Venerating Jesus

     I’ve touched on in the past how I believe there is a massive reformation movement taking place right now within the Body of Christ. By God’s grace we are correcting a ton of theological and practical errors we have been making for a very long time, learning to better and more consistently express the true heart of the Gospel. God’s House is being reconstructed and it is starting to look drastically different than it did just a few decades ago.

     As the reformers of our generation continue this work of reconstruction, we need to avoid developing our own set of structural errors to replace the previous ones. One such erroneous approach that I have found some leaders to be taking is to undermine the unique glory and honor that is due to Jesus Christ. The logic goes something like this;

     Jesus was a great prototype for what all people are called to be. He set a wonderful standard. He became a role model. Yet we must not venerate him too much — for in doing so we hold him to an unattainable position above us. We elevate him to a higher level than ourselves and lose our drive to actually emulate him and continue his work.

     Jesus meant to show us what it is like to be human though, and we all are filled with the Christ-nature that he embodied so well. We can all carry on his fight against the powers that be.

     There is a lot of truth to this line of thought, in that we are all empowered to carry on Christ’s legacy of impacting the world. We are filled with His Spirit and taught to follow in His ways. He is our Elder Brother. It is of utmost importance however to note that He is also the Second Person of the Triune Godhead. He is the complete expression of who God is in bodily form. He is not God’s only child, but He is the only begotten Son — the one in whom and from whom the rest of us get our identity in the first place. Further, He is the one who dreamed us up and loved us from eternity past.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. We are Jesus’ creation, Jesus’ brethren, and Jesus’ desired Bride. Also, we are redeemed by His blood… not just by His example.

     If there is anyone deserving of being “idolized,” it is Jesus. 

     There are two primary reasons that come to my mind as to why it is important to clarify all of this. First of all, if Jesus is merely our example of how to be humane, then we are all still basically under the Old Covenant Law. We are all still bound in the system of trying to perform and prove ourselves in order to feel like we are good enough people. We still live under the burden to try to improve or fix ourselves, to be the solution to our world’s systematic problems, to master following the right teachings — and to do it all in our own limited abilities. This is humanism, moralism and legalism. It does not give us the beautiful message of transformative Grace that Christ’s atoning work on the Cross did. It leaves us having to become our own saviors in some form or fashion.

     That is actually an unrealistic pressure that Jesus came to deliver us from.

     The second problem is that without venerating Jesus, we actually undermine our own ability to follow Him. If Jesus is just our template to follow, then we can always compare ourselves to Him and end up feeling like failures. If He is the object of our devotion however, He Himself actually becomes our fuel and our inspiration for carrying on His mission in our own lives.

     Paul wrote that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In other words, as we lovingly adore Jesus, as our hearts gaze upon His beauty and we esteem Him above all else, we are shaped by His Spirit to look increasingly like Him in our present state. Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

Those of us in Christ discover and manifest our truest selves in worshiping His glorious God-self. This is key to how He nurtures and develops Christ-likeness within us.

     Simply put, wherever you give your attention is where you end up heading. If we set our sights on all the problems we need to fix, the problems just get bigger in our eyes. We look for who is at fault and we get more introspective or more critical of others. We then become contributors to the problem ourselves.

     If like the Bible says though, we set our focus “on things above, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand,” it is inevitable that we will grow in His character, see from His perspective and be beautified. We will more naturally channel the authority being released in His Throne Room here to the earth and actually become His hands, feet and mouthpieces. We are utterly dependent upon the effectiveness of this process, of this relationship, of this communion that we have access to in the Presence of the King of Kings.

     Be reminded, if you really want to emulate Jesus, He “Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Then, when the opportunity presented itself, when the need arose, or when He was interrupted, He would rise to the occasion and glorify His Father.

     Likewise, if we give ourselves to a lifestyle of worship, contemplation, and fellowship with the exalted One who is “the way, the truth and the life,” we will more consistently ourselves walk as “little christs” multiplying across the earth to His credit. We will be more effective change agents and we will be anchored in the hope that only He provides.

     Best of all, Jesus will have the hearts of those whose love He died to win. Let us give Him that reward freely.

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Book Review: Live Like Jesus

     Recently I finished reading Vineyard pastor Putty Putman’s new book, “Live Like Jesus.” It was

so

dang

good.

     It will be hard to put into words how much I loved it. I will most likely be re-reading it in the not so distant future, just to enjoy it further.

     God has been teaching me so many of the concepts in this book for the last ten years of my life through many different books, teachings, and resources. I often say I have personally gone through a drastic reformation. Throughout this time though I have never found one single book that encapsulates all the main themes of what God has been showing me. Live Like Jesus surprised me by succinctly piecing together these key ideas — each of which I believe have potential to bring widespread change to the way Christianity is expressed in this stage of history.

     I almost wish the book was titled something like Reformational Truths That Will Blow Your Mind. I think that would do much more justice to the contents of its pages!

