"A Bride without Spot or Wrinkle"

by Kathi Pelton

"...so that He might make it holy by cleansing it, washing it with water and the word, and might present the Church to Himself in all its glory, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind, but holy and without fault." Ephesians 5:26-27

Ironing the Wrinkles

Have any of you felt as though you've been placed on God's personal ironing board and the heat of the iron has been moving across your life to get the wrinkles out? If so, you are not alone! I have personally never been as aware of the spots and wrinkles in my life as I have been in the past six months. Although this can be disconcerting at times, the good news is that the "pressing of our lives" is a sovereign act of God, not a work of our flesh or personal strength. It is also the confirmation that we indeed are part of His beloved Bride who is being prepared for Him.

Since the beginning of 2008, it seems as though God has taken a bottle of "Shout" (the stain remover) in one hand and a very hot iron in His other hand and has been applying both to every area of our lives and hearts. But, like the commercial for the stain remover says, we indeed want the Lord to remove every stain in our lives and "Shout it out."

Though it is a joint effort between God and His Bride, it still is a sovereign work of grace. It is all about His shout and our surrender, His authority and our submission, and His grace and our dependency. It is not a shout of bitter anger, but a holy anger against all that has kept His Bride from being fully His. He is shouting over our lives, "She is mine and she will have no other gods beside Me!"

A Time of Preparation

Our God is preparing His Church to be presented to Him in "glorious splendor" (see Ephesians 5:27). Though we have longed to be holy and clean, often we have tried in our own strength to prepare ourselves. God has been stripping all the masks of holiness and disguises of religion off of His Bride. He is dealing with that which is both internal and eternal - her heart! It is as though all of our old "wineskins" have burst in and we are being prepared for the new wineskin, but the time from the old to the new has been a time of nakedness and exposure.

There are choices we have in this time of nakedness - run, hide, and find a "covering" such as Adam and Eve did in the garden. Or, we can stand naked before God in absolute dependency on His mercy and grace and allow Him to cleanse and wash us from all our filthiness. We can choose to sew together an apron of fig leaves or we can come and allow the grace freely given to us through Christ to clothe us and take away our shame.

This process is not to cause us shame but instead free us from the shame that we have hidden under these masks we wear. It is important to understand that with every deep work of the Spirit there is also a great battle that contends against it. During this time of preparation from the old to the new (which involves the exposure of everything that is not covered by grace), the enemy has sought to shroud God's people in a heavy weight of guilt and shame. God, in His great wisdom, has come to wash us with pure water and the truth of His word.

We cry out like David in Psalm 42:1-2, "As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?"

God longs for us to stand face to face before Him, clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone. He does not want us to come with any manmade coverings or hidden shame. He is overjoyed to cover our shame and remove our iniquity as He quiets us with His love. Stop reading for a moment and take a deep drink of His cleansing water.

Gracious Living

A number of months ago, my husband and I went down to the historic center of our city to have breakfast together. We parked our car in front of a shop that had recently gone out of business and I noticed two things that prophetically stood out to me. The first was the address of the business. The numbers on the window were "111."

When I saw the numbers on the storefront window, I instantly had a vision of God with a stopwatch in His hand. As He clicked the watch to reset it, instead of the triple zeros ("000"), I expected to see, I realized the display read "111." God spoke to me that He was giving His people a fresh start, but we weren't starting from "zero" or "nothing." Our starting place is the Triune God, the "three-in-one."

"There is one Body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6

Then I noticed the name on the storefront window: "Gracious Living." Right away I heard the Spirit of the Lord speak to me and say, "If I were in the business of 'selling' grace, I too, would be out of business."

The whole message of grace is that it is "freely" given, therefore God is still in business! As we entered this year we entered a year of the manifestation of His amazing grace. His grace alone is what we are to be fully dependent upon. There is one God and one God alone and He is the only one that saves by grace. He has invited and continues to invite us into "gracious living" - the place where we live by grace alone.

We do not need to look for a covering because our covering has been provided through the righteousness of Christ! He is our covering. We can let go of the guilt and shame of the manmade masks and disguises - of hiding from Him, and we can know that we are fully received, fully loved, fully accepted and fully covered!

He has reset the stopwatch for those who are running this great race. The numbers are at 111 and they will remain there throughout the race because it is He alone (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) who will carry us to the finish line.

Paul, in Philippians 3:9, wrote, "...(I want to) be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith."

Face to Face

Now that we are reminded that we can stand before God, face to face, through the grace given to us and through the righteousness of Christ, we can let go of any belief that we have agreed with concerning guilt and shame.

I know a young man who has recently become engaged to be married; he is American and she is Canadian. Due to the process of immigration, they cannot be married for another year. The separation is agonizing for this young couple who are so deeply in love. They decided that the young man would leave his home in America for a few months to be near her in Canada while she works on her immigration status.

This young man's parents were a bit alarmed at this because during their engagement, the wise thing to do seemed to be to stay in the U.S. and work in order to save money for their upcoming marriage because he cannot work in Canada. When his parents asked him about this, his response was this, "I know that it doesn't make sense, but I must be face to face with her!"

This is a beautiful picture of the Lord's longing for His Bride. He too left His home to be face to face with her and to redeem her to Himself. Still today He is longing for the face to face intimacy of feeling the breath of her love in His senses. I believe that there will be a lot of things that the Lord asks of us in the near future that will not make any sense to the wisdom of men in even greater measure than in the past. It is all about His longing for intimacy and to be face to face with His Bride.

There is a place of leaving the confinement of what we have "known" and even what we have learned, and entering the place of living according to the moving of His longings. Yet to know the longings of the Lord, you must get very near because they are whispered in moments of intimacy.

Holy and Acceptable

"I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will is - what is proper, pleasing, and perfect." Romans 12:1-2

Finally, I want to encourage you to allow the Lord to do even a greater work of transformation within you through the renewing of your minds. I think that even those who consider themselves intimate lovers of God can fall into a rut in which they begin to walk by what they have learned rather than by the leading of the Spirit.

We can become so accustomed to the Christian life (by walking in all that we have learned) that we begin to initiate on His behalf because our minds have once again taken the lead. Though these thoughts and ways may even be based in Biblical truths and Godly teachings, knowledge apart from the Spirit's leading can cause us to move in a direction that the Lord may not be going.

We want to know the will of God that is proper, pleasing and perfect! We do not want to assume the will of the Lord can be discerned by past experiences or teachings, but instead by walking in the face to face intimacy that goes beyond every mental exercise or natural thinking . Personally, I want to live in the place of His "longings." I want to be the answer to His longings as He is the answer to mine. I want to hear and move from the place of hearing His whispers. We are being invited into this kind of face to face living that prepares us as that Bride without spot or wrinkle.

"The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' Let everyone who hears this say, 'Come!' Let everyone who is thirsty come! Let anyone who wants the water of life take it as a gift!" Revelation 22:17