Revival Studies 4. Beautifying the Bride

Part 1.
Earnest Prayer
17 March 2019

Part 2.
The Spirit and Revival
17 March 2019

Part 3.
Fullness is Christ
24 March 2019


Part 4.
Beautifying the Bride
15 April 2019

Part 5.
The End of Revival
28 April 2019

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Isa 60:1-14; Rev 21:1-14 

“Beauty will save the world.”

Dostoyevsky

“God’s beauty embraces death as well as life, fear as well as joy, what we might call the ugly as well as what we might call the beautiful.’”

Barth

Introduction

Tobe grasped by the innermost substance of God’s work in revival requires a degree of spiritual insight. This is especially true of revival as Beautifying the Bride of Christ. In the case of revival as a beautifying, we are dealing with what the New Testament calls “the mystery of Christ”1)See Biblical References Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9; 3:4; Col 1:27; 2:2; 4:3. Something is once hidden in God now being revealed in the gospel.

At the climax of his teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5 Paul expounds the prophetic fulfilment of Genesis 2:24 ESV, “ vs.31Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.vs.32 This is a great mystery, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.(Eph 5: 31-32 ESV).

Similar language appears towards the end of the book of Revelation where it describes the religious power persecuting the Church, “on her forehead was written a name of mystery:Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” ” (Rev 17:5 ESV).

Until Jesus returns for his Bride a conflict rages between her holy beauty and the seductions of this immoral painted Whore (cf. Prov 7). The vocation of the Church made clearest in movements of the Spirit of God, is to reveal the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet 2:9 ESV).

Beauty and Creation

Most of the Old Testament notion of beauty is contained within the concept of glory, but some texts speak clearly about this subject. Genesis 1 ends with the climactic statement that everything that God made was “very good” (v.31 L.X.X.), a harmonious beautiful accomplishment.

When Genesis 2:12 ESV mentions of Eden, “the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there” it points towards the masses of gold furnishing Solomon’s temple (1 Chron 29:2 ESV) and the onyx stones on the garments of the high priest (Ex 28:9-14, 20 ESV).

These garments were expressly “for glory and for beauty” for the priest was to be a holy icon of God (Ex 28:2, 40 ESV). Although hard to interpret, Ezekiel 28 uses Edenic language of a being “perfect in beauty” who fell into rebellion against God through pride (Ezek 28:7, 12-13, 17 ESV).

From Eden on beauty has been a battlefield where God and Satan contend for the human heart.

When Eve listened to the serpent and “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and…was to be desired to make one wise(Gen 3:6 ESV) she was led astray by its natural attractiveness.

The coveting of natural beauty obscures seeing in the Spirit. Human desire has been corrupted (2 Pet 1:4 ESV) so that whatever feels/looks/tastes good “must be” right.

In the shame of losing the glory of God radiating out of their lives2)See Biblical References Gen 3:7 ESV; Rom 3:23 ESV men and women turn to the beauties of creation as a substitute for sharing in the divine splendour (Rom 1:22-23 ESV).

The “angel marriages” of Genesis 6 is an extreme example of the corrupting power of lust for beauty to corrupt.

It precipitated the Flood of Noah. vs.1When…vs.2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were beautiful … they took as their wives any they chose.vs.3Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” ”  (Gen 6:1-3 ESV).

God’s plan to teach humanity about the beauty of his holiness centred on the election of Israel to be his pure Bride3)See Biblical References 1 Chron 16:29 ESV; Pss 29:2 ESV; Pss 96:9 ESV.

Israel the Beautiful Bride

Ezekiel 16 dramatically portrays a love affair between the Lord and Israel; he found her as an abandoned baby girl and nurtured her in love until she was his “exceedingly beautiful” and renowned Bride.

Then in turning to idols she “trusted in her beauty and played the whore”.

As a punishment, God declares he will hand her over to lovers who will, “strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare.(Ezek16:39 ESV). This is about the exile to Babylon, but even the restoration of Israel to her homeland failed to impart to her the beauty and glory of God.

Not unexpectedly, expectation turned to the coming of Messiah. Psalm 45 is a glorious wedding song of a victorious majestic king but also “meek and righteous” who “loves justice and hates evil” and desires the beauty of his “all glorious” princess bride.

The king is the messiah and the Bride his people.

