The Glorious Man Part 2

I began by looking at Jesus conception as a Man. What about His glorification? Paul said the following.

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5

Strange as it may seem the one who bridged the gap between God and humanity was a man! I in no way want to diminish Jesus deity. He is the creator of all that is! At the same time we need to look at what scripture teaches about the significance of His humanity in relation to our lives and why Paul focuses on there being a man as the Mediator in heaven.

20  But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (NKJV)

41  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. 42  So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45  And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46  However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 1 Corinthians 15:41-49 (NKJV)

If we reflect on the passages above it becomes clear that everything in creation is about two men, the first man Adam, and the last Adam – Jesus. In the end our eternal destiny is determined by the image we bear. Which Adam are we found in? We are in the first Adam by our natural birth, we can be found in Jesus, the second Adam, by the surrender of our hearts to Him. Back around 1990 I was speaking in a church a said there was only one person getting into heaven Jesus. It created a bit of a stir but is true. While millions will get there He is the only one worthy and we get in by being IN Him and carrying His righteousness. The idea of being IN Christ is a core message in the book of Ephesians.

I invite you to reflect on the significance of being in Him and bearing His image and in my next post I will give some attention to verses 41-44 and there significance for our eternal destiny.

The Glorious Man Part 1

Who is Jesus? I am sure we can all provide answers about Him being fully God and fully man and answers about His virgin birth, role in the Trinity and other aspects. Yet what does that mean? What took place when He stepped from eternity into time and entered and settled into the wall of Mary’s womb? What effect did this have on the Godhead? While He never lost His deity, He set aside the use of it for over three decades. I invite you to meditate on the passage below.   

26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28  And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’

29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30  Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’

34  Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’  35  And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

The Holy Spirit in some way settled upon Mary’s life and an egg in her womb was fertilized and the divine settled into human flesh and began to grow. It is easy to miss this when we celebrate Jesus birth every Christmas season (though He was likely actually born in the fall, not December). Post creation, this was the most significant event to impact humanity outside Jesus death and resurrection. Yet neither would have taken place without this incredible act of humility, favour and grace. In the coming weeks I will delve deeper into the significance of this Glorious Man who still is fully God and fully man and trust we shall learn some things together. For now let us stand in awe at what took place 2,000 years ago.

 

Fire in His Eyes

What do you need to build a house? Where do you start? The building of a structure first requires the laying of a foundation. When it comes to spiritual houses we get the best foundation possible, Jesus (1 Cor. 3:9-11). However, what we take from time into eternity depends on what building material we use on this foundation. How we build is tied to how we invest our time.

A couple of decades ago now Andy Park wrote a song called ‘We Will Ride,’ calling us to join Jesus in His purposes in the earth. The lyrics are at the end of this post. The question for us to consider and hold before Him as we read, is this, ‘Are we riding with Him?’ How much of our time is being directed by Him will tell us how well we are riding.

A good friend stepped from time into eternity on December 10, 2016. She used to say, “If God doesn’t have your wallet He doesn’t have your heart.” I believe that is true yet let me share another idea. There have been efforts made over the years to create a perpetual motion machine. While I think it has been unsuccessful in the realm of engineering and physics it has been very successful in terms of busyness in western culture. The majority of us are always moving about and striving. Rarely taking time to just sit with Him. Perhaps a fulfillment of what Daniel prophetically declared?

4  “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4 (NKJV)

I have said many times over the years that we live in a culture gorged on knowledge and starving for wisdom. So, in this hour I think a concept to add to the wallet one is, “If God doesn’t have your calendar He doesn’t have your heart.”

A good scriptural example of a people who embraced their agenda instead of Jesus agenda were the believers in Corinth. Corinth was a very cosmopolitan city of about 700,000 people famous for its vices. A reading of 1 Corinthians will reveal a group of believers who focused on their agendas, were selfish, and excelled in spiritual gifts. Out of concern for them and seeking to correct their focus Paul warned them about the lives they were building and how it affected their eternal destiny.

