“To a Mature Man”: Stage 2–Temple

My dear little brother,

– – Last week, I shared about Jesus in his Humanity being born of man, and having a lot in common with us. Since the day He was born, He has been showing us the real meaning of the Image of God in man: Humility.

Jesus

The next stage is what we have in Luke’s Gospel at Jesus’ 8th day old and his 12th year old. The significant stage when Jesus was recorded at the Temple has two different parts which are super important for the man or the woman who is coming into their fullness as a Little-Christ.

The First, is Blessing,  (Luke 2:21-40.) A parent has such love for their children, and here it seems to me that God showed favor to the little boy Jesus by sending Simeon and Anna to bless him. This was such a wonderful practice which ties to the Old Testament like in Genesis when Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children and spoke words that would come to shape their direction. (Genesis 27, 49) Notice that it is the blessing that precedes any command. From the beginning we have this pattern,

  • “God blessed them, and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28)
  • In the Ten commandments, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me . . . ” (Exodus 20:2-3)
  • The Sermon on the mount opens with blessing and continues with commands. (Matthew 5)
  • Even if you look at the Great Commission, you have a very interesting phrase, “And he blessed them and said, ‘All authority has been given me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples . . .'” (Matthew 28:18)

It appears that God’s pattern is to bless his creation, profess his goodness, then to stress what he wills for the creation to do. If we see this pattern throughout the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, should we be surprised to see it in Jesus’ life?

The Second thing, is Learning in the temple at 12 years old. In Philippians, Paul said, Jesus ’emptied himself.’ in Philippians 2. He needed to be taught. His understanding and his ‘answers’ amazed the teachers in the temple as he submitted to their teaching. Recently, I saw a Mormon video of Jesus in the temple himself doing the teaching, but the Canon of Scripture the Church worshipfully chose and keeps says, in Luke’s account that he was

. . . sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.~Luke 2:46

That is the pattern of one who humbly receives from those wiser and older than he. It is this stage of Jesus’ life where he was growing super familiar with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. As Jesus did for his disciples in their “stage 2” when he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” In the later stages, Jesus was only able to do the teaching he did because he had passed through this stage, having received God’s blessing, and having been taught God’s Word. He had been given the full framework for His own person and spread out his understanding to fully grasp his story.

Christian

These days, I have seen a fading in the excitement of seeing mass conversions to Christ, because so few of them seem to be followed up by something evidently genuine. People hear the Gospel, (which is a crucial part of Stage 2) but they do not progress beyond that. It appears that the person who has only reached this stage where they receive God’s blessing and learn God’s teaching, but progresses no further in their walk are merely shown to be soil that is hard, stony, or thorny. The word of God bears no fruit, and their heart is proved worthless.

The importance of this stage, however must be kept at the level with all the others. It is the blessing of God which reminds us how much we owe him in worship, glory, and thanks, for making us and giving us such good gifts. Many churches still are very intentional about blessing their congregations. Also, exposure to and training by Christians keeps on shedding light and nourishment on the soil of the heart filled with the faith of a child– faith which according to Jesus is necessary to be saved. In today’s time, a Christian will likely receive much of this stage in the temple of the church, though in relationship with a small number of believers it is possible. In this stage a Christian has certain things he must be sure he gains, things he must take care to avoid.

Application:

Gain:

  • Blessing– learn how much Good blesses and loves you through the blessings of people in the church. Learn how his love has shaped them, and as one who is in a later stage, take it upon yourself to extend God’s blessing to the world so they can know God’s love and goodness in a personal way.
  • Knowledge of God— Many claim to know Him, but have no idea who He is, or how or why he does things. The Scriptures bear witness to this: “In [the gospel] the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17. It is this faith by which a Christian can live. If he lacks this knowledge of God, he can by no means be saved.
  • Understanding about yourself. I am hesitant to put this in, because there’s all kinds of hoaky stuff out there about “be the best you.” and “Know thyself” etc. Still, even some popular theologians like John Calvin have recognized that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self are inseparable. Here, the value on self-understanding is not for the purpose of Maslov’s self-actualization. It is more for the purpose of the prodigal son when he “came to himself.” It’s that moment when you come to the end of all that you are and recognize that you are totally broken and corrupt and in rebellion against God. This is crucially important for the Christian who seeks to enter the next stage.
  • Wisdom of God–Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) There’s a certain way the world works. It needs to be understood in light of the Story of God’s interactions with fallen humanity. Stories teach us wisdom even more so than they do knowledge.

