the weblog of Alan Knox

Playing with Blocks

Posted by on Feb 11, 2008 in discipleship, service | 15 comments

Sunday morning, during our weekly church meeting, my friend Maël taught from Matthew 4. Part of the teaching concerned Jesus’ call for Andrew, Peter, James, and John to follow him.

I watched one of the brothers sitting on the floor in the back of the room with his infant son. They were playing with a box of wooden blocks which were scattered on the floor around them. The father was picking up the blocks one by one and placing them in the box.

I watched as the son clumsily picked up a block and almost tossed it at the box. Somehow the block managed to go into the box. The boy then reached for another block, seemingly forcing his hand and arm to go places and do things that they did not want to do. Finally, the child grasped the block and forced his arm again to move toward the box, where he released the block.

This played out over several minutes. The father expertly picking up the blocks and smoothly and silently placing them into the box. The young boy tried to mimic his father, but his motions were less than perfect, not quite smooth, and rarely silent. But, the boy was able to put the wooden blocks into the box.

I realized that this was a picture of what it must look like to God when we attempt to follow Jesus. From the most mature believers to the newest follower, how clumsy and awkward and imperfect we must look to him! It would be so much cleaner if God did everything himself without involving us at all. But, God did not choose to work that way. Instead, he called us to follow him as he works in the world.

When we follow Jesus, we will usually find ourselves in the position of the infant child. We may serve, but it will be clumsy, messy service. We may speak, but our words will be awkward and imprecise. We may love, but our love will be less than genuine. We may follow, but we follow with the unsure steps of an infant son – wobbly, unstable, distracted, selfish, wandering. We will follow imperfectly.

So, does this mean that we should not attempt to follow at all? No! When someone is in need, do hesitate because of our imperfections? No! When someone needs a work of instruction or correction or comfort, do we remain silent because our words are often clumsy? No! Do we allow those more capable than us to serve or to speak? No!

Why? Because we have been called to follow; so, follow we must. As Jesus’ hands cared for the hurting, we must care for the hurting. As Jesus called people to repent, we must call people to repent. We recognize that our efforts are feeble and our words are awkward, but this should not drive us to inaction and silence! Instead, this recognition must drive us to complete reliance upon the Holy Spirit to work any good thing through our actions or our words. This recognition removes any source of boasting on our part, and shifts all glory and honor to God through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

The one who clumsily helps those in need is following Jesus Christ. The one who refuses to help because their efforts may fall short is not following Jesus Christ. The one speaks awkwardly in an effort to encourage and build up others is following Jesus Christ. The one who refuses to speak because their words are not as refined as others is not following Jesus Christ.

By the way, I found out later from the father in my story that this was the first time that his son has attempted to put away the wooden blocks. I’m sure that this father was very proud of his son for his attempt, however clumsy and imprecise it may have been. Perhaps, our Father would be just as proud of those who decided for the first time to actually serve others or speak to others in spite of their own clumsy efforts. We know from 1 Peter 4:10-11 that God receives glory when we serve and speak to others.


15 Comments

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  1. 2-11-2008

    Alan,

    Wow! That’s my Father!

    What a mess I’d be in if He wasn’t. After all these years, I still clumsily place the blocks!

  2. 2-11-2008

    Aussie John,

    My service is often very clumsy as well. I thank God that we uses my awkward efforts, and I hope that other are encouraged to serve in spite of their lack of perfection. God accepts them, and we should as well.

    -Alan

  3. 2-12-2008

    There is a lot of truth in what you have shared. This is a very visual illustration of the Father’s love and grace in our lives.

    Can I present a challenge? If we are to be Jesus in the flesh and His representation on this earth, then shouldn’t we mature and get past the infant stage? I personally believe that God calls out His chosen ones to become manifested sons of God. In that, I have passed from the infant/baby stage, through the servant stage, to the mature and placed into position manifested son of God. After I have matured to that point, then I have the right to become an heir, true sonship in Christ.

