Is Christ Enough? Headship

 

The Body of Christ

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 1:22-23

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” Eph 4:15

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 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. 1:17-19

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” Colossians 2:9-10

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19

The headship of Christ is not something you hear or read about very often.  Why?  I believe it’s because we really don’t understand what it means.  Obviously, why would you talk or write about something that you yourself don’t understand?

The Abuses

In my experience in the institutional church the only time I heard about the “headship” of Christ was when the preacher was referring to authority structures in the church.  Usually, they would be referring to some kind of hierarchical authority structure such as the clergy/laity system.  You would be instructed to submit to your pastor or elders as unto the Lord.  These people were the ones who would “run” the church.  Sometimes there would also be some kind of trans-local authority that you would need to submit to such as traveling “apostles” or “prophets”.  And then at very rare times you may hear about the headship of Christ referring to the authority of Christ over your life as a member of his body.  That was about it.

This post is an attempt to correct some of those ideas and add to our understanding of the fullness of Christ in reference to his headship.

The Meaning of “Head” in the New Testament

First of all, we need to understand the meaning of the word “head” in the Greek language.  This is no simple task and I am definitely no Greek scholar!  There is much controversy surrounding the original meaning of the Greek word: kephale (head).  Some say that it strictly means (authority, or person in command) and others say that it means “life source“.  I believe that it means BOTH!  And I think you will clearly see that as I bring out the context in a few of the passages I cited above.  There are a few important aspects of Christ and his Church that I would like to bring out of these passages.

Life Source

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,” Eph 4:15

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” Colossians 2:18-19

These passages clearly bring out the aspect that Christ, as the Head supplies the body with his Life.  First, we see in the Ephesian passage that we (the body) are to grow up into the head (Christ).  This obviously speaks of him as our Life Source.  We grow (by his life) into him.  Secondly, in the Colossian passage we see that the entire body is supplied and held together and grows with a growth (life) that comes from God.  Therefore, we can see that this word “head” clearly means life-source by the context of these passages (and others).

Authority

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 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. 1:17-19

The idea of before, beginning, firstborn, and first permeates this passage.  The head comes before the body.  He is the head because he is first.  The other aspect is the idea of all things.  He is before all things; all things hold together in Him; He will come to have the first place in everything (all things).  He is the head because he is the “all things” of God!  He comes first because He is the Beginning!

He is definitely Large and in Charge!

Both Life Source and Authority

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Eph. 1:22-23

Here we see both the authority of Christ AND the life flow (or source) of Christ.  Everything is under his feet (in subjection) which speaks of his absolute authority.  But that is to the church, his body, which is his fullness.  Christ filling all things with his fullness speak of the flow of his life source into the church.  He is definitely Lord of lords and King of kings.  Make no mistake about that.  But his authority can only be actuated by him being the Life Supply of the church.  Both work together!  We cannot have the King of kings unless we have the Vine!  We cannot have the Lord of lords unless we have the flow of Christ’s life throughout the Body.

The Most Beautiful Picture of Christ as Our Life Supply:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing–life forever.” Psalms 133:1-3

Wow! God, the Father’s life flows down (via the Spirit) from the Head (Christ) to every member of the Body (the Church).  Is this a picture of Life Source or what?

Practically Speaking

Okay, so this is all great and wonderful.  Jesus Christ is the Head of his Body, the church.  This means that he is both the Life-Source of the Body as well as the Lord (King) of his kingdom.  Both of these truths are wrapped up in the fact that he is the Head of the church.  I think that most Christians would agree with these statements.  However, here comes the clincher:

How does his headship play out practically within the life of the Body?

One thing is for sure; he does not express his headship through top-to-bottom or chain-of-command style leadership.  There is no one human person who leads or directs his church.

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
(Matthew 20:25-28)

What Jesus was saying here is that his church would not function the way that those in the world system function.  That is, with chain-of-command top down authority.  His kingdom would function in a totally different way.  And that way is that they would become the lowest, the least, and the servants of all.  This message from our Lord came about because the mother of the sons of Zebedee (James and John) wanted to know if her sons could be given the right hand and left hand place next to the king.  He told that she had no idea what she was asking.  This was her only concept of authority.  It’s a chain-of-command top to bottom system.  But this is not how the kingdom of God would function at all!

All of the Members Seeking the Mind of the Head

Paul said that “we have the mind of Christ” (1Cor.2:16).  Notice that he didn’t say “I have the mind of Christ”.  Having the mind of Christ is a WE thing!  We all together as the Body have the mind of Christ.  Did you know that the human brain sends a message to the whole body when it makes a decision?  Actually, its more accurate to say that the whole body has a part to play whenever the brain activates something.

