The Song of the Remnant
                            Gleanings From Isaiah

When we consider God’s work of creation, we inevitably are
captivated by thoughts of “perfection,” “fullness,” “life,” “beauty,”
“goodness,” “wholesomeness,” “joy”….  Job tells us that in creation,
God laid the foundation of the earth, set its measurements, stretched
its lines, laid its cornerstone…then the morning stars sang together,
and all the angelic hosts burst forth with a symphony of joy (Job. 38:
4-7). It is beyond our consideration that God would harbor thoughts
of “brokenness,” “outcast,” “lowliness,” “affliction,” “suffering,” even
“death” as ways to ultimately arrive at His good pleasure in His new
creation.  

Even when the old creation failed Him, His purpose remained
unchanged and a remnant was soon called forth to pick up where man
failed and pressed ahead toward that great purpose.  Ever since Adam
and Eve, this scene has repeated time and again.  Is the Lord not
trying to teach us the principle of resurrection whereby the old
creation must give way to the new, the former glory concede to the
latter glory, the first man Adam yield to the second man Christ, the
earthly to the heavenly, the carnal to the spiritual, and the temporal
to the eternal?  In each case the cross of Christ operates to put to
death not only that which is evil, but also that which is natural and
naturally good in us until Christ is gained in resurrection.  And as a
result of the work of the Refiner’s fire, a lowly remnant is produced to
carry on and continue pressing toward God’s purpose.   

Unfortunately, however, man’s attention soon focuses on the
attainment of the remnant while the character of the remnant is
largely overlooked; for the natural man loves glamour, he is incapable
of appreciating the quality of being hidden, humble, and lowly.  We
pay no attention to the remnant until we discover that the Lord is
using the remnant to accomplish His great purpose.  Then, suddenly,
everyone wants to be a remnant!  It is the spotlight, the applause
and the glamour that we crave for, not the lowliness, the obscurity,
and the slow and painful process that goes into the making of a
remnant.  

Some time ago I went to a fabric store with my wife where she was
looking for a certain pattern and fabrics to make home furnishing.  
After careful selection, she picked out what she wanted but still
needed a small amount of “remnant.”  I fancied her use of the word
and soon found out what she meant as she headed straight for the
scrap table.  These seemingly insignificant and unglamorous leftover
cut-up pieces were useless to most but possessed great value to one
who had a vision of the final product and an understanding of how all
the components would fit together.  The real remnant are like those
lowly and forgotten scrap pieces, but the Lord in His grand scheme
and foresight has foreordained an important role for them, no matter
how insignificant and outcast they appear to be.  

It should be noted at the outset that the Lord did not cast away the
whole in favor of the remnant.  His calling is for ALL to come into His
fullness, love, purpose and glory.  The earth is the Lord’s and the
fullness thereof, and He wants the earth to be full of the knowledge
of Him.  Despite man’s failure to enter into the good of it, His work to
this end goes on by using the remnant to restore His purpose for all
mankind, and by using the remnant to usher in His fullness.  

In the Old Testament, God wanted all His people to return from
Babylon to rebuild His house, but only a remnant hearkened and
obeyed.  During the time of the Assyrian captivity, Isaiah lamented,
“for though your people, O Israel, be like the sand of the sea, only a
remnant within them will return” (Isa. 10:22).  God’s desire is for all
Israel to come back to rebuild His house, and this desire has been
clearly revealed in the Old Testament. Why then, we might wonder,
didn’t all God’s people obey His clear command?  Was it only because
of their disobedience and unbelief?  And does obeying God’s command
necessarily qualify one to be part of the remnant?  

Indeed, most of us who obeyed God’s revelations concerning Christ
and His purpose for the Church and came out of religious institutions
considered ourselves to be the remnant.  Yet, un-Christ-like behaviors
are often seen among the so-called “remnant” such as superiority
complex, critical spirit, judgmental attitude, finger-pointing, stone-
throwing and ridiculing.  Something must be amiss, for we behave
just like, if not worse than, our brethren in captivity. There must be a
much greater qualification for becoming a remnant than merely
coming out of religious captivity.

Before any attempt is made to address the makeup of a remnant,
let’s consider the makeup of the church since the remnant is a part of
the church.  Jesus said, “I will build My church”; but I wonder if we
misappropriate this wonderful promise thinking, the Lord will build our
church: the attendance will increase, Sunday School will flourish,
people will get saved, services and missions will be well staffed and
funded, and soon we’ll be running out of space, and building projects
will be underway….  Is that what the Lord had in mind when He said,
“I will build My church”?   

T. Austin-Sparks hit the mark when he said, “The church is measured
by Christ: more Christ, more church; less Christ, less church.”  Not
only is the Lord the One who builds the church, He builds by
incorporating, through the cross, His very own character and essence
into the church; thus “more Christ” equals “more church.” The
remnant, therefore, are a people who have allowed the cross of Christ
to operate in their lives bringing them through death into resurrection
life; and as a result, they are constituted inwardly with a greater
measure of the element of Christ.  

It doesn’t matter how large or small the congregation, if we are
devoid of the essence and character of Christ, we are not the
remnant.  And, contrary to popular belief, coming out of
institutionalized “Babylon” does not one a remnant make.  Dear
saints, the focus should always be on the “Beloved Son” in whom the
Father is “well pleased.”  The issue is always whether or not the
Beloved Son’s character and essence have been wrought into our
being.  Isn’t it therefore our urgent need to consider matters related
to the character of the remnant?  

                 
       The Character of the Remnant

“Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly
record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob
the poor of My people of their rights, in order that widows may be
their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans” (Isa. 10:1-2).  

If we believe the Lord’s purpose is to be accomplished and His
testimony upheld through His remnant, then we must consider the
character, calling and ministry of the remnant.  In chapter 10 verse 2,
Isaiah presents four types of people: the needy, the poor, the
widows, and the orphans.  On the surface, Isaiah seems to seek
vindication for these lowly people, but if we are to dig a little deeper,
we may be able to find something of the character of Christ being
portrayed through each of them.  

Objectively, the church should provide for the needy and the poor,
honor the widows and care for the orphans.  These things the church
by and large has dutifully administered and lovingly borne upon her
broad shoulders for the past two thousand years.  Subjectively
though, the church should be in essence the needy, the poor, the
widows and the orphans.  But subtly and craftily the Enemy has
shifted our entire attention to the objective and external agenda of
doing good works.  Many churches make social work their prominent
mission busying themselves with a plethora of outreach programs.  At
the end of the day, they feel good about themselves because of the
good deeds they have done.  

Without a doubt, there is nothing wrong with doing good deeds.  We
should have a burning desire to do good deeds and to help our
fellowman.  But the Lord must always come first.  “The poor you have
with you always, but you don’t always have Me” was the Lord’s
answer to the indignant disciples who rebuked Mary for “wasting” a
costly alabaster bottle of ointment on Him. The disciples’ top priority
was doing good deeds for the poor.  Mary’s was putting the Lord first,
which required an inward seeing and humility.  This inward seeing and
humility surely came about as the Lord revealed to her both His
precious worth and her profound neediness.  

The Enemy loves to remind us of the need to help the poor and would
be quick to reward us with fluffy feelings – as long as we gradually
shift our eyes away from the Lord and become oblivious to our own
neediness.  When the church loses her subjective essence of being
the needy, the poor, the widows and the orphans, she usually turns
to the external works of feeding the hungry, caring for the poor,
helping the widows and providing for the orphans to assure herself of
a sense of worth.  

What then is our subjective essence?  Paul told the Corinthian
believers, “for we have become a spectacle to the world…we are
fools…we are weak…we are without honor…we are both hungry and
thirsty and poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless... reviled...
persecuted... slandered… and we have become the scum of the world,
the dregs of all things…” (I Cor. 4:9-13).  Paul was not advocating a
Franciscan monk’s meager existence in self-abasement; he was rather
showing us the inward qualities of Christ-like lowliness, absolute
dependency upon Him, and reckless abandonment to Him.  These
essences cannot be taught, mimicked or legislated, they are
hammered into our being only by the work of the Spirit through the
cross.  Since the church in Corinth and the Church in general (just like
the disciples) have failed in this regard, these essences then became
the character of the remnant who yielded to the hammering of the
cross.  

The remnant are, therefore, a people who have submitted to the work
of the Spirit through the subjective dealings of the cross and have
gained a measurable portion of the character and essence of Christ.  
We must be a needy people not in the material but in the spiritual
sense.  We need Him to be everything for us.  We need Him to be our
life, our love, our patience, our light and salvation, our comfort in
trials and balm in pain, our joy and strength, our wisdom and might;
for without Him our needs would be unfulfilled and our life vanity.  

Not only so, we are also needy of the body of Christ.  Though the
Lord endowed us with some gifts, He also kept many of our
deficiencies even in our new creation.  He sovereignly ordained it this
way so that we would learn humility and receive His grace and “every
joint of the supply” (Eph. 4:16) from each member of His body.  Any
member, regardless of how gifted or spiritual, who does not need his
or her fellow members is possibly filled with hidden pride.  This is
perhaps the single most difficult problem for those who are smart,
gifted and spiritual.  

I have seen some powerful preachers and some gifted and intelligent
brothers and sisters who received extraordinary ability to teach, give,
help and love only to spurn the love, help and fellowship of others.
The brothers and sisters who are most able to give, preach and
help…are often the last to feel needy of other saints – especially the
less gifted ones.  And the root cause may possibly be a deeply hidden
self-reliant and self-conceited pride. This problem is by no means
confined to the talented, the smart, or the spiritual; it is the problem
of all – to different degrees.  This sin not only hampers our own
spiritual growth, it also hinders the life of the body.  Oh, how the
Lord must deal with us and expose this hidden sin!  

One other prevalent misconception especially among God’s servants is
the way they presume to have all the answers – since they have been
“called” to serve, they must maintain a dignified appearance and
aloofness, and not be seen as being needy of the “common” brothers
and sisters.  Surely those untrained and “non-ordained” laymen have
nothing to offer to the great pillars of the faith; but this is not what
the Bible teaches, is it?   Paul said in I Cor. 12, “For the body is not
one member but many…if the whole body were an eye, where would
the hearing be?  If they were all one member, where would the body
be?  The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’…on the
contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to
be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we
deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor” (vv.
14-23).  

