Life: It’s Only Hard to Navigate, When We Forget to Triangulate!
Welcome Marathoners for Christ (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Hebrews 12:4; 2 Timothy 4:7). I hope your week’s worth of race-running in the name of Jesus has been awesome!
When we talk about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, even though we can never completely leave the subject of Christian fellowship, this is the seventh and final course in a series of nourishing feasts cooked-up to remind us what COMMUNITY consists of for the God-, self-, and neighbor-loving Christian.
From the Gaze of “Face-to-Face…”
As I began a day earlier this week, I was fixated on the Bible’s use of the terminology, “face-to-face”. I began to search the 150+ times from Genesis to Revelation where, how, why the term, or similar terms, were found in the Bible.
The main distinction—as is the case in many cases in the Bible—was between the past, Old Testament time, the present-day ways (since Christ’s sending the Spirit and ascension) we can “stand face-to-face with God” in Christ, and the future, eternal way we finally do the same after Jesus returns to make all things new (Revelations 21).
The key is that we, as bona fide, regenerate, repentant, born-again Christians will one day stand face-to-face with God, in Christ, in glory and for eternity, AND, by the person and power of the Holy Spirit we do so today—as we are being increasingly changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, beginning at God’s election (Matthew 22:14; 24:22; John 13:18; Romans 8:29-30; Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:4-5)
To say that this concept and reality is a crucial aspect of God’s Plan of Redemption would be the understatement of all time, Beloved. There are an abundance of resources on this topic seen from many different angles, but since one of the most long-term, widespread, and respected ministries on the planet, Ligonier Ministries, uses the term “face-to-face” (Latin, “Coram Deo”) as its ministry foundation, please chow down soon!
For me, earlier this week, 2 Corinthians 3:18 rang out: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
The ESV Study Bible Commentary is very useful: “2 Cor. 3:18 with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord. The word translated “beholding” (Gk. katoptrizō) can mean “behold” or “reflect” or “look at in a mirror,” and commentators support all three views. In this context, however, the connection with a mirror does not seem to be necessary to the word, and the meaning “behold” seems more consistent with the idea of having the veil removed and therefore being able to see God’s glory, in contrast to the unbelieving Jews who still have a veil blocking their vision (see note on vv. 14–15).
Paul continues his comparison of all Christians (we all) with Moses by using Moses’ experience in Ex. 34:34 as the key to understanding the experience of the Christian. (NOTE:)As a result of beholding the Lord through the ministry of the Spirit, the believer is being transformed (a process of sanctification over time, not an instantaneous change) into the same image of God that was distorted at the Fall (see Gen. 1:26–27; 2 Cor. 4:4; 5:17; also 1 John 3:2).
The “image” of God includes every way in which humans are like God, such as their moral character, their true knowledge, their many God-given abilities, and their dominion over creation (cf. Gen. 1:26–28), to be exercised with dependence on God as the Creator and giver of all things (see 1 Cor. 4:7).”
…To the Posture of “Shoulder-to-Shoulder”:
Now, in the context of our treatment of Christian fellowship, community, here’s the rub about the issue of being “face-to-face” including “shoulder-to-shoulder”:
From 2 Corinthians 3:18 above, “As a result of beholding the Lord through the ministry of the Spirit, the believer is being transformed (a process of sanctification over time, not an instantaneous change) into the same image of God that was distorted at the fall.”
AND… THE BELIEVER, A DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST, BEHOLDING HIM, MUST BE IN COMMUNITY, IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SAINTS, TO AID IN THIS PROCESS, JOURNEY, TRANSFORMATION!!
Whenever we are in the presence of our fellow Christian (a fellow man for that matter), we are usually in a “face-to-face posture”, right? It’s natural. And it would be rather odd to interact with anyone in any other way, right? But please remember, please get this blessed posture down in your heart and habit: The way we should always be relating to others in our Christian fellowship, communities is not “face-to-face” but sitting, standing, relating, pointing, “SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER”… Gazing at Jesus Christ!
“SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER”… Gazing at Jesus Christ!
As the inset picture, graphic is the perfect depiction of, each and every sinner saved by grace (like us) we encounter (anywhere, anytime on the planet) is on the journey today and towards standing face-to-face with God, in Christ, by the power of the Spirit—see arrows pointing to, moving towards, growing in conformity, the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, in fact, could easily be described as “The Pointer”: He always points us to Jesus!
And when God providentially places us in the midst of any such fellowship, we should always, all-ways try and relate to one another by being shoulder-to-shoulder, gazing upon Jesus Christ, and intentionally encouraging each other to grow closer and closer to His image, His fruitfulness, His Word, His deeds, His light, His salt, His depiction of adoption and family, His freedom of no more shame or condemnation, His dying to self in order to live for others, His sacrificial life, His incarnate help in other’s lives, His shepherding, His treatment of Satan as a defeated foe—reliant on God for any activity, His being without sin in His anger, His hatred of sin and love of sinner, His weeping in joy and in sadness, His early morning habit of being with the Father, His healing touch, His humility-vulnerability-boldness, His purpose-drivenness, His obedience to His Father, His love of His Trinitarian creation, His vision and mission… His Way, Truth, and Life!
Think about it, race runners. Be honest: Most of the time when we’re face-to-face with someone, anyone, we’re engaged in mirror-gazing, self- or mutual-admiration—to admire self— about 99% of the time. Okay, I’ll offer grace, 95%.
We—or perhaps let me just say ME—spend most of our time relating to others “autobiographically”: We merely listen in ways that provide US the quickest doorway, ME the most expedient “in”, US to asserting our own ego-self, our opinion, our remedy, our advice, our story, our precious pearls of wisdom… A great deal of this is an outflow of the heart (Proverbs 4:23), of course, but it’s also due to our “posture” and where our gaze is set: Face-to-face!
BUT… Shoulder-to-shoulder—each face-to-face with Jesus… in mutual edification, co-santification—is where it’s at, dear friends.
Being with a Brother or Sister in Christ, in fellowship, Spirit-fed and Spirit-led, “triangulated”—in a community that reflects the Trinity—gazing at Jesus Christ… takes the gaze off ourselves, puts us shoulder-to-shoulder in fellowship with another adopted family member, devoid of shame, abiding in love and truth, as vulnerable as our open-armed Savior and Lord… SO MUCH… we want more than anything for others to be more like Jesus Christ!
Do you want more than anything for others to be more like Jesus Christ? I pray you will.
This “posture of the heart, emotions, and faith-lived-out” was exactly what Paul meant when he addressed the church at Corinth—and by implication how all disciples should see themselves—as he said, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. In fact, I don’t even trust my own judgment on this or any point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Geez Louise! I love that example: “Shoulder-to-shoulder, speaking the truth in love, loving others truthfully, I care about you SO much that I’m willing to say, ‘I care, but I don’t ultimately, as a final authority, “care” about your evaluation. And, believe me, I care far less about my own opinion! What I care most about is the person and opinion of Jesus Christ Who we are gazing at together “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8). Let us look to Him as our first love, our example, and our freedom to serve and build up one another… In Christ!’”
On the Journey Towards “Face-to-Face”, “Shoulder-to-Shoulder” is a Big Part of “Running the Race”!
We as Christians, “running the good race”, look forward to the day when we will finally stand face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12) with Jesus. But until that day, the shoulder-to-shoulder friendship, posture, and process of intentionally encouraging one another along the upwards path of being more and more like Jesus guarantees our “final face-to-face”, Coram Deo with Jesus, will be all it can be: “That Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13)—our faithfulness today WILL be reflected in our heavenly home for eternity! It’s no small matter.
Life’s not easy, just blessed. But, it’s Only Hard to Navigate, When We Forget to Triangulate!
In community, by the Trinity, for time and eternity,