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The World Set in Our Hearts
He has made everything beautiful in His time: also He has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end. Eccl. 3:11
Go therefore into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Tues. nite, Jan 16, 1990
Last Saturday, Jan. 13, as I was driving around Boston on "128" toward Providence, the Lord imparted a wondrous revelation to my heart. In the revelation, I saw a map of the Northeast. In the area of Providence I saw a white light. Out of this light, as if it were a hub, came arcs or "fingers" of light as spokes. The arcs reached out to the various places of my sojourn where the Lord has taken me over the years since I left Rhode Island as a youth--- places where I've developed spiritual relationship such as the Maritimes, Vermont, Ontario, Ohio, and Greenville, SC.
As I watched the arcs of light, they reminded me of the gridlock pattern of lines by which we recognize a globe. And as I saw this, the words of the two verses above surfaced in my heart. In a flash, I had a new understanding of the Great Commission -- an understanding I will now share with you...
What Is "The World"?
All my life, as I've heard preaching about the Great Commission, listened to missionaries from far-away lands, and have read verses like Mk 16:15, I've always taken this command to refer to the geographical globe at large, the earth with all its far flung land masses and ocean islands, the world with its jungles, deserts, and mountains containing the peoples of the earth. Along with this understanding always came a certain weight of guilt and lingering doubt, knowing that I could never reach all these lands, and never sure that I had ever gone far enough to fulfil my part of the commission.
But now I realize a whole new meaning to the word "world." According to Eccl 3:11, God has set a world in our hearts. That world is a certain specified portion of the earth at large, a portion that we are each pre-ordained to inhabit and obtain by spiritual conquest, much as Israel was required to conquer Canaan.
This world set in our hearts is the personal equivalent of God's Promised Land to us, given to be sojourned in after the pattern set by Abraham, Father of Faith. As Abraham traversed Canaan, so are we his children appointed to discover and traverse the length and breadth of that geographical portion set in our hearts by faith.
In turn, this establishes the meaning of the Great Commission. The "world" Jesus has commanded us to go into is not so much a general command referring to the earth-at-large as it is a personal command referring to the world set in our hearts. By "personal" command I mean it is a word of the Spirit to each of our hearts actually revealing to us over time that allotted area specifically ordained to be individually traversed, fully capable of being completely discovered and "occupied" in our lifetime -- without regard to the extent to which the visible church has or hasn't reached the earth at large.
So the revelation is this: The "world" Jesus told us to "go out into" is the world He has "set in our hearts," revealed over our lifetime by the Spirit, fully capable of being occupied, removing all sense of guilt and doubt as to whether or not we have adequately "done our part" to reach all ends of the visible earth. Consequently, the obligation on the believer is not to blindly answer calls to go to various lands, but to discover and act upon the full extent of the world set in his heart from the beginning of time.
Developing Relationship: Key to World Discovery,
The Cross: Key to World Conquest
The discovery of the world set within us comes as we respond to the Lord's Presence and lessons over the network of relationships He brings into our lives at every point. Successful discovery of our world and of our personal commission depends on our successful response to the relationship God brings us. Saying "yes" to people sent from God is the key to discovering the extent of our world and fulfilling our commission.
As we say "yes" to the lives of others, we are saying "no" to self. This is the work of the cross in our lives, and it is the key to our actually moving out into our land and possessing it. Notice that the commission tells us to "preach the gospel to all creation." What does this mean?
Again, the "gospel" is personal. It is not just the retelling of the general story of Christ's death and resurrection. It is our on-going personal testimony to the outworking of Christ’s death and resurrection in our daily lives over our response to relationship, based on His objective work. We are to be reaching then the ends of our allotted inner world with the message of the inwardly wrought gospel. As we preach "our gospel" to "our world", we fulfil "our Great Commission".
Tell me? Is the gospel being wrought out in your life as you faithfully traverse the increasingly luminated corridors of the world God has allotted you?
The outworking of the gospel and the reaching of our world go together. It is as we press into our allotted lands by responding to relationship that the gospel is wrought out in us. As we expand out, the gospel is deepened in us. In turn, as the message is deepened in us, we are able to expand out more-- taking more of our allotted world through new relationship encountered. This is how we "go into all the world preaching the gospel to all creation."
The wealth of revelation here is astounding. We can get a still better understanding of the "world set in our hearts" by looking at Jesus whose image we bear increasingly.
Witnesses- Both In Jerusalem- And Unto the Uttermost Parts of The Earth (Ac. 1:8)
Jesus is the Lord, He is the King. A king rules from a capital city, a "homeland" if you will. But a king also rules over distant places. These places are not "home." They do not carry the peace or sense of security and familiarity that home does. Rather, they are places of differing quality and dissimilarity. Compared to "home", they carry certain elements of strangeness. Nevertheless, they are part of the kingdom.
