Apostolic Horizon International

The Relationship of a Name!

Introduction

The redemptive names of God, Jehovah-Jireh, Jehovah-Nissi and Jehovah-Shammah to name a few, are compound names that tell us something about Yahweh who is God. Many a sermon has been preached and many a book written discussing the meaning of these names; Jehovah-jireh the Lord who provides; Jehovah-Shalom the Lord who is peace, etc. Jehovah is translated ‘The Lord’ and the words added to make a compound name, describe something about what he does. From this we can get an idea of ‘who’ God is based on learning about ‘what’ he does.

But these names, revealed over time to the Israelites, only reveal something about God; they do not reveal anything about the nature of relationship between God and man. Just like saying that a man, John, is a cook. John-the –Cook says that he cooks and if he works in a restaurant you could expect to get a meal. But this does not really say much about him relationally etc.

Living Way, as a community, or more specifically a family of faith, came about nearly 20 years ago when a number of young mostly single men and women sought to follow Lesley and I. Discipleship ensued and the relationship became a modern version similar to Paul discipling Timothy and Titus. I became to them a spiritual father and at some point they began to call Lesley and I, “dad and mum”.

As numbers were added to our ‘family’, though not required or expected, others began to call us dad and mum.

What is interesting though is how some would vacillate between calling me dad or Michael. When they were in a good place in God and in good relationship with me they called me dad, but when they were in a place of hard-heartedness and in a non-relational frame of mind, they would revert to calling me, Michael.

So what does this mean? A name is more than a noun, more than a simple identifier; names speak about and identify relationships.

Sir is a polite or respectful way of addressing a man often in a position of authority. This address says something about the relationship between the user and the recipient, as does Mister. Doctor and professor are titles that refer to a persons achievements and/or a position that requires respect.

Calling someone by their first name often signifies a peer relationship; nicknames can indicate a more intimate relationship while derogatory names suggest personal disrespect.

All of these titles or forms of address, while being identifiers, also indicate the nature of one’s relationship to that person.

Whereas Lesley is my wife’s name, the noun people use to identify my wife in a conversation with others or to address her as a peer, if I called her by that name I’m going to be in trouble. Just as when she calls me ‘Michael’ I know I’m in trouble – which for me, experientially proves my thesis that names are more than identifiers, more than labels on a garment, but expressions of relationship.

The Name that is Above All Names

Philippians 2:9 (ESV) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

The name given to Jesus, as a result of His obedience “even unto death”, was given in conjunction with His being “highly exalted”, and therefore receiving a name that reflects His exaltedness. So, while the name given signifies Jesus’ exaltedness, those who use it proclaim His exaltedness in relationship to themselves. To call or assert that Jesus is ‘Christ and Lord’ reveals the nature of relationship with Him. As the Philippians passage points out, whether voluntarily or by compulsion, everyone will be obliged to declare their relationship with Him – that He is Lord and we are subject to His Lordship:

Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is not enough to use divine titles and names as mere identifiers/nouns; they are expressions of relationship between the creator and the created. They reveal to all the nature of that relationship and insist that the relationship be upheld in life.

The Names of God is Father

One day Lesley tried to explain to our grandson that papa’s name was also Michael. He just scoffed, laughed and said, “No, his name is papa”. He had gone for a walk with his parents and sister so I planned to meet them. From a distance Michael saw me and said, “look daddy, a man”. But as I got closer he cried out, “no! It’s not a man, it’s my papa!” To our grandchildren I will always be papa and regardless of what I do papa is papa. Papa is not a title it is a person the children have a relationship with.

Matthew 6:9 (ESV) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

This brings me to the point of this matter, the names of God speak about what he can do, they speak about His character and personality. The Old Testament events reveal The God who created the heavens and the earth, they speak of His involvement with humanity – specifically through a particular people group – and of His activities as He engages in the history of men according to His own will and purpose. But now, through His self-revelation in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given another name by which to approach God, His son has given us ‘Our Heavenly Father’ (Matt 6:9).

Calling God Father signifies both His authority and His intimacy with us. It declares that if God is our father then we are His children, sons and daughters. If He is Jehovah Jireh or Jehovah Shalom, then He is that to His children.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not Father by title, He is Father in deed, meaning Father in relationship. (A father is only father in relationship to his children. Without this relationship the name is meaningless.) As is clear in Scripture, through the intimacy of relationship He enables us – or better still, en-titles us – to call Him Abba Father:

Galatians 4:6 (ESV) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Since we are ‘sons’ we are obligated through the intimacy of relationship given to us to press into the reality of sonship. That is not, as so many have professed, a relationship about living in and on His estate and receiving His provision – a sort of Kingdom now theology. It is pressing on to know Him (Hos 6:3; 6:6; Jn 17:3) The King in whose Kingdom we have entered through the blood of the Lamb. (Eph 2:13; Heb 10:19, 1Pt 1:2)

The point of the parable of the prodigal son is very important to grasp here. One son knew the inheritance of the estate and demanded it, the other knew the labour of the estate and served it. But neither one knew the Father of the estate. The point of the parable is to show us who the Father is in relation to His sons.

There is much preaching today about the ‘inheritance’ of the possession and power of the estate or Kingdom of God: It belongs to you take it. The nature of the Kingdom is power and possessions and position as ‘king’s kids’ it is yours to be taken. This is the heart of the prodigal before he realised how foolish his thinking and his heart were.

There is a reaction to this misguided teaching but often the reaction is the opposite side of the same coin. It is the foolish heart of the older brother. This reactionary teaching refers to the Kingdom in terms of authority and obedience through service in religious organisations that are called ‘church’: Obedience to headship and service in the building and to the congregation, this is the nature of the Kingdom.

Both these views do not reveal the Father but His possessions and His power or position. The prodigal learnt that the father was not just a source of inheritance but a loving, merciful and faithful father whose love endures. He did not come back to privilege, wealth and power but to his Father. The older brother never unfortunately got this. Rather than seeing the Father’s heart he only saw obedience, headship and service. He grumbled because the Father he saw in relationship with the prodigal, was not the father he thought he knew and served.

The name of God given to us by Jesus is Father and we become sons. The provision of The Father and service in His Estate is taken for granted. By that I mean that it is a given that we will serve in His house as faithful sons and He will provide for us as a faithful and caring Father. What is the point is that we ought to press into the meaning of relationship of Father and son as it is expressed in the relationship of God and Jesus: Father and Son. To know the intimate pleasure of His divine presence as Abba Father, whose boundless love and grace is an ever-present reality is the true meaning of sonship.

