By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator of SVM2 and currently lives among the unreached.
The Need for a Paradigm Shift
As we pursue with passion the call of God upon the emerging generation today and their role in reaching the least reached in this hour, there are several critical paradigm shifts in the Church that must be given primary focus.
Many of these surround a desperately needed transformation in the basic way that discipleship is taking place. In many ways our current discipleship models are not preparing message bearers that are ready to persevere, endure, overcome and thrive in serving Jesus among the nations throughout a lifetime.
They are often watered down shadows of what Jesus intended a “disciple” to be, ill-equipping the people of God to faithfully respond and participate in accomplishing God’s eternal purposes.
Jesus’ discipleship model prepared His twelve to turn the world upside down and enabled them with the resources to not allow the prevailing cultural winds of false truth to deter them from a wholehearted consecration to following Jesus and taking His gospel to all peoples, no matter the cost (Matthew 10:1,24;11:1; Luke 14:26-27)
How Do We View God?
One of the most foundational and critical pieces to our discipleship is how we view God (Matthew 16:13-15). Much of Christianity today suffers from a shockingly low view of God, leaving believers numb to His all-consuming purpose of the urgent expansion of His glory through the preaching of the gospel where today it is not known.
The emerging generation is ready to hear and respond to the high call of Jesus’ terms of discipleship which demands their all (Matthew 20:27; Luke 14:25-33).
But such a call must be accompanied by a vision of God Himself that can sustain them in the midst of struggles, hardships and numerous weaknesses. There are multitudes of competing negative voices vying to promote a wrong concept of God.
These voices can come from the culture, our families, our schools, our friends, and even our churches. Often our Christian cultures are detrimental to a right view of God and His relationship to the world.
We can preach a popularized form of consumer Christianity, while denying its essence which Jesus taught and lived, making us susceptible to harsh judgment someday before His throne. A.W. Tozer often said that what a person thinks about God is the most important thing in that person’s life.
If believers are sincere, their idea of God will daily be refined as they come into contact with Him and His Word and He shapes their concept of Him. This happened with all the “greats” in the Scriptures and even so with John the Baptist.
John the Baptist’s Misunderstanding
In John 11:1-19 we have the account of John the Baptist in prison. He evidently was following the ministry and progress of Jesus, whom he had prophesied would come (John 1: 19-27).
We are given here a powerful example of “the greatest man to ever be born of a woman” (Matt. 11:11) who was thoroughly perplexed and mystified by Jesus and how He was doing things.
Jesus completely baffled John! John had preached of a judgment to come which thus far in Jesus had not been seen. Jesus was mingling with the lowly of society which gave Him a status in people’s eyes not conducive with John’s understanding of the coming Messiah.
How often do we allow ourselves to have our own faulty misperceptions of Jesus? We question Him because He does not fit into the box we expected Him to, and all too often many lose their faith because they based it upon false assumptions of Jesus and His ways to begin with.
Offended at God?
In verse 6 Jesus declares in a subtle rebuke of John, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Offense at God is much more common in the body of Christ than most of us might realize. We become offended when it doesn’t appear that He is acting as we thought He should or would.
We’d never call it this, of course, but our hearts betray us as there is often an increase in disillusionment and it becomes more difficult for us to willingly trust or depend upon Him in the future. We’ve cut a part of ourselves off to Him because we subtly were offended by Him.
This is because our hope was not in Him in the first place, but in what we wanted Him to do for us. This is the crux of how many in the body of Christ globally perceive God – that He exists for me, to be at my call to meet my needs!
Though it might seem small, to allow this to be the bedrock of our faith is to start from a completely false concept of God and to ascribe to a different Christianity than the Scriptures affirm. To rightly perceive God is to build our faith on the truth that we exist only for Him and never the reverse.
Our lives are to be bound up in glorifying Him, worshipping Him, enjoying Him, yielding to Him, Having His life manifested in ours, giving to Him, abiding in Him, exalting Him, obeying Him, following Him and serving Him.
In the midst of this He does meet with us and give us wonderful outpourings of Himself. Yet to falsely take on the “it’s all about me” outlook with God is to prepare for a painful downfall at some point along the line.
If he took your possessions, your relationships, your ministry, and more would you still love Him and worship Him for who He is?
Overcoming the Candy-Man God Perspective
As a result many of us view God as a kind of candy-man. “He gives me lots of little treats that make my life easier and more comfortable – of course I’ll follow Him!” Many simply excuse such a “me” orientation as part of the stage of life the emerging generation is in.
This response only coddles and stunts potential growth through an outlook that reeks of the spiritual lethargy of much of the Church today. Instead it is vital to proactively pursue a high vision of the greatness of God and His absolute splendor and glory.
To do this effectively a good practice is to daily behold Christ through meditating upon scriptures about His supremacy, inner beauty and authority.
As we do, our hearts become saturated with the bigness of His being, the glory of His ways, the beauty of His thoughts, and we begin to grasp the essence of His great heart.
It is impossible to do this for long without recognizing His immense call to extend His glory through incarnating His lavish love among those with no access to it globally.
In the Matthew 11 account Jesus goes on to praise John with high praise and honor. Though he had faltered in his outlook, Jesus’ affirmation of Him was grand. This is an encouragement to us.
Though we at times fail in our right understanding and subsequent actions toward God, as we realize this and confess it profusely to Him, His love is sure and His forgiveness saturates us.
He then calls us to pour ourselves into His Word and in intimate prayer to know Him more appropriately, so as to not become offended again later.
Why Jesus Offends
One cannot read the gospels for too long before the stark reality sets in that Jesus often deliberately sets out to offend His listeners. At times we ask ourselves, “Why did He say that or do that?” Why would He function like this?
It was always Jesus’ intention to expose the heart motives and darkness that lay dormant in the hearts of His listeners. He got at this most often through speaking in such a way as to potentially offend the minds of the people.
He knew that those who became offended really did not want to follow Him wholeheartedly, and would thus falter when things got tough and when Jesus stopped being about “me.”
If He could get them to a place where they looked deeper beyond the actual offense at what darkness, self-centeredness and pride that might be lurking in their heart to cause their response to the offense, He knew He was getting somewhere.
This was the outlook He wanted – a focus on aligning our hearts with His own instead of us expecting Him to bend to our petty wants.
Getting Victory over Faulty Perspectives
How is your perception of God? Have you allowed yourself to buy into the prevailing Christian cultural outlook that God is “for me”? Have you become offended when He didn’t respond to you as you wanted or thought He should?
Has your heart become bitter in some area of life toward God? Does God’s presence feel as if it’s been taken from you? The first step to breakthrough is sincere repentance. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you areas where your perception of God is based upon falseness.
Then be quick to confess and renounce this way of perceiving Him. Then allow Him to infuse you with fresh vision of who He really is and the over-riding eternal purposes He has in this world.
Read books about the attributes of God and His superiority and supremacy above all things (see below). Saturate your spirit with studying more of His Word on a daily basis, focusing on Scriptures that display the high grandeur and supremacy of our God and King.
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer
Spurgeon on the Attributes of God by Charles Spurgeon
The Pleasures of God by John Piper
The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
Christ is All by David Bryant