His Blueprint

When someone plans a house, the architect develops the plans and blueprints. The architect can envision the whole project before the hole is even dug for the basement. Then those from the various trades who actually build the house need to follow the blueprints as they not only provide the broad overview, they also provide the details. I will share an example.

When we first got married my wife and I had a house built. The blueprints were in place for a purpose. I would drop in to see how things were progressing. One day I showed up and went into the master bedroom to look at the wiring. A young man, that I assume was an apprentice electrician, was installing the electrical boxes for the outlets. When I looked at what he was doing I asked him if he was aware that he was installing the plug ins in the closet – he wasn’t because he wasn’t following the blueprints.  

We had a couple of additional issues. We designed the lighting in the kitchen to have one light near the sink and one over the table at the eating area. Someone decided the room wasn’t that big so put one light in the centre of the room. They had to change it because they chose not to follow the blueprints. We had also designed a small storage area at the back door and arrived one day to find it had not been put in, there was wall there. Someone decided we didn’t need it because there was a small closet back there. Another change was required because, you guessed it, they weren’t following the blueprints!  

            Scripturally, the Father is the architect and Jesus is the overseer of the project called the church, which He said He would build (Matthew 16:18). We are each a part of the building; Peter refers to us as ‘living stones’ being built into a ‘spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:5).

In 1 Corinthians Paul described himself as a wise master builder. In fact, the Greek word for ‘master builder’ is architektōn. I am sure you recognize the word architect in it. Paul is obviously not the architect in the same sense as the Father, but he is a junior architect building the church. In this capacity he provided blueprints he received from Jesus that we are expected to follow.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NKJV)

An architect or master builder designs proper structures. Based on the things revealed to him by Jesus, Paul laid Jesus as the foundation in the lives of the Corinthian converts. Now he exhorts them, and by extension us, to be careful with what we build on this foundation.  

            Knowing the what is important, we know we need to build something, the how is another matter. If we are to build on Christ, we need some idea of how, which Paul provided. One place is Ephesians 4:17-32. Paul told us the behaviours we are to demonstrate and says it is accomplished by ‘putting off’ the old man and ‘putting on’ the new man.

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 4:22–24 (NKJV)

Paul says that the way we accomplish this lifestyle change is by being ‘renewed in the spirit of your mind.’ This renewing of our mind is the fruit of intimacy with Jesus, not the fruit of gritting our teeth and exercising our willpower. When we spend time in His presence we are changed by Him. Paul presents this reality in Philippians.

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, Philippians 3:10 (NKJV)

10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] Philippians 3:10 (AMP)

I added the Amplified bible as it brings out the nuances. If we pursue a deep intimate relationship with Jesus’ we will find that we are following the blueprint provided by the architect and others will see the fruit of it in our lives. Let’s follow the blueprint and if we put the lights or plugins in the wrong place, He will let us know as we sit with Him, and we can go back to the blueprint.

Being Found Faithful

            1 Corinthians 4:2 has been significant in my life for nearly three decades. It is a verse the Spirit impressed upon my heart, the need to be ‘found faithful.’ Here we will look at it in context along with the broader implications.

1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1–2 (NKJV)

My focus has been on the faithful aspect. However, there is also the issue of what we are to be faithful with. To delve into that we will look at three words, servant, steward and mysteries. The Greek word that we translate as servant refers to an underling or attendant. That is, the servant doesn’t carry authority over the one they serve. They are there to follow directions. The Greek word we translate as steward refers to someone in charge of a household. They have authority over the affairs of the household, as they have been entrusted with this responsibility by the master or owner of the household. A mystery is something mysterious or secret.

            Now as ‘servants of Christ’ it is obvious that we are called to serve Him and under Him. For Paul, in this context he referred to himself as serving Jesus by stewarding mysteries, one of which is Jesus household. Just a few verses back we find Paul referencing God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:10 – 17 (NKJV)

Paul saw one aspect of the mystery he was stewarding was that in his apostolic role he had laid the foundation of Christ in the lives of the Corinthian converts. Each one of them, or as we move forward, us, is responsible for what we build on the foundation. We are stewards of our own household, a stewardship entrusted to us by Yahweh. The judgment seat will be an accounting of our stewardship and will determine what remains of our house.

            In fact, our house, the one we are building each day by our choices, is our part in His temple. It is our assigned area of responsibility. This is where the idea of mystery comes in. For Paul the mysteries were things hidden in the Father’s heart that had been revealed to him. The same is true for each of us (see 1 Corinthians 2:9-13). We build our house through correct moral choices, through how we interact with and love others and through discerning and walking in our calling as we pursue the spiritual revelation and understanding the Spirit desires to unveil to us. Mysteries He has hidden for us, not from us.

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2 (NKJV)

There we have it, each of us called to be a servant of Jesus and a faithful steward of whatever mysteries He has revealed as we have sought His heart.

Thoughts on Revelation

I don’t know how you view John and the book of Revelation. Perhaps you envision him sitting and writing while having a vision unfold like watching a movie. While this was the type of experience Peter had in Acts 10, which he described as a trance and seeing a vision, John was more intimately involved in Revelation. John’s encounter began with hearing Jesus’ voice and receiving a message from Him for seven churches in the area (Revelation 1:10 – 3:22). John’s experience shifted to being involved when he responded to an invitation.

1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. Revelation 4:1–2 (NKJV)

Scripture doesn’t record John verbally responding to the invitation but his heart obviously responded as his experience immediately shifted. As things progress, we see John involved in the vision and interacting with characters in it. For example. 

