The Essence of Personhood

The following is an excerpt from the new book: The Community Life of God

You can order this new book by clicking here

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father who abides in Me does His works.” John 14:10

Because of our fallen minds, we have a very twisted view of personhood. Our definition of a “person” is not based upon the proper foundation. The proper foundation is God Himself. Obviously, all personhood originated in and with the living God. Before there was anything, there was God. Before there were any other persons, there was God. Therefore, we need to look into God Himself to discover the foundation and essence of all personhood.

The Uniqueness of the Individual

First of all, we need to see that within this corporate God of ours there are three distinct and unique Persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each have their own distinctive personalities. I am not speaking here of functions or roles, but rather the unique personalities that make them who they are. Each one has His own peculiar characteristics, the personality “traits,” if you will, that make Him unique.

Just because they are all one, does not mean they are the same. Oneness does not mean sameness. In fact, oneness presumes diversity. This means that within the one God, there are three different and distinct personalities who all think, live and act as one entity. This is more than just a team. This is a community.

“It reflects the unity in diversity inherent in the divine Trinity of persons that in an analogous way should characterize the life of the church in its local, regional, international, and universal dimension. This fellowship does not aim to overcome all diversity, but rather to embrace it in a dynamic, relational, and growing bond of love and understanding.”

Kevin Giles
What on Earth is the Church?
InterVarsity Press, 1995, p. 202

But my point here is that in order to have diversity, you must have distinction. The Persons within the Godhead all have their own distinctions that make them unique. The expression of this can be seen in the creation.

I love to watch people. Sometimes, when my wife and I go to the shopping mall, we just sit there and watch the people go by. It never ceases to amaze me how each individual person is different. And I’m just speaking of their appearances. Each person has his or her own unique look. No two people look exactly identical. It is so mysterious and yet so wonderful that our God could have so much variety within Himself to be able to express it in such a creation.

Then, when you think about each person’s own unique personality traits and mannerisms it even gets more amazing. There are literally billions of people on this planet right now and yet each one is unique. And that’s just those people who are alive right now! What about the billions who have gone before us and those who will come after? Think about all of the people who have ever been born in the human race since the beginning. Each and every one of those is completely unique. If that doesn’t give you cause to praise your Lord, I don’t know what will.

Your God is into the uniqueness of the person. Your God is into the sanctity of the individual. Your God, obviously, loves diversity and variety. He is not a stoic, boring God. He loves colors, He loves variety, and He loves life! He created you as a unique individual. He created you to be a unique expression of Him. You can bring out and express a side of Him that no one else can express. The Father came into His Son and marked off a particular portion of the life of His Son and He wrote your name on it! Yes, He chose you, in all your uniqueness, to be one of His “holy ones” to be loved by Him (Eph. 1:4). You have been called, chosen, set apart, sanctified, and then placed into the Body of Christ to fulfill a great destiny. That destiny is to be part of His fullness (Eph. 1:23). This fullness is His Body, the expression of Him who fills all in all. And only you can fulfill your specific destiny in your own unique way. You are one of the many “flavors” of Christ. The unique flavor that His life in you produces cannot be reproduced in anyone else.

So we can see that the uniqueness of the individual is one of the requirements of personhood. A “person” is one who is different and unique from others. However, this is only half of the story. Without this next half, personhood would never exist.

Personhood is Defined by Relationship

As I have said many times, within the one God there are three Persons. These three coexist and coinhere together. Their coexistence means that the three live and exist at the same time. All three exist at the same time. The Father does not disappear to then become the Son, and then the Son disappears to become the Spirit. They all exist all of the time.

Coinherence means that they each live inside of one another. The Father is inside of the Son. The Son is inside of the Father. The Spirit is inside of the Son. They all three live inside of one another. Because they coinhere, they are one. They are in one another. (See John 14-17.)

They are also self-dedicated to one another. This means that each one is totally dependent upon the others. They are much more than a co-op.

They not only cooperate with one another, they are completely dependent upon one another. No one Person acts alone. Whenever one Person is engaged in an activity, they are all engaged together. We can see this in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.

He did all things in the name of the Father (John 17:6). He spoke the words of the Father and did the works of the Father (John 8: 28, 29). He never acted alone. He always moved together in His community. He also told the Pharisees that He cast out demons by the Spirit. Here again, we see the members of the Godhead working together. When Jesus was baptized by John we see the whole Trinity involved. The Son was baptized, the Spirit descended as a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven.

