Archive for August, 2010


Our faith was never intended by God to be a solo affair. He intends for us to be deeply connected to him in an abiding relationship. In addition, part of encountering God in a deep relationship requires having deep, accountable, relationships with other Christians. This, in turn, requires us to be involved in a community of believers. Note, I said “community.” There is a significant difference between a community of believers and a group of Christians who merely get together regularly. For a little more on what that can look like read: Authority: How Jesus Leads a Church, (July 17, 2010).

In my post, Organic Discipleship #1: The Place of the Bible  (Aug. 29, 2010) I clearly stated that the Bible is a vital part of organic discipleship. In fact, I suggested a skill I teach new Christians is to read the Bible as a personal conversation with Jesus, and obey what he says. What happens when we take that Bible focused obedience skill and combine it in community? Let me describe what that could be like.

Imagine with me for a moment a small organic church, maybe twelve people. Each has learned to read the Bible as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey. This group hangs out together as much as possible. They do ministry together. They eat together. They spend time in each other’s homes regularly. And, they intentionally meet on Tuesday nights. When Tuesday rolls around (or in fact any time they see each other) their souls are saturated with the Scriptures. This is because they each read the Bible as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey; as part of their love relationship with Jesus. Perhaps one person is reading in Hebrews, another in Mark, others are in a Life Transformation Group reading Genesis. It really doesn’t matter. When they get together, their souls are not only saturated with Scripture, their lives are saturated with obedience to Jesus, based on what they read. They are going to have lots to talk about when they gather.

On Tuesday, Brittney shares a story of how Jesus has been speaking to her in the book of Joshua and how she is putting into practice what she is learning. Jordan and Braden note that this is exactly what Jesus was speaking to their LTG about last week, even though they were in Genesis. As the conversation deepens, Matt and Tiffany point out the obvious; Jesus is not only talking to them as individuals, he is speaking to the church. Tiffany further suggests that they pray to Jesus, listing for his instruction, so they can obey him as a faithful, loving community. Through prayer they realize that Jesus is sending them on a communal ministry project. They prayerfully plan and put the plan into action.

Have you ever had a rich encounter with Jesus in community through the Scriptures? Those moments are worth their weight in gold. For most of us, they are also about as uncommon as a gold coin. But they don’t have to be. If the community learns together to read the Bible as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey; then we just have to gather and start telling stories. If we are open to Jesus leadership and we have learned not to allow any human to control the group. Jesus will use the Scriptures to speak deeply to the community. Then all we need to do is learn to obey. Since Jesus is initiating that action, expect to see fruit, more fruit and fruit that remains.  Also expect to see your relationship with Jesus mature rapidly and become much for satisfying that it has ever been before.

For other posts on discipleship see: What Is Organic Discipleship?, Organic Discipleship #1: The Place of the Bible, Organic Discipleship #2: The Place of Prayer, Why Simple Churches Don’t Work, Reason #3, and  The Spirit Leads to Truth.

  • Do you believe that discipleship should always be tied to obedience? Why or why not?
  • Would you find the scenario mentioned above satisfying, threatening or a little of both? Why?
  • Have you ever been in a community that interacts about the Bible like this?
  • Have you ever been in a Christian community that was this intent on obedience? Do you think churches like this are common? Why or why not?
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In my last post, Organic Discipleship #1: The Place of the Bible (Aug. 29, 2010), I looked at the Bible as direct communication with God. My suggestion was to teach new disciples to read the Bible as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey everything he tells them to do. In this post, I’d like to build on the skills I suggest we give to new disciples in an organic church situation. I’d like to continue the communication aspect of discipleship, focusing on prayer.

Our God is a relational God. He loves to be in contact with us. Jesus put a high priority on his relationship with his Father and strongly encouraged us to put a high priority on our relationship with him. He told us in John 15 that we could be so close to him that it would be like a branch being connected to a grape vine. That’s pretty close. However, how do we stay that close to Jesus? A major part of that is prayer.

