“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
The Faithful Bridegroom, by Randall D. Kittle

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Modern Crusaders
“Behold the modern crusaders. They are marching off to do great things in the name of God. But they know not My heart, My desires, nor My will. They valiantly fight to build the kingdom — but it is not My kingdom that they build. They are in battles of their own choosing, and fighting wars that are not Mine. As they seek to gain great glory, many innocent ones are hurt and injured in their folly.

“They proudly proclaim their purposes, instead of passionately pursuing Me. They seek to do great good, instead of serving their great God. They strive to make for themselves a name, instead of lifting up My name.

“Behold, all they do is nothing more than a castle built of sand. How quickly it will be washed away, and how soon it shall be forgotten. For all they build is not founded on the Rock, nor am I their chief Cornerstone.”

Christian Soldiers
Much has been written that embellished and romanticized the crusades that took place at the beginning of this millennium. The official symbol of the crusades was the cross, and their avowed goal was to rescue and defend the Holy Land (particularly Jerusalem) from the Moslems. Through various movie productions, Hollywood has further solidified this Western illusion of the crusaders being “
Christian soldiers marching off to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”

The truth is that many of the “Christians” that set out for the Holy Land were inspired by things other than religious zeal. Some hoped to win military glory, some hoped to gain new lands, criminals joined to run away from justice, and others were just seeking out adventure. Many of these “soldiers of the cross” looted and pillaged the Jewish and Eastern Orthodox people of Europe to raise support and supplies for the crusades. In one small town in what is now Germany, crusaders came to gather supplies on their way to the Holy Land. The Jewish people in this community fled from their homes, gathered together and locked themselves in the synagogue. After taking their money, jewelry, and food; the crusaders burned the synagogue to the ground — killing all of those inside. Was this their idea of fighting the Lord’s battle — to murder innocent Jewish men, women, and children? Whose kingdom were these crusaders really trying to build?

In the Old Testament, the Lord often used the armies of men to fight spiritual battles. But as Jesus came and reconciled man to God, the “shadows” from the Old Testament were replaced with their long awaited fulfilment. We are no longer to fight our spiritual battles in the physical realm,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:12).

Earthly Kingdoms
Many of these “soldiers of the cross” were seeking their own kingdoms: kingdoms of glory, power, and wealth. They were fighting physical battles for an earthly reward, and using the name of the Lord to justify their actions. Much of this same activity has gone on in the Church in recent years — men building earthly kingdoms for their own satisfaction, and excusing all in the name of God. We have seen some of these men fall with the accompanying shattering of their kingdoms — but still more will fall, for everything that can be shaken will be shaken! The time has come for the body of Christ to cast aside all that is of our own making and to
“seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”

Some of those involved in the crusades were sincere in their seeking to serve God, but this only means that they were sincerely wrong. In the kingdom of God, the end does not justify the means. Doing great things in God’s name does not guarantee we are doing what God would have us do. If someone is building their own kingdom believing that they are somehow building God’s kingdom, they are foolishly building on the wrong foundation. When the shaking comes, these kingdoms, too, will fall.

Many in this day are zealously pursuing their own imagination of God’s kingdom, but their focus is on earthly things and
their methods cause things to happen in spite of God, not because of Him. The unholy trinity of control, pride, and jealousy has become part of their mode of practice. They have not only tolerated division among the saints, but have often promoted it as appropriate, beneficial, and correct. They have covetously held onto “church members” without having the proper heart of setting apart and sending out for God’s work the best, first fruits. God’s purposes, however, must be attained in God’s way and in God’s timing. The time has come for us to quit proclaiming our great plans to further His kingdom, and instead begin to follow His great plan to advance His kingdom — which starts by passionately pursuing His presence.

All that we do must be founded on Christ — He must be the chief Cornerstone. Even great works and powerful ministries that are done in the name of Jesus, if not fundamentally founded on Him, will be shaken and fall.
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ . . . But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:22–27).

The Invisible Kingdom
Are we truly building
His Church, or are we building our church? So much of what we have looked at and have called church is nothing more than buildings, programs, and meetings. We must be willing to forsake earthly rewards, including church-life and the honor given us by men, to travel as strangers and pilgrims in a strange land, seeking the homeland which is His kingdom. This invisible kingdom of God is His presence with His people! Like Abraham the father of our faith, let us not settle for anything less than “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

The foundation for this city is already laid, and it is Jesus Christ. We are the ones who choose what is built upon this foundation. Some are building impressive works of great extent and magnitude but they are being assembled out of wood, hay, and straw. These “great works” quickly arise and are easily visible to all, but they are eternally invisible — for they will be burned away with nothing remaining. Others are carefully fashioning together a work for the Lord in His way using the best they have: “gold, silver, and precious jewels.” These may be difficult and time consuming to fit together, but let us persevere and remember that we are building the invisible kingdom of God. The testing fires will come and we shall instantly see what each of us has done.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames” (1 Corinthians 3:11–15).

Preparing The Bride
The Lord is speaking to His Church in this hour, calling for His Bride to prepare for the marriage of the Lamb. When Jesus returns, He is returning for a bride that is without spot or wrinkle. It is the bride who must make herself ready:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).

Like the five wise virgins in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25), let us be prepared for His return. They did not wait until the last minute to get ready; for then it would be too late. They were prepared
before He returned, and thus were able to go with the bridegroom to the wedding banquet. Let us heed all that the Lord is showing us and saying to us in this hour, and prepare ourselves as the bride of Christ for that great day. Although the bridegroom has been a long time in coming, He is faithful and will return as He has promised.

