Transcendence

Anything that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”  C.S. Lewis

Everything in this world is perishing and will expire quickly, so therefore our hope, trust and focus must be in the eternal, transcendent God of all creation.  One of the many attributes of God is his “transcendence.” Transcendence – means to go beyond or above the range of normal experience or (from Latin) of climbing or going beyond.

Synonyms are incomparable, matchless, peerless, unrivaled, beyond compare/comparison, unparalleled, unequaled, without equal, second to none, unsurpassed, unsurpassable and so on…you all get the point.

Philosophers and other thinkers in the modern world have attempted to change “transcendence” or merely water it down.  Their definitions typically involve the ability with our own minds to “transcend” or go beyond. This places the term back into the physical, which is perishing and does not benefit the eternally significant things that we as Christians should be concerned with.  Our goal is to reclaim this Godly attribute for his glory.

Some of you may know of an athlete that has transcended the record book or gone above and beyond in his or her sport.  Michael Jordan would literally jump from beyond the free-throw line and slam dunk the basketball, for example! This was absolutely unheard of in the early 90’s.  Or you may often speak of a particular moment in your life that stands out far above all others. 

How does this term transcendent apply to God, however? In the Godly sense, transcendence is the idea that God is both above and independent from his creation.  There is no other created thing that matches his power. Think about it, if God created everything then how would anything he created be equal to him and his power.  It can’t! Also, nothing else can interfere with his power. He created all things including space, time, energy, and matter. Therefore, he is able to control whatever he pleases.  

We are all searching for knowledge and have a desire for it, however our limited minds are unable to grasp the eternal things that really matter outside of a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ who is God.  A theologian named A.W. Tozer calls this “The Knowledge of the Holy,” which to him was attained by a better understanding of the attributes of God (immutability, immanence, omnipresence, transcendence, and so on) which lead us to a better understanding of God and who he is.

We can focus on things that are transcendent, both beyond and not limited by space and time, namely the attributes of God including his “being above” the things of this world or his transcendence.  Catechisms, Scripture memorization, and so on focus on things that which are eternal thus keeping us from being distracted by the temporal (social media, video games, etc.) which do not have value of eternal significance and actually detract from our relationship with God.  Having an eternal perspective is a real challenge, however. It takes discipline and mental focus to channel your efforts on the transcendent things, such as gaining knowledge of God by reading the Bible, reciting catechisms, and redeeming the truth out of a world that is counter-cultural, but once you do it you will be more hungry for it and develop healthy routines of studying God’s word and devoting time each and everyday to better understanding him and who he is.

God is transcendent but he is also immanent in that he is above the physical world and everything in it and he is with us, in us, through us with the power of His Holy Spirit.

. . . one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:6

Let’s now discuss briefly some thoughts on how we want to help you all “go beyond” and “rise above” the basic functions of life.  Classical Christian education has most recently been called “Ancient Future Education” by Davies Owens at the Ambrose School and in his Basecamp series (basecamplive.com).  Ancient and Future really don’t go together and are contrasting terms similarly to “transcendent” and “immanent”, however we often use this description due to the fact that we are using ancient, time-tested methods, such as catechisms, in order to inculcate every aspect of your lives which will prepare you for an uncertain future.  We don’t want you all being Christians in the morning and someone else in the evening. James calls this “double mindedness.” The solution to this double mindedness, which James warns us about is a term called Paidia that Paul speaks of in (Ephesians 6:4). This is what Paul is referring to and what he means by paidia when he says to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Additionally, ancient future education is focused on “going beyond” the normal limitations of life with a focus on Godly attributes. In our world that God created, just because it’s old doesn’t mean is bad and just because it’s new doesn’t necessarily mean its good. Our goal is to reclaim or take back those ancient ways that were good in order to help us evaluate those things that are new in order to use them for the kingdom of God.  The fact that those who believe in their hearts that Jesus Christ is the son of God and have confessed with their mouths that he is Lord should have a focus on things of eternal significance.

Future education is the educational aspect designed to prepare you for your future or things that are to come.  You students are equipped with the “Tools of Learning” so that you can focus your efforts on evaluating and pulling out the useful aspects of truth in all things present and to come and reclaim them for the glory of God.  We all must evaluate everything on the basis of it’s truth, goodness, and beauty. This will help us make informed decisions that will allow you to lead the way toward a fruitful life of leadership and truly grow the kingdom of God.  

