Growing in Threes


And let not your behaviour be like that of this world, but be changed and made new in mind, so that by experience you may have knowledge of the good and pleasing and complete purpose of God. Rom 12:2

A german translation puts the latter part of the verse like this:

Then you will know what God wants from you: it is what is good and pleases him and is according to his will. Rom 12:2b

To think like God lets us have insight into his will for our lives. That is no big surprise, in fact, it is rather logical. If I think like somebody I will understand where he is coming from and what he is up to. And Paul told us that we have the mind of Christ. We therefore should easily figure out God’s will for us.

But this is where the verse gets really interesting. It uses three ways to describe God’s will.

I translate all English speaking guest speakers in our church. One of which is a Welsh gentleman called Ernie Hammond. What I love about him—and I guess it is part of his heritage, the Welsh tradition of storytelling—is his extensive, almost over-boarding, but always rich use of adjectives. For somebody that is not of English mother tongue, they are usually synonyms. But for somebody with a rich, big, and comprehensive vocabulary, each of them carries a slightly different overtone, deviates just a little in connotation, and therefore broadens the meaning and impact of what is said.

Just as it is in Hebrew. To drive a point home, a Hebrew poet usually says the same thing twice using different words. Read Psalm 23 with that in mind.

But this text is neither Welsh nor Hebrew. It is Greek – written by a Jew grown up in Greek territory, yet a Jew of Jews as he calls himself.

Still Paul alludes to something totally different than writing styles, story telling skills, or poetry.

He is picking up a principle that is reused throughout the bible. The principles of threes.

Thirty, sixty, hundred fold. Three layers of priestly garments. Three rooms in the temple. Three major feast seasons. Just to name a few.

  • Good, acceptable, perfect. As in King James.
  • Good, beautiful, perfect. As in Weymouth.
  • Good, well-pleasing, and complete will of God. Wuest.
  • Good, satisfying, and able to succeed. Complete Jewish Translation, Stern.

Another triple comes to mind: child, juvenile, father. As seen in the letters of John.

All of them have something in common: progression.

So what does it mean?

The moment Jesus died for us, we got the mind of Christ. But we do not fully believe in and therefore partake of that gift.

Jesus died for me the moment I finally recognized my need for his death and resurrection. My acceptance of his act made it personal and effective in my life. From that moment on, all of his was mine. And that moment, a journey began for me to realize this. Both to realize it in my thinking and knowing, and to realize it in my life in the sense of having it become real. And our verse tells me that this is a process.

When I accepted Christ, I lived on the level called good. You remember the trees in the garden? The tree of good and evil? OK, my life from my perspective just switch from evil to good. But still, this is the wrong tree. Our goal is the tree of life. Our lives ought to be life-giving, not good.

In the outer court, in the feast of Pessach, we still live under the natural heaven, with natural light. We see things from a natural perspective. We use our mind, or the mind imprinted by our environment, to discern things—or better, to figure things out. We still pose questions like what’s in it for me. Children. We think as the world thinks, but are saved. Good.

It is in Pentecost, in the baptism of the Spirit that we pass into the Holy Place, the next level. Here, the light comes from the lamp-stand. The lamp-stand in Revelations stands for the church with its fivefold ministry and all the gifts. The lamp-stand is fueled by the Spirit, the oil. We see things in the Spirit. We start to think as God thinks. Young ones. Beautiful, acceptable, well-pleasing to God.

In Tabernacles, we progress further. We now are in the Holy of Holies. No natural light, nor any other light source but the presence of God. He living in our midst, and there will be no more sun or moon as he is our light. Mature sons and fathers. Perfect, mature, complete, able to succeed, according to his will.

It is a process.

That takes out the strive. We do not have to nor will be perfect the moment we give our lives to Christ.

That puts in the push. I know I can achieve, I am meant to succeed in growing into maturity.

I want to stop merely living a good live. I want to grow out of just pleasing him. I want to reach what Jesus reached: only do what I see the father do.

The way to get there?

Be changed and made new in mind – reason, will, and emotions.

Let it happen that you are changed by God in character, in what and even how you think, what you desire and feel, want you want and decide.

Put yourself into the hands of God, put yourself to the process. And grow.

Homework: where are you on the journey?