The Character Refinement Set
and the Social Christian
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 8 June 2002
Click here for Part 1
"How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, and do not seek the honour that comes from the only God?" (John 5:44, NKJV)
We continue our study this week of the social Christian and the importance of social sets in developing our character. Last week we looked at the Godhead set and of the importance of developing a close, personal relationship with Yahweh through Yah'shua (Jesus). We understood why it was so important for the disciples that Yah'shua (Jesus) leave them physically even though at first they experienced His departure as something devastating. And we understood that the essence of a being, whether it be God or man, is that which is invisible. We tend to focus on the visible and to lean on carnal crutches for our support.
I wonder if you regard yourself as a particularly sociable person? If you go into the world you will meet all kinds of people, some quiet and others noisy, some introvert and others extrovert. Some people love to be at the centre of attention, others like to hang in the background and avoid people. Whoever we are, and whatever our natural disposition, we all struggle when it comes to successfully interacting with people. Some people we seem to get on famously with and others we are repelled by. People form into friendship circles, societies, and cliques, each of which may represent different personality types or interests. Sometimes people feel trapped by others and become dominated by them and do not know how to escape, being too afraid to say anything unless they cause offence. There are all kinds of relationships, some beneficial and others harmful.
In a Christian context, sociability means good fellowship. And Yahweh is most insistent that we keep together in good fellowship! As we saw last week, we are commanded not to forsake meeting together (Heb.10:25). In the Gospel of John, Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us that He can have nothing to do with a certain class of men and women. This is what He says:
"...you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honour from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, and do not seek the honour that comes from the only God?" (John 5:40-44, NKJV)
Yah'shua (Jesus) is most insistent when He says that He can have nothing to do with people who "receive honour from one another". What does He mean by that? He means that those who form relationships merely to get honour and glory for themselves can never enter the Godhead Set because they "do not seek the honour that comes from the only God". Any kind of relationship where Yahweh is not the centre is not only going to be defective but it will be self-seeking and will have the tendency to draw people away from Him. He says, in effect, that it is morally impossible for such a self-seeking man to believe in Him. He wishes us to know that if you want to have the best of all relationships with other people, Yahweh must be a part of that fellowship. Now the fact that He is invisible makes no difference. He makes an astonishing promise when He declares: "where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt.18:20, NKJV). Those who gather together conscious of Christ and specifically declare that they are gathering in His Name - whether in a formal worship service or a friendly chat between sisters in the kitchen - there He is. There is a presence there. You may not see Him, but He is there.
One of the warnings I have repeatedly made over the years to believers is to beware of isolation. Firmly resist any notion that you have to develop a holy life alone. Such is impossible. If you try to form a relationship with Yahweh alone, you will develop into an oddity and a peculiarism, and into something utterly unlike what God wants you to be. I have met many of these spiritual hermits. They not only develop strange theologies but they don't interact naturally with people at all. You may be talking to them about something and the chances are they aren't listening to you at all. Two conversations are taking place simultaneously. They have become so used talking to themselves that when they talk to people in the flesh they are still talking to themselves and you might just as well not be there. The only way to develop spiritually is to go into the society of Yahweh's own children, and there you will soon find how He alters your set. To put it another way: Yahweh does not contradict our social instincts, He alters them, and often profoundly.
Some of the loneliest years of my adult life were those when I had little contact with other believers. I had left one religious set, which turned out to be false, and found myself in the wilderness for a while. Though I attended various churches at weekends it was difficult to fully identify with them even though I tried to integrate myself into their fellowship. Many did not make me feel welcome at all and it was plain that church was more of a social club to them, when I was hungering for spiritual food. So I spent my wilderness years alone with the Godhead set reading and studying the scriptures. And whilst I will never regret what I learned in that period whilst alone, I would never want to return to it.