Avoid:

  • False Teaching– Jesus reserved his “Woes” for those who taught God’s word incorrectly. People who twist the Scriptures having neither, the spirit nor the letter correctly settled in the heart create great problems in the life of God’s people. Matthew 23. Measure up everything to the Scriptural revelation of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t ring true with him ask more questions.
  • Traditionalism— There are those who have sought to make the church accessible to the three bad kinds of soils previously mentioned: the shallow, the hard-hearted, and the worldly. Avoid these things as you grow in Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.
    • For the hard-hearted, they can still hear about Jesus, but they won’t be required to actually believe it. Maybe to fit in they will be required to do only superficial demonstrations of devotion like raising their hands, giving money, and attending regularly, nothing really all-involving.
    • For the stony-hearted, they can come to church, but there won’t be any really challenging doctrine that requires them to take deeper looks at themselves. They will have plenty of good man-teaching that will teach them have to grow maybe some AstroTurf lawn grass but no fruit.
    • For the thorny-hearted, they can come to church, and hear God’s word and even do some worthwhile things, but they won’t be required to clear out all the other stuff that’s important to them. They can come to church one day a week and six days of the week keep a garden of worldly thorns like entertainment, work, family, and possessions.

Summary: The Second Stage of a believer’s life is where the truth and blessing of God pour into a person. A person who is seeking to grow “To a mature man” needs to gain the blessing, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of this stage while avoiding False teaching or Tradition. Until a believer has biblical faith, he is not ready for stage 3.

Final thought: This stage could be compared with childhood, and for the Christian, I believe he can take comfort in this: that he is fulfilling this part of his Savior’s word, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Mt 18:3.

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“To a Mature Man” Stage 1–Birth

Jesus

Okay. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God. The account of His birth ties him to His heritage. Matthew traces it back to Abraham, the Faithful Father of the Promise, the Father of the nation of Israel. Matthew 1, the genealogy which in brief relays the story of the Old Testament. In Jesus’ line there is a lot of mixed-baggage. Here are a few examples:

  • Abraham–Faith, but a cowardly liar
  • Jacob– a God-grappling deceiver
  • Judah with Tamar– self-sacrificing, but ignoble
  • Rahab–God-fearing prostitute
  • David–After-God’s-heart wife-stealer
  • Solomon– Wise man with too many ladies
  • Rehoboam– Just a jerk
  • Jeroboam– Weakling
  • Hezekiah–God fearing naive king
  • Manasseh–baby-killer
  • Josiah– Rediscovered God, but too late for everyone else.

And more. Those are the main ones that stick out to me. Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3 has many of the same names.

At the end of this list is Joseph who has a dream that his virginal bride-to-be is actually going to give birth to a baby named, “Jesus.”

“For He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name was given before birth, which to me indicates that he was not disconnected from his heritage. On the contrary, he was going to fix the mess that everyone else had made. This baby was born to make good all that was made bad before him.

His birth, though he was of royal blood, was in an animal feeding trough. Humble I believe could be the best way to describe it.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was driven to Egypt out of the land of Israel, a people who once lost all their new-born kids to the king of Egypt, by the King of Israel who killed new-born kids of Israel. Tragically ironic. Whereas the current King of Israel wished to seize and to slay, this humble king was content to sleep and to lay.

“Out of Egypt I called My son!” Matthew reminds us of the story of how Moses had to stand for God against the King, as God brought His nation out of the womb of Egypt with tremendous birth-pangs. They came out with the spoils of Egypt, decked in all the jewels and gold of the welcome to the world as a new nation with One God.

Christian

You, my dear brother, were born once. I often find that not many Christians (Believers in Jesus Christ) recognize things they have in common with Jesus. Part of the purpose of this series is to help recognize some of these things. After all, according to Romans 8:29, Paul said,

“God foreknew and planned out that Christians would be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus] so that [Jesus] might be the first born among many brothers.” [and sisters]

If my father read this,  I would tell him, I am not laying any claim on divinity for us humans, as it is true of Christ. We are of the earth, and we are creatures: we cannot be divine in Jesus’ way. Even the on the other side of resurrection, the end of humanity isn’t divinity according to Revelation 22. What I am saying is that the humanity of Christ is human enough for us to relate with him and identify with him as his brothers and sisters. In fact, in some ways He’s more wholly human than we are brokenly. For instance:

  • While you and I have an earthly father and mother, Jesus did have an earthly mother.
  • “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 “Jesus Christ is come in flesh.” 1 John 4:2
  • He had a real physical body that breathed, bled, lived, died, felt pain, felt weakness, wanted things.
  • He had siblings growing up.
  • He had a community of people around him who knew, cared about, and at first spoke well of him.
  • He had friends.

There is plenty of room in the image God: Jesus, for human you, also made in God’s image, to fit. He’s Humanity 2.0! 😀

“To tell you all of this again is no hard thing for me, and it is a safe guard for you.”

Church

And I want you to be aware that this view of Jesus as Human is not welcome in some churches. Gnosticism is, as my professor Dr. Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary said in his video, “Gnosticism and the Early Church,” a trend that affects the doctrines and practices of the church from even before Christ until today. It involves: three fundamentals:

  1. The tangible world isn’t real.
  2. The tangible world is hated or deprecated in value
  3.  One needs an elitist knowledge of how things *really* are in order to be saved.