In organic churches, we take the Headship of Christ very seriously.  We hold it in very high esteem by the practice of the whole body seeking the Head for his direction and decisions.  This is a very long and arduous task, believe me!  In fact, you may be asking how is this even possible?  Well, it’s actually very simple to explain but not simple to do.  The brothers and sisters in the church get together for a specific purpose of making decisions and planning.  If the church is healthy then the members of the body will have already been seeking the mind of Christ about the matters to be discussed ahead of time and will come to the gathering with a sense in their spirits of what the Lord is saying.  They will already have spent time in fellowship and prayer with the Lord about the matters to be discussed.  Sometimes these practically meetings can last a long time and sometimes not.  But they do not move ahead until the body agrees on what the Lord wants.

Is this difficult?  You bet!  Is there a battlefield happening?  Absolutely.  Why?  Because there is a whole realm of creatures who are resisting and even battling against the Lord Jesus having his full headship in his church!

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;” (Colossians 2:9-10)

We see the church seeking the mind of Christ together in Jerusalem concerning the decision to not place any additional burdens on the new believers who were Gentiles.  And the statement is made that:

Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas–Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren,”  (Acts 15:22)

And in another place:

For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:” (Acts 15:28)

So there you have it!  Those who have itinerant ministries, the more mature saints (elders), the whole church, and the Holy Spirit all agreeing together on the mind of Christ!  That’s how decisions were made under the headship of Jesus Christ.  His mind was discovered in the midst of believers who had humbled themselves to the Lord and submitted themselves to one another (Eph. 5:21) under his direct Lordship and Headship.  Those who sought out his indwelling, eternal, uncreated, divine Life so that he would fully be expressed on the earth again!

Is this difficult?  NO!!!  It’s actually IMPOSSIBLE!!!  Only by God’s grace and in his Spirit and Life can this happen.  Will there still be problems in the church?  Absolutely!  Just read the New Testament letters!  I have come to the conclusion that problems in the churches are normal.  As long as they are the right kind of problems.  Notice with me that in the N.T. the problems are all people problems.  One guy was committing incest.  Another had problems getting along.  Some were dividing up over their favorite workers.  Some were following erroneous teachings.  But none of these problems were institutional in nature!  They were never fighting over who the next “pastor” was going to be.  There were no controversies over how much money to spend on the new building project.

But the kinds of problems an organic church will have are totally different.  One of them is laziness and atrophy.  The church may (at times) stop seeking the Lord together to find his mind for the seasons, decisions, and plans of the life of the church.  When this happens the headship of Christ is being circumvented.  Usually, those issues that need to be address won’t magically disappear and they will rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times!

But when you have a bunch of crazy people who are simple enough to actually believe that Jesus Christ can in reality be the spiritual and practical Head over his church then all hell will break loose!

You may be asking: How in the world can this happen in reality?  I mean how can a group of believers get together and really be able to discern the mind of Christ in oneness?  How can this happen without a human leader (or group of leaders) running the show?

My answer would be to take a look at nature.  God has wonderfully built into creation this principle of corporate oneness under the headship of Christ.  Did you know that many species of animals and insects migrate to completely different areas of the world?  They all gather at the same time and at the same location!  Some travel thousands of miles and even to a different hemisphere!  How is this possible?  It’s something called “instinct“.  It’s actually built into their DNA by God himself.  Guess what?  God has also built into the spiritual DNA of his Church the instinct to gather.  Not only to gather but to express his Son and live by his Life-Source.

It’s there in your spirit, the deepest part of you.

It’s so that you will know him intimately and deeply.

It’s so that you will live by his life.

It’s so that you will live together with his people and display his kingdom!

This is our calling saints.

There is no compromise on this matter at all.

 

For more information on the headship of Christ:

Building Up the Body: One Man or One Another?

The Clergy/Laity Distinction: A Help or Hindrance?

Kephale (Head) by Laurie Fasullo

The Gathering Swarms

 

 

 

 

Is Christ Enough? Changes

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A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
(Acts 10:13-15)
“As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
(Acts 9:3-6)

The Lord has been dealing with us lately with such things as flexibility as opposed to rigidity.  Especially in the midst of change.  Now we have said for many years that the Lord deals with us (both individually and corporately) in “seasons”.  Just like in nature there are seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter; so there are seasons in God’s dealings with us and also in his work.  However, these “seasons” aren’t nearly as predictable as the natural ones!  At least not for us.  Obviously, God knows what is going on and planned these things from before time.  But the problem is that our vision just isn’t that eternal yet!  Our flesh, our natural man likes things that are predictable, revealed way in advance, and things that we are already comfortable with.  But God just doesn’t operate that way when he is dealing with us.  He operates in this completely “other”, eternal realm called faith.