With our focus on “going beyond” we see the need to not settle for the ways of the world, but rather to transcend them or reclaim them for the glory of God in order to advance his kingdom.  We must look at what we do and decide on what the particular thing makes possible and what it makes impossible.  This tool can be used for the past, present, and in the future. Evaluating the things you do and whether or not they make things possible or impossible helps you to determine which items help us “go beyond” things that are short-lived and won’t last forever.  Let’s use the example of family meal time. Latest research shows that lives are saved at the kitchen table. No I don’t mean that for family meal time you go to war and seek victory although some of your family gatherings may seem this way. Families are able to stay connected, discuss and win spiritual victories, and conquer ideas of the flesh all while sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner together.  We see that families that invest in meal time focus more on the eternal, transcendent things in life which produce young people who are more prone to success, so sitting down together at dinner time provides a perfect opportunity for this to happen. Fast food, therefore, can make this impossible thus not providing this valuable time as a family to learn and grow in Christ-likeness. Now I’m the first to jump all over an opportunity to eat Chick-fil-a and honestly when I have some Chick-fil-a I don’t plan on talking to anyone and anyone that tries to talk to me will experience my ability to selectively ignore the entire conversation.  But even Chick-fil-a can be had around a dinner table with a discussion on the issues of life and how to transcend them by becoming more like Christ by focusing on the attributes of God.

We must evaluate our current practices based on what we want the end result to be.  Do we want to develop traits that transcend this earthly existence and grow us closer and more like our heavenly father or more like the world that is perishing?  Also, how will these practices or won’t they change the world for the better? Will they leave a legacy for future generations? Perhaps harmony is the issue and we have our priorities misordered, but regardless of the reason we must all, as Christians, have a desire to be more like Christ.

There are many other opportunities for us to transcend our current culture and even to focus on the attributes of God including His transcendence, but we must redeem or reclaim the time in our lives in order to make this possible.  Ask yourselves these questions in order to do this: How much time do I spend playing video games vs. having conversation with my parents? How much time to I spend doing things that only benefit me in the present and won’t help me or others in the future?  

So, students remember that this education you are receiving is not just for life but for all eternity so take full advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow because as you do you are becoming more like Christ.  Parents know that this education your children are receiving is so much more than subjects, it’s preparation for all eternity by training your children in the transcendent value of Godliness.

Remember that God is transcendent, that is, he is far above and independent of His creation but He is also immanent — very much involved in that creation. He is over all, through all and in all. What a mighty God we serve and what a blessed opportunity that we have as committed members of Annapolis Christian Academy and the local church community to being brought up in the paideia of God with a focus on things that are transcendent and eternal as opposed to short lived and temporal.   

 

Sources:

Andy Crouch (2010). “Culture Making”, IVP Books

A.W. Tozer (1978). “Knowledge of the Holy”, HarperOne Publishing

basecamplive.com (https://basecamplive.com/old-bad-new-good-way-around-chris-perrin/)

C. S. Lewis (2014). “God in the Dock”, p.12, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing

 

 

Glory and Greatness

Big Idea

Our innate drive to achieve glory and greatness are good and are met in Christ.  

Definitions

Glory – the state of being considered praiseworthy by other people.

Greatness – to be thought of as having reached the pinnacle of one’s capacity.

Key Passages

“The glory [beauty/splendor] of the young is their strength, the splendor of the aged is the grey head.”  Proverbs 20:29

“To eat honey unto excess is not good, but to search out difficult things [weighty matters] is glorious.”  Proverbs 25:27

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV)

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:42–45 (ESV)

Main Points

The primary revelation of Christian faith is the person of Christ. So our concepts should generally be shaped by our understanding of Jesus.  So while we can know from the Old Testament and general observation that human beings tend to seek glory and greatness, it’s crucial that we enlarge our understanding of these with the example and message of Christ.   

Christ redefines the greatness of humanity, not by one’s position or birth, but by one’s measure of service to others.  

