Head in the Clouds

“And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth…” (John 3:32a)

That was John the Baptist speaking of Jesus. He leads into that statement with “he that cometh from Heaven is above all.” (John 3:31b) It isn’t just that we see Jesus as descended from the clouds (i.e. Heaven), but that we understand all He went through in order to be ordained a “high priest” (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

Silver linings

There’s a scene in Luke’s Gospel (12:14) where this guy calls on Jesus to talk to his brother so that he would “divide the inheritance” (verse 13) with him. Jesus answers back and says “who made me a judge or divider over you?” Evidently the guy trusted Jesus enough to be able to settle the dispute but we also see that Christ was more pragmatic than that. Jesus goes one further and warns everyone there about getting caught up in wordliness an an overreaching materialism. The thing that you’ll find as you read through the gospels is that Jesus is always changing the subject, derailing long-established trains of thought and generally disrupting patterns and norms with, as John described up top, “what He hath seen and heard.”

One of the most amazing incidents happens in the Gospel of Mark at which time we see Jesus tell a palsied man that his sins are forgiven. The thing about that statement I find so remarkable is that it looks, for all intents and purposes, to be a simple religious-sounding utterance. Like, “Blessings be upon you!” In other words, something purely platitudinal and that’s great. Those that were there (whose hearts were blinded) thought Jesus was crazy for saying something so outlandish, thinking that only “God” could do something like “forgive sins”. In other words, it was like Jesus was opining on something He wasn’t qualified to talk about. What happens next is pretty cool however: He parries the scribes’ petty complaints and then goes on to prove that He can reach into another realm for wisdom and inspiration. He tells the paralyzed man to “Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” (Mark 2:1-12) Which the man does, proving that the former statement Jesus made carried weight. One cannot simply say these things and have them take the intended effect unless they really know what they’re talking about. And Jesus definitely knows what He’s talking about. “What He hath seen and heard…”

“And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” (Matthew 21:27)

Jesus knew stuff, He had been around. His parable about the steward who was audited, so to speak, by the man for whom he was employed (see Luke, chapter 16) not only includes some very practical instruction on dealing with debt (pay it down little by little) but also allusion to a higher kingdom, one that doesn’t revolve around money and capital (see verse 8). Where does He get this stuff? Probably from the same place one gets cloudberries. Just joking, cloudberries are common in the northern hemisphere. But one would necessarily have to go higher in order to be able to talk about stuff of another plane and have it make sense in light of ours.

“Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.” (Job 28:20-21)

I haven’t the foggiest

The following paragraph comes to us from Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

“We can a priori and prior to all given objects have a knowledge of those conditions on which alone experience of them is possible, but never of the laws to which things may in themselves be subject without reference to possible experience.” (my emphasis)

Suffice it to say, Kant is looking to explain away the idea that there can be knowledge of things without actually having experienced them for ourselves. I think we all encounter that temptation to merely “talk the walk”. The implication behind everything (true) written about Christ is that He actually went through the things He talked about. But He wasn’t alone in doing so: His Father was with Him.

“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself (i.e. from myself): but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” (John 14:10, emphasis mine)

God the Father ensured that Jesus went through everything necessary in order to be your advocate, my advocate (see 1 John 2:1). God was not about to allow someone to die on behalf of everyone if that person wasn’t willing to live everyone’s life. See, Jesus has secrets (see Deuteronomy 29:29). Things He’ll share with you if you endeavor to get close to Him. It says in Hebrews that because of what He did, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (4:15). Paul’s letter to the Colossians (2:3) says “in [Him] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” I have found Jesus to be the most giving and generous person in this (or any other) world and more than willing to answer what questions I have.

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Concatenating Correctly

Concatenatius was a 12th century Montenegrin philosopher. Born Andro Mihajilo, he showed an intense innate curiosity and it’s the one thing that drove him to draw connections and inferences in the most radical and unconventional ways. Growing up, he was rumored to see the pale pink blossoms of the wild pea plant and work out the Genetics. While his thesis on that subject is lost to time (and Mendel is credited with with the discovery of the science of genetics) he never seemed bothered with his lack of notoriety in whatever subject revealed itself through his “science of connection and inference”. One cold, clear Winter night, he laid under the stars and saw how each burned brightly and stood out “like diamonds on velvet” and intuited the molecules (assuming there were any) in the exosphere would be heated with the sun while the air around would be freezing. His hypothesis would prove true as science eventually caught up. But it was his training in philosophy coupled with the aforementioned drive that he felt was his greatest strength. He was known for answering statements that pointed to the incredulity of his reasonings with “Don’t you know anything?” So often did he utter this pointed expression of disdain at his fellow philosophers that he became somewhat of a recluse in middle age as a result.

