Have you ever thought about the apparent dichotomy that seems to exist between what the gospel promises it can do and the experience of many believers? I am not talking about the often lamented lack of supernatural miracles or abundant provision – a lament that is more often than not based on a misunderstanding of the power of God – but the lack of a righteous witness by the body of Christ.
Why do we whose hearts desire to glorify God fall short in our words and our deeds? We want to participate in being a pure bride for Christ, but the church seems to be a long way from that place of purity.
I believe the dichotomy is in the gulf that exists between our heart and our mind. The new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:33-34 declares that God “will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Unlike the old covenant of external laws and sacrifices, this is a covenant of the heart and mind. An internal covenant sealed with the indwelling Spirit of God.
The new birth begins with a new heart. This is the act of God through the blood of Jesus. Having received a new heart we are compelled by Apostle Paul:
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…NIV
So the heart that is towards God is a result of the new birth whereas the mind that is towards God is what we grow into. The maturing process, which leads to a life of ever increasing glory; that is being to the praise of His glory; is I believe found in the ‘Posture of our Minds’.
The posture of the mind
Posture speaks about our bearing, our stance and our attitude. We can adopt an aggressive posture or a passive one; a relaxed or active posture. Our posture reveals what is really going on in our minds; what I am thinking is more noticeable in posture than through my words.
In a recent Kingdom Discipleship post I spoke about the secret of being content in all things as an expression of faith in God. That secret is in our posture, the direction we face, the focus of our desires. Is contentment found in the presence of the Father and the Son through the abiding Spirit or do we believe it comes from material gain? If our mind is towards God,1 then our posture will reflect this in words and actions. If our mind is on earthly things2 then our posture will reflect that.
I remember in my Greek lectures learning that the word pros translated in John 1:1 as with, is a preposition of direction. When John is interpreted as saying, ‘the Word was with God’, it could well be translated this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and the Word was God.
This is a wonderful thought that is worthy of serious consideration. Jesus Christ the eternal Word was always with God and is always facing God. Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of the heavenly Father always has had and always will have a posture that is forever towards His Father. This posture is evident in all that Jesus said and did whilst He lived among men on earth.
Jesus declared, I have come to do the will of my Father; and, I only say and do what I have heard my Father say and seen Him do. Jesus’ entire life was consistent with this posture, His words were consistent with His posture, and His posture was always consistent with the Will of God. The Word was face to face with God.3
The posture of our minds – especially as a reflection of the posture of ascension gifts in the Church – is what I want to consider here. Our posture expresses our thoughts, our beliefs and our values in a clearer manner than our words. Overseers are quite adept at talking up their posture with the right words, but are they in fact ‘towards’ God? Or are we using right-sounding words to justify a posture that is ‘set on earthly things’? I think the development of Simon Peter’s apostleship is a useful example to discover the posture of our mind.
A new name for a new person
John 1:41-42 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). NIV
Throughout Scripture a name change is synonymous with becoming a new person. Notables are:
Jacob the supplanter, whose name was changed to Israel – prince with God or God prevails. This new name was indicative of an encounter with God that proved to be life changing. (Gen 32:24-32)
Jabez, whose name means sorrow or pain, cried out to become a new person. “Oh that you would bless me… Let your hand be with me… so that I may be free from pain.” Though there is no recorded name change, God granted his request. (1 Chron 4:9-10)
Saul, the persecutor of Christians became known as Paul the Apostle of Christ.
Simon, whose name was changed to Peter, was transformed in character through his encounter with Jesus.
According to Scripture we were included in Christ when we heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13). Through this encounter with the message of the cross we experience the reality of being ‘in Christ’ and become a part of the New Creation. We receive a ‘new name’4 which means quite literally that we are to be His new people “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17)
The most important thing for an ascension gift to remember is that in Christ we have become a new creation, with a new name and a new mind. Though our hearts may now be towards God, it does not necessarily mean that our minds are.
Romans 12:2 implores us to stop being conformed to the mindset or thought patterns of this world but to be transformed by having minds renewed. Though our hearts are transformed when we received the Word of Truth, our minds require renewal. Renewal is a process that occurs through discipleship which we will see through Peter’s development or progression towards apostleship.
It is not right to come to Christ, regardless of the dramatic nature of the conversion, and expect to immediately function as an ascension gift – especially an apostle. It is irresponsible to encourage a ‘recent convert’5 to act as an overseer, and I believe preaching in God’s house is an equipping function and therefore the work of an overseer. In our celebrity-worshipping society the church as the expression of the new creation, should be different, though unfortunately, this is not often the case. When a celebrity comes into a church from the world, they are often paraded publically as proof of God. Before long they are on the ‘ministry’ circuit speaking at breakfasts, luncheons and dinners. This is the same for those with a ‘dramatic’ salvation. Their ‘powerful testimony’ becomes their ministry.
We seem to forget, or perhaps never realised, that it is not a person’s salvation experience that is a testimony but it is the cross of Christ that becomes our testimony. Acts 1:8 declares that we would be witnesses of Jesus not of ourselves.
Men, whose posture is earthly, will try to push a person with a ‘testimony’ or celebrity status forward claiming it is to glorify God, but the purpose is not from God and will bring destruction. Ascension gifts are not people with great reputations or great experiences but people who have died with Christ and apostles more so. As we will see with Peter, his death to pride, pleasure and possessions was an integral part of his discipleship that produced an apostle of Christ.
To be continued… Following is a preview of the next post…
What a remarkable turn of events. One moment Peter is being praised by Jesus for his profound insight into the things of God and the next he is being rebuked by Jesus and called a stumbling block who does not ‘have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’
This highlights what I am saying about promoting famous people or famous testimonies. Having a revelation from God is not the same as having a mind towards God.
It seems that Peter fell into the trap of believing that this revelation said something about Peter, rather than realising it was simply God speaking of His Son through Peter. So our hero became – in his own mind – the font of all revelation and wisdom to the point of speaking whatever he thought.
- Col 3:2 Set your minds on things above… [↩]
- Col 3:2 Set your minds… not on earthly things [↩]
- The face of God in Scripture is related to his mercy or wrath: Ps 27:9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Ps 34:16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. Rev 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! Ps 67:1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us,
And seeking His face is to desire His favourable presence. Ps 17:15 And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. Ps 27:8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Ps 105:4 Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. [↩]
- Is 62:12; 65:15; Eph 3:15; Rev 2:17; 3:12 [↩]
- 1 Tim 3:6 [↩]