This is gospel coaching session #9
Judy is my wife Eileen’s sister. We have both been witnessing to her about Jesus for 30 years. Yet still, the only relationship she has with God, if you can even call it this, is she calls him ‘the big guy in the sky.’
I read a study 10 or more years ago. It made the point that said most Christians live in a similar way in what might be called ‘separation theology.’ They believe in God, and have a relationship with him, but he is ‘up there somewhere’ while they are down here on earth.
I observe the same type of thing in how some people pray. So many who pray publically just pray to ‘God,’ and they may say the name ‘God’ 15 times during a prayer, I guess so he won’t forget who they’re talking to. They seem to never come to relate to him as Abba, or as Father, as both Jesus and Paul say to do. Here is something I’ve written in the past.
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“The gospel is about a Father who loves us more than we could ever possibly begin to imagine (gospel aspect #2). As his children, we come to know him as ‘Abba Father,’ and we fall in love with him more than we ever thought possible. He is still by all rights God, but our relationship with him has become more intimate and personal.
The longing of our Father’s heart is for us to know him just like a loving, dependent child relates to his Daddy – but also as mature sons and daughters know and respect their Father.
Both Jesus and Paul used the term ‘Abba Father.’ This denotes agape love and intimacy, but also awesome respect and reverence. The word Abba denotes an unreasoned expression of dependency, love, trust and confidence from a child. The word Father denotes a reasoned appreciation, honor, esteem and submission from a son or daughter.
We should always maintain an awesome reverence and worship of God as God. Nothing else and no one else has any term of comparison. But we should also always relate to him as both dependent little loving children, and also as mature sons and daughters who know who they are – who know their identity as joint, equal heirs with Christ, and that ‘as Jesus is, so are we in this world’.”
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It is important to know God as God. He is the creator of the universe, the earth, us, and everything else. There is definitely no other God. But we should also come to then know him as Abba: as a child with his daddy who wants to bless us. And as we mature, we should then come to know him as Father, and we his hopefully mature, gospel living sons and daughters. Even as we know him as Father, we should also never lose the aspect that he is our Abba and we’re his kids.
We Are in Unity with God, We Are One with Him
Jesus emphasizes this over and over and over again in what I call ‘his dying declaration,’ which is John chapters 12-17. Knowing he was going to die on the cross, his words in these chapters were spoken just before his death. The law would refer to these words as ‘his dying declaration.’ Here, he speaks of us being IN HIM, and us being IN GOD, and them being IN US in many different ways. He often mentions the Holy Spirit too.
In fact, John 17:21-23 speaks to this specifically and pointedly, and it also makes the point that the way the WORLD comes to believe in Jesus is by them observing that we’re ONE with him and the Father. Sadly, unbelievers don’t come to know God by means of our eloquent preaching, or us quoting ‘the 4 spiritual laws.’ Others are drawn to God if they see God inhabits us and that we are aware of his presence IN US. It is the gospel, the process of God through us, that produces this in us.
Also, Paul speaks to this more times than we can count, in writing over one-half the New Testament. He uses the terms ‘in Christ,’ ‘in Jesus,’ ‘in him,’ many times, and then uses the same phrase with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Then he’ll reference them being ‘in us.’ This is especially true in the book of Ephesians. In one instance he even talks about us ‘putting on Christ,’ like a costume, to make his point. He is very repetitious about this.
This is how we should visualize ourselves! God just isn’t ‘up there somewhere.’ This is wrong belief, and even darkness. If we think God is ‘up there somewhere,’ we live in All the Light We Do Not See.
God’s Purpose in the Gospel Is to Bless Us
And the way he blesses us most is with his presence. “The goodness of God leads us to repentance.” Too many street evangelists preach a ‘turn or burn’ theology.
I wonder if any of them have any revelation of the gospel.
It is God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, and other things that draw people to him. It is not the thought that they are going to burn if they don’t turn. This creates a defensive, rejecting spirit.
When people truly hear the gospel, which I’m trying to communicate in this message, this draws them to the Father, and to his Son Jesus. The gospel makes you want to know more about God, and know more about what he thinks about you – which all begins in his unconditional love.
When we live in the gospel of grace, peace and blessing, this draws us to God. The purpose of the gospel is to transform our minds and straighten out our thinking so that we think the thoughts of God that cancel out the thinking of our human minds.
Thus Jesus asks, “WHY do you reason in yourselves?” Our job is not to reason, but to believe. This doesn’t mean to throw your mind away, because Christianity is a very intellectual relationship. God knows our hearts will not accept what our minds reject!
In Isaiah God says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). This is what the gospel does in us. It is why we throw away (repent of) all other beliefs, and simply trust God to believe his gospel. Trusting God begins with knowing he knows more about everything than we do.
How Do We Live the Abundant Life of Christ?
Jesus did nothing except what he saw his Father doing. He said he said nothing except what he heard his Father saying. Most of us don’t walk with our loving Abba Father God to the depths that Jesus did. I sure wish I did. But I do walk and live knowing his presence in me and that I am one with him. This is living Christ’s abundant life.
How much more abundant can life be than knowing the presence and power of God in you? It can’t be measured by wealth or possessions or any other means. And this is what living in the gospel instills in us. We aren’t just living life ‘on a lark of our own,’ as lawyers might refer to it. We live life united with the God the universe – with our Abba who loves us as his kid – with our Father who relates to us as mature, gospel loving sons and daughters.
