Exercising Authority

Authority in Christ is a scriptural concept and here we will look at an aspect of how to exercise it in our lives. Consider the following exclamations, “I can’t believe it!” or, “Unbelievable.” At some point in time most of us have uttered one of these expressions or something similar. Our utterance may be connected to terrible unexpected news, like the sudden demise of someone we knew or it may be great news that a couple has just become engaged or the wife is pregnant and expecting. It could also be that someone who was hardened against the gospel has now become a Christian.

Whatever the case, the expression generally conveys shock, a sense of something that doesn’t seem quite real, making it hard to believe or implausible. Yet even if something is implausible it is not impossible. I am confident that over time all of us have changed our beliefs about something. Here we are going to look at that process and how it relates to exercising our authority in Christ.

A term that describes our ability or capacity to believe something is ‘plausibility structure.’ A simple definition comes from philosopher J. P. Moreland, “A person’s plausibility structure is the set of ideas the person either is or is not willing to entertain as possibly true.”[1] I will expand a bit. We all hold ideas in our mind about what is and is not possible. They help shape our worldview, the lens through which we view and interpret reality. What is believable or plausible is not determined by reality but by how we view reality, including the spiritual realm.

We can move beyond definitions and apply this idea to our prayer lives regarding the efficacy of our prayers. Our beliefs about prayer are firmly tied to our plausibility structures and our worldview – both of which we can change. A good starting point is reflecting on whether we believe our prayers make a difference. If we do believe our prayers are making a difference and we are seeing results, great. If not then let’s hold our plausibility structure in this area up to the light of scripture and examine it. To do so we will look at an aspect of what scripture has to teach about authority, more specifically spiritual authority, so that where needed we can shift our views to align them with scripture. To explore how we exercise authority we will look at relational versus positional authority.

There has been much teaching in recent decades on our position in Christ and our relationship with Him. What I have never heard discussed is the difference between positional authority and relational authority. We all have a measure of positional authority by virtue of our relationship with Jesus. However, more importantly we need to develop relational authority. This idea developed in me over time through my leadership work in various roles. Yes, it is scriptural, and we will get to that. Over the years, many times I said to my staff and colleagues, “If all we have is positional authority, we don’t have any. We need relational authority.” I will explain. When I had a position of authority at work, I could direct my staff to engage in specific tasks within their scope of work as outlined in their job description. However, my positional authority didn’t determine how they did the work or the attitude they held. They could have done it begrudgingly and resented me all the while. So yes, I did have positional authority. However, what had much greater influence on how they did their work was the relationship I had with them. This didn’t mean we had to be friends. It did mean developing a relationship where I was available to provide support, develop mutual respect and create an atmosphere conducive to them doing their job well. My positional authority gave me the responsibility to create relational authority so that work was done well.

Now we apply this to our authority in Christ in prayer. We can place demands on the Lord, but Paul told us in Galatians that what counts is ‘faith working through love,’ (Galatians 5:6), which implies a relationship. Paul’s statement is relational not positional. If I want to see greater results in prayer then I need to cultivate a deeper relationship with the one to whom I am praying!

Jesus presented it this way,

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:7–8 (NKJV)

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:14–15 (NKJV)

Coming back to plausibility structures and our worldview – do we see ourselves as Jesus’ friends? Have we cultivated that relationship so that we can have confidence in our authority in Christ? Are our prayers in line with His word? My desire is that we would come before the throne of grace and see our city and communities changed. We can do that if are His friends and see ourselves that way. John said it like this.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14–15 (NKJV)

If we are in this place great! If not let us come back to some other things Jesus told us.

29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” Matthew 9:29 (NKJV)

Jesus said we would receive based on our faith. If we struggle with our faith, if our plausibility structure doesn’t include answers to prayer then let’s join in with the prayers of a desperate father.

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)

Jesus, may our unbelief be transformed to faith! May we live in relational circles and communities seeing Your kingdom come and Your will done!


[1] Moreland, J.P.. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 56). The Navigators. Kindle Edition.

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.  

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

How Worldviews Shift: Part 1

There is a lot of talk these days about worldview. While the term has come into common use, two things are generally missing. First, it is used but generally as a soundbite, and rarely if ever defined in social media and newscasts. Second, should we engage further in understanding worldview in general, and ours in particular, do we know how to change it if we so desire? That is a significant missing ingredient. I wrote a book on the subject of worldview (Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture) where I did both, I defined it and I discussed how we could change ours, should we so desire. In this series I will delve into that change process.

            We begin with a definition followed by a scriptural example of a worldview issue. There are a number of definitions of worldview, some simple, and others very complicated. I prefer the simple and direct so in my book I defined Worldview as, “The lens through which we view and interpret reality.” The definition is simple and clear and can be applied to a variety of faiths or belief systems. It simply acknowledges what we all implicitly do. We hold and use a mental model that both influences what we see, and how we interpret what we see.

