Times and Seasons: Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." He then names 28 different experiences in our lives in which circumstances around us change--making it appropriate for us to alter our methods and our actions. In Jewish culture the quality of time is more important than the number of our days. (See http://ldolphin.org/time.html). The New Testament preserves this concept of time, which runs counter to secular scientific thinking, Namely, accurate measurement of events down to the picosecond is not what matters most to God. [The Greek word chronos refers to ordinary clock time, aion refers to the ages of time, and kairos to the "season"]. What I have been keenly aware of in the last few months is the "change of season" God brought in upon us last January First. It seems to me that a whole host of new priorities and directions for God's people have come in. Because we are urged to "redeem the time"--to buy up opportunities for the work of the kingdom--I welcome these exciting changes of direction.
Every Saturday morning at 10:30 AM I drop everything and step downstairs to a living room of college men and women (various schools, various churches). They have come because they want to study the Bible in depth. Last week as we worked further into First John we discussed the differences between socializing (so common among church groups, sad to say)--and fellowship in which our interactions are with the Lord as well as with another, all in real time.
It is not that I am a good Bible teacher, I am not, but I have found that simply asking the right questions will usually elicit wonderful fresh insights from these young, growing men and women of God. What is especially fun is to try to get some of the archaic language of the Bible into contemporary terms that everyone understands in today's experience. I have high hopes for the next generation after seeing God at work in many, many young people today. Happily I have also noticed a plethora of quality new Christian books on the shelves. For a change many seem to be well written, thoughtful and provocative.
On Wednesday evenings the Brothers of Thunder men's "leaderless" core group gathers--also in my living room. (See http://ldolphin.org/leaderless.html) I firmly believe that every Christian needs to be closely tied in with a local church, but without a small group of some kind it is very difficult to experience the Body of Christ as an organism. The Wednesday brothers have been going strong for I guess 6 or 8 years now. Naturally some members have moved away or dropped out and others are new to the group. Because of the guidelines we follow, our weekly gatherings are rich with excitement and new life. Again and again we find ourselves amazed afterwards with the clear evidence that Jesus Himself was in our midst directing all that happened on a given evening. This is exactly what He said he would do at his Last-Supper message to his disciples nearly 2000 years ago. The Wednesday Brothers average 10 or 12 men, but our connections with wives, girlfriends, relatives, and friends means that what happens in our times together affects many lives. For instance we have grown accustomed to seeing our prayers answered--for new jobs, for health, for freedom from old enslaving habits, for needed changes that only God can bring about. Wonderful friendships have developed among the brothers. When a brother needs help moving he can count on all the help he needs. If accountability and affirmation is needed, it is there. Last weekend five us drove for a long weekend in Yosemite National Park. There was plenty to do in hiking and sight seeing, but every evening my friends wanted to spend time together in the Bible.
I can't help but noticing that the Wednesday Brothers, like
the Saturday morning college group--two very different groups
of younger people, share in common a desire to know the Bible
in depth. Is this a real change in the next generation? I hope
so. This interest in really knowing God and His Word seems to
me to be a refreshing contrast in the midst of an increasingly
apostate "cultural-Christian" church where the content
of the historic Christian faith is rapidly disappearing. Sadly
(it seems to me) the majority of merely professing Christians
no longer care about developing a Christian world-view, let alone
a disciple's walk with our Lord. (See Chuck Colson's book, How
Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale 1999).
Christ In You: "Mysteries" in the New Testament are complex bodies of truth about God that were not known or understood in the Old Testament. But they are made known to us as fresh revelation in the New Testament. C. I. Scofield counts eleven of these: (1) the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, (2) the mystery of Israel's blindness in this present age, (3) the mystery of the rapture, (4) The mystery of the church as composed of Jews and Gentiles, (5) the mystery of the church as the Bride of Christ, (6) the mystery of Christ (as God), (7) the mystery of godliness, (8) the mystery of iniquity, (9) the mystery of Babylon, (10) the mystery of the seven stars, and (11) the mystery of "Christ in you the hope of glory." Each of these subjects is worthy of a detailed study. These mysteries are complex and many sided. I'll briefly mention only the last--which Paul brings up at the end of his great prayer in Colossians Chapter 1. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me."
What brought this particular mystery to the front of my mind recently was Romans 7 which came up for lively discussion by the Brothers of Thunder. In this chapter the Apostle Paul wrestles with the Christian's one new nature and our inability to be anything other than a servant of one of two masters: Christ or sin. (Recommended: http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/romans2/) I remember well Major Ian Thomas' visit to my home church 35 years ago, and a men's retreat Ray Stedman took me to back then where Norman Grubb first exposed me to the wonderful truth that God the Father, Christ the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all indwell us believers. (See http://ldolphin.org/grubb.html).
The Christian life is sometimes called "the exchanged life." We who were once "in Adam" are now "in Christ." The change God has in store for us is from our previous state of near total self-centeredness to self-giving life-styles just as Jesus lived when He was on earth ("normal humanity"). "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose." (Galatians 2:20-21) The lost secret of "Christ in you the hope of glory" is related to the incarnation: God became a man in Christ Jesus and has fully identified will all us in the most intimate way possible. He is thoroughly acquainted with our temptations, with our emotions, with the trials of life. It is by dying to self that we truly begin to live, it is "slavery" to Christ that makes us free, it is by serving others that our true purpose in God is found. When He was with His disciples on earth Jesus could only be in one place at any given time. He taught that it was expedient that he should leave so that the Holy Spirit could come and impart His resurrection life within every one of His true followers. "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." (See "The Potter and the Clay," http://ldolphin.org/clay.html).
