In His Image Part 2

In my last post I referenced being made in His image as Yahweh’s image bearers and I referenced capacity. That is what I want to focus on here – capacity. We are told the following in scripture.

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37–40 (NKJV)

Here Jesus is quoting from a combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and telling us what we are called to do with the capacity we have been given.

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 (NKJV)

            Jesus’ instruction here is wholistic and not a new command for His hearers. They were familiar with the exhortation, as I am sure we are as well. We too have a responsibility and calling to love Yahweh with all of our being. Sadly, one of the neglected aspects in the broader evangelical church is the mind. We can be passionate about worship, that is enjoyable. We can express love with our body in activities like worship and service. We exercise our will in these activities. Yet we are also called to love Him with our mind.   

Loving Yahweh with our mind is something that Paul stressed and said that as believers it is key in our spiritual growth and development.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1–2 (NKJV)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

A note here for those of you who may be inclined to do some research, the Greek words for mind in Matthew 22 and Romans 12 are not the same word, (dianoia and nous respectively), as Matthew and Paul were different writers, dianoia and nous are however synonyms and both refer to our mind, understanding or disposition. Now back to what Paul is teaching us. We are to present our bodies, our physical faculties and attributes to God. I provided two translations for the following reason. While ‘reasonable service’ in the NKJV is the more literal rendering, many translators believe the intended meaning is what we have in the ESV, ‘spiritual worship.’ Putting the two ideas together, Paul is saying here that presenting our bodies simply makes sense as an act of worship. He then informs us that the use of our body will undergo a transformation when our mind is renewed.

            Paul’s idea of the importance of our minds is not new. In the Old Testament we have Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes referred to as ‘wisdom literature.’ There are many exhortations to thinking throughout scripture and if we never had people who valued the use of their minds in the service of God, we would not have a bible or the scholarly work on the original languages and the resulting translations we have today.  

            We can thus conclude that not only are our mental capacities a gift from Yahweh, He wants us to use them in His service. This means understanding His word, understanding what the gospel message is and how to present it. It means being willing to think deeply about important spiritual and cultural matters. This is particularly relevant when our present culture tends to elevate feeling over thinking in engaging in many types of ‘unreasonable service’ in the things they worship. Which is not what we as the church should be either modeling or following.

            To take the place God has designed for us in our culture we need to use our minds to glorify Him in our words and actions. He wants us to represent, or re-present, Him well and that includes accepting our responsibility as image bearers to use our intellectual capacity well in the furtherance of His kingdom and for His glory, whatever our vocation and calling in life.

            A final note. My purpose here is encouragement not guilt. As I pointed out at the beginning, He wants each of us to use our minds based on the capacity He has given us. For me that means constantly reading and researching and seeking to understand theological and spiritual truth. For others it may mean meditating on a particular verse or passage of scripture for an extended period of time. We are not all called to teach, we are all called to learn.

In His Image Part 1

Scripture tells as that we are made in the image of God and have authority or dominion over material creation.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26–27 (NKJV)

We have two words, image and likeness. Now whatever else this passage means; it does not mean that we physically look like God because He is spirit (John 4:24). It does mean that we are His image bearers.

1 This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. 3 And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. Genesis 5:1–3 (NKJV)

6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. Genesis 9:6 (NKJV)

Through Moses, Yahweh affirms the importance of us being made in His image and likeness both at creation and after the fall in the garden.

           Given that it isn’t about physical image and likeness we need to dig a bit into what it does mean, then look at how we apply this reality in our day to day lives. I confess, historically I looked at the idea of being Yahweh’s image bearer in terms of things like intelligence, rationality and similar attributes. These all obviously come from Yahweh, but what about the fertilized egg in the womb? If these ideas are true, they are only potentially possible at this point in life so the fertilized egg would not be made in His image. While I don’t believe that to be true, it does cause us to dig a little deeper into what image actually means. After all, if I am made in His image and as a result of some accident, I am brain dead in a coma am I now no longer made in His image?   

