crushing to their very core, yet, revived by the same Spirit who raised Christ from death, emerged to turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Christ-less religion conditions us to call many things ‘life’ that are not Life, to settle for far less than the vibrant, thriving Christ-Life which is the lifeblood of the true Body of Christ.

Religion produces  undernourished, tasteless fruit instead of the abundant, Life-filled fruit that is pleasing to our Father. Religion will attempt to rescue us from the pruning shears and snatch us from the Cross of Christ. Religion is death masquerading as Life. And religion will never allow us to emerge from the grave as overcomers fit to reproduce the resurrection Life of Christ.

Choose Life, even if the way to Life is through the valley of death. You will never be left in the grave.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

ALTAR, TEMPLE, KINGDOM Part Three

temple

Dear friends of Bread for the Bride:

I am currently away taking a short break. Thankyou for your continued support for the Bread for the Bride blogsite since I started it in April 2012.  And if you are a new subscriber, welcome!  There are 193 articles and poetry for you to explore while I am away and I encourage you to take this opportunity to read and absorb some of the earlier Bread for the Bride posts that you may have missed.

In the meantime the subject that continues to burn in my heart at this time is The Kingdom of God.  I’ve scheduled the three part series Alter, Temple, Kingdom to be posted in my absence.   I believe the message shared in these specific posts is important and relevant to the Bride of Christ more than at any time in history.  I hope you will read or re-read Alter, Temple, Kingdom and share these articles among those who hunger for God.

It is still possible to comment, but comments will not appear or be responded to until my return.

I expect to be back posting again around the middle of July. Until then, keep shining.

Cheryl McGrath


For a fuller understanding of this article please first read Altar, Temple, Kingdom Part One and Altar, Temple, Kingdom Part Two.

As Jesus related parable after parable to demonstrate kingdom life He presented to His hearers a Kingdom not to be imagined in a distant future but freely available in the present, or ‘at hand’. The Kingdom is not separated from its King. It is present wherever Jesus Christ reigns. As the manifest presence of the King is the very atmosphere of the Kingdom, to receive the undisputed reign of Christ is to receive His Kingdom.

Receiving the Kingdom

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”(Jn. 18:33-37 NASB)

Pilate’s cross examination was two pronged. First he wanted to establish the geographical boundaries of Jesus’ claim to kingship. “Are you the King of the Jews?” If he could keep this matter as an internal dispute among the Jews he could dispose of it quickly. Secondly, if this Jesus was claiming only to be King of the Jews, the might of Rome was not threatened and this Galilean rabbi, (who looked anything but a king), and His bedraggled followers presented no military or political threat to Rome. Pilate’s career prospects would be safe.

But Jesus refused to meet Pilate on His own ground. Unlike the kingdoms of the world His Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Nor can it be defined by political or geographical boundaries. Frustrated, Pilate tried once more to have Jesus state the location of his kingdom. “So You are a King?”Yes”, says Jesus, “but if you want to speak of My Kingdom then we will speak in terms of its attributes, not of its boundaries. I have come to this world to represent My Kingdom which, unlike yours, is founded on truth. Anyone who loves truth will recognize me. Apparently you do not.” (see Psalm 45:3,4).  However,  truth was something Pilate evidently did not care to discuss that day.

The fact is Jesus is King of the Jews, as He is King of all tribes and nations. Ironically, though Jesus Kingship was rejected by the Jewish leaders, it was proclaimed both at his birth and his death by Gentiles (Mat. 2:1,2; Luke 23:38; Jn 19:21,22). Jewish prophets including Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah had foretold the coming King (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Is. 9:6,7; 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5,6, Zech. 6:12,13). Jewish ears heard these prophecies read out regularly in the synagogues. Jewish tongues repeated them in prayer and in times of despair. Jewish eyes witnessed the signs and wonders that testified that here was the One the prophets and the scriptures had spoken of (Jn. 5:36; 10:25). Yet, bound to its temple system, Israel as a nation ultimately failed to receive their King and His Kingdom.

Herein lies a sober warning for today’s church. The contemporary temple system, built as it has been on church centrality, hierarchy, and law keeping, cannot contain the fullness of the Kingdom of God. The lesser must give way to the greater. The temple made and maintained by human hands was only ever a shadow of the spiritual temple of living stones formed and honed by the Spirit of God. Something greater than the church/temple system is breaking through here and now that will not be held back. The choice to receive or reject it is before us, but the choice is not optional.