The year after his watershed conclusion on molecules he had what he thereafter referred to as “The Rainbow Connection”. It came at a time when he felt he had exhausted what details in his surroundings (he was bedridden in his early forties for the greater part of six months with an acute case of malapropia) showed him what was and is and was to come. On August 15th, 1117, Mihajilo saw “through the membrane”. It could be argued that he was in a state of delirium but he knew. Again, the fact that he had exhausted what his senses revealed to him coupled with the temporary failure of his body and the closing of his mind led him to seek the Lord. The same Lord, he said, that he had been feeling—and drawing him—throughout his life. It was after this event that all the words made sense (“they gelled”) and the colors, he said, held a deeper hue—hence the reference to the rainbow. One thing, however, that he continued to struggle with was the inherent truth to some of the associations he continued to draw. Montaigne is said to have taken his “Que sais-je? (lit. “What do I know?”) catchphrase from the works and life of Mihajilo.

Canonized when he was only forty-nine years of age (a singular event in the history of the Catholic church), he sought to explain the link in everything back to God. A main theme of his later writings was, after the Connection, not the unraveling of his former philosophical concerns and postulations, but a fuller understanding of what his innate gift showed him prior to meeting God. He held as a banner the scripture from the psalms (Psalm 119:96): “I have seen an end of all perfection: but Thy commandment is exceeding broad.” He continued asking and seeking and connecting up till his early death at age 65.

Higher Math part one

“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

The same idea is echoed in Jesus’s statement to Philip of “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). I find it remarkable to place myself, purely by power of imagination, back in the time of Jesus and see Him say these things with my mind’s eye. Following this line of thought, I inevitably find myself wishing to a certain extent that I was indeed back there, living and walking around during the time of Christ. But as this is not Science Fiction (time travel, you understand), I gently realize that I am living in a body during 2015. Called by the Lord to take up whatever dimensions I do in the world at large, today. And this is where what Jesus said to Philip takes on a new meaning.

He (and she) that hath seen me

It was easy to see Jesus. Just plant yourself on your step and watch him walk by, “thronged” (Mark 5:24) by the multitude. And there you have it! Not only are you seeing Jesus (as in, the Christ), you’re also looking at the purest expression of “I Am” (see Exodus 3:14) as was ever revealed to the human race. Come to think of it, you may have had to press through the crowd in order to do so, as apparently He had a hard time going anywhere alone when once word got out that He was who He is.

But how does this help us now? My opinion is, everyone would want to see God. In a halfway-intelligent philosophical discussion (even with yourself), you’re bound to come across this: the ontological argument. This line of reasoning says that because existence is equated with perfection, and as God, or “God” is the most perfect being that can be conceived of, He must exist. No two ways around it. But not only is this easily falsifiable (seriously, ask yourself if you’ve ever thrown your imagination out to the four winds/ages and seen God the way He might be if He truly was all you could wish and hope for—and then wordlessly snuffed it out) but it also lends itself to creating a God in our own image. With a skewed nature of perfection that doesn’t hold all the variables in check so as to order a world the way it truly is. Ontology. And yet wouldn’t God have had to create the concept itself, if He truly was perfect? I digress. The reason I asked the question I did at the beginning of the paragraph is because as we all live in the present age, we don’t have the ability to see Jesus with our eyeballs. I mean, assuming He were still with us now the way He was back in the pages of John’s gospel, I would have sold all my belongings (whatever it took) in order to go visit Him—if but for a moment—in Israel. I want to see the person who claims to have come from the Father and yet do nothing to prove His point except die after doing a bunch of kindhearted things.

“And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…” (John 17:22-23a)

Read through the seventeenth chapter of John. Long one of my favorite in the Bible, we see something about the Lord that we haven’t before. It’s as if He’s laying out the entire strategy of the Father retroactively. He alludes to some primeval time in verse five with “before the world was”. So evidently He would’ve been there with the God we so easily imagine as the solver of all our problems and the perfect example of ourselves in divine form. But again, how does this help us now? Because Jesus has left the earth. But! This is where one plus one gains another.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if depart, I will send Him unto you.” (John 16:7)

The Law Unto Ourselves

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:” (Romans 2:14)

Any questions?

