On Church Leadership (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary) – Pt.1: “The First Button”

Shortly after I began blogging in 2012, I happened across another blog that caught my attention.  Somehow I landed in the English section of a Hungarian blog, keskeny út – narrow way by Sándor Abonyi.  Though most of his blog was unintelligible to me, being written in Hungarian, I felt a deep connection with what I was able to read in the English section.  I decided to follow.  Shortly thereafter, Sándor began to follow my blog as well, and in 2013 he contacted me about the possibility of posting a number of articles onto his blog that I had written and which he desired to translate into Hungarian.  From that point on, we began a regular email exchange which developed into a long-lasting, mutually edifying, friendship.

In the near future, I plan to highlight in a post (and permanently host in the Resources section), a book which Sándor wrote: Which Way is the Church Going To?.  This is an excellent resource on the practical expression of the church according to Christ, as revealed in the New Testament.

As a way of introducing my dear brother and friend to you, I’d like to first share a volley of emails that we exchanged several years ago concerning the matter of church leadership.  I feel this is a very substantive and edifying sharing on this matter and a good example of “iron sharpening iron” as we each expressed our unique perspectives and came to a greater sense of clarity, balance, and unity in our understanding as a result.  I trust that you will be edified as you “listen in” on that conversation!

I will begin the exchange in this post with Sándor’s initial email and my initial response.  I will follow that up shortly with the subsequent exchanges in additional posts.

And so, without further ado, here is the initial volley of our exchange:

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Sándor wrote:

Dear David,

You are working before the Lord on the Christcentering Church.  What do you think about the one pastor system in the churches versus eldership?

Do you have any articles about this question? I think this question is important similarly to fastening of first button on a coat (right or wrong).

I am interested in your vision after the Word. Can we discuss about this?

Blessings,
Sándor

I replied:

Dear Sandor,

I will try to get a few thoughts down on this matter of eldership versus the one pastor system as I see it.  Sometime I would like to write more fully on this, and maybe this is the spark to do so.  For now, here are a few seed thoughts that outline my thinking.

First of all, I believe we need to approach this subject, and the Word of God in regards to this subject, from a Christ-centered, Christ-preeminent perspective.  What I mean is this, the form and function of the first century Church came about with only one Pattern in view…the Person of Christ.  They did not have a manual on how to do church, or how to structure it, or what it was to look like.  They simply had Christ, and He was their Pattern. He was central, He was supreme, He was Head, He was all spiritual fullness and blessings, He was unity, He was Life, He was all in all.  As they gathered around Him, and in Him, and on Him, and under Him, and for Him, and through Him, they became the expression of the Church that we read about in the New Testament.

The New Testament Scriptures are the record of a church that was radically Christ-centered, and all form, function and fruitfulness came out of that single reality.  That is the Root of the tree.  The most important thing that we can learn from the New Testament is that Root!  If we can get the Root right, then the tree will be right, and the fruit will be right.  If we try to make the tree right and the fruit right without truly getting the Root right, however, we end up with a dead religious system that outwardly may resemble certain aspects of the New Testament Church, but has no life and power.  So, in reality, there is a “first button” on the coat that precedes the matter of church governance and leadership.  The “first button” is CHRIST, central, supreme and all-sufficient!

Church leadership is possibly button number two!  If button number one is in place, then button number two, three and four will follow in place.  When it comes to the leadership of the church the number one principle is the Headship of Christ.  That is the over-arching, all-dominating principle.  All other aspects of leadership, governance and oversight must bow before that principle. That is the supreme “governance principle” of the ekklesia!
So, with that button firmly in place, we need to ask, how does the Headship of Christ operate and function when it comes to the human leadership of the Church?

First of all, there is a need for spiritual maturity in order for there to be a humble submission and yieldedness to the Headship of Christ in the leadership position. Leadership is to take the attitude of John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.”  It takes those who are “descending” in nature according to the nature of Christ (Philippians 2), not “ascending” in nature according to the nature of Lucifer (Isaiah 14).  Leadership must be humble, submissive, servant-leaders.

It also takes more than one person to manifest the fullness of Christ’s ministry as Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher.  Therefore, when the Headship of Christ is the ultimate issue, a plurality of mutually submitted, diversely gifted, spiritually mature men is the only fitting form of leadership that will be able to lead the church under the Headship of Christ.  That is what will naturally develop and come forth.  No other form facilitates the Headship of Christ as that form.  It must flow out of and facilitate the Headship of Christ, not supplant it, however.

From studying Church history, the transition from a plurality of elders to the single bishop rule of the church came about by the middle of the second century.  What seems rather clear from that transition is that “the first button” changed.  Because of the Roman persecutions from without and the rise of multiple heresies within, the Church turned to a single man, the “bishop”, to be the solution. HE replace Christ as the Head of the Church and her unifying Foundation.  The church gathered around and under the Bishop as the center, head and foundation of the church.  The elders and deacons were the second and third levels of leadership under the bishop.  This was the Old Testament priestly order of high priest, priest and Levite brought into the church.  The entire Roman system developed from this seed and dominated the earth for 1500+ years.

The Reformation “re-buttoned the coat”, but instead of getting the first button right with the restoration of the absolute centrality and supremacy of Christ restored, they put the Word of God button into the first hole.  This brought about major changes to certain doctrines, but the structure of the Church remained fairly much in tact.  With the Scriptures now central and supreme, the Catholic priest was given a Reformation makeover and became the Protestant Pastor/Preacher who ruled over the church.  With a movement now built around the interpretation and preaching of Scripture as the supreme thing, and a single pastor over each assembly, the Protestant movement splintered into a hundred thousand divisions and denominations, each claiming to have a sharper “sword” than the next.

The single pastor system is as much a left-over of Catholicism as elaborate pointy buildings called “churches” are.  (That’s a whole other discussion though!)  The Anabaptists went beyond the mainline Protestant reformation and sought to restore a more Biblical vision for and expression of the Church itself.  These tended towards a return to a plural eldership to oversee and shepherd the flock.  Their history is worth studying in this regard.  The error that some of these and subsequent groups tended to fall into, however, is looking at the PATTERN of the new Testament Church as the “first button”.  This, however, only leads to a new form of legalism, which much of their history has been marked by.

We have to get back to what lay underneath all that we see in the pattern, form, function and fruit of the New Testament Church and recapture THAT as our “first button”.  THAT is JESUS CHRIST in all of His fullness, glory, authority, centrality, all-sufficiency and supremacy.  When HE is returned to His rightful place, everything else will come into place even as it did in the first days of the Church.

When that happens, I believe a plurality of elders will happen as naturally as the grass grows. But we can’t get the cart before the horse.

That in a nutshell is how I see it.  It is a very rough sketch, but I hope it helps to give an idea.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts as well, Sandor!

As always, if there are words or phrases that are difficult to understand, please let me know and I will try to help with them!

Love to you and your family,
David

~ ~ ~

Sandor’s (substantive) reply will follow in the next post…Please stay tuned!🙂

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Eternal Purpose (a manuscript excerpt)

Five years ago this month, I had a terrible fall off of a ladder that broke under me while I was doing some tree work.  Fortunately, I had enough wherewithal to toss the chainsaw far from me as I fell, but the ten foot “seat drop” onto hard ground left me with a crushed vertebrae and eight and a half months of at-home recovery.  During my unplanned “vacation”, I sought to make the most of the situation by pouring a good amount of time into writing a draft manuscript for a book that had been on my heart to write for some time.  The working title of the book was Full Circle – An End-Time Restoration Manifesto.  It focused on the Christ-centered restoration of an overcoming remnant at the end of the age. (Hmmm, sound familiar??🙂 ) 

It was during those months that I also began blogging as a way of sharing some of the things that were on my heart in more bite-sized pieces.  As my recovery period came to a close, I felt that I had to lay aside the larger book project for a season and focus what time I did have on blogging.  Here, five years later, there has yet to be a significant window to revisit that manuscript and push the project through to completion.  (Frankly, much of the time it is difficult to find time even for regular blogging.😦 )  I continue to hold all of that before the Lord, though, and trust that He will somehow make a way, in HIS time!

As I was glancing over some of the manuscript pages recently, though, I came across a portion in Chapter 1 that I thought would be worth sharing on the blog as a stand-alone post.  This excerpt is concerning the eternal purpose and five of its essential characteristics.  The eternal purpose is where God begins and ends in all that He does. It is also that which governs everything He does in between.  It is of the utmost importance, then, that the eternal purpose be that which governs all that we do as well as we live and work in union with Him!

I offer this meditation for your consideration, then, and pray that you will be blessed by this brief glimpse into God’s ultimate intention!

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THE ETERNAL PURPOSE

Behind all that God does, from eternity to eternity, lies what the Scriptures call the “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11).  This ultimate intention was established before the beginning of time and will endure into eternity future.  It is what undergirds, guides, informs, motivates, and harnesses all of God’s activities throughout the vast expanses of time and eternity.  Apart from the knowledge of God Himself, there is nothing more essential, significant, and consequential to spiritually apprehend than the eternal purpose of God as it is revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  We will take just a few minutes to begin to explore this immense matter in regards to a number of its most significant facets.  Let us begin by looking briefly at some of its most essential characteristics.

First, by its own self-definition, the eternal purpose is eternal in nature.  It existed in God before time began.  Before the “In the beginning…” of Genesis 1:1, the eternal purpose of God had already been established.  Genesis 1 and 2 are the product of that eternal purpose, as well as the motivation and wisdom behind the creation of all things.  All of the vast array of created things were fashioned to fit and to serve this eternal purpose in its outworking in time.  We do not rightly understand the created order, seen and unseen, until we comprehend the motivating force behind it.

The eternal purpose not only preceded Genesis 1:1, but also endures long after the commencement of the events described in Revelation 21 and 22.  The eternal state described in Revelation 21 and 22 is a picture of the long-awaited culmination of the eternal purpose at the end of its temporal developmental stages.  Its ultimate fulfillment and enjoyment begins there and has no end.  All of eternity future will be composed and choreographed by that which played and danced in the heart of God before time began.  Not a note will be missing, and not a step out of place.

Not only does the eternal purpose define the ends of the spectrum of God’s eternity, but the epochal unfolding of time between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 21 and 22 is contoured and shaped by the eternal purpose as well.  Our Sovereign God meticulously and persistently works, conforming everything to the unfolding of His Grand Design.  Paul speaks of “Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11)  However man’s will and actions interplay with the sovereign work of God, through it all and in the end the eternal purpose is obtained.  All of history is superintended by that which was established before time began and will endure through times eternal.  This then is a brief description of the eternal nature of God’s ultimate intention.

Secondly, the eternal purpose is good.  Standing behind the eternal purpose is the “good pleasure” of God.  Ephesians 1:9 says, “And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ,”.  When all has been accomplished, all of creation will resound with the goodness of God in its infinite perfection.  God, being good, could do no other.  His word to Israel was, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (Jeremiah 32:40-41)  This is God’s ultimate good intention not only for Israel, but, in essence, for all of His people.  The eternal purpose, therefore, becomes the deepest spring of hope and rejoicing for the human heart.  Its contemplation is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 KJV).  The eternal purpose is hallmarked by the manifestation of the infinite and everlasting goodness of God.

Thirdly, the eternal purpose is wise.  This Grand Design is the crafted genius of infinite Wisdom and Knowledge.  Every faculty of God’s mind has been employed to composite this Plan and nothing has escaped His purview.  As such, the eternal purpose is unimprovable, unrevisable, immutable.  Nothing can be added to it to make it better, and nothing can be taken away from it without making it less.  It is the supreme product of infinite wisdom and can, therefore, be fully trusted and marveled at in every detail.

Fourthly, the eternal purpose is sure.  It is established by the Sovereign God and will be carried out by the Almighty.  There are only two types of forces that could possibly hinder or stop this Plan from being carried out.  The first is some force that resides within God Himself.  He alone could choose to alter or abort this Purpose as an act of His will.  This is an impossibility since God is unchanging, His eternal purpose is already the highest expression of His “good pleasure”, and the perfect genius of His infinite mind.  God has committed Himself, and there is no power within Him that will ever cause His purpose to fail or change.

The second type of force that could possibly thwart or change God’s eternal purpose is that which exists outside of God.  This would of necessity have to be in the created order which came into existence at the mere word of His mouth.  Here, again, lies an impossibility.  There is no created force that is mightier than its Creator.  All things are subject to His Sovereign and Almighty hand, and He reigns supreme.  We can have full assurance that in the end, God has no rivals.  His will shall come to pass.  It is as sure and as steadfast as God Himself.

Finally, the eternal purpose of God is all-glorious.  It is designed to manifest and display forth the glory of God in its fullness.  It is, likewise, designed to bring man into the participation and enjoyment of the glory of God in fullness for all eternity.  God could not conceive of a more glorious plan for Himself and for you and I.  This is our destiny, to the praise of His glorious grace!

Before we explore this eternal purpose more fully in relation to the members of the Triune God and to the Church, it would be beneficial to pause for a minute to consider our personal relationship to it.  We have the opportunity, as believers in Christ, to align ourselves with and be the first-fruit partakers of the supreme purpose of the ages.  We have the privilege of yoking ourselves with that which represents the infinite goodness of God’s heart and the infallible wisdom of God’s mind.  We have the honor of being called to serve and labor for that which never fails and will never pass away.  We have the blessing of giving our lives to that which is unsurpassed in its unspeakable glory.  All other purposes will fail. All other endeavors will come to naught.  All of man’s greatest and best intentions will fall short.  This and this alone will endure and shine with the glory and favor of the Sovereign God for all eternity.  To the fellowship of this Purpose we have been called.

When a man’s life becomes consecrated and committed to living, serving, and laboring for God’s supreme purpose, it, likewise, becomes marked with certain distinctive characteristics.  First and foremost, it becomes purposeful and focused.  It is not frivolous in its use of time or selfish in its ambitions and pursuits.  It is not shifting and meandering in its intentions or flagging in its commitments and obligations.  It does not follow the most popular fads or hop on the latest bandwagons but joyfully and sacrificially keeps its hand to the plow, tilling a straight furrow.  It is marked by a persistent and patient zeal in a purposeful, settled direction.  Such a man is approved of God for he is a man after God’s own heart.  He will in no wise lose his reward, for he co-labors with the One whose purpose never fails.  He is further marked by joyfulness of heart and sagacity of mind as he follows the good, wise, all-glorious, enduring purpose of his Father.  God is seeking such men and women to be the forerunners and first-fruits of His eternal purpose and kingdom in the earth.  Will you and I be those who will be marked and sealed in this way?  We need only to bow our knee and yield our heart to this one great and glorious purpose.

© 2011 David Bolton  All rights reserved.

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This is just the beginning of the exploration of God’s eternal purpose.   If you would like to explore more, you might find the following posts and pages helpful:

Audio Teaching: “The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church” (CCC Seminar – Session 1)

Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 4)

Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Cont. (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 5)

The Process of the Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 6)

Affirmations (1) – The Eternal Purpose, Christ, and the Church

Shaped by God’s Eternal Purpose

Co-Laboring With God

May we all be yoked together in this one Grand Pursuit…for His highest glory, and our deepest joy!

With love,
David

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Eternal Purpose of God, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

“Affirmations” – A final word

I began this series speaking of the Church as a “spiritual organism” which is governed by the law of the “organic.”  As with all living organisms, the most essential element that determines its unique form, features, and functions is its “DNA”.

The world has made immense and even daunting strides in breaking the code of the human genome (to the point of being able to now “edit” it, and even create synthetic DNA.)  The Church, on the other hand, appears to be far behind in discovering God’s living blueprint for the Ekklesia, her “spiritual DNA”, which governs her full development from conception to maturity.

In the realm of natural DNA, the basic building blocks are profoundly simple: four amino acids. In the realm of “spiritual DNA”, the basic building blocks are, likewise, profoundly simple.  I believe they can be distilled down to four Christ-centered principles:

  1. Christ, the ekklesia’s unrivaled Center.
  2. Christ, the ekklesia’s unifying Identity.
  3. Christ, the ekklesia’s sole Foundation.
  4. Christ, the ekklesia’s uncontested Head.

If this is indeed so, then when these constitute the basic building blocks of the ekklesia, informing all that grows and develops from conception to maturity, they will produce a spiritual organism that is fully according to God’s heavenly pattern in all of its distinctive form, features, and functions.

If we take a careful look at the New Testament, I believe we will see that these four core principles were, in essence, central and primary emphases of the apostles as they labored to establish local expressions of the ekklesia.

  • The apostles preached the preeminence and greatness of Christ so that the churches would be gathered to and form around God’s unrivaled Center for the Church.
  • The apostles preached the inclusiveness and unity of Christ so that all who are baptized into His Person and Name would possess God’s unifying Identity for the Church.
  • The apostles preached the essentiality and all-sufficiency of Christ so that the local assemblies would be established, unified, and defined on and by God’s sole Foundation for the Church.
  • The apostles preached the indwelling presence and functional supremacy of Christ so that the practical expressions of the Body would gather in, through, and under God’s unrivaled Head of the Church.

In this, they established the local churches around Christ, in Christ, on Christ, and under Christ.  He, and He alone constituted the spiritual DNA of the ekklesia in every respect, center to circumference, top to bottom, beginning to end.  The result was a living, organic, organismic expression of Christ, according to the heavenly Pattern, uncorrupted by man’s tinkering or tampering with its Divine DNA.

Man in his ignorance and pride, however, often assumes that he can take matters into his own hands and in some way manipulate God’s design to achieve his own “spiritually pragmatic” ends.  He leans on his own understanding and follows his own expediencies instead of apprehending God’s impeccable Design and trusting His supernatural agency to bring it to pass.  Even as with Abraham sleeping with his Egyptian handmaiden Hagar in order to bring forth the promised “seed”, there may be a measure of blessing upon the outcome, but the fruit is never in keeping with God’s original and highest purpose.  In the end, it brings forth an enemy and persecutor of that purpose.  That is the history of much of the Church throughout the ages, beginning from very early on.

It wasn’t long after the original apostles moved off the scene, in fact, that the Church began substituting lesser spiritual elements into the essential constitution of the ekklesia’s “DNA”.  By the middle of the second century, the monarchical bishop had risen to a status comparable to “unrivaled Center” and “uncontested Head” of the local ekklesiae in Christ’s stead.  Consequently, the corporate entity that developed began to become a mutated, hybrid, “Genetically Modified Organism” (GMO), as it were.  The “genetic alterations” that were incorporated were then passed on from generation to generation.  These continued to be further tinkered and tampered with in order to compensate for the deformities that naturally developed.  Those changes rarely if ever addressed the root problem and so the aberrations continued to metastasize and multiply into many divergent strains of the Ekklesia.  As in nature, once such genetic mutations are introduced into a living strain, they are unlikely to ever reverse themselves.  They also rarely produce an improved variant of the species.  What we see in the earth today, therefore, are many expressions of “church” that are aberrant, and very little that exists according to the original DNA of the Ekklesia as it came forth purely from the Lord Jesus Christ through His holy apostles and prophets in the first century.

The question remains, then, what is God’s solution to this immense dilemma at the end of the age?  Although God’s grace is extended to all of His children across the spectrum of the Ekklesia through faith in Jesus Christ alone, He ultimately desires to restore a testimony to His original pattern and purpose for the Church in these last days through an overcoming remnant.  He is desiring those who will return to Him with all their heart, and in their corporate gatherings, collectively seek to recover His living blueprint for the Church.  Such remnant testimonies, even if they be but a few believers in number, must begin with a new “conception” so that their “genetics” from the very beginning are pure and “according to pattern.”  In profound simplicity, Christ must become their “all in all.”  In specific, and of utmost priority, Christ must become their unrivaled Center, their unifying Identity, their sole Foundation, and their uncontested Head, without supplement or substitute.  Everything else will naturally and livingly spring from this fundamental “genetic encoding.”

The DNA of man in its essential components is not complicated.  The DNA of the “new man” in its essential components is, likewise, not complicated.  If God could find a people who would give themselves to live and gather together according to just these four, fundamental, Christ-centered principles, I believe He would have the seed-bed of the restoration that He desires.  That is what I am personally committed to and hope to have communicated simply and succinctly through this series of “Affirmations.”

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Now that this series is completed, I would like to invite and encourage you to take some time and reconsider it afresh as a unified whole. There is much that stands behind these simple statements and their inter-relatedness to each other.  I believe it will take some prayerful consideration and contemplation for these truths to become internalized and personalized.  To help facilitate that, I’ve created a permanent “Affirmations” page that may be accessed here, or from the header bar/menu tab at any time.  My prayer is that the Lord may give you spiritual understanding and a renewed commitment to these essential truths as you meditate on them.  I believe they lie at the very center of His Heart for you and I as His people in these last days!  May He find us faithful!

With love,
David

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Virtual World and the Spiritual World (My personal struggle)

I’d like to be candid in this post about a personal struggle I’ve been subtly engaged in over the past few years.  With all of the many blessings that technology, the internet, social media, blogging, and the like have brought into my life, I find that there is, through my daily use of them, a quiet erosion taking place within my spirit.  With all that I’ve gained, I feel that I’ve slowly been losing something that I once had that is incomparably precious.

Compared to many, I may seem to be rather moderate when it comes to technology use.  I minimally use social media (beyond blogging); I only started using a smart phone within the past year; I have a tablet and a computer that I regularly use, but don’t feel I over use; I’m not a regular TV watcher, movie goer, Netflix subscriber, video gamer, or avid music listener.  Even so, I can tangibly feel what seems like a creeping fog that is slowly rolling in and creating a hazy barrier between myself and my Lord.  I seem to be inadvertently losing a measure of the sensitivity to the indwelling Spirit and the voice of God that I once had, and find it more and more difficult to still my mind in His Presence.

As I’ve become more aware of this, I’ve begun to realize that there is something about this virtual, technological, synthetic, screen-dominated world that we are increasingly living in that is rewiring the way we think, feel, and process life.  It’s changing the way we interact with each other, it’s altering our ability to focus our attention on one thing for any length of time, it’s creating addictions to micro-bursts of dopamine-releasing social affirmations, soulish fascinations, and sensory excitements, that all work to keep our souls continually astir and constantly craving more.  All the while, our spirits are being deprived of the one thing that they desperately desire and need for sustenance and life: intimacy with the living God.

So recently, I’ve begun to make some incremental changes that already are beginning to make a noticeable difference.  I’ve been making a concerted effort to more frequently turn off or turn away from the virtual world, when I’m tempted to fill a quiet moment with something “meaningful”, “enriching”, or “entertaining”, and to simply enjoy the quietness. I’ve also been making a greater effort to get out into God’s creation and simply breathe in the air, take in the sounds, immerse myself in the colors and textures of the sights before me, and allow the subtlety of God’s world to speak deeply into my soul and refresh my spirit. (The difference between this and the bombarding flicker rate of a computer screen cannot be compared.) Every time I do, I feel like I’m reconnecting with my spirit, with His Presence, and with life the way He meant it to be.

In thinking about these things recently, my mind went back to a short piece that I wrote for the cover of our homeschool support group newsletter in June, 2003, some thirteen years ago. In light of what I’ve just shared, I feel these thoughts are more relevant now, than when I first wrote them. I’ve included that short devotional below for your consideration. I pray that it will be an encouragement to you to more regularly turn away from the virtual world that we are so constantly immersed in, and turn to the spiritual world that is manifest all around us in and through God’s wonderful creation.

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God’s “Universe-ity”

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

Now that Spring is finally here and Summertime is fast approaching, one of the greatest opportunities for instructing our children lies right outside our own back door. In these verses the Psalmist declares what our hearts instinctively know; that all creation daily proclaims the wisdom, wonder and glory of God. The “speech” of creation communicates in infinitely subtle and sublime ways what human speech could never fully convey. As we take time with our children to listen to its exquisite “vocabulary”, a knowledge of the wisdom and ways of its unseen Author is imparted to our hearts. This classroom is an extraordinary place to learn.

For our family, the past few days have afforded some priceless opportunities to learn in God’s “universe-ity”. Yesterday my oldest two boys and I watched a majestic, circling osprey hunt for its evening catch as our canoe gently glided down a rain-swollen river. Earlier that day, my daughter had marvelled at the delicate beauty of a darting hummingbird as it sipped nectar from one of the very flowers she had helped her mother plant. Today we watched a thousand whirling maple “helicopters” sail off in the blustering evening breeze as we commented on their perfect aerodynamic design. Later, we joyfully winced as our two-year old son delightedly picked one white dandelion after another and lofted the fluffy white seeds to infiltrate our lawn in yet a hundred new locations!

Whether it is the ominous roll of distant thunder, or the silent speech of a star-filled night sky, all creation continues to faithfully testify of its Designer and Sustainer. May we take these opportunities to teach our children to be good students of this priceless “Book” that has been freely given to us. May we draw away from the clatter and clutter of this world’s distractions and cultivate, along with them, an ear to hear the whisper of God’ voice as daily creation speaks.

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I had been wanting to share along this line for a couple of months, but the impetus to do so now came after reading a post the other day by a dear brother, Patrick Maina, of Kenya.  That post is called, “The Battle You and I Must Win”, from his blog, Life Beyond the Walls, and can be found here.  I encourage you to read it as well.

In closing, this continues to be a very busy and stressful time for our family (for the reasons I explained in this earlier post.)  Your continued prayers are appreciated.  As time allows, I will be concluding the “Affirmations” series.

Love and blessings in Him,
David

Posted in The Inner Life | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Delighting in God – by A.W. Tozer – Free audiobook offer

Hey folks,

Just a quick post to share a resource that’s being offered this month (May, 2016) for free.  Every month christianaudio.com offers a free audiobook download as a way of blessing the Body of Christ and keeping a ministry/generosity focus to their Christian audio business.  These are always top-notch selections and productions. This month’s I felt was especially worth passing on.

They are currently offering a new A.W. Tozer book, Delighting in God, which is a collection of Bro. Tozer’s sermons from later in his life.  Together they serve as a devotional follow-up to his classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy, which was the last book that he wrote.  Bro. Tozer had desired to write a devotional sequel to it, but it never came to fruition during his lifetime. This compilation has been chosen to fulfill that desire and meet that need.  It is classic Tozer!

DelightingInGod_3DCover
Along with this “freebie”, all other Tozer audiobooks that christianaudio carries are on sale for only $4.98 this month as well, (which normally range in price from $10.98 – $14.98.)  These include The Knowledge of the Holy, The Attributes of God Vol. 1 & 2God’s Pursuit of Man,  The Pursuit of God,  The Radical Cross, The Root of the Righteous, and an excellent biography, A Passion For God by Lyle Dorsett.  I’ve listened to all of these except for The Radical Cross and The Root of the Righteous and they are excellent indeed.

To take advantage of these (or future) offers, go to christianaudio.com/free and follow the simple instructions.  You will need to sign up with an email address, which will put you on their mailing list for future offers and sales, but you don’t have to purchase anything or sign up for a monthly membership, etc., to take advantage of the free offer.

Even if you don’t happen to be an audiobook listener at this time, you may want to still consider taking advantage of this offer, for you can always access the title(s) later on, even years from now, from “Your Library” on the site.  You can also “gift” these offers to a friend, if you know someone whom you think may be interested and blessed by them.

I wanted to pass on the word about this particular opportunity as I’ve been so personally blessed by Bro. Tozer’s works in the past.  The offer is only good until the end of this month though, so dive on in!🙂

All blessings,
David

christianaudio.com/free

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Affirmations (7) – My Commitments

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

______________________

~ Affirmations ~

7. My Commitments

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Father and to a life-long, uncompromising obedience to His eternal purpose so that its spiritual principles and sovereign priorities may, above all things, govern and fashion my life, relationships, ministry, and work.  I commit to live solely for the Father’s glory, pleasure, and satisfaction as I seek to be a vessel shaped by and bearing witness to His supreme desire and ultimate intention in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my unrivaled Center, in Whom, through Whom, and to Whom are all things.  I commit to seek His centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency in all things related to my life, faith, family, the ekklesia, and the world.  I will give my supreme devotion and steadfast allegiance to no lesser person, principle, or thing.  I will seek the reality, fullness, purity, and balance of all spiritual matters, whether individual or corporate, in Jesus Christ Himself, so that He forever remains my undiminished focus, my unrelenting pursuit, and my inexhaustible source of all things.

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my God-given Identity into Whom, and into whose Name, I have been baptized.  I commit myself to the surpassing greatness and unifying power of His Person, Work, and Name which binds all who are in Him together as one and cancels out all lesser identities, be they secular or “spiritual”.  I reject all sectarian, man-made labels, names, categories, groupings and denoms that would distinguish me from other believers and I commit to only being identified by Him Whose name is “above every name”, the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my sole Foundation, and the sole Foundation of the Church, both universally and locally.  I commit to being established solely upon Him as the one Foundation Who can establish, unify, and define my life, and the ekklesia, according to God’s heavenly pattern and eternal purpose.  I reject all sectarian, worldly, man-made foundations that seek to establish, unify, and define individual Christians or groups of Christians by something other than, or in addition to, Christ.  I commit myself to seeing local expressions of the ekklesia established on the one, God-given, God-tested, God-approved, God-laid, and God-upheld foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, alone, as end-time restoration testimonies to God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my Head and as the Head of His Body, the Church. I commit myself to ardently pursue a life of submission, sensitivity and obedience to His Headship in every aspect of my life.  I pledge to seek out and sacrificially give myself to an expression of the Church where His practical Headship is sought and submitted to in its corporate gatherings and daily life.  I will do all that is within me, by His grace, to cooperate with and to promote the Headship of Christ among God’s people, so that He may be restored to His rightful place within His Church in these last days.

~ ~ ~

I affirm my commitment to the Lord’s restoration purpose and program in these Last Days in purifying an overcoming remnant who will return to Him with all their heart and seek to establish local expressions of His Church in which Jesus Christ is given His rightful place as unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head.  I will not pursue my own interests, desires, and needs, be they natural or “spiritual”, but will lay down my life to pursue the Father’s eternal desire and supreme intention for His people.  I pledge my life, my family, and my resources to the restoration of end-time, remnant testimonies to His eternal purpose and original pattern for the Ekklesia.  I will not shrink back though it cost me (and my family) testings, trials, barrenness, wilderness purgings, ostracism, persecution, opposition, and/or discouragement.  I will not be governed by externals or apparent successes or failures, but merely by obedience to God’s heavenly vision and living solely for the glory, pleasure and satisfaction of my Father as I seek to be faithful to His eternal purpose in all things.

~ ~ ~

These commitments I affirm!

________________________________

Conclusion to follow…

________________________________

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Affirmations (6) – End-Time Remnant Restoration

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

____________________

~ Affirmations ~

6. End-Time Remnant Restoration

~ ~ ~

I affirm that God’s program at the end of the age, in accordance with His eternal purpose, is to purify an overcoming remnant of His people who will return to Him with all their heart, and restore, in and through their collective expressions, a testimony to His eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the most essential factor in the restoration of this end-time testimony is the reestablishment of the Lord Jesus Christ as central, supreme, and all-sufficient in all aspects of the returning remnant’s corporate calling, life, function, ministry, and governance, according to the principles of God’s eternal purpose.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the restoration of this end-time testimony will be radical in nature, beginning at the root level and working upward and outward to the full extent of the remnant’s collective expressions so that the reality and substance of Christ will be formed, developed and manifested naturally, from root to fruit, and from center to circumference.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the root level of this corporate restoration is found in the four aspects of the “formative core” that constitute any established group: 1. “attractional center”, 2. “unifying identity”, 3. “foundational base”, and 4. “governance principle”, and that Christ Himself must, in this regard, become the unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head of the remnant’s corporate expressions as a matter of first and foremost priority.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that when Christ is restored to His central, supreme and all-sufficient place in those four aspects of the remnant’s “formative core”, that the entire “conformative matrix” (i.e. all other inter-related aspects) that develops around and according to it will, likewise, bear the testimony of Christ throughout, in keeping with God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that it is because the Church at large, from early post-apostolic days onward, did not zealously maintain Christ as her unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head, but substituted lesser things in His place in one or more of these “formative core” aspects, that the Church grew and developed with “spiritual eccentricity” at its core, and systemically bore the fruit of “spiritual eccentricity”: disunity, diminishment, impurity, and imbalance throughout its many divergent expressions.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the eccentricities of the established religious systems that have developed over the centuries and millenia have become so sociologically enmeshed and psychologically ingrained that they have all but “locked in” the eccentric “formative cores” of those systems, making the entire constructs, from root to fruit, center to circumference, incorrigibly resistant to reform and restoration.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that because of the incorrigibly resistant nature of these sociological/psychological dynamics, the remnant that is called to God’s end-time restoration will encounter great resistance within the existing “eccentric religious systems” and will in most cases, of necessity, be forced to move outside of them in order to restore a collective testimony according to Christ and Christ alone, as it was in the beginning.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that due to the overall lack of revelation, conviction, and consecration as to God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for His Church, and also to the costliness of not conforming to the prevailing “eccentric religious systems”, those who do respond to this call will be relatively few in number, even as it was in the days when a small remnant of the Jewish people (about 2%) returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city, as recorded in the “restoration books” of the Old Testament.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the call to be a part of this returning remnant is a very costly one often involving increased levels of misunderstanding, criticism, false accusation, ostracism, isolation, persecution, spiritual warfare, buffeting, conflict, disillusionment and discouragement, and should not be undertaken without soberly counting the cost.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that no one should endeavor to answer this call who does not have a deep, personal relationship with the Lord, and who is not willing to endure even a prolonged season in the “wilderness”, if need be, in following the Lord in the outworking of His end-time purpose.

~ ~ ~

I affirm, that those who are faithful to this call have the assurance that God is with them, will sustain them, and that they can claim as their own the encouragement of the promise God spoke to the Jewish remnant: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (Haggai 2:9)

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

_______________________________

Continued…

Related:

Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant Series

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 5: “Tradition and Restoration”

The Process of the Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 6)

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Restoration, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Affirmations (5) – Christ the Uncontested Head of the Church

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]
______________________

~ Affirmations ~

5. Christ the Uncontested Head of the Church

~ ~ ~

I affirm that, according to the eternal purpose, the Father has established the Lord Jesus Christ as the uncontested Head of the Church, which is His Body, His Bride.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in order for the Church to fulfill her high calling in relation to the eternal purpose, the practical Headship of Christ must be experienced, embodied, and expressed in and through the Body of Christ in its daily life and corporate gatherings.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in order for the Headship of Christ to be manifest in the corporate gatherings of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself must be given the central and supreme place within the gathering, and that all aspects of the assembly must be submitted to His practical Headship, so that all would ultimately be “of Him, and through Him, and to Him.”