And what of the man-made temple system we have clung to so tenaciously? Shall the temple disappear altogether? No, God’s temple is an essential component of His Kingdom, but He has ordained that His people are to be His temple (1 Peter 2:5). We have glorified our own denominations, traditions, and religious buildings to the extent they have become the object of our worship rather than the God they are meant to represent. We have exalted a vast hierarchy of human personalities as our mediators, priests and kings, in place of the King Himself. Masses of us have convinced ourselves we need ‘covering’ from pseudo apostles and prophets who are busy building their own kingdoms rather than preaching the true Kingdom. We are the people of God – from who or what do we need other covering?

Our Season of the Temple is passing away and God will not be found among its ruins. God chooses to dwell within a thriving spiritual house of living, human stones being molded into the image of His Son. His priesthood is a nation of Kingdom dwellers, sold out disciples without regard for class, race or gender. I love the name penned by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for such ones – the “fellowship of the crucified”.

Receiving our Kingdom Season will require a willingness on our part to relinquish the security of what has formerly passed as normal “church life”, with its atmosphere of tradition, programs and predictability.  It will require us to ‘leave our nets” and follow King Jesus unconditionally. It will require us to love Christ more than the temple. For some, this will mean loss of income, loss of friends and family, loss of ministry and loss of reputation. For many, the price will be too much. The flock receiving the Kingdom is, after all, ‘little” (Luke 12:32).

The Kingdom is bestowed, not built (Luke 22:29); the Kingdom is earnestly sought, not wished for (Matt. 6:33); and the Kingdom must be received or else it is rejected (Matt. 11:12; Heb. 12:28).

Kingdom life is life in the realm of the Spirit where the will of God prevails and the reign of Christ is undisputed. In the Kingdom our lives are increasingly lived in the tangible Presence of God even as we physically walk in this world. We are becoming more conscious of the realities of the Kingdom than the passing environment of the world. “Oh, you mean more spiritually minded than earthly good?” I hear some ask. Yes, because no lasting good can be done on earth unless one is spiritually minded.

Above all, the Kingdom is spontaneous, breaking through and manifesting in the atmosphere of the earth at the will of the King. Kingdom dwellers must be so readily available and so in tune with the King that at any moment of His choosing they become conductors of His Kingdom into whatever earthly situation they find themselves. Think of Peter stepping out of a boat into a raging sea. Think of Philip overtaking a moving chariot. Think of Stephen praying for his murderers even as they stoned him to death. These and many other scriptural examples are the Kingdom breaking through spontaneously and powerfully into the world’s realm.  

The Essence of the Kingdom

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colosse exhorting them to not be moved away from the ‘hope of the gospel which you heard’ (Col. 1:23). This gospel, which they had heard form his own lips, was the gospel of the Kingdom for it is the only gospel Paul preached (Acts 20:25, 28:23). He goes on to state that He had been given a particular ministry by God for the sake of the church. This ministry was the stewardship of a great mystery hidden throughout ages (Col. 1:24-27).  The mystery is “Christ in you”. “It is Him we preach”, says Paul (Col. 1:28) as if to differentiate from any other version of Christ they may have heard.

This Christ, this Christ in us, His people, is the very essence of Kingdom life. Whenever we see the title “Christ” in scripture we should recognize that now we are beholding Christ Jesus the almighty and supreme King. This Christ, this King, is so much more than the “Jesus, come into my life” I encountered at the Altar Season, and so much more than the “Jesus who strengthens me to do all things” of the Temple Season. It is Christ Jesus, Eternal King of Heaven and Earth, IN us, in all His glory, all His power and all His majesty, doing all.

If you have read this far, just stop and consider that for a moment. This is a profound mystery, not able to be imagined by human minds without the indwelling Spirit of revelation. Astonishingly, it is a mystery in which we are being invited to participate. We need to make room in ourselves to receive this mysterious, sovereign, risen Christ the King, the One who fills all in all, who is greater than any picture of Him we have previously held. We cannot do that while clinging to what is fading away.

The Kingdom of God is not demonstrated in word alone, but backed up by power (1 Cor. 4:20). The power of the Kingdom is the power of Christ the King’s endless, dynamic, supernatural Life, which He chooses to make manifest in mortal human vessels solely through the Spirit of the Living God (Heb. 7:15,16). This is a mystery the world cannot receive and the church has barely begun to grasp.  

Christ in us reaching out to the world as Reconciler; Christ in us interceding as Great High Priest; Christ in us restoring the sick and the suffering as Healer; Christ in us, Fulfiller of the Law; Christ in us as Living Word; Christ in us as Apostle; Christ in us as Prophet; Christ in us as Evangelist, Teacher and Shepherd. And over all, Christ reigning in us as King of all Kings!