Isaiah foresees a time when God will beautify his temple, Jerusalem and his people as the centre of the world (Isa 60:1-14 ESV).

This renewed royal Wife “shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.(Isa 62:4-5 ESV).

The mystery of how the Lord will convert harlot Israel into a holy faithful bride is contained in the vision of his universal glory in Isaiah 6.

This vision cleansed the prophet and transformed him into a unique messenger of holiness.

God becomes for him “the Holy One of Israel”, a phrase he uses 29 times but only in 8 other places in the Old Testament.

If holiness is the innermost glory of God (Bengel) it is the secret of God’s power to beautification all things.

When humanity shares in the inner being of God the created becomes eternal in its beauty. This is the purpose of the Incarnation.

The Beauty is Christ

The origin and essence of Beauty is the Person of Christ who is the radiant image of the invisible glory of God4)See Biblical References Heb 1:3 ESV; Col 1:15. This radiation of splendour is pre-eminently true of the cross.

The Old Testament prophesy about God’s coming Servant, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him(Isa 53:2 ESV), meant Jesus’ life would end stripped of the every visible blessing of the Father.

The crucifixion of the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8 ESV) formed the most extreme beauty imaginable, but visible only to eyes made holy in the fear of the Lord5)See Biblical References Matt 5:8 ESV; 2 Cor 7:1 ESV; Heb 12:14 ESV.

Holiness is separation to God from the corrupting things of the world, and it is Jesus’ decision to die to this life that perfects him in holiness (cf. Heb 2:9-10 ESV).

Gethsemane is where he most visibly separates himself to do the Father’s will so that at total personal cost so he becomes the channel through which God’s splendour will shine forth to beautify all creation.

The death and resurrection of Jesus, the spectacle of a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world now standing in resurrection glory, is “the perfection of beauty6)See Biblical References Rev 5:6 ESV cf. Ps 50:2 ESV for which the world was created.

The scarred Lord in heaven is the revelation of a new and previously unimaginable form of beauty.

Let me share a personal experience that has helped me understand these mysteries.

In the chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, standing on the site where Jesus was crucified, is a painting showing Christ stripped and nailed to the cross on the ground.

As I looked at the face in the painting my heart was filled with a precious awareness and I could sense the Father saying; “This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”

In the disfigured but gloriously illuminating face of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 4:6 ESV), we see the extremities of a beautiful love that embraces even the abysmal ugliness of sin and hell.

The suffering of the cross stretched to the limits the love of Jesus and made space in his holy humanity for the limitless splendour of God. The mystery of the gospel reveals that the outwardly deformed beauty of the cross makes possible the deathless transformation of all things in the resurrection of Christ.

The Bride of Christ

The life of the Church is framed by her sharing in the Bridegroom laying down his life for his Bride.

We share in the ecstatic worship scenes around the Lamb in Revelation (Rev 5:1-14 ESV), and the adoration of Christ in chapter 19 (Rev 19:1-8 ESV) should speak deeply to our hearts because it is a wedding scene.

When we read of the holy city descending from heaven with its streets of gold, gates of pearls and foundations of jewels (Rev 21) we are reading about our future, this is us, “ “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” ” (v.9). The unfading (1 Pet 1:4 ESV) beauty of the Church is the goal of God’s saving plan and the Bible the story of how God achieves this goal for the glory of his Son.

Paul holds up a rarely appreciated vision, vs.25Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,vs.26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, vs.27so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.(Eph 5:25-27 ESV).

This language of inner cleansing speaks (Ezek 36:25 ESV) of the cleansing of the hearts of God’s people from idols.

A cleansed people are a holy people who knowing an inner beauty (1 Pet 3:3-4 ESV) don’t need to hide their struggles, weaknesses and imperfections before God.

Something happened in church last Sunday morning which offers a wonderful window into how Christ relates to his Bride. Joy A was leading the intercessions and when she came to praying for the persecuted Church broke down and couldn’t continue. Dale A moved quietly to her side, put his arm around her helping and strengthening her with the prayers.

This was a potent prophetic sign of the true emotional Woman, the Church, in her freedom to weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15 ESV), being strengthened by Christ her Head (Eph 5:23 ESV).

Spiritual beauty is the intimate fruit of discipleship.