This God that we have is a Three-in-one God. Yet all three of these Persons obtain their identities from the community. They are not separated, independent individuals who all do their own individual things. They are one heart, one mind, one soul, and always move and act together as one. Each one receives His “personhood” from His relationship to the others. Without the relationship, there would be no persons. This shows us some very important aspects of personhood in general. Remember, all personhood originates from within this Triune God.

Personhood is Rooted in Oneness

First of all, we can clearly see that personhood has a context. There is no such thing as a person who is in a vacuum. Personhood has its own environment. It must be rooted into the firm soil of community. It must be planted in the solid ground of oneness. It is only in the sphere of corporate life that true personality emerges. Without relationship, there can be no true personhood. A person without community is like a fish out of water.

“Participation in the dynamic of Trinitarian love, however, is not ones merely as individuals in isolation. Rather, it is a privilege we share with all other believers. The Spirit’s activity within us makes us co-participants in the relationship enjoyed between the Father and the Son. In mediating this relationship to us, the Spirit draws us together into one people. Only in our Spirit-produced corporateness do we truly reflect to all creation the grand dynamic that lies at the heart of the Triune God.”

Stanley J. Grenz
Created for Community
Baker Books House, 1998, p. 216

There are many colors of light, as we can see in a rainbow. But all of these colors exist within the one color of white. The color of white contains all of the other colors. We could compare white to community. All of the individual colors radiate from within the white light. In other words, all the uniqueness of the varying colors emanate from within the environment of community. Without the white light, there would be nothing to contain the colors. So we can see in this way that community is the “container” for personhood.

The one God is the container for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three Persons live in and are (together) God. Their relationship or their community is the environment in which they live. They live within a context. They live in and as a community. The main activity of this community is fellowship. Fellowship is the act of sharing, giving, relating, communicating, and experiencing their common life. This is the sphere in which they live. This is what defines them as individual Persons.

Identity Only Found in Community

People in this world are always searching for their identity. “Who am I?” is one of the most basic questions that mankind has ever asked. There is no doubt that as a race, Adam has lost his identity. We really do not have any idea who we are. So the search is never ending for our own identity. I am speaking of the identity of the individual person. How am I unique? How am I special? How do I stand out from the crowd? You, dear reader, may have asked yourself these same questions. But let me tell you that you will never have the answers to these types of questions outside of community. Your identity can only be discovered in the environment of relationship.

You are a unique individual. However, there is only one part of you that can know the real you. You cannot discover who you are with your mind or emotions. You can only discover the real you in your spirit. Paul told us this in I Cor. 2:11. Only the spirit of a man truly knows that man. Why is this? It’s because the spirit is the part of us that is connected with God. God’s Spirit lives inside of our spirit. Therefore, our human spirit is the organ of community. It is the way we communicate with the Triune God.

Personhood and identity can only be defined by relating to others. You will never truly “find yourself” until you are living in the community life of God. Then, and only then, will your true colors come out. What I mean by “true colors” are those aspects of Christ that have been placed into you to make you special. These are the riches of Christ. You are special because God has deposited some unique aspects of Himself within you. But those “colors” can only be displayed in the context of the community life. It is only as you live and relate to others in the Body of Christ that your own uniqueness can come forth. This is because of God’s purpose and plan. He wants to be expressed through a corporate vessel. This vessel is the fullness of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23). Each individual person within this vessel will express or display a unique aspect of the living God. Together they all make up this new communal man. Together, as one, they express and enlarge the fullness of Christ!

Organic Church Event in Las Vegas

My wife, Mary, and I just returned from a weekend conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Alan Levine, Frank Viola, Gary Welter, and myself spoke at this event and there were around 160 believers there. I must say that I had a great time. There were many physical problems and struggles throughout the event, but God was triumphant in glorifying His wonderful Son!

One thing that stood out to me at this particular event was the great diversity among the people there. There were believers from all walks of life, backgrounds, and places along this journey to the heart of God. But they all seemed very hungry to know Him better! The ones that I talked to were all very desperate to stop playing the game and start getting down to the reality of knowing Him and being part of His house. The message of the vision of God’s eternal purpose seemed to impact them deeply. The realization that God wants something for Himself touched many.

