."Characteristics Of The Bride"  (July 2006)

A couple of weeks ago one of the guys at the Recovery Center asked me a question.  He asked, “What would you call a person who talks about God, who knows about and believes in Jesus, who reads the Bible, goes to church, listens to the preacher, agrees with you when you talk about Jesus, but after they leave the church they go out and smoke, drink, curses, uses drugs, lives immorally, and lives anyway they want to live?”  Without hesitation I answered him, “A hypocrite!”  He looked at me a little stunned.  (I don't think that was the answer he was expecting.)  But like I told him, that’s exactly what you would call the person that he described.  After all, what is a hypocrite?  It’s one who says one thing and does another.  It’s one who professes a belief but doesn’t hold to that belief.  In short, they do the opposite of what they say. 

When we think about hypocrisy, we usually refer back to the teaching’s of Jesus in the four gospel and His dealings with the Pharisees.  But there are others places in the Bible where the Lord deals with the subject of hypocrisy.  One place that we don't usually associate with the subject is in the Book of Revelation.  “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)  Jesus describes a church that is “lukewarm”.  It’s neither “hot” or “cold” but somewhere in the middle.  Actually, it’s a mixture of both hot and cold.  That’s what hypocrisy is-- a mixture; it’s being somewhere in the middle.  You have a profession of Christ, but you don’t live like your profession.  You aren’t “hot” for Christ, but you aren’t quiet “cold” either.  It's like “talking” about it, but not “doing” it.   

When you turn on the television and watch the news or read the newspaper, if you have any Bible education at all, you have to realize that the events from around the world that are being reported aren’t just happening.  You have to see that the prophecies of the “end time” are being fulfilled right before your eyes.  If these events are the “end time” signs, then they are pointing to the greatest end time event that will take place-- the return of the Lord Jesus.  Whether you like to think about it or not, we are living in the last days.  I don’t know when the Lord will return, that knowledge is reserved only for the Father to know.  But I do know this-- by the signs of the time, it won’t be long.  “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” (Matthew 24:32-33)  “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.  And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.  So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” (Luke 21:27-31)  More than ever because of the times we are living in, the subject of being lukewarm and living your life having a belief in Jesus but not adhering to it needs to be addressed more than it is in the church, and dealt with more than we deal with it individually.  None of us want to be “left behind”.  None of us want to miss out on eternal life and living with Jesus forever in His kingdom.  We all want to be ready when Jesus returns.  But there is a qualification that has to be met.  If you live in hypocrisy you will not meet the qualification.

When Jesus returns, He’s returning for a bride-- He is coming to take His bride home to be with Him forever.  (He’s returning for His church.)  What type of church or bride will He return for?  What will she be like?  What are the characteristics that will qualify her to be His bride?

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1)  The first qualification is that she is a virgin.  When Christ comes into our lives He takes us and cleanses us in His own precious blood, makes us white like snow, purifies us and forgives us of all sins.  The Bible calls it being “born again”.  Our spirit man is reborn and we become like new born babies.  “As newborn babes...” (1 Peter 2:2).  Babies are born virgins.  Through the miracle of salvation, our spiritual man is renewed so that we too become virgins again spiritually.  A virgin is one who has not had a sexual relationship outside of marriage.  She has kept herself pure for her husband.  Christ is looking for a virgin bride, not in the physical sense because this would disqualify all married women from having a part in this relationship with Him.  He is talking in the spiritual sense.  Often the Lord had issues with the nation Israel because of their backsliding and going after other gods and idols.  He termed this “adultery”.  “Why should I and how can I pass over this and forgive you for it? Your children have forsaken Me and sworn by those that are no gods. When I had fed them to the full and bound them to Me by oath, they committed [spiritual] adultery, assembling themselves in troops at the houses of [idol] harlots.” (Jeremiah 5:7- Amplified Bible)  When we commit “idolatry” and go after other gods, we are committing adultery against God-- spiritual adultery.  Hypocrisy says, “I love God”, but it goes after and sets it’s affections on “other” lovers.  Some of those “lovers” could be:  money, entertainment, greed, habits, vices, your job, hobbies, even other people.  These “lovers” become the idols we have in our life.  They are the things you hold dear to you; they take up more than half of your thought life; you long to be able to have the time to be with it; and you aren’t willing to give up.  One sure way you can tell if something is an idol to you and you are committing spiritual adultery is if they have priority over God in your life and you put them before Him. 

