Author Archives: Michael Fewson

The Divine Image of God Expressed through Entrepreneurial Action

“The whole purpose for which we exist is to be thus taken into the life of God. Wrong ideas about what that life is will make it harder” CS Lewis

Are we to be taken into the (three-personal being –C.S Lewis) life of God, or should we embrace the western world example of familial life? Is the community, birthed by blood into the life of Christ, the form of society we should pursue, or is it modern western religious forms that may or may not reflect the Divine image? And how can we know the difference?

I don’t propose to answer these questions here, they were written as thought provocation for me and my household. What I do propose is that at the least family engaging in entrepreneurial enterprise is a reflection to some extent of the divine character of God.

In what follows I hope to offer 1) a glimpse of The Trinitarian life of God in active entrepreneurial purpose; 2) to offer a thought concerning how functional subordination within the equality and oneness of the Godhead is the fullest expression of love; 3) that there is an ‘anti-work’ that is opposed to and seeks to corrupt every aspect of the Divine image; and finally 4) some thoughts and questions to consider.

So here goes:

Romans 12:2(ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

How do porcupines make love? Very carefully!

The point: it is ‘naturally’ safer to live separate lives and engage in occasional events and activities together – religious and secular – than to pursue entrepreneurial action creatively as a reflection of the divine image supported by the society of Christ.

The Three-Personal Being

As CS Lewis explains it, the Christian God is revealed by Jesus Christ to be a “three-personal being”. The experience of being drawn into this life is evident through prayer.

“[When a Christian kneels to pray] He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the man who was God – that Christ is standing beside him, helping him pray, praying for him… God is the thing to which he is praying – the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on – the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal being is actually going on in that [man]”

CS LEWIS; Mere Christianity

Trinitarian life is purposeful in shared being! We are not ‘three-personal being’ but we exist to live in it together. To try to understand God’s three-personal being is not to say ‘this is God’ but to help reveal that image in people from the creation. To say ‘this is something like how we should be like him in a particular facet of existence’.

Here is my attempt to speak of the ‘purposefulness or entrepreneurial’ nature of the three-personal being, not to define God but to help us see the origins of entrepreneurial endeavours is an expression of the divine nature and to encourage an expression of entrepreneurial purpose in His divine community.

God – the Three-personal being – embarked on and engaged in a most incredible venture, a business venture if you will. In the unbreakable covenant of love God ‘entrepreneurially’ creates and establishes a start-up – “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it” (Gen 1).

Creation, if you will forgive me expressing it this way, is the divine family’s business. That business is expected to bring a return to its owners; there are ‘employees’ who are expected to work for its success; and there are those who are offered partnership in that business despite having no claim to it, offered it by grace, adopted into the family, now participants in the family’s business and heirs to an inheritance.

This business is not a ‘set and forget’ investment, but rather a family endeavour in which each member of the Trinity participates to bring its ultimate purpose to fruition.

Subordinate Love

This Trinitarian endeavour shows us how equality and functional subordination works. It’s not a democratic structure; it is not a board run venture; it is not a dictatorial rule; it is the unity of loving equalityexpressed in functional subordination:

Genesis 1:1(ESV) In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

God(Father) Said(Christ the Word) let there be light(Spirit action).

In the creation event the Father could be likened to the Managing Director setting out the vision or purpose, Christ The Word is the creative agent who ‘fleshes out’ the plan and The Spirit as the active agent oversees its accomplishment.

This also seems evident in the mission of Christ in redemption – to take back the initiative and control over the family business. (I want to restate that I am not trying to redefine creation and salvation but to apply them to entrepreneurial activity in the Kingdom.) Jesus makes it clear that he has willingly subordinated his will to the Father’s will (Mat 26:39; Heb 10:7).

This is expressed clearly in Philippians when it says that though equal with God Jesus willingly subordinates himself to the Father for divine love (Phil 2:6).  In a similar way the Spirit willing lives among God’s people in subordination to the Father and the Son’s directive (Jn 14:26; 15:26).

This is the salvation message, For God, the three-personal being, so loved the world that the Father sends the Son, the Son willingly subordinates himself and comes for the sake of the Father’s love.

So, is a subordinate son of the father not an equal? Is He still God? The key factor is not equality as we understand it nor is it subordination, but LOVE! The three-personal being lives in the equality of subordinate love.

1 John 4:16(ESV) So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Out of this divine subordinate love comes all of creation. The love that God is, yearns to create, and it creates a creature to participate in that love. (Jn 3:16: 17:3)

Revelation 4:11(ESV) 

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Philippians 2:13(ESV) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

An Anti-Work

Did all go to plan in this Trinitarian venture?

God’s heavenly beings or angels exist to minister (Heb 1:7,14) out of His love, but we exist to be taken into that love: (so CS Lewis per 1Jn 4:16). One ‘superior’ angel Lucifer found the subordinate love of a three-personal being to be inferior, a weakness and so refused to exist in the shadow of that love. It was to Satan folly and such inferior folly was crying for a superior to ascend on high and bring the order of superiority: (cf Rom 1:21-25)

Isaiah 14:12–15(ESV)

            12          “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

            13          You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of GodI will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;

            14          I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

            15          But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.

 Though being cast down, Satan, for a time senses this as freedom from the shadow of subordinate love – not realising that it is that very love that allows his existence for a time – and seeks to ‘release’ creation from that love.

