Some of the most quoted Bible verses I heard growing up going to church as a young man were verses like…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
These are beautiful verses. But they were always received and applied in an individual sort of way, thinking God was going to prosper ME personally and work all things for MY good. While there’s truth to this, there’s a lot more to them than what we think when hearing or reading them in isolation because they were written to groups of people.
To truly understand them, we must understand what God’s purpose and plan is first.
God is not an individual
Christians believe in one God, but are rarely sufficiently taught or consider His communal nature. While God is one, He is not an individual. Those are not the same things. Each Person within God is different, but not separate. He is many-but-one – sharing, flowing and working together in perfect harmony, selflessness and sacrifice.
Unless this is how you think about who He is, you will struggle to understand Him. You will also struggle to fully and truly understand how He designed church life to be lived out.
This is because God always thinks in terms of community.
The clearer this many-but-one nature of God becomes to you, the clearer God’s purpose and plan for creating becomes to you. The clearer God’s purpose and plan for creating becomes to you, the clearer the nature, purpose and plan of His Church becomes to you.
Where a clear view of church starts
When people think about God as an individual, their vision of what relationships were designed to be gets blurred. It’s like looking through glasses with the wrong prescription.
There’s a correlation between an incorrect concept of God as an individual and an unhealthy focus on oneself and one’s own needs. How a person thinks about God is what shapes how they think about church. Thinking about God as community is the perspective from which a clear view of church starts.
To rightly image God like we were designed to, one must not see themselves as an individual, but as a member of a community. If God is always thinking in terms of community and you’re made in his image, you were also designed to think in terms of community.
Since this is the case, you can see the problem with thinking individually. When you do this, you’re setting yourself up for problems right off the bat. Thinking individually creates barriers in relationships designed to be communal. This is the root of relational problems.
The more people think about each other the way the Persons within God think about each other, the more relational problems disappear. Demonstrating the kind of life together found within God is the essence of what healthy church life is. It’s church according to God. Relationships built on anything else just create walls of division.
This is what it means to be new humans. It means you think from God’s viewpoint. The only way you’ll clearly see what church life was designed to be and have the power to execute it is if your concept of God changes. It will give you fresh, new eyes to see differently.
Where the life of God flows
The life of God only flows in one relational environment. It’s the one found within God Himself. Here’s how Milt Rodriguez beautifully describes it in his book The Community Life Of God…
They live together, they act together, they fellowship with one another continuously. They share the same life, substance, and essence. The oneness of God is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony. They are what they are only in relationship with one another.
No above and below; no first, second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling and being ruled and controlled; no position of privilege to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict concerning who is in charge; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the others.
Now there is only fellowship and communion of equals who share all that they are and have in their communion with each other, each living with and for the others in mutual openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. This is a life of co-working and co-operation. This is a life of complete self-dedication to one another and a laying down of life for one another.
This is the relational environment where humans can truly breathe again.
It’s the one that was there before sin, and the one re-created after sin was defeated. It’s the one God became human to restore. It’s His purpose and it’s His plan. Any other relational environment is not conducive to it being lived out.
Lay this foundation and you are a wise master builder (I Cor. 3:10). Lay any other foundation and you will be building on the wrong one.
That they “may be one”
Right before Jesus’ death, he prayed to His Father for his followers that they “may all be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…“
This oneness only emerges from mutually submissive relationships – from thinking like God thinks.
If you start to think like God thinks, it will completely change your world. If a group of people thinks this way together, it will completely change church life. They will display church according to God.