These notes from Paul Tothill are a version of his message preached at Gateway Church on 3/2/19.
You can also listen to the message on the Gateway podcast (available on Apple Podcasts or any other device).
I want to speak this morning about laying apostolic foundations in the church and developing powerful people. When I say apostolic foundations, many people think structure or administrations. However, the apostolic fathers of the New Testament Church clearly teach us that the apostolic foundations of the church are firmly grounded in the hearts of believers.
Let me also define a powerful person. By using that term I am thinking of Jesus. Someone who lives free in the perfect love of the Father and who lives emotionally secure, self-governing and responsible in the world in which we live. They live from the culture of the heart within them not by the culture of the world around them. They are influencers and culture changers. They are light into the darkness.
It is the power of the Gospel to bring us into a new relationship with God the Father in Jesus Christ. The Gospel gives every believer new life in Christ, deep intimate relational connection with the Father in Jesus Christ and the grace-power to live in a new way in this world. That is Good News.
This relational connection in Christ with the Father becomes the life source to all other relational connections, including our spouse, our children, and one another in the church and in our businesses and recreational activities. The protocols and life in God’s house looks completely different to the protocols and life in the world, even the house in which we were raised.
In the world, we focus on giftedness ahead of heart. If we are talented enough we think we can get away with dysfunctional relationships. But life, like the Kingdom of heaven, is all about people. In the Kingdom of God, or God’s House as God’s Spirit people, God focuses on our heart so as we can carry our giftedness for the benefit of others. Our giftedness needs to find a connection with the heart of people. The spiritual authority we carry is not for us, but for others. Similarly, the gifts of the Spirit do not belong to us. They are given by the Holy Spirit. They do not define us. Our life in Christ does. Again both Jesus and the apostles of the early church make this very clear.
This is why Paul the apostle is at pains to lay a proper foundation of God’s love when teaching the Corinthians about spiritual matters. Indeed, this is the foundation that Jesus taught and the Old Testament contrasting "shadows" between King Saul and King David point: The difference between what the world wants and sees and what God wants and sees. God is always looking to the heart. God wants us to carry Kingdom authority and power into the world. However, the foundation of everything in the Kingdom is God’s love. It is God’s love that is the fulfilment of righteous living. Justice is administered as an expression of God’s love in action. And we could go on.
Over the last while, there has been a global emphasis by the Holy Spirit in building the foundations of the church on the apostolic foundations of God’s love and His truth. The emphasis of God’s love by the Holy Spirit as a key revelation is not new.
We know that God gives grace gifts to the church for their benefit. They serve the church to bring her into maturity and spiritual formation and emotional wellbeing. The foundation of these spiritual gifts is God’s love. These compliment the teaching of God’s truth encouraging believers to take responsibility for their spiritual formation and carry responsibility in serving others so they may grow.
But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express truth.
The context of this is clear. The grace gifts are given to the body to build it up into the full stature of Christ. We are no longer being conformed to the world but chosen to be conformed to Christ. This is a renewing of the heart and transformation of living.
Experiencing and revealing God’s love is foundational to maturity, in the same way a child’s attachment to their parents and the love shown to them underpins their development. The context of the word truth in this phrase means sound doctrine or God’s truth. The heart of God and the truth of God work together to create new ways to live in our hearts. Gods ways are not our ways. Regrettably this phrase has been taken out of context and misused in the church.
Jesus clearly identified this shift from the external practices and rituals to the heart throughout His teaching. Most notably He said “You have heard Moses say, but I say”. This shift to living from our heart into the world is important to emphasise. Unfortunately, we do not have time to go through each of those verses today. I encourage you to read the Gospels.
The pattern of faith and living by the Spirit and from God’s presence is first discovered in Genesis 2 when humanity was invited into God’s rest. God’s rest is a word of art or an idiom in ancient thought. We know from that thought it meant “from the fullness of the deity and their governmental realm”.
Put simply it means living from the fullness of the Godhead and God’s Kingdom realm by faith. The ancients believed that when the deity came into their temple, as the Garden of Eden was understood, they brought the fullness of their presence and governmental order with them including the angelic realm. Eden was a place that was filled with God’s presence, His glory, and the administrations of His government. Humanity was brought into the expression and connection to God’s love that defined His presence and governmental authority and order.
