Tuesday, October 14, 2014

See God {Day 14: God and the Gate}

Today, let's pray for eyes to see God in a fresh way.

In the Old Testament, we are told that anything "unclean" had to reside outside the confines of the camp where the people lived.  If a person had any sort of disease, they were sent outside the camp until they were free of that disease.

In Leviticus 13:45, we see one example of this: 
"The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, Unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease.  He is unclean.  He shall live alone.  His dwelling shall be outside the camp." We later learn that for the day of cleansing for the leper, the priest is to go outside the camp where he is to make atonement. 

Did you know that after the bull and goat were sacrificed in the temple for atonement it had to be carried outside the camp where they were burned up? They saw the substitution as now carrying the sin of the people.  Anything unclean had to be outside the gates. (Lev. 16:27)

Can you start to see the type of people that had to dwell outside of the gates and camp?  They were impure.  Corrupt.  Condemned.  Diseased.  Isolated.  Excluded.  A reproach.

This is where my heart stops beating.

Did you know that Jesus was sacrificed outside the gate?   The place of Golgotha was outside the camp, away from the city.

"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood."  Hebrews 13:12
The pure and spotless Lamb of God who knew no sin, took on my sin.  He clothed Himself with my shame, corruption, reproach, condemnation, disease, and death.  He had to go where the unclean go.

Don't you see?  Jesus left the gate so that He could become the gate. "I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out and find pasture." John 10:9

Can I just stop and say glory?

But the gate theme doesn't stop there!

"Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured." Heb. 13:13

Jesus invites us into a story of suffering because He knows it will be the only thing that will make us look more and more like Him. John Piper says that we are to "move toward need, not comfort."  Jesus wants us to willingly give up the security, ease, and comfort of the "city" and go outside the gates to minister to those who need Him desperately.

We are to move towards the unclean.  Diseased.  Corrupted.  Contaminated.  Isolated.  Excluded.  Impure. Rejected.

Jesus endured the cross because there was joy on the other side.  We endure reproach, hardship, suffering, persecution, rejection, and heartache because we know that our "city" is not lasting but we do have one that is coming that will last forever! Now is temporary.  There is forever.  We cast off the love of this world because in the end, this world has nothing to really offer.

"He died so we would be willing to stop trying to make our private lives paradise on earth."  John Piper

I think our American church (as a whole) today somehow resembles being inside of the city gates. In Bible times, after Nehemiah had helped rebuild the city, the gates provided protection and security.  They were the means of entering the city...just as Jesus is our means of entering the salvation and the heavenly city.

I am not here to bash the American Church.  I believe that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the true church of God.  Do I think we have some things messed up?  Yes.  Do we have soul searching and some questioning to do?  Yes.

I think that being part of an American church is like being inside of a privileged city.  It is very comfortable.  We each have access to a Bible, even if it is located in the lost and found.  It doesn't cost us anything.  Even a tithe isn't required by the preacher before we enter the big glass doors.  We get fed and aren't required to feed others. 

It is easy.  It is comfortable.  Goodness, church even looks good on us.  But, I think we are bored out of our minds.

What if Jesus wants to come into our protected little city called the American church and break down the city gates of brass and cut the bars of iron in sunder? 

Just to free us?

Luke 9:23 tells us to deny self.  Take up our cross.  Follow Him.  Follow Him where?  Hebrews 13:13 says that we are to go to Him.  He is outside the camp.  Outside the gates.  Outside the place of privilege.

The Greek word for camp there is "parembole" which means to put between or interpose.  We often want the lost to come into our camp called church...but what if God wants us to go to them? The word camp implies that there is a wall that has been put between us...will we go to them so they can become part of the heavenly city?

What on earth does this look like?

There has to be some sort of quitting of the world.  How do we as Americans quit the world when we look just like it?  Clarke says we have to leave the city and the system and take refuge in Jesus alone. 
I am not telling you to quit church.  God calls us to be part of a community of believers.   What a joy to live in a country that can worship The Beautiful One freely and without fear of being hauled to a dark place of imprisonment!

But, what if we decided to forsake the privileges?  Moses did this!  Hebrews 11:24-27 says "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible."

I think God spiritually cut down the gates of brass and the bars of iron of Pharaoh's house that held Moses from his God-given purpose.  He set him free.

What a sad life of not knowing the One True God...had Moses not left the gates and the privileged camp of royalty.

What if we can know Him, enjoy Him, and worship Him on a whole new level if we will simply go to Him? 

Outside the gates.

What would this look like? What if it could simply mean moving towards the need and away from the comforts?

~We could pray and fast for the lost. (Fasting is not in my comfort zone!)

~We could love on the orphans...providing either a temporary or permanent home.

~We could serve where the outcast live. 

~We could confront a friend who is living in sin. (Confrontation is not in my comfort zone, either!)

~We could move our family to a country that desperately needs to hear about grace.

~We could disciple someone and pass on whatever God has taught us.

~We could buy fewer Christmas presents so we can send more Operation Christmas Child Boxes.

~We could...what is the Holy Spirit whispering right now? Who is full of reproach that you want nothing to do with?

We need to stop hiding from the idea of persecution, hardship, and suffering because Jesus assures us of a very great reward.  It is OK to leave the comfortable gates because one day, we will dwell in a city forever, whose gates will never shut.  Imagine that.  You are always welcome.  Always protected.  You are home.

Revelation 21:25 "And its gates will never be shut by day--and there will no night there."

Jesus left the gate so that He could become the gate. He invites us to leave the gate of ease to join Him in suffering and minister to those who need the gate of grace.  One day, we will live with Him forever in a city that has no need for a sun or a moon because the visible glory of Jesus far surpasses any other form of light.  We will be at home, able to freely go in and out of the heavenly gate because we are sons and daughters of God Himself.

God, give us eyes to see!  How can we live outside the gates?

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