Have you made yourself the sort of person who puts service to others ahead of yourself?  In order to do great acts of service for others one must be ready to do them.
How do we prepare ourselves to be good servants?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Practice serving others in small things.  Start out small by helping someone on their homework, reading to a sibling, cleaning your teachers classroom after class, etc.
  • Find God-glorifying things that take you to the limit of your capabilities and do them!

To perfect yourself in the Christian sense you must examine yourself (physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually) and challenge yourself (physically, socially, spiritually, and intellectually).

Mindset Shift:  Instead of thinking that school is something you wear on your back each day like a backpack loaded with books, think of school as something you aim to pick up and carry as far as you possibly can without stopping.  

In summary, what makes you truly great is the service that you do for others, which truly establishes your greatness in the kingdom of God.

So what’s the big idea?  The goal in a Christian community is perfection!

 

Christian perfection  can be defined as maturity of character that recognizes God’s standard for human excellence, seeks to understand that standard, and pursues that standard, while recognizing where one falls short.

Not that I have already obtained this [the full likeness of Christ and participation in his being] nor have I yet been perfected, but I hasten to grab hold of it, because Christ Jesus has grasped hold of me.  Dear family, I do not consider that I have a hold on it.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are perfect think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Nevertheless, let us keep up with the position to which we have obtained [don’t backslide in your mindset or character].  Become my co-emulators [of Christ], brothers, and contemplate those who walk by the example you have in us.

The Nature of Christian Perfection
  1.  It is defined most clearly in the life of Christ (Php 2:5-11).
  2. Other expressions of Christian perfection can be seen in the lives of God’s people (Scripture, history, living examples, etc.).
  3. It is a designation of an unattained ideal (Php 3:12).
  4. It is a way of speaking about those who pursue the ideal while admitting they have not obtained it (Php 3:15).
  5. It is the goal for citizens of God’s kingdom, not the standard for entry (Php 3:9).

What should the pursuit of Christian perfection look like?   Well, it’s “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  When you fail, acknowledge the failure and move on, ‘the righteous may fall seven times, but he gets back up…’ (Prov 24:16).   Also, see Luke 5:1-11.  You are more use to the Lord and other repenting rather than groveling.

We must acknowledge that this race is a team sport and see how you may help your neighbor.  Hint:  You help your neighbor by methods other than condemnation (Matthew 7:1-4, Philippians 3:15, etc.)

Application to School:  Educational Excellence

The school has a vision of education.  We offer to help you glorify God and enjoy him forever, impact lives, to dare to be wise, to serve the city by upholding truth, goodness, and beauty, and to celebrate diversity of godly practices among the Christian communities of the world.

We must model this correctly!

What would being this kind of person look like to you?  What does it look like in your favorite people?

When you fail to meet the standard, confess that it is so and move forward.

Encourage your classmates to pursue Christian perfection or educational excellence without condemning or a superior attitude.

 

Rev. William “Geoff” Smith Provides Us With Answers

Thomas Aquinas defines pride as an “inordinate desire for preeminence.” What this means is that an individual assesses themselves as beyond the need for improvement or desires to be more honored than appropriate for the good which they possess. Examples of this include a student wishing to be over-complimented for good grades, a teacher wishing to be honored as though he were a king or a despot, or somebody who thinks they have nothing to learn. The opposite of pride is humility, which is an appropriate level of self-esteem based on true knowledge of oneself and the world. Jesus makes clear that such humility is a pre-requisite for entry into his kingdom:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

What is curious about this passage is that children are known and were known for the propensity to ask lots of questions. For instance, Jesus, as a boy, was known for the quality of questions he asked the Pharisees. So when Jesus says to become like a child, he means, “You must start over as a new person to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again and learn from me!” The disciple asked a question in the passage above, but not the sort asked by a child. Children ask to learn. The disciples asked to be affirmed. How do we know? Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus explains that whoever practices and teaches his commands will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-20). So the disciples want Jesus to keep score and prove which one is the best. Jesus re-frames the question entirely to indicate that they all must take a novice’s point of view to make spiritual progress. If we must humble ourselves, how do we do it? I have three tips from the Bible:
  1. First, remember that we are dust (Genesis 2:7). Anything could kill us. Any change in nature could affect us. Our hunger changes our attitude, our sleep changes our emotions, our exercises changes our thoughts, and our memories change our actions. We’re truly of the earth. To remember this helps us to see how much we need God.
  2. Second, we should remember that all our highest aspects come from God (also Genesis 2:7). Our consciousness, aspirations, capacity to choose right or wrong, and change our environment for better or worse come from God. To remember this shows us how much good, by God’s grace, and help the human being is capable of, while still reminding us of how much we need God’s help to not devolve into chaos and evil.
  3. Finally, we have the example of Christ, who humbled himself, taking the form of a man (Phil 2:5-11). Not only does Christ’s death atone for our sins, which we desperately need, but it also functions as the example of humility. Christ did not consider himself above service to others, even if they were sinful or undeserving.