    There are many scripture references that should be placed in this comment. However, I’m at work (which is showing that I haven’t reached that mature stage yet) and do not have any of my notes with me. But I would challenge all who read that we are called to be sons of God, not in the infant stage, not in a servant’s stance, but as a mature son of the Living God.

    Blessings and thanks for sharing this visual. It is beautiful to see how God uses even what seems mundane to speak to His people.

    In Christ,
    Kristin (a maturing daughter of God) :)

  4. 2-12-2008

    Great story/analogy :-)

    It’s very comforting and encouraging for me. Many times I feel as if I’m that infant, clumsily attempting to follow God, but I forget that even though I might not be “perfect” in mimicing the Lord, He still wants me to do it and simply try my best.

  5. 2-12-2008

    Kristin,

    Thanks for the comment, and welcome to my blog. I agree that our service and words should become “less clumsy” as we mature in Christ. However, I do not think our efforts will ever become “perfect”. Also, I think there are times when someone’s words and service seem “mature” to other people, but they still would appear clumsy to God. Thank God that he does not condemn us because of our clumsy efforts. Instead, he works through those clumsy efforts to bring glory to himself.

    Rhea,

    Yes, he still expects us to follow Jesus in serving and speaking to other, in spite of the fact that our efforts will never match those of our Lord. But, he chooses to work through us in spite of our imperfections. He does not judge us against other believers. Instead, he desires our obedience.

    -Alan

  6. 2-12-2008

    Alan,

    Kristin’s comments made my heart ache for her.

    May I ask Kristin whether she had to become mature before she had the right to be recognized as a daughter of her father?

  7. 2-13-2008

    I’d like to throw my two cents in, if I could. While I understand both sides shared (Alan, Aussie John’s and Kristin’s), I think it needs to be defined a bit more.

    On the one hand,

    When you research the Scripture to define “adoption” and sonship, it is quite clear that it is not automatic. There is a deep truth hidden within the word regarding the difference between a “child of God” and a “son”. (Look into the Jewish ceremony of “huothesia” for more info.)

    John 1:12 states that “As many as received Him, to them He gave the the right to become children of God. There is so much more to this walk than just , “I said a prayer and now I’m a child of God.” (Of this, I’m sure, we’d all likely agree.)

    With that being said, my heart doesn’t “ache” for Kristin. In fact, I believe that she is likely grasping more of the fullness of all that God has intended for us.

    May we all be found in balance – always remembering that we are in desperate need of our Father, yet fulfilling our responsibility to grow into sprititual maturity, in order to inherit His Kingdom.

  8. 2-13-2008

    Joel,

    It was not my intention to disagree with Kristin in my previous comment. I agree that we should grow in maturity, and become less clumsy in our efforts to both serve and speak to one another. I also believe that our best efforts, which may grow to seem close to perfect to other people, will always seem clumsy when compared to Jesus’ model.

    -Alan

  9. 2-14-2008

    Alan,

    I agree with Joel’s statement that, “There is so much more to this walk than just , “I said a prayer and now I’m a child of God.” “.

    But my heart would grieve for anyone who thought, as Kristin,”I have passed from the infant/baby stage, through the servant stage, to the mature and placed into position manifested son of God. After I have matured to that point, then I have the right to become an heir, true sonship in Christ.”

    Paul said, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these ARE the sons of God”(Rom.8:14)

    I trust I am not reading something into what they have said, but both Kristin and Joel appear to hold to the view that they can contribute something to their final acceptance by God as sons. Paul rebuked the Galatians for that very thinking, and assured them they were truly sons of God,”For YOU ARE ALL SONS OF GOD through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26)

    The same Apostle also makes it very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9, that the very faith by which we become sons of God, is the work of God, and that it is His GIFT, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    This very act of God, by His Spirit, by which we become new creatures in Christ enables Paul to say to the Roman Christians,”…..for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ALL)being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”(Rom.3:22b-25)

    To those same Christians Paul says in Rom. 8:16ff, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children (sons) of God,and if children (sons), heirs(adopted as sons) also, heirs (adopted as sons) of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

    Even after more than half a century of teaching and preaching, this clumsy block builder, who still hasn’t got it all right, with Paul in Philippians 1:6,is confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

  10. 2-15-2008

    “And that , not of yourselves”
    AMEN

  11. 2-15-2008

    Aussie John,

    I read their comments as being questions of maturity. Perhaps Kristin will come back and explain what she meant.