By examples, Paul also showed us that he was needy of the saints.  
He needed a virtually unknown Ananias to appreciate the value of the
small members in the body (Acts 9:10-18). He needed Prisca and
Aquila who “risked their necks” for his life (Rom. 16:4). He needed the
unnamed mother of Rufus, himself a little-known brother, to provide
him with affectionate motherly love (Rom. 16:13). He needed a
runaway slave, Onesimus, to help and to minister to him (Philem. 11,
13, 16).  How blessed we would be to learn to see our own
inadequacies and be needy of others.  Allow me to stress again: we
need the Lord most supremely, but we also need the body most
desperately.  

Secondly, the remnant are also the poor.  In this regard the Bible
gives us a dual type: the Lord made Himself poor so we could become
rich; and we being made rich in Christ, should learn to be poor in
spirit.  The Church has been positioned in the good land (a type of
Christ) to feast upon all the riches and abundance of Christ.  Thus
positionally we are rich in Christ.  Yet dispositionally, we are required
to be poor in spirit.  Since we are dealing with the character or
disposition of the remnant, we should learn to appreciate the Spirit’s
work of constituting Christ’s deep humility in us.  

Isaiah portrayed His humility this way: “He grew up before Him like a
tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground, He has no stately
form or majesty that we should behold Him, nor appearance that we
should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a
Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like One from whom
men hide their face, He was despised and we did not esteem Him.  
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we
esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.  But He was
pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our
iniquities; the chastening of our being fell upon Him, and by His
scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:2-5).  

Paul puts Jesus’ humility this way: “Although He existed in the form
of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being
made in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a
man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death, even the
death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).  In our disposition, we are anything
but poor; rather we are filled with lust, ambition, pride, vainglory and
self.  Even spiritually, we can be so filled with knowledge and
experiences that we become conceited.  We are anything but poor in
spirit.  May the Lord expose our Laodicean pride (Rev. 3:17).  May He
empty us and work into us this precious character of being poor in
spirit.  

We turn now to the third character trait of the remnant – widows.  
The Church is the wife of Christ.  Paul said to the Corinthians, “…for I
betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a
pure virgin” (II Cor. 11:2). During the time of her Husband’s absence,
the Church lives as a widow.  What characterizes her should be purity
of devotion and simplicity of heart.  But where is such a virtue when
all around, we see nothing but her pomp and circumstance, gigantic
cathedrals, traffic in commerce, entanglement in political and worldly
affairs, vainglory and fame, lust for power and wealth?  Is it any
wonder the Lord rebuked the church in Pergamum, a church that is
married to the world?  

The remnant therefore must learn to keep herself pure, simple and
devoted to Christ, longing for His soon return.  Anytime we find
ourselves attracted to the world, loyal to a spiritual leader, enmeshed
in a religious system, devoted to a particular cause, or engaged in
political maneuvering (in the church), we are in danger of committing
spiritual fornication just like the church in Pergamum, and we will
surely lose our standing as the remnant.  

Lastly, we come to the character of the remnant as orphans.  
Spiritually, these are those who are defenseless, those who mourn,
those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and
who have been dealt insult, persecution and all manner of evil
speaking on account of Him (Matt. 5).  To them, the Lord says,
“Blessed are you.” The orphans seek no revenge against their
persecutors because their reward is great in heaven.  Dear saints,
have you been wronged?  Have you been maligned?  Have you been
short-changed?  Have your rights been violated?  Have you suffered
persecutions?  Do not seek earthly fathers (comfort from men).  Cry
out to your heavenly Father – He will wipe away your tears.  And
forgive, as our heavenly Father has forgiven us. May our heavenly
Father expose and remove any root of bitterness in us.

                    
       The Calling of the Remnant

It is my observation that the Lord does not issue a calling without
demanding the proper character; and, conversely, the Lord never
builds character without matching it with a calling.  One of the great
dangers in young, zealous brothers and sisters who desire to serve
the Lord is that of answering the call without being properly molded
and prepared in character.  Many a testimony has been tainted
because of the un-Lamb-like blemishes in the character of the
ministers.  The Christian community in general places far too much
emphasis on those men and women who claim to have received a
“calling from the Lord” to serve, and not enough on the substance and
the character of the called ones.  It is certainly important that calling
should be a criterion for service, but it is alarming that no one
bothers to look into the substance and the character of the “called”
ones.  

How vastly off the mark too have been the efforts of the school of
prophets!  Stuffing seminary students with Greek and Hebrew,
doctrines, theology, methodology and psychology, and sealing their
academic achievements with a sheepskin will only steer them further
away from the precious revelations and the character-building that
can only be learned in the school of Christ.  If the calling is genuinely
from the Lord, why even bother to be certified by men, as if the Lord
were impressed by our achievements and not able to use a non-
degreed vessel?  

“Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and
those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely
on the one who struck them, but will rely on the Lord, the Holy One of
Israel.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty
God….  Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, ‘O My people who
dwell in Zion…’” (Isa. 10:20-21, 24a).  

The first calling of the remnant is in the phrase: “remnant of Israel.”  
Israel means the “prince of God” where God takes a family and builds
it into a kingdom.  To be able to see past the crafty, heel-holding
Jacob all the way to the prince of God requires vision.  So, the first
calling is to have a vision of God’s purpose, to have a sense of God’s
ultimate goal – kingdom and glory.  In any spiritual service it is vital
to begin with a vision, to know what God is after.  It is a blueprint for
building, a manual for service.  At the same time, we must remember
that we are of the “house of Jacob” – that we still see Jacobean
conniving and contriving reminds us that nothing good dwells in us.  
The remnant is not an elite group of super Christians, just forgiven
sinners who have been captured by a governing vision of the Lord and
His purpose.   

The second calling is to “escape.”  Whether it is Egyptian bondage,
Babylonian captivity, or any other form of bondage, the Lord’s calling
is, “Come out of her, My people!” There is no possibility of becoming
a remnant when we are in bondage to the world or to religion.  The
remnant feels pain like that of the Psalmist who lamented, “By the
rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and, yea, we wept when we
remembered Zion.  Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our
harps.  For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our
tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’  How
can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?  If I forget thee, O
Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.  May my tongue cleave
to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember thee, if I do not exalt
Jerusalem above my chief joy…” (Psa.137:1-6).  

Even though the vast majority of God’s people found comfort, wealth
and yes, religion, and settled in the land of captivity, thank God, a
small remnant never compromised with the world or with religion.  
They never forgot Zion.  Propelled by His enabling grace and a vision
of His house, they escaped!  Dear ones, have you discovered and
lamented the deprived and deplorable conditions of your captivity?  
Has your soul been gripped by an agonizing longing for Him and for
Jerusalem?  Have you appropriated His enabling grace and escaped?  

The phrase, “they will never rely on the one who struck them” leads
to our third calling – a crucified life.  The remnant are those who have
been “struck.”  Jesus was “stricken, smitten of God and afflicted…He
was pierced through…He was crushed….”  The cross of Calvary
epitomizes the life of brokenness out of which the redeemed extract
their life and peace, balm for healing, and joy for living.  Oh, dear
brothers and sisters, how shall we expect to feel the woes of our
brethren when we have not undergone pain?  How shall we expect to
provide the healing ointment when our olives stay uncrushed?  How
shall we offer the wine that cheers both God and men when our
grapes are withheld from the winepress?  How shall we expect others
to smell the fragrance of Christ when our alabaster bottles remain
unbroken?  How many servants of God vainly crave for power and
notoriety without embracing the cross?  

The Lord is looking for resurrection fragrance in our lives.  If our
service or ministry has not gone through death and resurrection, He
cannot use it.  Thankfully, many dear brothers and sisters in times
past have learned to yield to the chastening hand of God.  Their
paths soaked with pilgrims’ tears and stained by martyrs’ blood have
guided many wayward sojourners and smoothed the traverse of the
remnant.  In awe and adoring reverence, I bow before Him; the Lord
has collected much ointment, His fragrance from broken vessels is
starting to permeate the house….  

Fourthly, “A remnant will return.”  The Lord does not just provide for
the remnant a way of escape; He wants them to return to Him (v.
21).   Escaping Egypt (or Babylon) is one thing, returning to the Good
Land (Christ) is quite another.  Many saints have come out of the
Enemy’s bondage, but few have fully returned to Christ.  I have seen
many brothers and have myself fallen into this trap.  Why?  We don’t
know Him.  We compromise.  We settle for fluffy feelings.  We go for
the place where we can best utilize our talents….  The list goes on.  
But perhaps the biggest hindrance to returning to Him lies in the fact
that to escape, one only needs to suffer deprivations.  Take away his
freedom, wealth, comfort and peace, and he is ready to escape and
resettle wherever freedom, wealth, comfort and peace can be found.  
But to return requires a powerful longing for the place of his origin.  
Many other places offer equal or better living conditions thus prevent
the wayfarer’s return, unless he is gripped by that powerful longing
that would not be satisfied by anything less than returning home.    

It is not enough for Christians to lament the degradation of
Christendom; there needs to be a seeing of the abundance, riches
and beauty of their home in Christ from Whom they strayed.  There is
no shortage of Christians who see clearly and criticize eloquently the
degradation of the church, and some are even willing to suffer
reproach by escaping “outside the camp,” but only a precious few
have truly seen and returned to the fullness of Christ.  The act of
returning must be accompanied by a true seeing of the beauty of
Christ and a heart of repentance; and we cannot repent unless we see
how terribly far we have drifted from Him. Repentance depends upon
our seeing both of the beauty of Christ and of our own depravity; only
then can we hope to return to a fuller measure of His reality.  

Throughout Church history, we see saints being set free from religious
captivity; even in our time, we are not hard pressed to find a good
number of brothers and sisters being delivered, by the Lord’s mercy,
from cold, dead, or proud elitist groups.  Sometimes the great trauma
they experienced in escaping or being cast out left them dazed, hurt
and confused. Some were quite ready to point fingers, voice self-
vindication and evoke sympathy or applause.  One day I met a dear
brother who had himself gone through such a gut-wrenching
experience in the late 1960’s; he remarked about these disgruntled
outcasts: “Unless they (the outcasts) themselves come into
repentance, perhaps they haven’t really come out of Babylon yet.”  
Let me tell you, I have never before heard a wakeup call quite so
loud.  

