40-Day Focus Week 5: Bridal Identity – Partnership

March 30th, 2010 - Tim

Last week we began looking at how God is breathing on the Church’s identity as the Bride of Christ. More than just shifting our activities, this move of God is reshaping our identity. As God begins to reveal what it means to be the Bride of Christ, it is reshaping our view of God and of ourselves, of what we’re here for and of where it’s all going. The more our minds are renewed according to God’s vision, the more we begin to actually be transformed into who we were made to be (Romans 12:2). This is how Jesus makes ready His Bride – by washing us with the water of His Word (Ephesians 5:26-27). We seek a greater revelation of the invitation because it’s as God reveals more fully who He made us to be that we are able to say yes and allow Him to complete the work in us.

One of the most fascinating things about the passage in Revelation 19:7 that we’ve been looking at is that at the end of the day, the Bride makes herself ready. God gets the praise because it’s only by His omnipotent power, but human beings in voluntary partnership with God will play a significant role in seeing it come to pass.

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” Revelation 19:6-8

That concept of voluntary working alongside God’s purpose highlights the second major theme of Bridal identity – partnership. Partnership and intimacy are at the heart of the Bridal identity, of the marriage relationship, and of the prayer and worship movement. While it is simple enough and clear enough to say that it’s all about love, intimacy and partnership flesh out what exactly that love looks like. While ‘love’ can take on any number of expressions, as God reveals more and more of what it means to be the Bride of Christ the depth, width, length and height of that love begin taking on definition. God’s desire for intimacy tells us that Jesus, beyond just having a general, warm, compassionate love for us, actually desires us and enjoys us. God’s desire for partnership adds yet another significant dimension.

One with God
The reality of who we are in Christ because of His love is truly exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond what we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). It would be more than enough that Jesus should desire that we be with Him (John 17:24), but Jesus doesn’t stop there. The fullness of His desire is that we would be one with Him.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23

This is an almost unthinkable reality – that we should be one with Jesus as He is one with the Father. The mystery of the Trinity – three Persons, but one God, perfectly united – is the type of relationship into which we are invited. In Christ we are joined to that perfect fellowship. It’s how God defines marriage from the beginning – setting the imagery in place that He would later apply to Himself and His church.

““For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32

There is something powerfully unique about the marriage relationship that if we lay hold of its application to our relationship with God totally shifts how we view life in Christ. Marriage is a voluntary joining of two individuals to form one new whole – the implications of which (at least in the ideal) are staggering. In all things and in all ways, the two become one. There are no separate possessions, no secrets, no personal agendas, there are no boundaries on the marriage relationship – each fully belongs to the other. Unlike any other relationship, it is not a relationship bounded by a common interest or particular gathering place. We are not joined in certain shared activities or ideas, or at certain places or certain times, we are joined in all things at all times.

The idea that in Christ we have such a relationship with God is incredible, but Biblically very clear – not only that all that we are is to be opened to God, but that God has opened all that He is to us. He has withheld nothing from us but “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). He hides nothing of His heart from us but “has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) He does nothing independently, but rather longs for us to “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9) and “does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) God’s desire for us is not that we love Him from a distance as we go about our lives and He goes about His, but that He would be deeply and intimately involved in our story and we would be deeply and intimately involved in His.

Friendship with God
The most awesome reality about Christianity is that we do not have to guess as to how God desires to relate to men. Besides the whole history of Scripture pointing us to God’s willingness and His desire to work with men in accomplishing the work of redemption, we particularly have the testimony of Jesus’ time on the earth to show us exactly how God desires to interact with His followers. We know that Moses spoke with God face-to-face as a friend (Exodus 33:11), but when God appeared in the flesh in Christ, He made clear that was not an honor reserved for the highest of saints but His intention for any who would listen. Jesus calls out 12 ordinary men – uneducated fishermen and hated tax collectors – and proceeds to walk with them for three years. To them and to as many as would draw near, Jesus shared the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Mark 4:10-12) and revealed things yet to come. He rejoiced with His followers (Luke 10:17-21), cried with them (John 11:32-35), and prayed with them (Luke 9:27, Matthew 26:37-38). Not only did Jesus get intimately involved in their lives, but they became intimately involved in His – laboring alongside Him during His time on earth and alongside His Spirit to establish His church after His ascension. Jesus describes them as His friends.

