Thursday, August 24, 2017

Five Steps Toward Right Thinking

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  Ephesians 4:14-15
From John:
A few years ago, I was at the beach with my children.  My son, who was elementary school age, was hanging on to a boogie board near the shore.  His urgent cry startled my summer revery.  His feet couldn't reach bottom.  I swam to him and started to walk him back to shore.  My feet couldn't feel bottom.  With both of us holding on to the board, I started paddling toward the sandy beach.  Each time I stopped paddling the waves pushed us farther out.

I recalled someone's advice from years ago, "swim parallel to the shore."  Obeying this memory, with a slight angle toward the shore, we started making progress until I could touch bottom.  This "survival" was a big deal because Whittingtons are not swimmers.  Whittingtons are sinkers.

Have your thoughts or emotions ever felt tossed about as though by violent winds and waves?  Have you reached around you in life for something solid you could hold on to, to help you get your bearings and navigate through the confusing ideas and feelings of life?

There are two places in the New Testament that compare instability with being tossed around by waves and wind in the sea.  Ephesians 4 and James 1.  Ephesians deals with instability in the mind, as we are carried about with "every wind of doctrine."  James examines the instability of our feelings, specifically wavering between faith and doubt.  Faith is a confident knowing.  Doubt, however, is a pesky feeling that makes us, "like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."

Both of these passages mention a common factor.  Whether fighting the instability of belief (Ephesians), or feelings (James), we must come to terms with our own maturity, or immaturity if we are going to see victory in mind and heart.  Ephesians gives a process that brings what some versions call perfection, or maturity, and leaves the instability of infancy behind.  James talks about a process that leads to perfection, or maturity, and then contrasts this with the double-minded man who is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).  To sum up so far:

Ephesians:  Process -> Maturity -> Right Thinking

James:  Process -> Maturity -> Right Feeling

Today, I want to focus on the passage in Ephesians:  Five steps to right thinking.  Our thinking affects every aspect of our lives.  If we believe, for example, that suffering is pointless, we will be subject to bitterness, helplessness and even hopelessness when facing difficulties.  If our belief system is based on God's Word and says, "suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character hope," (Romans 5:3-5) facing difficulties will actually increase our hope and build our faith rather than destroy it.  

The first thing we have to clear up is that this 5-step process is not all us.  It's not our strength, effort, or even wishful thinking.  Most 5-step processes put the responsibility completely on us, but this is a God thing.  This Process starts and finishes with the Lord Jesus Christ.  How appropriate this is for the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:22).

Step One:  Christ Gave Five Gifts to the Church
Ephesians 4:11 says Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers were given to the church to kick off the journey to τέλειος (teleios).  Teleios is the same Greek word found in Ephesians, James and several other passages, translated, mature, perfect, or complete.  Teleios can be defined as, brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness; fully grown, fully developed, fully realized; fully accomplished.  Wow!  This is the goal God has for us!  What a future!

These gifts are not the same as the gifts from the Spirit Paul lists in 1Corinthians 12:8-10.  The Greek pronoun in verse 11 is emphatically pointing to the Lord Jesus as the giver of these 5 gifts.  There are still other gifts for the body of Christ listed in Romans 12:6-8 and other passages.  Actually, each one of us in the body of Christ has been graced with gifts from the Lord (Ephesians 4:7).  That includes you!

Step Two:  These Five Gifts Equip God's People For Works of Service
Each of us has a ministry to do.  Ephesians 4:12 tells us that the purpose of those who occupy the 5 callings of the previous verse is "for the equipping" (Greek: πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν) or the preparing the rest of the holy people of God (saints) for works of service to the body of Christ.  But the body is made up of the people, so does that mean that the people of God are going to serve the people of God?  Exactly!

All of us in the body are called to serve, or minister to one another.  The 5 kinds of servant-leaders God has given the church are called to complete our qualification for such service.  Some may be thinking, "But God does the equipping.  Like the old saying, 'God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.'"  Yes, God does the qualifying by his Holy Spirit, but he also uses the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers.  It's all God, but also working through his people.