God’s love therefore is more than an expression of an emotion or a motivation. It is the very order and foundation to His authority and power. Jesus whilst on earth demonstrated this perfectly in His humanity filled with the Holy Spirit.
Humanity was created to be image bearers of God into the world living from a deep connected heart to heart relationship with God and then revealing that reality of identity and image and likeness of God to others that would be the foundation to humanity carrying its commission in to the world. Relational unity represented the God head on earth.
God’s earthy royal family was to carry His delegated authority into darkness to bring it into God’s order. Hence turning darkness into light. Disorder into order. When the world is not connected to God’s agape love, all other expressions of love, and there are numerous, become corrupted or distorted and in disorder.
The key here was humanity’s relational connection to God. That in turn would produce a relational connection to others. The first expression of that relational connection is between a husband and a wife, then family, then extended family, and ultimately into cities and nations. Therefore, the Gospel and the Kingdom of heaven are fundamentally relational and social in expression.
God is our Father before we are His co-workers. Therefore, relationship defines how we function in God’s house. The first thing that the Spirit does is bear witness to our hearts that we are sons of God as we cry Abba Father. This witness brings to our heart the reality that we are connected to the love of God.
This love defines us and therefore defines our identity and our purpose. The world looks for identity in what it does. God’s love gives us identity defining who we are. We are God’s royal family, each reconnected to God in His love to create relationships that express that love and in turn create unity in Christ.
When humanity represented in Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden, God’s presence, and disconnected from God’s love through entering His rest, humanity became spiritual orphans. This is reversed in Jesus when He says I will no longer leave you as orphans. Cf John 14
We have taught on this a great deal. However, in the fall humanity built a world view of their heart that was established with self at the centre and a fallen world view became normal over time. The world we see and the way we express ourselves in relationships is not God’s normal, it is God’s abnormal. Things are out of order, and the things we are trusting to be realised are frustrated.
I want now to turn to Abraham’s story because it helps us to understand what Jesus was achieving for us by bringing us into God’s salvation. Bringing us out of and into. We know that when we believe into Jesus and turn from our old way of living and thinking we enter into a new life reality. The Gospel of God’s grace brings us into the Kingdom realm of God, His presence, and we are reconnected and reunited in God’s perfect love. We now live from union in Christ into the world. That is our present spiritual reality that we are to bring our faith to. That is why loving God is so important. It gives us identity and purpose and brings us into desiring to live in His ways, not the ways of the world.
However, whilst this is our new spiritual reality, we need to renew our mind, or change our thinking. This is important. Our life is transformed as we change our thinking to God’s thinking. Let me explain it through Abraham.
THE CALL OF ABRAHAM
The first part of Genesis tells us that God wanted the nations of the world to be under His heavenly government so that it would flourish as He intended. Everything would flow out of Eden and eventually the nations would look like Eden over all the earth.
In the Garden, we see Satan as described in Ezekiel 28 and humanity rebel against God through the exercise of their free will. The issue was the enthronement of self. Paul later calls this the flesh or as the Passion translates it, the self-life. The self-life Paul teaches us works against the Life in the Spirit. The flesh produces death and the Spirit produces life. When we are born again we are spiritually removed from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and rooted in, and then established in the Tree of Eternal Life- Christ, in our heart.
Continuing the Genesis story, the rebellion against God continues, however, now with the Watchers, the Elohim of God’s divine council, and then humanity at the tower of Babel. The rebellion of Babel was they wanted to build a ziggaurat or a false Eden and have the Elohim, those divine sons of God who sat on the divine council in Psalm 82 who were to govern the then 70 nations of the world, come down. The nations under the Kingship of Nimrod wanted to worship the divine sons of God instead of God. Secondly, they wanted to stay and build something for their own name, working against the Commission of God to go into the whole world and establish God’s rule and reign or dominion government into the disorder and bring it into order. So, God chose Abram out of his father’s house.
This parallel is used everywhere in the story of the bible. God called Israel out of Egypt. Geographically they came out of Egypt and the bondage and authority of Pharaoh, a metaphor of the world system, but their hearts did not. Hence the first generation died in the desert. The wilderness is a metaphor for the transformation of the heart. Going around the mountain is a metaphor for not recognising what God wants to change in your heart so you may enter His faith rest. Numbers 13 tells us that we can be with God, His presence with us, but walk in fear in our heart, and not God’s demonstrated love and therefore project that fear and previous life history into a situation that God is bringing us into for our benefit.