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the practical Headship of Christ is administered in the Church by the Holy Spirit who indwells, anoints, gifts, and empowers all members of the Body of Christ to serve and function under Christ’s Headship as they yield to His leading and serve according to His enablement.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Headship of Christ is most fully embodied within the Church when local assemblies gather as healthy expressions of the Body of Christ, in which all members are encouraged and equipped to function responsibly and responsively to the Headship of Christ, through the Spirit, in unity, orderliness, and mutual submission.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Headship of Christ is most naturally experienced within the Body when there is mutuality and plurality in the functioning of gifts, ministries, leadership, equipping, and oversight, and when no single person seeks to dominate or monopolize the exercise of these functions, but all seek to serve according to the principle of “two or three.”

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the functional Headship of Christ is most freely expressed when all plans, preparations, and participation in an assembly are submitted to the Holy Spirit for His inspiration, formation, confirmation, facilitation, and orchestration within the gathering, so that Christ may readily express Himself, by the Spirit, through His many-membered Body.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Headship of Christ incorporates and integrates into an assembly the complimentary and counter-balancing attributes of preparedness and spontaneity, orderliness and unpredictability, form and flexibility, constraint and liberty, submission and equality, leadership and servanthood, equipping and functioning, and that these attributes must consistently be held in dynamic spiritual balance.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that some degree of form, structure, and/or order is needful and helpful for the harmonious functioning of the church under the Headship of Christ, but that these ought to be implemented only as they serve to facilitate Christ’s practical Headship, and must remain flexible to and changeable at the Spirit’s leading.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that (a plurality of) servant/leadership is given to the church to serve, equip, and help facilitate the full functioning of the Body of Christ, under His immediate Headship, and that these must not lord over the church, but set an example as being the most sensitive to the Spirit, the greatest of servants, and the most zealous for the Headship of Christ being manifest within the whole church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Headship of Christ requires local assemblies to continuously walk in faith and perseverance concerning its manifest reality, and they must continuously resist the temptation to settle for that which is humanly and religiously more predictable, “safe”, “reliable”, “normal”, common, traditional, and/or expected.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Church has, since its earliest days, adopted many substitutes for the Headship of Christ, so that His manifest presence and practical Headship in the midst of His people are commonly unknown and generally disallowed, but that in these last days, God is raising up an overcoming remnant who will once again restore the Lord Jesus to His rightful place as the uncontested Head of His Body, and seek to collectively embrace, embody and express His Headship in their daily lives and regular corporate gatherings.

~ ~~

I affirm that only as the Church regularly lives, gathers and functions under the manifest Headship of Jesus Christ, can it fulfill and display forth the eternal purpose of God to all of creation, seen and unseen, according to her high calling in Christ.

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

________________________________

Continued…

Related:

The Headship of Christ In the Gathering of the Church

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

JESUS NOW (“Taste Test”) – by Frank Viola (free PDF ebook)

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cross in “3D”

The cross is like a many-sided jewel that must be turned and beheld from all angles to appreciate its true beauty and extraordinary worth.  In this post, I’d like to give a three-point perspective on the cross through a collection of posts I’ve written which each express a specific revelation that God has given me concerning it.

The synergy of diverse viewpoints tends to give a subject a greater sense of depth, clarity, and balance. My hope is that these meditations will help to do just that concerning the cross so that it may be seen in a fresh,”3D” perspective.

Below are excerpts from the written posts with links to the full articles, along with an audio playlist of the three pieces, if you would prefer to listen. I pray that you are blessed with a greater comprehension and appreciation of the greatest single event in all of human (and Divine) history…the CROSS!

~ ~ ~

“The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God”

excerpt: “I remember being on a long trip a number of years back and musing on the cross as I was driving.  Part of my meditation was that I was wondering how the eternal justice of God was fully satisfied for all men, and for all time, by Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross.  I wondered how the temporal sufferings and death of Christ actually “balanced the scales” of the eternal judgment of God for sin.  When sin is judged with eternal punishment, how could Christ’s temporal punishment for sin suffice as just payment?  Honestly, it didn’t fully add up in my mind.

Then I felt the Lord open my understanding and speak to my heart, ‘It is not the duration of the sufferings in hours or days, but the depth of the sufferings that needed to be accomplished.  The duration of the suffering is not measured by time, but by eternity.’”  [to full post…]

~ ~ ~

“The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat”

excerpt: “Lucifer’s uprising interjected something foreign, alien, disrupting, corrupting.

Had God, the omnipotent Creator, responded in swift and final judgement, the atmosphere of heaven would have instantly and forever changed. God would have become, at that moment, One not simply to be reverently and lovingly adored and served, but One to be eternally terrified of.  Angelic worship and obedience would become permeated with a sense of fearful servitude out of pure self-preservation. Love and wonder would not have filled the air, but a pervasive, inescapable sense of dread.

This is not the heaven that God desires, nor will have. His challenge, therefore, is to deal with this rebellion without undermining the loving, joyful, peaceful relationship He has with the rest of His creatures. Lucifer must neither through his rebellion, nor through the outworking of his judgment, spoil the very nature of heaven.

For God to accomplish this, His Plan would not be played out on an un-level playing field, tipped in His favor, with He as Creator, and His Opponent as creature; with He being infinite in power, and His Opponent, finite in power. It would be another way.

But it would not be easy!” [to full post…]

~ ~ ~

“Co-Laboring With God”

excerpt: “The cross, when it has fully accomplished its radical work, makes us alive in Christ as God-centered men and women, fit to co-labor with Him in His God-centered work. We will no longer interject ourselves into His work as originators of it, sustainers of it, or prime recipients of it. We will merely be earthen vessels participating in that which has its source, means and ends in God and not in the natural man.”  [to full post…]

~ ~ ~

These audio files may also be listened to or downloaded separately by clicking or saving the following links:
“The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God”
“The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat”
“Co-Laboring With God”

~ ~ ~

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Affirmations (4) – Christ the Sole Foundation of the Church

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

________________________

~ Affirmations ~

 4. Christ the Sole Foundation of the Church

~ ~ ~

I affirm that, according to the eternal purpose, the Father has chosen, tried, and laid one Foundation for the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that this Foundation alone is God-given, God-tested, God-approved, God-laid, and God-upheld, and that all other foundations that are man-given, man-tested, man-approved, man-laid, and man-upheld are insufficient as foundations for the Church and its local expressions.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that no other foundation has been, nor ever will be, as thoroughly tested, tried, and proven as this Foundation, Who has endured the unbridled torrents of Hell, the unrestrained tortures of men, and the undiminished wrath of God, and has come forth eternally tested, triumphant and transcendent.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that no other foundation has been, nor ever will be, as formidable in size, substance and stability as this Foundation, Whose footings descend to the lowest depths of hell, Whose summit ascends to the highest heights of heaven, Whose edges extend to the farthest reaches of creation, and Whose duration spans from eternity to eternity.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that this Foundation alone is eternal, incorruptible, unshakable, indomitable, unassailable, irreproachable, and incomparable as the sole foundation of the Church and cannot be supplemented, substituted for, or supplanted without the Church being corrupted and critically compromised thereby.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that this Foundation alone fully and faithfully supplies to the Church the three-fold purpose of a “foundation”: establishment, unification, and definition, according to the heavenly pattern and eternal purpose of God for the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all other, man-made, sectarian foundations, be they institutional, organizational, denominational, national, racial, theological, doctrinal, traditional, experiential, governmental,  personal, or the like, and no matter how well-meaning, reasonable, or seemingly needful they may appear, are insufficient to establish, unify and define the Church according to the heavenly pattern and eternal purpose of God for the Church, but inherently serve to undermine, divide and re-define the Church according to the earthly patterns and temporal purposes of man.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the heavenly, spiritual nature of the Church’s sole Foundation is a stumbling stone to the natural man and a primary reason why Jesus is today, and always has been, “the Stone the builders reject(ed)…”

~ ~ ~

I affirm that although the Church at large has all but universally rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole Foundation of the Church, and have supplemented, substituted for, and supplanted Him with man-made, sectarian foundations in order to establish, unify and define themselves, the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to God’s heavenly pattern and eternal purpose and restore the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s one, true Foundation, back to His rightful place in these last days.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that only as individual believers and corporate expressions of the Church reject all lesser, man-made, sectarian foundations, and return to the one true Foundation upon which they are rightly established, unified, and defined, will they be able to show forth the preeminence, greatness, all-sufficiency, and unity of Christ to all of creation, according to the eternal purpose of God.

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

____________________________________

Continued…

Related:

Foundations of Restoration

Co-Laboring With God

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Affirmations (3) – Christ the Unifying Identity of the Church

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

_______________________________

~Affirmations~

3. Christ the Unifying Identity of the Church

~ ~ ~

I affirm that, according to His eternal purpose, the Father has called out and constituted in His resurrected, glorified Son, “one new man”, the Church, the corporate Christ.

 ~ ~ ~

I affirm that this “one new man” is fully unified and identified with Christ and is, therefore, fully unified and identified by Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all who have been joined to Christ through faith, have been united with Him in His death in which all divisive, earthly distinctions, identities, labels, and names have been abolished.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all who have been joined to Christ through faith, have been united with Him in His resurrection in which the one, indivisible, heavenly identity of Christ has been imputed to all.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in this “one new man”, all earthly, national, racial, social, economic, political, and religious distinctions have been superseded and supplanted by “Christ” so that now “Christ is all.”

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into the name of Jesus Christ and are now fully identified with, in possession of, and called by “the name that is above every name.” 

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all lesser, sectarian names, labels, denoms, and the like, by which individual believers, or groups of believers, are distinguished and divided from one another, are contrary to the completed work and heavenly reality of Christ and are, therefore, condemned by God and to be rejected by the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that although individual believers, spiritual movements and religious factions within the Church have all but universally adopted sectarian names, labels, denoms, and the like to distinguish themselves, the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things and restore the supreme, unifying identity of CHRIST back to the Church in these last days.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that only as those who are in Christ reject all sectarian identities, labels, names, denoms, and the like and return to Christ Himself as their one, true, heavenly Identity, can they begin to collectively express the unity, fullness, and greatness of Christ, according to the eternal purpose and glory of the Father.

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

___________________________________

Continued…

Related:

“IN”: Identity”

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 4: “Tradition and Apostasy”

Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant (series)

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Unity, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Affirmations (2) – Christ the Unrivaled Center of the Church

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

_______________________________

~ Affirmations ~

2. Christ the Unrivaled Center of the Church

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in each and every aspect of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ is to hold the place of absolute and unrivaled centrality, according to the eternal purpose, pleasure, and glory of the Father.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Church is to have no other rallying point, primary emphasis, passionate pursuit, concentrated focus, unifying vision, originating source, sustaining power, governing authority, and culminating objective, in all of her multi-faceted dimensions of faith and practice, than the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that each and every individual matter of faith and practice, no matter how great or significant it may be in and of itself, represents a diminishment compared to Christ, and is insufficient to hold the central place in the faith and practice of the Church.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that any singular matter of faith or practice that does rival or supplant Christ in His centrality, in any aspect of the church’s experience or expression, is in that position spiritually idolatrous and introduces limitation, discord, defilement and distortion into the Body of Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that each and every matter of faith and practice only finds its full reality, true significance, and proper balance when it is seen centered, summed up, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that all matters of faith and practice when stewarded properly remain Christ-centered in their focus, and thus purposefully serve to reveal and supply more of Christ to the Body.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that as the church gathers, it is to do so around, unto, and according to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that He is to be unrivaled as to His place of centrality, preeminence, and significance by any lesser person, program, or practice.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in the gathering of the church, any person, program, or practice that does rival or preempt Christ in His centrality, preeminence, and significance is in that regard spiritually idolatrous and its inflated status and eccentric focus must be corporately repented of.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that although the Church has historically substituted many things in the place of Christ as their unrivaled Center, yet the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to their First Love, the Lord Jesus Christ, and restore the spiritual and practical realities of the centrality of Christ back to the Church in these last days.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that only a radically and comprehensively Christ-centered expression of the Church, in its daily life and corporate gatherings, is able to embody and display forth the eternal purpose of God to all of creation according to her high calling.

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

___________________________________

Continued…

Related posts and pages:

Christ the Center (series)

Centrality and Balance

Centrality and Eccentricity

Unity – Center to Circumference

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Affirmations (1) – The Eternal Purpose, Christ, and the Church

[Affirmations series: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.]

_____________________

~ Affirmations ~

1. The Eternal Purpose, Christ, and the Church

~ ~ ~

I affirm that before time began, the Father desired, designed and established His eternal purpose according to His good pleasure and glory, and that all of His works in time are governed by and unto the fulfillment of this eternal purpose.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the central motivation of the Father’s heart and mind in establishing His eternal purpose was His supreme love for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in the eternal purpose the Father has ordained the Lord Jesus Christ to occupy the central and supreme place in and over all things in relation to creation, redemption, the Church and the Kingdom.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Church, the Body of Christ, shares in Christ’s eternal calling and is the chosen vessel through which the eternal purpose of God is to be first embodied and expressed among all of creation.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the highest calling, purpose and pattern for the Church is the eternal purpose of God, and that any deviation from it constitutes a corruption of the Church and its calling.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ is the first and foremost feature of the eternal purpose that the Church is to corporately embrace, embody and manifest as she is spiritually and practically fashioned according to it in all things.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that in Christ all fullness dwells and that the Church has been given all fullness in Christ.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the Church is called to manifest the fullness of Christ and can only do so when it is constituted according to the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things related to her.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that the most essential ways in which Christ is to be given the central and supreme place in the Church are for Him to become, in spiritual and practical reality, her unrivaled Center, her unifying Identity, her sole Foundation, and her Uncontested Head.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that whenever Christ is rivaled in His centrality or preempted in His supremacy in any of these four essential areas, that disunity, diminishment, defilement, and distortion are brought into the Church and it is corrupted thereby.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that although the Church has historically substituted and supplanted Christ in these four areas, and has tragically reaped the fruit of her eccentricities, that God will in the end have a remnant who will return to His original, eternal purpose and once again be fashioned according to the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, beginning with these four essential aspects.

~ ~ ~

I affirm that only by an uncompromising, radical return to the practical establishment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Church’s unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and Uncontested Head can the remnant of the Church be rescued from the prevailing process of corruption and be restored it to its original high calling, according to God’s eternal purpose.

~ ~ ~

These truths I affirm!

________________________________

Continued…

Related:

A Personal Note and Blogging Update

“Affirmations” Introduced

Our Deepest Convictions

Shaped by God’s Eternal Purpose

Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant (series)

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Christ-Centered Christianity Affirmations, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Affirmations” Introduced

With this post I am introducing a series of posts called, “Affirmations“.  In order to place it in its context, I’d like to share the spiritual as well as the personal background to it.  Next week, I plan to publish Part 1.

Spiritual Background

This series developed out of a long process of the Lord’s dealings in my life, both spiritually and experientially, and is a distillation of some of the major truths concerning Christ and His Church that He’s revealed and made precious to me over the years.  The different aspects of the series will make more sense if I give a little of the spiritual background to it. So, here’s how I see it…

The Church, the Body of Christ, is a living, spiritual organism.  As such it is governed by the law of the “organic”.  All living organisms develop naturally according to the uniquely encoded information that exists within their cells, in their DNA.  The “blueprint” for all that they are and will become is found in this basic set of instructions.  In living organisms, “in-formation” precedes formation.

Likewise, the spiritual organism of the Church grows and develops naturally according to the most fundamental set of “information” that it embraces and embodies as to the who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how? of its existence and calling.  Depending on the nature of this “DNA”, a given expression of the Church will either manifest that which is according to God’s “blueprint”, or that which is some deviation or deformation of it.  Man often looks at the externals and seeks to make and mold them to some pre-conceived form, but God is ultimately concerned with the “DNA”, the “in-formation”.  When the “spiritual genetics” are right, the desired organism naturally develops.

So, what are the “spiritual genetics” of the Church?  What is her divinely prescribed “DNA”?  If we can lay hold of that and allow it to inform and form us naturally and organically, then we can fully expect that the end result will be an organic expression of the Church that will be according to God’s pattern.  All of our focus, then, ought to be right there.

About seven years ago, I asked the Lord a question about what constitutes, at the most basic level, an established, functioning group.  In other words, what are the bare minimum factors required for random individuals to come together and become a cohesive, viable social entity?  In my questioning, I was seeking that which is common in all (free-association) groups found among men, not merely spiritual or religious ones.  I felt that the Lord delineated four fundamental factors that any group forms around and according to in order to become established and functional.  I call these four principles the “formative core” of a group.  They are as follows:

1. Attractional Center – This is the preeminent person, purpose, or pursuit around which a group gathers and coalesces.  It is the primary purpose for the group’s existence and the main reason why people are initially drawn and subsequently remain attached to the group.

2. Unifying Identity – This is the name or fundamental principle that people associate with a group as its identifying label or definition.  It is in man’s nature to categorize, label and name all things that exist, and so when a group comes into existence, it is all but a given that it will adopt some form of distinctive identity.  This identity is representative of the entire entity and serves as a banner under which those who associate themselves with it may stand united.

3. Foundational Base – This is that which establishes, unifies, and defines the basic parameters of a group even as a natural foundation does a physical building.  When it comes to a social entity, a “foundational base” supplies a commonly accepted provision to the basic, “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?”, “why?”, and “how?” aspects of the group.  No group can be united and function efficiently if there is not a common understanding of these basic parameters and presuppositions.

4. Governance Principle  – This is some form of internal or external means of regulation adopted by a group through which it is organized, led, makes decisions, protects its interests, enforces its principles and protocols, and propagates itself to fulfill its purpose.  Different types of groups adopt varying forms of a “governance principle”, but no group can or will exist without one.

These four aspects together, then, form the basis around and according to which any free-will association assembles and becomes viable.  All four are needed in some form or another, and depending on the shape and substance of this “formative core”, the shape and substance of the group will, likewise, naturally grow and develop into its unique, full expression.  The details embedded in this “formative core” constitute, if you will, the “DNA” of the group.

If this is true of groups in general, then we should consider whether it applies, likewise, to local expressions of the Church.  To put it in Scriptural context, we might ask, “Were the local churches found in Scripture established with some form of an ‘attractional center’, a ‘unifying identity’, a ‘foundational base’, and a ‘governance principle’?”  If indeed they were, then we should seek to know what the shape and substance of each of those facets of their “formative core” were.  If Scripture informs us on that, then I believe we are zeroing in on the true “DNA” of the church, according to the mind and will of God.

According to Paul, we know that the Church is called to be the instrument through which “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known unto the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11)

The churches are, therefore, to be fashioned according to the eternal purpose that they may be fit vessels to display it forth.  That being the case, the “DNA” of the churches, (i.e. the “formative core”) must, especially, be according to the eternal purpose, that the churches which naturally develop from it may become corporate manifestations of the manifold wisdom of God to all of creation.

A central tenet of the eternal purpose is the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, and so He must be embraced and embodied as such in the churches as well.  Thus, when it comes to the “formative core” of the ekklesia, we see that Christ Himself is indeed God’s central, supreme and all-sufficient provision for all four aspects.  In the eternal purpose, as well as in the churches, Christ is the Center, Christ is the Identity, Christ is the Foundation, and Christ is the Head.  When Christ Himself defines the “DNA”, the spiritual organism that grows and develops as a result is, likewise, CHRIST, in corporate manifestation.  This is God’s divine “blueprint” and living “pattern” for the Church.

It is imperative, then, that local expressions of the Church contend supremely for these four aspects of their formation and development. Christ must be the “Attractional Center”; Christ must be the “Unifying Identity”; Christ must be the “Foundational Base”; and Christ must be the “Governance Principle”.  If those four facets alone can be radically secured and diligently preserved for Christ, and as Christ, all else will naturally and organically grow according to Christ.  It all boils down to just that.

Although this is simple in its essence, in its implementation it is not.  The tragic reality within the Christian systems that fill the earth today is that it is exactly at these four points that Christ has been all but universally substituted and supplanted.  At the very core of much, if not most of the Church, there is corrupted, malignant “DNA”.  Something other than Christ has been embraced as the “attractional center”, be it a man, a program, a production, a practice, an emphasis, etc… to which adherents are drawn and held together, rather than the preeminent Person of Christ alone. (For more, see here.) The churches’ “unifying identity” has become a man-made name, label, denom, etc… rather than the unparalleled Name of Christ that the Father has given that we all may be one. (John 17:11) (Also, for more, see here) Man-made, sectarian foundations have been laid to establish, unify and define organizations and institutions men call “churches”, and the great, God-given foundation of Christ has been rejected Who alone can establish, unite, and define the entire Church, and all local expressions of it, according to God’s heavenly pattern.  (1 Cor. 3:11)  The “governance principle” that has been adopted has placed man at the head, be it in personality, committee, program, or protocol, rather than Christ, Who alone is Head and can govern the Church according to the will of the Father.  (For more, see here.)  It is shamelessly, and un-questionably accepted that at the very “formative core” of these religious entities there is man-made substitution for and supplantation of Christ.  The consequences of this are immense.  All that divides, diminishes, defiles, and distorts the “churches” springs from the existence of this corrupted “DNA” at the core level.

God’s eternal purpose within the Church will not be stopped, however, and so He is working in this last day to purify a remnant who will “return to the land” and “rebuild the house of the Lord” according to His divine Pattern, which is CHRIST alone, without substitute or supplement.  His end-time purpose is one of restoration and it must begin at the root level of the “spiritual genetics” of the Ekklesia.  God is looking for those who will diligently and faithfully commit to this end-time restoration.

This, then, is the spiritual background to the “Affirmations” series.

Personal Background

The Lord has been working these truths into me for well over three decades now, but they really came together in a unified whole about seven years ago when I taught a comprehensive five-part seminar called, “Christ-Centered Christianity”. (The audio of Part 1 can be found here.)

A year and a half later, I felt the Lord wanted me to boil the essence of these truths down to their most elemental form in a series of “affirmations”.  This came to me as we were heading into the New Year of 2011.  I felt that this would provide a concise expression of my faith and convictions concerning these things, and which would then serve as a foundation to a fresh commitment to them in my life and “ministry”.  So, I wrote them out as a personal, spiritual exercise to kick off the new year.

Recently, I pulled them up on my computer to read again.  It was refreshing to revisit them some five years later.  In doing so, I also felt that now after four years of blogging, they would make a fitting addition to this blog as well.  Enough has been published to date to “put meat on the bones” of these simple declarations.  For those who have followed this blog, they will serve as a concise distillation of what has been published for the past four years.  For those who are new to this blog,  it may serve to whet your appetite to dig in a little deeper to what has been shared so far.  Going forward, there are also some major teachings I have yet to share, but plan to get to. Some of the biggest rocks have yet to be put in the jar. I hope you will stay tuned!

I wanted to give some spiritual and personal background to this series before it rolls out, in addition to what I shared in the last post concerning what is presently going on in our family situation and the prospects of this coming year.  I hope that you will take these “Affirmations” as not just quick reads, but as opportunities for prayerful study, sober contemplation, and renewed commitment.  These concise expressions are like windows through which one can look to see vast and glorious vistas.  I pray that you are captivated and challenged by the view. It is CHRIST!

With love,
David

Affirmations (1) – The Eternal Purpose, Christ, and the Church

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Personal Note and Blogging Update

Hi friends,

Blessings to you all!  Its been rather quiet around here for the past few months, so I wanted to give a brief update on what has been going on with my family and me, and how that has been, and will be, affecting my blogging in this new year.  Last I posted was the end of November. Then came December…and then came January!

December is typically a very busy month in our household with all the preparations and activities of the Christmas season, my daughter’s birthday ten days before, out-of-state family traditionally visiting the week of Christmas through to New Years, and the like.  This year was all of that and more.  As for blogging, I had initially hoped to finish the series on “Centrality and Expectation” during December, but there was simply no window to give it the time it needed.  I figured I had no choice but to bump it into the New Year.

Two days after Christmas, however, we got a call that my mother (91) had been taken to the ER with a serious infection and difficulty breathing.  Further evaluation showed that her heart had been severely stressed from her condition as well.  After a number of days in ICU, it became clear that she was not responding well to the interventions and that only heroic measures could possibly prolong her life.  As a family, we made the decision for palliative care and had her transferred to the Hospice Unit of the hospital.  She was made as comfortable as possible, and passed peacefully within six days.

My wife and I have been primarily responsible for overseeing her care and affairs for the past 17 years, and so a large part of the after-death arrangements fell on our shoulders.  Needless to say, that has overwhelmed and overshadowed this past month.  It will also continue to define at least the first part of this year as I assume the role of executor of her will and estate.

Personally and spiritually my family and I are doing well and have sensed God’s abundant grace through this time of loss. We also have the assurance that my mother is now with the Lord in a much better place. We have had to reprioritize much of life, though, in the midst of this difficult and demanding time.

That being the case, I am also having to revamp my plan for blogging for the near future.  If all had gone as I had originally hoped, I would have finished the last two parts of “Centrality and Expectation” before the year’s end and begun the new year with a fresh series of posts called “Affirmations.”

That series was actually written five years ago, a year before I began blogging, as the result of a personal spiritual exercise I engaged in to begin the New Year then.  In short, I prayerfully wrote down a collection of concise affirmations of some of the most essential truths concerning the Eternal Purpose of God, Christ, and the Church, according to my deepest convictions. That was a first step in making a fresh commitment to those realities in my life in that coming year.  As I looked over those writings again recently, I realized that they would also serve well now as a series of posts to give a summary of the basic, Christ-centered truths that I have been blogging about for the past four years.

Since these writings are all but “publish-ready”,  I am going to begin with an (actual) introductory post next week and then publish the seven additional parts of the “Affirmations” series over the next few months.

If during that period I am able to find some time to finish up the previous series as well, I will do so, or possibly intersperse some additional posts into the mix, but I will have to take that as it comes. Family matters will need to come first.

In closing, I’d like to say that last year was an especially difficult and trying year and it seems that this year could now be dauntingly heading in a similar direction.  Additionally, there is a specific warfare that comes from blogging, especially relating to the core spiritual truths of the centrality and preeminence of Christ in all things.  I have considered even hitting the pause button on this blog for six months or so to possibly minimize that while I go through the difficult and sensitive process of settling our parents’ estate.  Time is too short, though, and the situation in the world and in the Church far too critical to not keep pressing on in sharing what God has put on my heart for those who read and follow this blog.  My gut tells me that this year, on a national and global scale, is going to be nothing short of cataclysmic and transformational, and that we must all diligently redeem the time for the days are evil.  I would ask, therefore, that you would please pray for my family and me, especially over the next few months.  That would be greatly appreciated!

It is my hope that this post finds you well, and that God’s grace will be with you in abundance throughout this coming year!

Love and peace in Him!
~David

Posted in Blog Updates | 16 Comments

“Centrality and…” (3 posts in 1)

Greetings, all!  With the busyness of this season, I’ve decided to hold off on continuing the series, “Centrality and Expectation” until after the New Year.  To give some background to it, though, as well as a re-posting of Part 1 in a different format, I’ve put together an audio playlist of three related posts: “Centrality and Balance“, “Centrality and Eccentricity“, and “Centrality and Expectation – Pt.1“.  These all share a common theme and help to fill out the picture of the significance of “centrality” in our lives and in the church.  (These posts touch more closely on the passion of my heart than pretty much any others.)

I’m offering them in this format for we are now into one of the busiest seasons of the year.  So maybe while you are doing chores, decorating the house, running around shopping, or just relaxing at the end of the day, you might find this a more convenient way to partake of these posts.

The playlist below will play the files in succession, or if you prefer to download them individually, you can use the links below the playlist for that. (If anyone has a problem with either of these, please let me know.)  Finally, if you prefer to read these posts, the originals will open up by clicking the links to their titles above.

However you partake, I hope that you enjoy and are edified!

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[mp3 files: left-click to play, right-click and “Save Link As…” to download.]

Centrality and Balance

Centrality and Eccentricity

Centrality and Expectation – Pt. 1

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Posted in Audio Posts, Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Centrality and Expectation – Pt.1

[Listen here.]

“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is of Him.”
Psalm 62:5

The word “expectation” has been weighing heavily on my heart these days, especially as it relates to the gathering of the Body of Christ in its various expressions.  It seems that this is one of the most defining factors when it comes to the ongoing experience of the church, and so I hope to focus some attention on it in this and the next few posts.  In particular, I want to focus on what I believe is the most significant factor determining the nature and level of our “collective expectation” as we gather in Christ’s name.

“Expectation”

To begin with, let’s take a look at the word “expectation”.  The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as:

“A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.”

To dig a little deeper, the root of the word, “expectation” is “expect” which comes from the Latin word “exspectare”.  This is comprised of the prefix, “ex-” (“out”), + “spectare” (“to look”).  “Expect”, therefore means to,  “…look out for; desire, hope, long for, anticipate, look for with anticipation,”  (Online Etymology Dictionary)

With this in view, the question I’d like to pose is, “When we assemble as the Body of Christ, what is it that we are looking out for, desiring, hoping, longing for, anticipating, and looking for with anticipation?”

Much, if not most, of what actually transpires in a gathering of the church is dependent on both the content and degree of our collective expectation.

“Centrality”

As I’ve thought and prayed on this matter, I’ve come to believe that the most significant factor determining the content and degree of the collective expectation of any group has to do with the matter of “centrality.”  By “centrality” I mean, that which is the preeminent purpose, person or activity around which a group assembles.  Whatever that “center” is, and whatever it substantively supplies to the group, I believe are the primary factors determining the collective expectation of the group as it gathers.

To give some examples of this, I’d like to highlight three major movements in Church history that encompass most of the Christian world as it stands today.  Each one of these movements has a distinctive “center” which greatly influence the content and form of the movement’s unique expression.  Each of these “centers” also greatly influence the expectation of those who belong to and participate in their regular assemblies.

1. Roman Catholic centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Roman Catholic worship is the Eucharist, ministered by a priest or bishop.  Whatever songs, prayers, readings, rituals or teachings may be included in their service, the Eucharist stands as the centerpiece.  Those who attend, therefore, have an expectation that rises mainly to the level of what the priest through the Eucharist can supply to the people.  According to Catholic doctrine, this includes the transubstantiation of the elements so that Christ (it is believed) becomes literally present under the auspices of the bread and the wine and is offered again as a sacrifice to the Father each time the Mass is performed.  The expectation of the people therefore, is one of a prescribed, liturgical, mystical ritual that contains and communicates deep religious meaning and imputed spiritual virtue.  If the Eucharist and/or the ministry of the priest were ever removed from the regular Catholic assembly, the Catholic collective expectation would be violated.

2. Protestant/Evangelical centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Protestant/ Evangelical worship is the sermon, ministered by the pastor/preacher.  This moved to center stage, literally and figuratively, through the Reformation as the Scriptures were restored to the Church and Bible exposition became paramount.  When Catholic cathedrals were converted into Protestant Church buildings, the lectern/pulpit was physically moved from the side to the center of the platform to facilitate preaching as the main event.  The expectation of the people attending a Protestant or Evangelical church service to this day rises mainly to the level of what the pastor/preacher can supply to the people, especially through the sermon.  If the sermon and/or the ministry of the pastor/preacher were ever removed from the regular gathering of a “Protestant” or “Evangelical church”, the Protestant/Evangelical collective expectation would be violated.

3. Pentecostal/Charismatic centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Pentecostal/Charismatic worship is the anointing, gifts, and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, ministered primarily through a pastor and/or ministry team.  While perpetuating the same basic building-based, platform/pew, clergy/laity form of church assembly passed on by the Protestants/Evangelicals (who inherited it from the Roman Catholics), Pentecostal/Charismatic assemblies place the highest premium on the working of the Holy Spirit.  Since this is often experienced most powerfully through corporate worship (singing) and personal prayer ministry, much attention is devoted to the “song service” at the beginning, and the “altar ministry” at the end of the service, with an expectation of anointed preaching in the middle.  Although the congregation is sometimes given a measure of liberty to function in spiritual gifts, this is often highly monitored and controlled.  Most of the ministry of the Spirit is relegated to those on the platform, or to those they endorse.  The expectation of the people attending can vary greatly in these congregations depending on the degree to which the Holy Spirit is given liberty to function, but it generally rises to the level of what the platform ministry can supply to the people through the Holy Spirit’s giftings.  If the Holy Spirit’s manifest working or the “anointed (platform) ministry” were ever to be removed from the regular gathering of a “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic church”, the Pentecostal/Charismatic collective expectation would be violated.

And so we see with these three examples, three distinct “centers” around which these various groups gather.  We also see three diverse sets of “collective expectations” that are embraced and embodied by those who assemble in these three expressions of the Church.  How very different the content and degree of these are from one another, all defined by the “center” around which they gather.

Centrality, Expectation, and God’s Design

The question that begs to be asked, then, is, “How does this line up with God’s design for the Church?” 

In these examples, we see one expression of the Church that is “sacrament-centered”, one that is “sermon-centered”, and one that is “Spirit-centered”.  These three represent a vast majority of the assemblies which call themselves Christian throughout the world today.

So, what is God’s thought for “centrality” in His Church?  Is the “center” to be the sacraments?…the sermon? …the Spirit?  Are we allowed to choose our preferences, or does God have a universal “center” for the assembling of His churches?

Instead of answering these questions directly and immediately, I’d like to illustrate this matter with an example from the Old Testament, drawing on the tabernacle of Moses.

When the priests would go into the Holy Place of the tabernacle, there were three pieces of furniture at which they would minister: the table of shewbread, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense.  These three bear a striking resemblance to the three “centers” of the examples we have been looking at:

  • The table of shewbread had cakes of unleavened bread on it and had prescribed drink offerings that were offered; a striking resemblance to the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist.
  • The golden candlestick illuminated the Holy Place, and, interestingly, had 66 pieces of ornamentation on it; a striking resemblance to the Scriptures, which is a “light” and a “lamp” (Ps. 119:105), and is comprised of 66 books.
  • The altar of incense had fire burning on it and there the priests would offer incense night and day, representing the prayers and worship of the people of God; a striking resemblance to the emphasis of those who seek the manifest presence and working of God’s Spirit.

So, with this analogy, we can ask, which is the “centerpiece” of the Holy Place?  Which piece of furniture is to have the preeminence?  Which, if any, is to be considered the “most holy”?

I think the answer is pretty clear…none of them.  They are all of equal importance and holiness.  They are all part of the fullness of the worship of God.  In fact, it would be a distortion of God’s design to exalt one above the others.