The intimacy of The Father’s presence, and the intense delight of participating in life in His presence, is revealed in the anguish of Christ as He sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:42-44). This ‘cup’ that he wanted to avoid, the unimaginable agony He was to partake of, could only have been the experience of the absence of the presence of His Father. The greatest price He would pay for sin is a price we fail to understand. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cut off from the presence of God (cf Gen 3:24 with Jn 17:3; cf Gen 2:17 with Rom6:11 and Eph 2:1,5). We, who know the presence of sin and not the presence of God were redeemed by Him who knew no sin but only knew the presence of God (Jn 1:1-4; 2Cor 5:21).

This intimacy of relationship is made clear in the cry of dereliction: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. Salvation is not heaven, or power, or possessions, or position, or pleasure, it is presence – the presence of the living God who loved and sent His son to die so that we may be reconciled to Himself. His pleasure is to be our Heavenly Father, which means His pleasure is that we would be His sons and daughters and live in His presence.

God as, Heavenly Father, also sheds light on the nature of our relationship with Jesus. The one whose name is above every name; the one who ‘must reign until all things are put under His feet’ (1 Cor 15:21; Ps 110:1; Is 9:7; Rev 11:15); the one who is ‘seated in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:21,22); is also our brother. Our relationship with Him is as intimate as a brother. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11).

If The God and Father of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ calls us sons and daughters, if the Son of God, the eternal Word made flesh, sent from the Father to redeem us, calls us brothers and sisters, then we who are called by His name are joint heirs together with Him and with each other. So the name of God and Father and Jesus as our brother signifies that we are related together as brothers and sisters in intimate relationship together with Him and thus with each other.

The Conclusion:

BAM: It all about relationship; fellowship; unity; intimacy; oneness together with God in Christ Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit.

What to do: pray together, worship together, seek the knowledge of The Father and the Son together and enjoy the bliss of divine fellowship together.

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

          Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

          It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

          It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life forevermore.

 

Kingdom Business and the People of God

By Dale Fewson

Preface by Michael Fewson:

Since 2007 we have been led to engage in what we have come to understand as ‘Kingdom Business’. It is the vehicle through which we engage the world. It is not an ‘outreach’ – which can be an aside to our everyday living – but the surrender of our most fundamental purpose of life – work – to the obedience of faith for the advancement of the Kingdom. Rather than our work being a means of financing our lives it becomes the means by which we engage the world. Our ‘income’ will be derived from this place but it is an aside to our purpose of living the Kingdom in the midst of a society at odds with God. As our labour is surrendered to God’s will in a practical and real sense then He truly does become the source and supplier of our daily needs.

Dale wanted to address the team at Essence of Coffee (our – Living Way and AHI’s Kingdom Business) to encourage them to pursue Kingdom service as the purpose of our work. He was subsequently asked to share with the church that meets as Living Way. The following article has been adapted for general reading as it was directed to our particular setting but the content is the same.

Foundation

My wife and children are currently in the USA while I am here in Australia. The Lord has directed dad and mum (Michael and Lesley Fewson), along with my family and me to go to South Dakota to establish Kingdom Business as a means of mission to the USA. My visa did not get processed in time and I found myself having to remain in Australia.

During this time of separation, I have had time to examine my life and prayerfully consider the meaning of life: does the sum of all that I am, all that I do and all that I will be have a deeper meaning than ‘42’[1]. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I realised that to ponder life and its meaning would be a futile exercise if it were about the pursuit of self-actualization. As a result, the question that I constantly returned to and prayed about was, “how does the Church – which is the body of Christ; The Kingdom – which is the rule and reign of Christ; and Kingdom Business – which is a Christ-centred vehicle for market-place ministry[2], all fit together?” To be born into God’s Kingdom through Christ is to find purposeful living, therefore to understand the Church, the Kingdom and Kingdom service is to find fulfillment.

My aim for this article is to share with you where I’m at with these things and try to define the church, the kingdom, and our response to the calling of God in our lives and how our different roles/gifts in business play a part in it all.

I want to state here that I am looking from the perspective of our Kingdom Business ‘Essence of Coffee’ and those whose gifts and talents make up the team of ‘ministers’ as we meet and engage the world in the market place. This is specifically applicable to those who have established kingdom Businesses and are seeking to realize the distinction between a Christian in business and a Kingdom Business. But also, through prayerful consideration, these principles are applicable in each person’s sphere of Kingdom service.

I believe that as Kingdom business unfolds and a faithful people remain yielded to the rule and reign of Christ, the manifold wisdom of God will be revealed and God’s people can and will see an unlocking in three separate areas.  These are areas where the enemy seeks to keep us captive but where the Lord comes to set the captives free.  (For an Old Testament example, see Israel coming out of Egypt).

  1. Profits – We will see business profits remain in the hands of the people of God at a level unseen before.
  2. Time – We will be released and have more time to do greater works of service in cooperation with God’s leading by His Spirit in diverse spheres of influence.
  3. People – We will see more people saved, more people baptized, more people redeemed and freed from the bondages of sin and death.

My key quotes are from scripture, some of my father Michael Fewson’s blog posts and excerpts from his book ‘Will the Real Church Stand Up’ and also part of a book called ‘Set Apart For God’ by John Mulinde, a pastor from Uganda. I recommend this as a must-read for understanding one’s calling in relationship to the body of Christ.  Salvation is being brought into the body of Christ as a repentant and productive vessel for Christ’s life rather than the old life of division and individualism perpetuated.

The Church

Ephesians 5:22-27 & 32(NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Pascal Michel (pastor at Living Way in Perth) encapsulated the eternal plan of God when he said years ago, “That we would dwell in the trinity, in holy unity, for all eternity”.  At the end of the age, God’s ultimate plan will reach its fulfillment with His family dwelling in unity within the trinity.

For this to occur, man had to be united with God Himself.  The only way for man to be united with God was for God to become “one Flesh” with humanity.  God then worked salvation for mankind by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law in Christ, delivering him to death for the sins of man and raising Him to life for our justification (Rom 4:25).  He ascended into heaven and sent His Holy Spirit, who from that point on, has been continuously at work calling out from the world those who are being saved.

Within the Church, God is working out His salvation in the lives of his children.

The church is the family of God. It is the environment in which citizens of the Kingdom meet and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ and are given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for works of service or to put it another way to participate within the body of Christ.

Christ is the head of the body and we are many members joined together to make up the church, which is the body. The head tells the body where to go and what to do. This is where the Kingdom comes into play.

The Kingdom

The Kingdom is the rule and reign of Jesus on earth. It has come, it is advancing forcefully, is growing dynamically, and determined people from generation to generation are laying hold of it and endeavouring to possess it even as they are possessed by it.

Luke 16:16

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.

