To a Mature Man: Closing Remarks

To a Mature Man:
The 10 Stages of the Christian Walk

# Stage Do Acquire Avoid
1 Birth Meet a Christian Exposure to Christ False Religion/ False gods
2 Temple Listen to God’s Word Blessing/ Understanding Traditionalism/ Formalism
3 Baptism Repent and Obey Holy Spirit’s filling License to Sin
4 Wilderness Depend/ Trust/ Devote/ follow him Confirmed power of Spirit Compromise
5 Community Testify/ serve/ seek Mission announced Man’s approval
6 Service Meet physical and spiritual needs Power’s achievement Worldly concern
7 Justice Stand against evil man for God Refute and remain
disentangled
Appeasement/ Cowering
8 Persecution Endure; forgive The Cross’ victory Apostasy
9 Resurrection Stand and give thanks To see His face Deception/ Disobedience
10 Ascension Rule Heaven & Earth A good world Pride

Insights:

  • You may notice that the beginning stages of walk with Jesus are quite individual, but the middle stages are communal. This is not by accident, nor intentionally. I think it is discovered design. It is because the life of a Christian is a life in conjunction with other believers. God will need to have his time alone with you, but you will need to be with the body of Christ if He is to use you to the fullest.
  • It may seem superfluous to write about the last two stages, since beyond the grave, we will have fewer cares and concerns. But I see that when they are all laid out, certain patterns and relationships emerge.

Example.

  • Humility–Stage 1 and Stage 10 are both largely concerned with Humility and avoiding Pride in exaltation.
    • Truth–Stage 2 and Stage 9 are both concerned with Heeding God’s word and not being deceived by anything less than him.
      • The Cross–Stage 3 and Stage 8 are the initial death to the world at Baptism, and the world’s fulfillment of that death in Persecution.
    • Battle–Stage 4 and stage 7 are the initial testing before God, and then the fulfillment of that testing before man as one stands against the people who are controlled by the Evil one who was faced already in the wilderness.
  • Love–Stage 5 and 6 are the community living together and fully operating in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the world what community and love really look like.

So is the first Chiasmic pattern recognizable in these stages. In it, the emphasis on Humility, the Cross, and Love are emphasized as the beginning middle and End of the Christian life.

  • Another insight, looking back on the stages: you may notice the ordering of the stages from inner-most circle to outermost circle. Once a believer is baptized, he grows in the innermost circle of relating with God, then he grows outward to the next circle of inter-relating with believers, then the next circle out is relating to the world, and then the outer circle of standing against the forces of evil. Our ministry does indeed spread outward from this central locus of being with God, and extends outward to offense against the enemy.
  • This insight lends itself to another: This, for all believers is the order of ministry, and let it never be forgotten, as some tragically have forgotten, and have lost all power, life, and effectiveness, and courage for their ministries.
  1. Stage 4: Our first ministry is to the Lord
  2. Stage 5: Our second ministry is to the Church
  3. Stage 6: Our third ministry is to the World
  4. Stage 7: Our fourth ministry is to the Powers

Dear Brother, no matter where you go, never forget this principle! Minister to Him first, then give first consideration to the Church, then the world, then go against the powers of the enemy. This will render you fruitful in your ministry, and abundantly so.

  • I also hope that it has become obvious through these writings, how important it is for a believer to be set apart from the world to God. The Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian from a non-believer. In stage 3: Baptism there is a clean break, in stage 4: Wilderness there is no compromise, in stage 5: Community there is a casting off man’s approval, in stage 6: Service there is an avoidance of worldly concerns, and in stage 7: Justice there is a disentanglement that must be kept. The reason for the separation at all of these stages is stage 8: Persecution. It is the most profound and most defined manifestation of the Gospel, and few are they who will endure to the end. This is the Cross the Christian must carry, and the world will seek to pull the believer back into its clutches from the day he says he will follow Jesus. And the world needs the cross every generation, in every place for the reminder of God’s love living in his followers.
  • Another word: some who read these stages may say, “This isn’t Christianity. This is SUPER-Christianity.” I would like to reply to such a person that any Christianity that does not measure itself by the standard of Christ isn’t Christianity at all. Therefore, there is no real Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Any Christianity that is assured in itself apart from the measure of Christ and leads others into the same folly is nominal and misguided at best and at worst blasphemous and diabolical.
  • Finally, there may be some who say, “What do I do if I have fallen into one of these pitfalls along the way? What do I do, if I am stuck?” One word: REPENT! Run straight into the arms of God, and out of the world’s (and thereby the devil’s) clutches. Just as Jesus told Peter who was opposing him when he said,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

No matter what pitfall you are in, this is how we get back on the path with Jesus: by putting off the old life, embracing His new life, and following Him to maturity.

Closing

Ephesians 4:11-13

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

It has been my hope, dear brother, to equip you for the work of service, and to build you up with the body of Christ until we all attain unity of faith. The knowledge of the Son of God in these posts, will, I hope, grow you to a mature man, according to the measure of the fullness of Christ’s stature.

May you rise to the occasion of these posts and press onward to the prize of what awaits in the New Heaven and Earth for all who love His appearing. My heart is opened to you, and I trust that God will raise you up so that you will be able to soar with Him on wings of eagles as you trust in Him.

I look forward to walking with you for as much longer as the Lord will have us together. God’s grace and peace go with you, my friend.

Your older brother

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“To a Mature Man”: Stage 10–Ascension

One of my favorite words, dear brother, is accession (more so than ascension)It is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the act or process by which someone rises to a position of honor or power.” This is the final stage for the Christian as it was also the final stage of Jesus Christ on this Earth. Even in this stage, I propose that there is a pitfall.

