|The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
Much like people of the world, Christians also fancy extraordinary
phenomenon, give heed to supernatural events and take stock in
outstanding accomplishments. The fixation with outward greatness
and notoriety - and by association, prosperity - has driven many
Christians to seek after experiences that excite the soul but do
nothing for the spirit.
There is a whole culture that gears toward nurturing and heightening
man’s senses for the sensational. Everywhere we look, today’s
churches are programmed to accommodate this culture and take it to
new heights. Churches that are successful in this endeavor are
magnets for new converts and are looked upon with envy by their
peers. Many such churches even give seminars to fellow-pastors
with aspiration for outward greatness and success.
Sad to say, all the fuss about success, programs and greatness has
distracted Christians from their one and most central issue – Christ.
A.W. Tozer once told a church congregation that if Jesus walked in
today, no one would recognize Him.
The reason we would not recognize Him is because we are
preoccupied with all these programs, hypes, promotions and
productions instead of focusing on the person of Christ. The familiar
story of Elijah at Horeb might illustrate this point. The prophet fled
from Jezebel and came to a cave in Horeb where he saw the Lord
passing by with a violent rushing wind tearing the mountains and
breaking the rocks, but the Lord “was not in the wind.” Then there
was an earthquake, but the Lord “was not in the earthquake.” Then
there was a fire, but the Lord “was not in the fire.” Then there was
the sound of a “gentle blowing” (I Kings 19:9-12).
Too many Christians, ministers and churches are too grossly
preoccupied in the outward and sensational “winds,” “earthquakes,”
and “fires” to hear the Lord’s still small voice any more. People want
quick-fixes to their problems, and churches want instant success for
their plethora of programs.
Genuine spirituality is always opposite of and hidden from the flashy
and sensational "winds, quakes and fires." Genuine spirituality on the
one hand is the result of being dealt with in fleshly lusts, natural
ability and religious zeal; on the other hand, it is being brought forth
from a closer walk with Christ and fuller apprehension of the person
of Christ. Closer walk with Christ requires cultivation through time
and the privacy of closed doors before the possibility of fruition.
In today's culture of instant gratification, time has become the
neglected element in true spiritual development. Instead of following
the foot-steps of the Lamb in taking the time-consuming way of the
cross, Christians have taken to the "just add water" culture in their
pursuit of spirituality.
Jesus is the one grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and
as a result of His death, fruitfulness is produced (Jn:12:24). In the
same way, our true spiritual development can only come from
surrendering to the slow dealings of the cross to facilitate the laying
down of our self life. It is through the dealings of the cross which
strike a blow to our lust for the "winds, quakes and fires" that we
learn to hear His still small voice and acquire the lowly and sweet
character of the Lamb.
However, the dealings upon the natural man, the dying to the self life,
and becoming lowly and hidden are not messages Christians want to
hear nowadays. To put things in perspective, today’s churches
almost have to operate under the hypes of “winds,” “quakes,” and
“fires” to some degree. Take the “winds,” “quakes,” and “fires”
away, most churches will suffer immediate membership decline! It is
a classical case of new wine vs. old wineskin syndrome.
On the other hand, enlightened believers want to fix the leaky
wineskin by patterning after the "early church" in the New Testament.
Ornate religious buildings, pews, liturgical forms and clergy-led
programs are now replaced by the simplicity of home fellowship and
spontaneity of worship.
But it is not uncommon to find many early church experts doing a
sort of reverse engineering and coming up with wonderful discoveries
of the missing pieces from the biblical early church.
While the biblical early church blueprint does reveal the Lord's
mystical body functioning organically on earth and expose the woeful
departure from such pattern in today's churches, reverse engineering
is a far cry from the Lord's way of securing His desired church.
Simply stated, it is the increasing and maturing life of Christ that
enables us to experience and express the reality of the organic
church life. The reverse-engineered church life is only a look-alike,
no matter how much it resembles the biblical early church. The true
Bride of Christ does not come into being by "just add water," she is
the result of travail.
A few lowly remnants who have been through the rabbit trail of "first-
century church" or "organic church" finally discovered that these
efforts - failed or not - were also just another patch work in the
same old wineskin.
By the Lord’s grace and mercy, simple and unpretentious brothers
and sisters in many parts of the country and around the world are
realizing that the various attempts at biblical early church as mere
mechanical processes that leave out the Spirit, and shortcuts that
cut out the work of the cross. Saints whom the Lord made simple
are learning to discover that the way to genuine spirituality is through
the cross, the gateway to spiritual fullness and maturity is through a
closed door of intimate relationship with the Lord.
Today, many of the non-traditional churches that gather outside of
the institutional environment claim a return to simplicity, which is a
hallmark of the early church, but simplicity is not merely the doing
away with clergy-laity system, glamorous church buildings and the
programs. It is first and foremost a work of the Holy Spirit through
the cross to diminish the self life and increase the character and
likeness of the Lamb within. Being made Lamb-like in character is
what confirms the claim of simplicity, all other claims pale in
May we learn to look to Him and holdfast Him who is our All to make
us simple from the inside out. Quietly, the Lord is working inwardly to
“drive out the nations” (decrease of self) and “enlarge our borders”
(increase of Christ) as in Ex 34: 24.
Little by little, as we learn to surrender to His merciful dealings, the
Lord then has a chance to gain some ground in us; and quite
unexpectedly, a sweet and real church life emerges without anyone
working up a sweat trying to copy or mimic the so-called “Early
Church” pattern (not to say we haven’t tried before).
Whenever the "self" is in charge, the most first-century-like church is
merely an empty structure, whether it gathers in a house or an ornate
On the other hand, when our focus is shifted from the church to Him,
a wealth of treasure is opened to us not the least of which is a
genuine church life that many saints elsewhere devote themselves to
but have difficulty laying hold of. When the focus is the church, we
lose sight of Christ; when the focus is Christ, we gain both the new
wine and the wineskin. It’s not about us, dear saints, it’s all about
Over the years, the Lord has graciously brought many dear extra-
local friends to fellowship with us and help us return to Christ. We
are most grateful for these dear friends from Louisiana, Dallas,
Memphis, California, North Carolina, Ghana, Mexico, Virginia, Chile,
India, Canada, Brazil…who have enriched our lives through their
fellowship. Our oneness is not found in uniformity, it is found in
Christ alone, and Christ is manifested in diverse members that are
distinctly different. May the Lord teach us the secret that an open
door of fellowship with the saints comes through closed door of His
intimate dealings by grace (more on this in the next message "The
Prayerfully and humbly, we submit the articles in this website for your
considerations with a hope for fellowship unto an enlargement of the
portion of Christ in His saints. Amen.