As we travel around this country (and others) we are seeing this kind of hunger and desperation more and more. God is truly doing something worldwide to bring His people back to Him and His eternal purpose. This is truly amazing and very exciting!

The Holistic Church

It is the same way with the Body of Christ. We are to express (visibly) the invisible Person who lives within us. We do this individually and corporately. Each part expresses Christ but the fullness of Christ can only be expressed by the Body (Eph. 1:23). Individually we can only express a small part of this wonderful Person. But together, corporately, we can express the fullness or the whole Christ. And now this gets down to my point.

‘holistic’ – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. The organic or functional relation between parts and whole.

The term “holistic” is mostly used in the field of alternative medicine. In this context it is usually defined as treating the whole person, not just the physical body.

In conventional medicine, it is usually only the specific body part that has the symptoms which is treated. The body itself is not viewed as only “part” of a bigger picture, the whole person. I believe that this is a mistake, but that is not the reason I have written this article. I believe that we, as believers, have made a similar mistake with our viewpoint and approach to the Body of Christ.

The Expression of the Whole Christ

And He subjected all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all. Eph. 1: 22, 23

The letter to the Ephesians probably shows us more than any other letter how the church is the Body of Christ. And that Body is to express the fullness of the Head, Jesus Christ.

Just think about your own physical body. What purpose does it serve? Does it not express in a physical, visible way the invisible person who lives within it? Your body communicates with the outside world. Your body expresses what you are thinking and feeling on the inside. When you speak you move your hands around to express your thoughts. I’m sure you have heard the term “body language.” It simply means that you can express your thoughts and feelings with your physical body.

It is the same way with the Body of Christ. We are to express (visibly) the invisible Person who lives within us. We do this individually and corporately. Each part expresses Christ but the fullness of Christ can only be expressed by the Body (Eph. 1:23). Individually we can only express a small part of this wonderful Person. But together, corporately, we can express the fullness or the whole Christ. And now this gets down to my point.

As the church, are we expressing the fullness of Christ or only a part? Could it be that we have taken and chosen certain aspects of His nature, character, and mission and only chosen to express those specific aspects? I strongly believe that we have done this. In fact, I hope to prove it to you in this article. I have termed this process as “selective expression.”

What is Selective Expression?

It is the process whereby we see, speak, teach, and consequentially express only a small part of Christ, and not the “Whole” Christ.

At the core of this problem is a very weak and limited revelation of Jesus Christ. We have a revelation of Him, but only in one small area. We have a small and limited Christ. We have only seen Him with limited vision. And that’s okay because we are all growing in our revelation and understanding of this unlimited Christ. Revelation is progressive and eternally growing and expanding.

However, the problem comes in when we stop the process along the way. We become satisfied with what we have already seen of Him and stop pursuing and pressing into Christ. Now, our experience of Christ settles and crystallizes like hardened concrete. This is when we form “filters” over our vision of Christ. We only see Him a certain way because we are looking through the “spectacles” of our past revelation and experience.

Here is an example. There was a time in my life when the Lord was revealing to me His heart for the lost. He showed me how much He loved them and wanted to reach them. This crystallized for me and became a filter over my eyes. Then, everything I saw in the scriptures was about evangelism. It didn’t matter where I went in the bible, all I saw was evangelism. I had put on the “spectacles” of evangelicalism. And now I was out to convert the non-believer and recruit the believer into becoming as evangelistic as me. Partial vision can sometimes be worse than total blindness!

The real problem came in when I went out to find others who had on the same spectacles as me. I only wanted to fellowship with Christians who were as evangelistic as me. Now we are talking corporate expression here. What I saw effected how I expressed. And now there was a group of us expressing together. The problem was that we were only expressing a very small part of Christ! He is much bigger than evangelism, miracles, healing, deliverance, feeding the poor, helping widows, spiritual gifts or spiritual warfare.

He is the All!

And His desire is to be expressed as such by His church.

First Things First – the Chicken or the Egg?

