Our Generational God

I wrote some time ago about David accomplishing his purposes in serving his generation. I am back at that idea, the importance of a generational perspective. The significance of generations and purposes became deeply rooted in me a number of years ago. I was helping to lead a prayer and worship group and someone asked a question. I don’t remember the question; I do remember my answer. I said, “God is generational” and something clicked in my spirit when I said it. This type of experience has happened to me a few times over the years. Something flows out of my spirit in response to a question and I find myself thinking, ‘That’s interesting, I never knew that/thought about that.’ That is what happened then.

Prior to this experience I was aware of the Father having purposes for different generations but it really took root when I answered the persons question. My mind immediately went to Yahweh’s response to Moses in Exodus 3.

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,” Exodus 3:16 (ESV)

The significance of the Lord speaking of being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is that He began to focus in on His ultimate redemptive purposes through Abraham. Abraham was called out of his culture and the gods of his culture into a faith relationship with the one true God. This purpose continued in his family line culminating in the Messiah, Jesus coming to earth as descendant of Abraham. What began in Ur culminated in a tomb in Jerusalem ablaze with the light of the glory of God!  

            Given this we need to consider how we follow our generational God. Understanding comes in embracing our purpose as David did.  

36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; Acts 13:36 (NKJV)

36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, Acts 13:36 (ESV)

I included the ESV translation above because it gets at the heart of the issue. David served God’s purpose in his generation. If we want to know how David did that, we need only look a bit further back in Acts 13.

22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will. 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus— Acts 13:22–23 (NKJV)

Jesus as the Messiah was a descendant of the man after God’s own heart, David. David was not aware that the Messiah would come through his lineage when he began to serve God’s purpose. Likewise, we don’t know what greater purpose we are serving through pursuing the heart of our Father and seeking to be obedient. What we do know is that those who came before us had an impact on our lives and we will have an impact on the lives of those after us. I for example, do not know what the fruit of my writing, teaching and praying for others will be. At times I feel very inadequate and question the fruit of it all. Yet, 27 years ago He spoke 1 Corinthians 4:2 to me and I have tried to live out of it ever since.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NKJV)    

Only eternity will reveal the fruit of what we have accomplished in time, what we have done with what was invested in us and what we have invested in others. Therefore, let us seek to be found faithful and serve His purpose, leaving the final results in His hands.

Free to Serve

            If we know Jesus, we know that He set us free. We have been set free from the penalty and power of sin and the Father’s plan for our lives it to conform us to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). We see the emphatic reality of our freedom in Galatians 5:1, which includes a call to use our freedom wisely and not return to bondage.

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

            A further understanding of our freedom comes when we heed what Paul said. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 Paul shared with the Corinthians what had happened to Israel in their wilderness journey and pointed out these events were an example to learn from. Going back to the events that led to the Exodus we see another example to learn from. Through Moses, Yahweh demanded the freedom of His people.

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” Exodus 5:1 (NKJV)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’” Exodus 8:1 (NKJV)

20 And the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh as he comes out to the water. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’” Exodus 8:20 (NKJV)

            Moses began demanding the Israelites be set free to hold a feast to Yahweh and then began a pattern of demanding they be set free to serve Yahweh. Their freedom, as does ours, had a purpose. The annual feasts that were eventually instituted (Leviticus 23) were about worship, building community and maintaining a national identity. Likewise, as His children we have been set free to worship, build community and maintain an identity. It is sad to see the body of Christ as fractured and broken as it is at present. In spite of that, each of us as believers can seek to worship with others who know Him, build relationships with others who know Him and be established in our identity as His people in the midst of whatever culture we find ourselves.

            There is an additional purpose for our freedom. Adding to the community. We find this in The Great Commission.

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)

            As much as we are able let’s stand fast in the liberty we have in Jesus, use our freedom to worship, build community and extend His kingdom within our spheres of influence.

The Place of Inconvenience

            We live in a culture that values convenience, instant results and instant gratification. We are loathe to make sacrifices. I don’t know how many of you have ever fasted, I haven’t done it for some time, I do confess that when I did it regularly, I never enjoyed it! I also don’t think I did it very well. That aside, we need to address how being trained to convenience in our culture can get in the way of spiritual development. I am not going to focus on works or earning spiritual gifts. Yet, here is something to consider. Spiritual growth requires our involvement and commitment.

            To better understand this let’s inject ourselves into first century culture in Israel. Most communication was verbal, access to a library was a luxury. For the majority of the population the bulk of their time was spent surviving. You had to raise your food, get supplies for your fire to heat your oven to cook, walk if you wanted to get somewhere and make your own clothing and shoes. No phones, no newspapers, no hot showers and a host of other conveniences. The newspaper was whatever was shared at the local market or by strangers passing through your village.

I share this to provide a bit of perspective. Now, think of John the Baptist then Jesus. Crowds followed both of them and frequently did so at great inconvenience. They went into the wilderness to find them. They needed to pack with them whatever food was required. Based on Jesus feeding the multitudes more than once, many of them either stayed too long or were unable to take enough with them when they followed Him. They ended up physically hungry because what they valued more than physical hunger was seeking to satisfy their spiritual hunger.