Christian prayer is two way communication; at least it is intended to be. Yet, in my early spiritual formation, I was doing a lot more talking than I was listening. OK confession time…I was doing a lot more talking, when I actually got around to praying at all. Imagine trying to have a deep relationship with someone with whom you are in love, yet you don’t talk much. Then, when you do talk, you do most of the talking. Now, let’s make it worse, when you do dominate the conversation, all you talk about is what you want from them. Does this sound like a recipe for a deep, intimate, loving relationship? Yet doesn’t that pretty much describe much of the prayer we see in the church today?

In 1 Cor. 6:19 Paul makes an interesting statement: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? In Col. 1:27 he states: To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Our God is not a God who merely lives “up there,” he is a God who lives “in here.” Our God is so intimate; he inhabits our hearts, souls and minds. Communication with that God should be easy; yet we find it difficult. Two way communication with a God who lives in our hearts and minds is actually part of our new covenant heritage. To hear from God is how our faith was designed to be, by God himself. Yet we find hearing from God to be difficult. Why?

I believe that a major part of our difficulty is cultural. Our broken, merely rationalistic, Western worldview, given to us by the humanistic Greeks, teaches us that we should only concentrate on what we can rationally quantify and what we can rationally reason within our minds. This is certainly a valid part of reality, but only a part. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:23-24: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” We Westerners have the truth part down pretty well, but we are quite weak in the spiritual part. However, we don’t have to cave into the humanistic lie that reason is our only way to encounter God.

Our God lives in our hearts, souls and minds. He can speak to us through rational exegesis of Scripture. He can speak to us through sound theology. But he can also speak in a still, small voice, deep in our hearts (I Kings 19:12). He can speak through godly desires (Ps. 37:4). He can put ideas in our hearts and minds, which is a foundational truth of our new covenant relationship with Him (Heb. 8:10). In fact, God’s communication with us can come in all sorts of ways from godly advice to divinely designed situations. The key is to learn to listen, which, in our rationalistic Western world, has become a profoundly neglected spiritual skill.

So what do I suggest we teach new disciples in an organic setting? I suggest that we teach them to pray as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey everything they hear. That requires learning to listen. And we can only really teach what we know how to do ourselves. Yet one of the most satisfying aspects of a deep relationship with Jesus is discerning his loving voice. And one of the wisest things we can learn to do, if we long for a close, fruitful relationship with him, is learn to obey that voice.

For other posts on discipleship see: What Is Organic Discipleship?, Organic Discipleship #1: The Place of the Bible, Authority: How Jesus Leads a Church, Why Simple Churches Don’t Work, Reason #3, and  The Spirit Leads to Truth.

  • Why do you think we find listening so hard?
  • Do you know of good resources you would like to suggest on learning to listen and discern the voice of God? If you want some of my suggestions, post a response and ask.
  • If we put this kind of emphasis on listening, isn’t that subjective? And what happens if we make mistakes in our listening?
  • When we hear the words of Jesus, yet don’t put them into practice, who is the lord of our lives? Is that really Christianity?
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Organic Discipleship #1: The Place of the Bible

Let me start by making a very clear statement. I love the Bible. I believe every word of it is God breathed. I believe it is a tremendous gift from God. After all, imagine what we Christians have; a book that gives us the very thoughts of God. That’s incredible.

At the same time I don’t worship the Bible. I worship Jesus Christ as my Lord. As I often say, Jesus Christ is the Word, the Bible is the word. The apostle John put it this way: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). The Bible is not God, Jesus Christ is. But sometimes by the things we say and the things we do, one would think we are Bible centered, not Christ centered. With this in mind, I believe we need to recalibrate ourselves and focus on Jesus, while at the same time using the Bible for all it is worth.

In my last post What Is Organic Discipleship?, I made a statement and posed a question: As wonderful and good as Bible study is, there is certainly something more to discipleship than mere Bible study or the study of theology. After all, mere study of the Scriptures, according to the Bible itself, can actually kill our souls. What is that something more? Here another way to put the same thing.

