I have enjoyed listening to RSG (Afrikaans) radio for many years, and got to appreciate the input of senior radio producer and journalist, Suna Venter, whose body was discovered in her flat in Fairland, Johannesburg, very recently. Just thirty two, she had been diagnosed with a cardiac condition known as Stress Cardio-Myography or ‘Broken […]
I just read an article that highlighted five signs of ‘Progressive Christianity’. I’d never heard that term before. The article was interesting and informative and when it exampled sentences or expressions that might come out of this movement, I realised I have actually heard of it before but didn’t know there was a name for it.
However, what I found interesting was that the article stated how ‘Progressive Christianity’ had moved away from “the heart of the gospel being sin and redemption” to now being about social justice. Firstly, let me say that I get what they’re saying. I’ve certainly noticed a strong diversion away from the gospel toward social justice and social issues from within the church. Social media is saturated with it. But what disturbed me most was that the author of the article said the heart of the gospel is sin and redemption. I sincerely beg to differ.
The heart of the gospel is Christ. From beginning to end it is about Christ. The entire scriptures from beginning to end are about Christ. All of time and creation is about Christ. Before time and creation, was Christ. Outside of time and creation, is Christ. The church exists for Christ and is in Christ, and is the body of Christ. In fact, all things exist in and through, by and for Christ.
Sin and redemption are realities for all humanity, pointing out our need for Christ. Redemption is available to all of us, through faith in Jesus Christ. Sin and redemption are not the heart of the gospel. The gospel is Christ. He is the good news. He is the purpose of redemption. Saving us from sin is not the purpose of redemption. We are redeemed, that we would know Christ, that He would have a body and a bride, through whom He can be expressed. Christ is the All in all. Christ is the One in whom all things will be summed up.
So the heart of the gospel is not even a matter of ‘what’, but ‘who’.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ–everything in heaven and on earth. Ephesians 1:10
For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross. Colossians 1:20
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36
These are photos of our olive tree. We didn’t plant the olive tree. It was here before our time. We have never had access to an olive tree before and subsequently have never educated ourselves on how to harvest or cure olives. As you would know, olives are used for consumption as well as for their oil.
When we realised we had an olive tree, there were only a few very green olives showing. After some online research I discovered that the season for ripening and harvest was coming up. I researched different ways of harvesting or curing olives. I’m still not efficient in my understanding of the processes and what to call them. However, I quickly learned that there are a myriad of ways to prepare olives for consumption as well as for oil.
As Derek and I watched the olives gradually getting more plentiful and darker, I began to feel it would be a crime to just leave them on the tree and not have a go at harvesting them. Although there is a lot of spiritual imagery in the process of harvesting/curing olives (the use of salt, time, hidden places etc) I’m not going to focus this post on those things.
The thing is, Derek and I had a go at harvesting them. We tried two different methods and then I went away for a week to see family. When I returned I checked how they were going (they can take up to 15 weeks or something crazy like that). Derek and I checked on them periodically but they just didn’t seem to be working. I hadn’t done things properly I’m sure of that. When I saw they weren’t working how they’re supposed to, I threw them all out in the garbage. After that, I pretty much lost interest, even though the olives on the tree this very day are sitting there ripe and ready for harvesting.
That’s the point of this post. The waste. The tree is full of olives, purple olives. Some are even sundried already, they’ve been on the tree for so long. Many have turned black and fallen to the ground. There’s an abundance of olives just ripe for the picking.
But you know what? I can’t be bothered. The process is beyond my comprehension. The process is too lengthy. There’s too much information on the internet on how to harvest or cure them. I can’t even get the terminology right. I have no understanding. I’m lazy. And as a result, they are being wasted. Every time I look at the tree I see the abundance and I see the waste. This is the point of my post today.
Sometimes, isn’t that just the way we are with Jesus? When I looked at the tree today, I just saw how Christ is this abundant Tree of Life ripe for the taking. He is full and glorious, rich and tasty, available for consumption and for His healing oil. And like our olive tree, He was always there, even before we arrived. His life was existing and increasing without our help, He just was. He just is.
