Root Before Fruit

“I am the vine; you are the branches.”
John 15:5a

My wife and I came to Christ in 1973, when we were twenty years old. It was during the Jesus People movement in Southern California when many young people were coming to the Lord.

By the time we were twenty-one, we were the worship leaders at our church. We quickly got involved as cell group leaders and were having weekly meetings in our home. I also volunteered to take care of the tape ministry for the pastor.

I preached my first message in 1975 and it was on John 15; the vine and the branches. I had no idea what I was talking about! (Back then, of course, I believed I was an expert on that text). In the next fifteen or so years, we were very busy doing Christian work. I served as a deacon, an elder, a worship leader, and a preacher.

I did evangelistic work with street preaching, door-to-door, and tract distribution. I worked helping the poor through World Vision, a local rescue mission, and sponsoring Cambodian refugees. We also traveled and shared our music ministry and ran a halfway house for wayward youth.

By the time we turned thirty-eight, we were exhausted! We left the institutional church because we really felt that there had to be something higher that God wanted.

It was then that we made a startling discovery. After all those years, we realized that we didn’t know our Lord very well at all. Oh, we knew a lot about Him. We knew the Scriptures (at least we knew them along certain lines). But what had we been giving those people to whom we had ministered? Had we given them Christ? Or had we given them doctrines, rules, regulations, and systems of self improvement? Since we ourselves had not experienced Christ in a deep way, how could we give Him to others in a deep way? There was no lasting fruit to show for those 17 years of hard work.

So we dropped all “ministry” at this point in our lives. We were determined to know Him and His church in a whole new way. During the next two years we discovered (by revelation) that we had an indwelling Lord. Christ lived in us and we lived in Christ. And we discovered that we could know and experience the Christ who lived within us in a much deeper way than we ever thought possible.

The Lord then began to give us a vision of His Church. One that was much more in line with what we saw in the New Testament. And it didn’t look anything like what we had seen around us. But we only had a vision. We had not actually experienced it yet. That would not come until several years later. But the one thing we did discover by experience was that:

“Root Must Come Before Fruit.”

The Current Scene 

There are many groups of Christians today within the house church / simple church / emergent church movement that emphasize the mission of the church. These groups are filled with many people in their 20’s and 30’s. They are hungry for authentic Christianity. They are longing for spiritual reality.

Yet, as I see it, many of them are still putting the proverbial cart before the horse. They have placed mission and social action before a deep inward knowing of the Lord. They have placed the fruit before the root. And I can’t help but wonder if this “fruit” will last.

“Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4, 5

The Tree of Life

What the Lord is talking about here is not missions, evangelism, or social action. He is talking about Life! God’s life. Divine life. Where there is life, there will be fruit (at least eventually). We love to focus on the fruit, but it seems to me that God focuses on the life. That is, the life of His dear Son. He knows that if life is flowing in the tree, fruit will be produced naturally, organically.

There is a very important reason why the Lord used the metaphor of a tree (or vine). He wanted to convey the idea of internal life being expressed. There is life flowing inside of the tree! Please don’t get the idea that there is nothing happening inside of that tree. Where there is life, there is motion. The sap is flowing; the bark and the branches are growing. Leaves and flowers are developing. But the fruit comes last.

What is Fruit?

In a word, you could say that a piece of fruit is a “life-pod.” It is a container (pod) that holds the excess life of the tree. This life-pod is for the benefit of others. It is eaten by other creatures for the purpose of providing energy and nourishment to them. Fruit does not benefit the tree itself.

“I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly.” John 10:10b

The fruit contains the internal life of the tree. The fruit will reflect the quality of the internal life of the tree. But it takes time for the fruit to develop so that it is a true expression of the internal life of the tree. In other words, it takes a mature tree to develop fruit. This doesn’t happen overnight. However, if the tree is in the proper environment, and it is properly nourished and develops a strong root system, it will produce fruit much sooner.

Practical Application

Christianity has manufactured a huge “machine” which we call evangelicalism. This machine pumps out instant preachers, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. This is the opposite of organic. It is mechanical. But what can be done to turn this tide? I would like to offer a two-fold solution.

1. Learn to know an indwelling Lord. Before you rush out to the mission field or to the inner city to “minister,” get to know the Christ who lives within you, experientially. Learn to touch Him and fellowship with Him in your spirit.

This is not doing nothing. This is not passivity. This is the tree developing a strong root system. The bark, branches, leaves and blossoms will display the life within as the tree matures. You will not be passively sitting around as the life grows because you are part of the Body of Christ.

How do you do this? First, you need some instruction. As an introduction, I would recommend the books on Spiritual Formation at www.HouseChurchResource.org. Second, you need to find a body of believers who are learning to live by Christ together. That’s the next point.

