The City of God
10 June 2008, a.m.
I want these two–three days, when we are together, to share with you about the Church of God. And I will concentrate on one picture, or description of the church. You know the Church of God is called by several names in the New Testament. In the letter to the Colossians (1.24) Paul writes that the church is the body of Christ. In the first letter to Timothy (3.15) Paul calls the church ‘the house of God’. So it is the body of Christ and the house of God. In the letter to the Ephesians, in chapter 5, Paul talks about the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife, and there he says that the man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. And he says this is a great mystery and “I say” he continues, “this refers to Christ and the church.” So, the church is also the bride, the wife of Christ. We may also say that the church is the people of God. And then in the book of Revelation we see that the bride, the wife of the Lamb is also a city. So, we have all these names and God wants to show us something by these descriptive names so that we can thereby know the heart of God about the church.
Now, the word ‘church’ in Greek is ‘ecclesia’, and it means an assembly, a gathering of people for a purpose. (Strictly speaking the word means ‘a calling out’, that is a calling to people to leave their places and whatever they are occupied in and gather together for a purpose). And we find in the Acts of the Apostles two cases where the word ‘ecclesia’ is used and it does not refer to the people of God. Well, in one case it does refer to the people of God, but in the Old Testament, not the New Testament church. The first case in the book of Acts is in chapter 7, where Stephen was speaking, and in verse 38 he says that God “spoke to the congregation (or the assembly) in the wilderness” the Greek word is ‘ecclesia’. Then , in Acts 19, there was a case when there was big trouble, a lot of shouting, because men were gathered together and they were disturbed because, due to Paul’s preaching of the gospel, people came out of worshipping idols and other gods, like the Artemis (or Diana) of the Ephesians. It was a goddess, a Greek goddess these people were worshipping, and craftsmen making silver shrines for Diana were losing income. In the last verse, 41, of this chapter we read “he dismissed the assembly”. The word here again (about this assembly, or gathering) is ‘ecclesia’ in Greek. But it was a gathering of Greeks, nothing to do with the gospel, nothing to do with Jesus. Now, why did I say all this? Because in the original Greek and in every way ‘ecclesia’, the church is people. It is not a building. The building is not the church, the people that gather there is the church. You see, for example a Catholic or Orthodox or even Anglican building and they call it “Saint Mary’s church” or the church of some saint. It is wrong. Do not use it in that way or with that meaning. The meeting place or hall or whatever structure is used is the gathering place, a building, but it is not the church. Because the church is the people. It is you, and you, and you and me and we, all together are the church. When we belong to God, when the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we are members of the Church of God we are the Church.
Now, I want to say one more thing: I discovered in my studying that the Church of God, as God plans and as it was hidden in the heart of God, is a mystery. And it is a
perfection of beauty. We have not yet seen that church. We know that in that one Church of God there are people from every tribe, every nation and every tongue. But on the earth we have what is called “churches” with many, many names. May be there are thousands of names. Even in Nyanza-lac last week, we came across so many churches; “Teke’s” church, the Pentecostal church, the Catholic church, the Calvary church, Ezeibu church … many names. Here also, the church that gathers in this building has a name. There are thousands of churches all over the world. And some are very bad and they teach wrong teachings, completely out of truth. I don’t know if you have Jehovah’s witnesses here. You have? I don’t know if you have Mormons here. These are teachings that are far from the truth. And we have all sorts of in-between and also we have very good churches, that try to be very near the truth. In Cyprus there are many churches. And we all have different names, so that we know that it’s us and it’s them, and so on. Now, besides this, the same church may also have local churches. That’s how it was in the early days. In the book of Acts we read that there were many local churches. There was a church at Ephesus, a church at Corinth, a church at Thessalonica and so on … local churches. Even in one city there were many churches, like in Rome for example. When Paul writes the greetings at the end of the epistle to the Romans, in chapter 16, we understand from what he writes that there were several churches, gatherings, groups in Rome and some of them were “house” churches meeting in houses. And every church had its leaders and ministers and gifted people who helped. There were apostles and prophets and evangelists going around and helping all the churches, and in every church there were elders. I don’t know at what time the elders were replaced by one person called the “pastor”. Pastor and teacher, like apostle and prophet and evangelist is a ministry, it is not a position.
Now to speak about all these things it is impossible, in this short time. I always like to concentrate on what God wants us to know about His truth. Because, what God reveals to us about His church is very important spiritual principles and I hope by the grace of God to consider some of these principles, so that we can know how to behave. That is what we read in the first letter of Paul to Timothy (3:15) “but if I delay coming, that you will know how to behave (conduct yourself) in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the firm ground of truth.” Halleluiah. Amen. And this is what I want to share with you. I want to talk about principles, about the basis, the foundation of truth concerning the Church. In particular, what the Lord impressed on my heart these days, from the time we were in Nyanza-lac, and last night too, is this truth which is presented to us, that the church is the city of God. In Greek the church (ecclesia) is feminine. And she is called the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem. And she is also called the bride of the Lamb.
In the book of Revelation we read in chapter 21, verse 2: “And the city, the holy Jerusalem, I saw new, coming out of heaven from God, ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” And then in verses 9 and 10: “And an angel came … and spoke with me saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he brought me in the Spirit on a great and high mountain and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” So here we see that this holy city, the new Jerusalem, is the wife of the Lamb and she is in heaven, in God. Somehow this perfect city, perfect bride, perfect church, is hidden in God and we don’t see her on the earth yet. This is my conclusion. Do you agree? In the letter to the Colossians (3:3) Paul says that our life is hidden together with Christ in God. You remember that. And he says, when Christ, our life appears, then we shall appear together with Him in glory (v 4). For now this glory is covered. If you take each one of us individually, this treasure, this glory of God is in earthen vessels, that’s what we read in the second letter to the Corinthians (4:7). Inside us. When the Holy Spirit comes, God is in us and all His glory is in us. His name is in us. All of God is in us. But it is in vessels, in these bodies, which are made from the dust of the earth. And this glory is not yet revealed. When it is revealed, we know we shall be like Jesus, because we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
John saw this Jerusalem, this beautiful city, this holy city, this perfect city, coming out of heaven, from God, having the glory of God (verse 11). The glory of God is there. And God is revealing to us, through John, some truths which, I hope by the grace of God, to share beginning now and probably continuing in later sessions. God shows us some of the characteristics of this city, some of the things that are there. And He wants us to know it. Amen. So that we can know how to live. We must get out of small ideas. Out of every selfishness. Out of strife and division among us. May God help us to see how.
When I was a young boy I was thinking quite a lot. When I became a man, I continued thinking and even now I think a lot. I thank the Lord that nowadays I think about my Lord most of the time. But, when I was a young boy, many years before the Lord came into my life, I was always loving righteousness, justice. I was only a young boy going to the elementary school and I was very disturbed when I heard people telling lies, or when I saw people quarreling and fighting and hitting each other. I was very disturbed. So in my thoughts I thought ‘I will build a city’ and I said ‘I will be the leader of that city and I will build a fence around it and will not allow anyone to go in, but only those who don’t tell lies, who don’t steal, who don’t quarrel.’ These were the thoughts I had. When the Lord brought me to Himself and He came in my life I was about 22 years old. Many years after that, I was thinking about new Jerusalem and suddenly I remembered my dreams and thoughts I had as a boy. I said ‘Thank you Father, thank you God, I as a man could never do such a thing, but you are God, you can do it. You will have a city where everything is holy, where everything is righteousness, where everything is truth, where there is only the glory of God.’