And now, what are we doing with this Christ? Are we just walking by Him every day and ignoring Him? Are we letting His glorious life go to waste, so to speak? Do we think it is all too hard to get know Him so we just don’t bother? Are there so many opinions from experts out there on how to get to know Him that we are overwhelmed and so we shrink back?
The nature of Christ, is that regardless of whether or not we draw from His life or even acknowledge Him, He will still be there. Season after season, He will produce all the goodness that we need. He is an endless supply, THE endless supply. He is there for the taking. But just like the olives don’t just jump off the tree and cure themselves and pop themselves into an oil jar or a pickling jar in our fridge ready for consumption, Jesus doesn’t just do everything for us without our involvement.
Jesus wants us to work with Him. There’s a relationship involved. There’s not a labour of our own life, but His life within us as we make ourselves available to Him and actively participate in His life. We are co-workers with Christ. Yes, He has done it all, and yes He is sufficient in and of Himself, but it is the will of the Father that we might participate and partake of His Son’s life.
Are we actively participating in the process of getting to know our Lord? Are we desperate enough for His glorious life to be lived through us that we will put in the time and effort to walk through the hard stuff so that He gets what He wants in us? Or would we rather just go to the store (passively sit in a pew) and buy what’s already been prepared and packaged for us?
God help us. God forgive us for wasting the Life of Your precious Son. Lord, do what You must do in us, to shake and move us out of our comfortable seats to really get to know You – who You are – and participate and partake in Your glorious Life. Have Your way oh Lord.
You know, one of the really great things about getting to really know our Lord Jesus? It’s that we are not motivated any longer by guilt. I could race off now and try and harvest/cure the olives off that tree out of guilt. But you know what? I’m totally chuffed and satisfied that the Lord has used all of this to point me to Him, to show me about His life. And just as I’m not led into guilt about not labouring in harvesting the olives, the Lord doesn’t lead me into guilt over not getting to know Him more. He is simply as that olive tree, He is there. He waits. He continues to display His available life to me. He draws me to Him. He speaks to me and reveals Himself to me through things like an olive tree in our front garden. And by doing so, He continues to woo me to Him. I begin to long for more of Him.
This is the life of God folks. He draws us by His life and by His love revealed to us in His Son. What will we do with this life of His Son?
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.(Rom 8)
Mutuku stretched out his hands as he suddenly rose from his desk realizing he was almost alone in the office. They had had a long meeting where he had reported on the progress of the project he had been in charge of; which was largely going on as planned. The meeting had stretched beyond the envisioned two hours as different people sought to verify the statistics he was presenting, and that is how he ended up having a late lunch. When he had come back to the office, he succumbed to the demand of a full stomach and drifted into a light nap.
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It’s a very rainy day here today. I am enjoying the house we are living in because there’s no leaks when it rains. Also, inside the house there are no spiders, spider webs, no cockroaches, no bugs, no ants or creepy crawlies. So this tells me the house is tight and secure. With some large glass windows in our sitting area, it is a joy to see the rain outside pounding against the glass, to see the wind blowing in the trees and yet to remain completely dry and cosy as though inside the house were a bright sunny day. This reminded me today of what it is like to be in Christ.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I step out in faith and speak something that I feel is led by the Spirit I end up being pretty bombarded for a good few days with accusations from the enemy. Stuff like “you’re a trouble maker”, “you think too highly of yourself”, “you should be quiet” and so on. Subsequently it can be a challenge to stand in the face of these things. However, when these things occur, how good it is to be reminded by a brother or sister in the Lord, of our position in Christ.
For instance, sitting inside the house this morning while the darts of rain smashed against the glass windows, my darling husband reminded me. “This is where you are. You’re inside. You’re safe. You’re in Him”.
How good and pleasant it is when we wash one another’s feet – i.e. speak the Lord’s life to one another, washing away the muck of the spirit of this world. And how grand it is to be inside of Christ – safe, warm, comfortable, protected, at peace and rest, like a bright sunny day every day.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
I read a line from Milt Rodriguez’ book New Day today, that has stopped me in my tracks.