It manifests in churches that do not value the material world around them, and have beliefs that God isn’t out to redeem the physical world, but rather to deliver our immaterial “souls” from this evil material world, and we need to know the truth that sets us free from our physical bondage to things like possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit. “It’s an old garment anyway.” they say. “One day I’ll be free of my physical body and get to live forever with Jesus in a spirit-only world!”

Trends like this tend to hurt the church’s witness, because we value more thinking and experiencing than doing or accomplishing tangible results. Furthermore, it’s not in keeping with the overarching meta-story of Scripture. Jesus was just as much human flesh as you and I are, yet without sin. And it was THAT humanness that was the perfect representation of His nature. What’s more, the fact God became a physical tangible human being means that He has tied himself to our physical reality. And just as our bodies will die one day, this world will die one day. As our bodies will be changed, so the earth will be changed. The Spiritual is not at the expense of the tangible.

If however, Jesus was born, and the Church is the body of Christ, then the church is just as much human as it is spiritual, and that’s a good thing.

Pitfalls

In these stages, I plan to share a pitfall for each one, to avoid to ensure your own or someone else’s progress through the stages. At this stage in a Christian’s life, he is being exposed to the person of Jesus Christ, being reminded of true humanity through other Christians. The pitfalls he must avoid are false religion or False gods. Whatever we worship or believe comes to define who we are, and to believe things that are untrue, or fashioned after an ungodly spirit is to cheapen one’s own humanity. This of course presupposes that Jesus Himself is the True Human. If a person comes to believe something about humanity and the spiritual world that isn’t true, it will be a stumbling block and a hindrance toward their growing up into maturity. What a person in this stage needs is Exposure to Christ. To meet a Christian and be struck by their dissimilarity with the rest of the world. This gets a person started on their journey toward Christ. Let him avoid the paths that diverge from the Way after myths, false gods, and false religion.

Application (The part I know you really like)

  1. Take care not to de-human-ize Jesus. It’s really not honoring to him. His humanity was the perfect representation of God as the perfect image of God, and he has reset the Human race on a path to the full actualization of God’s character in the church.
  2. Be human! And base your definition on Jesus: humility. The apostle Luke was intentional to show the disciples of Jesus doing even the miraculous things Jesus did, like raising the dead even! Read Acts! Show kindness to your fellow humanity. Don’t think you’re something special. Be humble.
  3. Render to God what is God’s. Count your very being as a physical image stamped with the likeness of God. And recognize that you were born to represent Him on the earth, even as Jesus was born.
  4. Represent the earth before God. Not only is humankind the representative of God on earth, but the representative of Earth before God. Who better to be a mediator between these two realms of Heaven and Earth than one who smells of both homes.
  5. Avoid the Pitfalls.
  6. Read the Bible as a human. Here’s a logic puzzle:
  • If Jesus is both divine and human.
  • And Jesus is the Word of God,
  • and the Bible is the Word of God,
  • Then Why should the Bible be read only as Divine communication? Should it not be read just as fully as human communication? It was the resurgence of the humanities which helped Erasmus to translate the Greek New Testament, and Martin Luther to get a hold of the Word of God as it was meant. To read the Bible as a human means you read it as an author talking to a listener with pre-understandings and time-less eternal truths living in each of their hearts.

Final point: Every human who seeks to follow after Jesus must start at this point. To be human from birth. In short, a man must be born before he can be born again.

“To a Mature Man”

My dearest little brother,

– – We have been following Jesus together for a number of years now, and this Fall, it seems you will be moving out of my immediate range. While you are gone, I’ll miss your company, and talking with you, and sharing more insights into the mystery of walking with him. I know you’ll have plenty of growing to do where you are going, even as I still have plenty of growing to do here, but as you are going, I wanted to put these following blog posts in a place where you can get to them easily, and possibly share them with others who you get a chance to be a big brother to. It is an expansion on the 10 stages of the Christian life, based upon the 10 stages of Jesus Life, which you know has been my keen interest these last few years. In answer to the question, What does it mean to be a real, full-grown Christian?” I have arranged these reflections in a manner that I hope will be easy to understand, and appreciated for their ability to help you examine your own walk with the Lord. I know we both desire for the Church to be what God wants it to be. Thank you for your willingness to follow along with me as I follow Christ.

As Christ has loved us,
Let us love one another.

With Christ’s love,
Your older brother

Outline

The Stages of Jesus’Life as the Proto-Christian are these. The first four are Preparatory. The Second four are Kingdom. The final two are Post-Victory.

  1. Birth
  2. Temple
  3. Baptism
  4. Wilderness
  5. Community
  6. Service
  7. Justice
  8. Persecution
  9. Resurrection
  10. Ascension

I’ll dedicate one post for each of these stages with one final post to conclude.

P.S. Until all the stages are up, I’ll keep the outline at the front for reference, so you can scroll down for stages as they are available on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m.