In the letter to the Hebrews we read something very interesting. You know that in chapter 11 we read about faith. We read that faith is the foundation, the standing ground, that which supports hope (v 1). For example this table is supported by its legs. And faith is what supports hope. We also read that without faith it is impossible to please God (v 6). And then all these great men and women of faith are listed in this chapter. There are two groups. One group were given by God the grace, the mission, they were given by God the power to overcome kingdoms, to shut the mouths of lions, to stop the sword, to bring healing, they were strong in war, they turned away the enemies, women received their dead back by resurrection…(v 33-35). And then there was another group, which I value more. I value more this group because they suffered persecution, they suffered imprisonment, bondage, they were killed, they went about in sheepskins, and in goatskins. They were suffering, they didn’t have their needs, they were suffering many hardships. And the writer says here, “the world was not worthy of them”. And they went around in deserts and mountains, in caves and the holes in the earth (v 36-38). And all they did not receive the promise, because God had provided something better for us (v 39). All these people are witnesses of the faith (12:1).
Now if we go back we read something about these people. We can read from verse 13 to verse 16. All these people saw from a distance the promises, and they just accepted and loved these promises and they confessed that they were strangers, they were sojourners, they were just passing from this earth. And then in verse 14 it says,
“because those people who say these things, they show that they are looking for a home land.” They want a place of which they will say, ‘This is my place, this is my home.’ And then he says, “Now, if they were thinking about their home country from which they came, they had time to return there.” Abraham was called from the land of Ur. God said to him ‘Come out of your family, of your land, come out of the relatives and I will take you to another place’. So he obeyed God and he went away, never returned there. He left everything. And God brought him into the land of Canaan, into the promised land. And Abraham walked up and down this land and God said to him, ‘I will give you this land. I will give this land to your seed after you.’ And He did. Because of sin, two times they went out of that land. In due time they returned to their land, because of God’s promise to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob. But we read, even when he was in the promised land, Abraham was going around looking for something. He was living in tents, Isaac also, Jacob also. And they were looking for this place, and in their heart they were saying, ‘This is not it, this is not it, this is not what God promised’. And we read here that they were really looking for something else. In verse 16 it says it’s a heavenly place. They were desiring, a greater place, that is a heavenly place. It is a heavenly city they were looking for. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, because He has prepared for them a city”. Hallelujah. Glory to His name. God has prepared for us a city. I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to Melbourne and Sydney and Perth in Australia. I’ve been to London many times. Many cities in England. I’ve been there. I’ve been to Madrid in Spain. I’ve been to Athens in Greece. I’ve been to Paris in France. I’ve been to Frankfurt and Hanover in Germany. And I’ve been to Nicosia in Cyprus, that’s where I was born. And other cities in Cyprus and around the world. None of them is God’s city. None of them. I’ve been to Bujumbura and Nyanza lac and Makamba. They are not the city of God. The city of God is heavenly. Now it is in God, hallelujah, and we are the citizens of that city. We are the citizens of that city.
Let’s go again to the letter to the Hebrews. In chapter 12, starting from verse 18, we read that we have not come to this mountain, Sinai, which was burning with fire and to darkness and whirlwind and the voice of words which were so powerful that they that heard said ‘please stop talking to us’. And in verse 21 it says that it was so fearful this phenomenon, what was happening, that even Moses said ‘I am full of fear and tremble’, but, you have come … All God’s people, who have the Spirit of God in them and they are in the Spirit, in the Spirit they have come to this place. By the way, I have been also to Jerusalem, which is now (on the earth) and even that is not the city of God. I went there with Miltos. “But, you have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to myriads of angels and to the assembly and the church (the ecclesia) of the first-born that are written in heaven. And to the God who is the judge of all,” and so on. Now, when we become first-born, when we are born of God, we enter into this heavenly city, but in Spirit. The time will come when we shall be there in body too. Amen.
I will finish with one more reading. It is in the letter to the Ephesians. I want us to make sure about our position with regard to all this, because, even in the book of Revelation, this new Jerusalem is associated with Israel and the tribes of Israel. We read in chapter 2 of Ephesians, from verse 11 to 18: “Therefore remember that you who were once nations (gentiles) according to the flesh, who are called un-circumcision by the so called circumcision, which is done by hand on the flesh, that you were at that time without Christ, being alien from the citizenship of Israel and you were strangers as regards the covenants of the promise. You had no hope and you were without God in the world. But now, in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away, have come near in the blood of Christ, because He is the peace of us both, Who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition. He abolished the enmity in His flesh, the law of commandments and statutes, so as to build the two of them into one new man, in Himself, doing peace and to reconcile us both (that is to say, make us friends) to God in one body through the cross, having killed the enmity in Himself. And he came and preached the good news of peace to us who were far away and to those who were near. For, both of us (and I understand this means Israel and the gentiles) have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
We took a long time to read this. By the power of the cross, through the blood of Jesus, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we are brought in, in the same way as the Israelites. And the conclusion in v 19, “Therefore you are no longer strangers, but you are citizens together with the saints and of the household of God”. Halleluiah! So Paul is writing this to the Ephesians, who were Greeks and the Holy Spirit is saying this to Burundian believers. You are citizens together with the Israelites, and from whatever other nation there is, in the Spirit, by the blood of Jesus, by the whole work of redemption, we are made citizens of that city and we have come to this new Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem. Again, in the letter to the Galatians, who were also gentiles, Paul writes (4:26) “The Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all”. Glory to His name. Amen. By God’s grace we shall continue this theme in the next session.
The City of God
I really want to continue from where we were this morning. But before I do that, I want to make a comment on what our brother Miltos was saying. We are not what we achieve, but we are what God makes us, we are the work of God, the creation of God, and faith is not a power or a means though which we achieve something, faith is a channel through which we receive something from God. Our faith is addressed to God, and from God we receive for our needs for the needs of others around us, praise His name. Amen. And the church, is Gods work, it is what God is doing.
I will read from the letter to the Hebrews, again in chapter 11 where we were reading this morning, verses 9 and 10 “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Abraham, as we saw this morning, was looking for the city. Here we read it is the city that has foundations and God is the maker, we could say designer, and also the builder, the one who is working with his hands, like a builder who puts the mortar and the brick, the mortar and the brick. He is also the maker, which means that, like an architect, he had the design in his mind, in his heart, and then he is working with his hands and he is doing it. The church is a mystery and it was hidden in the heart of God, even before creation and He is now carrying it out its construction, He is building it. Once, Peter had a revelation from God, Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who do you think I am?’ and Peter said ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God’, and Jesus said ‘you are blessed Simon, Son of Jonah, because it’s not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but you got this revelation from the Father, and I tell you that you are Peter’ (in Greek ‘Petros’ from petra which means stone). So the Lord Jesus said to him, ‘you are a stone, and upon this stone I will build my church.’ God himself is building His church, and on the day of Pentecost when He sent the Holy Spirit there was a big move, Peter spoke and 3000 people were added. This continued and every day people were saved, and we read at the end of chapter 2 of Acts that the Lord was adding those that were being saved to His church.