Endless Variety

We must remember that our God is a God of endless variety and beauty. Just a look at the natural world will show you that! Just take a look at all of the varieties of plants, animals, and people. And that’s just the visible creation on this planet alone! Even within the seasons there is variety and changes. What about the “unseasonable” weather we have all experienced?  Even within the seasons that God takes us through there is variety.

Timing

Then there is the whole area of the timing of the Lord.  We know that his timing is not our timing and his ways are not our ways.  He does things his way and in his time!  Most of us reading this post right now agree with and understand these things.  But there is a huge problem.

We so quickly get settled, and even cemented, into the ways that we have been in or are in right now!

God is moving on and we are now stuck in the last movement or enlargement of God.  You see, I am not here even referring to missing the Lord in his timing or ways.  I am referring to getting “stuck” in the past (or current) situation that he himself took us through.

Comfort Zones

I find that the older I get the quicker I am to settle down into a comfort zone.  It’s really quite remarkable.  God is always moving us ahead in him.  But many times (especially if we like the season) we will want to stay where we’re at.

This reminds me of the children of Israel wandering in the desert.  God wanted them to take the promised Canaan land but they wandered around in a wilderness for forty years that only takes two weeks to cross!  Of course, the manna is a classic example.  God (for a season) fed them with the manna from heaven.  It would daily come down to provide their food.  However, they could not store it up for the future or even the next day!  They needed to trust God for their daily bread every single day.  Then, the time came when the manna was no longer being provided and now God was sending quail.  But they were used to manna!

Outside the Box

Then there was our friend Peter.  God wanted to include the Gentiles in his eternal purpose to have an expression of his Son on the earth (the Church).  Actually, he always had included the gentiles, but most of the Jews could not see the true spiritual Israel that Paul writes about in the letter to the Galatians.  Peter had to receive a dramatic rooftop vision to get the picture.  Even then, he was refusing to rise up and eat those “unclean” animals.  You see God was doing a new thing.  At least it was new in the eyes of Peter.  The apostle had always only thought within a very limited Jewish “box” and anything outside of that box was unthinkable.

But then there was our friend Paul! Now this guy was much more ingrained into the Jewish religion than Peter.  He was a real Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the righteousness found in the Law, completely blameless (Philippians 3).  So you can see why God needed to knock him down and strike him with physical blindness in order that he would receive a vision!  He had to see that the church he was persecuting was the actual Christ Himself! (see Acts 9)  Saul was transformed into Paul and changed from a persecutor of the church to a master builder of the church.

In both of these examples (Peter and Paul) God had to break them out of their comfort zones in order for him to do something new.  It wasn’t something either of them expected or ever considered.

The Main Point

The main takeaway of this post is simply this:

God doesn’t want us to follow “ways”, he wants us to follow the Way!  Jesus Christ IS the Way.  Brothers and sisters, don’t get stuck in ways of knowing Him or doing things for Him.  Those “ways” will change and what worked today may not work tomorrow.  That’s because the way of the Lord is Christ, Himself, the Person!  Knowing Him and following Him and abiding Him is the key to every day and every work.  The true Foundation is only Christ and He is to be everything in our lives.  Not only individually but also corporately.  That’s why seeking him is so important for every step along the way.  Waiting upon him and not moving ahead of him is equally important.

Don’t be afraid of change

Don’t get stuck in a rut

Don’t get comfortable in past ways of doing things or systems of thought and procedure

Be flexible, be open

God’s change always brings about enlargement!

God’s new thing always brings in an abundance of Life!

 

Starting Organic Churches – New Ebook!

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Starting Organic Churches  (FREE Ebook!)

A Short and Simple Guide for the Newbie

By Milt Rodriguez

It’s now very documented that over 60 million American Christians have left the institutional/traditional churches over the last ten years! What is going on? Are these folks dropping out of everything? Have they fallen away from the faith? On the contrary, they are looking for MORE! That is, they are looking for much more than they received from the institutions. They are looking for more of the life of Jesus Christ in His people. They are looking for more freedom to live by and serve this Christ. They are looking for a Family, a group of believers who share their lives together. In other words, they are longing for the authentic expression of Christ in and through His Body, Bride, House, Kingdom, and Community!

