In Christ in Ephesians

Introduction

The first section of Ephesians is one of the most elevated parts of the whole Bible, especially because of its intense use of the expression “in Christ”. Scholars have argued that justification, reconciliation, covenant etc. are at the centre of the New Testament’s saving message, but the fact that “in Christ” and its equivalents (in Christ Jesus/Jesus/in the Lord/him….” occur 172 x in the New Testament, with 124 of these uses in Paul and 11 of them in Ephesians 1:3-14, points to being “in Christ” as central to salvation.

In Ephesians the Father’s blessing of election, sonship, redemption, creation, resurrection, being seated in heaven, the oneness of the Church, forgiveness, light, obedience, strength, ministry  etc. are all said to be ours “in Christ” (Eph 1:3, 4, 5, 7, 11; Eph 2:5-6, 10, 13; Eph 3:6; Eph 4:32; Eph 5:7; Eph 6:1, 10, 21). Being “in Christ” is the starting-point for understanding what makes the Christian a Christian.

There are many ways to express what “in Christ” means, like “belonging to Christ” or “included in the Messiah”, but the phrase “union with Christ” is the most significant.

Whatever terminology we might use, by its general failure to look like Jesus the contemporary Western Church isn’t living in the power of the revelation of what being “in Christ” means to God.  Personally I was in my 40’s before this truth meant anything to me at the heart level.

The truth of our union with Christ turns our natural way of thinking upside down. We begin to think of Jesus first before we think of ourselves, we start to see our needs through the life of the ascended Lord, and we accept that Christ initiates the relationship rather than us.

We start to place Jesus and not ourselves in the centre and circumference of all things Christian.

However our starting point of understanding what “in Christ” means is not Jesus but the Father; insight into the spiritual depths of our union with Christ begins with noting half of the references to being “in Christ” in Ephesians teach this is the result of the action of the Father.

When we understand this our fallen tendency to a popular “Jesus religion” where men and women show by their prayers and testimony they are more comfortable with Jesus than going him to the Father are taken away. (cf. JY and the Jesus Movement – Jesus’ Houses, Jesus’ sign, Jesus’ T shirts and badges etc.)

Starting With the Father

Ephesians begins boldly with, vs.3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing gin the heavenly places, vs.4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:3-4). Everything that we have “in Christ” comes from the Father’s loving initiative.

The substance of what it means to be “in Christ” is a revelation of what it means to have God as our Father, for it is through  the revelation of the Son that we know the Father (Matt 11:27; John 14:8).

In eternity Father and the Son chose that Christ would be the location of God’s plan for the universe and humanity.

To quote Ephesians 1:10; this was “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him/Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” Verses five and six of this chapter go to the very centre of the matter, vs.4In love” (the Father) vs.5predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, vs.6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Sonship is at the heart of the universe and our adoption as God’s children means nothing less than the Father loves us with the very same love with which he loves Jesus (John 17:23; 1 John 4:17). Not just the same degree of love, but in loving the Son the Father loves us indissolubly/indivisibly in him; the Father’s great plan is to share his relationship with Jesus with us so that we can enjoy their fellowship forever.

What I have said so far about our union with Christ is pretty standard fare, but in probing further what “in Christ” might mean in Ephesians I think it is helpful to look outside the letter to events in the life of Paul.

Paul’s Conversion to Christ

The elevated perspective on Jesus as the “cosmic Christ” raised over “all things” in Ephesians (Eph 1:10, 11, 22; Eph 3:9; Eph 4:10 ) surely comes from comes from Saul’s/Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus.

The accounts in Acts of his vision of the Lord all speak of a blinding “light from heaven” (Acts 9:3; Acts 22:6; Acts 26:13).

The light shining on Saul was from the place where the Lord reigns in his End time power, it was, as Paul describes it in Galatians, “a revelation (apocalypse) of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:12 cf. Rev 1:1).

It was not some created light that blinded Saul; it was the light of the glory of the life of Christ (John 1:4; 2 Cor 4:6).

When in the same passage in Galatians Paul says, vs.15But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, vs.16 was pleased to reveal his Son in me, in order that I might preach him” (Gal 1:15-16) we can trace the language of election, union with Christ and God’s good pleasure and grace in Ephesians to the apostle’s own conversion experience (Eph 1:4, 5, 9).

But Saul’s conversion wasn’t some one on one experience between him and Jesus.