           We may understand our role as image bearers better if instead of looking at intelligence or our ability to communicate, we recognize ourselves as His representatives. Adam and Eve’s role in terms of dominion was as representatives of Yahweh on earth. Bearing Yahweh’s image is about responsibility not capacity. It is what we are as humanity. Thus, the emerging child in the womb and the dying elderly person carry this same responsibility, to be carried out according to their capacity. My grandson is nearing two. He is not responsible to drive his parents to work. He is however an image bearer of Yahweh and as his capacity to exercise that responsibility grows so too does his responsibility to exercise it wisely.

            I think this is reflected in Matthew 6.

9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9–10 (NKJV)

To understand how this applies to being image bearers we need to understand the role of angels in the heavenly realm. We are His image bearers on earth, created to do His bidding and exercise His dominion here. As we see in scripture, angels have that function in the spirit realm.

20 Bless the Lord, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. Psalm 103:20 (NKJV)

When we understand that image bearing involves responsibility first and the exercise of it is tied to capacity we can understand ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ The angels don’t debate Yahweh’s will or go on strike, they heed His commands as they bear His image in the spirit realm. When we pray ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ we are to do the same, carry out His will. I think many of us expect to see the conditions on earth as they are in heaven, which will only happen when His kingdom is fully consummated here. In the interim, I think what we are really praying for is His people to walk in obedience and carry out His will, seeing His kingdom manifest ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’

            Knowing this, let’s go do that.

PS There is a growing promotion and acceptance of theistic evolution in the church. This idea is at odds with scripture as it teaches that some type of humanoid eventually became human but scripture teaches that we were created in His image and animals were not. It also fails science and observation, but while I have researched these ideas, they are not my area of expertise.

How Worldviews Shift – Part 4

I close this series looking at what is generally the neglected aspect of evangelical faith, orthopraxy. The word ortho means right, straight, upright or correct. The orthodontist straightens teeth. As can be seen in the verses below, Jesus seeks to do the same; straightening, setting things in right order, making crooked places straight.

4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; Isaiah 40:4 (NKJV)

2 ‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. Isaiah 45:2 (NKJV)

4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke 3:4–6 (NKJV)

The ministry of John the Baptist was one aspect of making things straight. He prepared people for Jesus ministry by calling them to repentance, a change of mind and heart, that led to a change in behaviour, as John put it in the first phrase of Luke 3:8, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Jesus continued this. His charter for how to behave under the authority of the kingdom of God is found in Matthew 5-7, what we refer to as The Sermon on the Mount.

Theologically and practically, this enters our lives when we embrace both of the ‘orthos’ that we have in the church – orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthpraxy (right practice or behaviour). In general, as the church, we are quite good at ensuring at least some level of alignment with orthodoxy, not so much orthopraxy. So here is a way we can each do our own brief self assessment.

I closed my last post with a worldview test we could take, a test about orthodoxy, believing the right things. That is important, but if our right beliefs don’t also produce right behaviour there is something deficient in our beliefs, or in how we view the need to integrate them into our lives. Thus, here is a simple test of orthopraxy, right behaviour followed by some brief worldview options to reflect on. I have removed the rating scale so you can simply use each statement as a reflective question.

  • I give regularly to support the ministry of the church.
  • I regularly read the Bible and desire to align my behavior with what it says.
  • I regularly pray for myself, my family and others.
  • I have a sense of what Jesus has called me to do in my daily life and seek to be faithful to His call.
  • I regularly speak to others about my faith and the importance of knowing Jesus.

If we engage in all of these things we are engaging in a measure of orthopraxy. Lastly, I offer a reflective piece on different worldview options.

  • I believe in what I can see, feel and touch. These things are what are truly real.
  • I believe there are influences beyond what we can see, feel and touch that have an effect on my behavior and that of others.
  • I believe that truth is truth no matter where I am in the world and that I am objective in what I believe.  
  • I believe that my life experiences and culture give me my truth and you have your truth.
  • I believe that while my experience and perspective is subjective and different than yours that truth is objective and can be known.

As you consider these statements which do you see as scriptural? What leads you to believe that? Here are my answers.  

  • The first statement reflects materialism.
  • The second statement reflects a scriptural worldview at best and a least a belief in an unseen or spiritual realm.
  • The third statement reflects a scriptural worldview.
  • The fourth statement reflects post modernism.
  • The fifth statement reflects a scriptural worldview.