Now, how can we enter the church? When I received the Lord and I was born from above, and the Holy Spirit came in me, I was so thrilled, I was full of joy. This happened when I was a student in England. When I finished my studies and went back home to Cyprus, I looked for a church and found one which I started attending. There, gradually, I found that they were teaching that you must become a member of that church, you must read the constitution of the church, and declare that you want to be a member of that church, and have your name put in their register, “This man is a member of our church”… I could not do it. The pastor and some other people were telling me ‘you are born again, you are saved, you will be on the new earth, but you will not be in the bride, you will not be in the new Jerusalem, because we are the church of God and if you don’t become a member, you will not be in the new Jerusalem.’ I could not do it. I used to go home and cry in the night, I used to make my pillow wet with my tears, because something inside me was telling me that it was not so. It went on for a long time. Now I understand more why I could not do it and will try to explain.
I was reading this morning, about new Jerusalem. There is a description of new Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, and I hope by Gods grace that we shall continue tomorrow to start studying the description of that city and see its characteristics. But when I was reading, I read that the wall of this city has 12 foundations, and I read that on the 12 foundations are written the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. Now in the letter to the Ephesians, in chapter 2, remember we read this morning, that we who are not Israelites, we can also come in. And we finished in verse 19 of chapter 2. ‘Therefore you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are citizens together with the saints and you are of the household of God.’ Verse 20, ‘and you were built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, and the chief cornerstone is Jesus Christ himself, in whom all the building is fitly joined together (the Greek word is harmonized, harmonically put together) and it grows into a temple, a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God, in the Spirit.
So we are being built, in the Spirit, on the foundations of the apostles and the prophets, the chief cornerstone being Jesus himself, and gradually this building is going up, and it is for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Amen. We are being built up into the place where God lives, where God dwells. Let’s go to Revelation chapter 21, that’s where we started this morning. John saw the holy city Jerusalem, he saw it new and coming down from God, as a bride, adorned and ready for her husband. We continue in verse 3, of chapter 21, ‘I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, behold the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell, or tabernacle, with them, and they shall be His people, and He himself shall be with them.’ So this city, this building, this construction of God is for Him to dwell there. Now we pray, as the Lord taught us to pray every day and say ‘Our Father who is in heaven’, but the day is coming when God will not be in heaven. He will live on the earth, in the new Jerusalem. He will live with His church, He will live with us, we will live with Him. When you think of these things, you will say it is worth to lose everything on this earth just to be in that holy city, to be forever in the presence of God. Sometimes, when I pray, I feel the presence of God, and I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I dance, sometimes I shout, sometimes I don’t say anything, and just cry. But it is so wonderful, it is so glorious, I cannot describe it. Those who tasted it, they know what I am talking about. And I know, if somebody comes at that moment, and tells me ‘go from here and I will give you all the gold of the earth’, I will not even turn to look at him. There is nothing to compare with living in the presence of God, nothing. There is no richness in this world that can compare with that. Now can you imagine living always there, in new Jerusalem, forever! I expect that those who are there, will never want to leave.
So when I was reading last night about this city, later on I read that there are 12 gates. Each gate is one pearl, and I expect those gates are for us to enter in, and not to go out. When we go in there we don’t want to come out. These are my thoughts, but I was wondering, because on each gate is written the name of a tribe of Israel, 12 tribes. This city is square; the length is the same as the breadth. The strange thing is that the height is also the same. All the cities I know on earth are just more or less flat over an area, but this city has also a height that is equal to its length and its breadth. I cannot understand what this is. But when I was thinking about the gates, and I thought, we enter through the gates, and then the name of a tribe on each gate, one gate, one tribe. Another gate, another tribe… and then I thought, what can you do, to be a Burundian? What can I do to be a Cypriot? Why am I a Cypriot? Why are you Burundians? Can anybody tell me? ‘Because I was born from Burundian parents’. Yes I was born like that, I didn’t have a choice. My parents were in Cyprus, they were Greek-Cypriots, and I was born a Greek-Cypriot. It’s not my doing, and it was not my choice. Now I believe the only way to enter this city is to be born into it. We become citizens of this heavenly city, if we are born from above. I will read one psalm. It is psalm 87. ‘His foundation is in the holy mountain. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, o city of God. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know Me; Behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia: This one was born there. And of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her; and the Most High Himself shall establish her.” The Lord will record, when He registers the peoples: “this one was born there.” Both the singers and the players on instruments say, “All my springs are in you.” Amen. The Lord said He loves the gates of Zion, and about Zion it will be said, like of all these other cities and of every city, “this one was born there”, this one was born in New York, he is a citizen of New York, or of the United States, or any other country. But He said of Zion also it will be said, “this one was born there”, and when God takes the register of the people, He will say “this one was born there”. Amen.
When the Holy Spirit came in me, when I was filled with the Lord, and filled with joy, from that time, I knew that I was added to the church of Jesus Christ. I knew I was a member of His church. In the first letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 12, were Paul writes about the gifts of the Spirit, verse 13, he says: ‘in one spirit, are we all baptized into one body’. And that’s why I did not want to become a member of that church in my early years. Although there was much pressure on me, I could not do it. I knew this was a man-made procedure that could serve the purposes of a church on the earth, but it was not a requirement from God to enter His Church.
I will finish with a verse from the letter to the Hebrews in chapter 12. It’s the verse we read this morning. We shall pay attention to one particular thing, where we read that we have come to mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to myriads of angels, and then verse 23: ‘You have come to the general assembly and the church of the first born, who are registered in heaven’. ; I don’t know how it is in your translation, but the Greek word is ‘apogegrammenoi’, which means ‘enrolled as in a register. This word is used in Luke’s gospel chapter 2 verse 1, when Caesar ordered that everybody should be recorded/registered, and then Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to do so. Amen. We are born of God. He was pleased to do it. And when I was born of God, I was one of His firstborn sons, and my name was registered in heaven. My Identity Card, my Passport in the Spirit, they all say: ‘Citizen of the city of God.’ So on this earth, wherever I go, I am a stranger. I am just a traveler, passing by. In Makamba I’m just passing by. Last week in Nyanzalac, passing by, a stranger. When I go back home, Cyprus, I’m a stranger. I don’t belong to that country. I don’t belong to the city where I live. I’m not one in the Spirit with the people that live there, I am a stranger. The only place where I feel at home, is here, with my brothers and sisters. Not the city, Makamba, but with you. That’s where I feel at home. That’s where we speak the same language. That’s where we understand each other. That is where my place is. But still, it’s not the full revelation, it has not come yet. The day will come when it will appear. And this great, mighty voice will shout and say: ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with men’, His people. Amen. What a thing to wait for. What a prospect. What a glorious thing to look forward to. I understand Paul who says that the little affliction we have now on the earth can not be compared with the weight of glory that is waiting for us.
