CHRIST THE CHURCH EXPRESSED AS PEOPLE
The church Jesus builds is simply the expression of Himself in people like you. As such there is no template, other than Jesus. The problem with much of what we understand as church today is that the Church has come to be the expression of the Church.
Christ’s Church is not an institution. It’s Christ the life of His People. When Jesus is incarnated in people who assemble any configuration of Believers will be His Church.
YEAST AND SEED
Jesus as the seed of the Kingdom, knew that the incarnation of Himself in people is the Church built without human hands. Simple put the Church is the expression of Jesus as people. Paul implied this, yet probably did not fully understand the implications of Christ our life. But He did know that anything not the direct expression of His person is rubbish.
‘What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ’ Phil 3.8 NIV.
When Jesus declared, ‘On this rock I will build my church’ He was implying that life individually and as community flowed from a genuine embrace of Himself as the Christ of God. Peter’s statement, ‘You are the Christ, the Savior of the world’ means more than simple forgiveness. It means that in Him we are who we really are. We are the real Peter, the real Ruth and the real Dave. And as a result the REAL CHURCH.
Who we are as son of a church is much different to who we are as a son of our Father. One can make you a card-board cut-out. The other will make you a son and the Real You. From what are you formed? From an institution or from a life hidden in the person of Jesus?
To live incarnated as a person is grow into your glory. To live incarnated as the Church is be new creation agents in the world.
‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ Col 3.2-4 NIV.
In Christ we are sons because we are in our Father. As such we are the church He builds as His own body. Much of the institutional church is not the body of Christ that is assumed. A lot of it is superfluous to the Kingdom of God’s Son because it is the product of itself. Where it is captured in old covenant assumptions it can only be the dead body that we have been delivered from - the husk that Father abandoned in favour of our life in the person of His Son. When it is Christ our life it is the Kingdom of Christ manifesting in the sons and daughters of God.
‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ Gal 2.20 NIV.
When His Enemies accused Jesus of building a new temple without human hands they were charging Him with doing what He came to do - starting a new creation that is the expression of His person. Jesus set about building what was meant to become the expression of His Spirit body as His people.
When Jesus said, ‘I will be in you and with you’ He was intimating that church would be the expression of His life as ours. This is quite different to the expression of the letter that it often is. Much of what poses as the ‘organic church’ is a more sophisticated version of the ‘letter that kills’.
Jesus builds His church without human hands. Why? Because He incarnates Himself in and among us. Because Christ is our life in every way; because His life has come in our flesh, He is incarnated in us and we are transfigured. Now we are the expression of the Christ. We are His manifest presence. As such we are His church.
DEAD TREE OF LIVE?
In His recently published book, ‘How New is the New Covenant?’ Dr Stephen Crosby writes,
“My premise is that if we do not understand what a radical threat Jesus was in His person to the established social, political, theological, and religious
structures and values of His day, we will not understand the radical nature of the new covenant established by His death, resurrection, and Spirit outpouring and indwelling. If we do not understand Jesus in His context, we will domesticate Him into ours. Understanding the New Covenant begins by understanding Him!”
The person of Jesus is just as much a radical threat to institutionalism, vested interests, other gospels and private versions of salvation as it ever was. Unless we are willing to abandon our life in favour of His in totality, we can forget about being harbingers of spirit and life.
The solution to a feeble Christian church is not a new configuration of the church. It is not even a move from a large building to a house. But it is a move from shadows to the reality that it is Christ Himself, Christ manifest as us, who is our life. I copied the quote below off Facebook today. It’s well meant but a religious solution to a spiritual problem.
NOT A NEW VERSION OF ADAM
Many Believers see church as a ‘Should Do’ part of their Christian life. And here is the problem. The Kingdom is not about ‘doing’ or ‘should be doing.’ It is a state of being. Not achieved by trying harder but by allowing the God-head to be our fullness in and among us. What is seen as a ‘Christian life’ is not always a ‘Jesus life’ or a ‘Kingdom life.’ But it is a religious life and the product of a flailing church.
We will accomplish much more as sons and daughters of God than as sons of the church.
What the church is, its nature and quality will always be what Jesus is to us, what we think of Him and what we understand about His accomplishments. Church in an old covenant mind-set will lack the continual upwelling of life that is the Christ our life of the new covenant. If we live in His stuff, we will be much less than we are. If He is our life we will be more than we can ever imagine. And so will the church.
‘Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ John 6.53 NIV.
READ THE BIBLE
We draw a long bow if we attempt to make Jesus a temple or church goer. Sure, He turned up on occasions at the temple. But He did not live out of temple or law. He never lived from the expectation of others. As such He was entirely Himself and entirely life without limit.
The vision of the Religious is a ‘religious life.’ The vision of the saint and sons of God is Christ our life.
Jesus lived totally from His Father in the way we are meant to live totally from Jesus. When Paul talks of ‘Christ our life’ he means that we live, move and have our being entirely in Jesus as persons and as the expression of Him together - meaning the church.
The difference between church as ‘Christ expressed as us’ and church as an institution, is as different as a wood-heap is from a living tree. The words ‘Christ your life’ mean that Jesus is manifest as His people.’ This happens due to the incarnation of Jesus in us, life in the Spirit and our embrace of the new covenant. Here’s the quote from Facebook mentioned above:
‘If Church does not inspire its members to be conformed to the image of Christ it has lost the plot. Church is supposed to produce people who hunger and thirst to be like Jesus. And every other activity from worship, fellowship, preaching and teaching should have this end in mind. Consider the old man dead, learn how to do this, stop trying to patch up the old man with the wisdom of men, simply crucify the old man with Christ. Put on the new man, have the mind of Christ. Love like Christ, give up your life to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper and cast out devils.’
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
Some of this I agree with. Reforming church is not where spirit and life is found. Real life is Christ incarnated in us. You could spends your entire life as a pastor looking for some key or formula for reviving the church. And come to the ends of your life disappointed or kidding yourself in some fantasy. Jesus manifests Himself in the church in those people who can see.
Jesus reproduces people like Himself. Not the church. To see Jesus is to see yourself. To be His life as a community is to express the wonder of His fullness. When we are the expression of Jesus the entire creation is filled with His presence. The church no more produces Jesus than a bunch of moldy bags will spontaneously produce mice. We must establish cause and effect here. Christ incarnated in us reproduce us in Christ.
The Kingdom of God is not copying Christ. The Kingdom is Christ our life.
Don’t ask ‘church’ to do what only Jesus can do. This Facebook jotting is the heart of the problem. It is a subtle form of idolatry because ‘Church’ is being asked to do what only Jesus can do. It’s a common rendering of ‘try harder’ mentality.
There is no life in abstractions, institutions or things because there is no life in shadows of the real. So don’t look for life in the church when life can only be found in Christ. As well meant as it is, this is religious thinking. It wants the shadow to do what only the reality can do. This happens when the church decides to kneel at the foot of the cross - when we lay down our lives to take up His.
‘I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist’ 2 John 1.7 NIV.
RESSUREITON IN YOU
The incarnation is the power house of the Kingdom. Nothing complex or theological about this. It’s Christ in you. Living totally from Jesus is not an ideal or an aim. It is a fact. A fact because He already lives within and we have already been placed within the Holy Family. Jesus of Nazareth and son of God is all that we desire to be as ourselves and our relating to God. There is no link in this chain that is up to you as an individual or as the church. There is no template other than the expression of Jesus as His people. This is the church He builds without human hands.