4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Revelation 5:4–5 (NKJV)

We have John weeping and interacting with one of the elders (see also 7:13-14). He was both observing and a part of the vision. He also later spoke and further interacted with an angel (10:9-11). This Revelation or unveiling came to John in a powerful memorable encounter.

Now we might wonder if encounters like this are available to us. Some think so. A number of years ago I was helping lead a small group and one evening a new lady showed up, a common experience in this group. She was excitedly sharing, based on Revelation 4:1, that we could choose to enter the spiritual/heavenly realm at any time. When I challenged her theology, she never returned to the group. I think I was a bit of cold water on her fire. That wasn’t my intent, I simply wanted us to walk according to scripture. Yet I have heard well known figures in the church make the same claim that the door to heaven is open and we can enter in at any time.

Truthfully, this is not taught anywhere in scripture. As I noted, John had to be invited, while Paul described his heavenly experience as being ‘caught up’ not ‘going up.’ The Greek word literally means to be seized. Paul didn’t simply decide to go to the third heaven one fine afternoon!

1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 2 Corinthians 12:1–2 (NKJV)

Some of you may now be wondering if there is a point somewhere here. There is, though I have had some experiences with the Lord over the years I haven’t had something like what John and Paul describe, nor do I think it is the norm for believers. It is possible, not probable. At the same time, I do think He is always calling us to come to draw near His heart and hear His voice. Whether that includes dramatic spiritual encounters or a still small voice, the important part is being available, listening and ready if He calls. In Acts 10 Peter had gone to the roof to pray when he had his encounter. John said he was ‘in the Spirit’ when Revelation was unfolded to him. We don’t know what Paul was doing but from what we have revealed of his heart in scripture I am confident that he was ready to hear and obey. These men weren’t seeking spiritual experiences when theses events took place, they were seeking His face.

            Thus, I think we need to learn to cultivate the same posture of a hearing heart and be ‘in the Spirit’ so that when an invitation is given, we can respond. It may be an invitation to worship, to sitting quietly before Him or an invitation to service in some capacity. Whatever it is let us seek to be ‘found faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:2). I close with something Andy Park wrote decades ago, a song that is an invitation.

In the Secret

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret
In the quiet hour I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward
Pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause I want to know you more

Seeing His Heart

One of the places I have been reading is Ezekiel. I assume that most of us would not read chapter 16 and find great encouragement in it. Here we have Yahweh labeling Jerusalem, more specifically the inhabitants, in some very unflattering ways. In fact, the descriptions of pending judgement and the reasons for it are more than unflattering, they describe a perverse and rebellious group of people, a people who have despised and rejected love and mercy. What is most interesting is how the chapter ends.

62 “And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame, when I provide you an atonement for all you have done,” says the Lord God.’” Ezekiel 16:62–63 (NKJV)

In spite of all of their sin and rebellion, Yahweh affirms that as part of establishing His covenant He will provide atonement for them. What this really tells us is about His heart! Many view the Old Testament (OT) as Law and the New Testament (NT) as grace, as we see in John.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14, 17 (NKJV)

Jesus embodied grace and truth in His incarnation. However, that doesn’t mean it was absent in the OT era. The purpose of the Law was to bring us to Jesus.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:21–24 (NKJV)

While we clearly have the Law in the OT. Paul tells us why it came about.

19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Galatians 3:19 (NKJV)

The original plan was relationship, and after the fall in Genesis 3 when we read further, we still see the pattern of Yahweh seeking relationship. The pattern is there with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and continues. He always wants obedience, but His desire is that it would flow from a heart of love not a fear of punishment. Hence the ending of Ezekiel 16.  

While we clearly see grace and truth in the NT, when we look closely, we see it in the OT as well. The bottom line – Yahweh is always seeking to draw us into relationship and to have us draw on His atoning grace. That is His heart.  

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 4

The final aspect of being made in His image that we will look at is fellowship and communion, something the rest of the creation that we observe does not have. That is, animals cannot commune and fellowship with God. Angels can to an extent commune and interact but they lack something found in the new creation, Jesus’ nature (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). All of this is rooted in something that we may not think about often, or ever, communion and fellowship originate and take place within the Godhead. As believers we are called into an intimate communion and fellowship with the Godhead (2 Corinthians 13:14, 2 Peter 1: 4, 1 John 1:3) but only because that is something that eternally pre-existed within the Godhead.

We see this fellowship in Jesus’ teaching and high priestly prayer in John. In His teaching and prayer Jesus referenced the love between the Father and Himself and the role of the Spirit.

20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 (NKJV)

31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. John 14:31 (NKJV)

9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:9–10 (NKJV)

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. John 15:26 (NKJV)

13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. John 16:13–15 (NKJV)

28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” John 16:28 (NKJV)

Implicit in these verses is the fellowship between the three persons of the Godhead. Being made in His image we are called to enter in and participate in this eternal fellowship. We do that by fixing the gaze of our hearts upon Jesus. Jesus and Paul expressed the same truth, the same glorious opportunity, in similar ways.

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:24–26 (NKJV)

 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

Jesus prayed that as His followers, as those made in His image, we would behold His glory! Paul was simply echoing that in 2 Corinthians but making it explicit that it is an opportunity that lies before us in this life. This is available to us and as we by faith fix the gaze of our hearts upon Jesus, we are transformed from the inside out! We experience what Paul presented as his great apostolic heart cry in his first letter, the forming of Christ within us (Galatians 4:19). This is truly the culmination of being made in His image. A foretaste and the fullness when we step from time into eternity (1 John 3:2).

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.