Many men have mastered the Bible, and absolutely nothing revolutionary has come out of it. There are millions of Bible classes, as well as thousands of Bible schools, all over this planet…and so it has been for nearly two centuries; yet Christianity has remained shallow. There must be some missing ingredient to this back-to-the Bible rallying call. Dare we say this sacred mantra is lacking something?![1]

So an obvious question would be: what place does the Bible play in organic discipleship? But it is the wrong question. The right question is: what place does Jesus play in discipleship? If we get the answer to that question right, the answer to the first question falls in place. Jesus is the center of organic discipleship. He is the “missing ingredient,” he is the “something more.” To focus on the “word” without focusing on the “Word” is ludicrous beyond description; yet isn’t that what we commonly do?” We are treating the Bible as a mere source of information, rather than a place to encounter Jesus. We are doing the same thing that Jesus criticized the Pharisees about: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (Jn. 5:39-40).

So what do I suggest? I suggest we treat our reading of the Scriptures as a personal conversation with Jesus and obey everything he tells us to do. We do this both as individuals and as a church. Does that leave out diligent use of exegesis and hermeneutics? No, that’s part of listening to Jesus, so we can obey. It is part, but only a part. We have to live in our new covenant arrangement with God. We need to trust that the Holy Spirit knows how to use the Scriptures to put the law in our hearts and minds (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10).  The emphasis though is not on mere information. It is on obedience. Jesus is Lord. Jesus himself said “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (Jn. 14:15)  As long as we treat the Bible as a mere source of religious information, we are stuck looking for that “missing ingredient.” That missing ingredient is Jesus, and our response to his Lordship should always be loving, heartfelt obedience.

  • How did we get stuck is this rut of having our wonderful Bible yet still needing something more? 
  • Is it easier to be Bible centered or Christ centered? 
  • What good does it do to gather a bunch of information if we don’t put it into practice?
  • When we read the words of Jesus, yet don’t put them into practice, who is the lord of our lives? Is that really Christianity?

 


[1] Frank Viola et al., The House Church Movement, (Jacksonville: The Seed Sowers, 2001), 123.

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My early Christian formation involved a lot of information. In fact, one could say that discipleship was confused with information download. We seemed to be functioning on the idea that he who had the most information, as long as it was within the proscribed parameters, was the best disciple. Is that really true? The Pharisees had tons of information. And in general, they put it into practice; yet they rejected their own Messiah when he came.  This is an example of the letter killing. So mere study of the Scriptures, even diligently putting it into practice, isn’t enough to be a true disciple. That is why Jesus could say to them: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (Jn. 5:39-40) See my post of Aug. 26, 2010: Religion Kills, Jesus Saves.

As wonderful and good as Bible study is, there is certainly something more to discipleship than mere Bible study or the study of theology. After all, mere study of the Scriptures, according to the Bible itself, can actually kill our souls. What is that something more? I am going to start a brief series that explores these questions and tries to give some answers of how we can truly make disciples.

So let me start this series by posing some questions. These are questions I will introduce here but explore in more depth in the next few days. Question #1: Whose disciple are we? If I were an observer of current Western Christianity, perhaps a secret anthropologist from another planet, I’d probably answer that question like this. Practitioners of the religion called Christianity, in the Western cultural steam, are followers of various institutions called, for example, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Campus Crusade for Christ, Dallas Theological Seminary, etc. Others are disciples of various dead individuals. These call themselves Calvinists (after John Calvin), Wesleyans (John Wesley) or Mennonites (Menno Simons), for example. Others are grouped in much smaller groupings following living leaders. These are the followers of Charles Swindoll, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, or Joel Osteen, for example. Some of these groups can be as small as 30 people, following some local leader called a pastor. These followers of living individuals, within Western Christianity, tend to be very zealous in their devotion to their heroes.