So, let’s take this analogy a step further and look at what the scenario would be if the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place were torn in two by the hand of God and unhindered access were given to the priests to minister before the Ark of the Covenant in the manifest glory of God.

Which furnishing would be the “centerpiece” then?  Which would have the preeminence?  Which, if any, would be considered “most holy”?

Clearly, the Ark of the Covenant would be.  It would dwarf the other three in preeminence for God has declared it to be His throne and dwelling place on earth.  It is truly “most holy”!  Of all the furnishings in the tabernacle, the ark of the Covenant is indeed God’s “centerpiece.”  It would be fully in keeping with God’s design for the priests to focus in on this piece, not to the exclusion of, but supremely above the others.

With this new scenario then, consider how the “collective expectation” of the priests would transform from when the veil was intact and access was only given to the three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place.  Imagine the exponential increase in both the content and level of their expectation as they would enter into the sanctuary and, additionally, behold a rent veil, the Ark of the Covenant, and the manifest, “shekinah” glory of God abiding upon it.  Imagine how their sense of expectancy would multiply as they stood and ministered daily in the place were before only the High Priest could go but once a year on the Day of Atonement.

Now, as if that were not enough, this analogy can be pushed yet one step further to be even more in line with New Covenant realities.

Consider, further, how the collective expectation of the entire nation of Israel would explode into unfathomable new dimensions if instead of the average Israelite only being allowed to enter into the outer court of the tabernacle to bring sacrifices to the priests for offering on the brazen altar, they were given the rights and privileges of the priesthood to go into the Holy Place to minister before the Lord, and even into the Most Holy Place to worship before an unveiled Ark?  How would the collective expectation of the entire Israelite community exponentially transcend what existed before?  It is hard to even comprehend!

And that, my friend, is a picture of what is available to you and I… all of us together in the New Covenant!

If we were ever able to get a hold of that, our experience of “tabernacle” would never be the same again!🙂

~ ~ ~

So, in closing, let’s go back to the original question I posed, “When we assemble as the Body of Christ, what is it that we are looking out for, desiring, hoping, longing for, anticipating, and looking for with anticipation?”  Is it in keeping with the limited, unbalanced emphasis of the three examples given in focusing primarily on one of the activities of the Holy Place, or does it transcend that to primarily center in what lies beyond the veil in the Most Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

In the next few posts, I’d like to explore more fully what it means to have Christ Himself as our collective Center, and Christ Himself as our collective Expectation!

In the mean time, I hope that you will take time to ask the Lord concerning these things yourself. His Spirit will lead us into all truth as we seek Him with all of our heart!

________________________________

Related posts and pages:

Centrality and Balance

Centrality and Eccentricity

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Spiritual Eccentricity, The Ekklesia, The New Covenant | 4 Comments

“Fullness and Truth” and Other Inspirations of Evan Bolton

A week ago, our family had the joy of joining in the celebration of our second oldest son, Evan’s, wedding. We had quite the road trip to Topeka, Kansas, where his bride, Katie, grew up (logging some 3,100 miles in all.)  It was a beautiful event, held in nearby (?) Kansas City, MO, and was a great time of celebration with family and friends of both Katie’s and ours.  The newlyweds are off on their honeymoon now, beginning what will most likely be, knowing Evan and Katie, a most joyous and adventurous life together in Christ!

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12038577_10152973177576887_3370091790222018150_o– A fatherly “charge to the couple” –

~ ~ ~

As a small way of honoring this milestone in our son’s life, I thought I would highlight some of Evan’s writings and also concerning his mission work which have been previously published on this blog. In addition, I have a new piece that I would like to add that I came across not too long ago while listening to the CCC seminar again.  I hope that you are blessed by these offerings!

~ ~ ~

In Evan’s late teens and early twenties he wrote some beautiful poetry springing from his sincere relationship with Christ.  One of my favorites, and the story behind it, can be found in this post: “The Image We Bear” – by Evan Bolton

I also have a permanent section on the blog under the Creative Expressions tab where more of his poetry can be found.  Check out the Poems of Evan Bolton section to find more of his inspiring pieces.

In 2012, Evan also wrote and self-published a historical fiction book centering around the birth of Christ.  This is an insightful, inspiring read at Christmas time for personal or family devotions (…and also makes a great gift.)  The post introducing this book, with a sample excerpt, and links to the publisher’s page, is here: A Shepherd’s Tale by Evan Bolton.

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When Evan was 22, he started a non-profit ministry based around soccer.  He has since raised enough monies to send equipment and do soccer projects in eleven countries around the world.  I shared about this venture when it was launched in the following post: Introducing mission:soccer.  You can follow the links in that post to the mission:soccer website if you’d like to check that out as well.

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Evan has had a heart for mission work since his mid-teens. He shared his experience delivering Operation Christmas Child gift boxes to a refugee camp in Montenegro in this post: “A Refugee Jesus…”

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Finally, in 2013, Evan joined in one of the “Word in 3D” projects, that are a feature on this blog, along with Cheryl McGrath and me by contributing his poetic musings on John 1:14 to the post: “The Word Became Flesh” – A Collaboration of Poetic Reflection

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In closing, I’d like to share a short excerpt from an email that Evan sent me at the time I was preparing to teach the Christ-Centered Christianity seminar in our home in September, 2009.  In it he shared some spiritual thoughts on the matters of “fullness and truth” as they relate to Christ and the Church.  It was uncanny the relevance that his thoughts had to the seminar I was preparing to teach, even though we had not talked about the specific content of it with each other. I ended up incorporating his email into one of the sessions and have posted the audio section of that session for you here.

The things that he shared, though typed out quickly in an email, were such a blessing to me for it was evident that beyond what I may have ever taught Evan in regards to the truths he expressed, something had surely been caught by him!  As parents, we cannot ask for much more than that!  Evan was 19 at the time and attending Bible School in upstate NY.

“Fullness and Truth”

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It has been a great honor and blessing to be Evan’s Dad for these many years and to be a part of the work that God has done and is doing in his life. Now, as he enters into this most significant new stage of life, I pray God’s richest blessings and unfailing grace be upon him and his sweet wife, Katie.  Please join me in those prayers!

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Posted in Christ-Centered Spirituality, Creative Expressions, Mission | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

100 Pianos

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other?  They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.  So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
A. W. Tozer The Pursuit of God

Ever since the earliest days of my walk with Christ, I’ve had a strong passion and deep burden for the unity of the Body of Christ.  This passion and burden have sprung from two main sources: the clear teaching of Scripture and, in stark contrast, the grievous division that abounds in the Church of Jesus Christ.

From Scripture, it is clear that there are few things more precious to God than unity. Please consider the following:  

  • Unity defines the very nature of His triune being.
  • Unity permeated all of “eternity past” before the beginning of time.
  • Unity characterized the whole of creation prior to the rebellion of Lucifer.
  • Unity marked the Garden of Eden before the serpent entered and tempted Eve.
  • Unity is what God sought to manifest through His chosen nation, Israel.
  • Unity is what Christ taught, prayed for, and then died and rose from the dead in order to restore.
  • Unity is what the Holy Spirit poured out on the Church on the day of Pentecost.
  • Unity is what the early church was known by throughout the book of Acts.
  • Unity is what Paul and the other apostles repeatedly exhorted the Church unto throughout the Epistles.
  • Unity is what will define the Kingdom of God in the millennial reign of Christ.
  • Unity is what will prevail in the new heavens and new earth for all eternity.

From beginning to end, unity lies at the very heart and soul of God and His eternal purpose!  That is enough for me!  How about you?

As we turn from looking at the central and significant place of unity in Scripture to the vessel that God has chosen to manifest His eternal purpose on earth, the Church, what do we see in this regard?  Instead of seeing a corresponding witness on earth of unity, we see an entirely contrary witness of disunity.  In my opinion, it is an utter mess, an epic fail, an outright mockery of the unifying work of God in Christ!  I really don’t think it could get much worse!

So, I have to ask, “What is the cause of this vast disparity between the strong testimony of Scripture regarding unity and the despicable testimony of the Church in its practice of disunity?”

As I’ve contemplated this matter, I’ve come to a conclusion that may be somewhat surprising.

Ironically, I’ve come to believe that the greatest enemy to unity in the Church is actually the Church’s pursuit of “unity!”  Look about the Christian landscape and I think that you will see that this is so.  When any portion of the Church pursues an isolated form of unity along sectarian lines, it becomes divisive to the larger body of Christ.  In fact, the sectarian pursuit of “unity” is one of the most dangerous and destructive practices the Church regularly engages in.  Christendom is riddled with the divisive fruit of this practice.

The reality is, that as much as God esteems and seeks unity in His Church, He has not set unity as a primary pursuit for His Church.  Rather, it is a secondary matter that comes into expression as His people primarily seek a much higher and greater objective, i.e., that of conformity to Jesus Christ.  In other words, the unity that He seeks is a “fruit” issue, not a “root” issue.

To give an example, if I want to have delicious apples to eat, I don’t primarily set out to create apples with my own determination, wisdom, and resources. That would be impossible!  Rather, I plant and nurture an apple tree and, in time, I have delicious apples to eat!  The same is true with unity.  If we want the unity that God desires, we don’t primarily set out to create unity with our own determination, wisdom, and resources.  That, likewise, would be impossible!  Instead, we plant and nurture the right “Tree” and, in time, we have the delicious fruit of unity!

So, what is that “Tree”?

It is the “Tree of Life”!

And what is the “Tree of Life”?

It is CHRIST!

I once tweeted, “We don’t obtain unity by pursuing unity together; we obtain unity by pursuing Christ together!”

Isn’t this what Bro. Tozer is saying in the quote at the beginning of this post.  We don’t get 100 pianos in one accord by tuning them to each other, but by individually tuning them to another standard.  That “standard”, that “fork”, is Jesus Christ!

When man tries to create unity, he employs all manner of “forks” to bring people into one accord.  More often than not, however, Jesus Christ Himself becomes “the fork that the tuners reject.” (to paraphrase Psalm 118:12 & 1 Peter 2:7)

Jesus Christ is a “Fork” that is heavenly and spiritual in nature.  He can only be “heard” by those who have spiritual ears attune to His heavenly “frequency”.  Man, in general, is much more in resonance with earthly, natural things, and so are much more readily brought into one accord around a “fork” that is of a lower nature.

Jesus Christ is, likewise, a “Fork” that emits a sound that is fuller and more exquisite than any tone heard here on earth.  The range and resonance of the sound far exceeds the dull, monotone ring of our earthly “forks”.  He emits a symphony of sound that is able to tune all of our diverse “strings” harmoniously at once.  Those who are attuned to Him create a magnificent symphony of sound in their unified diversity.  Not so the “forks” of earth which emit a single tone and create a much more uniform drone.  Such, however, is easier for leaders to “conduct” and for man to “echo”, and so man’s spiritually tone-challenged ears rally around their monotonous, man-made rings.

Consider, then, the many “forks” that religious/spiritual people employ to bring followers into one accord:

Some employ the “fork” of church hierarchy and official dogma; others that of denominational affiliation and theological persuasion; still others a chosen religious tradition, spiritual experience, Scriptural emphasis, charismatic personality, church polity, crafted program, or popular movement.  All of these are used to bring a select portion of the Body of Christ into one accord around their particular tone.

This may all seem very reasonable, but what is the over-all result?

Body-wide DISSONANCE;

A global, ecclesiastical CACOPHONY;

A ubiquitous, religious BABEL!

I tweeted at a different time: “The unity of the Church is found in Jesus Christ alone.   All human contrivances to produce unity only divide the Church further. JESUS ALONE!”

God has only ONE FORK with which to tune ALL of His Church!  The unity that He seeks is found solely in the Lord Jesus Christ!  “For He Himself is our peace…”  (Ephesians 2:14)  Only He, through His glorious Person and work is able to bring all of God’s people into unity and one accord.

So, let it be understood, that the “fork” that we tune to is not an institution or organization, for Christ is not an institution or organization.  The “fork” that we tune to is not a mere theological position or set of doctrines, for Christ is not a mere theological position or set of doctrines.  The “fork” that we tune to is not a particular spiritual emphasis or religious experience, for Christ is not a particular spiritual emphasis or religious experience.

The “Fork” that we tune to is a PERSON!  He is a Living PERSON in Whom all fullness dwells, and Who transcends all of these things.  As each one of us becomes personally tuned to Him, we automatically become tuned to one another.  This is God’s way of true unity!

May we as Christ’s Body transcend these lesser, divisive “forks”, and seek to become fully one in resonance with God’s chosen “Fork”.  Then, and only then will we be fully tuned with one another and so be fit for the Grand Symphony of the Ages to be played through us to the glory of God and the joy of all creation!

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As I was searching for this quote of A. W. Tozer’s, I came across a video of a musical production which was inspired by these very words.  I share the link with you here as a final meditation and inspiration.  It is extraordinary!

As you watch and listen, please consider the multitude and diversity of talents and gifts that have gone into making this what it is.  This is a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ, all in tune, functioning in one accord, under the direction of one Conductor!  Enjoy!

100 Pianos by Gio Galanti

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Related posts and pages:

Unity: Center to Circumference   (A complimentary expression of this truth using a different analogy.)

Centrality and Balance  (An historical look at how the Church has “tuned to different forks.”)

The Church  (A collection of tweets on “The Church” including those mentioned in this post.)

Posted in Christ-Centered Unity, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church (CCC Seminar – Session 1: Part 3)

Session 1 of the CCC seminar wraps up in this post with a look at the place and calling of the Church in the eternal purpose. This is where God’s supreme plan for the ages becomes practically outworked on earth through people like you and me!  It is only as we view the Church through the lens of God’s eternal purpose that we are able to perceive the true nature of our high calling in Christ!

Part 3 is broken down into a playlist of the following sub-sections:

  1. The Church in relation to the Father and the Son in the eternal purpose (4:24)
  2. The Church in relation to the Holy Spirit in the eternal purpose (4:57)
  3. The Church’s calling to be conformed to the eternal purpose, and a final prayer. (5:36)

If you wish to listen to any of the previous parts of this teaching, you may do so by following this link to the permanent page for this series now posted in the “Audio” section.  Included there is also the “Introduction” part of the session which was not shared previously in these posts. (This includes an interactive exercise the group participated in which was really quite fun as well as spiritually challenging!🙂 )

(You may also download/listen to the full mp3 recording of Part 3 with the following link.)

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church – Part 3 full

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Related posts and pages:

Audio teaching: “The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church” (CCC Seminar – Session 1 complete)

Lessons From a Lenticular Puzzle – Part 1: The Puzzle of Puzzles

Our Deepest Convictions

Co-Laboring With God

Posted in Audio Teachings, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church (CCC Seminar – Session 1: Part 2)

Session 1 of the Christ-Centered Christianity seminar continues in this post with a look at the place of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the eternal purpose.

This portion is broken down into a playlist of sub-sections which focus on the following aspects of Christ in relation to the eternal purpose:

  1. The centrality of Christ  (5:41)
  2. The preeminence of Christ (4:38)
  3. The fullness of Christ  (5:32)
  4. The fullness of Christ – cont.  (4:12)
  5. The fullness of Christ – cont.  (6:11)

Although this portion of the seminar can stand well on its own, I encourage you to listen to Part 1 first, if you haven’t already, to get the context and content of the teaching to this point.  (Click here or on the link below).  That being said, this portion concerning the centrality, preeminence and fullness of Christ I feel is the high point of Session 1, so I do hope that you will take time to listen to it through. I pray that you are spiritually enriched as you do.

All blessings in Him,
David

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church – Part 2 – mp3 complete (right click and select “Save Link As…” to download)

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Related posts and pages:

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church (CCC Seminar – Session 1: Part 1)

A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 1)

The Heart of the Matter (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 3)

Centrality and Eccentricity

Posted in Audio Teachings, Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church (CCC Seminar – Session 1: Part 1)

On January 1, 2012 I launched this blog, Christ-Centered Christianity.  The motivation for starting it, and its name, sprang from a writing endeavor I had begun a few months earlier of a book manuscript with a working title of none other than, Christ-Centered Christianity.  That wasn’t the beginning, however, for the motivation for the book came out of an intensive, five-session seminar I taught two years prior to that called, you guessed it, Christ-Centered Christianity.  This seminar was the culmination and condensation of over thirty years of the Lord’s teaching in my life concerning His (Christ-centered) eternal purpose and how it spiritually and practically relates to the Church.

In this and the next two posts, I’d like to go back to that seminar, recorded in our home in 2009 with about twenty brothers and sisters present, and share the audio of Session 1.  The theme of the initial session was, “The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church”.  It consisted of an introduction followed by six main aspects of teaching.  This post covers the first four parts of the teaching which include a look at four essential attributes of the eternal purpose, an anatomy of the word “purpose”, the place of the Father in relation to the eternal purpose, and three reasons why we should study it.  (I’ve edited out the introduction for time’s sake in this post.)

The two posts that will follow will contain the fifth and sixth parts of the teaching which are concerning the place of the Son and of the Church, respectively, in the eternal purpose.  This entire first session of the seminar contained nearly two hours of teaching and so in these posts I am breaking it down into more manageable pieces.  (Within each post I’m also breaking it down further into three or four sub-sections and compiling them into playlists which will play the sections contiguously, or separately, depending on your preference.)  There is a lot to chew on here!

As a final introduction to this teaching, I’ve included below the short piece that I wrote for the brochure that we sent out to invite people to this seminar.  This writing very concisely expresses the essence of not only the seminar, but also of my primary spiritual burden, and all things “CCC” that have followed after it!

I pray that you are encouraged and edified by this foundational teaching.

-David

(Note: This seminar was initially planned as a four-part series, but we added an extra session as it was unfolding to provide more time to cover the material of part three.)

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Christ-Centered Christianity

Ever since the early apostolic days the Church has subtly, yet significantly, drifted from her First Love and centered her affections and focus upon things which are secondary rather than on the One who alone is primary.  God’s eternal purpose for the universe, and especially for His Church, is that His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would hold the unrivaled place of centrality and supremacy in all things. (See Col.1:18)  All of the weakness, failure, deception, division, deadness, bondage, legalism, religiosity, and worldliness that have plagued the Church for 2000 years can be traced to one simple universal truth: In one way or another, some one or some thing has taken the place of preeminence and centrality that belongs solely to the Lord Jesus Christ in relation to the Church.  This insidious and persistent tendency has re-shaped and re-fashioned the Church over the ages into something that God never intended her to be.  Her fallen, misshapen forms have been accepted as normal and great spiritual diminishment and disillusionment has ensued.  Most significantly, God’s radiant testimony to His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus has been all but lost in and through the corporate expression of His Church.

Both the Old and New Testaments bear witness to the fact, however, that no matter how far from God’s original intent and purpose His people may fall in any dispensation, He always raises up an overcoming remnant who bear the light of His full testimony in the earth.  This overcoming vessel is the primary instrument He uses to close out one age and to usher in the next.  To obtain this vessel is the great passion and pursuit of God’s heart in this hour as we near the closing out of the Church age and the coming in of the age of the Kingdom.

We invite you to join us for a four-part teaching series that will examine these truths in a more thorough manner.  The schedule is as follows:

1. The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church – An overview of God’s Eternal Purpose and the place and calling of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Church within it.

2. “Eccentricity”: The Root of all Apostasy – An examination of the process and development of the Church when Christ is supplanted from His unrivaled place of centrality and supremacy in all things.

3. A History of Eccentricity – An overview of the major movements through Church history tracing the development of apostasy as well as the restoration purpose of God at the end of the age to His full purpose.

4. Foundations for the Restoration of God’s House – The eternal principles that govern the (remnant) Church as it returns to God’s original desire and purpose.

We encourage you to set aside these four Sundays and to purposefully commit to the full teaching of this series.  This is the culmination and distillation of over 30 years of specific burden from the Lord concerning His original and end-time purpose concerning Christ and His Church.

We look forward to sharing these times with you and trust that the Lord will have His way as we gather.

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And now, without further ado, here is the first installment of Session 1:

The Eternal Purpose of God and the Church – Part 1 – mp3 complete (right click and select “Save Link As…” to download)

Related posts and page:
The Heart of the Matter (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 3)
Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 4)

Shaped by God’s Eternal Purpose
Our Deepest Convictions

Posted in Audio Teachings, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Church Gathering Simply in the Name of Christ and Under His Headship – A Historical Account by C.H. Mackintosh

The Headship of Christ in the gathering of the church is the theme of two of the most popular pages on this blog: 1. the Resource page for the book, Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ, by Gospel Fellowships, (the second most popular page on the blog.), and, 2. “The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church“, the most popular page of my original writings.  The popularity of these two resources is an encouraging sign that there is a deep hunger in the heart of many for Jesus Christ to once again be given His rightful place in the Church as her unrivaled, immediate, and functional Head.

Not too long ago I came across a series of published letters by C.H. Mackintosh (1820-’96) written to a friend concerning his reflections on the state of the Church in his day.  In one of those letters, Bro. Mackintosh recounts the very beginnings of what came to be known as the Brethren Movement, which he was intricately involved with from its early days.  I was greatly encouraged by this historical account of large numbers of believers coming out of the apostate establishments of religion of their day to meet simply in the Name of Christ and under His Headship through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have posted that section of the letter below. I pray that you are encouraged by it!

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“It is now close upon half a century since a very remarkable movement commenced in Great Britain and Ireland. At that time many of the Lord’s beloved people were led to see that there was something radically wrong in the various religious organizations of the day. Some, it may be, felt the death and desolation, the dearth, darkness and poverty of all around. They longed for something which the existing religious machinery failed to supply. There was a thirsting for Christian fellowship, and a longing for a higher range of truth than was to be found either in the National Establishment or in the various dissenting bodies.

Others, again, were led to search the Scriptures, and to compare what they found in these precious writings with the existing condition of things around them in the entire professing church, and they were not only led, but forced to the conclusion that the whole professing church was in a condition of utter and hopeless ruin — that there was not a single ecclesiastical polity, not a single clerical order, not a single theological creed, throughout the length and breadth of Christendom, that could stand the test of holy Scripture — that there was no such thing to be found as a faithful expression of the Church of God as seen in the New Testament — no expression of the One Body, no such thing as an assembly of believers gathered simply to the Name of Jesus, and practically owning the presence, power, rule and authority of the Holy Ghost.

Further, as regards the grand question of ministry, they looked in vain throughout the various religious systems, for anything approaching to the truth as taught in the New Testament. Whether they examined the Greek, Latin, Anglican or Scotch Establishments, or, on the other hand, the various popular bodies of the day, they found that whether under the title of Bishop, Priest, Deacon or Minister, human authority was absolutely essential to the exercise of every branch of ministry, so called. If a man possessed all the gifts of the apostle Paul himself, he dared not preach or teach Jesus Christ, unless he was licensed or authorized by man; whereas, on the contrary, though destitute altogether of spiritual gifts, nay, even of spiritual life itself, yet, if authorized, ordained, licensed or approved by man, he might preach and teach in that which professed to be the church of God. Man’s authority, without Christ’s gift, was quite sufficient. Christ’s gift without man’s authority was not.

All this they found was diametrically opposed to the Word of God. When they turned, for example, to such a Scripture as Ephesians 4, they found, that ministry, in all its branches, had its source in a risen and glorified Head in heaven. ‘To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.’ Not a syllable about human authority or human ordination, in any shape or form — not a sound of such a thing, or of anything approaching to it, but the very reverse. It is simply “the gift of Christ” or nothing at all. ‘Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on High, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . . .and He gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.'”

“Many earnest Christians, in various places, feeling deeply the state of the professing church, were led to separate from the different denominations of the day. Very few, if any of them, knew exactly what they were going to do; but they felt it impossible to go on any longer with what was so palpably opposed to the Word of God. The old proverb: “Birds of a feather flock together” had its illustration in the history of those early brethren. They were all dissatisfied with what they saw around them; and it may be truly said of many of them, “They went out not knowing whither they went”. They could not continue in connection with plain and palpable error. They were sick of the worldliness and death of the professing church; they longed for something better; they came out, one from this, another from that, another from something else; they met outside and they saw no reason why they could not go on together, or why they might not break bread together as the early Christians did, counting on the Lord to be with them and to enable them to edify one another as He might bestow the needed gift and grace.

Amongst those who thus separated from the various organizations were some men of considerable gift, moral weight, intellectual power, and intelligence — clergymen, barristers, solicitors, military and naval officers, physicians, and men of high position and property. Their secession, as you may suppose, caused a very considerable stir and drew forth much opposition. Many a link of friendship was snapped; many a fondly cherished companionship was broken up; many sacrifices were made; much trial and sorrow was encountered; much reproach, obloquy, and persecution had to be endured. I cannot attempt to enter into details, nor have I any desire to do so. It could serve no useful ends, and the records could but give needless pain. All who will live godly — all who are determined to follow the Lord — all who will keep a good conscience — all who, with firm purpose of heart, will act on the authority of Holy Scripture, must make up their minds to endure trial and persecution. Our Lord Christ has told us that He came not to send peace but a sword. ‘Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.’ And again He tells us that A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.’

All this was fully realized in those times to which I am now referring; and not only was there this domestic opposition and persecution, but public prejudice in various shapes and forms, entailing much trial, sorrow, and loss.

Still the work went on. The brethren gave themselves devotedly and energetically to the blessed work of evangelization and teaching. Books and tracts were written and circulated. The gospel was preached with a clearness, fulness, depth and power, unknown since the apostolic times. The grand doctrines of the Church as the Body of Christ; the unity of the Body; the presence and action of the Holy Ghost, in the individual believer and in the assembly; together with the blessed hope of the coming of Christ, first for His people, and then with them — all these glorious truths which had been almost wholly lost sight of for eighteen centuries, were brought out with great power, unction, and freshness, to the joy and blessing of hundreds of precious souls.

Moreover, the important distinction between preaching the gospel to the unconverted and teaching the Lord’s people — so little understood or acted upon even now — began to be forcibly illustrated, and with the most blessed results. The evangelist and the teacher waited, each upon his own proper work — souls were converted, and believers were built up on their most holy faith. Worship, too, and the ‘communion of saints’, began to be understood. The Lord’s people met, on the first Day of the week, to break bread, and found the presence of Jesus to be a divine reality in their midst. Of course, none were admitted to the table save such as were believed to be true Christians, sound in faith, and godly in walk.

All this, dearest A., attracted much attention. Many wondered whereunto it would grow. Some prophesied that it would all soon come to nothing. It was but a bubble on the stream of time, which would speedily burst. It was deemed utterly impossible that a number of people, without any ecclesiastical framework, any palpable organization, any clerical order, any visible head, any confession of faith, could ever get on together. How, it was asked, can your meeting go on? Who is to preside? Who is to keep order? You will have people popping up in all directions to speak, or pray, or give out hymns. It must prove a perfect Babel.

Such were the dark suggestions of many unfriendly and unbelieving prognosticators; but they did not prove true. People who attended the meetings were mightily struck by the fact of scores or hundreds of people assembled, without priest, parson or president, and yet no disorder, no confusion, no jar, no hitch. The Lord Himself was there. He was allowed His proper place as President, and He took it and filled it to the joy, comfort, blessing and edification of His beloved people, who preferred Him to any human device.

I need hardly say, dear friend, that here and there, mistakes were made. The weakness and folly of mere nature occasionally displayed themselves in the meetings. Just as, in the life of the individual Christian, notwithstanding the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, there are mistakes, evil, failure and infirmity, so in the assemblies of brethren, as we can easily understand, there would be the exhibition of that which was not of the Spirit although in the main, the Spirit’s presence and rule were owned and felt. The enemy, we may be sure, would take special pains to introduce confusion into the assembly, in order to bring discredit on the ground which the assembly occupied.

Still, I can say, on looking back over an experience of 35 years, the order and power of the meetings were wonderful; while as to the mistakes and failures, I found a thousand-fold worse in the organizations around, and that too, not mourned over as failure but viewed as the legitimate fruit of human arrangement. The brethren had not human order or arrangement, yet the solemnity and order of their meetings were most striking. Many of those who attended their meetings as spectators, could not be persuaded but that there was after all, some pre-arrangement, some recognized order; but I can solemnly declare to you, my friend, there was no such thing. We never could tell, when we entered the meeting, what its order, tone or character was to be. I speak only of the meetings of the assembly for worship and communion. As to those meetings which were convened on individual responsibility, for preaching or teaching, the case was wholly different. The order of such meetings was always pretty much the same. It was entirely a matter of individual responsibility

But I must draw this letter to a close. If the Lord will, I shall continue the subject in my next. I have given you but a very hasty and meagre sketch of an intensely interesting movement in the church of God. I have referred to the rise of those called “brethren”. In my next I shall speak of their further history and its lessons. “

Excerpt from, “Letters to a Friend on the Present Condition of Things in the Church” by C. H. Mackintosh

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I believe that the Lord is doing a similar work in our day and we would do well to take encouragement and instruction from those who have gone before.

For further consideration along this line, may I also commend to you the two resources mentioned at the beginning of this post on the Headship of Christ, along with the additional ones listed below!

All blessings in Him,
David

JESUS NOW (“Taste Test”) – by Frank Viola  (free PDF ebook)

Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant (Four parts – Audio and post links)

Wind Dies in a Box

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The Process of the Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 6)

In this concluding post of this series, I would like to offer a vision for the progressive unfolding of God’s purpose as it is outworked in and through His people.  I will be drawing on the content of the previous five posts to illustrate the process by which the purpose develops and finds its fulfillment in and through the Church.  It is essential that we not only know God’s end but also His ways and means of arriving at His end.  A knowledge of this process is especially significant for the Church at the end of the age as God heads all things up towards a climax and a culmination.  The overcoming remnant of His people will need to be fully in-step with the Father in the outworking of His plan in these last days.

From the last post, we saw that the end of God’s desire and purpose is that all things would be regathered as one in Christ, summed up and headed up in Him (Ephesians 1:9-10) and that through Christ’s redemption, headship, and dominion, all things would ultimately be subdued and brought back unto the Father, “that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)  The Church is to be the firstfruits of the fulfillment of this purpose and the instrumentality, as the Body of Christ in union with the Head, to bring it to full consummation throughout all of creation.  In order for the Church to be a fit vessel unto this end, God’s purpose must first be worked into her and then out-worked through her unto all of creation.  This is the Lord’s great work in this hour.

So we must ask ourselves,

“How is the eternal purpose first worked into us as the Body of Christ, and then worked out through us to all of creation?”

This is possibly the greatest question that we could ever ask!

I would like to lay out a six-fold process by which the Lord takes us from beginning to end in the fulfillment of His desire for His church in His eternal purpose.  This process must take place, concurrently, on two levels, individual and corporate.  These two dimensions of the Lord’s calling cannot be separated.  As we consider these six phases of the “process of the Purpose”, therefore, we must apply them first to our own hearts and lives as individuals, and then do what we can to promote them in the corporate expressions of the church that we are in.

So, with God’s “Christ-centered” end in view, where does this process begin, and what are its progressive stages?

Christ-centered Revelation

God always begins His works by shining forth light.  The old creation began on day one with God saying, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)  The “new creation” begins in our hearts when, as Scripture says, ” … God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)  “Revelation” comes by the illumination of God’s light.  This is where this spiritual process begins.  Revelation is also that which continues to feed and fuel each phase of this process that follows after it.  The degree to which we make progress in each of these phases rests almost entirely upon the degree of revelation that we increasingly receive from the Father of the centrality, supremacy and significance of Christ and of the Church in the eternal purpose.

In Part 1 of this series, “A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution”, I spoke about the “creation parable” of the sun being the center of the solar system even as Christ, the Son, is the center of God’s eternal purpose and plan.  Everything that God does revolves around His Son.  The main point of this post was to illustrate how desperately we need to have a fresh, heavenly revelation of the Son of God as to His centrality and His immensity.

Just as Copernicus had, as it were, a natural “revelation” of the sun being in the center of the solar system, so we need to have a Spirit-wrought revelation of the centrality of Christ in all things.  We, likewise, need to have a staggering unveiling of the immensity of Christ as to Who He really is from a heavenly perspective.  How different He is in reality from what we, from our earthly view, perceive Him to be. When God shines His light into our hearts and reveals the heavenly significance and magnitude of the Son of His Love, everything changes.  Our center shifts.  He no longer revolves around us, we revolve around Him, and His immensity dwarfs us into true humility and reverence before Him.

The corporate expressions of the church, likewise, need this radical, paradigm-shifting, Copernican-style revelation of the centrality and immensity of Christ if they are to be vessels fit to fulfill God’s purpose in the earth.  Churches who are merely centered in themselves, and relate to the Son as if He revolves around them fall far short of their purpose and calling and ultimately become obstacles to God’s heavenly purpose.  This revelation is most needed among the leadership, and faithfulness to “the heavenly vision” will be paramount for church expressions to transition into the next phase of this process.

This Christ-centered, heavenly revelation in our hearts and in the churches corporately is the beginning point of God bringing us into alignment with His eternal purpose, which centers in His Son. Even as the Copernican “revelation” was the foundation and precursor to the “Copernican Revolution” in history, so this Christ-centered revelation is the foundation and precursor to what comes next in this process.

Christ-centered Revolution

God’s purpose in giving us a heavenly revelation of the centrality of His Son in all things is to reorient us entirely to a new center.  When this new center is in-wrought by the Spirit, everything begins to revolve around a new loci.  Christ becomes to us central and supreme in all things.  Whereas in the past many secondary matters arrested our attention, occupied our labors, and satisfied our desires, now only Christ possesses this preeminent place in our hearts.

As was expressed in Part 2 of this series, “Centering the Clay”, we become like the clay that is thrown down in the middle of the potter’s wheel and begins to revolve around the center point of the wheel.  The Master Potter’s hands press us in and around the center point of the wheel until all “eccentricity” is worked out.  Everything becomes oriented to the new center.   It is radical, and it is “revolutionary”.  This is a most difficult, yet absolutely essential, phase of the process.  Until the clay is fully “centered”, it cannot be fashioned into a vessel on the Potter’s wheel.  Until we experience a Christ-centered revolution in our lives and in the church corporately, where all things begin to revolve solely around Christ the Center, we cannot progress to the next phase of this process.

Christ-centered Reformation

As the individual vessels of our lives and the corporate vessels of the church become fully centered on the “wheel”, revolving solely around the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, the Potter can then begin to re-form us into the vessels that He truly desires.  We were formerly pots that had been oddly shaped by man’s hands off the potter’s wheel, but now God wants to refashion us into beautiful, symmetrical vessels for His glory and purpose.

