GUIDING THE FLOW

Each time I walk through an airport terminal I am impressed by the worldwide mobility of the human race. The site https://www.flightradar24.com/20.08,273.65/2 displays airliners in the air at any given moment. It is quite mind boggling. In my mind’s eye, when I look at the globe of our earth I see flows. There are the flows of humanity, history, culture, religion, politics, ideas, data, goods and services, etc. The prophetic word of God to Adam and Eve, “Fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28) and the momentum of history are two major forces that drive these global flows. With regard to flows, one can go-with-the-flow, disrupt-the-flow or guide-the-flow. Wise leaders seek to guide the flow and guide their followers into appropriate flows. For example, forty years ago when I stepped into full-time vocational ministry, one of the relatively new flows attempting to enter the church was contemporary Christian music. To many in the Church, the new music sounded “worldly” and many thought that the hymns in the traditional hymnals should suffice. Ministry leaders at the time were challenged with guiding this new flow into the worship of the church as well as guiding their congregants into this new flow.

God is a sovereign God. As Creator, He initiated these global flows and has ordained that these flows have direction and an ultimate destination. Ultimately, all flows lead to Jesus,
“having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Ephesians 1:9–10)
“Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)

I sometimes reference the National Football League (NFL) in attempting to illustrate how I think God exercises His sovereignty. (This, of course, is a simplistic explanation and no analogy is perfect) The NFL is a sovereign entity. It establishes and enforces the rules of the game and ensures that every team plays on a level playing field. It does not, however, call the plays during an NFL game nor control the outcome of the games.

God has chosen to delegate authority and dominion over His creation to man. He has set up the rules and ensures a level playing field. He does not call the plays. One difference from the NFL is the fact that God is also providential. When invited, He will actually join in on the plays and co-labor with mankind to create a winning outcome.

The challenge for us, especially for leaders, is to discern which flows are consistent with the nature and purposes of God and which are not. At times in church history, the church has missed it and has attempted to block or reverse a flow which was actually within the sovereign will and purposes of God. Science would be one area of development in which the church has sometimes missed it. God set the laws of nature thereby creating an orderly universe. He gave man dominion over that universe. In exercising dominion man has the ability to study God’s creation and to discern the laws that God has set. In so doing man gains the ability to take advantage of those laws in order to create a better, healthier, prosperous future for mankind. Medical advances, for example, are a result of this kind of scientific endeavor. I firmly believe in the ministry of supernatural healing. Seeking medical help is not a denial of this belief. It is an affirmation of man’s God given ability to exercise dominion over His creation.

Until the birth of Jesus, a major flow of History swirled around the Old Covenant nation of Israel, a nation created by and founded upon the Law and the Prophets. According to the sovereign will and purposes of God, that flow was about to change with the birth of Christ. The Old Covenant flow needed to be guided into the New Covenant flow. Jesus was the anointed one to commence this process. Jesus was the leader of this transition. John the Baptist, the last known Prophet of the Old Covenant, affirmed this and backed Jesus up with his prophecy, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) This prophecy was more than just a personal reference. John was referring to the change of covenantal flow. Notice he did not say, “I stop now and you start.” John’s words imply transition. The Old Covenant flow must decrease and the New Covenant flow must increase.

Jesus death on the cross was a legal transaction. His death legally fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and His shed blood legally established the New Covenant. The transition of the covenantal flow began with Jesus and continued on for a generation after His death, resurrection, and ascension. Approximately forty years later, the Roman army marched into Jerusalem and physically ended the history of Old Covenant Israel and the practice of Old Covenant ritual. The city and the temple were destroyed as prophesied by Jesus while He was on the earth and by Jesus through the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. The imagery in Revelation portrays this covenantal transition.

Leaders identify flows that will have a present and future impact on the realm of their responsibility and on the lives their followers. Christian leaders discern which flows are consistent with the will and purposes of God. Leaders seek to guide those flows and to guide their followers in ways that will prepare them to ultimately be benefited by these flows.

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