At best, in this schema, Jesus becomes an overarching footnote. In my own formation there was more of an actual interest in, and connection with the apostle Paul than there was in Jesus. Jesus was just too enigmatic, to paradoxical, to…well…illogical. Is this hyperbole? Ummm, yeah, probably a little; but not much. Let me say this categorically; we should be disciples of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. If we define ourselves by some other name, we are on very dangerous ground. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) So discipleship is connecting people with Jesus. It is not teaching them how to be a Baptist, connecting them with the mother Catholic Church, sending them to Dallas Theological Seminary or giving them a series of books by Kenneth Hagin.

Question #2: How helpful are techniques in discipleship? Can we really help people connect with Jesus if we get just the right techniques? This is a complex question, which I’ll explore in the series. I do think techniques can be somewhat helpful. I also think we can very easily get blinded by the bright lights of techniques. So again, let me say categorically, the power is in Jesus, not techniques.

Question #3: In our discipleship, how do we live in our new covenant relationship with God and not just fall back into a legalistic religion? That, in essence, is to go back to the old covenant. I believe discipleship has to connect us to Jesus Christ himself, not some religion called Christianity.

For other posts on discipleship see: Why Simple Churches Don’t Work, Reason #4, Authority: How Jesus Leads a Church, Why Simple Churches Don’t Work, Reason #3, and  The Spirit Leads to Truth.  

  • Am I being fair to Western Christianity?
  • Is there more than a thread of reality in these characterizations of Western discipleship?
  • What elements do you think are indispensible in discipleship?
  • How can we use techniques without getting blinded by them and having more faith in the technique than in Jesus?
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What does an ongoing organic movement of the gospel actually look like in a modern culture? What kind of problems do we have to face 20 years down the line? Is an organic movement even possible in a hostile environment? If you would like the answers to these questions and many more like them, you should read Will This Rock in Rio?

In 1964 Ken Lottis went to Brazil to help his long time friend Jim Peterson start the Navigators ministry among Brazilian university students. It didn’t take them long to find out that just about everything they found comfortable about their Christian faith created barriers among the student they had come to reach. Even worse, in the highly politicized context of Brazilian universities, where most students were enraptured with communist rhetoric and felt that Christianity was the opiate of the people, Americans were viewed as potential CIA agents.

So, not only were they in a context that was Catholic; in reality among university students it was post-Catholic, even anti-Catholic. Yet Catholicism was the only Christianity that most Brazilians were familiar with. They were just familiar enough with the Brazilian Protestant church to know that it was legalistic and weird. Americans were suspicious characters and Lottis and Peterson didn’t speak the language or understand Brazilian culture. In other words, they were not only starting from zero, they were behind the eight ball.

But Lottis and Peterson had a few secret weapons. They were willing to pray. They were willing to obey what they felt God was leading them toward and they were willing to learn lessons, even if they were hard ones. Slowly but surely God began to give them what the Jesus would call men or peace or worthy men. This was not the language that Lottis uses because it is not the language they used at the time. Then from these footholds into the culture, as they began to win just a few people to Jesus, the Good News began to spread down the networks of relationship.

As the gospel spread, Lottis and Peterson learned that if they tried to take these new believers to a traditional church they would lose them. Does this sound familiar? This is certainly what I face when I win people to Christ in the US nowadays and what I faced in Spain a few years ago. So, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit Peterson and Lottis began to improvise. What could they do to give them all of Jesus, make sure that Jesus and his powerful truth continued to flow generation after generation into Brazilian society, yet not get stuck in the extra-biblical Christendom that was stopping the gospel dead in its tracks.

Will This Rock in Rio? is an exciting read. Lottis is a good story teller. But the most refreshing thing I find in this book is that it has most of the principles that Jesus taught in Luke 10 engaged, yet they didn’t find them by studying Luke 10. Instead they found them through experience. Let me state that another way. Jesus taught them his Kingdom spreading principles himself. He just used the text of Brazilian culture and open obedient hearts. So, if you are expecting to hear the current organic church vocabulary you are going to be very disappointed. If you want to see what organic church looks like without all the techniques and trappings dive into this book.