One thing I do assure you is this: that Yahweh wants you to be somewhere. And even though you may have a wilderness wandering for a while, it is never His intent that it should last forever. Mine lasted four years, and that was quite long enough. If you are without a church or assembly, He will either provide you with one or lead you to start one. Finding and building fellowship is one of the most important imperatives of the Gospel. And He will send you to, or send people to you, of every imaginable kind, often the kind of people you might never dream of associating with in a secular context. In Christ, though, astonishing things happen to people and people whom we may earlier have regarded as being incompatible with our nature or interest suddenly start bonding. And that is because the centre of such a relationship is Christ, and not man. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"Leap for joy ... when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake" (Luke 6:23,22, NKJV)
and not for some silly notion or peculiar idea of our own, or for some principle we have allied ourself to, but for His sake. When we are true to Yah'shua (Jesus), our sociability is lifted into a different sphere. Notice that He "raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Eph 2:6). We are not raised up alone, but together. There is no private resurrection, no private journey into exaltation and glory. Right the way throughout the New Testament you will see the social instinct emphasised. From the Bible standpoint, whenever a man or woman gets alone, it is always in order to fit him or her into society. Being alone is not the goal, it is the training ground. If you think that spending time alone with Yahweh is going to prepare you to be alone without people, you are dangerously deceived, for I guarantee that He will be preparing you to come into closer contact with people afterwards. It is contact with one another that keeps us full-orbed and well-balanced, not only naturally but spiritually.
Now it may be that being with people makes you uncomfortable. You may not like them or worse you may not like yourself. But like it or not, our relationship with the Elohim is to prepare us to love all people without being sucked into negative and destructive mindsets. He wants us to become beams of light so that we cannot be soiled by the environments we are called to enter. But we all have character defects, and the circumstances that Yahweh places us in, both the good and the evil, both the joyful and the painful, are to bless us so that we can have these defects ironed out. And the long we resist, the longer the bad times may last. Only then can we interact with others in a joyful and in a non-oppressive way.
The purpose of God-ordained social interactions is to bring us satisfaction. And by satisfaction I mean comfortable gratification. When we are satisfied, we cease worrying how others may see us or whether our presence is uncomfortable to them. When a soul is at peace and relaxed, it is not conscious of self at all. It is content simply to be around people and is not afraid what to say or how to act. People who are not at peace are either often very talkative or completely withdrawn. There is a balance missing. Either we have to have the last word or we say nothing at all. We feel threatened if others express an opinion different to ours and find ourselves in an attacking mode without perhaps always realising it.
Releasing to Christ all our fears, insecurities, and misperceived need to be recognised at all times at any cost is the first step in finding wholeness in our social relationships. He takes away the reflexive defence mechanisms we have built in us to either attack or hide and lets us rest in Him. He takes away the perverse forms of satisfaction we get in "winning" and shows us that winning isn't what is important but in participating. To be in a godly set is to be a part of something that requires no Darwinian struggle to dominate or survive. In the godly set you simply let go and move in, and contribute to, the waters of love that contain it, knowing that the source isn't you but your surrendered-ness to Christ. The apostle Paul says:
"...be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah), submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Eph.5:18-21, NKJV).
"Submitting to one another in the fear of Yahweh" ... Now this does not mean an abrogation of patriarchal headship, or pastoral leadership, or the abolition of gender rôles: what it means is that those who are fully yielded to Christ do not need the masks, pretences, attempts at control or dominion, or anything that would manipulate people to conform to personal wants or perceived needs. When you are submitting in a group of believers to the set, you are merging with it in the unity of the Godhead. And when this total peace and endless joy is found, it is because the set is finally in Yahweh's will. The restlessness, the attempts to control and manipulate, the fear and anger, the aloneness and reflexive urge to go and hide away, are all indicative of being outside the will of the Father. And if that is threatening, then the fear we may have of God may well turn out to be an unhealthy fear based on misperceptions as to who He really is.
I knew of a man who used to say: "I have not had much time to prepare for this morning's sermon, so I am going to give you what the Holy Spirit gives me. I hope to be better prepared next week". And he used the passage I just read to you. When we seek satisfaction from Yahweh in the world of men and women, we shall come into contact with peoples' "open wounds". And Yah'shua (Jesus) says men will hate you, systematically vex and persecute you "for my sake", when the Spirit in you agitates them. You will be put in all kinds of difficult situations, but don't be alarmed: the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) will bring to your remembrance in those moments what you should say.
I have had people in the past dissect my sermons looking for personal revelations, rebukes, attacks, praise, prophecy and goodness knows what else. But what they don't always appreciate is that a sentence, or a paragraph, that a minister, moved by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), speaks may be interpreted entirely differently by different people because it is meeting several entirely different sets of needs. I've experienced it myself listening to other ministers. And the reason this happens is because the Ruach (Spirit) is in control. A couple of weeks ago I delivered a sermon to you called "Misunderstanding the Law". After I had given it, a number of our people both here and those abroad who receive these sermons by e-mail, commented on how it had answered some pressing questions. A few days later I received an unexpected e-mail from a lady enquirer whom I had sent the sermon to by accident. She wrote this to me:
"I just got back home and found your sermon waiting for me and I can't thank you enough. I had studied and studied or thought I had and never really got the message until now. It seems so clear now and I love you folks for taking the time to send this to me."