One of the first things that God had the children of Israel do after they left Egypt was to build the tabernacle (Ex. 25 – 30). When the new generation entered the Canaan land, the whole point was for God to have two things: a house (temple), and a city (Jerusalem). There was a certain piece of property that God had in mind for his house and the children of Israel would have to fight their way into the land to obtain it. The reason God wanted the land was to have a building site for his house and his city. The theme of the house and the city runs all throughout scripture. You can even see the raw materials for this building project in the garden (Gen. 2:12). Throughout all of scripture we see “the house” and “the city.” Here are just a few: Ezra 6:3; 2 Sam. 6:17; Ps. 132: 3-5; Heb. 4:16; Luke 9:58; Matt. 21:13; Matt. 16: 13-18; Heb. 11:10; Rev. 21 & 22.

The House and the City

It’s important that we realize that the city grows out of the house. The house must come first. Who ever heard of a city without a house? The city is the expansion of the house. But what is all of this figurative language about?

The House – a place for the Lord to rest his head.

The “house” is the dwelling place of God. It is the place where he can relax, where he can be himself. It is the place where he can freely express himself. Just like we design and decorate our homes to suit and express who we are, so does the Lord with his house. It’s all about the place of rest, comfort, and expression (Acts 7:44-50; Is. 66:1). The house is always the center of the city. In Old Covenant language, the temple is the center of Jerusalem. The temple was the focal point for all Jewish worship and culture. This is but a shadow or picture of the true house of God, the church (I Pet. 2_5; I pet. 4:17; I Tim. 3:15; I Cor. 3:9-16). And this house expresses who he is. This house is Jesus Christ in corporate form.

The City – all throughout scripture the city represents authority and power.

The establishment of a city always depicts the establishment of conquest and authority. God has always wanted a city. In Revelation 21 and 22 we see that he gets it. The New Jerusalem is the culmination of all of God’s purposes and dreams in one place. It’s a heavenly city that comes down to earth (Rev. 21:10). And God gets his desire fulfilled to dwell with and in man (Rev. 21:3). The Father and the Son are the Temple (Rev. 21:22). And this city is the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9).

The city, since it represents God’s authority, also represents the kingdom of God. The throne of God is there and his people rule with him (Rev. 22:3-5). The city expresses who he is and what he does. The city is the fullness and expansion of the house. Christ is fully expressed through his church and this brings forth the kingdom. The kingdom is the expression of his mission to the world. It includes evangelism, feeding the poor, reaching the lost, healing of all sorts, deliverance — basically Isaiah 61:1, 2. The kingdom is the city set on a hill (Matt. 5:14-16).

The Present Dichotomy

I see that there has been a polarization happening among believers involving this issue of the house and the city. Many have created a dichotomy out of the church and the kingdom. There are those who say that the kingdom is what Jesus preached, so we should be into that. Then, there are others who say that Paul wrote mostly about the church, so we should be into that.

The truth is that this is not an either/or situation. The church and the kingdom are not diametrically opposed to one another. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin, so to speak. They are both aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The church brings the kingdom to earth because it is through the church that the nature, life, and works of God are displayed (Eph. 3:10, 11; Eph. 2:10).

Therefore, we will never see the kingdom come to this earth in any significant way until we see the church displaying the fullness of Christ. She is all about expressing her Lord. And the kingdom (his authority and works) are part of that expression.

We must remember that God has a divine order to things. The house comes before the city. Communal comes before missional. Relationship comes before good works. Identity comes before action. Being comes before doing. Who God is determines what he does. Jesus healed the sick because he is compassion. He raised the dead because he is resurrection. He fed the multitudes because he is the bread of life.

The Source and Origins of Church Life

Before anything else existed there was the fellowship and community of the Godhead (John 17). Before there was ministry, outreach, or mission, there was a divine community flowing with life. This is the model and foundation for all church life. If there is community life, and it is healthy, then the divine life of the Godhead will flow out to the world as well. Why? Because that is part of who God is. And the community of believers is all about expressing that life to one another and to the world. In other words, the community of the Godhead, in all of its fullness and glory, is to be expressed by the community of believers.

Sisters and brothers, we must begin there!

Organic Church Growth – Forced or Free?

There have been many church growth movements, models, ministries, and mentors over the last fifty years or so. They all have their differences and yet most are remarkably similar.

In my opinion, most of these “systems” have been setup from within the institutional mindset and geared toward helping pastors fill their pews.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.  And which is smaller than all the seeds; but when it has grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree so that the birds of heaven come and roost in its branches.  Matt. 13: 31, 32

 

There have been many church growth movements, models, ministries, and mentors over the last fifty years or so.  They all have their differences and yet most are remarkably similar.