In the recent children’s animation movie ‘Moana’ there are a number of very powerful scenes that if you look behind what you’re seeing on the screen, you can see something of the Spirit realm to which you and I belong. Of-course, these are only shadows & types.
One scene that really spoke to me was concerning Moana’s ancestors. Her ancestors were voyagers, you see. However, over time her people had decided to remain safe and no longer would venture out past the reef where all the best fish could be found for food. This reminded me of how the church has lost it’s way, she has lost her heart. The church was once a vibrant spiritual organism growing in her ongoing discovery into the Son of God as she lived out of His life that indwelt her. You’ve only got to read the book of Acts to see that. But she has become insular, self-protective and has lost her desire to know Him beyond what she is spoon-fed. She has shrunk back.
She has become afraid of the reef – the cross. In ignorance and spiritual immaturity, she hides from the pain and suffering of the cross that Jesus told us to take up and carry daily. She only desires comfort, knowledge, familiarity, knowledge without experience. She has settled for stories of Jesus instead of living His Resurrection Life that lies beyond the cross.
As the story goes on,Moana ventures out past the reef and things happen which is a great picture of portions of Christ’s body/church today. Yes folks, be encouraged for many saints all over the world are embracing the cross in its various and perfectly fashioned forms by the Father, venturing out past the spiritual reef and breakers, so to speak, in search of knowing a greater Christ than they’ve ever known before. Brothers and sisters in Christ are rising up in a growing desperate pursuit of Christ who is our real food, our real drink, the food that satisfies, the drink that quenches all thirst forevermore.
Coming back to Moana – Typically, once she has faced her fears and trials she eventually achieves the goal she set sail for. When this happens, the animators give the viewers a climactic explosion of life in a glorious scene of Moana sailing on the wild seas and watching with wide eyes of wonder, her ancestors on their boats riding the waves all around, passing her on their journey. The two realms of time & eternity are revealed simultaneously.
This scene spoke me to me of that great cloud of witnesses that we read about in Hebrews Chapter 12, verse 1;
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…
I was reminded of our roots – that we as believers are sojourners, voyagers in our discovery of Christ and all that He is. He is the mighty ocean. He is the reef (the cross) and all that is beyond the reef yet to be discovered. He is the resurrection and the life! Our lives are meant to be lived out as an adventure in knowing Him through our trials and tribulations for the glory that lies before us – truly knowing Him!
Those trials and tribulations can come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, in all peril, we are travelling a path well trod by those who went before us – like Moana’s ancestors who forged on past the reef and through storms and danger carrying their adventurous spirit to find richer food and a richer existence as a result. So we can do the same in our journey in knowing Christ with hearts of faith.
Those saints who have walked the ancient paths of knowing God through all their trials and tribulations, perseverance and endurance, can really be thought of as our spiritual ancestors. I’m not talking about spiritual ancestors such as some indigenous tribal communities or new agers hold to that are not of Christ. I’m talking about spiritual ancestory in light of the reality that those of us who are in Christ, are called the children of Abraham – not in the flesh but in the spirit.
For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are Abraham’s descendants are they all his children. On the contrary, “Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned.” So it is not the children of the flesh who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as offspring.…(Romans 9:6-8)
We are the children of the promise because we have believed in the One who was sent, the Seed of Abraham, who was in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that is Christ Jesus. We have now been made one with Him by His Spirit.
Let’s get one thing straight. The journey of the believer is a spiritual one. That means it is not of this realm. It is not an external journey of a type of ‘godly’ behaviour, rules and appearances. It is a life lived by another realm, the realm of the Spirit.
…It is the only place in you that comes from the other realm, the heavenly realm, the external realm…It is the place where I (Christ) live as the connection between heaven and earth….(New Day, Milt Rodriguez, 2013).
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes… (Ezekiel 36:26)
God causing us to walk in His statutes (measure, ruling, commandment, covenant, proclamation) is a spiritual act on His behalf, done by God Himself Brothers and sisters, if you are in Christ God is causing you to walk in His statutes as He has caused countless other saints to walk there before us. Thousands upon thousands of saints have lived and died before us, having carried their cross daily as they walked the same paths of knowing Christ beyond the reef.