This question crops up at times. Why do we need God to tell us anything? As Paul writes further down the chapter “Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” (2:15) And if you have the above, being the baseline verse for showing how anyone’s conscience is a good as “the law”, why do we even need God? Because if I’m good without God, my conscience allowing me to get by in this life–a standard of morality, or “good”–why should I worry about answering higher? Good question.

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:5-6)

So, if you take for granted the premise that there is such a thing as “sin”–defined as the opposite of God’s character–and prior to that, the reality of God’s existence as elucidated in the Bible, where do you go from there? There’s also this theological idea of the atoning death of a living creature to make up for infractions-and-worse. Okay. Admittedly, I’m jumping into this several tiers up but I’m looking to make a point on this level. From “God” to “sin” to “absolution in the person of Christ”. These are the key points I feel must be acknowledged before one looks at their life and says “I’m fine on my own”. With this statement, it’s better one substantiate a life based on a sort-of hopeful nihilism as opposed to clinging to belief in God. If God is real, as He cannot be seen, we must reconcile a part of ourselves to the unseen, as well, in order to level the playing field. Because if there are things I’m doing I don’t have access to, that could be offending God, maybe I’ll look more into my need for understanding and wisdom beyond my limited senses. This is where Christ comes in.

“But of [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let Him glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

Paul continues:

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (2:16)

Begging for questions

One of the things Paul did in writing was unearth the reality of what Christ came to do. Paul calls it “my gospel”. Either this is megalomania or else a humble servant doing that with which He’s been tasked. One or the other. Christ’s mission was to wrest from the natural any notion as to our own ability to get right with God. He did everything right. So the question of any one nation or person outside the scope and receipt of the law–is answered. Now that Jesus has come and fulfilled the law, relationship with God has been made possible for any and everyone. Not just a select few.

“For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Shedding a Little Enlightenment

“When God does not exist, anything is possible.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” Voltaire

In philosophy, and with reference to God, the ontological argument states that God must exist. He must exist as explained through an inductive look at the nature of perfection and that how, if the superlative epitome of an extant being (in this case, God) can exist in your imagination, he (He) must exist in the world at large. It kind of comes back around on itself when you put forth a Landscape of infinite dimensions, the parameters of which must include a world that is defined exactly as the Bible defines it. From God on down.

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

With Voltaire, it’s understood that he’s negating the outcome of Dostoevsky’s statement. In other words, God is seen as that giant parent/policeman in the sky bearing down with an unwavering eye. With Gabriel, however, we see that God wants Mary to give birth to Jesus, thus explaining how God truly is to a world that doesn’t know how to look at God, if at all.

“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)

It really isn’t that hard to wrap your mind around Jesus. There’s enough of Him elucidated in the New Testament to make an informed decision. If you wanna study out the fine points of any of the arguments for or against God, great. Do it. But when Jesus says “Come unto me”, there really isn’t any other place to go to get an answer. Believing is the battleground.

“And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.” (John 6:65)

In closing, I can’t really say I ascribe (subscribe/agree) to the ontological argument. Following the same logic, simplistically explained, you can make the case for all sorts of imaginary things. Which may or may not exist. The thing is, it ends in sounding like circular reasoning (it’s true because it’s true) and that doesn’t do one any good when what we need is a relationship with One who loves us.

“If God didn’t exist, who would love us?”

 

Points Taken (Landmark Study part 2)

“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” (Luke 11:20)

With the finger of God…

At what point…?

The signs are everywhere. Rewind down from the stance of anti-theism to atheism to agnosticism. Keep going through unbelief to doubt to belief to faith. To where you’re actually walking with and enjoying the love and presence of Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Brought to you by God the Father. By His fingers, and hands and arms. And heart.

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him (and her) with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:3-5)

If you believe that God is the Creator, everything, then, should point back to Him. As much of what is preached and proselytized from the pulpit of Science is predicated by the belief that everything arose ex nihilo, how is one supposed to look to God when it looks like He’s not there and never has been? And I’m not necessarily seeking to convert any atheists with this. I’m merely looking to shed light on some things from my vantage point. One that is unapologetically steeped in a Judeo-Christian belief system.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4a)

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” (Proverbs 11:28)

The Hebrew word translated landmark is “gabuwl”. Strong’s terms it “territory” and “boundary”. In other words, an established marker. A border holding something in and maybe, by implication, keeping other things out. The idea behind the above verse from Proverbs is that there are things that were done by our forbears that, far from disrespecting and disregarding, we are to build upon and learn from. To relearn a discipline from the ground up takes more time than our generation has to spare. I find that with a shallow representation of Christianity, the lack of a robust standing in society on the part of believers (really, it applies to any faith) follows. Any secular society has in every case moved from religion to myth (and magic) to science–jettisoning belief systems that aren’t empirical and/or demonstrably true. If Science were to disregard the shoulders of the bygone giants on which they stand, our culture would collapse. And when the church neglects a more fundamental (yes) faith, not steeped in denomination, but in the reality of God’s love and presence by the Holy Spirit, you can see why so much regarding the church seems to be in decline. More than merely a drop in attendance.

