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The ‘Dung Gate’

Dr. Howard Morgan

The Bible gives us the instructions we need for every aspect of our life with God and with each other. Teaching us in many ways and on many levels, it gives us straight-forward commandments and general principles, using types and shadows, parables and stories. One aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to reveal the truths of God to those who want them (John 16:13). I believe the Holy Spirit has given me a humorous, but extremely important, insight into one aspect of maintaining healthy relationships in the Body of Christ.

It is vital that we understand how the Body of Christ operates if we, as individual members of it, are going to be healthy and functioning properly. Because many people either don’t understand--or refuse to practice--these Scriptural directives, they fail to have healthy relationships with other believers, or anyone else for that matter, because these principles apply to all human relationships. This failure is one of the reasons that, for many people, church is simply a place where religious services are conducted. Instead of functioning as a body, the people are basically reduced to spectators who observe various kinds of rituals.

As we study the Bible, we discover that God has laid out for us His divine patterns and principles that govern our walk with Him and with each other. If we do not follow these guidelines, we will not have a relationship with the God of the Scriptures. Because of our disobedience and rebellion, we will create our own "religion" with a god of our own imagination. As we learn God’s patterns and principles, and obey them step by step, His discipleship process accomplishes its goal of conforming us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

When you are authentically "born again," or more accurately "born from above," a number of profound changes take place in your life. These changes are the proof of your salvation. They show that you have actually repented of your sins and have allowed the Spirit of God to take up residence in your heart and begin His process of conforming you to the image of Jesus. One of the first things the Holy Spirit does is minister to you the love of God, perhaps the most profound experience any human being can have. Without it we cannot really go on as disciples of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit desires to minister the love of God to us and enable us to express this love back to God and to other people. Yet so many Christians fail to allow this love to deeply penetrate their hearts. Why is expressing this love to others so hard? What hinders us?

As I was meditating on these questions, I felt the Holy Spirit begin to illuminate for me a number of related issues. He first began to speak to me about the nature of the Body of Christ and how, like a human body, it was designed to receive nourishment, to use that sustenance for growth and health, and then to cleanse itself from the impurities that were created by the normal healthy process of digestion.

Assigned to Your Place in the Body

When you are "born from above" and begin to experience the love of God, some things begin to happen to you. You find your desires and motivations changing. You find your old relationships changing, and you begin to seek out fellowship with other believers. You find yourself in church with all kinds of people, some of whom you might never have associated with in the past. God has a local church, or faith community, for everyone of his children. He assigns us to these fellowships, be they big or small, for a season, be it long or short. Commitment to a local assembly is very important, because much significant work that the Holy Spirit wants to do in conforming us to the image of Jesus is accomplished in local church relationships. If God moves you out of one church, He will eventually move you into another. He will never leave you unaffiliated as a permanent condition. Anyone who says that they are right with God and refuses to be part of a local church is deceived. Our walk is not a "me and Jesus walk," but a "we and Jesus walk." Studying our Jewish roots reveals to us the spiritual concept of "corporate salvation." Not only does God save us as individuals, but He also relates to us as a "nation" and a "kingdom" (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 5:10). God interacts with us as part of a whole, and not just as an individual part (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

We are assigned to specific congregations because God has specific purposes to accomplish in, with, and through us in these places. People there have, or are, specific sources of nourishment for us. Ephesians 4:16 makes this clear to us:

We are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Our spiritual growth and maturity, our spiritual health and usefulness, are directly connected to being in right relationship with other members of the Body of Christ. We supply essential sources of "nourishment" to one another. In order for that nourishment to be provided, each individual part must be healthy and be in vital relationship with the Head and with the other parts of the body. One of our problems is that we do not know how to maintain healthy working relationships that allow the Head to supply us with the "nutrition" that we need for health, growth, and usefulness. We also do not know how--or refuse to learn how--to have successful relationships in the Body of Christ. We don’t handle the relational difficulties and problems we encounter with one another in positive and redemptive ways. We allow ourselves to be filled with negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes. How many people are no longer actively involved in the Body of Christ because of being offended? How many are filled with anger, bitterness and resentment? No one can become a member of the Body of Christ for any length of time and not get hurt. Pain is part of the process of growth. Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8), and so do we! What we have to learn is how to deal with our pain, our offenses, and all the other negative things that relationships naturally and normally produce.