Milt Rodriguez and his wife Mary have been starting and planting organic expressions of this community since 1990. They have learned much through trial and error, making a ton of mistakes, and yet never giving up. In this ebook, Milt will share with you how to start such groups of Christians. Written both as a spiritual and a practical guide, Milt will share with you his knowledge and experience. If you have longing to experience this kind of life and want to help start new groups that have a much better chance of making it towards that goal, then this is the book for you!

In this ebook you will learn the following:

    • Contacting some believers (and/or unbelievers) who may be interested
    • Opening up your home (or someone else’s) for some initial gatherings
    • Sharing your vision and purpose for starting such a community
    • Meeting together on a regular basis to get to know one another (in and out of meetings)
    • Gaining more of a revelation of Christ
    • Calling for an experienced church planter to help lay the foundation of Christ
    • Practical guidelines and steps to follow through which each of these!
    • Many resources to use and apply (and edit) for your own use!

Special bonuses!

      Future revisions and additions sent directly to your email!

Plus there is a very special offer that Milt is presenting at the very end of the book!

Help is on the way!  The book is NOW released.

Click Here to Download Your FREE Copy!

Christ in the Story

This blog post is actually a podcast!  The message is taken from the Infusion SoCal 2014 conference in which I spoke with Jon Zens and some other new co-workers in southern California.  What I attempted to do in this message is tell the story of the New Testament church.  However, I added some things.  Not to the story, but to my presentation of it.  One thing I did was to preach the gospel (which is Christ!) from Paul’s letter to the Colossians chapter one.  I did this throughout the telling of the story.  The other thing I did was to compare our popular messages preached and written today to that original message of the first century.

I hope that you will enjoy this message.  Please let me know your responses by commenting.  Thanks!

 

 

 

Laying a Foundation of Christ Alone

Since we have covered The Sending of God and how he calls, prepares, and sends out workers; and have discussed in a podcast “How God Makes a Worker”, I thought it only fitting to also end this series of posts with the idea of “planting” or laying a foundation for the church.

This, along with the sending, has almost been totally lost in our modern day thinking and application of how we start churches. Yet the foundation is everything! The beginning of a church will greatly determine the far reaching future of that church.

First, let’s look at the scriptural meaning of the word “planting”.

I realize that this term has been misused and misapplied by many organizations in the past. It’s usually used by missionaries or missionary agencies to denote the beginning of a “church” in the field. However, the apostle Paul never went on any “missionary journeys”. The idea of missions, missionaries, and missionary organizations and agencies are an invention of the institutional modern day church. The only thing we see in the story of the New Testament is the Work and the Church. The Work is those who are called, prepared, and sent out to preach Christ and plant churches. The Church is the universal term used by Christ in Matt. 16 to denote all believers in Christ. The churches (local) are the groups of believers that were planted by the workers in different localities. Christ referred to the churches (local) in Matt. 18. 

1.) “Planting” is a scriptural term and is even defined by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:6-17. Here, Paul uses two images or types of “planting”.  One is agricultural (planting and watering), and the other is architectural (foundation and building).  In the context of this passage it is quite clear that he is using both images to say the same thing.  In other words, planting is the same as laying a foundation.  Watering is the same as building upon the foundation.  But it’s very clear that the foundation (in both natural life and in the church) comes first!  You can’t have a very good building without a foundation.  Also, you will not have a very healthy tree if you don’t first plant it into the ground!

Also, it’s very important that in this passage Paul tells us what (or who) the foundation actually is: Jesus Christ! This is not referring to doctrines, teaching, theological systems and so forth. The foundation is actually the Person of Jesus Christ, that is, his very life! There can be no other foundation if we are going to have a church according to the mind of God. Also, as a quick sidenote, Paul stated clearly elsewhere that not only was the foundation he laid Christ, but the gospel he announced was also Christ (He Himself).

… to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.“ (Col 1:27-28) 

Now, I’m sure that you agree with what I have said so far.  However, notice with me that both the planting and the watering were associated with certain individuals.  “I (Paul) planted and Apollos watered.”  Notice that individuals plant and water the church, not the church itself!  Of course, these individuals are specifically called, prepared and sent by God to perform this task.  This pattern holds true throughout the whole New Testament beginning with Jesus Christ Himself. 

2.)  We know that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  It’s very important that our minds are renewed to function with His thoughts and His ways.  If not, then we will make the same mistakes that Christianity has made in the past that have resulted in the man-made institutions. 