Phil 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel specifically is the good news of the Kingdom: The Kingdom has come to all those who will embrace it. The Kingdom speaks of God’s exclusive right to rule and reign over all of creation and of human rebellion to that claim. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveal God’s love of righteousness and justice and underlines God’s supreme right to rule and to be worshipped.  It also reveals God’s desire to be known and our need as His creation to know Him (Jn 17:3).

The work of Jesus Christ, now exalted and seated at the right hand of God the Father, contrasts the rebellion and active opposition that humanity finds itself embroiled in and willing participants of.

The Rebellion

The rebellion, which originated with Satan seeking to exalt himself above the most High, culminated in the fall of mankind.  Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve, who sought to ‘be as gods’, man has continued to pursue self-exaltation (Idolatry), the fullest expression of rebellion against God.

God’s response has been to declare His power and wisdom through the cross and to establish His King over all creation.   God the Father has declared Christ supreme over all things and through Christ declared his enmity towards the rebels, carried out their defeat and now works to put every enemy under Christ’s feet (Col 2:15; Lk 20:43) while redeeming people from every nation to be a holy nation belonging to God.

The culmination of that redemptive work will be experienced when the final enemy has been destroyed – death – at the consummation of His Kingdom (1Cor 15:20-28; Heb 2:8). For us who believe, it will mean the end of suffering, the end of bondage to sinful flesh, the end of mortality (experienced as disease, decay and death), the end of sorrow and tears; it will be eternal bliss experienced as joy, righteous freedom, immortality and peace.

Interestingly, the tactics that a rebel army uses are more of guerrilla warfare covertly waiting, ambushing and taking out the weak points. Rebel armies don’t usually have the power to wage an all out war on their enemy.

1 Pet 5:8-9 (NIV)

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

So, as the body of Christ we are participating in the advancing Kingdom by continuing firm in our faith through which we are counted righteous by God and through which we participate in the divine nature.  (Rom 1:17; 2 Peter 1:4)

The practical aspects of living this way are outlined in Romans 8 as we are exhorted to remain in Christ led by the Holy Spirit with no condemnation and the promise of living in unity in the trinity with no threat or possibility of separation by external forces.

Our work in Kingdom business

Kingdom business is marketplace ministry through which we engage the world from the perspective of the Kingdom. Basically, every single person who is born-again and a child of God is to be actively engaged in the advancing Kingdom. It is a Spiritual Kingdom but it is experienced physically. This is the mistake many make. They think ‘their’ Christianity is ‘spiritual’ and the other stuff of this life is physical.

James 2:18.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

The reality of the Kingdom is that Jesus Christ is Lord OVER ALL. If we are His then He is Lord over all that we do, all that we engage in. So, your work is Kingdom if you are a Kingdom person. If you are not, then it is a personal – read self-ruling – form of self-sustainment.

Non-kingdom minded people see work as a form of financial self-sustainment rather than the creative purpose of God. In understanding that we are the body of Christ, man was created to be the feet of Christ that participates in the advance of the Kingdom through the gospel (see the armour of God) and the arms that stretch out to Him and receive it while stretching out to the world as fishers of men. The Kingdom is not simply some spiritual concept but a present reality in the lives of humanity, principally in the life of those who bow the knee to Jesus Christ.

This completely changes my approach to work and business. I’m reminded of a music joke that used to entertain me as a guitarist. What are lyrics? The time wasted between guitar solos. We can so easily see our work that way.  It can become the time wasted between times of service to God.

The church, the Kingdom and our role here on earth

The New Testament describes the principles of the Kingdom, the Old is an example of how God would have us live in the world in relation to the Kingdom and its principles. The OT people had no real experiential knowledge of this but God led their actions and their faith is recorded by obedience. We have both the example shown and the word proclaimed and we therefore are beholden to faith and obedience in Christ.

I see this unfolding in our lives. All things function for the sake of the body.  One of our brothers in the faith mentioned to me a few weeks back about how the tribes of Israel lived. I see how the body can be like the tribes of Israel where there are different skill-sets in different tribes but one body.  If we imagine all this animated and infused with the spirit and bringing the life and creativity of God, then we begin to see a people of one spirit, contending like one man for the faith and unafraid of any who oppose us (Phil 1:27) and yet moving with the diversity of the trinity and the manifold wisdom of God.

Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom. When the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, Jesus told them that they were to pray that the kingdom of God would come and that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Then he taught them to pray for the body.  This is the likeness of God who speaks of Himself as a community in Gen 1:26.

Gen 1:26 (NIV)

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God created us to be part of His kingdom rule, which can only happen when we are part of His body.

I may believe that I am saved, I may worship and sing and do many things, but if my life is not fulfilling the will of God as a vessel to do God’s will then I am not living out God’s purpose for my being on the earth and therefore continuing in the rebellion. The children of God are set apart for God. Being set apart is all about the kingdom of God, about His will being done on earth.

I mentioned before that the church is the family. It is the environment in which citizens of the Kingdom meet and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ and are equipped for works of service. Those works are works of faith done in the service of the King in our everyday work. Ministry is not what happens in a location or an environment called church, it is what happens wherever we are and this is inclusive of the workplace.

When I asked my father Michael what the purpose of Essence of Coffee (our Kingdom business) was, he said the following, which relates to all that are in the business but also directly applies to other businesses;

Essence Of Coffee (EOC) is a vehicle called into existence by Jesus Christ, established to be a Kingdom vehicle as a point of engagement with the world and in this case, our sphere of influence, that is, that we influence our community as ambassadors of Christ through the opportunities afforded by EOC.

But, we must never forget to be wise stewards of the vehicle provided. Just as the Ark was a means of conveying and identifying the presence of God so too EOC is a vehicle given by God – not that EOC in anyway reflects or resembles the Ark of the Covenant. I am only saying that we must cherish any God-given vessel.

There are many vehicles used by Christ as points of engagement and as places of training for righteous engagement.  It is a place where godly young people can interact with the world in a safe and supportive environment. I remember working in the world and the difficulties and temptations not to reflect Christ where I was and the political oughts placed upon me. In worldly employment, we exchange our service for money and are subject to employers’ rules.

The benefits of working in a Kingdom Business are many. It is a place of engaging the world from our own ground. We are free to speak, to act and to live in service to God in the midst of the world. We meet them on our territory. The opportunities to preach Christ through our lives become endless. Recently a customer asked one of our young people out on a date. The young family member had a safe and secure place from which to decline the ‘invitation’ without pressure from others to conform to their standards. They were free to say no because of their commitment to Christ and because of their unwillingness to engage the try before you buy wind of doctrine, which comes from the world. It is also a place of discipleship because they didn’t know how to answer the question in a way that preached Christ. And so they were able, even at work, to seek the advice of Pascal their pastor who was able to help them and equip them for this.