Jesus

When Jesus had passed from life to death, and from death to eternity, where else could he go except right to where he belonged: “the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2) Notice, that he himself is not on the throne, but at the right hand. He has not supplanted God, but rather has taken his place at God’s side. This echoes back to the humility of the first stage of Christianity: the humility to submit to God to the end. And the one who is humble takes up his rightful place by God’s side.

And what is he doing there? He is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Christian

At the end of the Bible, in the last chapter of Revelation, we have one concluding sentence for the end of the revelation of the New Heaven and Earth, “And they [God’s servants] will reign forever and ever.” And where will they reign? The New Heavens and Earth. Humanity will take its place which God intended from the beginning, the rulers of God’s good creation, walking in fellowship with Him, and serving Him, and representing Him on earth. No more curse, no more pain, no more death. This is the full grown humanity 2.0 in Jesus Christ that has fully come to its zenith with no setting.

And what is the Christian doing: Simply put, he is doing the will of the Father. In the beginning the human mandate was, “be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” Genesis 1:28. This sounds like the New Heave and Earth will need this too.

Pitfall

There will be no curse, but there is one sin left that could possibly contaminate even this good world. The last sin here is brought up the first sin: pride. Thanks to the Opposer’s pride we see how a good world can be ruined, and there are many spiritual powers who will have witnessed the full extent of the evil one’s works, and they will also recognize the Glory of Yahweh. (Ephesians 3:10-11) So, when you too come to the end of all things and the new beginning, settle in your heart that you will have no cause for rebellion in your heart.

Application

  1. Worship God with a whole heart. Serve Him faithfully, with no treachery of spirit against Him.
  2. Bear fruit for God as His image on earth. Fill the earth with His glory.
  3. Take heed lest sin begin in you also, and let the fear of the Lord keep you ever from doing evil.

Final thought:

God has destined humanity to rule, so long as they image Him well. He has a lake of fire for all who will not serve Him or thank Him for His goodness. His image will be restored, and all whom the Lamb does not record will be cast into the Lake of Fire.

“Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are just!” Revelation 19:1-2a.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 8–Persecution

My dear brother,

Jesus as the Example

Jesus, born human, temple-taught, baptized in Holy Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, on a mission, advancing the kingdom, and calling man to return to God’s Justice– this man was betrayed by his friend, abandoned by his followers, beaten, mocked, accused of evil, struck with rods, whipped near to death, un-protected by the justice of man, driven, stripped naked, nailed to a cross, and hung there in agony upon agony for hours, until he gave up his spirit and died. All of this and more is what I mean by persecution. When he did however, he showed how to respond to our persecutors: Trust in God, and Forgive your persecutors.

Assurance

– – Paul told Timothy, his true child in the faith, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” He could say this with assurance because of what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:18-21:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”

We know that this is the road on which all Christians are heading. It is why we are carrying a cross on our back, so that our persecutors won’t need to find a cross to do away with us.

According to the unsealed scroll of the Lamb in Revelation, beautifully demonstrated in the Bible Project’s first Read Scripture video on Revelation, the persecution of Christians, and the vindication of them by God is the one thing that brings the nations to repentance. God’s judgment alone does not bring about repentance, but further hardens people’s hearts in rebellion against God. It is when people see the saints imitating the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross that they see the character of God and are either damned or redeemed. This is the message of the cross that is so offensive to the world, and so saving to those of us who know Him.

Jesus knew humanity better than anyone else, and he knew the Scriptures give insight into humanity better than anything else, and because of this, he knew persecution was inevitable. And so, he called the believer to be equipped for it. “If anyone seeks to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” So often you have heard people talk about denying themselves and picking up their cross, but really few Christians in our circles do. This means a lot more than going through a hard time.

Some Problematic Ideologies

I have heard some believers say this to me, and some might even be saying it in their heads now as they read: “I knew it! The only way the church can be woken up is to be persecuted. We need some persecution in order for there to be a revival.” This is wrongly ordered. The Church does NOT need to be persecuted to be awakened. The church needs to be awakened in order to be persecuted. How’s that for a motivation for Revival Church meetings? Do you want another Pentecost now?

Many other Christians have come to faith being told that Jesus went to the cross so that they don’t have to. A gross misinformation. I hope you were not brought to Christ with that non-sense bargain. Jesus went to the cross to show how much God loved you, and show you how much to love your neighbor. If you’re not ready to give your life (either by living or by dying) for your friend, can you rightly say that Christ is living in you? “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” ~Romans 8

Many Christians cannot bear the thought of this stage, because they have not passed the other stages. They are already fallen into pitfalls content to merely pursue spirituality, or stay babes in tradition, or use their regeneration as license to sin, or compromise with the Evil One, or seek the approval of men, or do all for a worldly end, or appease the evil rulers who wish to shut them up. But for those who will do none of these things, persecution is the only way that the world can shut up the truth– by killing the messenger.

And finally there are those who may mistake this exhortation for a call to seek out persecution. Nope. Jesus in Matthew 10 instructs his disciples,

“Whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.”

Jesus avoided people who were trying to kill him until his time had come, but when it came, he showed us how we are to behave in this stage.

As you would face persecution I would encourage you to read and reread 1 Peter, and Matthew 10 gives all the instructions needed, especially vs 16-32, but there are more applications fruitful to consider in light of other passages.

