Finding the Edge
by Chris Grahl
Two Sides to Every Coin
“There are two sides to every story, just like there are two sides to every coin.” How often have we given or taken that advice? It's apparent why we apply this old axiom for it seems to fit very well. Either side of a coin is inadequate in representing the other side. The eagle-emblazoned “tails” side of a U.S. quarter for instance, gives no clue to the image of George Washington stamped on the reverse side; even though they are both part of the same coin. The same is true when dealing with opposing views in an argument or debate. No one side is in a position to accurately present the other. So, to the extent that we have described it, the saying, “there are two sides to every coin” seems to hold true. Even so, there is a problem with this saying because, although it is true to a certain extent, it denies one very important fact... a coin does not have just two sides, it has three.
A coin is a three-dimensional object with a narrow, yet perceptible depth which we refer to as the edge. It is the third side of a coin. By focusing our attention upon the other two sides, we have inadvertently failed to recognize the importance of the edge. Although thin, apparently without significance, and often obscured from view, this narrow path which travels around the coin allows us to discern the bounds of the other two sides. It also serves to hold the opposing faces of the coin together, making a complete coin. The edge, then, is an equal partner along with the other two sides. Together, they present the coin in its fullness.
The edge not only allows us to realize the full
form of a coin, it serves a few other purposes
as well. For instance, the ridges milled into
the coin edge, called reeding, was originally
conceived to ensure that precious metal coins
stayed intact, safe from the unscrupulous. It
helped avert the practice of shaving the gold
and silver off the coin edges for resale, while
passing the compromised coins off at their full
value. The edge, then, can act as a safeguard –
helping to maintain the integrity of the coin
from being shaved off. Beyond curbing illegal
activities, these ridges also help us discern
between coins which are similar in size, but
hold different values. When we reach into a
pocket, for example, a one-cent piece and a dime
are nearly indistinguishable. But, a quick feel
along the edge of a dime, reveals its true
identity. And finally, here is something I
learned when I used to collect coins. It is best
not to touch a coin on its faces for the oils
from human skin can tarnish the coin and leave
unwanted finger prints. But if you do have to
pick it up, holding a coin by the edge is the
safest way to do it. The edge truly is a
functional part of a coin.
The Whole Story
So, if significance is inherent in all three sides of a coin as they reveal the whole, wouldn't this dynamic also apply to our search for the truth? Are there in fact three sides to every story and not two? We have already indicated that no one view is adequate in presenting the entire truth so that it can be understood. In addition, exposure to all of the facts (both sides of a subject or topic) does not, by nature, ensure understanding. It would seem that we need an edge which can enable us to discern the truth.
Truth, however, is somewhat illusive. As Pontius Pilate asked, “What is Truth?” Biblically speaking, truth comes to the human race via two avenues; they are Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Truth is found in, and born of the Kingdom and rule of God as revealed and offered to us through the plan of redemption. John the Baptist announced the Kingdom (Matthew 3:1,2), Jesus embodied it (John 12:15, 18:37), and the Holy Spirit was sent to administer it within the hearts of believers (Romans 14:17, Galatians 4:6). The Kingdom can easily be likened to the very coin we have been describing. Let's take a closer look.
The Father's Good Pleasure
Let's envision the Kingdom of God as a gold coin which has been minted and issued by means of the Gospel. This divine denomination consists of two faces; the earthly side, and the heavenly side of the covenant God made with man. The earthly side represents mankind redeemed. Jesus came in the likeness of sinful man so that he could purchase our adoption. This is the Kingdom as viewed from our earthly perspective; the “tails” side.
The “heads” side of the coin represents God's perspective for the purpose of manifesting the Kingdom of God on earth. This is what Jesus told us to pray for after all, “...your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). To see the Kingdom is to be granted citizenship as we accept the King. From there, we are to enter in and walk in the Kingdom as adopted sons and daughters. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; let's start at the beginning.
We first must be born anew from above, “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again... no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3,5 NIV). There is a “seeing,” and an “entering.” This is not unlike the children of Israel who saw Moses part the Red Sea as they left Egypt, but also had to cross the Jordan to enter the Promised Land to receive their inheritance. John presents this two-part dynamic of the Kingdom symbolically through Jesus' interaction with a young Jew named Nathanael.
Under the Fig Tree
When Jesus began collecting disciples in Galilee, Phillip brought his friend Nathanael for an interview. “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, 'Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.' 'How do you know me?' Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, 'I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.' Then Nathanael declared, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel'” (John 1:47- 49 NIV).
In this foreshadowing of the coming salvation, Nathanael believed and as a result, saw Jesus as the King! This is the “seeing” portion of Kingdom birth, and the “tails” side of the coin. To see the King is to see the kingdom from the vantage point of planet earth. But what of the heavenly view?
Jesus replied by saying, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that...Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'” (John 1:50, 51 NIV). Is there something truly greater than seeing Jesus as the King? These “greater things” are not measured by quantity, but a depth of quality – a heavenly quality. This is the “heads” side of the coin which promises a view of “heaven open.”