Many members but one body

1 Corinthians 12:20-30 (NIV)

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 

The local church is an extraordinary group of men and women.  We are committed to Christ and His Kingdom and to each other in covenantal love. No one is considered greater than the other as we serve each other in humility, yet we recognize the unique gifts and callings that God has given to each individually. The older need to teach the younger and make room for each person to fulfill the role that God has gifted them specifically to fill.

In Mark 4, Jesus finished off the parable of the sower with the words “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” The temptation for all believers is to resist the word when it comes.  Youth can suffer from the arrogant pride of strength, a sense of indestructibility and visionary knowledge while the older generations can be rendered unable to hear through a sense of having heard it all before making them have a  lack a hunger to keep hearing God speak.  Let us obediently pursue having ears to hear what the Spirit has to say.

[1] A reference to “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’s ultimate question: what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything in it!”

[2]God has created us to work (Gen 2:15 and to work is a gift from Him (Eccl 5:19; 8:15). At AHI we recognise that work is kingdom service and is sacred. That to be in business is to be in the market place as servants of God’s advancing kingdom. As such, kingdom purposes shape and drive our kingdom businesses. We seek always to be led in business by the Spirit of the Lord (Rom 8:14).

Thoughts On Followership

I have been thinking and praying about followership as the right response to spiritual leadership and authority.

The Apostolic ministry of Jesus Christ is a blessing to all who receive it. It is freeing, it is life changing, it is empowering, it is glorious. Specific aspects of His apostolic ministry are realised or experienced in the church today through men and women whom Jesus has gifted to the church as an expression of Himself. As such, to imitate, to follow and to obey Jesus’ gifts to the church is freeing, life changing, empowering and glorious because it is evidence of followership. The life of Christ given to us and for us  is embraced through repentance, lived in fellowship, matured in followership and realised in the marriage of the Lamb.

I have concluded that followership is the enablement of a crucified life and a joyous reward in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Luke 9:23–25 (ESV) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Rulership is a Divine Institution

Scripture  states that rulership is from God (Rom 13:1ff). That does not mean that all rulers are godly or good but that rulership is godly and good. Governing authorities are to be respected, even those we may disagree with.

I noted recently a news article about a political figure in Australia. Throughout the article were photoshopped images of the member of parliament which were extremely disparaging. Our ability to respect governance is constantly being manipulated by such messages. And this disrespect and consequential rejection of leadership is prevalent in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 (ESV) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

Resistance to Followership – An uncrucified Life

Romans 12:1 (ESV) I appeal to you… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [or reasonable] worship.

Resistance to leadership and an unwillingness to follow are usually not because a leader is evil, or has committed gross sins, but because the heart is unsubmissive – read unwilling to be crucified with Christ. Obedience begins with respect: respect that authority is from God and obedience to authority is obedience to God. While it is valid to resist evil, and evil leaders should not be followed, more often than not opposition to a church leader is not because the leader is adulterous, or a murder, or a thief – a resisting of evil – but it is unsubmissiveness due to preference and personality. 

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Leaders are not ‘divine’ nor are they ‘infallible’ they are men and women with preferences and behaviour patterns and personalities (2 Cor 4:5-12). These are the human elements through which Jesus chooses to gift himself to the church (Eph 4:8,11-12).

When people resist authority it begins in a heart that refuses to be led. To justify non-followership they judge the humanity or personality of a leader from a preferential position. Their judgment is that the leader is not a true leader because of human fallibility. The leader is manipulative, controlling, abusive and uses people for personal gain. They conclude that the followers are being manipulated,  controlled, abused and used for the leader’s own benefit; the very excuses used to ‘justify’ their own refusal to enter into followership. These people, either objectively or subjectively, manipulate others, initiate gossip, and ferment criticism of their leader and cause a groundswell of opposition. Eventually, like Korah, they confront the gift of Christ to the church as though the leaders is a self-appointed, self-exalting manipulator lording it over the people (Num 16:1-4).

Jude 8 (ESV) Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Jude 16 (ESV) These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.  

The leader, instead of being the gift of Christ freely embracing the mission of the Kingdom and equipping the saints  for works of service, finds himself fighting a rebellion from within.

Resist a Proud Uncrucified Self

James 4:1–7 (ESV) What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  

To live under self-rule is to be tyrannised by a despotic insatiable leader. The self is manipulative, controlling, abusive and self-gratifying using everyone and everything for personal gain (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Ecc 9:3; Mk 7:21,22; Rom 1:21).  The death of self is the liberating work of the cross (Rom 6:18; 7:11,24,25a; 8:2).  Participation in the resurrection life of Christ demands the death of self and the transfer of allegiance from obedience to your tyrannical self to the obedience of faith in the rulership of Jesus Christ The Lord (Jn 11:25; Eph 2:4-10; Rom 10:9,10; ).

Consider for a moment the amazing age in which we live. We can travel to the other side of the world in hours. We are among the few who can see what previous generations never dreamt possible. We have the ability to communicate with multiple people around the world instantly. We have an abundance of labour-saving devices and equipment that caters to our whims and fancies. Many of us live in political freedom and some, like those who are a part of Living Way and other strong foundational Christian communities, have the blessing of godly leaders and peers committed to the life of Christ, willing to provoke and be provoked to do good works in Christ (Heb 10:24). Yet we are still dissatisfied. I am amazed at the constant complaints and childish countenance of people who, despite having such amazing abundance and blessing, lament over what they do not have and complain about their perceived deprivation. No matter how much they have, they want more, require more and expect more. They are dissatisfied with service, obedience and christlikeness. They seek out individual pleasure and self-governance and self-image yet remain dissatisfied (Jude 1 all). 

The tyranny of self-rule: never enough! Not enough possessions, not enough recognition, not enough personal fulfilment (1Jn 2:16). Like the pharisaical spirits throughout history, who offer lip service to God yet whose hearts are far from him, we say that having God is enough yet we live unfulfilled lives, lamenting our perceived lack.

Oh to be free from the tyranny of self-rule. To be able to live Christ, to be a follower of Christ through obedience to His ordained leaders, to resist the god of this age evident in the desires of self-rule and to embrace the crucified life in the family of God participating in His Will through Kingdom service. To experience the joyous reward of followership.

Matthew 11:15 (ESV) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

A Spirit of Entitlement is an Offense to The Word of the Cross

Why does an elite businessperson or high-ranking politician feel they are above the law? Why does a celebrity expect to be pandered to and yet will not afford others the most basic respect? Why does a preacher think that his own sexual liaison outside of his marriage is not adultery? Or that his divorce is somehow God-ordained? Why does a person steal from their employer believing it is justified because the company undervalues them? Why do I feel offended when others overlook me? Why do you look for a church that offers you particular programmes as though it were a spiritual supermarket?

