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.

Exercising Discernment Part 2 – Deeper Waters

I said I would look further at the role of the scriptures, knowing how to interpret them, church history and the importance of being rooted in His family as aids to discernment. I will start by looking at two other river passages that I think connect to the river of Psalm 46. This passage can address the first two points above. The best commentary on scripture, is in fact the scriptures. As someone has said, ‘The scriptures can shed a lot of light on our commentaries.’ We need to look at context, history and parallel or related passages to help us in discerning focus and purpose.

So look at the connection in the scriptures regarding the river of life in the two passages below.

1  Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2  He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. 3  And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4  Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5  Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. Ezekiel 47:1-5 (NKJV)

1  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5  There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 (NKJV)

The encounters of Ezekiel and John, both vivid visions, describe His river, one flowing from the temple (OT) and one flowing from the throne (NT). It would be a bit of stretch to say these were different heavenly rivers. Rather it is scripturally safer to say they are the same river viewed from different vantage points in both history and geography. We can see that His river brings life and healing and increases in depth as it moves out from His throne. This increase is similar to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision referring to an increasing everlasting kingdom (Daniel 2:44-45) and Isaiah’s of the Messiah’s government and authority that shall continue to increase in the earth (Is. 9:6-7).

These references to His river can connect back to the river of Psalm 46, which is also not a natural river. However, where else do we find an explicit reference to His river that speaks clearly to our calling.

37  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NKJV)

Our invitation is to drink deeply of Jesus so His river of life flows through us in increasing measure and changes the environment around us.

Drink deeply.

In my next post I will look at one of the key creeds in church history as a discernment tool.

Exercising Discernment Part 1 – The Right River

4  There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. Psalm 46:4 (NKJV)

Have you ever been on a mountain and observed how different little streams and tributaries flow together to become a river, or stood looking up a mountain seeing water coming from various places merging into one larger stream? As the volume of water increases so too does the depth and breadth of the river. At the same time some small streams diverge off and simply disappear into the mountainside as they end. Ultimately what provides water to all of the communities downstream from mountainous and glacial areas is the rivers that form from the merging streams in these areas.

Let me illustrate further. My wife and I have spent a lot of time in Invermere BC. Twenty minutes south the Columbia River begins and flows north through Invermere, then Radium, up north past Golden, then turns and heads south and eventually west out into the Pacific Ocean through Oregon. It is referred to as the Mighty Columbia. Now if you were to canoe or kayak between Invermere and Radium and someone told you that you were on the ‘Mighty Columbia’ you might say, ‘really?’ After all in places it is about 15 metres wide and you can often touch the bottom with your paddle. So what makes it mighty? All the tributaries that feed it before it reaches the Pacific Ocean and provides water and life to so many communities as it journeys. For example Lake Okanogan, which is 135 kilometres long and 4-5 kilometres wide in places, flows into it.

What does this have to do with His river as expressed in Psalm 46? When we see or understand something or some teacher brings along a new ‘revelation’ we need to test it. The first place of course is the scriptures. Another test is looking at church history. Does this teaching align with the practice or teaching of our historic faith? Let me provide a couple of examples. Some modern teachers have said that God judged Jesus on the cross so He won’t bring any further judgement on sinners. That teaching is clearly at odds with scripture. The Old and New Testaments are replete with warnings of coming end time judgment from His hand. This is part of the process He will use in creating a qualitatively new heaven and earth.

Another aberrant teaching that has been promoted for decades in the ‘faith’ movement is that Jesus was tormented in hell after He died on the cross. The clear error here is that Jesus said on the cross His sacrifice had accomplished what was intended, this battle was finished, as the scriptures attest.

30  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. John 19:30 (NKJV)

46  And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:46 (NKJV)

When we look at the two passages above what Jesus cried out in a loud voice was, “It is finished!” Then He committed His Spirit into His Father’s hand, not to the devil.

So what do we do with wrong teachings like these? We look to the river. Movements that hold to teachings like these are off in these areas, they have streams diverging from His river that will not produce life. We need to avoid those streams. At the same time when I have heard teachings like these I have often also recognized a great deal of the river of life in these movements. I need to follow those streams of life into His river. Knowing how to follow the right river requires; knowing the scriptures, knowing how to interpret them, knowing something of church history, being rooted in a family of believers that are committed to His word, and paying attention to His leading in our spirits.

In coming posts I will further explore these areas.

Nurturing Life Part 5 – Found in Him

What happens when we are squeezed? If we put apples in a juicer we can expect apple juice, if oranges then orange juice. So what should come out when Christians are squeezed? We should expect Christ.

20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

Yes, when we are squeezed Jesus should come out. I remember many years ago my friend telling the story of wrestling around with someone on a construction site and when he put them in a headlock they started cursing. He said, “I was just squeezing you to see what would come out.” This aligns with the old adage that ‘character isn’t formed in crisis, it is revealed.’ Who and what we are comes out under pressure.

We know that Jesus doesn’t always come out when believers are squeezed. Before addressing how to reconcile this I want to look at who is doing the squeezing. Would it surprise you to know that our squeezing often comes from our Father?