11  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13  each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 (NKJV)

The reality is that our agendas, like the Corinthians, are producing wood, hay and straw or gold, silver and precious stones. Paul says that a fire will reveal what building material we have used, what we have invested our lives in. The source of the fire coming to test our lives is revealed in scripture.

11  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. 15  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Revelation 19:11-15 (NKJV)

Jesus will examine our lives and the fire of His gaze will consume all the wood hay and straw so that the gold, silver and precious stones will be revealed. We all have some wood, hay and straw but none of us want to step from time into eternity and discover we have built almost nothing on the foundation He provided. So, how are we responding to His call to ride with Him and take up His agenda? Are we building with precious things in how we use our time?

We Will Ride https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV99E2_7cBc 

He has fire in His eyes and a sword in His hand

And He’s riding a white horse across this land

He has fire in His eyes and a sword in His hand

And He’s riding a white horse across this land

And He’s calling out to you and me

“Will you ride with me?”

He has fire in His eyes and a sword in His hand

And He’s riding a white horse across this land

And He’s calling out to you and me

“Will you ride with me?”

We say, “yes, yes Lord, we will ride with You”

CHORUS:

We say, “yes Lord, we will ride with You

We will stand up and fight

We will ride with the armies of heaven

We’ll be dressed in white, we’ll be dressed in white”

We say, “yes, yes Lord, we will ride”

He has a crown on His head and he carries a scepter in His hand He’s leading the armies across this land

And He’s calling out to you and me

“Will you ride with me?”

We say, “yes, yes Lord

We will ride with You”

That fire in His eyes is His love for His bride

And He’s longing that she be with Him

Right by His side

That fire in His eyes is His burning desire

That His bride be with Him, right by His side

And He’s calling out to us right now,

“Will you ride with me?”

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes Lord, yes Lord

 

 

Great and Mighty Things

I suppose at some point in our lives we would all like to see “Great and mighty things.” This is something that Yahweh promised to Jeremiah.

3  ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)

At first glance this can seem like a promise we can just reach out and claim. However, context is always important. In this case Jeremiah would never see the ‘great and mighty things’ referenced in this verse. It was about the return of a remnant of the nation of Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.

This brings us to something we rarely reference in the Western church. Jeremiah, like most OT prophets, was living for something beyond himself. The tagline I have on my blog and in my home email signature is, “An Eternal Perspective: Living in Time, Preparing for Eternity.” Easy to say, not always so easy to do. Living this way requires regularly stepping back and gaining perspective. Am I willing to invest my life in people and things when I may never see the fruit of them this side of the grave? Yahweh was inviting Jeremiah to stand in the gap and intercede for things he would never see. Doing this requires faith.

This past spring I was in Europe. I remembered hiking up a hillside by the Danube to an old cathedral. Interestingly I think the cathedral could have held the entire population of the town. The main doors were about 10 metres high and the huge pillars about 30 metres high. As impressive as it was the most impressive building I saw was the ornately carved parliament building in Budapest. What is notable about these buildings is that the stone masons who began the work would never see the culmination of their efforts, perhaps their grandchildren would. In the same manner, Jeremiah would never see what he was to intercede for and I think the Holy Spirit regularly invites us to pray into or invest our lives in things that have significance far beyond ourselves. Are we responding and investing in our own ‘great and mighty things?’

 

Prepared Hearts

What do we need to do to have our plans work out? I remember decades ago talking to someone at church who said when his father prayed about a business decision that answer he heard always seemed to fit with what he already wanted to do. Now while the father seemed to do okay in business his son doubted he was always being led by the Lord. So is that how we should spiritually approach practical matters? What about looking at a small slice of Proverbs for some wisdom?

1  The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 2  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. 3  Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. Proverbs 16:1-3 (NKJV)

What can we apply from these three verses? First, rather than preparing our plans we need to prepare our hearts. The word ‘preparations’ is presented as ‘plans’ in some translations. We need to make preparations but then need to offer them up before Yahweh. I think a good commentary on this verse is in Habakkuk.