All points bulletin

“Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” (Deuteronomy 11:24) There’s that word again, this time translated as “coast”.

Everytime God does something, be it an original act of creation or the recreation of a human spirit, there’s the sense of a boundary. A watershed or a before-and-after marker. And when Christians don’t press in to God (not just a more ardent and arduous outworking of “faith-based stuff”) then the miracles and markers out of which their faith has both sprung and grown, will fade and wither. To where Christians fail to see God the way Jesus did. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” says David (Psalm 11:3) Those things upon which our individual faith rests and relies which in turn take their source from the original things God did and does are the very things that ensure He continues to be seen and known. By us (Christians) and, dare-I-say-it non-believers. Each point in space has a number. You cannot remove any one. It’s impossible. But in between? I think that’s where God is.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

In other words, Paul is saying to make it real. To re-realize the things that brought you to God in the first place. If, citing secular pragmatism, you have begun to doubt whether or not the things that at first seemed like they could be God’s influence have to your mind turned into something–anything–less, try faith on again. Look to God and ask Him to give you a fresh outpouring of His presence and provision. Ask and ye shall receive. It’s simple as that. Paul continues in verse eight: “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” The truths of God, while just as true as they’ve always been, may have faded from view through our neglecting to look at them in light of Him. That’s fine, but turn around. God didn’t place that marker in your life (whatever it may be) for you to totally forget about it. It’s almost as if, by neglecting and ignoring the things He did for us in the past, we are, by omission, omitting the landmarks. To where they seem ancient by comparison and in retrospect.

My prayer for you is that if you have somehow lost sight of God, to where you’re not even sure He exists or just in doubt as to His true character, that you would receive a reigniting of your faith. Paul says this to the Romans (12:3): “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly…” In other words, humble yourself. Am I sure God exists? Yes. And I don’t mean to sound argumentative, but if you’re reading this and a non-believer, are you absolutely sure He doesn’t? Try it on. Humble yourself. Ask for a sign, a landmark. The rest of the verse reads “according as God hath dealt to every man (and woman) the measure of faith.” There. In between the points is God. The slightest whisper of belief and God will reveal Himself to you. He loves you. That’s the point.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement” says C. S. Lewis. Not sure if it was him or Charles Kettering who originally said that. Depends on your source. I find that the definition of both success and failure (as they are both subjective and not mutually exclusive) really depends on what it is you’re looking to achieve. Work it out. As an aside, and in closing, one ancient landmark I’d personally remove (cast out with the finger of God?) is the Roman god Terminus. He was the god of landmarks and boundaries. And he’s not welcome back into my circle.

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Exchanging One’s Mind

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalm 19:12-13, emphasis mine)

I presume

That word presumptuous is “zed” in Hebrew. It means arrogant and its root goes back to “seethe” and “insolence”. “Pride”. Peter says that God “resisteth the proud” (1 Peter 5:5). If you’ve ever had a taste of God’s true character–of the beauty of His Person and His presence, you’d be open to Him searching out any vestige of “presumption” resident in the recesses of your soul that would keep you from reveling in His fullness as time goes by.

“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God.” (Psalm 42:2)

Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins…

Just what is a “presumptuous sin”? David prays in the verse prior: “Who can understand his errors?” Not me. I can be inexpressibly thick at times. As I have no window, in and of myself, into what is really going on in another person’s heart and mind, my ways of comportment mustn’t be based on what they think. They may be open, honest and transparent but what they think and therefore say is not meant to be the guiding rubric for my way of thinking acting and being. The only being who fits that description would be God. And He has given us enough of His heart and mind with which to substantiate our life and conversation in His word. Without His word, without Him expressing a few guidelines and rules and guardrails, we would never have any chance of getting right with Him–and of developing a mind more like His. He also sent Jesus. Jesus is the living word, by the way (see John 1:14). But again, what does a presumptuous sin look like? If I have any presumption as to what one might be, would that in itself be one? As humanity–without Jesus–is irreparably divorced from God the Father any notion as to how to get right with Him again would necessarily be my “own understanding” (Proverbs 3:6) on which Solomon says to “lean not”.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” God is serious here. He continues: “because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” (Hosea 4:6)

