False Advertising: the enemy is pretty good at slipping lies in among the food. And if we’re honest, we're not so bad at it ourselves, telling little lies to keep from dealing with the real issues that face us. These gotta go!
The church has been aware for some time that God is calling us, His church, out of a slave mentality, and into the fullness of our inheritance as sons, heirs, co-regents with
Galatians 3:29 And if you are
Ephesians 1:20:…He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Ephesians 2:6: …and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in
The current common understanding is that the time is nearing when we the church will not be begging God as if we were servants, and not persuading him as if we were friends, but speaking to the mountain and commanding – not requesting – that it be hurled into the sea. We’re seated with
This is a world-shaking paradigm shift, really. For centuries, the church has held on to the perspective that the Lord is our master, and we are his servants, that we wait for Him to reveal His will and we submit to that will. Yes, there is a measure of truth in that, but it is stunningly incomplete, and in this season, God is re-emphasizing the royalty of His bride, not her servanthood. (I’d go so far as to say that who we are is royalty; what we do is servanthood.)
The new metaphor is that when we’re joined with Him, when we’re seated on that throne with Him, when our hearts have become one, then He is as interested in our will as much as we’re interested in His. We’ve been waiting for God to take initiative. God waits for the church to take initiative.
Several years ago when the prophets began speaking of this, it met with some resistance in the believers; not so much now: we’re beginning to understand that even if we aren’t there yet, that’s where we’re headed: we’re co-regents with
(If you aren’t on board with this point, you might as well stop reading now, and go back to whatever you were doing; my whole article today depends on this: we’re moving beyond servanthood to co-regency. We may not be living it out very well yet, but that’s our destination.)
Recently, I became aware that this has significant implications on the “Christian” concept of marriage. Ephesians 5 has been a key passage for defining and understanding the relationship of husbands and wives:
Ephesians 5:22-24: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also
For the last several generations, the church has looked at her paradigm of “
Just apply the new metaphor of co-regency to the relationships between husbands and wives, between men and women in the church. If
We could go further: we’ve already discussed how in some measure,
The practical implications of this are substantial in both the Christian marriage and in the leadership of the body of
So, bottom line: it's time for the women to step out of the shadows and into the limelight, and it's time for the men to help them do that.
It strikes me that
Let’s think about our fruitfulness. If we aren’t fruitful,
Luke 13:8 “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.”
I see three options here:
1) no fruit with fertilizer,
2) no fruit and cut down, and
Let’s look at each.
Option 1: The Stink of Fertilizer
If we aren’t producing fruit, we can expect a bunch of fertilizer dug in around us for an extended season. I have a vegetable garden, and my wife has several flower gardens. We fertilize those gardens fairly regularly. I don’t know of a single fertilizer that doesn’t smell bad, and some of them are really awful.
Let’s think about first century fertilizer for a minute. They don’t have Lilly Miller or DuPont to make chemical fertilizers. Fertilizer comes from the cows, the camels, and the donkeys. When
Think about the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Where do these grow best? Where, for example, does the fruit of the Spirit of longsuffering come from? Doesn’t it grow in places where we have to suffer long? Doesn’t peace grow in places where it’s real hard not to worry? That’s the same for all of the fruit of the Spirit: they grow in circumstances where
Because if we don’t develop fruitfulness during the season of crap, our fig tree is cut down and thrown away:
Option 2: Complete Destruction
If we continue not bearing fruit when we’ve had our season of fertilizer, then we get cut down.
I’ve learned something interesting about fig trees: cutting down a fig tree does not kill it. If you need to kill of a fig tree, and you take a chainsaw to it and burn if for firewood,, then next spring, you’ll have sprouts coming up. In fact, the experts say that the stump – even if you cut it down to ground level – will “sucker profusely,” and any one of those suckers can, if pruned carefully, grow into a new fig tree. Any of those suckers can be grown into a new tree, or they can be cut off and transplanted (carefully) to produce several more trees. The process is sometimes called “Rejuvenation pruning.” (“Rejuvenation” means “to be restored to a former state; made fresh or new again.”) This kind of “prune it to ground level” is very drastic, but sometimes the new growth is more fruitful than the old tree was.
If you really want to kill a fig tree, you have to do more than just cut it down. So when the Lord is threatening to cut down the fig tree that is me, He is not talking about killing me, or writing me off, or anything that smells like He’s giving up on me. (This is the guy that said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” remember?) When
If I resist bearing fruit, even when
Option 3: Pruning the fruitful branches
As I read this parable, I thought to myself, “Well, I’d better be fruitful if I want to avoid all that nasty stuff.”
John 15:1,2: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
Sorry. Not gonna happen. If I am fruitful, then I will be pruned. If the tree – or in other parables, the branch – that is me is bearing fruit, then
The goal of pruning a fruit-bearing tree is twofold: The first is to produce more fruit, and the second is to improve the quality of the fruit produced.
I live in
Fruit happens in seasons, in our lives, just like in the apple orchards or the fig tree in the garden. There are seasons where the only thing going on is deep inside, like fruit trees in winter. And there are seasons where it’s reasonable to expect fruit. The goal is not to be producing fruit every day, but as we make our way through the seasons of life, we have regular seasons where we’re producing fruit.
We could look at it this way: if I’m fruitless, I get His spade, digging His fertilizer (which I call “crap”) into my life. If I continue in fruitlessness, I get a chainsaw. And if I choose to be fruitful, I get Heaven’s pruning knife.
So make your choice: do you want a sharp knife working in your life, or a spade full of manure, or a chainsaw?
