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Part 4 of 4 of Ultimate Love, Extreme Mission entitled, Preparing the Bride. Just as a woman prepares herself for her marriage, so Christ waits until his bride is ready for Him. She will become complete and transformed just as Ephesians 5:26-27 states.
"That He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:26-27).
In the Hebrew customs during Jesus' time, the bridegroom would become betrothed, go away for an uncertain period of time to prepare a home, and then by surprise come and bring the bride to his new home.
￼Jesus uses this to illustrate several spiritual truths. Christ has come, secured us with His life, betrothed us to Himself, and now gone away busily preparing a house for her.
"In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Some might wonder why God waits so long before judging the evil in this world or why does He put up with the evil in this world? There are at least two answers to these questions.Perhaps both answers are rather unexpected. This reveals God's greater scheme. This is true on two levels.
First, God is saving all His chosen people. The bride is not totally prepared until totally formed!
|Please note that we have several articles on Ephesians 5:31-32. This one focuses on missions and uses marriage as an illustration. Others include A Great Marriage which focuses on principles to having a good marriage and Building a Great Marriage, chapter 2 of our book, entitled Building a Great Marriage. The last has much more detail than this message.|
Ephesians 5 speaks of the mystery of marriage. Just like in marriage, there is a covenant between God and His people. There is another mystery that was mentioned in Ephesians 2, that of Israel and Gentiles. The two were made 'a new man.'
Normally we think of the Lord's way for combining Jew and Gentile as the amazing way God made them into one body. We could, however, also think about how determined the Lord was to reach out to the world. Despite Israel's unwillingness to obey the Lord, God is His infinite wisdom broke through in a special plan to reach out to the world which did not break any of His old promises.
If the Lord is so zealous to reach the lost (i.e. reach the Gentiles), so should we. We ought to join in the efforts to reach out to the last unreached peoples across the globe.
Praise God how He is doing this through the church! Right now in 2010, "of the 16,351 people groups by country, 6,645 are still considered unreached" consisting of 2.75 billion people out of 6.70 billion (Joshua Project). Although our church supports such efforts, we need to strategize to do more. God is set on completing the bride, that is, bringing the rest of the people's into the church (His bride) before His return to get her.
God has commanded us to join Him in this venture of completing the bride. We do not do it separate from Him but with Him and thus build up our intimacy.
INDONESIA. One local Chinese church has recently "adopted" an unreached people group in Sumatra and had the opportunity to share their vision with other local Chinese churches. Pray others will catch a similar vision-to commit to a focused and intentional relationship with unengaged peoples in Indonesia to bring about a biblical and indigenous church movement in each people group.
The Lord, however, is also doing one more thing. He is perfecting His people.
Notice Christ's purpose is restated three times by the three 'that' words:
What a powerful statement! Christ has some very clear purposes of what He is doing in His bride during this time to prepare for His return. He is aiding her in preparing for that glorious reunion.
We hardly have time to go into detail here, but we should realize that God has a strong purpose of purifying His bride. We might think of all the preparations a woman does to ready herself for that big day.
She is so prettied up. Clothes, jewelry, friends, family and that sparkle in her eye. She spends time treating her skin, nails, hair even before dressing. She eyes that moment and spends her time preparing for that moment she becomes his. Yes, she is His but not totally consumed. All promises but not yet reality. She is waiting for that magic wedding moment.
The perfecting of the bride consists in the development of two areas (other than making sure all the parts are present - see above).
In Ephesians 2:10 (a study) we see that the Lord arranged all the good works we are to do.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Right now He gives us opportunity to live out these good works as a way to manifest our love and devotion to Him. He empowers us to do them through His Spirit. As we anticipate His return, we focus on pleasing Him.
It is not a manual that He gives us filled with duties, but as we day to day prayerfully seek Him, He reveals these things and empowers us to accomplish them. The Lord wants to draw us into a deeper trust relationship as we learn to depend upon Him.
God has also given us opportunity to lovingly respond to Him by the way we personally put off our sin. The Lord calls us to be Christ-like. We are to remove the blemishes.
Frankly, when I go overseas to train pastors, I do not know how I can do these things. I keep asking myself, "What am I doing here?"
I don't have the money, the energy, the focus or the stamina. I love my family, my home, my church. Furthermore, I am white from a very conservative background while I need to mix with people that are much more lively in nature than I. I do not fit. I do not understand their language and cultural backgrounds.
But as He calls, I make myself available. I trust Him to provide needed monies. I seek Him for wisdom to bring the right messages to feed His sheep. Do you see how it works? The temptation is to forget Him and get caught up in the things of the world (spiritual adultery).
We are inadequate, but He is ever so near to help us successfully complete these good works for His glory. They are not to gain His approval but to express our gratefulness to Him.
￼Each of these good works is a means we can get closer to Him because we need His help to do them. The Lord is as much concerned in the good works we do as the deeper relationship it cultivates between us. Remember the marriage model. The Lord is after a wonderful intimate relationship.
In the diagram on the left, three purposes for these good works is listed:
This is our one chance to show God our love for Him. God has given us this opportunity to respond to Christ with our good works and praise.
Remember it is not an assignment on our own. The very things He asks us to do might frustrate us because they seem so hard or awkward. Think about how hard it is to share the gospel with your parents, classmates or friends. But this is our opportunity.
God wants us to lean upon Him for extra strength and wisdom. At the same time He draws us close to Him. Don't forget the picture of the bride. God wants His people to be close and intimate with Him. He uses these situations to develop that intimacy. The Lord greatly desires to cultivate a close relationship with us. These good works are means to that end of developing our trust.
We should also remember that He wants us holy. The Lord is purifying our lives. ￼Have we forgotten about His return? Do we long for His return? Have we unknowingly become spiritual adulterers?
Right now is the time for us to get caught up in our great God. He is glorious and powerful and has revealed His great plan to us.
We are part of an eternal marriage plan and might not even realize it! But now we do. Let us be serious and seek how God wants to work through our lives. It is not that we have to be that smart, talkative or in the right position. We are there communing with Him, identifying with what He desires for us and seeking how to assist Him in His plans.
A.) The Picture of Marriage (Ephesians 5:31-32)
God's plans are to be trusted because He means the very best for us.
B.) The Choosing of the Bride (Ephesians 5:25, 29)
Being greatly loved makes us willing and even desiring to please Him and join Him in His work.
C.) The Preparing of the Bride (Ephesians 5:26-27)
We are to join Him in bringing other people into His family and seek the opportunities to do good while waiting for His return.