God has assigned you to be a part of a particular congregation for a set time to accomplish specific purposes. You cannot leave that congregation before the purposes of God have been accomplished and expect to remain in the will of God. You are only frustrating His plans for your life and causing Him to start over again with a new group of people. Did you ever notice how some people always have the same problems? It is not because of what others did, it is because of the issues that God is dealing with in their own hearts. People who are always having the same kinds of problems are people who are not letting God deal with the real issues of their lives. There is no blame shifting in the Kingdom of God. There is only the taking of personal responsibility. This is the key to change, growth, and maturity.

Satanic Strategies

Satan’s strategy is always to divide and conquer. If he can convince you to separate yourself from a local congregation and remain unaffiliated with the Body of Christ, he has won a major victory over you. Like the lion that hunts for prey, satan looks for the straggler who is separated from the flock. The one that is weak, or alienated for whatever reason, is easy prey. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us about this tactic of the devil:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

If your enemy can convince you to remain alone, he is able to feed you lies about God, about the church, about individuals and about yourself. With no one to talk to about these things, it is extremely difficult to separate the lies from the truth and to understand what to do to remedy any problems. When you remain alone, satan gets the kind of access to your life that makes it easy for him to manipulate your thinking. His thoughts become yours because he lies to you with the voice of your own mind, and so you think they are your own thoughts when they are actually his. You can see how easily confusion can be used by your enemy to manipulate you. Once satan has this advantage over you, it is very hard to get free. You have to pray, humble yourself, repent, get right with God, and forgive those with whom you had problems.

How the Body of Christ Functions

The New Testament teaches us that the Body of Christ functions just like a human body (1Corinthians 12:12-27, Romans 12:5, Ephesians 4:16). All of us are individual members of this body. Our interpersonal relationships are like the interactions between the various parts of our body. Each part of our body needs all the other parts to be healthy and function correctly. No part of our body can say to another part that it has no need of it. One part of our body cannot say to another part: "I don’t like you. I don’t like what you look like, or what you sound like, or what you do. I don’t want anything to do with you." It’s as if your hand said to your lungs, "Look, I just don’t like you, or what you do, so keep your ‘lung stuff’ away from me. I don’t need, like or want your ‘lung stuff’." In a short time that hand is going to be very sick, and if its relationship with the lung is not restored, it will die. Death is the inevitable result of any part of the body being out of proper, healthy relationship with the rest of the body.

So it is with the Body of Christ. You cannot remain divorced from relationships with the rest of the Body of Christ without suffering serious spiritual malnutrition and ultimately spiritual death. We cannot be spiritually healthy or come to spiritual maturity alone. The deceptive part of this is that your natural life can go on seemingly unaffected. But spiritually, your relationship with God and His Kingdom purposes for your life slowly begin to die. This death process is evidenced by a steady decrease in your love for God and an increased hardening of your heart toward other people and to the will of God. Prayer, worship, fellowship, Bible study all begin to fade from your life.

We find entire churches deeply affected by this spiritual death process. Members of such churches are not in healthy relationships with one another and have effectively isolated and insulated themselves from each other. They simply gather in a building for the observance of a service or a ritual, and then they leave. This even happens in many so-called "Spirit-filled churches." People have allowed offenses, fears of being offended, previous hurts and rejections, or fears of being hurt or rejected to keep them from entering into those authentic Kingdom relationships that define the true Body of Christ. As this kind of sickness is allowed to pervade the church, we eventually practice a non-Biblical religion that is a counterfeit for the realities of the Kingdom of God.