    Shaun,

    Yes, that’s very important.

    -Alan

  12. 2-18-2008

    Alan,

    I have been away for a few days, hence the late reply.

    I apologize to Kristin if I have misread her comment, and also would appreciate her further words.

    If I am wrong I owe all an explanation. On my reading I would agree that she is speaking about maturity, but her following words show why I read her as I did: “I personally believe that God calls out His chosen ones to become manifested sons of God. In that, I have passed from the infant/baby stage, through the servant stage, to the mature and placed into position manifested son of God. AFTER I HAVE MATURED TO THAT POINT, THEN I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BECOME AN HEIR, TRUE SONSHIP IN CHRIST”.

    My English may be faulty, or maybe there are greater differences between our cultures in regard to the way we express ourselves, but it still seems to me that Kristin is saying that we need to mature to a certain point before we are sons of God.

    Then,as she continues,she said, “But I would challenge all who read that we are called to be sons of God, NOT in the infant stage, NOT in a servant’s stance, BUT AS A MATURE SON OF THE LIVING GOD”.

    This still seems to me to be a challenge to those who believe they are sons of God as spiritual infants or as servants,to realize that only sonship comes with maturity.

    I saw hints of the Neo-Pentecostal Latter Rain Movement in what was said, so would appreciate Kristin’s help, as well as yours,Alan.

  13. 2-18-2008

    Aussie John,

    I don’t know anything about the Latter Rain movement. I agree that all are sons and daughters (children) of God when they are birthed into his kingdom. There are certainly more or less mature children, but all are children.

    -Alan

  14. 2-21-2008

    As I touched on previously, I think the issue at hand is best described in the act of the Jewish “huothesia”, which models the Father’s approval of Jesus at age thirty. When He had matured into a son in whom (the Father) was well pleased, He was “adopted” by the Father.

    Our Western view of adoption is not a clear depiction. We think that “adoption” simply means that God feels sorry for us, in a sense, and adopts us into His family, therefore making us His son. This is errant. An “adopted” Hebrew son matured into “mature sonship” status after being an apprentice of his father. At age thirty, a ceremony would be held where the father literally declared to all in attendence that he is pleased with His son and is handing over his business to the son. (Is this not exactly what Jesus came to do – “His Father’s business”?)

    As a father, would I give my business and/or inheritance to my three year old son? Of course I would not, for he is not ready to handle it wisely. Yes, he is still my son, but he is not a “huios” son as Romans 8:14 states, which Aussie John referenced. There is a level where God bestows His “inheritance” and it is not to “lifetime newborns”. (I wrote a pretty in depth teaching on this a few months back. Perhaps I’ll condense it and put in blogworthy form.)

    The bottom line is this, and I believe we’d all likely agree. For far too long, becoming a “son/child of God” has been defined as “accepting Him” and moving on. I’m personally fed up with the “come as you are and it’s OK to stay that way until Jesus rescues you” teachings, so I’ll admit, I get a bit worked up about all of this.

    With all of this being said, I have, by nothing of my doing, other than surrendering, become a child of God. It is now my task to mature and become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, in order that I may grasp and achieve John 14:12 – then I will be “set in place” as a mature son (“huios”).

  15. 2-21-2008

    Joel,

    I completely agree with your last two paragraphs, with one caveat. While I am to mature in Christ, maturity remains a work of the Spirit. I’ll have to think about some of the other things that you said. I’m still not convinced that we can make a distinction between being children of God and sons of God.

    -Alan