How Worldviews Shift – Part 3

            In my last post I noted that I would look at the process in personally shifting our worldviews. While Peter’s worldview shift required a dramatic intervention, as did Paul’s initial change, his ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, they needn’t be that dramatic or intense. Paul and Peter’s were thrust upon them. I suggest we embrace the option of choosing ours and here I lay out how.

            As I highlighted in my worldview book, our tendency is to ‘think with rather than about our worldview.’ Essentially, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know.’ While that is obvious, moving beyond it requires intention and effort on our part. I am going to go a bit deeper than we usually do in normal discourse to highlight this issue. Presently in our Western culture there is a tendency to highlight feelings over facts. The absurdity of this can be seen in the sadly popular idea of ‘speaking our truth.’ Truth is something that coheres with reality but we have undergone a cultural shift where many have relabelled their experiences and perspectives as ‘truth.’ The precursor to this was the idea ‘that may be true for you but it’s not true for me.’ Perspectives have been labeled truth, which is a falsehood. We may believe a falsehood to be true but that won’t magically make it so.

            In the cultural quagmire that we find ourselves in it can be difficult to discern the right road and recognize the impact our culture has on shaping our worldview. To engage in thinking about our worldview we begin looking at the ideas of presuppositions and plausibility structures. Presuppositions are part of our worldview, ideas that we hold to be true. Plausibility structures are ideas we hold about what is possible or probable. Here are scriptural examples of both presuppositions and plausibility structures. We begin with Paul and then move to a distraught father.

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3–6 (NKJV)

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23–24 (NKJV)

Paul believed that in persecuting the Christians he was doing God a favour when in fact his presupposition, what he held to be true, was the opposite of reality. He was even daily praying to the one he was persecuting! This is an example of someone believing something to be true that was in fact false. The belief system Paul was persecuting was in fact the solution, not the problem he believed it to be. The distraught father held that it was plausible for healing to take place, he just needed to see it happen for his son to shift from the plausible to the actual.

            In both cases a worldview shift took place. Personally, I have gone through many over the years. I believe that is because of two factors. One, I have pursued truth and understanding in and of the scriptures. Two, I am open to being wrong. I used to tell my staff at work to feel free to challenge my thinking because I had no illusion that I was right all the time. Many did and collectively it led to better decisions. Yet, this wasn’t always the case, when I was younger, I used to believe that there was the way I did things then a number of wrong ways!

            The shift for me was a combination of life experience and reflection. Which brings us to how we shift our worldviews. Paul didn’t recognize that his worldview was wrong until confronted by a reality he was denying. Yet had he reflected and studied the scriptures with an open rather than an angry heart (Acts 9:1-2) he may not have needed to be confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, he could have had the same experience as the Bereans he later shared the gospel with.

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:10–12 (NKJV)

            If we want to align our worldview with the view of scripture, which should be what we all desire, then we need to take the time and reflect on what the scriptures teach. For my worldview book I developed a Worldview Assessment Tool with a rating scale so we could do just that. I won’t reproduce all of it here, however the questions below are a useful tool for our own reflection and assessment. I introduced the idea with a couple of reflective questions followed by a statement of faith and some further questions to assess how we practice and live out our worldview. I encourage you to set aside a bit of time and go through this process. If you find that you need to better align your worldview with scripture, I encourage you to put forth the effort to do so. Keep in mind that part of your worldview is the presuppositions you hold (for example, do you believe the scriptures are your guide for faith and practice?) and your plausibility structures (do you believe it is possible to live by scriptural values?) that affect your choices. We begin here with two reflective questions.

  • Have we chosen our worldview and values or absorbed them?
  • Are we drinking from the cup of the Lord or the cup of our culture? 

Below is a generic Evangelical Statement of Faith from the National Association of Evangelicals.  

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Statement of Faith

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.[i]

Reflective Questions regarding the NAE statement that can be used by an individual or discussed in a group.

1) Do you believe these statements to be true?

2) If you answered yes, is there a gap between your beliefs and behaviour compared to one or more of the statements in the Statement of Faith?

3) If there is a gap, do you want to close this gap?

4) If you answered yes to 3

A) What do you need to let go of and leave behind?

