“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. The next stage is what comes after a person has been exposed to Christ and how he grows in the blessing and knowledge of God’s goodness.

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.” (Luke 24:45) 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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A sober moment of decision
The air is thick with wisdom
Sleep deprivation clouds my broken concentration

Atrus returned to MYST to destroy
Both the Red and the Blue Books
I am the one who brought him the missing page: my page.

How is it I play this game
By someone else’s rules?
Crazy game toys with my life: will it be counted?

Humanity needs to be governed
Too irresponsible right and left
Come Righteous Judge and rule over us with Love and Truth!

The Earth – The Eye

O for courage to face the broken sphere
So easily comparable to the human soul
In which high thoughts like mountains sheer
Arise from the ever-moving ocean of emotion.

The Eye that pierces space and time
In search of eternity’s finitude
Alight with the small sun’s radiance sublime
A little dimmer than Mercury or Venus can tell.

Little part; big proportion. Tiny ant or looming mountain
Every piece of God’s creation patterned to His majesty.
Such a care of gentle wisdom, for the Sun to keep His distance
So all can delight in His good gifts, and not be swallowed up by His immensity!

O sphere so broken, trampled, bent.
His care for you is evident.
So let the eye of His image soften
To see the Good sparkling in His eye.

Poetry and Wisdom

I don’t like reading poetry
Except the works of old:
That timeless art of honesty
Where heart-sung words unfold
Like flowers. Shimmering and glistening
With vibrant tones and luscious accents
Knocking on the door of children listening
Hoping to know their guardian’s intents

Here I raise two books to the sky.
Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament
I hold in my hand Heaven and Earth.
And in between a human seeker
A person who is being shaped
To the image of the Author:
The servant who suffers is communicating
A meaningful truth inseparable from eternal love.

A Ravine. One who stands on one side
Sees only half of what can be seen below.
He who stands on the other side
Can only see half of what lies below.
But he who walks the tightrope between
And peers down straight into the deeps
Only to him can both halves be seen
As awestruck he barely balance keeps.

Mark well the poet who sees Three-D.
Such a one can see a penny from both sides
The canons that fire both ways in one shot
Are aimed with Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws in sight.
With all complexity of sides and tales
The center simple stays the same.
A start with an end that never fails:
The fear of Yahweh’s perfect name.

The Hedgeman

Madam Grandmother had a house of grey:
Grey roof, grey shutters, grey siding.
All one story; All one level
Surrounded by box hedge plants waist high.

A hedgeman had come and trimmed them recently
But he only chopped the shape just right.
He did not seek to undertake
The dive seeking weeds of thorn and vine:

Young spritely clinging little buggers
Troublesome meddlers in a boxy world
In shadowy subtlety they showed their heads
A long time they had grown in secret.

The hedgeman returned at the grandmother’s request
The bushes needed trimming, but the vines were his quest.
Over two days he set about the purge
Of everything that grew up from secretly seeded earth.

He found himself saying, as the vines scraped his arm:
“My goodness this bush is a pain.”
But then he thought to himself:
I wonder if God looks that way on me?

Extricating and tending the bush planted well.
From the weeds of the seeds of the unworthy sown.
Did the Maker of creation who saw it was good
Did He say, “This is a pain.” When the devil’s seed was sown?

Grace shines like the hot afternoon sun on his back.
Reminding him of the Maker’s glowing face.
Which does not cool when faced by those who turn
Their back on him shady tents to pitch.

O grief, such grief: that crown of thorns
That encircled the Savior’s human brow
To crown the flower with Satan’s weeds
To raise up a sacrifice of earth because of Heaven’s love.

Of course! Twas not for grief He bore
But for the Joy that was set before!
His cross he endured and the seed he planted
In the tomb of the rock to sprout forth with new creation!

Determined by his Father’s love,
Pronounced for the world from the beginning
He did not merely say, “It is good.”
He simply “Saw that it was good.”

Now the hedgeman was ennobled to press
Through the thorns that tore his exposed flesh
For in these thorns a fresh thought was true:
God fell in love with the world to make it new.

Emancipation: the feeling surged as one by one the vines relinquished their hook
They could not withstand the power of man determined to make the bushes good.
Why? Because these bushes were planted first, and then the weeds took root.
The bushes are good, it’s the weeds that have corrupted their look

So even though the weeds are deep entwined
With the plants of the Grandmother’s good intention
Still, deeper is the ability to dig
With a pair of pruning sheers to clip the hidden stems.

Strong is the stock the Sower sowed
When He made the world out of His goodness
The enemy may have added his own ingloriousness
But the Angels can tell what is good by its fruit.

Oscillating between standing and kneeling
The hedgeman cleared away the weeds by probing deeply.
Humility and confidence to seek understanding and apply it:
Getting to the root, and pulling up the shoot.

Familiar with these living plants
Their tender leaves not sown by chance
Were worth releasing from these self-ish pokes
For which the fire the Angel stokes.

Grappling with the plant near the top does no good.
It took a long time to reach the now spoiled-sightly top.
With a firm hand the hedgeman pulls on the vine
So he can pluck the thorns like a bow string and cut the base.

Others yank the plant up by the stem
Hoping that the whole thing will come right out.
Those who are clever know such a risk is not sound
Even if it clears the top, soon the issue will reemerge.

During his struggle, He sees the Creator dealing with him.
Not managing his issues so as to keep God busy
But always asking the questions that get at the heart
Of why man hides and turns his back on Him.

Resting in the tension of the Master’s pull
And wincing at the precise cuts of the wise Healer
Leveling haughty lusts from creeping back out again.
He reminds me of His pleasing and excellent plan

Utilizing the hedgeman to keep the hedges beautiful
The Creator has appointed a manager for His Creation
A Creation He made so beautiful, that it was even good in His own eyes.
The only One who is Good, saw that it was good.

Lo, He did not only say “It was good” when he made the light.
Nor even when he made land, trees, fruit and seed
Nor even when he made stars, and birds and fish and animals
But when He appointed man to rule He saw that it was VERY good.

Ended the task, back stood the hedgeman and smiled
The grey house framed by box-hedged life
The weeds were cast away to rot, to be chewed, and to die
And the Hedgeman sees that the Earth is worth redeeming.

The Parable of the Willow Tree

” . . . All you need to do is be a tree like I am,” the Old Oak said to the Wandering Willow who had pulled up her roots like feet and had left home in search of the world beyond her sight. She would set her roots down when she started to wither, but she had forgotten what type of tree she was, because she never stayed rooted long enough to bear any fruit. In desperate anxiety, she had returned home to find out who she was from her wise friend the Old Oak. He had said to her, “Why, you were the Well-watered Willow before you started to wander, but if you really want to know who you are, there’s only one way. . .”