Now come back to an earlier thought: (1) receiving, (2) responding, and (3) releasing. This is how the Christian life is lived.
FIRST, we receive everything God has for us – all his blessings, promises, grace, love, peace, favor – and everything else he has (Luke 12:32). This naturally includes all the truth and reality of his gospel.
SECOND, then like the Parable of the Sower says, we just let it get down deep into us and let it simmer and cook in us until it becomes part of us, This is the meaning of response – we respond to HIS ability in us.
THIRD, we then release all that we have to others.
We abound over to them as Paul says in I Thessalonians 3:12. Jesus says, “As you have freely received, so freely give.”
This is living in ONENESS with our Abba Father God. This is also how heaven invades us and how we share the benefits of both eternal life in heaven, and abundant life on earth, with everyone we can.
Jesus came to do three basic things:
(1) to redeem us by his cross,
(2) reveal gospel truth to us, and
(3) to release the presence of God’s Kingdom in us.
In Ephesians, Paul says we have the ministry of Jesus, so in lesser forms, we do the same thing. He says he is the light of the world, but he also says we are lights. This is living the abundant life of Jesus. This is living in oneness with him.
Look At the Ministries of Both Jesus and Paul
The ministries of both Jesus and Paul were very similar in nature, and thus, we should follow and copy them. They might both say to us: “I am divine anointed and qualified to lead. Are you spiritually discerning enough to follow?”
THE MINISTRY OF JESUS is said to be: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the GOSPEL to the poor, he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them who are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).
The gospel is the power of God to live the abundant life of Christ. We are broken-hearted when we live by anything else. We are in captivity to Satan when we do not live gospel truth, and we are bruised and blind to Kingdom reality. The acceptable year of the Lord is the finished work of the cross of Jesus, the center of all human history.
THE MINISTRY OF PAUL is said to be: “To open blind eyes, to turn people from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith in God” (Acts 26:18). Do you see the same consistency in Paul’s ministry when compared to Jesus? Paul came to proclaim, confirm and defend the gospel truth (Phil 1:7). Ministering the gospel of the grace of God was his life’s ministry (Acts 20:24).
This is how he turned people from darkness (living in All the Light We Do Not See). He turned them to the light, and from Satan to God (II Tim 2:25-26). We have total forgiveness (and forgetting) of sin (Eph 1:7, Col 1:14, Heb 8:12, 10:17). And our inheritance is being joint equal heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). This is review, in the light of their ministries!
We Are Meant to be Dependent on Jesus
Jesus tells us that in ourselves we can do nothing (John 15:5). This doesn’t mean we can’t tie our shoes, but we can’t do anything relevant in God’s Kingdom. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the initiator, we just respond. Also, Paul asks, “What do you have that you have not received?” (I Cor 4:7). This means receiving from God, and the answer is ‘nothing.’ We are told that Jesus did no mighty works of himself, but the Father in him did the works (Acts 2:22). Putting these together tells us a story about our dependence, need, and resulting humility. This is living in ONENESS with God.
Pride is focus on self. Humility is focus on God and then others.
We Impact Others with the Gospel Inside of Us
Paul says the gospel produces good fruit, works and deeds from us (Col 1:5-6). It is not us ourselves. The gospel is THE power of God in us, by the revelation of God’s gift of righteousness to us (Rom 1:16-17). In this verse, Paul uses a definite article of grammar: ‘THE.’ There are not many powers of God available – God’s power is released through his gospel.
This begins with love, and applies to everything else. As we saw, we don’t initiate love. God initiates everything in us, and we then share it. Jesus says, “Love others… as I have loved you.” We are told we love because we are first loved (I John 4:10, 4:19).
God’s Truth and Love Is What Impacts People
“Speak the truth in love.” We saw earlier how belief in gospel truth and love for others is what instills in us confidence before God (I John 3:21-23). This allows us to boldly approach God on his throne (Heb 4:16), and also even gives us boldness in the day of judgment (I John 4:17). So the converse is true: if we don’t live in gospel truth, and don’t live in love, we don’t have confidence before God. If we don’t have confidence before God, we can’t walk and live in ONENESS and UNITY with him. He’s just going to remain ‘up there somewhere.’
Jesus wants us to be driven by what drives him. What drives him is truth and grace (John 1:17), but grace is ‘manifold grace,’ as we saw earlier which means it encompasses love, and everything else good in God’s gospel that then comes out of us in good things. God communicates with us and reveals his Kingdom by means of gospel truth. He broadcasts 24-7. The only question is, “Do we tune in?”
When we receive, respond and release, then we become the outflow of God’s blessings to others. We are blessed so that we become a blessing (I Pet 3:9). Then we are blessed even more so we can bless even more. This is the meaning of the modern phrase: “Pay it forward.” But it all begins with us being ONE with the Father, with his Son Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. This is the abundant Christian life.
Probably the saddest testimony of any Christian who admits they didn’t live in ONENESS with God is someone we all respect dearly: Mother Theresa. In her published testimony, she says she worked for years without really knowing the presence of the Lord. In other words, what she did was by means of her flesh. She just did it FOR God, and even often felt estranged from him while doing it. She felt inadequate in spite of all the good she did — she was #1 in doing good!
She was raised in the LAW, which produces a performance lifestyle and condemnation if you ever fail (which we ALL do). Recall that the law works in conjunction with our flesh, and with SELF (Rom 7:5, Heb 7:16). In other words, she really didn’t live in gospel authority and reality of much of gospel aspects that these gospel coaching sessions cover.