B) What steps do you need to take?

C) What will it look like when you have succeeded?

Take some time and reflect, imagine the gap has been closed, now list the steps you took to close it.

[i] Accessed February 29, 2020

How Worldviews Shift – Part 2

            Peter’s worldview shift was comprised of three events. The first was his vision, the second the visitors who confirmed his vision and last the outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles as Peter shared the gospel. As previously noted, even though Jesus instructed all of the apostles to preach the gospel to everyone everywhere, their worldview filter basically said, ‘the Jews everywhere.’ The Jews in general did not mingle with Gentiles, particularly in spiritual/religious matters, as they considered them unclean. Thus, Peter who was a religious and cultural Jew, stilled followed the Mosaic dietary laws, as reflected in his response to Jesus in his vision, and kept himself separate from Gentiles.  

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. 17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. Acts 10:9–17 (NKJV)

Applying the common process of Revelation, Interpretation and Application, we will look at what happened to Peter. The revelation was the vision he saw while in a trance. It was repeated three times for emphasis. Peter was adamant that as an observant Jew he had never eaten any of the unclean animals on the sheet. The Lord said that he was not to call common or unclean what He had cleansed. Peter then tried to puzzle out the interpretation.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” Acts 10:19–20 (NKJV)

Here we have a vision with an event repeated three times and as Peter begins to think about it three men arrive at the door, not a coincidence, particularly given that they were three unclean Gentiles. The Spirit told Peter they were there and he was to go with them. When they shared their story and told Peter of the angel visiting Cornelius, he invited them in as guests and they spent the night (Acts 10:20-23). Peter now had the interpretation and application of his vision. He was to fellowship with these Gentiles and to go and meet with Cornelius and company. Peter described it this way.

28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28 (NKJV)

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34–35 (NKJV)

            As we reflect on these events it is obvious that Peter went through a worldview shift. His interpretive lens changed and he now saw the Gentiles as potential recipients of the gospel. He understood that his vision was about fellowship with Gentiles not forbidden food.  

            Could things have turned out differently? Potentially if Peter had not made the shift that he had. Granted, it was a pretty dramatic series of events that created this shift but Peter had seen many things that shifted his worldview while walking with Jesus. This was the latest and a crucial one in the spread of the gospel. These shifts often take time to consolidate, as is evident in later events in Galatians 2:11-17 where Paul publicly rebuked Peter for breaking fellowship with Gentile believers. Yet over time Peter became consistent in his faith as we read of no further issues and we find Peter defending Gentile inclusion at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:6-11.

In my next post we will look change our focus and look at the process of personally shifting our worldview.

How Worldviews Shift: Part 1

There is a lot of talk these days about worldview. While the term has come into common use, two things are generally missing. First, it is used but generally as a soundbite, and rarely if ever defined in social media and newscasts. Second, should we engage further in understanding worldview in general, and ours in particular, do we know how to change it if we so desire? That is a significant missing ingredient. I wrote a book on the subject of worldview (Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture) where I did both, I defined it and I discussed how we could change ours, should we so desire. In this series I will delve into that change process.

            We begin with a definition followed by a scriptural example of a worldview issue. There are a number of definitions of worldview, some simple, and others very complicated. I prefer the simple and direct so in my book I defined Worldview as, “The lens through which we view and interpret reality.” The definition is simple and clear and can be applied to a variety of faiths or belief systems. It simply acknowledges what we all implicitly do. We hold and use a mental model that both influences what we see, and how we interpret what we see.

            Having said that, we now turn to the practical in understanding the impact of the worldviews we hold. Here is an example from scripture of how our worldview influences our behaviour. Just prior to His ascension Jesus provided some specific instructions.

8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

This directive from Jesus aligned with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) where they were directed to take the gospel to every nation/nationality. Remember the same group heard both directives from Jesus.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus had promised the enduement of power from the Spirit, which happened on the day of Pentecost. He told them that following this empowerment they were then to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. However, when we read the first few chapters of Acts, we see how their worldview affected their hearing. In essence Jesus told them to begin at Jerusalem and take the gospel from there to everyone everywhere. However, the lens through which they interpreted and viewed reality, their worldview, was that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sand that the gospel was for the Jews, with a small exception for the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-8), who were half Jewish. So they only shared it with the Jewish community.