The very idea of marriage is to leave your parent’s house and cleave to your wife to build a new house. And as Ephesians 5 tells us this mystery has more to do with Christ. The Gospel causes us to leave the world and the house we live under, to cleave and unite our self as one with Christ. He brings us into the Father’s house that looks nothing like the house we have come out of. The house of the world is based on fear and separation from God’s love, and the house of God based on His unconditional selfless love and His liberating truth, that when expressed by faith, is the expression of God’s righteousness. Hence Paul can say, these three things remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is faith expressing itself as God’s love.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great. I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God in fact restates the commission that was given earlier in Genesis before the fall of humanity in the Garden. God is continuing with His plan.
We see that Abraham was not only to take a geographical shift but a heart shift- to leave his father’s house. Terah, Abram’s father, had settled in Haran. They had been there 205 years. To come into what God had for him Abram had to come out of his Father’s house, out from under the authority of not only Terah, but also Nimrod who was King and whose priests practiced divination.
Research from the Book of Jasher, an apocryphal book, tells us that Nimrod reigned over the earth and over the sons of Noah. Terah was seventy years old when he had Abram. Terah served Nimrod in high capacity. Early in his life Abram was hidden in a cave because the prophecy declared to Nimrod concerning him. Then he spent 39 years in Noah’s house. This was at the time that Nimrod built the ziggaurat or Tower of Babel. God gave Abram an understanding heart and this caused him to challenge the idol worship and practices of false altars and divination that his father Terah engaged in under Nimrod.
To be in someone’s house therefore is how one is identified and educated and life is revealed to them. To be in someone’s house is to bring yourself under their authority and how they do things.
So, you can see that Abram was both esteemed because of the divination concerning him, as his name suggests, exalted father. But God was moving in his context while the darkness and idolatry of Nimrods kingship was shaping the nation. God set him apart and gave him an understanding heart. Literally God was calling Abram out of the way of living that he had grown up in his father’s house and his authority and into God’s house under His authority.
This is what it means to be a Hebrew. It means one who crosses over and worships the true and living God.
THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
Every person is raised in a household. We have parents or in these days a parent who acts as the primary care giver and forms the first attachment to a child. We live under their authority and their way of living, including their beliefs and the way in which they form relationships and express love.
This attachment is crucial for how the child develops both emotionally and cognitively. That journey begins in the womb, then carried into the social and love environment of our homes. How love is given or withheld is fundamental to a child’s development. When genuine healthy love is with-held, a longing is denied. This shapes our neuro pathways and our neuro associations. It affects how we interpret relationships and our self-image. This then becomes the way we interpret the world around us including how we respond to authority.
In our development, we learn from our parents and the relational influences around us. In this development, certain ways of living are normal for that household. As children, through our levels of attachment and in innocence we believe that how we engage in the home between our parents and siblings is true for everyone. It is our normal until we realise that other families behave or do things differently. The way we relate is modelled by our parents and our siblings and these form neuropathways in our subconscious mind or our heart.
Like Abram through the work of the Holy Spirit God gives us an understanding heart and we respond to that by faith to enter into salvation. We like Abraham need to leave our father’s house. Like Abraham that means both the spiritual authority we are living under and the natural authority we are living under. Of course, God tells us to honour our parents. But what we are speaking about is leaving worldly authority and a worldly context into a God authority and God’s house.
This means the pattern of the church should not look like the pattern of the world. This is why, based on the love connection we have with God, identifying in that love, we live by the truth we are God’s sons and daughters. We are dearly loved unconditionally and highly valued. In God’s house because of how God behaves and our role model parent, we want to be like Him. He serves others so we serve others. He is generous, so we are generous. He is kind so we are kind. The Father and the Son show us how to live in God’s house. The ways of God are important. They develop a particular culture that reveals and an environment that attracts heaven or the Kingdom realm of heaven and spiritual blessings.
When we grow up our normal, as I have said, is what we live in response to the world around us and how we interpret our feelings and interactions and life learning. In a healthy loving environment, we are able to develop into maturity being socially responsible and relationally adept. We know how to interact with people is a loving way. However, God knows that we do not grow up in a perfect home with perfect parents, no matter how amazing they are. There are some great homes who do express love amazingly. A healthy loving home teaches a child to become self-aware and responsible for their actions and responses to life situations. The parents will even bring discipline to the child for their benefit and development.