Even though she must make herself ready, because of the Lord’s deep passion and love for His bride, He has sent His friends to protect and prepare her. The Lord has sent many pastors, ministers, and others in church leadership as friends of the bridegroom to help His bride prepare herself. The Lord is greatly saddened over the current state of church affairs: many of those who should be pointing the bride to Christ and helping her prepare for the wedding have instead been building their own kingdoms. They know of God’s kingdom but have chosen to build their own instead. The faithful Bridegroom will not allow His bride to continue to be hurt and led astray.

Behold My Bride
“Behold My Bride. She is wounded, hurt, and abused. But it is not the Evil One who has done this to her — but the one I sent to prepare her for Me. I sent My friend to her to prepare her for the wedding feast. I instructed him that in her eyes he must decrease that I might increase.

“But he saw her beauty, her innocence, and her wealth; and his lust for these overcame his love for Me. He has lead My Bride away from me and lured her unto himself. The one I sent to care for and prepare My Bride now embraces her himself and commits adultery with her. He has taken her beauty and given her ashes. He has delighted in taking from her her innocence and purity. He has squandered her wealth on his own pleasures. And now he holds her captive through control, manipulation, and by satisfying her desires.

“As I stand at the door and knock, he is the one who holds the door shut. As I begin to speak, calling for My Bride, he will not rejoice to hear My voice, but tremble. Though he has lifted himself up — how quick and terrible will be his fall. The time has come for My adulterous friend to repent and release My Bride — or reap what he has sown.”

Friends Of The Bridegroom
The bride and the bridegroom are always the central focus of the wedding. The friends of the bridegroom who attend him are not there for their own purposes, but to serve the bridegroom and rejoice with him in his joy. How inappropriate it would be for a groomsman in a wedding to cause the focus of attention to be drawn to himself, instead of having it remain focused upon the groom. As believers and leaders in the body of Christ, it is important for us to understand that we are not only a part of the bride of Christ, but also friends of the Bridegroom — Jesus Christ. We, like John the Baptist, must point the way to Him and rejoice as the bride comes into His presence.
“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

Let us remember that the bride belongs to the Bridegroom. The Church does not belong to the pastors, teachers, prophets, or apostles. The Church does not belong to the elders or deacons. All these are merely friends of the Bridegroom, who are to protect the bride and prepare her for the wedding feast. Their true goal is to become less necessary and less noticeable until all attention is focused on Jesus. Any way in which they cause believers to be separated from coming to the Lord is nothing less than adultery. The bride belongs to the Bridegroom — the Church belongs to Christ!

Like Paul, we must jealously guard the flock so that they remain true not to us, our denomination, or our doctrine; but to Jesus.
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Unfaithful Friends
Those who have a relationship with Jesus are friends of the Bridegroom, and cannot be considered cold toward Him. Yet, if these same friends are pursuing their own desires and not His, they cannot be considered hot in regard to their relationship with Him. Those who know the Bridegroom but choose to draw the attention and affections of the bride to themselves are those that the Lord considers lukewarm.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are luke-warm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15­-16).

It is these unfaithful friends that have hurt, wounded, used, and abused His bride. They have taken their positions in the body of Christ and used them to their full advantage. They have become greater, and the attention given to the Lord has become less. Some are deceived into thinking that what they are doing is really for Jesus Christ and His kingdom. They are in for a rude awakening as the Holy Spirit reveals to them that all they have built is wood, hay, and straw — they will have nothing to show for all their work.

Many of these unfaithful friends have long ago given up on pursuing His kingdom, and have found it more rewarding to build their own. It is these who hold the bride of Christ captive and have delighted in plundering her. They have led the followers of Jesus down paths of their own desire, to satisfy their own pleasures. They are like false shepherds who feed upon the sheep instead of feeding the sheep. With control and manipulation they have ruled the flock, not caring for the sheep. But it is now time for these shepherds to release the captive flock — for the faithful Shepherd is about to come and rescue His flock.

“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: ‘as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock’ — therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver the flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them’”
(Ezekiel 34:2–10).

The Faithful Bridegroom
Jesus Christ has a supernatural, incomprehensible passion for His bride. It is only weakly reflected by the love of a man for his betrothed. It is a love that eclipses our disobedience and unfaithfulness and causes the infinite God of the universe to knock at the door of His Church asking us to allow Him to come in.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

For years this verse was used as a word picture of Jesus knocking at the heart’s door of unbelievers, calling them to be saved. I am glad that the Lord calls, woos, and draws the lost unto Himself. But beloved, this verse is Christ speaking to the Church. Jesus Christ, the faithful Bridegroom, is calling out to His bride and desiring to reestablish His relationship with her. He sees that she is wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17); and His heart of compassion is grieving. His eyes of love are fixed upon her. He desires to come to her that she might have gold and be rich, that He might cover the shame of her nakedness, and anoint her eyes that she might see (Revelation 3:18).

The Lord is coming to uplift and tenderly care for His wounded bride. Those who have caused her plight will quickly be removed from her, not because of His great anger toward them, but because of His great love and deep compassion for His bride. As the Lord calls His bride to prepare herself for the wedding feast, the friends of the Bridegroom listen for His voice and rejoice at His coming. As we hear His voice, let us build His invisible kingdom in His way; out of the best we have and on the foundation of Jesus Christ.


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