I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. (Num 12:6)
There are people who try to share the excitement they felt over a closely tied game, and I yawn and say I understand their feelings. Someone else will share with much enthusiasm their joy at having attended a Rock concert, or an opera, or even a big Christian concert. Again I yawn and assure that person I am fully in touch with their emotions and can understand their excitement.
These things just don't effect me the way they do other people. I was cut from a different cloth so-to-speak. I find my excitement and interest in other ways and in other areas. I find joy watching a sparrow hop across my driveway, squirrels chatter to their mates, and visiting a car or art show. I get my thrills from riding my bicycle. When I try to describe my excitement and the feeling of accomplishment I get from riding my bike up a mountain I receive that same glassy-eyed look of agreement accompanied by a yawn I see when I look in a mirror when someone tells me something I can't relate to and/or I am not interested in.
I love to be around people and to watch their reactions to different things and how they respond to different situations. I can better relate to people because I'm one of them. I learn about me as I watch other people, as I talk to them, and as I listen to their lives and their problems and experiences. Although our interests and experiences may be very different, our reactions to those experiences are often very much the same. I learn from other people's reactions how I might be lacking in maturity, and sometimes I see where I've grown.
There are not too many people who have lived on the streets, who have spent time in the Army, who have ridden a bicycle over mountains and slept under bridges, who have spent years in prison or undergone years of intensive therapy. There are not many grey-headed bachelors who are content with being single. There are not many people who can talk about the Bible in the same way I do, even though they may be far more educated than I am, and have much more experience living the Christian life than I have. And there are those who have had even less experience in the Christian life and understanding than I have, but their experience and knowledge has taken them far beyond where I have come.
It's not in our similarities where we learn from one another, even though it is our similarities that bring us together and cause us comfort in our association. It is in our differences, or diversities and our disagreements that we learn from one another. If we just weren't so incline to reject those who are different than ourselves and to discount what they have to offer.
God has given to us, the world, and especially His Church, a wealth of information and experiences. Those who have not created walls between those they do not agree with, and are open to share with those they don't like or agree with, are able to glean much more of what God has given His people than are those who insist a person think and believe as they do. If a first grader will only listen to another first grader in his own class, he will not learn anything beyond what he already knows. This is true of a post-graduate college student as well. In fact a college graduate can learn from a first grader because of the child's fresh view of the world.
We find comfort in those who agree with us and who like us for what we are, but our growth and our understanding comes from those who are very different than we are and who totally disagree with everything we know or believe.
When we read the writings of the Apostles, and this is especially true of Paul, we see the makings of many types of churches all blended into one. When we see the second and the third chapters of Revelation we see this same thing being presented. We see seven different churches, all part of "The Church," yet very different from each other. Is one part of the Church less the Church because it is not as esteemed as highly as are the others? Is Paul talking to one of these churches of Revelation more so than to the others?
We see where Paul had to reprimand the Corinthian church for adapting to the dictates of the world rather than following the commandments of the Lord and the instructions of the Apostles. They were, as are so many of the churches in Revelation, compromising their standards with those of the world they're to be separated from. We find this today as well. We see churches that are drifting into the world, both in their behavior, and in their thinking. The churches have become a different segment of the world, yet they condemn the world, just as the world condemns them. The pot calling the kettle black.
Paul spoke to both the typical church, and he spoke to those who wish to rise above the typical just as he himself strove to rise to the top level of his Spiritual ability. This multidirectional teaching has caused a lot of conflict within the churches as they each concentrate on one aspect or another of Paul's teaching. This holds true of the teachings of Jesus as well. There are many verses we can hitch our wagon to and cause our church and its doctrines to appear right while all other churches and their doctrine are wrong in our eyes because they disagree with us. Again we can see this exemplified in the seven churches of Asia as demonstrated in Revelation two and three. Which of these churches are the correct church? None of them as I see. They all had their valid points, their accomplishments, and they all had their failings. Each of these churches could ignore (as they do) their shortcomings, justify them away, and hold up their validations as a banner of success. They could wave their banner at the other churches and claim victory while pointing out the shortcoming and failures of the churches they accuse and demean. If any of these churches wish to overcome, which is the church Jesus points out they should become, they need to continue working on the points they have done well in, but concentrate on those areas where they fall short.