In a word: Entitlement. The idea that my contribution or my special endeavours make me unique entitling me to special treatment, or reward. It is a spirit of entitlement.

In my book “Will the Real Church Stand Up” (2006:Xulon Press) I recount the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Emperors New Clothes. In this tale two rouges, playing on his vanity, con the emperor into believing that he is clothed in the finest of linen, but in reality he is naked.  Those around the emperor, wanting to be known as modern and progressive, all agree that he is adorned in the finest garments. The ‘herd mentality’ is evident as the populous praise the emperor’s new clothes as he parades through the town. Finally, a young boy declares the obvious, “The emperor is wearing no clothes”.

I correlate this tale to the state of the Western Church, parading its nakedness as though it where clothed in God’s righteousness. Like the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6), we market an image that is in our imagination, and then we believe our own PR statements promoting reputation of being alive, but are in fact dead.

Luke 16:14–15 (ESV)
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 18:9 (ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

For the “Real Church’ of Jesus Christ a spirit of entitlement is counterintuitive. Only through the abandonment of entitlement (repentance) can the grace of God in Christ be received. Only through death can eternal life be realised.

The Word of the Cross as our Standard

Philippians 2:5–8 (NRSV)
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

The Cross – Offensive to sinful flesh

John Stott, in his book “The Cross of Christ”(1986), clearly depicts the usage of the cross as a torturous death for the most vile of criminals in the Roman world. Stott points out that this symbol brought much derision to the early church and was seen as offensive to the sensibilities of modern, progressive minds.

Spiritually the cross is an offense to the very being of fallen humanity because it, rather than exalting men and women, rather than affirming humanity as good, the way that humans see themselves, it condemns sin in sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). The cross declares all people everywhere guilty of sin, unrighteous, evil and desperately wicked and deserving of the horrendous death of the cross. This is what humanity is ‘entitled’ to and such a message, that is ‘the message of the cross’ is an offense to the mind of modern progressive self-impressed and ‘entitled’ persons. (Gal 5:11; 1Cor 1:18; Rom 9:33; 1Pt 2:8)

Sinful Flesh – Offensive to the Cross

But what of those who have chosen to embrace the ‘offense of the cross” (1Cor 1:18; 2:2)? Those who have come to trust in this Word that calls people from every tribe, tongue and nation, to endure the shame of the cross for the joy that is set before them in Christ (Heb 12:2)? Should we continue to be offended by the cross? Should our hearts, attitudes and actions continue to offend the message of the cross, its purpose and its work?

An embracing of the cross of Christ comes with an inversion in foundational thinking (Rom 12:2). Rather than following our ‘modern progressive’ mind, trained in the pattern of the world and regularly being offended by ‘The Way’, we have become the offensive- or more precisely, the simpleminded who cause offense by believing in such a foolish ‘word’. Offensive because we declare it wisdom and pleasing while the world declares it foolishness and offensive.

If the cross of Christ is wisdom and pleasing, if it is altogether agreeable and delightful, then our hearts and minds should be aware of that which is offensive to the way of the cross, and our progressiveness is found in pursuing, or seeking to identify that which is offensive, so that we can forsake all that is an offense to the cross

In this article I want to highlight one of the most offensive attitudes to the Cross of Christ:

A spirit of Entitlement

Philippians 3:7–8 (ESV)
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Natural Rights

Entitlement is: ‘the fact of having a right to something’. When a person believes that it is in fact true that they have entitlement then they expect to receive that entitlement. It is a person’s ‘right’.

For example, if a person works he or she is entitled to receive a wage or compensation for their labour (1Tim 4:18; Lev 19:13). However, the labourer is not ‘entitled’ to more (Mat 20:8-15), in fact to eat is the reward or right of labour 1Cor 9:9; Deut 25:4) and the opposite is also true, that to choose not to work is to give up the right to eat (2Thes 3:10).

There are natural rights or entitlements such as life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness expressed through an accomplished meaningful life (happiness was never meant to be understood as gratuitous and sensual self-satisfaction but as the satisfaction of fulfilling our divine purpose in wise rulership over the works of God’s hands. Gen 1:26). To live, to breathe, to work and to eat and drink, to have clothing and shelter, these things no man has a right to deny of another nor does an idle person have the right (even through government legislation) to take it from another. This is theft .

Spirit of Entitlement

A spirit of entitlement is an affront to the word and work of the cross precisely because it is the antithesis. While there are natural, God-given rights, a spirit of entitlement is the attitude that flows from the heart of idolatrous humanity. It is a spirit that thinks, feels and believes that in fact it has entitlement to more than what is naturally given by God. And it is always exclusive entitlement that we are not prepared to acknowledge for others – except to the extent that it advances our own entitlement.

Note the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, ostensibly arguing for the ‘rights’ of the people but in reality seeking to advance his own sense of entitlement. A spirit of entitlement only works for self-advancement, never for the good of others.

Samson – an example of a spirit of entitlement

Samson is a perfect example of a spirit of entitlement. He was chosen by God, blessed with great strength and anointed to be a leader of God’s people. Rather than humbly accepting this work and receiving the blessing of God with gratitude he demonstrated a spirit of entitlement. He was ‘entitled’ to marry ‘a woman among the daughters of your relatives’, but instead he felt entitled to take a wife from the ungodly Philistines, a choice that directly contravened God’s commands to Israel. Eating honey from the dead carcass of a lion breached God’s commands, as did his liaisons with Delilah. In fact, his life consistently demonstrated a spirit of entitlement.

Ahab – his spirit of entitlement was a means for manipulation

Ahab’s exhibition of a spirit of entitlement began with taking a wife.

1 Kings 16:31 (ESV)
31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.

Later she used his sense of entitlement to manipulate him and justify a host of evil. As King of Israel you are entitled to whatever you desire… this is the sentiment behind a spirit of entitlement.

Sin that births entitlement

In the Garden of Eden, Satan enticed Adam and Eve to sin by declaring ‘you shall be like God…’ So, in taking of the fruit, Adam condemned his offspring into an existence for self-deification: the quest to be like God, rejecting his creator and becoming – in his own eyes – a creator. God created man in His image and as a result of the fall, man feels able to create ‘gods’ is his own image. (The creator of a god is the god of the god. This is the subjective endeavour of fallen humanity – to be like God)

Romans 1:21–25 (ESV)
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Why exactly is the spirit of entitlement an offense to the cross? Because the cross declares that humanity is entitled to nothing other than death. It declares, not that men are divine, righteous, knowing good and evil, but that they are altogether evil, their thinking futile and lives a wasted ruin.

Jesus – the epitome of entitlement discarded

Philippians 2:5–8 (NRSV)
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross. 