Genesis 3:4–5(ESV) But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan, having begun his own work – not a creative or entrepreneurial work but an ‘anti-work’ – is on a mission to destroy creative energy and purpose.

Having identified Satan’s work of death in humanity, we should realise that the same serpent uses the same methods to corrupt and destroy the ongoing business of God – creation and in particular people in it.

Galatians 4:4–5(ESV) But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

At just the right time God engages in the most profound entrepreneurial act – to create a ‘new man’ (Eph 2:15; Col 3:10). This creative act is to unite God and man together. Satan’s anti-work is to divide, separate and destroy.

Once we move from the garden temptation we can move to the temptation of Jesus, the first born who is to be the second Adam. There we do not see something different concerning Satan’s anti-work but the same kind.

After Jesus is baptised in obedience to the Father he is ‘driven’ into the wilderness by the Sprit. He is compelled to fast for 40 days – in obedience.

After his time of fasting Satan appears to tempt him in just the same way Adam was (Heb 2:18; 4:15).

Satan’s tempting of Jesus is in the same spirit as that faced by Adam. In essence he said, “you are God, you don’t need to be hungry, you should turn these stones into bread. Why obey your Father’s mean directive to starve yourself? He only wants what is bad for you but you don’t have to suffer. You have the power to act to be non-suffering despite your Father wanting you to suffer”.

John 10:10(ESV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The renewed mind is required to understand more about the three-personal being, about the destroyer who seeks to steal and to kill, and to embrace, not a fallen worldview of life, work, rest etc, but a divine renewed understanding.

Whereas this article proposes that entrepreneurial endeavours are an expression of the image of God in man and a part of the abundant life found in Christ, the anti-work of Satan has turned such into a ‘secular’ activity, irreligious except when there is money to be had by various groups. My argument is that business and work is as sacred in God’s creation as a Sunday worship service. God established this from the beginning:

Genesis 2:2–3(ESV)  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Final Thoughts:

A conclusion: Satan’s work is to distort and to destroy the image of God in every person and in all human endeavours (Jn 10:10).

  • Adoration of God is replaced by adoration of sports people, celebrities, science, human endeavour and even creation itself (Rm 1:21-23);
  • Existential living as worship has become lustful pleasure-seeking within a world that encourages ambulatory centres of selfishness (1Jn 2:16);
  • Business and creative enterprise has been reduced to enslavement of others, self-glorification and death for profit (Jer 22:13; Jm 5:4-6);
  • Religious service can become self-serving and pharisaic control of people’s access to God (Mat 23:13).

Human nature seems unable to genuinely live with diversity. Instead of accepting or celebrating diversity – perhaps due to a distorted expression of The divine Image crying from within for unity – each school of thought requires compliance, lobbying for legislation to enforce that view in a misguided attempt to create some utopian world order after their own image.

If this is accurate then Christians are compelled to express an ‘anti-image’. The spirit of Antichrist (1Jn 2:18) is actively creating an image that is NOT Trinitarian and so as Christians shouldn’t we pursue, to the best of our understanding and ability, Trinitarian life? And encourage even distorted forms of it? Or do we seek to enforce by persuasion our own perception of what Christian unity and life must be?

So, I hope in Christ for two things:

  1. A Christian ‘spirit’ that embraces Trinitarian expressions in their various forms, no matter that they are not conformed to our own imagination. And, if not rejecting outright then at least viewing with suspicion the modern patterns of this present world (present darkness?).
  2. A groundswell of households who will stand as Joshua did and say:

Joshua 24:15(ESV) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

And that many families will discover as Cornelius did, that salvation comes, not simply or primarily to individuals, but to households (Acts 10; cf Act 16:15,31

Some questions: if, as Lewis says, the whole purpose for which we exist is to be taken into the life of God:

  • Can we exist in relationship together in God’s subordinate love?
  • Can we be formed into a community birthed in and by the subordinate love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
  • Can we engage in creative entrepreneurial endeavours as children of the Father?

Romans 12:1–2(ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  • According to Romans 12:1-2 spiritual worship is found in existential living.
  • According to the Adamic mandate, received on the sixth day of creation (Gen 1:27-31) the purpose for people who exist in the life of God includes working in His creation according to his image in us.

You are responsible for your own life – stop blaming others

Don’t waste your life on idle pursuits! Know what you are pursuing and why you are following so that the value will be recognised and the price paid willingly.

1 Corinthians 11:1(KJV 1900) Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Much has been written about being a visionary – but for every leader there must be followers. How does a ‘follower’ evaluate their own hearts and embrace a worthy vision? (As an aside any covenantal relationship, such as marriage, is visionary. To participate in the ideal of divine order – marriage – as set out in Scripture it should be embraced, its value a prize worthy of the cost of living and loving in the midst of broken, fallen humanity.)

There are three types of people who follow a leader/visionary. They are identified by their response to the value of the vision, which is measured by the price paid. Jesus’ vision was to die on the cross to save the world from sin. Not a small or easy price to pay. He called people to join him in this endeavour, to take up their own cross and follow him. Did he and his disciples believe it was worth it? Judas didn’t think so. Nor did the crowds who one day said Hosanna and the next yelled crucify him.