Jesus gave instructions to all the churches. They are all a part of His body, and His body was not (and certainly is not) living up to the potential of the Head, which is Jesus Christ. We are to be perfect as God is perfect. Anything short of this, anything short of what Jesus was and is, is to miss the mark. We have no room to talk about anyone else until we get our own house in order. And when we have our house in order, we will not have time to criticize those who do not because we will be too busy trying to help them to get their house in order as well. The body helps the body. One arm scratches the other. If the body isn't trying to help the body, the whole body, whether it likes or disagrees with that part of the body or not, it is therefore not part of the body. It is a cancer that needs to be cut off and turned over to Satan for purifying before being allowed back into the body.
How is your life? What are your priorities? What kind of music do you hear playing on the radio or the TV or whatever? What is your reading material like? Do you pray with your family? Do you strive to grow Spiritually in your own life, and make that a priority in your children's life as well? Where do you find pleasure? How do you spend your day? These are clues to just how typical a Christian you are.
I can only speak from my own observation and my own experience, but this is my view of the typical Christian: The typical Christian is one who goes to church on Sunday for two hours, sits through a sermon they hear with only a part of an ear, nibbles on the donuts provided, greets everyone with a warm hug or handshake as if they are old and dear friends; then they go home, turn on the TV, watch a day full of games or reality TV, or their favorite soaps (or cartoons, depending on the age). The Bible is sat on the coffee table to collect dust until next Sunday, or it might be read a chapter or two a day to keep current with their church expectations of them, if there are any such expectations.
The typical Christian is one who has set his or her goals at the minimum requirement as established by that church. And they feel perfectly content in doing so, and they are supported in their church, whichever church it might be, in their doing as they are. Because of this church expectation, they feel they are fully in compliance with God's will for them as well.
On the other side of the typical coin we have those who are real go-getters. These people are on the prayer chain, they help out where needed, they visit or call the sick, they are the cornerstone of the church without whom the church could not survive. These are people at the top echelon of the churches, the motivators, the people most striving to fulfill their duty as a Christian as they see their duty to be. These are the people those of the lower echelon of typical can understand, and they accept them as extreme, but understandable.
There is a vast difference between the two groups I just described, but there is also a great similarity between them. They are compromised.
How are they compromised you ask? While the second group of typical Christian is doing all they're called to do, in their private lives they're just as enmeshed in the world as is the first group. Their drive, their lust, their love is not for the things of the Lord, but for those things the world has to offer. They may truly love people, and they will sacrifice for those of their church, and even those outside of their church, but their interests are in worldly entertainment, in collecting, or in the many other aspects of common life. Those things might be very altruistic, such as the concerns of the family or the poor. There's certainly nothing wrong with any of these things, many are in fact admirable and are commended and called for by God and by the Bible as a whole.
Paul spoke to several churches, several classes of people, of Christians, just as did Jesus. In the Old Testament we see this same pattern. We see God speaking to the Israelites as a nation, and He spoke to the priests, and to the Levites, and to Aaron and his sons who would carry on the High Priesthood. God had different expectations of each of these classes of His people. And those in one group were not allowed to do the work of another group, even though what they wanted to do was on a higher level of Spirituality than allowed by one's own group. Those who were Levites could not live as if they were common Israelites and not priest. They were chosen by God as His own, and they could not escape this responsibility. Those of the Levite clan could not serve as High Priest, no matter how much they wanted to, or how much more Spiritual they were than those who were of the Aaronic family. We see where the High Priests were sometimes more vile than those who were not fit for the priesthood at all, yet that did not prevent them from being the High Priest. Then above this we have Moses, the one who stood "In place of God" Himself. No one could take Moses' place, though many tried. Moses was selected for his position, and though Moses was far above his brother, Aaron, in responsibility and his closeness to God Himself, he could not serve as High Priest, no matter how otherwise qualified he might have been.
We see this in David as well. David was far and above more Spiritual, and more qualified to be High Priest than just about any of the High Priests (at least one who even betrayed him); yet in spite of his qualifications, David wasn't even allowed to step foot in to the Tabernacle (Temple), because he was not of the family chosen to do so. This holds true of Solomon as well, and Solomon built the Temple.
Who are the Overcomers? Most of the doctrines I've seen (if not all of them) say the overcomer is someone who has been baptized in the right church, using the right words, and in the right manner. Setting the doctrinal differences aside, the remaining similarity of this thinking does not ring true to me, does it to you?
Who are the overcomers?
Besides Paul's admonition to the churches to remain in the acceptable boundaries of doctrine, he also spoke of his own direction and his own hopes and dreams. Because Paul's aspirations were so much higher than were those of the people he spoke to, they seem to conflict with the instructions he had given them. If we understand what Jesus was doing, what He was saying, and why, in Revelation (the entire book) we can then understand what Paul was striving for.