Only clay that is soft and pliable can be re-formed in the Potter’s hands.  That which is dried and hardened is unfit for reformation.  Such pots are either set aside, or they must go  through a long soaking and re-wedging process before they are fit to be re-centered and re-formed on the Potter’s wheel.  It is at this very point that the Church is most apt to resist the Lord’s process, being too rigid and set in its ways to conform to change.  The longer a vessel has been in use, the more resistant it can become.  Only those vessels which fully yield themselves to this Christ-centered reformation, however, will be fit to progress to the next phase of this process.

Christ-centered Restoration

God is fashioning His chosen vessels, conformed to His Son in all things, that He may have fit containers for the fullness of His Son.  This is our high calling in the eternal purpose of God as the Church. Paul spoke of, “the church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23).  He also said, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ.” (Colossians 2:9-10).  We are likewise, called to attain to “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)  The end of God’s desire for the Church is for the fullness of His Son to be contained (“re-stored”) and displayed forth in and through His Christ-centered, Christ-conformed corporate vessel.

In Part 3, “The Heart of the Matter”, we saw that Christ fulfilled the definition of the word “center” as: “A person or thing that is the chief object of attention, interest, activity, or emotion.”  This describes the Beloved Son in the heart and purpose of the Father.  The Church is to be the Christ-shaped container of this “chief object” of His love.  When the vessel is formed according to Christ, and is overflowing with the fullness of Christ, she will fulfill God’s purpose of restoration in these last days.  Those who experience this Christ-centered restoration will be used mightily of the Lord in the next phase of this process.

Christ-centered Revival

When multitudes of the Lord’s people, and the restored corporate expressions of the Church become vessels of the fullness of Christ, they will be filled to overflowing with the LIFE of God.  The restored remnant of the Church will be fully alive and will be fully life-giving.  God desires to not only fill the Church with the fullness of Christ, but to flow out through the Church the very LIFE of Christ to bring salvation, healing, restoration, and “revival” (LIFE) to the nations.

In Part 4, “Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose“, we saw how Christ is the Mediator and Instrumentality of all things related to creation, redemption, the Church and the Kingdom.  We saw how He is comparable to a Fountain through which, in which and by which all things come forth into manifestation according to the will of the Father.  As the Church is filled with the fullness of Christ, all of the Father’s works will come forth through Christ in and by the Church.  She will be the vessel through which the Life of God will flow to bring a Christ-centered “revival” to the world.  This, I believe, is God’s desire for the end of the age that all things may culminate in the final phase of this process of the Purpose.

Christ-centered Recapitulation

The Lord is heading all things up to a climax and a culmination in His Son.  This is expressed most clearly in Ephesians 1:9-10:

“And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”

As was shared in Part 5, “Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Cont.“, all things are being recapitulated: headed up, summed up and unified in Christ, the “Main Point.”  According to the definition given in this post, He is the “Center”: “A principal or important point of concentration; the nucleus around which things are gathered or to which they tend; an object of attention, action, or force; as, a center of attraction.” (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)

The ultimate calling of the Church is to be the instrumentality through which Christ fulfills His work of recapitulation in the universe.  In order for her to fulfill this calling, however, she must first restore the headship and unity of Christ within herself.  This will only be possible if she will fully embrace and progress through the phases of the process unto that of “restoration.”  Once Christ has been fully restored to His central and supreme place in all things, the Church will then be sufficiently equipped to co-labor and co-rule with Him in the ingathering of the final harvest, and the subduing of all things under His feet (i.e. under His Body.)  His overcoming Bride will be intimately and intricately involved with the Christ-centered recapitulation of all things in the fullness of times.

~ ~ ~

This, then, is the “process of the Purpose”: a Christ-centered revelation, revolution, reformation, restoration, revival and recapitulation.  The Father will not fulfill His purpose apart from the Church, the Bride and Body of His Son.  In contemplating these things, then, we are left with just two questions, “What does God require of me personally?”, and “What does God require of us corporately?”

All God is really asking is that we yield ourselves fully to the phase of the process that we are presently in, and ask Him to do that work fully within us, both individually and corporately, so that we may progress to the next phase.

Would you search your heart and ask the Lord to reveal where you are truly at in this progression?  Will you yield yourself as soft and moldable clay in His Hands to become a fit vessel for His purpose?  Would you join with others in your circle of fellowship to see this process advanced in the corporate Body of Christ?  The signs of the times are all around us that the culmination of this age is near at hand. God is restoring His end-time vessels.  May we be among those who are thus prepared for His Purpose.

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Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Cont. (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 5)

We come now to the last definition for the word “center” that we will consider in regards to the centrality of Christ.  This is a powerful and fitting last definition for it leads us to consider the culmination of God’s eternal purpose in and through His Son.  This final definition, taken from The Online Plain Text English Dictionary, is:

“A principal or important point of concentration; the nucleus around which things are gathered or to which they tend; an object of attention, action, or force; as, a center of attraction.”

In our previous meditation we saw how all things in the eternal purpose and are “out from” (“ek”) the Father as the supreme Source.  We also saw how all things come “through” (“dia”), “in” and “by” (“en”) the Son as the Mediator and Instrumentality of the Father in the outworking of His eternal purpose.

In this meditation, we will see how all things return to, gather around, and concentrate back in the appointed “Center”.

To help us unlock this truth, we will use the fourth “key”, the little Greek word “eis”.

“Eis” is a primary preposition denoting motion into, unto, to, towards, and for.   When used in Scripture in relation to the eternal purpose, it indicates that movement in which all things are heading towards, being drawn, moving, gathering, concentrating, consummating, and culminating in a central and final destination.  In this regard, it is found in Scripture applying to both the Son and the Father, as we shall see.

All Things Are “Eis” the Son

The primary place this key word “eis” is found in relation to the Son, in the outworking of the eternal purpose, is Colossians 1:16:

“All things were created by (“en”) Him and for (“eis”) Him.” 

This is, indeed, a little key, and yet it unlocks an immense door of understanding. Christ, the Son of God, is not only the Agent of creation, He is also the Heir of creation.   Not only do all things come through Him, in Him, and by Him (“dia” and “en”), all things also culminate into Him, unto Him and for Him (“eis”).

Hebrews 1:2 says:

“…in these last days He [God] has spoken to us by His Son,whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”

As “heir of all things”, all that exists in creation, seen and unseen, has been given by the Father to the Son as His allotment and possession to enjoy and to administrate as He wills.  Along with the legal right to the inheritance, He has also received administrative authority over the inheritance.  After the resurrection, Jesus said,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

“All authority” has been granted to govern and administrate “all things” that have been given unto Him as His inheritance. Paul, speaking of the resurrection of Christ by the Father said,

… He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything(Ephesians 1:19-22)

The Son, who willingly emptied Himself, became poor, made Himself of no reputation, became the lowest of servants, was obedient to the Father in all things, and poured out His soul unto death, is now the resurrected Lamb, “standing in the center of the Throne” (Revelation 5:6); the Heir of all things, and the Head of all things.

“All things were created…for Him.” (Colossians 1:16)

We further see this movement “into, unto, to, towards, and for” in one of the clearest Scriptures in the New Testament concerning the eternal purpose, Ephesians 1:9-10:

“And He [God the Father] made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Here, in the culmination of the ages, Christ is the center point of concentration. All things are gathering “together in one” (KJV) and “summing up” (NAS) in Him. The Greek word, used to express all things being brought “together under one head” is, “Anakephalaiomai”.  It has as its root a word meaning, “head”, “a principle thing”, “main point”, “a sum”.  Marvin Vincent, a New Testament Greek scholar,in his work, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, interprets its full meaning as:

“…to bring back to and gather round the main point.”

Christ Jesus is the “Main Point” in the eternal purpose of God.

If we go to our present definition for the word “center”, we see how it perfectly it is suited to describe the Lord Jesus Christ as the Center of God’s purpose:

“A principal or important point of concentration; the nucleus around which things are gathered or to which they tend; an object of attention, action, or force; as, a center of attraction.”

This accurately and beautifully describes Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Main Point, the Center, the Sum, the Heir of all things, the Head of all things, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

All things Are “Eis” the Father, “Dia” the Son

“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in (en) Him, and through (“dia”) Him to reconcile to (“eis”) Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through (“dia”) His blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20)

Even as all things come out “from” the Father “through” Christ, so also all things are ordained to return back “to” the Father “through” Christ  through His work of redemption, headship, and dominion.  As all things concentrate and consummate back into the Son, they are brought through Him, in Him and by Him unto the Father.

“Then the end will come, when He [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. …When He has done this, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

“The end” will consummate ultimately in God being “all in all” through the comprehensive outworking and manifestation of Creation, Redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom through, in, and by His Son.  In this glorious “mystery”, the Father has ordained His Beloved to be central and supreme in all things. In union and co-operation with Him, the eternal purpose of the Father will be accomplished.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This series of posts, concerning “Christ the Center”, is but a cracking of the door of understanding into the depths of the eternal purpose of God.  How vast an expanse lies fully on the other side of that door!  How we need the eyes of our heart enlightened, through a spirit of wisdom and revelation, to know more fully “the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9), and “the mystery of God, namely Christ” (Colossians 2:2).

May God grant it by His grace.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

~ Romans 11:33,36 ~

~ ~ ~

“Christ the Center” series revisited:
A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution – Part 1
Centering the Clay – Part 2
The Heart of the Matter – Part 3
Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Part 4
Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose – Cont. – Part 5
The Process of the Purpose – Part 6 

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Unlocking God’s Eternal Purpose (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 4)

As we explore further the centrality of Christ, I would like to offer a small set of “keys” which can help to unlock much of God’s Word concerning “the mystery of His will”, God’s eternal purpose. One thing about keys is that, although they are small, they can unlock and open large doors. The understanding of God’s eternal purpose and of the centrality of Christ within it are not just large doors, they are immense doors.  The small set of keys that work to open them up are four little, seemingly inconspicuous, Greek words:

“ek”,   “dia”,   “en”,   &   “eis”

In this meditation we will use the first three of these keys, and in the next, we will use the fourth.

As we look at the definition for the word “center” for this meditation, we will use the first three keys to help unlock our understanding of the centrality of Christ as:

  “A point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions.”
(American Heritage Dictionary – online edition)

The first of these “keys” is the little Greek word “ek”. This word in Greek is a primitive root denoting “origins” (Strong’s), and is often translated, “out”“from” and “of”. In relation to the eternal purpose of God, the word “ek”  is used in Scripture exclusively in relation to the Father. This little key unlocks for us the deep and mysterious truth that in God’s eternal purpose, “all things” are “out”“from”, and “of” the Father as their Source.  He is revealed in Scripture to be the Origin of “all things”.

A verse that clearly declares this truth is 1 Corinthians 8:5. The literal “Expanded Translation”, by Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest, expresses it beautifully:

“Yet to us there is one God, the Father, out from whom as a source are all things and we for Him,”

The words “out from…as a source” are the literal translation of the little word “ek”. This verse clearly states that “all things” originate with the Father, and are out from Him as their “source”. This word “ek”, therefore, is a primary key to understanding the role of the Father in the eternal purpose as the Source and Origin of all things.

~ ~ ~

The next key that we will look at is the little word, “dia”. This word is a primitive root denoting “the channel of an act” (Strong’s), and is primarily translated as “through”. When we take this key and see where it is found in Scripture in regards to the eternal purpose, we see that it is primarily used in relation to the Son. The Son is revealed to be the “channel”, or the Mediator through which all things come into existence in the eternal purpose.

We turn again to Kenneth Wuest’s Expanded Translation of 1 Corinthians 8:5 and focus on the second half of the verse:

“Yet to us there is one God, the Father, out from whom as a source are all things and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whose intermediate agency all things exist and we through Him.”

Here the words, “through (whose) intermediate agency” , and also “through”, are the literal translations of the Greek word “dia”. It is “through” Jesus Christ, as the Father’s “intermediate agency”, that “all things” come into existence. This word “dia”, therefore, is a primary key to understanding the role of the Son as the Channel and Mediator of “all things” in the eternal purpose of the Father.

~ ~ ~

We will now consider the third key, the little Greek word “en”. This is a primitive root denoting “a (fixed) position”, with the implication of “instrumentality” (Strong’s.) It is often translated as “in” and “by” in the New Testament. The word “en” , as with “dia”, is found in Scripture primarily in relation to the Son in regards to the eternal purpose. Not only are “all things” “through” (“dia”) the Son, “all things” are also “in” and “by” (“en”) the Son as the “fixed instrumentality” of the Father for the accomplishing of His eternal purpose.

In Ephesians 3:11, for example, where “en” is translated as “accomplished in”, we read:

“…according to his (the Father’s) eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The eternal purpose is “accomplished in  (“en”) Christ Jesus our Lord.” He is the fixed instrumentality of the outworking of the eternal purpose in all things.

Furthermore, in Colossians 1:16-17, where “en” is translated “by”, we read:

“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;”

Jesus Christ , the Eternal Son, is the means, the method and the way by which the Father accomplishes His Divine Will. All things are mediated, channeled, executed, administered and dispensed through the Lord Jesus Christ as the fixed instrumentality and intermediate agency of the eternal purpose.

The Father, therefore, does nothing but that He does it “through”, “in” and “by” the Son of His Love. When the Father wills to create, He employs His Son, the Word. When the Father wills to redeem, He employs His Son, the Lamb, the High Priest. When the Father wills the Church, He employs His Son, the Second Man, the Bridegroom, the Head. When the Father wills the Kingdom, He employs His Son, the Son of Man, the Lamb, the Lion, the King of kings. This is the central and supreme place and vocation ascribed to the Son of God in the everlasting economy of God.

This little Greek word “en”, therefore, is a second primary key, along with “dia”, to unlock the revelation of the position, purpose and function of the Lord Jesus Christ in the eternal purpose.

According to the three keys that we have looked at so far, “ek”, “dia” and “en”, we have come to understand that in the eternal purpose all things are “out”, “from” and “of” the Father as Origin and Source; and all things are “through”, “in” and “by” the Son as Mediator and Instrument of the Father.

How immense are the doors that are opened up by these three little “keys”!

~ ~ ~

We now come to our present definition of the word “center”:  “A point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions.” ? How does the understanding that has been “unlocked” for us reveal the “centrality” of Christ  in this way?

First, we must recognize and acknowledged that in the highest sense, it is the Father who is the supreme “point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions.” All things originate with Him and are out from Him as the Source. That being said, however, in relation to the dispensation, manifestation, administration and consummation of the eternal purpose, the Father has delegated the central and supreme position and role to the Son. Everything channels  and is executed through Him.

To illustrate the centrality of Christ in this regard, let us  consider a fountain in the center of a reflecting pool. The source of water is hidden and comes from elsewhere, but the dispensation of the water is in, by and through the fountain. All that fills the pool flows in, up, and out through the one central fountain. Jesus Christ is the Central Fountain of all of Creation, Redemption, the Church and the Kingdom. Everything has come, is coming and will come through Him, in Him, and by Him.   He is, in this sublime position and role, the “point of origin, as of influence, ideas, or actions.” He is the Center of all of God’s Ways (“influence”); He is the Center of all of God’s Wisdom (“ideas”); and he is the Center of all of God’s Works (“actions”). The Father does nothing but that He does it through, in and by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

How great and glorious is this Son of God!

It has “pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell”,

and that “in all things He might have the supremacy.”

Colossians 1:19 & 18

Have your eyes been opened to see this Jesus?

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Unity: Center to Circumference

No one can read through the New Testament and not realize the central place that unity holds in the plan and purpose of God for His Church.  It is clearly seen in the teachings and prayers of Christ (Mt. 23:37, Lk. 11:23, Jn. 10:16 17:11, 21-23), in the nature and witness of the Church in the book of Acts (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32), and in numerous teachings and exhortations throughout the epistles, especially those of Paul’s (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 1-3, 12:12-25, Gal. 3:28, Eph. 1:9-10, 3:10-11, 4:1-16, etc…)  This is impossible to miss.

In contrast to this, no one can look across the landscape of Christianity today and not see the central place that disunity holds in the practice of the Church.  It is clearly seen in the abundance of denominational factions, sectarian institutions , competing theological camps, and divergent spiritual movements.  This is impossible to deny.

The immense incongruity between these two realities begs the questions how and why these things can be so, especially when many, if not most, of these factions own the Word of God as their “sole rule for faith and practice.”  The vast disparity between the Word of God’s emphasis on unity and the Church’s unabashed practice of disunity is irreconcilable.  It demands that we dig deeper to see what lies at the root of this problem, and also, how it may possibly be remedied.

A Simple (Animated) Illustration

To help us see this problem more clearly, and also its most viable solution, I’d like to offer a simple illustration.  I will briefly describe the stages of this illustration, and then give its spiritual interpretation and application. In between, I have a special animated video to help with the visualization of it.

To begin with, picture in your mind a large blackboard overlaid with a large white circle having a clearly marked center in the middle of it.   A circle is a rather universal symbol of unity, and so we will use it as such.  Within every circle there is also one particular point that is unique to all others.  That is the centerpoint.  The centerpoint is the only point that is an equal distance from every point on the circumference of the circle and is also its balancing point.  No other single location in a circle holds comparable significance.

Now let’s add to this picture five additional smaller circles of varying sizes with each of their centers falling somewhere within the larger circle.  Notice that none of the centers of these circles are in the same exact spot, though some of their circumferences may overlap each other, and some may even extend beyond the circumference of the original circle.  Each of these circles, in and of themselves, depicts an isolated unity, yet in their relationship to each other, they represent a disunity, and so the overall diagram depicts a state of disunity.

Now let’s picture the two smallest circles slowly moving over until they line up centered inside two of the other small circles.  There is now one large circle, two smaller double circles and one small single circle.  At this stage, we have what may look like an approach to greater unity, as two of the circles have come into alignment with another circle.  If the goal is complete unity, however, this may actually represent a strengthened and more resistant form of disunity as two of the divisions have now doubled in strength.

As we continue to consider this illustration, let us picture all of the smaller circles now slowly shifting over until all of their centers line up perfectly with the centerpoint of the large, white circle.  Once this is complete, the picture takes on an entirely different character.  Now we have one large circle with five smaller circles of varying sizes all lined up concentrically within it.  The picture takes on a very strong sense of unity.  The centers of all six circles are all in perfect unity, as well as there being a balanced overlapping of the varying-sized circles.  All that was needed to produce this state of unity was merely for the centers of all of the circles to line up with the centerpoint of the original circle.

There is one last phase of this illustration to consider before the highest level of unity is obtained.  Please consider this picture of six distinct, perfectly concentric circles and imagine now the five smaller circles all growing in size until they enlarge to the full size of the original circle.  At this point, all that can be seen is an accentuated form of the original circle and all differentiation between the smaller circles disappeared.  There is only one circle now, representing PERFECT UNITY!

At this stage, this picture can actually be seen to represent four things: 1. PERFECT UNITY, with all of the circles perfectly aligned and unified, from center to circumference, 2. PERFECT FULLNESS, with all of the circumferences of the circles encompassing the fullness of the original circle, 3. PERFECT PURITY with none of the circumferences of the smaller circles encompassing anything beyond the original, white circle, and 4. PERFECT BALANCE with every circle centered in the balancing point (centerpoint) of the original circle.  (Some of you who have been following this blog for some time may recognize these four characteristics having been mentioned repeatedly in earlier posts as essential attributes of the Church and the Kingdom of God.  Here we see unity, fullness, purity, and balance in simple depiction!)

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To help with the visualization of this picture, I tapped the computer genius in our home, our 14-year-old son, Eli, to see if he could put together an animated version of it to be included in this post.  In a short amount of time, he produced a 21-second animated short that really does the trick. Please take a brief intermission, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show!

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Spiritual Interpretation and Application

So, how does this simple illustration apply to the unity that God is seeking in His Church?  What can we learn from it?  Let’s take it one step at a time…

The first thing pictured is a blackboard with a large, white circle on it.  This circle represents the fullness of God.  Within this circle are contained all of the particulars of the fullness of God: i.e. all of attributes, truths, works, ways, and blessings of God; or we could simply say, all of the “things of God.”  This circle also has a clearly defined center, the most significant spot in the circle.  All of the particulars of the circle are arrayed around this point in balanced symmetry and are all oriented to this point.  This centerpoint, according to the eternal counsels and purpose of God, is the Lord Jesus Christ.  (This is what is being shared in the present series, “‘Christ the Center’ revisited”.)

Christ is not only the Center of this circle, being preeminent in all things (see Col.1:18), but He is also its circumference, for Scripture says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,” (Col. 1:19).  So, this large, white circle ultimately represents the fullness of God in Christ, oriented to the centrality and supremacy of Christ in all things.

Secondly, there are five smaller circles.  These may represent either individual believers or collective expressions of the church, depending on how one may wish to apply this illustration.  For this post I will focus mostly on the individual application, as this is the foundation of all larger, collective unity.

These circles are smaller than the original circle and of varying sizes, as they do not yet possess (experientially) the complete measure of the fullness of God and have differing capacities in this regard.  These are also spread around with their centers located in different parts of the original circle.  The centers of these circles represent that which is spiritually preeminent in their hearts and lives.  For one it may be Bible doctrine, another Holy Spirit manifestations, another evangelism, another worship, and another Biblical church pattern and practice.  In fact, these may center around any of the various particulars found in the fullness of God as the primary emphasis of their spiritual lives.  At this stage of the illustration, although all of these are “in Christ”, none of them are yet truly and radically Christ-centered in their spiritual orientation in all things.

In the next phase of the illustration,  we see the two smallest circles shifting over so as to line up, one each, with two of the other small circles.  This is symbolic of how Christians tend to be drawn together and pursue unity with those who share a common or complimentary spiritual emphasis.  For example, this may mean that the one whose emphasis is evangelism, may join up with the one whose emphasis is Bible doctrine, and the one whose emphasis is worship may be drawn to the one whose emphasis is Holy Spirit manifestations.  The one focused on Biblical church pattern and practice might still be rather isolated, not agreeing with the “wineskin” these other groups seek to contain their “wine” in.😉

As was stated in the original illustration, this may seem like a strengthened form of unity as believers/groups are seen coming together around common passions and pursuits.  Since the Lord’s desire, according to His Word, is for complete unity among all of His people, however, this state actually embodies a heightened form of sectarianism and disunity.  Because these individuals or groups gather around diverse “centers”, they may recognize others as being “in Christ” but also know that at core they have divergent spiritual priorities.  These groups are more likely to be resistant to the idea of full and complete unity for they are rather content and comfortable with things as they are and cannot fathom pursuing practical unity with those who are yet quite different from themselves at the most basic level.  Instinctively they know that no two circles can be truly one unless they possess the same center, and so they continue seeking practical unity only with those who they already see eye to eye with.  The longer these groups persist in this way, and the more that join their number, the more difficult it becomes for this state of things to ever change.  I think you will concur that this is what the Christian world looks like today, only in a much more complicated, complex, sophisticated, and fully established way.

For those living in the complexity and confusion of this stage, the concept of pursuing unity usually consists in seeking an inclusive acceptance and harmonization of the “circumferences” of the differing circles, rather than a pursuit, first and foremost, of a God-ordained alignment of “centers.”  This way, however, creates an untenable situation, for many of the circles who have centers within the large circle, have their circumferences overlapping beyond the circumference of that circle and thus incorporate elements of darkness that exist outside of the fullness of God.  This path of pursuing unity usually involves too much compromise and conflict to be viable, and so very little headway is made in the pursuit of unity in this way.  The truth of the matter is that true, God-ordained unity will never be reached by starting with circumferences, only by starting with centers.

In the next stage of this illustration we see all of the five small circles moving towards the middle of the large circle until all their centers come into perfect alignment with its centerpoint.  Once this is complete, all of the six individual centers become consolidated into one, and the five individual circumferences all line up concentrically within one another inside the large white circle. This happens merely as a consequence of the centers aligning with the centerpoint of the original circle.

When individuals and groups begin to embrace and embody a revelation of the absolute centrality of Christ according to God’s eternal purpose, their centers begin to shift over to God’s ordained Center.  As a matter of course, they, likewise, come into increasing alignment with one another.  Once their individual centers have fully aligned with God’s Center, a spiritual and practical unity is formed at the core of all of the circles that is indivisible.  In addition to this, the highest degree of unity possible as to their present measure of spiritual capacity is also arrived at effortlessly and without need of compromise.  Simply by each one becoming radically centered in the one place that God has ordained, the purest form of unity possible is obtained, given their present state of spiritual capacity, and that without any efforts towards unity even being exercised.

This leads then to the last phase of this illustration where we see the five circles growing in size, until they all expand to the full size of the original circle.  When this is complete, the highest and purest form of unity exists.  Not only are all six centers in perfect alignment and unity, their circumferences are as well.  Indeed, now we see only one circle with one center, and these in a strengthened form than at the first.

There is a spiritual dynamic that is found when all of the centers align with God’s Center and all of the circumferences, likewise, lose their independent “eccentricities”, as in the previous stage.  That dynamic is accelerated growth.  When an individual and/or group radically and comprehensively centers in Christ, they center in the place were all fullness dwells.  They, likewise, center in the place where the Holy Spirit and the Word of God are most intensely focused.  This is where growth takes place unhindered, with all needed elements and influences most abundantly supplied in balance.

As other individuals or groups similarly move into this place and overlap with those already there, the spiritual and practical unity that develops, likewise, becomes an (inter)active agent of growth.  The unified, concentric circles serve to build one another up, each one supplying to the other something of the measure of the fullness of God they possess that causes the increase of growth in both.  The more circles that center in this place, the more accelerated the growth becomes for all.

This is in contrast to the divided state that existed before where the centers of the circles were oriented to disparate, secondary matters and the disunity of their circumferences caused them to be competitive and contentious with one another.  In this unified condition, however, their remaining differences, due to the varying sizes of their circles, become additive rather than combative, and so foster mutual spiritual growth unto full stature.

This process continues until all of the circles come to the state which Paul describes in Ephesians 4:13-16, “…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” This is the goal towards which God is working to bring all of His Body, the Church. This is the place, also, where the essential attributes of unity, fullness, purity and balance all find their ultimate fulfillment.

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Before we conclude, please take another 21 seconds and watch Eli’s animated short one more time. This time view it through the lens of its spiritual interpretation and application.

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Screenshot_12

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Conclusion

We have a great complexity and confusion in Christendom today as the Church over two millennia has grown up and developed around disparate, limited, secondary centers.  The great casualty in this has been the unity of the Body of Christ and the subsequent spiritual growth and fruitfulness it produces.  The restoration of genuine unity seems wrought with such an untenable level of compromise and difficulty that it renders such a pursuit all but extinct in the Church today.  A universal acceptance of permanent sectarianism and disunity has been adopted and endorsed.  This, however, stands in complete contrast to and conflict with the unity of the Church that is the revealed objective of God’s eternal purpose. (See Eph. 1:9-10, 3:11, 4:11-13)

Although the real life actualization of this unity involves much more complexity than this simple illustration could ever convey, I believe it does illustrate a most essential principle for those who would seek a restoration of true unity in the Church, according to the eternal purpose of God.  May we learn that unity begins, first and foremost, with a radical alignment with God’s ordained Center, the Lord Jesus Christ , and works from there outward to the circumference, not the other way around. If we get the Center right, everything else will most naturally develop and grow from there.

And so I ask,

Is Christ the unrivaled center of your personal faith, or is He merely in the spiritual “mix” but with other matters of faith having greater significance in your heart?

In your relationships with other believers, is Christ the sole ground and the primary emphasis of your fellowship or is it founded and focused on secondary and subsequent matters? 

May Christ find within our hearts the central and supreme place that He eternally holds in the Heart of the Father, and in so doing, may we all come into an ever-increasing measure of unity with Him, and with His Body…from center to circumference!  Amen!

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Unity, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Heart of the Matter (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 3)

As we consider the next definition for the word “center”, we will look into the very heart of the matter of the centrality of Christ: the supreme place that the Eternal Son holds in the Heart, Soul, Mind and Will of the Father.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “center” as:

“A person or thing that is the chief object of attention, interest, activity, or emotion.”

As I meditated on this definition, the words to express its significance in relation to the centrality and supremacy of Christ came to me in poetic rather than prosaic form.

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We Begin

Before the Beginning

Before Time

In the eternal existence of I AM

Eternal Love flowed infinitely between the Divine Persons of the Triune Being

Father Son Spirit

In the midst of Perfect Love

Unquenchable Glory Blazed

Unbounded Pleasure, Delight Consumed

Relentless Joy, Satisfaction Multiplied

The Three

The One

The Timeless All

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Love is Purposeful

Love is Kind

Love is Creative

 Love is Extravagant

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The Father

The Eternal Source of All

Conceived a Design

A Magnificat of Love

The expression of His inexpressible Passion

For His Son

The Gift to be unwrapped over ages and eons

Centered

In One

The chief object of all attention

The supreme focus of all fascination

The vortex of all activity

The beneficiary of all

Heart and Soul

Mind and Strength

Of a Father’s Love

Expressed

~~~

In the Beginning

The Word

The Word was with God

God was with God

In the Beginning

The Image of the Invisible

The Radiance of the Glory

Firstborn over All

Before all things

“The Beginning”

~~~

And God Spoke

The Word

And There Was

Through Him all things were made

 Without him nothing was made that has been made

Heaven, Earth, Visible, Invisible

Thrones, Powers, Rulers, Authorities

All things by Him

All things for Him

All things in Him

Sustained by

The Word

~~~

The Word

 Made flesh

Among us

The Glory of the One and Only

Full of Grace and Truth

The Fullness

In Flesh

Immanuel

God with us

Lamb in a Stable

Bread in the House of Bread

Bridegroom at a Wedding

High Priest in the Temple

Servant at the Table

Vine in the Wine Press

Last Adam in the Garden

Carpenter Nailed to a Cross

Foundation Stone in the Ground

~~~

In the Garden, the Firstfruit

Behind barred doors, the Open Door

The Way, the Truth, the Life

Alive

The Great High Priest

With His Own blood

The Mercy Seat, the Throne in Heaven

The Coronation of the King

The Lamb

The Lion

The nail-scarred Hand

 Holds the Rod and Scepter

The deep-scarred Brow

From cursed earth’s crown

Wears the crowns of Heaven

 From His opened, wounded Side

Comes His Love

His Holy Bride

Flesh of His flesh

Bone of His bone

Mystery of Mysteries

The Many, The One

His Body

 The Fullness

Christ

The Head

Preeminent

In All Things

By the Father

~~~

 The Fullness of Times

Consummated, Complete

All Things Re-gathered

To the One

The Chief

The Sum

The Father’s Will, the Father’s Gift

The Father’s Love Unfolded

Christ in All

All in Christ

The Center and Circumference

~~~

Endless

Ageless

Ages Roll

The Consummation of the Love

Father Son Spirit

Bride

The Four

The One

The Satisfied

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Selah…

As you take time to think on these things, please consider once again

the meaning of the word “center” that we started this post with:

“A person or thing that is the chief object of attention, interest, activity, or emotion.”

O how Christ fulfills the deepest meaning of these words…

He is truly the Center of the Father’s Heart!

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Creative Expressions, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Centering the Clay (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 2)

In this series, we are considering the centrality of Christ by looking at a number of dictionary definitions for the word “center” and seeing how Christ Himself fulfills these in relation to God’s eternal purpose, the Church, and the individual believer’s life.  In this second meditation, we will consider the definition we used last time and draw out a second analogy from it:

“a point, pivot, axis, etc., around which anything rotates or revolves.”
(American Heritage Dictionary – online edition)

The analogy we will consider in this post is that of clay being fashioned on a potter’s wheel.

This is a favorite analogy of mine, as you may gather from the picture at the top of this page.  I selected this image to represent “Christ-Centered Christianity” because of the beautiful depiction of centrality it offers.  A potter’s wheel is an example of that which has “a point, pivot, axis, etc., around which anything (in this case, the wheel) rotates or revolves.”  When it comes to the forming of a random lump of clay into a beautifully shaped, usable vessel, the center of the wheel is the most significant part of the potter’s wheel.  This is where the clay must be carefully positioned so that it may be simply and symmetrically fashioned.

“Centering the Clay”

In order for the clay to be able to be shaped properly on the rotating base of the wheel, the potter must first “center the clay”.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of “throwing a pot”, and a most essential one.  Once the clay has been wedged and rounded into a ball, the potter takes the clay and throws it down firmly on the wheel as close to the center as possible.  As the wheel begins to rotate, he wets his hands and places them both firmly on the clay.  Using considerable force he presses and molds the clay in and around the center of the wheel.  Employing some simple techniques, the potter works the clay until it is perfectly centered on the potter’s wheel.

This centering process is absolutely essential for the potter to be able to shape and mold the clay into a symmetrical vessel on the wheel as it spins.  If the clay is off-center even slightly, it will begin to wobble and waver in his hands as he starts to form it.  If he continues it may only be a matter of seconds before the mis-centered clay flops and folds and becomes marred and unusable in his hands.  There is little that even an expert potter can do with a lump of clay that is not centered properly.  The beautiful clay pot being formed in the picture at the top of this page testifies to its having been perfectly centered at the beginning of the process by the one whose hands are now finishing it.

Centered on God’s Potter’s Wheel

This centering process in pottery illustrates a fundamental spiritual principle concerning Christ and the formation of His Church.  In Scripture, God uses the analogy of the potter and the clay to describe the nature of His relationship with His people.  (See Is. 29:16; 45:9; 65:8; Jer. 18:1-6; Rom. 9:21)  His desire is to fashion us individually and corporately into vessels He can fill and use for His purposes.  As the redeemed sons of Adam (who was formed out of the red clay earth) our lives are like wet clay pots spinning on the Master Potter’s wheel.  Day in and day out His hands are upon us, pressing, molding, shaping and forming us into earthen vessels to contain the excellency of His power and presence. (2 Cor.4:7)

As the collective sons of the Second Adam, the Father is fashioning us as “one new man” (Eph.2:15) into a corporate vessel to contain the fullness of His Son.  He is wedging us together, compacting us into one lump of clay, and placing us in the middle of His revolving and unfolding purpose.  With His hands upon us He is pressing us in, holding and molding us around the Center so that we may become perfectly concentric around Him.  All “out-of-centeredness”, or “eccentricity”, must be worked out of us before the Master can complete the work of fashioning us into the corporate vessel He truly desires.  As in the natural process of “centering the clay”, the corporate centering of the Church is one of the most difficult and yet most essential of steps in the formation process.  If this work is incomplete or unsuccessful, it is inevitable that the clay will eventually become marred and unusable in His hands.