The account in Acts 9 is richly illuminating, vs.3Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. vs.4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?vs.5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3-5).

The heavenly Lord Jesus identified himself to Saul as someone united with his earthly Church. To cause pain to the Church was to cause pain to Christ. The Jesus whom Saul saw and heard on the road was nothing like how he had imagined Jesus “from a human point of view” (2 Cor 5:16).

Receiving a heavenly vision (Acts 26:19) he saw  the chosen one of God blessed by his Father with every blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1), dispensing ministry gifts to his people (Eph 4), preparing the Bride for his wedding day (Eph 5), enthroned above the evil rulers and authorities (Eph 1; 6) and so on.

The inner content of Ephesians, and all Paul’s writings, was concentrated in his conversion experience and it was an experience of what it means to be united with Christ.

That’s great for Paul you might think, but what does all this high theology mean for us?

What does “In Christ” mean?

Let me first say what it doesn’t mean.

Jesus is not the instrument or medium through which God does good things for/to us. Christ is not a means to some higher end; he is the End goal of all the purposes of God for humanity.

In the salvation language of the New Testament he is the reality and content of our regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification, glorification etc. (cf. Rom 8:29 – 30; 1 Cor 1:30; Gal 2:17).

So Ephesians 1:7 reads, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses”.

Whatever has happened to Jesus has happened to us “in him”; we share in his election, holy birth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and reign; e.g. Ephesians 2:5-6 states, vs.5even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been savedvs.6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

Our entire Christian identity is enclosed in Jesus. When Paul begins this letter by saying, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:” (Eph 1:1), he means Jesus is the sphere in which the saints live and move and have their being.

The whole of the Christian life is a share in the life of Jesus e.g. his prayer life, his understanding of the scriptures, his evangelistic zeal, his passion for justice etc. (This is the key to a biblical understanding of discipleship).1)see – http://cross-connect.net.au/into-discipleship-2012-1-the-testimony-of-jesus/

Whilst the wonder of union with Christ is really inexpressible here’s a memorable illustration.

“If I place a piece of paper in a book and burn the book, where is the piece of paper?”

No prize for saying that it has gone, as it has been burned as well.

In like manner, believers have been placed ‘in Christ’, so that whatever has happened to Christ has also happened them.

When Jesus died and rose again, so did we spiritually, and never again will God see a believer as anything other than a new creation ‘in Christ Jesus’ [(2 Cor 5:17)].

We are forever united and joined to Christ and His history is our history!

Watchman Nee once said

We must never think that God merely “treats us” or “sees us” “as if” we shared in Jesus’ righteous, holy, we are really these things “in Christ” (2 Cor 5:21). Our identity is contained in this relationship established by the Father in the obedient Son and sealed by his Spirit (Eph 1:13; Eph 2:18; Eph 4:30).

Our fundamental identity is not drawn from our family, race, age, gender, education, social standing, nationality etc. but is an eternal life “in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23; Col 3:4). This is not solely or primarily an individual thing, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:15, “He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” 

In Christ we are in the Church which is the new humanity.

This comprehensive identity “in Christ” did not begin when we were converted or “born again” but is as eternal as Christ, for  “he (the Father) chose us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:3-4 cf. Matt 25:34).

Our assurance of eternal life is not in our personal consciousness of salvation but in the consciousness of God who has eternally known/chosen us in his Son (Eph 1:4, 9; Eph 3:11 cf. Rom 8:29).

Nothing in us, no action of ours, could ever constitute our relationship with God in Christ.

The object of our faith must never our faith, knowledge, obedience, witness, ministry etc. but only Jesus Christ.

Once again we are faced with the question, how does all this become real in us?

How Does “In Christ” become real to us?

The New Testament teaching on our union with Christ is prolific and clear but the general failure of discipleship across the Western Church witnesses to a deep spiritual ignorance of these truths.

Our self-centred radical individualism is clearly a part of the problem. More deeply however there are enormous obstacles at the heart level which explaining why union with Jesus is so fiercely resisted.

If it is all about Jesus then the reality of being “in Christ” is equally true for all believers and no-one can add anything to what Jesus has done in his totally giving of himself to us then this brings tremendous humility (cf. John 15:4).

With this the hierarchical and privileged dimensions of Church life as we know it are completely undone.