2. Learn to know your Lord in a shared-life community of believers. We learn to live by Christ by growing in Him together with a group of Christians who are all functioning under the headship of Christ in an organic way. Learn to be a brother/sister in an organic expression of the church where everyone serves one another. If you don’t know of a such a group where you live, then I would encourage you to fill out the “find an organic church” form at www.HouseChurchResource.org

Everyone who was sent out to work for the Lord in the first century was first trained by being a brother or sister in an organic church. Church life itself was their training ground. They were called, prepared, and then sent. Today, if someone feels called to “the ministry” they are immediately shipped off to Bible College. But God uses His church to prepare people for His work.

Now when I say “church,” it’s important that you understand that I mean a group of believers who are all functioning under the headship of Christ in a shared-life community. That’s the only “church” that the New Testament knows.

Our God strongly desires to have a living expression of His Son in every city in the world. This harvest is great, but the workers are few. Where are the men and women who are willing to actively pursue Him within the context of organic church life? Where are the men and women who are willing to learn Christ as non-leaders in a community of believers who are living and functioning under the vibrant headship of Jesus Christ?

God is raising up such young people in our day who want to know Him first before anything else. May He increase this work!

Knowing Your Identity – W.W.D.M.D.

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
(Rom 6:3-7)

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
(Col 3:2-5)

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
(Gal 2:20)

There is no doubt about it that we believers have a major identity crisis. We really have no idea who we are in Christ. We don’t know much about the New Creation, the New Man, or the New Covenant. But we do know all about the old creation, the old man, and the old covenant! What I am saying is that we know all about who we aren’t anymore. And it’s really difficult to realize, focus on, and experience our new identity in Christ while we are still looking at the old identity. The old man is really all we know, and therefore, we work really hard in the strength of the old man to improve the old man. How futile is that? I would say that is the definition of religion – man’s attempt at fixing man.

Three Aspects of the Cross

I believe that there are three aspects of the cross of Christ.

  1. Redemption: this is the aspect that all evangelicals are familiar with. We all know and believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. The Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. Thank God for this!
  2. Our Co-Death: Paul tells us that we were crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:8-11). This means that our old man (the old creation) was crucified with Christ on the cross. That was the old Adam (race) that no longer lives because there is now a new Adam (or race). God put the old race to death on that same cross (1Cor15:22). This aspect of the cross is the topic for this blog post.
  3. A Living Sacrifice: Paul tells us to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God (Rom.12:1). Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him daily (Lu 9:23). Paul said; “I die daily” (1Cor 15:21). This is the daily work of the cross in the life of the believer to bring about transformation.

Most Christians are only familiar with the first aspect; redemption. Most of us are totally unfamiliar with the other two aspects of the Cross. The second aspect, our co-death with Christ, is totally vital for us understanding our true identity in Christ.

God’s View of the Old Man

God has no desire to “fix” you. It’s sad for me to see the shelves at Christian bookstores lined with books on fixing the old man. “How to be a better_____” books are everywhere! Yet God has no plan for fixing us. He is not a home-improvement kind of God. He does not inspect you and then make a list and hand it to you and say, “okay, start working on this!”. He’s just not that kind of God. His plan does not involve fixing you in any way, shape, or form. He has never tried to fix Adam. His approach is totally different.

The Great Leveler

God doesn’t try to fix Adam, instead He crucifies him! He doesn’t try to fix the house, instead He uses His great Wrecking Ball, the Great Leveler – THE CROSS – to completely demolish the house. Adam was simply “unfixable”. He had to be done away with. Now listen to this:

God didn’t place His Son on the cross so you could get a clean slate and then turn over a new leaf and begin living a good, clean life. He placed His Son on the cross so YOU could be crucified with Him!

The Last Adam is also the Second Adam. Paul calls Him the Last Adam because He was the last one of Adam’s race. He crucified that old race on the cross. He is called the Second Adam because He is the first one in a totally NEW race. The first step in realizing and stepping into your true identity is a revelation that you have been crucified with Christ. The old you is now deceased. The person you know (as you) is dead as a doorknob! You are dead. Can I say it any more clearly? You are a corpse. The old you is all white, stiff, and decaying. Dead, Dead, Dead!

Now if this is true (and God says it is), then I simply must ask you a question:

Why are you spending all of your thoughts, energies, and time trying to repair this dead person?

Why are you attempting to fix yourself and why are you trying to fix others? By the way, this is what we do in the name of Christian “ministry”. I was involved with this for many years. Dead people trying to make other dead people look good. This is religious embalming. Trying to make dead people look good. You know, you can apply the makeup and comb the hair, but a corpse is still a corpse!

W.W.D.M.D.

I would like to start a new slogan. Remember a few years back the slogan and campaign called: What Would Jesus Do? There were bumper stickers, t-shirts, billboards, and the like. W.W.J.D. was all over the place. The premise was to think before you speak or act. When you find yourself in a particular situation, ask yourself; “what would Jesus do?”. This concept revealed a huge lack in our understanding of the New Covenant. In other words, Jesus isn’t here, but if He were, what would He do? Very sad. No understanding whatsoever of our new identity in Christ and the fact that we are in Christ and He is in us.

