40-Day Focus Week 2: A Bride Made Ready

March 8th, 2010 - Tim

As we begin looking at the broader picture of what God is doing and where it’s all going, we are zooming out from what is taking place immediately in this nation and the nations of the earth. There is a broader move of God present in the earth that is global in its scale and decades in its duration. As I mentioned in introducing this topic, the better way to define this move of God is not by what people are doing, but by what God is saying. Hearing what the Spirit is saying is our means to get our hearts ignited for what God is doing, then the activity will surely follow. On the other hand, we can push ourselves to fast and pray, to worship, to evangelize, to do works of justice and every other activity that God is emphasizing right now, and still miss getting touched by what God is actually doing.

The Heart of the Matter
One of the most common stated or unstated missions among church communities these days is to recover what the Acts church looked like, which is certainly not the worst of aspirations. Our tendency, unfortunately, is to go about that by attempting to copy what the Acts church was doing (i.e. their method of ‘doing church’). When in reality it wasn’t the methodology of the Acts church that made it so dynamic. What defined and empowered the apostolic church in Acts was how they understood and lived their relationship with God, and the power of His presence in their midst. The apostles carried a deep-seated revelation from years of being with Jesus as to who He was and what His purpose was, and therefore who they were and what their purpose was. They oversaw a church born in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and continually lived in a consistent pattern of being filled with the Spirit day by day. These were the realities that made possible both its inward success as a community and body, and its outward success in winning souls.

The point being to attempt to imitate the activity of a move of God without giving ourselves fully to the heart of it effectively separates the move of God from God Himself. In doing so, the purpose and the power behind it are lost. We lose the relational aspects of what God is doing – what He’s revealing about Himself and about us – and we lose the priority of His presence. Hence our focus in these 40 days is on the heart of what God is doing and on the presence of God Himself. As we watch the “prayer movement” begin to sweep the earth, it’s easy to say this move is about prayer, but it’s so much more than that. This is not simply an increase in the quantity of prayer going on around the globe. God is revealing something about Himself and about His purposes that is motivating believers to pray like never before, and God is calling His church into a new revelation of who we were created to be that in turn is causing us to find our corporate and individual identity in the place of prayer. When Isaiah prophesied about God’s house being called a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7) it was more than just a promise that God’s people would pray. It was looking to a day when the church would find it’s identity as a house of prayer – when connecting with God would become the center of who we are and what we do. And it was looking to a day when God would make us joyful in His house of prayer – when we would so connect with what prayer is really about that we would find fullness of joy in that time in His presence and that connection with His heart.

It’s About the Bride
When I look at what God is doing I am convinced this move of God has Revelation 19:7 squarely in its sights – “the marriage of the Lamb has come and the Bride has made herself ready.” It’s a promise echoed frequently throughout Scripture that is the final climactic conclusion to the story of redemption. All of human history marches towards that day, creation longs and groans for it, and Jesus Himself awaits it with great expectation. There is a real day coming in which Christ will return to claim for Himself an inheritance from the people of the earth – a pure and spotless Bride fully given to Him in love. As Revelation 19 makes clear, though, His return does not happen in a vacuum. The marriage of the Lamb is waiting for something… the Bride is going to make herself ready. As we look around the world, we see much that indicates we are drawing near to the end of the story, but this one sign seems noticeably lacking. At least in the Western world it would be hard to point with any confidence to a pure and spotless Bride appearing on the scene. More than that, though, we seem to have lost our motivation – rarely can you find anyone who is even consciously working towards that goal. Before that day can come something has to happen – God has to stir His people to begin making themselves ready as a Bride for her Bridegroom.

What would such a move look like? What would stir the Bride to begin making herself ready? Two simple revelations: the Church beginning to see herself as a beloved Bride, and seeing the beauty of her Bridegroom and longing to be with Him. All across the earth and in all different streams, a common theme is beginning to be heard. It sounds different when spoken by different voices, but its heart cry is the same: God delights in and is jealous over humanity, He made us for Himself and is drawing us to Himself, and nothing will satisfy as much as being with our glorious Creator – it is our purpose and identity now, and our destiny at the end of the story. And increasingly alongside that cry you hear another: the wedding day is coming soon and it’s time to make ourselves ready.

This is what’s at the heart of what God is doing on the earth right now: the Church catching a revelation of God as a jealous Bridegroom, and the Church stepping into her identity corporately and individually as the Bride of Christ. It’s not that either of these revelations are new, but that He is preparing us to begin understanding them and walking in them at a new level as we come nearer to the day when the Bride welcomes her Bridegroom as He returns. It’s not the language of the Bridal relationship that’s important but rather the reality behind it. It is a description of God that reveals Him as passionate and purposeful: He loves, delights in and is jealous over those willing to be called His, and He is relentlessly in pursuit of love – drawing hearts into it, bringing hearts to fullness in it and preparing for the day when God and man will be fully joined in it. It is an identity for the Church that reveals who we are now and forever as the one creature made to be joined with God: in intimacy as we delight in Him and He in us, and in partnership sharing in the secrets of His heart and the labors of His soul.

Catching the Vision
We want to set ourselves before all of those revelations over these next weeks, but for this week I want to ask God to seal us with a vision:

That He would mark us with a vision for what He longs to do in the earth. That our spiritual eyes would be opened to see a glorious Bride made ready, a great harvest from every tongue and tribe and nation, and a people prepared for the Lord. Let our hearts be stirred for God to move in a way that touches all flesh – not one stream or movement, not a remnant but from weakest to strongest every believer swept up into knowing His love and walking in the kind of relationship with Him that He created us for, and from one end of the earth to the other every heart hearing the invitation “come to the wedding!”

And may He mark each of us deeply with a personal vision to lay hold of the invitation that God is extending in our day. That our hearts might yearn to go deep in the reality of His love and enter into a relationship with Him that brings us the heights of joy and the heights of fulfillment. May we enter in to living as a Bride being made ready for Jesus – allowing Him to draw us in His love and wash us with the water of His Word. May our vision and ambition in life be no lower than His vision for us – going on a journey of love that leads us into the depths of relationship with Him.

Some Scriptures to meditate on: Eph 1:17-19, 3:14-21, 5:25-32; Rev 19:6-7; Isa 62:1-5; Jn 17:21-26

One Response to “40-Day Focus Week 2: A Bride Made Ready”

  1. […] A couple weeks ago I mentioned the two major things that I see God doing as He begins to move the Church towards that reality: 1. Revealing the beauty of Himself as the Bridegroom God to make us long for that day. 2. Revealing who we are as the Bride of Christ that we would understand where we’re going. Last week we covered the first – how God is revealing Himself as the author and finisher of the great drama of redemption and capturing our affections and our passions in a great worship and prayer movement. This week I want to begin looking at the second: God is pouring out a revelation of who are we in Christ, and specifically, who are we as the Bride of Christ. […]

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