“Place the ark of the testimony in it and shield the ark with the curtain. Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. Place the gold altar of incense in front of the ark of the Testimony and put the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle.” -Exodus 40:3-5
Why is discipleship so hard? If God wants us to obey, couldn’t He help us out a little bit, and give us some extra power to overcome? We know about Bible study and prayer. But is there anything else?
I think there is power waiting for us; we just have to access it. I recently heard a preacher illustrate the way using the Israelite tabernacle.
It’s an illustration of the whole Christian life. First, there is the altar of burnt offering, representing Jesus’ sacrifice. That is followed by the basin, representing baptism. These are the two prerequisites to entering the Tent of Meeting, representing the Church.
But it doesn’t end with baptism. The Ark of the Covenant is where the Ten Commandments are contained, inside the Most Holy Place, with the actual presence of God (imagine the implications of that–obedience, the covenant, and the presence of God are all together). In order to reach the Most Holy Place, a baptized believer needs to participate in three more activities.
The Holy Place, the entrance to the Tent of Meeting which is the next step after baptism in the basin, contains three items: the bread table, the altar of incense, and the lamp stand. Before entering the Most Holy Place, getting the closest possible access to God, and finally being able to obey the covenant, believers have to go through these three things. But what do they signify?
The bread table: daily bread; the Word of God; the Bible.
The altar of incense: prayer.
The lamp stand: the Holy Spirit working through evangelism.
For most of my Christian life, I’ve tried to get to the Most Holy Place, to have communion with God and obedient, covenant life, through Bible study and prayer. Those are the two ingredients every young Christian knows. But how many of us have failed to recognize the key role of Spirit-led evangelism in developing our personal faith? If this illustration has any weight, then this adds another core dimension to the discipleship paradigm.
I think many people would recognize evangelism as an important part of Christian life. However, it sometimes seems to be positioned as the end-goal. As if it should come only after the Christian has developed a deep Christian maturity and a significant series of victories over life’s challenges. If, however, it comes before the Most Holy Place, it is no longer the end, but one of the means to our end of being with God. And the craziest implication of this shift is this: we can evangelize before we’re ready. We can evangelize before we have our most intimate experience with God. All we need to evangelize is the cross, baptism, the Bible and prayer.
I think you’ll find it to be true that once you try to share your faith, you’ll start to have some experiences that will give you even more to talk about.