I know the Western church and even the Western organic church movement well enough to suspect that readers read such books to find “the key.” What is Lottis and Peterson’s technique which will show us how to do “it?” They did all sorts of things. Some of them might even be helpful now. But the main key is to pray, listen, obey and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the truth. That is what they did and that is why they ended up a sustained movement of the gospel.

For other books I’ve written about see: Jesus Manifesto, Book Review: An Army of Ordinary People, and Christian Humanism: When We View Ministry as Our Effort.

  • Can something that started in Brazil in 1964 have relevance for us today?
  • What does the fact that Jesus lead these men to his kingdom spreading principles, apart from the specific scriptures where he teaches them, tell you?
  • Do you find reading about organic movements without the requisite vocabulary annoying or refreshing?
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My Christian formation was in an environment that was zealous about Bible study and correct doctrine. That is a good thing. While it is good, it is not adequate. In fact, much of my spiritual formation was nothing more than religion. The tacit assumption to the way we lived the Christian life was that if we had good doctrine, if we agreed with all the correct doctrinal statements, we would go to heaven. I have two problems with this. First, merely going to heaven isn’t much of a goal; as glorious as heaven will be. But I’ll leave that for another post. My main concern was with the assumption that merely seeking good doctrine, then agreeing that it was correct was something adequate in itself. The assumption was that somehow this could give us life. What it really gave us was religion.

This religious assumption is not only inadequate, it is dead wrong. It is the opposite of the truth. Bible and doctrine do not give us life. Nor do the study of the Bible and good doctrines give us life. I make these provocative statements on no less of an authority than Jesus himself. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (Jn. 5:39-40)

Frankly I fear for many “religious Christians” I’ve known over the years. I can’t possibly know who is going to heaven and who isn’t. That is judgment reserved for the Son of Man. Yet, I’ve been inside of Christian religion enough to know that there is a lot of behavior that reflects false hope.

Many years ago a couple joined our church. They were grilled by the deacon board about their doctrine. They gave clear agreement to such statements as Jesus is my Savior; Jesus died for my sins. They were nice enough folk. I’m pretty sure they never robbed a bank or ran a bicycle theft ring. Yet when I mentioned their church joining to our neighbor she responded “I’ve worked right beside her for over 20 years. I had no idea she was religious.” But the truth is she was quite “religious,” the real question was; did she really know Jesus? For those entire 20 years, according to the testimony given to the deacon board, this woman had Jesus as her Savior. Yet, where was the life? Where was the light of the world that shines from believers? I happen to know she went to Bible studies. I listen to her responses in adult Sunday school. They were orthodox. But where was the life? Where was Jesus himself? Bible study and going to Sunday school can become mere religion.

I worked for many years with a missionary who had hundreds of Scriptures memorized. He was quite proud of it. He never missed a “quiet time” and made sure you knew it. He preached the gospel any chance he got; and the doctrines he stated about the gospel were absolutely orthodox. Yet his secret life was a travesty beyond description. His family life was a broken mess which was intentionally hidden from the public. He was a very hard person to even be around. But he knew the Bible backwards and forwards. He knew doctrine backwards and forwards. He had been in gospel preaching ministry for decades. He had personally planted churches and had tremendous zeal that more churches would be planted. Frankly, I suspect this was what Paul warned us about in I Cor. 3:6: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Only God knows where that man will spend eternity. But church planting zeal and Bible memorization can be mere religion; and religion doesn’t give life. In fact, it makes us hard to be around.

Let’s look at Paul’s warning in just a little broader context. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, …will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? (I Cor. 3:4-8).