            Even following the breakthrough in Samaria, contrary to Jesus’ direction, the gospel wasn’t taken to the Gentiles at that point in time. It took a significant worldview shift on the part of Peter for the gospel to go to the Gentiles. It is in Acts that we discover what brought about this worldview shift. In Acts 10:1-48 the Lord first spoke to Cornelius through an angel, then to Peter in a vision. When Peter began to speak at Cornelius’ house part of what he shared was the following.

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all –37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: Acts 10:34–37 (NKJV)

In verse 37 Peter points out that Cornelius already knew the gospel. Yet because Cornelius also had a worldview issue, he knew the gospel, but based on the practice of the followers he didn’t know it was available to he and other Gentiles! This was contrary to what Jesus directed.

            In spite of clear instructions, overcoming worldview blindness required an angelic visitation and a God given vision before the worldview of Peter and others was shifted. It is important to note here that in his incorrect worldview Peter believed he was carrying out what Jesus had instructed. Thus, in the next part of this series we will dig a little deeper into what created the shift for Peter and how we can create worldview shifts in our own lives.

His Kingdom

The gospel, the good news of the kingdom, is the extension of the rule and reign of the kingdom to disrupt, shift and transform culture so that the love, mercy and justice of God are on display. It is more than simply a message about salvation. Jesus shared a number of parables about the kingdom and how it functions. Yet prior to looking at the New Testament we begin with an Old Testament description of how the kingdom in will function.

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Daniel 2:34 (NKJV)

44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Daniel 2:44 (NKJV)

For context, this was Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue. Daniel explained that the statue represented a series of earthly kingdoms but said that the stone “cut out without hands’ would break the power of these other kingdoms. Later in his explanation Daniel clarified that this stone is the kingdom that God would set up.

What Daniel knew was that this would take place, what He didn’t know was that this future king would be born to a young virgin, raised in Nazareth and crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem. We know from scripture that there will be an ultimate consummation of this coming kingdom. We see some of this expressed in the following scriptures, beginning with the first parable that Jesus taught.

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:3–9 (NKJV)

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? Mark 4:13 (NKJV)

There are two important aspects of this parable. The first is that the seed is good. The fruitfulness and ultimate harvest depend on the condition of the soil the seed is sown into. We know from Matthew 13:19 that the seed is the message of the kingdom. We find in Luke that the soil is our heart and we are responsible for the condition of our hearts.

15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)

Another aspect of the kingdom is that while His kingdom will be fully consummated, the time leading up to this is a time where the kingdom grows. We see that in the parables.   

31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” 33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:31–33 (NKJV)

In both of these parables we see that in the earth the kingdom of heaven/God (the phrases are interchangeable in the gospels) starts small and then begins growing and continues to grow. When we move forward to Revelation we see John’s vision of the consummation.

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1–2 (NKJV)

What we learn from this final piece regarding the kingdom is that when the tree is fully grown and the leaven has fully done its work, the kingdom will be revealed in fullness, beauty and glory. All this time prior to it being revealed it was growing, being built and being prepared to be revealed.

            We can thus be confident that no matter how things look from the perspective of earth, this kingdom is and has been actively growing in the earth and will one day be revealed in fullness. Our present task is to reflect it well in how we live our lives. We are then doing our part to build this growing heavenly city that will one day be revealed in glory.

His kingdom is like the image below. Cracks in the world are evident and part of the tree has been revealed. At a point in time the tree will be fully revealed as the cracks break fully open.

Hope Resurrected

            As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday let’s us turn to the scriptures in hope. In doing so I first want to reflect on the crucifixion. Obviously, there would have been no resurrection without Jesus sacrificial death. His body died that day on the cross. He was the sacrificial lamb on our behalf (1 Peter 1:17-21, Revelation 13:8). However, a number of other things died as well. The hopes and dreams of His followers died. Whether that was ruling and reigning with Jesus over Rome, or as in the case of Mary, simply being with Him, those hopes perished. We will come back to this.

