Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 1)

Inspiration passages: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10

Backdrop passages: 2 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5:13

Core concept 1: God has qualified us to communicate the Gospel as Kingdom influencers; however, to walk in this competency, we must receive hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone.

It’s no secret the world bombards us with the idea success is an identity we achieve through ability. If we want to get something, we got to first become something; if we want to reach ‘x’ status, we must set an ‘x’ goal; to reach an ‘x’ goal, we must get there by ‘x’ effort, etc.

However…

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For example, you may have a counselor’s heart, but doubt its validity since you’re not a licensed counselor. The world would say until you receive the proper credentialing, you’re not a counselor. But to God, you are a counselor because that’s what He’s made you to be. Of course, you may have much to learn and have to wait a few years until certification. But this doesn’t mean you’re not who God has called you to be.

You see, the world wants you to think it’s all about the process…that what you hope to be can only be accomplished through how you get there. But think about it: In order for there to be a ‘how’, there has to be a ‘what’ and for there to be a ‘what’, there has to be a ‘who’, right?

The question is: Who do we believe when it comes to who we are?

While the outcomes are many, by allowing God to be the answer, we can know the sweet reality that not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny,  and our future as well.

Accordingly, growth and improvement should not be seen as functions of development, but of yielding. After all, what you hope you are, you already are because your identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking).

This in mind, if what you seek to experience has already been prepared, why not enter into God’s best with a ‘yes’  than effort with a sigh? Why not accept His ‘realized new’ than take a chance missing it all for the sake of going your own way?

Core concept 2: To receive a heart of flesh is to believe God always sees the ‘finished you’. Accepting this sets us up to experience radical life in the Spirit…to be transformed through the Spirit’s inner power.

Consider this illustration from my dad/Gate senior pastor, Steve Fry (8:46-11:30)…

As created (or in this case, painted)…

…there’s amazing freedom to be found when we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined.

Understandably, this can be challenging to accept since we often seek to control our destiny through achievement and effort. We think as long as we work hard and ask God for the right things, they’ll be given to us and to a certain extent, this is true; however, if making requests to God and modeling faith through excellence are detached from alignment, are we not craving what He can give versus valuing what He creates?

If so, dare to view present and future struggle through David’s Psalm 51:10-12 heart-cry, where he asks not only for a clean heart, but a new one! (more on this in a sec)

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As Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians, we’re not changed into a new creation, we are made as a new creation. We aren’t born again through accrued improvements; we’re born again through the Spirit’s transformative power which enables us to become what God has and continues to declare. As for us, all we have to do is align to God by His Spirit and walk His appointed paths through daily tuning and reliance. In a sense, that is life in the Spirit – an ongoing presence meets power, abiding meets trusting reality with God.

Think of this way: If the Good News is ‘Jesus is alive and has set you free‘, then by extension, you don’t have to earn your freedom because your efforts aren’t the keys to your life. Instead, you can relish in your freedom knowing you don’t create it by self-effort, but discover it being present with God.

Core concept 3: Believing God sees the ‘finished you’ allows you to embrace helplessness and surrender your veils.

When Paul mentions ‘veil’ five times in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, it’s easy to assume he’s talking about revealed glory; however, when we consider v. 17 and its modern-day application, we find Paul is doing, at least, three things:

  1. He’s linking Christ’s finished work on the Cross to our finished person (to see freedom through the lens of the New Covenant is to accept both Cross and weakness as the plan for our transformation). 
  2. He’s charging the church to fearlessly turn to the Lord.
  3. He’s cautioning the body against obedience through self-effort.

Concerning point #3, it’s worth noting even when we do the right thing, if the act is rooted in fear, our hard hearts will remain since trust is self-reliant. That’s why the flip-side is so radical. To do the right thing by trusting God is to allow God’s tender heart to tenderize your own. This is evident when we turn to Jesus in moments of dependence, desperation, and/or negative thinking. When you turn to Jesus, you’re essentially abandoning fear of conviction and exposure for the sake of discovering new levels of His nature, character, and glory. It’s the ultimate ‘His fullness exceeds my voids‘ proclamation…an acceptance of God and His desire for us to know His heart out of abundance, not fear.

As mentioned in Core Concept #2…

God doesn’t want to change your heart; He wants to give you a new one! He doesn’t want to improve you; He wants to take out your heart of stone and put in a brand, new heart of flesh. 

Yes, God is able to fully restore health (Jeremiah 30:17), relationships (2 Corinthians 13:9-11), fortune (Job 42:10), strength (Isaiah 40:29), and the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), but with our hearts, our inhabitable being, He never stops wanting to go deeper; hence why God implants new hearts in His people so the larger dimensions can contain the future ‘more’ He’ll inevitably reveal.