“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” John 15:15-16

That friendship with His followers has never ended, in fact it is even more real now by His Spirit than when He was with us in the flesh (John 16:7). Jesus still beckons His people to be His friends and partners in the work that He is doing. It is no mistake that the Great Commission is ended with “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) It is not an assignment to fulfill for Him, it is His great vision that we are to complete with Him. The disciples with Jesus right there in their midst knew their chief assignment – to hear what He was up to and to partner with it. How much more us with His Spirit now dwelling inside us!

The Spirit of Prophecy
At the heart of the friendship Jesus desires with us is knowing what our Master is doing. It is no mistake that the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost that begins the New Covenant is specifically referred to as an outpouring of prophecy – and it is this promise that will come to fullness in the last days as the spirit of prophecy rests upon all of God’s servants.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.” Acts 2:17-19

The spirit of prophecy is not just the “thus sayeth the Lord” predictions of the future, but rather that knowledge Jesus is talking about in John 15 where we hear God’s Word in such a way that we are in tune with what God is doing – what His agenda is for the earth and for men, and where and how He is acting towards that end. More and more we are seeing that spirit manifest in pockets of the church – men and women catching hold of the grand vision of what God is doing and surrendering themselves and their personal agendas to be a part of the greater kingdom move of God. The Holy Spirit is reemphasizing the role of prayer in the church because the place of prayer is where we hear that word and how we align ourselves with God’s agenda which is going to become crucial. As God begins bringing His agenda to completion it is our glory to be working alongside Him, and it is dangerous to not be.

The Spirit of Intercession
The spirit of prophecy is closely connected with the spirit of intercession. All of the Old Testament prophets functioned in both. They heard what was on the Lord’s heart and both declared it to the people and cried out for their nation in intercession to see judgment withheld and mercy released. As we take our place in intercession, the Spirit reveals to our hearts God’s glorious agenda that we might otherwise miss (Romans 8:26-30). This is the core of our partnership with God – hearing what is on His heart and agreeing with it. While we’re tempted to use prayer primarily as a means to get God involved in what we’re doing, God is stirring prayer that is aimed to get us involved in what God is doing – intercession.
(Rob spoke in detail on how we partner with God in intercession this weekend – see his teachings and notes from Friday and Saturday)

There is a great picture of this in Matthew. Jesus feels compassion for the multitudes and longs to see them cared for. He shares that longing with His followers and instructs them to pray – to cry out to God that He would do just what God had just told them He wanted to do. Then the power is released and the disciples are sent out with an anointing from on high, a commission and a message.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” Matthew 9:36-10:1

Intercession is where we enter into a depth of relationship with God that is not bounded by our particular circumstances but searches out all that is in His heart. As we stand in the place of prayer seeking the Lord’s heart as it relates to real time and space, we encounter a glorious part of God’s heart that both causes us to love Him more and changes our hearts to align more with His. As we line our hearts up with His will, God releases kingdom power – whether through us or someone else or an act of God – and the kingdom advances. As we enter into our role in partnering with what God is doing in the earth through intercession, our story becomes bound up in His as it was meant to. Partnership in intercession opens the boundaries that restrict our interaction with God to certain narrow spheres and sets over our time here on earth a shared purpose in forwarding the kingdom with God.

Training for Reigning
God is stirring His Bride to make herself ready, not only for her wedding day, but for her marriage – for an eternity with Him. He is preparing us for an eternity of ministering to Him in intimacy, and He’s preparing us for an eternity of reigning with Him in partnership – He’s teaching us how to pray. Reigning with God was part of our created purpose from the beginning (Genesis 1:26), and it will be restored in the end (Revelation 22:1-3). It’s a part of the revelation of who we are that is about to lay hold of the saints and awaken a new song at the wonders of what God has done in Christ.

“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”” Revelation 5:8-10

Scriptures for meditation: Ephesians 5:25-32, John 15:1-17, John 16:12-15, Acts 2:17-21, Revelation 5:8-10

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