God’s vision for Creation is BIG. Complete restoration. People from every tribe, tongue and people restored to healthy, functioning relationship with Him (Rev 5:6-10). The knowledge of His glory covering the earth like waters the seas (Hab 2:14).
But when we look at our families, our neighbourhoods, our cities, we see a big gap between our current reality and His end vision. Where’s the issue?
Well, we can be sure that the Lord of the harvest is not the problem – He is always working, sovereignly and very deliberately creating opportunities for people to move towards Him (Acts 17:26-27).
We can also be sure that there is a plentiful harvest – brokenness and a longing for things to be different is everywhere. Often accompanied by spiritual hunger, too.
If there is a breakdown anywhere, it is with the harvest workers – the disciples of Jesus who are invited to join the Father in His work. In coming blogs I’d like to suggest three corrective postures, each embodied by Jesus, which are critical to His people fully playing the part that He has for us in His unfolding plan.
The first is a posture of sonship.
A posture of sonship
If there was only one posture, this would be it. The theme of sonship runs throughout Scripture. The Father does NOT want slaves or servants, He desires children – sons and daughters.
This is clear when we look at Genesis 1 and see how He set things up in the beginning. Adam and Eve were both made in God’s image, and shared in the mandate to exercise His delegated authority over Creation (Gen 1:26-28). Genesis 2-3 give a picture of intimacy – where communication was free
We see it in His relationship with Adam and Eve, His relationship with Abraham, with David and, most perfectly, His relationship with Jesus. Jesus lived out of the place of sonship more fully than anyone since Genesis 3. He addressed the Father with intimacy (eg Mt 11:25-27), He lived His life in constant awareness of the Father’s presence and responsiveness to the Father’s leading (eg Jn 5:19-20), and He completely trusted and surrendered Himself to the Father’s will (Mk 14:35-36).
Jesus then passed this on and discipled His followers towards the same kind of relationship. He came to a group of people who largely considered themselves “sons of God” as descendants of Abraham observing Moses’ Law.
However, in His proclamation of the Good News (Mk 1:14-15), Jesus was inviting people to receive the Kingdom and step into true and active sonship as His disciples – would listen to God through His Messiah, trust His character and intentions and respond in surrendered obedience. Jesus’ priority during His earthly ministry was the people of Israel, but His invitation clearly applied equally to male and female, Gentile and Jew – there was no distinction (Gal 3:26-29).
Jesus’ example, and the way He trained His followers, make it clear that sonship is not just an abstract theological concept. It is an experienced reality that cannot be separated from practical discipleship – we (male and female!) are invited into a living and growing relationship with the Father-King (Mk 1:14-15, Jn 1:12-13). For the first disciples, saying “Yes” was a personal response to the bodily present Jesus. From Pentecost onwards (and for us), it’s a personal response to His living Word and His Holy Spirit.
Sonship and discipleship are inseparable. It is neither a passive relationship where we watch Him work, nor a slavery relationship where He watches us work.
Sonship and discipleship are inseparable. It is neither a passive relationship where we watch Him work, nor a slavery relationship where He watches us work. Rather, it is an invitation to step into a dynamic, interactive relationship between Father and child. He is constantly working to restore shalom to all things under His loving reign and rule (Jn 5:17, 1 Cor 15:24-28). He invites us to join Him from a position of honour as trusted children (Jn 15:9-17, Col 1:26-27) – to humbly learn & receive from Him and surrender our ambitions & agendas to His as He works to restore His Kingdom in our inner worlds, in the world immediately around us, and in Creation as a whole.
In many contemporary Christian contexts, “discipleship” has been reduced to a process of accumulating intellectual knowledge and/or increasing Christian activity. However, both ‘discipleship’ and ‘sonship’ need to be understood as a dynamic, lifelong, Spirit-led process of integrating our lives with God’s, and joining Him in His work in both our inner and outer worlds.
A posture of sonship keeps us humble, frees us to be transparent and honest about our struggles, and keeps us pressing in to Him for deepening relationship and fellowship regarding what HE wants to do in our lives, and in the spaces and relationships where He has placed us.
In my next blog I aim to look at a second posture that is critical both to embracing our identity as ‘sons’ and disciples, and in seeing greater progress towards God’s vision for our cities and nations.