God sends people to plant and water the church.  There is no record of a church planting or watering itself.  Even the new groups in Judea and Samaria (as a result of Saul’s persecution) were visited by apostolic workers for the purpose of laying a foundation of Christ alone (see Acts 8:14 and Acts 8-10). Now, of course, if there has been someone who has planted (laid a foundation) of Christ in that group then we definitely have no business coming to plant since Paul said that he never built upon another man’s foundation (Rom. 15:20).  If the group has already been planted then I would ask the question: who was the person who planted it? 

3.) Starting a group is not the same thing as planting a church.  Not even close!  People start Christian groups all over the place all the time.  But do these groups have the true foundation of Jesus Christ (and only Christ)?  According to the New Testament this can only happen if someone has been called, prepared, and sent to do that work.  Unfortunately, this is very rare and that is (in a large part) why we are in the mess that we are in.

* However, we see in the New Testament story that there were some that were used to help “pre-plant” a church, that is, these folks would open their home, invited people to meet with them, and then call for the help of an experienced apostolic worker to actually plant the church. An example of this is the couple Priscilla and Aquila. 

(Please understand that we do not use any of these words carelessly or lightly.  They have been tested and proven in the scriptures and throughout history.) 

So, what I have written above, in conjunction with those blog posts that I referenced, should give enough explanation.  But if it doesn’t, then I also recommend the following books that cover this topic much more in depth: 

The Church and the Work by Watchman Nee

The Stewardship of the Mystery by T. Austin-Sparks

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

 

How Does God Make a Worker?

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ANNOUNCEMENT!!!  OUR FIRST PODCAST EVER ON THIS BLOG!

A short time ago, ten crazy saints got together to hold a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?“.

For those of you who may not know, my wife Mary and I have been learning to plant organic churches for the last 25 years or so.  In the beginning we had absolutely no experience and had no idea what we were doing.  But we had a vision of His purpose and a strong desire to help see that purpose be fulfilled.  So, for several years we basically experimented on God’s people!  We learned what worked and what didn’t work.  We also learned that we desperately needed some experience in genuine body life ourselves!  After all, how could we impart an experience to a group of believers that we had never experienced (in an intentional way) ourselves?

Well, very fast forward several years and we finally received that experience and training and then were sent out to plant New Testament style organic churches ourselves.  It was still very difficult but we learned much along the way.  Now, we are having the glorious privilege and honor of training others to do the same!  These are all folks who have been in one of the churches we have planted for at least three years and been fully recommended and sent to us for training by their respective churches.

The recording you are about to hear is a session with those eight new workers.  I hope that it will give you a better insight into how God calls, prepares, and sends workers into his harvest.  Enjoy!

Note: By posting this we are by no means claiming to be experts in this field!  I don’t believe anyone is.  We are all still learning and with every church plant we learn new things.  After all, our Christ is so big and so vast that we will never stop learning to experience him and know him!

The Sending – Part 2

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The Sending – Part 2

This is the second part of a three part series of posts. If you have not already read the first part, you may do so by clicking here.

In the Name (cont’d)

Jesus not only had the audacity to claim that he was sent by the Father, he also claimed to have come in the name of the Father. This is so much more intense! But we must realize that the sending, if it is a spiritual reality, will always be “in the name”. So, in order to understand sending, we must also understand “in the name”.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of mantra that we are tack onto the end of a prayer.

  • In the name” is NOT a magic formula that we use to get special attention from God so we can be assured that our prayers are answered.

  • In the name” is NOT some kind of religious slogan that we can use to find favor with God.

In the Name is something extremely powerful for God to fulfill His eternal purpose!

In the first century when someone claimed to be coming “in the name” of someone else it had some depth to it. But when the Son came claiming to have been sent by the Father in HIS name it meant so much more. Here is a quick and simple formula to remember what it means:

The Name = The Person

That is quite literal. The name is the same as the person. Coming in the name of someone is the same thing as the sender actually coming himself. The “sendee” or the one sent is the SAME as the one sending. THEY ARE ONE! The one sent carries the same authority, character, and life as the one sending him. But this only applies inasmuch as the Sendee and the Sender share the same mind and life. Note: I realize that there is no such word as “sendee” but this made-up word here seems to apply very nicely! 🙂

Notice with me that there are many things that happen “in the name” besides being sent in the name.

* You can receive a prophet in the name of a prophet (or righteous man).

“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” (Mat 10:41)

* You can baptize in the name.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mat 28:19)

* You can believe into the name.

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Joh 3:18)

* You can speak or teach in the name.

