I share with you here a letter that I shared with a brother this morning (10/31/2010) …
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B, These dialogs are ordained by God, no doubt, and from what I can tell, He does want me to interject thoughts and experiences into these which might be different from your thoughts and experiences. The reason for this I believe is that there are perspectives of God that can be seen only through the lives and experiences of other people, and my life and experiences in God are very different from that of many people (as are yours).
B, I often share things about God which are much different from what others have experienced of Him, even perhaps things that they may not want to experience of Him, even things that they may not want to believe are from Him, but are from Him and of Him nonetheless.
This does not mean that everyone must go through the things that I am going through, B. It does mean though that people should be careful not to try to invalidate this way that I am going with their present understanding of things, for in doing that they could miss out on a revelation of God that is necessary to their development in Him, and this could lead them to have to actually go through some of these things rather than have them just get a revelation of it all from a brother (that’s mercy).
For whatever reason, a scripture verse from Colossians is coming to my mind here, it is, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church… “(vs 1:24)
This has always seemed to me to be a rather unusual statement made by Paul. The language seems to imply that Paul’s suffering was somehow making up for (or filling up) something that yet needed (and yet needs) to be suffered by Christ’s church.
Now we know that such suffering is not needed to reconcile us to God, or to satisfy for sin, for that Jesus Christ did perfectly. But there IS a suffering that needs to be “filled up” for the sake of the body, and this, so that God’s people might be fully conformed into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ.
As Paul did, I too rejoice in sufferings knowing that they are (somehow) helping to “fill up” (are contributing to) that which remains for the body of Christ to suffer. The words that are used for “that which is behind” in the above verse can literally be interpreted as “deficiencies,” and I believe that this refers to the lack of genuine CROSS CARRYING in the church, both in Paul’s day and in ours.
B, we know that Jesus Christ’s own meritorious sufferings in expiation for sin were once and for all completely filled up on the cross on Calvary, but it would be good and prosperous for us to also realize that THE CHURCH TOO must have her whole measure of afflictions fixed or filled up. This, (though many may want to disagree with it) IS the plan of God for the perfecting of His church and IS a plan that CANNOT be improved upon no matter how hard men try to do that (even with teachings like “the escape rapture theory” and other erroneous doctrine).
Paul was surely not an “escape rapturist.” (and neither am I). As far as I see it, Paul seemed to be free from the sort of heart idolatry that draws men to such an erroneous doctrine and because of this he was not afraid to suffer knowing that whatever he suffered was somehow filling up that which was (and is) deficient in the body of Christ. It seems to me that the more that Paul endured (as a member of the body), the less that he felt remained for the rest of the church to have to endure. I think that Paul may have believed, B, that many could learn from his suffering rather than have to go through like suffering, and in this way he could bear some of the burden (even in his “flesh”) for a church that was not fully willing to go the way of the cross.
B, I believe that if God can find even a small remnant today that has a heart like Paul, then He, through these people, can change the church, and then through the church change the world.
I hope that my sharing of all of this benefits you in some way, my friend.