The prodigal did not return to his father without seeing his own
deplorable and pathetic state.  His return was further hastened by
seeing the riches of his father’s house.  “Yes, but we are NOT the
prodigal son,” one may be quick to protest, “we merely spoke against
the institutional degradation and were forced to leave.”  Quite right,
but remember also Daniel’s prayer in which he repeatedly confessed,
“For we have sinned…” (Dan. 9:5, 8, 11, 15, 20).  And the prayer of
Nehemiah, “…we have sinned against Thee, I and my father’s house
have sinned” (Neh. 1:6).  And what about Isaiah’s desperate cry,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live
among a people of unclean lips…” (Isa. 6:5)?  

It may seem righteous of us when we have been wronged and
suffered persecution at the hands of our pharisaical brethren in
institutional degradation; but our righteousness, when measured
against Christ’s, is nothing but smoldering self-righteousness!  In the
end, God is only looking for Christ.  He is looking to see if we have
returned to Christ, and He is looking to see if Christ has been wrought
into our inner being.  If He cannot find the character of Christ in us,
smell the fragrance of the transcendent Christ in us, see the brand
mark of the cross of Christ in us, perhaps we haven’t yet escaped –
let alone returned.

The prodigal was drawn home by a seeing of the riches of his father’s
house.  What are the riches of the father’s house?  Christ is the
riches of the Father’s house.  Yet many have substituted other things
for Christ.  One big counterfeit the Enemy uses these days to
substitute for Christ is, believe or not, the Church!  More and more
seeking Christians have been shown a vision of the Church – the bride
of Christ – who is vastly different from the institutionalized edifice we
call “church.”  

Elated and excited, these dear brothers and sisters paid a great price
to exit the institutionalized edifices where they had invested their
entire being to start afresh in the newfound church.  Many gifted and
powerful leaders also came along to trumpet the “Return to the Early
Church” movement.  Many messages have been given on the Church;
much attention has been focused on the “wineskin”; the mechanics of
the New-Testament-styled “Early Church” have been studied,
dissected, copied and implemented.  Many such efforts have
succeeded in attracting sincere and seeking saints who were offered a
real taste of the sweetness of brotherly love.  Drawn by the warmth
of fellowship that was missing in institutional churches and released
by the exercise of the priesthood of all the believers that was
impossible in clergy-laity situations, they were overwhelmed by the
sheer exhilaration of being set free from tradition and religiosity.  
Thus a movement begins to take hold.  

In many House Church web-sites, there is no shortage of bold
invitations to “Come see the New Testament Church,” “Experience the
radical and revolutionary Early-Church-Life,” and “Be a part of the life-
changing Organic Church.” It really sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  All
the buried treasures concerning the Church that beg to be brought
back to light!  Except one thing – where is Christ in the midst of all
the clamoring about the Church?  It is not at all uncommon to see
each “house church” or “New Testament church” trying to outshine the
other by presenting herself in the best light, or vie for new members
by enticing them with some accomplishments related to the great
“recovery” of the truths and practices concerning church.  One line in a
familiar hymn comes to mind: “The bride eyes not her garment but
her dear Bridegroom’s face.”  The true bride, call her the “New
Testament Church,” the “House Church,” the “Organic Church,” the
“Recovered Church,” or what have you, never, I repeat, never talks
about her own beauty and accomplishments.  She only has an eye for
her Beloved.  He is the theme of her song.  She considers her
accomplishments all but rubbish!  

Once a dear brother shared this true story with me: In the south
Texas city of Corpus Christi, a group of brothers and sisters were
drawn by the vision of the Early Church and began meeting to practice
simple church life without religious trappings and clergy-laity
distinctions.  Having attained a level of success in duplicating the
New Testament Church, they sought to impress others.  One day,
they took a group photo of themselves and signed each one’s name in
the back, and sent it along with a letter listing their accomplishments
to an older and wiser spiritual brother in Christ.  “These are the
things that we have done, and this is how far we have come along….”  
Hardly able to conceal their excitement, they continued, “So, brother,
what’s next?  Where do we go from here?”   

The wise old spiritual brother replied simply, “The whole thing must
die and be born of travail….”  

It became prophetic.  Within a few months, the whole thing did die.  

Dear saints, the real testimony of Jesus never looks at her own
accomplishments.  The real bride of Christ never looks at her own
beauty.  The real church is born of travail.  Duplicating the mechanics
of the early Church means absolutely nothing without firstly allowing
the travails of the cross to hammer the character of the Lamb deep
into our inner being!  

But, being mesmerized by a vision of the church, many chose to copy
a prescribed formula to have church, or follow a leader who is a self-
appointed Early Church expert, more than allowing the Holy Spirit to
instill the character of the Lamb into them so that they can simply be
the church.  Besides, there is also a hidden desire to vindicate
themselves to their former friends and associates who stayed in the
institutional church.  This urge to vindicate pushes them to spend all
their energy and attention on the church.  Subtly and gradually, the
church is presented as a place of refuge, a source of life, and a
generator of ambience, camaraderie and excitement until the church
is placed on center stage and elevated even above Christ!  Most
regrettably, many unsuspecting and naïve brethren have been swept
into this seemingly innocent but very deceptive trap.  

While I was once enraptured by the utter ecstasy of seeing a vision of
the heavenly bride of Christ many years ago, I must bow my head in
shame and confess that I also erred tragically by emphasizing the
Church far above Christ.  In brokenness and humility, allow me to
submit: the supremacy and centrality of Christ is not to be tampered
with and overshadowed in any way.  Not even by the Church – no
matter how New-Testament-like or how recovered she may be!  

A brother once related what Fred Malir shared from Genesis: Jacob
saw a vision of the house of God (the Church) when he fled from Esau
and bedded down for the night at a place he called “Bethel” which
means “the House of God.”  Without a doubt, Jacob had been
arrested by a vision.  Twenty years later he returned to the same spot
but called it, “El-Bethel” – the God of the House of God.  After twenty
years of dealings from the Lord through the cross, the “vision” was
finally calibrated into a proper focus – God came before the house
(Church)!  It grieves me deeply that many saints and groups claim to
have returned but have only returned to “the church.”  Christ is left
outside the door knocking.  

“A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”  To
the mighty God, not to the mighty church!  

“O My people who dwell in Zion” (v. 24a) concludes the last calling for
the remnant.  Zion is the embodiment of the person of Christ, the
work of Christ, and the purpose of Christ.  It is where men have fully
returned to God and found His good pleasure.  It is where God is fully
expressed in man and works into him His good pleasure.  It is where
the testimony of Jesus is upheld.  Zion is the place of David’s throne,
hence, it is a place of ruling, reigning and kingdom.  Here, all the
saints come under Christ’s kingship.  Here, all the King’s subjects are
His servants – there is no intermediate class.  Here, the brethren
dwell in unity.  “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the
city of our God, in the mountains of His holiness; beautiful in
elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion on the sides of
the north, the city of the great king.”  What can ever compare with
the remnant who have returned to the mighty God, dwelled in Zion,
and the kingdom has become a spiritual reality?  

May the Lord build the Lamb’s character of brokenness, lowliness and
humility in us, so that we can answer the call of the remnant with a
clear vision of God’s eternal purpose, an escape out of the Enemy’s
worldly and religious systems, living a crucified life, returning to the
mighty God, and dwelling in the reality of the kingdom under His
Headship.  


          
        The Ministry of the Remnant—A Prelude

“A harsh vision has been shown to me: the treacherous one still deals
treacherously, and the destroyer still destroys.  Go up, Elam; lay
siege, Media.  I have made an end of all the groaning she has
caused.  For this reason my loins are full of anguish; pains have
seized me like the pains of a woman in labor.  I am so bewildered I
cannot hear, so terrified I cannot see.  My mind reels, horror
overwhelms me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into
trembling”  (Isa. 21:2-4).  

Here we find a most amazing description of the prophet’s delicate
inner emotions and turmoil having seen the decline of the testimony
and faced with the dreadful prospect of imminent attack and eventual
deportation of God’s people.  This inner travail for the testimony may
be considered a prelude to ministry.  Before any ministry is
commenced, there needs to be evidence of the work of the cross in
our lives: cutting, hammering, sculpting, shaping and forming to
produce the character of Christ so that we may possess the feelings
and emotions of the Lord regarding His testimony.  

Our own feelings and emotions will always err and mislead us.  But
when properly dealt with through the cross, our emotions are
wonderful vehicles to usher us into God’s feelings for His people.
What better way is there to minister to God’s people than to have His
feelings and emotions for His people?  What better way is there to
pray for God’s people than to pray with His feelings and His
emotions?  Understanding His feelings of sorrow regarding the
degradation of the church produces a powerful burden, which pushes
us into travailing prayer; and travailing prayer commences prophetic
ministries.  

In Matt. 4:1-2, we have a window into how the Lord Jesus commenced
His ministry: He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He
“fasted forty days and forty nights.”  We know that throughout the
Bible, fasting is always associated with praying – praying with great
travail, intensity and burden.  Paul also learned the importance of
prayer before the commencement of his ministry (Acts 9:11; 13:1-2).  
If the Devil’s assault on Jesus prior to His ministry was any
indication, His fasting and praying must have in some way clued Him
in to the Father’s feelings and strengthened, prepared, and readied
Him for the burden of the ministry.  Not only so, Jesus also displayed
tremendous inner agony when He lamented the ruinous condition of
the House of God, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather
your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her
wings, and you were unwilling…” (Matt. 23:37-39).  

Two thousand years of Church history confirms that no servant of God
who has had a prophetic ministry failed to yield to the cutting of the
cross and through it to possess God’s feelings for His testimony.  Now
Isaiah’s agony and turmoil in 21:3-4 begins to make sense, does it
not?  May we not rush into ministries without having the Lamb’s
character wrought into us which tunes us to His feelings which, in
turn, symphonize into a prelude of travailing prayers that take us to
our next intensified movement.  

       
         The Ministry of the Remnant – An Allegro

“Then the lookout called, ‘O Lord, I stand continually by day on the
watchtower, and I am stationed every night at my guard post” (Isa.
21:8).  