Disciples of Jesus were not identified in the crowds during the good times, they were notable  in the absence of the crowds; found at the cross… when death was at hand… they didn’t follow a crowd or a spectacle but a vision and a calling…

Apostle Paul – the visionary

An apostle is a good example of a visionary or an entrepreneur. Such people have a clear vision and a passion to pursue that vision, willingly engaging in and paying the price for its ultimate attainment. A visionary is, from a Christian perspective, a person called of God and given a vision to embrace and pursue.

Philippians 3:14(ESV) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

A visionary is focussed on the attainment of a goal and, by nature of the calling, attracts and even asks and encourages others to participate in the quest. It is not a call to follow a person, but a call to participate in laying a hold of “the advancing Kingdom” in this day.

Unfortunately, human nature is fickle and there is no telling what it is that ‘followers’ have actually embraced. Are they participating for the ‘loaves and fishes’, are they following because they idolise a person, or have they seen and become enamoured with the vision, agreeing that the pursuit is worthy of their own lives, a quest worth pursuing?

Is it a journey of personal profit? Is it embarked upon because the visionary is great in human eyes? Or is it a journey that is great in itself?

Great people attempt great things because they are great: fools attempt them because they think its easy!

The following passage shows something of Paul’s followers as he moved toward paying the ultimate price of the calling:

2 Timothy 4:9–16(ESV) Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!

The three notable examples of followers can be seen in this address of Paul to Timothy – and it is in line with Jesus’ teaching of the sower and the seed in Luke 8:4-15.

So they are:

  1. Demas – One who followed a ‘great man’ but not a ‘great vision’. These followers have no real heart for the vision. They are enamoured by, and inadvertently become, worshippers of the visionary. They have no self-awareness or understanding of the meaning of the cross of Christ or His gospel of the Kingdom. They follow a man rather than God, until they discover they are not on a pleasure cruiser but a battleship. The vision is not a holiday destination for tourists but a construction site for workers.

Such a person is ‘in love with this world’. Simply put there hearts are rocky. They seem to grow and flourish but when the going gets tough, when they are tested and find they are actually accompanying a person leading them in the way of the cross, they desert the vision and the visionary. The cost is too great for the pain to be endured.

  1. Alexander – was one whose singular purpose was to do Paul harm. Like Judas such people seek personal gain. They follow because others are following and they believe they can have some advantage.

Like Korah who opposed Moses, or Absalom against David: they seek to possess the followers of the vision, but in their eyes it requires the destruction of the visionary and the mission. These are the ‘thorny hearts’ that are driven by pride or possessions or pleasure.

  1. Luke – a man who knows himself and His God. He didn’t follow Paul because he thought Paul a great man or a god; he followed because he believed in the mission. And he was convinced his place was beside a man Christ had called to pursue the Kingdom in his time in history. A good heart that holds fast to the truth no matter the outcomes.

Conclusion – A visionary cannot excuse a follower from personal accountability

Matthew 25:23(ESV) His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

You are responsible for your own life. What you embrace, where you go, the price you pay, the people you journey with, the vision you seek to possess.

Amos 3:3(ESV) “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

Don’t waste your life on idle pursuits! Know what you are pursuing and why you are following so that the value will be recognised and the price paid willingly.

Building churches or Thy Kingdom come?

Recently I saw a post titled “leaders, not pastors, build churches”.

This stirred in me the question “who builds church?”. Followed by “are true churches actually built?” or should churches be built? and “what exactly is church anyhow?” And finally, “when did church become synonymous with The Kingdom?”

From an early age I was aware of a ‘calling’ on my life. And for over 30 years I have pursued the traditional idea of ‘calling’, albeit with internal conflict. I felt a call to be an influencer of society yet tradition dictated the gift belonged to the church. I saw people ‘grow’ big organisations that we called church, but no matter how big they were, no matter how many politicians or eminent people spoke in their pulpits, the objective always seemed to be the reputation of  church, while society continued on its own merry way oblivious to the mandates of Christian thought.

What we believe church to be invariably controls our thoughts concerning church and the Kingdom and thus our ‘witness’. Is church an agent for social change? Is it meant to be a ‘force for good’ in society. Is it meant to be a welfare source for the needy? Or is it simply “the gathering of the citizens of Heaven meeting in Jesus’ name to worship Him?”

Matthew 18:20(ESV) For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Has church misrepresented the work of Christ on earth? Does church membership equal righteousness? (As the pharisees in Jesus’ day preached)

What does it mean to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “I will build my church”?

If we see an organisational entity called “church” as the vehicle of change in this world then it becomes the thing we pursue rather than God’s Kingdom.

Should we not be seeking His Kingdom? – that is, the rule and reign of Jesus Christ on earth; thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven!

Has ‘church’ become a consumer of Kingdom resources at the expense of Kingdom mission?

Wilberforce and Newton worked to see slavery abolished… Thank God the calling did not get side tracked by ‘church service’.

Andrew Forrest – a businessman and a Christian – was able to gather world leaders of all religious and political persuasion together to form a strategy against human trafficking a few years ago… had he been seduced into ‘church service’ would it have consumed his gifts for organisational purposes?