Application and Pitfall

  1. Arm yourself with this purpose: to suffer for Christ. Keep yourself ready at any moment to be given up as an offering to God, by denying yourself and daily laying everything down. Peter exhorts the church in 1 Peter 4:1-2 to do the same. “Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”~1 Peter 4:1-2.
  2. Don’t die til Golgotha. Jesus had a specific place and time to give his life. So, I tell you, don’t lay it down sooner than the place God has for you. Jesus eluded people’s grasp when they tried to seize him. (John 10:39)
  3. Entrust yourself to God. Peter wrote of Jesus that “while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. “1 Peter 2:23. Dear Christian brother, this will be your ultimate test of faith. Trust Him. He is good, and there is more going on than you can see.
  4. Avoid the pitfall of Apostasy. Do not deny Christ when your life is on the line. Remember what Jesus said, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22. Do not think you have suffered enough. Jesus suffered to the end. Don’t give up. There is more of his love to show that the persecutors need to see. When you have no more love, remember that it is God’s love that is your reservoir. He will give you what you need.
  5. Forgive your persecutors. Jesus didn’t just tell us to forgive others, he showed us at the darkest moment of his life what it means to forgive others. On the Cross, he cried out, “Father forgive them. They known not what they do.” Stephen when he was stoned, said, “Lord do not count this sin against them.” This is supernatural love.
  6. Testify. If you have a chance to share the gospel with your persecutors before you give your life, let the Holy Spirit bring the words that they need to hear.
  7. Rejoice! In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, there are recorded the brightest flashes of holy joy on the faces of those who paid the ultimate price as Jesus did. Do not be afraid. You are entering into the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ! Rejoice! The world will see Heaven’s reflection on your face, just like Stephen’s!

Final Thought: There are countless brothers and sisters being persecuted right now. These brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ. With real blood they are suffering real pain. And when people forget how much God loves them, the persecuted and the martyrs remind us: Jesus’s body still bleeds for the world.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 7– Justice

Dear brother,

– – Recently, I saw someone post on facebook that they didn’t believe the Church should be a platform for social justice. I can agree with this on one point as was discussed in the previous post: the Christian must avoid using God’s power to fight battles that are not God’s Kingdom battles. On another point, I disagree. The church should be the example of real justice under the One True Judge of all humanity. This idea of justice being the next stage beyond Spirit-empowered Service, has much that needs to be said about it:

  • The Biblical concept of Justice
  • The Activeness of Injustice
  • Jesus’ example
  • The Church’s Pattern
  • Application

BIBLICAL JUSTICE

It is rather unfortunate in many modern congregations at which I have attended, in popular musicals, and even popular music on the Radio, that Justice is derogated while Mercy is praised. It seems that Justice has come to mean, “rigid adherence to rules at the expense of people’s true benefit.” I am appalled at the misunderstanding, and find it rooted in a misapprehension of the Biblical meaning of Justice.

In the Bible Justice, as the Bible Project explains in their video on Justice, is “Retributive and Restorative.” That means that the purpose of Justice is to restore people’s dignity and right standing before God and man. This idea of Justice continues into the New Testament as a people of God are constantly identifying with the poor, weak, and oppressed and treating them as people made in God’s image. This idea has been lost in many Christian circles, but as anyone who has been wronged will tell you, it is vital to the Church’s mission.

Because of what happened in the Garden, we now have two forms of Justice: God’s Justice, and Man’s Justice. These two are split because of sin, and that split is the cause of all the conflicts we see in the world today. To stand for Justice means to stand for the Kingdom of God systemically and diametrically and fundamentally contrary to the system of sinful man’s justice. It is calling humanity to submit to God’s justice and do that justice to their fellow man.

It was this Justice which Israel was neglecting when they got away from the Torah after David and Solomon’s reign. They entered into greater, and greater injustice though the prophet cried out to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1

THE ACTIVENESS OF INJUSTICE

And Man’s justice is riddled with injustice in the world today. This isn’t simply because of a lack of good, but it is due to evil people using their power for themselves, to build their own kingdoms on the back of those who lose much in the process. This is a justice taken out of God’s hands and placed into the hands of sinful men.

The reason why this stage comes later than Service, is because Service is an advance of God’s kingdom in smaller ways, which accomplishes a pillaging of the Kingdom of Darkness. A domination of the Kingdom of Darkness will require a more thorough dealing with the roots of the problems and binding the strong men that caused people to be spiritually and physically bound in the first place.

This justice can only be achieved by taking a stand directly against the ones who are causing the injustice. God’s justice vs. man’s justice.

JESUS’ EXAMPLE

Jesus faced the ones who had usurped their power and authority to leave people physically and spiritually impoverished: The religious leaders. Just read the woes against them in Matthew 23.

  • They keep people out of God’s Kingdom.
  • They have gotten people’s eyes on things of man rather than things of God.
  • They neglected the weightier provisions of the Law, Justice, Mercy, and Faithfulness.
  • They outwardly looked good while inwardly were greedy and wicked.
  • They claim allegiance to God, but put his servants to death.

They have changed God’s justice for a system of man’s justice. And when Jesus spoke these things, the Pharisees tried their own subtle tactics of power-bending. “Let us try to catch him in something he might say.” We see this episode unfold in Matthew 22.

Just as Jesus was in the wilderness and tested in three ways, so now, once again he is tested in three different areas. Indeed it was the three tests he had already faced and conquered that prepared him for this one.

