In His Image Part 3

I began this series sharing that as image bearers we have a responsibility to represent Yahweh on earth. That is the main idea of being an image bearer. I also looked at how even after the fall of Adam and Eve scripture still presents us as being made in His image. I then moved to looking at how we are called to use our minds to bear His image. Now as we dig a little deeper, here is a passage that apparently muddies the waters. A passage we will explore in the broader New Testament context.

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 15:47–49 (NKJV)

What Paul is referring to here is the idea of wearing or carrying an image. We ‘wear’ the image of the first Adam as fallen and sinful in our humanity. In the resurrection we will ‘wear’ the image of the second Adam, Jesus. John put it this way.

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. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:2–3 (NKJV)

For me the danger in accepting this image idea without exploration is that we put wearing Jesus’ image off into the future, taking place at our resurrection or translation. While that is inherent in the language of both Paul and John, both are referring to an ultimate consummation. Paul in particular calls us in our life on earth to begin the process now.

14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:14 (NKJV)

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27 (NKJV)

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, Galatians 4:19 (NKJV)

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 4:20–24 (NKJV)

These verses all refer to our responsibility as image bearers to bear the divine image here and now. We do that by pursing a relationship with Jesus, more specifically an intimate relationship with Him where we hear His voice and heart. What unclutters our life to hear His voice and heart is what Paul wrote, the putting off or removal of our former conduct. It is an ongoing process. We put off some old behaviour, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, we think differently about it, and then drawing on His grace we put on new conduct – we walk like Jesus in righteousness and holiness.

            This means letting go of our pre-conversion way of thinking and acting, believing by faith that we can behave in a different way and receiving His grace through leaning into the moment by moment leading of the Spirit, actually living in a different way. If we maintain soft hearts, we can hear His voice of guidance and correction. Let’s pray that we individually and corporately do that.  

In His Image Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In His Image Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            I think this is reflected in Matthew 6.

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

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

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

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

            Knowing this, let’s go do that.

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

How Worldviews Shift – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Worldviews Shift – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Statement of Faith

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

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

1) Do you believe these statements to be true?

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

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

4) If you answered yes to 3

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

B) What steps do you need to take?

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

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


[i] https://www.nae.net/statement-of-faith/ Accessed February 29, 2020

His Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Functioning Body Part 5

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

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

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

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

We are to battle from victory, nor for victory.

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

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

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

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

A Functioning Body Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Room as sung by Kim Walker-Smith Bing Videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Functioning Body Part 3

In my last post I referenced the role of leaders and the responsibility they carry. Here I want to look at what can and should happen when leaders draw out the gifts in others and create an environment that makes space to accommodate their use when the body gathers. Warning, our responsibility is not to take up space in a seat on a Sunday or Wednesday! I have a friend who was converted during the Jesus Movement and he naturally started reading the bible. He then went to a church service with a friend and at one point got his friend’s attention, pointed at the platform, and said, “I don’t know what this is but this isn’t that.” He was referring to the difference between what he read in scripture and what he saw on the platform.

            To be clear, I am not suggesting that we all need to wear first century garb and the men grow long beards. I am saying that there is generally a significant difference between what we read in scripture and what we encounter in the vast majority of our services. We do what we have been taught and what has been modeled for us and from there we get what we have. The problem, from my perspective, is that though we have many things, we don’t have what we should have, the body released and empowered. Here is a quote from a book I recently reread that describes what happens when people are empowered to walk in their gifts and calling.

Calvary Chapel grew so quickly because all the little workers were out working because they were empowered. And that’s what God used Lonnie for. Chuck Smith Jr. said in the first year Calvary Chapel went from a little over two hundred people to two thousand people. At what became the Vineyard in Yorba Linda, when the Holy Spirit fell on Mother’s Day, our church went from three hundred to twenty-seven hundred in nine months. It was crazy! That didn’t happen because of great sermons. That happened because the body of Christ was empowered, activated, and commissioned to go out and do the work of the ministry. I’m a product of that. I’m part of the legacy of what Lonnie’s life produced. I’m a businessman and a family man, but I also have a burning desire to do all that I can for God, to make known what I’ve experienced in God, everywhere that I go. I want to go to the ends of the world and preach the gospel.

Frisbee, Lonnie; Sachs, Roger. Not By Might Nor By Power: Set Free (p. 273). Kindle Edition.

