The Process of Family Growth
How then can God’s acceptance become life-changing confidence and a solid basis for gratitude? Paul used a very definite teaching pattern in discipling people. The process was deeply involved with the individual’s emotional response. He rooted them in God's love. He laid a foundation over that love, and then he built them up. The rooting and founding was based on God's love for the individual.
Rooting in Love—Emotional Reality
Archaeological digs have uncovered how the ancients made clay bricks and created brick pilings for their buildings. If they were going to build a two-story building, they would dig a hole and put in brick pilings 20 to 40 feet deep. Then they packed dirt and stone over the pilings until the ground was level so as to place a two- to three-foot foundation on top. Sometimes the hole they rooted out was as deep as the building was high. The builders rooted the hole, made the foundation and then built up the building. Paul used this structural design over and over again in his training of the early Christians. He rooted them deeply, he founded them squarely, and then, he built them up. He did not use brick; he used the love of God.
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul tells us that the properly founded and rooted person can make his or her life a discovery of the dimensions of Christ's love. Paul’s prayer implies a dynamic process where being rooted and founded in love is at the center of two processes. The first process is the exercise of faith by a group of Christians. This exercise of faith, if it is based on being rooted and founded in love, permits the believers to begin a life-time exploration of the love of God. As this is done, the believer's life is filled with the joy and fullness that God intended. Faith and the experience of being loved by God generates a powerful dynamic.
On account of this I am bowing my knees to the Father, from whom every family in the heavens and on the earth takes its name or significance, in order that He might give to you according to the wealth of His glory, power to be strengthened through His Spirit in the inner person. With the result that Christ makes a home in all your hearts through faith, having hearts previously rooted and founded in agape love. This will result in sufficient internal strength to lay hold of, with every one of the saints, what is the breadth, length, height and depth, and to personally know the abundant knowledge of the love from Christ, resulting in being filled unto the fullness from God. Ephesians 3:14-19
Agape Love As Our Foundation
The Greek word agape is used in the Bible to describe God's love. Agape love for many is simply an act of the will. But in the Bible, love is much more. An example of Paul's definition of love is actually found in Philippians 2:1-2. Agape love, as described here, speaks tenderly. Encouragement is present. Deep sympathy pervades; such love is filled with tender mercies. Paul wanted believers to be rooted and grounded in agape love from God. God's love is not a theological abstraction. Flowing from His nature, love is filled with positive feelings for you. That is agape love.
Why is agape love so important in the rooting and founding process? In our Western culture, many people think learning about God consists of memorizing a few Bible verses. They think quoting a doctrine or the outline from one of the books of the Bible makes a person a disciple of Christ. But that is not biblical discipleship.
If then, there is any encouragement in Christ (and there is), if there is any tender speaking that comes from agape love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if there is any deep compassion and tender mercies, fulfill my joy and you be like-minded as I have just described. Philippians 2:1-2
Feeling the Truth
Biblical discipleship occurs when we feel the truth. It is not only what you know. Discipleship occurs when what you know grips your emotions deeply enough that it controls the unconscious part of your life and impacts your consciousness. To simply know things was the Gnostic heresy the early Christian church challenged. Gnostic comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. The early church rejected simple knowledge as being the basis of Christianity. The relationships of faith are the basis. A helpful theological axiom for the emotional life is: feelings do not authenticate truth, but they do authenticate our understanding of the truth.
It doesn't matter whether you feel that Jesus rose from the dead or not. He did. It doesn't matter whether you feel God exists or not. He does. But if you say that God is, if you say Jesus rose from the dead, then your face should reflect the reality. Paul was greatly concerned that his disciples would emotionally respond to truth. Romans 15:13 says powerful feelings will flow out of our exercise of faith:
And may the God of the hope fill you with every variety of joy and peace in the process of believing, with the abundance of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I can tell what I truly understand by what I feel about what I understand. Describe an example in your life when you were motivated to do something positive for someone in response to their love or concern for you.
Feelings do not authenticate truth. Truth is truth. But feelings do authenticate our understanding of truth, and they do change our character. In the process of discipleship, Paul rooted people deeply in God's acceptance by letting them know over and over again how God felt about them. Upon that sense of being loved, he laid a foundation for them in truth. This would keep them from being blown about by other winds of doctrine. Upon that foundation of truth, he built them up relationally.
Paul used the illustration of rooting a building, laying a foundation, and building up from the foundation to underscore a critical point. A definite, deep sense of being loved is necessary before growth can take place. A hidden depth of love in the heart (like the hidden foundation of a building) precedes visible growth. Before life can become an exploration of God’s love in Christ, the believers have to experience a sense of being loved. Practically speaking, too many Christians are being rushed through the discipleship process, which may result in a lack of inner stability.
This study is based on Becoming What God Intended, Chapter 1, Reading 5
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