God is the same. Unhealthy practices based on fear and the absence of God’s unconditional love are exposed by the Holy Spirit. Similarly, learnt behaviour and relational expectations not based on God’s love and truth are also exposed in our heart for our benefit. God exposes them through circumstances, pain, or the Holy Spirit as we read God’s word.
God wants us to grow, so if we take the same mindset, we are willing to learn why we respond and act the way we do. The Holy Spirit brings us self-awareness so that we may have an understanding heart.
The point I am drawing out is that God’s ways are not the world’s ways or the way we have been conditioned to live in our parent’s home regardless of how amazing that have been. In our conditioning, we have developed a program in our subconscious mind or our heart how we see ourselves and the world around us and how we should respond in various circumstances. Even how to express love for one another.
It becomes more obvious that we are dealing with broken people and we ourselves start the God journey in some measure of brokenness. The amount of emotional abuse, trauma and feelings of insecurity or brokenness in the world today is the direct result of the influence of the fallen world. Without realising we have developed a self-centred- fear orientated pattern of thinking built around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This includes its foundation in religion and a religious spirit.
If God’s ways are not our ways then we must gain an understanding heart- or God’s wisdom to gain understanding. Understanding is the key to changing our thinking and transforming our life. This transformation from how we live in the world to how we live as sons of God and in God’s house to bring forward God’s authority and order in the world is the centrepiece of all Paul’s letters to his churches as an apostolic father.
So, when Paul writes to the Corinthians he reminds them of the foundation from which the gifts function. When Paul writes to the Philippians. Galatians, and Ephesians he reinforces these foundational truths and the proper foundation for everything that we do in the church. Therefore, Paul is at pains to explain what God’s love looks like. It does not look like worldly love with self and fear at the foundation of our thinking.
So, I kneel humbly in awe before the Father and Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the perfect Father of every father and child in heaven and on earth. And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favour until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power.
Then by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside of you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences- the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is!
Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding- this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
Holiness is not a matter of law, but responding to God’s love. Jesus said that His love will empower us to obey His teaching. His teaching is designed to keep us connected to the love supply so that we may allow the words of truth to be established in us as we live by them. It is the foundation of love that leads to a culture of honour and unity.
As a prisoner of the Lord, I plead with you to walk holy, in a way that is suitable to your high rank, given to you by your divine calling. With tender humility and quiet patience always demonstrate gentleness and generous love toward one another, especially toward those who may try your patience. Be faithful to guard the sweet harmony of the Holy Spirit among you in the bonds of peace, being one body and one spirit, as you were called into the same glorious hope of divine destiny. For the Lord God is one, and so are we, for we share in one faith, one baptism, and one Father. And He is the perfect Father that leads us all, works through us all and lives in us all!
When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He spoke of unity. It becomes the foundational prophetic realisation of the church. The ability to come into genuine unity requires us receiving and responding to God’s love generously flowing towards us and in us. This love is unconditional and it is not self-centred, but uniquely God-centred. Hence Jesus says in John 15 that apart or disconnected from Him we cannot live the life that produces this expression of love in all its forms. But relationally connected to Him we will be known as His mature disciples as those who are known for their selfless love for one another.
John 13 to 17 comprise a continuous teaching leading to the prayer of Jesus in John 17 that “We may be one even as Christ and the Father are one.”
I pray for them all to be joined as together as one even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognise that you sent me.
Jesus here is speaking about the unity of the God head and how it relates to each other. That perichorisis of God’s relational love is founded on an important protocol that Paul expresses in his letter to the church.
The first protocol we need to apply, is being intentional and understanding in the way we live. Most of us live habitually not intentionally. We let our habits of the heart and life control us instead of being intentional and taking control of them. Our thoughts control our emotions and our habitual thinking. That is why we have been given the spirit of self -control. Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are empowered to be intentional and govern our thoughts, so that our thoughts are the same as God’s thoughts towards us.
The second protocol is gaining understanding. We must recognise whether we are living by the spirit of this age and learnt behaviour of our old house or the Holy Spirit and the love of God flowing in His house.
So be very careful how you live, not being those with no understanding, but live honourably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes. And don’t live foolishly for then you will have discernment to fully understand God’s will.