  1. Political. Should we pay taxes to Ceasar or not? Here Jesus is given the question of whether or not he will submit to the rule of a fallen man, and council others to do the same. Jesus masterfully handled this by reminding the people and the Pharisees that they were to recognize the high authority of Ceasar, and the HIGHEST Authority of God who had stamped his image and name on his people. God’s Justice supreme to man’s justice.
  2. Theological. Misunderstandings about God cause debates. The debate in Luke 20 was about Resurrection and Marriage, and Jesus corrected their thinking in both instances by going back to the character of the One, and how he made what he made. Who is the God and what is His Character? You must submit all theology to the One who truly is God, and include Him in the conversation.
  3. Scriptural. Then the Lawyer asked him what the greatest commandment was, and quite interestingly, he combines the love for God and the love for neighbor, which is the fulfillment of the whole Torah. This is the Justice of God: to Love your neighbor. A far cry from man’s justice. This is the Kingdom of God coming in relationship with each other.

Jesus counselled the people listening to him in this way in Luke 20,

46 “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 47 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.”

THE CHURCH’S PATTERN

And so, we have people who submit to God’s rule and God’s Justice–the Church, and we have those who operate according to Man’s Rule and man’s justice. The church does not deny that there is a rule of humanity under God. It’s that the rule is under God that is so important. In stage 7, a believer must operate according to the rule of God, and oppose, and speak against the rule of man which hinder’s God’s justice from being done.

This will mean not just pillaging the villages of the conquest of man’s injustice by healing, preaching, casting out demons, and serving, but also going to the Capital City of the Authorities who are not submitted to the rule of God. As Jesus opposed the religious leaders’ rebellion against God politically, theologically, and judicially, so Paul the Apostle went the whole way to the highest authority in the land, the Emperor. Paul is an example of one who went all the way to stage 7, by seeking to right the Kingdom of Darkness back under the rule of the King of Light.

The Church also must operate under this same directive, but not without the Spirit’s power. The pitfall to avoid in this stage is Appeasement. This means submitting to the Kingdom of Man in a way that prevents a supernatural spread of the Spirit’s work in the world.

One example of this in the secular arena can be seen in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, when Jack Ryan goes all the way to the President of the United States and shows the president how crooked he is. How does the ruler respond? With submission to what is truly right and just? No, but with flattery, threats, and attempts at appeasement. First he says, “You’re not going to tell on me. You’ve got a chip in the big game now, You’re gonna tuck that away for a day when your a– is on the line, and I’m going to cash it in for you.” This tactic does not succeed, and in the second attack he basically says, “You can’t do this to America. America can’t afford another scandal right now. They’ll more readily blame you than they will blame me.” And Jack does not bite. Third, “And the rest of the blame will fall on [your honored friend] Greer.” Personal, Self-interest, National interest . . . it is the way of the powers of the world to threaten, manipulate, obligate, and enslave: all to keep the system of man’s rule in tact, without submitting to God’s rule, justice, and authority. As the President in the story called it, “The Potomac Two-Step.” But the Christian who would seek to grow up to full maturity, and the church who would fully live out their calling, must say, just as the protagonist Jack Ryan said, “Sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”

APPLICATION

  1. Disentangle oneself. If the Christian is to be effective for the Kingdom, he must be humble, taught, filled, proved, commissioned, accomplished, and finally disentangled from the boundaries of the Justice of Man, which even find pigeon-holes for “church.” While many churches enjoy the small territory the government of man gives them, the government continues to perpetuate problems of injustice in society. If, however, God’s people, empowered by the Holy Spirit can function without the support of protection of the government, the government will have no control over it.
  2. Submit to the governing authorities. This may seem contradictory to the first application, but it is necessary to maintain the order God ordains. (Romans 13:1-7) The rulers of man, may be disobedient to their master, but we must obey them, so long as we can through obeying them obey our master in Heaven. Justice is not about doing away with man’s rule, but rather re-establishing man’s rule in submission to God’s rule.
  3. As rulers and authorities come against the Christian, they must avoid the pitfall of appeasement by not heeding their threats. Here indeed, Jesus’ words to his disciples whom he sends out are key. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This is the Christian’s call to Stand for Justice.
  4. Call forth the leaders of the rulers of men to submit to God’s rule, but do so in this way. Jesus continued in Matthew 10:18-20.

You will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles[Nations]. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Thus shall the people of God do, who earnestly pray that God’s rule come as it is in Heaven so also upon the earth.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 6–Service

Well, brother, we’re half way through the journey to Mature Manhood. We are in the midst of the Kingdom stages, and while this stage on the surface may seem linked to the previous one, there will be some distinctions carried here, which I believe are helpful. I see some believers who are plugged in to a community who have not realized this stage. Most of them, I suspect it is because they lack power. If a believer has not yet received the Holy Spirit, has not followed his leading to depend on God, and has not received a mission from him, this stage cannot take place.

Israel

What happened after Israel inherited the land? They asked for a king, and God gave them one, which they ended up despising, and then He raised up a man who was after his own heart, who shepherded God’s people Israel. In doing so, he was meeting physical and spiritual needs of the people. David and his son Solomon were both active in setting up a kingdom and a temple for the worship of God. They followed God’s heart, and found that He was a God who serves.

Jesus’ Example

In Luke’s Gospel after the separation from the community in chapter 4, Jesus begins his Ministry. The word “ministry” is misleading because only some people seem to be called to “ministry” but the word ministry simply means “service.” Jesus began his work of Service.
Preaching the Kingdom. Look at the first things Jesus did after the people of the synagogue nearly killed him in Luke 4:29. By verse 31-32 Jesus taught with authority the message of the Kingdom. He has given that same authority to his disciples to preach the Kingdom of God. This kind of authority amazed people.
Casting out demons. In the very next verses there was a man with a demon who rose up, in the synagogue no less, (take warning) and tried to disrupt him. The message of the Kingdom of God has the authority and it will stir up spiritual opposition. Jesus cast out demons to meet the spiritual needs by casting out the spiritual forces which had dismayed and oppressed His people.
Healing diseases, by verse 38 Jesus in his full humanity sought to restore the whole human, body and spirit, earth and heaven. He healed the mother in law of Simon, and what did she immediately get up and do?