Anyway, I would like to start a new slogan:
W.W.D.M.D – What Would a Dead Man Do?

The next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, ask yourself – “what would a dead man do?”

There can be only one answer to this question: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
(Joh 15:5)

Interview About Organic New Testament Church Life

I wanted to notify all our friends that I have just done an interview with a good friend of mine, Jamal Jivanjee with the Illuminate blog. Jamal asked a lot of good questions and I think you will be edified and encouraged by the answers. I got to share some of my story and what we have been doing the last 20 years or so. Those of you who are seeking a more organic explanation and experience of “church” would enjoy this one.

You will also really enjoy Jamal’s blog. He is an excellent brother who is very articulate and has many good things to say about Christ and the Church. Check out the insightful articles found there. I highly recommend him and his writings!

You can visit the blog and the interview at the link below:

Illuminate Blog Interview

The Problem with Solutions

All of us in this life, no matter how much we hate to admit it, have problems. Many times things just don’t seem to go the way we think they should. These ‘circumstantial’ problems, however, are only one area of need. There are also our own personal problems, weaknesses or faults. Then we have problems with our relationships with other people. Then there is also the problems of the world we live in such as poverty, crime, inflation, war, famine, etc.

What I would like to address in this paper is your problems. It’s a very good chance that you have some right now . . . or will have in the very near future. How do you deal with your problems? When we become Christians, the most natural thing for us to do is to ask God to help us with our problems. We all know, of course, that Christians have just as many problems as unbelievers OR MORE! But how do we as “Christ-persons” handle these problem? Usually, ninety-nine percent of the time, we do the same thing that we did before we were Christians except that now we ask God to help us (or pray). Then we zero in on the problem at hand and start figuring out possible solutions. (We learn to do this in school, by the way) This is usually the steps that we will go through.

1. Correctly Analyze the Problem. It’s going to be difficult to come up with a solution if you don’t really know what the problem is. So step one is to analyze and get to the root of the problem. In order to do this, we need to put all of our focus on the problem. Let’s use a sample problem to illustrate this.

The problem is to connect all four dots together using three straight lines without crossing the lines or lifting your pen. Your first step is to focus on the problem. This is how we handle all of our problems.

Focus on the problem in order to find a solution

2. Step Two – We experiment with possible solutions.

(As you will discover, there are no solutions to this problem using this method)

3. Step Three – Usually we then select one of the possible solutions as being “The Lord’s Will.” ‘Eenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo’ seems to be appropriate here!

The problem with this problem is that it has no solution within the problem itself!

YOU MUST GO OUTSIDE OF THE PROBLEM IN ORDER TO SOLVE IT!

This teaches us a great lesson which most Christians have not learned.

GOD HAS NO SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR PROBLEMS!

In fact, He doesn’t even move in the realm of solutions. God does things totally different from the way that we do things. We use a method or technique to solve a problem. God uses no methods. We figure that the best way to solve the problem is by focusing all of our attention on the problem. God says that the only hope is to look away from the problem to another place. That place is a Person. THE PERSON OF HIS SON, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

God has no solutions, only a Person.
That Person is His Son.

If we will only learn to focus on Him, then God will take care of the problem. This cuts very deeply across the grain of our natural reasoning. You see, dear brother or sister, your hope is not to be found within your problem. You must go outside of your problem to seek an all together different realm.

Now you might be thinking that I’m referring to “mind over matter.” If you will just take your mind off of the problem, then it will go away, or at least you won’t be so worried about it. Not so. This is not a negative, this is a positive. You take your attention off of the problem in order to put it on Christ. He becomes your focal point and center. It’s as if all of your problems are on a window of glass and the Lord is standing right outside of the window. You need to look through the glass, beyond the problems, to see your Lord.

Well you may be asking; does this really work? After all, is this practical? Well, what is the most practical problem that you can think of? How about money and possessions? That’s pretty practical. Jesus Christ said that if you seek (search, look to find) another realm (God’s kingdom, who is Christ) then He would take care of all of your material needs. In other words; if you look to see Christ, then God will take care of your problem. This is tremendous! ALL NEEDS FULFILLED IN CHRIST!

Now I can hear some of you saying that this sounds like I am abdicating abandonment of your responsibilities. Are we supposed to neglect our problems in order to fellowship with Christ in another realm?

YES!

You see beholding the Lord is the most responsible thing we can do.

The Centrality of Jesus Christ

When you read the life of Jesus Christ in the Gospels you find that He was continually beholding the face of His Father. Jesus said He only spoke and did the works which He saw the Father do. He was not “looking” at people’s problems or needs, He was looking at the Father and then responded according to what the Father said or did.