As the Spirit reveals the sacrificial beauty of Christ we are drawn us out of ourselves empowered to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23 ESV). The gospel message of forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ is a beautiful message carried by the “ “beautiful…feet of those who preach the good news!” ”7)See Biblical References Rom 10:15 ESV; Isa 52:7 ESV.

To live like this the Church needs to suffer because submissive suffering love beautifies like no other power.

Those who have insight into the beauty of holiness cannot be satisfied with either an intellectualised or an emotive form of Christianity but only by a deeper walk with the Lord. If Jesus is so indescribably beautiful what is obscuring the manifestation of this beauty today?

Obscuring the Beauty?

Being the Bride of Christ the Church is always beautiful in the eyes of his grace, but in the realm of desire Western Christianity is dominated by these worldly longings and only godly leaders can lead their people on the highway of holiness (Isa 35:8 ESV).

The seeker-sensitive attractional model of Church places the gospel in a comfortable package obscuring the unadorned power of the cross shining forth through weakness and the ugliness of sin. This is a church heavy on cosmetic appearance and presentation and shallow on the holiness through which the eternal glory of God radiates.

The Nazis were connoisseurs of art and music while at the same time conducting the Holocaust.

Similarly, parts of Western Christianity love gospel music and charismatic gifts but seem indifferent to the sufferings of their persecuted brothers and sisters, untouched by world poverty and untroubled by the slaughter of innocents in the womb.

This is a state of deep deception (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-2 ESV). I was fascinated by an article headed, “Dear women’s ministry, please stop calling me the B-word”, it ended with, “Tell us about Jesus.” (Dear Women’s Ministry, Stop Calling Me the B-Word)

In Christ we are beautiful and being beautified, anything beyond that is idolatry.

I remember Dale saying around 30 years ago that people today want to feel good about themselves. In his teaching on the all-surpassing beauty of Christ John Piper comments, “To make someone feel good about themselves is like taking someone to the Alps and locking them in a room full of mirrors.” (And if you have seen the snow on the alps you will never forget it.)  

Our churches are really sick and sinful, but God is working to a wonderful plan.

As the Husband of Israel stripped her naked when she played the whore8)See Biblical References Ezek 16; Hos 2:2-3 ESV so Jesus is presently stripping the Church to a place of nakedness and shame (Rev 3:17-18 ESV). When she really comes to see this she will turn to be clothed with the beauty of Christ alone. This will mean revival and the visible beautifying of the Body.

Conclusion

The death of the Son of God is the death of all sentimental romantic notions of beauty.

In choosing the “foolish…low…despised…no-things” (1 Cor 1:26-30 ESV) to make them his beauty the Lord has illuminated for us his mission in the world.

He embraces those thought by the world to be ugly as beautiful before him.

Over the centuries even sinners have recognised that in the lives of people like St Francis, Fr Damian, William Booth, Mother Teresa, David Wilkerson and Matthew Barnett a radiance into this world from somewhere beyond.

This can and should be the character of the whole Bride of Christ.

A babyish church wants glory without holiness; the passing glory of ideological correctness, perfect doctrine or signs and wonders.

A mature church however understands that holiness expressed through suffering reveals the beauty and glory of God.

This is a Church which for Christ’s sake desires a holy life more than any of the attractions of this world, and the desire of such a people will be granted by God in the wisdom of the cross (1 Cor 1:17-18 ESV).

This is the substance of revival.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: 15th April 2019 Location: Alive @5

Author: Dr. John Yates

MESSAGE
YouTube or PODCAST:

15th April 2019.

References   [ + ]

1. See Biblical References Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9; 3:4; Col 1:27; 2:2; 4:3
2. See Biblical References Gen 3:7 ESV; Rom 3:23 ESV
3. See Biblical References 1 Chron 16:29 ESV; Pss 29:2 ESV; Pss 96:9 ESV
4. See Biblical References Heb 1:3 ESV; Col 1:15
5. See Biblical References Matt 5:8 ESV; 2 Cor 7:1 ESV; Heb 12:14 ESV
6. See Biblical References Rev 5:6 ESV cf. Ps 50:2 ESV
7. See Biblical References Rom 10:15 ESV; Isa 52:7 ESV
8. See Biblical References Ezek 16; Hos 2:2-3 ESV

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