Ray Stedman says, "But the Christian is more than an empty vessel. He has something within--or, more accurately, Someone within. We have a treasure in our clay pot! And more than a treasure--a transcendent power! That is humanity as God intended it to be. The clay pot is not much in itself, but it holds an inestimable treasure, beyond price, and a transcendent power, greater than any other power known to humanity.
"That is the second great truth found in this verse of Scripture. God has designed even ordinary people like us so that we may be the bearers of the most remarkable riches and power ever known. It must be apparent to all, however, that the treasure and the power are not from us, but from God. Does that not sound familiar? 'Nothing coming from us; everything coming from God.' The point is that God designed it this way; he intended that his great power, wisdom, and love should become visible in very ordinary and otherwise inconsequential people. As Paul observes in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, 'But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-- and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.'
"The tremendous thing about all this is that the apostle is not merely using beautiful imagery. He is speaking of hard realities, of something genuine and practical, not merely idealistic and visionary. There is an inestimable treasure in each believer; there is a power beyond all telling. Paul puts it in clear terms to the Colossians as he describes his ministry to them: 'To them [the apostles] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory' (Colossians 1:27).
"The only hope we have of realizing, even in this present life, the glory God intended for us is to learn to draw upon the treasure within and be empowered by the power available. That treasure and that power are Christ, in you! So valuable is the treasure that the world would pay anything to get it. It is, as we have seen, the secret of human adequacy, and billions of dollars are poured out every week in a vain effort to identify this treasure and channel it into the normal affairs of life.
"'Christ in you' is the lost secret of humanity, but when the full implications of the secret are realized, a person's life is enriched far beyond the ability to declare it. That is what sent Paul around the world of his day declaring what he called 'the unsearchable riches of Christ.' To see lonely, selfish, empty individuals transformed slowly but surely into warm, loving, wholesome, and happy people is to become aware of why Paul describes Christ as 'unsearchable riches.'
"The great secret within is such a treasure because, first of all, it is a transcendent power. Transcendent means beyond the ordinary. It is a completely different form of power. So often, in our time, power is used to tear things apart, to blast, or explode, or crush. But transcendent power unites, gathers, harmonizes. It breaks down middle walls of partition and removes barriers. It does not make superficial, external adjustments, but works from within, producing permanent transformations. Do you know of any other power like that? It is absolutely unrivaled. There is nothing like it anywhere else. Many philosophies and teachings seek to imitate this, and for a time they may produce a credible imitation, but in the end they all prove to be cheap and shoddy imitations. They cannot stand the tests to which life as it really is will expose them. In the end only 'Christ in you endures.' By design God entrusts this secret to failing, faulty, weak, and sinful people so it will be clear that the power does not originate from us. It isn't the result of a strong personality or of a keen and finely honed mind or of good breeding and training. No, it arises solely from the presence of God in the heart. Our earthiness must be as apparent to others as the power is so that they may see that the secret is not us but God. That is why we must be transparent people, not hiding our weaknesses and failures, but honestly admitting them when they occur."
Ray Stedman's great book Authentic Christianity (http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/authenxnty/) is a book I give away constantly because it so wonderfully describes the difference between true and counterfeit Christianity. As Ray goes on to say,
"The authentic Christian life is essentially and radically different from the natural life lived by a man or woman of the world. Outwardly, it can be very much the same: involved with making a living, going to school, getting married, raising children, mowing lawns, buying groceries, getting along with neighbors, and so on. But inwardly, the basis of living is dramatically different. Christ is a part of all these things! Life is lived by means of Him. He is the motivator of every wholesome action, the corrector of every wrong deed or thought. He is the giver of every joy and the healer of every hurt. He is no longer merely on the edges of life, acknowledged on Sunday but absent through the week. Christ is the center of everything. Life revolves around him. As a consequence, life comes into proper focus, a deep peace possesses the heart, strength grips the spirit despite outward trials, and kindness and joy radiate abroad. This is really living!"
The Paraclete Forum: I have the privilege of maintaining four web sites. You'll find them prominently listed on my own web pages. During the past five years I have been active in Cyberspace my daily email volume has kept increasing. I do prefer to answer all of my email myself whenever I can, but now I do have friends to help with the difficult questions. Beyond the extra help for me personally, our team of 19 men and women who work with me see unlimited ministries in Cyberspace. (For our guidelines, see http://ldolphin.org/cspace.html). To post questions: http://paracleteforum.org.
Israel-Jordan Bible Study Tour: A Few Spaces Open: Led by Lambert Dolphin and Glenn Miller. Leaves October 19, 2000 for 12 days (plus optional 4 day trip to Jordan). $2200--plus ~$550 for extension. Main group leaves from San Francisco, however you can meet us in Israel if you would like to fly separately. Brochures and sign-up forms available from Lands of Wonder Travel, Dawn McDaniel: 650-345-4182 or 650-340-8931 or 1-800-359-2922 outside California. Details: http://ldolphin.org/tour; Email to: email@example.com
Teaching: Genesis 1-11 was my last Discovery Seminar class, just ended at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto. My students have voted for the Epistle to the Hebrews as the next series, 20 June to 29 August. Tapes of this class, as well as past classes, are in RealAudio on my web site.
Sincerely, Lambert Dolphin.
June 5, 2000. Web Archive for these newsletters: http://ldolphin.org/news/