If this is not challenging enough to creatures like us who prefer the status quo let me suggest there’s something even more demanding.

that  the  Christian is in Christ, has not only the local but also the higher meaning that his own thinking, speech and action has its ruling and determinative principle ­ and herein it is the work of his gratitude corresponding to grace ­ in the speech, action and rule of Christ.

Here’s a quote from Karl Barth

In effect this means that we can’t have our own way anymore, and that God calls all of us, not just special people like ministers and missionaries, to the same measure of obedience to which he called Jesus.

Whilst all this can be hard to understand I think the central issue is much the same as Paul’s command in Ephesians 6:1; “Children, obey your parents in the Lord”.

This exhortation profoundly reduces even the most basic dimensions of our earthly relationships to our union with Christ. Whilst humanly speaking no one wants someone else to be in charge of their thinking, speaking and acting Ephesians itself provides the remedy for our obstinacy.

In chapter one verse seventeen Paul prays, vs.17 “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”. We need to pray for a revelation of who Christ is for us, because the more I am aware of who Jesus is the more I will want to become like him.

In another prayer context in Ephesians 3 Paul prays that the Father, vs.16grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, vs.17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16-17). Here he is asking God to grant the saints a more intense experience of their union with Jesus.

These are prayers in which we can share; even tonight.

Conclusion

The “in Christ” teachings of the New Testament reverse our disposition to put ourselves first and testify that in the End it’s all about Jesus.

To grow “in Christ” is inexpressibly wonderful (Eph 4:15). Let me end with an extended quote from that pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor about his “spiritual secret”;

How little I believed the rest and peace of heart I now enjoy were possible down here!

It is heaven begun below…. Compared with this union with Christ, heaven or earth are unimportant accidents.
 

Oh, it is joy to feel Jesus living in you … to find your heart all taken up by Him; to be reminded of His love by His seeking communion with you at all times, not by your painful attempts to abide in Him.

He is our life, our strength, our salvation.

He is our “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.
 

He is our power for service and fruit-bearing, and His bosom is our resting place now and forever.

Hudson Taylor

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 14th May, 2017 | Alive@5

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE PODCAST: 15th May. 2017 |   


Related Link: blogs.thegospelcoalition.org

References   [ + ]

1. see – http://cross-connect.net.au/into-discipleship-2012-1-the-testimony-of-jesus/

One Heart Church unity

TEXT

Jeremiah 32:36-41

Psalm 133:1-3

Acts 4:28-37

John 17:20-27

INTRODUCTION

43,000 Denominations on the Planet

If you’ve ever been a part of an extended family get together where from young to old everyone is talking happily and playing well together you will have experienced a little of the  pleasure of God the Father when his children are one in love. I’ve just come back from a National Gathering dedicated to city transformation through the gospel via a unified Church.

God’s plan from the beginning has been for a unified family in a perfect city (Rev 21:7ff.). Obviously such unity between people is humanly impossible and can come to pass only through the Lord. Our Bible readings for today are quite emphatic about this.

Ten times in Jeremiah 32 God says “I will” restore the people; “I will give them one heart and one way” (Jer 32:39). Psalm 133 beautifully teaches that unity is a divine gift, as The Message translation lyrically puts it, “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!”…. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing…eternal life.” Because great grace was upon them all” the believers in Acts 4 “were of one heart and soul”.

Most importantly however Jesus prayed, ““I …ask for…for those who will believe in me…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you… so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”” (John 17:20-21). God’s delight in a visibly undivided Church is undeniable. But look around us.

Jesus prayed that our visible unity would persuade the lost that he was sent by the Father but there are around 43,000 denominations on the planet, which the world instinctively understands is a sign that they don’t perfectly love one another.

Things have improved a lot since my mum told me the state school kids on one side of the street would shout out “Catholic dogs, jump like frogs, eat no meat on Friday”, and get back the reply, “Catholics, Catholics ring the bell, while the Proddies go to hell”. But I know churches both in this suburb and over where I live who have no interest in praying, working with and loving other believers.

Compare this dire spiritual situation with the Early Church in Acts.

One with One Another

vs.32those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. vs.33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. vs.34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold vs.35and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:32-35)

So close to Jesus’ time on earth and the first outpourings of the Spirit it was easy for these Christians to believe the same things, but Acts emphasises not shared theology but the sharing of goods. This had nothing to do with either socialism or the first flush of spiritual enthusiasm but was the fulfilment of God’s promise in Deuteronomy that “there will be no poor among you” (Deut 15:4).