            Having said that, we now turn to the practical in understanding the impact of the worldviews we hold. Here is an example from scripture of how our worldview influences our behaviour. Just prior to His ascension Jesus provided some specific instructions.

8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

This directive from Jesus aligned with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) where they were directed to take the gospel to every nation/nationality. Remember the same group heard both directives from Jesus.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus had promised the enduement of power from the Spirit, which happened on the day of Pentecost. He told them that following this empowerment they were then to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. However, when we read the first few chapters of Acts, we see how their worldview affected their hearing. In essence Jesus told them to begin at Jerusalem and take the gospel from there to everyone everywhere. However, the lens through which they interpreted and viewed reality, their worldview, was that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sand that the gospel was for the Jews, with a small exception for the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-8), who were half Jewish. So they only shared it with the Jewish community.

            Even following the breakthrough in Samaria, contrary to Jesus’ direction, the gospel wasn’t taken to the Gentiles at that point in time. It took a significant worldview shift on the part of Peter for the gospel to go to the Gentiles. It is in Acts that we discover what brought about this worldview shift. In Acts 10:1-48 the Lord first spoke to Cornelius through an angel, then to Peter in a vision. When Peter began to speak at Cornelius’ house part of what he shared was the following.

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all –37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: Acts 10:34–37 (NKJV)

In verse 37 Peter points out that Cornelius already knew the gospel. Yet because Cornelius also had a worldview issue, he knew the gospel, but based on the practice of the followers he didn’t know it was available to he and other Gentiles! This was contrary to what Jesus directed.

            In spite of clear instructions, overcoming worldview blindness required an angelic visitation and a God given vision before the worldview of Peter and others was shifted. It is important to note here that in his incorrect worldview Peter believed he was carrying out what Jesus had instructed. Thus, in the next part of this series we will dig a little deeper into what created the shift for Peter and how we can create worldview shifts in our own lives.

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 2

If you have been a Christian for any length of time you have likely heard the bible referred to as a manual for life, which it is. At the same time within the larger manual, we have instructions on how to do church, how to properly function as a body. In my last post I referenced Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Corinthians 12-14 as they are key passages in terms of how the church, His body, should function. I am continuing with these passages. In going deeper, we begin with Paul’s explanation of the role of leadership in Ephesians.

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11–16 (NKJV)

This passage begins by laying out the leaderships offices Jesus appointed in the church He is building. At present many believe we only have evangelists, pastors and teachers and that apostles and prophets have ceased in the church. There is no scriptural warrant for this, yet that aside, the important part is not the labels as the terms are job descriptions, not titles. The primary point is that the leadership Jesus has appointed, a plurality of gifts, is set in place to equip the rest of the body to function effectively.

Now we will break the equipping process down a bit. Paul said ministry leaders were given to equip others. I think this responsibility is described in Proverbs.

5 Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5 (NKJV)

5 The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5 (ESV)

The role of leaders in the church is to reach down into the well inside the spirit of others and draw out the gifts Jesus placed within them and release them into their callings (we all have one). If someone is called to teach then they need to equip them to teach. If someone is called to give, they need to equip them to give. If someone is called to an intercessory ministry or the gift of helps then leaders need to discern those gifts and create an environment for them to flourish. The fruit of such an approach is a healthy functioning body. At present in the vast majority of congregations the congregants function primarily as an audience. We may participate in the singing prior to the sermon but our church services are mainly designed for audiences not participants. I believe this needs to change.

We see further in Paul’s teaching that when people are being equipped to minister this strengthens and builds up the corporate body and brings us into unity and maturity in our common faith. This growth includes a lot of ‘iron sharpening iron’ (Proverbs 27:17).

The primary calling of church leadership isn’t to do and be everything. It is to equip the body to be with Jesus and do things for one another and bring in and disciple the lost. Decades ago the Spirit impressed upon my heart a verse that I have ever since seen as Paul’s apostolic heart cry. The centre of everything he was about.

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

 A major way this is accomplished is by all of the body being raised up and released into their gifts and callings. Let’s pray for all of us to step into our gifts and callings to see Jesus body functioning as per His design!

More to come.

A Functioning Body

Jesus told us what the church was called to do in what we refer to as The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul gave us some information on the how in Ephesians, Colossians and a key portion of 1 Corinthians (12-14). Ephesians informs us where we are to be, seated with Christ (2:6), who we battle, principalities and powers (6:12), and how we can be successful in battle (6:10-18), which requires that we actually put on and use the armour. In Ephesians Paul also included how the church is led and built (4:11-16) which includes leadership, training and impartation to effectively build and release His body.1 Corinthians 12-14 highlights the importance and function of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ and Colossians presents Christ as the source of everything (1:27). In Colossians Paul also denounces festivals and angels as means of grace and revelation, pointing out that the answer is in Jesus not rules and rituals.