In this new covenant relationship we have with God, our competency, our life, in fact everything comes from God himself. It is when God is alive in our life, when the Spirit is in residence, that we have something worth living. It is a supernatural transaction that comes through covenant relationship with God. It is sealed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. When we have the Spirit in residence and in control, we have life. Mere religion, on the other hand, smells like death.

For more posts on or covenantal relationship with Jesus see: The Spirit Leads to Truth, Life to the Full: Three Options, Integrity, Jesus Manifesto, Jesus as Our Capstone, Jesus as the Cornerstone and Ministry with Jesus as Lord.

  • Do you know God, or do you merely know about him?
  • Does your secret life smell like the aroma of Jesus or smell like death?
  • When you stand before the throne, do you think the Son of Man will be impressed by your doctrinal statements?
  • Think about the Scriptures actually say. What are God’s parameters for judgment?
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A number of years ago, when I was just getting involved in simple church, I was asked by a traditional church to give a “house church demonstration.” I’d had a long friendship with this church which reached back about 20 years. About 15 people showed up for the “demonstration.” We divided into three groups. There were two groups of regular folks and two pastors and I who sat at another table. I did this to show that in house church there is no clergy. And that God is perfectly capable of leading a discussion. It was the end of my friendship with the Senior Pastor and eventually led to end of my long standing relationship with that church.

What sin did I commit? When asked by the Senior Pastor how I could assure that heresy didn’t break out among the un-seminary trained “laity” I quoted John 16:13: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. The pastor became visibly angry with me. With a tremble in his voice he gave me a list of approved commentaries. From that point on he was my enemy and he did his level best to undermine my relationship with the church. By the way, the other two tables had a wonderful time digging into the Scriptures and being ministered to by the Spirit. I’m sure that only made matters worse.

Am I against commentaries? Am I against solid hermeneutical exegesis of Scripture? No, I think they are both wonderful. I think that digging into the Scriptures and finding out what the human author meant by what he said is valuable. After all, he and the Scriptures he wrote were inspired by the Spirit. So, to find out what the author meant by what he said is to discern the thoughts of the Spirit.

However, let me illustrate my point by telling another brief story. It was 1998. I was in a Commentary of Texts class at the University of Madrid Complutense in Spain. The teacher was showing us how to dig every last detail of meaning out of a Lope de Vega play. She was teaching the exact same skills I had learned in my seminary Hermeneutics class. The only difference between what I learned in seminary and what I learned about how to understand Lope de Vega was that one class was in English and one was given in Spanish. Oh, and that Carmen, my professor, was a smoking, drinking, partying colorful character who looked, dressed and acted like Morticia Addams on the Addams Family. Carmen was a much better teacher than my seminary professor.

Why are we fascinated by the human ability to tear apart a text?  I believe this comes as a holdover from our “Enlightened” culture. The main value of the Enlightenment is that humans are the highest form of existence. What they cook up in their minds and develop as “truth” is the highest truth humans can know. Really? We have succumbed to the foundational principles of our Western world. This behavior of Western Christians, by the way, has a dangerous down side. The down side is that we tacitly teach “laity” that they should only believe what the seminary trained experts tell them is approved. We are avidly listening to humans, but not necessarily listening to the Spirit.

I think there is another hermeneutic that is even more valuable. It is the hermeneutic of finding out what the Spirit means by what the Spirit says. This is truly living in the new covenant. This will use the Scriptures. This will gladly dig into the meaning of the text and be grateful for that tremendous gift of God that the Bible is. However, it will also pay close attention to discerning what the Spirit is doing in our hearts and minds. It will pay close attention to where the Spirit is directing us to Kingdom building action, godly living and God glorifying behavior. And we will pay close attention to the dangers of the enemies of our souls, the values of the world, the temptations of the flesh, and the dark spirits who would like to seduce us to something that seems good, but isn’t.