As for our response, remember we don’t believe the right things so we can experience the cool buzz of God’s presence. We contend for them so the glory of Lord can fill our spaces…work, church, living, family/friends, etc. God desires His created to be free from performance and fear-based systems of thinking; however, we can’t tap into this desire if we try to effort our way there. Instead, we must yield our way to His way. That’s the hope of glory meeting the Good News as modeled in our own life!

Final Thoughts:

  1. Stop trying to be a Christian and turn to Jesus regardless of how you feel
  2. Accept God’s acceptance of yourself
  3. Pain is real, but irrelevant when you consider we are his workmanship created not only for good works, but for fullness from our finished future. Side note: Combining Colossians 2:10 and Ephesians 2:4-10 is super fun!)
  4. (see graphic below)

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from your effort, self-reliance, systems of performance, and the deepest of emotional hurts.

Stay tuned next time for ‘part two’ when I’ll discuss how this theology works in the marketplace. ‘Til then, praise the One with the key not only to your heart, but your future as well.

Selah.

Cover creds: Heartwell
Content inspired by ‘New Heart’ series @ The Gate Community Church

Integrating Ministry & Marketplace: The Temple Template (2nd Ed.)

As shared at the Transmission 2019 conference on May 3, 2019

Original: https://hisgirlfryday.com/2018/04/24/integrating-ministry-marketplace-temple-template/

Today I want to talk about why Jesus’ temple entrance post-triumphal entry is significant for us as leaders.

But before I dive in, let me just say one of my favorite things to talk about is leadership identity. As vocationals, it’s important to believe what God says about us and how He’s made us to be. In Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2, Paul talks about how we’re called to be effective influencers and reconcilers; in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about how we’re to be Kingdom ambassadors, in 1 Peter 2, Peter talks about how we’re a royal priesthood, a chosen race, a holy nation.

But to be all these things, we must walk in three strengths: courage, boldness, and confidence.

Interestingly, one of the places Jesus demonstrates all three of these qualities is the temple. So if you have your Bibles/Bible apps, turn to Matthew 21:12-17

As mentioned, after Jesus finishes the triumphal entry (v. 1-11), note the first place he goes to (i.e. the temple – v. 12) and the reason why he went there (i.e. to cleanse it).

I don’t know about you, but when I consider the fact Jesus deliberately went to the temple to make its original intent known…that speaks to me. While we tend to focus on Jesus’ frustration in this passage, the key is Jesus setting things right, being fearlessly intentional with the truth, and breathing life into what had become a lifeless environment.

When we talk about our identity as leaders, I believe there’s important application to be found.

First off, to be an effective leader, we must be courageous and purposeful with the truth. Yes, we can be highly skilled with our spiritual gifts; yes, we can be articulate and persuasive, but if what we’ve given from God is used with limited integrity, if we’re tolerating fear in any way, we won’t be able to walk in our leadership identity fully.

Secondly, when we consider Jesus calls the temple “my house” (v. 13 – “My house will be called a house of prayer…”), we find God’s view of leadership as an extension of our priesthood and a place He intended for our good where we can be influencers, reconcilers and ambassadors.

In this case, Jesus calls the temple a “house of prayer” not only to reveal its purpose (i.e. a place where the Holy Spirit could dwell, of influence and vertical communication), but to inspire the sick, the poor and downcast to better know that purpose (v. 14).

Accordingly, it should be no surprise to see a completely transformed temple by the time Jesus leaves in v. 17. Jesus didn’t come to assert his identity, but re-establish an identity his Father intended. This is a big part of why those who weren’t offended were drawn to him…because he had something in him bigger than himself…something that pointed to being loved by God.

At this time, I want to introduce a fairly new concept inspired by Benji Block.

Going back to our aforementioned three strengths (i.e. courage, boldness, and strength), it’s important we understand them as separate yet linked entities. While a future post will be written on their relationship, here’s what I will say for now:

  1. Courage is yielded trust, relying on God’s strength in the moment.

  2. Boldness is matured courage (courage in rhythm).

  3. Confidence is matured boldness (boldness in rhythm).

Using a race analogy, courage gets us to the starting line regardless of fear. While choosing courage doesn’t automatically remove the fear, it ultimately positions us to see the value in running the race.

Put another way, if courage says ‘yes’ to run the race, boldness says ‘yes’ to keep running once the gun goes off.  Granted, you may still have doubts and cramps, but nothing can change the fact your commitment is etched in action. Once established in pace, boldness can then yield to confidence, which in this case, manifests as an unshakable belief in finishing the race. Once you’re running with confidence, the fear of pain and other obstacles pales in comparison to the joy set before you.