Though we are not God, we live as though we are. We believe it as fact that we are entitled to be treated as gods in this world. Jesus, though he is in fact God, did not live entitled among men. He chose not to exploit his divinity for his own advantage, while we naturally try to exploit others and everything for our own advantage.

This spirit of entitlement is seen every day in churches around the world. People expecting special treatment, looking for churches that ‘meet their specific needs’ as though they are entitled to have the bride of Christ exist for their own purposes. It is this ‘spirit of entitlement’ that is not only a stumbling block to those who would enter into Christ, it produces sheep in wolves clothing, capable of destroying the flock for self advantage, and is an abomination and an affront to the very message that such people proclaim allegiance to.

Philippians 2:1-5 is a call to break free of this spirit of entitlement and to live and die as Christ lived and died, if we are ever to participate in His resurrection. Philippians 2:6-11 exemplifies the Spirit of God in man, a spirit, not of entitlement, but of thanksgiving and praise toward the one in whom grace and true freedom is found.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ words:

Matthew 16:24–27 (ESV)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

And this must be our response:

Philippians 3:7–11 (ESV)
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

Teach Us To Pray

In Luke Chapter 11 the Lord’s Prayer is recorded as coming from a request by the disciple: “Lord, teach us to pray…” During a time of personal prayer and meditation I realised that the children in our church being home-schooled had not been taught to pray nor was memorising Scripture being actively pursued – both essential practices for growing in the knowledge of the Lord. As this was implemented one of the mums queried my explanation of the Lord’s Prayer asking if it was an outline that governs all prayer. The following outline on The Lord’s Prayer came from that question.

Perhaps the first point to make – based on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:7 – is that this prayer should not be seen purely as a liturgical prayer to be used at various meetings or events – although that is the intent of the prayer in Luke 11. Rather, it should be understood as a ‘prayer pattern’ or outline to direct the course of daily general prayer. In Matt 6:6 the emphasis is on daily personal prayer, though the plural or inclusive language of the prayer indicates it is also useful for corporate prayer gatherings (cf Act 2:42; 4:24-30). What I think is important is to understand the principles expressed in each section as a means of directing our prayers and establishing our right relationship in prayer. For example: before we reach the petitioning phase, “give us this day our daily bread”, we have already dealt with our idolatrous heart (being evident in self-centredness) by yielding our will to His sovereign will, “your will be done…”. This positions us to petition in line with God’s good, pleasing and acceptable will (cf Rom 12:1-2; Ps 37:4).

Introduction to Prayer

Prayer is as broad as it is deep. And shouldn’t be reduced to only one form. In the simplest terms prayer is ‘to speak’, literally, to talk to God. The need or purpose of prayer defines what ‘type’ of prayers. For example:

Supplications = plea , ask with urgency

Intercession = for others

Thanksgiving and praise

Confession, repentance and forgiveness

 As indicated in the following Scriptures:

1 Timothy 2:1 (ESV) 
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 John 1:9 (ESV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A life of prayer is a life in fellowship with the Father and Son through the Spirit.

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Prayer is essential for life

Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The Lord’s Prayer is the foundational prayer given by Jesus for daily life.

Matthew 6:8–9 (ESV)
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

 

Our Father in heaven,

Let your holy name be honoured.

Our Praise, Honour and Worship to God as His children; joint heirs with Christ

Our Father in heaven, we praise you for your greatness and majesty; we thank you for your grace in bringing us into your family; we honour your holy name and exalt you; Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we declare you to be holy and worthy of all honour and praise.

Ezekiel 36:23 (ESV)
23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Our declaration of allegiance

God you reign supreme over all the earth. Let your Kingdom come as Jesus establishes His rule over all things; Let all creation bow to your will; Holy Spirit empower us to lay hold of The Kingdom and to yield fully to Jesus’ Lordship. Let God’s will alone be evident in our lives.

Give us today our daily bread,

Our Petition for Provision

Lord give us what we require this day, not based on our greed but upon your will in alignment with Your Kingdom as it advances. As our will is to see your Kingdom come let us not lack any good thing to participate in the accomplishment of your advancing kingdom in our time.

And forgive us our debts,

As we also have forgiven our debtors.

Our time of self-examination and commitment to Christ-likeness

Oh Lord, create in me a clean heart. Let your forgiveness fill my being and empower me to bring forgiveness wherever I go. Forgive me for (specific sins) as I have forgiven others (forgiveness of others is not in prayer but in deed)

Psalm 103:10–13 (ESV)

10          He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11          For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12          as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13          As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

Our prayer for the Spirit to keep our heart’s desire Christ crucified

Lord let your desire be my desires that I may not be led into temptation by my own lustful desires. Holy Spirit keep me alert to Satan’s deceptive schemes that target my fleshly desires that I may be able to resist the devil. I want to participate in your divine nature escaping from the corruption that is in my human heart through lust.

Eschatalogical

Revelation 3:10 (ESV)
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

Immediate

James 1:2–3 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And we conclude with praise:

For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever amen. (Not in early manuscripts)

John 14:13 (ESV)
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

 

A New Generation

There are often calls for particular ‘generations’ to arise in the contemporary western church. For example the ‘Joshua generation’ has been a favourite in previous years, calling for second-generation leaders to ‘possess the promised land’.

As I was meditating on the jealousy of God (Ex 34:14) I realised that if ever we needed a generational uprising, or a ‘spirit’ of some Old Testament character, then it would be difficult to go past Phinehas (Ex 25). God says of Phinehas in verse 11 “he was jealous with MY jealousy”. Indeed Apostle Paul – the New Testament Phinehas perhaps – expresses the same sentiment to the Corinthian church.

 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV) For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

The Phinehas generation would be a people who are touched by the absolute and exclusive love of God. The Divine Jealousy is one that is expressed by the exclusivity of election. A people called from the nations of the world to be His own property (1Pt 2:9,10). Such an election of love has absolute claim on the love and loyalty of the objects of His love.

Hosea 6:6 (ESV) For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

The first claim on the church is not evangelism, or giving to the poor, not dynamic church services, or regular attendance at meetings – though these should not be left undone – it is exclusivity. An absolute unwavering loyalty expressed as commitment to His eternal purpose as the Bride of Christ.

This Phinehas crew would be more interested in identifying with God rather than identifying with society. They are more concerned about God’s approval than cultural acceptance; seeking relevance with God before relevance with the community around them. Such a people know that to affect society requires a witness to exclusivity of love rather than to offer a passionless inclusivity.