You may tell me that this was a unique season in the body of Christ. Perhaps it was. Yet it is what my heart longs to see. I also think it was what was happening in the New Testament. To be clear, I am not advocating experiences over truth. I think true godly experiences often establish or reinforce truth. What isn’t included in the quote is the emphasis that Calvary Chapel and the early Vineyard had on preaching through the scriptures. The truth of the word was paired with the reality of encountering His presence. Jesus addressed it this way.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 (NKJV)

The Greek word translated as ‘mistaken’ means to wander or be led astray, to be deceived. Here Jesus was responding to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection and afterlife. His point was that they missed the point because they were neither grounded in the scriptures nor familiar with the power of His presence. Their beliefs had led them astray from the truth in both their theology and experience.    

            I have long believed that at the end of the age we will see a church focused not on power or the word but a church focused on power and the word. A body that is deeply grounded in His word and walks in and demonstrates His power and presence. That is the cry of my heart.  

            Now we need to address how we get there. I have previously referred to 1 Corinthians 12-14. Chapter 12 outlines various gifts of the Spirit available to us as His children. Chapter 13 highlights love as the motivation we should have for the use of spiritual gifts. A side note here. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth and addressed their misuse of spiritual gifts. His solution to the misuse of them wasn’t to ask them to take a break. Just the opposite, he instead encouraged them to further pursue the gifts (14:1) while explaining how they were to function when the body gathered. That is the focus of chapter 14. Paul focused primarily on the use of tongues and prophecy because they were the primary issue. I am not going to going over every aspect of what Paul wrote but I will focus in on a few verses that capture the core of what we need to know and understand in order to see the body empowered.

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

            In this passage the responsibility of leadership is not to do everything. It is to provide oversight to the ministry of the body to one another. Paul’s expectation was that when the body met each person would bring something; a song, teaching, revelation or interpretation to strengthen the others. Leadership was to facilitate not dominate this process. Inherent in the passage is an expectation that people knew one another and the spiritual gifts they carried. These gifts were to be shared with others. We needn’t fear that scripture was violated if four individuals had a message in tongues or a prophetic word. Paul’s point was there needed to be a mutual submission to one another’s gifts and a discerning of when to speak and when to be silent. His expression, ‘let the first keep silent’ addressed the need for a respect for others and a submission to leadership.    

            While this is likely quite different from what most of us experience when the church gathers, I believe it was more normative for the early church and should be for us as well. Will getting there require change and adjustments in how we function and relate to one another? Certainly. Is it worth attempting to experience more of His presence and see the church empowered and touching the culture around us? Yes!

            Join me in sharing these ideas and praying for their realization as we pursue His heart!

            To be continued.

Shema

I have in the past written on the Shema – Hear O Israel! What I didn’t delve into was the broader aspects of how our lives and communities are affected if we heed this simple injunction contained in a few short verses. First a bit of context. In later Judaism the Shema has verses added from other texts (Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41) but the original passage referred to as the Shema is simply the text we have in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. We see the significance of it in that when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded by quoting the beginning of the Shema.  

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is:Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. Mark 12:28–30 (NKJV)

In Judaism the Shema is to be prayed twice a day, morning and evening then before retiring for the night. It is the final prayer in the Yom Kippur service (the holiest day of the year in Judaism and is to be a Jews final prayer before death.

Now we delve into the Shema and the areas it covers. I have used the NKJV but included the names of God and hear in Hebrew rather than the normal rendering.

 4 “Shema, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one! 5 You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (NKJV)

This is what we see in the Shema as we apply it to our lives. The word, scripture, is to be held in our hearts. It is to guide our thinking and acting (on our foreheads and hands). That is the individual aspect. Scripture is to be taught in the home, the impact spreads to our family. As we go further the Shema spreads out, it is to guard our homes by being on our doorposts. The doorposts represent the entryways to our homes. Our entryway is to be grounded in scripture and those who enter our homes should encounter the truth of scripture.

The last place we see scripture needing to be written is on the gates. In the culture of the day when Moses wrote the elders sat in the gates as the town/city gates were the place of governance, where legislative decisions were made and court transactions were enacted. The place this is played out very clearly in scripture is in Ruth 4:1-12. Boaz chooses to function as a kinsmen redeemer and gathers the elders at the gate. Here a legal transaction is performed and witnessed by the Bethlehem elders. This enables Boaz to redeem the land Naomi had lost and also enables him to marry Ruth.

If we have a relationship with Yahweh and honour Him by incorporating the principles of the Shema into our lives, we will see it bring blessing at the level of ourselves, our homes and families, and our communities. It will ultimately affect our nation as nations are composed of communities. So, Shema my friends!