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Cornerstone Fellowship News
  Vol. II,  No. 1 January 1, 2003  
Building Up the Body - Part 4

This question may sound somewhat rhetorical, but do you feel that God is an encouraging Being? Does He attempt to edify or build you up? Of course, no believer is going to answer these questions with anything but a resounding yes, but the fact is that we don't always act toward each other as if we serve a God who is seeking to console and lift us up.

Many people unfortunately view the Bible as a book dedicated to things one is not permitted to do. Anyone who does this cannot possibly feel encouraged either by the Word of God, or by the Creator Himself.

In fact, the Scriptures can and should be seen as the most positive body of writing in the history of the human race. Encouragement is clearly realized right from the beginning of Genesis, and continues to the final statement in the book of Revelation. Discouragement is not something that God is involved in, with, of course, the exception of outright sin. He unequivocally establishes the fact that He is for us, on our side, and out to do us good.

Through the pen of Moses, Yahweh proclaims:

"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore CHOOSE LIFE, that both YOU and your seed may LIVE: that you may love the Lord your God, and that you may obey His voice, and that you may cleave unto Him: for HE IS YOUR LIFE, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore unto your father, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them" (Deut. 30:19-20).

Does that powerful statement sound as though God is against us? Hardly, to the contrary it is His greatest hope that we will choose the good things He has prepared and set before us. In like manner, He makes the following grand statement through the prophet Ezekiel, saying:

"If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, He shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I ANY PLEASURE at all that the WICKED SHOULD DIE? says the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways and LIVE?...Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel? For I HAVE NO PLEASURE in the DEATH of him that dies, says the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and LIVE YOU" (Ezek. 18:21-23, 31-32).

And lest anyone assume that only the Old Testament contains such statements, notice what Peter says in his second epistle:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, NOT WILLING that ANY should PERISH, but that ALL SHOULD COME TO REPENTANCE" (II Pet. 3:9).

Our Father in heaven is truly the most positive minded, uplifting, encouraging, consoling Being in the universe, bar none!! He is constantly searching for ways to help us along the path of righteousness, which He has specifically designed to bring us goodness and blessings.

Yahweh portrays Himself throughout the Scriptures as the Deliverer of His people, the Savior of His people, the One upon His people can and should lean. David once said:

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently upon Him" (Psa. 37:3-7).

Just out of interest, notice the word translated commit in verse 5. While it can be understood precisely the way the English puts it, in Hebrew it actually means to roll oneself upon; and the underlying sentiment is compared to a pig wallowing in the mud!! Now if that sounds incredible, just think about it for a moment. When a pig rolls around in his pen, he is in perhaps the highest state of bliss, totally relaxed, not fretting over anything, and completely trusting. Even though the pig analogy may seem a bit unusual, it really isn't when you consider what God is seeking to get across in this wonderful passage of Scripture.

He is picturing Himself as being so trustworthy, so true to His Word, so strong and able, so certain and sure, that we little human beings can totally let go and actually with abandon roll ourselves in complete confidence upon Him! What an outstanding example of God's loving encouragement!

Why cite such references as these? The point is that if our Creator, Who is infinitely greater than His creation, is able and willing to encourage the likes of us, how much more should we, the undeserving, seek to please the Almighty and emulate Him by encouraging one another? The Scriptures are crystal clear that we true believers are commanded to grow up to the fullness of the stature of Christ; indeed by our Savior's own words, we are to become perfect, even as our Father in heaven in perfect. If therefore, God is the most encouraging Being in the universe, we must then be in hot pursuit of His high standards in our own spiritual lives.

On the occasion of Messiah's final meal with His followers, He took the opportunity to inform them of something that would become absolutely paramount in their lives. He was about to be slain for the sins of the world. After that, He would be resurrected and then ascend to the throne of His Father in heaven, leaving the disciples here on the earth to carry on. Note the following verses from John 16:

"Now I am going to Him who sent Me...but because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say, it is advantageous for you that I go away. Because if I do not go away, THE COMFORTER will not come to you. But if I go, I will send it to you, to be in close fellowship with you" (Jn. 16:5-7).

The interesting thing here is that the word rendered Comforter is taken from the Greek term paraakletos, a word which is often translated as encourager! In other words, the very promised Holy Spirit, by which the risen and ascended Yahshua (Jesus)would indeed live within His disciples, is described in the Scriptures as the Encourager! This fact alone establishes the inestimable significance the Almighty places on this issue of building up one another.

