As we stated in Part 1 of this post, it is paramountly important that we as believers understand that it is Christ who builds His church. Man cannot build Christ’s church. Men have tried to build Christ’s church but all they have is their human wisdom, but a church build on human wisdom cannot withstand the gates of hell.
The church is you and me; we believers. In order for us to be strong Christians, we must, of necessity, be welded to Christ in the Spirit. We must be spiritual vessels.
The Apostle Paul talks of his “chain” and of his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Tim. 1:16; 2 Cor. 12:7). These were the things that helped make Paul spiritual. God used these to “crucify” or bind Paul onto His plan and purpose.
A preacher who is not bound by God’s chains in the Spirit cannot carry God’s plan and purpose. People take the flesh lightly without realizing how powerfully opposed to God’s purposes the flesh is. But, unlike us, God knows. That is why God binds the servants that He loves with chains and barbs and thorns, to deal with their fleshly lusts.
God has to keep sending things our way to keep us on our toes, so to speak. Personally, I would prefer that he sends me things like cars and fine houses and recognition and such like things. But that is not what God sends. Much of the time He sends chains and barbs and thorns. I can recall the number of times when God sent barbs my way. I resisted violently. I had never known the power of the flesh until then! But God, who is rich in mercy, gave me chance after chance to prove myself worthy of His calling. I am not ashamed to admit that, even today, He is still giving me chance after chance. But I am also overjoyed to realize that, slowly, I am learning to humble myself under the mighty hand of God.
The perfect example of how Christ builds His church is found in the Book of Jeremiah. The Prophet Jeremiah saw firsthand exactly how Christ builds His church. God took Jeremiah down to the potter’s house.
Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house. While there, he saw exactly how God builds His church.
“1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
Notice, in verse 6, that God is comparing Himself to the potter that Jeremiah saw. It is therefore God who builds the church.
We can see from this scripture that God uses His own hands to mould us to fit His plan and purpose. God uses “wheels” to do this.
What exactly are these “wheels”?
Wheels grind. God’s wheels grind the carnal nature in us. When God first saves us, He powerfully delivers us from the clutches of the devil. If you were a drunkard, for example, you will be surprised to find, immediately after they’ve prayed over you, all the thirst for alcohol vanishes from you. That is God’s work. At that particular point in time, God does not use any wheels. You are His “baby”, and He takes charge of everything.
But even after God has initially done that tremendous work, there is still a lot more to be done in us. There are things that are much more deeply entrenched in us than alcoholism. It is at this point that God calls upon His faithful servants, His “wheels”.
“Wheels” are things that God will use in our lives to chafe at and strip us of our carnal, fleshly nature. Ultimately, we will arrive at the place where only the joy of the Lord is our strength, literally.
God wants us to become fellow heirs with Christ of His glory. That means, simply, that He wants us to become spiritual men and women. We have to see in the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit to become His sons and daughters. Hence the need for the “wheels” to do a work in us. “Wheels” are the hardships and difficult situations, including persecutions, that we undergo on account of our being Christians.
The hand that Jeremiah saw was God’s hand. It is God’s hand upon us when we go through hardship. His hand is there, to mould us.
The lesson that Jeremiah learned at the potter’s house was the same revelation that Paul received when God put a thorn in his flesh. At first, Paul was not comfortable with the thorn. It hurt his flesh.
But God told him,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, God gave Paul a revelation of how He works in us to produce the grace that is so necessary to our relationship with Him.
Upon receiving this revelation, Paul, the ever-obedient servant of God, surrendered to God’s ways or “wheels”. He said,
“9 Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
No wonder, in Paul, God had such a sharp instrument! And in Paul we see a model of a strong Christian whose life the gates of hell cannot prevail against. The key lay in Paul’s willingness to deny himself, and to take up his cross and follow Christ.
Much of the time, we are not as obedient as Paul was, and we fail to become God’s house.
We cannot listen to men if we are to become strong Christians. Most of the time, believers look to the ratings that men put upon them, and they use these to gauge their service to God. But the whole world could be against you, and it is at that exact moment that you would be serving God’s purpose. Conversely, you could be known the world over – but God would have no idea who you are.
Paul had very few accolades in this world. Even though many had heard of Paul, few accepted him. And yet, this did not stop Paul from serving God faithfully. Paul was faithful to the call of God upon his life to the extent that he became a father to the churches.
Clearly, you cannot become a father without growing up. When you grow spiritually, you become strong, and you become responsible in God’s house. Responsibility does not mean you become a pastor. Rather, it means you become an example, and people look up to you. They do not look up to you the way the world looks up to men. But God’s people look up to you to lead them to Christ, to the Christian character.
But no one can grow spiritually without allowing a work of God in their hearts. This was exactly what Paul did. He allowed God’s hand to work in him, to remove all the carnal, fleshly ways in him. God cannot use a man of the flesh, however charismatic he may be. God uses spiritual men and women, people who are daily denying themselves and taking up their cross and following Christ.
As children of God, we therefore have a responsibility to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We are to allow Him to crush and grind the flesh or carnality in us so that we might become a strong church.
Let us allow God to deal with the core of our problem with Him – the flesh. Let us not hide behind anything. Let us not hide behind our worship, or our prayers, or our leadership roles. God is not impressed with these things. The Bible says that God looks upon the heart. If we want to become a strong church, we must allow God to deal with the things that are in our uncircumcised hearts. These are the things that Jesus said make us unclean (or unacceptable) before God:
“21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23)
[If we are to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and daily follow Christ]