We can never forget that a big part of being prepared for ministry is being repaired.  We all came to God broken.  He is the one who heals us, but he also uses people, their influence, their lives and their Bible-based teaching to bring us through the process of repair.  This quote from the Expositor's Bible Commentary says it best:
From Ephesians 4:12:  “To prepare” (pros ton katartismon) is “to put right.” In surgery katartismos is applied to the setting of a broken bone.  In the NT the verb katartizo is used for the mending of nets (Matthew 4:21) and the restoration of the lapsed (Galatians 6:1). 
Step Three:  Our Works of Service Help Build Up the Body of Christ
Verse 12 tells us that the five types of gifted callings equip the rest of us to do works of service which will edify, build up, or promote the growth of the body of Christ.  What kinds of works do we do?  Every kind of godly work from Matthew to Revelation!  Read the Book, and make note of what believers did for each other and were instructed to do for each other.  Feeding, clothing, visiting, teaching, preaching to, praying over, being kind toward, are just some of the basic works we are called to do for each other.

These complete works of service build up the body because they include words accompanied by actions.  For example, preaching the love of God, while collecting funds for a family who lost everything in a house fire, will build that family up, and give them the experience to back up what we teach them to believe about the Lord's love.  Again, this brings people closer to right thinking about God, Christians, and the church.

Step Four:  Biblical Body of Christ Building Produces Maturity (Teleios)
Actually, there are three results listed:

1. Unity in the Faith - That's when all of us together have right belief, right doctrine, right worldview.  This happens when our belief about God, Jesus, Salvation, Heaven, Hell, The Resurrection, all eclipse our differences on petty issues.  When all believers watch a tragic news story and all respond with the compassion of Jesus, that's unity in the Faith.  Notice that this whole process from Christ giving gifts has been to and for the church as a whole.  We're not supposed to be islands trying to survive on our own.  In the church we who are many form one body (Romans 12:5).  We're supposed to be growing and being built up together!  

2. Knowledge in the Son of God - That's when all of us together have right knowledge, right understanding of the Son of God.  Most wrong thinking comes from wrong beliefs and being wrong about what we think we know.  When we get this far in the process we'll be less likely to have ignorance, or misinformation about the Son of God.

3. Maturity, i.e. Teleios! - That's when our belief and knowledge and development is complete and full.  How could one not have right thinking at this point?

Step Five:  Christian Teleios is Attaining to the Whole Measure of the Fullness of Christ
We could write a book trying to search out the meaning of this phrase!  This is a lifelong goal of the church and its individuals.  As we began, so we end, in Christ.  Our goal, our teleos is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 1 tells us that the church is already the fullness of Christ, but it's also something that we strive to appropriate through process, by faith, on a daily basis.  The closer we are to fullness in Christ, the better we will be at right thinking.

When we have right thinking we will be able to stand against the beliefs and so-called truths that the world, the flesh, and the enemy sends our way.

This is not an individual quest.  Remember, it starts with God, it moves by the Holy Spirit, through the Son, to the church, His body.  As we are prepared and begin to do the works he called us to, we will find that our belief, knowledge and eventually our thinking will line up with God's Word.  Right thinking, like all things, is possible through God!  Right thinking is a better way to think (Philippians 4:8).  Right belief and thinking will change our whole lives (Matthew 21:22, Romans 12:2).

Father in Heaven, help me to recognize the process that you started through your Son the Lord Jesus.  Help me to step into that process and allow it to banish lies of the enemy, self-deceptions and other wrong thinking, so that I can know the truth about you, your plan, and who I am in you.  I ask this in Jesus' name, Amen.

Next we will continue with Five Steps to Right Feeling.

1 comment:

  1. This article really got me thinking about how my beliefs and thinking affects the rest of my life. I'm looking forward to your next post about feelings!


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