Friday, April 08, 2005

Made in His Image

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be created in the image of God. It seems that in the past whenever I’ve thought about the image of God I simply thought that it had something to do with being good, perfect. This doesn’t even seem to touch the surface. It entails so much more than that. In essence we were made to be everything that God is only on a smaller scale. Think about a really good model car, speaking of which, I went through about a 3 month period of my life where I was really into model airplanes… I just remembered that. Anyway the car, the little car is in the image of the real thing… you see that? Well that means that when we’re studying about God and getting to know Him, whatever we notice in Him is supposed to be reflected in some way in our lives as well.
“God is love”. In His essence God is love. But I was reading something the other day that made me look at this in a totally different light. Love requires an object. You can’t just love in general; it has to be directed towards something. Does that make sense? So if God is love then for all eternity there has had to be an eternal object to the love of God. This is Christ. Wow. For all of eternity God has existed in the Trinity in perfect love. This means that we better exhibit the image of God when we are loving others. This sheds a whole different light on the fact that we are to love God and others. When we do so, not only are we doing what God has asked from us, but we are better fulfilling our imageness. This is blowing me away right now.
I’m overwhelmed by the fact that the image of God means relationship. It’s always been intended that way. That’s why God created Adam and Eve in his image, so that the union between the two of them could better represent Himself. In this life marriage has become the biggest analogy ever. Through the union of a man to a woman we can see two things better. One we can see the type of relationship that God wants to have with us, we are his bride. Two, we can see the type of relationship that exists within the Godhead better. If you want more insight into this relationship then you can eavesdrop on a conversation that happened between Jesus and God recorded in John 17. Here Jesus is talking to God first about the disciples and the believers that were around at that time. Then he talks about us. I want to point out three things from this conversation. First, we can see the relationship that God had with Jesus before the world existed (vs 4, 5). Secondly, Jesus is asking God that we have the same relationship with God that He has with Him. And then thirdly, Jesus is asking that we have the same relationship with each other that the Trinity has within themselves. This is mind-blowing! Could you imagine if these things really came true?
The point that I want to make in all this is that the image of God is relationship. We have done a poor job in modern Christianity of understanding this. We always separate our, individual, personal relationship with God from our relationships with others. This just can’t happen. The Scripture makes it very clear, if you know what to look for that being a believer is a community event. We cannot separate these two relationships.
How does this look? I really think that they had it right in the New Testament church.

Acts 2: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

life on a pedestal

We tell people that we don’t want to be put on a pedestal (often in false humility) but we live like we belong there. And we don’t want to shatter the image that other people have of us. What’s this all about? Why is it that we think that if other people see our faults then they won’t like or respect us anymore? I was thinking about this whole pedestal thing so I looked in up in the dictionary. And it mentioned two different things that are accustomed to being on a pedestal: a statue and a basin. Now, I might be getting a little too “new-agey” here but this really hit me. All too often we live our lives as if we are the statue on the pedestal, we don’t want people to see our faults, we don’t want people to see our imperfections. Especially for those of us that are in some kind of position of leadership, we think that we have to be perfect; we have to be setting the example. But what happens is that we don’t let anybody inside; we shut ourselves off to being truly and completely known by anyone. Okay, so then I started thinking about the basin. And there are some qualities here that I think we can really work toward; like transparency. I’ve realized that until we look at transparency as a core value then we’re never going to really change. We’ll continue to be on the pedestal. Now I’m not saying that we need to tell everybody everything in our life. What I am saying is that there does need to be someone that we are telling everything to, and with everyone else we need to be transparent up to the point that it is beneficial to them. People need to know that we’re not perfect; they need to know that we struggle in certain areas, just like they do. We can even share what areas those are in a way that will be towards their edification. But as long as we shut people out of our lives, in fear of what they will think of us, we’ll never experience any sense of life-giving community.

Proverbs 29:25
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe

Ephesians 4:15
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Monday, February 28, 2005

We’re so lonely…

I just don’t understand it. You’d think that as mature believers we would somehow understand how to really connect with people. Right? I just don’t get it. Everywhere I go I realize that we just aren’t getting it. We’re not experiencing anything similar to life-giving relationships. Not even close. In fact we’re lonely. All of us, we’re so lonely. We’re cordial, even caring and friendly, but our relationships lack depth. This is serious. Do you realize this? Jesus said that the world would know that God sent him when they saw his love lived out in our community. I can’t overemphasize this; it’s just not possible.

Please stop for one second, take a breath. Think about it. Look at your relationships, all of ‘em. Are you really experiencing life-giving relationships? Are you sharing your life with others?
Let’s look at how it’s supposed to be. Look at the end of the second chapter of Acts. Look at the things they were devoted to. They were mutually committed to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship and to shared meals and to prayer. Is this true about us? Can you honestly say that you are a part of a community that is committed to these things? What would it look like if we committed ourselves to fellowship and to prayer? I’m talking about sharing our lives with each other. Look farther on, it says that they had everything in common with each other, sharing meals in their houses and even selling their stuff to provide for each other. Isn’t this foreign in most of our lives today? But you know that you long for it. If you’re like me right now there is a stirring in your heart as you think about this. For real, stop right now and take 30 seconds and with your eyes closed, think about what it would look like if you were a part of a community like this.