I don’t know if there is a ‘Phinehas generation’ rising up, but I do know that the jealous love of God cannot remain still in the face of a church whose mission has become the pleasure of society – much like a prostitute serving the pleasure of others – and failing to notice the jealous love of God beginning to burn as a scorned lover. (See Hosea for context)

Deuteronomy 4:24 (ESV) For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Hebrews 12:29 (ESV) for our God is a consuming fire.

The jealous love of God has two faces:

  1. Jealous anger against sin (that which destroys the exclusivity of love)
  2. Jealous care toward His people (passionate love)

These require our meditation and a conscious response.

The Economics of Time

Have you ever heard the saying “time is money”? Well let me clarify from the start that time is far more valuable than money. You can lose money and get it back, but you cannot recover time. Perhaps a truer saying would be, ‘life is time is life’.

Economics deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Though life is far more important and valuable than money and production, distribution and consumption is not the ‘chief end of man’, our lives are measured by time. And time – for want of a better word – is ceaselessly being consumed. We do not produce time – it is God’s gift – but we do distribute and consume time.

The Apostle Paul spoke of his life as being ‘spent’ and of himself ‘spending’ his life for the Corinthian church[1].  I commented to someone recently that life is not a practice run. You do not get a second chance. He responded by saying that it was a bit hard or perhaps that I was harsh. Hard or not, it is fact, an undeniable truth. EVERY THING YOU DO YOU PAY FOR WITH YOUR LIFE!

The economics of time is this – whether you are studying, praying, sleeping, eating, working, playing; whether it is a truthful, noble, pure and admirable pursuit or a dishonest, ignoble, and unrighteous pursuit, you pay for it with your life. Every passing moment is irretrievable. As I mentioned already, you can spend money, you can lose money and you can always get it back, BUT you cannot spend or lose time and expect to get it back. Time is the price you pay for everything – either spending or being spent. What is past cannot be retrieved, what is ahead is the credit of time that you have to ‘spend’.

Ephesians 5:16 (ESV)  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

The context of this passage is that of ‘walking’ or ‘living’ wisely as God’s people, filled with His Spirit, for now the days are evil and time is short. It is, after all, ‘the last days’. How we use or ‘spend’ our time must be considered within the context of eternity.

 Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV84)  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 Jim Winter comments on this passage: “The Hebrew gives the picture of a set or appointed time. The beauty comes in recognizing and acknowledging the place and purpose of every person, thing, or event in God’s overall plan.[2]” God apportions each life and it is set within the context of His eternal plan and purpose. In fact it is this that ‘redeems’ us from the “futility of temporality” and gives purpose or reason to life.

The ‘economics of time’ is the realisation that life is measured in time and that the ‘value’ of time is life. Time, therefore should never be squandered or wasted on triviality. As Romans 12:1 states, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices”. When we recognise and understand the place and purpose of life in God’s overall plan we would be circumspect in how we ‘spend’ our time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” The pursuit and development of spirituality, the creation mandate of work and family, engagement in community and reenergization through rest and leisure all fit into ‘a time and season for every activity’. When a person is ‘in Christ’ there are no sacred or secular divisions between work, family, rest, play or prayer, all are worth time in life but each must be apportioned value within the context of God’s eternal plan for each person in Christ Jesus through His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV)  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 In the words of C.T. Studd: “Only one life, twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last”

Only One Life

By C.T. Studd

 

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfill,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Oh let my love with fervor burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.


[1] 2 Corinthians 12:15 (ESV) I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?

[2] Winter, J. (2005). Opening up Ecclesiastes. Opening Up Commentary (55). Leominster: Day One Publications.

achievement is the culmination of the accumulation of that which seems to be inconsequential

Philippians 3:12–14 (ESV) 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Let me begin by saying, success is not unchristian, achievement is not unnecessary, rather it is essential to our witness of Jesus Christ, and successful deeds or ‘works’ are mandatory.

Jesus links His acceptance of us, or more specifically, entrance into his eternal Kingdom, to the works that we do in relation to others (Matt 25:31-46). We are ‘saved by grace through faith’ and this is not the result of works of law but God’s free gift, according to Ephesians 2:8 & 9. However, we are not saved to become slothful but to ‘do good works.’ We often hear Eph 2:8,9 quoted but seldom the following verse 10:

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

We are HIS workmanship, created FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand. This is what I’ve covered below in ‘the image of God and greatness‘: we have been created in the image of God to do great things.

A Witness is called to influence

According to Jesus’ words in Act 1:8, disciples are empowered by the Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus Christ. So what exactly does it mean to bear witness?

The ‘act of witnessing’ – someone who sees an occurrence; countersigns a document; or speaks publicly about Christian belief. But the Christian witness is not one of only seeing but of telling. This is what evangelism is all about – telling others of Jesus Christ.

In a law court a witness is called to testify, with the intent of influencing one way or the other, those who are to make a judgement. Isn’t evangelism’s intent to influence others to make a judgement?

So, to be witnesses of Jesus we need to be influencers. And influence is better facilitated by achieving remarkable things.

Jesus told his disciples that their love for one another – demonstrated in a way that displays God’s selfless love rather than men’s selfish lust: in other words a ‘great love’ – would prove discipleship. The achievement of signs and wonders by the apostles (the result of dedicated prayer and commitment to Jesus and His Kingdom) enabled them the opportunity to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and thereby to influence people.

Achievers are influencers

I think that if we limit the ‘good works’ – for which we are created in Christ to do – to charitable deeds alone, then we not only ignore the Genesis mandate to have dominion or rule over the earth:

Genesis 1:28 (ESV)

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We also do an injustice to (dare I say, denigrate?) the image of God in man. Humanities innate desire to achieve great things is highlighted in the following story.

The British Geographic Society made the decision to see Mt Everest conquered. They send a number of teams to the mountain and many ended in failure and death. After one such expedition ended in the death of the entire team a well known explorer was asked to give a eulogy. At the memorial service he looked at a photo of the great mountain and said, “we are getting bigger, but you remain the same and therefore are becoming smaller. You will be conquered one day.”

The achievement of great things should not be left to the realms of ungodly people for they would hardly glorify God. When men achieve great things they glorify themselves, when God’s people do great things they bear witness to and glorify the Father of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

So, what is the advantage of taking risks to achieve things? And make no mistake, achievement requires personal sacrifice and demands perseverance. As the saying goes:

“Great men attempt great things because they are great: fools because they think them easy. “

Why endeavour to achieve great things? Well, who is it that gets listened to if it is not those who have achieved notable success? Zig Ziglar, a world recognised high achieving salesman, is in high demand as a sales trainer and motivational speaker and commands great respect (and large fees). What is of importance here is that Zig Ziglar is a serious Christian who never fails to bear witness to Jesus in these seminars. He is a successful salesman whose success has opened doors for him to be able to influence thousands of sales professionals. History is lined with world-changers, Christian men and women successful in their various fields of endeavour, who became great influencers because their success opened doors.