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Act 4:18)

* You can pray in the name.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

(Joh 14:13)

It’s very obvious from these verses that “in the name” is something much more than a phrase we tack onto the end of a prayer! In the name means in the Person, in Christ, in the Spirit. So much so that if you pray in the name it is actually Christ Himself who is originating, initiating, and executing that prayer.

So, this means that when someone is sent by God he is actually coming as totally representing and expressing God. It’s really the same as God coming Himself! The Son was sent in the name of the Father. And we know that everything the Son said and everything the Son did came from the Father Himself. (see John 5:19,20; John 6:57; John 14:10; John 15:5)

In the name means by and in and one with another life that is dwelling within you!

The Sending is Corporate

One thing that we must realize here is that Jesus Christ was not only sent by the Father but he was also sent by the Holy Spirit.

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

(Luk 4:18)

It’s important for us to see that the Lord Jesus was sent out by a community, that is, the community of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit). He was not only sent out by that community but he was also sent out with that community! The Father and the Spirit were always with him and always guiding and empowering him. He told Phillip that if he had seen him then he had seen the Father (John 14:8-10). The divine community (the Three-in-One) really are one! And They (as a community) sent the Son to the earth to fulfill God’s eternal purpose.

Sending – Level Two

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Now we can see the second tier or level of sending. Not only was Jesus Christ sent by the Godhead but he also sent others. He sent the twelve.

And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (Luk 9:2)

He also sent out seventy others.

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luk 10:1-2)

You may be thinking that the sending is the end product. No so! Actually, in some sense, it is but the beginning. However, there is much that is before the beginning!

The Calling and the Preparation

Before the sending there is the calling and the preparation. You could say that it’s a three step process. This is first seen in the life of our Lord, since He is the “Prototype” for all who would come after him. First, God calls.

The Calling

When was Jesus Christ called by God? The answer is simple: before time and creation! He was called in eternity past from within the Triune God. After (which is a word that doesn’t really apply when you are speaking from within the eternals!) the Godhead conceived His eternal plan and purpose then He called the eternal Son to fulfill that purpose by being incarnated as human flesh (Eph. 3:11,12). This calling is obviously very important for without it there will be no preparation and no sending forth.

People have asked me, “how do I know that I am called?”. Actually, there are two aspects of this “calling” that we are talking about. In the basic sense, all believers are called.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Mat 22:14)

… to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)

but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Co 1:24)

There are many other references to our calling as believers. If you are in Christ then you are both called and chosen by him! This is the general aspect of the calling that applies to all true believers in Christ. But there is also a more specific calling that has to do with the work of God. We will look into that in the third part of this series. If you are called to his work then it will not leave you no matter what. One of the ways to know you are called to the work is that it will not go away. You may try to make it go away, but it will not leave you for the duration of your life.

That applies to both the general and the specific calling.

The Preparation

The problem here is that many people (and organizations) try to skip this all important step. I don’t know how many times I have heard churches, missionary boards, etc. tell young people that since they feel called to the Lord’s work they need to get out there right now! The need is great! The world is going to hell in a hand basket! You need to get out there! The problem is these people probably don’t even know the Lord very well and almost definitely don’t have any experience in authentic biblical community life. So why are we sending them? To see our conversions lists go up? To get more money for our annual budgets? Of course, none of this has even entered the mind of God as seen throughout the scriptures!

Actually, God takes his time (years!) preparing individuals for his work. What about Moses? Forty years on the backside of the desert. What about David? Being chased and persecuted for years by an maniac king. What about Paul? About 10-14 years of true body life in the Lord’s house before he was sent out by the church in Antioch with Barnabas.

What about Jesus Christ? How about an eternity living inside of the Godhead learning to lay down his life and receive his only life from the Father in the Spirit!

Why is preparation so important? It’s because during that time God is working on the individual’s character to make them safe for God’s people! A person may have many gifts but it is their character that will make or break them in the Lord’s work. And that character of Christ is only worked into an individual as they learn to know him intimately, turning from the soul-life and the self to behold the living Christ inside of them! This takes some years. This takes the work and way of the cross in the life of the believer.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

(2Co 3:18)

According to the contextual story of the New Testament, the environment to receive this training and preparation is the local body of believers. There is no exception to this! All of those who were sent out were first prepared by living in an authentic community of saints first.

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

The Sending – Part 1

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The Sending – Part 1

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (Joh 17:18)

This post is (hopefully) the first of a three part article on the mind of God concerning “sending”. This is, from my perspective, a very much misunderstood, misapplied, and downright ignored subject. For example, you dear reader, how many messages have you heard or read on the subject of God’s sending? Usually this topic is related to the modern concept of “missions” which literally has very little to do with “the sending” we see happening in the contextual story of the New Testament. Therefore, I believe that this series of blog posts will help to fill the void and (hopefully) will bring some light and understanding to believers who have not had that before.