The Center of the Master Potter’s wheel is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One ordained from the beginning to occupy the supreme and central place in all things.  (Col. 1:18)  He is the One around whom the eternal purpose of the ages revolves. (Eph. 1:10-11)  He is the One around whom all of creation, redemption, the Church and the Kingdom revolves. (Col.1:11-18)  And He is the One around whom the individual local expressions of the Church must continually revolve in order to be fashioned according to the Father’s good pleasure. (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 4:11-16)

The Apostolic Work of Centering and Re-centering

When we look into the New Testament to see how the local churches were initially formed, we see that this process of centering was paramount to the apostolic workers.  Paul said to the Corinthians, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come to you with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)  For a year and a half Paul proclaimed the crucified, risen, exalted and glorified Christ to the Corinthians.  He resolved, according to the wisdom of the Master Potter, to “center the clay” in “Jesus Christ and him crucified”.  This was his first and foremost work in establishing the Church there.  He understood through the divine revelation he had of God’s eternal purpose that only those churches which were radically Christ-centered could possibly be fashioned into fit vessels for the high and holy calling of the Church.  He was resolved to center the ecclesia in conformity with God’s ordained Center, and to this end he tirelessly labored.

Not only did this occupy his initial work, but also later when the Church in Corinth began to “wobble” on the wheel, as “eccentric” factions began forming around Paul, Apollos, and Peter, Paul exhorted, rebuked and compelled them back to Christ and Christ alone as their true Center. (See 1 Cor 1-3)  He knew that if the church in Corinth continued to develop with secondary matters occupying the primary point around which various groups would revolve and form, the whole expression of the church there would become marred and ruined as a corporate vessel fit for the Master’s use.

Paul was radically Christ-centered in his walk and in his apostolic work knowing that only when the unrivaled center of the church is Christ, in full accordance with God’s eternal purpose, can the ekklesia be properly fashioned to fulfill God’s purpose.  Paul models for us, therefore, the nature of true ministry both in establishing Christ-centered expressions of the Church and in maintaining Christ-centered expressions of the Church against all “eccentricities”.

The ramifications of this simple principle of the centrality of Christ are vast and profound in their outworking.  May the wisdom of the potter suffice as a simple yet sublime introduction to this most significant of spiritual matters.

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The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God (w/PDF and audio formats)

As we come to the final week leading up to Good Friday/Passover and Resurrection Sunday, I’d like to share a meditation on the cross that presents a picture of the crucifixion from a Divine, eternal perspective, rather than a human, temporal one, as we generally view it.  This eternal perspective, I believe, is seldom deeply considered, and has profound implications for us theologically, spiritually, and devotionally.

This meditation was originally published three years ago and has since become the most viewed regular post on the blog to date.  It is also one of the most commented on.  I am offering it again here slightly edited and with PDF and audio versions for your convenience and enjoyment.

I pray that this will inspire a fresh contemplation of the cross and a deeper reverence for our God who has loved us with an everlasting love.  Please feel free to share your thoughts below, and also, please consider sharing this meditation with family, friends or other believers this coming week!  May we be strengthened and built up together as we seek to comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of God in Christ…as revealed in the cross!

In His Eternal Passion,
David

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The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God (PDF Link)

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The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God

Have you ever woken up from a vivid nightmare in a cold sweat, your heart beating out of your chest, and your mind and emotions reeling from the intensity of the ordeal you just “lived” through? I have, and it is one of the worst experiences in life.

For some people who have lived through real traumatic life experiences, this can happen somewhat regularly. The nightmares they tend to have, however, relate not to some subconscious fantasy but to what they have actually lived and suffered through. This is especially traumatic as they emotionally and mentally “relive” actual events they had previously endured. How powerful dreams can be in creating and recreating experiences, and to bring us into genuine emotional and mental engagement with them as though they were real.

Memories also work this way, though often they are not quite so clear and vivid. (At least mine don’t tend to be! ) The more clear and vivid they are, however, the more we can “relive” an experience. Some memories are powerfully etched on our minds, and as we revisit them, the feelings and emotions of the moment all come rushing back.

In reality, all that we experience in our natural life is experienced in the mind. Our conscious and subconscious parts of our brain process all of the vast quantities of information supplied from the physical body, and this is how we experience life. Sights and sounds, tastes and smells, pain and pleasure, are all mental phenomenon that become our experience of reality.

The Eternal Mind and Heart of God

Now all of this has relevance to our comprehension of our glorious God. If these things are true for us, how much more so are they true for the eternal, omniscient God.

Consider for a minute the following attributes of His:

Our God is “eternal”. He, therefore, stands outside of time, beholding all things, past, present and future in the comprehensive NOW. All things in time are simply part of God’s eternal PRESENT. He is the “I AM” who inhabits eternity.

A. W. Tozer in His book “The Knowledge of the Holy” says, “God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as He has lived all our yesterdays.” (Pg. 45.)

Secondly, our God is “omniscient”; “…His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5) He is perfect in knowledge. All that can be known is presently and perfectly “visible” within His infinite mind. Nothing past, present or future can be added to His knowledge, and nothing can be diminished, lost or taken away. The “past” and the “future” are as clear in His mind as the “present” is, for they are all “present” in Him.

This is almost incomprehensible to us who are hedged in by time. We can recall the past in part through memories, and can dream and imagine fancifully into the future, but only the present is vivid and “real” to us. This is not so with the I AM. God perfectly experiences all things that have ever existed, do exist, or shall exist in His creation, from beginning to end, simultaneously and presently.

Stephen Charnock, the Puritan pastor and theologian, in His classic work, “The Existence and Attributes of God” says, “God, therefore, knows no more now than He did before; and at the end of the world, He shall know no more than He doth now; and from eternity, He knows no less than He doth now, and shall do to eternity. Though things pass into being and out of being, the knowledge of God doth not vary with them, for he knows them as well before they were, as when they are, and knows them as well when they are past, as when they are present.” (Vol. I; pgs. 460-461)

In addition to this, our God is also “Love”. Along with the infinite, eternal knowledge that fills His Mind, there is also a corresponding emotional reality that fills His Heart. The God who is perfect in knowledge, is also perfect in LOVE. His Heart feels, His Heart cares, His Heart longs, His Heart rejoices, His Heart sorrows, His Heart is satisfied, His Heart breaks. All that is present in His Mind, is infinitely and inextricably connected to His Heart, and He experiences the fullness of both perfectly in the eternal NOW.

There are many ramifications to this truth about God, but I would like to focus in on one of the most significant of them all; one that stands at the center of God’s eternal purpose:

The Cross

I remember being on a long trip a number of years back and musing on the cross as I was driving. Part of my meditation was that I was wondering how the eternal justice of God was fully satisfied for all men, and for all time, by Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. I wondered how the temporal sufferings and death of Christ actually “balanced the scales” of the eternal judgment of God for sin. When sin is judged with eternal punishment, how could Christ’s temporal punishment for sin suffice as just payment? Honestly, it didn’t fully add up in my mind.

Then I felt the Lord open my understanding and speak to my heart, “It is not the duration of the sufferings in hours or days, but the depth of the sufferings that needed to be accomplished. The duration of the suffering is not measured by time, but by eternity.”

I realized at that moment that the cross, from God’s perspective, is an eternally present reality to His Mind and Heart, outside of the limitations of time. I realized that whatever the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit experienced in the sufferings and death of Christ on the cross are as present a reality to them now as they were then. God does not even have to “remember” them, as if they are something in the past to recall, for they are as present to Him now as they were when they took place.

Likewise, before time even began, before creation was spoken into being, the vivid reality of the nails piercing Christ’s hands and feet, the bloody sweat dripping from His brow, the agonizing breaths, the parched dry lips, the sword piercing His side; the weight of sin and the forsakenness of Christ by the Father were as experientially real to God as the day Christ hung on the cross.

Even into “eternity future”, the infinite perfection of God’s knowledge of the holocaust of the cross shall never dim. Such a thing would be impossible.

Steven Charnock again says, “All things are past, present and to come in regard of their existence; but there is not past, present and to come in regard of God’s knowledge of them, …” (Vol. I; pg. 285)

Such “knowledge” of God, furthermore, is not merely technical, sterile, dispassionate, factual “head knowledge”, but rather infinitely real, experiential knowledge that is inextricably connected with God’s Heart as well as His Mind. Whatever God experienced in the moment of Christ’s sufferings, He fully experiences in the Moment of His eternal Now.

When God in His eternal counsels, therefore, established His eternal purpose, knowing that it would include the cross, He did so knowing that the sufferings of the cross would be an irrevocable, immutable present reality within Him forever.

This was something I had never considered before. The cross took on a significance for me at that moment that became exponentially, exceedingly far greater than anything I had ever conceived of it to be. I realized that the sufferings of Christ on the cross, and of the Father and of the Holy Spirit (spiritually, relationally, and emotionally), were not merely a temporal event, but an eternal reality perpetually known and experienced without diminishment. It could be no other, given the infinite nature of the Triune God.

The Eternal “Passion” of God

I initially titled this post, “The Cross and the Eternal Sufferings of God”, but I changed it to “The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God” because I wanted to not merely focus on the sufferings aspect of this eternal reality of the cross, but also to include a greater fullness of its meaning as it relates to the infinite desires and emotions of the Heart of God. The word “passion” communicates both of these meanings.

“Passion” originally and literally means “suffering”. This is why the sufferings of Christ leading up to His death are called “the passion of Christ.” As we have already touched on, all that the Father suffered in His Heart as He poured out His wrath for the sin of mankind upon His very own Son, and all that rent His Heart as He experienced the separation between Himself and His Eternally Beloved, as Jesus drank the Cup of Judgment to its very dregs, is forever experienced, without diminishment, in the Heart of the Father. All that the Son endured and experienced, both in His divinity and in His humanity, leading up to the cross, on the cross, and whatever He experienced in soul and spirit as His body lay in the grave, is permanently present to His infinite Mind and everlasting Heart. The same is true for the Holy Spirit, who was not only present on that day, experiencing the infinite details of the horrors of Calvary, but also eternally knows them by the same Divine attributes of the Father and the Son.

Because of the immutable perfections of God’s knowledge, the temporal sufferings of Christ, are in reality the eternal sufferings of God, the eternal “passion” of God.

“Passion” not only means “suffering”, however, but is also is used to describe intense, ardent, and even vehement emotion. It is used of overwhelming feelings of both love and anger, desire and hate. Our God is a God of intense, ardent and vehement emotions. He is a God of infinite Love, a jealous God, a consuming fire. He is a God of anger and wrath against sin, corruption and death. He is a God of unspeakable joy, pleasure, glory and satisfaction. These are the ardent Passions of God’s infinite Heart, and all of them are gathered up and come to bear full force upon one central point: the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the fullness of God’s Love is manifest and displayed. Here the fullness of God’s anger and wrath are likewise unleashed. Here all that God desires finds its hope of fulfillment. Here all that God hates finds its ultimate demise. Here unspeakable joy, glory, pleasure and satisfaction are released as the Lamb of God cries out His triumphant shout, “It is finished”. Herein is the summing up of all Passion, infinite and eternal. The vortex of God’s emotions eternally whirl around this central point, for it is the unceasing and unfading reality of the One whose Name is “I AM”.

* * *

I began this post talking about how dreams can cause us to both mentally and emotionally experience things as if they were real, which are not presently happening to us. This is the closest human analogy that I can think of to help us connect with God’s experiential knowledge of all things at all times. His knowledge, however, is not a dream, it is real, and it is present with and in Him always.

In contemplating these things, therefore, I believe it is without exaggeration to say that the cross, and the passion of God that is bound up with it, are more immense and profound than anything we have ever imagined them to be.

May we take time to think on these deep mysteries of our glorious God, and ask Him to give us greater wisdom and insight into them by His Holy Spirit.

* * *

Related:

The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat (updated repost)

Posted in The Cross, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Copernican-Style Revelation and Revolution (“Christ the Center” series revisited – Part 1)

With this post we are beginning a series of meditations on the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things.  Because there is no single verse in the Bible we can point to which says, “Jesus Christ is the Center of all things” we must arrive at that conclusion through Scriptural inference and deduction.

In this series, we will pursue that end by taking a number of dictionary definitions for the word “center” and show how Christ fulfills each of their meanings in relation to the eternal purpose of God, the Church and the individual believer.  These definitions provide a broad perspective on the matter of centrality and so help to give a complete picture of the way in which Christ can truly be seen as the Center of all things.

We will begin, then, with the following definition from the American Heritage Dictionary (online edition):

“a point, pivot, axis, etc., around which anything rotates or revolves.”

Following this definition, a sample sentence is given to illustrate the usage of the word “center” in this regard:

“The sun is the center of our solar system.”

In this first meditation, we will use both the definition and the sample sentence as the basis for our thoughts on the centrality of Christ.

A Heavenly Parable

“The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech.  Night after night they display knowledge.”  (Psalms 19:1-2)

The heavens were fashioned to declare the wisdom, power and glory of God.  Our solar system, likewise, was ordered and ordained to display forth the knowledge of God in what might be called a “heavenly parable”.  At the center of the solar system stands the Sun, a fiery ball of hydrogen and helium gas, blazing in all of its glory.  Its radiance brings light and warmth to the planets and enables life on the earth.  Around the sun the planets spin in balanced orbit, drawn and held together by the sun’s massive gravitational pull.  If it were not for the sun, the solar system would not exist, neither would there be any life.

The Scriptures interpret and confirm for us what the sun represents in this parable.  The natural sun is a physical representation of the eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns central and supreme in all things.  He is “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2), ”the light of the world” (John 8:12;9:5), ”the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).  He is the anti-type of “the greater light” which governs the day (Genesis 1:16); the One who illuminates the church, the anti-type of “the lesser light” which governs the night (Genesis 1:16); “and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

The Son of God, likewise, is the One of whom Isaiah prophesied: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  He is the One of whom Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, sang:  “…the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1:78-79)  John said He is “the true Light, which lights every man”(John 1:9).  On the Mount of Transfiguration, the veil of His flesh was transfigured to reveal His glory, and His “face shone like the sun.” (Matthew 17:2)  When the Son’s life expired on the cross, the sun in the heavens ceased to shine (Luke 23:45).  When John saw the resurrected, glorified Son on the Isle of Patmos, he said, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:16)  In the eternal city there will be no need of the sun to shine on it, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:23)  The Scriptures affirm that the Son is the One of whom the physical sun is a mere representation and type.

As we consider this parable in this regard, there are two facets which stand out and deserve further attention.  These are the sun/Son-related matters of centrality and immensity.

“Centrality”

The first matter to consider is that of centrality.  The solar system is heliocentric in nature. The sun stands at the center, and all of the planets revolve around it.  Up until a mere five centuries ago, however, both the scientific world and the Church world believed that the universe was geocentric, with the earth at its center.  From a combination of earthly observation, certain Scriptural passages in which God was communicating to man according to his earthly perspective, Ptolemaic theory and Aristotelian philosophy, this is what was believed to be true.

As science developed, however, a more accurate understanding of the solar system came to be conceived of and believed in.  Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) proposed a heliocentric model of the universe which placed the sun at the center, with the earth and the other planets orbiting around it.  Initially this radical theory was scorned, rejected and opposed by both the scientific community and by the Church.  In the latter case, this new paradigm threatened the very underpinnings of the Church’s teaching and authority.  Astronomers, such as Galileo Galilei (1564 -1642), who further advanced this concept were tried and condemned as heretics for propagating such “unscriptural” theories.

Eventually, however, truth won out, and a radical reorientation of understanding came to be embraced by the world and by the Church.  This “Copernican Revolution”, as it has been called, became the philosophical and psychological catalyst for the ushering in of “the Modern Age”.  Sweeping changes in all dimensions of society followed as man’s entire concept of the universe and of the world he lived in changed.

It wasn’t until centuries later, however, with the dawning of the space age, that man was ultimately able to break free of the bounds of earthly observation and begin to view the heliocentric nature of the solar system from an entirely heavenly perspective.  How vastly different this view was from what man naturally observed from the earth!  From the perspective of the heavens, the centrality of the sun is a stunning and glorious reality.

This matter of centrality and of the vastly different perspectives that exist between the earthly and the heavenly points of view speak powerfully of man’s diverse perspectives concerning the spiritual universe.  When we view the world and life from our natural, earthly perspective, we gravitate towards seeing ourselves at the center of everything that exists in the visible order.  Even if our eyes have been opened spiritually to see beyond that, and we have seen the Son, we still often think and act as if He revolves around us.  We relate to Him as if He is there solely to bless us, to give us life, to meet our needs and to daily shine upon us.  For all intents and purposes, even as believers, we can tend to live in a “me-o-centric” universe, with ourselves in the center and all other things, including Jesus, revolving around us.

The Church, also, collectively tends to gravitate towards this paradigm of things. When a group of individuals, each with inbred “me-o-centrism”, comes together and forms a church assembly, the tendency is for a corporate “me-o-centrism” to develop.  The activities of the church, and even of Christ’s relationship to the church, tend to center around the collective “self” of the assembly.  The Son is often related to as though He is primarily there to bless the church, to give it life, to meet its needs, and to daily (weekly?) shine upon it.  It develops with its corporate “me” at the center, and with all other things, including Jesus, revolving around its own self-propagation, -preservation and -prosperity.  When an expression of the church lacks a clear and consuming heavenly vision of the centrality of Christ in all things, this is what naturally, yet tragically develops.

Both individual believers and the corporate assemblies of the Lord, therefore, are in deep need of a “spiritual Copernican Revolution”.  Through the Word of God and the Spirit of revelation, the Church must be broken free of the bonds of the faulty and failing earthly view, and grasp the infinitely glorious reality of the universal centrality of Christ in all things.  The Father’s universe revolves around His Son and so must the Church. How differently our lives will be, and the expressions of the Church will be when Christ is fully restored to His central and supreme place in all things. (Colossians 1:18)

“Immensity”

This brings us now to the second matter to consider from this “heavenly parable”, that of immensity.  In the created solar system, the sun is immense in its dimensions and mass, while the earth is minute. Scientists have calculated that the volume of the sun is 1,300,000 times larger than that of the earth.  That is to say, that if you melted down 1.3 million earths, you could pour them into the capacity of the sun.  That is a staggering reality.

The sun’s mass, likewise, is so great that, in and of itself, it comprises 99.86% of the mass of everything that exists in the entire solar system.  The solar system, therefore, is comprised of a sun, lots of space and .14% of trace materials (i.e. planets, moons, meteors and cosmic debris.)  The earth barely weighs in on the scales in this cosmic system. (Isaiah 40:15)  It is this immensity of mass in the sun which provides the necessary gravitational pull to hold the solar system together and keep it moving in balanced orbit.  Were the earth at the center, as once believed, all would disintegrate and fly apart.

As in the matter of centrality, so in this matter of immensity, the earthly perspective is utterly faulty and failing.  From the vantage point of the earth, the world looks large and the sun small.  One can block out the sun’s view by holding up a mere golf ball.  One might even reason from its appearance that you could fit 1.3 million or more suns into the earth.  How utterly misleading and contrary to reality the earthly view can be!

This facet of immensity, as in the case of centrality, is pointing to a sublime spiritual reality.  Paul said, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)  Paul had once viewed Christ as a man, a Jew, a false prophet, a rabble-rouser.  After the resurrection, however, he met the glorified Son as a brilliant light shining from heaven and his spiritual eyes were opened.  Later he was caught up into the third heavens and was given surpassing revelations of the greatness of the Son in the eternal mysteries and purpose of God. (2 Corinthians 12:1-7)

How vastly different was this heavenly view of Christ than what he had seen before.  How gloriously immense was this revelation of the Son from the eternal, heavenly perspective.  Paul’s life became consumed with the “dispensation of the mystery” through the preaching of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8-9).  Even to the end of his life and ministry he was consumed with the singular passion “…to know Christ”! (Philippians 3:10)

As he established local expressions of the churches, He labored to center them in Christ alone, knowing that only He had the sufficient “gravitational pull” to draw and hold the churches together through whatever may seek to divide and disperse them.  Any other center he knew would utterly fail. Only a heavenly revelation of the immensity of Christ will center the Church where it needs to be centered.  Only when the Church is centered in Christ will all things be held together and oriented properly in balanced unity and function.

~ ~ ~

God has written a parable in the very heavens to declare the unrivaled centrality and surpassing greatness of His Son.  The Church is called now to be the instrumentality through which the manifold wisdom of God is embodied and made known to the entirety of creation, “according to His eternal purpose.” (Ephesians 3:10-11)  Only as the Church embraces the Lord Jesus Christ in His centrality, supremacy, all-sufficiency and immensity can it fulfill its high and holy calling to this end.

May God open our eyes to behold this glorious Son in all that He is in the Father’s eyes.

Amen.

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Just One

Last year at this time, Cheryl McGrath, my son, Evan, and I collaborated on a “3D” post called, “The Word Became Flesh” – A Collaboration of Poetic Reflection.  It was a joint leap of faith to trust the Lord for the three inspired pieces of poetry for the project.  I had an initial inspiration that came the day that we started, but in the end, I decided not to use it. I felt it didn’t quite develop the theme of John 1:14 sufficiently for the post.  I eventually wrote another piece called, “The Word/Echoes” which seemed to fit the bill much better. Today, I am sharing with you the first poem that I wrote, “Just One”.   It is written in a very simple, minimalistic style, so I encourage you to read it slowly and meditatively. I pray that you are blessed as you do!

– David

~ ~ ~

JUST ONE

 God
A Word
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this One
All words

The Word
A man
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this One
All men

The Man
A life
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this One
All Life

The Life
A sacrifice
No, not many
Just one
And yet
In this one
All sacrifice

The sacrifice
A death
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this one
All death

The death
A living Way
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this One
All living ways

The living Way
A homecoming
No, not many
Just one
And yet
In this one
All coming home

The homecoming
A Love
No, not many
Just one
And yet
In this One
All Love

The Love
God
No, not many
Just one
And y
et
In this One
ALL

~~ ~

©David Bolton, 2013
Posted in Creative Expressions | 10 Comments

Of Wine and Wineskins

 A collaborative post by Josh Lawson, Travis Kolder, and David Bolton
for “The WORD in 3D”.

~ ~ ~

 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ”
Luke 5:37-39 (NKJV)

~ ~ ~

David says:

When I was a young teenager, my older brother decided to try his hand at making his own wine.  To do so, he stored some homemade grape juice in a screw-capped bottle inside his desk drawer.  A week or so later, he called me into his room rather urgently.  When I went in, I saw a large purple stain on the carpet in front of his desk. He then opened the drawer and inside, embedded in the juice-soaked wood, were innumerable chards of glass from the bottle that had exploded within it.  Such is the power of “new wine.”

In Scripture, “wine” is symbolic of two primary things, blood and the indwelling Spirit.  Both of these point to the God-given life that is in man.  Blood is the old creation shadow of the new creation reality: the Spirit Who fills our hearts and “quickens our mortal bodies.”  Therefore, “wine” is ultimately symbolic of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

God’s highest thought for a “wineskin” to contain His “wine”, then, is man.  God, in Christ, is bringing forth “one new man”, the corporate Christ, to be the Vessel of His Life.  Those who comprise this “one new man” are “new creations” born of the “new covenant”.  They have been given a “new spirit” and a “new heart”…a “heart of flesh”, which has the life of the Spirit coursing through it.  As such, they are able to feel, respond, and adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of the life of God within them.  Together in relationship, these “new creations” form the “one new man”, the corporate “new wineskin” that God has ordained to contain and dispense the fullness of His “new wine”.

In contrast to this, there are also “old wineskins” that contain “old wine.”  The “old wine” is that which is of the “old creation”, enlivens the “old man”, and is comprised of the elements of the “old covenant” (i.e. religious laws, forms, rites, practices, etc.)  The “old wineskins” are those forms and methods contrived by the “old man” to contain and dispense these lifeless elements.  These “old wineskins” are, likewise, lifeless in nature and are, therefore, insensitive, unresponsive and unyielding to the Spirit.  As such, they are also predictable, manageable and non-threatening to the “old man.”

The Spirit of God, like the fermenting juice in my brother’s desk, however, is alive and ever bursting the confinements of the “old man” and his “old wineskins”.  When the “old man” encounters this threatening dynamic, he immediately determines, “The old is better.”

The great tragedy of Christianity is found right here: instead of the Church being a “new covenant”, “new creation”, “new man” expression of the “new wineskin”, filled with the “new wine” of the life-giving Spirit, she is all too often an “old covenant”, “old creation”, “old man” expression of an “old wineskin”, filled with the “old wine” of lifeless religion.  Many within her say, “The old is better”, and those who do seek the “new wine”, tragically think they can contain it within these “old wineskins.”

Jesus Christ died, however, to put to death the “old wine/wineskin” form of religion.  In resurrection, He has brought forth the “new wine/wineskin” expression of Himself. Only this living Body of Christ is divinely fashioned and fit to contain and dispense the life-giving Spirit of Christ!

Since Jesus said, “No man pours new wine into old wineskins…”, why do we expect that God will do so?  No, our “old wine/wineskin religiosity” must die.  Instead, we must be that living “New Wineskin” whom God will abundantly fill with His “New Wine”!  Only then will both Wine and Wineskin be preserved!

Travis says:

Since the beginning of time, Jesus Christ has been a creator. He has never been content to make static copies or to settle into a rut.  Scripture calls Him our forerunner (Hebrews 6:20), which means that He is opening up new ways in the Kingdom before us.  Even at the consummation of the ages, He tells the church “behold, I make all things new,” (Revelation 21:5).

Men, however, tend to be settlers.  We tend to value tradition without meaning and rote over life.  We hold to what we know, what we’ve done, and what we’ve seen over anything new, no matter the benefit.  As Jesus tells us in this parable “[a]nd no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”

Into these two opposites…God ever new and ever creating, and man trying desperately to hold on to the old,  Jesus walks into the scene.  He tells the disciples that the old wine (first century legalism and all of its children) is best suited for old wineskins (the Jewish religious system).  But new wine (the life of Jesus, both in Himself and eventually in His followers) must be put into new wineskins (life lived out in the Kingdom of God relationally).  But Jesus hasn’t limited himself to walking into the scene in 1st Century Judaism.  He also walks onto the scene of 21st Century life.

No matter what century you’re in, you will find old wineskins that are inflexible.  Pouring the life of Jesus into a religious system will break it.  It’s not meant to expand or change.  It can’t handle internal pressure from the life of Christ.  The life of Jesus will break out of it and damage it.  But according to Jesus, you can put new wine into new wineskins.  These new wineskins are flexible, not rigid.  They are able to yield to the pressures of internal life happening because of the fermenting wine.

Wherever Jesus walks onto the scene, You will see Him drawing men to Himself.  Sometimes this will bust the old wineskins.  Wherever He is responded to in faith, you will see new wineskins emerge.  There is much dialog about what new wineskins are, but they definitely look more like how Jesus and His apostolic band functioned together relationally.  This relational connection allows for the new wine–the life of Christ in and between those who make it up–to grow and change and expand.  Jesus, in His sovereignty, has forever joined the new wine of the life of Christ with the new wineskins of Kingdom relationships.

The other thing to remember is that those who have tasted old wine and enjoyed it don’t like the new wine.  Again, there’s something in man that prefers the old to the new.  But to those who haven’t tasted the “benefits” of legalism and unholy religion, to those who have been sickened by its taste, there is a hope in a wine unlike any other–the life of Jesus.  Jesus once served new wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11) when the old wine ran out.  That new wine was better than anything else that had previously been served.  Jesus is always doing something new, serving new wine that is far superior to the old.  So I encourage you to taste this new wine of the life of Christ.  But take it a step further–gather with like-minded brothers and sisters who will walk out a relationship where it will mature, expand, and grow rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Josh says:

As I contemplate this passage I am struck by the statement, “No one who drinks old wine immediately desires the new, for he says ‘The old is better.’ ”  In fact, it causes a deep sighing in my spirit.  This has proven regrettably true in my experience.

The wineskin is useless without the wine.  We know that.  Our spirits are dead without the life-giving touch of God’s Spirit just as our church structures are lifeless without the participation of living members of Christ.  To make someone a “Christian” by giving them rules and regulations to follow is ludicrous; to try to make a “church” by adopting certain forms is equally vain.  The wine is of primary importance.

Alas, however, for it’s so difficult to get people to drink the new wine!  Try offering Jesus Christ as all-sufficient and observe how many people prefer to stick with their dusty old mentalities, paradigms, and lifestyles.  “The old is better,” they say.

I admit this has been a conundrum for me as I seek to bring people into touch with Christ.  Even those who do taste His life are prone to quickly forget the experience and return to old ways.  They may catch a vision of Christ only to quickly pass it off as a fleeting apparition with no practical relevance to the status quo.  Or they will taste His life in a mutual exchange of fellowship with another brother or sister but never stop to think that the way of real church life is further down that road rather than the way of their usual Sunday song and dance.

I have seen brothers and sisters over the years who were given a taste of the new wine in Christ.  I’ve sensed their spirits stir and watched their eyes light up at the sight of unseen realities.  I’ve listened to them question their traditional Christianity in response and begin to search for a better way forward.

That is the happy side of the story.  The sad side is that most of those brothers and sisters never went forward in the way of their new light.  The intoxication of the first taste wore off and they forgot how different it really was.  They got busy with the cares of this life.  Whatever the reason, they returned to drinking the old wine of traditional Christianity.

Relating this analogy of wine and wineskin to the life of the Spirit and the Church, it is my observation that only one thing can be done to preserve the experience of the new wine once it has been tasted, and that is to do what Jesus said: “Pour it into a new wineskin.”  When a person tastes fullness of life in Christ, he or she must move forward in that experience–repenting of sin, renewing their mind, and divesting themselves of old paradigms and practices for the “new and living way.”  Trying to blend a new lifestyle with worldly ways or attempting to “change the system” from within will eventually cause the old forms to burst and the wine to be spilled.

In other words, new “life” requires a new “way.”  This is true of the sinner coming to Christ for the first time and the Christian awakening to the reality of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.  Whatever our place in the journey, may God give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Together we say: (a collaborated prayer)

Father, we love You, and desire to be those individual and corporate new wineskins You are seeking to contain the fullness of Your new wine in these last days.
We thank You that You are releasing the new wine of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in the
Earth and ask that You would help us to say ‘the new wine is better.’
For we have tasted and seen that it is better indeed!
Amen!

_______________________________________

Please take time to visit and explore the contributing authors’ respective blogs for more Christ-honoring content by them:

Josh Lawson at In Search of the City

Travis Kolder at Pursuing Glory

David Bolton at Christ-Centered Christianity

For more information about this initiative, please see the  “The WORD in 3D”.

Posted in "The WORD in 3D", The Ekklesia, The Holy Spirit, The New Covenant | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

“Christ-Centered Christianity – An Introduction” (My first main post revisited)

Nearly three years ago, on New Years Day, 2012, this blog was launched.  The name I chose for it, “Christ-Centered Christianity”, represented then, as it does now, the primary vision and burden that I have in the Lord for His Church.  As the Holy Spirit has built this focus and passion into my life over the past three and a half decades, He has revealed, expanded and distilled down some very specific teachings in relation to it.

At the time of launching this blog, I was working on a manuscript for a book called, (surprise, surprise), Christ-Centered Christianity. It was something of a life-time culmination, distillation and dissertation of these teachings.  The Lord had given me a considerable amount of free time to devote to the writing of it as four months earlier He had allowed me the “good fortune” of falling off of a ladder and breaking my back!

I started the blog as a way of simultaneously getting some of these teachings out to the Body of Christ in more bite-sized pieces.  Once I returned to work, blogging became pretty much all I had time for, and even that, much of the time, has been difficult. (As for the manuscript, it still awaits completion, which I hope to get back to later this coming year.)

So, now as I draw near the end of my third year of blogging, I pause for reflection, looking back over the past years, and also forward to the coming year ahead.

As I look back, I see the past three years, as being a very good and substantial start to the blog, and yet also as being mostly preliminary and preparatory for what is ahead.  Some of the most significant teachings I hope to ultimately share have only begun to come out in certain posts and series. (See, for instance, Centrality and Eccentricity, Centrality and Balance, and the most recent, “Tradition… ” series, especially parts 4 and 5.)  My hope is that in the coming year, by God’s grace, I will be able to share more fully and deeply on the content of these teachings so that the full picture may come more clearly into view.

Before we go forward, however, I want to go back and re-share a few of the earliest posts I published, as most of you were not following the blog then.  I’m going to start today with sharing the very first main post I published called, “Christ-Centered Christianity – An Introduction”.  To “tee that up”, I’d like to give just a brief explanation, and also a slight disclaimer.

As a newbie blogger, I came out “guns blazing” with a first main post that even now, three years later,  I think might possibly be a bit “too much to swallow” for some.  As I was writing it, my thoughts and words went off in a direction and in a creative form of expression that even surprised me at the time.  I felt the Lord’s inspiration and revelation in it though, and the words kept coming, so I kept on writing.  In the end, I believed the Lord’s hand was on it, and though it pushed the limits of understanding beyond what we might normally consider, I felt, at its core, it was a true expression of the Lord’s unfolding purpose for His Church.

As you read it through, please know that the definition of “Christianity” that I give is my own, and that my use of “Christianity” throughout is simply in light of that definition and not limited to the normally accepted understanding and usage of the term.  If you read it with that in mind, the post will most likely make more sense and be more meaningful.

I offer it, then, for your consideration…

Christ-Centered Christianity – An Introduction

In this post I would like to give a brief introduction to “Christ-centered Christianity”; what is it about, and why is it important? Let us begin by looking at the last part of this phrase, “Christianity”.

“Christianity” is a complexity. It is comprised of all of the things which somehow relate to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this regard, and in reality, “Christianity” began before the events recorded in Genesis 1 and 2. “Christianity” began in eternity past in the eternal counsels of the Godhead, when God established His eternal purpose. Christ the Son was the center of that eternal purpose and all that would unfold throughout the epochs of time would be “through Him and for Him.” (Col.1:16) He was the eternal Word (Jn.1:1), the DNA if you will, of all that would follow.

The creation event, in reality, was “Christianity”; a complexity which came into existence through and as a manifestation of the Word, Jesus Christ. All creation, seen and unseen, was fashioned by and according to Him. He was the Source, the Center and the Pattern of it as the all-creative Word of the Father.

The Old Testament in essence was “Christianity”, albeit in a hidden and symbolic form. It evolved and developed according to Christ, through Him and to reveal Him. Even as the DNA of a butterfly is in the caterpillar, so the DNA of “Christianity” was in the Old Testament, leading and preparing the way for the coming of the Word into the world in human flesh.