If we will develop the practice of continually focusing on Christ, then we will be able to see Him move and hear Him speak. It’s a lot easier to hear someone speak if you are looking at them, isn’t it? If there is something we need to do about our problem, then the Lord will let us know WHILE WE ARE LOOKING AT HIM. Our response to what He shows us is simply part of our fellowship with Him. If we keep focusing on our problems and then coming up with “solutions,” we are merely using band-aids for temporary remedies.

THE ONLY LASTING SOLUTIONS COME AS WE BEHOLD THE LORD

This is not easy for us because we are not Christ-centered people. We are “thing” centered people. A problem is only another thing. We need to come to the realization that God’s only program is a Person, not a thing. Our only hope is to get to know this Person. It’s not what we know but Who we know that counts. When I say ‘know’ the Lord, I’m speaking of a very deep and intimate knowledge, knowledge which is based on personal experience.

I read the following saying once on a poster I saw in a store: “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off of the goal.” This really impacted me because I immediately saw Christ as my goal. When I take my eyes off of Christ, then I will see my problems and begin to ‘sink’ into them. Isn’t this the lesson for us in the story of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat? As long as Peter was looking at the Lord, he could walk above the waves (problems). But as soon as he focused on the waves, he began to sink into them. The key is focusing on Christ. Now you will notice that even though Peter could walk on water (as long as he focused on Christ), the waves were still there! Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that when you focus on Christ, God will remove all of your problems. In fact, some of your problems may never be removed. You may need some of those problems! God never removed Paul’s thorn in the flesh. But He said that His grace was sufficient. Christ is our grace. Christ is our sufficiency. We don’t focus on the Lord in order to get rid of all our problems. We focus on the Lord because we love Him! We focus on Christ because He is so glorious, and marvelous, and awesome! We focus on Christ because He is the most beautiful person in all of creation and eternity!

Now as we learn to put Christ at the center we must remember a very important point. WE CANNOT PUT ANYTHING ELSE AT THE CENTER WITH HIM. It must be HIM ALONE! If we try to mix in anything along with Christ, the thing we add will cancel out any benefit of Christ to us. This is the lesson we learn from the Galatians. They didn’t try to abandon Christ. They just added the Law to Christ. When you do that, Christ can no longer benefit you. You see, Christ and only Christ is what you need. You cannot dilute Christ, therefore, when you add something else to Him, the Father removes Christ from the situation and you’re only left with the “thing” which you added. That thing is not Christ. A simple mathematical formula might help to explain the.

Christ + 0 = redemption
Christ + 0 = freedom in Christ
Christ + 0 = peace (because Christ is all these things)
Christ + 0 = love

But if we change the formula, something happens.

Christ + Law = Law (only)
Christ + Works = works (only)
Christ + Love = love (human)

You get the point? The “thing” will cancel out Christ.
Christ must not only be the center,
HE MUST BE THE ALL

Now the Father’s purpose does not end with Christ becoming our all. There is more. God wants Christ to be the All in us, not just in you! God’s goal is a corporate Christ where Jesus is the Head and we are the Body. This means that we focus on Christ together, not just individually. Each member of the Body needs to have a revelation that Christ lives in them. Each one needs to take Christ as their all. In this way, God’s purpose and heart will be satisfied.

CHRIST AS THE ALL IN ALL!

10 Myths About Organic Church – Part 8

Myth #8 – Organic Church is a Monolithic Movement

Many believers are trying to get a “handle” of understanding on what we mean when we use the phrase “organic church”. Personally, I am finding the whole issue very tiring and am about ready to give up using that term altogether! Many are now calling it the OC (for organic church) like they did for the IC (institutional church). The term is very much in vogue and many (even on this blog) are calling for more explanation and definition. Many are calling us folk that use that term things like “the organic community” and “organic church people”. Personally, I don’t like such labels because it tends to sound like we are separating ourselves from the rest of Christ’s Body and that is just not true. I am a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ – plain and simple! I am a member of His Body just like every other born-from-above believer. My spiritual family consists of all of those who have the Christ living inside of them.

What About Movements?

As I have already stated in another blog post, I do not believe what we see happening today is either a movement or anything new. Twice in my own lifetime have I seen similar stirrings of the Spirit towards a more organic way of being the Church. One was in the late 60’s early 70’s and it was affectionately called The Jesus People Movement. My wife and I came to Christ during that time. The center was only Jesus (hence the name) and there was much freedom, community, and spiritual life. Unfortunately, another movement, that was authoritarian in nature, quenched much of the Jesus people thing. Then, there was the house church movement of the late 80’s early 90’s. This was also somewhat of a return to the biblical way of meeting and living the Lord’s life.

