“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)
“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Col 3:1-3)
Coming to an understanding of the reality of a literal kingdom of heaven on earth takes nothing less than a complete change of perspective. Perspective is defined an attitude, an outlook, a frame of mind or frame of reference. Perspective is a compilation of past and present experiences, and how we were educated or otherwise impacted in life, that all add up to how we view things at the very most basic of levels. There is no such thing as an “impartial observer,” and that is why the Bible says every fact is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses” (2 Cor. 13:1).
Everything we see, feel, think, and conclude begins with our perspective, and we cannot have the sort of “transformation by the renewing of our minds” Paul speaks of without a change of perspective. Without that, anything we learn or do to alter the way we think and see things is partial at best. Sadly, the vast majority of those calling themselves Christian in America do not have a kingdom perspective. They have a worldly one. This is because they have been shaped by this world and, unfortunately, modern Christendom provides little to change it.
I believe Paul was specifically talking in Romans 12 about a perspective change, because to be “transformed” must involve change at a foundational level. Transformation is defined as a thorough change or compete metamorphosis. This phenomenon is best interpreted to most through the lifecycle of the butterfly. It goes in to its cocoon as a caterpillar and comes out something completely different, in no way similar to what it entered as. If this sort of radical change at the very basis of what we are does not happen it cannot be, by definition, “transformational”.
The journey begins at the cross, where we are supposed to die to all we formerly were, and then continue on through the process of sanctification aided by the empowerment of the Spirit and the wise mentoring of those more mature than us. This is the way the Scriptures describe as the natural path to Christian maturity. If that is so, why do all the polls tell us fewer than 8% of converts complete the process?
There are three aspects of our current Christian experience that severely hinder biblical transformation, and it’s important to understand the difference between what we have been taught and the truth.
WHAT IS THE CROSS?
What you’ve been taught: The cross is a temporary and unintimidating stop we make while we “pray the prayer,” before we move on to what our evangelists tell us we can “get”. We put it on chains and hang it around our necks. We put it in front of all of our temples, sort of like a welcome mat put out to invite us in to our comfortable meetings. It’s where we’re supposed to die to all we were, but it’s portrayed as something Jesus did so we wouldn’t have to. It, like everything else in modern Christendom is meant to impress but not intimidate.
The truth: We desperately need to come to a fresh understanding of the cross and it’s twin, repentance, for it is there the old man must die to make way for the new. If he does not, whatever is left alive of the old will be a stumbling block for the new as long as it is allowed to live. What does this really look like? Paul said he preached Christ crucified, for it was the power of God (1 Cor. 1), and that this message was to be delivered as a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15). It is the beginning, and if we don’t do this right it will forever jaundice our perspective. One of the reasons there are so few with a kingdom perspective today is their worldly perspective has not died at the cross.
For Jesus it was a place He was ultimately despised, forsaken of men, filled with sorrows and grief, pierced through, smitten, crushed, chastened, scourged, oppressed, afflicted, and slaughtered according to Isaiah. It was a bloody gauntlet we are to follow Jesus in to, to give up everything before anything is to be gotten. The Bible tells us He “despised the shame” (Heb. 12:2) of it, yet knew it was the price for the salvation of His people and so endured it. According to Hebrews 12 and Luke 9, our cross must be endured daily—a place where the flesh must be shamed and discarded, and the lessons of suffering must be learned, so we can daily have a new and clean starting foundation from which to launch in to life as “new creatures.” 2 Timothy 2 and Romans 6 tell us we are to experience the cross with Him, not just thank Him for going through it for us. When was the last time you heard an evangelist say, “Come and die, suffer, and be shamed for your sin before we talk about heaven?” A proper understanding of the cross is critical, because we cannot embark on the quest for a new perspective if our former ones do not die there.
WHO JESUS IS
What you have been taught: Jesus is John 3:16, period. He is our savior, purely a messenger of God’s love sent to save the world. He loves always regardless of whether we show any appreciation or response to that love, He forgives everything whether we repent or not, and regardless of how we chose to live our lives, the witness we leave behind, or the lives we fail to touch He will usher us to heaven in the end because it’s now about us, but only His love and mercy.
The truth: He does love us, save us, and forgive us. But He is oh, so much more than that. He is our ultimate judge who is to be feared as well as loved (John 5:23) and those “in Him” will suffer the fires of hell if they are found without fruit at the judgment (John 15:2). Many who think they know Him, and think they are doing good works for Him, will be sadly and tragically mistaken (Matt. 7:21-23). He is not just the Lamb, but also the Lion (Rev. 5:5). It is critical we form a true perspective of who Jesus is, because without that there is little chance of developing a holy fear of Him, and without that little chance of “perfecting the holiness” (2 Cor. 7:1) necessary to maturing in our faith.
WHAT IS GRACE?
What you’ve been told: Grace is Ephesians 2:8-9, period. We have absolutely nothing to do with it, and there is nothing we can do after praying the prayer that can overturn our salvation because of it.
The truth: Our very definition of the word as meaning “unmerited favor” is false and misleading. The Greek word is “charis”, meaning “The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life” [according to Strong’s]. Anyone can claim unmerited favor while living any lifestyle they want. Absolutely nothing is expected under that definition, and so we embrace it like we embrace the comfortable cross and the comfortable Jesus. This false definition grants us liberties true grace never intended. Ah, but divine influence in life that is evidenced by a godly lifestyle?