     This book explains, among other things,

  • why sinning does not make someone a “sinner”
  • why born-again saints with a new nature are able to sin and contradict their true nature
  • why being forgiven and regenerated are not the same thing
  • how being conscious of our union with God enables us to experience the same supernatural power that Jesus walked in
  • how the Gospel impacts not just individuals, but all of society and creation
  • how we effectively handle suffering in our lives with a Christ-like mindset

     Over and over again Putty dissects and assesses the most fundamental pieces of our understanding of the Gospel and gracefully brings new light on what we are looking at. The readers is left at the end feeling incredibly empowered and enlightened. I personally wish I had a book like this ten years ago to save me some of the trouble of sorting my doctrine out over all the time it has taken me!

     Before reading this book I already knew that Putty was one of my favorite living communicators and thought-leaders. This book only re-enforced that for me. It is a resource I will definitely be recommending and giving away far and wide, as I am confident the truths inside of it can apply to anyone who is seeking to walk out their faith in a healthier way.

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The Next Reformation

There are so many voices right now vying for the future of the Church. I feel like everyone with any kind of big-picture vision for Christianity is picking up on the fact that we are on the cusp of a major reformation, akin to the one that took place 500 years ago in Luther’s day. There are a whole host of ideas about what exactly this reformation will look like, all competing to be the dominant re-definition of our Faith.

As I see it, much of this competition for our future is the because the Lord Himself is working aggressively to move us into a new place. While in Cairo, Egypt in September of 1982, Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.” God has it on His own agenda to bring massive transformation (in a very short amount of time) to His Church and the way she proclaims His Gospel.

Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”

There may be many reformation movements burgeoning in the earth today, but the one that the Lord Himself is initiating has yet to come into full manifestation. Every element of the current reformation movements that is in line with God’s agenda will contribute to this new Reformation. Much of what we are now calling reformation though will eventually prove to be counterfeit and lose its fanfare.

As a student of theology, I am of course very opinionated myself about where we are headed. The following are three traits that I see as defining this reformed, budding version of True Christianity:

A New Identity: The last great Reformation corrected the idea that we can be justified by our works, rather than by the grace of God alone. However, Protestants continued to teach the false notion that believers carry a sinful nature which has to be suppressed or killed off progressively as one goes through a life-long process of sanctification.

In this new reformation, we will see that Christ has not only justified us in God’s sight, but He has sanctified us too. Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14 goes on to say that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

This is not to say that we do everything right as Christians. Not is it to say we have no room for growth and maturity. It is to say though that our identity is not defined by what we do wrong. Our identity is defined purely by what God says about us, and that will never change.

As this new Reformation grows, Christians will come into greater agreement that we are presently “dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11). We will take more literally the fact that we are beloved children of God carrying His pure, divine nature (John 10:34). We are righteous and clean at the core of our being, and not merely in a legal sense.

As we are healed of our damaged self-image in light of these truths, we will also begin to see the radiance of God’s image hidden in all of humanity. The result will be an unprecedented new passion for evangelism and humanitarian work to redeem and protect that Imago Dei wherever it is found.

Experiential Revelation: The Protestant Reformation further brought to our attention the centrality of Holy Scripture in our worship. We came to recognize that the Bible carries a weight of authority that is unequaled by other sources when it comes to defining our theology and providing guidance to our lives.

The next reformation will stand on this foundation, but move us forward to recognize that we all have been brought into relationship with the Divine Word of God who is still speaking today. We will continue to weigh our ideas in light of the written Scripture, but we will also widely recognize our utter dependency on personal communication with Christ via His indwelling Spirit.

Charismatic experiences will no longer seem rare or optional for us. The whole Body of Christ will be operating in a dynamic, intimate relationship with the Presence of God. This will move prophetic worship, prayer and contemplative practices to the forefront of our corporate worship gatherings. Rich Bible teaching will continue (and continue to grow richer), but preeminence will be given to the hosting the manifest glory of God. “Bibliodolatry” will not keep us from mystical revelation any longer.

We will realize that the “priesthood of all believers” extends beyond us all having access to the Bible (which was a huge step forward in our progress in the past). We will all know our direct access to Jesus — who is Himself our living definition of perfect theology.

A “Gospel of the Kingdom” Mentality: Somehow the last Reformation left us in a place where believers were awaiting to experience God’s Kingdom when they died and went to Heaven. Very little of God’s will was ever expected to be actualized here on earth.

This new reformation will emphasize that Christ is already, presently the Risen King of Kings – and the scope of His Kingdom is unending. Truly “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

This is Good News, because it means God is already changing the way everything works in society. As N. T. Wright has brought to light in his newest book, the day Jesus died is “the day the revolution began.” The evil systems of this world have ever been coming undone in the wake of Christ’s Finished Work, and His victory over darkness will only continue to be enforced.

Believers will continually recognize and preach this reality more, and in the process repent of wanting to escape the world to experience Heaven’s bliss. We will instead make a better use of the time we have until Christ’s Second Coming, discovering endless creative outlets to reveal and release Heaven’s blessing. Together we will work to nurture abundant life and justice anywhere it seems to be presently lacking. No longer will our spirituality appear to be ethereal or impractical. Our message will carry weight and impact now wherever the Love of God is preached.

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