Church is the gathering of disciples of Jesus to exhort and encourage and motivate… NOT to consume talent…

Disciples are called into Kingdom service, NOT church service. Calling is always Kingdom…

Gifted men and women are more probably the agents of change in society

The church is the gathering of the saints in worship and fellowship; the Kingdom is the rule and reign of God through His Christ.

We serve the King – and thus His Kingdom – We do not serve church! It exists only through the fellowship of Christ in love. It is nothing more and nothing less…

Christian businessmen and women, nurses, doctors, lawyers, politicians, service people, hospitality workers etc in service to Christ are the agents of change in society…

Just a thought….

Christ in You

Colossians 1:27 (ESV) … the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The deception of modern ‘christianity’ (small c) is that religious rituals or church membership equals saved. Such beliefs, promoted by the pharisees and Roman Catholicism, are the very beliefs the early church and the reformers fought against. Yet now they have again become the human stamp of what a christian is. As such self-evaluation is comparing one’s self with others and by this determine they are ‘saved’.

Salvation however, comes through ‘faith’ in Christ alone. If, through repentance and faith in Christ salvation comes, then salvation is not an affidavit but a radically transforming encounter. It is proceeded by the entrance of Christ Himself into the life of the faithful. This is what the reformers died for.

Colossians 2:9–10 (ESV) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Those who are saved are redeemed not because of their affiliations, but because of the indwelling Jesus christ.

If christ is in you as the hope of glory, then the fullness of the Godhead has the lead to effect all that you say and do.

This transforming work of Christ reproduces His counter-cultural ministry. Jesus’ revolutionary ministry can be described as apostle or ambassador, prophet, evangelist and shepherd teacher.

Ambassador – As Apostle Jesus’ life was controlled fully by the will of His father. Ambassadorial service exists for the good of the represented – in this case the Kingdom of God.

Prophet – He clearly distinguished between and revealed good and evil. Capable of recognising the institutions that were ostensibly good but actually evil. He saw the heart of man and was not filled by political correctness. He recognised the advancing Kingdom of hHeaven.

Evangelist – He spoke as one seeking to rescue people from the evil. The only way to be saved was through faith alone, in Himself/Christ alone.

Shepherd teacher – As the good shepherd, he never just ‘loved on people’ rather He called them to follow Christ. His teaching produced a counter-cultural revolutionary people who rejected the philosophies of the world in which they lived. The religious, the cultish and the atheistic. His teaching was to righteousness not to earthly comfort.

Christ is in you is the greatest underserved, unmerited privilege. Such glory surely will burst out of any vessel it resides in, producing abundant witness and ministry.

John Wesley once called this effect the “effectual power of a greater affection”.

As ambassadors of Christ, captivated by His love and mercy, His will alone demands our hearts and our action are conformed to His image and will.

As Prophets, we are not fooled by the deceptive reasoning of antichrist or the slanderous propaganda of the god of this age and are able to discern The advancing Kingdom.

As evangelists we will only be content with the Word of Christ as gospel.

As shepherd teachers every radical disciple of Christ seeks to influence others to become   counter-cultural revolutionary.

The riches of the glory of the mystery of the gospel is this – Christ in you the hope of glory.

A Discussion On Worship

Worship – The adoration of Deity.

Worship was, in its earliest form, the act of prostrating ones self at the feet of the object of worship. Over time its usage was transferred from an outward gesture to the inward attitude.

Thus:

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

The cultic religion of Israel focused on the place to which one went for the act of worship and the prescribed method of worship.  By location and by ceremony the worshipper is comforted that the duty of deity worship had been realised. [1]

Indeed it was a means of controlling the worshipper. Fear of not ‘appeasing’ the deity through worship gave the priests or, in Jesus day, the Pharisees power over the people.

John 12:42 (ESV) Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;

Freedom in Worship

Jesus radically redefines worship as He speaks with the Samaritan woman. She raises the issue of location in worship:

John 4:20 (ESV) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

His response abolishes the notion of worship as a ceremony, at a sacred or holy site, and presents spirit worship:

John 4:21 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

John 4:23–24 (ESV) But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The S/spirit worship of the early church was radically different to cultic worship – both Jew and Gentile worship. No longer was worship dependent on a location, or cultic ceremony, or on the leading and administration of worship by an elite group. Worship was decentralised so that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, was worshipped freely. So to the worshipper was free to worship his God with out human mediation or control and without fear.

The early Christians had no fear of being excommunicated from the synagogues for they were able to worship in spirit and in truth anywhere, anytime, however the Spirit led. The form was less important than the attitude or heart.

True Christian worship was freedom in Christ to worship God in spirit and in truth without fear of rejection.

Worship in Modern Church Gatherings

Modern church gatherings have not evolved freely and unaffectedly from that early Christian worship. Rather its form has been handed down by the same systems that Christ’s death delivered the worshipper from.

What persecution was unable to do the Constantine/Roman Catholic religion did by manipulation re-establishing the control and fear of cultic worship. The true worshippers freedom was deceptively replaced by controlling cultic religion.