A watchtower symbolizes believers’ persistent prayers from the
heavenly position.  If our vision is clear and our burden genuine, our
prayers are of enduring nature (every night).  There were times in our
lives when certain burdens did not stand the test of time.  After a
level of spiritual maturity and readjustment, those burdens no longer
seemed important or even existed.  But, by His mercy, there are some
burdens that never lose their weightiness.  In fact, their weightiness
increases with time and maturity.  This increased burden adds to the
weight of our ministry and the clarity of our vision – “Now behold,
here comes a troop of riders, horsemen in pairs.  And one answered
and said, ‘Fallen, fallen, is Babylon; and all the images of her gods
are shattered on the ground’”  (Isa. 21:9).  

Horses symbolize the natural energy and raw power of the carnal
man.  Ever since the fall of man, sin entered and dwelt in our flesh.  
But the prophetic ministry at this stage is so exercised in discernment
it has the Enemy’s troop movements (“the troop of riders, horsemen
in pairs”) – the activities of the flesh – completely on its radar
screen.  There is no doubt that the matured ministry not only can now
spot the Enemy, but engages the Enemy head-on and deals a
knockout punch: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon.”  A ministry that does not
strike absolute terror in the heart of the Enemy will not do for the
Lord.  The conflict of the ages demands nothing less from our ministry
than delivering a knockout punch to the Enemy.  Martin Luther has a
line in his powerful hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God: “One little
word shall fell him.”  If our ministry is to be useful to the Lord, it also
needs to rely on a Mighty Fortress to deliver a “little word” that
topples the enemy.  


       
        The Ministry of the Remnant – A Crescendo  

“Watchman, what is the time of the night?  Watchman, what is the
time of the night?” (Isa. 21:11b).  

Now the prophetic ministry is gathered up into a fast-tempo major
chord and consummated in a crescendo.  The refrain of the above
questions strikes a resounding chorus:  

I)        A sense of urgency.  In the New Testament, Peter’s ministry,
Paul’s ministry and John’s ministry all carry a sense of urgency.  
Likewise in the Old Testament, the children of Israel in Egypt were
charged to ready themselves, eat the Passover in haste and head out
without delay.  After the Babylonian captivity, the returned remnant
failed to keep up the intensity of the burden to rebuild God’s house
and allowed the work to slack off.  It took the prophetic ministries of
Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1) to restore the sense of urgency to
rebuild God’s house so that God’s purpose could be resumed.  

Perhaps nowhere else in the Bible is this point quite as poignant as in
Haggai 1:2-12.  There we find the people of God saying, “The time
has not come for the rebuilding of God’s house.” To that the prophet
answered, “Is it time for you to dwell in your paneled houses while
God’s house lies desolate?” Isn’t it true that nowadays we are more
and more settled into the comfort, convenience and luxury of modern
living, chasing the elusive “American Dream” while the urgency of
rebuilding God’s house is all but forgotten? And isn’t it equally true
that we usually care for our own ministries much more than the
testimony of Jesus?  

We devote most of our efforts and time to finding out what we can
and want to do for Jesus; few have given any thought at all to what
Jesus wants, and how He wants it done.  In Nehemiah’s time, he
returned to Jerusalem only to find the entire city oblivious to the
burnt gates and breached walls.  The situation really hasn’t changed
today.  While there is no lack of zealous brothers and sisters with
burning zeal to serve the Lord, there is a real lack of urgency about
the “burnt gates and breached walls” – the desolate condition of the
testimony of Jesus.  

II)        A present word – “Watchman, what is the time of the night?
Watchmen, what is the time of the night?”  

Under the orchestrating hand of the Holy Spirit, the reverberating
chorus continues to raise the level of intensity toward His purpose of
the ages.  

Our God is a speaking God who reveals His purpose through
speaking.  Even though God did speak to all His people in captivity,
His ultimate intention was only hearkened by the remnant whose
hearts responded to God’s stirring to return to Zion to rebuild His
house (Ezra 1:3,5).  His great purpose was etched and burned into
the hearts of the remnant who longed for His presence and returned
to Zion.  

While God does speak to all His people regardless of where they are,
the revelation of His heart’s desire is often only seen and received by
those who yearn for Him, those who delight in His presence.  David,
the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel”, had such a prolific ministry in Psalms
because he learned the secret of yearning to dwell in the presence of
the Lord.  Mary who broke the alabaster bottle of perfume alone knew
Jesus’ heart because she delighted in drawing near at His feet.

To these, the Lord always speaks a present word – a word that
reveals the richest and rarest and fullest thoughts and feelings of God
concerning His purpose of the ages: His Beloved Son.  Since the
remnant are the ones who are drawn by His presence and purpose to
return to Zion, His dwelling place, the prophetic ministry, therefore,
must also rest squarely on the shoulders of the remnant, and it must
be of such caliber that it reveals God’s heart’s desire for the present
hour.  Historically, we have found the Lord speaking through His
remnant in every generation a present word expressing the richest,
rarest and fullest thoughts and feelings of God concerning His eternal
purpose.  

Commenting on the present nature of God’s word, T. Austin-Sparks
said, “A minister according to God’s mind must have a message for
the time.  It will not do for us to be giving out things just in a
general way.  Our Bible teaching must not be just of a general
character.  What God needs more than anything are those who have a
message for the present hour…that our message related to a special
time in the purpose of God” (The Persistent Purpose of God).  Dear
saints, does your ministry bring out God’s purpose for the present
hour?  Do you have a timely word that ministers God’s full thoughts
and feelings concerning His Son to your generation, or do you merely
minister good Christian ethics, various issues and general teachings
and re-hash yesterday’s manna?  Do you know what “time of the
night” it is?  

III)        A watchman – “Watchman, what is the time of the night?  
Watchman, what is the time of the night?”  

It is no less significant that the whole question of the prophetic,
present ministry should be addressed to a watchman.  In fact, there
should be a desperate cry going out:  “Watchmen, we need
watchmen!”  At a time of spiritual decline when the Church generally
slumbers into a “spirit of deep sleep”, when doctrines, teachings,
experiences and Christian entertainment titillate our senses and
capture our attention but dull our spirits, we need remnant who are
awake like the watchmen.  

Just what makes a man a watchman?  Does a seminary degree make
one a watchman?  Does a person’s giftedness and zeal make him a
watchman?  Is today’s salaried professional preacher a watchman?  
Are those who bear the most “fruit” and command the largest
assemblies watchmen?  All of the above are legitimate issues that
demand careful scrutiny, and one would do well to bring them before
the Lord; my burden, however, is to pick out just a few positive
attributes of a watchman:

1)        He is one who waits.  “Behold, this is our God for whom we
have waited… this is the Lord for whom we have waited” (Isa. 25:9).  
One of the hardest things to learn is to wait.  Didn’t the Lord
command us to trade and invest our talents?  Didn’t He rebuke the
passive slave who did nothing with his given talent?  Yes, but the
exercise of our spiritual talent ought to be conducted in a spiritual
context.  He is never counting on us to do the trading, earning, and
increasing, for in us, that is in our flesh dwells no good thing.  It is
the Christ in us who works, serves, and ministers to His good
pleasure and results in an increase of Christ.  

Moses in the flesh possessed great wisdom, power, and zeal, but the
Lord could not use any of it.  In fact, He had to bring Moses to the
“back forty” and leave him there until ALL his wisdom, power and zeal
were sapped out and drained dry!  Jacob is another prime example.  
Even David had to spend many years tending his father’s sheep and
many years on the run being chased like a stray dog, then had to wait
seven more years before his “talents” could be fully put to use.  Paul,
too, possessed great raw talents, but the Lord had to teach him the
secret of waiting before he mastered the art of serving.  

So, does it mean in waiting, we do nothing?  Not necessarily.  In fact,
one can engage in all kinds of activities outwardly yet remain in a
calm and restful waiting on the inside.  Nehemiah showed us such an
example.  His job as the king’s cup-bearer probably equals today’s
presidential advisor; he was likely the king’s confidant in the inner
circle of power.  Yet we find him communing with God while serving
the king (Neh. 2:4).  Furthermore, just because Moses, David, and
Paul all learned to wait before they served does not necessarily mean
that once they started serving, they no longer needed to wait.  
Waiting is first and foremost an inner condition and has little to do
with outward activities (or the lack thereof).  However, when the Lord
is dealing with our flesh or with our natural zeal, He will require us to
cease from outward ministries until we have learned to die to our
self, as was the case with Moses, David, Paul and countless others.  

2)        He is the gatekeeper – “he who opens.” “Open the gates, that
the righteous nation may enter”  (Isa. 26:2).  In the Old Testament,
the city gate is the place of fellowship, a place where matters are
settled through fellowship.  The gate is also opened to its citizens,
its welcomed guests, its kings and nobles.  Spiritually, we need to
learn to promote the fellowship of all the saints.  Paul suggested that
it was through fellowship with all the saints that the breadth and
length and height and depth of the love of Christ could be
apprehended (Eph. 3:18).  In the church, we need the ministry of
gatekeepers who have learned the value of fellowship to help us
apprehend the many aspects of the multifaceted riches of Christ.  

Paul likes to use a single word to describe the unfathomable riches of
Christ: “mystery.”  In Col. 2:2-3 Paul said, “that their hearts may be
knit together in love and attaining to all the wealth that comes from
the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a full knowledge of
the mystery of God – Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of
wisdom and knowledge.”  Since in Christ are hidden all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge, these hidden treasures remain a mystery
until someone unlocks the gate of the treasure house.  Oh, how we
need the ministry of the gatekeepers in the church!  Each time we
meet, we need to open the gate and usher each other into Christ.  
Each time we fellowship, we need to open the gate and bring out a
little more of the hidden treasures of Christ.  

In the book of Revelation there are seven churches in Asia, but only
one attained a level of normalcy: the church in Philadelphia.  We find,
among other things, an “open door (gate)” here.  How blessed this
church must have been to possess the “little power” in keeping the
gate, the avenues of fellowship open among the brethren, and
through such fellowship to have entered into the riches of Christ.  

Then at the end of Revelation we find the “New Jerusalem” with
“twelve gates”!  Isn’t this simply marvelous?  Twelve gates, an
eternally perfect number related to God’s eternal purpose – Christ.  In
God’s consummate purpose and desire, His people should be
abounding, nay, super-abounding in perfect fellowship concerning His
perfect Son; and through such overflowing fellowship to usher each
other to enter in, search out, experience and possess in full the
unsearchable riches of Christ throughout eternity.  Don’t wait for that
day to experience this reality.  Even today in the church, there needs
to be a microcosm of the twelve gates where the saints can help
usher each other to Christ.  Do not delay, open the gates today!  
Lord, recover the gatekeepers for us.  