By the grace of God, I hope tomorrow to move into what I really wanted to say to see some of our privileges and responsibilities, as can be deduced from the study of this city of God. To see how we should behave. So pray that the Lord will give His word to us all. Amen. Have a good night tonight and may the Holy Spirit minister to you all through the night, and may His word and His songs be in your heart when you wake up in the morning, to fill you with joy, before His face, in His presence. In the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy, and I pray that the Lord will give it to you. Amen.
The City of God
Yesterday afternoon, towards the end, we saw that the dwelling of God is on the earth, with His people, in the New Jerusalem. And we saw that, if we are with the Lord, in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy. Amen. It is one of the most glorious things. I don’t know if you experience being in the presence of the Lord. It cannot be described. May be in the afternoon or some time later, we shall see more about this, but right now I want to concentrate on something else, and we read again in the book of Revelation. In chapter 21 we shall read verses 22 to 23, ‘But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.’ And then, in chapter 22 we read from the middle of verse 3 to verse 5. ‘.., the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.’ Amen. So, when John saw the New Jerusalem, there was no temple in it, because the Lord God Almighty, He is its temple and the Lamb. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, because the glory of God brings light to it, illuminates it, and its lamp, its light is the Lamb. And then we read in chapter 22, in verse 5, that there will be no night there, and they have no need to have lamps, like we have in the night time, or the light of the sun, because the Lord God gives them light. Amen.
The throne of God is in this city of God, God lives there and His servants will see His face and they shall worship Him (the English translation is serve, but the Greek word also signifies worship).
We come now to our time here; this is a revelation of how things are in the Spirit, and these are the principles on which we should live. The time will come when we shall be there, to stay there, we will be dwelling there with God. We shall see His face even with our eyes, because God will give us a new body and we shall be able to see God. But now we only get a taste of these things, in the Spirit. Remember yesterday we read that we are being built into a house, a building where God dwells in the Spirit. Even our bodies are defined as temples of God because God’s Spirit is in us. If He is our Lord then He rules over us and His throne is in us. And we can truly say that ‘God and the Lamb is my light’. Remember Jesus said “I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life”, and when we see this light we walk in the light of life. The message I want to bring today is that we His church, His people, we don’t have need of any other light. And I believe that if we really join our life with the Lord, we shall not need any other light. I always believed this. And I will try and explain.
We know and we feel that we are moving towards the end. And, according to the teaching and warning of our Lord Jesus and the apostles (and remember that yesterday we saw that the foundation of this building of God is the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone) in the last days there will be deceptions. There will be false teachers teaching wrong doctrines and, especially at this time we should know where the true Light is and fix our eyes on Him from whom comes the light. Ian said earlier on that king Saul started going wrong because he stopped looking on and being connected to the Lord. In the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 11 and verses 2 and3 we read: ‘For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve, through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is unto Christ.’ Now Paul is saying that Satan, that is the serpent, the snake, deceived Eve, and he goes on: “I am afraid that, may be in the same way, your thoughts will be corrupted from the simplicity that is unto Christ.” In some situations we may think that things will go out of control if we depend on Christ alone and if we do not do something ourselves. But the truth is that Christ is sufficient and He has the answer in every situation that may come. For everything that could possibly happen to you and me Jesus Christ has the answer. Amen. He is the light always and we must learn to live like he did when he was on the earth, He said “of myself I can do nothing”. He always depended on the Father for all He did and said. In fact He said “the words I speak are not mine and the Father who is in me, He does the works”.
I notice that Paul is preaching and teaching this again and again. In the letter to the Colossians, chapter 2 and verses 2 and 3, he writes, ‘that their hearts will be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance and understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God and of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’. OK? Did you understand that? In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Christ you have the answer for everything. Because in Him are the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Amen. And He is the only light of New Jerusalem. All you have to do is go to your knees and pray to the Lord, and bring to Him the situation that you are facing. And this is the simplicity unto Christ. In other words, I only have to look to Jesus Christ; I only need to address myself to Him. Amen. In the same chapter we read verses 8-10: ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power’. Amen.
I want to stop and pray. Let us pray. Our Father, in the name of Jesus, we ask that you give us, by grace, by the power of your Spirit, understanding, and give us Lord this moment to be delivered from any power that is opposing your word. Lord we ask for your presence, we ask for your ministry. Lord we call on your name, we ask Lord that you will come in power in our midst and drive out anything that is hindering us from knowing and understanding, comprehending your word, and from moving on to receiving that which you have to give us. In the name of Jesus help us this morning Lord to receive your word, to hear your word. We ask for your word in our midst Lord. Amen.
Now we read here that in Him, in Jesus Christ, dwells all the fullness God and in Him we are complete. We are not lacking anything. Once I went with brother Miltos to Israel and a brother picked us up to take us from the port of Haifa to his house where we were going to stay. His house was at a place overlooking the lake of Tiberias, or Galilee. While driving us in his car we were talking about the Toronto blessing. Have you heard that some years back there was a move called the Toronto blessing? Have you heard about that? You haven’t! Praise the Lord you haven’t heard about that. It was something that started in Canada; people were falling on the floor and they were laughing and they were making sounds of animals sometimes. And they said this was a blessing from God, and it spread soon to the USA and to Europe and other places. It became known as the Toronto blessing because it started in Toronto. And we were talking about this and that Israeli brother said to us “Because people do not know the Lord Jesus, because they are not united with Him like branches on the vine, because they are not living in Him, therefore they have to keep finding new things to keep them going”. You know, “.. we need a new experience”, “..we want something new.” In the Lord Jesus there is renewal every day. Every day we wake up there is newness.
This is not a recent happening only. We find this departing of God’s people from their God in the old Testament too. God speaking through Jeremiah (2:13) the prophet said, “My people have done two evils: they have left me, the fountain of living waters, and they have made for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water”, they put water in and the water runs out! Now, according to Paul’s teaching, in Jesus Christ , we are not lacking anything we are complete. We do not need to go out of the city to find something we need. Because people are not giving their heart entirely to the Lord, because they are not really joined to Him so as to become one spirit with Him, therefore they get bored. To them being in a church is going to a meeting, singing and dancing and saying some prayers or hearing some prayers, listening to some preaching and that’s it. But if you are not in a living communion with the Lord, you will reach a point, there will come a time, when you will feel bored.
Last year, after coming to Burundi, I went to Bulgaria, together with a Bulgarian couple that are with us in our church in Cyprus. We visited a Gipsy church to which this couple belonged before moving to Cyprus. And they told me: “When we started we were so many people, and we were full of joy, we were praying together many times and for long hours, we were witnessing to people and there was joy. Then he started telling me the sad story of how they gradually dispersed, “this one was singing in the band and now he has gone away, that one went abroad to find a job, the other one is gone back to the world …” Recently they had a big problem because one of them committed suicide. And I was filled with questions in my mind. Did these people ever really know the Lord? Were they ever really in Jesus Christ? Did they receive the Holy Spirit? Did they really unite with the Lord? Was Jesus Christ living in them? In about three weeks, God willing, we will visit them again. Please remember to pray for us.
But, from what I read in the Bible, and we read it in Revelation and we read it in the letter to the Colossians, I understand that Jesus Christ is enough. More than enough. I am complete in Him. My joy is full. There is peace in my heart. His faith dwells in me. His love is in my heart by the Holy Spirit. I don’t lack anything. And, moreover, every time I turn to, or concentrate, on the Lord, His light shines on me. I have joy unspeakable, I have peace, I am complete, I don’t need anything else.