Control and fear is the order of religion. Freedom in Christ is the true worshippers portion. The religio-political system that was the roman church, ensured the establishment of control and fear; the building, rather than ‘where two or three are gathered (Mat 18:20)’, became the place of worship; the priests were the mediators between God and the worshipper not Jesus Christ (1Tim 2:5) and the mass became the form of worship and the rite of acceptance by the deity over faith in christ.

Displease the ‘church’ and the worshipper is no longer able to worship. Excommunicated, mass is withheld, separation and damnation the punishment.

Each proceeding religious form has come from that system. The protestant reformation and other movements became God’s vehicle through which Scripture and theology were again freed and placed into the hands of the worshipper. But the mistake so often made is to then deify all and every act of these reformers.

Luther, Calvin and others used the ‘power of the church’ to control would-be worshippers who disagreed with them. And so today, denominational and non-denomination leaders or pastors or CEO’s – regardless of title – feel a sense of authority and power over the worshipper.

Not to simply criticise, couldn’t we carry on the spirit of reformation into every aspect of this freedom into which Christ seeks us to enter in the fulness of ‘worshipper in spirit and truth’?

If we are truly free in Christ, why do worshippers feel obligated to participate in the religious service of a legally constituted religious body?

If worship is the living act of obedience to God through the worshippers life, why do we ‘go to worship’ and why are we ‘led in worship’ and how is it that we enjoy a ‘worship service’?

Summation – Is Worship Led Or Done?

of course the question is deeper than that. Whereas we may conclude that in the cultic worship of Israel they had directors or choirmasters, is Christian worship meant to be the same?

Church-gatherings as we know it, have evolved, not from the early church and its organic life, but from the religion of Constantine and the protestant reformation etc.

Whereas music plays a significant part when the church gathers (something worthy of further consideration) why has it become “Worship” to be led or conducted by the “worship leader”?

Music is certainly a divine gift as means to aid in the communication of Scripture and theology and is an effective aid in memorizing it. It also plays a significant role in the worshippers ability to address the ‘mood’ of the day and bring a more focused response to it. Has it become, is it really meant to be, a cultic ritual through which worship is defined?

To communicate to one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:18-20) is to build and encourage each other in the faith (Jude 20f). Rather than the domain of the professional clergy/musicians it could perhaps be a family and friends celebration rather than a structured religious form? And perhaps its significance as a prelude to prayer is to be embraced over its power as an entertainment form or emotional manipulation.

WORSHIP – THE ADORATION OF DEITY

[1] Greeven, H. (1964–). προσκυνέω, προσκυνητής. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 6, p. 758-766). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

The Life Quotient

There is not a single decision you will make today that does not have a life/death quotient.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

A Powerful Mantra: Choose Life and Live

I was talking to Hannah and Michael about choosing the right food pointing out that the the more human intervention there is in the food chain the less nutritious our food is. This led to a discussion about life and death as the result of Adam’s sin.

Adam and Eve had life and death set before them in the simple directive to refrain from eating a certain fruit. There was no meanness in God’s intent, no keeping Adam and Eve from good things. To the contrary, they were offered EVERYTHING in the garden, and it was ALL GOOD. One thing only was forbidden; it was a test of trust, faith and honour. A simple choice that had opposite outcomes dependant on that choice. Take the fruit, you have chosen death; refusing the fruit is a choice for life. It wasn’t really about fruit though, it was a choice of trust and believe; between God’s word and Satan’s word. The serpent spoke an opposing word… who was speaking truth? Adam and Eve judged God to be the liar and satan to be the speaker of truth. So life became to them death.

2 Peter 1:3 (ESV) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

Like Adam and Eve, everyday we are given the choice between life and death.

Here’s what I noted in my discussion with Hannah and Michael… everything that man touches, no matter how useful and/or good it is, has an element of death attached. Genetically modified food, even modern farming methods may produce greater yield but its nutritional value is affected. Medicines may control one disease but at the cost to particular bodily organs. A car is excellent transport, but it pollutes the atmosphere and so on.

I cannot think of a human invention or a human intervention that does not have a ‘death’ component built in. In other words, everything humans touch adds death.

I cannot think of a single thing that, if taken in its natural form as God created it, produces anything but life… even in death. If we throw an apple core to the ground it will breakdown and feed the soil. Throw a plastic bottle to the ground and it will pollute the soil.

With a little insight we will see in every decision a life or death quotient.

James 1:17 (ESV) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

In every decision:

Choose The Life Quotient

Are You a Victim of Circumstance?

Luke 16:8 (ESV) The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.

A retired US military intelligence officer and regular at our cafe, told Dale about the service record of a navy seal commander. At one time in his service he was summarily ‘sacked’ by his commanding officer. In the military such an event is the end of a career. However, rather than being the end, this man went on to become an admiral. Apparently it was because he was able to find acceptance by other commanders and, through tenacity, did the unthinkable.

Rather than becoming a victim of circumstance, rather than have his future fall victim to another’s decision, he took control and changed the future his former ‘boss’ intended.

This reminded me of the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-8.

The manager, who was basically the managing director of his bosses company,  was accused by others of mismanaging the business. Whether the accusations were true or not, when the owner heard them the manager’s employment was immediately terminated. This account parallels that of the admiral… when the manager was sacked, rather than accepting the prospects of a future controlled by another, he judiciously took control. He went to his former bosses business partners and reduced the exorbitant interest charges on their account. Thus he was able to find an alternate future suited to his skills and plans.