Theory of Mind says that, because we cannot truly know what’s going on in another’s mind, we formulate our own constructs of interaction based on observation and intuition mixed with past effectiveness. On one level, it totally makes sense but it necessarily denies anything spiritual. I find that people (myself included) are more complex than we know and while another person may be operating in a largely normal way, it does nothing to reveal their true motive for doing things. If we really cared how things panned out, we might be a little more circumspect when choosing friends and acquaintances. Not a bad thing to have lots and lots of friends per se. Just make sure they’re truly friendly. No Theory of Mind will ever delve to the depth that God sees–and your Theory might be radically wrong. This is why it is of utmost importance to remain honest and transparent (within reason, obviously) with those people you let into your circle. This, I think, touches on some of what David is talking about with reference to “presumptuous sins”. I think we presume more about people than we know, God included. I think we’re blind to a lot of what God sees and instead of pressing into Him more, we run off on our own tangents thinking we’ve attained a certain standing with Him yet denying the program that He has established. And established for us. As an aside, in Colonial America there were instances of people actually being convicted of influencing others’ thoughts. This kind of “justice” gave rise to the Salem Witch Trials and other fanatical means of bringing to light the potentially detrimental thoughts of individuals. Thoughts that may not be in keeping with the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) but that aren’t grounds for taking the life of the thinker. Paul says “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Point is: we do not know what is going on inside of other people. God has to show us for it to be real. Simple as that. Best to get to know Him before anyone else.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men (and women!) liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5)

Cogito Ergo Sum

“I think, therefore I am.” Descartes’ baseline Existentialist statement. I find that since being is necessarily subjective. And that since one’s mind can change so absolutely radically throughout life. Our “Theories of Mind” changing with the day, it would seem. I feel that our being must necessarily be based upon God. As He is “I Am”, He will substantiate us, too.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoincing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)

The Head of the Class (For This Cause part 4)

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

“The greatest thing by far is to have a command of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.”—Aristotle

While his Four Causes may not have originally been meant to quantify and qualify a group of people united under an ideology (Christianity is more than ideology, bear with me), Aristotle’s rules for the coming-into-being of a thing—be it a table, a chair, or a meal—fit solidly around the Body of Christ as an object in itself. In other words, there is metaphor to be found when viewing the Four Causes through the lens of Jesus.

And now we come to the end.

The fourth and “Final Cause” of Aristotle is “the object’s ultimate aim or purpose”. That which all three work together in order to see it off. Simply put, just as Jesus came for many reasons, all of which go back to His having obeyed His Father from the outset, our role as a body is the same. Any of the myriad things we do, they’re meant to be done to the glory of God. And another name for the ‘Body of Christ’ is the ‘Bride of Christ’.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

The beautiful thing about Mary is that, in spite of all of the practical and necessary work that needed to be done, she decided to skip ahead and simply enjoy Jesus. And in the end, that is what we’ll all be doing in Heaven.

“…Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” (Revelation 21:9)

Contrary to some popular belief, Jesus did not marry prior to His crucifixion. While this might be obvious to some, the concept that Jesus desired a wife merely for the same psychosexual relational reasons as any man are spurious and ridiculous. All that aside, the worldwide church that He started is meant to unite with Him in a depth of relationship that even angels haven’t had the privilege of enjoying. (“Which things the angels desire to look into.” see 1 Peter 1:12) We get the privilege and honor of being members of Jesus’ Bride. Please don’t think this some elitist fantasy. The qualifications leveled at those in attendance are stringent and strict. Suffering. Loss. Pain. Hardship. Some of which is brought about by us, in ignorance. Life as a Christian is hardly a cakewalk in the park. We are called to share in the sufferings of Jesus, and much like the unmarried believer spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (7:35), to “attend upon the Lord without distraction”. If you fast forward to Revelation, the same is being done in Heaven: “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him.” (22:3, emphasis mine) Not sure what image crops up in your mind upon reading that, but if you consider whatever it is you’re already inclined to do here, I would say that it’s the same thing you’ll be doing there. So why not serve Jesus in that capacity now? Go to the head of the class.