Beyond the two examples I gave earlier, there is yet one other group of Christian that does not fit the "typical" catagory. This is the calling of the Overcomer, the one who has seen the vision Paul has seen. They are the ones the typical Christian would call fanatic, out-of-bounds, so Heavenly minded they are of no earthly good, Jesus freaks, ready for an asylum and a lobotomy (which they used to give to those who were fanatics for the Lord, attempting to do away with what is called the "religious" aspect of the brain). Paul is one of those who would be first in line for a lobotomy, as would Jesus, if the religious leaders had their way.
Paul told the churches how to behave in order to be counted worthy of eternal life. He was talking to those who wished to remain on the safe side, who were content with the "blessed assurance" they would be given admittance into Heaven. That is all they wanted, and that is all they could hear. As stated earlier, we may have the same general interest, such as music, but our concept of music may be far different than someone else's idea of music. It is no different in the Spiritual realm.
After Paul told those who could only hear the basics what they needed to know, he then spoke to those who were given a higher calling. He spoke to those who had seen his vision. We see in the 12th chapter of second Corinthians how Paul had been given a vision that no one (as far as we know) had seen but John the Revelator. We see that Paul was given a glimpse of the "Third Heaven," of Paradise. Paul, because of this vision, had a drive and a dedication for something out of the understanding of those who were just in the Church to avoid hell. He saw, and he had a hope (much higher than faith) of something beyond reach of the common Christian. Once we've seen God's glory, we don't have to wonder what it is, we know what it is. We may not understand it at all, but it is no longer just a suspicion or a belief. It is a reality.
Paul was given this reality. Paul was given an understanding of the purpose of God, of the fulfilment of that purpose. We, all of us, have been given the Word to describe what Paul had seen, but these words are just a jumbled puzzle to us because we stand on the step of the porch where we feel comfortable. If we were to strive for more, and believe there is more, then we would be given more. But since we feel we have all there is to be given, that we have all the answers we need, we don't ask. If we don't ask, we don't receive the answers.
Paul tells us he presses for the mark of the high calling. He says he fears being a castaway. He says he will settle for nothing less than that which he has seen.
If you were given a glimpse of what Paul had seen, what John had seen, how would that change your life? Would you then be a "typical Christian"? Would you be content with the minimum requirements that would keep you from losing your rewards? Or would you be struggling to be all you can be in the Lord as we see of Paul? Would you "keep your body under subjection" in order to run the race to its fullest and receive the crown as did Paul? Do you think that perhaps nothing in this world would interest you but the things of God? Would you be looking under every rock, every leaf for the things of God? Wouldn't you be struggling with all your might to show people, especially those you love, what you saw? Would you want them to remain a "Typical Christian" if you knew what they would be missing out on, and that for eternity? Would you perhaps with tears be pleading for others to understand what you have seen, and to have them see the vision as you have?
This is the problem, the frustration, the pain those who have been given the vision must face. They have had the experience that can't be imagined or believed by anyone else, especially those who have settled into their comfort zone of conformity. All the words spoken will go as do those of Jesus to the churches when He speaks of being an Overcomer. They will be set aside as the ravings of a maniac as are the words spoken by Paul when he tells us of his efforts to be an overcomer, of pressing for the mark of the high calling. These words are as unimaginable and unexplainable as are the words of John when he tells us of the Tribulation and of the Bride pictured as a huge building coming out of the sky. These are words of a fanatic, of a madman, only understood by others who are fanatic in their quest for those things of God; those who are madmen in their love of the Lord and those things pertaining to the Lord.
Great men throughout history have tried to make sense of the revelation to John, and they could not do so. Martin Luther, one deemed to be in touch with truth, could only say John was having a nightmare, or he was raving mad. If this is as close as the theologians can come to understanding John, what chance does the common Christian such as you and I have of understanding the book, unless we've seen the vision? Paul has seen the vision. Is there anyone else? Have you?
Why don't the churches understand the words of Paul? Why don't they understand the words of Jesus as He speaks of being, and of becoming an Overcomer? Why don't the pastors and the commentators understand the pictures given to us in the last chapters of Revelation?
The reason is that they don't believe, and the reason they don't believe is because they haven't seen the vision, they haven't had the calling, and therefore they haven't become the madmen God is seeking to walk with in His Kingdom.
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:)
15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev 3:)
18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. (1Cor 3:)
9For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. 10We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. 11Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. (1Cor 4:)
9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (Phil 3:)
4And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. 5And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. 6And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: (Num 12:)
14But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (Acts 2:)
11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. (Mat 13:)
37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:)
[Note: consider this statement in the area of sharing one's knowledge and understanding.]