Just as there is an immune system to fight against sicknesses in the human body, so the Lord has provided an "immune system" to fight against sickness in the Body of Christ. Just as our human body has endorphins that fight against natural diseases, so the Body of Christ has its "endorphins" that fight against spiritual diseases. The Bible describes spiritual practices like humbling oneself, prayer, fasting, forgiveness, repentance, reconciliation and obedience as weapons that are effective combatants against spiritual sicknesses. Understanding and experiencing these and other healing virtues available to you as a member of the Body of Christ are absolutely essential for a healthy relationship with the Lord and with the rest of the church. Without them the Body of Christ would become terminally ill and could actually be in danger of dying. If you think that this is impossible, look again at many so-called churches. Have you ever been in a dead church? Did you see any evidence of the Body of Christ in actual demonstration? What happened to it, where did it go? If the Body of Christ were alive, there would be some evidence of Its life. Study the history of such churches and see for yourself that the Body of Christ, for all intents and purposes, died. In place of it, a non-Biblical religion was founded, a counterfeit for the Kingdom of God was created, and that is now what is practiced.

Staying healthy by using the Dung Gate

As I continued to pray about this, the Lord began to speak to me about the city of Jerusalem. I saw a parallel between Heavenly Jerusalem with its connection to the glorified "bride" of Christ (Revelation 21.2) and earthly Jerusalem being likened to the present day Body of Christ. I understood that the city of Jerusalem is a guide for understanding aspects of the Body of Christ. Next my attention was drawn to the gates of Jerusalem. They are places of entrance and exit into and out of the city. These gates are likened unto the ways that truth or error come into and out of our lives. We have various gates in our individual lives. Among those gates are an ear gate, an eye gate, a mind gate, a feelings gate, a memory gate, a relationship gate and a spirit gate. They are the places that we have to guard, lest an enemy try to penetrate our defenses. They are the places that we have to monitor diligently so that we allow only that which is positive and healthy into our lives. "Gates" in the Bible also refers to places of authority. They were the places were the elders sat and made the decisions that affected the city (Proverbs 31:23). So we must sit as "elders" at our own gates and make wise decisions for our lives.

As I meditated on these gates, the Dung Gate was highlighted as being of particular importance to the healthy functioning of the Body of Christ. I began to understand a spiritual principle. Jerusalem, as a healthy, thriving city was constantly producing dung and, of course, needed to get rid of it. Our physical bodies are also constantly producing waste products. These waste products are the result of a healthy body functioning normally. Every moment we are alive each of our cells is metabolizing nutrients and excreting poisonous waste products into our bodies. We are in fact constantly poisoning ourselves. If we don’t get rid of these poisons, we will die. It is as simple as that. This is why we need organs in our bodies that filter out these wastes and then expel them.

The Body of Christ is the same way. As it functions normally, waste products are produced. Just as our physical bodies, through the process of metabolism, cell renewal and growth, constantly produces poisonous waste products, so does the Body of Christ. As we sit in a church service we are actually physically poisoning one another. We are breathing in each other’s oxygen and breathing out poisonous carbon dioxide. If fresh air were not being replenished, we would kill each other. The same is true in our spiritual relationships. When the Body of Christ is functioning normally, when it is healthy, it will be producing poisonous waste products. When we are in normal, healthy Kingdom relationships with each other, we will constantly be producing poisonous waste products. The question is, how do we deal with this poison that is constantly being produced?

Just as the city of Jerusalem has a Dung Gate, so does the Body of Christ. It is called forgiving and forgetting.

"Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)

"I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)

Just as the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem knew what to do with their dung, so must the Body of Christ. In far too many situations the obvious is not done. How many people have been poisoned by refusing to take their "dung" out their "dung gate"? How many churches have been split, ministries destroyed and lives ruined, all because we did not understand this simple lesson that life so clearly teaches us. Everyone in Jerusalem knew where the Dung Gate was and what it was used for. Everyone who used it simply dumped their dung, and returned to the life of the city. No one stayed in the dung pile, no one brought dung back into the city, or built a pile of it within the city walls. No one talked about the dung, or kept memories of it. The dung was a natural normal part of a healthy existence, but they knew what to do with it. Why is it that so many members of the Body of Christ don’t know what to do with their "dung"?

