The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness

                     Simply Stated
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Much like people of the world, Christians also fancy extraordinary
phenomenon, give heed to supernatural events and take stock in
outstanding accomplishments.  The fixation with outward greatness and
notoriety - and by association, prosperity - has driven many Christians to
seek after experiences that excite the soul but do nothing for the spirit.  

There is a whole culture that gears toward nurturing and heightening man’s
senses for the sensational.  Everywhere we look, today’s churches are
programmed to accommodate this culture and take it to new heights.  
Churches that are successful in this endeavor are magnets for new converts
and are looked upon with envy by their peers.  Many such churches even
give seminars to fellow-pastors with aspiration for outward greatness and
success.  

Sad to say, all the fuss about success, programs and greatness has
distracted Christians from their one and most central issue – Christ.  A.W.
Tozer once told a church congregation that if Jesus walked in today, no one
would recognize Him.  

The reason we would not recognize Him is because we are preoccupied with
all these programs, hypes, promotions and productions instead of focusing
on the person of Christ.  The familiar story of Elijah at Horeb might illustrate
this point.  The prophet fled from Jezebel and came to a cave in Horeb where
he saw the Lord passing by with a violent rushing wind tearing the
mountains and
breaking the rocks, but the Lord “was not in the wind.”  Then there was an
earthquake, but the Lord “was not in the earthquake.”  Then there was a fire,
but the Lord “was not in the fire.”  Then there was the sound of a “gentle
blowing” (I Kings 19:9-12).  

Too many Christians, ministers and churches are too grossly preoccupied in
the outward and sensational “winds,” “earthquakes,” and “fires” to hear the
Lord’s still small voice any more.  People want quick-fixes to their problems,
and churches want instant success for their plethora of programs.  

Genuine spirituality is always opposite of and hidden from the flashy and
sensational "winds, quakes and fires."  Genuine spirituality on the one hand
is the result of being dealt with in fleshly lusts, natural ability and religious
zeal; on the other hand, it is being brought forth from a closer walk with
Christ and fuller apprehension of the person of Christ.  Closer walk with
Christ requires cultivation through time and the privacy of closed doors
before the possibility of fruition.  

In today's culture of instant gratification, time has become the neglected
element in true spiritual development.  Instead of following the foot-steps of
the Lamb in taking the time-consuming way of the cross, Christians have
taken to the "just add water" culture in their pursuit of spirituality.  

Jesus is the one grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and as a
result of His death, fruitfulness is produced (Jn:12:24).  In the same way, our
true spiritual development can only come from surrendering to the slow
dealings of the cross to facilitate the laying down of our self life.  It is through
the dealings of the cross which strike a blow to our lust for the "winds,
quakes and fires" that we learn to hear His still small voice and acquire the
lowly and sweet
character of the Lamb.  

However, the dealings upon the natural man, the dying to the self life, and
becoming lowly and hidden are not messages Christians want to hear
nowadays.  To put things in perspective, today’s churches almost have to
operate under the hypes of “winds,” “quakes,” and “fires” to some degree.  
Take the “winds,” “quakes,” and “fires” away, most churches will suffer
immediate membership decline!  It is a classical case of new wine vs. old
wineskin syndrome.  

On the other hand, enlightened believers want to fix the leaky wineskin by
patterning after the "early church" in the New Testament.  Ornate religious
buildings, pews, liturgical forms and clergy-led programs are now replaced
by the simplicity of home fellowship and spontaneity of worship.  

But it is not uncommon to find many early church experts doing a sort of
reverse engineering and coming up with wonderful discoveries of the
missing pieces from the biblical early church.  

While the biblical early church blueprint does reveal the Lord's mystical body
functioning organically on earth and expose the woeful departure from such
pattern in today's churches, reverse engineering is a far cry from the Lord's
way of securing His desired church.  

Simply stated, it is the increasing and maturing life of Christ that enables us
to experience and express the reality of the organic church life.  The reverse-
engineered church life is only a look-alike, no matter how much it resembles
the biblical early church.  The true Bride of Christ does not come into being
by "just add water," she is the result of travail.  

A few lowly remnants who have been through the rabbit trail of "first-century
church" or "organic church" finally discovered that these efforts - failed or
not - were also just another patch work in the same old wineskin.   

By the Lord’s grace and mercy, simple and unpretentious brothers and
sisters in many parts of the country and around the world are realizing that
the various attempts at biblical early church as mere mechanical processes
that leave out the Spirit, and shortcuts that cut out the work of the cross.  
Saints whom the Lord made simple are learning to discover that the way to
genuine spirituality is through the cross, the gateway to spiritual fullness
and maturity is through a closed door of intimate relationship with the Lord.  

Today, many of the non-traditional churches that gather outside of the
institutional environment claim a return to simplicity, which is a hallmark of
the early church, but simplicity is not merely the doing away with clergy-laity
system, glamorous church buildings and the programs.  It is first and
foremost a work of the Holy Spirit through the cross to diminish the self life
and increase the character and likeness of the Lamb within.  Being made
Lamb-like in character is what confirms the claim of simplicity, all other
claims pale in comparison.  

May we learn to look to Him and holdfast Him who is our All to make us
simple from the inside out.  Quietly, the Lord is working inwardly to “drive
out the nations” (decrease of self) and “enlarge our borders” (increase of
Christ) as in Ex 34: 24.  

Little by little, as we learn to surrender to His merciful dealings, the Lord then
has a chance to gain some ground in us; and quite unexpectedly, a sweet
and real church life emerges without anyone working up a sweat trying to
copy or mimic the so-called “Early Church” pattern (not to say we haven’t
tried before).  

Whenever the "self" is in charge, the most first-century-like church is merely
an empty structure, whether it gathers in a house or an ornate building.  

On the other hand, when our focus is shifted from the church to Him, a
wealth of treasure is opened to us not the least of which is a genuine church
life that many saints elsewhere devote themselves to but have difficulty
laying hold of.  When the focus is the church, we lose sight of Christ; when
the focus is Christ, we gain both the new wine and the wineskin.  It’s not
about us, dear saints, it’s all about Him.  

Over the years, the Lord has graciously brought many dear extra-local
friends to fellowship with us and help us return to Christ.  We are most
grateful for these dear friends from Louisiana, Dallas, Memphis, California,
North Carolina, Ghana, Mexico, Virginia, Chile, India, Canada, Brazil…who
have enriched our lives through their fellowship.  Our oneness is not found
in uniformity, it is found in Christ alone, and Christ is manifested in diverse
members that are distinctly different.  May the Lord teach us the secret that
an open door of fellowship with the saints comes through closed door of His
intimate dealings by grace (more on this in the next message "The Closed
Door").  

Prayerfully and humbly, we submit the articles in this website for your
considerations with a hope for fellowship unto an enlargement of the portion
of Christ in His saints.  Amen.  

Oliver Peng