Is the Lord calling you to venture out from the comfort and conformity of life on an ‘island’ and go beyond the ‘reef’ to travel the ancient pathways trod by thousands of saints who’ve gone before? Do you feel in your spirit that there is much more to discover and explore of and in Christ than you’ve ever known before? Do you sense that He is worth the desperate pursuit? Do you believe there is Life awaiting you on the other side of the reef?
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Once we were slaves to sin and to this world. We were born into sin. We were enslaved, in bondage, held as captives and unable to free ourselves. But 2000 years ago a man who was both Son of Man and Son of God, came to us and set us free.
He loosed our chains, they fell off. He broke off our shackles. He washed us clean and healed our wounds. He removed the veil from our eyes. Then He said to us “It is for freedom’s sake that I set you free” and “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed”.
Captivated by Him, His beauty, His glory, His splendour, His love, His compassion, His kindness – we knew that to have freedom apart from Him would be no freedom at all. We saw the kindness and mercy of the Good Master and we willingly gave up our freedom which was no real freedom at all, to make ourselves His bond-servants. We wanted to be with Him forever. We dedicated our lives to Him. Where else could we go? Where else would we go? For He held and still holds the words of Life.
“Thou hast set us free, Master. Now we belong to Thee”.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18, NIV).
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you unblemished in His glorious presence, with great joy–(Jude 1:24 Berean version).
Let us rejoice and celebrate and give Him the glory. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. She was given clothing of fine linen,” linen bright and pure. For the linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints(Rev 19:7-8).
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).
…and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9, NIV).
The scriptures often use pictures as shadows or types to point to a heavenly reality such as “wool” or “snow” to represent the pure righteousness we have now been given through faith in Christ.
During my sleep a few nights back, a picture entered my mind of a pure white giant glacier and these words came to mind…”Solid Righteousness”.
This image of a glacier all pure white and unblemished, untainted by humanity or any being and so incredibly solid, spoke to me of these things; the completeness, permanency, the unfathomable depth, power and strength of the righteousness we now have in Christ.
Christ’s work in saving, redeeming and sanctifying us is as solid as solid can be. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been made ‘solidly’ righteous.
For some of us, our life decisions can lead us down a path we didn’t really want to go and to a destination we didn’t want. A decision to take that job, move to that area, date that person, eat that kind of food, live that kind of lifestyle, hang out with those kind of people – these decisions can take us on a path that can leave us feeling lost or confused, disappointed or frustrated or much worse. We can find ourselves traveling on a really rough road that can take us a long time to ‘get back on track’. Even years sometimes!
Chatting with a dear friend the other day, we were talking about how God seems to always lead us back onto the right path in our lives, in spite of our mistakes. You know how sometimes we make silly decisions? Or maybe that was just me 🙂
I use a GPS a fair bit these days, to find my way around the streets that are all unfamiliar to me here in Perth. However, sometimes I still take a wrong turn or think I know better and find that I’ve gone off the path the GPS was sending me on. Sometimes I’m just not paying attention or listening properly. Selah.
When this happens with the GPS, it has a momentary brain spasm to work out where I’ve gone and then it adjusts my route to re-direct me back toward the destination. You see, the destination doesn’t change, and just like the GPS, God too, will always steer me back toward His purpose in my life. This beautiful verse in Romans 8:28 says it all;
And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
The thing is, that in God our destination never changes. Our destination is always toward God’s Purpose. Christ being known, revealed and expressed is always our destination. And God has this remarkable way through Christ who is our life, of always leading us towards that purpose, yes, even in spite of our mistakes along the way.
God is like our own spiritual GPS ( ‘God’s Perfect Shepherding’). Christ is our Google Maps! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the way to the Father. So next time you use your GPS, perhaps you can see the Lord as your Perfect Shepherd in a new way. Using your GPS you can reflect on how in His mercy and love toward us, He is always leading us back onto the right path, toward His glorious purpose of seeing Christ formed in us.