Why do so many believers collect their "dung" instead of carrying it out of the "dung gate"? Why do they insist on keeping their bitterness, resentment, and offences as a part of their lives? Why do they allow the disappointments and hurts that are common to life to infect them with their deadly poison? Why do they spend time talking about their "dung," calling people on the phone and sharing it with as many as will listen to them? Why do others sit there and let them throw their "dung" on them? Why do people sit around and talk about all the problems in the church and how so many people have failed them? Some do it because it gives them a convenient excuse for their disobedience to the Word. Rather than getting rid of it, they use it to justify their lifestyle and attitudes. Some people don’t want to be healed or healthy; they like being sick or weak. It gives them a ready excuse for their sin.

It is amazing to me how often believers get together and let everyone pile their "dung" into one big pile so that everyone can stare at the huge mound and exclaim how much "dung" there is and how "nasty the pile looks and smells." They share their "dung" stories, retelling once again how much "dung" they have collected over the years, and how really offensive its stench is. Even more amazing is how many people really want to hear about it, asking if there is any more "dung" that they can see, as if what they have is not enough. It is sad how many people only want to hear negative things and are only interested in the sins or failings of others.

Still others want to meditate on their pile of "dung." They spend lots of time thinking about their hurts and the things that others did and said. They should use that time to pray for those who hurt them (Matthew 5:44) and receive from the Lord His grace and love, His healing and mercy. Instead they choose to meditate on the "dung," filling their hearts with bitterness and resentment. We know that they are thinking about the "dung" because that is what they talk about. People who spend time thinking about the Lord and positive things talk about the Lord and positive things.

There are the people who refuse to let the "dung" go out of the church. They do not accept others’ repentance; they do not forgive or forget. They go out to the "dung pile" and bring it back inside the church because they do not want anyone to forget about it. They want to memorialize the "dung," and talk about it at every opportunity, so that everyone will know what happened. Some people have ten, twenty, or thirty year old "dung" stored in their lives and are quick to give you a sample of it whenever they get the opportunity. You might meet them for the first time and they will tell you about something that happened to them many years ago. "Look here," they say, "let me show you some thirty year old ‘dung.’ What do you think of that, have you ever seen such old ‘dung.’ Isn’t it terrible what happened to me?" Some people have had serious poison in their hearts for a very long time, and their lives show it.

Then there are the people who can’t stand it if you are not covered in some "dung." They feel better, or feel justified for their attitudes or behavior, if they throw some on you and get you to agree with them. Did you ever get a phone call that starts, "Have you heard about what happened in such and such church? Did you hear about so and so?" What they are really saying is "Let me throw some ‘dung’ at you." That’s what I call a "dung" call, from a "dung" thrower. Some people have actually become so spiritually defiled that they think they have a "motorized manure-spreading ministry." They have dedicated their lives to infecting as many people as they possibly can. Have you ever been with someone and felt defiled by their conversation, or read a book, or heard a tape and felt similarly defiled? Perhaps now you know why. It is not a very pleasant picture, but one that needs to be seen for what it is.

Every day your healthy physical body produces waste products, and if you are healthy, your body will excrete it. If you start having problems getting rid of your own wastes, you feel it. You need to do something to keep yourself free from your own poisons. In the same manner everyday the Body of Christ produces some "dung" that has to be taken out the "dung gate." Everyday we must repent, we must forgive, we must determine to forget. Everyday the "dung" has to be taken out of the city and left there. This includes forgiving yourself. There are many people who are being poisoned by their own unforgiveness for their own selves. This is a very important and sometimes easily overlooked point. Some people find it easy to forgive others but hard to forgive themselves for their own failings. We must not fall prey to this trick. This same "dung" will poison you just like any other kind of unforgiveness.

One of the characterizations the Bible uses to describe satan is "Beelzebub" (Luke 11:18). This comes from a Hebrew word that means "lord of the flies." Demons are like flies, and flies love "dung." They feed on it, just like demons feed on our negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes. That is why they love to provoke these thoughts and feelings in our lives. It gives them access to our minds and hearts. Once they have that access, they then try to exacerbate these thoughts and feelings in an attempt to exaggerate them and create greater problems than actually exist. By constantly ridding ourselves of the "dung," we are making it that much harder for demons to access our lives. There is much less to attract them to us in the first place and much less for them to attach themselves to. Cleanliness and purity don’t smell good to demons!

