Definitions Part 4
Changing the Definitions Filter
I have talked on occasion about “living above the line and living below the line.” This is a concept I learned from another favorite book, The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out, by Dan Stone and David Gregory.
In our study on definitions that we have accumulated over the years, it may help to understand some of God’s definitions rather than merely focusing on our own and the reasons for our definitions. So many of our definitions are things that have been passed along to us and then passed through our own personal filter of belief systems. To unravel those filters can be exhausting. Self-examination is only for the purpose of understanding where we are and why we are there, but then we must move quickly into Who God is and who we are in Him. The woman at the well told Jesus that the well was deep and He had no bucket to draw with. Jesus answered that He had water that she knew nothing of and He wasn’t going to draw it from that well—His water was from above. He doesn’t want to draw from our deep well of old self—He has water we know nothing of. I’ve gazed into that deep well long enough. I crave the living water. Nothing else satisfies.
When I wrote recently about the familiar saying that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, I mentioned that all of this is true, but that God’s plan and our plan may not look the same in our actuality, which makes for a lot of frustration when our plans don’t go as we would like.
Living Above the Line–Definitions Above the Line
Dan Stone writes:
“Christ living in us and through us is the only hope we have of experiencing the glory God intends for our lives. … Christian books always run the risk of being man-centered. Most are addressed to a specific human need or to our deep, universal need of intimacy with God. Addressing man’s needs, many Christian books, as well as much Christian teaching and thought essentially begin with man and implicitly portray God as man’s need-meeter. … If we don’t begin from God’s point of view, we end up with man at the center. That’s true even in our approach to the Word of God. …It can appear, however, and is often preached, that God’s ultimate purpose is the rescue of man. So the whole matter focuses on us.” (Stone, Dan; Gregory, David. The Rest of the Gospel. One Press, Corvallis, OR., 2000. P.8-9.)
God’s Definitions–I AM
The above the line concept is found in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Stone explains:
“That verse contains two truths. One truth talks about things that are seen and temporal, or temporary. The other truth talks about things that are unseen and eternal. … Of course there’s really no such thing as a line. These two realms coexist. The unseen and eternal is going on in the midst of the seen and temporal. As believers we have the privilege of living an unseen and eternal life in the midst of this seen and temporal world. … The realm above the line is invisible and eternal. It is changeless and timeless. It is the realm of the spirit and of God’s absolutes. It is the realm of ultimate reality, of the uncreated, of completeness and wholeness, where things are finished and settled. The eternal realm can be illustrated by the word ‘now.’ It is the realm of I AM, where things simply are.
“The realm below the line is visible and temporary. We call it the natural realm. It is the created realm of matter and appearances. It has a beginning and an end. It is the realm of past, present and future; birth, life and death; sowing, growing and reaping. … It is a realm in which we see both good and evil. Whereas the unseen and eternal is the realm of ‘I AM,’ the seen and temporal is the realm of ‘I am becoming.’” (Ibid. p. 28.) [Note: The author is not implying that we are becoming gods, only that we are becoming conformed (“fashioned like”) to the image of God (Romans 8:29.)]
Stone emphasizes that he is not talking about Greek dualism or Gnosticism. Both of these realms, the eternal and the temporal, are equally important to God, because he has made both of them.
Understanding these two realms is essential to our understanding of the Scriptures and of God’s plan for our lives. It is essential to our understanding of God. It is essential if we are ever to change our filter from our perceptions of how we think things should be, or how we think God should behave, to God’s filter of the big, above-the-line picture and how we fit into it.
Because we can’t possibly comprehend all of these high and lofty things, at the appointed time, as Stone writes,
“I AM went below the line and entered the seen and temporal realm that He had created. ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…’ (John 1:14), the changeless, timeless One became a seen and temporal man. As a man, Jesus experienced all that we experience below the line. He had a past, a present and a future. He experienced growth, both as a child (Luke 2:20), and as an adult (Heb. 5:8). He had needs.” (Ibid. p. 29.)
God’s Definition–The Praise of His Glory
God’s plan involved having a lot of sons and daughters who would be holy (set apart) and blameless in His sight—“according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5, 6). Scripture repeats this concept many times—“to the praise of His glory.”
I get it—we exist for the praise of His glory. God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:1) to accomplish that purpose. His plan was to bring His children—that’s us—whom He would indwell and through whom He would live, to the praise of His glory. “We are the beneficiaries of that plan. But we are not the center of it. We are participants in the plan, participants whom God loves and cherishes and nourishes, as a husband does his bride” (Eph. 5:25-32). (Ibid. p. 10).
Too often we focus on what we inherit in Christ while forgetting that we are also His inheritance (Eph. 1:18). We are here for the praise of His glory. “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever” (Rom. 11:36). That’s why He desires for us to be “filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
The Bible is filled with above-the-line stuff. We will examine some of this in light of our own questions about the whys and wherefores of the maze of our own lives in the next blogs.