When we look at Jesus, we see that His capital city is Jerusalem. When Jesus came to earth, He came ultimately to Jerusalem, to a place that had what He called "My Father's House." But look here. Earthly Jerusalem did not respond to Jesus. Though He was attracted to it, it only mirrored a reality yet to come, to which it corresponds. We call this "New Jerusalem."
This is the true capital that has awaited Jesus, even though it was within the bounds of earthly Jerusalem He lamented, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I would have gathered your children as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not." Because earthly Jerusalem mirrored the true Jerusalem to come, the spiritual drawing of New Jerusalem came to Him through it, giving Him a feel of "home" in what was otherwise a totally alien city to Him and could not in itself ultimately fulfil His longing for home. But let's go on...
Jesus does not only have a home, a capital. He was not satisfied with Jerusalem only. He also desired to possess the outlying world. He has claimed it for Himself --a world where strangeness and distance abound. He wants both the outlying world with its unfamiliarity as well as (New) Jerusalem with its rest and familiarity.
By all this we see a polarity; Jesus has a home capital marked by His immediate Presence and Identity, and He also has a "world" which He wishes to fully occupy. The outlying "world" is not marked by His Identity, nor therefore by the sense of rest and familiarity as is the home capital.
Between these poles transpires a dynamic spiritual interplay. Going out to take the world means leaving behind of the familiar, which involves dealing with stress, labor, loneliness. Then there is the "coming in," back to home, back to the familiar for a time of rest and quiet waiting.
As this dynamic throbs in the universe, two things happen in proportion; 1) the outlying world gradually comes under the domination of His Presence, and 2) the New Jerusalem is gradually descending toward the earth, even toward the eventual super Imposition and swallowing up of the site of the present Jerusalem which now mirrors it.
A Pattern for Each of Us?
Based on this pattern, I propose to you the following truth about the world "set in our hearts." I believe that, in the image of Jesus, the world God has put in each of us is identified by a "home capital territory," a "Jerusalem" if you will. This capital is witnessed to by some present earthly city or area for which we feel a certain affinity or sense of "home."
Yet our attraction to that place is not based in that place itself, but in a heavenly counterpart which appeals to our spirit through it, a true reality descending even now toward earth, a place which will eventually be considered home by all saints having been appointed to that place over centuries.
So it is, wherever our present "Jerusalem" is, we sense an unmistakable drawing and attraction to that place. We have a sense of being "home" and at "peace" when there. It is familiar to us. This attraction may or may not be intertwined with natural fleshly attraction. In any case, our true attraction of spirit to that place really has nothing to do with the place itself as it is now- whether Providence, or Charlottetown, or Trenton, Ontario, Our attraction is based in a heavenly city corresponding to that location. So it is possible we may have no natural drawing to a given place at all, yet feel like it is somehow strangely "ours."
Not only does our world have its "Jerusalem," however. It also has its outlying places. These are the places we encounter through responding to relationship and which we occupy over the work of the cross in our lives as we die to natural familiarity of our "home" area.
We come to these distant places through the leading of the Spirit. They are unfamiliar at first, and even afterward hold no permanent attraction to us, or at least no attraction as strong as our home area, even though we may develop good relationship there. Even when we are in these outer places, our heart is still consciously or unconsciously turned toward the place of our Jerusalem, much like Daniel who always prayed toward Jerusalem.
The challenge of the Great Commission and of the Christian life itself is to be perpetually willing to leave our "Jerusalem" area to find and conquer through death-to-self all the unfamiliar places of our allotted world in response to the relationship god brings us.
Going Out and Coming In
This commission is worked-out over the polarity of "going out" and "coming in" whereby He leads us out to discover the unfamiliar and then brings us back to Jerusalem for rest and recuperation. As this process continues over our lifetime, the same two things happen: our outlying world gradually comes under the domination of Jesus through our presence there, and the true counterpart to our earthly Jerusalem descends ever closer from heaven.
Let's look at this dynamic more closely. As God deals with us. He leads us back and forth in life between our Jerusalem area and our outlying areas. These correspond to periods of rest and periods of stress and dying. As God works to break us from our natural fleshly attraction to this world, He leads us away from Jerusalem.
As He brings us into resting seasons, He brings us toward our earthly Jerusalem. Yet each time we come back to it, we see how we belong less and less to it as an earthly place, yet in our spirit we feel a part of it more than ever through the ultimate drawing power of our New Jerusalem descending toward it.
