Another Long-winded Rant About God and Church and Stuff

long winded GOThronesWhy do you go to “church”? That building, that home group, the coffee shop fellowship, wherever you go- why do you go? Now let me ask you this. Do your reasons for going have anything at all to do with anything other than yourself? Sadly, one of the things we have done is make our relationship with God mostly a personal experience. No doubt, we have turned inward. Our songs, our “worship,” our whole life in Christ; you name it- it’s usually centered on “me.” I think this has a lot to do with our concept of God. In particular, the doctrine of the Trinity.

For the most part, we give a mere head-nod to the Trinity. In our “belief statements” we acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that’s about it. I have begun to think that maybe we descendants of the Reformers have been more than a bit deprived. Most of us have never heard of Gregory Palamas, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, or Athanasius. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back through history and see where the Eastern and Western church fathers kind of went their separate ways, and how we came to be where we are today.

The “brand of Christianity” we practice here in the West comes largely from the teachings of Augustine. As this is not intended to be a lesson in Church History, I’ll leave it to you to study and see if what I’m saying is accurate. But put VERY, VERY, VERY (you get the idea.) SIMPLY, it goes kind of like this: Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, and the Reformers were GREATLY influenced by Augustine and we are a product of the Reformers. As a result, the Christianity that has been passed down to us has evolved into an inward, individualistic experience, having little to do with the way God has revealed himself in scripture as a Triune being. And, this has direct implications upon the way we understand salvation and the
way we see each other.

Growing up here in the “buckle” of the bible-belt, I was taught that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. If I did that, I’d be spared hell, and would get a mansion somewhere on the streets of Gold. I was never told that I had been invited ‘by’ God to participate ‘in’ the very life, the very communion of the Trinity. My salvation was about ME. “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’.” We didn’t spend too much time on verses like:

“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

Or

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

Can you see the connection? If we have no concept of salvation as an invitation by the Father, in Jesus, through the Spirit, to partake in the very life of the Triune God it’s hard for us to understand how necessary we are to each other. When we reflect on the Triune nature of God it begins to make more sense as to how our salvation, our relationships together in the body of Christ ought to reflect the very communion of the Trinity.

So many go to “church” because: “I need to get fed.” or “I want to get my praise on.” We come, we sit, we “pick up the remote control,” and if the praise team doesn’t sing “my” favorite songs, or if “my” favorite preacher isn’t preaching, I simply press the “mute button,” or maybe even just” turn the channel.” We forget that Paul tells us,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you [ the “you” is plural in the Greek ] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

And again,

Ephesians 5, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

We are to be in communion with each other, and as Jesus speaks his words into our lives, we are to teach each other. As a result, we are continuously being filled with the Spirit. Can’t you see how this reflects the very Triune nature of God? Doesn’t it make sense for God who has enjoyed communion, love, and “WORSHIP” in himself for all eternity (in a way we can’t completely describe or understand) to design our salvation experience to be that which “mirrors” himself? It is as we are in relationship with each other, mutually submitting, clothed in humility, putting others before ourselves that we more closely resemble Him who is three in one.

We may come to Christ as individuals, but we live in Christ as his body, members of one another.When we grasp the reality of how our salvation and life together in the body of Christ reflects the very Triune nature of God, we will stop being mere religious spectators. When we realize that through faith in Jesus we are made participants in the communion of the Trinity, we will begin to view each other as we should, and understand how we are indeed one body, each a living stone being built up as a dwelling place for God, in the Spirit.

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Jiffy Lube, “Bruce Almighty,” and Our Need for Communion

What do Jiffy Lube, and “Bruce Almighty” have to do with man’s need for communion? I’ve been thinking about the Trinity a lot lately (thanks Dr. Gifford). I’ve begun to realize that because God is Triune in his nature, all that God is and does should be considered with that fact in mind. Creation, salvation, you and me, everything is affected by the Triune nature of God, and can really only be properly understood with that in mind. When you think about God, with his Triune nature in mind, it’s easy to see why we (who have been created in his image) have such a desire for communion. So, let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago I took my car to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. Recently, I’ve noticed that they have begun playing DVDs in the lobby as you wait for them to service your car. That day, the movie being played was “Bruce Almighty.” So, here I am sitting in the lobby with four complete strangers, trying to ignore the movie and concentrate on the book I brought with me. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you may recall the part where Bruce’s rival is trying to deliver the evening news broadcast, and Bruce messes with him, causing him to just be able to speak gibberish, which I think is totally hilarious. Anyhow, I’m trying to keep it together in front of these strangers, not wanting to just bust out laughing in front of them in the lobby of the local Jiffy Lube; but, I couldn’t do it. I lost it, and just died laughing. And, so did everybody else. It was like we were all waiting for somebody to break the ice  and make it okay to laugh. For a brief moment, it felt like we were old friends, completely comfortable with each other. It seemed we all felt a bond at that moment, we wanted to laugh together, but just didn’t know how. That got me to thinking.