This quickly advancing Kingdom Season is not about the Kingdom of God moving into world institutions and transforming them, as some are teaching in these days. The Kingdom and the world do not mix for the Kingdom has nothing to do with this world and its myriad systems (Jn. 18:36). The world is not going to receive the Kingdom at this time. On the contrary: the world, as it always has done, is going to persecute the bearers of the Kingdom and those who cling to the fading temple system will join it, believing they do God a favor (Jn. 16:2).

Nevertheless nothing will hold back the increase of this Kingdom. The invasion of God’s Kingdom on earth took place with the incarnation of Christ. The Kingdom has steadily been advancing since, mostly unnoticed (Lk. 17:20). We are on the dawn of an hour like no other in earthly history when Christ shall manifest His Kingdom through a crucified, resurrected people who love Him more than they love their own lives. These are those who, having caught sight of “something greater” cannot turn back towards the passing comfort of the man-made, man-controlled temple system. Unseen by the world, disregarded by institutional religion, they are becoming the true dwelling place of God on earth.

The prayer repeated by every generation of Christ’s disciples since His ascension to the Father is being fulfilled, “Let Your Kingdom come”. The Kingdom, though costly, is coming in those who are willing and eager to receive it.  

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

ALTAR, TEMPLE, KINGDOM Part Two

temple

Dear friends of Bread for the Bride:

I am currently away taking a short break. Thankyou for your continued support for the Bread for the Bride blogsite since I started it in April 2012.  And if you are a new subscriber, welcome!  There are 193 articles and poetry for you to explore while I am away and I encourage you to take this opportunity to read and absorb some of the earlier Bread for the Bride posts that you may have missed.

In the meantime the subject that continues to burn in my heart at this time is The Kingdom of God.  I’ve scheduled the three part series Alter, Temple, Kingdom to be posted in my absence.   I believe the message shared in these specific posts is important and relevant to the Bride of Christ more than at any time in history.  I hope you will read or re-read Alter, Temple, Kingdom and share these articles among those who hunger for God.

It is still possible to comment, but comments will not appear or be responded to until my return.

I expect to be back posting again around the middle of July. Until then, keep shining.

Cheryl McGrath


The Kingdom

For a much fuller understanding of this article please first read Altar, Temple, Kingdom Part One here.

Word spread like wildfire through the inhabitants of Jerusalem that amazing day.  Jesus of Nazareth was approaching the city!  Many had already witnessed his signs and listened intently to His teachings, but this day was different.  This day He was entering the city on a young colt, just like the prophet Zechariah had foretold.  Even those with limited or no education had heard about the prophet’s promise:  one day the King of Israel, the Messiah, would come, not with the usual fanfare kings demand, but humbly, seated on a donkey’s foal (Zech: 9:9).  Could it be that this was actually happening in their lifetimes?  Men, young and old, laid down tools and ran from their workplaces to see the spectacle; women followed, babes in arms; children, dancing with excitement, laughed and shouted.

“Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israel!”  The atmosphere was electric with anticipation.  The King was here at last.  Now He would surely enter the city, raise an army, defeat the gentile occupiers and re-establish the ancient kingdom of David (Mk. 11:10).

But Jesus didn’t do any of those things.  Instead He prophesied the city’s destruction, weeping.  Then He headed for the great Temple, angrily upending the tables of the money handlers and the traders before sitting to take his usual teacher’s position before the people.

Later, as they departed the great building, when some of His disciples remarked on the temple’s grandeur, Jesus had this to say: “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”  (Luke 21:5,6) 

The arrival of Christ into the world was nothing less than an audacious invasion, heralding a new and revolutionary season in God’s interaction with humanity.  From the moment His coming birth was announced by the archangel, a new spiritual season, the Season of the Kingdom, began manifesting on the face of the earth. And of this third and final season there would be no end (Luke 1:32, 33).   When Jesus came everything changed….forever.  The old Season of the Temple was quickly passing away.

From the beginning to the end of His earthly ministry, the gospel Jesus preached was the gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, Mark 1:14, Luke 4:43; 8:1; John 18:36).  Likewise, the gospel He sent His disciples with was the gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 9:2).  In so doing He inevitably clashed head on with the Jewish religious authorities who, well established at the top of the hierarchical temple system, wanted everything to continue as it had been.

God’s people had become comfortable worshiping Him under the rules of the Temple Season, but once again God was nudging His people forward into a spiritual atmosphere that was radically new and strangely unfamiliar.

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” Jesus announced… “ for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:23,24)

“The time of this new season of worship is both now and will continue to come. God does not wish to dwell in a building made with hands with your rituals, laws and sacrifices.  If you wish to worship God you must learn to worship Him in the Spirit.”  To some, like the Samaritan woman conversing with Jesus at a well, His message was exciting and life changing.  To others, like most of the religious leaders, His message was alarming, unlawful, and extremely life threatening. 