3)        He is the gatekeeper – “he who shuts.” On the negative side,
a gatekeeper also keeps out unwanted elements by keeping the gate
shut when it should be shut.  Not all fellowship edifies, not all
fellowship is unto God’s purpose, not all fellowship is according to
sound doctrines, and unfortunately, not all fellowship ushers us into
Christ.  So, in order to keep out negative elements that hinder the
edifying in Christ, the gatekeeper must learn to discern death from
life.  The “knowledge that puffs up,” the “letter that kills,” the “myths
and endless genealogies,” the profane, the doctrinal debates that do
not foster life and building, the “every wind of teaching” that leads
astray, the heresies…these things ought not to be allowed in and
wreak havoc among the saints.  

Historically as well as presently, we have seen that when the hands
of the gatekeepers are tied, many assemblies have left themselves
wide open to be hijacked and taken over by fleshly, domineering and
ambitious elements.  

But do we really know how and when to shut the gates?  I am not so
sure.  I have witnessed first-hand many precious brothers and sisters
being devastated by the ruthless and careless slamming of the gate
of rejection in the church.  Christ is the real Gatekeeper.  Only He
knows when and how to shut the gate.  We find a type of Him in Psa.
84:10, “For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside.  I
would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than
dwell in the tents of wickedness.”  Here Christ is portrayed as a lowly
butler standing at the gate.  If we want to have the spiritual
authority to be able to reject the undesirable fellowship from entering
into the church, we had better first allow the Lord to instill His
character into us; after all, it is His character that constitutes the
“gate.”  

Our zeal to keep out death by arbitrarily shutting the gate could
ironically bring death into the camp.  On the other hand, when Christ
is constituted in us, His character will automatically expose and deny
any questionable element from sneaking in.  What an urgent need
therefore it is to have Christ woven into our character!    

                       The Prophetic Ministry – A Grand Finale

Finally, the ministry of the remnant is a ministry of the recovery from
ruin and desolation to the fullness and glory of Christ.  Chapter 34
paints a gloomy picture of the desolation of the land that has been
judged by God with its corpses, blood, dried-up riverbed, burning tar
pits and smoke along with savage beasts and birds of prey….  
Without belaboring the specific details of each item, suffice to say
that it is a picture of our flesh in its manifold manifestations.  

One of the many sad features in chapter 34 is perhaps summed up in
the phrases, “the hairy goat shall cry to its kind” (v. 14) and, “the
hawks shall be gathered there, every one with its kind” (v. 15).  Not
to mention the error of the denominations which divides the Body of
Christ by doctrines, practices, experiences, cultures and personalities,
they are also characterized by congregating “with their kind.”  
Likewise, among the remnant who have escaped the denominational
error, one of the greatest danger is also the proclivity to congregate
“with our kind.”  Paul categorized division or the exclusive spirit under
“deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-20).  May the Lord convict our hearts
that exclusivism perpetuates the desolate conditions of the church!  

Yes, it is absolutely necessary to seek out and gather with brethren
of kindred spirit and like vision, but it is entirely wrong to evolve into
a clique of a Mutual Admiration Society.  It is sad to see dear saints
who left institutional errors only to form holy huddles of “their own
kind.”  It is divisive and destructive to despise, exclude and look
down on precious members of the same Body who might not have the
same vision and understanding of Scripture.  May the cry of the
remnant be, “Lord, enlarge our hearts to embrace ALL Your children;
and enlarge our circle of fellowship to include ALL Your people!”  

Regarding the necessity to seek out and gather with like-minded
saints while maintaining fellowship with all God’s people, J.N. Darby
said it well, “We must have big hearts and small feet.”  The “big
heart” is to include and embrace all God’s people for fellowship; the
“small feet” are needed to restrict ourselves to traverse only the
paths that lead to God’s eternal purpose through revelation.  Sad to
say though, the Brethren history has cast a distorted hue to the
validity of this beautiful principle.  Darby himself vigorously pursued
to be faithful to the vision that was given him (the small feet) but
sacrificed the need to embrace all God’s people for fellowship (the big
heart), and his group fell into exclusivism.  

The “Open Brethren” on the other hand, over-corrected by adopting
and compromising with the teachings and practices of the
denominations and groups, and departed from the original vision and
the narrow path.  The Open Brethren’s eagerness to embrace all
believers prompted them to sacrifice the light that helped make them
the remnant in the first place.  How we need God’s mercy to help us
traverse the narrow path (with small feet) while maintaining
fellowship with all God’s people (with big heart)!  

Suddenly, chapter 35 reverses the gloomy story of judgment and
gives us a joyful picture of the recovery of the fullness of Christ.  
Such a dramatic recovery now symphonizes into a grand harmony that
includes: “the wilderness and the desert that are glad,” “the Arabah
that rejoices and blossoms like the rose,” “the glory of Lebanon and
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon,” the “slack-handed” the “feeble-
kneed,” the “anxious-hearted,” the “blind,” the “deaf,” the “lame,” the
“dumb,” and the “fools.”  In other words, the genuine recovery of the
remnant MUST include ALL different varieties of God’s people, and
they are usually not a very pretty sight except for the inward beauty
of Christ.  Didn’t Paul say that among God’s people there were “not
many wise, not many mighty, not many noble”?  Our own “kind”
should never be the ground of fellowship.  Even “vision,” as important
as it is, should never be the only ground of our fellowship.  Christ is
our only common ground.  

A genuine recovery must include every joint and every member that
supplies life to the body.  When we have yielded to the work of the
Holy Spirit in dealing with us through the cross thereby causing the
character of Christ to increase in us, then the “pains of a woman in
labor” that Isaiah experienced shall become our reality and give birth
to the remnant who minister the grand finale of the symphony of the
recovery of the fullness of Christ.  Let it be so!  Let it be so!  


        
        The Ministry of the Remnant – A Postlude

“Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your
dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pegs.  
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.  And your
descendents will possess nations, and they will resettle the desolate
cities” (Isa. 54:2-3).  

The land of Canaan with its milk and honey, hills and valleys, brooks
and fountains, fruits and produce, iron and copper…typifies the
fullness of Christ.  Such fullness can never be possessed and
experienced by any single person regardless of his maturity or
spiritual stature.  It can only be possessed by a corporate entity.  In
the Old Testament this corporate vessel was the nation of Israel; in
the New Testament it is the Church, the Body of Christ.  

After Israel entered the land of Canaan, the land was divided and
possessed by the tribes of Israel.  Except for the tribe of Levi, each
received a portion of the land as an inheritance.  Some received
bigger portions, some smaller, but all were equally important,
necessary and precious when viewed as a single corporate vessel.  To
the Israelites, this apportionment was extremely important.  It
determined the boundaries of their properties.  Severe consequence
(curse) resulted if the boundary lines were removed or encroached
upon (Deut. 27:17).  

In the light of the New Testament, it is easy to see that this is a
picture of the body of Christ with its various members having different
portions of Christ enabling them to function in different capacities.  
Amazingly, David had discovered this long before the dispensational
change.  In Psalm 16:5-6, he declared, “The Lord is the portion of my
inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot.  The lines have
fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to
me.”  Oh, if only Christians could see what David saw!  No matter
how big or small, our portions of Christ are pleasant and beautiful.  

When Christians are in firm possession of their portions and
functioning accordingly, it is nothing less than awesome.  But to our
dismay, nothing of this sort is in plain sight.  Alas, how carelessly we
have surrendered our portions to members who have greater
portions!  Sunday after Sunday, the more gifted members encroach
upon and swallow up the portions of the less gifted; and the smaller-
portioned saints willingly forfeit theirs to the greater-portioned.  The
worldly thinking of the religious system has programmed and
conditioned us to put the five-talent members on pedestals and to
accept a depreciated value of our single talent.  Beware, lest we
allow the system to lure us into committing the grave error of the
“one-talent servant” in Jesus’ parable.  

Religious systems aside, even in places where “Clergy-Laity”
distinctions have been done away, the same threat of encroachment
by zealous and gifted members still exists.  With all due respect to
the gifted ones, the insignificant “sparrows” – the common members
also have their place in the House of God (Psa. 84).  Much
unnecessary grief can be spared by learning to respect each other’s
beautiful and pleasant “ancient boundary lines” (Prov. 22:28; 23:10).

      Enlargement – The Heading Up, Summing Up and Filling Up
                                       
          in Christ

Much has been shared from the book of Ephesians by brothers like
Watchman Nee and T. Austin-Sparks concerning God’s eternal purpose
that His Son, Christ, would be all and in all, that He would sum up all
things in Christ and put all things in subjection under His feet.  The
thought of the supremacy, centrality and universality of Christ fills the
entire Ephesian letter.  God wants His Son to head up, sum up and fill
up all and in all.  In Isaiah, we find that the notion of “enlarging your
tent” dovetails nicely with the thought of the Ephesian letter.  

Let’s consider Isa. 54:2-3 again, “Enlarge the place of your tent;
stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your
cords, and strengthen your pegs.  For you will spread abroad to the
right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations, and
they will resettle the desolate cities.”  Now let’s read Eph. 1:10:  
“with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times,
that is, the summing up of all things in Christ….” And Eph. 1:22-23:  
“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as
head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of
Him who fills all in all.”  And Eph. 3:17-19: “…so that Christ may
make home in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted
and grounded in love, may be able to apprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know
the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled
up to all the fullness of God.”  

The enlargement spoken of by Isaiah was not merely a prophecy
concerning the nation of Israel; more significantly, it is prophetic of
the Church.  On a physical level, the Church is to be enlarged and
spread throughout the earth.  On a spiritual level, the enlargement
points to the heading up, summing up and filling up of all things in
Christ.  The Church is the vessel for such an enlargement of Christ.  
Today, the biggest problem facing the Church is not the want of
converts and numerical increase.  The greatest problem facing the
Church is a serious shortage of Christ!  We can fill a cavernous
cathedral with thousands of Christians and yet have very little Christ.  
We can busy ourselves with successful mission works and have a
serious shortage of Christ.  For two thousand years, the Church has
expanded and spread throughout the earth, but there has not been a
corresponding enlargement of Christ in her.  