My goal in this writing, this first part is merely the introduction, is to have us reflect on how we function as His body in relation to how He has called us to function. I am deeply concerned that in general we as the church, His body, have settled for far less than He has both called and enabled us to walk in. If the church were a car, I would say it badly needs a tune up, or if you prefer an EV analogy, the battery is weak and has trouble taking a charge. Granted, it is easy to see problems, we also need solutions. My aim is to come into agreement with the heavenly physician and offer both a diagnosis and treatment. After all we see that in the first chapters of Revelation that Jesus had a different message for each of the seven churches and each message was specific to their need at that point in time.

I have some sense of where the broader body of Christ is in Canada and the US through what I read and experience yet I am obviously more familiar with what is happening where I fellowship. In writing I have no great prophetic revelation to offer, I am pointing us to scripture and the way He has called us to walk. After nearly four decades in walking with Jesus I echo the heart cry of Paul summed up in a single verse of scripture.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12 (NKJV)

If you have attained, great, show the rest of us the way. If you have not and your heart desire is for more then please read through Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Corinthians 12-14 and join me on this journey.

As an encouragement this new song by Josh Baldwin featuring Jenn Johnson is a call to go higher and fulfill His purpose, not ours, His!

https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=made+for+more+josh+baldwin&type=E210CA1485G0#id=1&vid=40564892dc6bb29bf464a98b4ffebe6a&action=click

Knowing Jesus, Applying Grace

As a follow up to my last post on wisdom I am going to drill down further on wisdom and knowledge and look at how to exercise wisdom by acting on our knowledge. To begin, the simple distinction between wisdom and knowledge is that knowledge is possessing information; wisdom is knowing what to do with the information we possess. We see this all of the time in advice on diets and health. It is easy to arm people with knowledge. Imparting the wisdom to act on that knowledge is another matter. The same is true of sermons. Most sermons share knowledge. However, whether we act on that knowledge is another matter.

A major challenge in acting on what we know is the struggle of conflicting desires, as Paul laid out in Romans 7. Knowing what to do but struggling to exercise wisdom and act on it. Paul had both knowledge and wisdom but as he presented in Romans 7, struggled with the actual application.

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:15–25 (NKJV)

One thing that is clear here is that the application of knowledge isn’t all about willpower. Paul said his will was right, his actions were not. Paul expressed very clearly that he knew what to do, wanted to do it and yet something was hindering his engaging in what he desired to do. Paul then pointed us to the need to draw on something outside of ourselves – grace! Grace has been defined by many as ‘unmerited favour’ but the definition falls short. Grace is that, but it is also His empowering presence, His enablement to do what He has called us to do. We see that in the very next verses in Romans.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1–2 (NKJV)

Paul described sin as ‘dwelling’ in his body, not his nature as he received a new nature at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21) but something inherent in fallen humanity that was not eradicated by his conversion. Which is why we need a glorified body at our resurrection or translation. Paul presented the battle against sin but he also pointed us to the solution. Sin is like gravity; it seeks to pull us down. If I hold my hand out with my phone in it and let go of my phone, unless there is an intervention it will fall to the ground, drawn by gravity. If I reach out and catch it with my other hand, I overcome the force of gravity and interrupt what would naturally take place.

In terms of applying knowledge to overcome the pull of sin, this interruption and overcoming of what would naturally take place is grace. Paul described the effect of grace as, ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.’

At conversion Jesus came to dwell in me and you. If He is in us then He is also the source of the grace we can draw on to interrupt the power of sin in us. We are now back to knowledge. What we need to know now is how to exercise wisdom to draw on this grace. In a single word, intimacy. If I have developed an intimate relationship with Jesus, in my interactions with Him I will find myself rising above and moving away from the pull of sin. I do this by simply looking to His presence in my spirit. This is trusting Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) rather than my abilities. When I do this, I experience His empowering presence (grace) enabling me rise above the pull of sin.  

Two passages of scripture that speak further to this are in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians. We know that Jesus was without sin in the presence of temptation, not only in His wilderness temptation but also throughout the rest of His earthly life.

15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)

We then have Paul telling us that when we are tempted, just as others are, that there is a way out.  

13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

The way out is what I have outlined above, living in the reality of Romans 8 rather than Romans 7 and knowing Jesus within as Paul presented in Colossians. To that end, let’s pursue intimacy with Jesus and look to Him within that we may walk in wisdom.

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!