Having His Face
As a child grows, they look more and more like their parents. They take on their characteristics and features that are identifiable as inherited from mother and father. Today, I was thinking about issues that were affecting the church and these words came to my mind … “the facial features of the Father”.
How do we as believers take on the features of the Father? In order to develop His features, we must have maturity. A baby’s features are still unformed and therefore undetermined. Ultimately, we all want to develop this maturity and look more and more like Jesus everyday, but how do we get there?
The Imperfect Belong to Him
There are some stumbling blocks and misunderstandings about Scripture that I believe have led to many not reaching their full potential. Growing up, I defined a Christian by what the Church’s definition was. The traditional view always was that a Christian is defined as someone who walks, talks and acts like Jesus. We expect them to have it all together and to never make a mistake. I remember hearing things such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 being quoted to disqualify God’s people as inheritors of eternal life:
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.“
Those who engaged in any of the things listed by Paul were considered unsaved. Why? Because we have been taught and have held onto the wrong doctrine that carnal believers are not actually saved. Heaven is made for the imperfect. That is why we have Jesus. What it really comes down to is this – how do you define a Christian … by what God says or by what the church says? Scripture defines a saved person as one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). Not someone who has it all together.
The interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 was always that believers who struggled in any area or who had fallen short were not “real” Christians. This false teaching has caused many people to give up entirely in their walk with God. They are left feeling condemned, unworthy and unloved. Many are left even believing the lie that they have lost their salvation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This is how people are robbed of their destinies. Many people turn away from God because they feel that they’ve already gone too far and that God has turned away from them. As long as you still want God, you are still God’s.
For decades the church has had no place for people who were not perfect. They had no place for the homosexual or the person with an imperfect past because they viewed them as unworthy and as dirty. This is not the Gospel. I remember my Grandmother telling me about her best friend in high school. He was gay. Whenever she would invite him to church her mother refused to sit on the same row as him. Then we wonder why people feel wronged by the church. We have treated them as less than human. The church in many ways has helped create the LGBT movement because when they came we did not want to even sit next them. When people are rejected where do they go? They will run towards those who will embrace them when the church would not.
The question that comes next is … what is the kingdom of God that is referenced? The Kingdom of God can be described as the manifestation on earth of those things which are in heaven. Another way of putting this is that the operations and culture of heaven are in operation on the earth and in our society. We can see Jesus’ definition in Matthew 6:10 when he says “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is bringing Jesus culture to earth and letting it permeate the way we form society, thought, beliefs and world patterns. It is clear in Scripture that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are two different things. These two things are often conflated. Heaven is defined by eternal life through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
So what does 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 mean exactly? We must read the entire passage in context of not only the chapter but also of the entire book of 1 Corinthians. This book was written specifically to the believers at the church of Corinth. When we read 1 Corinthians we see immediately that the church there was struggling in their identity and in their walk with God. Paul even specifically addressed their struggles. Did Paul ever say that they were not God’s children anymore? No. Never. Rather, Paul addresses the issue head on and reminds them that they now belong to the Lord and that they should glorify Him with their bodies. He did not condemn them but rather affirmed their identity as believers. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 we see Paul describing the church at Corinth as:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly.
There is something very important to note here – Paul refers to them as “infants in Christ”. Therefore, they are still God’s children. Let’s recall that list that Paul called out in Chapter 6 . It includes a range of issues the church was encountering including homosexuality. Traditionally, those who struggle with these items listed are not considered to even be cable of salvation. However, Paul called them “infants in Christ”. They were never dismissed by God.
So what about the Kingdom of God that Paul was talking about and why can’t some Christians inherit it even though they are inheritors of eternal life? Matthew 20:1 says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” This definition is given to us directly by Jesus. It is God the Father going out to find laborers. The kingdom of God in action is believers working to bring His culture down to earth. This is what Jesus did throughout His entire ministry by healing the sick and setting free those who were oppressed. He is a joint and fellow laborer with us in the pursuance of His kingdom. It is important to remember that working for God is a free choice. We do not have to accept. In the same way that we of our own free will accept Jesus as our savior and inherit eternal life, we also must choose to co-labor with Him.
We could equate this scenario to a rich business man. The rich business man has many children who are all equally his inheritors. Some of this man’s children choose to pursue their own interests and work outside their father’s business. The other children choose to work for their father and be co-laborers in his business. Regardless of the children’s choice to work for their father or not, they all still inherit. Their standing as an inheritor is not defined by who they are or by what they do but rather by who their father is. It does not matter even how old his children are. While they are in diapers they are still his legal heirs. However, in order to work in their father’s business, they must be fully grown. Babies cannot help their father run his business.
Likewise, spiritually speaking we must be fully grown and mature in Christ to work for Him. To clarify, babies in Christ does not necessarily refer to new believers. Someone can been saved for many years but still be at a newborn level of maturity. A baby in Christ as defined by Scripture in 1 Corinthians 3 is one that is a fleshly believer. It takes maturity for a child to develop the facial features and characteristics of their parents. In like manner, we must mature in Christ in order to develop the facial features of our heavenly Father.