Now, while we generally turn to the gospels for the resurrection, I am looking at Romans. It is in the letters of the New Testament that we see the impact of the resurrection. Paul made some interesting statements that highlight this fact.

22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22–25 (NKJV)

Here is the Greek word that we translate as justification – δικαίωσις dikaiōsis; the act of pronouncing righteous, acquittal: – justification (2).[1]

The context here is Paul explaining how Abraham was treated as righteous by Yahweh due to his faith. Righteousness was accounted, or put to his account. Paul then says righteousness is charged to our account as well when we embrace Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. He then makes an interesting statement. Jesus was ‘delivered up because of our offenses.’ Here he is referring to the crucifixion. Jesus’ sacrifice was to pay the penalty for our sins. The next statement is even more interesting. Paul says Jesus was ‘raised because of our justification.’ Justification is a legal term and linked to righteousness. We are declared righteous because the Father is legally justified in doing so due to Jesus’ sacrifice. The efficacy of Jesus sacrifice was validated by the resurrection.

           This is why earlier in Romans Paul presented the gospel as a revelation of the righteousness of God.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16–17 (NKJV)

Here is the Greek word that we translate as righteousness – δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē; from 1342; righteousness, justice: – right (1), righteousness (90).[2]

The gospel, the good news is that God is in fact just and right in extending salvation to us because of what Jesus accomplished.

            Now we come back to other things that have died. In Romans 4 Paul uses Abraham’s faith to point to the crucifixion and resurrection so we need to look at what Abraham believed and then experienced. The context was Abraham and Sarah not having a child. Paul tells us that at this point in their lives the ability to conceive a child had died in both of them. Yet, by faith it was restored, resurrected if you will! As we reflect on that and the impact of Jesus resurrection, I think we need to go beyond the legal aspects of righteousness and justification. I believe we need to be like Abraham and look full in the face of hopes and dreams that have died and then look to the lamb to believe for their resurrection! Paul encourages us to do with these words.

32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 (NKJV)

Let’s look to the Lamb.

Look to the Lamb song

Jesus Culture, Lindy Cofer, Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Look To The Lamb (Official Visualizer) – Bing video

[1] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

[2] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

A Functioning Body Part 5

            In this concluding post I come back to some key verses in Ephesians and Colossians. Paul says in Ephesians that everything will ultimately be summed up in Christ. He lays out the goal of the Father.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. Ephesians 1:7–10 (NKJV)

Everything in heaven and earth will reach a conclusion in Jesus. Later in the same chapter (verses 16-23) Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation for believers, praying that our spiritual eyes would be opened to see what our calling is all about and that Jesus is seated in heavenly places far above the spiritual forces we are battling. Paul then informs us that we are seated there with Him.

6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,         Ephesians 2:6 (NKJV)

We are to battle from victory, nor for victory.

            That we are still in a battle is very evident, as Paul notes in Colossians.

27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. 1 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 1:27–2:3 (NKJV)

The ‘them’ in 1:27 is us, the saints. Thematically Paul focuses on both us in Christ and Christ in us, which is what Jesus taught in John 14:20, that He was in the Father and we in Him and He in us. Paul’s battle, his ‘great conflict’ in his prayer, teaching and preaching was to get us to realize these truths and come to maturity, to a full assurance of the reality of that Jesus is both in us and that He is the source of all wisdom and knowledge.    

            If we as the body of Christ are to function as He designed, we need those called as leaders to draw out the gifts and callings in the rest of the body. We need them to create an environment where these gifts can be expressed and we need to realize the Father’s ultimate intention, to sum up everything in Christ. To accomplish these goals, we need an experiential awareness of two things. First, of Christ in us leading and guiding, second that we are in fact seated with Him in heavenly places, operating from a place of assured victory. If we do these things and do them well, we will be a functioning body.

A Functioning Body Part 4

Here I am tying together a couple of aspects in this series. I previously referenced the role of leadership regarding the calling to stir up gifts and equip the rest of the body. I last wrote about how the church can function with the various members of the body functioning when the church gathers. Now we look at an example of what this could look like. Contextually the early church met in homes and the people in general knew one another. The caveat of course is that in places there were new converts each week, which we have historically seen in revival seasons.  