Now, there is a teaching which you know about, I think it was mentioned it yesterday – it is: exercising faith to get material things, the prosperity teaching. And so people concentrate, not on Jesus Christ, but on things, “I will have faith to get a big car”, “I will have faith to get a big house”. In fact, their teachers teach them that the Lord said, “if you give money, the Lord will give you back a hundredfold (one hundred times) what you give. So they give and give and give. What do they want when they give? They want to get in return a hundredfold of what they give. They are not doing it as unto the Lord, in the Lord’s name and for His glory. I do not expect that they get anything in return. The only ones that get rich are their preachers. In the book of Proverbs, chapter 30 and verse 7 we read: ‘I ask two things of you, do not deny them before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food that is necessary for me, lest I be full and deny you and say: “who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God’. Do you understand? He is saying “I don’t want to become rich.” This is what we read in the Bible. “I don’t want to become rich.” I want what is necessary for me. I only want to have enough food. Because, if I become rich, I may become proud and then I may say, “who is the Lord? I can manage myself. I do not need the Lord.” On the other hand, if I do not have food to eat, I may go and steal and in this way I will take the name of God in vain, I will bring reproach to the name of God. Similarly, in the new Testament, in the first letter to Timothy, chapter 6 read verses 3 to 10. Here is an answer to this kind of teaching. Notice in v.8 to 10 that Paul says, “if we have food and clothing let us be satisfied with these, for those who wish to become rich, they fall into all kinds of traps, because the love of money is the root of all evil”.
In v.17 he says “Charge those that are rich not to be haughty, not to trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” OK? This is the word of God, so, do not be moved by this teaching of prosperity. If we contented to have enough for our needs, together with godliness, this is great gain (v.6). James also, in his letter says we should not discriminate between the poor and the rich (chapter 2 verses 1-5). He says, if a rich man comes into your assembly wearing fine clothes and gold rings and you say to him “oh, please come and sit here in a good place”, and then a poor man comes in wearing filthy clothes and you tell him “you stand there, or sit here at my footstool” did you not discriminate among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? And then he goes on to say this: ‘Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to them that love Him?’ Halleluiah! Read your Bible, pray and you will find the answers. These great moves come and there is some power in them to attract your attention away from the simplicity that is unto Jesus Christ, and if your heart is not fully for the Lord you can start hearing them and say: “Oh, this is very good, I will become rich, the Lord says if I have enough faith I will become rich”. But it is not the Lord that says this. It is men who have other motives than to glorify the Lord.
There is another teaching that is slowly coming into the churches and growing strong in our country. It is centred on psychology. In Greek the word for soul is “psyche”, from which come words like psychology, psychiatry, psychic, and so on, things that have to do with the soul. There are books sold in Christian bookshops which take this psychological approach to solving your problems and making yourself “better”. In effect they present methods or ways for saving yourself. Remember Jesus said, “I am the way” and also “if you want to save your soul you must lose it”. This psychological approach teaches for example, that if you concentrate and think and remember and carry out self analysis you can come to a point where you see that something went wrong at some time in your life, you repent from that and you will be transformed, changed, saved. Besides altering your life, the psychological approach is being recommended for bringing up your children, for keeping your family together, for improving relationships and so on. Remember that Paul teaches in his first letter to the Corinthians that the power that saves us is the power of the cross, and all these psychological methods that are taught do not contain the cross.
I remember hearing the story from a man of God, an elderly man, who is gone to be with the Lord now. He is the man from whom I heard the gospel many years ago when I was a student in England. One night he was preaching on the altar of God and how we should give our lives to Him. I responded to that word and I was born again. And this man told a story about a young woman who was in a mental asylum and she was in a very bad state, very aggressive, attacking people. Her condition was so bad that they decided to carry out an operation to incapacitate her. This brother went to see her and minister to her. The psychiatrist despised him; he was convinced that psychiatry was the only thing that could work. And he said to the brother “you can go and try your God, but it will not work. Two men will go with you because she could become violent and attack you”. The brother answered “No, no, I will go alone”, and they said to him “okay, we shall stand at the door and, as soon as she attacks you, you run out, we’ll open the door and you run out.” There was a table in the room and she was sitting at one end. He went in and told her “My dear I came to tell you that Jesus loves you”. In reply she roared like a lion. A second time he told her “My dear I came to tell you that Jesus loves you”. Again she roared and in the same voice she said “Nobody loves me”. He said to her “This is not true, Jesus loves you”. She replied “Nobody loves me, nobody ever loved me” and he said “Jesus loves you, He died for you, He will save you”. That woman walked out of that room a completely normal woman, no trouble at all, the operation was never done. Where are such men of God today? Churches are turning to psychology. We are leaving the fountain of living waters, we are turning away from the only One who is shining with everlasting light and we are depending on human power, on human ability. The Lord said to Paul: “My power is made perfect in weakness”. The Lord is saying “I don’t need your power, all I need is that you make yourself available to me. All I need is that you love me and are obedient to me.” Glory to the name of the Lord.
I heard of another man. He committed all sorts of crimes, murder, rape, robbery, drugs. He was in top security prison. The guards had to go into his cell two at a time and armed with weapons, to take food to him. This man said that one day he was lying on the floor of his cell and he had pain in all his body; he spoke to God and said “God, if you exist, if you can save me, I give you the chance to do it.” He was changed, just like that. When he said this prayer he was changed immediately. He was completely transformed, he became a new man. When he came out of prison he became a preacher, because he knew of a God who has the answer. This is our God. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Him is all the power and He has all the means to save: the blood, the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that is impossible for Him. Now, I do not understand why, since the Lord is here, why should the church turn to look for help elsewhere, to look for material riches, or to look for powers of the soul, psychic powers.
Another thing, that is causing grief to my heart is that the music of (from) this world is entering into the churches. These things might not be a problem in your country, but they are in the area where our country is, errors are creeping into the churches. Last Christmas I was driving my car and I was listening to the Christian Radio Station in Nicosia. They were transmitting this loud, heavy metal, rock music and some one was shouting, I could not understand the words, supposed to be a Christian song. I was so disturbed that I pushed the button and my radio switched to a radio station that supports the communist party in Cyprus. And they were transmitting a good Christian Christmas hymn, with good music and words that glorify God. I thought “Lord, what is going on?”
There are many other things coming into churches from the world. Because God’s people do not give yield to the Lord, they do not commit their lives to the Lord Jesus, to say “Lord, I belong to you, I will obey you, I want your will to be done in my life. I want your kingdom to come in me. I want to glorify you”. And the Lord is withdrawing Himself from the churches. And they go more and more to draw from the springs of the world. They use marketing methods to draw people to go there. They use techniques which remind glamorous shows to attract audience, things of the world to attract the youth and so on. As for me, the light of New Jerusalem is God and the Lamb, and that is the only light I want.
