Your perception affects your reality in ways you might not realize. Wouldn’t your community be better off if you could put your reality in focus?
When I look at a tree, most of what I “see” I do not see at all. I see a root system beneath the surface, sending tendrils through the soil sucking up nutrients out of the loam. I see the light pouring energy into the leaves. I see the fruit that will appear in a few months. I stare and stare and see the bare branches austere in next winter’s snow and wind. I see all that, I really do—I am not making it up. But I could not photograph it. I see it by means of imagination. If my imagination is stunted or inactive, I will only see what I can use, or something that is in my way. – Eugene Peterson
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Peter 1:4 (NIV) Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
John 14:15–20 (NIV) 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
As a result of this promised spirit, the spirit of Jesus himself, Christians now, remarkable though it may seem, are in a better situation even than the followers of Jesus during his lifetime. They were sometimes able to do remarkable things even then; Jesus gave them the power, in the other gospel accounts, to perform healings like his own (e.g. Luke 9:1–6; 10:17). But mostly they were following him in some perplexity, and when he wasn’t there they couldn’t do very much (e.g. Mark 8:18, 28–29). But now, by the spirit, they will be able to do all kinds of things. When Jesus ‘goes to the father’—in other words, when he defeats the power of death through his own death and resurrection—then all sorts of new possibilities will be opened in front of them. The ‘works’ he has been doing, as he says again and again, are the evidence that the father is at work in him. Now he says that the disciples will do even greater works than these! – N.T. Wright
Jesus describes his presence in terms of a family relationship when he says he will not leave us as orphans. God is present. [We] don’t have to resort to speaking words that hurt; [we] can speak words that heal. [We] don’t have to succumb to disappointment, bitterness, and vengeance; they can choose to be patient, kind, forgiving, and compassionate. [We] can encourage rather than condemn. [We] can bear each other’s burdens and serve each other with joy. The promises of new potential don’t have to be seen through jaded eyes; they can be received in a way that fosters new, heartfelt hope and obedience, even if things don’t get better right away. Why? Because our imagination now sees not simply a restored ommunity, but a deeper, moment-by-moment personal relationship with God. This is why we have been created and redeemed. The stakes are high: the reality our imagination embraces is the reality we will live by. If we are not captured by the truth of living in a deeply personal relationship with God, we will shrink our expectations and dreams down to the size of our own selfish wants, desires, and strategies. This is what has happened to community too often. When we don’t see our identity in Christ or his presence and provision for us, we wind up envisioning a God too busy to care about us. Prayer becomes little more than a spiritual 911 call. To get God’s attention, we “make the call” so that God will wake up, see our needs, act on our behalf, and provide rescue. But once he shows up and does what we think he should, we assume that he then retreats to take care of other pressing matters until we call again. – Tripp/Lane
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.
Easley, Kendell H., and Christopher W. Morgan. The Community of Jesus: a Theology of the Church. B & H Academic, 2013.
Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. Jossey-Bass, 2008.