Whilst scripture nowhere commands Christians to pool their material goods this practice in the Early Church easily embarrasses us because of the power of possessions over our lives.  Jesus unhesitatingly warned us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21). If Christian unity costs us money and material goods our inner thoughts instinctively flip into the “Come into the real world.” mode (Heb 4:12).

Let me use 2 illustrations to explore this.

I was in a meeting of pastors a while ago and the speaker shared how their church was releasing finance to make it possible for another church in the area (of a different denomination) to employ a youth worker. Why did the room go quiet do you think…? here’s my second story.

Some years ago a Christian community of pacifists called the Bruderhof [(“dwelling place of brothers”)] who hold everything in common (no salaries or private bank accounts) wanted to move into an area in rural NSW; the shire council was keen for them to come. Guess how the local churches responded when they heard other followers of Jesus were coming to live among them – they vigorously opposed the proposal. God changes hearts, and at the conference we saw a short video of the current generation of church leaders asking the Bruderhof for forgiveness.

Both these examples show that a materially sacrificial lifestyle embarrasses the average Christian because of our failure to live out the love of the cross. Our resistance to living out the sacrifice of cross for the sake of other Christians humiliates us.

We can respond in two possible ways to the demands of Christ; we can hide our embarrassment and maintain the status quo, or turn to God’s promises to miraculously create unity between us. God’s “I will” in Jeremiah, the “the Lord commands the blessing” of Psalm 133 and the “great grace was upon them all” of Acts 4:33 harmoniously testify that supernatural Christian unity needs the miraculous presence of God. Jesus is this presence.

One with the Father

John 17 is frequently quoted in circles committed to Christian unity but in practice it doesn’t seem to have much impact because Western Christians usually turn what is a matter of the heart into a set of ideas. Jesus is not giving a lecture on Christian values in John 17, he is praying with a heart fully open to God completely conscious of the Father living in him as he is living in the Father (vv.21, 23). His prayer comes on the threshold of his entry into Gethsemane and on to the cross and so it is charged with a sense of ultimate importance. Crucial to our understanding of Christ’s prayer John’s Gospel has an emphasis on the cross dominated by glory.

And so Jesus prays,  “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (v.22).

This means nothing less than that through Jesus we share in the glory of the unity of the Trinity. But to understand the incredible depths of this final reality we must explore just what Jesus means by “glory”.

Earlier in John 17 he asked, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”  (John 17:3). What were the Father and Son doing together before the world existed?

Since the Bible teaches “God is love” we know that the Father and Son were in a perfect oneness of love in eternity (1 John 4:8).

Was this state of love an infinitely ecstatic feeling within the Godhead or did it take some form which has the power to capture our hearts?

The answer to this question has nothing to do with abstract metaphysical speculation but has everything to do with our expectations for eternity because towards the end of his prayer in John 17 Jesus asked, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).

Whatever was going on in God before he created the world we will be share in forever in heaven.

We do not need to guess about these things for the scriptural testimony to the life of God before creation is unanimous. In the book of Revelation we read of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8); in Peter’s words, “you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Pet 1:18-21); and as Paul puts it, God “saved us and called us …because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9).

We see that the eternal glory of the Son was to be chosen by the Father to give his life for the salvation of the world, and the eternal glory of the Father was to have a Son who loved him so much that he was willing to die for us. This was the all surpassing love they were sharing in eternity.

To put this more directly, the gospel expresses the glory of God as a perfect unity of love which has always united Father and the Son (Col 3:14; Rev 14:6).

“Do you know, my dear unsaved hearer, what God’s estimate of the gospel is? Do you not know that it has been the chief subject of his thoughts and acts from all eternity? He looks on it as the grandest of all his works.”

The famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon puts this well

If you are a little lost at this point let me go a little deeper into John’s story of Jesus at prayer to help clarify things.

In John 12 Jesus prays using intense glory language, “vs.23The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. vs.24 ...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit … Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say?Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. vs.28 Father, glorify your name.

Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again … Jesus answered …vs.32 “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.vs.33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12: 23ff.).

The death of Jesus is the high point and the radiance of the glory of God because it’s the place where the eternal inexpressible love of the Son for the Father is fully revealed. As the Father’s glory was actualised/made real in Jesus through sacrifice so it must be with us.