The Sending of the Eternal Son

Most Christians are familiar with the fact that the eternal Son of God was sent into time and space by His Father.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. (John 1:1-4)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12-14)

We call this the incarnation. But there is more to it than just that.

“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

(Mat 10:40)

Here we see two “levels” of sending. First, the Father sent the Son. Then, the Son sent His disciples. It’s very clear in the context that Jesus was here speaking to his disciples. Read the whole chapter and you will see that he is speaking to the twelve.

I don’t think that any sane believer would argue the point that the Son was sent by the Father. The question we need to ask is: what does it mean to be sent by God?

Joh_5:36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish–the very works that I do–testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

Joh_5:37And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

Joh_5:38You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

Joh_6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Joh_6:38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

Joh_6:39This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Joh_6:44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Joh_6:57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

Joh_7:16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

Joh_7:18He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Joh_7:28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.

Joh_7:29I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.

This is just a very small sampling of the verses about the Son being sent by the Father in the Gospel of John alone! Obviously, Jesus held being sent by the Father in very high regard! We must keep in mind here that Jesus had some major hurdles to jump over pertaining to the Jewish mindset. Here are just a few:

  1. The Triune God – the nation of Israel did not have the revelation of a God who is revealed as three Persons! They believed that God is one Person, not three who are one. That was some thing totally new as far as the Jewish nation was concerned. Remember that they were not even allowed to mention the sacred name of God let alone to call him Father.  The fact that He would have a Son was actually blasphemous to many in the first century.
  2. The Son of God – by Jesus stating that he has been sent by the Father strongly implied that he was the Son of God and was divine Himself. This was a major problem in the Jewish mind. But yet he kept telling them over and over again that he had been sent by the Father.
  3. Claiming to be the Messiah – here was another major issue. All of Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, but this poor son of a carpenter just didn’t seem to fit the bill in their list of expectations.

When the Son presented himself as being sent by the Father he was doing so to validate what he said and did to the house of Israel. However, the very concept (reality) of a Father who is divine sending a Son who is divine, blew the minds who were listening to those words. Of course the divine Son did this on purpose so that only those who had eyes to see and ears to hear would understand. Only those who were “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) would see and have the kingdom. It was only those who would empty themselves who could receive. And this brings us to one of the major aspects of The Sending.

The Sent One Must Be Received by Those to whom He is Sent!

This receiving requires an emptying of those to whom he is being sent. If the potential receivers are haughty, puffed up with pride, and full of themselves, then the sent one can never be received. The Sent One is the Son of God Himself! And yet how many rejected He who was sent from God? Why did most of the Jewish nation reject him? Because he did not live up to their expectations! They had major veils (filters) that were hindering them from seeing this One. They were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow the Roman government and take physical, political, and military control to place the nation of Israel into the seat of power. This poor carpenter’s son from a slum just didn’t fill that bill at all!

Many Sent and Many Rejected

Of course, the Lord Jesus was not the first one to be sent to the house of Israel. There were many prophets sent before Him.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'” (Mat 23:37-39)

Wow! What a powerful statement made by our glorious Lord!

from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Can you apprehend this with me? The majority of Israel was not able to see (receive) Christ because they would not welcome He who came in the name of the Lord. Here, we not only see the sending but we also see the name of the Lord! In the next part of this series we will delve into what it means to be sent in the name of the Lord and many other aspects of The Sending!

Stay tuned for the next part of The Sending to be released soon!

Infusion NorCal 2015

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 You are invited to a very special organic church event in Northern California!

Jon Zens and Myself will be holding a special conference for those interested in organic church life in Northern California.  The event will be held in Sonoma and will run April 3-4, 2015.  

If you are involved with a group that is desirous of returning to the life and purpose we see in the New Testament, this event may be for you.

If you are an individual believer who is looking to connect with others who have this same desire in your area, this event may be for you.

For more information and registration click on the link below:

http://www.infusionevent.org/

He Himself – Being and Seeing

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Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Here, in the Lord’s prayer to the Father, Jesus reveals the very heart of God for his Church.  This is definitely the key to the Son’s glory, which was given to Him by the Father. First of all, we need to understand:

This glory is the goal of his prayer.

So, I think that we would do well to discover the essence of this “glory”.

What is the Glory of the Father and the Son?

