Congruence - Eph. 1:11-14

I never took geometry. In fact, my math career ended upon completion of my high school Algebra 2 class (good thing I went into ministry and not architecture, right?). Still, one of my favorite life lessons is drawn loosely from the wonderful world of shapes: Congruence. Wikipedia says it this way, “two figures or objects are considered congruent if they have the same shape and size.”

Here comes the big life question: are the different areas of your life congruent? Do your actions and character take the same shape across the various areas of your life? Are you the same person at church as you are at work, at home or at school, with people or alone? Why is it so easy to be incongruent?

I think pop Christianity is partly to blame. Certain subsets of western Christianity insist that God wants you to live your best life now and suggest that what God wants most is to bless you and for you to be happy. This blessing from God is usually expressed in terms of monetary wealth, success, and popularity. If this is God’s goal for us, then it leaves us to be whoever we need to be in any particular circumstance in order to exact the most personal fulfillment from it. So, I can be kind at church because that’s what makes me “successful” at church while at the same time being ruthless or dishonest at work because that’s what it takes to be “successful” there.
When we teach our kids that this is what God wants for them, then they do what is expected of them at home in order to keep mom and dad happy while living a completely different way with friends because that’s what earns them love and acceptance in that context. The paradigm of individual prosperity results in fractured lives and one person’s personal happiness usually comes at the expense someone else’s wellbeing. Living congruent, integrated lives, in light of God’s true purposes for us, charts for us a better course.

If we’re to live congruently, we need a greater purpose than personal fulfillment around which to orient our lives and that’s exactly what Paul introduces to his readers in Ephesians 1:11-14.

"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."
 
Twice in this passage, Paul tells us that we, as Christ followers, were chosen/included in Christ for one particular purpose: for the praise of his glory. The Story of God Bible Commentary says that living for the praise of God’s glory means, “living in such a way that God is glorified in us in all we do and say” (emphasis mine).

To live out God’s true purpose for our lives and to do it in a way that is congruent across all areas of our lives, we must live for God’s glory instead of our own. In this model, the factor that determines our behavior is not our prosperity, but rather God’s fame. When God’s glory is the focus of our actions, it leads to consistent behavior across the board: humility at home and at work, generosity at church and on the street, honoring others whether they be family, teachers, friends, or even enemies.

Be warned, however, that living in this way frequently does not lead to “success” as defined above. Sometimes choosing to honor God in how you operate at work can cause you to make less money, not get promoted, and be less successful in your business. Refusing to participate in gossip can leave you feeling like an outsider. Living for God’s glory can leave you being looked down upon by others, sometimes even people from your own family or tribe. As both Jesus and Dietrich Bonhoeffer remind us, discipleship often comes at high personal cost. All of this flies in the face of consumer Christianity that wants to make life all about you.

So, as John cautions us, “don’t be surprised, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). Don’t be surprised if your faith costs you. Look to live congruently in the ways of Jesus. Let his way be the guide and the measure for your own ways. Live as Christ lived and trust that God’s kingdom purposes will prevail, that he will be glorified, even if our temporal circumstances leave us less than #blessed.

Sean's Picks

What is it that makes the Christian & Missionary Alliance distinct? What are the values, we as a church movement hold dearest? In particular, if you're new to Grace or to the Alliance these are things you should know. Click here for a fuller exploration of these 7 Core Values of the C&MA:
  1. Lost people: Lost people matter to God. He wants them found.
  2. Prayer: Prayer is the primary work of God's people.
  3. Stewardship: Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards.
  4. God's word: Knowing and obeying God's word is fundamental to all true success.
  5. The Great Commission: Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple.
  6. Empowerment: Without the Holy Spirit's empowerment, we can accomplish nothing.
  7. Faith-filled Risk: Achieving God's purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change.

Missions Spotlight:
The Hoops (Holy Land)

UPDATES - Praise / Prayer Requests:

-With all of the unrest in their area and mob violence, there have thankfully not been any rockets fired toward Jerusalem where Hoops live, but the Chinese church in Tel Aviv has been more affected. Pray along with Hoops that the church would be a healing presence during this time.

- Praise - new teammates (family w/ 3 kids) arrived in May literally the day before tensions erupted and everything went crazy. Pray for others who are coming, a volunteer and a couple set to join them in November.

-Israel's new requirements for every foreigner to be vaccinated in order to enter the country (including children, who cannot currently get vaccinated) is blocking new teammates from South Korea from coming at this time since they have children who are not vaccinated. Please pray for God to make a way for this family to join the team.

- A local pastor and his wife are moving 20 miles from Bethlehem to Ramallah to pastor the church in Ramallah- this is a big change for their family and major step forward. Please pray for their adjustment and for favor with the Ramallah church. 
- Church attendance has been down since reopening after Covid shutdowns. However, the newest church in Bethlehem area has an encouraging number of young couples and families in their 20's.

-August 20-22 is the National Church Conference in Palestine with the theme: "Healthy Church" and all members of the church (about 200 people) are invited to attend. Please pray for Jeff as he will be one of the speakers.

-They are re-launching the Leadership Training Institute in a hybrid format in September with a course which Jeff will be teaching on spiritual formation, which seems to be a neglected aspect of discipleship in the local church. Please cover this in prayer!

-Praise - the humanitarian organization successfully received a grant to serve families who have a family member with a disability (15-18% of people in the West Bank have some sort of disability- so most families have someone in their family with a disability). They are working to identify 40-50 families to connect with as they receive this grant.  At this time, it looks as though the after-school project may need to stop.

-A discipline situation has come up with a difficult church member in Ramallah. Churches are not currently equipped to deal with discipline issues, and no policies are in place to deal with reporting major issues of abuse, corruption, etc. Jeff has worked to create a policy and is sharing with other churches in the area to train employees and translate into Hebrew and Arabic. Please pray that he'll be able to do this with grace and in love because these issues are wreaking havoc in the church.
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