But there were also many other moves of God throughout history when believers left the institutional system for a more biblical and organic way of church. Some of those groups were the Priscillians, the Bogomils, the Waldensians, the Anabaptists, Moravians, Plymouth Brethren, Little Flock, etc. Here again, many people were leaving the conventional/traditional churches to seek Christ in the midst of body life. These groups were all different in various ways but all could be called “organic”. They all saw organic to mean that the life of Christ would be flowing in and through His people to bring about an expression. That expression would be His Body, the Church. What would this expression look like? It would look like Him – Jesus Christ in corporate form! It would contain all of His characteristics, nature, and life.

Not a Movement
So I would say it is not a movement or perhaps (if it is) then we could say that it is THE movement of God throughout the ages. It is the one thing that God is focused on. It is the one thing that He is relentless to pursue until it comes to full fruition in this realm. It is His eternal purpose and the thing that has been in His heart since before creation. It is that His Son would be the Center, Life, Head, and Sum Total of all things visible and invisible (Ephesians chapter 1).

Not Monolithic

Organic church cannot be monolithic because it is the actual life of God being expressed in a vessel; an image; a body; a house. I know people who have experienced organic church life in college. They were a part of a campus ministry and lived together with other believers most of the time. They shared Christ together and experienced much of the organic life during that time. Others have experienced some of this on mission trips or other ministries where they spent much time together with other believers. The expression can vary but the life comes from the same Source. The results are always the same; a deep love for the Lord and for one another; an embracing of the cross to let go of the soul-life; and a deeper experience of Him personally and with the other believers.

I Want to Know You

But, no, rather I also count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be trash, that I might gain Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, having the righteousness of God on faith, to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead.

Phil 3:8-11

Lord Jesus, I want to know you.

I want to know You in all of Your fullness and all of Your glory.

I want to know You in all of Your depths, heights, width and breadth, together with all of Your saints.

I want to know You within Your Church!

That is, I want to know all of Your unsearchable riches that are hidden within earthen vessels.

I want to know all of those things that our eyes cannot see and our ears cannot hear neither have come up into our hearts.

But I want to know all of those things that have already been given to us by Your Spirit.

I don’t want to know You in a shallow way.  I want to dive down deep into the depths of You.

I want to be a submarine, not just a sailboat!

I want to know You in Your righteousness, holiness, redemption, and salvation.

I want to know You AS my wisdom.

I want to know Your ways, thoughts, and character.

I want to know YOU, not just what You said and did.

I want to know the present (current) Christ, not just some historical figure from the past.

I want to know the risen, ascended, glorified, and eternal Christ.

I don’t just want to know You in my mind, but I want to know You in my experience.

I want to know You in my spirit.

I want this knowledge to be an experiential knowledge!

I want to know You as my Grace and Truth.

I want to know You as my Food and Drink.

I want to know You as the air I breathe.

I want to know You as my Vine and my Shepherd.

I want to know You as my New Man, New Creation, and New Covenant.

I want to know You as my Life Source and Life Supply.

I want to know You as my New Wine and New Wineskin.

I want to know You as the essence of all of the scriptures.

I want to know You AS my resurrection.

I want to know You as my Center.

I want to live by Your life.

I want to be able to say in truth that it’s not I who live but Christ who lives in me.

I want to know You so deeply and so truly that I will have forgotten anything that Milt ever came up with!

I want to know You in and with my brothers and sisters.

I want to know You in Your Body, Your Bride, Your House.

I am willing to lose all to know You in these ways and in every way.

Lord Jesus, I want to know You …

Impaired Vision Through Filters: Part 8 – The Solution

“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”                      II Cor. 3:16

For the last two months or so I have been sharing 7 “filters” that cause a hindrance in our full unobstructed view of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  These “filters” are simply things that distract us and fog our vision from seeing Christ.  Of course, there are many more filters than just seven!  I pray that God will reveal to you those that are impairing your own vision.

Seeing Before Expressing

Seeing Christ is the first step in expressing Christ.  The Lord Jesus told us that he only did those things which He saw the Father doing  (John 5:19).  We must see Christ before we can do (or live) Christ.  Spiritual sight must come before we can express the Lord.  Before we can be His Body and expression we must learn how to see Him not only individually but corporately.  Filters get in the way of all of that.  We can never fully be the expression of this glorious Christ (as his Body and Image) until the fogged up goggles we are wearing fall off of our faces.  But how does this happen?  Is it enough to simply know what filters one is wearing?  Is there something else that needs to happen to lose those pesky filters?  Yes, yes, definitely YES!

Turning to the Lord

Of course, the word ‘filter’ is not found in the Bible.  However, the word ‘veil’ is found there.  And the apostle Paul tells us the answer to the filter/veil problem in II Corinthians.

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.”  II Cor. 7-9

Here, Paul is comparing the two covenants and the differences of ministry between the two.  He says that the “ministry of righteousness” (New Covenant) must far exceed the glory of the “ministry of condemnation” (Old Covenant).

