PAUL TOTHILL

Keeping Connected

April 12, 2019

A foundational truth of the Gospel is our relational reconnection to God. The sacrificing work of Jesus, relationally reconciles us to God and draws us near and into an intimate relationship with Him. Our relationship with God is the keystone to all relational connections in our life. How we relate to others is determined by our relationship with God.

Despite this Gospel truth and experiential reality of faith it has been my experience that many believers have found it difficult to understand and thrive from this Jesus- Father connection and union through the Holy Spirit in way that the apostles of the early church taught and Jesus Himself taught and modelled.

 

Because of a predisposition towards worldly experiential and religious ideas of what God's love and relationship with God looks like we have read down the truths that Jesus and the apostles reveal to us through the Scriptures. We tend to read the Scriptures through the lens of our own life experiences and a worldly pattern of religion and culture. We project on to God an image of His love that is inconsistent with what Jesus revealed to us. In many ways Jesus is the perfect example of the reality and manifestation of God's love and wisdom ( as eternal truths). Ironically perhaps, the religious elite were challenged by Jesus. At the same time the worldly loved to be with Him! Jesus Himself fully and deeply connected to the Father in the Holy Spirit was attractional to the world around Him and confronting to the religious spirit that opposed Him.

 

Why is this so important? Firstly, we live in an advanced technological world, where our engagement and connections in the world are increasingly technological. Our technological developments have culturally shaped our relational communications and connections. Given most of our communication is non verbal and words are felt and spoken it imposes relational distance between people that is contrary to our emotional and spiritual wellbeing and maturity. We are designed for relationship- for face to face connections and interactions. What therefore is the consequence of this technological culture to our desire and ability to be and remain relationally connected with God? 

 

Secondly, very simply, the reconciliation of our relationship with God empowers us in God's agape (unconditional) love to receive God's eternal truths into our hearts and minds to transform our lives. This connection defines our identity, our value and self worth, and our life purpose. It defines how we relate and connect to each other in a way that carries a cultural transformational reality.

 

Life coaches and motivational teachers have taught us what the Bible has always revealed; that our lives are transformed by the renewing of the pattern of our mind. Our mind includes our imagination but essentially is our deep subconscious thinking, or as some would teach, our neuro-pathways and neuro-associations. God's eternal truths revealed in and through Jesus Christ as wisdom is always revealed from the foundation of His love for us.

 

As believers we are to move from the words of culture to the eternal words of Christ to renew our mind, no longer holding onto the pattern of this world culture. However, we are called to do that from our relational intimacy with God through the inner working of the Holy Spirit, not mechanically applying mere principles or concepts to our lives at a relational distance from God. God's love and truths are revealed and understood relationally. There is a genuine difference as Scripture points out between practising religion and relationship with God.

 

This is why our reconciliation to God is so very important for us to live in our true potential in our humanity as God always intended. The world has seen religion but is it seeing relationship with God? Is it seeing the reality of the Gospel in action in a way that brings real life?

 

The Scriptures describe our relationship with God in Jesus Christ variously as like a husband and a wife, and a father and his children. These are the most intimate relationships and love connections and life attachments we establish in our lives. They fundamentally shape who we are and our self worth and values.  

 

It seems quite impossible to share these deep relationships by mere principles and certainly not electronically at a distance. God wants to deeply engage our heart so that we may deeply engage with His. These relationships require touch, feel, non-verbal expressions and a sense of knowing that is developed as trust which is more emotional than it is intellectual. That is why we are told to love the Lord our God with all of who we are,(all our heart, mind and strength) not just intellectually or conceptually. From that deep heart connection we are told to love one another with God's love with a face to face expression and connection of that reality. Faith, then, is more than just a spiritual conceptual knowing. It is a deep knowing and experiential reality that transforms our lives.

 

The church is meant to be the developed incarnation of the life of Jesus revealed through the Holy Spirit and the teaching and example of Jesus Himself. Therefore  let us pause to reflect. What is the world really looking for from the church? Who or what are we revealing to the world around us? What was God's mission or assignment to the church? My suspicion is the the world is looking for the authentic Jesus. An authentic church, an authentic spirit people who have a deep connection to the heart of God.  

 

God wanted the church to carry their mission from His image and likeness and with His heart. Therefore the moral imperative of Scripture is that the life of Jesus be established in us and revealed through us. We are to be conformed to His likeness as we are transformed out of the world's likeness and its pattern of thinking. 

 

 

 

 

In a postmodern and post- Christian world this understanding becomes so very important. The post-modern western world is described as either self loathing or narcissistic. Both expressions simply reveal the underlying condition of humanity and its struggle to find authentic identity, value or self worth and purpose in a transitioning uncertain world. In a post-christian world the church is no longer at the social and cultural centre of society.  It seems to have lost is message in the desire to be culturally-relevant and as a result of many cultural, social and intellectual forces it has lost its influence.

 

In my up-coming two part article "Living empowered in a post-modern world"  I present some thoughts about how we present the gospel and create connection in this present cultural environment. I ask some hard questions and wonder if our approach of western Christianity reveals the authenticity of the Gospel and produces the depth of relationship that the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross of Calvary anticipated? How are we going to connect and re-connect the Gospel to this post- Christian world from the "outer" without an authentic Jesus being revealed? Are we more interested in being relevant at the expense of re-presenting the authentic Jesus? Are we in a perfect storm and does the church need to reposition itself to reconnect to a generation seeking answers to the genuine questions they are asking? 

 

I hope you will take fifteen or so minutes of your time to read my upcoming article and reflect upon it. I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to inbox me once you have read it and reflected upon the challenge we all face going forward.

 

Life is better connected

 

 

 

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