PICTURES OF OUR GATHERING
Based on a sermon by HH Ko — Heidelberg, Germany
They say that a picture is worth a
thousand words, and it is not a wonder why the historical events that took
place long before our time become beautiful images in our minds as we read and
envisage how they are described in the Bible.
There are three particular events
described in the Bible that helps us understand ourselves and each other, the
roles we play as His body, and how we ought to gather in His name. We should
remember these events, so we can encourage and remind one another that we are
one small but precious part in the whole of His church.
THE PORTRAIT OF THE ARK
The time of Noah was a time of
great tragedy, and God was very sorrowful at the wickedness of the people, for
the world was thoroughly corrupted. But in that nefarious environment, the Lord
chose one family, and He blessed this family very much.
God told Noah to build an ark,
which was basically a very large box, with a specific length, width, and
height. Then, Noah and his family lived in that ark because it was through this
ark that they would be saved.
When we gather together, it is
like coming together as one family into the ark. We know that this church of
the end times has been called to save. In fact, there aren’t many of us, just
as there were only eight in Noah’s time that received salvation.
One of the specifications of
Noah’s ark was the door situated on the side, which received Noah’s entire
family. This tells us that the ark receives the household as a unit. When a
family gathers in God’s name, that home is also a church (cf. Rom 16:5).
At the top of the ark, God also
specified the installation of a window, which would be the only source of light
for all who were shut inside the ark for more than one hundred days.
This teaches us that when we are
together, we are entering into the spiritual ark, whose conditions are similar
to the one Noah built. Outside the ark is a flood, and if we exit there is
death awaiting us.
If we remain inside, our patience
comes through that window above—our source of light and our hope of something
much better in heaven. Therefore, let us keep ourselves in the love of God,
which we witness everyday as we dwell in the ark He has made for us.
Entering through the Side Door
Similarly, our family and the
extended family of the church are models of the first ark, and through God’s
love we are able to enter the side door and to receive one another. Therefore,
we also need to learn to dwell together.
Animals of every kind, size, and
shape entered this one door, no matter how big or small they were. The mouse
wouldn’t say to the elephant, “Why are you taking up so much room?”
Inside the church, it is easy to
become puffed up because we have seemingly contributed much more to the church,
and we might feel there is an inequality of merit with regards to who gets to
come into the ark.
Paul, when he realized this
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years
ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know,
God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a
man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was
caught up into Paradise and heard
inexpressible words, which is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Cor 12:2-4)
What Paul encountered was
something most believers would not or have not gone through. He had a very deep
spiritual experience of God’s presence in the third heaven, where he also heard
inexpressible words in that Paradise.
It would’ve been easy to feel
spiritually lifted above others, or for others to lift him up after such an
encounter. But Paul, in his humility, reckoned that is why the Lord inflicted
him with a thorn in his flesh, to humble him and to allow him to enter through
the side door.
Therefore, no matter how great or
small we are, we must know ourselves and learn to appreciate others because God
has allowed each of us to enter this ark. We need humility to accept how
differently God made every one, and to be thankful that we have entered into
the spiritual true church.
THE DEPICTION OF THE WILDERNESS
Our time together in the ark is
likened to taking a spiritual journey, just as the Israelites walked in the
wilderness, eating the same food and drinking the same drink. In fact, we are also
In the time of prophet Jeremiah,
the people of Israel
strayed from God. Many times, God called out for them to return, and He even
told Jeremiah to shout and cry into the ears of the people until they awakened.
He wanted to stir them up because God also remembered their time in the
I remember you,
The kindness of your youth,
The love of your betrothal,
When you went after me in the wilderness,
In a land not sown. (Jer 2:2)
The Israelites were closest to God
during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and the love they had
for God during that period of time was what God remembered most. Even though
they stopped recognizing God afterwards, He still remembered them.
We are all born of the same
spirit, and the path that the Israelites took in the wilderness is also the
same spiritual journey for us today. All these things that happened in the past
serve as our examples, and they are written to admonish those of us who now
live as the ages come to an end (1 Cor 10:11).
Walking Together and Walking Alone
In the Psalms, there are many
hymns written about this journey to encourage the sojourners to persist along
the path of salvation. The eighty-fourth psalm particularly describes our
From verses one to four, we see the
heart of the people longing and fainting for God. They also longed for the
loveliness of God’s dwelling place, while their soul, their heart, and their
flesh cried out for God.