I will finish in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 13 verses 12-14. ‘Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Let us therefore go forth to him, outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek the one to come.’ Amen. To go to Jesus Christ we must come out of the camp. We must come out of the system that is around us. Yes, we will bear His reproach when we do that. People will mock us, persecute us, laugh at us, but we’ll find Jesus Christ. Bearing His reproach, for we do not have a city that abides here, but we are looking for that which is to come. Amen.
Only Jesus Christ! He is more than sufficient.
The City of God
I want to continue in the first letter of Peter from the point where Miltos stopped, chapter 1 and verse 13: ‘therefore gird up the loins of our mind, be sober, and hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As children of obedience, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in every behavior’. Amen. God is calling us to holiness and the reason for this we read further down in verses 17-21: ‘If you call Father, the One who is judging without partiality, according to the work of each one, then conduct yourselves during the time of your stay here (on this earth) in fear, knowing that you were not redeemed with silver and gold, which are corruptible things from your vain conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot, who was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in the latter times for you, who through Him believe to God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope should be in God.’ We have been redeemed from the vain conduct (behavior) that we received from our ancestors and we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. He died for us. And He was the blameless Lamb of God. And He was known before the foundation of the world. I want to tell you that, before this world was made, already, in things that are not seen, for they are spiritual things, there was a sacrifice, there was a Lamb of God, there was the Bride of the Lamb and we read in the letter to the Hebrews that, by faith, things that we see were made from things that are not seen. That’s why we read that He was known before the foundation of the world. But God gave His Son so that we today can be redeemed, can be saved from a behavior we received from our fathers and grandfathers, which is vain, it is leading us to destruction and to nothingness. And God, by the power of Christ has put us on another road, that is not leading to destruction, but is leading to glory. And He has given us Christ to live in us, to accomplish all these.
So Peter is saying: “be holy in everything that you do, in the way you think, in the way you speak, in your actions, be holy when nobody sees you, be holy when you are alone. Be holy when you think, because nothing is hidden from God, He sees you wherever you are, and He sees me and I cannot be one thing before the people and when I am alone, because nobody sees me, I can do whatever else. Be holy in every behavior, in everything that you do, because the One who called you is Holy. Now, I have spoken already three times about the city of God. Do you remember how it is called? It is the Holy City. The Holy City. And it is the Holy City not because it is made of holy stones and holy timber but because a Holy God dwells there and holy people live there. Amen. It is not possible to enter into that city and be in that city unless we are holy. Do you understand? And we start from now. God has redeemed us by the precious blood of Christ, not with silver and gold, so that we can change our behavior, not walk as before according to the desires we had then. We were all unclean. I was unclean. I was in sin. I was in darkness. There is an old English hymn that goes: “Eternal light, eternal light, how pure must be a soul to come and be placed within your searching sight and live and look on You!” And then it goes on to ask:
“O, how shall I, who was a son of darkness, who lived in uncleanness and in sin, how can I be there and appear before the Holy God and bear the beam of the uncreated light upon my naked spirit?” I remember the next verse as it is in the hymn:
“There is way for man to rise to that sublime abode;
an offering and a sacrifice, a Holy Spirit’s energies,
an advocate with God.”
An advocate is somebody who is speaking for us. Amen. By the blood of Jesus Christ, by the operation of the Holy Spirit in us, we can be made holy and clean. In that city we read in Revelation, no unclean thing will enter. No fornicator, no murderer, no witch, no one who is telling and doing lies. All these will be out. Glory to God.
We heard from Miltos that we receive our justification from God, it’s a free gift, and we receive it by faith. And Christ has come in us also to make us holy. In the letter to the Hebrews we read in chapter 12 verse 14: “Seek peace with everybody and holiness without which nobody will see the Lord.” So seek holiness, be holy. Do you have a hope that you will see God? Do you want to see God? In Matthew’s Gospel the Lord says: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Amen. And in Revelation we read this morning in chapter 22, verse 3 that the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the holy city and His servants shall worship Him. And in verse 4: “And they shall see His face and His name shall be on their foreheads”. Amen. Without holiness no one will see God. All His servants who will see his face, they are all holy people. In the Greek orthodox religion, they say nobody can be holy. If a person does much good during his life and he prays much and fasts and loves people and does good works, when he dies, then after many years if they dig his grave they may discover that there is something extraordinary there, like water, which they call holy water. Then that person is declared to be a saint (a holy one). And they paint icons, pictures of that person and people go and bow before it and kiss the icon. That’s the darkness in which I was and Miltos was before. But the word of God says we must be holy in every behavior while we are on the earth, while we are in this body, today. Amen. I plead with you, I beseech you my brothers and my sisters: be holy. There is much power in a person that is holy. You can go to a place and, without saying anything, people there will feel that there is something different. If you are holy in every behavior, the power of God is there, the presence of God is there, because you are living in the presence of the Holy God.
And it’s not only holiness we can take before people, we can take also the peace of God when we go somewhere. I was working in a Research Institute in Cyprus, for many years. And I remember I went into the office of the director of that Institute. We talked about the work, and then I got up to go and he said to me: “please stay, I need to have some peace”, glory to the name of the Lord, I was so surprised when I heard that. We must remember though, that it is not our holiness, nor our peace. As we heard earlier, our justification is Jesus and the faith we have is Jesus’ faith. In chapter 1, of the 1st letter to the Corinthians we read about the cross, to the Greeks it is foolishness, to the Jews it is a stumbling block, but to us it is in the power of God, unto salvation. Why? Because by the power of the cross the old John, who was in darkness and in sin and all sorts of bondages, yes, by the power of the cross that John died and Christ came in and a new life came in me. Amen. God gave me Christ because He loves me so much He gave to me His only begotten Son that I should have eternal life and by the life of Christ in me, I have the righteousness of God, I have the faith of God, I have the love of God, and I have the holiness of God. And at the end of chapter 1, verse 30, we read: ‘but you are of Him, Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification (holiness) and redemption, so that, as it is written he who glories (or boasts) let him glory in the Lord.’ I’m not boasting about myself. You know: “I am so great, so clever, I manage to do these things”, on the contrary, I am ashamed of myself. I glory only in my Jesus. Amen, Amen. There is a lady in our church, in Nicosia and once she said to me: “Even when I hear the name, Jesus, tears come to my eyes. He is the One I love, He is the One I am proud of.” Amen.
Before saying this, Paul is saying, in verses 26-29: ‘For you see your calling brethren, not many of you are wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the things that are despised has God chosen, and the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no flesh should glory in His presence.’ Amen. Stop thinking like the world thinks, it doesn’t matter if you are poor. It doesn’t matter if you are not educated. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, if you are young or old, if you are weak in the body or strong in the body. In fact Paul is saying that if you are something that the world rejects, if you are a nobody, then there is a better chance that you will receive the grace of God than if you are strong or rich, because it is not I or you that matter. It is who Jesus is, that is what matters. Amen. And many people who are in need and they are weak and cannot cope in this world, they feel the need for salvation.