Have you been explicitly trained in those hermeneutical skills? I didn’t think so. Why? Again, I believe we have been seduced by the foundational principles of the world; in this case the values of the Enlightenment of our Western culture. I am going to ask the same question that Paul asked of the Galatians; how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? (Gal. 4:9)

What amazes me is that most Western Christians nowadays don’t know the hermeneutical skills of the Spirit. Nor do they know the valuable hermeneutical skills of tearing apart a text. In their place they wait for some seminary trained expert to tell them what to believe. Doesn’t that strike you as dangerous?

For other post that discuss how we have been seduced by the dangerous values of the world read: Jesus Manifesto, Life to the Full: Three Options, Being Respectable and Relevant, Greek and Hebrew Evangelism, Authority: How Jesus Leads a Church.

  • Where can we find training in the hermeneutics of the Spirit?
  • How do we avoid heresy?
  • What should be included in the hermeneutics of the Spirit?
  • How do we know that we are right if we don’t have an expert to tell us so?
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One of the most enigmatic statements in the New Testament for me is Luke 10:5-6:

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Just what exactly does that mean? After all, this passage and the equivalent passages in Luke 9, Matt. 10 and Mark 6 are how Jesus tells his people to do Kingdom ministry. Everything Jesus did in Kingdom building ministry and everything he taught about how to extend the Kingdom is summed up in this Luke 10 passage. If we want to do ministry Jesus’ way, and not just our own way, we’d better understand what his teaching means.

Of particular curiosity to me is this idea of saying “Peace to this house,” then determining who a man (or person) of peace is by discerning if the peace rests on this person or not. I feel I understand what a person of peace is. It is the person God connects with those who are in apostolic ministry to begin the process of the Kingdom entering into a particular place, or group. It is Cornelius (Acts 10), or the woman at the well (Jn. 4), or Lydia, or the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16).

I also feel pretty comfortable with the concept of a house of peace (an oikos of peace) it is the oikos of the person of peace. An oikos is the household or affinity group of a person. It is not particularly a reference to a building; it is a group of people. Therefore, to find this important group, this oikos of peace, one has to find the person of peace. And, to find a person of peace one has to observe and discern how they respond to… respond to what? Do we take this phrase “Peace to this oikos” literally? Do we say to a group of people or a family, “peace to you” and wait to see what happens? Do we take this as a generic blessing? “God bless you.” And wait to see what happens? Do we observe if they respond to our ministry, presence, or message as a blessing? This is no small matter; we had better get this right if we are going to do ministry Jesus’ way. My guess is that all of the above fall into the concept of saying “Peace to this house.” But that’s my opinion, for what it is worth.

Still, even if that is correct, what does peace resting or returning mean? It seems to me that this is a key observation in the Kingdom spreading process. Jesus seems to put a lot of weight on how people respond. Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message treats it like this:

“When you enter a home, greet the family, ‘Peace.’ If your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay. But if it’s not received, take it back and get out. Don’t impose yourself.

Here is the way I’ve come to understand this passage; although I don’t claim inspiration on this. If we meet an individual or group and minister to them in the name of Jesus, and they truly respond to our presence and ministry to them as a blessing from God himself; then you are in the right place and with the right people. Stay with them, eat with them, get to know them on their own turf, become their friends and continue to minister to them; until Jesus himself takes up residence among them.

When I meet a person I seek to minister Jesus to them. I try to pay careful attention to how they respond. I’m not looking for a polite “thank you.” I’m certainly not interested a tense smile, let alone rejection. But when someone seems to almost run into the arm of Jesus, or seems to genuinely and gratefully receive the ministry as coming from Jesus himself; that’s the person of peace. When he or she takes their story back to their group and that group has the same response, this is where you want to set down roots so that Jesus can take up residence among them. Stay there as long as it takes.

On the other hand, why should we waste our time trying to convince people who have already rejected or aren’t really interested that what Jesus has to offer is worth having? Life is too short to bang our heads against the wall. I’d rather go back to prayer that Jesus connect me with houses and people of peace. I’m going to move on, dusting the dust of my feet. Never the less, the Kingdom had been offered to them. They have made their choice, at least for now. I’m going to take up residence among the truly receptive.