The Seven Deadly Sins Series with Rev. William “Geoff” Smith

The Bible says that a man who controls his temper is better than a man who can overthrow a city. Jesus himself says that anger can start a process in which an individual and the communities of which he is a part can devolve into the fires of hell. Paul says that unchecked anger gives a foothold to Satan. If anger is so dangerous and so difficult to overcome, what can we do about this powerful passion that dwells within us?

The Bible and the Christian tradition through the ages offer several solutions. We’ll start with tradition and end with Scripture. Thomas Aquinas makes the point that

one must distinguish between just and unjust anger.

Just anger is anger which desires to correct sin (whether personal or in others). Unjust anger is anger which wishes to harm others or get even. Knowing these distinctions can be very helpful, as we can ask, if we’re angry, “Do I wish to harm another or to correct sin? If I wish to harm, I should shut my mouth and not act right now. If I wish to correct a sin, I should measure my words to do exactly that and nothing more.” Another strategy, which Jesus recommends, is to take extreme ownership over your community, team, or family and if you are about to worship then remember that if you have wronged another, go reconcile immediately.

In other words, the Christian is a part of a kingdom whose citizens all take 100% ownership of their actions and therefore try to right whatever wrongs they have done.

A final strategy is one offered by Paul the Apostle. In Philippians 4:8-9, he recommends thinking of the best in others so that we might experience the peace of God in the midst of interpersonal conflict.

Coming up this week at SoLaR Chapel…”Pride!”

New Life in Christ

The Bible is a Truth to be obeyed or given adherence to.  So, what happens when we don’t obey?  It usually doesn’t end well!  Obeying creates safety for us that God provides because of his great love for us.

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An Alternate Function for Technology

As “there are no small things”[1] we are told to “work heartily, as for the Lord” (Col. 3:23), something as simple as making your bed[2] can do wonders for your happiness and health, and carefulness is a virtue, according to Aristotle, then paying attention to details and concentrating on bettering seemingly unimportant small skills is important for the overall well-being, success, and fulfillment of a student.  Thus, the insistence when a teacher makes you put your heading in the correct corner with each piece of information, or makes you use graph paper for math, or makes you re-do an answer that she cannot read—are all examples of an effort to help a student realize the importance of being careful with details.

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The Games We Play

The sermon uses the metaphor of games for resource allocation and human cooperation to help understand the story of the creation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 2.  Students were challenged to ask themselves about the goals of the various games they play in life (family, school, religious, etc) and whether or not the strategies they employ will lead them to desirable outcomes.  The standard is God’s claim that the world is a better place with humanity than without it (Genesis 1:26-31). Are you handling your life in a way that allows you to assess it the way God originally assessed man’s presence in his creation?

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In Genesis, we see that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Part of what this means can be found in the way God creates. He first creates a formless mass of chaos (Genesis 1:2) and then progressively organizes the world after a fashion that makes it amenable to human beings and their experience of God’s presence. This is capitulated in the story of Eden (Genesis 2:7-15), where God creates a space for man to meet with God that is the ideal composition between chaos and order. If we see God’s creative work as a symbol of what it means to be a human being in God’s image, we can see that man is the being that negotiates between chaos and order on the earth. We do this by finding ways to cultivate nature in a way that brings something new out of it that was not there before without eliminating its potential entirely. A good example might be a garden in which there are no insects. Without bugs, the garden will produce no fruit. It is too orderly. But in a field without cultivation there may or may not be food fit for humans depending upon weather and animal activity. In connection with John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-20, we can see that

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