“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
What a powerful message in the lead up to Christmas. A fundamental core of our Christ message is the freedom that Jesus brings to us morally, socially, spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally.
Chapter 4 of Galatians gives us the wonderful context for this powerful statement that ‘God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.’ (Galatians 4:3-7) With the major battlefield each Christian faces being in our minds, Satan wants to spoil our freedom with lies such as:
- we are unloved rather than loved
- we are ugly and ordinary rather than beautiful and wonderfully made
- we have nothing to offer or contribute rather we can make a difference with our abilities and involvement
- ‘no one cares about me’ rather than ‘we are cherished by God and part of a loving community of God’s people’?
The enemy is committed to ‘steal kill and destroy’, but the Word of God promises us freedom. Wrong thinking can place us in slavery, even after we become Christians. One of our key values in Church of the Nations is – Hebrew rather than a Greek mentality. This speaks of a biblical way of thinking (represented by ancient Hebrew or Hebraic) that brings freedom, in contrast to a worldly way of thinking (represented by ancient Greek). Here is a quick explanation of the differences between Greek and Hebraic thought.
Ancient Greek Thought
Alexander the Great conquered many of the great civilisations of the world around 323BC. He wanted to civilise or ‘Greek-ify’ the world – called Hellenisation. This way of thinking was human-centred ( not God-centred) and very different to the Ancient Hebraic thought found in the Bible (I elaborate further on) – and it still affects us today. Greek thought is about handling things in a legal way, as if you were in a court of law. As an example, my time at school was relatively functional and cold. We sang some fantastic hymns in assembly but, what I was presented with, was a version of God who was distant – if he/she or it even existed at all. Very much, ‘you are up there, and I am down here’.
Law Courts are behind the thinking of our large church buildings and cathedrals – often presenting God as someone who is distant and far off (reflected in their architecture and rituals) – giving you a sense that you can ‘taste a bit of heaven’ that awaits only when you leave this slightly ‘rubbish life’. One of worst extremes of Law Court mentality is children calling dad ‘sir’ – some generations may have experienced this in their relationship with their own fathers. Greek thought deals with philosophy, abstract thought, debating and theory. The word academic can mean ‘not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest.’
“Greek thought deals with philosophy, abstract thought, debating and theory. The word academic can mean ‘not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest.'”
Our surrounding culture has become filled with aspects of Greek mindset present in Post Modern thinking.
- Existentialism – you are a sum of your experiences.
- Pluralism – we can hold many conflicting truths at the same time ‘You tell me your truth and I’ll tell you mine.’
- Relativism – there are no absolutes, everything is relative.
Disconnection with our past can weaken identity. The question is, can we truly formulate British values without reference to the influence, foundation and impact of our Christian past?
Ancient Hebraic thought
Hebraic thought starts with, and revolves around, Father and family. God reveals Himself as Father – the ‘source and sustainer’ or all-round-provider of everything we could ever need. The bible starts with Genesis – God who made us, who gave us a reason why we were made, and tells us our purpose on earth. God places us in families, a primary place of connection. Why? to learn from the example and life modelled to us by parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings.
When it comes to our responsibility for the world around us, for education, social care and care for the vulnerable, it should start with family. Schools and hospitals and welfare are a blessing and a support, but responsibility should not primarily lie with the state – it should come from family. Personally speaking, the understanding of God as Father with me as His son has set me free from viewing God in a ritualistic and legalistic way. The result is a life of relationship, not of duty. It has been a journey of discovery and I still have much to learn. Ancient Hebrew thought is characterised by reality, what is concrete, the experiential and engaging with life.
“You may believe God is love – but do you believe God really loves you and wants to engage with your life? Not just the people next to you?”
You may believe God is love – but do you believe God really loves you and wants to engage with your life? Not just the people next to you? This has changed my thinking. God is not simply an ‘opinion’ to be pondered about, He is a real, living, breathing, and fantastic loving Dad who wants to live life alongside us.
Dangers for the Western Church
Adopting a Greek mind-set can result in the following:
- church can become a spectator sport
- chairs are arranged theatre-style facing a stage where the ‘hired holy man’ entertains the crowd
- churchgoers receive their weekly input but their lives remain largely prayer-less, biblically illiterate and lacking outreach to others
For the hebrew mind, everything is theological (relating to the study of God). Kingdom thinking makes no distinction between the sacred and the secular areas of life. All of life is spiritual, known as ‘holistic living’. God is interested and part of every part of life – our trials and joys. ‘I have set the LORD always before me’ (Ps. 16:8).
What answer can we provide to counter this weakness of the Western mind-set in church context? We can get rid of the compartmentalised Western thinking of ‘Religion is a system of ethics, a code of conduct, an ideology, or creed’ by viewing our faith as a daily journey or walk with God (Gen. 5:24; 6:9). If a person knows God, he is daily at God’s disposal and walks in close relationship with him, along the road of life.
God invites us to live a life of true freedom. He shouts,
‘I am your loving Father. I want to walk with you in life. Will you walk with me?’
Let’s get our thinking right and walk in the freedom Christ has won for us.
– Article by Neil Pattison