1  I will stand my watch And set myself on the rampart, And watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Habakkuk 2:1 (NKJV)

Are we open to hearing an answer we weren’t looking for? I think it is wisdom to hold this heart attitude and be open to Jesus redirecting our agenda. After all the next verse is in essence saying, ‘We may think we know how we are doing but Yahweh looks inside and actually knows.’ This means we need to apply verse three. We are to commit what to we doing to Jesus for His direction and in so doing He will settle and establish what is in our hearts.

Simple and practical – not always easy to apply but worth practicing. If you wonder how this works prepare your heart and bring your plans before Him. When You have peace established in your heart regarding a certain direction you are being led by the Holy Spirit. This may happen in minutes, days, weeks or months. The important piece is to commit and hold it before Him until we know and if we don’t know to hold a decision until we do.

The Goodness of God

There is much spoken of the goodness of God in the North American church these days. I suspect some see it as a new revelation. Yet in fact within my lifetime I know it goes back at least decades in the Charismatic movement. It used to be sung almost as a little ditty. “God is good all the time. All the Time God is good.” I have no dispute with the concept, however let us look at the scriptural context and then look at the concept in light of the whole counsel of God, which is always a good practice. Below are the main verses that speak of His goodness.

1  Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Psalm 52:1 (NKJV)

5  Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:5 (NKJV)

4  Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22 (NKJV)

11  Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NKJV)

In addition to God being good we also know He is love (1 Jn. 4:7-8). They are similar concepts and from this perspective we could insert ‘love’ instead of ‘goodness’ in Romans 2:4. However, I will focus on goodness and what His goodness actually means. From what I hear around the body of Christ I think that many of us equate God is good with ‘God is nice.’ That is, He will never do anything to hurt or offend us. If that were the case what do we do with this passage?

1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6  For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Hebrews 12:1-8 (NKJV)

Does this line up the scriptures on His goodness? It does if we better understand Romans 2:4. The primary meaning of the Greek word translated as ‘goodness’ is moral excellence in the first instance and useful morals in the second. They are slight variations of the same Greek word. We don’t talk about morals or moral standards much in our culture but I think we would be better off if we did. As Christians we are called to a high moral standard. This should be a key desire of our hearts. So look at the verse again with these meanings inserted.

4  Or do you despise the riches of His moral excellence, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the useful morals of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

Look at a more recent translation that I think gets it right.

4  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT)

If we put this together and remember Hebrews 12:1-8 we can see that because He is good God seeks to bring us to a place of repentance. When Jesus took a whip and cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (Jn. 2:15-17) was He reflecting the goodness of God? Absolutely. When Peter gave the first sermon in the newly birthed church and accused the crowd of murdering Jesus (Acts. 2:23) and they came under conviction (were cut to the heart) and repented (Acts 2:37-38) was this His goodness on display? Absolutely.

God is good and He loves to bless and honour His children. Yet as Hebrews tells us He also disciplines us when we go astray. If He doesn’t discipline us it is evidence that we aren’t really His children. The danger in equating His goodness with niceness is what I observed in a conference I just attended. The conference was being live streamed around the world and one of the speakers commented on how their spouse was out running and came back saying they were praying and reflecting on how God searches and tries us. The speaker referenced this as being in Psalm 51 and said their spouse thought this meant God was looking for the good/gold in us and the speaker affirmed that interpretation. The problems here are more than one. The first is that the verse isn’t in Psalm 51, though that is not a major issue (see below). The second is that in context it means the opposite of what the speaker said and lastly, none the leaders said anything about it.

23  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

I don’t know if the leaders didn’t recognize what happened or didn’t want to address it but the end result was leaving all those watching with the impression that God just wants to be nice to us. In truth, He wants to be good to us. He wants to bring forth the gold in us. I deeply believe and practice that but if the gold has mud on it then the mud needs to be scrubbed off (not ignored or tolerated) so the gold can be seen. The scrubbing is a manifestation of His goodness as much as His healing us or blessing us in some other way.