Rather than accept the end of his career, rather than becoming a victim of circumstance, he took control and changed the future his former ‘boss’ intended.

Jesus commended the manager saying that the people of this world exercise better judgement and commonsense that most Christians. 

In the Word Biblical Commentary, John Nolland expresses it like this:

Luke draws from the parable the lesson that, despite this state of awareness, Christians seem less effective at cutting their cloth to their situation than do the worldly wise.(Nolland, J. (1998). Luke 9:21–18:34 (Vol. 35B, pp. 801–802). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.)

No one has your future in mind more than Jesus Christ. He died to release you from the victimisation of circumstances (sin?). Through this parable Jesus is saying there is no glory in being a victim in life.  Through the judicious exercise of good judgement take control of your future rather than passively accept circumstances that produce failure, defeat and death.

Don’t be a victim of circumstances… be active in pursuing your future…

Church or Kingdom

Matthew 11:12 (NIV84) From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Luke 16:16 (ESV) “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

The Kingdom and The Church

Today the distinction between The Kingdom and The Church has been lost. Though lip service may be given, the reality is that evangelism is predominately church recruitment, church attendance the evidence of being born again, church activity the seal of maturity.

The gospel proclaimed by Jesus and His apostles was not good news of salvation, though salvation is definitely a result of the gospel. And naturally to those who are delivered it is very good news. It is not good news about blessings or about relevant, contemporary church services. The gospel of the NT is the gospel of the Kingdom.

Matthew 3:2 (ESV) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (ESV) From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 6:33 (ESV) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Acts 8:12 (ESV) But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 20:25 (ESV) And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

To be ‘born again’ is to gain entry into The Kingdom.

John 3:3 (ESV) Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The Kingdom, as the term suggests, implies the rule and reign of a King – Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:20-28 essential reading to understand the advancing Kingdom). Those in His Kingdom; the people of His Kingdom, are those whose allegiance is to the King of Kings.

In its simplest form, Church is the people of the Kingdom meeting together.

1 Corinthians 11:18 (ESV) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church

God’s people gathered as the church, is greater than a gathering of individuals; Church is more than the sum of all its parts. Together, it becomes a dynamic body, the unique mix of gifts and talents, coordinated as one in Christ (1Cor 12:12-31).

Synagogue or temple

The temple was THE place of sacrifice and worship. It was the physical location that symbolised God’s abiding presence: Under the old covenant the temple is where God dwelt. The NT reveals the typology of the temple. It was a shadow of the reality that was to come (Col 2:17). The temple of the new covenant is the people of God, citizens of His Kingdom.

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NIV84) Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

It is interesting that by Jesus day the synagogue had greater emphasis than the temple. People would go to the temple but it was the synagogue that held power over the people.

When Jesus cleared the temple He referred to its significance as ‘God’s temple: “It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt 21:13) but concerning synagogues, the gospels says Jesus taught in “their synagogues” (Mat 4:23; Luke 4:15). Even in His own home town we are told “he taught them in their synagogue”. Though synagogues had been established as ‘teaching houses’, and once served a valid purpose, they had become places of control and fear, usurping the significance of the temple and became ‘the‘ religious power base.

John 9:22 (ESV) (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)

John 12:42 (ESV) Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;

When did the synagogues become the place of forgiveness and deliverance? How did the rulers of the synagogues become the power holders of people’s access to God and to deliverance?

The rulers of the synagogues became judges and the synagogues places of accusation (Lk 12:11); they judge people’s work based on membership of the synagogue (Lk 13:13-14). The synagogue was a place of self-advancement and justification (Lk 11:43) Jesus warned that synagogues would be places of oppression (Mk 13:9).

And finally, in Revelation they are referred to as ‘a/the synagogue of satan’ (Rev 2:9; 3:9).

And so by Jesus time a place established by men as a place of meeting for teaching etc became a religious organisation, ruled by political men, power-seekers establishing themselves as statesmen, judging God’s people. Those who participated in their synagogue were good, those who questioned the doctrine of the synagogue or challenged its authority or simply by accident crossed its rulers were judged and condemned.

Jesus was scathing in His assessment of what the synagogue and its rulers had become:

Matthew 23:16–24 (ESV) “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

The temple was a place of God’s presence, of sacrifice and forgiveness, or righteousness and mercy, it was replaced by the synagogues, places of man’s rule, of judgement and condemnation, self-righteousness and aggrandisement. A place that offered acceptance, not to seekers of the Kingdom and righteousness, but for this who are members, and judgement and persecution for those who seek the Kingdom apart from seeking their approval.

Synagogue and Legal Religious Entity

What is called church today is not a gathering of people of the Kingdom but a legal religious entity. It consists of rules, by-laws, statements of faith, buildings, programs and religious activity that the faithful adherents attend. These entities are legitimised by government, have legal status, tax benefits and notable structure.

