But First Jesus

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

 

Due to some recently events in my life, I’ve really been thinking about the centrality of Christ. How does He impact my everyday life? How does Jesus influence my conversations with others? And how does He direct how I interact with those who I am trying to mentor? The past couple weeks I’ve needed to take a step back and look at the end goal of all of my mentoring relationships. And because of this passage I’ve had to refocus my efforts and revaluate if Jesus was central in those relationships.

But First Jesus

In Colossians 1, I see three ideas about Christ that should influence mentoring in the church.

  1. Christ’s power. (15-17)

Jesus is the creator. Everything was created by Him and He is sovereign over all. That includes all thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. The power used to create the universe is the same power that breathes new life into the hearts of sinners.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because only His power is strong enough to change a sinner.

  1. Christ’s position. (18-19)

Jesus is preeminent. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is completely God. Christ’s position in this world, our churches, and the believer’s heart is supposed to be above all. What Jesus teaches should be above any personal ideology. He should be the reason we gather at church. He is the reason we proclaim the gospel.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because He is preeminent.

  1. Christ’s payment. (20)

Jesus reconciled all to himself by dying on the cross. He made peace with the Father by shedding His blood for you and for me. Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay. And it is only through Him that we can peace with God.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because it was through His blood alone that we can fellowship with God.

Conclusion

Jesus is central to all of the Christian faith, and that includes how we mentor. Because of His power, position, and payment for our sins we should have an occasional pulse check to make sure we still have Christ where He needs to be, at the center.

Here are a few questions that I had to ask myself about my mentoring relationships to help gauge if Christ is where He needs to be:

  • Only Jesus has the power to change men’s heart, so am I mentoring with the Bible or my opinions? If with my opinions, why and are they Scripturally-based?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I mentoring to encourage all out pursuit of Him or the things of this world?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I pointing to Him as the goal of sanctification or am I trying to create a little me?
  • Christ is preeminent, so do I spend more time talking about Him or about the latest sports game or political article?
  • Christ is the only way to have peace with God, so do I encourage those that I mentor to completely rely on Him or trust in our own strength to make it through life?

When it comes to mentoring, across all age groups, Jesus must be central. All the strategies, ideas, blogs, and books that are being written and distributed are great, but before any of those can be used effectively, we need to focus on Christ and put Him at the center of our mentoring relationships.

Next time I meet with my mentor or those that I am mentoring, I must think and put Jesus first.

 

 

 

You Want to Talk About That?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:8-14)

 

I had the privilege of speaking on this passage in my church’s youth group a couple weeks ago. It was hard to speak on a couple specific verses before these because they were just…well…uncomfortable. But it led to good conversations and I was able to touch on this passage.

Every time I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher generally will like to stay with the whole we are child of light part. Which, don’t get me wrong, is truly awesome! I am literally eternally grateful for the fact that I am a child of light through the work of Christ. But I don’t remember ever hearing a good explanation of what exposing the unfruitful works of darkness looks like.

My mind automatically goes down three trails of thought when I read this. First, I think of Scooby and gang pulling of the mask of the villain as they reveal his plan and him saying, “I would have gotten away with it too. If it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Next I think of this tattle-tale kid telling his dad that his brother or sister did something wrong. Or last, to a legalistic-type preacher naming off a list of things he doesn’t like in the world and labeling them as wicked, and thus he exposed the darkness of the world. But this passage isn’t any of those and it’s what so many mentoring relationships need.

So what is it?

We as the redeem children of God were in darkness (sin) and have made light through the blood of Christ. So we should have a desire to live life in a matter pleasing to Him and that’s found in all things that are good, right, and true. So as we live here on earth and have the light of Christ shine through us into other’s lives we see things they might not. Those dark places are exposed by the light of Christ and they become visible.

In summary, it is us being an imitator of Christ as a dear child and letting His light shine through us. And as we do life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His light shining through us exposes the dark areas in our lives.

That kind of sounds like mentoring. Two or three people pursuing Christ with the help of each other and in that relationship having the light of Christ show them where they need to grow and change to be like Jesus.