So, as we move forward in our walk with Him I pray we encounter His goodness over and over and more deeply reflect His character to those around us. In doing this let us also pray that our understanding of our experience is rooted in His word!

Living from the Inside

David wrote something interesting over two millennia ago.

6  Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Psalm 51:6 (NKJV)

Jesus desires that we live from a place of truth on the inside, the hidden place of the heart. There are two key things in this verse. One, we know what Yahweh desires we live from a place of truth on the inside. The second is that as we turn to Him we find He has committed to making us know wisdom in our spirits, the hidden part. We see this in the verse below.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

We have a popular expression in our culture, ‘That was my inside voice.’ Meaning we have shared what we were actually thinking, often inappropriately. Jesus desires that we live from such a place of truth on the inside that we can freely share our innermost thoughts. Go back to Psalm 51. This was David’s Psalm of repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed in an attempt to hide his sin. Clearly for a season David had a great struggle with lies in his inward parts and demonstrated a lack of wisdom, yet Yahweh knew everything all along. What both Yahweh and David expressed is a desire for congruence between our inward and outward lives.

Paul expressed this desire and the solution. We need to seek His face with a focus on our inner man being strengthened (3:16) and a recognition that the truth is found in Jesus (4:21).

14  For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)

17  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18  having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19  who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NKJV)

We need our minds renewed so that we come to the place that Peter described. While the reference Peter makes is to wives in a husband and wife relationship, as a man I also desire a gentle and quiet spirit. Walking in quiet confidence before Him (Is. 30:15) is a noble pursuit. This is the hidden person of the heart I desire to reflect to those around me.

4  rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NKJV)

Something to Consider

What enabled Daniel to face his circumstances in Babylon? Have you ever considered his circumstances and what enabled him to walk through them? Daniel exuded confidence in Yahweh and wisdom beyond his years when he faced some very difficult decisions. One of the things we know is Daniel read Jeremiah and based on his response, viewed Jeremiah as a legitimate prophet whose words were to be heeded. Based on what Jeremiah had written he knew Israel was to be in Babylon for 70 years.

1  In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans – 2  in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Daniel 9:1-2 (NKJV)

So what did Daniel do with this information? Daniel turned this knowledge into intercession. He took this scripture as a word from Yahweh and presented it before Him in repentance and intercession to see the nation returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Have you ever wondered whether Daniel used any other scriptures for intercession? Look at the passage below.

10  For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:10-11 (NKJV)

This reference to the 70 year return period that we know Daniel read is nestled right alongside the verse that every good charismatic knows. In context the verse is an encouragement to settle and be at home in Babylon because Yahweh has a larger purpose so will look after them there before bringing them back to Jerusalem, their land and true home.

To know one verse meant to know the other and I suspect Daniel used this verse to remind Yahweh of His commitment to look after the Israelites, one of whom was Daniel. So what is the application for us? I don’t believe we can simply take verses out of context and seek to apply them to our lives. However, while the scriptures were not written to us, we weren’t around then, they were written for us and we are responsible to discern how to apply them to our lives.

The Holy Spirit will give or quicken passages to us. I know I have a number, one of which is Isaiah 30:15. He brought this verse to life for me decades ago.

15  For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not, Isaiah 30:15 (NKJV)

The phrase the Holy Spirit has used over and over again to encourage me is this, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” It is an assurance that when I calm my heart before Him I will function out of rest and make wise choices. One that is paired with it is in Proverbs.

33  Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, But what is in the heart of fools is made known. Proverbs 14:33 (NKJV)

The phrase He gave me here is this, “Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding.” When I abide in the place of quiet confidence wisdom rests in me and 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells me that Jesus has been made wisdom unto me so I know in this state Jesus is resting in my heart and my confidence is deepened. So what has He given you from the scriptures to establish your heart in Him? Are you regularly applying it? Do you need to ask Him?