In examining the idea of different people being involved in a service as we see in 1 Corinthians 14 we may wonder how applicable these New Testament (NT) approaches are in a modern congregation. The answer is, very applicable! The large churches get most of the attention but the reality is the majority of churches in North America are congregations of less than 100 people. With some foresight and wise leadership, I believe variations of the NT approach can be used. The key thing is activating the gifts that people inherently carry as followers of Jesus and then making space to see them exercised.

We being with an example of how a smaller group could function. Imagine you have a house church and Bob, Arnold and Ruth are the recognized leaders. You meet and spend some time in worship. As this dies down Bob asks, “Does anyone have a sense of anything the Spirit is saying? Any sense of our next steps?” Sharon responds with, I believer the Lord wants us to gather around the Roberts family and pray for them. Sam pipes up and says, “Yes, Sharon, I was sensing the same thing.” The group gathers and prays for the Roberts family and three members have words of knowledge they receive and share for the Roberts. Ruth says, “What are others sensing?” Zach says the Spirit has been impressing something on his heart about holiness that he feels he is to share with the rest of the group. “That fits for me says Ruth” and Zach shares. After he shares the group weighs what has been shared and examines how it aligns with scripture. Ed jumps up and says he has an important word to share. Arnold and Ruth glance at one another with a look of caution and ask Ed to hold off for a bit as the group needs to return to prayer.

This is a brief example with many elements missing. The role of children, how teachers fit with prophets and numerous other practical issues. It does however provide a flavour of what walking out 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 could look like.

26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 30 But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:26–33 (NKJV)

We now turn to a larger assembly where few hundred people gather in a building on Sunday. During the worship, as is the culture in this group, the gifts of the spirit are evident. Someone gives a message in tongues and someone else gives the interpretation. Someone else starts to give a prophetic word and one of the leaders interrupts from the platform and says, “Please hold that. We first need to weigh and apply what has just been shared.” The previous message is publicly discussed. Later one of the leaders asks if anyone needs prayer and six people raise their hands. Another leader asks those around them to pray for them and to share the outcome with the congregation. Later one of the leaders points out three people in the congregation and says, “I sense the Spirit resting on you. What is happening?” They each share and one receives prayer for an assignment the Lord has given.  

Granted this would be a little different and likely messier than our average Sunday service but also likely much more fruitful. Frankly, most of us don’t need more sermons, we need more engagement and involvement with our fellow believers. When someone says they have something to share a leader can ask both what and how they received it. Was it a sense of Him speaking to their heart, a vision, a verse of scripture or something else. When they share how they received it others can be edified and encouraged. Would you find this more meaningful than most of what happens in a typical meeting or service?

What I am aiming at in this whole series on A Functioning Body is encapsulated in a couple of lines from the song Make Room, because I believe what I have shared is the way Jesus wants to do church with us.

Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Break down the walls of all my religion
Your way is better, Jesus
Your way is better

Make Room as sung by Kim Walker-Smith Bing Videos

[Verse 1]
Here is where I lay it down
Every burden, every crown
This is my surrender
This is my surrender
Here is where I lay it down
Every lie and every doubt
This is my surrender

And I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to
And I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to, oh

[Verse 1]
Here is where I lay it down
Every burden, every crown
This is my surrender
This is my surrender
Here is where I lay it down
Every lie and every doubt
This is my surrender

And I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to, Jesus
And I will make room for You, for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to
Oh I will make room for You, Jesus
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to
Oh I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to, Jesus
Have Your way, have Your way, Jesus, oh
We surrender all, we surrender all, Jesus
Have Your way, Jesus, have Your way, Jesus

Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Break down the walls of all my religion
Your way is better
Oh Your way is better
Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Break down the walls of all my religion
Your way is better, Jesus
Oh Your way is better
Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Break down the walls of all my religion
Your way is better, Jesus
Your way is better
Shake up the ground of all my tradition
Break down the walls of all my religion
Your way is better
Oh Your way is better

And I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to
And I will make room for You
To do whatever You want to
To do whatever You want to, oh

[Verse 2]
Here is where I lay it down
You are all I’m chasing now
This is my surrender
This is my surrender
Here is where I lay it down
You are all I’m chasing now
This is my surrender
This is my surrender