“Christianity” quietly and inconspicuously was birthed into this world in a dark and lowly stable in Bethlehem in the time of Caesar Augustus. “Christianity” grew and developed as Jesus of Nazareth grew and matured into a man. As Christ entered the waters of Jordan and began His public ministry, “Christianity” became public and began to develop a corporate expression. Through the impartation of His life, righteousness, teaching, and power, the DNA of the Word began to be implanted into the band of disciples that followed Him. Through the cross and the tomb, as a seed falling into the earth and dying, the DNA went into the ground… the promise of a harvest to come. Through resurrection, ascension and outpouring, the Seed was multiplied, scattered and implanted within the earth. “Christianity”, now indwelt with His overcoming, reproductive life, began to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen.1:28)

Through two millennium “Christianity” grew, developed, evolved, propagated, proliferated, and flourished. Throughout two millennium “Christianity”, simultaneously and tragically, adulterated, distorted, inbred, mutated, apostatized, demonized, darkened, died… After two millennium, a vast complexity called “Christianity” fills the earth; a confusing mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. The gene pool of this matrix is a mixed bag of the heavenly and the earthly, of light and darkness, of Christ and Satan, of Sarah and Hagar, of Isaac and Ishmael, of a Bride and a Harlot. The vast landscape of “Christianity” barely resembles the days of its youth and yet the DNA of the Word can still be found subsisting within it.

The end of the story is not yet told. The eternal purpose is still unfolding. The Lord is separating and preparing a pure Bride, spotless and blameless. The day is coming when she will be ready and the Bridegroom will come. In His Day the earth will be purged of the Harlot and her unwashed children. The bloodline of the Lamb alone will remain. The DNA will once more be pure. The creation will be renewed by the Word and all things will be consummated in the One who began it all.

We are now nearing the end of the Church Age, a day that heralds the preparation of the Bride, the heavenly, purified line of the Church, and a day that culminates the development of the Harlot, the earthly, adulterated line of “Christianity”. If we are to discern what lies at the heart and core of the difference between these two lines, we would see that it boils down to one thing: Christ. Is Christ central and supreme in all things, or is He not? Where He is, we find a Bride coming forth, consumed with her Bridegroom. Where He is not, we find a Harlot evolving, deceived and defiled by her duplicities.

What develops out of and around the corporate life of the Bride is what can be called “Christ-centered Christianity”: a complexity that is oriented around, unto, and manifesting Christ in all things. What develops out of and around the corporate life of the Harlot is what we can rightfully call “Eccentric Christianity”: a complexity that is oriented around a multiplicity of secondary matters and manifesting a confusion and confliction in all things. “Christ-centered Christianity” will inherently be marked by ever-increasing degrees of unity, fullness, purity and balance, reflecting the fundamental nature of its Center. “Eccentric Christianity” will inherently be marked by ever-increasing degrees of disunity, diminishment, defilement, and distortion, reflecting the disintegrative nature of its eccentricities.

The umbrella term of “Christianity” now comprises both of these “Christianities” and only as we view what exists through the lens of God’s eternal, Christ-centered purpose, can we discern it properly. Only as we discern it properly will we be able to navigate our way through its complexity and align ourselves with God’s eternal and end-time purpose in the bringing forth of an overcoming, purified Bride.

This blog is dedicated to the unfolding of these foundational truths and distinctions for the promotion of God’s end-time purpose in the Church in these last days.

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I pray that you have been blessed in reading this through.  Please feel free to share any thoughts or questions you may have in the comments!

Love and blessings,
David

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Related:
Centrality and Eccentricity
Centrality and Balance
Tradition…” series  especially Part 4 and Part 5
Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant – full series including audio

Posted in Christ-Centered Christianity - Foundations, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | 1 Comment

Two Follow-Up Resources (“Tradition…” series)

For those of you who have read through the recent “Tradition…” series, I wanted to follow up with a recommendation of two excellent resources. These will greatly help to fill out and complete the picture of both “apostasy” and “restoration” in the Church.

In the last two parts of that series, I dealt with these two principles and showed how Tradition is a major player in both. The primary focus of those posts was very purposefully on the “root” of these two “trees”, rather than on their “fruit.”  If you read Part 5, especially the section on “The Futile Way and the Fruitful Way”, you will know why I put the focus where I did. No apologies!🙂

That being said, however, there is a place for taking a good hard look at the “fruit” of these “trees” and seeing the specific traditions and practices that support and feed that fruit. There are at least two good reasons for this… First, it helps us to fully know and discern the true nature and magnitude of the tree; Secondly, it helps us to rightly know and discern the true nature and identity of the source (roots) of the tree, where lasting change must originate.

In order to complete this picture, then, I want to commend to you two extraordinary resources that will go a long way in doing just that.  The brothers who have written these works have done all the “heavy lifting” for us, and so we are indebted to them for their labor and gifts to the Body.

Pagan Christianity?

The first is Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna. This resource will greatly help to fill out the picture of the apostasy of the Church. The book traces the main practices of the modern-day Church back to their historical roots, most of which find their source in Jewish and pagan culture and religion rather than in Jesus, the apostles, and the Scriptures.  I have personally read this book through twice over the past decade, beginning with its original printing, and am presently going through the audio book of it for the second time as well.  Each time I get more out of it and am awed by the historical research and truths that are uncovered.  This book is a must-read for every God-honoring disciple of Jesus Christ!

I have set up a page for Pagan Christianity? in the Resources section on this blog which has links to a free PDF sample of the book on NoiseTrade, as well as other links to the book’s website, Amazon page and other related sites. This sample certainly gives enough to whet your appetite for the rest.  Please do what you can to get a copy of the full book, though, and read it through carefully and prayerfully!  It is a classic, and it will change the way you view the Church… for ever!🙂

“PRINCIPLES” Book

The second resource is Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ.  This volume will greatly help to fill out the picture of the restoration of the Church.  I won’t take much time to discuss it here, as I have already introduced it in a post earlier this year. I also have it fully hosted on this site in free PDF and audio download, as well as in video playlist.  Suffice it to say, then, that this volume touches on a host of Biblical principles that are fully in accord with the apostolic teachings and traditions that have been handed down to the Church from the first century. It also draws from the experience and testimony of believers around the world today who are meeting with Jesus Christ as their unmediated, unmitigated Center, Identity, Foundation and Head.  This book gives living testimony from the first century, as well as from the present, of a “tree” that has been made “good” from the “roots” up, so that its “fruit” is good!  Please take advantage of this incredible resource which is freely offered to the Body of Christ.

A Challenge

I strongly encourage you to read these two books and consider them together. The contrast between the two testimonies of the apostatizing historical church and the restored remnant church in certain parts of this world will bring the whole matter of apostasy and restoration into crystal-clear view.

I also want to challenge you, as you read these books, to view them through the “lens” of what has been shared in this series of “Tradition, Scripture and the Church”.  Consider the various aspects of the “psychological and sociological power of tradition” and see examples of it outworked through the history of the Church.  Consider the principles of the “supplementation” and “supplantation” of Christ in the “formative core” areas of “attractional center”, “distinctive identity”,  “foundational base”, and “governance principle”.  Consider the power of the “conformative matrix” and the way it “locks in” the “formative core” as it develops. All of these principles are powerfully at work in the history of the Church and they go a long way in explaining why the Church is the way that she is today.  I believe you will gain rich insights and see things with much greater clarity if you do.  (I am presently going through both of these resources again with that specific purpose in mind and it has been very powerful so far!)

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To access these resources then, please follow these links:

Pagan Christianity? – by Frank Viola and George Barna (Resource Page)

“PRINCIPLES Book”  (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

“Tradition, Scripture and the Church” – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5

May you be greatly blessed as you partake of these resources!

-David

Posted in Christ-Centered Resources | 4 Comments

“Revelation or Religion” (Excerpt from Daily Open Windows – by T. Austin-Sparks)

Today’s entry from “Daily Open Windows“, the daily devotional of T. Austin-Sparks’ writings, is a poignant follow-up to the series just completed, “Traditions, Scripture and the Church“.  It was too good not to share!  (Note: the title, “Revelation or Religion” is my title for this post, not a title from the devotional.)

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November 14

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8 NIV)

Man has constructed his own interpretations of Christianity and of truth, brought in his own systems and has confused things so much that you really do not know, unless you have clear discernment such as Nehemiah had, what is of God and what is not of God.  There are multitudes of good, honest, sincere Christian people who really are in the most awful fog as to what is of God and what is not of God religiously.  Man’s religious systems have brought about that confusion and multitudes of honest people believe with all their heart that the thing that they are in is of God, and it is just possible for them to get such an awakening to see the whole thing was man-made and not of God at all; “…much rubbish.”

Paul was one of those.  Reflect upon his past life, privileges, and inheritances which he at one time believed were so utterly and absolutely of God for him, and that he really was in God’s will.  He came to a time when he said: “The things which were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ… for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ”; and yet he was so devoted to all that as a traditional religious system in which he at one time was living as out from God, which had now become merely an outward thing of forms and external laws.  He believed, nevertheless, that it was all of God until the light shone, until he saw that in comparison with the fullness of Christ it was refuse.  It is a strong word that he uses; the word he uses is “stuff to be flung to the dogs.” Saul of Tarsus throwing his Judaism to the dogs!  He did it when he saw Christ.  You can never come out of the rubbish until you see Christ.

Ask the Lord to reveal to you the fullness of Christ and you will find things which have gripped and held you become as mere refuse, stuff to be flung to the dogs.  There was much rubbish in the place which once represented a clear line of division between what was of God and what was not of God; confusion, mixture.  I shall not attempt to apply that more thoroughly.  The Lord will have to show us by revelation what the rubbish is, but there is the simple statement and it contains a truth, and you and I will really have to ask the Lord to show us even in religious matters, where man ends and God begins, or where God ends and man begins, so that we shall be delivered from everything that man has imposed or added upon what is of God, and we shall be able to get right down to foundations, the rubbish being removed: and there is a very great deal of ecclesiastical rubbish about in these days that must go.  That is a real difficulty in recovering the full testimony of the Lord Jesus.
By T. Austin-Sparks from: Concerning Jerusalem  

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001600.html

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In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.
 

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I highly recommend the Daily Open Windows devotional which can be accessed, subscribed to by email, or downloaded for free from this page on The Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks. It may also be followed on the Daily Open Windows Facebook page. Check it out. It is excellent!

Please also see the series just completed, “Tradition, Scripture and the Church” – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, which I truly feel is one of the most important series to date on this blog.

This excerpt will also be added shortly to the “Author’s Excerpts” section of this blog as a permanent page. You can find other excellent excerpts by T. Austin-Sparks, Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer, Charles Spurgeon, and more there.

May God bless you as you continue to seek “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus (our) Lord!”

All blessings in Him,
David

Posted in Author Excerpts, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 5: “Tradition and Restoration”

Note to readers: This post is a substantial conclusion, in length and content, to what I consider to be one of the most important series that I’ve posted to date on this blog.  I could have published this conclusion in two or three smaller posts due to its length, but have chosen to post it as one longer one.  I have included a PDF file of it for printing out if you wish (download here.) In any case, this is not a light or casual read. (You’ve been forewarned!🙂 )  If the end-time restoration of God’s House is something you are seeking and pursuing, though, please take some time with this post and pray about its contents.  May God give insight and understanding according to His wisdom and purpose!  The full series may also be accessed by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.  (Part 4 in particular gives the background to this post.)  Thanks and God bless! -David

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There are two major movements that will mark the Church in the last days: apostasy and restoration.  Tradition will not only be a major player in the process of apostasy, as we saw in the previous post, it will also be a primary force in the process of restoration.

The Root of Restoration

Restoration is the recovery of what once was, and was lost.  As we saw last time, what was, and was lost was simply, CHRIST.  HE became supplemented with, and supplanted by, lesser things in the Church.  In particular, we saw that He was substituted for and displaced from His central, supreme and all-sufficient place as the unrivaled Center, supreme Identity, sole Foundation and uncontested Head of the Ekklesia.  The local expressions of the church consequently moved away from the place of unity, fullness, purity, and balance and began to be marked by disunity, diminishment, impurity, and imbalance.  The work of apostasy that developed over the ensuing centuries and millenia can be traced back to these fundamental shifts and changes that began very early on.

These four facets of Center, Identity, Foundation, and Head are especially significant because they each represent a core element of what constitutes any established and functioning social unit.  Any free-will association, be it spiritual or natural, will have four core components that are essential to its constitution. These will vary in nature and content from one group to another, but they will all be present in some form or another, and will be the primary factors determining the ultimate nature, form, and function of the group. I call these four core components, the “formative core” of a group. They are:

1. An “attractional center” – This is the primary purpose, passion, or person that the group coalesces around.  This is what primarily draws and holds the group together and is the main reason for its existence.

2. A “distinctive identity” – This is what designates the group as a distinct entity and distinguishes it from every other association.  This distinctive identity is very often derived from the group’s “attractional center”, and/or serves to succinctly communicate something essential about the group.

3. A “foundational base” – This is what fundamentally establishes, unifies, and defines the group.  Six foundational questions need to have a source by which they are answered concerning the groups basic nature, form, and function: who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how?  The recognized and accepted source by which those six questions are answered becomes the “foundational base” upon which it is built.

4. A “governance principle” – This is the principle as to how the group is governed.   This principle determines how the group is led, decisions are made, where authority lies, and how people or things that are detrimental to the group are handled.  Every group encounters these matters and of necessity adopts some form of “governance principle” to manage them.

The “formative core” of every established group, then, consists of an “attractional center,” a “distinctive identity”, a “foundational base”, and a “governance principle”. These are the four core principles that every free-will association is established according to and coalesces around.   Whatever “shape” this “formative core” takes, the “conformative matrix” that develops around it becomes fashioned according to its nature and “contour”.  As was previously shared in this series, once this “conformative matrix” is established, it serves to “lock in” the shape and contour of the “formative core” that originated it so that any change that is made to the “core” later on, comes up against the resistance of the “matrix” that surrounds it. This is the fundamental nature of how a group forms, develops, and becomes established.

When it comes to the Ekklesia, the same is found there as well. When a local expression of the Ekklesia is established according to God’s eternal purpose, Christ is given the preeminence in all things. (Col.1:18)  Therefore, in the New Testament we see the apostles, in essence, establishing the local churches with Christ as their:

1. “Attractional Center” – HE is the primary purpose, passion, and Person that the church coalesces around.  He is that which primarily draws and holds the church together and is the main reason for her existence.

2. “Distinctive Identity” – HE is what designates the Church as a distinct entity and distinguishes it from every other association on earth.  The Church is called by His Name, which is in keeping with her “attractional center” and also communicates that which is most essential about her origin, constitution, and purpose.

3. “Foundational Base” – HE is the One who fundamentally establishes, unifies, and defines the Church by His Person and work.  He is, likewise, God’s comprehensive Answer to the fundamental questions of: who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how? concerning the nature, form and function of the Ekklesia.

4. “Governance Principle” – HE is the principle as to how the Church is governed.  He, through His Headship, is how the ekklesia is to be led, how decisions are to be made, where authority lies, and how people or things that are detrimental to the group are handled.

This, then, is the “formative core” of the Ekklesia as it is fashioned according to God’s eternal purpose.  Christ Himself is it’s “Attractional Center”, “Distinctive Identity”, “Foundational Base”, and “Governance Principle” (i.e. Center, Identity, Foundation and Head.)  When the local church coalesces around and is established according to Christ in these four aspects, she grows and develops according to God’s design for her.  The “conformative matrix” that develops around this “formative core” takes the nature and “shape” of Christ, and eventually “locks in” the nature and “shape” of these four core aspects of Christ in the ekklesia. If later on, change to this Christ-established “core” is attempted, it runs up against the resistance of the Christ-established “matrix” that surrounds it.  This, then, is fundamentally how the Ekklesia forms, develops, and is established according to God’s eternal purpose.

We have in this simple explanation, then, the essential pattern of the Church according to God’s eternal purpose, with Christ Himself being central, supreme, and all-sufficient as her unrivaled Center, supreme Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head, and the entire life, function, and form of the Ekklesia taking its nature and expression from these four core aspects of Christ being established.  It is the substance of this Christ-centered pattern which the Church once had, and lost.

The movement away from this Christ-centered original intention for the Church is the root of apostasy, as was discussed in Part 4.  The recovery of this Christ-centered original intention for the Church, then, is the root of restoration!

The Fruit of Restoration

After defining the “root of restoration”, it is also important that we define the “fruit of restoration”.  Many different aspects of the character, ministry, and works of Christ could be elaborated on here, for the entire “conformative matrix” of the restored Ekklesia will be filled with and expressive of the fullness of Christ.  These innumerable facets of the fruit of Christ, however, can be identified by certain characteristics themselves.  In fact, these characteristics mark the entire “tree”, root to fruit.  When Christ is restored as the Root of the tree (i.e. as its “Formative Core”), the entire tree will be marked by four essential characteristics of Christ: unity, fullness, purity, and balance.  These will develop naturally as a result of Christ being re-established as the true Center, Identity, Foundation, and Head of the Ekklesia.  This is what I will define as the fruit of restoration. (All four of these can be deduced from Paul’s description of the fully matured Body of Christ in Ephesians 4:13-17, and elsewhere.)

The Futile Way and the Fruitful Way

To understand God’s way of restoration, it is vital to discern the difference between the “root of restoration” and the “fruit of restoration”.  It is the confusing of these two aspects that has caused much failure in the past on the part of God’s people as He has sought to restore His Church.  By developing a clearer understanding of them, we will be able to discern more fully God’s way of restoration, which will be vital for the Church going forward.

The fact is, there are two ways that restoration can be pursued… one futile, the other fruitful.

Throughout history, the majority of restoration-type movements have tragically followed the former of these.  This is the more popular, less costly way, which ends up, itself, succumbing to the process of apostasy due to its fundamentally flawed basis.  (This was touched on in the previous post, but I will elaborate further on it here.)

The futile way is to focus on “fruit” while ignoring or dismissing the “root”.  This is the natural way, for fruit is much more visible and seemingly valuable to man than roots are.  There is, therefore, a much greater awareness of and motivation to focus on fruit issues than there is on root issues.  It is also, seemingly, less costly to attempt to remedy specific fruit problems than it is to try to fix systemic root problems.  Movements, therefore, much more readily develop around a particular fruit focus, than they do around a root focus.

If the various restoration movements throughout history were to be examined closely, most would be seen to have centered around some aspect of the “fruit of restoration” i.e. promoting some aspect of Christian unity, of spiritual fullness, of doctrinal, personal or ecclesiastical purity, and/or of spiritual balance in some regard.  Whatever their primary focus and purpose was, this became their “attractional center”, and it most likely helped to form their “distinctive identity”.  (Think “Holiness Movement”, “Pentecostal Movement”, “Healing Movement”, “Faith Movement”, “Ecumenical Movement”, “Church Growth Movement”, and the like…)

Not dealing radically with the root (“formative core”) issues, however, these movements invariably ended up adopting some form of the “old wineskin” to seek to contain their “new wine”.  Their “foundational base” and “governance principle” subsequently became adopted and adapted from the prevailing “substitutionary” system.  This gave them a “formative core” that was centered around and identified by a specific “fruit focus” instead of CHRIST as unrivaled Center and supreme Identity, and was founded on and governed by some other construct and principle other than CHRIST as sole Foundation and uncontested Head.  Although it seemed that they were making radical advances from prior expressions of the Church, in reality, they were merely giving the same old, Christ-supplanting “woman” a “facelift”.  The very roots of the system that gave rise to the bad fruit that they were trying to counter continued to be the roots of the new “tree”.  It was only a matter of time until a new form of the “fruit of apostasy” began to grow on their branches.  This was inevitable!

This failing “fruit-focused” way of pursuing restoration has repeated itself so many times throughout history, it has proven itself to be a fundamentally flawed and futile way.

If we discern the difference between the “fruit” and the “root”  of the problem, we can understand quite clearly why this is so.  Jesus said, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Matt.7:16-19  He, likewise said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”  Matt. 12:33

The fruitful way of pursuing restoration, therefore, is to deal radically with the tree, beginning with the roots.  In fact, this is the only way there will be true and lasting restoration.  The “root” of the Ekklesia, the “formative core”, in all four of its essential components, must become simply, and exclusively…CHRIST!  Only then will the fruit of the tree be CHRIST, and the entire tree be restored to God’s original and ultimate intention.

First and foremost, therefore, all energies and focus must be directed at the radical restoration of CHRIST to the place of unrivaled Center, supreme Identity, sole Foundation and uncontested Head of the Ekklesia.  All four areas must come into uncompromised conformity to the centrality, supremacy, and all-sufficiency of CHRIST, that the entire tree will be according to God’s eternal purpose and that it will bring forth the full-blown fruit of CHRIST in unity, fullness, purity, and balance.  This way, and this way alone, is the fruitful way of restoration.

A Radical Returning Remnant

This process of restoration is a much more difficult process than apostasy.  Apostasy is the natural course of things in this fallen world.  It takes no more effort to propagate than a boat exerts in drifting untethered from its mooring.  Restoration, on the other hand, is a swimming against the tide, a constant uphill climb, a rebuilding in the midst of perpetual opposition, a straining against a resilient and resistant psychological and sociological “web”.  It is truly a work of God, and He has called a stalwart breed of men and women to participate with Him in it.

Martin Luther once said, “Learn from me, how difficult a thing it is to throw off errors confirmed by the example of all the world, and which through long habit have become a second nature to us.”

His life is a poignant example of that, and yet he didn’t even deal radically with the full “formative core” of the existing Church structure!  The Anabaptists were much more radical in this regard, and they endured a bloodbath of persecution and martyrdom from both the Catholic and the Protestant camps.

The reality is, that once the “formative core” of a religious movement or system becomes established and the “conformative matrix” sufficiently develops so as to “lock it in”, it is virtually impossible for that movement or system to ever be radically changed.  Change from the core out is strongly resisted by the tensile strength of the surrounding matrix, and change from the matrix in is strongly resisted by the established core, where the authority base lies.  This resistance, in both directions, comes not only from the sociological constructs that have developed, but also from the psychological mindsets that it has spawned, driven, in both regards, by the insidious and ubiquitous power of Tradition.

Those who choose to remain in such a movement or system, aware of the fruit of apostasy within it, have but a few options.  I have identified the main ones here by personifying them as distinct groups of people.

• “Resigners” – These resign themselves to the situation as it is, figure they can’t change it, look pragmatically at the good that is being done, and assume that if God is in any way blessing it, He must also be endorsing it.  This is the easiest and most popular group to belong to.

• “Revivalists” – These feel that the real problem is that there just isn’t enough of God’s Spirit and power at work in their system.  These are constantly preaching and praying for “REVIVAL” (i.e. for God to pour out His “new wine” into their “old wineskin”.)  This approach, however, never deals with the underlying root of why they are corporately dying in the first place.  Unless that is radically dealt with, the deadness will remain, or quickly return after a temporary “visitation.”

• “Reformers” – These hold out hope that the system can be reformed, either from the top down, or the bottom up, or as was just said, from the inside out, or the outside in.  If changes are actually brought about, they will invariably be partial and generally short-lived because of the resilient nature of the “formative core”/”conformative matrix” construct.

Other groups move out of the systems they are a part of to find or create new institutional or “organic” alternatives. These can be categorized as “Revisionists”, “Reactionaries”, “Rebels”, “Refugees”, and “Recluses”, each with their own nuance of approach to the problem of apostasy.  As was discussed in Part 4, these are essentially reactionary in nature, seek to remedy the fruit of apostasy without dealing radically with its root, and, in the end, perpetuate the problem all over again.  (See also the series, “Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant”)

The psychological and sociological power of Tradition is so blinding, and so binding, that most never think, or dare to seriously consider, that the foundational elements that are universally taken for granted as to what constitutes a legitimate “church” may actually be un-Biblical, being substitutionary in nature, rather than substantive….i.e. CHRIST.

Those who would dare to declare such a thing are considered rebels, heretics, or worse.  As one has said, “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” -Dresden James

However, God’s purpose and program in the light of such root-level apostasy is to raise up one final group, a radical, returning Remnant.  These are those who are willing to leave the confusion of the present system (“Babylon”), return to the God-ordained “land”, re-lay the age-old foundations, and rebuild the House of God according to God’s pattern and original intention.  This is the only way for the “tree” to be made “good”, from the roots up.  It is with this final group that God’s hope of full and final restoration lies.

Tradition and Restoration

Given the massive complexity of all of the conformative matrices of an untold multitude of apostatizing religious systems, and all the man-made traditions that it has spawned, how is this returning remnant going to fight its way back through all the rubble and confusion and re-establish, once again, the “Formative Core” of CHRIST in the Ekklesia?

Ironically, I believe it will be primarily through the power of…you guessed it… “Tradition!”

Even as un-Biblical traditions are a primary driving force in the process of apostasy (as discussed in Part 4), so Biblical traditions are, and will be, a primary driving force in the process of restoration.  Biblical traditions originate out of a paradigm where CHRIST is in His rightful place in all things, and they powerfully work to secure and guard that place for CHRIST alone.  These are the apostolic and prophetic teachings and practices that have been handed down to us through the Holy Scriptures, and are implemented in and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, the true issue with the Church is not the fact that it adheres to ancient traditions, but that it adheres to man-made traditions and fails to adhere to the most ancient traditions of all in the Church…the traditions of the apostles.  All Biblical traditions pre-date the un-Biblical traditions that have enslaved the Church for nearly two millennia.  If these apostolic traditions had been faithfully held to, there would have been no place for the un-Biblical traditions to have gotten in and taken root.  As God is now working to restore the remnant of His people back to His original pattern, He will do so by restoring these ancient Biblical traditions, and through them, uproot and supplant (“sub-plant”) the un-Biblical ones that have predominated for so long.

As much as I would like to believe that this full restoration will take place within the established movements and systems of Christendom, given the psychological and sociological power of tradition, and the interlocking nature of the “formative core”/”conformative matrix” dynamic, that is highly unlikely.  Much more in keeping with Biblical precedent and teaching, is that God will do a work within individual hearts and then call them out of these apostatizing systems.  After a time of testing and purging in the “wilderness” (to get the “system” out of them),  these will then be used to establish fresh testimonies that are founded from the very beginning on CHRIST alone, central and supreme in all things.

Those Biblical traditions that will, and must be, most firmly and faithfully adhered to by this returning remnant will be those apostolic teachings and practices that establish CHRIST as central, supreme and all-sufficient in all things in and for the Church.  In particular, this remnant will need to embrace those ancient traditions that establish CHRIST, in essence, as her “Formative Core”.

The apostolic teachings and practices of the centrality and preeminence of Christ in all things must be regularly taught and faithfully embraced in all practical ways.  HE must her “Attractional Center”, the central purpose, passion, and Person that the ekklesia coalesces around.  HE must be that which primarily draws and holds the church together and is the main reason for her existence.  HE must be the One that the church gathers around as the centerpiece of its life and assemblies.  HE must be the primary focus and fullness of all teaching and worship.  All secondary and sectarian “attractional centers”, in whatever form they are found, must take their rightful place as secondary, subservient, and complimentary to Christ.  HE must be the ekklesia’s unrivaled Center!

The apostolic teachings and practices of Christ being the consummate Identity of the Church must be regularly taught and practically expressed.  HE and not some secondary identity must designate the Church as a distinct entity and distinguish it from every other association on earth.  HE and not some sectarian identity must be the “distinctive identity” of the ekklesia’s self-concept and confession as to who they are.  All secondary, sectarian names, labels, titles, denoms, descriptives, confessions, and the like must be supplanted with the supreme, unifying Identity of the Church, CHRIST.

The apostolic teachings and practices of Christ being the sole Foundation of the Ekklesia, Who alone, by His Person and work, establishes, unifies and defines the churches must be regularly taught and practically applied.  All fundamental aspects of who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how? of the church’s nature, form, and function must find their all-sufficient Answer and Source in CHRIST.   All secondary, sectarian “foundational bases” that men contrive and employ to establish, unify, and define a particular expression of the Ekklesia must be discarded and replaced with CHRIST alone, without supplements or substitutes.  CHRIST must be established as the sole Foundation for each local expression of the Church, according to God’s eternal purpose.

The apostolic teachings and practices regarding CHRIST as the unrivaled, functional Head of the Church and churches must be regularly taught, pursued, and practically expressed.  HE, in His Headship, is the “governance principle” by which each church is led, how decisions are made, where authority lies, and how people or things that are detrimental to the group are handled.  All secondary, substitutional “governance principles” that men employ to govern a particular expression of the Church must be surrendered to the cross and submitted to the sovereign authority and functional leadership of Christ.  HE must be the unrivaled Head of each assembly of His Body, the Church.

Through the recovery and re-establishment of these “Biblical traditions”, CHRIST will be restored to His rightful place in the remnant expressions of the Ekklesia.  The “root”, i.e., the “formative core”, of each ekklesia will thus be established according to God’s eternal purpose.  This will “make the tree good” so that its fruit will, likewise, be “good”.   This will establish her heavenly “DNA” so that the “tree” will grow “organically” according to God’s Pattern.   The “conformative matrix” that develops will naturally be conformed to CHRIST and begin to manifest all of the fruit of the fullness of CHRIST.  This will, in turn, “lock in” the “Formative Core”, thus preserving the “Root” of the “tree”.  The entire “tree”, as it grows and develops, will manifest the full expression of the “fruit of restoration”: unity, fullness, purity, and balance in every respect.  The remnant Ekklesia, thus established, will stand as a “Tree of Life” for the nations, and a testimony to God’s unfailing purpose in His Son at the end of the age.

A Final Word

This, then, is an overview of the place and power of Tradition as it relates to the end-time restoration of the Church.  Much more can be said concerning this process, but may this suffice to give an essential “paradigm of restoration” by which we may safely and surely pursue the Lord in this final day.

In closing, I would like to say that, although this process has been described primarily from a collective, corporate perspective, it begins, first and foremost, on a personal, individual level. Before Christ can possibly be established in a corporate expression of the Ekklesia as its “Formative Core”, He must first be established within the individual hearts of His people who comprise it as their personal “formative core”.

So I ask you…

Is CHRIST your unrivaled Center, or do other secondary things take preeminence in your heart?

Is CHRIST your supreme Identity, or do you look to other factors and associations to define who you are?

Is CHRIST your sole Foundation, or do you trust in lesser, worldly principles or man-made things to establish, unify, and define who you are?

Is CHRIST your unrivaled Head, or do you look to yourself or others to supremely direct your life?

The establishment of CHRIST in these fundamental ways in our individual hearts and lives is what God desires so that our inward “formative core” may be according to His ultimate desire and design.  He is working to make our “tree good”, from the “roots” up, that we may bear the full “fruit of restoration”, a life marked by personal integrity, spiritual fullness, moral purity, and holistic balance.  Then, and only then, will we be fit vessels for His end-time purpose of restoration in the Ekklesia!

May God raise up such a company in this last day!

May it begin with you and me!

With Love,
David

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Tradition, Scripture and the Church series – Part 1, Part 2,  Part 3, and Part 4

Related posts and pages:
Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant (Audio and series links.)
Centrality and Eccentricity
Centrality and Balance
The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church
“IN”:Identity

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One Universal Spiritual Remedy – by T. Austin-Sparks

Romans 15:5; Colossians 2:8.

It would be a wonderful thing if in the realm of medicine one remedy could be found whereby every conceivable malady could be most certainly cured.  What a tremendous amount of complication and confusion would at once be removed.  It is almost too big a thought or prospect for us to take in; there is so much of life taken up with the endless systems of healing, and the countless number of remedies.  Not only are there the varieties and multitudes of propositions and advocacies, but there are the strong and, sometimes, fierce rivalries in medicine and surgery; the opposing schools.

Someone years ago gave to spiritual ministry the. name of “the cure of souls”. That “cure” far outreaches the matter of individual salvation.  The Apostle Paul, in particular, had all his time taken up with the “cure” of believers, and the “cure” of the churches.  The maladies of individuals and churches were many; from sins of a very low level, through jealousies, factions, personal interests etc., to false doctrine, and all the complexity of church technique.

But this servant of God had and propounded, one universal remedy, one panacea for all ills. You ask, “Is that possible?”  Yes!  In this realm of the spiritual borders in the Lord’s people, whether personal or collective, as for the unsaved of every different constitution, temperament, inheritance, etc., there is

One Universal Remedy

That simplifies things very much. It sets aside a thousand questions and perplexities.  The evil germs of suspicion, prejudice, fear, jealousy, and many other such like things will be killed by the radium-like power of this new Life.  The dislocations between people will be quickly and effectively adjusted.  The whole question of order and technique in the churches, in all its particulars, will spontaneously resolve and answer itself.  The malady of spiritual inertia and lack of concern for the salvation and eternal good of others will yield to a new vitality and energy.

Yes, there is one all-inclusive cure; but to say this is of no more value than an advertisement, unless it is believed and obeyed.

What then is this one all-embracing Remedy?  It will not help a great deal just to give the answer in a simple sentence so we must illustrate or instance it.  It is quite clear that every letter written by the Apostle Paul has some maladies as the occasion of it.  That is to say there were things that were wrong in every place to which the letters were written, and that needed to be put right.  The outstanding case is Corinth. The disorders and diseases there, both individual and collective, were many and great.  While the Apostle referred to these specifically, and rebuked, reproved, exhorted, and warned concerning them, he knew quite well that they could never be cleared up as things in themselves.  It was of no use to try to get a solution by discussion, debate, logic, personal persuasion, or threat.  His one all-covering Remedy is announced, or prescribed very early in the first letter to them:-

“I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ… and him crucified.”

In other words, Paul’s finally settled position was that a passion for Jesus Christ in terms of His Cross – that is, in terms of love: the letting go of all personal interest, the yielding of all natural mindedness – will solve every problem and cure every malady.  Paul believed that if he could get those believers to become really captivated by a concern for Christ as the objective of an ever increasing devotion and self-surrender, all the evils and hurtful things would fade out.  If something more than the initial and basic personal advantages of salvation were to fill the heart, so many of the unhappy conditions in individual and corporate Christian life would disappear.  That is to say, if the Lordship of Christ were to be given its place and His fulness were to be the governing goal, life would be ever rising in ascendancy above the low level and be enlarging beyond the small and petty measure which is characteristic of so many.

Oh, for the ability to show how the Lordship of Christ in a life, or in a church, and in all the churches, is the solution to every problem and difficulty!  Will you ask the Lord to impress you firstly with this fact, and then to lead you into its reality.  To this ministry, by His grace, and as helped by your prayers, we give ourselves until we – with all saints – “attain unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

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In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.

