DEEPER GRACE

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Three Ways On

John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, had a saying: “The way in is the way on,” by which he meant the very actions and attitudes that empower the miracle of new birth in Jesus are the same actions and attitudes that empower spiritual growth. In much of the North American church, however, the saying could be changed the phrase, “the way in is all there is.”

I once attended a meeting of pastors who were planning a “city-wide revival.” The pastor of a respected and growing church opened the meeting with these words: “God is only going to ask each of us two questions when we get to heaven--’Do you know my Son?’ and ‘How many others did you bring with you?’” It was a memorable opening because it was short, dramatic, and wrong. The record of the first century church, preserved for us in the book of Acts and the letters written to newly-planted churches, reveals a profound concern for a spiritual transformation that flows from a decision to follow Jesus.

Consider the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the people of the church in Colosse:
Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1: 9 - 14)
Paul prayed for the spiritual transformation of people who already knew Jesus. This prayer lays out at least three priorities each follower of Jesus. Perhaps we can discover the way on through Paul’s prayer.

We need to be filled. Paul asked God to pour “the knowledge of his will” into the believers in Colosse. The next step after coming to Jesus as Lord is to be filled with the knowledge of his will. It requires something more than mere human intellect--it requires spiritual wisdom and understanding. I believe Paul prayed these words because he understood our tendency to apply the old way of living life to our new life in Christ. The problem is, we were “born again” into a new kingdom. How many babies know how to find their way around their new environment? If we take the image of the new birth seriously we should realize there’s a whole new life ahead. The new life ahead requires something beyond our old resources. It requires seeing things--and understanding them--from God’s perspective.

We can live a life worthy of God. We’ve heard the message of forgiveness so often we’re tempted to think forgiveness is all there is. Some people spend their lives yo-yoing between sin-forgiveness-sin. They consider this life normative for God’s children. Paul knew better. He understood there is a proper response to God’s initial grace. That response is a changed life--a life worthy of the Lord. A life where it’s possible to please God, bear fruit, and grow in new life. These first two aspects of Paul’s inspired prayer are beyond the grasp of many believers. Too many of God’s people despair of ever knowing God’s will for their lives and consider “pleasing God in every way” an impossibility. Paul’s expectation was completely the opposite:  forgiveness is a continuing reality for followers of Jesus, but the core of our life in Christ is a transformation that draws us ever closer to the likeness of our Lord.

The kingdom of God is at hand: Paul prays that we would each receive our inheritance--the kingdom of light. Jesus died to pay the price for our sin, and--like everyone who dies--he left an inheritance to his family: a new kind of life. This new life looks dramatically different from the old kind of life. Paul described this life as “righteousness, peace, and joy in he Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17). Here’s a bell-weather question for each follower of Jesus--does my life differ dramatically from my old kind of life? The in-breaking of God’s kingdom floods our lives with light, and light is necessary if we are going to move through this new kind of Kingdom-life. Yet how many believers stumble about in everyday life, unable to navigate the ordinary troubles of life? Paul envisioned a church filled with individuals able to receive the Kingdom-life God offers to everyone born from above. Paul had this confidence because he had heard the good news that “it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

Paul prayed these words over a church filled with people he did not know. It’s what Paul prayed (and hoped) for each follower of Jesus. Can you hear him praying over you now?

Reader Comments (7)

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [26] “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” [27] He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” [28] “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

Thanks, Herm: There's no doubt that loving him heart, soul, mind, and strength will carry us on in Christ.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

While I can't disagree, is it possible that had the event been themed "Feed the hungry" the pastor might have opened with the Father asking, Do you know my Son, did you feed anyone?" Just curious if context had anything to do with it.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Hi Ed: a little back story--the pastor I mention (who has since moved to another church) is a good and decent man, with a passion for "evangelism." He presented the statement as self-authenticating, i.e., how could anyone possibly think otherwise?

My point in this particular post is that the great evangelist named Paul, along with our Lord himself, showed equal (greater?) concern for spiritual growth.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRay Hollenbach

Ah! We all have our gifts...and vulnerabilities.

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I am really sorry if I am so insensitive so as to usurp the intent you have for a blog titled "students of Jesus". I am not sure you want a discussion, as in a study group, or this is purely a sounding board for your meditation. I love both you and Ed but I respectfully disagree with the premise that we are all called to evangelical purpsuits.

The size of a church that I preside over in the name of Jesus has, in my heart and mind, no measure of reward in Heaven. More important is that I answer the call, anywhere in the world I am now restricted to, to introduce the value system that works constructively and productively here on this physical Earth and throughout an eternal spiritual life in Heaven. It does not matter whether I lift up one injured soul to carry to my Father's inn to be nurtured and healed or a 70 times 70 such souls. It does not even matter that I carried no one. What matters is that I love my Lord God enough to drop everything else and answer His call to assist in gathering His flock.

Fellowship is a wonderful gift for otherwise we would be alone. Growing in the joys of fellowship can be rewarding in any group of people, by any name, here on Earth. What one person might consider a gang to be feared could be what another considers family to be loved. There is only one group that fellowship within will go on to growing eternally and that is the one church directly led by Jesus Christ as sole High Priest. To evangelize for expanding the active members for His church means to call out those who are lost in our many competing churches. It means wearing appropriate garb and being willing to dialog in mosques, temples, churches, prisons, homes, mountainsides, blogs and where ever else only God will know.

Jesus is very real and His church is very real. The definition of church is "to call out" and in no way means to call people in to worship within the sanctuary of physical structures built in His name. His church temple was destroyed and rebuilt in three days. His church is truly spiritual and in no way physical. We are the physical body of His church.

Why did we rebuild a religion where the heads wear glorious robes (and collars) and we reinstituted teachers of the law. Jesus came as the King and left as our High Priest and did not wear more than the standard peasant garb of His time. It was the lack of fellowship from those in the institutionalized church, wearing glorious garb of stature, that enabled us to crucify Him. That was the clear and obvious sin we continue to commit.

I am so sorry for ranting here but I hurt badly at this particular time for good people killing good people because they were born into different churches of man. I hurt especially when I know first hand that we don't need more official head priests or teachers of the law that create those walls between God's children. All I am called to do, and I know others are called differently according to need, is to introduce the Holy Spirit to those who are ready but misled. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of writing the entire law in the hearts and minds of those who trust in His love.

What do we want eternal life for if not to grow and enjoy fellowship throughout His kingdom? Does any young child know how to survive better than their father? Doesn't it sound enticing to draw the picture of learning to skip rocks across the placid lake in fellowship with our Father and Brother?

Rant done. I do love you both. I will leave your blog if asked to do so. I truly appreciate your blog.

Herm

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

John 8:31-47 (NIV)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. [32] Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” [33] They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” [34] Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. [35] Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. [36] So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. [37] I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. [38] I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father. ” [39] “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. [40] As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. [41] You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” [42] Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. [43] Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. [44] You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. [45] Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! [46] Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? [47] Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHerm Halbach

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