Then Paul goes on to state the third protocol.
Always give thanks to Father God for every person he brings into your life in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And out of your reverence for Christ be supportive of each other in love.
This love is to be expressed in our marriages, our homes and in our work places according to Ephesians 5 and 6.
In understanding the power of giving honour as an expression of God’s selfless unconditional love working in us Paul writes to the Romans this instruction:
Let the inner movement of your heart always be love one another, and never play the role of an actor wearing a mask. Despise evil and embrace everything that is good and virtuous. Be devoted to tenderly loving your fellow believers as members of one family. Try to outdo yourselves in respect and honour of one another.
Paul says the only healthy competition in the church should be our desire to outdo each other in respecting and honouring one another. This is how we express God’s love. Honour is an important concept I will discuss next week.
We can readily understand that God’s house is to look nothing like the house we grew up in influenced by the world with self and fear at the centre of our heart. As the family of God, we live in God’s house and our spiritual attachment is to our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ. For that reason, we must leave our Father’s house and renew our mind and our heart to a new way of living.
DEVELOPING A NEW PRAXIS
How do we do that.? The first thing we must do is to believe the word of God is not only true but a present reality. It is not a future reality- it is a present reality. Anything that works against God’s truth in our heart or emotions is a wrong pattern of thinking we have developed outside of Christ and before we were adopted as God’s children and brought into His house.
If you think you are not perfectly and presently loved by God that is a lie. You do not earn it. You already have it through your salvation. You have to change your thinking and your emotions to that present reality. That is what it means to have faith.
The second thing we do is yield to the Holy Spirit. This requires us being intentional every day and submitting all of who we are, spirit soul and body to God through prayer, worship and meditation of God’s words of truth. Most of all we surrender our old thoughts and emotions to the Holy Spirit to show us why we are acting or responding or doing what we are doing. He will show us the learnt behaviour or habit and its root.
Thirdly we need to respond to what the Holy Spirit is showing us what is hidden in our heart in our subconscious mind. We need to be self-governing and responsible for our heart. We are responsible for guarding our heart which is the well-spring of life. This is actually where we live from. The subconscious mind is like a computer program or software that interprets and applies the data put into it. Our subconscious mind interprets ideas of our self, our relationships, our value, our purposes in life, our passions in life. But it is both organic and informed meaning what we experience shapes our personality and how we believe what we believe and what we will live.
So, for example if we see arguments as a way our parents related to each other and our siblings related then we will adopt this normal behaviour in our own relationships. But it is not God’s normal. Another example is that if we are raised by a parent with covert narcissistic or emotionally abusive tendencies that we are largely unaware of we will become a victim of emotional abuse and not even be aware of it. However, the learnt behaviour of the home will repeat the pattern of behaviour. This learnt behaviour is often outworked for victims of all kinds of abuse. The issue with narcissistic behaviour is the root issue of insecurity or a love deficit that then produces aberrant self-seeking and self-promoting behaviour both covertly by emotional manipulation or overt actions that stem from subconscious patterns of behaviour.
Our heart determines our behaviour and our life responses. For many people these hidden patterns or habits of behaviour need to be identified and then addressed. We need to leave our Father’s house not just geographically but emotionally as well.
Given the power of our thoughts we can indeed transform our life by the renewing of our mind. This does not take place at the conscious level but the subconscious level. And this is why the Holy Spirit as our friend and in connection with God’s unconditional love and heart for us, shows these things so that we can be set free from the habitual thinking and come into new thinking.
Of course, this is not a one-off event. We must form a new habit and therefore we must habitually think and act in a new way for at least 21 days to carve out a new neuro pathway and form a new habit which replaces the old one.
Finally, it is obvious that we want to completely identify our life as one who live in the Father’s house as a son of God. That means from a place of connection with the Father, we choose to be free by yielding to both the Holy Spirit and responding to God’s word as life and empowerment to bring us into who we really are. If we have chosen to live as a son, and chosen to live free and powerful, then anything that looks like my old father’s house that does not conform to God’s house, is no longer permitted to shape my life, my identity, my emotions, my thoughts or my actions. Powerful people take responsibility for their thoughts and their heart. They do not look to cast blame upon others for how they feel. Again, blame shedding is learnt behaviour and is disempowering.
Like Abraham we have crossed over and we are now those who live in Christ in our Father’s House and all that it means for us today.
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