 

In my opinion, most of these “systems” have been setup from within the institutional mindset and geared toward helping pastors fill their pews.

 

I guess you could say that I was technically an institutional pastor for two years.  During that time, the pastors of the group I was in would get together monthly for a prayer breakfast.  There were only two topics of discussion at that meeting.  How many people do you have in your church; and how much money are you bringing in?  There was one pastor who had been very “successful” and had a large church.  Some of the other guys thought that if they preached his sermons (word for word!) they would have the same kind of success!

 

This is typical of the kind of thinking that permeates leadership in institutional churches.  Church growth “specialists” have come up with all kinds of whacky ideas to help multiply congregations in the western world.  Many of these are the manipulative, forced, and contained methods of Madison Avenue style marketing.  They may get people in the pews, but what is going on here, spiritually?

 

What is the Goal?

 

The majority of evangelical Christians today believe the purpose and goal of the Church is to evangelize the world.  This is why God saved us and this is the reason we are here.  In other words, we are here to multiply, so we had better get to it.

 

Now I understand that when God created man He told him to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  But what did God say before that?  First, he created man in His image and used plural pronouns (Gen. 1:26).  He said, “let Us make man in Our image.”  This shows us two things: He wanted an expression of Himself (image), and He wanted that expression to be corporate.  This is why He spoke in the plural pronouns.

 

God is a community of three persons.  Father, Son, and Spirit make up the one God.  He wanted a community that would express or display His own corporate life.

 

Then He said He wanted this corporate image of Himself to have dominion or rule over the earth.  So we see a God here who wants an expression of His communal nature that rules for Him on the earth.  And He wants that community (or race) to be fruitful and multiply.  As you can see, multiplication is only one third of the equation here and it is the last part.  This is very significant as we will see.

 

This all happens in Genesis chapter one before the fall.  This is God’s original intention and purpose before and beyond the fall.  Of course, God knew the fall was going to happen and so He had an “emergency plan.”  This is the plan of redemption in Christ.  But that did not change His original intention.  He still wanted something for Himself above and beyond human need.  He still wanted that visible expression of His divine life and love.  But here is the problem:

 

We have made human need the focus of everything and have forgotten that God wants something for Himself!

 

We got stuck in the “emergency plan” and have abandoned the original plan.  God still wants His house, His body, His bride, His family, and His one new man that can express His divine attributes in a shared-life community.  And this is His goal!

 

Don’t get me wrong.  He loves us and cares about our needs.  He sent His Son to redeem us, heal us, deliver us, etc.  But that was all still a part of the “emergency plan.”  The purpose of this “e-plan” was to get us back on track with His eternal purpose.  Please see the following:  Eph. 1:7-14; Eph. 3:3-12; Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 1:24-28; Col. 3:9-11.

 

His purpose has everything to do with His Son.  Ephesians chapter one makes this very clear.  He wants to sum up all things in His Son (Eph. 1:9, 10).  He wants His body to express the fullness of His Son (Eph. 1:22, 23).  And He wants His Son to fill all things (Eph. 4:10).

 

Premature Growth

 

I believe when we have an over emphasis on evangelism and mission we end up with very shallow results.  We may have lots of numbers, but they may be all zeros!  God is looking for quality much more so than quantity.  The Father is looking for the measure of Christ (Eph. 4:13).  This is true fruit.

 

In my view, we should not be focusing on the fruit (a.k.a. numerical growth).  We should be focusing on the life.  If there is the life of Christ flowing in a group, then the fruit will organically be produced at the right time.  There are seasons in the life of the Church and one of those seasons is the harvest time.  The key is for each believer to learn how to “tap into” the life supply within them so this divine life can flow into the Body (Col. 1:27).  Then, just like a tree, everything will develop in due time. 

 

Timing is a huge part of the equation.  A tree does not produce fruit right out of the gate.  A seedling is not mature enough to produce fruit.  In the same way, a five year old girl cannot give birth.  She is not yet mature enough.  It is not yet her “season”.

 

We see this in the early church as well.  The apostles spent three years living with Jesus before they performed any significant amount of ministry or evangelism.  Except for the apostles, there is no record of anyone else preaching or evangelizing in Jerusalem for at least four or five years.  Some scholars believe that it may have been up to eight years before the persecution of Saul of Tarsus and the resulting dispersion.