We should refuse to fellowship with "dung-talkers" or "manure-spreaders." They are the ones always talking about the failings of others. They are always gossiping about someone else’s sin or how they got hurt. When they begin to talk about their own sin, and repent of it, they are beginning to get rid of their own "dung," and are on the way to spiritual restoration and health. Remember that it is healthy relationships that create "dung." It is natural for healthy relationships in the Body of Christ to create "dung" as the normal process of spiritual growth and maturity. Difficulties, problems, disappointments, offenses, and such are all normal parts of healthy relationships. They are part of life. How we deal with them, how we deal with the "dung" that our relationships create will determine how healthy and strong our spiritual lives will be.

When we make the mistake of thinking that the creation of "dung," the difficulties encountered and produced in all relationships, is somehow wrong or a problem, or even unhealthy, we can choose to avoid relationships in the Body of Christ altogether. This is a major mistake--and a major victory for your enemy. When we isolate ourselves, we rob ourselves of one of God’s primary strategies for working Christ-likeness into our souls. We think that it is okay just to "go to church." "After all," we tell ourselves, "people will just give me problems, and I don’t want any more problems, I don’t want to get hurt any more." This kind of thinking is spiritual poison. It comes from being "constipated." If you are thinking this way, you need a spiritual laxative! Your spiritual constipation is poisoning you. Your soul needs to have the "dung" of negative thoughts, feelings and memories flushed out. The "waste products" of your relationship with the Lord, and the members of His body, must go out the "dung gate." Then you can return to the "city of Jerusalem," healthy and ready for life. You return to active participation in the Body of Christ, ready for the next level of your calling. You return as a stronger disciple: ready, willing, and able to function as you were intended. You have learned a valuable lesson that will last a lifetime. You have learned how to deal with the "dung" that is constantly being created. You are able to enter into new and deeper levels of relationship with God and with His Body. You are able to function in a more mature way because you know how to take the "dung" out the gate and leave it there.

When we get rid of our "dung," we are able to return to the "city," to those healthy relationships in the Body of Christ where we find fresh grace and love from the Head as He ministers to us. We are then in a place where old sick relationships can be dealt with from a positive "dung-free" attitude. Where repentance and forgiveness flow, we can look for ways to bring healing to the relationship. Those who hurt us are not treated with distain but with a necessary caution that tests the fruits of repentance. It is true that some relationships never get restored to former levels of trust, but the hurts from those relationships can be healed, the "dung" removed, and fresh grace for new relationships received.

We can find old relationships renewed, or new relationships established, because we are in a place of cleansing that allows the Holy Spirit to change us and enable us to grow so that we can develop new and deeper relationships. This is the result of forgiving and forgetting. We are in a place where we trust the Lord to establish "nutritious" relationships with other members of the Body of Christ. We do not allow old hurts to control us. We get rid of the "dung" that was produced and are ready to move on to new relationships that can prove to be very rich sources of spiritual nourishment for our lives.

This process of healthy relationships creating "dung"--and then dumping the "dung" and returning for new levels of relationship--is a central part of our maturing as believers. We grow as disciples because of this process. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness there is a fresh provision of "manna" available to us every day. This manna represents the fresh grace and every other provision of the Lord that we need to keep our spiritual life flushed clean and able to function in a normal healthy way. We grow in Christ-likeness because we learn how to forgive and forget and press on in our pursuit of the Lord and His purposes. We meet new people, develop new relationships get new sources of nutrition, and create new "dung". We get rid of the "dung" and return for new encounters. Each time we repeat the process, we grow a little more. Just like our physical body takes in the natural nutrition necessary for health, so our "spirit man" takes in spiritual sustenance necessary for health and growth. Any future "dung" that is created is dismissed easily, and our relationships in the Body of Christ produce the kind of life that God always intended.

The Dung Gate is always open. Are you using it?

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