Helping People Think Like Jesus
A Position Paper of Trail Christian Fellowship, Eagle Point, OR
Note before you continue reading this: Thinking like Jesus begins with understanding the gospel itself as a message of good news. Please refer to the documents “What Is The Gospel?”, “TCF Doctrinal Statement”, and “The Plan of Redemption”, to hear our understanding of the content of the gospel and the story of human history. There you will find many of the scripture references that support those writings and this one. We did not insert scripture references in this statement because we assume that anybody savvy enough to want to read a church mission statement already knows enough scripture to discern its influence in this writing. Moving on, then.
Our mission is rather simple and the statement of it is short. Yet, every word counts and there is more than meets the eye. When you double-click on the phrase, Helping People to Think Like Jesus, you get at least the following:
Helping: We don’t force people to think like Jesus, or coerce them. We try to help them. The reason is that only the Lord can actually bring a person to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit does it. We make ourselves useful by praying, pointing, proclaiming, teaching, counseling and finding ways to express the Lord’s life and love. The people the Lord calls are already on His list, already in His mind. What we do, then, is put ourselves at His disposal in His work. It is not activistic, but it is active. We do a lot of things, some more visible than others. If we know a person is not yet a Christian, we help by praying for them, teaching the scriptures to them, consoling them in grief, offering them food if they need it, anything we can do to show that the Lord is real and alive in us and our world. We seek to authentically live our whole lives, work and play, as apprentices to Christ and members of His countercultural kingdom. Our local community is our primary mission field. Yet, we hear clearly our Lord’s command to take the news of Him to other cultures as well, and we actively pursue opportunities to represent Him there.
If we know a person is a Christian, we help by praying for them, offering venues for spiritual worship and service, giving counsel, teaching, encouraging in the faith, anything we can do to strengthen and deepen their love and loyalty to the Lord. In this we are confident that the Spirit is at work and, though at times life looks bleak, we trust that His purposes will ultimately triumph. We are the Lord’s helpers, not His directors or managers. He was speaking in every person’s soul before we came on the scene and He will be present long after He has taken us home. We help. That’s all. It’s a lot of work sometimes. Even when we initiate the projects, as we often do, we know it is because He put it on our hearts to do it. We’re responding to His Great Heart for those who know Christ and those who will.
People: This is about people God is calling to Himself. It’s not primarily about the political, sociological and environmental catastrophes that rise over society like a poised tsunami. We, as members of God’s kingdom, do have important contributions to make to this world on those crucial issues, but they are secondary to the souls of people who must come into dynamic and personal relationship with the living God in Christ. Jesus Christ died for people. We are fallen image bearers that He is restoring to our original pristine condition before the King, retakes and renovates His creation. God loves humans, all kinds of them. So we help people.
Think: Faith is not the absence of thought; it is the presence of a certain sort of thought. It is a way of thinking that starts with God in Christ, revealed in His Word made text, the Bible. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, God changes our understanding of reality. Or perhaps a better way to say it is that we see Reality for the first time by experiencing His life. By His grace, the Lord thoroughly and completely rescues us from the old dead ways and from our previous dark destiny. He forgives us and transforms us into the good people we used to pretend to be on our own. To think like Jesus is to understand God’s grace as the gift of eternal life and a transforming dynamic in this age and the age to come.
Our world ridicules and marginalizes faith in God as a sort of ignorant superstitious wish fulfillment that people eventually should outgrow. Thick vacuous books have been written on this premise. But of course anyone who actually has saving faith knows this isn’t so. Faith in God through Christ and by His Spirit is a type of knowledge that some people experience and others do not. But the fact that some do not know it yet does not mean it is untrue. The most important organ of faith is the willing mind. In the Bible this is called the “heart.” Fearing the Lord is where knowledge begins. We who know the Lord deliberately allow His Word to penetrate our minds and hearts, altering our wills and changing our characters. Christians think deeply and thoroughly and quite differently from the surrounding culture. They start with God as He reveals Himself in the Bible and in Christ, rather than with themselves. The reality is God. Everything else is second, including our thoughts about thinking.
Like Jesus. Jesus Christ is the True and Ultimate Human, the risen King in God’s kingdom, the new Adam. When we think like Him about Him, we come to know that He is completely God and completely man, two entire natures in one material person. He is the Lord of the universe, both the material and the immaterial realms. He lived the perfect life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, completely taking our blame and absorbing the punishment for our sins. This means that the gospel, the good news of Christ’s lordship and victory over sin and death, is just that—good news. The news is that God has entered the material world in time and space to rescue us and it forever. When a person turns and believes in Jesus Christ they begin to understand God’s grace and purposes just like Jesus understands them.
Jesus offers His grace, life, and skill to His apprentices (disciples). His way is remarkably easy and light, once one understands it. If we learn it, our souls will be unburdened by this age and free to serve God fully. But His new way is counterintuitive to our old way. The process is long and we experience setbacks from time to time. There is real struggle. Yet He patiently persists in drawing us forward. Jesus teaches us to rely on the Father through His Spirit, as He did on earth. He shows us how to live in a fallen and suffering world with humility, compassion, hope, courage, wisdom and joy. He makes us a part of His invisible kingdom before it takes visible form and instructs us in the ways of eternal life here and now. There is so much to learn from Jesus that it takes as long as we have here. And none of us gets it all. But we will someday, forever.
So this is what we do. We help people think like Jesus. If they don’t know Him yet, we seek to introduce them to Him. If they do know Him, we encourage that relationship by various ministries. It’s all about Him, what He has done at the cross, what He is doing among His people as He builds His kingdom, and what He will do so that the Father’s purposes will come to pass on earth as they do in heaven. His Spirit uses His Word, the gospel revealed in the Bible, to shape our spirits into conformity to Him.