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Step by step, the fear diminishes as what your reliance has now peaked in full. You cross the finish line and marvel not only in the fact you’ve died to your flesh, but also in the reality of having relied on a confidence not your own.¹

Again, I’ll unpack these concepts down the road, but for now, we can apply them to Matthew 21.

Bottom line: When we reflect on how Jesus integrated his ministry and spiritual gifts in the temple, we see…

1. Jesus was intentional (in going to the temple courts). This represents courage.

2. Jesus was bold with the truth and how he handled conflict (some translations reference how Jesus drove out what needed to be driven out with force). This represents courage and boldness

3. Jesus lived out the identity he declared over the temple (in doing this his true identity became apparent to those who would ultimately flock to him; he didn’t come to the temple looking to assert his identity). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

4. Jesus loved at every opportunity (his reputation in many ways preceded him which is part of the reason so many came to him). This represents courage, boldness, and confidence

I submit if we’re going to thrive in our areas of influence, we must choose courage through obedience and prayer, be bold with the truth even in conflict, and walk in confidence as we enter the places and purposes God has appointed for us.

In summary…we choose courage to lead in boldness to walk in confidence.

When we pursue these strengths, that’s how we know we’re living our identity as leaders.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Original illustration built on Benji’s ‘matured’ comparison
Cover photo creds: Free Great Picture

7 Ways to Be Alive in Christ at Work

Scratch notes/commentary from my latest run through Ephesians 2

1. v. 1-4 – We have every reason to be humble given we’re all blind/once blind as students of worldly systems (hence, ‘course’ in v. 2). As Paul suggests in Colossians 2, these systems operate out of fear and independence, not disobedience. Therefore, it’s worth noting many who are lost won’t immediately see the rebellion of what they’re doing. For those who are saved and now see, we need to focus on what the lost may be able to see first and fears are things all of us can relate to.

2. v. 5 – We’ve been made alive together with Christ so we could ultimately experience life in Christ. We should want to be like Christ not only to model our faith, but so those around us can get as close to a ‘with Christ‘ experience as possible. Our job isn’t to get people in Christ; rather, as we’ll see later in this passage, we’ve been saved by grace to be Christ to people. The joys of fellowship, intimacy, stewardship, compassion we experience in community…this is part of the ‘with Christ’ experience we’re to engage. Put another way, our part in making Christ’s nature known is to be alive with the Christ in each other. In this way, the spirit of authentic community and non-worldly systems can be mutually embraced.

3. v. 10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…that we should walk in them. It’s not by good works, but for good works. By grace, we have been redeemed not only from desires of the flesh, but also to reveal why good works exist to those who do them.

4. v. 13 – Those who are in nearness with Christ should bridge nearness for others. Not only does this reference the Cross, but it’s also another way of rethinking the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5).

5. v. 14-15 – Are we breaking down hostilities in our peace-making efforts? Are we allowing Christ to be our peace in the first place? If not, our desire to see unity in community will be hindered. Sometimes, to be a peacemaker we have to focus not only on the internal compromises (i.e. the excuses we make for not doing good), but also the things that keep us from being consistent…from being courageous…from walking in victory in uncharted territory. As Paul often notes in his letters, the law/ordinances not only represented an old way of doing things, but epitomized religion in a new age. Applied to our present, it’s worth asking, ‘Are we tolerating old ways in our life, even if they were once good, by resisting the new way…the new thing…the new work God wants to do?” Post Cross, Christ’s ministry of reconciliation manifests when community intersects sanctification (becoming more like Christ, walking in greater righteousness, holiness made contagious and experienced in koinonia, etc.). As such, both elements should be constantly maturing in our lives.

6. v. 19 – As saints, let the rights of our citizenship not only be self-evident, but contagious and attractive to others. By rights, I’m not suggesting we be entitled, but that we realize we’re no longer foreigners. We are all designed to be a part of God’s family. Accordingly, we should see all people as potential family members in faith.

7. v. 20-22 – It’s easy for those in Christ to accept their corporate identity as the collective body of Christ. But we are also the body in Christ and because of this we shouldn’t see ourselves as individual temples only, but as part of one sacred, sanctified structure coming together, continuing to grow as more come into fellowship…into the presence of God. Put another way, being built up in Christ, with Christ should not be individualized with eternity in mind. Yes, there’s an individual component, but its part in the grand scheme unfolding should not be ignored.

Bottom line: We are made alive in Christ to live life with Christ. His will at the core of our being, let what we believe translate into what we do so the way to God for others can be direct and perceived as good.

Cover photo creds: Cross Life Church