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.  But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. ”   II Cor. 3:12-14

The minds of the Israelites were hardened regarding the Messiah.  This caused them to have a major filter/veil that clouded their vision.  When He came, the Christ looked much different than what they were expecting.  He did not come as a conquering ruler to take over the Romans physically and politically.  Instead, He came as the Lamb of God in the spirit of meekness and humility.  This veil remains to this day because only through Christ is it taken away.

“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”     II Cor. 3:15-18

Here we see the secret of veils being removed.  It’s so simple.  You just turn to the Lord!  That is, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the Spirit.  He is the “veil remover” Himself.  But what does turning to the Lord really look like?  It means you turn all of your attention and focus on Him and only Him.  But how do you do that?  By faith.  You turn to Him who lives inside of you, that is, inside your spirit (I Cor. 6:9).  He lives inside of the deepest part of you, your innermost part, your inner man (Jn 7:38; Eph. 3:16). Turn your soul (mind, will, emotions) to that place where He resides.

But that’s just the first step!

Beholding the Lord

After you turn to Him and give Him all of your attention, then you behold Him!  But you don’t just do that alone.  You do that with the saints!  In verse 18 Paul tells us that “we all” (plural) with unveiled face (singular) behold the Lord.  It’s a we all thing!  And the word behold  is a very intense word in the Greek.  It means to gaze with great intensity, not just to look at casually.

As the church does this something miraculous, even glorious begins to happen.  She is transformed (transfigured) from glory to glory into His image!  She begins to express Him because she is seeing Him!

Bye-bye filters… hello the expression of the living Christ!

The Incredible Vastness of Christ

because all the fullness was pleased to dwell in Him” Col. 1:19

Today I heard a song that I haven’t heard in quite a while. It’s an old one from the seventies called “Cosmic Cowboy” by Barry McGuire. Now, I must explain that Barry’s music has a special place in my heart because he, along with many other pioneers of contemporary Christian music, came to the Lord in the late sixties and early seventies. That’s when my wife and I came to Christ through a genuine move of God called “the Jesus People Movement”. Young people in and out of the hippie movement were coming to the Lord at that time in droves and were experiencing much freedom in Christ and spontaneous organic church life.

This song, probably more than any other pop music tune, really captures the incredible vastness of our Lord. And it also captures the fact that He wants us to experience all of His glory, beauty and vastness.

I have included the lyrics below and you can also hear and see a video on You Tube for it here:
Cosmic Cowboy

Cosmic Cowboy Lyrics:

I met a Cosmic Cowboy and He’s ridin the stary range.
He’s a supernatural plowboy. He’s dressed up kind of strange.
At first you know, I didn’t even see him; Hey, I was out there on the run.
But that old hat that He’s wearin, its shinin brighter than the sun.
And when my eyes adjusted, to the flashin of his smile;
Oh, I saw his invitation. He said, “Come on, we’ll go ridin for awhile.”

And you know we rode along together, for more than half a day.
Right through the changin weather; the sky was all turning gray.
And the chilly winds were blowin, and the cold was cutting deep.
Then it started snowing, the trail was gettin steep.
I was just about to turn around, and head on back down the way we came.
Somehow without a sound, I heard Him call my name.
Lookin up, I saw we was high up on this ridge. He took me by my hand;
lead me right over to the edge.
I was so scared I couldn’t find a single word to say.
I mean, there’s 10,000 feet of empty air, and it’s just about an inch away.
But a million miles was out beyond the waving of his hand.
And I was looking through His eyes, right in through another land.
He said; “This is my Fathers ranch, just as far as you can see.
He made it out of nothing; every branch, every tree.
The stars, and the mountians, the rivers, the streams;
the oceans and the fountains, and the valley of your dreams.
Thats right, I know that place you long to be.
Truth is, I’m the only door, you’re going to have to pass right through me.
Bendin back I tipped my hat so I could look Him in the eye.
He just smiled and gave me confidence. He said; “Go ahead and try.”
Well, it was now or never, and I knew I had to start.
So I took that step and I went fallin, straight in through His heart.
The first thing that I noticed, coming out the other side;
All my fears had vanished. Jesus taught me how to fly!

There’s a Cosmic cowboy, and he rides the stary range.
He’s a supernatural plowboy, and he is dressed up kind of strange.
To think I nearly missed Him, being out there on the run.
Ah, but that old hat that he’s wearin, its shinning brighter than the sun.
And when my eyes adjusted, to the flashin of his smile;
Hey, I saw his invitation. He said; “Come on, Me and You,
we’ll go ridin for awhile.”

Anyone besides me feel like ridin’?

Christ in Context

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” John 16: 13 – 15

One of the results of the fall is that our minds now have a strong tendency to taking ideas, concepts, and even persons, and then chopping them up and pulling them out of their proper context. For example, we have done this with Jesus Christ Himself.