I was as surprised by her letter as she was in receiving the sermon. I had no idea that this topic was what she was struggling over because we had never discussed it. But that's the whole point. We are to be sufficiently submitted and yielded, no matter what our place in the Body of Christ, whether Pastor, Deacon, or unordained member, so that the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) can guide and use us. We have no horns of our own to toot, only Christ's. The bottom line is mutual submission to Christ and, as a result, to each other - not submitting to the lowest common denominator of carnality, but the highest common factor, Yah'shua (Jesus) our Lord.
I recall a sermon I gave many years ago which came to be known amongst us as the "salt sermon". It was all about idolatry, and in particular, family idolatry. To those in most of our Church set, it was received as the best sermon I had ever given. I have rarely felt such an anointing since. But do you know what? It was subsequently used by our enemies to attack us in public and was labelled in the most vitriolic terms imaginable. You see, it had touched an open wound. And you must expect the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) to do that to you. It's all a part of Yahweh's purification and socialisation process.
And so we end where we began, namely, that the social setting of our lives is El Elyon, the Most High. In secret or in public the one set we are anxious to please is the Elohim - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And the only people we have real communion with are those who have the same dominant note in their life. Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother" (Matt.12:50, NKJV).
"(Yahweh) has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in the Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Eph.2:6).
But this refers not merely to the resurrection but to the present. We are lifted together in one mind, one heart, one body, and one spirit. And what is you mind? Your mind is your particular cast of thought and feeling. If someone ridicules that, they hurt you. Whenever a certain type of thought is ridiculed, someone is hurt. "Do not be conformed to this world," Paul said, "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom.12:2, NKJV). A wonderful thing in our spiritual experience is the way Yahweh alters and develops our sensitivities. At one time we were amazingly sensitive to what people thought; then Yahweh altered that and made us indifferent to what they thought but amazingly sensitive to what other people thought, and finally we are sensitive only to what Yahweh thinks. Paul said: "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord" (1 Cor.4:3-4, NKJV). We have to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind" for one purpose, namely, that we may "may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom.12:2, NKJV).
So much for my mind. What about my morals, in other words, my standard of moral conduct? Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:20, NKJV). The practical outcome of these words is astonishing: it means that my standard of moral conduct must exceed the standard of the most moral, upright man or woman I know who lives apart from the grace of Yahweh. Think of the most upright man or woman, the most worthy person you know who has had no experience whatsoever of receiving the Spirit of God - for Yah'shua (Jesus) says I must exceed his righteousness! Instead of our Lord lowering the standard of moral conduct, He pushes it to a tremendous extreme. We have not only to do right things, but our motives have to be right, the springs of our thinking have to be right. We have to be so unblamable that Yahweh Himself can see nothing to censure in us. That is the standard of moral conduct when we are born again of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) and are obeying Yahweh. What is my standard of moral conduct? Is it Yahweh's standard, or the modern one? The modern standard is summed up in one word: self-realisation. The two are diametrically opposed to one another - there is no point of reconciliation between them.
So much for my mind and my morals. Finally, my mysticism - my direct and immediate communion with Yahweh (Col.2:20-23). Everyone, whether he is religious or not, has something of this sort whereby he goes directly to God. Mysticism is a natural ingredient in everyone's make-up, whether they call themselves 'atheist', 'agnostic', 'psychic' or 'Christian'. Yahweh does not alter the need of our nature - rather, He fulfils the need on a totally different line. We are so mysterious in personality, there are so many forces at work in and about us, that if we refuse to take the guidance of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), we may, and probably shall be, deluded by supernatural forces far greater than ourselves. Yah'shua's (Jesus') way exalts everything about us - it exalts our bodies, exalts our flesh and blood relationships, exalts our homes, exalts our social standing, exalts all the inner part of our life, our mind and morals and mysticism, until we have at-one-ment with Yahweh in them all. And that, brothers and sisters, is what life is really all about. Amen.
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