Jesus’ Followers

What’s more: Jesus got his disciples to help him in chapter 9.

And He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing.

The three things his disciples were doing, were the same things that Jesus was doing!

A sterilized Christianity will not be able to bear with this statement, but it must be said: Jesus gives power to his followers to do the miraculous to enact spiritual and physical service by the power of the Holy Spirit as an advancement of the Kingdom of God. The Christian who has been with Him will know that this is possible with God, it is difficult to the one of little faith. The Christian who has not learned the power of the Holy Spirit will be of no use to this Kingdom service.

Characteristics of this Stage

Power– The Holy Spirit of God will do the miraculous through this follower, by keeping the believer in a dependent, trusting, and devoted relationship. These are the three chords that make up the rope of faith: Dependence on God, Trust in God, and Devotion to God. These three bind the believer to the one who truly has the power, and who can shine the glory of God in their own clay vessel.

Temptations to Worldliness— The pitfalls of this stage are not so much about personal vice, though these are ever present so long as we are in this flesh, but rather about the direction of virtue. If the evil one can side-track the empowered believer to build worldly kingdoms, or make peace by worldly means, he will have secured a super-worker to construct his Babylonian Empire which ultimately raises it’s fist at God, and upon whom God ultimately lowers His fist.

Accomplishment— the news of such a mighty power in the world awakening people to the reality that God is King, and that His Kingdom is near them will spread as the Power of God accomplishes what man never could. In the Church, it looks like what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:25. The unbeliever confronted by the miraculous will fall on his face and worship God, “declaring that God is certainly among you.”

A quick note to those who are cessationists (meaning those who do believe the supernatural workings of God are no longer happening): you cannot deny that there is spiritual power at work in the world today: on both sides. And wherever the power of evil rises, the power of God’s Holy Spirit must be there to meet it. Not everyone has the same gifts, but the gifts of manifestation that are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are not just for the early church, or apostles. To think that the gifts ceased because all the Canon of Bible was completed is, to me, indistinguishable from a Deist perspective of God’s actions done only in the past, which dehumanizes Christ, the Bible, and the Church. Remember Jesus’ prayer specifically for the church who were still going to believe in John 17:22, “The glory You [Father] gave me [Jesus], I [Jesus] have given them [The Church].” What glory? The revelation of God in power. And if there is no supernatural power, there is no revelation of God’s glory. If there is no revelation of God’s glory, then Jesus’ prayer is meaningless, and the church is just another club.

Application:

1. Boldly advance the Kingdom as the Holy Spirit leads you on your specific mission. Pray and teach and do the work of service for people’s physical and spiritual needs.

2. Do not ignore the importance of signs to believers and unbelievers, but instead practice them in the congregation. 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of tongues and prophecy, two miraculous signs which must be implemented according to God’s guidelines inside the church and out.

3. If you are struggling, because you believe you have a mission from God, and you feel hopelessly weak to enact any sort of supernatual power, I tell you, press into the God. You are weak. He is strong. He is the one with the power, and He will enact the supernatural. Seek Him earnestly, and commune with Him. Paul spent sleepless nights to seek Him. It could be that there are areas of disobedience in which you are not being FAITH-ful to God. If you are not fully dependent on Him, Your faith will break. If you are not fully trusting in Him, your faith will break, and if you are not fully whole-heartedly devoted to Him, your faith will break. But remember the encouragement from Paul to Timothy, “Though we are faithless, he remains faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:13) And also remember, “He uses the weak things to shame the strong.” ~1 Corinthians 1:27

4. Avoid the extra-mission-al things with which the world distracts you, especially those that promise reward. Jesus stayed dependent on God, and trusted God to work out all things, when people asked him to do things, to which he said “No.” (Example: John 6:15) It keeps the believer humble instead of thinking himself to be the Savior of the World. Jesus is. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.” 1 Corinthians 3:5

As a Christian reaches this stage, and lives out the power of God in his life as the Kingdom of God advances, may he say what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1– “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ.” And again in 2 Corinthians 4:1-7,

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

O Lord, Thy Kingdom Come! Thy Will be accomplished as it is in Heaven, so also upon the earth!

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 5–Community

Now, dear brother, He who has been born a human, taught of God, reborn of the Holy Spirit, and proven in his heart to be for God, has come out of the Preparation stages and into the Kingdom stage of the Christian Walk. There will be some overlap in the following 4 stages.

While he still needs to remember his humanity, keep learning, and being filled with the Spirit, and spending time alone with God, the man of God now has all the resources he needs to take his stand among the other believers in the body of Christ.

The First Stage where the action really starts is in the Community. Both Israel and Jesus gives us an example of this.

Israel

Last stage, we examined how Jesus and Israel both had time in the wilderness. Israel came out of the wilderness with a Covenant, and crossed over into the promised land to take possession of it in Joshua. This is the beginning of Israel’s Kingdom stage: inheriting the land. Israel however, did not succeed in the wilderness, or in their inheritance of the land, because they did not fully drive out the people living there. They did not make a clean separation between themselves and all the nations, and so the nations became a snare to them.