Applications

Here’s a couple of ideas to help us get started into harder conversation that could come from this:

  1. Make sure you have the relationship to do this. I’ve seen someone who doesn’t have deep relationship with someone come out of nowhere and say that someone is sinning because of x, y, and z. Generally, the response is not the accused becoming more like Jesus (even if the accusation has merit), in fact I’ve seen it backfire more often than not and the accusation does more damage than good. If you want to know, be proactive and have the conversation of, “if I saw something in your life that I thought was Biblically wrong, would you be willing to talk about?” before you start down this road. That conversation is the starting point.
  2. Come with a Bible. If there’s one thing I know about my generation is we’ll do the research if we don’t like what was said or we can’t follow the logical flow from point A to B. Information is at our fingertips and we’re very good at finding it. And an older generation is well versed in Scripture. So come with the Bible (in context) and let the Word of God “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word carries more weight than ours.

Mentoring relationships aren’t just “let me give you advice on life.” They include hard conversations about sinners being sinners and how the light of Christ can and should change us.

Restorative Relationships

I walk into my room. The same room I’ve lived in for years. It was the same maroon carpet that had been there since we moved into the house 12 years prior, and fortunately the pink walls had been painted a light yellow since I had moved into the room. I had memories stored in the look and smell of the room, but it was time for a change. My room needed a makeover, and it needed it soon.

I ripped up the carpets and exposed the original hardwoods underneath. They simply needed a little TLC to get them back to their former glory (by little I mean hours of sanding, stripping, and sealing). With the help of a friend we patched the hole in my ceiling. My mom and dad helped me paint the walls a nice gray and brighten up the room. By the end of my project I had what looked like a new room, but was really what the room looked like when the house was originally built. I hadn’t renovated my room, I restored my room. I restored it back to its original glory.

I love being able to restore older items back to its former brilliance and purpose. For a house, it’s taking what is considered old, ugly, and uninhabitable, and turning that into something beautiful and a home for someone to make memories in. I also love it because it’s an amazing picture of our relationship with Christ and what our relationships with each other should look like.

Restoration vs. Renovation

There’s a big difference between those two words. Restoration takes something old or broken-down and makes it like new. Nothing is changed about it. It’s like taking that one item and sending it back in time to when it was originally made, to when it was new. Renovation is taking what is broken-down and making it your own. For a house it’s putting the latest styles in, opposed to the styles common in the time the house was built. It’s taking “now” and putting it in the place of “back then”. They have the same purpose, making something useful again, but they have two different ways of accomplishing it. Restoration is taking something back to its original state. Renovation strips everything away and rebuilds it to your specifications.

A Common State

You see, we’re all run down with sin. We have our ugly spots. We have our uninhabitable sections of our lives because we struggle with our sin nature. Romans 8 gives a picture of all creation groaning because of the futility of earthly life. Verse 23 describes us as heirs with Christ and the firstfruits of the Spirit groaning inwardly until our bodies are redeemed with Jesus. The truth is, we are redeemed and washed by the blood of Jesus, but we still are not completely free of our earthly, sinful nature.

A Common Goal

Since we find ourselves in the same state, we should have the same goal. Our goal should be restoration. We should be restored to our original purpose and state. At the beginning of time man was created in the perfect image of God.

 

“So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him;”

Genesis 1:27

 

Man had a perfect relationship with God. Adam and Eve walked with God. They talked with Him in the garden. Until after the fall there was no barriers between them.

The purpose of sanctification is to make us like Jesus, or to restore us to our original design and purpose. That’s you and me being the perfect image of God and in a barrier-free relationship with Him.

Restorative Relationships

As believers and followers of Christ we need to be restored, not renovated. We need to be taken back to the original state of man: the perfect image of God. We don’t need to be renovated. We don’t need to take what we think is correct or better and shape ourselves into that image. We need to look at Scripture and be restored to the image of Christ.

So here’s the point. What are we doing within the church? Are we trying to restore our brothers and sisters in Christ back to man’s original state: the perfect image of God? Or are we trying to renovate them? Are we trying to put a touch of us into their lives?

Instead of focusing on renovating each other’s lives, let’s take it upon ourselves to have restorative relationships. What would the church look like if we focused on helping each other be restored into the image of Christ? And how different would our cross-generational relationship be if we stopped renovating each other, and focused on helping each other be restored to the image of God?