You remember, that in the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed He was in the garden of Gethsemane praying to the Father; “Father, if it is possible let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as You will.” He was in such in such an agony, His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. We don’t read that God answered Him. The Lord Jesus knew from before that He had come for this hour. Yet He was praying, “If it is possible”, He didn’t want to drink this cup of this sin this uncleanness, this darkness, this death. Then the Jews came, Judas betrayed Him and they arrested Him. They took Him to the house of the high priest. Before all this, Peter maintained that he was ready even to lay down his life for the Lord. And Jesus had told him that in that night, before the cock crows Peter would deny Him three times. And he did. Peter had much confidence in himself, but when the test came he failed completely. We read in one of the gospels that, on the third time Peter denied Him, Jesus turned and looked at him. Peter went out and wept bitterly, but I believe at that time the Father showed to Jesus that the cup could not pass away, He had to drink it. He had to go to the cross. Even the chief of His disciples denied Him, he could not live the life of God without the cross, he could not be saved in any other way. You remember Jesus had before sent His disciples to preach the coming of the kingdom to heal the sick and to cast out demons. They came back rejoicing and said, “Even the demons are subject to us in your name”, but inside them there was not the life of God. Jesus had given them from His authority to do these things. For the life of God to come into them, it was not possible, and when Jesus looked at Peter, it was as though Father was telling Him: “Jesus, there is no other way, you must go to the cross, so that self can be done away with, the old man can die, and I can give them the life that is in you.”. That is how Jesus Christ becomes our life, our everything. And He becomes our holiness. Therefore we are without excuse, because it does not depend on our ability. All we have to do is let the life of Jesus be lived in us. “I live, yet not, but Christ lives in me”, said Paul.
My dear brothers and sisters, do you understand these things? We are saying what is written in the Bible and also what the Holy Spirit has shown us, and also what we have discovered in our own life to be true. It is the word of God. And God is here, the same God, ready to give Jesus, His Son, because He still loves us. The life and power of Jesus Christ can be in each one of us, and we can be holy in our conduct. We read in the fist letter to the Thessalonians, 4:3-4, ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that you should abstain from fornication, that every one of you should know how to possess his body in holiness and honour.’ In the second letter to the Corinthians we in chapter 6 that God said “Get out of this world, get out of the uncleanness, separate yourselves”. It doesn’t mean that we go and build a house on the mountains, away from everybody. It means that we do not follow the thought and the mentality of the people that are around us, the way they think. And He says, “If you separate yourselves, I will receive you, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and my daughters.” And then it goes on in the seventh chapter, verse 1 to say: ‘Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ Let no one be careless. Let no one say, “Nobody sees me, I can do this unclean thing”. What matters is that God sees you. Be holy, be clean, separate yourself unto God. And the Lord will bless you much. Amen and amen. Praise His Name.
The City of God
Today, I want to conclude, to put together what we’ve been looking at these two days. And I want to start by reading a few things from the letter to the Hebrews, in chapter one. In this chapter we read that God spoke in the past to His people many times and in many ways through the prophets, but in recent times He spoke to us in a son. And then goes on to describe the glory of this Son. In verse 3 we read: ‘who, being the brightness of his glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself cleansed us from our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.’ And He was made much higher than the angels. Then it goes on to say a few things about Him to explain, and in v.8 and 9 we read: ‘But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom, you have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness, therefore, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions.” And v.13 ‘To whom of the angels has He ever said, “Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool”?’
Now, in chapter 2 we read that this Son of God became a man, he partook of flesh and blood like us, so as to set us free by His death. Our attention is drawn to the fact that man must be very special to God, for it is written: “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honour and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” Then in verse 9: ‘But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.’ And then he goes on to say that we are also brought into this, we who belong to Jesus, v.11-13: ‘For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying “I will declare your name to my brethren; In the midst of a church I will sing praise to you”, … and again “Here am I and the children whom God has given me”. When God created man and from him the woman, already in His heart and mind, in His plans, He had Christ and the Church. So, the Son of God becoming man and dying to wash us from our sins and a gathering of brethren, the Church, were already in the mind of God, before the foundation of the earth. He started by creating Adam, and from his side He made Eve. This was a picture, when God put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and made Eve. It was a picture of the time when Jesus was on the cross and He went into the sleep of death. They pierced His side and from there came blood and water; these signify the Church, for we read in the first letter of John, chapter 5, that there are three that bear witness on the earth, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and this is the Spirit and the Church, the Bride of Christ. She came from His side.
Jesus Christ is in glory, sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high. In the letter to the Ephesians we read that God also raised us up with Christ and took us up and made us to sit together with Him. What I really want to say is that this glory to which Jesus Christ went is the glory into which His Bride, His Church is also going, and in the Spirit is already partaking of it. In Psalm 45 we read, in verse 6, the words we already read in the letter to the Hebrews: ‘Your throne, O God is forever and ever, a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness, more than your companions.’ And then, in the middle of verse 9, ‘At your right hand stands the Queen in gold of Ophir.’ So, here is the Queen, here is the Bride of the Lamb. Amen! Now, we could read further down and you could see there that this Queen was called to come out, to leave and forsake the house of her father and to come and unite with the King. Amen. This is our calling. You leave everything, like as a woman getting married, leaves her house, leaves the family of her father and she goes and unites with her husband and the two become one flesh. In the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 5) Paul says that this is a mystery and it points to Christ and the Church. Our calling is to go and be together with Christ and unite with Him. When a man and a woman join together in marriage, the two of them become one flesh, but the one that joins to the Lord is one spirit ( 1 Corinthians 6:17). So, we are united with Christ in marriage and we become one spirit with Him. The Church is the body of Christ and the spirit that is in that body is the Holy Spirit.
Here is another picture we have in the New Testament. When God gave instructions to Moses to make the tabernacle, it was for a dwelling place of God, and it was a picture of the house, the dwelling place of God in the Spirit. When it was finished and they made all the dedication and offered the sacrifices, the glory of the Lord came and filled the tabernacle. The same thing happened when Solomon finished and dedicated the temple. These were prophetic pictures from the Old Testament. We know in our days that the temple of God, the house of God, His dwelling place is the Church. On the day of Pentecost, in that upper room there were 120 people gathered, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promise of God. We can say it was “a body” of people. And the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the Church appearing on the earth for the first time, the Body of Christ, with many members, men and women. Many centuries have passed and there is a long history of the Church, we believe we are approaching the end of this era and the dawning of the next one, where the habitation of God will be manifested even more glorious.
I have been trying to show from the Bible, as best as I could, what the Lord wants to do, what He has in His heart and mind. It is a city that is in God. It is a heavenly city, a pure city, a holy city, a city that is filled with the glory of God. It is a city that has foundations. It is the city where God dwells, where God and the Lamb have their throne and their light shines on it. It is a city where this river of God is flowing, crystal-clear, very clear water, and on each side of this river the tree of life. That is the tree from which Adam and Eve did not eat. They were deceived by the Devil and they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And that killed them, it brought death. But, in this city is the tree of life. You read about these things in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation. When I decided to speak about the city of God, I thought I would speak for one session and finish. I speak for four sessions now and still there is so much to say! Because the word of God is so rich and this city is so full of beauty and the wisdom of God. The gates on the walls are, each one of them, a pearl. Each one of the twelve foundations of the wall are adorned with precious stones. Can you see this city? Can you see the glory of God in this city?