If we look closely at this chapter of this gospel of John we will see some major points that are made throughout the prayer:

– mutual glorification (verse 1)
– authority (verse 2)
– eternal life (verse 2)
– knowing the Father and the Son (this is eternal life) (verse 3)
– accomplishing God’s work brings him glory (verse 4)
– glory is something that happens with the Father and the Son before creation (verse 5)
– God’s communication comes from the Father, through the Son to us (verse 8)
– everything is mutual within the Godhead (Trinity) (verse 10)
– the glory happens when there is oneness, which happens in the Name (verses 11-12)
– protection from the world and sending dependent upon oneness (verses 16-21)
– the glory has already been given to us for the oneness (verse 22)
– the oneness, which is based upon the love between the Father and Son, will be seen in the world (verse 23)

Now, we can combine these thoughts and get a birds-eye view of what God wants. There is a lot here, of course, but I am going to juice it down into one simple paragraph. (Tip – to see this more clearly, I suggest that you read John chapters 14-17 all the way through without stopping. This will give you a much clearer picture of God’s eternal purpose in Christ.)

The glory of God is the mutual fellowship (community life) that all three of the members of the Godhead share. This involves their mutual love, communication, attention, knowing one another, union, passion, dependency, giving and receiving, and much much more. All things within this community are mutual. They share all things, all content, all life, all love, all goals and vision, and all of the uniqueness that each one has. They share all things in common, you could say. Being three distinct Persons, they are completely one. This oneness of their life together is their glory. It is the source of their power, strength, and authority. Their goal is to share and express this glory with us! Yes, us, mere mortals! And the goal would include the expression (manifestation) of this incredible life to all realms; visible and invisible.

Wow!!!  What a goal!  What a purpose!  What a vision and dream!  Paul puts it this way:

“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:25-27)

Do you see from this passage that the “mystery” is Christ in you, the hope of glory?

Do you also see from this passage the fact that Christ now lives in you (plural)?

This fact (reality) is the key to God getting what He wants.  He cannot have the expression of His Son without this LIFE of the community of God being in us and being lived out in us and from us.

Being and Seeing

So now we come to the critical part of this prayer of Jesus to the Father.  It’s the “how to” of him getting his glory revealed:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Being with Christ is the key to it all!  Without the being there will be no seeing of the glory!  Yes, that means being with and seeing He, Himself!  And yet, all this time we have thought it was all about our prayer life and our bible study and our witness, and our church attendance, and our devotion to God!

Wow! How could we have missed the main point?  Maybe because it is so simple and so basic that it actually insults our intelligence!  We have to somehow figure it all out and then we will have something to boast about.  But God has made it so simple.  He just wants us to BE with Him!

It may be simple but it’s certainly not easy in this hyper actively complex world we live in.  It’s not easy to simply get together with God and just BE with him.  There are many obstacles and distractions that get in the way.  It’s not easy to simply “be still and know that He is God” in a noisy and intrusive world system.  But notice with me that your Lord deliberately hides himself away to be with the Father.  He was very intentional about it.  He knew that He could do nothing apart from the Father (John 5:19) and therefore He needed to be with Him.  Do we realize this as well?

Where Do We Fellowship?

Isn’t it odd that Jesus prayed to the Father that his disciples would be with Me where I am?  Wasn’t he right there standing (and praying) in front of them?  Why would he pray that they would be where he is (present tense)?  Have you ever wondered this?

I believe it’s because even though Jesus was with them in the flesh and in the natural world, he was also in another place simultaneously.  That place was inside of the Father!  I mean that quite literally, spiritually, but literally.  He was both in the natural world AND in the heavenly places at the same time!  How is this possible?  It’s possible because Jesus (just like you and I) is made up of a spirit, a soul, and a body (1 Thess. 5:23).  With his body and soul he functions on the earth, but with his spirit he functions in the heavenlies.  In fact, he is The Door (ladder) between heaven and earth! See Genesis 28:12-17 and John 1:50,51 for further insight.

Paul tells us that we believers are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places:

“… even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  (Eph 2:5-7)

Sisters and brothers, do you see that this declaration is in the present tense?  We are right now, currently, at this time, seated with Him in the heavenly places!  This means that we (the Church) are also now in two places at the same time.  Even though we are on the earth, he wants to be with us right now in the heavenly realms.  He wants us to be with him and see him in that place that is not bound by space, time, measurement or anything else.  You can turn to He, Himself who lives inside your spirit right now and see his glory.

May we all take this as our glorious occupation!

“… but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  (2Co 3:16-18)