December 2019 / January 2020 - Vol.107

man in prayer 
A Paradigm Shift
by Bob Tedesco

A paradigm is a model or pattern, something that can be copied. It can also be a theory, an approach, or a set of ideas. The archetype is the original pattern or the original paradigm. In this chapter we want to consider the archetype of God’s relationship with man and the paradigm shift that occurred as a result of the saving work of Jesus Christ.

The questions to be addressed here are: How does the Lord relate to his people, and what is to be the corresponding response? If there is anything to be learned from Judeo-Christian history, it is that people get confused; they get tricked, and they drift, invariably in the direction of their own will, their own flesh, or their own circumstances. Our response to the Lord is the key issue because, although we may become confused or drift from what the Lord wants from us, he is not confused in the slightest! He knows how he wants to relate to his people, and he has an expectation for a certain kind of response from us. Assuming that most people want to do the right thing with their life, we would be prudent to consider what the Lord is asking of us and not waste an opportunity to respond in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

A New Testament, a New Covenant, a New Paradigm
The first pattern of the way the Lord wanted to relate to his people is seen in the garden accounts from Genesis. But there is a second paradigm, a second model, a second pattern that we also see in the Old Testament. The archetype of this model indicated that Israel was to be a geographic nation. God’s people were to be favored, protected, and provided for by God. That’s the way he chose to relate to them. All the other people on the earth seemed to be aware that there was something different about this people – that they were “set apart.” They had their own priesthood, their own prophets, and their own Law. They had a distinctive and protected way of life. What we see is a set of people who are gathered in one place, whose God has graciously given them all they need in order that their relationship with him might work as it should while they live on the earth. This was not a “personal” relationship for most.

Often when we read about Moses, Elijah, or Elisha, we get a certain picture of what their relationship with the Lord must have been like. We can infer a level of familiarity and closeness that was absent from the experience of most other people of the time. Mostly, they were assigned to doing the right thing, to keeping the Law, staying out of trouble, and living their own lives. That was the paradigm, the pattern of God’s relationship with his people in the Old Testament. The “live your own life” element becomes the pivot in the paradigm shift we will see in the New Testament.

In the New Testament we see that the Lord wants to “inhabit” the people of God. Rather than having his people inhabit the promised land and live as a walled-off nation in the confines of which he takes care of and provides for them, a shift takes place. He is now choosing to live within them! We should not take that lightly because the seemingly subtle shift makes all the difference in the world as to how we relate to God, how we follow him and are inspired by him.

“‘If a man loves me he will keep my word,’”
says Jesus in John 14:23. This verse from John is a familiar one to us, and we’re generally okay with it – up through that point. But the verse continues: “and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ has reconciled himself to us.”

We may not have been struck by the fact that in our Lord’s Day prayers we read, “the Father has sent his son to begin the new creation.” The New Testament and the work of Christ usher in this new creation. That’s a paradigm shift – to God inhabiting his people rather than God just having a people; God expecting his people to all be engaged in sharing the gospel, as they are able, and to be capable of worship. We still have ordained ministry and the priesthood, as in the Old Testament, but God expects all of his people to be leaders, ministers, and lights to the world, to know the way of the Lord, to have his Law written on our hearts to that we don’t have to research it before we can respond to a given situation.

A Paradigm Shift Back... A Hybrid
It’s not unusual for man to put a certain spin on God’s intentions, and sometimes we can have a paradigm shift backward, slipping into what looks more like an Old Testament model. One fallback is to come into a personal relationship with Christ and then think we can choose to do whatever we want. That’s not the life to which we’re called. We are a holy nation, but we’re not just a holy nation that is walled-off geographically while the Lord is caring for and protecting us. He has a different plan! The model for the way in which the Lord relates to us now is very much connected to his plan, not just for us as individuals but for the human race. It is possible to have a relationship with Jesus and then fall back into doing our own thing. That is a regression into the Old Testament paradigm or model.