The Segmented Christ

We have taken Christ and chopped Him up into little pieces. I have written about this previously in an article called The Holistic Church. We take a slice out of Christ and then make it everything. We have done this with just about every aspect of the person and work of Christ.

For example, we have taken evangelism, gifts, healing, miracles, social action, deliverance, love, peace, joy and many other aspects of Him and taken them out of their proper context (Christ Himself) and then blown them up to be everything.

Yet our glorious Christ is all of these things and so much more! But that is what the fallen, un-renewed mind does. So our revelation and life experience must shift to the whole Christ so that we can express the fullness of Christ. But what is the context of Christ Himself?

Seeing Christ in His Environment

This is moving to another mountain altogether. It all begins with “seeing,” that is, revelation of this Christ within His context. Seeing all of the aspects of Christ as all parts of the whole Christ is one thing (and it is wonderful), but what about seeing the context of this Christ Himself?

Did you know that Christ has His own context, His own environment that He lives in all the time? Do you realize that we have done the same “splicing” of Christ out of His context as we have done with the many aspects of Christ?

So exactly what is the context for the Son of God? It’s simple; the context for Christ is God Himself! What is His environment? Where does He live? He lives inside of the Father through the Holy Spirit (See Jn. 17). In other words, the context for Christ is the Triune God or Godhead. That’s His native habitat. He came from and went back to God (Father, Son, Spirit).

He never has nor will He ever live “one solitary life”! He is not a lone individual. Even while on the earth, He was living in, by, through, and to His Community – the Triune God. He lives in the glorious context of Community life. His life doesn’t even make sense outside of the fellowship of the Father and the Spirit. Just read the gospel of John and you will see this very clearly, that is, if you are really looking.

The One Dimensional Christ

You could say that seeing Christ the way that we normally see Him is like seeing Him one-dimensionally. People are really into 3D movies nowadays. Why? Because now, instead of just watching the film with height and width, you can actually see depth! What a difference depth makes. I personally dislike those funky glasses.

We have been viewing Christ one-dimensionally. Yet He is really a three-dimensional Lord. He is one with the Father and Spirit. Three dimensions? Well, actually much more . . . three Persons! Yet each one of these Persons is unlimited in Their vastness. And the three unique and unlimited Ones are even greater than that because of Their oneness. The oneness of God is not just a doctrine or theology, but it is an actual life that has been lived out for eternity. Jesus called this life – eternal life (Jn. 17:3). This is the life of oneness, the life of eternal fellowship, the life of community.

If you will sit down one day and read through the gospel of John chapters fourteen through seventeen, you will see it more clearly. The Son is part of the fellowship or community. We could call this community the divine fellowship. When he became a man and lived on this earth he was still living in and by this divine community. He told us that He lived by the life of His Father (Jn. 6:57). At His baptism the Father spoke from heaven and the Spirit descended as a dove. He cast out demons by the Spirit. The words He spoke came from the Father. The three divine Persons of the Trinity were working in tandem the whole time.

Three Dimensional Church Life

Now this divine fellowship and community that is shared within the Godhead has everything to do with us as believers. The Lord didn’t just share these things with the disciples to give them some new radical theology. Even though as Jews they didn’t even believe in a Triune God!

What He was sharing in these chapters of John’s gospel was the actual foundation of the eternal life that He was giving them. This life would soon be in them and they would learn to live by this life.

This eternal life is nothing less than the very same life that energizes the community of the Godhead.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him whom You have sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17:3).

That which we have seen and heard we report also to you that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 1:3).

This life, this community life, is not only the model for the church. It is also the very life by which the church lives. This fellowship within the Triune God is the life by which He wants to live in and through the believers.

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9). And we are in Him. We are not in Him just as some kind of ethereal vague theory. We are in Him so that we can fellowship (actually participate) in that life. We are in Him so we can fellowship but also so we can express. He wants us, as the corporate body of Christ, to express the actual community life within God Himself! He wants that life to be our lifestyle.

Our Context

Just as Christ has a context in the life of the Triune God, so do we. Our context as believers is Christ Himself. And that context is corporate to the core. We all are in Christ by the Spirit and Christ is in the Father. And the Father is in the Son.

Isn’t that a wonderful place to be?

What is the Kingdom of God?

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:13, 14

The Power of the Filter

We all have mindsets. These are particular systems or ways of thinking about certain topics. Each topic has its own set of thoughts and “principles” pertaining to that mindset. For example, if you are an Olympic swimmer then you will have a “mind” that pertains to that specific sport. This “mind” will have its own set of subsets or principles regarding Olympic swimming. You will tend to think in terms of water, how to move quickly through water, swimsuits, headgear, goggles, racing techniques, etc. And this mindset will contain its own filter. So when you see water, you will envision swimming, racing, etc. When you approach a swimming pool you will automatically “see” a raceway.