Okay, now why aren’t we experiencing this? Is it cause we’re scared? Is it cause we’re insecure? Is it cause we’re afraid of what others think about us if they really knew us? Are we masking our loneliness by surrounding ourselves with other people all the time, but never really connecting? It’s like, we know that this is what we’re created for inside our inmost being and we crave the companionship of others, but we’re too scared to really let them inside. So we just let them stay on the surface. Think about this, it’s kinda like we need a certain amount of relating, we have a relationship quota, but we’re filling it with relationships that are a mile wide and an inch deep when it needs to be inverted. Does that make sense? We keep ourselves busy with a bunch of relationships of convenience that just barely satisfy our “relationship quota” but never touch down into our soul. So what are we to do about it? You know that you long for this type of connection with others. Are you willing to start doing something about it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

the walls of doctrine

We’ve built up the walls of doctrine so high that we’re secure inside. But we didn’t put in any doors. No one can get in. We’re sealed off from enemies and allies alike.

I am so thankful at the education that I’m experiencing here. It’s such a blessing to be at a place that has such a strong focus on being doctrinally sound. I never want to underestimate the price that was paid so that this could be a reality. Okay, now with that said, we need to be realistic about the downside of this revolution.

It seems that we’ve built up the walls of doctrine so high that not only have we blocked out every opposing doctrine, but we’ve also blocked out everything else… and everyone. We are so secure inside our doctrine. I don’t just mean secure within the convention or denomination. I mean individually. And we’re lonely. We’ve put up the walls of doctrine around us and in so doing we've isolated ourselves from any meaningful relationships with others. It’s like we’re afraid that if we let anybody into our lives then they’re going to pervert our orthodoxy. So where does that leave us?

It leaves us with strong core values concerning purity of doctrine but none regarding community, intimacy and relationship building. And since Christianity is about relationships how are we to explain the disconnection? We are so critical of the emerging church because of their lack of genuine orthodoxy and rightly so, but they have an understanding of the community that Christ intended for the church that has regretfully become foreign to us. We need to read what they are putting out, filter it through the Bible and reclaim the community and depth of relationships that characterized the New Testament church, which is absent on this campus and in the church abroad.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

it's not about being moral

Satan is the ultimate deceiver and for everything that God offers us he has many godly-looking counterfeits. Satan has offered us a false love, a false sense of relationships, a false honesty, a false sex, a false sense of worth and acceptance, and a false understanding of God’s holy standards. Just because it appears moral doesn’t mean it’s from God. Satan will do all he can to make you moral, he wants you to be moral, that way your lifestyle isn’t godly or offensive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

the not-so-great commission

If you continued reading past the title then you’re already either annoyed or refreshed. To be honest I’d like it if you were a little of both… I know that I am. I’ve grown up in Christian circles and we’ve always been challenged by the Great Commission out of Matthew 28. Unfortunately if you were in an independent, fundamental environment you probably only heard the KJV (“Sixteen-Eleven straight from Heaven”) which has a poor rendering of the text; it says “Go ye therefore and preach the gospel”. However, more recent translations have pointed out that a better translation of the original language would be to go and “make disciples”.

Now this might not seem like that big of a deal to you, but to me it’s HUGE. Think about the connotations involved. To preach all you’re doing is getting in front of a whole lot of people and speaking (I realize this is a disgusting simplification, but bear with me). To disciple involves two people: someone who is further along in the Christian journey, and someone who desires to grow in Christ. These two form a relationship where the younger can learn the Christian life from the discipler.

See the difference? When your audience is a non-believer the goal in preaching is to gain a convert. In discipleship, conversion is only the first step; the ultimate end is the production of another mature believer, who himself will be capable of discipling others. It’s so much easier to stand in front of a bunch of people and present information than it is to let somebody else into your life and pour everything you have into them. There’s no risk involved in preaching you control the environment, but when someone is looking to you everyday and learning from your life, expecting you to carry him or her along, you better be careful. It’s so much harder when real relationships are involved.

There’s so much more that can be said about this. But for now let it suffice that we need to be intentional in the way that we pour our life into others. Let our focus not be on conversions as an end in itself, but rather as conversion as simply the first step in our mission “make disciples” as our Lord commanded.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

genuine apologetic

We need to stop the progression. We are no different that non-believers. In fact, on the whole I’ve experienced more “community” in the secular world, in the restaurant of a kitchen, than I have experienced among Christians. And I was the poster boy for American Christianity. In fact, I can still remember an occasion where my two worlds collided and the world supported me more than the church. How pitiful.
Let’s stop here for a second and ask what it is that we have that the world wants. What do we have to offer a world out there? What in our lives are they going to pick up and say, “That’s what I want… that’s what life is all about”? Seriously, if you are not a Christian, what appeal does Christianity have? What do they have to offer? What does the Bible say about this? What does the Bible lay out as the ultimate apologetic for the Christian faith?

“Oh, I know this one. We’re supposed to have all the right answers. In fact, I’ve put every unbeliever into a category that explains them perfectly. If you want to witness to them you just use this program and you can go step by step explaining the Gospel to them.”

“Well, no, actually we just need to prove our academic superiority to someone for them to believe. We need to get them into debates and prove them wrong. Basically, after we rub their noses in it they’ll see the error of their ways and give into God.”

“Sin, sin, sin. They’ve got it. We’ve got the antidote.”

Okay, I’m using hyperbole here, sorry. The point is this in John 17, while Jesus is praying, he tells us what it is that will prove to the world that he was sent by God as our Savior. You know where I’m going with this? Our fellowship. Jesus wants to see us so close in relationship to him and to each other that it proves everything that he came here to do. And he’s right. Jesus summed up everything in the Bible with loving God and loving people; how have we screwed that up? It doesn’t matter what knowledge you have of the 4th Laternal Council, or of the Genitive of Possession, or of the existential ramifications of the Synoptic Eschatology, if you love God and love others then you’re on the right track. The corollary is also true. I could diagram every sentence in the Bible and not love God or my brothers and sisters well and be a horrible Christian. Being a good Christian has nothing to do with a degree in Theology, it has to do with loving.

Let’s think about this.