Church in the NT was simply a gathering of the people of the Kingdom. The people gathered together in fellowship. It had no legal status, no rules, no by-laws or statements of faith, it was deliberate gathering of and commitment to the teaching of the apostles and pursuit of the knowledge of God in Christ. They met in homes and in the temple porches, no buildings, programs or religious activity. They met together to share the ‘Lord’s supper’ or love feast, to prayer, fellowship and praise (Acts 2:42).

Throughout the ‘so-called’ history of the church we see from Constantine onwards, a religious power base, no different to what the synagogues had become. Throughout this history there have been people of the Kingdom breaking free of theses ‘synagogues of satan’ seeking to return to the place of the temples freedom. To become the people of God in whom the Spirit dwells.

Revelation is not politically correct nor trying not to offend when it describes these institutions as synagogues of satan. John the baptist was not being polite when he called the power holders of this pseudo-jewish religion “a brood of vipers” (Mat3:7) Jesus was not being a statesman when he called the leaders of these houses of satan, blind leading the blind.

Matthew 23 is a clear diatribe of Jesus opinion of these men and their synagogues:

Matthew 23:4 (ESV) They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Matthew 23:13 (ESV) “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

In Revelation 3:9 Jesus says that “those… who say they are Jews (citizens of The Kingdom) are not”.  In Matthew 7:21 Jesus warns that just saying you are a Christian doesn’t make it so. He says that many will say they have done things in His name to which He will reply, “depart from me, I never knew you”.

Legal religious entities, like the synagogues of Jesus day, have become pseudo-christian religions, anti-christ in nature as they exist to usurp the Kingdom. That’s not to say all ‘churches’ are, but throughout history, if we have eyes to see (ears to hear the Spirit), we will note that gatherings of God’s people eventually become politicised – it was power holders in the Christian community that convinced Constantine to embrace Christianity and conquer the world. Through his efforts the name of Christianity went from persecuted minority to imperial religion. It became everything Christ opposed – thus ‘anti-christ.

And so, throughout ‘church history’ the people of the Kingdom, the church of Jesus Christ, have been persecuted by the synagogues of satan, pseudo-christian religion in the guise of legitimacy given by legal authority from the state. Constantine established it and so today even well intentioned Christians seek “caesar’s” legitimacy on their endeavours.

The conflict of the Kingdom is not a conflict against the world but against anti-christ. This fight has existed from the apostles days.

1 John 2:18–19 (ESV) Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Pseudo-christian Religion V The People of the Kingdom

Pseudo-christian religion has buildings called church, it is ruled by power-holders (pharisees), appointed by men, validated by theological degrees and letters of recommendation.

 

People of the Kingdom are the church when they meet for prayer, teaching, sharing the love feast in remembrance of Christ. They gather in homes, cafes, parks etc. They are led by elders, given as gifts to the church gatherings to teach etc.

PSEUDO-CHRISTIAN RELIGION                      PEOPLE OF THE KINGDOM (SUBJECTS of)

  • Seeks affirmation from society                 Seeks affirmation from Christ alone
  • Ruled by power-holders                             Ruled by Christ
  • Rulers seek control and recognition        Leaders seek Christ
  • Speak to itching ears                                  Speak Kingdom and warning
  • Promotes its own truth                              Promotes Jesus alone as The Truth
  • Judges those outside never itself             Never judges outsiders only self

Concluding Remarks

Many people, who long for Jesus appearing, sense these religious organisations called church are just not ‘it’.  Its very function and existence seems to contradict what we sense The Church of Jesus Christ should be. The rulers of this synagogues proclaim a message that Paul says is really no gospel at all. (Gal 1:7 NIV84)

This has certainly been my experience. The more I seek Jesus Christ and His Kingdom the more I see within me the trappings of the pseudo-christian religion of western society and the more I rebel against it. Like a free radical, I find myself in opposition to the patterns of legal religious entities. I don’t seek union with them. I seek Christ and His Kingdom. I seek to be living in His Kingdom conformed to the pattern of His people gathered together, whatever its form, wherever it gathers, believing that only there will Jesus Christ be manifest in our midst…

Matthew 18:20 (ESV) For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

The tragedy is that we have been caught in the lie that these legal entities called church are in fact the only legitimate forms of church and we fear, just as the jews of the synagogues feared, that somehow these synagogues, these rulers have power over our souls. That to be seperate from them is to be seperate from God.

We were raised to believe that if a group is not legitimised by the government it is not really church. If we meet together in various locations in a non-systematic way and our meetings are not sanctioned by state registration, then it is an illegitimate group and not a church. (The SSM controversy is evidence of that. The institutional church is horrified as though marriage is a state sanctioned contract rather than a covenant established by God and before God.)

The New Covenant church however is the people of the Kingdom of God under the authority of His Christ (Rev 12:10). They meet together from house to house to break bread, and for prayer and for instruction etc. The elders are not ‘carded’ ministers recognised by an ordaining body but gifts of Christ recognised for the gift of Christ that they are (Jn 10:4; 1Jn 2:20,27).

Perplexed but not driven to despair – refreshing is coming

2 Corinthians 4:8–9 (ESV) We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

Heading into the shower this morning – a great place to meditate and pray – I was thinking of the many people in my sphere of influence who are experiencing spiritual struggles.