Achievers are influencers and godly achievers influence others as they glorify God through their success.

Conclusion

Evidence of the image of God in man is seen in the determination to do exploits. You may not be the one who is heralded for greatness but every attempt to do great things is a reflection of God’s character in humanity and will become a stepping-stone for future generations (cf Heb 11 & 12). The final conquest of Mt Everest, though physically achieved by Hillary and Norgay, was the result of every expedition from 1921 to 1953, when the summit was finally reached.

I love the words in Daniel 11:32 (ESV) “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” The KJV says they will do great exploits, but the meaning of the word is simply, they will act. The people who know their God will be strong, resolute and steadfast and will courageously act.

Every night I pray personally for each of my grandchildren (holding them in my arms) and include in the prayer, “Father, let your Spirit rest upon them so that they will not be fearful but courageous, ready and willing to attempt any and every great task put before them, for the sake of Your Glory”.

Many people dream of doing great things but seldom have the commitment or tenacity or willingness to pay the price for success. They justify lack of achievement or mediocrity by highlighting their ‘unique circumstances’ as the reason. Lack of achievement is not the result of poor upbringing or negative power-holders hindering us, it is the refusal to be strong and resolutely act to achieve outcomes that glorify God.

I want to challenge you; if you are called to give abundantly, then how can you do it if you do not have abundance? You need to achieve financial success and be a giver no matter your personal wealth. If you are called to serve others, how can you do it if you are unhealthy and extremely overweight? If you are destined to write poetry or play and instrument or be innovative, how can you do it well if you are unwilling to learn the necessary skills or do the mundane things required for success?

Every great achievement is the result of monotonous step-by-step detailed work. A meaningful life is not the result of 15 minutes of fame but the result of living each moment of the day meaningfully in pursuit of your destiny in Jesus Christ.

Greatness is the accumulative outcome of persistent, tenacious acts that often seem inconsequential.

 

The Image of God and Greatness

The Image of God in all People

The creation event reveals that God chose to display something of His ‘image’ in people. Through sin that image has been corrupted, yet in every great achievement and noble task the image of God in man has be seen throughout history. Every great achievement is a reflection of the image of God in man, and every evil act is a reminder of the reality of the fall.

And every self-promoting, self-congratulatory deed – no matter how great or noble – reflects the sin nature corrupting the image of the divine. By the redeeming work of Jesus Christ we are able to participate in the divine nature of God (2Pt 1:3-4) and are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29).

And so, as per 2Pt 1:3 we who are in Christ have been given everything we need for life and godliness.

The image of God is ‘everything we need for life’ and from it flows the ability to have ‘dominion’ over the earth to achieve great and amazing things – to be creative, attempt and participate in great deeds, and add value to life and lives. The divine nature is ‘everything we need for godliness’ for it judges the motives of our heart and enables every work to be ‘good’ before God. Only that which comes from a pure heart is glorifying to God (1Tim 1:5).

Since those in Christ have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline (2Tim 1:7), be brave and attempt great things.

“Great men attempt great things because they are great: fools attempt them because they think them easy”

 

Living for Greatness

1 John 2:16 (ESV)

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Idolatry (the pride of life) and lust (desires of the flesh and eyes) are foundational motives for peoples’ actions. Pride and lust can be summed up as living and dying for self.

The foundational motive that comes from The Heavenly Father is love. And love can be summed up as living and dying for a purpose greater than self. (cf Jn 3:16)

Living and working to pay off a mortgage, to hangout with friends and family and pursue the maximum amount of self-gratification is a far cry from the ‘image of God’ placed in man and the divine mandate to dominate the earth.

Genesis 1:28 (ESV)

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The Kingdom of Heaven – literally the rule of Jesus on earth – has come; it is advancing forcefully; is growing dynamically; and determined people from generation to generation are laying hold of it (Lk 16:16; Mat 11:12) and endeavouring to possess it even as they are possessed by it (Phil 3:12-14)

In keeping with the image of God in us, we have an obligation (Rom 8:12; 15:1) to pursue God’s will on earth. To live in the motivating force of love which willingly lives and dies for a greater cause: To spend and to be spent (2Cor 12:15), not as paupers with nothing to offer, but as mighty men and women with talents, creativity and finances to be used for great endeavours.

Daniel 11:32 (nkjv) …the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.

What I do defines Who I am!

 James 2:18 (ESV)

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Martin Luther struggled with James and the idea of faith and works; though his argument seems to miss the fact that ‘work’ in James is not works of law (as Rom 3:28) but works of faith (1Thess 1:3). Behind the message of service to the poor and needy – which is clearly supported by Jesus’ own words in Matt 25:31-46 – is a clear principle of the Kingdom that should be considered.

Why should this principle be considered? Because I finally get it! :) Who we are is defined by what we do! That is the principle of James’s statement “I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

Quite simply the Apostle and brother of Jesus is saying that our deeds in fact define who we are. If I declare myself to be a man of faith but live faithlessly, then I am not what I profess to be. If I declare I am a person of integrity but live inconsistently, then I am not who I say I am. Our deeds, our actions, our works define who we are.

Works of faith are the ‘fruit’ of who we are or have become, the evidence of what is declared.

Jesus Christ is/was an obedient son! Yet how do we know this? Not by His words alone but because of His obedient deeds. He cried out in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done” (Mk 22:42). But are the words enough to convince of Jesus’ obedience, or is it that He accomplished His Fathers will by accepting the cup? It is what Jesus did that defined who He was!

This is made clear in Jesus’ parable of the two sons:

Matthew 21:28–31 (ESV)

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”

The point here is that it was the act of obedience, not the words of obedience, that defined a son as obedient. It is not what a man says but what he does that defines who he is.

How do we know that God is love? By His words? Or are they supported by His deeds?

1 John 3:16 (ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Are We Jesus’ disciples because we say so? Or is it evidenced by some deed or action?

John 13:35 (ESV)

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What we do define who we are!

The person who is a new creation in Christ (2Cor 5:17) is being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) and is a partaker of the divine nature of God (2Pt 1:4). If this is who we are then what we do will evidence this. If I say I am a righteous man but do not live righteously – if my deeds oppose my words – then I am a liar.

1 John 3:10 (ESV)

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Conclusion

Through Jesus Christ and His transforming work on the cross we are able to declare who we are to be. “As a leader, as a husband, as a father, as a person I am like this”; “I am a person of integrity, of character, faithful and willing to pay the price to maintain my integrity.” However, the acts of a man are what dictate whether this is truth or a lie.

What I do defines who I am!

1 John 3:18 (ESV)

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

James 3:13 (ESV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.