Hey guys. I am missing being involved in these posts as my wife and I are flat chat doing up our family home to rent out while at the same time, we are working to shift up to a small remote property we have owned for many years as a respite for my chronic health condition. That involves upgrading what is essentially a flash bush hut into something liveable and also installing satellite Internet so we can continue being connected with friends family and online communities such as this one.
As I have been mulling over chapter 18 (great work Wayne), I felt to share something which I will apologise ahead of time for being a little lengthy – as I already mention, I will not have many opportunities to interact over the next six months or so, so I will take advantage of any opportunities when they arise to chuck something into the pot so to speak.
One of the things that has rested on my heart over many years when trying to understand how our heavenly dad intended those we call elders or shepherds to function within his ‘body’ (the local family community of believers) is the need for a perspective or overview of God’s salvation in and through Jesus which when presented in a simple enough form, could not only give us an understanding of how God is approaching rescuing humanity, but could (in my mind) also help give us a simple and obvious understanding of the role we would all play in the local family community. And from there, (hopefully) such an understanding should make it relatively easy for us to deduce what the role or function is that Jesus is training shepherding elders to be responsible for in his family community.
To start with, for me, there is in my mind an astonishing simplicity to what I call the gospel (good message) – in that the ‘good message’ to all humanity is actually all about a person (Jesus) and how a friendship with him will rescue you out of the cosmic catastrophe all humanity is doomed by; a situation we find ourselves in thanks primarily to the lies and deception of a certain ‘alien invader’ and his mates from the spirit realm who persuades us to trust him to be our ‘parent’ rather than trust our creator dad in this life.
When we are talking about truth or sound teaching/doctrine (orthodoxy) in relation to ‘who God is as a person, what is our situation in this life, what is the cause of our situation, what were we meant to be like, what is God’s rescue plan and what will be the restoration of all things – what we are really talking about here is actually summed up in our understanding of ‘who Jesus is’ and ‘what is the basis of an essential friendship with him’.
For me, the simplest breakdown of ‘who Jesus is’ would be:
• Jesus is our God (Yahweh in human flesh).
• Jesus is our Redeemer (our sinless human substitute who releases us from the consequences for “doing harm”).
• Jesus is our Saviour (he is the one we walk with, work with and play with to be reconciled to God) [i.e. we ‘walk’ with him as our friend, ‘work’ with him as our Messiah/King and ‘play’ with him as our big brother]
And again, for me, the simplest breakdown of ‘what is the basis of an essential friendship with him’ is quite simply our responding personally to Jesus himself and to the ‘gifted favour’ based (saving) friendship/relationship he offers all humanity and all he is looking for from us is our responding to him with a childlike trust of him and of his amazing love for us as his ‘bride’, ‘body’, family and now, his brethren.
In previous posts, I have made mention of how we are all (the whole body/community/family) invited by our new heavenly dad to be involved in the work of ‘feeding, watering and protecting’ so that he can do the work he does of producing ‘growth, strength and fruit’ in us individually and collectively as his family. And my pointing out that subsequently, we all have equal authority in the work of ‘feeding watering and protecting’:
• Where ‘feeding’ speaks of building up each other’s trust/confidence of ‘who Jesus is’ and building up our trust/confluence of ‘the basis of an essential friendship with’.
• Where ‘watering’ speaks of exampling what a ‘gifted favour’ based saving friendship/relationship with Jesus is all about for what it looks like.
• Where ‘protecting’ speaks of our maintaining the ‘gifted favour’ based (essential) friendship/relationship that we enjoy through the correct understanding of ‘who Jesus is’ and through the correct understanding of ‘what is the basis of an essential friendship with him’ against the many voices claiming something different, especially those claiming that to first receive, or then to continue to receive Gods saving favour (grace) is through you earning, deserving or meriting it in one way shape or form or another.
In short, we are all responsible for graciously correcting those endorsing much of the typical outrageous ‘nomistic’ soteriology that the Christian religion is famous for which it has been teaching for the best part of the last two millennia – with its ‘gifted favour’/grace based (saving) friendship/relationship with God allowing us to be adopted into his family – but then to continue as an adopted son or daughter, suddenly God’s gifted saving favour oxymoronicly now becomes conditional to your trust and submission to certain right or ‘essential’ doctrinal truth, to your submission to certain standards of righteousness and holiness and becomes conditional to certain service to God in this life [something that is a ‘favour’ or is ‘gifted’ cannot be ‘conditional’ to anything] – and also ironically, this (oxymoronic) conditional favour based relationship with God (and each other) is also always conditional to our trust and submission to those who teach whatever is supposedly the superior version of these three areas!
Consequently, now, our knowing God and being right with him (and his Kingdom family) is suddenly all about being in the right group with the right teachings and having the right teacher teaching you his superior version of these three areas and is conditional to your trusting and submitting and being loyal to all of that – which now is supposed to provide everyone with the basis for your peace and assurance that God loves and accepts you as one of his kids and that you do belong to him and his Kingdom family!
The role or function of shepherding elders (as I see it at this time of my journey) is one of being overseers/guardians of a family community walking, working and playing with Jesus and each other in oneness and unity, freedom and love as one family under one father on a local level worldwide as we all learn in our own individual and unique way to ‘feed, water and protect’ that (essential) trust of Jesus himself and learn how to ‘feed water and protect’ the subsequent friendship with him that comes from that trust – which will always bear the fruit of love, trust and a subsequent friendship between his children in a family community.
My point here is that shepherding elders exercise an authority no different to any other believer (son or daughter) – however, they can be recognised by the local community/family by the insight our creator dad gives them in understanding his salvation in and through Jesus and their subsequent ability to articulate what is most important re-‘the good message’ – which is of course articulating ‘who Jesus is’ and articulating ‘the basis of an essential friendship/relationship with him’. It is those abilities which also provides the local community worldwide with the insights needed to help us all deal graciously, kindly, supportively, respectfully, generously but firmly with those being destructive to our ‘oneness and unity, freedom and love’………….