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Source:  The Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks

Related posts and pages:
T. Austin-Sparks
Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 4: “Tradition and Apostasy”
About

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Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 4: “Tradition and Apostasy”

In this post and the next, which will conclude this series, we will take a look at the power and place of Tradition in the Church as it relates to the two primary principles that will define the Church at the end of the age: apostasy and restoration.  These are the two major movements that will mark the Church in increasing measure unto the end.  It is essential that we understand the primary role that Tradition will play in both!

“Back to the Future”

If we are to understand both the process of apostasy and of restoration as they each come to their final culmination and manifestation at the end of the age, we must first go back to the beginning to see the genesis of them both.  In God’s economy, the beginning governs the end, and the end is the fulfillment of the beginning.  As we go back to the beginning, then, we are, in essence, going “back to the future.”  Here are found the roots of both full-grown trees.

In regards to the Church, apostasy and restoration also find their unique meaning in relation to God’s original intention for the Ekklesia.  Apostasy is the movement away from that original intention, and restoration is the movement back to it.

As a starting place for understanding both of these principles, then, we must go back to the beginning.

“In the Beginning…”

God’s original intention and pattern for the Church can be summed up in one word… “CHRIST!”  The Church is simply the corporate expression of Christ on earth (and in heaven.)  Every aspect of it is to be the manifestation and representation of Him.  He is its Heavenly Pattern and all things must be conformed to Him.  Whatever is of and according to Christ, therefore, is of and according to God’s original intention and pattern; Whatever is not of and according to Christ, is not of and according to God’s original intention and pattern.  The Church is very simply “CHRIST”! (1 Cor. 12:12)

Now that is the general revelation God has given concerning His Church, but that breaks down into many specific aspects that become immensely practical.  I will focus on just four of them that lie at the very core of the Church’s calling to manifest and represent Christ.  It is my conviction, that when these four core principles are established according to Christ, the entire Church takes on the “DNA” of Christ and becomes fashioned according to Him in all respects.

These four formative aspects, then, are as follows:

1. Christ is to be the unrivaled Center of the Church – The One around, for and to whom the Ekklesia is fashioned and gathers.

2. Christ is to be the supreme Identity of the Church – The One who alone identifies the Ekklesia in His Person and by His Name.

3. Christ is to be the sole Foundation of the Church – The One who alone establishes, unifies and defines the Ekklesia in and through His Person and Work.

4. Christ is to be the uncontested Head of the Church – The One who directs, governs, and supplies all things to the Ekklesia through His immediate authority, power and presence.

According to God’s original intention, Christ is to be the Center, Identity, Foundation and Head of the Ekklesia.  When we look into the New Testament, this is what we see the apostles laboring to establish in the local assemblies they founded and oversaw.

When a church is established according to Christ in this way, the “conformative development” of its corporate life, functioning and expression takes on the “shape and contour” of Christ in all things. As this “conformative matrix” develops, it serves to “lock in” the four core principles that it is built according to, solidly establishing the church according to Christ in all respects.

Not only so, this entire body also takes on the nature and character of Christ throughout.  In this regard, there are four distinctive characteristics that will be found ever-increasing in the church that is thus established. These attributes spring naturally from Christ being the formative Center, Identity, Foundation and Head of the body.

These distinctive characteristics are:
1. unity
2. fullness
3. purity
4. balance

These are essential attributes of Christ and will be organically manifested in an assembly which is rightly and fully established according to Christ.  The presence or absence of these characteristics, then, also become a “fruit test” as to whether Christ is, in reality, in His rightful place or not in that corporate expression.

This then is a brief sketch of God’s original pattern, plan and desire for His Church, and is what we see being established by the apostles in the churches of the first century.

Apostasy

The word, “apostasy” comes from the Greek word, “apostasia” which literally means, “apo-“ = “away from”, and “-stasis” = “a standing”… i.e. “a standing away from”.  It is, likewise, translated as, a “falling away” (2 Thess. 2:3) which identifies it accurately as a process of moving away from.

From the earliest times, there has always been a “moving away” from God’s original design and intention for His Church.  The carnal pull of the natural man, the spirit of the world, and the persistent working of the enemy have all combined to draw the Church off-center and away from Christ being all that He is ordained to be in the Ekklesia.

In this process, two basic principles are at work: supplementation and supplantation.  The first is supplementing Christ with other things, as if He is not all-sufficient, in and of Himself, and needs to be added to.  The second is supplanting Christ with other things, as if He is not all-essential, in and of Himself, and can be readily replaced.

In the New Testament, we see some of the first seeds of this “moving away” taking root in some of the local assemblies, and also the apostolic response to re-center and re-fashion them according to Christ alone, once again. The church of Corinth and the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3) are good examples of this.

Historically, however, with the passing of the original apostles, a major shift took place in the Church that became universally accepted and practiced, and was zealously promoted by the prevailing leadership.  Whereas in the first-century church, the local ekklesiae were overseen by a plurality of co-equal elders, by the middle of the second century, the monarchical bishop had arisen as the single, supreme leader of each city church. In this shift, this single, set-apart man, in essence, became a human, earthly substitute for Christ.  He became the cohesive center of the local church’s gathering; He became the representative identity of the church; He became the defining foundation of her authenticity and unity; He became the functional head of her assembly. In practical reality, the Bishop became the center, identity, foundation and head of the local church in substitution of Christ.

Out of that shift, the entire Roman Catholic system developed.  The pinnacle of that system, and the ultimate embodiment of its substitutionary principle, is found in the Pope who unashamedly bears the title of “Vicar of Christ”, which literally means, “Substitute of Christ”.  Although the Lord Jesus Christ was still worshiped, preached, believed in, followed and served to a great degree, He was now mediated through a set-apart man, and eventually an authorized class of men, and no longer held the immediate, unmediated, unmitigated place of centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency that the Father had ordained for Him in His Church.

The “conformative development” of that system, and the substitutionary principle that formed it, have dominated Christianity ever since.  Even the Protestant Reformation did not break its stronghold, but merely gave the prevailing church structure a “Protestant make-over”.  It substituted the Bible and the pastor/preacher in the place of the Eucharist and the bishop/priest as its central and primary principle and developed its “conformative matrix” according to that fundamental change.  Due mainly to the psychological and sociological power of Tradition, however, the essential nature of the church structure was relatively unchanged from the Roman Catholic system to the Protestant one, and its fundamental principles and forms continue on to this day in both streams.

As a result, throughout all of the Christian world, Christ has essentially been supplemented and supplanted in the Church in the four primary ways the Ekklesia was originally established according to, with Christ alone as her unrivaled Center, supreme Identity, sole Foundation and uncontested Head.  Not only so, but the corresponding attributes of unity, fullness, purity and balance, have also been systemically replaced with disunity, diminishment, impurity and imbalance.

The principle of apostasy that runs throughout all the various streams of Christianity can trace its source back to that early universal shift of the second century.

Tradition and Apostasy

This lays the groundwork for now addressing the question that specifically concerns us in this post, How does Tradition relate to the principle and process of apostasy? 

In reality, it would be hard to overestimate the significance of Tradition in this process of apostasy, for it is, arguably, the primary force at work.  When we understand the complex dynamics of its psychological and sociological power, we can begin to comprehend why this is so.

As has been stated, the process of apostasy begins when a portion of the Church begins to move away from Christ’s centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency in all things concerning its spiritual life and practical expression.  Whenever HE begins to be supplemented or supplanted in any way, especially in any of the four primary roles that have been already mentioned, that expression of the church begins to move away from the place where all unity, fullness, purity and balance are found.

Consequently, as it moves away from the place of true unity, division and schism begin to creep in; from the place of all fullness, diminishment and limitation begin to set in; from the place of all purity,  corruption and deception begin to find their foothold; from the place of spiritual balance, excess and distortion begin to be embraced and promoted.

To counter these negative effects, which become more and more evident over time, further supplements and substitutes for Christ are embraced and employed to make up for the spiritual lack, offset the imbalances, force the desired results, and secure allegiances.  For example, authoritarianism, legalism, sectarian pride, soulish manipulation, religious hype, worldly entertainment, sensory attractions, the “edifice complex”, and the like, are employed, with a “Scriptural” veneer, to attempt to accomplish what only Christ Himself can do.

This, over time, leads to further spiritual diminishment, defilement, distortion and disunity, and the process continues to deepen.  With each layer, teachings and practices are adopted, incorporated, and passed on which foster and facilitate the pseudo-solutions which are employed.  These “traditions” have great psychological and sociological power to shape the individual mind-sets and collective norms of the group.  All of the dynamics described in Parts 2 and 3 of this series begin to work their synergistic effects on the individual and corporate levels. Eventually the developing “conformative matrix” of the group “locks in” the supplements, substitutes and traditions which have been embraced.  The longer this process goes on, the more multi-layered, enmeshed, fortified, incorrigible and apostate it becomes.  Tradition strengthens its death grip on the whole construct and won’t let go.  Eventually all spiritual life goes out of it and rigor mortise (or as I call it, “reli-gor mortise”) sets in.🙂

As movements follow this predictable progression and become increasingly apostate, new movements spring up, generally from within, which find it necessary to break with the external systems they have been a part of.  The residual “new wine” in the old system seeks a new “wineskin” to contain it.  These upstart groups are generally reactionary in nature, however, and seek to counter-balance and overcome the weaknesses of the prior systems with their newly formed visions and convictions.  Because it is easier for a man to come out of the system than it is for the system to come out of the man, it is extremely rare for these fledgling groups to properly discerning the true root of the problem, i.e. the supplementing and supplanting of Christ in the four core areas we’ve discussed.  Instead, they come up with a new set of supplements and substitutes for Christ as the center around which they are formed and gather, the identity by which they are associated and known, the foundation upon which they are built and unified, and the “head” by which they are governed and resourced. Thus, from the very beginning, these groups are built on faulty and false presuppositions which tend away from true unity, fullness, purity and balance.  It is not long until they, in turn, add further supplements and substitutes to their “conformative matrix” in order to “makeup for the spiritual lack, offset the imbalances, force the desired results, and secure allegiances.” These are fortified further with pseudo-Scriptural teachings and practices (i.e. un-Biblical traditions), and, you guessed it, the process repeats itself over and over and over again.

In fact, this larger pattern of starting new groups and movements, each with their own set of secondary formative core principles, becomes so oft-repeated throughout the Christian world that it, in and of itself, becomes a “tradition” that carries with it the tacit “collective endorsement” of the mass of Christendom.  It becomes so accepted and promoted that no one even bats an eye at it or seriously calls it into question.  Those who do, are dismissed as being “eccentric” and “out there”, while, in reality, it is the mass of Christendom that has become “eccentric” (out-of-Center) and “out there”(apostate)!

Unto the End

This process of apostasy, fueled and fortified by the psychological and sociological power of Tradition, will continue unto the end.  It will eventually culminate in a one-world, false, religious/political system, Mystery, Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth, which will be ruled over by the Anti-Christ, the ultimate “Substitute of Christ”.  The process of apostasy will then be complete.

~ ~ ~

That is not the whole Story, however!  God will also have His original intention come to ultimate fulfillment and culmination in the last days. He will perfect His overcoming remnant Bride, the Wife of the Lamb, who will be lovingly ruled over by Christ, her triumphant Bridegroom King. He will be fully restored to His rightful place in her midst, and the Church will once again embody and display forth the glory, sovereignty, centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. This restoration is the second principle that will define the Church in the last days!

In the next post, we will look at how the process of restoration will work to accomplish God’s ends, and how it, likewise, will be fueled and fortified by the psychological and sociological power of…Tradition!

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Next: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 5: “Tradition and Restoration”

Back: “Tradition, Scripture and the Church” Series: Part 1, Part 2,  and Part 3

Other related posts and pages:
Centrality and Eccentricity
Centrality and Balance

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“Christ Our Life” – Free worship songs & resources

To start off the week I have a rich blessing to share with you!

A number of years back, I came across a website that offered some original worship music for free download, along with lyric and chord sheets for most of their material. Not knowing what to expect, I began listening and was wonderfully blessed by the rich, Scriptural content of the lyrics, peaceful anointing of the Spirit on it, and reverent simplicity of its production. The songs were written and produced by a local expression of the ekklesia, “Christ Our Life”, in British Columbia, Canada.

Their music is conducive to quiet, worshipful meditation on the Lord, and also includes some excellent offerings for corporate worship gatherings.

As a first sample, here is a video of their song, “Christ our Life.”

With their permission, I have added a page to the Resources section of this blog to host some audio and video playlists of their music.  Also, included are links to their main website, YouTube channel and worship podcast.

Please follow the link below to access the “Christ Our Life” page and enjoy more of the worship freely given by this local assembly of believers.

“Christ our Life” – Free worship songs/resources

(The page will open in a separate tab so you may put on a playlist and then come back to the main blog while you listen.🙂 )
 

Posted in Blog Updates, Christ-Centered Resources | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 3: “The Sociological Power of Tradition”

As we continue this series, we will seek to answer the second aspect of the question we posed last time: “Why is Tradition such a powerful force in influencing the human soul and shaping human society?”  In the previous post, we considered the individual, “psychological” side.  We will now look at the collective, “sociological” side.  These two aspects are inextricably bound together and give Tradition its incomparable power to shape the whole of human experience.  We cannot get the full picture of its mighty influence until we consider both aspects.

With that in mind, if you haven’t had a chance to read the previous post yet, I encourage you to do so before reading this one.  We will draw much from it here, and it will help to give the full picture of Tradition’s influence.  To do so, please click here: “The Psychological Power of Tradition“.

The Synergistic Nature of the Collective

I ended the previous post by saying that when it comes to the “sociological” aspect, “Tradition goes on steroids.”  There is a synergistic nature to the “collective” which causes its most basic factors and effects to multiply exponentially from those which exist merely within the individual.  This is explained, on the one hand, in that the “collective” is the pooling together of all the “psychological” dynamics of the individuals involved.  This is additive in nature, and alone accounts for a significant degree of this phenomenon.  On the other hand, the “collective” is also the compounding together of all of the “sociological” dynamics that develop within a group.  This is multiplicative in nature as inter-relational dynamics form, compound and interweave in all directions and on all levels.  When all of the personal dynamics are mixed with all of the interpersonal dynamics, the synergistic power of the collective multiplies exponentially.

Tradition and the “Collective Soul”

Each aspect of Tradition’s influence which powerfully works within the individual soul also has its collective counterpart.  These help to shape what I will call the “collective soul.”  In calling it this, I’m not trying to be “New Age-y mystical” or something, but merely referring to the combined psychological and sociological factors of those involved which together form a common way of thinking, feeling, and acting that permeates the collective body.  Just as the individual soul is comprised of mind, will, and emotions, so the “collective soul” could be said to have its “collective mind” (common views, beliefs, perspectives, understandings, etc. ), “collective will” (united desires, goals, purposes, pursuits, etc.), and “collective emotions” (shared loves, joys, sorrows, etc.).  These combine together to create a unique corporate “persona” that has its own distinctive soulish features and is similar to the individual soul in the way it forms, develops, and expresses itself.  All of the factors which influence the individual soul in regards to Tradition, likewise permeate and influence the “collective soul”.

Let us consider briefly, then, the psychological factors mentioned in Part 2, as they likewise come to bear sociologically upon the “collective soul”:

The Power of the Collective Familiar – Even as on a personal level, “the familiar” forms neural pathways within the individual soul, so on an interpersonal level, “the familiar” forms “social pathways” within the “collective soul”.  These tend to forge and shape a group’s shared beliefs and common practices.  The collective familiar is an attractive, influential force in that it works to maximize social harmony, cooperation, and success, while minimizing social strife, dissension, and failure.

As was shared concerning the psychological dynamic of this factor, “the familiar lessens our fear of the unknown, presents the simplest “go to” choice, gives us a sense of confidence in managing it, is often accompanied by positive memories,, and has more predictable outcomes than that which is unfamiliar.”   These same effects, likewise, work within the “collective soul”, only in a compounded, exponential way!

To give a simple example of this, consider the changing social dynamics that would exist among a group of people as they repeatedly seek to navigate their way through a corn maze together.  The first time through the maze, everything is unfamiliar and the group dynamic is marked by uncertainty, hesitancy, and perplexity, along with a certain level of disagreement, dissension, and strife.  With each successive trip through, however, there is a notable difference in their social dynamic.  The group becomes marked by increased levels of confidence, competence, decisiveness, unity, and joy.  By the third or fourth time through, they move together as a perfect unit and with efficiency and ease.  The difference between these experiences is simply the increased levels of the “collective familiar.”

A corn maze is a static entity, but life is not. Life has enough unexpected and unfamiliar twists, turns and crossroads in it to more than satisfy our need for adventure. When navigating it together with others, familiarity is a welcome commodity.

This accounts for much of the impetus behind groups adopting, developing, and jealously guarding certain traditions as foundational to their collective makeup.  Traditions provide a familiar roadmap which settle an untold multitude of options that would otherwise call for unified decision-making, and possibly gender strife.  We are much more successful, and happy when navigating a  “maze” together we are familiar with, than one which is unfamiliar.  Tradition helps to supply this socially desirable dynamic and force.

The Power of Collective Meaningful Structure – In addition to this, no group is able to flourish and function without the two essential elements of meaning and structure.  Meaning brings purpose to a group, and structure provides a basic framework for cooperative function. (You would be hard-pressed to find a meaningless group that is flourishing, and a structureless group that is functioning.)  Tradition is a principle that provides both elements in one, and therefore becomes foundational, in some form, in most groups.  This helps to bring stability, balance, order, functionality, and purpose to the group.

When thinking of “Tradition”, I often think of the opening song from the movie, Fiddler on the Roof.  In the narrative that accompanies the song, the main character, Tevye, shares the importance of “tradition” and the stability that it brings.  Excerpted from his narrative, he asks, “And how do we keep our balance?  That I can tell you in one word!  Tradition!”; “…Because of our traditions, we have kept our balance for many, many years.”; “…You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I tell you. I don’t know. But it is a tradition and because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”; “…Without our traditions, our lives would be as…as….as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.”  (You can click here for a YouTube video of the complete song from the movie.)

This narrative speaks to the stability that meaningful structure brings to any social group through the incorporation of… (sing with me…)  “TRADITION!”🙂

The Power of Collective Generational Honor – Most traditions adopted by a group do not originate within the group but are inherited from another source.  Generally, they are taken from an esteemed and established social entity which the group feels a special connection with.  Whatever honor and esteem they have for the source of their traditions, they invariably transfer to the traditions themselves.  This makes them even more valued and cherished than they would be simply on their own merits, and adds to the sociological power of the traditions within the group.

This tendency is also fed by the common desire to belong to something larger than oneself.  This is not only true for individuals, but also for groups.  By incorporating and honoring the traditions of a greater, more established group than ourselves we strengthen our sense of belonging to it and thereby to something larger than ourselves.  Shared traditions often become the connecting bonds of these associations.

The Power of Collective “Childhood” Formation – Every group has an early formative stage in its development when its fundamental “DNA” is established.  As was just shared, this “DNA” is often inherited from other sources and includes some form of “passed on” beliefs and practices.  These become engrafted into the fabric of the group early on and shape its vision, purpose, values, beliefs, and practices.  Once these are established, they become extremely difficult to eradicate for they define the very nature and character of the group.  The “collective soul” develops similarly in this regard to the individual soul in its “childhood formation”.

The Power of Collective Cumulative Associations – The collective practice of traditions becomes a powerful force not only for their immediate, primary benefits to the group, but also for their secondary benefits of providing accumulated, shared experiences and memories.  This becomes exponentially greater on the social level than it does on the mere personal level.

Consider, for instance, the difference between going to a restaurant alone and going with a group of friends.  In both cases you would enjoy the same atmosphere of the restaurant, and the same great food, but in the second case you would share the experience with others.  Also, added to the experience would be all of the social interactions that would take place during and after the outing.  How much greater this increases the enjoyment and meaningfulness of the event!  All of the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of the evening are shared and savored by the group together.  This is why dining out is primarily a social event. The same is true for, say, going to an amusement park, attending a sporting event, or even going for a hike.  When given the choice, we rarely choose to do these activities alone!

The same dynamic is, likewise, at work in the practicing of traditions together.  It is often the shared secondary experiences and memories that, in the end, become the primary reason for the continued practice of them.  With each successive experience, the secondary associations accumulate and give the tradition ever-increasing substance and significance to the group.

As was noted on this point concerning the individual soul, this takes on “Divine dimensions” when the traditions are practiced in a religious or spiritual setting for sacred purposes.  The collective associations of (even perceived) divine endorsement and engagement infuse a transcendent authority to these traditions which puts them in a category all their own.  Because of this, they are, rightfully or wrongfully, hallowed with collective devotion and defended with religious zeal.

The Power of (Collective) Collective Endorsement – Individual groups generally look to larger, more established social entities to both supply and authenticate their own beliefs and practices.  The more they are in line with established social customs and norms, the safer and more legitimate they feel.  When traditions are widely shared, they bear a tacit collective authority that is a powerful and sometimes blinding force.  We give great weight to those traditions that have survived the vetting process of history and come stamped with society’s  “collective endorsement”.

The Power of Collective Identity – Furthermore, every group develops some form of collective identity that is shaped by, and in turn solidifies, their own self-perception.  This identity also defines their public image and designation.  Because traditions become engrafted into the very fabric and fiber of a group’s nature through the collective power of “the familiar”,”meaningful structure”, “generational honor”, “childhood formation”, “cumulative associations”, and “collective endorsement”, they often become the foundation of a group’s “collective identity”.

As Tevye said in The Fiddler on the Roof, “because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is…”  This is true individually, and it is also true collectively.  As with “the power of personal identity”, shared in Part 2, when traditions penetrate and permeate a group to the point where the group draws its identity and social distinction from them, Tradition has reached the pinnacle of its power to shape, mold, and hold that collective. At that point, it becomes very difficult to ever alter or extricate.

The Power of Collective Conformative Development – This final dynamic, as with its psychological counterpart, is, likewise, “the most unrecognized factor, and yet is the most powerful…”  If we are going to fully grasp the sociological power of Tradition, we must understand this final factor.

As a group forms and develops with traditions built into its foundational structures and interwoven into its ongoing life, every aspect of the group’s existence and expression begins to take its contour from the shape of the traditions it embraces.  Built upon and around the core of its established beliefs and practices, a complex matrix of social interactions, activities, experiences, expectations, goals, protocols, taboos, values, habits, ideas, ambitions, visions, philosophies, organizational structures, leadership dynamics, physical assets, public images and reputations, and the like, begins to form and develop.  This “conformative matrix” takes its shape from the “formative core” of the traditions it is built upon and around.  The more that time goes on, the more established and complex this matrix becomes.

As with the psychological process of “conformative development” within the individual soul, the sociological process has the same effect within the “collective soul”.  Once the surrounding matrix is established, it in turn “locks in” the “shape” of that which it is formed according to.  If an attempt is made later on to change some aspect of the “formative core”, it is most difficult, if not impossible, for it pulls and strains against the “conformative matrix” that surrounds it and ever wants to keep its original shape.  If change is forced, there are usually tears in the encircling enmeshment which have significant consequences for the unity and harmony of the entire social construct.

This is the nature of how social groups and institutions of all kinds form and develop, and it is all but inevitable that they follow this progression.  It is imperative, then, that the utmost consideration be given to the foundational principles and practices that a group is founded upon, so that they serve the group well for its intended purpose, various stages of development and full lifespan.  It is also wise to consider this final factor when considering the nature and cost of change to an established group when it comes to addressing well-established fundamental beliefs and practices.  There is much more involved, and the cost is much greater than that which may initially appear.

This final factor completes Tradition’s “tour de force” in its sociological power to shape the “collective soul”.

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All of these eight factors which come to bear upon both upon the individual and the “collective soul”, begin to give us a handle on the psychological and sociological power of Tradition.  Taken together, with all of their synergistic energy and interplay, they are truly an indomitable force in “influencing the human soul and shaping human society!”

In the final two posts of this series, we will look at the place and power of Tradition as it relates to the end-time matters of apostasy and restoration in the Church.  There may be no greater factor involved in both of these processes than this complex matter of Tradition. I look forward to sharing with you along that line shortly!

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Next: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 4: “Tradition and Apostasy”

Back: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 1: “Tradition and Scripture”

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 2: “The Psychological Power of Tradition”

Related: “The Calf Path” – by Sam Walter Foss (A pre-series post)

 

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We’re now on Facebook… and a free audiobook offer

Hey Folks,

Happy Friday! Just a few quick things to share with you as we finish out the week!

First of all, “Christ-Centered Christianity” is now on Facebook! I’ve created a page there to provide for greater connection, conversation, and sharing for the followers of this blog and other like-minded people! I hope you will pop on over and check us out there at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christ-Centered-Christianity/694390717297433

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Also, there is a free audiobook offer that is too good not to share! christianaudio has done it again in offering a top-notch free audiobook download for the month of September (2014):

How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer

This book is a classic analysis of Western culture from a Biblical perspective. I listened to it years ago and am going through it again now. It’s pretty heady, I must admit, but also powerfully prophetic in its insights, and more relevant today than when it was first penned. If you’re up to an intellectual and spiritual challenge, you won’t be disappointed!

(A number of his other books are also on sale this month for $4.98!)

Click here to access the “The christianaudio FREE Audiobook of the Month” page for all the details: http://christianaudio.com/free/

Just passing on the good stuff!🙂

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I’ll be posting Part 3 of the “Traditions…” series next week. It’s been a tough season for writing, so my apologies for the delay. It will draw much from the previous posts in the series, especially Part 2, so if you haven’t had a chance to read those, or need a refresher, please follow these links:

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 1: “Tradition and Scripture”

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 2: “The Psychological Power of Tradition”

I’m excited about this next post, so please stay tuned!

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Once again, don’t forget to check us out on Facebook! And, hey, why not be one of the first to Like us and be a Friend! Feel free to pass the word on to others as well! Thanks!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christ-Centered-Christianity/694390717297433

Blessings and have a great weekend!

David

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“A Taste Test For JESUS NOW” – by Frank Viola (free PDF ebook)

Hi friends,

I am excited to share with you another excellent, Christ-centered resource.  This one comes served up by author/blogger/speaker Frank Viola and is what he calls a “taste test” of his most recent book, Jesus Now – Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ.

I am currently reading through the full book and, I can tell you, it presents a very rich picture of Christ and of our life together in Him.  Too often the focus of our faith and of the bulk of Christian teaching is either on what Jesus has done, looking back to His earthly life, death and resurrection, or what Jesus will do, looking forward to His Second Coming and Kingdom reign, but not on what Jesus is doing now in His present heavenly and earthly ministry.  This is the focus of this book, and this is what we are called to live in Today!

I am especially excited to share this sampling because of the content Frank has chosen to include in it. In particular, he included Chapter 6 on Christ as “Head of the Church”.  As I read it, I knew I wanted to share it here on the blog.  It is an excellent exposition of the Headship of Christ and complements wonderfully what has already been shared along this line here.  As I read sections such as the following, my spirit rejoiced!

“The eternal purpose of God is centered upon making Jesus the absolute head over all things. God’s goal is the establishment of the complete sovereignty and supremacy of His Son. His driving passion is to make His Son preeminent over everything. All of God’s activities are toward this end. Hence, the chief work of the Holy Spirit in this age is to establish the headship of Christ in His body, to the uttermost.

Accordingly, the Holy Spirit will break down and devastate everything that opposes, obstructs, and hinders the Lord’s sovereign rule in the hearts of His people. He will stand against all that gets in the way of God’s ultimate intention of establishing the centrality and supremacy of His Son over all things. Strikingly, before Christ can be made preeminent over all things, He must first have the preeminence among His own people. Colossians 1:18 puts it this way:

He is the head of the body, the church … that in all things he might have the preeminence.
(KJV; see also Eph. 5:23)

The great need today in the body of Christ is to reinstate the headship of Christ.”  (pgs. 164-165)

After reading this chapter in Jesus Now, I encourage you to follow it up with the teaching I have offered here, “The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church” .  This lays out six basic principles concerning the functional headship of Christ as the church assembles. The two complement each other very well!

To access the “The Taste Test”, please go to the “Resources” page for it on this blog here: JESUS NOW (“Taste Test”) – by Frank Viola (free PDF ebook)

I pray that you are encouraged and edified by this resource!

In Him,
David

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Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 2: “The Psychological Power of Tradition”

In this and the next post in this series, I will seek to answer one basic question: “Why is tradition such a powerful force in influencing the human soul and shaping human society?”  We will look at the individual, “psychological” power of tradition in this post, and the collective, “sociological” power of tradition in the next.  Both of these aspects work together to make Tradition one of the most powerful forces on earth shaping all of human history.

When it comes to the Church, Tradition and Scripture stand as the two eminent forces influencing her historic development.  As was shared in Part 1, tradition’s relationship to Scripture is a complex one and runs the full gamut of being “Biblical” (according to Scripture), “non-Biblical” (indifferent to Scripture) and “un-Biblical” (contrary to Scripture.)  As we look into its unique power to influence the soul and shape culture, especially in regards to the Church, we need to keep this balanced perspective in view.  We should also understand that what makes Tradition so compelling is essential to its nature, and is not contingent on the form it takes.  What will be shared in these two posts, then, applies to the full range of Tradition’s expression and effect.

Before we dive in, however, I have a simple disclaimer to make:  I am writing on these matters as a simple Christ-follower and not a trained psychologist or sociologist.  I have had only a basic education in these subjects, and so I am wading in “feet first” rather than diving in “head first”.  What I share comes from my own experience, observations and musings.  I’ve done a bit of research on what the “experts” in these fields do have to say about the psychological and sociological power of “Tradition”, and have found very little as of yet.  So I am merely sharing my own thoughts and conclusions as I have meditated on and prayed over this subject for a good many years.  (I also invite you to share your perspectives, and also any scholarly works you may know of that might shed further light on these subjects.  Comments are open!🙂 )

Tradition and the Human Soul (Psyche)

The question we want to zero in on in this post is “WHY is tradition so powerful in influencing the human soul?”  There must be something in the nature of Tradition that the human psyche gravitates towards, esteems and faithfully adheres to so as to come under and be shaped by its powerful influence.  That “something” is what we want to seek out.

As I have mused on this subject, the following are some of my thoughts and conclusions. I offer them for your consideration.

• The Power of the Familiar –  What I do know of how the brain works is that as we learn and as we experience life, (electrochemical) connections are made within our brains that form “neural pathways” which tend to track us.  Like pathways through the woods, the more these are used, the more developed they become. Consequently, the familiar becomes more attractive and navigable to us than the unfamiliar.  A number of conscious and emotional factors also contribute to our tendency towards the familiar.  For instance, the familiar lessens our fear of the unknown, presents the simplest, “go to” choice, gives us a sense of confidence in managing it, is often accompanied by positive memories and has more predictable outcomes than that which is unfamiliar.  Tradition is the handing down of “the familiar” and as it is embraced and practiced, “the power of the familiar” grows.  When we are daily faced with choices between following that which is traditional or that which is unconventional, we tend to gravitate towards the familiarity of the traditional.  Tradition draws much of its strength from the “power of the familiar.”

• The Power of Meaningful Structure – Closely related to this is our need as humans to have a certain degree of structure in our lives.  We need basic frameworks to fill our days, weeks, months and years to help bring order, stability and balance.  This gives us a degree of security and peace in an otherwise chaotic, changing and uncertain world.  Very often this is where tradition comes in to fill the void.  Because traditions are usually the embodiment of some time-tested value, belief, or ideal, when they become established in our lives to meet this need for structure, they also bring with them meaning and purpose.  As those who have been made in God’s image, these are some of the most powerful needs and desires in the human heart.  We were created to live with meaning and purpose, and without them the human heart begins to wither and die.  When tradition, therefore, provides us with meaningful structure in our daily lives, we embrace it as one of our most desired and cherished “possessions”.

• The Power of Generational Honor – Added to this is the love, esteem and honor that we have for those from whom we’ve received the traditions that we embrace and practice.  “Tradition” by definition is that which is “handed on” or “handed down”, especially from one generation to another.  Because many of our traditions come to us from our parents, grandparents, posterity in general, and/or culture we belong to, whatever honor and esteem we have for those from whom we’ve received them, we tend to ascribe to the tradition itself.  This is similar to the way in which we ascribe special honor and value to material possessions that are handed down to us.  Take for instance, Great-Grandma’s china set, Grandpa’s old hand saw, a piece of military gear from WWII, a tattered book inscribed in the 1700’s, etc…  These things take on special meaning simply because of the esteem we have of our heritage and our history.  Traditions, likewise, build in force the older they are and the more closely they come to us from those we love and esteem.  This exponentially adds to the “psychological power of tradition” as it is built into our lives.

• The Power of Childhood Formation – Following closely on the heels of this is the fact that many of the traditions incorporated into our lives have been handed down to us during our most formative years of childhood.  Children have an amazing capacity for wonder and learning.  A bug crawling across the floor can utterly fascinate them. They stare at and study faces in the supermarket.  They laugh and giggle at the simplest things.  They are constantly absorbing their world with eyes and ears wide open and the impressions that are left are magical and lasting.  These are the formative years and the morals, values, habits, experiences, routines, practices, teachings, and the like that regularly fill their lives become ingrained in them and form the basis of who they are and are becoming.  Many traditions become deeply woven into the fabric of our being from the very first breath that we breathe.  These handed-down beliefs and practices become hardwired into our psyche and serve to form and shape our very perceptions and paradigms of life.  Traditions of this nature take on a power to influence the soul that is hard to over-estimate.

• The Power of Cumulative Associations – Because traditions do not affect our lives in isolation, all that is related to our practice of them tend to become associated with them in our soul.  If they are regularly practiced with other people, our love and esteem for those people tend to become incorporated into our love and esteem for the tradition itself.  If they are regularly practiced in a specific place, the significance and specialness of that place becomes associated with the significance and specialness of the tradition within our soul.  If there are pleasant and meaningful experiences connected with the practice of a specific tradition, those memories become incorporated into our overall affection of and attraction to the tradition.  Sometimes it is the sensory experiences of sights, smells, sounds, and tastes that fill and surround a particular tradition that become the strongest emotional and sentimental connections we have with it.

Furthermore, this aspect of “accumulated associations” takes on “Divine dimensions” when the context is religious and/or spiritual in nature.  Traditions that are practiced in such contexts accumulate to themselves all the significance and sanctimoniousness of the Deity they are directed towards.  Whatever religious atmosphere surrounds them or spiritual encounter accompanies them, even if it is not a direct result of the particular tradition, becomes associated with it in our soul.  As a result, the tradition can take on the significance, power and authority of Divine endorsement and engagement.  It is not hard to see why these types of traditions become the most devoutly held to and staunchly defended if they are ever challenged.