Jesus’ Example

Jesus on the other hand, came out of the wilderness, he was filled with the Spirit’s Power, and because he was in-tune with the Holy Spirit, he knew what he was empowered to do. Because he knew the Scriptures, he knew what his mission was. Because he was humble, he committed to do it completely. He taught in the synagogue, and started in his home town, but his home town rejected him.

His mission was this:

THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.

Notice that after he shares this mission, the people in the synagogue were oooh-ing and ah-ing at him, until he started to tell them that they did not have the faith to align themselves with God’s mission. As a result of this they cast him out of the synagogue.

The World and the Mission

The Mission of the Church will unavoidably divide the church from the world. The Peace Corp, United Nations, etc all have their own ideas of good things to do, but this mission is rather specific. The Holy Spirit anoints his man to do specific things: preach good news to the poor, set captives free, give sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the time of God’s acceptance. This is the mission Jesus was about, and this is also what the church is to be about.

Now that the believer is empowered, he must join God in his supernatural work along side other believers, but to do so, will also mean a decisive break from the “dis-empowered” community. The one who has the Spirit of God will be operating under a whole different set of objectives, values, and principles. Paul told the Corinthians that the community of Christ must be set apart from the world, “Come out from their midst and be separate. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will welcome you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17) The one who bears the Spirit’s power will also be led by a spirit different from that which motivates even the most humanitarian organizations. The supernatural work must be done, in the community of faith.

One of the major pitfalls is the approval of humankind. Notice that right before Jesus is separated from the community, “And all were speaking well of him, and marveling at the gracious words that fell from his lips.” (Luke 4:22) The approval of man almost limited him to merely, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” There is a reason why a Prophet is not welcome in his own hometown. If the Christian allows himself to be pinioned in places where he is not able to realize the Spirit’s full power, he will be chained to the will of man. The Spirit will not support the works of mere man but he will support the works of God.

Another major pitfall is to so remove oneself into a community of believers who have no contact with the outside world: the abandonment of humankind. Jesus when he was in community still ate with (meaning shared close hang-out time) tax-collectors and people know to be sinners. Jesus remained aligned with his mission which was to be as salt in the world, not as salt in a salt-shaker not in the world.

The Church and the Mission

That being said, the Christian is in a community of empowered believers now, and so the same Spirit in him is the same Spirit in the community of faith. This means that he will, for the most part, not be acting alone. He is a fellow citizen of a kingdom of priests. One grain of salt does nothing, but together all the grains are able to bring the flavor.

This is where the Christian must be: he must plant himself among the body of Christ where the Holy Spirit plants him, so that he may be nourished by the body, and may nourish the body in turn. The Spirit will make clear to the individual, and to the church what each person is to do. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty to live this out.

Application:

  1. One step along this stage, is joining a group of believers to live with them and worship with them. Since God has called us to peace, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in the Body of Christ.

2. Another step is to find out one’s mission. We can examine one pattern given in Acts        13:2-3.

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

If a person does not know what God wants them to do, then “minister to the Lord, and fast.” This means spend as much time in fellowship with God and communing with him, depending on him, until you both are ready to work together on whatever He wants to work on. He will show you what to do. You can go to your pastor or your church leaders to fast and minister to the Lord with you. Perhaps they can have jobs for you to do in the body, but in the meantime, continue seeking the Lord for what He wants you to do, and once he has shown it to you, and the church, go and do it.

3. A third part of this stage takes the form of separating from the world’s system of doing things. To be honest, this one is possibly the hardest to apply in this stage. Part of the purpose of Stage 4 is to prepare you for this. Many times joining ourselves with the world–the human systems of culture, government, family and spiritualism– will lead to compromise of our beliefs. Example: I worked at a pharmaceutical company for six years, in which I let them know I don’t work on Sunday. However, there were times when that conviction was not upheld, and I still had to come in to work so as to maintain a fairness to all other employees who didn’t want to work on Sundays. I was spiritually anemic there, because the Holy Spirit requires total obedience, yea holiness itself in the believer in whom he dwells. It did not surprise me when He told me it was time to leave my job.

That being said, the Holy Spirit may be leading you to join with a group of people who are bound up in the cultural sins, and practices of those who do not fear God, as an example of dependence on him. Bottom line: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in your work. He is your bread and butter not your job.

A believer remains in this stage until the Holy Spirit has specifically shown him what he is to do. Until then, let him do what Paul said to the Thessalonians:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”~2 Thessalonians 4:11

Summary:

  1. As Jesus took his stand within the community, but still did not join himself to the world to accomplish his mission, so the Christian must do the same.
  2. Seek the Lord for the specific mission He has for you.
  3. Be about the church’s business doing what the Body of Christ is doing.
  4. Be lead by the Holy Spirit to the place he wants you plugged in and salting the earth.

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 4–Wilderness

Brother, remember that guy from seminary we watched about Myth and the Bible? Dr. Ryan Reeves. One day, as I watched one of his Youtube videos about the Crusades, I learned about one of the very serious problems resulting from the Crusades: undisciplined soldiers conquering lands and wreaking havoc on their enemies and their friends. If a soldier doesn’t go through boot camp, then war will turn him into an agent of destruction wherever he goes. This, I believe is the reason why God the Father requires everyone, even Jesus, to go through the wilderness. Here, I hope to shed light on a largely neglected stage about which I have heard precious little taught in churches. It is the neglect of this stage that I believe is behind the absence of God’s power in many churches today. While what I have written is my own insights, I thank Norm Wakefield of “Spirit of Elijah Ministries,” who started me on the journey of recognizing Jesus’ time in the wilderness as parallel to the crucial time Christians have with their Heavenly Father.

