“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” PHILIPPIANS 3:12 (ESV)
The above, from Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, contains very serious language and includes a buzz word that has been carefully avoided altogether for centuries of church history. The word is Perfect or perfection. This word and its variant form, unless having to do with Christ or another member of the Godhead, is blasphemy, right? Wrong: according to Paul, it’s the goal with which WE are to strain for, or in other words, to stretch and endeavor to achieve or accomplish. So why does this seem blasphemous? Why does the word “perfection” or the idea of being perfect seem foreign, vast and even contrary to God’s ways?
A question I’ve pondered recently in light of an ever diminishing American moral meter is “are we as the church in the present day to present ourselves as a living sacrifice or as a vessel that’s relevant and relatable to a withering world? The answer, I believe, is not quite an either/or, black and white resolution, but has to do with finding a balance between the two. There are certain pros and cons with each that we must tackle, something I’ve compiled below.
The Pros – Relevance seems to have a place alongside effective evangelism
– Winning over the lost – If maintaining relevance causes the lost to come to know Jesus, as it did with Paul, then ‘relevance’ gets a thumbs up from me. It’s important to note that Paul, in becoming a slave, Jew, etc. for the purpose of winning them over was not an act of compromise, but rather an act of evangelism. [see below] I hate to use the trite phrase that’s overused and misapplied in the church, but Paul was simply meeting them where they were. He became that which was familiar with them, while not changing his own identity in Christ, in order to lead them to the cross.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1ST CORINTHIANS 9: 19-23)
We live in it, under it, over it, around it, through ourselves, through others, sometimes even through our faith and in our calling. The enemy’s trifecta: Guilt, Shame & Reproach.
I’ve always been fascinated by the strength, agility and shear speed of thoroughbred race horses. Averaging 16 hands (64 inches) with a typical weight of nearly 1,200 lbs. The thing that amazes me the most is their ability to maintain a speed of roughly 40 mph for over a mile on those puny little ankles and hooves. The highest race speed recorded over two furlongs is 70.76 km/h (43.97 mph) and was achieved by Winning Brew at the Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania on May 14, 2008. Winning Brew covered the quarter-mile (402 m, two furlongs) in 20.57 sec. She was a two year old filly thoroughbred.
In horse racing a trifecta is a parimutuel bet in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third. Not an easy thing to do. With eight horses in a race that means there’s 336 possible permutations. That’s without taking into consideration the ability of each racehorse, track conditions, wind velocity and a whole host of other factors.
Power, as in “dunamis” or miraculous power, might, or strength in the original Greek, is unnassailably critical for the present day church to minister to its capacity. It was just as critical too when Paul roamed from region to region proclaiming the good news of the Gospel 2,000 years ago. Paul’s demonstration of power as outlined in his letter to the Corinthian church was the essence of his ministry and correspondence with them, as opposed to persuasive words and cunning speech. (1st Corinthians 2:4)
What type of power are we talking about?
Don’t be confused by the modern equivalent (at least in name) of “power” that’s often discouraged by the church for good enough reason. Paul isn’t referring to power in the sense of greed, dominion, conquest, or political gain, he is talking about the real, tangible manifestation of the Holy Spirit among His people. The notion of this ‘power’ is actually quite overwhelming scripturally since the day of Pentecost straight through to John’s Revelation. It’s used by New Testament writers a total of 117 times, which means at least that it’s significant in some way and at most something that’s absolutely required to effectively represent Jesus. Besides, Paul could have reverted exclusively to skillful speech and thoughtful arguments, but as his writing implies, his ministry would not be near as effective. He had learned his lesson in Rome, that well constructed rhetoric paled in comparison to the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified. And let’s be clear, Paul was probably more concerned with obedience than merely having an effective ministry, it just so happens that demonstrating the Spirit sparked the first revival in church history. Speaking of true apostleship in 1st Corinthians 4, Paul proclaims that…
Our very own Joe Sharp published a blog in October of 2009 titled ‘The Power of Becoming the Dumbest Person in the Office.’ In his blog, humility and “teachability” are identified as key ingredients in developing as a successful leader and business owner. This theme was also covered in Chapter Five of his book, Running Down Your Dreams.
From the perspective of an entrepreneur or business manager, embracing humility is a standard with which to strive for, many times resulting in a team that’s generally more devoted to their work. A team that is true to its mission and committed to diligence draws its attitude from the top and whatever is projected from its leadership, whether good or bad, tends to trickle down to each member of the team. This is the role of the leader: to set the “corporate tone,” establish and maintain the organization’s mission through word and deed, and to encourage and elevate his/her team. So, if the leader dictates the pace, what role should the other team members assume?
The Earth is 4.54 (+ or – 0.05) billion years old. Even more shocking to me than the astronomical statistic in this sentence is that it’s noted as a fact, not a theory. This is a paraphrased statement from Wikipedia’s “Age of the Earth” category, which is derived from three sources: The U.S Geological Survey, a publication from the Geological Society of London, and a work called Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Among the evidence for this figure is the radiometric dating of meteorite material, which has concluded that some measurements of lead in uranium-rich materials afforded proof that this material (as a part of the Earth) exceeded 4 billion years of age.
So we can be sure that our earth is 4 ½ billion years old, give or take a few million years? Really? I feel compelled to offer a shadow of doubt to this school of thought mindful that some may be inclined to sneer at my skepticism. Let me be clear, I’m not trying to debunk the 4.5 billion year theory, and I really don’t have an answer to the ‘age question,’ but I would like to offer an alternative thought process to this debate as a Christian who does not generally view science as a body of absolutes.