As they began their journey, they
realized that the path would not always be smooth.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in you,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of [tears],
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
Even though they knew that
blessings and abundance awaited them at the end of their journey, they still
had to pass through the valley of tears—trials and times of tribulation.
Verse six tells us that they
passed through these troubled times together, and they went from strength to
strength; helping one another along the way.
We also need to emulate such a
beautiful picture of partnership in the Lord and strive to support each other
on this heavenly path. We need to be strong for one another, and the entire
family of the church needs to draw together to pursue this goal.
If each person goes along his/her
own way, the church will be divided and each will become weaker and weaker.
Going to the house of God, the Israelites became stronger and increased in
This passage also tells us that
each one must appear before God individually. Therefore, we must also pursue
after God on our own, bear our own responsibilities, and be accountable before
So when we come to the
wilderness, we truly receive the love of God as a family, and we ought to
receive it with a thankful heart and make the determination to be a source of
support for this household.
This way, when we cross the
valley of tears, we can be a stronghold for those who are weak, and those who
are strong can lift us up when our own strength fails.
We can now appreciate the
importance of entering and remaining in the ark as a family, and we can value
the importance of banding together for a common goal in the wilderness. The
third scene, then, depicts the glory of God’s temple.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in
you? If anyone defiles the temple
of God, God will destroy
him. For the temple
of God is holy, which
temple you are. (1 Cor 3:16-17)
In this same passage, Paul also
writes of an analogy comparing all believers as fellow workers of God’s field
and His building, and he explains clearly that our foundation is Jesus Christ.
Once Jesus is laid as the
foundation, each of us brings something to build up the church. Though the
building of this temple began with those that came before us, we are the ones
that need to continue its construction and its work.
Some bring gold, some bring
silver, and some bring precious stones. Others bring wood and straw. God will
test each one’s work by fire when all these are added together. For those whose
hearts are true to the Lord, the test of fire will purify them, and their labor
will not burn up but will become even more refined.
This is a reminder to us that as
long as we have faith, love, and a true heart towards God’s work, even a little
of whatever we can offer will shine golden in His eyes.
Revelation 21 speaks of a new
heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem coming from above. This holy city
and the tabernacle of God is the true church of the end time (Rev 21:3). We
don’t have to wait until we die to receive heaven.
Even while we are on this earth,
we have the tabernacle and temple
of God with us. Before we
enter the eternal heaven, which is the most perfect and beautiful place, God
will allow us to taste the wonder of His tabernacle in the church.
When we come together in Christ,
we dwell with one another in His temple and strive to build upon His church.
That means that each of us are a part of this church and we are joined with
Therefore, whether we are
receiving glory or shame, we receive it together. We should have this common
attitude because this is how we build up the body of Christ and take part in
the final glory of God’s temple.
Let us strive to preserve the temple of God that lives in our bodies, so that
our part in the church will be a source of strength that edifies all believers
and bring praises to God.
If teachers and counselors want to
understand the condition of a child’s family situation, they tell the children
to draw a picture of their family together. In fact, picture-drawing is a
tell-tale sign to understand what’s really in the hearts of our children.
If the parents in the family are
not strong together, the child will naturally draw Mommy and Daddy far apart.
Or perhaps Daddy would be much bigger or smaller than Mommy—indicating how big
or small of a role that parent plays in the child’s life.
Now, then, if you were to draw an
honest picture of the church and the family of believers in your area of
worship, what kind of picture would it be?
All of us have a picture in our
mind of what the perfect church ought to look like. In fact, it would be very
similar to the three pictures we conjured up together of the ark, the
wilderness, and the temple. But we would probably draw an adjusted version of
the perfect church picture.
The church is really the family
that God has given us, which make up His body with Christ as our head. But just
like our own family, we don’t have a say of who we are related to. There are
some members that we are really proud to be associated with, and there are some
that will always make us worry and not be able to sleep at night.
Nevertheless, we continue to love
them and bear with them. Flesh and blood will always be flesh and blood. Now,
even more so, as we are without an excuse because we are joined together in His
flesh and in His blood!
Therefore, let us never cease to
bear with one another in God’s love, and let us continue to refine the painting
of the body of Christ and make it a masterpiece worthy of His appraisal.