Constantine was the Roman emperor who brought in Christianity and made it a kind of “state religion.” Christianity was already becoming popularized, but with Constantine the paradigm shifted. Up until his time Christians were being martyred and were deeply committed to Christ. Christians in the early centuries actually embraced martyrdom. Many of us don’t see as much of that anymore (though it is certainly happening in parts of our world), but it is a privilege to die for the kingdom.

Living the model of the New Testament, where Christ inhabits his people, looks very different from simply having a personal relationship with the Lord and then doing our own thing. Unless we embrace this new model, we cannot understand many of the teachings of Jesus or Paul. They won’t make sense if we’re living a nominal (in name only) Christian life. Consider, for example, Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37: “‘He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter is not worthy of me.’” Is that a difficult Scripture for you?

When a soldier goes off to war for his country, does he not in a sense turn his back on his home, his wife if he’s married, his children if he’s a father, and his state? He goes off to a different place and fights for the way of life he’s trying to protect. He is forced to say, “If I have to I will give up my life here at home and go fight that battle.” Something has to die within him in order for him to be able to take up that call. Something has to be embraced or defended so that he can make that sort of ultimate decision.

We can gain a better understanding if we consider the model of a missionary. A missionary lays it all down. Mother Teresa serves as an example. To join her order one must lay down everything. These people, and hopefully there are some like this among us, understand the difficult Scriptures a little better than most of us. Those Scriptures are really only understood from the vantage point of a significant level of Christian commitment. But some of them will remain difficult. Even if you were to lie down on the floor and say “Take everything I have, Lord – strip it all away,” there would still be some Scriptures that would remain hard for you to understand. There is a whole lot of Scripture that begins to open up as your level of commitment increases.

As we get older and grow in the Lord and can give more and more away to him, more things will begin to make sense. When you’re young, say in your twenties and thirties, that’s good news! As you progress into your fifties, sixties, and seventies you’re going to understand more of these difficult passages. More and more of this world is being systematically stripped away from you in the aging process, yes, but your commitment level grows as well. For example, if you lived in a country that had never been at war and had the task of training an army, this would be hard for you to do. The enlisted men might be protesting, “We’ve never been to war! What’s the Sarge so excited about? Does he actually think this is a real army?” It’s hard to see unless you’re committed to the cause and facing the reality that the battle could actually be lost! From the sergeant’s perspective that is a possibility. And we have seen brothers and sisters lose or relinquish the faith they once proclaimed. It’s a real war.

When we consider some of the more difficult Scripture texts, we might ask ourselves, “If I were completely sold out for Christ, could this make sense?” Or “If I didn’t care about anything else but pleasing him, could I understand this?

Final Question: Are We Raising Our Children to be Old Testament Christians?
For me it always comes back to this question Are we raising our children to be Old Testament Christians? Are we embracing a paradigm and then shifting it for our children into a hybrid with a human spin on it? Are we saying to our children, “We want you to have a personal relationship with Jesus and then “follow your dreams”? Scripture doesn’t say that, does it? Jesus seemed to be tremendously disappointed in the rich young man. He didn’t say, “Have a personal relationship with me and then do what you want.” We need to raise our children saying, “Embrace the will of God.” Their life experience might actually line up with their dreams, but maybe it won’t. The Christian life has to cost something. Eternal life is at stake. We need to train our children to see that.

John Keating is a brilliant international leader. His father was a doctor, and John was himself on the course to becoming a doctor when the Lord called him to be his servant. He just gave up his dream of becoming a doctor. Many people thought that was silly. Some said, “You could be a doctor – somebody else can serve Christ. You’re brilliant; let the people who are less brilliant serve Christ.” But John put aside his dream of becoming a doctor and chose instead to serve the Lord as a Servant of the Word brother.

Not too many generations back, if somebody were a genius they almost certainly were sent off to a monastery or a convent. Often, the intellectually best of the best were “skimmed off” the top and given as an offering to the Lord. They would get the best training, but they would also have the opportunity to discern whether or not they had a vocation.