The Promised Land
When Joshua and Caleb spied out (saw) the Promised Land, they dared that it could be both entered, and settled. Joshua made that vision a reality as he led the Israelites into Canaan. In this action, which serves as yet another example of foreshadowing, the Israelites embodied for us, in a sense, the experience of gaining heaven on earth. We, according to Paul, are seated there right now. Although we are natural and from the earth, we are promised citizenship in the heavenly Kingdom:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 NIV).
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6 NIV).
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1 NIV)
According to these Scriptures, we have been raised up and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus as members of his household. Although we may imagine heaven as geographically distant from where we stand, it is merely on the other side of our coin. We have been brought close to God. Being born anew, from above, provides us that family access, “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household...” In addition, we are not separated from heaven by distance, or even by time. Jesus is the head of the church now, and we are the Body of Christ now.
Being born anew, from above, provides us that family access, “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household...” (Ephesians 2:18-19 NIV). So we have been granted a view of both heaven and earth as they pertain to the Kingdom of God. But, how do these two perspectives work together? Paul tells us that there is a progression – first is the natural, then the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46). These are the two faces of our coin; our natural perspective of the Kingdom of God, and God's heavenly perspective. We must have them both for they are two sides of the same coin. But remember, a coin has more than two sides.
The Edge of Truth
When we are born of water and the Spirit, we both see and enter the Kingdom of God. That's what Jesus referred to as being born again. Water and Spirit together define our initial, as well as our ongoing connection with the Kingdom of God. Yet, these two kingdom truths are as different as two sides of a coin. Although our natural view of the heavenly kingdom is important enough to make heaven rejoice, what we can see with natural vision pales in comparison to the heavenly vision which opens up new doors and new possibilities. However, seeing into those doors and entering through them are two different things. To make sense of what we've seen, we need discernment from the one Jesus called, the Spirit of Truth.... “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13 NIV). He is the edge we need to navigate the kingdom journey.
The Spirit is that member of the Trinity which goes mostly unnoticed, much like the edge of a coin. It is not that we don't know the Spirit exists, it's just that by nature, we are not conscious of his role. But it was Jesus' intention that we both receive and live by the Spirit, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25 NIV). It is the Spirit which gives us our edge.
How important is the role of the Spirit in our ability to comprehend the Kingdom of God? Paul tells us that... “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV). Those Spiritual things are the “greater things” Jesus promised Nathanael. These things are not only presented by the Spirit, they require the Spirit to define and make them real.
According to Paul, the person who relies on natural, earthly perception, can't understand the “greater things.” It is like trying to read the text on a foreign coin. If we can't understand the language of its origin, the best we can do is make assumptions as to its value and whose inscription it bears. Although it may resemble coins we are familiar with, we don't have the background and insight to gain the bigger picture, and hopefully we'll remember to keep our finger print off the coin and hold it safely by the edge.
What we lack is the same thing a number of earlier believers lacked. Paul stumbled upon a few of them and asked, "'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' And they said to him, 'No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit'" (Acts 19:2 NIV). Paul made sure they found their edge.
Whose Money Is It?
Using a coin to represent the Kingdom of God affords us some great imagery and symbolism to help us to comprehend our place in it. The “heads,” or obverse side of the coin, represents Jesus as the head of the church. The “tails,” or reverse side, stands for redeemed humanity. These flat-faced sides are vitally connected together by means of the truth of the Holy Spirit which encircles them both and holds them together. The purity of the gold from which the coin has been minted, speaks of the refinement process. “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7 NIV).
Let's not forget, however, who owns this coin. Many seem to view the Kingdom and its blessings as currency to spend as we please, but that is “tails” logic. God has made a deposit in us so that he might spend his will and plan through us. We are in the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is in us through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20, John 17:23, Ephesians 2:6, 2 Timothy 1:1). This coin, stamped with those immortal words, “In God We Trust” is backed by the full faith and credit of the Kingdom of God; may it come to pass, and may his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Remember, “it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32 NIV). We should not grasp at heavenly things in our own understanding, but most assuredly we should “...not refuse him who speaks... since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe...” (Hebrews 12:25,28 NIV). We have been appointed to receive the Kingdom in its fullness. One, or even two facets of the whole is insufficient for the journey; just as Apollos discovered while in Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26).
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.... We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:1,11-12 NIV). The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews is consistent with Paul who claimed that he had not yet “obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12 NIV). Paul was a pretty edgy character – the same edge available to all who will believe.
The edge brings us full circle. It perfectly encompasses and delineates our path, leading us back around as we journey from one glory to the next. When recognized and acknowledged, the edge brings three-dimensional perspective to how we view coins, disputes, and more importantly, the Kingdom of the Triune God which has been deposited in the heart of every believer. May that investment mature and bring many dividends!
(c) 2015 Chris Grahl
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