Bearing the Best Fruit
A Tale of Three Cities

A Mystery

Ephesians 5:31-32
31
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Isaiah 53:3
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Hebrews 13:11-14
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Colossians 1:24-27
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I have seen a lot of thoughts and writing on the purpose for suffering. But the reality is that Jesus was despised and rejected and is still despised and rejected. He is still outside the camp. And this is in all nations. There have been a lot of religious nations and governments but never a nation of disciples of Jesus. The Kingdom is still not of this world. So, as the writer of Hebrews said, let us go outside the camp and bear his disgrace.

Most of us would prefer to consider hardships as suffering for Jesus. We like the camp, and if we consider general hardships as suffering for Jesus then we can stay in the camp. Many preachers and ministers preach a gospel of "saving the camp," or changing the world. But the call is not to save the camp. The call is to come out and be one flesh with Jesus. And we can't do that in the camp because Jesus is not in the camp.

When Paul said he was filling up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, he wasn't saying that in isolation from the church. He was being an example and presenting an invitation to all of us to come outside the camp. What is still lacking in Christ's afflictions are what those who are one flesh with him will suffer in this world. I'm not talking about hardships. Blessing come upon the just and unjust, and hardships come upon the just and unjust. That is just life. But the world will not think kindly of those who are obviously looking for a city whose builder and maker is God. Anymore than it looked kindly upon Jesus.

I want to invite you to come outside the camp and be the bride of Christ. Come outside the camp and be one flesh with Jesus. This really is a profound mystery, but it is life changing and is one of the core elements of what God is doing on the earth.

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