When we’re training our children we should ask the question, “Do career and education trump Christ and the kingdom?” If the answer is yes, we should repent and figure out what we can do to change this.

A call to the priesthood or to the ministry is a high call. The call to be a youth worker is a high call. A youth worker has the lives of young people in his hands. Yes, you could be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. But youth work is a high call, and we need to support those who answer that call.

The Plan: God Inhabits His People and Takes Over the Earth (Three Commandments)
The plan of God is to inhabit his people and to take over the earth! He wants to take back what is his! It is not for him to inhabit his people while we just sit here and enjoy his touch and love coming to prayer meetings. “Take over the earth!” commands the Lord.

We’re all aware that there are ten commandments. We’re also aware that there are two overarching or summarizing commandments. The two commandments are: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul, and all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. But there are really three commandments. The third is, “Go into all the earth and make disciples of all the nations.” The people Jesus talked to understood what he was telling them. “Go into all the earth.... Some of you will be killed, but don’t worry about that.... You’ll probably be persecuted and tortured, but don’t worry about that. ... Go into all the earth and take it back! And I will be with you until the end of the age.”

The body of Christ is not just a metaphor; the limbs respond to the head. We talk about the body of Christ and understand that we’re the body and he is the head. He’s thinking, “Take back the earth.” We’re thinking, “Volleyball, football, dance lessons, book club... ” No, he wants us to take back the earth! He’s inhabiting us and teaching us to do a particular task. You can’t have the limbs going in one direction and the head in another. The limbs respond to the head, and that’s what the head is thinking. He wants to take back what is his. The body of Christ is an army on a mission.

John 12:24–25 “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it.’” Teach that to your children. We need to love our life in Christ, not just love our natural life. “ ...and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” 

It’s a good deal. If there is anything business-oriented about you, you know that this is a good investment.

1 Peter 2:9–10 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Scripture is very clear about our purpose and our call.

Paradigm Shift (c) 2019 by Bob Tedesco is featured in his new book, Choosing Discipleship: Embracing the Call in a Modern Culture, published by Credo House Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

Bob Tedesco is the founder of the People of God, a Sword of the Spirit community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA where he served as Senior Coordinator for 26 years. He has been involved in lay ministry for over forty-five years, serving in the Sword of the Spirit as the North American Regional President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the North American Executive Committee.

Bob is the author of two books, Essays on Christian Community and Choosing Discipleship. and forty-one Christian life articles published in the Sword of the Spirit international online magazine, Living Bulwark.

He has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a consulting engineer for twenty years. He and his wife, Bobbie, have been married for nearly sixty years. They currently have ten children, thirty-seven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren. They reside in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, USA.

Choosing Discipleship book by Bob Tedesco
Choosing Discipleship

Embracing the Call in a Modern Culture

by Bob Tedesco

163 pages
Published in 2019 by Credo House Publishers,Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

The book is available in print at Amazon and Credo House Publishers.

Choosing Discipleship is an excellent book and very
helpful for keeping some key issues before us in a compact way. It is very useful, easy to ponder, and easy to teach from. It is a great resource... personally; I liked the style you used... it relates to the busyness of our culture.
Bill Durrant, Founder, People of God’s Love Community, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Excellent pastoral material and also well written. It’s a tremendous contribution to the Sword of the Spirit worldwide and the wider church as well... Seasoned leaders, parents, pastoral workers, and community members need to be refreshed and learn again (and again) the vision and sound principles and wisdom you have taught over the past few decades... It will continue to be circulated to many communities and individuals for generations to come.
Don Schwager, Editor, Living Bulwark, international online magazine of the Sword of the Spirit

Typing the manuscript for Choosing Discipleship over the course of a summer felt like being on an
extended retreat! My own life of discipleship and my understanding of what God is doing in the world today has been significantly influenced by Bob’s clear vision, insight, and wisdom... The impact he has had both as a community builder and author has stretched across continents, and I suspect his influence will be felt for many years to come.
Joanie Nath, Senior Women’s Leader, People of God Community, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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