Sacrificial Oneness Today

(I originally heard this story about a church facing financial catastrophe from its pastor first hand.) A group of several hundred met to pray on the floor of their unfinished building. “An old lady slowly walked in my direction…tears were filling her eyes. She bowed and said, “Pastor, I want to give these items to you so that you may sell them for a few pennies to help with our building fund.”

I looked down and in her hand was an old rice bowl and pair of chopsticks.

Then I said to her, “Sister, I can’t take these necessities from you!”

“But pastor, I am an old woman. I have nothing of value to give to my Lord; yet Jesus has graciously saved me. These items are the only things in the world I possess!” she exclaimed, tears now flowing freely down her wrinkled cheeks.

“You must let me give these to Jesus. I can place my rice on old newspapers and I can use my hands to feed myself. I know that I will die soon, so I don’t want to meet Jesus without giving him something on this earth.” As she finished speaking, everyone there began to weep openly … A businessman at the back of the group was deeply moved and said, “Pastor Cho, I want to buy that rice bowl and chopsticks for one thousand dollars!” with that, everyone started to pledge their possessions.

My wife and I sold our small home and gave the money to the church.”  Hardly a surprise that when the sacrificial power of the cross released a perfect unity of love in this congregation it went on to become the biggest church in the world.

Application

“That’s wonderful for those Koreans, you may be thinking, but we are Australians and we don’t live like that.” You are right because the more affluent a society becomes the less sacrificial its Christians become.

This was seen prophetically expressed by an early man of God in America it as he witnessed his nations’ emerging culture of consumption, “Religion begat prosperity, and the daughter devoured the mother.” (Cotton Mather).  

Totally unlike the seemingly impractical behaviour of the Early Church, to the average Australian Christian leaving an inheritance for the kids seems much more real than inheriting the kingdom of God!

Is everything that Jesus prayed for our unity an impossible “wish dream” (Bonhoeffer) waiting until we get to heaven? If that’s true the gospel has lost its power (Rom 1:16).

When I was in Sydney last week I met with a young Chinese pastor who has  a deep desire to reach out to white Australians, so far he has lots of Asians, South Americans and others but no one that looks like most of us. Guess what I said to him (try to be specific)? “Ask God what you can sacrifice in order to reach Caucasians, do what he says and some of them will come to Christ.” God always works through sacrifice.

Most unity movements in the Church, from young people setting up communal houses to local ministers’ fraternal’s to denominational amalgamation fail to bear fruit because they are based on our “wish dreams” and our dreams needs to be shattered by the cross of Christ (Bonhoeffer).

Our hearts are full of idolatrous wish dreams that drive the powerful presence of God out from amongst us – dreams about family, career, spirituality, health, marriage etc. Jesus has only one way of helping us today only one way of uniting our hearts as one with each another and his Father. He would have us pray for glory.

If Jesus needed the powerful presence of the glory of his Father to face the desolation of the cross, if the Early Church needed the resurrection glory of Christ to face the rejection of their Jewish countrymen, if the Bruderhof needed an unshakeable conviction of peace from God to stand firm in forgiveness for their persecutors, then we can only be united as one in love if we together join in Jesus’ prayer for the glory of God.

Those who desire and encounter the glory of God will find in themselves the power to sacrifice whatever it takes to the meet the needs of their brothers and sisters and to bring salvation to the world (John 17:23).

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 7th May, 2017 | St Mark’s

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE PODCAST: 07th May. 2017 |   


Restoring Beauty Fatherhood

TitleNote:1)“Father” is used throughout this paper in a spiritual and so non-gendered way.

01. Our problem

The presenting problem is siloing i.e. pastors, business people, artists, scientists, lawyers, media folk etc. are isolated from one another. The seeds of the kingdom are shut up in the individual silos.

These need to be broken open so the wind of the Spirit can carry them to their assigned destination in the call of God to bring forth fruit for the Lord everywhere. The pressing problem today is, “What is God’s strategy to break down the silos to release his glorious presence into our cities?”

A biblically based reply requires going back to the beginning of the story and moving on from there.

02. The Original Plan

Like an eastern potentate the LORD arranged all the trees of the Garden of Eden i.e. Delight,  in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement without competition or crowding to maximise the revelation of his beauty and glory.