True grace demands response in the form of transformational change. It drives us to repentance, passion, zeal, good works, and a relationship with Jesus Christ that is perspective-changing. True grace adds Ephesians 2:10 to vs’s 8-9. Paul asks if we are to sin all the more that grace might abound, and then concludes, “By no means” (Rom. 6:15)! And there are far too many verses that question “eternal security” in the Bible [For more see: http://theawakenedchristianman.org/2016/04/26/4262016-mikes-blog-a-difficult-question/] to go in to in this already lengthy article. A proper perspective of grace is critical for the same reason proper perspectives of the cross and the Savior are: that we are diligent to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) by showing we appreciate that divine touch through the evidence of God working in our lives. The accepted definition leaves us lethargic and lazy, as evidence clearly shows.
WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?
What you have been told: Discipleship is going to church [an absurd statement since we are the church at all times] every week, attending bible studies and seminars, and going on the occasional mission trip. And while there is nothing wrong with any of these, they are what make up our event-driven Christianity these days. The experience of modern Christians is a series of meetings in various facilities that can be compartmentalized, so they don’t really effect life if it’s not convenient. We “go to” church, bible studies, seminars, small groups, even ministry activities. What does it mean, to “go to” something other than we intend to come back to whom and what we were?!
The truth: The Great Commission is to “Make disciples who observe all Jesus commanded.” Observe means to perceive something as being significant and to follow, fulfill, and comply with it. To follow Jesus must be a lifestyle-driven walk. Jesus not only gave us the Great Commission, He set a living example of a lifestyle-oriented faith that produced it. He didn’t have His disciples meet Him once a week for an hour or two so He could tell them about Himself, He spent significant time with them! He understood the concept of shepherds and sheep as stated in John 1, where He gave two responses sheep would have to shepherds: “They would hear their voice and follow them.” Sheep don’t just hear, they follow the example of their shepherds. Is it any wonder we have to build bigger and bigger temples to hold the sheep? That’s where their shepherds hang out! And that is precisely why we have so few disciples. Our shepherds have become teachers of students at meetings, not shepherds of sheep living life together.
The One who came to set us free of the law left us one law of His own, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). As disciplers and pastors, we are to take our apprentices out with us wherever we go to fulfill God’s command to bear fruit [and we’d better have places we go], to show them the critical living example of what we are teaching them so they not only hear, but follow, the example. It’s what Jesus did, and we owe our apprentices no less. Rather, our pastors preach to their sheep about it, all the while reassuring them grace is there to catch them if they choose not to keep the commands.
Why is this critical? In John 15, Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” He also spoke of “slaves” who knew not what their Master was doing. In Hebrews 5, the Writer said, “But solid food is for the mature, who through practice [keeping Jesus’ commands] learn to discern good and evil.” Jesus does not grant total transformation to those who choose to remain babes by refusing to keep His commands. Given this trifecta of false teachings and MIA examples, is it any wonder the polls tell us there are so few keeping His commands, and so many babes in the pews?
What does all of this have to do with authentic transformation of perspective, and thus life? Without believers maturing past a worldly perspective, and the domain of slaves and babes, to become functioning disciples, there is little chance of them gaining the most critical element of all of developing a kingdom perspective: revelation [see http://theawakenedchristianman.org/2017/01/08/the-critical-nature-of-foundations-and-buildings/]. The logos [written word of God] will only take us to a point in our walk. It provides the foundation, the back-story, and the basic knowledge to launch us.
However, it is personal revelation [rhema: God’s unwritten special knowledge] deposited in our “inner man” that brings about the sort of transformation necessary to comprehend the kingdom of heaven on earth. Revelation is personal, and it affects us at the deepest levels of soul and spirit, because it is a gift of God implanted in our spirits that cannot be gained with any amount of study of general knowledge [although that knowledge is absolutely critical to building the foundation for it]. Revelation transforms us like no amount of knowledge can because knowledge can be gained by human endeavor, and revelation is uniquely God’s endeavor in us. Paul defined the sort of revelatory perspective change it takes when he said, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” (Eph. 1:17-18). The Logos builds the foundation from which all revelation must spring, and many who have sought revelation apart from that foundation have wandered far off the reservation. But it is that revelation that enlightens our hearts in a way the Logos cannot, and causes the utter transformation necessary to understand the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Finally, let’s go back and revisit Romans 12. Paul says, “No longer be conformed to this world [the kingdom of man], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [taking on a whole new perspective], so that you may prove what the will of God is [being transformed into kingdom saints from converts, babes, and slaves], that which is good and acceptable and perfect [the kingdom of heaven on earth is as close as we will get to the perfect will of God this side of heaven].”
It matters not whether it involves business, family, fellowship, or any other aspect of our lives. The way to the kingdom of heaven on earth is the same:
- A total transformation of our perspective, from worldly to heavenly and from fleshly to spiritual, facilitated by:
- A true grasp of God, His grace, and His commands
- A true understanding of the cross and repentance
- A sincere and diligent walk of study, fellowship, and operational love
- All of which open the door to personal revelation, bringing about Romans 12 transformation.
What can you do to come to know, understand, and live in the kingdom of heaven on earth? Seek in His Word to find a new and balanced understanding of who Jesus really is, true repentance, the cross, grace, and command. Then apply those to your life by keeping His commands and His “law of love,” [which includes touching other lives in love and integrity in all of your dealings: business or otherwise], thus becoming a “friend” to whom He will reveal Himself. Then pray for personal revelation concerning the reality of the kingdom. If you are genuinely seeking truth, genuinely seeking to follow, and genuinely seeking revelation in your spirit rest assured it will be granted you, “For the Father is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
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