When the Church is taken into captivity, she is able to flourish just as
the children of Israel did in Babylon.  Her outward success and
greatness betray her inward poverty due to the lack of the substance
and character of Christ.  It takes the travail of the remnant to recover
the testimony of Jesus.  The remnant are simply a people who yearn
to “enlarge the place of their tent” – to have Christ as head over all
things to the Church summing up, heading up and filling up all and in
all.  


                                      The Cost – Stretching  

This enlargement of Christ does not come without cost.  Notice the
words “stretch out” and “spare not” in Isa. 54:2.  A desire for the
enlargement of Christ will most definitely be challenged by our
natural man and the love of our soul life.  It takes little effort to love
brethren who are like-minded and like-dispositioned; it requires much
“stretching” to love those who are not.  We will be so stretched in the
process of being enlarged that the only way to get through will be to
“spare not” (lay down) our soul life.  Jesus said, “For whoever wishes
to save his (soul) life shall lose it, but whoever loses his (soul) life
for My sake shall save it” (Luke 9:24).  In a family life among the
husband, the wife and the children, or in the assembly life among the
saints, the Lord has decreed some “stretching” in order to enlarge us.  
Though it is unpleasant to our flesh, the stretching is actually not a
misfortune.  No matter how like-minded and like-dispositioned, and
no matter how well-intentioned, we still get on each other’s nerves
and rub each other the wrong way.  We know we cannot get out of
being stretched, but we do tend to look for ways to minimize the
hardship.  Many Christians gather on the basis of race and culture,
because the “cost” is much lower to be around their “own kind” who
are brought up in the same culture, who think alike, speak the same
language and savor the same cuisine.  Oh yes, there is no denying
how importantly food weighs in on our scale of fellowship
preferences.  

The reason we find it easy to love those who are like us is because
we are in love with ourselves.  Many believers choose their place of
worship based on cost alone: the less costly the better.  Sadly, the
popular cliché “Pay now, or pay later” holds true spiritually as well.  
Each lesson postponed only gets harder later on.  Each cost deferred
always comes back to exact a higher interest.  

Sometimes the Lord will divide up the cost in “installments,” if you
will.  Paying the first installment does not guarantee we will pay the
second.  The remnant who returned from Babylon did pay a
tremendous “first installment” leaving their careers, properties and
relatives behind.  But amazingly, a few years after arrival, many
settled into a contentment to building their own paneled houses while
the House of God lay in ruins prompting Haggai to stir up their spirit
to refocus on what they came back for – the rebuilding of God’s
House.  

Today, a similar scenario seems to unfold before our very eyes.  Many
precious saints paid a high price to exit the Institutional Church
leaving ministries, fruit and relationships behind, but they are
unwilling to reinvest themselves in new relationships.  Some stay out
of fellowship altogether.  Some hopscotch from group to group
enjoying their freedom of fellowship but would not pay the additional
installments of having their vision re-calibrated, developing intimacy,
travailing in prayer with the saints, or shouldering the burden of
building up a testimony with any one group, to say nothing of getting
balanced and adjusted by other saints.  

This new trend does look enticing with its cloak of spirituality because
of its association in a somewhat larger circle of fellowship involving
multiple Christian families and groups.  But the problems are: 1) they
become spiritual Lone-Rangers, 2) they can never develop meaningful
relationships by church-hopping, 3) no spiritual building can take
place.  A few saints looking for broad spiritual experiences with a less
“costly” price tag have hopped on this bandwagon.  

David knew well what “paying the full price” meant.  After being
punished for numbering the people of Israel, David was told to offer
burn offerings.  Ornan the Jebusite graciously offered his threshing
floor to the king for free with wood for burning and oxen for sacrificing
thrown in.  What an offer!  Any good Israelite would jump at such a
deal.  But not David.  He insisted on paying a full price.  Very
significantly, the threshing floor for which David paid a full price
became the very foundation of the Temple later on.  I am afraid many
so-called churches, relationships and even those of the remnant are
today sitting on threshing floors purchased at a discount.  

                              The Fellowship – Lengthening

Another important element in the enlargement of Christ is the
“lengthening of the cords.”  To lengthen the cords refers to the
longing to expand fellowship.  There is no possibility of having Christ
enlarged among us if we keep an elitist and exclusivist mentality in
our fellowship.  We must reach out – “lengthen” our fellowship – to
include brethren of all backgrounds, learning, experiences, ethnicity
and cultures.  Church historians tell us that the groups that did not
reach out for fellowship suffered the fate of “spiritual incest.”  Every
time!    

Paul expresses the need to reach out for fellowship this way: “to
apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and
height and depth” in order that we may be “filled up to all the
fullness of God.”  In other words, the remnant must not stay in a
cocoon but reach out for fellowship with all the saints in every
dimension that Christ may be enlarged in fuller measure.  

                        The Anchor in Christ – Strengthening

A crucial factor in this enlargement is found in the last phrase of Isa.
54:2: “strengthen your pegs.”  To strengthen the pegs, they must be
driven into solid ground, and what solid ground is there besides
Christ?  Yes, all else is sinking sand.  There is no shortage of
Christians and groups who are willing to be stretched and
inconvenienced, or to reach out for fellowship even to the point of
laying down their soul life.  Most cultic groups meet this requirement.
The crucial question is: Do all the stretching, laying-down and
reaching out result in the stakes being firmly driven into solid
ground?  In other words, are our efforts to stretch out, reach out and
fellowship resulting in being “filled up to all the fullness of God,” or
are we merely satisfying our own religious zeal and good intentions?  

Often our effort to reach out comes with a hidden motive of either
trying to bring others into a sectarian fold or in line with a certain
religious stronghold, or simply to feed our insatiable desire to
“minister.”  Yes, our reaching out should be to receive all the saints
for fellowship, but we also must ask the Lord to anchor our fellowship
firmly in Christ – this is how to “strengthen the pegs.”  

There is a dangerous tendency among those who have seen the
degradation of religion.  They detest religiosity but have not seen
enough of the positive elements of Christ.  “They know what they don’
t want,” as a brother pointed out recently, “but they don’t know
enough of what, or more appropriately, Who they do want.” It seems
that everything they do is motivated by their intolerance for the
“institutional church.” Sometimes their gathering can be devoid of the
anointed presence and the sweet fragrance of Christ, yet they still
pride themselves for having the “real church” experience just because
they did not conduct it in a traditional or religious venue.  
Unfortunately, doing church outside of institutional environment and
having church (or even being church) without a clergy-laity system
becomes their only criteria for having the “real church” experience.  As
long as the church is gathered “organically” and “spontaneously”, they
are satisfied.  If everyone shares, the meeting is considered
“excellent.”  The weightier issues of the Lord’s presence, utterance,
and anointing are all but neglected.  

We must not only speak, Christ must come out of our speaking.  
Lance Lambert commented a few years ago, “Two people can play the
same piano, one plays and his gift comes out; the other one plays
and Christ comes out.”  This is in essence what “prophesying” means
in I Cor. 14.  Prophesying is not merely to speak for Christ or to fore-
speak future events, more importantly, it is to speak forth Christ!  

In my limited observation, the Charismatic circle has a penchant for
fore-speaking future events calling it “prophesying.”  In the House
Church movement, folks have a strong tendency to urge everyone to
speak for Christ citing I Cor. 14 as basis for prophesying.  Alas, bona-
fide prophesying is rare these days!  Brothers and sisters who have
not yielded to the dealings of the cross, and fellowship not anchored
in Christ will not speak forth Christ and can lead to confusion,
contention, chaos, and the formation of another religious system.  It
is anything but the “real church”!  A people that set their sights on
being “non-institutional” instead of the Lord is just as religious as
they come.  A congregation where ALL speak but without Christ
coming forth in their speaking has ventured hardly afield of the
congregation where only one person speaks.  

As mentioned earlier, many precious seeking saints have been led
outside the camp and discovered the value of their priestly functions
in small house churches.  A great number of such dear saints have
given themselves to analyzing the mechanism and duplicating the
practices of the Early Church.  Armed with Bible verses, Greek
renderings, historical documents…some groups have dissected and
taken apart every component of the early Church meetings and
practices.  They scrutinized every detail under a microscope,
reassembled them, certified themselves as experts and set up shop
to authenticate and mass-produce their brand of the early church.  

It’s the Great American Way, isn’t it?  The irony is, the very “camp”
that the saints came out of has come full circle to entrap them
again!  When Christ is replaced by the church as our focus, we are
right back in the “camp,” whether we meet in a large cathedral or a
cozy living room.  May the Lord help us to anchor our fellowship in
Christ.  

                    The Building – The Full Expression of Christ

As the cords need to be lengthened for the tent to have any hope of
enlargement, our fellowship needs to reach out if we want to have an
increased portion of Christ.  Furthermore, as the lengthened cords
need to be firmly staked in solid ground for the tent to be raised, our
reaching out for fellowship needs to be firmly anchored in Christ in
order that the building, the House of God, may go up.  The ultimate
issue is the building up of the House of God.   

From the Tabernacle to the Temple to the Church to the New
Jerusalem, the issue is abundantly clear: God is after a building – the
full expression of Christ.  As a matter of fact, the divine thought of
building emerged almost immediately after creation.  In Gen. 2:22
God “built” a woman out of the rib He took from Adam.  As the
typology of Adam and Eve points to Christ and His counterpart, the
Church, so does the building of Eve point to the Lord’s building of His
Church from the pierced side of Jesus.  And the thought of building
continues throughout the Bible to the end of Revelation.  

Therefore, every Christian group being part of the Church should
consider the eventuality of something being built up.  A fellowship
should be open to all born-again believers; there can be no
denominational, doctrinal or cultural restrictions placed on anyone.  
Fellowship is a matter of life – since we have been born-again we
share the same life, and this life enables us to have fellowship with
each other.  All differences in doctrinal understanding, meeting styles,
experiences, races and cultures, visions, preferences,
personalities…must be set aside.  Any failure in this regard endangers
the nature of fellowship and causes divisions.

Having said that, the church is not a free-for-all either.  A brother
(Ron) in San Francisco pointed out, “If we do not stand for anything,
we would fall for everything; a fellowship where everything goes
would be no different from a social club.”  A young brother from
another city near us made a sobering assessment about the
fellowship he attended, “When we get together, we are gathering
unto each other, not unto the Lord.”   It is a serious dilemma, isn’t
it?  On the one hand, we need to embrace all genuine believers into
fellowship, on the other hand, our fellowship must never become a
free-for-all.  A fellowship unto each other will find the Lord on the
outside looking in.  The key to this problem is, we need to be built
up, and building up takes light.  