The more a tradition is practiced, the more these types of accumulated associations continue to multiply and thereby magnify our overall perception and estimation of the tradition. Sometimes the accumulation of secondary associations, in the end, even becomes the primary reason for the carrying on of the tradition.  Like a snowball rolling down hill, they gain more and more momentum as they accumulate more and more “mass” and “weight.”  This is the power of “cumulative associations” which is just one more reason why tradition is such a powerful force in influencing the human soul.

• The Power of Collective Endorsement – Most of us seem to subconsciously believe that humanity in general, over time, is a reliable “vetting mechanism” for determining that which is good, right, meaningful and true.  When something has passed down to us having survived this “sieve”, we tend to accept its validity and value without even questioning it.  We reckon that its weaknesses, faults and/or errors have already been found out and exposed long before it got to us, and so we tend to blindly trust the collective opinion. In this way traditions are handed on to us with a tacit, collective endorsement that holds a surprising amount of weight.

What we fail to realize, however, is that all of those individuals who make up that larger collective are likewise giving the rest of the collective the benefit of the doubt.  This, combining with the other factors already mentioned, give traditions the ability to take on a life of their own.  Drawing from the snowball analogy again, once it picks up mass and speed rolling downhill, it becomes all but impossible for an individual or a select group of people to stop it.  The power of collective endorsement is a major factor in the soul-influencing power of tradition.

• The Power of Personal Identity – Since traditions often embody and represent the core values, meanings, morals and ideals that mean the most to us, they often find a place in our lives close to the core of who we are.  As such we identify intimately with them, and, in turn, can readily take our identity from them.  This is especially true if the traditions we most closely associate with come to us from that which we already derive our personal identity: family, nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, etc..  When tradition reaches the point where it begins to define our self-concept and personal identity, it has reached one of its most powerful places of influence in and over our souls.  At this point it is extremely difficult to extricate from our lives for it has become engrafted into our very identity as a person.

• The Power of Conformative Development – Finally, and in summary, tradition has an inexplicable power to influence the human soul because of a process that may be called: “conformative development”.  This, I believe, is the most unrecognized factor, and yet is the most powerful, for it draws on the influence of all the others.

To illustrate this process, I’d like to consider the poem, “The Calf Path” that I posted as a prelude to this series.  What this poem describes, in essence, is the process of “conformative development.”  It traces the progression of the meandering trail of a lone calf, which progressively becomes a path, then a lane, a road, a village street and, finally, a city thoroughfare.  During this process, a village and then a city develops along its winding way, and eventually becomes a booming metropolis.  The “footprint” of the original wandering calf, however, never changes and ends up determining not only the course of the final highway, but also the configuration of all that develops and grows up around it.  This is what the process of “conformative development” is all about.

What is significant about this process is that though the original cause determines the shape and contour of what develops around it, once the conforming complex around it is established, it “locks in” the original cause from ever changing, at least not easily. If later, change is desired, not only does the “highway” need to be changed, but also the “metropolis” that developed around it.

This gives us a rough picture of what takes place internally within our souls as “neural pathways” are formed and as innumerable “synaptic connections” develop in association with them. Over time these “pathways” become “roadways” and then “highways” and what develops around them becomes a vast neurological “metroplex” within our soul. This “metroplex”  in turn tends to “lock in” the “highways” so that changing them later on becomes almost impossible.

This explains many difficulties we have with changing long-standing behaviors or giving up undesirable, old thought patterns. It is why it is said, “Old habits died hard.” and “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  It is why winning an argument often doesn’t change the other person’s thinking in the long run, or why people go just so far in a disagreement before they snap emotionally. The changing of the “highway” requires too much of the “city” to be deconstructed and so the very threat of it evokes a strong rational or emotional defense.

Traditions are the bulldozers and pavers of these psychological roadways. All of the aforementioned aspects of their influence synergize together to build the super-highways of our soul. Around, and in conformity to them, grows and develops an intricate neurological matrix of thoughts, feelings, perceptions, beliefs, values, morals, perspectives, experiences, emotions, sensations, expectations, fears, memories, hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, preconceptions, prejudices, assumptions, associations, intentions, convictions, and the like. Once established, this conformative matrix gridlocks the highways, as well as the traditions that created them, in place.

In the follower of Christ, “Biblical traditions” have carved and paved some of these “highways” according to the roadmap of Scripture. The “City of God” has accordingly been built up around them within their inner man. Many “un-Biblical traditions”, however, have also forged “highways” within their soul, and “stronghold cities” have built up around and according to their twisted ways . As the Lord advances and takes command of more and more of the “land”, the Word of God continues to challenge the “highways” and conforming “metroplexes” of un-Biblical traditions within the soul. Some of these fall before its divine power, but others just won’t budge. This is the ongoing battle within the soul of the believer.

This process of “conformative development” is possibly the most firmly-rooted factor why Tradition is so powerful in influencing the human soul, and why, as Jesus said, it has the potential to “make the Word of God of none effect.” (Mark 7:13)

~ ~ ~

When we consider, therefore, how these eight factors all synergize together to give Tradition its soul-influencing force, we can begin to grasp why it is such a powerful force to be reckoned with, both for God and against Him.

And this, believe it or not, is merely half of the story. In the next post, we will consider the rest of the story: “the sociological power of Tradition.” This is where Tradition goes on steroids!🙂

____________________________________________________________

Next: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 3: “The Sociological Power of Tradition”

Back: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt.1: “Tradition and Scripture”

Related:

“The Calf Path” – by Sam Walter Foss (A pre-series post)

Centrality and Balance

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Excerpt from: “Experiencing Church” Now As It Was In The Beginning – by Rodrigo Abarca

The interest in the free resource I highlighted last week has been very high!  (The day it was posted became the second busiest day on the blog ever!)  Before we continue with part two of the “Traditions…” series, I’d like to share an additional excerpt from this book and encourage you, if you haven’t already, to take advantage of the full resource.  I’ve chosen to share the “Conclusion” because of the themes it touches on, many of which I’ve, even recently, written on.  (I’ve added links where applicable.)  And please don’t worry, the Conclusion really isn’t a “spoiler”!
Enjoy!
 

~ ~ ~

“Experiencing Church” Now…As It Was In The Beginning
by Rodrigo Abarca

Conclusion

A quick glance at the situation of contemporary Christianity will convince us that something seems to be going very wrong.  In spite of all the noise, commotion and activism, in the depth of our hearts lies a frustrating feeling of dissatisfaction.  Those of us who have served the Lord for some years know all too well how unfruitful our effort can become throughout the course of time.  Meanwhile, the leaders of the organized church seem to run after each novelty that blips on the horizon of evangelical Christianity, only to discover that it is only an empty mirage.

To answer its deep dissatisfaction in some way, evangelical Christianity has fabricated a “revivals” mentality.  This concept is so deeply rooted in the mind of contemporary believers that they hardly recognize its noxious effect on the church: it forces us to believe that the normal state of things is decadence and coldness, only very occasionally interrupted by a revival or spiritual awakening.

While such revival tarries, we suffer and agonize. Preachers make hay with this matter. The lack of spiritual life, they tell us, is due to our lack of prayer, holiness, individual consecration and men that are truly great in God.  And, although all these things are good and necessary, by themselves they are unable to resolve our problem.  By beginning like this we are falling into the error of an old saying; putting the wagon in front of the horse.

(Some of my own similar thoughts on “revival” can be found here.)

The purpose of this book is to show, in light of the New Testament, an entirely new way.  Its central thesis is that our problem lies in the kind of church we are trying to build.  Divided into innumerable factions, we have developed a tremendously egocentric perspective of the Christian life.  Pastors are thinking in terms of the success of their own congregation and ministry; the brethren think in terms of their own personal welfare.  Thus, the gospel has mutated into a medium to reach purely individual ends. Certainly, there are many saints who remain faithful in spite of everything.  Nevertheless, the general situation is that of decadence and coldness.

A restoration, is therefore required, but not merely an individualistic kind of restoration.  God’s purpose was never for the Christian life to be lived by isolated and solitary individuals.  For many, the problem is rooted in this very point. Returning to God’s way implies that it will take a long time to undo all they have done and they are simply unwilling to pay such a price.  There is so much to undo, demolish and rectify, beginning with the way in which many leaders of present Christianity live.  The damage is so profound that it seems almost impossible to fix.

However, God has not abandoned His eternal purpose.  He is still seeking men and women who desire to return all the way through the long and dangerous path that leads us back to Jerusalem.  As in the old times of the captivity, only a few will hear His call. Most have already gotten deeply rooted in Babylon and will have much to lose.  Meanwhile, they will spend their long years dreaming of fleeting revivals that will perhaps never come in their lifetime (please remember that the last real revival occurred in our country almost a hundred years ago).  Nevertheless, those that do heed the voice of the Spirit will return to rebuild the old ruins.  And their reward will be greater, because they will see God in Zion.

(See “Rebels, Refugees and a Returning Remnant” series, especially Part 3)

This has always been the way in which God deals with the decadence of His people.  Due to the failure of the great majority, He is calling for a representative group to overcome and maintain His testimony on earth, because although His call is for all (He that has an ear, let him hear…), only a few respond.  But the few that actually do respond have the blessed responsibility of completing His work in the world.

They, however, are not special or different from the rest of their brethren.  They simply fulfill the task that others have abandoned.  Like the few that gathered with Nehemiah, they rebuild under conditions of tremendous opposition and adversity.  Satan fears them more than anyone else in this world, because he knows that his ruin will come through them.  As Watchman Nee tells us, it is not about super endowed brethren, but about normal Christians in times of chronic abnormality.  Men and women who simply seek to live according to the Divine norm for the church and do not take anything less than this high goal.  Due to our profound decadence, such people might seem to be weird and eccentric.  Nevertheless, the first century saints would likewise seem to be strange to our eyes, so accustomed to what is abnormal and decadent.  We have grown so used to such sickness that a healthy man seems to us to be an alien phenomenon.

In our days, God is awakening many men and women to live in the original simplicity and depth of His church.  His Spirit is summoning us to gather as simple brethren among the brethren, willing to listen to one another, to love one another and to be mutually edified, without denominations, hierarchies and structures that divide us.

Such a calling takes its legitimacy from the Lord Himself who is the Head of the church.  He is the exclusive foundation on which she is to be edified.  We realize that 200, 300 or 400 years of human traditions cannot annul this fact.  Tertullian once said that custom without truth is merely an ancient error.  In spite of that, some of these antique errors can trace their origin even to the time of the Reformation.

But the church is even older than that.  Its origin, in fact, can be traced all the way back to eternity past.  And what God Himself established there in eternity past, cannot be altered by us here in our fleeting present time.  God has not given us any rights to do such a thing. We were not the ones who designed the church.  We did not love it.  We did not pay a price of blood for it.  The pure, sinless, uncorrupted blood of the Lord Jesus Christ was shed for us on Calvary’s cross.  What makes us think that we can make of the church a matter of personal choice, preference, or initiative?

The church belongs to Him.  Consequently, we have to build according to the model shown on the mount, just as Moses was warned to do.  And the model is there, registered in the inspired pages of the New Testament.  Certainly, what we find there are the principles, not the methods. God knows all too well about our human weakness.  Our permanent temptation is to put together a method that would exclude our need of knowing Him in a direct, intimate and constant way.

But no method functions without Him.  We can even mechanically reproduce the New Testament up to the last detail, and we will not attain even one ounce of spiritual reality.  Because the wineskin was designed to contain the new wine of His Divine life.  Without that Divine wine of His, the wineskin is useless.  However, without the correct or proper wineskin, the wine is spilled.  In the Divine perspective both are necessary for the final attainment of God’s purpose, because both are conserved together.

The Lord wants to be known and acknowledged as the real and absolute center of His church.  He must be our starting point.  It is useless in this sense to begin with merely exterior changes.  People futilely try to adjust the model without making the necessary changes in the heart and life.  It cannot be done that way.  As we have said before: in the work of God, life has to precede the structure.  Before returning to the original model we must return to the original source.  Like the twelve original disciples, we are to live around the Lord Jesus, together with Him as simple brethren among brethren in mutual fellowship, until centuries of traditions, customs and merely human methods are fully shed from us.

So remain in Him, dwell in Him, abide in Him, to really know Him, love Him, and experience His love without any other additional objective.  For a long time.  All the time that is necessary.  Maybe then His Spirit will stir within us a renewed and pure vision of His eternal purpose.  And from there, a new work, one that will really be His work, may begin on earth.  We pray that the Lord, in His mercy, may grant you and us to see the arrival of this new dawn on the church!

~ ~ ~

Please see: “Experiencing Church” Now…As It Was In The Beginning – by Rodrigo Abarca  for the Resource page for this book.

Posted in Author Excerpts, Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Experiencing Church” Now – As It Was In The Beginning – by Rodrigo Abarca (a “hosted” free resource)

Greetings friends!

I’ve got a real treat to share with you to start off the week!

About a month and a half ago, I shared a resource with you that I was given permission to host on this blog: Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ.  The interest in that resource has been off the charts.  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, please do so by following the link above!

A few weeks later, I came across another resource that, quite frankly, is on par with that one as to the richness of its content and the clarity of its expression.  This one was written by a brother from Chile, whom I was previously unfamiliar with, Rodrigo Abarca.  (Thanks to Josh Lawson for posting the link on his blog that led me to it.)  The depth of revelation in his writing ranks right up there, in my estimation, with those of Watchman Nee, T. Austin-Sparks and DeVern Fromke.  In fact, if you appreciate those brothers, you may find this resource to be to a clearly expressed distillation of their teachings concerning the Church and the spiritual life, with his own experience and revelation added in. I cannot more highly recommend it!

I contacted the publishers recently and received permission to host it on this blog.  Under the Resources tab, therefore, I’ve posted a reproduction of the “Forward” page from the book, “Experiencing Church” Now – As It Was In The Beginning – by Rodrigo Abarca.  On that page are also links to the individual chapters of the book online.

Please take advantage of this wonderful resource.  You won’t be disappointed!🙂

Have a blessed week,

David

“Experiencing Church” Now – As It Was In The Beginning – by Rodrigo Abarca.

Related posts and pages:
PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)
The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church

Posted in Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, The Ekklesia, The Eternal Purpose of God | 4 Comments

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Part 1: “Tradition and Scripture”

With anticipation, and not a little trepidation, I am wading into a subject that I believe cannot be over-emphasized as to its significance regarding the Church, past, present and future. I would venture to say that the two most influential forces ever at work in her long history, and those largely responsible for who she is today, are Scripture and Tradition.

If only the marriage of these two were a match fully made in heaven, what an incomparable force they would be for God in the earth!  The reality is, however, that they are a heaven-and-earth mixture, an unholy union of divine and human ways, a complex matrix of good, bad and ugly.  If ever a love/hate relationship existed, it is here between these two obstinate “soul mates”.  Theirs is a marriage marked by the sweetest of affections and the most ardent of conflict.  Theirs is a relationship of immense loyalty and honor and also of constant warring for dominance and final authority.   As friends they are close; as enemies they are closer.  This is the complex and confusing nature of the marriage of Tradition and Scripture as they have danced their way through the pages of Church history.

In the wisdom and purpose of God, the preeminent of these two is Scripture.  This is the one ordained to lead in the “dance”, while Tradition is to follow.  Scripture has an authority backed by Heaven itself.  Tradition has an authority only when backed by Scripture.  Its influence, however, is self-promoting and self-propagating and often takes on a life of its own.  When it does, it challenges Scripture’s authority and has the power to supplant it in the lives of those who come under its influence.  As such, it has become one of Scripture’s most seductive and seditious rivals.

The Church is the marriage bed and the battleground of these two powerful entities…and will be to the end.

In this series, I will seek to peel back the layers of the interplay between these two eminent forces with a primary focus on the nature, place and power of Tradition in the Church.  Unless we clearly discern its proper and powerful role, and also, in contrast, its often deceptive and dominating influence, we will never be free to become what God desires us to be as His people.  An honest and informed look at the Church today clearly shows that we have all but failed in our discernment and judgment on both sides of this matter.

“Tradition”

Before we go further, we will need to get a basic definition of the word “tradition”.  We will then look at three basic types of “traditions” as they stand in relation to Scripture.

The Greek Word translated “tradition” in the New Testament is “paradosis” which generally means, “giving up, giving over”, and more specifically when translated as “tradition”, “a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc..” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary)

English dictionary definitions for the word, “tradition” include: “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom)” (Merriam-Webster online edition) and, “the handing down of patterns of behavior, practices, and beliefs that are valued by a culture.” (Bing Dictionary)

“Tradition”, therefore, is that which is passed on or handed down especially from one generation to the next by written or oral instruction, individual or collective example and/or spiritual or cultural influence.  These “traditions” can encompass teachings, beliefs, values, experiences, behaviors, customs and practices.

As we consider this matter of “tradition”, it is important to understand that in and of itself, it is a spiritually and morally neutral force.  It is neither inherently good nor bad, right nor wrong, positive nor negative.  It is only the content and means of its transmission that determine a specific tradition’s spiritual and moral character. It is important, therefore, as we look into this subject to maintain a balanced view of its full range of expression and effect.  The Church falls into error when it is either too heavily weighted on the positive side of tradition, or, conversely, on the negative side.  Truth apprehends both aspects in balance.

We will now consider three basic categories of “traditions” as they stand in relation to Scripture.

“Biblical Traditions”

Scripture itself speaks positively in regards to “tradition” in innumerable places either directly or by inference.

In the New Testament, for instance, Paul speaks directly of the importance of “tradition” in regards to the Church in a number of his epistles.

He said to the Corinthian believers, “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Cor. 11:1-2)

And similarly to the Thessalonian church, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” (2 Thess. 2:15)

And, “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thess. 3:6)

Furthermore, there are also innumerable instances in Scripture where the faithful are exhorted to hand on and hand down the truths, experiences and practices of the faith.

Scripture, therefore, fully endorses the handing down of those traditions that are wholly in accord with its true teachings, practices and examples.  This is the proper and right place for “tradition” in relation to Scripture and the Church.  In fact, this is the primary way that the faith is transferred from one to another, and from one generation to another.  The Church is exhorted to employ all manner of godly living, example, speaking, writing, singing, serving, sacrament, custom, culture, creative arts and the like to propagate and pass on the faith.  All of these are to be in accord with the whole counsel of Scripture, rightly divided, and carried out in and through the immediate working of the Holy Spirit.

This handing on of the faith includes not only the external matters of Scriptural doctrine and practice, but also, and more importantly, the internal, spiritual matters of Scripture such as intimacy with God, the spiritual formation of Christ within His people, and the manifold working of the Holy Spirit.  True Biblical tradition is a spiritual matter first and foremost, and not merely a “soulish” or cultural one.  In fact, apart from the working of the Spirit, even though a tradition may have the outward form of being “Biblical”, it is in reality “UN-Biblical, for the Bible condemns all that is carried out in the power of the flesh.

“Biblical traditions”, therefore, are not to be judged by mere outward appearances, but also by their inward, spiritual character being, “of”, “through” and “to” God. (Rom. 11:36)

This passing on of “Biblical tradition”, then, is essential to the calling and mission of the Church as it is carried out in and by the Holy Spirit.

“Non-Biblical Traditions”

The second category of “traditions” are what may be called “non-Biblical traditions”.  The prefix “non-“ means “not” and is used primarily to imply, “…the absence of something (rather than the opposite or reverse of it, as often expressed by un-.” (Dictionary.com)

Non-Biblical traditions are those that stand outside of the scope of Scripture and are neither in violation of, nor an affirmation of the teachings and examples of the Bible.  Whereas “Biblical traditions” are positive in regards to both the content and intent of Scripture, “Non-Biblical traditions” are neutral in regards to both the letter and the spirit of the Word.

Some examples of this type of tradition found in our society might be, for instance, driving on the right-hand (or left-hand) side of the road, giving a standing ovation for a rousing performance, wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, etc…  The Bible neither commends nor condemns these practices and followers of Christ are free to practice them or not according to their own interests and desires as long as they do not cause harm, undue offense or another to stumble in their faith (i.e. in the spirit of Romans 14.)

The Scriptures are comprehensive as to the fundamental principles and issues of life, however.  So when we come to those traditions which are not clearly addressed by the words and witness of Scripture, we need to proceed with caution, especially when they are embraced and practiced within the Church.  There may be underlying motives, principles or effects that come into play, as well as factors that are dependent on culture or the individuals affected by them, that put them in another category.  (For instance, driving on the right-hand side of the road in the USA is not a problem, but in the UK ???!😦 )  If “Biblical traditions” represent a “green light”, this category represents a “yellow light.”

We now come to the third major category of “traditions”, the “red light” category…

“Un-Biblical Traditions”

The prefix “un-“ also means “not”, but in the stronger sense of “giving negative or opposite force…” (Dictionary.com) Because of this, the prefix “anti-“ (meaning “against”, “opposite of”… ) may also be used to describe this type of tradition.  “Un-Biblical / anti-Biblical traditions”, therefore, are those which negate, oppose or in some way stand against the teaching and testimony of Scripture.

This category contains many blatant teachings and practices which are clearly denounced by the Word of God and are generally recognized as “un-Biblical” by the Church. More importantly, it also contains many subtle and deceptive beliefs and practices which may appear to be “non-Biblical” or even “Biblical” in nature… but in reality are not. Traditions that comprise this more deceptive group regularly go unrecognized and undiscerned for what they truly are.  As such, they are much more readily accepted and incorporated into the fabric of Christian faith, practice and culture than the more obvious ones.  Furthermore, because God often works where these are present inspite of them, rather than because of them, they can appear to have God’s endorsement and blessing upon them.  With apparent “Divine backing”, these can be the most deceptive and dangerous traditions in the Church of all, and the most difficult to expose and uproot.

These are the type of traditions that Jesus was constantly coming up against and confronting in the religious system of His day.  In fact, it seems that He wasted no opportunity to break these traditions right under the noses of those who revered them the most, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.  Whether it was picking grain…, healing…, or telling a man to pick up his bed and walk…on the Sabbath, touching, and allowing Himself to be touched by those who were “unclean” (the dead, a bleeding woman, lepers), allowing a prostitute to touch Him, as well as anoint and kiss His feet, conversing with and teaching a Samaritan woman, eating with “publicans and sinners”, or eating with “unwashed hands”, Jesus seemed to constantly be waging war on the man-made, “un-Biblical”, “traditions of the elders.”

In His incisive discourse with the Pharisees concerning His disciples not eating with ceremonially clean hands, He reveals the true nature of these human, “anti-Biblical” traditions.

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”  He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.  Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
(Mark 7:1-13 NIV – emphasis added)

The Greek word rendered “nullify” in the last verse is “akuroō” and means, “to render void, deprive of force or authority, to invalidate.”  It is therefore translated by some versions, “of no effect” (KJV), “making void” (ESV), “setting aside” (YLT) and “invalidating”(NAS).

Here we see the powerfully seductive and seditious nature of “un-Biblical” traditions.  They have the ability to creep into the hearts and minds of even those most committed to the Scriptures, and, through their blinding presence and binding power, simply “render void” the commandments of God.  When we consider just what it is that they are able to “nullify”, the very words and commandments of God, we know we are in the presence of a truly uncanny enemy.  Anything that can make null and void that which God says “…shall not return to me void” (Isa. 55:11) is a force to be reckoned with.

Not only was and is this a problem in Judaism, the same propensity to create and pass on man-made “un-Biblical” traditions is likewise rampant in Christianity, and it has had two-thousand years to become fully entrenched. The problem has not gone away, in fact, it has intensified and spread from one nation…to every nation.

Discerning Traditions

By taking even a brief look at these three categories of traditions, we can see how simultaneously complimentary, indifferent and conflicted this indissoluble union is between Tradition and Scripture. With the vast and complex range of dynamics at work between them, it is clear that razor-sharp discernment and plumb line judgment are absolutely necessary for us to walk in the full wisdom and will of God concerning them.

We, likewise, cannot turn a blind eye to the complex matrix they have woven and pretend it either doesn’t exist, doesn’t matter or is beyond our ability to respond to in a spiritually and Biblically incisive way.  Both the powers of Heaven and the powers of Hell know what is bound up with this matter.  This is arguably the crucial battle line in the war over the Church, and the Enemy would love have us lay down our arms and become spiritual pacifists in this regard. That’s not what Jesus did, and neither should we.

As we engage in this war, as in any war, two essential areas of knowledge are essential: First, we must know who our allies are. Second, we must know our enemy. In this spiritual war, “Tradition” is BOTH!

In the next post, we will look further into the nature of this “ally/enemy” and search out exactly why it is so powerful and compelling in the hearts of men, both for God and also for the adversary.

_____________________________

Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 2: “The Psychological Power of Tradition”

Posted in Christ-Centered Restoration, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

“The Calf-Path” – by Sam Walter Foss (A pre-series post)

I am presently working on a series of posts: “Tradition, Scripture and the Church”. I plan to post part one next week.  As an “appetizer” for that series, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you, “The Calf-Path”, by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911).
 
I first read this poem about ten years ago in the original publishing of Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity. (This book has since been updated and republished by Tyndale House with the input and co-authoring of George Barna. If you haven’t ever read it, I encourage you to do so. It is a well-researched, engrossing read on where we have gotten our present-day church practices from! Very insightful!) I have loved this poem ever since I first read it, for it speaks so winsomely to this matter of “tradition.”
 

And now, without further ado…

(Enjoy this video narration, or scroll down for text.)

 

The Calf-Path
by Sam Walter Foss

* * *

One day thru the primeval wood

A calf walked home, as good calves should;

But made a trail, all bent askew,

A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then 300 years have fled,

And I infer the calf is dead.

* * *

But still, he left behind his trail

And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day

By a lone dog that passed that way.

And then, a wise bellweather sheep

Pursued the trail, o’er~vale and steep,

And drew the flock behind him too

As good bellweathers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade

Thru those old woods, a path was made.

* * *

And many men wound in and out,

And dodged, and turned, and bent about,

And uttered words of righteous wrath

Because ’twas such a crooked path,

But still they followed, do not laugh,

The first migrations of that calf.

And thru this winding wood-way stalked

Because he wobbled when he walked.

* * *

This forest path became a lane

That bent, and turned, and turned again.

This crooked lane became a road

Where many a poor horse with his load

Toiled on beneath the burning sun

And traveled some three miles in one.

And thus a century and a half

They trod the footsteps of that calf.

* * *

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,

The road became a village street.

And this, before men were aware,

The city’s crowded thoroughfare.

And soon the central street was this

Of a renowned metropolis.

And men, two centuries and a half

Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

* * *

Each day a 100 thousand route

Followed the zig-zag calf about,

And o’er his crooked journey went

The traffic of a continent.

A 100 thousand men were led

By one calf, near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way

And lost 100 years a day.

For thus such reverence is lent

To well establish precedent.

* * *

A moral lesson this might teach

Were I ordained , and called to preach.

For men are prone to go it blind

Along the calf paths of the mind,

And work away from sun to sun

To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,

And out, and in, and forth, and back,

And still their devious course pursue

To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove

Along which all their lives they move.

But how the wise old wood gods laugh

Who saw that first primeval calf.

Ah, many things this tale might teach,

But I am not ordained to preach.

* * *

To: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 1: “Tradition and Scripture”

Posted in Creative Expressions | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Grandfather’s Poem and Rare Footage of the Underground Church in China

One of the rich blessings of the Principles Book that was highlighted in last week’s post is that it draws from the present-day experiences of the underground churches in China, North Korea and Iran and shows the same spiritual life and witness that we read about in the book of Acts being powerfully lived out today in the churches of these nations. As a follow-up to that book, I wanted to share a powerful four-minute video of some rare footage of the underground church in China that gives a sample of the vibrant spiritual life that exists there.

Before I do, however, I thought I would bring it a little closer to home and share my own family’s past connection with mission work in China, and also some of my own spiritual interests in the work of God there.

My family’s connection goes back two generations to my grandfather on my mother’s side. Lawrence M. Mead Sr., was a missionary to China back in the days before the Communist revolution (serving over the period of 1913 – 1939.) He worked closely with the YMCA , was the Director of English at Yenching University in Peking, and also served in evangelistic and spiritual ministry there. (This is where my mother was born and spent the majority of her childhood.) In reading over a compilation of my grandfather’s prayers and poems today as I prepared for this post, I became reminded again of his deep faith in Christ and his faithful commitment to the Lord’s work.

Below is one of his poems to give you a taste of his faith and devotional life, as well as his gift of poetic expression:

Thine eyes, dear Lord, can plumb men’s hearts
Thou sharest still the cares of earth
We know our road to Heaven starts
At lowly manger of Thy birth
Thy stumbling foll’wers humbly pray
For guidance on our footsore way

Thy Father’s Word doth cleanse the mind
Clear fountains flow for all who read
Those drinking deep rejoicing find
Their hearts from haunting fears are freed
Thy fainting brothers thirsting pray
“Guide us to springs along the way.”

Thine inner vision pierc’d to heights
Of conduct never reach’d by men
Thy life’s brief document recites
Scenes which defy both brush and pen
We groping foll’wers, longing pray
“Guide, Lord, our feet on Earth’s vex’d way.”

Thine act supreme, Thy life to give
Seal of God’s mercy t’wards His race
Show, Lord, how we may boldly live
With like confiding in God’s grace
Thy yearning foll’wers trusting pray
“Christ, lead us on our heav’nward way.”

by Lawrence M. Mead
(This poem was written on September 11, 1954, seventeen days before he passed from this life into his eternal reward.)

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The culture of China has always been part of my life as our house was filled with Chinese art and artifacts my mother inherited from her parents. Growing up we heard family stories, poured through picture albums and learned many different aspects of the culture, language and ways of the Chinese people.

Christianity was also a part of my life growing up as a child, though I didn’t come into a personal relationship with Christ until I was in my late teens, and that after I had completely cast Christianity, church and the Bible off as “not for me.” When I did come to Christ through a radical conversion experience, I was soon led to the teachings of a certain Chinese teacher most of you are familiar with, Watchman Nee. I devoured his books as the mainstay of my spiritual diet for many of my formative years as a believer. Reading his biography, Against the Tide, also gave me a great interest in, and appreciation for the work of God in China.

In more recent years, I have been greatly inspired and stirred by the testimony of Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man“, and also by the “Back to Jerusalem” vision. Our family has also participated for close to a decade in Voice of the Martyrs’, “Bibles Unbound” program in sending Bibles to China, a program I highly commend to those who wish to help get Bibles into restricted countries. Lastly, reading the testimonies and teachings that are shared in the Principles Book have once again stirred my heart with love for the Chinese Church and the powerful move of God at work in this country.

The following video was brought to my attention by the Gospel Fellowships blog not too long ago. It is only four minutes long, but I think it speaks for itself. It stirred my heart greatly when I saw it, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Please visit also the Principles Book page and delve into the section about “Principles From the Underground Church in China”. We would do well to learn from these persecuted, purified and passionate saints who are living out the reality of Christ and the Kingdom in a way we have yet to know and experience. May you be blessed and challenged as you watch and read!

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Related posts and pages:

PRINCIPLES Book (Complete – PDF, mp3 and more)

Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ – by Gospel Fellowships (a “hosted”, free resource)

The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church

 

Posted in Christ-Centered Gatherings, Christ-Centered Resources, Christ-Centered Restoration, Christ-Centered Spirituality, Creative Expressions, Mission, The Ekklesia | 9 Comments

Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ – by Gospel Fellowships (a “hosted”, free resource)

I am excited to share with you a truly incredible resource that I have the honor of “hosting” on this blog.  First, let me give you a little background as to how this came about…

Last year, the most viewed and also the most commented on of all posts and pages published in 2013 was the page, “The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church“.  This is very encouraging for it shows there is a growing hunger in the Body of Christ to explore what it means to meet and function together under the practical headship of Jesus Christ.  One of the comments on this page was from Gospel Fellowships. They commented briefly on the teaching and then said that they had a free ebook on the same subject, Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ, and left a link to the website.

I didn’t reply to the comment right away as I wanted to first check out the resource they were offering to know whether I should commend it to my readers as well.  Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect.  So I went to their site, then to Amazon, downloaded the Kindle edition, and began reading.  A few days later I replied to their comment, and after explaining my delay in responding, I said the following:

“I have now downloaded the free Kindle version and am about 1/4 of the way through it.  I have been so richly blessed, stirred and encouraged by it that I have ordered three physical copies.  May I say, it may just be the best book on the Church that I have ever read!  I want to HIGHLY recommend it to those who read this blog.  May it find wide circulation in the Body of Christ in this hour.  I believe it is a prophetic gift and a strategic manual for the Church in the last days!”

I received a gracious and humble reply back from them …and then I kept on reading the book with increased blessing, confirmation and conviction in my heart.  (Since then I have also listened to the audio book through, which is wonderfully done!)

This is truly an extraordinary work which resonates deeply with my heart, and, more importantly, I believe, with the heart of God for His Church.  I will share more about it on the page I will link you to shortly, but first let me finish the background to my hosting of it here.

A number of months ago, I contacted Gospel Fellowships to let them know I wanted to promote the “Principles Book” to my followers in a post.  They were very gracious in their reply, and then made an extraordinary offer.  They invited me to host the entire PDF and mp3 versions of the book, fully downloaded, on my blog!  I was blown away!

As I thought about the practical aspects of this, I felt the best way to do this was to reproduce the download page for the book from their website, with their permission.  This way, all of the PDF and mp3 (audiobook) links would be right there to access, along with links to the Kindle, Nook, print edition (Amazon) and other versions they offer.  This was agreeable to them, as well, and so that is what has been done, along with some introductory comments of mine to my readers.  I have also, subsequently, embedded the complete YouTube playlist at the bottom of the page, as well as a sample video of “Principle One” (which I love) after my comments, to provide this format on the blog as well. It’s all right there for easy access!

So, without further ado, here is the link to the Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ resource page:

PRINCIPLES  Book (Complete PDF, mp3 and more)

[This page may also be accessed any time under the “Resources” tab on the header bar and “Resources” menu on the sidebar.]

As one final note, I desire to help spread the word concerning this resource to as many as possible and ask if you would also partner with me in this.  Would you either share this post, or go to their website and use their share buttons to promote it through whatever social media means you may use?  That would just be awesome!!  Thanks!

I’d love to hear back from you also with your comments and feedback on it once you’ve had a chance to dig in!

I pray you are richly blessed!

Love in Him,

David 

PRINCIPLES  Book (Complete PDF, mp3 and more)

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Related page: The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church

Posted in Blog Updates, Christ-Centered Gatherings, The Ekklesia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments