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.