2  And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)

Our Father squeezes us so that we can see what comes out when we are squeezed. He already knows, He wants us to know. When we see what it is in us we know what needs to be dealt with.

Let me provide an example from my life. Too often for my liking I become frustrated with the behaviour of other drivers (I am sure none of them ever have reason to be frustrated with me!). What comes out at these times is a feeling of frustration/anger rather than grace and Jesus presence. I don’t mean that I am sitting in my car cursing other drivers or that it happens every time I drive to and from work in rush hour. However, when it does happen I recognize that my heart attitude is wrong and what I often say under my breath at these times reflects a wrong heart attitude. Where this lessens or is absent in difficult circumstances is when I am more aware of Jesus presence with me and when I catch myself in the moment, quickly repent and look to the Holy Spirit. This is practical faith 101.

What I want to manifest in all difficult driving experiences or similar situations is His presence. My goal and what I desire, and believe I am growing toward, is what Paul expressed.

9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)

I want to be found in Jesus when I am squeezed so that what Jesus is the one who is revealed.

So what is coming out of us when squeezed? What is the Holy Spirit seeking to transform in our lives?

Nurturing Life Part 4 – Be Still and Know Psalm 46:10

What does this verse mean and what is the context?

10  Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

10  “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NASB)

The Psalm is directed to the nation of Israel, assuring them that though they may be surrounded by conflict, Yahweh is their strength and deliverance. In other words what Israel cannot accomplish, their own deliverance, Yahweh will.

Verse 10 in this Psalm is often used to encourage us to just get quiet before Him and sit in His presence. I have suggested and practiced this many times myself and find it an effective application of the verse. Yet what of the deeper simplicity inherent in it? ‘Be still,’ ‘cease striving,’ in other words, ‘Quit trying to make things happen on your own. Recognize that you are not in control.’ If we are consistent and purposeful in our walk with Him, then all things will work together for our good (Rom. 8:28) and we can let go of our worries and anxieties. What this can mean in our lives is that we can walk in His peace (shalom) each and every day.

How do we get there? It requires getting our eyes off of our circumstances (the message of Psalm 46) and setting the gaze of our heart upon Jesus throughout the day. This requires practice, the disciplining of our heart and mind. We begin by focusing our heart and mind on Him to set the course for our day then asking for and drawing on His grace to reorient our heart and mind throughout the day. This requires awareness and choices. It also requires a belief in the truth of scripture. Look at verse one in this Psalm.

1  God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NKJV)

When we need help Yahweh is near at hand. His help is available in trouble and I think it is easier to turn to Him in trouble if we have formed the habit of simply turning to Him throughout the day as an outflow of the affections of our heart. Where are you turning?

Nurturing Life Part 3 – Roots and Fruits

There is an interesting verse in Isaiah.

31  And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah Shall again take root downward, And bear fruit upward. Isaiah 37:31 (NKJV)

I want to look at the principle embodied in this verse rather than the context, although the context is about a people not a plant, because the principle underlies what spiritual fruit is produced in our lives.

The principle embodied is that of being rooted downward to bear fruit upward. Think of agriculture. Have you ever observed a farmer’s field after it has been sown? You look across and see soil and neat furrows. Over a period of time if there is sufficient water and sunlight you begin to see green shoots appear and they grow and produce seed according to whatever has been planted. What we don’t see is what is happening beneath the soil. Before that first little green shoot appears the seed has been busy. The seed germinated and cracked open and a little green tendril appeared. All unseen to those of us observing the field. Yet without this process nothing green would appear on the surface. The roots nurture and give life to the rest of the plant.

As the plant grows all may appear to be going well but if something attacks or affects the root system you will begin to see the plant wither and eventually die. The plant cannot survive and produce fruit without a healthy root system.

So what is the spiritual application? If we are to produce good spiritual fruit we need to embrace what Paul taught.

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)

6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 (NKJV)

These verses tell us that to function effectively we need our lives rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus so that we can effectively walk out our faith. Our part is to ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen our inner being to experience and live out of the love of Christ. The more we experience the more we release and the more His life (the fruit we want) is revealed through our lives.

Father, help us to develop deep roots and true fruits.

Nurturing Life Part 2 – The End Intended by the Lord

What happened to Job and why? Are those the right questions? We will never understand everything and sometimes we need to simply trust. Not trust in a “whatever will be will be” approach, that is fatalism, not faith. However we do need to trust that if we love Jesus and are pursuing His purpose He is ordering and guiding our life and we are in the process nurturing spiritual life.

In considering Job I have heard or read teachings seeking to explain away what happened to Job as being the responsibility of Job. Why do we do that? Partly because of our natural desire to understand and explain things and sometimes seeking to fit the scriptures into our pre-set theological frameworks. However then we seek to make Yahweh in our image. What we should be doing is submitting our beliefs and perspectives to His word and letting the scriptures actually be our guide.