The Characteristics of the Wilderness

Testing: Israel was not allowed to pass from the Red Sea and Sinai to the Promised land without traveling through the wilderness. God explained why he did it in Deuteronomy 8:2,

” Remember how for these forty years the Lord, your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart: to keep his commandments, or not.”

Direction: This is a significant time in the Christian’s life, where their intimacy with God grows, in that they learn the voice of their father, and learn how to follow His leading. God lead Israel through the wilderness during the stage and he did so step by step. Wherever the pillar of cloud was, there they people would be. This stage of a Christian’s life is very rich with the specific leading and directing of the Holy Spirit.

Affliction: It is not common knowledge, but it is not really surprising in light of Scripture, that God will afflict his people. It is discipline, not wrath. The Wilderness period of God’s discipline is not fun, though each one who has been trained therein will reflect back on it with tender gratitude. There is no better way to test the sinful enemy-turned-holy-friend than the affliction of the wilderness.

Isolation: As I have talked with people in this stage, and even have experienced it myself, it is apparent that the wilderness is a very lonely place. No one else around you will be able to understand the specific ways God will be testing you as his child. This, however is one of the most special things about this stage: Israel was isolated to God in the wilderness so he could personally instruct them how to live for him as a nation. In this stage, God himself, by His spirit will personally teach the new-believer his character in such a personal way. It is often felt that God never feels so close to a person as in this wilderness stage.

Elasticity: For Israel, this stage was lengthened to 40 years due to failure in the stage. For Jesus it was as short as 40 days, for the Apostles recently filled with the Holy Spirit it was a matter of weeks they were on trial. Once a person has passed the three tests of this stage to God’s satisfaction, he is ready for stage 5.

The Tests of the Wilderness

Jesus’ time led by the Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted provides the chief insights into this stage. I will order them according to Matthew’s account (Matthew 4:1-11). In this section, the Bold is the root of sin being dealt with, the underlining is the Spiritual discipline which Jesus used to gain the key, and the ALL CAPS is the key to the Power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gained.

  1. Temptation to satisfy the flesh’s cravings. Jesus had the power to turn stone into bread, but had already learned, from his time of fasting, and his time in the Word of God that Man is sustained by God’s Word. The Key that Jesus unlocked here was DEPENDENCE on God.
  2. Temptation to mistrust God. Just as the serpent gave Adam suggestion, to mistrust God, Jesus could have answered him by proving God’s presence at the pinnacle of the temple, but he had already learned from the story of the Word of God that God is trustworthy and is therefore not to be put to the test. The Key Jesus unlocked here was TRUST in God.
  3. Temptation to seize power. Adam and Eve seized the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil to rule apart from God, and here Satan asked Jesus if he wanted all the kingdoms of the world, for the price of worshiping someone other than God. It is by his time of Prayer and the Word of God that Jesus’ heart had been completely reserved to God, and he bid the tempter begone! the Key Jesus laid hold of was his DEVOTION to the God he loved.

When a Christian has faced the temptations of cravings, mistrust, and power, and answered them with Dependence on, Trust in, and Devotion to God, being taught through fasting, God’s Word, and prayer, the result is that once the Devil had finished every temptation, Jesus was ministered to by angels, and returned from the Wilderness in the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian who is ready to move on to the next stage will also have the power of God confirmed in his life. This power is a three legged stool with the three legs being, TRUST, DEVOTION, and DEPENDENCE. This does not mean that he will do miracles at this time, but the Almighty Spirit of God will have settled in the heart of one to whom God can entrust “greater works than these.” (John 14:12)

Practical Application:

  1. Be led by the Holy Spirit in spiritual discipline to gain the needed attributes he seeks to give you. The only way you’re going to get anything done in this wilderness is if the Holy Spirit is empowering you to do it. And the only way his power is going to be secure in you in a mutual inter-dependent trusting relationship, is for you to fully make it through this stage. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
  2. If you’re ever wondering if it’s indeed the Holy Spirit speaking to you, remember that you will recognize the tone of His voice from Scripture.
  3. The disciplines which will be of most benefit to you are, Fasting, Bible Reading, Prayer, and Praise. Learn how to do each one as Spirit leads you.
  4. Wait on the Lord. Do not seek to go beyond this stage, until He leads you out of the wilderness. It seemed many times that I could have, should have, left the wilderness for all practical points and purposes, but in the end He vindicated my need for time alone with Him.
  5. Get to know Him one-on-one. This is a very special time, when He wants to show you who He is up close, and to help fashion you into the new-human He has re-created you to be.

I can’t really share much more than this. There are so many guiding spiritual principles, which I have learned, but I’ve only learned them by going through the wilderness. You need Him to teach you in the way that makes sense to you, for whatever purpose he anoints you for.

Avoid the pitfall: Compromise. The Spirit is making you wholly devoted, dependent and trusting on him, but the Evil one will seek to split you from that wholeness anyway he can. If there is any area of compromise, you will perpetuate problems after you leave the wilderness. Remember the lesson of the soils: He will prove what kind of heart you are. If you fail, and you will, don’t dare run from God, run to Him! He’ll have a purpose for your failures as much as your successes. But don’t dare leave anything undealt with that will cause you to be like Israel when it comes into its promised inheritance and failing to attain the whole.

The golden rule of the wilderness is: stay with Him. The more wholly the man is God’s the more wholly his entire life is God’s.