Now, what is happening on the earth? The same thing that is happening with man. Man was supposed to be in the image of God, in His likeness. He was supposed to show the glory of God to all creation, to shine with the glory and the beauty of God. Instead of that, because of sin, death came. Instead of light, darkness, instead of holiness, uncleanness. Instead of righteousness wickedness and lawlessness. And God sent His Son to redeem man, to buy him back, back to Himself, back to the original mission of man. Jesus Christ has done it. And He is gathering a people, all of them together: the Church., the Bride, the Queen, to be with Him on the throne, full of the Spirit of God. But, what is happening? We are not yet there. Like this body of ours, it has not yet been redeemed. We grow old, there are sicknesses and we die. The day is coming, when the Lord will give us a new body. Glory to His name. In this new body there will be no death. It will be always full of strength, young, full of life. But, it has not happened yet. This body still bears the consequences of sin in it. And man has to come from a place of sin, lawlessness and death to a place of salvation of the soul. Yesterday we heard Miltos say that the salvation of our soul is at the end of our faith. So, now we are in the process of being saved, our soul is being saved. We are being changed continually, from glory to glory to be more and more and more like Jesus, the Son of God. Do you understand these things? Do you?
Now, because things are so, we don’t see this perfect church on the earth. What we see is divisions, friction, misunderstandings. We get hurt from one another. Someone goes and says, “I’ll start another church”. Self comes in, pride comes in. That is why there are so many churches. And that is why some of the first, original churches now have nothing of God in them. The Holy Spirit has been displaced. They look to saints, to Mary, the mother of Jesus, calling her the “mother of God” and worshipping her as God. They look to men, they look to religion, to methods and rituals, but not to God. At the basis of all these lies self which does not submit to the command of the Lord, “If any man comes after me let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me”. And these problems have come here. We are here and in this meeting there are many churches represented, called by different names. We are the same, we did the same thing in Cyprus, the same thing in all the countries of the world. In addition Satan also comes in to bring deceptions and wrong teachings and this is happening today more and more. From the time of the apostles, Paul had to fight against wrong teachings and at some place he mentions “angels of Satan”. Even from the very first days, people went around saying they were apostles, and Paul said they were angels (messengers) of Satan. They came as angels of light, but they did not preach Jesus, they did not preach the Jesus of the gospel, the true gospel of God. Others, Jews, went out and preached that, “unless you are circumcised and keep the law of Moses, you cannot be saved”. John, in his first letter, writes about false brethren, “they went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us, but they went out that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” And Satan, in order to fight against the work of God, comes in very subtle ways bringing his own people in to cause confusion. Are you aware of this? Do you know some of the things that have happened in the churches from the beginning until now? Things that went wrong? And even today, whenever you have people moving in pride, wanting to promote themselves, seeking self gain, they cause much pain, confusion and damage.
All this, is because the perfect has not yet come. From the first day of this conference we saw that, when New Jerusalem, the holy city appears, it comes from God, out of heaven. And those that are really the Lord’s, they belong to the Lord, they have their life hidden together with Christ in God. So, we have suffered quite a lot, we have suffered. Many times not from unbelievers outside, but from people that were in our churches. But through all this the Lord has turned everything to work together for good. He had to work for many years in my life, to set me free from self, to bring me to the point where I could deny myself. I know I still have a long way to go, but until I stated learning to deny myself I did so many things wrong. I hope all I just said answer the question that was asked on the first day of the conference as to why there are so many churches and divisions, and so on.
On the day of Pentecost, God did not come into, or upon, a special building called a temple, or a church, as we nowadays call them. We read in Acts chapter 2, that there was a sound of a strong wind blowing and it filled the house where they were sitting. It was not a special temple, it was a house. And the Holy Spirit filled every one sitting there. Then every one became a living stone. The Church of God, the house of God, the place where God dwells, is made up of living stones. We read that they were gathering in the temple of Solomon in the beginning, but soon they were so many it was not possible for them all to gather there, so they gathered from house to house. It is all right to have a place like this for gather together. Only, as I said in the first day, don’t call it church. Call it the church building, or the church hall, the place where the church gathers. Be clear about it that the church in the New Testament is made up of living stones, people. I remember last year, speaking in this same place, I said this: ‘Do you want to see the Church? Then turn and see the person sitting next to you.” Go on. Do it now. See the person sitting next to you. Go on, look. Amen. Halleluiah! This is the people of God. We know we are not perfect. We know we are not filled with the glory of God, yet. But, God loves us and He is going to finish His work. I know He will finish His work. As much as we know now, we want to be holy. We want to be clean. We want to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul and with all our strength. And God will enable us, make us able, to do it more and more and more. That’s what He wants from us. And He is going to finish His work. He will finish His work, for in the end, John says in his first letter, “We do not know what we shall be, but we know we shall be as He is”. We shall be like Him in the end, so we shall see God. We shall see the Lord Jesus. And the those who will see Him, they are the Bride, they are the Church, the holy city, New Jerusalem. Amen. Hallelujah. “And if we have this hope in us,” John continues, “we purify ourselves, as He is pure.” We throw out of our lives everything that is unclean. As soon as the Holy Spirit shows us something is not right, it is unclean, it is not from God, we stop it, we turn away from it.
Now, I will finish, even though it is a little early, because there is a desire in my heart to do something. I will tell you what in a minute. I don’t know whether you noticed yesterday when we read in Revelation, that His servants shall see His face, just before that it says (chapter 22, end of verse 3) ‘His servants worship Him” which means they love Him so much that each says, “I love you Lord, you are my life, you are my glory, you are glorious, you are holy, you are righteous, I belong to you, I want to do your will”. And they bow down and kiss His feet offering themselves to His service. [In English the translation is “they serve Him”, but the original Greek word is “worship” meaning extravagant love, which includes devotion and service]. This is something that must be practiced in the churches. It is a very important function in the Church. I will say this again: Worshipping God is a very important function in the Church. We sing hymns, we say prayers, we lift our hands, we dance, but all these should be expressing the love of our hearts to God, and this is worship. We give to the poor, we help the sick, we receive people, that are traveling in our house, we give them a place to stay and food to eat, but we do this because of the love in our hearts towards the Lord, and this is worship. Worship is expressing our love to God in all these ways. And the desire in my heart is that, before we separate, we spend some time loving God together, singing, praying, praising, embracing one another. I guess this is what is done in the heavenly Jerusalem, in the holy city.
I hope these words, which we saw and shared from the Bible, were understood and received, taken to heart, at least by some. For those of you who really love the Lord in your hearts I say: Don’t be discouraged, you may be hurt, there may be misunderstandings, conflicts, sometimes bitterness. These may happen in your church. May be with the pastor or another brother or sister. May be the pastors are the ones that get hurt most, because everybody is demanding something from them. Don’t be discouraged. The devil will come to make you tired. He will tell you to stop, give up. When it is like that and you feel like that, go to a place, where you are alone, close your eyes and look away to Jesus, to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is our destination, where we are going. The perfection of beauty, of holiness, everlasting rest. Halleluiah. Amen. Let no one be discouraged. We shall surely see these things, as we read them, and it will be much, much more glorious than we can think now. Our understanding is very poor, because we try to imagine according to things we know and have seen around us. When we see the Lord and when we see New Jerusalem, the holy city, it will be something we’ve never seen before, Amen. So, let us worship the Lord together now.