In the 10th chapter of Hebrews, there is a passage with which all of us are familiar, but unfortunately that's usually a problem for human beings-we just tend to overlook what is most obvious, or what we've heard over and over again. We take it for granted that since we've read it and heard it so much, it must surely have become a part of our lives, and this, of course, is not necessarily true at all.

Beginning in verse 19, the writer (whether Paul, Apollos, Barnabus, or whoever) states:

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering: (for He is faithful that promised) and let us CONSIDER one another to PROVOKE unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some; but EXHORTING one another: and so much the more, as you see the day (of Christ's coming) approaching" (Heb. 10:19-25).

There are several key words in these verses that deserve our attention. One is consider in verse 24. It is translated from the Greek term katanoeo, and means to thoughtfully and closely consider something. It denotes the actions of the mind in apprehending certain facts about a thing. Notice how this word is used in a few other instances in the New Testament.

In Matthew 7:3, the Messiah instructs us to consider the beam that is in our own eye, before we attempt to remove the speck in our brother's eye. In this case, it is easy to perceive the intent of this word. It obviously means to look very closely at.

In Luke 12:24, Christ tells us to carefully consider the ravens, who neither sow nor reap, yet are sustained by God; and in verse 27, to consider the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin, yet they are arrayed by God with more splendor than Solomon in all his glory.

And in Hebrews 3:1, we read:

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, CONSIDER the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus (Messiah Yahshua); who was faithful to Him that appointed Him" (Heb. 3:1-2).

When we understand the force of this word rendered consider, we see that its application in our lives ought to be profound, for the same word is used to describe both how we should carefully look at our Savior and how we should closely observe each other that we might accomplish something vitally significant in the life of any body of believers.

And what is that important objective? We are to carefully consider each believer that we might provoke one another unto love and good works. To provoke (Gk. paroxusmos) means to incite. The two root words involved are defined as 1) para - intensive, and 2) oxus - sharpening. In other words, to provoke, in this instance, means to incite by intensely sharpening one another unto love and good works (which is or should be the outward expression of love in our lives). The use of these key words in verse 24 demonstrates the intensity that ought to be involved in our relationship among the members of the Body.

Then in verse 25, we are admonished to exhort one another. Exhort is not as commonly used today as it was many years ago, but the meaning has not been lost. The definition of this word (from the Gk. parakaleo) is to call near, to invite through consolation, to beseech, to comfort). In most instances, we would recognize the meaning of this term in the word encourage.

This entire passage of Hebrews 10:19-25 is, in fact, a step-by-step set of instructions about why and how we ought to be relating to each other as brothers and sisters in the faith. And the key basis for that relationship and why it is so vitally important has altogether to do with the fact that the Son of God gave up everything for us. We must be compelled therefore to seriously, deeply, profoundly, consider Him, what He has done, how He treated people and comported Himself, what He said; because one of the primary reasons He came to this earth was to set us an example that we should follow in His footsteps.

We are to meticulously copy our Savior, not just believe in Him. This is what separates the believers from the receivers, the doers from the hearers, the walkers from the talkers!! We are to become His pupils, His disciples, those who sit attentively at His feet, those who follow His every move, who pick up on each nuance of word or action on His part. We are to be emulators of Yahshua, people who eat, sleep, and breath His life within them! Wherever we go, whatever we face, whoever we should chance upon, each one of us in whom Christ truly dwells is to openly practice and demonstrate His literal presence wherever we are. As members of the Body of Messiah, we ARE Christ to the person, people, or situations that we encounter. And if we cannot or do not choose to think in this manner, if this is not the perspective we have, if our self-image is not genuinely Christ-centered, Christ-oriented, Christ-imbued, we stand little chance of actually practicing His presence in the daily routine of our human lives. There are simply too many distractions, too many things that get in the way, too much to think about and to do in this rat-race of a world today. Without the kind of clear vision of precisely who and what we are in Christ, we will almost always revert to our human side, our human reasoning, human ingenuity, human effort, human agendas. It's the nature of the beast!

Now think about and apply these facts to our relationship, attitude, words, and actions one toward another. We are to treat each other precisely as Jesus Christ (Yahshua Messiah) would do if He were sitting right alongside us. How many of us would feel totally confident putting our conduct toward others (all others!) up against that of Christ in the same situation? For many, if not most, of us, we simply would shrink before His classic example.

I say this not to be critical, but truthful and helpful, and I unhesitatingly include myself in that analysis. What it simply means is that we all have a long way to go, and we need to be aware of and specifically focusing on the kinds of changes we must make so that our lives more perfectly conform to our Savior's. Indeed, our conduct among ourselves as brothers and sisters in the faith absolutely cannot be left to mere chance, to mere natural human ways and means. We must be compelled to emulate the approach of Christ toward every person and every situation.