“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)

Anna saw it. She had essentially married herself to God after losing her husband early on. “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. (Luke 2:37)

Mary, Martha’s sister saw it. So did Mary Magdalene. These women were geniuses because they superseded and surpassed all the superfluity of show and went to the head of the class. There’s more to life and love than earthly matrimony. It’s merely a metaphor for the ultimate aim of the church: to marry Jesus. That’s the “Final Cause”.

“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

No Greater Cause (For This Cause part 3)

“Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared me.” (Hebrews 10:5)

So God sends Jesus, who in turn forms the church upon His death, resurrection and ascension. These two acts coincide with the first two of Aristotle’s “four causes”. Jesus taking bodily form being the “material cause”. The subsequent formation of His figurative “body”—the body of Christ—being the “Formal Cause”. What we’re getting at here is the actual and overarching definition of what it means to be human in this world—with reference to God. And all that that entails. Which brings us to the third cause: the Efficient Cause. I might be playing fast and loose with Aristotle here. Hear me out.

In part three, Jesus’ prayer in John, chapter 17 lists the qualities that a church should possess. Essentially oneness. Oneness with Jesus and, at the same time, oneness with His Father. “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.” (verse 21)

But how to get from there, to a worldwide, cohesive and cogent, active Christianity? One that is “full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17)? Jesus had to show it. He had to be that “Efficient Cause”. He had to live out the perfect life, of service, rejoicing, gratitude, etc. that we would know who to look to, when living our own life in the world at large and with others. There comes a time, if you haven’t already experienced it, where all you will want to do is segregate yourself from the rest of society. I don’t mean to sound stark and harsh here, but the world is an incredibly lonely place without Jesus. But! We have Him. And we have each other. “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) That friend is Jesus. And if anyone else chooses to act along the same lines, they live out that closeness, companionship and friendship, that Jesus embodies.

John’s Gospel says something very powerful regarding the mindset Jesus had after His last supper (13:3): “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.” This is the key: He served. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) We might be inclined to think that “laying down our life” means to die for someone or for a cause, but more often than not, it means the giving up of our time and our plans and our outlook to help those whom God has placed in our path. But before we go any further, look at what Jesus knew He was in possession of when He got up to serve, to live it out. It says that “the Father had given all things into His hands” and that He knew from where He had come and to where He was going. Those three things encapsulate all our human yearnings. Jesus was willing to die for us. He was also willing to serve and to show His love in ways no one expects. The small ways of kindness and friendship and understanding and empathy. These things are worth a thousand words and they are what make up a life.

Now, our part in the “Efficient Cause” of the formation and maintenance of the body is the same as Jesus: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:22, emphasis mine)

We, like Jesus, came from God, are going to God and (*gasp*) possess all things. So, live it out. Serve. Love. Give. I would equate this active mindset of service and caring more for others than ourselves with Aristotle’s “Efficient Cause” as applied to the Christian walk.

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Forming Up (For This Cause part 2)

I suppose there are many reasons why Jesus came. He came to die, yes. But also to rise. Can’t have one without the other: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) And He came to serve, yes: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) He did and does all of these things for love, and because His Father asks.

“for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29)

The second of Aristotle’s “Four Causes”, the “Formal Cause” states that there must be something that the thing, the “material”—that substance of which a thing is comprised and formed—is becoming. For something to come in to existence, there must be (for lack of a better term) an invisible space in which the material will take shape and fill and form into. A void waiting to be filled, so to speak. After Jesus came and left, He essentially formed the church. Starting with the twelve apostles, the body of Christ was born and it continues to this day. And our cause? It’s the same as what Jesus’ expressed to Pontius Pilate. To bear witness to the truth of who He is:

“Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37) See, we cannot testify to Jesus as anything less than who He said He is. And for the church, Jesus is, quite literally, that formal cause. There’s a purpose for us as individuals in our body, and a purpose for the body, as one. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 brought about the body-as-one and the Holy Spirit moved at His insistence to make it so.

Taking all of this into account, another reason that Jesus can was to form His body–us. And He lived it out to give us something to be and become.

It’s an apt analogy, to be sure, but Paul compares the body of Christ to an actual body. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many…But now are they many members, yet but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, 20)

When Jesus prayed in John 17 (verse 22), “that they may be one, even as we are one”, He was essentially “forming” the future body of Christ as one. Wrap your mind around this. Aristotle’s “Formal Cause” is the template which a “thing” becomes. And Jesus made that template of oneness when He petitioned His Father to make us one. The blueprints have been drawn up, all we have to do is step in time.