 

 

 

Exercising Discernment Part 4 – His Body

In my last post in this series I will briefly address the role of the body in exercising discernment. This of course requires being rooted in and drawing on the scriptures.

So how does the body work? The first requirement is that we need to be part of one! When we are born again we are made part of His body universal by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). What happens after that depends on how we engage with His body here on earth, our fellow believers. Whether we are meeting regularly with a handful of believers or are part of a large congregation we need to embrace accountability to one another for our walk. The answer to Cain’s question in Genesis, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ is yes. We are responsible for one another. That is a key point of the verse below.

25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV)

A primary purpose of the body being gathered is not simply to listen to sermons, though they are important, it is to get to know one another and exhort and encourage one another in our walks. This requires a minimal level of vulnerability and openness to correction. The scriptures also say,

17  As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

If you use a file to sharpen a saw it takes off the rough edges. We all start our walk with Jesus with rough edges. A major function of His body is the removal of those rough edges. Sometimes there is a bit of screeching and squealing as metal pieces rub together! Yet the goal is clear.

15  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – Ephesians 4:15 (NKJV)

He has called us to maturity and this requires a mutual submission to one another and a corporate discernment.

29  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. 1 Corinthians 14:29 (NKJV)

21  submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV)

So, let us get to know and encourage and challenge one another to grow in Jesus. Jesus is the head and we are the body. If we aren’t properly connected to His body we can never be rightly connected to Jesus as head.  Our Father’s goal is to use everything in our life to shape us to look like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29). Shouldn’t that be ours as well?

 

 

Exercising Discernment Part 3 – Ancient History?

How much do we value and honour our past? What can we learn from it? There is the expression, ‘Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ Do we believe it? How many of us know that October 31 is the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the little church in Wittenberg? A spark that started the fire that became the great conflagration known as The Reformation.

One reason history is important is simply because it led to the present. Here is my brief plug for at least a rudimentary grasp of church history. A look at a couple of historic creeds as aids to discernment. The reason for the creeds is that many of the beliefs we hold to be true as evangelicals as more implicit than explicit in the scriptures. An example is the Trinity. There is no verse that clearly states the Father, Son and Spirit are eternally three beings in one God. The Athanasian Creed highlights this truth, among many others. So reflect on the two ancient creeds below that have shaped and informed our present.

The Apostles Creed (4th century, this was not written by the early apostles, it is a summary of what they taught)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Athanasian Creed (6th Century)

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.

Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence.

For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another.

But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.

The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated.

The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.

The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal.

And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being.

So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty.

Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being.

Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.

Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord.

Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.

The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone.

The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.

Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other.

So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity.

Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the trinity.

But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and human, equally.

He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity.

Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one.

He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself.

He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person.

For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human.

He suffered for our salvation; he descended to hell; he arose from the dead; he ascended to heaven; he is seated at the Father’s right hand; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life,  and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

In applying the creeds as discernment tools think of church history from the Reformation forward. While there have been disputes over the form of baptism, the role of spiritual gifts or the sacraments, all of these positons can be subsumed under these creeds. As someone who believes in and practices spiritual gifts such as prophetic words/words of knowledge, I can disagree with the cessationist understanding of scripture (and I strongly do. ‘A man with an experience has no mercy for a man with an argument.’), yet still find common ground with cessationist believers in these creeds.

So while there are many things we can divide over, we can find a major source of unity in understanding our shared history and perhaps come to a shared future in focusing on the truths in these creeds and honour those who struggled to define and articulate these truths while defending the historic church against a variety of heresies.

As a side note, the term catholic means ‘universal’ or ‘all embracing’ and in the context of this creeds refers to the universal church rooted in the doctrine of the early apostles not the Roman Catholic church. My own experience is that while I have found true believers in the Roman Catholic church, in researching Roman Catholic doctrine there are many teachings that are not only not supported by scripture, they are often taught in direct opposition to scripture. Another reason to know something of church history.

So, leave that aside and meditate on the creeds above and the implications in our walk with Jesus.