Not all believers are persuaded that they need to actually copy the life of Jesus (Yahshua). They put far more emphasis on what they term faith, which is really simple belief. Unless one is able to make a distinction between these two concepts, real spiritual growth is virtually impossible. Belief is an assurance within that something or someone is real. Faith encompasses belief, but goes much farther, in that it also possesses two additional aspects: 1) genuine faith realizes that without works, it's all for naught; and 2) real faith contains the actual power to move forward in obedience to the Almighty.

It is by no means nearly enough to claim a mere belief. The Scriptures teach, do they not, that even the demons believe and tremble? This is not to say that one can be successful without having belief, it just means that belief is only the starting point. This is why we are always encouraged by the Bible to press on, to become perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect, and to grow up to the fullness of the stature of Christ. These are not idle words just filling up space in the Bible. They powerfully describe the essence of our calling, the heart of the matter, the purpose for our very creation in the first place!

How can we encourage each other as members of the Body of Christ? I suppose the ways are probably innumerable, but certainly one on which the Bible puts strong emphasis is by what we say and how we say it. Solomon once wrote:

"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a KIND WORD cheers him up" (Prov. 12:25).

Being downcast and bearing a heavy burden in life can be among the most miserable and unproductive times any of us will ever experience. Having been in this position more than once myself, I know full well the crushing feelings associated with depression, trying to cope with negativity, setback, disappointment, frustration, and failure in life. I have suffered much physical pain and trial, but the tribulation of the heart and mind is as bad, if not worse.

If you have trodden this road, and many of us have, we ought to reflect upon our experiences, not only to understand and respond to our own personal situations, but also to determine just how what you have endured can be turned to good in the lives of others who likewise suffer. God expressly desires that this be one of the chief results of our personal trials. This is one of the very reasons why the Father consoles us. Paul says this exact thing in II Corinthians 1:3-4:

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yahshua Messiah), the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to COMFORT THEM which are IN ANY TROUBLE, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God."

Building up or edifying one another cannot be an avocation that we merely dabble in. We must become students and disciples of it, we must actively practice it, we must become proficient at it, indeed, experts, professionals, as it were. It should be our way of life, the motive and intent of our hearts, the thrust of all we think, say, and do. This is the way of Christ; this is walking in the footsteps of Messiah. To accomplish such a goal, we must apply ourselves, focus our attention, pray specifically and earnestly for the spiritual wherewithal to be transformed from self-centered individuals to spontaneously giving and serving people of the Almighty. Remember that God is the greatest giver, the greatest server, and the greatest encourager in the universe! We are to become as He is, therefore, nothing is too much in this regard; we cannot go too far; we can never pursue Him too strenuously; and we can never receive too much of what He is! It is simply not enough to believe and then sort of try to be good. Following our Savior must be a full-time job, 24/7!!

I personally have come to believe that for human beings to become like Christ, they absolutely will never see such an objective achieved by merely observing Yahshua (Jesus) from a distance, admiring Him from afar, placing Him on a pedestal, or remembering Him only on a cross! The essence of the New Testament teaching on Christ being in us has the connotation of His nature being infused into us. This realization is so very interesting and instructive. I have illustrated this point many times with a story. If you've never heard it before, I think it will paint the picture more clearly than anything else I might convey. It goes like this.

The word infuse is defined as: To pour in or upon; to put (qualities, etc.) into as by pouring; to instill; impart; to imbue; pervade; and inspire. These definitions are all familiar to us. The actual process of infusion, however, means: to steep or soak so as to extract certain qualities: as, tea is infused in hot water.

Now imagine that I am standing behind a table in front of you. On the table are several items, namely, an empty cup, a container of boiling water, and a tea bag. Each of these things is symbolic of something-the empty cup represents you; the boiling water signifies the Holy Spirit; and the tea is the Messiah.

The objective, of course, is to get the essence of the tea into the cup by means of the boiling water. The fact that the cup starts out empty is indicative of how each of us comes into the divine calling we have received. There is an interesting characteristic with regard to the cup--no matter how hard it tries, it does not possess the capacity to fill itself. Left on its own, it will remain empty forever. If the cup were indeed to attempt to fill itself, it could be accurately compared to believers who, unable or willing to allow themselves to be filled, are constantly making efforts on their own to either fill themselves, or to create the appearance of being full. In every instance, however, it will result in ultimate failure. This is one of the great spiritual lessons we all have to learn. We simply cannot fill ourselves. We have to be filled.