The trees were, after all, “pleasant to the site” (Gen 2:9). They were not only lovely to look at but “good for food” bringing health and vitality to humanity (Gen 2:9). Similarly, all the natural resources of Eden, such as its rivers, gold and precious stones, were arranged to be a storehouse of supply enabling the dominion of God to spread across the earth for the divine glory (Gen 2:10-14).

This was the original vocation of humanity in the image of God, a calling and assignment that has never changed (Gen 1:26-28). Siloing in Eden was inconceivable, but Satan intervened to frustrate God’s glorious purposes (Rom 3:23).

03. A Brilliant Diversion

The spirit which became the devil was exceedingly beautiful and glorious, but fell from God’s presence through self-intoxication (Ezek 28:17). Ever since that time “the deceiver of the whole world” has sought to lead astray the saints by tempting them to become enamoured with their own good gifts from God (Rev 12:9).

Unwittingly seduced away from the wisdom of “the Father of lights” the giver of “every good and perfect gift” groups of believers become intoxicated with the expression and validation of their own gift set to the exclusion (James 1:17).

This inevitably led to an inability to see the equal glory and the beauty in the call and gifts of other brothers and sisters (Ex 28:2; 1 Pet 2:9). Ashamedly, pastors have often been blinded by focusing on the splendour and the beauty of their own high calling and have been spirituality incapacitated from seeing and releasing the manifold forms of beautiful gifts across the Body of Christ.

Being a minister of the gospel in the Church has often been elevated, following the form of the Fall of the devil, above the call and gifts of Christians in the marketplaces of the world. The common result  has been a “siloing” that has serious impeded the progress of the kingdom of God.

Ultimately, the healing of these deep disorders in the Church can only come through a restoration of fatherhood in the Church.

04. A Beautiful Seeing

In eternity the Father always beheld the glory and beauty of his Son predestined to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 17:5). As the universal Father his was a splendour that he willed to share with all his children, by creation and recreation (Acts 17:28; Eph 1:18).

Similarly, genuine spiritual fathers without partiality see not only the beauty of the calling of those who are like them, such as other business people, but the beauty of the call and gifts of God in all his children (Gal 2:6).

Fathers are excited in seeing all the colours of God in all the people of God (Eph 3:10). And being thrilled by the gifts and call of God in people in all the spheres/mountains/domains of culture these fathering ministers are powerfully motivated to break down the walls of partition between every silo so that the plans for the Garden of God and the architecture of the Garden City of eternity may once more be made visible for human flourishing (Rev 22:1-2).

Such seeing and unconditional releasing has been rare in time for one crucial reason; we avoid the way of the cross.

05. Seeing Through the Cross

If “siloing” is the sin needs to be dealt with we need the revelation that this has already been dealt with in the cross. When the dying Jesus cries out in his forsakenness it is because he feels totally “siloed” from God as his Father (Mark 15:34).

Bearing our sin he is cut off from the Fatherly appreciation of the beauty and glory of being recognised and validated as the only Son. By his sacrifice Jesus has put to death the individualising of our worth and identity as the children of God.

06. Entering the Pain of the City

When Adam and Eve substituted the “fatherhood” of the devil for the Fatherhood of God they set in train a source of pain that is at the root of all the agonies of the city (Luke 3:38; John 8:44).

True spiritual fathers recognise that the absence of fatherly love and recognition, fatherlessness, is the primary problem in Church and culture. The primal pain of fathers comes from seeing others inhibited from flourishing and growing in the validation of their calling and gifting from God through Jesus Christ (Gal 4:19).  

The way forward for God’s kingdom in our time must come through a rediscovery and release of the beauty of being a father.

07. A Re-F/fathered City

The reF/fathering of the city begins with the reF/fathering of the Church. Contained in the restoration of authentic fathering is the promised end-time “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).

This requires practical strategies of working with God; in brief, an intentionally networked fathering movement touching on all the spheres of life and culture (2 Cor 6:1). The raising up of fathers in church, arts, politics, education, law, media, science etc. is the priority of our time.

This will require linking together believers and leaders within and across all the spheres/mountains/domains through one on one mentoring, online resourcing, conferences etc. expanding, articulating and crystallising what God is already doing in his plan to reach and heal cities.

MESSAGE DELIVERED: 05th May, 2017 | a short spiritual meditation from the National Gathering I attended in Sydney

Author: Dr. John Yates


MESSAGE PODCAST: 05th May. 2017 |   


References   [ + ]

1. “Father” is used throughout this paper in a spiritual and so non-gendered way.