For other posts on Luke 10 style church planting see: Why Simple Churches Don’t Work, Reason #7, Four Keys to Church Planting, Building on the Right Foundation, Starting on the Wrong Foot, and Ministry with Jesus as Lord.

  • What do you think peace resting on someone or peace returning means?
  • Do you think Luke 10 is a general pattern the details of which are to be filled in by the Holy Spirit, or a prescription, something we have to do “just right?”
  • Do you feel comfortable with the way I’ve defined the person of peace and the house of peace?
  • Do the Kingdom spreading ministries you’ve been involved in look like what Jesus did or are they completely or somewhat different? Do they even fit the same pattern as what Jesus taught his disciples and the 72?
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Jesus offered us a new kind of life, a life he described as life to the full.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (Jn. 10:10) (NIV)

But what is this new life? How is it different from the life that non-Christians, or good religious people, live? I’d like to describe three options, which build on each other and let you decide which is best.

Option #1

By diligent study, you as a Christian, read the Bible, the word of life, finding in it the truth. You apply these wonderful truths and in doing so you find life, life to the full. Or could there be something deeper, something fuller?

Option #2

Perhaps you need other mature Christians to live this life to the full. Let’s imagine then that you could be discipled by truly mature Christians. Let’s even use a biblical example of this from Acts 18: 24-26.

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Note here that this wonderful man, Apollos, had a “thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.” Wow, that’s what we are seeking in Option #1. Yet he was lacking something. This was something that more mature believers Priscilla and Aquila could explain to him. And, from that point on, having this fuller knowledge, and this contact with more mature believers Apollos (or us by extrapolation) could live life to the full. Or could there be something deeper, something fuller?

Option #3

I think the key in understanding the “life to the full” that Jesus offers is to understand the difference between the baptism of John and true Christian baptism; baptism in Christ.

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts19:1-7)

Being baptized in the baptism of John, a baptism of repentance from sin, is a good thing. It is a symbol of the fact that we are forgiven and we can go to heaven. It is good thing, but not a complete thing. Pricilla and Aquila did with Apollos what Paul did with those twelve men; they told Apollos about new covenant baptism, a baptism which seals us with the Spirit of God. It is a baptism that is not necessarily conferred at water baptism (although it can be, if that is what we are actually seeking). This is a baptism which allows the Spirit of God to live within us, to guide us, to control us, to give us the power to live a new kind of life, life to the full. It is life led by the Holy Spirit, not our human ability (option #1). It is a life that needs other Christians, more mature Christians (option #2), but it goes far beyond that. It is life lived fully in the power of the Spirit of God, led by the Spirit of God, in the wisdom that only God can give. A guidance that even reaches to the daily individual choices we have to make. That, and only that, is truly life to the full.

  • Are you reading the Scripture, utilizing the best hermeneutical principles, reading the best Bible scholars, trying your best to apply these truths and therefore hoping for life to the full?
  • Are you living the Christian life in community, the community described in I Cor. 12, and hoping that through what other mature believers can provide for you, and you can provide for them, you are living life to the full together?
  • Is your life guided by the Spirit, controlled by the Spirit, lived in the power of the Sprit? Isn’t this new covenant life, which also requires the input of other believers yet is supernaturally powerful, really life to the full?
  • Was your baptism merely a baptism of repentance of sins (a good thing) or was it a baptism into the fullness of life, a new covenant baptism, which allows you to live life to the full, life in the Spirit? A good test of this is to ask yourself; do I live life by biblical principles or am I fully dependent on the Spirit to live my life? Is my life reflective of Apollos before he met Pricilla and Aquila (with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures) or post Pricilla and Aquila, with the power of the Spirit?
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On Vacation

Dear Friends, 

I am going to be on vacation visiting family until Monday Aug. 23. I will not be blogging during that time. Feel free to look back in the archives and comment or ask questions. I will look over comments and questions from time to time while on vacation.

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