In order for the cup to be profitably utilized, the hot water must be poured into it by someone else. Of course, with respect to this analogy, that would be God the Father granting unto you or me the water of His Spirit.

So now we have a heretofore empty cup filled with boiling water. So far, so good. The full cup now stands for you having been filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a most desirable state in which to be. Right? Well, take a good look at the full cup. If what you really wanted was a container of hot water, then this would certainly fill the bill. There is, however, something missing here.

The objective, remember, is to create a cup of tea, not simply fill the cup with boiling water. There is, therefore, still more to accomplish. The bag of tea has to somehow come into play. Now imagine that I take the tea bag and hold it up above the cup of hot water. The full cup can see the tea bag, but it cannot reach the tea bag. In fact, no matter how hard or long it might try, that cup can never, ever cause that tea bag to produce something within the hot water that is inside. It can stare at the tea bag as long as it wishes, but nothing will happen. It can pray about the tea bag, but it is still suspended in the air above. It can discuss the tea bag with other cups, and conduct deep studies into the nature of the tea bag, but still make no progress. It can testify to others about the tea bag, and perhaps even claim to belong to the tea bag, and to be empowered by the tea bag, but that won't change the fact that the cup is getting nowhere fast! In fact, the longer the cup seeks to achieve its goal in this fashion, it not only will fail, but the water inside the cup will slowly, but surely, begin to cool off! Eventually it will become so cold that even if the tea bag were finally to be put into the cup, it would do nothing but just float around on top of the water!

Relating this part of the analogy to you and me, we should be able to see something very significant in this simple story. It frankly does not matter how much or how hard or how long we seek to have the life essence of Christ, that simply will not happen until, as it were, the tea bag is allowed to be placed into the cup of hot water! In other words, what I am saying is that receiving the Holy Spirit is not necessarily tantamount to the Messiah's very nature being imparted. That is only accomplished after the tea bag is lowered into the cup. I would suggest that this is something quite important to consider.

Once the tea bag is put into the boiling water, the process of infusion begins to transpire. At first, there is only a trace of color that is extracted. Slowly, however, the hot water performs its task. In a few minutes, the cup is brimming with the dark color and familiar taste and smell of tea.

Now take note-is the tea in the cup or in the tea bag? In fact, the actual tea is in the tea bag. If you were to cut it open, you could see and touch the literal product itself. The process of infusion, however, is so effective that the hot water acting upon the tea in the bag extracts the essence of the tea so completely that we actually refer to the resulting liquid as tea. In fact, unless or until the tea bag is allowed to come into the boiling water and steep, the actual tea cannot fulfil it purpose, and, of course, the cup of water remains tasteless and colorless.

This particular analogy has been of inestimable help to me personally in my own spiritual life. It has caused me to re-think what it really means for Christ to dwell within a human being, and what kind of process is actually involved. It has helped me to grasp the difficult reality that simply going through the rite of baptism and the laying on of hands is not some sort of divine insurance policy. It is the beginning step, the opening volley, it's what gets you out of the starting gate, but there is still the race to run, the finish line to cross, the prize to win. This too is all part of the whole process that God is seeking to complete in the lives of His people.

Do you recall the statement of the risen and ascended Messiah in His letter to the church at Laodicea? It is recorded in the book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20. Now please take note that these words were and are directed to baptized members and brethren of the true Church. Christ states:

"Behold, I STAND at the door and KNOCK. If anyone HEARS, and LISTENS TO, and HEEDS My voice, and OPENS THE DOOR, I will come in to Him, and eat with Him, and he shall eat with Me."

Once again, I emphasize that this was not said to those outside the Church, but to those inside, and, in this instance, the Savior is seen outside the door trying to get the attention of those inside; knocking in hope that they will both hear and respond by getting up, and opening the door, and welcoming Him into their midst. When He says that He will eat with them, there is a clear implication that this is referring to a special, close, deep friendship that He is seeking with those who believe. Obviously, the brethren to whom this letter is directed (no matter when in history, even today!) were not considered by the Messiah as being outside the confines of the Church or ekklesia; yet Christ is still outside the door trying to get in! Surely we must sense the impact that this truth ought to have on us.

Just so that this concept is not mistaken by anyone as being outside the confines of the Scriptures, I would direct your attention to the passage in Galatians 4:19, where the apostle Paul, clearly addressing baptized believers, makes the following appeal:

"My little children, for whom I am again suffering birth pangs UNTIL CHRIST is completely and permanently FORMED within you."