Recently, the Lord spoke a word to us at prayer group through one of the spiritual gifts.  The word was, “I will not settle for a cross-eyed bride that looks at two things at the same time.  Only those who look at Me.”  The Lord wants a bride that “only has eyes” for Him.  He alone is the object of her affection.  She has her gaze fixed up Him and not on anyone or anything else.  She isn’t looking at Him and her other lovers at the same time- she has no other lovers.  She loves Him with “ALL her heart, soul, strength, and mind”.  She is captivated by Him and desires to share her love and life with Him.  She longs for the day when they will be united and become each others forever.   

Another qualification is holiness.  Because Jesus is holy, His bride should be holy too.  “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)  This is one subject that has almost vanished from Christianity.  We rarely hear anyone tell us that we are to be holy.  We are permitted to live the lifestyle that we desire as long as we say we believe in Jesus.  Let me set something straight, just because you believe “in” Jesus doesn’t mean that your life is right with Him, your sins have been forgiven, or that you are part of the bride.  The Bible tells us that even the devils “believe” in Him but they don’t serve Him, or love Him, and they certainly aren’t and never will be part of His bride.  “The devils also believe, and tremble”. (James 2:19b)  The Bible does tell us that it’s those who “receive” Him because they believe in Him that will make up the bride.  “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)

“I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” (Romans 16:19,22)  “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)  “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)  “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)  “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)  “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)  According to these scriptures we are to be holy when He returns.  What is holiness?  What does it mean to be holy?  The word “holy” means:  consecration, purification; the effect of consecration; sanctification of heart and life.  Holiness is a separation from the things of this world and a separation to the things of God.

Let me explain what holiness is by telling you what holiness is not.  (That might help you to better understand holiness when you see it’s opposite.)  These scriptures describe the characteristics of those who will not be part of the bride.  The character described is an unholy character.  “Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality, nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9,10- Amplified Bible)  “Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.  I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)  You can’t be a thief and be holy at the same time.  You can’t be holy and be involved in immorality (pornography, adultery, “shacking up”, homosexuality).  Envy, selfishness, drunkenness, jealousy, impurity, ill temper, a foul mouth- none of these are characteristics of holiness.  If you are living an unholy life, you have “dirty” garments- they are full of spots and wrinkles.  “Dirty” garments don’t enter into heaven.  I have never seen a bride come down the aisle in anything less than a clean, ironed, beautiful dress or gown.  She stands out above all the guests.  She is easy to spot because of her appearance.  The bride of Christ should be easy to spot as well by her appearance-- the characteristic of holiness.

There is one more characteristic I would like to talk about-- evidence.  Have you ever watched a lady who is engaged?  You can tell she is the bride to be.  She has a glow about her.  You can see an aurora of happiness around her.  She is single minded- she has one thing on her mind... wedding preparations!  She can’t stop talking about her fiancé and the upcoming wedding.  It’s evident to all who know her that she is in love.  As the bride of Christ awaiting our marriage to Him it should be evident as well.  There should be a “glow” of joy and happiness around us. 

We shouldn’t be able to stop talking about our wonderful Jesus and His return.  We should be busy making preparations for that glorious day so that we will be ready and not caught unprepared like the five foolish virgins.  “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7)  Ready here is defined: to make ready, prepare; to make the necessary preparations, get everything ready.  Are you making all the necessary preparations for that wedding day?  Have you “believed and received” Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  Are you keeping yourself unspotted, and your garments clean?  Are you endeavoring to walk in holiness?  Are you guarding your heart so that nothing or no one else will capture your affections besides the Lord?  It will be a glorious wedding day.  If you’re not part of the bride, accept His proposal today and start making preparations.