Personally, recent years have come with major crises and battles that have wearied me to the point of being perplexed and almost driven to despair. But at each point, when i most felt crushed, forsaken, struck down and willing to succumb to despair, the unfathomable grace of Jesus Christ has broken through.

I received a report recently and entwined in it was an expression of weariness. A look at society demonstrates that “this present darkness” is moving freely and unabated in an effort to obliterate the light of the witness of Christ in His people. It is no wonder those who are disciples of Jesus Christ are under huge pressure and affliction, while the pseudo-christian religion is adapting to the struggle through passive acquiescence.

Contrary to the ‘evidence’ of circumstances and the natural world order, I sensed that things were about to change. While in the natural the struggles have seemed overwhelming, and there is no sense of the raging of darkness slowing, I have sensed a word of change for the people of Jesus Christ.

Is this a Spirit Word for the people of Christ? You need to judge for yourself, in Christ.

All I can say on this matter is that the false prophets recorded in Scripture, were motivated by position, possession and pleasure. They spoke from a position of influence with political powers, they sought to speak words that compare favourably with those political views and they were rewarded financially and drew wide based support and following. Prophets of God tended to speak out of suffering, oppression and weakness. They were always social pariahs. This was also true of the Apostles of the NT.

I’d rather listen to a voice in the wilderness than a ‘successful’ media-preacher. I don’t believe there is a ‘calling’ to preach the blessing… only a compelling mandate to preach Christ crucified.

Usually, when I hear the Spirit speak, it is an event that cuts across my thoughts, my feeling etc,  totally disconnected with my current focus. This is how it came, so Im thinking and believing that it is a Word of encouragement. Though this present darkness will continue to advance – in accord with God’s ultimate plan and purpose – a change in the personal experience of those who are the people of God is coming. Those who have been wearied under the weight of spiritual oppression and darkness, TAKE HEART, tears are in the night but joy comes in the morning. The two witnesses of Revelation (ch 11), a type of the witness of the church in Word and deed, is apparently destroyed by the spirit of antichrist, but after three days they receive the breath of God (Spirit). This is typical of the refreshing empowerment of Jesus Christ.

A great falling away is happening:

Matthew 24:9–14 (ESV) “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

But a great empowering is coming to those who have endured…

People of the Kingdom Perhaps?

Matthew 24:5 (ESV) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

2 Corinthians 11:12–15 (ESV) And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Growing up as a pastor’s kid  I could not reconcile the business of religion with the Jesus I believed in. So at an early age I rebelled. While serving in the army I had a divine encounter with Jesus that changed my life. So I went back to the religious structure I knew as ‘church’. After 15 as a pastor/church planter, I finally gave up trying to reconcile the politics of self-serving organised religion with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. (The book I wrote “Will the Real Church Stand Up” is a seminal expression of the beginning of a journey to discovery)

Today’s musing is on the nature of the people of the Kingdom (Mat 4:23; Lk 16:16).

The Gospel of Jesus is the good news of His Kingdom (cf Act 28:31). Jesus is King; His Kingdom has come (Mat 11:12 12:28); it advances forcefully and people who are His (Jn 6:44) are forcing their way into it (lk 16:16).

Scripture, to those who are His own, becomes ‘the living Word’ and cannot be used for self-advancement or personal advantage because they believe that scripture is the revelation of Christ and His Kingdom (Jn 5:39). Scripture reveals Jesus and His Kingdom to and for the people of the Kingdom. Obedience to the King is paramount.  Scripture is not a book of rules or ethics for human interaction to be mandated by pseudo-christian power holders, but God’s self-revelation in christ (cf Jer 31:31-34; Mat 26:28):

The people and behaviour and mindset of His Kingdom is diametrically opposed to every other worldview (Rom 12:2).  Jesus demonstrated time and time again His counter-cultural Kingdom. The call for Jesus to judge in a matter (see previous musing) on which he declared He had no opinion on, exemplifies this.  His response is unique, He refused the role of arbitrator, and refused to have an opinion on the ‘rightness’ of the dispute.

The Church of Jesus Christ is not contemporary nor relevant to society, it is non-conformist, in absolute opposition to the modern synagogs of pseudo-christianity with an irreconcilable worldview.

Pseudo-christian religion tells others what truth is, loves the world, accepts sin and calls righteousness judgmental – people of the Kingdom seek Jesus as truth, love one another, witness in the world without judgement, but judge sin in the body of Christ.

In Jesus’ time the synagogs had members who followed Jesus, but the synagogs themselves were systemically opposed to the Gospel of the Kingdom because the gospel disarmed their power over people. Pseudo-christianity is anti-christ.

End time deception, as prophesied throughout Scripture, will not come in the form of opposing world religions, it will look like and sound like ‘an angel of light’. It will say, “come, Christ is here.” it will have you believe that participation with them is participation in salvation. The Church of Jesus Christ is not an edifice or a legal entity or organised religion, it is the people of the Kingdom living in His love (not the same as the love of undiscerning acceptance). In the world but not of it. It seeks no affiliation with political powers or structures nor contemporary acceptance. It seeks only Christ and His approval.

So my musing: how do i pursue non-conformity to the patterns of pseudo-christianity and seek Christ Jesus? To know His Kingdom and how the people of His Kingdom think, see and live – as those who are in the world but not conformed to it?