Because God is Triune in his nature, and we are created in his image; there is this innate, God created desire within us for communion. Even folks who don’t know the Lord need and seek intimacy with others. We have been created for fellowship, with God and each other. Sin, has disrupted and corrupted this whole thing. First off, as this relates to the body of Christ; the most natural thing in the world should be for us to enjoy Jesus together, but all too often we don our religious masks and refuse to let anyone see what’s really going on in our hearts. We put on airs, and refuse to expose our weaknesses to one another, and this keeps us from truly enjoying the communion we so desperately need. Put plainly, we are afraid to be real and many times opt to show each other the fake self we believe is safe for others to see. We don’t want others to see us make mistakes or get it wrong. As a result, the communion we are to have with each other, which by the way is to lead us into deeper intimacy with Jesus, is shallow and often disingenuous. How can we teach and admonish each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, when we are uncomfortable around each other?

Consider God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally communing with each other in absolute holiness. Our relationships within the body of Christ are to reflect the communion of the Triune God. In fact, the only way you can mature properly in the Lord is in communion with your brothers and sisters. Yes, we are to have that personal walk with God, but you’ll only go so far by yourself. In each other, we visibly see God at work and are built up in the faith. You weren’t designed to know it all, or be the high and lofty anointed one. We need each other to be whole. It’s the way He set it up.

All of this means we have to willing to be vulnerable, and guess what; may be it is you who needs to be the one to “break the ice” in your fellowship. You could be the one the Lord uses to bring freedom and renewal in the lives of those with whom you commune. Try this. The next time someone asks you, “How’s it going?” tell them the truth. Spend time with Jesus, let his word abide in you, and then pour into someone else. They need you and you need them. I’ll leave you with this:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

 

 

The Trinity and You and Me

Why do you go to “church”? That building, that home group, the coffee shop fellowship, wherever you go; why do you go? Now let me ask you this. Do your reasons for going have anything at all to do with anyone  other than yourself? Sadly, one of the things we have done is make our relationship with God mostly a personal experience. No doubt, we have turned inward. Our songs, our “worship,” our whole life in Christ; you name it- it’s “me” centered. I think this has a lot to do with our concept of the doctrine of the Trinity.

For the most part, we give a mere head-nod to the Trinity. In our “belief statements” we acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that’s about it for us Western Christians. I have recently begun to think that maybe we have been a bit deprived. Most of us have never heard of Gregory Palamas, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, or Athanasius. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back through history and see where the Eastern and Western church fathers kind of went their separate ways, and how we came to be where we are today. The “brand of Christianity” we practice here in the West comes largely from the teachings of Augustine. (As this is not intended to be a lesson in Church History, I’ll leave it to you to study and see if what I’m saying is accurate.)   Put very simply, it goes kind of like this: Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, and the Reformers were GREATLY influenced by Augustine; as a result, the Christianity that has been passed down to us has evolved into an inward, individualistic experience, having little to do with the way God has revealed himself in scripture as a Triune being. And, this has direct implications upon the way we understand salvation and the way we see each other.

Growing up here in the buckle of the bible-belt, I was taught that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. If I did that, I’d be spared hell, and would get a mansion somewhere on the streets of Gold. I was never told that I had been invited by God to participate in the very life, the very communion of the Trinity. My salvation was about me. “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’.” We didn’t spend too much time on verses like:

“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

Or,

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

Can you see the connection? If we have no concept of salvation as an invitation by the Father, in Jesus, through the Spirit, to be freed from sin and partake in the very life of the Triune God; it’s hard for us to understand how necessary we are to each other. When we reflect on the  Triune nature of God, it begins to make more sense as to how our salvation, our relationships together in the body of Christ ought to reflect the very communion of the Trinity.

So many go to “church” because: “I need to get fed.” or “I want to get my praise on.” We come, we sit, we “pick up the remote control,” and if the praise team doesn’t sing my favorite songs, or if my favorite preacher isn’t preaching, I simply press the “mute button,” or maybe even turn the channel. We forget that Paul tells us,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you [ the “you” is plural in the Greek ] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

And again,

Ephesians 5, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

We are to be in communion with each other, and as Jesus speaks his words into our lives, we are to teach each other. As a result, we are continuously being filled with the Spirit. Can’t you see how this reflects the very Triune nature of God? Doesn’t it make sense for God who has enjoyed communion, love, and WORSHIP in himself for all eternity (in a way we can’t completely describe or understand) to design our salvation experience to be that which “mirrors” himself? It is as we are in relationship with each other, mutually submitting, clothed in humility, putting others before ourselves that we more closely resemble Him who is three in one.

We may come to Christ as individuals, but w e live in Christ as his body, members of one another.When we grasp the reality of how our salvation and life together in the body of Christ reflects the very Triune nature of God, we will stop being mere religious spectators. When we realize that through faith in Jesus we are made participants in the communion of the Trinity, we will begin to view each other as we should, and understand how we are indeed one body, each a living stone being built up as a dwelling place for God, in the Spirit.