 

So let’s be really conservative and say that it was five years between the day of Pentecost and the persecution.  What were the believers doing all this time?  I believe that they were learning Christ.  That is, they were learning how to live by the life of an indwelling Lord.  This was their equipping.  This was their foundation.  So then, when the persecution hit, they went throughout Judea preaching the word and new churches were raised up (Acts 8:4).  This was possible because they had spent those years before learning Christ!

 

To Everything there is a Season

 

My co-workers and I see this same truth in the field as we work with different groups in organic church planting.  Most of the folks come out of institutional churches and a new group is not ready to multiply right away.  Of course, it is always encouraged to reach out to others and new people coming to Christ are always a wonderful thing.  But by and large, in the beginning, that group needs a solid foundation of Christ as their everything. They need ever deepening revelation of Christ and His Church.  They need practical help with learning how to live by His life.  And they need time to “detoxify” from the systems and mindsets of religion.

 

If the life is flowing, then the group will grow when it is ready.  We have seen this happen many times.  But this growth will be “in season” and will be deep and strong.  And the fullness of Christ will be expressed through His Body. (Eph. 1:22-23)

Lions Set Free

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not be entangled with the yoke of slavery again.”    Galatians 5:1

A friend of mine recently told me about a conservation group in Zimbabwe that is taking captive lions and rehabilitating them back into the wild.

This is a difficult, four phase process, but they are having success with it. The rehabilitation process has many snags involved because of the effects of captivity on an African lion. When lions are bred and raised out of their natural habitat, some very abnormal patterns begin to develop. In short, they become domesticated. Yet lions were born to be wild.

In captivity, the lions basically forget that they are lions. The forget how to hunt. They forget how to live in the wild. And they forget how to live in a pride. The “pride” is the name for a community of lions. Lions are by and large social creatures and do not do well as loners.

The Effects of Captivity

You and I were born (again) to be spiritual lions. That’s who we are, but we have forgotten our true nature because of our captivity in the religious system. Captivity has conditioned us to believe things that are just not true. We have become something less than our true calling and destiny because of this conditioning. We have become domesticated.

We have become isolated pew warmers; a mutated race that sits and listens instead of participating and functioning. The clergy/laity system has made us passive and spiritually lazy. In other words, we have sold out our birthrights. Just like Esau we have sold out for the comfort of a bowl of lentil stew, that is, our warm and comfy pews. We no longer wanted to bother with functioning as members of the Body of Christ, so we sold out and instituted the clergy/laity system.

We Have Forgotten How to Hunt

This is definitely one of the most important aspects of a lion’s life. Without the act of hunting, how will you eat?

How will the pride eat?

We have forgotten how to hunt for our own food. Part of our conditioning has been that everyday (or every Sunday!) someone opens our cage and throws us a piece of meat. This bypasses the whole hunting process.

Who is this person that throws in that piece of meat? Where did he get it? Apparently, he went and hunted for it himself. But that is not my prey! And I never had to hunt for it myself.

Hunting is much more than just killing an animal and then eating it. There is the encounter of the hunt itself: finding the right place and time; having the right equipment; getting very quiet; smelling the prey; stalking the prey; taking aim, etc. Sometimes you come up empty handed, but the actual engagement is the thrilling part.

As believers, our food is Jesus Christ Himself! Not just teaching and doctrine about Christ, but the very Person and experience of Christ. You need to hunt for this “food” yourself. Sharing someone else’s food is alright at times. But there is nothing like you going out on your own “hunt” and capturing some new revelation or insight into your Lord. This is exciting. This is discovery. This is how you were born to live!

But then what? What do lions do after they have captured the prey?

They bring it home and share it with the pride.

As I said before, lions are very social creatures and they live in a pride. But in captivity there is no hunt and there is no pride. Lions are thrown their food everyday and they do not live as a pride. They are just individual lions living a mutant life of individualism.

A lion in captivity never has to hunt for his own food. He becomes lazy and complacent. He actually believes that this is normal. He believes that someone else is responsible.

We Have Forgotten How to Live in the Wild

“Because we do not regard the things which are seen but the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”    II Cor. 4:18

There are two kinds of realms that exist. There is the unseen realm (or the eternals) and there is the seen realm (or the physicals). Both of these reams exist together at the same time.