We do the same thing with the scriptures, and specifically, with the idea of the kingdom. Christians view this topic from the perspective of many different mindsets. Therefore, they see different things from the perspective of the various corresponding filters.

Some will see the kingdom of God as a political entity and opportunity for Jesus to rule on this earth through the earthly political process. Others will see the kingdom as an opportunity for the display of spiritual gifts such as healings, miracles, the casting out of demons, raising of the dead, etc. Still others will see the kingdom through the filter of evangelism, revival, and church growth. To them, the kingdom is the rapid spread of the “gospel” of the kingdom which is the salvation of mankind. And to many others the kingdom is seen as the fulfillment of end time prophecy concerning the second coming of Christ. It all has to do with physical Israel and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. And I could go on and on with the various mindsets and the corresponding filters, but I think you get my point.

The One Mindset We Desperately Need

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Col. 3:1 – 4

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Col. 3:9 – 11

Brothers and sisters, we desperately need the mindset of the new man. The mindset of being “in Christ.” The mindset of the New Creation!

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

In this new mindset we see everything from a new point of view. This is the perspective of God himself. And how does our God see everything? From what perspective does he see? There is only one. He sees from the perspective of “in Christ!” The Father sees all things from this one vantage point. You could say that this is the mindset of God. He sees all things from the “filter” of his beloved Son.

“For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Col. 2:9

You see, God does everything in and through Christ and therefore he has an “in Christ” frame of mind. But we do not think this way. That’s why we need this renewal of the mind that Paul writes about.

Seeing the Kingdom with a New Mind

Of course, we have transferred our old man mindset into our definitions and understandings of the kingdom of God. We only see this from the mindset of principles and topics. For years I viewed the Bible as a book of spiritual topics. Within those topics there were certain “principles” that every believer needs to learn. I not only was taught this and believed it, I also taught God’s people this way of topics and principles. I thank God that I finally saw that the Bible is not about topics and principles, but is a book about a Person. That Person is Jesus Christ, God’s Son! You see, this Person is all that God thinks about and writes about. The Bible is not a book about certain topics such as salvation, prayer, healing, righteousness, holiness, love, ministry, the church, the kingdom of God, etc. All of the scriptures only speak about one Person and reveal this one Person (John 5:39, 40; Luke 24:27; Rev. 1:1; Rev. 19:13).

All of the supposed topics are actually descriptions of our Lord! Now, let’s take a look at the “topic” of the kingdom of God.

The Mystery

“To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.” Mark 4:11

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.” Col. 2:1 – 2

The Seed

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” Matt. 13:24

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one. “And to your seed, that is, Christ.” Gal. 3:16

The First

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6:33

“He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Col. 1:18

The Treasure

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matt. 13:44

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” 2 Cor. 4:7

Marriage

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” Matt. 22:2

“He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.” Eph. 5:28b – 30

The Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Matt. 20:1

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

It should by now be apparent to you what our definition of the kingdom of God should be. The kingdom is not another topic to be studied with principles that need to be obeyed. The kingdom of God is a Person and we have been called to intimately know and live by means of this wonderful Person.

“Some Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He answered, “God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see. There is no use saying, ‘Look, here it is’ or ‘Look! There it is.’ God’s kingdom is here with you.”
Luke 17:20, 21

The Lord was talking about Himself. He was standing right there in their midst. The kingdom was among them because He was among them! He IS the kingdom. The kingdom of God is the place where God is first, God rules, and God is all. That place is inside of the Person of Christ.

It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t have much to say about the kingdom using those exact terms. He only mentions “the Kingdom” a few times and yet Jesus spoke about it constantly. I believe that the reason for this is that Jesus was mainly speaking to Jews and he was cracking wide open their mindset (along with the filters) about the kingdom. They had the political mindset about the kingdom and he came to show them that He was the kingdom. Instead, Paul was speaking mostly to Gentiles and he uses the phrase “in Christ.” He uses that phrase over two hundred times in his writings. They both refer to a location. A location that is a glorious Person!

The Inheritance

In the Old Testament the kingdom and the land of Canaan were synonymous. Of course, the kingdom of Israel and the physical land of Canaan are only pictures and shadows of the true reality. This reality is Jesus Christ. Paul uses the picture of the Canaan land to show us the unsearchable riches of Christ. He does it through writing about the inheritance of the saints. In the old covenant, the inheritance was a direct reference to the Canaan land being given to the nations of Israel (Acts 20:32; Col. 1:12).

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you for a share of the allotted portion of the saints in the light; who delivered us out of the authority of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins . . .” Col. 1:12 – 14

We can see here that Paul ties together the allotted portion, which is a reference to the Canaan land (Josh. 14:1) and the kingdom of the Son of His love. This kingdom, this inheritance, this land is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is the allotted portion of the saints!