How then does this relate to our own individual journeys as Christ followers?  We have been born again of the Spirit in the ‘Altar Season’ of our spiritual lives;  by the Spirit also we have journeyed on into our ‘Season of the Temple’, that is the understanding that we do not live in Christ in isolation but are members of His spiritual Body on earth, the church.  And there the great majority of us set up camp and settle down comfortably (or not so comfortably) to see out the remainder of our earthly Christian existence.

But something greater looms before us (Luke 11:31,32).  It is the Kingdom of God, here among us now and continually coming in greater fullness.  It may come as a surprise to some that the Kingdom of God is not the church. Nor is the Kingdom of God some ethereal far off place waiting to receive us when we depart this earth. The Kingdom of God is the spiritual atmosphere in which the church is meant to live and function, here, now and into eternity hereafter.  This Season of the Kingdom also must be revealed to us and in us by the Spirit of God.

Jesus arrived in an Israel where the people had passed form their Altar Season into their Temple Season, and from that atmosphere they were relating to God and to each other.  He came to reveal a new and final stage in their spiritual journey, the Season of the Kingdom.  But the religious leaders not only wanted to stay firmly rooted in the Temple Season, they wanted to keep the people there also.  They had a system where they enjoyed great power, position and prestige that was working for them very well and they liked it immensely.

For God, however, the Temple Season had only ever been a brief stop along the journey as He led His people towards the Kingdom.  He longed, not for a man made building erected as a monument to the good intentions of mankind, but  for a temple of living, human stones forged and fitted together by His Spirit (1 Peter 2:5).  He yearned for His people to come into the full revelation of His Son and the manifestation of the Kingdom He had bestowed on Him.  For God, the great temple with all its worldly beauty, was too small, too incomplete,  and well, too earthly.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem that day as He rode into her gates seated on a humble foal because He knew His people had rejected both His Kingship and His Kingdom.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!  See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

The crowds who had so willingly thrown down their garments on the road shouting “hosanna” had wanted a King in name only who would free them to resume life the way they themselves wished to live.  They envisaged a political Kingdom after the fashion Israel had experienced under the reign of the legendary King David, free of foreign occupation and victorious over surrounding nations.  But for this spiritual Kingdom Jesus taught about, most had little desire or interest.

In AD70, just one generation after the time of Christ, Jerusalem was sacked by the Roman Emperor Titus. The great second temple was destroyed by fire and multitudes of Jews killed or exiled. The Jewish historian Josephus, an eye witness, described the destruction of the temple in these terms:

“As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.”

The remnant church Jesus left on earth with a handful of Jewish and later Gentile believers did not live their lives within the fading Temple Season.  They were learning to live in their Kingdom Season and teaching new converts to do the same.  For a few hundred years after Jesus ascended, that is how His church lived –celebrating the Kingdom He had established on the earth.

Soon after the deaths of the early leaders, however, other leaders arose who led the church back into the bondage of the Old Covenant with its hierarchy, rituals and adherence to law.  The church was dragged back into the Temple Season, church buildings became the new temples, a priestly class was reinstated and ceremony became honoured above the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The gospel of the Kingdom was diminished to a gospel of salvation, and even that was perverted to a message of salvation by works.  And there the church remained for many dark years.

The great majority of those seeking to follow Christ today are still living within their Temple Season.  The gospel preached under that system is a gospel that has been reduced to a salvation message alone.  The gospel of salvation through Christ is entirely wonderful and is vital to entering the Kingdom (John 3:3), but it is not the full gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and left with His church.  The gospel of salvation is the gateway, but not the fullness of the Kingdom.  When Jesus said ‘go into the entire world and preach the gospel” He was referring to the fullness of the gospel, not a portion of it (Mark: 16:15, Matt. 24:14).

The Kingdom is among us here and now as it has been since Christ’s days on earth.  But the Kingdom cannot flourish under the limitations of the Temple Season.  The old must give way to the new.  Furthermore, those comfortable within the temple system can in no way preach the Kingdom Jesus preached because they have yet to receive and embrace it.

As the return of our King draws nearer His Kingdom is once again increasingly manifesting on the earth and will continue to do so. As for the Jews of 70 AD, the sacred temple structure that we have constantly guarded with such devotion is vanishing before our very eyes.  For some of God’s people, that fact may prove more than a little inconvenient.  Those who will receive and run with it, though, are on the threshold of something far greater than they have ever witnessed.

Stay tuned for Part Three of Altar, Temple, Kingdom, when we will explore in more depth this gospel of the Kingdom and its current season.

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Related Article: Altar, Temple, Kingdom, Part One