We need the Holy Spirit to cast light on the living word of God to
illuminate our fellowship.  Every fellowship that is enlightened by the
word through the Holy Spirit leads us closer to the “unity of the faith”
(Eph. 4:13) and produces Christ.  As T.A. Sparks said, “more Christ,
more church.”  This is how spiritual building is formed – through
enlightened fellowship that produces more Christ and bonds believers
together.  On the flip side, church-hopping requires no light at all
because the basic requirement for fellowship is life.  As long as we
have the life of Christ, we can fellowship and enjoy the Lord with
even a company of strangers; hence some saints prefer to church-hop
from group to group.  But, in order to be delivered from mediocrity
and for fellowship to be full of Christ that would give birth to a
spiritual building (and indeed all fellowship should lead to spiritual
building), we desperately need light.  

Herein lies a paradox: among most groups, whenever “building” is the
issue, fellowship fades, for the most part.  This is why the Baptist
Church cannot “build up” with the Methodist Church, the Lutheran
Church, the Charismatic Church…and vice versa.  Each one having its
own doctrinal understanding, vision, goal and agenda preclude them
from building together.  The Word of God is the same, the Holy Spirit
is the same, but their visions are different.  

A while back, a former pastor of a Vineyard Church in our city visited a
number of groups that assembled outside of institutional parameters
with an intention of bringing them all under one umbrella.  When he
came into our midst, we were able to have the most wonderful
fellowship and worship before our glorified Christ.  But, his idea for
the building of God’s house was clearly different from what the Lord
revealed to us through His word.  Were we able to enjoy fellowship,
and can we continue to fellowship?  Most certainly!  Could we
acquiesce in becoming part of his vision of God’s building?  I am
afraid not, with all due respect.  

Given this unfortunate paradox, all Christian fellowships must still
seek divine light which produces spiritual “building,” because without
light, anyone with a doctrinal bias and a personal agenda can come in
and hijack the fellowship and inflict damage.  If our fellowship group
were a “free-for-all” without an anchor in the word of God and the
light of what the Lord desires, then the aforementioned ex-Vineyard
Pastor could easily enlist our group and make it into another trophy to
adorn his umbrella group of house churches.  

Great consideration must be given to “building,” because it gives
expression to fellowship.  The more Christ-centered a fellowship
becomes, the more built up it gets.  So, how are we to build?  Upon
what basis do we build?  Building is based on light, among other
things.  The more light we receive, the more solid is our building
because light calibrates and sharpens our vision of Christ.  Moses’
work of building the Tabernacle was based entirely on the “pattern on
the mount” (light) he received.  Down to the minutest details. There
was no room for religious ideas, good intentions, fleshly zeal, human
ingenuity, compromise or any other considerations.  That building
work was based 100% on divine light.  David’s blueprint for the
building of the Temple was also based exclusively on divine light.  
The Lord Jesus’ work of building His House (the Church) was
exclusively according to His Father’s revelations – “upon this rock (the
revelation of who Christ is) I will build My Church.”

Since both the Tabernacle and the Temple are important types of the
Church, it goes without saying that the Church is not just a
fellowship, it should also become a spiritual building as more light is
received and more Christ comes into focus.  All Christians who gather
regularly in their respective groups are engaged in a building up in
some fashion whether they know it or not.  They labor (or more
precisely, the Lord labors through them) toward a common goal under
the light of a common vision to build up their fellowship.  

King Solomon declared, “Unless the Lord builds the House, they labor
in vain who build it” (Psm.127:1).  Notice that Solomon did not say,
“Since the Lord is the One building the House, the laborers needn’t
bother; since the Lord is the One watching the city, the watchmen can
go to bed.”  The watchmen still need to keep watch, but it is the Lord
who guards the city.  The laborers still need to build the house, but it
is the Lord who builds in and through them.  

Paul said, “Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will
become evident…” (I Cor. 3:12-13).  There is no question that the
Lord is the One who builds His house, yet He has decided that we all
become His co-laborers in this endeavor, because His building work is
done through men.  George Cutting once told Watchman Nee, “I can’t
do it without the Lord, but do you know, the Lord can’t do it without
me?”  God’s entire business is wrapped up in man, but man has
utterly failed.  The sooner we realize our complete untrustworthiness
and total incompetence, the better are our chances of being fashioned
into vessels useful in the Master’s hand.  

The question is not whether we have a part in His building work.  The
questions are: 1) How much have we allowed Him to mold us into
useful vessels so that He can labor in and through us?   2) How much
of our co-labor is based on divine light?   

Regrettably, a great number of the brothers and sisters who have
received a vision of God’s purpose for His Church care only for the
external technicalities of the church.  They split hairs over whether
the Lord’s Day begins at sundown Saturday or sunup Sunday, whether
the Lord’s Supper should be a full meal or just crackers and tiny cups,
over scheduling meetings versus meeting spontaneously, over how to
be un-religious, over the “proper name/proper ground” for the church,
and even over certain version of the Bible!  At the drop of a hat the
saints quarrel, and the points of contention soon lead to point of
departure if their “biblically sound” resolutions are not respected and
adopted into practice.  

For sure, these and other issues are very important and ought to
receive careful considerations.  We most certainly should search the
Scriptures for light on these things.  But do we really allow the light
of the word to expose us, search us, change us, and fill us with His
character first; or do we zealously read our religious biases and
concepts into God’s holy word and call that “light”?  All too often, we
are ready to withdraw or cut off fellowship over some pathetically
minor trivialities. There is a tendency among brethren who are gifted
and zealous to major in the minor and minor in the major, and in so
doing tear the fellowship apart and inflict great harm to the innocent
members of the body of Christ.  

In the New Testament economy, our greatest source of light comes
from the word of God through the illuminating of the Holy Spirit.  
Some Christians may argue that the Holy Spirit is the only source of
light, citing the fact that the patriarchs did not have the benefit of
the written word, yet they came into God’s will either through the
revelation of the Holy Spirit or direct divine intervention.  Others also
claim to have the leading of the Holy Spirit without the written word
in matters related to jobs, marriages, etc.   

While it is true that the patriarchs did not have the written word of
God, it is equally true that they did not have a comprehensive view of
the light and revelation contained in the written word of God which
we have today.  The same can be said about today’s leading of the
Holy Spirit independent of the written word.  While the Holy Spirit can
certainly prick men’s conscience and convict men of sins without the
written word, the questions are: 1) How much longer can such people
go on without relying on the authority of the written word and not
suffer spiritual delusion, deprivation and darkness?  2) How much
“light” can one claim to have in being solely “led by the Holy Spirit”?
3) Can anyone come into the revelation (light) of the “fullness of
Christ” and the “whole counsel of God” without the complete record of
the word of God being illumined by the Holy Spirit?  The answer is
obvious.  

Therefore, any claims of comprehensive divine revelation that do not
conform to, and are not consistent with the word of God must be
questioned and discarded.  Even more importantly, if we have not
allowed the light of the word to penetrate, expose and cut our egos
down to size first, our un-dealt-with natural man will either puff
ourselves up or slay each other, no matter how much “light” we claim
to have!  

So the first order of things in the building of His testimony is the
need for divine light and for us to be completely arrested and cut
down in His light.  Isaiah cried out upon seeing a vision (light) of the
Lord high and lifted up, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!” (6:5). Then and
only then can Isaiah be commissioned for service.  No service or
building of any kind is possible aside from a complete surrender of our
natural man under His light.  

                      
          Fellowship and Building

Then, in our willingness to be “stretched” and in our desire to reach
out for fellowship unto the enlargement of Christ, it becomes
necessary to see how “fellowship” and “building,” “life” and “light”
harmonize in concert together.  Missing “fellowship,” our Christian
gathering becomes a lifeless, lethargic, legalistic and exclusive
entity.  Neglecting “building,” our gathering becomes a visionless,
aimless free-for-all, and is subject to being “tossed to and fro, and
carried about by every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men, by
craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).  

The relationship between fellowship (life) and building (light) is
fascinating. No Christian group can flourish without a good balance of
life and light, fellowship and building. The shortage of either could
seriously inhibit proper growth.  Usually, in groups where doctrinal
issues, experience issues, personality issues or cultural/racial issues
divide Christians into different camps, serious Christians will discover
the tragic error and start looking for fellowship across doctrinal,
experiential and cultural lines.  Eventually, they will grow so detached
from their original groups that they may either have to leave or can
no longer fit in and be built up with the brethren even if they stay.  

                     
          No Palace of Strangers  

It is commendable when Christians discover the errors of division, and
long to reach out to all God’s children.  Driven by a burden to be
enlarged, they “stretch” themselves and “lengthen” the cords of
fellowship.  However, the most common mistake at this juncture is
the reluctance to becoming relational with any one group, and the
resultant lack of building up with brethren of like vision and kindred
spirit.  

Isaiah warned in 25:2b, “A palace of strangers is not a city; it shall
never be built.”   Two important thoughts are underscored here: 1)
the need to be relational – “a palace of strangers is not a city,” 2) the
importance of building – “it shall never be built.”  Perhaps nowhere
else in the Bible are these thoughts as graphically portrayed as in
Nehemiah chapter three.  There we find the people of God rising up to
rebuild the walls and the gates of Jerusalem by sections.  Two words
keep popping up: “next to.”  “Next to him built the men of Jericho;
and next to them built Zaccur….  And next to them repaired
Meremoth….  And next to them repaired Meshullam….  And next to
them repaired Zadok….  And next to them…and next to them….”  And
so it goes.  What a picture of the saints becoming relational to each
other!  No “palace of strangers” here!  No spiritual Lone Rangers
either; they all had someone to become relational with.  And since
these men in Nehemiah “built” next to each other, and the “palace of
strangers” in Isaiah will “never be built,” can there be any doubt that
building comes out of relationship at least in this context?   

I am eternally grateful that the Lord has given us a section of the
wall to rebuild and has stationed a few of us shoulder-to-shoulder,
“next to” each other on our section of the wall.  And it was exciting to
discover that as we reached out, there were other relational groups of
saints building on their sections of the wall!  My joy could hardly be
contained as the Lord graciously allowed our different groups to
fellowship and experience oneness together.  At the same time, I
must say, I am also alarmed that the Enemy has relentlessly attacked
the fledgling building.  It seems that any time the degree of light and
revelation concerning God’s full purpose intensifies, the Enemy’s
attack ratchets up a notch.  If we want to become relational and
burdened for the building, rest assured that the attack will come, but
also rest assured that God’s ultimate rout of the Enemy will be great!  
The Evil One’s attack on the building of God’s testimony will be his
own undoing.  Make no mistake about it.   