To clarify, let's note two things* First, one's Jerusalem may or may not be the place one was raised. For some (like me), it is. For others, it is a place whose spiritual gravitational pull is only discovered after they have grown up, belonging to another place. One's Jerusalem may be a place where his earthly relatives dwell, or it may be a place where no one he knows dwells. He only knows that somehow, that is "his place." For some, it may be an entirely naturally foreign land overseas. Nevertheless, for each of us, it is the world God has set in our hearts.
The second thing to note is that this dynamic between polarities is a lifelong process. So when we speak of "seasons" of rest or of being away, we can be talking upwards of years in or between places. Above all, we need to note that, because we are talking polarity, we can't say it is always right to be in Jerusalem or always right to be moving among new lands. Each is appointed in his season and must be followed according to the Lord's leading.
"The Kingdom Is Within You" and the Reality Behind the Visible Church (Lk. 17:20-21)
The thing about this world set in our hearts is that it cannot be seen by the naked eye, nor appreciated from outward observation. Somebody can be attracted to their "Jerusalem" with nobody else understanding why on earth such a place should appeal to him. This is the meaning behind the last part of Eccl. 3:11, "So that no man can find out the work that god makes from the beginning to the end."
Truly the kingdom of God is within us, hidden to natural eyes. God's true plan for taking over the earth begins and ends in the hidden depths of the human heart, conducted through the work of the cross as that heart submits to leaving "Jerusalem" to carry its out-wrought gospel to other geographical regions through openness to new relationship with other believers. As we pursue conquership of our individual worlds, we make new relationship. Relationship is nothing more thar the overlap of the hidden worlds of two or more believers- and this is the root reality behind the concept of church.
The visible Church is nothing more than the temporary manifestation of the overlap of the hidden worlds of two or more believers as they one and all are in that place for the purpose of conquering their individual “Canaans.” The point of overlap may be closer to one believer's "Jerusalem" than the others’. One believer's Jerusalem may be the "end of the earth" for the other believer. Or else believers may be meeting on ground that is equally foreign to all of them, though it be part of each's allotted world. Conversely, where the allotted worlds of believers do not overlap, there shall they never meet in this life.
All of this is to teach us that the development of the Church through relationship is simply the concurrent development of individual worlds at the same place and same time. Building the Church has ultimately nothing to do with visible gathering in a visible place, but rather with inner world-conquering together.
Thus, when a Church is scattered, nothing is destroyed. Inner worlds are simply expanded, bringing the personal gospel to further reaches. Eventually, as all believers discover and respond to the Spirit's call over their inner "map," the entire world at large will be reached, fulfilling the general meaning of the Great Commission. This is the true kingdom we seek to build.
The World Set in My Heart
Perhaps you see now how vast was the revelation to me there on "128." Before me was laid out my own personal map with my Jerusalem and all. That brings me to the personal part of this letter. Based on all I've shared, you can begin to understand why I'm here In New Hampshire. It has nothing to do with my teaching of school or accomplishing of "ministry." Rather, it is the Lord's leading me to the region of my Jerusalem for a season of badly needed rest and recuperation from years of pursuing my outlying world unto your lands.
The reason, you see, that I know any of you is because I had left my lifelong Jerusalem to come to you -- many of whom are in your personal Jerusalem. Your Jerusalem is also part of my outlying promised land. That's why we know each other. Now, however, God is bringing me into my rest for a "season," camped about 100 miles outside the gate of my Jerusalem (the Providence area) according to the will of God.
Yet for most of you, your outer world does not overlap my Jerusalem. Therefore you will never come here, nor understand why I am led here or desire to be here. (Of course, that could change someday should you discover God's leading to this place.) Since my Jerusalem is inward, it has nothing to do with what is visibly happening or not happening spiritually in this region, ie, in the lives of others. It is enough for my spirit to know that this is "my place".
I don't know how long I will be here, but because of my need for rest after extended years of heated battle in "foreign lands," I hope it is long. Some of you have spoken to me of your house as being "home" for me. How I appreciate that. Yet you must realize that for me, your home is really "home-away-from-home."
You see, you can call it home because it is your Jerusalem. But it is not mine. Mine is here (ie, near here). Even when I have been with you over periods of years, my heart has been secretly turned toward this region. Being here gives me such a greater sense of the Lord's Presence, peace, rest, and nearness of His Return- -even though I naturally have less in common with this area than I ever have.
While I realize that this area holds little or no attraction to most of you, perhaps later the Lord will reveal this area to be part of your outlying world so you might visit me here. Whether or not this is so, I trust that however long or short it is before I see you again, you will follow my example in willingness to explore the world God has set in your heart to its utmost bound.
Remember, if I hadn't left my Jerusalem, I would not know you now. So there's no telling who you might meet if you answer the Spirit's call to leave your Jerusalem awhile to conquer your complete world through the work of the cross.
Meditate on these things.
written from Merrimack, New Hampshire
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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