Ask yourself how Paul could make such a statement to the brethren in the Galatians churches, if indeed the state of believing in Christ, and the act of baptism and laying on of hands, assured the believers that the Messiah automatically was living in and through them? The fact of the matter is that this is not necessarily the case at all. Rather it is an assumption that is made generally based on a combination of individual misunderstanding of the actual divine process involved, and simply adhering blindly to false teaching on the subject from someone else. Many ministers delight in making things as easy for their followers as possible, deriding and deprecating the notion that much more is really involved in what God is seeking to achieve. This is a prime reason so many seem to stop at the cross of Christ, rather than seeing this signal event as the real starting point in their spiritual journey and quest.

Therefore, the process God is utilizing among His people is one whereby He lovingly and willingly provides the wherewithal of the calling, the sacrifice for sin, and the granting of the Holy Spirit, He leaves it to each one of us to make choices from that point onward. As we become aware of this responsibility, and move into it, the choices we make bring us into a closer and closer relationship with our heavenly Father and with our Savior. The opportunities then begin to open up for us to actually start thinking in terms of becoming perfect as the Almighty is perfect, and to growing up to the fullness of the stature of Christ. And this is the state that God is really looking to bring us to in our spiritual lives. In so doing, we then can be moved from the narrow concept of just trying harder to be better to the expansive realm of genuine divine transformation into an entirely new creation! It is truly the secret to our success.

One of the great choices that we must make is that of listening for and responding to the knock at the door. That noise is not Christ calling us, but rather His heartfelt attempt to get those who have already been called to open the door of their lives and let Him come in.

Why do you suppose that God imposes this kind of situation on His people? Simply because He knows that no matter what He does for us, we will always have the tendency for Him not to get as close as He would desire. We don't like anyone, especially God, to invade our personal space. We can appreciate Him from afar, but up close is often just too uncomfortable for so many believers, so we tend to keep Him at arm's length, paying Him homage, admitting our faith, but simply not permitting Him to dominate and totally re-create our lives. The fact that we are forced to make a decision to let Christ in puts just the right kind of pressure on us to make the plan of God work out right in our lives. In fact, when the Bible states in Revelation 17:14 that those who accompany the returning Yahshua (Jesus) to make war against the Beast power are called, CHOSEN, and faithful, it could well mean that the chosen aspect is actually based upon the choices those who are called literally make! In other words, our calling comes directly from the Most High, but our being considered chosen comes from our interaction with and decisions concerning the challenges that God places before us. Perhaps that is why the Scriptures state that many are called, but few are chosen, and that many will seek to enter in at the strait and narrow gate, but few will actually go in.

I may have gotten a bit off the main subject of this issue, but the importance of what has been covered is so very pertinent, if we are to go on with God, rather than remain where we are. I don't often recommend my own tapes, but in this instance I will, at least for those who might receive this publication, not having heard these particular messages. I believe that anyone should find something profitable with respect to what we have been discussing in the following tapes. They are offered without charge to you:

Called, Chosen, & Faithful
The Reckoning
Availing Much with God 1-2
Rebuilding the Temple
Growing in Obedience
Attaining the First Resurrection
Beyond Belief!

This calling we have been so mercifully given is glorious, and so much the product of the love and grace of Yahweh our Father. He has, however, seen to it that it also carries awesome responsibilities. Although He and our Savior are indeed all-sufficient, and have made all necessary provision for us, we still must apply ourselves to learn how They both operate, of what the divine plan for our personal spiritual lives truly entails, and how to receive the things that we believe. The more we can catch the greater vision of our calling, the more we can sense the expansive nature of what God is seeking to accomplish in and through these little human lives upon the earth, the more we will be able to pursue Him with abandon, and the less we will tend to casually accept the status quo and settle into a life of spiritual mediocrity.

Remember that Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3 that we have a choice. As builders, we have many options before us. Lying all around, often in plain sight, are the common building materials of wood, hay, and stubble. Choosing to build with these commodities is taking the easy way out. Little effort is required; little time is involved; little focus is necessary.

Building with the best, however, is another issue altogether. Gold, silver, and precious stones are rare and not easily found or acquired. They are expensive, and could require much labor to extricate, refine, and utilize in our construction.

The defining moment comes, however, not with the mere completion of the building, but with the divine fire that will try the quality of what has been built. This is the litmus test. Wood, hay, and stubble are highly combustible materials, and what has been constructed with them will never stand the heat. The precious materials, on the other hand, become even more valuable as they go through the testing process. Let us therefore consider carefully how we choose!


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