                                   The Original Foundation

As an important side-note, please notice that all the families
stationed “next to” each other on the walls had to come back to
Jerusalem – the place of the original foundation – for the building;
they couldn’t build just anywhere they wanted.  In order for genuine
“next-to” relationship to exist among the saints, we also have to
return to our original foundation – Christ.  Any talk of relational
experiences or building outside of Christ is wishful thinking.  

Regrettably, some precious saints with religious concepts and high
and lofty ideas that are not founded upon the “original foundation”
come into a group and expect their concepts and ideas be accepted
before they are willing to become relational.  On the other end of the
spectrum, some saints will settle with any group with no regard for
the “original foundation” as long as they can feel warm and fuzzy for
being “relational” with each other.  And still there are others who
decide to form their own relational groups only because they cannot
get along with certain brothers and sisters, or because their religious
bias precludes certain biblical teachings….  

Sad to say, some of these “next-to” relational groups are not founded
upon the “original foundation” and may suffer loss.  I’m afraid that
many zealous saints casually start a new group and have no idea just
how serious it is to do so without returning to the original
foundation.  While many seeking saints have awakened to discover
the cold and ritualistic conditions of the Institutional Church and
longed to be relational in simplicity, only a small remnant have truly
returned to the “original foundation.”  

On the one hand, an assembly must have a “big heart” to accept all
God’s people for fellowship regardless of their level of life and light,
but it must not become a cesspool of all sorts of ideas and strange
teachings.  Our “big heart” must be balanced by our “small feet” to
return to Jerusalem – the original foundation for the building.  A
building outside of the original foundation of Christ is no building at
all.  

The church is a relational entity, but I’m afraid many have settled far
short of the “original foundation.”  I firmly believe that being
relational takes fellowship to a deeper level. With today’s
technological advances in multimedia, internet and
telecommunications, one can fellowship with a multitude of believers
all over the globe in real time without stepping out of the front door.  
Even though one can fellowship across geographical, denominational,
doctrinal, cultural and racial boundaries, he may not have entered into
deeper or more intimate relationship at all with anyone.  

One of the subtleties of the Enemy is to blur our relationship with
each other by taking away the “next-to.”  He knows better than
anyone else that stirring up oppression and persecution will never
destroy the Church.  The Roman Empire persecuted and oppressed
Christians for three hundred years only to make them stronger.  But
herding Christians into those cold, cavernous cathedrals (under
Constantine) and making them all pew-members did the trick.  Just
make the Christians “Sunday Morning Spectators,” and the church is
paralyzed.  Just take away the “next-to,” and the building collapses.  
Just isolate the Christians into contentment with their keyboards,
modems and dish-networks, and the testimony is over!  

I am sure we all appreciate these modern technological wonders, but
what a price we are paying.  With some folks, I am afraid they may
have given away much more than they gained.  Relational!  Brothers
and sisters, we need to be relational with each other.  We urgently
need to find others we can be “next-to” with.  We also urgently need
someone who can get close enough to chip away some of our sharp
egos.  Without the “next-to,” any talk about the building is wishful
thinking; unless of course the Lord puts us in a situation of isolation
to teach us some valuable lessons.  After all, the Lord did send Moses
to the “back side of the desert” for 40 years, and Paul to the Arabian
desert for 3 years.  

Just as the returned remnant were each assigned a section of the
wall, we, the New Testament remnant, also have each been given a
section of the wall to rebuild.  Dear brothers and sisters, have you
seen the deplorable condition of the burnt gates and the breached
walls?  Has the Lord granted you light on the building of His
testimony?  Do you have a burden to “rise up and build”?  Are there
brothers and sisters “next to” you on your section of the wall?  I am
afraid most Christians have not seen the deplorable condition of the
“breached walls and the burnt gates” of God’s testimony.  Just as in
Nehemiah’s time when he rose up in the middle of the night to
inspect the walls, God’s people today are also soundly asleep with
regard to the degradation in Christendom.  

Before you get all stirred up to build the testimony of God, may I
humbly suggest that you repair your own dormant or damaged
relationships first?  Do you have some feelings against certain dear
children of God?  Have you offended someone?  Has someone
offended you?  Are you just staying aloof?  Do you stay away because
you think your doctrines and practices of the church are superior?   Do
you think you have received better light and revelation than others?  
Ask the Lord to help you.  Nothing pleases Him more than seeing
brothers and sisters reconcile and restore those damaged or dormant
relationships, because the restoration of relationships comes straight
from the very core of the character of the Lamb.  And it is the Lamb’s
character that affords the Lord a perfect platform upon which to build
His testimony.   

Recently, the Lord mercifully restored a divorced couple’s relationship
in a town just north of us.  The testimony that came out of their
reconciliation greatly strengthened and encouraged all the saints in
their fellowship and beyond.  As a result, the brothers and sisters
there experienced tremendous building up in life, joy, faith and love
for each other.  More recently still, another young divorced couple in
another fellowship in our city got restored, and great rejoicing and
encouragement fell on all the saints.  Praise Him!  

                      
           The Need for Light

It is one thing (and a good thing) to want to stretch and lengthen our
cords, but if there is no one on the receiving end of the cords of
fellowship to drive them firmly into solid ground, our fellowship will
fall seriously short.  Cords of Christ-centered fellowship must be
mutually understood and received or they cannot be firmly anchored;
and firmly anchored they must be, or any winds of teaching will send
the tent crashing into the dust!  Also, many precious saints who
chose to stay in the Institutional Church have withered on the vine
because their fellowship concerning the vision of Christ and His
eternal purpose was not understood and received.  The problem was
not the lack of fellowship; it was the lack of light and perception that
directly resulted in the lack of building.  

This is where the need for light comes in.  As mentioned before,
fellowship is based on life, not on light.  Consider how a 60-year-old
grandfather can have the sweetest fellowship with his 3-year-old
grandson not because of light (which the child has none) but because
of life.  If fellowship were based on light, then the old man could
never fellowship with the young lad; and Jesus could never have
fellowshipped with His disciples (who were largely in a fog most of
the time).  Yes, fellowship is based on life, but fellowship must be
issued from and received in light to be firmly anchored in Christ, or
there is no building!  Please notice that it is only when the cords are
firmly staked into solid ground that the tent (the building) can be
raised up.  Notice, too, that Jesus’ fellowship, though fully in life, did
not immediately result in building until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit
came and flipped the “light switch,” so to speak, and brought the
brethren out of the fog and the Church into being.   

Just like the grandfather, those who are spiritually mature must still
reach out to the spiritually younger and find the fellowship sweeter
than honey.  It is Jesus’ life that makes our fellowship sweet.  At the
same time, the remnant must labor to pursue light on God’s eternal
purpose, and travail on behalf of the younger brethren that they too,
might see light so that the “stakes” can be firmly anchored in Christ
and the “tent” of testimony raised up.  Fellowship, as important as it
is, does not by itself result in building; fellowship in light facilitates
building.    

Now, isn’t the relationship between fellowship and building, life and
light a most fascinating one?  On the one hand, the remnant should
reach out to fellowship with all God’s children.  On the other hand,
they must forsake not the gathering together with like-visioned and
kindred-spirited brethren in order that those “cords” are not only
stretched and lengthened, but also firmly anchored into solid ground
so that the “tent” (the building) can be raised up unto the testimony
of Jesus.  Fellowship without building will not produce real testimony;
life without light leads to sloppy-agape.  Building without fellowship
will result in legalistic division; light without life ends up in arrogant
exclusivism.  

              
          The Remnant, a Work in Secret

Finally, the Lord’s work in preparing and enlarging the remnant is
done inwardly and in secret.  You rarely find the remnant making
headlines.  You won’t see them plastered on billboards or glowing
under spotlights.  In fact, if we saw them, we would be utterly
surprised, as Isaiah bemoaned: “Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who
has begotten these [the remnant] for me, since I have been bereaved
of my children, and am barren, a captive and a wanderer?  And who
has reared these?  Behold, I was left alone; where did they come
from?’” (49:21).  Just like the Jews who missed their Messiah because
He was so hidden, humble and lowly, likewise when the lowly and
humble remnant do appear, many Christians will let out a collective
cry of surprise: “Where did they come from?”   

It is so sad that Christians are constantly being bombarded and
enticed with the desire for outward greatness and success, they no
longer pay attention to the intricate work of the Holy Spirit enlarging
us for more Christ within.  It is ironic that Christians today are so
quick to point out the failure of the Jews to recognize Christ, but do
not see that the same danger also lurks in our failure to detect and
embrace the work of the Holy Spirit in producing and enlarging Christ
in us inwardly and secretly.  When the lowly remnant, the ones who
have been enlarged and constituted with the character of Christ
appear, may we not be those caught astonished, “Where did they
come from?  I thought we were the remnant….”    

If there is one thing that captures the essence of the remnant,
perhaps it is in this verse, “The children of whom you were bereaved
will yet say in your ears, ‘The place is too cramped for me; make room
for me that I may dwell here’” (Isa. 49:20).  Oh, how delightful it
must be to the Lord that His remnant is so in tune with the divine
thought of yearning for the enlargement and fullness of Christ!  Dear
saints, do you feel “cramped”?  Do you need more “room”?  Do you
yearn for more Christ?  Are you willing to be stretched?  Do you long
for fellowship, relationship and building up?  May this be the heart-cry
of all God’s children, “Lord, how very little of Your character and
essence do we posses!  How much we need You to enlarge our
capacity until Christ heads up, sums up and fills up all and in all!”  

Lo, the old creation is passing away, the new creation will soon be
consummated in His glorious return.  The remnant is standing in the
gaps (unseen) by His enabling grace and by His might.  Soon we shall
hear the shouts of joy: “Grace, grace unto it” as the top stone is
being laid when the building of His Church is finally finished.  Hark, it
is the song of the remnant: “Therefore the ransomed of the Lord shall
return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be
upon their head.  They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and
mourning shall flee away….”  

Oliver Peng
The Closed Door
     Gateway to Spiritual Fullness