When we read the story of Job we find that Yahweh initiated this test by pointing Job out to Satan (see Job 1:8-12). He said in verse 8 ‘have you considered my servant Job” or literally, “have you set your heart on my servant Job.” Satan already wanted to attack Job and Yahweh opened the door for Satan. Yet James tells us that the intended end was good. In the story of Job his three friends are at one point described by Job as “miserable comforters” because they kept telling Job he must have sinned or done something wrong to have brought this calamity on himself. In responding to their bad theology Elihu confronted both them and Job.

1  So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2  Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. 3  Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job. Job 32:1-3 (NKJV)

In the end Yahweh confronted and challenged Job and rebuked his three friends. In spite of all he had been through when Job saw the one he contended with he responded in this way.

1  Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2  “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. 3  You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4  Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ 5  “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6  Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”

7  And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” Job 42:1-7 (NKJV)

Seeing the end from the beginning we can see that Yahweh had a purpose in what He put Job through.

10  My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11 (NKJV)

So while pursuing our relationship with Him let us trust in His sovereignty and believe He has the same good end intended for us if we submit to His work in our lives. There is a simple expression I once read that encapsulates it, “Work toward goals, pray for desires.” I would add, “and in the process be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).

Nurturing Life Part 1 – Who Sinned?

Who sinned?

1  Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” John 9:2-3 (NKJV)

The disciples asked this question of Jesus because they lived within a paradigm that said good things were the result of good behaviour and bad things the result of bad behaviour. Is this how we think? Do we believe that someone must be at fault for this man’s blindness? Jesus answer refutes this way of thinking. Do we seek to understand or explain everything? Paul refutes this way of thinking.

22  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23  but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NKJV)

 

We have a cultural expression, “Life’s not fair.” We may rebel against that thought and think, shouldn’t it be fair for Christians, His children? Yes and no. From a human natural perspective it will never be fair in this life. Yet in spite of that we can nurture life if we embrace some truths from scripture. The first is the frequently quoted Romans 8:28.

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Notice there is both a qualifier in here tied to our intention and motivation and no promise that things will work together for our good from a natural perspective. Yet ultimately everything will come together. I believe Romans 8:28 so in difficult times it helps my heart to be at rest. The other thing I have is a deep confidence in His justice. Look at the scriptures below.

25  “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25 (NKJV)

10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV)

I believe that when all is said and done the Judge of all the earth shall do right, He shall administer justice. I also know that no matter what happens in this life every single one of us will ultimately step from time into eternity and we will be required to give an account of our thoughts and actions before the Lord Jesus. When He is finished we will acknowledge Him as the just and fair judge, just as I know the blind man did at the end of his earthly journey, and our hearts will be at peace. His Shalom will be our companion.

Righteousness Revealed Part 5

I want to complete this series by looking more at how we see ourselves. Recently I was reminded of a song that came out of the counter cultural hippie movement of the 1960’s. While there was a popular expression, “peace, love and Woodstock” and the “summer of love” in San Francisco, the fruit of the movement was primarily debauchery and rebellion. There were some things to challenge but by and large the fruit of this movement was not good and what saved our culture at the time was a revival known as the Jesus Movement that swept through the hippie movement. It touched North America and Europe and whether or not you are aware of it, greatly influenced the instruments you see and music you sing in the evangelical church today.

Joni Mitchell wrote a very popular song in November 1969 about the Woodstock music festival that immortalized and sanitized the event. The garden reference is to the Garden of Eden.

Woodstock

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
When I asked him where are you going
This he told me.

I’m going down to Yasgurs farm
Think I’ll join a rock and roll band
I’ll camp out on the land
I’ll try and set my soul free.

We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog

And I feel just like a cog in something turning.
Well maybe its the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
And I don’t know who I am

But life’s for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
By the time I got to Woodstock

They were half a million strong
Everywhere there were songs and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky

Turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Songwriters: JONI MITCHELL
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing
For non-commercial use only.

I think many of us in the church are like the sentiment expressed in this song, trying to ‘get back to the garden.’ That is only one of the many wrong concepts here. The song expresses a longing for something lost and a belief that we need to recognize that we are ‘stardust and golden.’ Yet humanity without Jesus is lost, not stardust and golden. There is a longing in this song to ‘become who we are’ but it is really a longing to become who we were created to be while missing the only thing that will enable us to achieve that, the new birth.

The sentiment in the song is about identity. The issue in the church is identity. Once we have encountered Jesus and been born again our goal should never be to ‘get back to the garden.’ Adam and Eve never had what we have. Prior to the Fall they had innocence but lacked Jesus; Yahweh’s nature, in their spirits. We have that and to ‘become who we are’ we need to reflect that in our beliefs and speech. Do we think of ourselves as sinners? Is that our identity? That may reflect popular church culture but it is just as aberrant as Joni Mitchell’s song.

The scriptures teach what we are;

12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: John 1:12 (NKJV)

6  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 (NKJV)

5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, Ephesians 1:5 (NKJV)

10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

9  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10  and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:9-10 (NKJV)

17  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17 (NKJV)

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

1  Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:1-2 (NKJV)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, search the NT for other references and meditate in and on this reality and cooperate with the Spirit of Life and Truth. Turn these truths into prayers and declarations to truly become who you are. Here is truth about us.

20  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NKJV, emphasis mine)