Personally, I’m beginning a season of fruitfulness right now. I like it; it’s certainly more fun than the dead of winter. But because I’m making fruit, I can look forward to a season of pruning, and I’m really looking forward to it. I feel like my life has way too much stuff in it, much of which takes energy away from the fruit of making disciples and the fruit of character. I’m looking forward to the
It would be easy enough to look at this as “something God’s doing to me in order to accomplish His plans for me” and feel backed into a corner. Most of us (the healthy ones among us, anyway) prefer to avoid pain when we can.
But think about it: who among us aspires to meaninglessness? Who wants to look back from the end of their life and boast, “I had absolutely no effect on anyone!”? If we were to look at fruitfulness as God’s issue for us, as His plan for our lives, that would be correct, but it would be correct only because it’s really our own heart’s desire. One of the most desperate searches of any human being, and that would include you and me, is the search for significance; God is – yet again – making plans to fulfill the deepest longings of our heart.
How Do I Avoid Troubles?
So given that we’re facing three painful options, how do we go about avoiding hurting in this process?
The short version: Give up. You can’t. Any way I live my life, I’m going to find that God is doing something toward the goal of making my life count for more than it does now. If I bear fruit, I get pruned to bear more. If I haven’t borne fruit for a while, I get manure dug into my life so that I can bear fruit. If that doesn’t work, he cuts me off at the ground and takes one of the branches that grows up from the roots in the spring to train into a new tree, and the process starts all over again.
It seems to me that the “pruning” of fruitfulness is a lot less troublesome than is “cut it off and start over” of fruitlessness. But that’s not really the main reason I want my life to be fruitful: I have a
Oh yeah, and His pruning knife hurts less than the chainsaw. That’s good too.
I’ve been thinking recently about some of the various levels of authority revealed for believers in the New Testament. I’ve found three: Servants, Friends and Sons.
· beg favors from their masters. They have confidence that their master has the capacity to answer, but often have serious questions about whether the master has any inclination to answer.
· make requests of their friends. They have confidence that their friend can meet the need, and they know that if properly encouraged (or nagged), the friend will stir themselves to meet the need.
· issue commands from the family’s authority. They have confidence in their authority, and in their ability to back up that authority with power if necessary.
For years, most of the church has approached God from the perspective of servants begging favors from their master. We’ve begged God to answer our prayers, and like Dorcas’s friends, we try to justify our requests. “You need to do this for them [or me or us] because they [or I or we] have earned it.” We very seldom put it in that vocabulary, but that’s been the way we’ve prayed. “It would be so great if
We know how to approach God as a servant. We’ve practiced servanthood, extolled servanthood, and prayed from a servant’s perspective for centuries. We’ve preached servanthood, and I think it’s been appropriate: we are not born as servants; we’re not born again with a servanthood instinct.
A servant’s life is pretty much without responsibility, doing whatever comes to the master’s mind. The servant is the guy that hides behind the curtain waiting for the master to snap his fingers and command him. Servants often love their masters, and certainly we’ve had a Master who is easy to love.
But servanthood is not where we belong today. It was a good revelation in times past, and it was necessary. But we learned that lesson. We need to move on.
We followers of
But we’re not there yet. We’re on the road there, and we can see it around then next bend, and we’ll be there soon. We are right to look forward to it and to talk about it, provided that we don’t miss the place that we’re passing through now.
Right now, most of the church is just beginning to really walk in the friendship mode with God. A friend (where we are arriving) is not the same as a son (where we’re going ultimately), and it’s also substantially different than a servant (where we’ve been).
The friend takes a measure of responsibility in the relationship; a servant does not. A friend takes personal initiative as well as responding to his friend’s wishes. Friends don’t always drop everything when their friend says, “jump” like a servant does for his master. A friend may help us do the things on our heart, or they may try to talk us out of it, though they care deeply for their friend’s needs.
As a friend, we might say things that a servant never would. Things like “Hey, let’s do this. David did that. So did Mary. Sometimes, our friend might say, “Nah, let’s do this instead.” He did that to Paul.
A brief rabbit trail: since God is not a single personality, but three, I believe that we’ll find that we’ll have three relationships: our relationship with Father will be different than with the Son and different still than our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Personally, I find that my relationship with Father is (surprise!) a fathering relationship: comforting, affirming. My relationship with my Big Brother Jesus is a challenging one, like relating to my Captain or to a mature apostle who knows and likes me. I rather enjoy my relationship with the Holy Spirit the most: perhaps because I can’t figure Him out I have the fewest limits on what I expect in that relationship. I don’t know. I do know I relate to them differently.
So how shall we respond to the friendship of God? I offer three suggestions:
1)the friendship. Talk with Him as a friend. Talk with each aspect/person of God. Share your hopes and disappointments with Him. Find ways to have fun together. (Yes, that’s allowed!) He loves your time together more than you do, you know!
3)to Him. Ask Him what’s on His heart? What are His hopes and disappointments? What would He like to do today? Does He have a better idea of how to do that thing you’re thinking about? Real listening usually involves asking a question and waiting for your friend to answer. Yeah, I know: it sounds “religious” or “fake”. But just because other folks do it wrong, doesn’t mean you have to be weird about it.
Now one final warning before I wrap this up: we are not leaving the place of servanthood behind as we move into the place of friendship. We take it with us. We are His friends, and we need to live like it, but we are still servants of the Most High King. And when we begin to inhabit the place of sonship, we still won’t give up the place of servanthood, nor the place of friendship.
But it’s time that we stop living as if we were only servants. Let’s build a friendship with Father, with