One realm is spiritual and unseen. That is, it has no physical substance or what we would call matter. It has no size or dimension, and it exists without time or space. You could say that this spiritual realm is totally “other than” the seen, physical realm.

Of course, we know that the seen physical realm does have matter, energy, space, time, and dimension. Science tells us all about electrons, protons, neutrons, atoms, and molecules. We seem to know a lot about the seen realm. But the scriptures tell us that this realm is only temporary.

It is the unseen realm which is eternal, and yet, we really don’t know much about that realm at all. How do we live in that realm? How do we live in spirit?

The Creature of Two Realms

As lions, we are called to live in two realms at the same time. But we should live mostly in the unseen realm. This is the “wild” for us. And it is mostly unexplored. It really is the “wild.” It is our natural habitat. And we can never be fulfilled with anything less. And yet, because we have forgotten who we are, we have become comfortable in captivity. We have become comfortable in the seen realm. We actually start believing that the physical realm is everything and then we start investing our lives into it.

Yet we have a Lord who is both Lion and Lamb. He is definitely gentle. But make no mistake about it, He is not tame! He is as wild as they come and the wild realm that is our home is inside of Him (Eph. 1:3).

But our natural habitat is not lived alone. This is a place of community. This is the place of the pride.

We Have Forgotten How to Live as a Pride

The “pride” is the social unit for the wild lion. They do not live alone. They interact in small groups know as prides.

Dear believer, a very important part of your natural habitat is the spiritual “pride.” This has been lost to us as well. Lions in captivity don’t live in prides. That is a special feature only found in the wild. When you discover that you are already free and begin living in the other realm, you will see the need of community life. This wild life is a shared life. Shared with your Lord and shared with His people.

But we are not used to sharing our lives with others. We have been isolated (held captive) for so long that we have forgotten that this is just the normal life for wild lions. In a true pride, you all share your food, share your joys, share your sorrows, and share everything in life with one another.

The big question is: how do we get to this place of freedom? How do we remember how to hunt? How do we remember how to live in the wild? How do we remember how to live in a pride?

Our great God has already provided a solution to this situation. And this solution was in force as early as the first century.

God’s Solution: Walking with Lions

As I told you in the beginning of this article, there is a conservationist group in Zimbabwe that is successfully rehabilitating lions back into the wild. But how do they do it?

They take the young cubs for walks everyday in the wild. An experienced lion “handler” (not trainer) will take a cub on long walks everyday to introduce the young lion to life in the wild. Eventually, the lion’s natural instincts will begin to kick in. They will begin to respond to their natural prey and eventually begin to stalk them. Then, one day, they will learn to hunt for themselves. The lion handlers will also introduce them to a pride in the wild so they can be socially integrated.

God does the same thing with His people. He re-introduces His “lions” back into the wild by the use of “handlers.” These are men and women who are called, prepared, and sent by Him for this difficult task. They do not become caretakers of the believers, but their job is to be re-introducers. Then the believers re-discover their spiritual instincts and habitat that has been long forgotten in captivity.

We can see these people at work in the first century. They were sent out by God as itinerant apostolic workers (or church planters) to lay a foundation of Christ for the assemblies of believers. Their job was to work themselves out of a job. Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Silas, Timothy, and others did this work or re-introducing God’s people to the wild. Then they would leave them on their own to live as wild lions! Every one of these workers had already experienced true “pride life” for themselves and knew about the hunt, the wild, and the pride by personal experience.

In the Zimbabwe program, the handlers have less and less contact with the lions. The goal is to completely release them to the wild, not to control them and keep them domesticated.

Christians are leaving the religious institutions in droves. They are seeking more reality, a deeper spirituality, and freedom. They are being set free from the captivity of the religious system and it is a beautiful thing to see. But that creates an altogether different problem.

Now that all of these believers are being set free from captivity, what will happen next? How will they now be re-introduced to the wild? How will they remember how to hunt? How will they be introduced to the “pride” life?

God’s own rehabilitation program must be the answer. We need to pray that God will raise up many “handlers” who have been called, prepared, and sent to walk with the lions.

You are a lion and you have a divine right to be free in the wild with His pride!

If God has been speaking to you about these things and you would like help finding an organic church, click below:

Find an Organic Church

If you are part of a group and would like help discovering your spiritual instincts, go here:

Invite a Church Planter