“To a Mature Man” Stage 3–Baptism

– – As you know, brother, Baptism is a lot more than getting wet. It is being born again. Whether representationally or in actuality, there is a rebirth at baptism. Baptism is one of the richest ordained traditions that goes all the way back to Noah’s day (Gen. 7), through Moses (Ex. 14) and Joshua (Josh. 3) down to John baptizing Jesus. When John objected, Jesus made sure that all righteousness was fulfilled in his being baptized. Baptizing is also at the center point of the great commission of the Son of God. (Matthew 28:18-20) And so the church cannot neglect this stage.

Baptism always presupposes judgment. There is a reason why a person must start a new life with a new birth, because the old life is doomed to the same fate God poured out in his flood upon the perversity and wickedness of His rebellious creatures. It is this old life that must be left behind. Baptism is the safe place of obedience which is for the new believer like an ark to rise above the waters of judgment.

Furthermore, it is a separation from the world. By submitting to God, at baptism, you pass from the cursed slavery of Egypt into the miraculous salvation of God. The Red Sea was the gate that excluded all the servants of worldly powers and drowned them in their own hubris and vengeance. It was only those who moved forward and saw the salvation of the Lord who were saved through the waters. This is why the believer  must disown his inheritance in the world which perishes.

Once obedience and separation have been achieved at baptism, that is when the Holy Spirit comes. For Jesus, he took the form of the dove and from this time on began leading the Proto-Christian. (That sounds a little like calling the human woman named Barbie, upon whom the Barbie doll was based, the proto-Barbie.) The next stage is more about this leading. The Believe cannot move on to the next stage of the Christian life unless he has received the Holy Spirit.

Consider Jesus’ words in John 14:15-17:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments [and] I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

Notice the underlining: Obedience, and the need for separation from the world.

Now, at this moment, this actual birthing of the seeded and en-wombed Christian (stage 1 and 2) that a man can say he is a new creature. Or To use the analogy from the end of the last post, he is coming out of childhood into the years of testing in preparation for adulthood. He is born of water and spirit now, and since he has set himself apart from the world, the Heavenly Father will call him His son, and gladly that. Because he has obeyed God fully in submitting obediently to Him, and cast off his earthly identity as a citizen of the world doomed to destruction, the Holy Spirit himself can give breath to the reassembled bones and sinews of the now revived image of God.

Application

1. Repent from your sins, and turn to God.

There can be no sanctification without separation from this perishing world. Casting off not only what you do that is wrong, but also the patterns of life which make this world opposed to God. This is when a person owns his faith and declares it openly: “I am not an old-human anymore. I am a new-human.” It is the beginnings of Christian adulthood.

This does not mean you will never be in the world again, or that you won’t be back in the world before long to do God’s work, but from this moment forward, you are a pilgrim on a journey to a better country. It is passing through the waters of judgment on human evil, and turning to the One who is your Savior who will by your obedience pull you through the waters of judgment.

This may practically take many different forms. Now that you have been baptized, your first loyalty is confirmed to God over family, friends, business, country, etc. Some things will likely need to be moved out of the center of your life, especially yourself. All has been placed under God’s judgment and yourself with it. Like Joshua, you have passed into the promised land, through the waters of the Jordan.

2. Receive the Holy Spirit.

The most essential element to this baptism is the Holy Spirit himself. The person who seeks to enter this stage must be completely assured that they are seeking to receive Him. They, after this, will have presented themselves to a spirit with whom after much long reflection they may not wish to be filled. They must take care to know for sure that they are up for it. If he wishes to be a temple of the same Spirit that filled and empowered Jesus Christ, then, according to A.W. Tozer said a believer must do this:

  1. He must present himself. (This is where the act of Baptism comes in.)
  2. He is to ask to be filled.
  3. He is to receive the Holy Spirit.
  4. He is to believe he is filled.

All this to say, you can’t conjure the Holy Spirit. He comes from God according to the will of the Father, at Jesus’ intercession (John 14:15-17). He is eager to fill those who are set apart and who are obedient to Him.

Once I was teaching kids about the Holy Spirit, and one of the 7th grade students asked, “How can I know that I am filled with the Holy Spirit?” Great question, to which different denominations have a range of answers from bearing spirit-fruit to speaking in tongues. My answer is two fold:

  • Action. The spirit is producing the four participial phrases in Ephesians 5:19-20 speaking to one another in psalms hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks in all things and submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
  • He’ll let you know.

If Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, anyone who follows Jesus into the new humanity must do this essential repentance of burying the old man, and being reborn in the new. And as Paul told the Roman Christians, “if any one does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9)

3. Avoid the trap of license to sin.

Every stage has its pitfalls. There is a hazard of someone letting the Holy Spirit of God empower him to do nothing for God in his life. This is what is meant by license to sin. Now that a person is freed from sin, and born anew, it is tempting to let that good feeling of forgiveness be wasted on a servant with a selfish heart. If the Holy Spirit empowers you, and you find yourself living of yourself, by yourself, for yourself, sinning and doing what is less than obedience to God, then you have mocked the Holy Spirit, and grieved him in his heart. When the Spirit of God made man alive during the days of Noah, and man’s heart was purely evil, it grieved God. Still today, if the Holy Spirit come to live in a person who uses his enlightening power as a means to greater sin, will grieve him, quench him, and silence him. We must respond to the question posed by Paul with the same answer given by Paul, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may increase? By no means ever!” (Romans 6:1)

Final thought:

The Christian who is baptized and receives the Holy Spirit and keeps himself holy in his walk, will find that his baptism stage will be short-lived, because he will begin to be lead by the Holy Spirit into another stage, far more difficult, and no less necessary.

“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.