            I recognize that while the crowds went out into the wilderness to hear from Jesus and followed Him around to desolate and dusty places this wasn’t all that happened. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding, healed in the synagogue and attended banquets. Yet wherever He went Jesus called for commitment because He wanted us to value what He offered.      

            Thus, in our present culture of convenience are we demonstrating that we value spiritual growth and are willing to be inconvenienced to achieve it? Study the history of revival and the commitment people made to prayer to see it happen. Hungry people traveled great distances to touch and catch the fire and vision. Jesus is still looking for the hungry, not the complacent. A few scriptures from Matthew demonstrate that.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 (NKJV)

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)

18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” 23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. Matthew 8:18–23 (NKJV)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28–29 (NKJV)

Jesus calls us to hunger and thirst, to pursue His kingdom, to follow Him and to take on His yoke, a euphemism for becoming His disciple.

            Scripture has a way of sometimes casually highlighting truth. In the passage above where some found the call to follow Jesus inconvenient verse 23 captures the attitude of others, ‘His disciples followed Him.’ Plain simple unvarnished truth. Jesus disciples follow Him. It is that simple. When He calls us He expects us to follow. My good friend Evelyn stepped from time into eternity in December of 2017. On a couple of occasions she shared with me a simple encounter she had with Jesus in a vision. She said He appeared, looked at her and then turned and began walking. She knew He was saying, ‘follow me’ and that is what she did with her life.

            He still calls and He still expects us to follow. Let’s do that. After all, much is waiting for us in walking with Him, but we may have to pray the price of inconvenience to receive it.

The Mind of Christ Part 3

            In my previous two posts on this subject, we addressed that the mind of Christ is accessible but not automatic and then looked at how we access Jesus’ mind via the Spirit, though not in detail. He we get further into the details.

Years ago, there was a movie with the title Lost in Translation. While I never saw the movie, the title captures what sometimes happens with scripture. In the process of translation, we sometimes lose important and practical information. The passage below is an example. We can gain what was lost by looking closely at the meaning of the words natural and spiritual in verses 14 and 15.

13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 (NKJV)

The word translated as spiritual in verse 15 is the adjective form of spirit. The word translated as natural is the adjective form of soul, Thus, it would be better rendered as soulish so that we can see the contrast between soulish and spiritual that is actually what Paul is highlighting. (As an aside, I first came across this idea in Watchman Nee’s most significant work, The Spiritual Man about 35 years ago.) Many assume that ‘natural’ means unregenerate but that doesn’t fit the context. Let’s look at verses 14-15 again plugging in both adjective forms.

14 But the soulish man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

Paul’s contrast between soulish and spiritual is not on whether or not we are born again. It is on what we are drawing from or living from. The soulish person may be unregenerate or they may not be paying attention to the Spirit and so be soulish when they should be spiritual. After all, that is the focus of Paul’s rebuke in in the next chapter. He rebukes the Corinthian believers for not being spiritual and is shocked that they are acting like ‘mere men’ (verses 1 and 3).

            To be spiritual is to look to and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s point from chapter 2 verse 9 on into chapter 3 is that we don’t receive the things of the Spirit through our natural/soulish reasoning. He says that the Lord wants to speak to us but also says that the only one who knows the things of God is the Spirit because He searches the depths (2:10) and He reveals things to us, which must be discerned by comparing spiritual things with spiritual things rather than soulish things.   

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

            What we see in 1 Corinthians as a whole is people who were focused on who they followed (name dropping – Paul, Apollos, Peter), people who were misusing spiritual gifts out of ambition and a desire for recognition rather than love, and people creating division around communion, the very antithesis of the unity the act proclaims. Paul’s point is that if they were actually spiritual rather than soulish their behaviour would be much different, it would look a lot more like 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter).

We are called to be led by the Spirit and discern His voice. This is generally an inner prompting regarding our thoughts and actions. I am confident we have all had them. The caution to say or not say something the inner cautions regarding our thinking. I can remember decades ago I was walking up the parkade steps to my office. I was frustrated with the behaviour of one of the staff and not having the best thoughts about them. I don’t remember the situation or what I was thinking. I do remember I stumbled on the stairs and internally I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “That kind of thinking will make you stumble.” I also remember being tempted to do something once and clearly hearing Galatians 5:8, “This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.”

Many times, I have had inner promptings regarding a call to say or do something. Recently a friend had asked me to pray about something. A couple of days later I had an inner leading to pray for him. As I began praying, I had an image of him being encrusted with a thin translucent substance that hindered his movements. I then saw it being shattered and him moving more freely. He responded by sending me a picture of a large electrical panel he was working on, the brand was ‘Freer.’ Confirmations of having His mind are not always that quick or clear. We can however know whether or not we have His mind.   

To know if we are receiving from and being led by the Spirit, we only need to look at whether we are acting in love toward our fellow believers and those around us. After all the message of 1 Corinthians is the message of Galatians. Being led by the Spirt produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. If we are living this way, no matter our gifts or lack thereof, we have the mind of Christ!