Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Identity in Christ - 2 (Aliens)

When we chose to follow Jesus, to give him our allegiance, many things happen. We become a citizen of God’s kingdom. We become a member of God’s family. We become a part of God’s body.

We come into agreement with Jesus. So, we take as our values, goals and priorities, Jesus’ values, goals and priorities. We take Jesus’ mind-set and cognitive framework.

The Holy spirit takes up residence in our hearts. So, he takes over our hearts. Our motivations change. Our attitudes change. Our perspectives change.

This is a long and round-about way of saying, we are different from everybody else.
  • God’s Perspective
God has many children living in a far-away country. It is a country which is hostile to them, because they are from his country, they are his children. Moreover, it is a country that tries to manipulate his children. It wants to induce them to agree with its standards and customs, which are against God’s standards and customs.

God, from his position as master designer and creator, knows what gives health and well-being. He knows that people will be much better off if they live in relationship with him. And he is concerned for his children. He is concerned they will stumble, move away from him, damage their relationship and damage their “hearts.” (“Heart” being a Biblical metaphor for a person’s inner being: psychological, emotional and spiritual.)

But God is also confident about his children. He is confident that the will not move away from him and cause this damage to themselves. Moreover, he is confident that with his children in the world, engaging the world, that the world will be drawn to him. God has put a longing in people’s hearts to experience all that his children experience. And if people advance to him, give him their allegiance, they will fill the emptiness. They will also become God’s children. And they will become aliens in their own home town.

And God is confident his children will choose the completeness they were designed for, and keep away from the substitutes the world uses to fill its heart.
  • Living My Life
We live in a world that moves contrary to God’s ways. People choose to go against how they were designed. Like water in the gas tank, a car might still run … just not very well.

So, is it surprising that the government chooses a direction that does not keep God’s ways? Is is surprising that businesses provide “services” that go directly against God’s word?

So, how does God’s family react when this happens?

They complain. They whine. They expect the world to say “OMG!! What was I thinking??”

One: God says “Do not grumble.” God says “In every life situation, give thanks.” Moreover, God speaks into every situation. Look for, be alert for, his revelation. He will tell you how to turn a negative into a positive.

Two: God’s family is supposed to be a positive force in the world. That’s why God left us in the world.

The world does not know God. It does not know his ways. It has no intention of following his ways, if it did know them.

God’s family does know God’s ways … or it should. Giving God allegiance, we agree to keep those ways. God’s family should be demonstrating his ways, living his ways, to impact a broken world. Whining and complaining won’t fix what’s wrong. Love, grace and truth will.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Identity in Christ -1 (Appointed by God)

We have been invited to follow Christ. We have been invited to to be his disciples. Once, we accept the invitation, we are appointed. We are put into service.

When we give Christ our allegiance, we are loved as a child; and we are valued as a trusted, faithful servant. The Father has confidence in us. We are esteemed. We are part of the solution.

God puts us into service. We become participants in his mission. We are given a part to fulfill. And God not only expects us to complete our part, he is fully confident that we are able to do so.  We can't be like Moses and say "I can't do that" or "I don't know how." He has equipped us, empowered us and positioned us for success. 

And what were we appointed for? To produce lasting fruit. We are appointed to shape lives, cities, cultures and societies.  We are not appointed to do this alone. We are part of a team. But we are a vital part.

● Living my life

If I have a vital role on a team, I need to be on the field. I  can't be sitting in the bench.  I have to make sure I am in shape.  I have to make sure I know how to accomplish my role. 

However, one of the results of the way discipleship is carried out today is most of the team sits on the bench. The arena has gotten limited to a Sunday morning meeting. The requirements have gotten limited to a few roles; and in many churches, some roles require special, accredited training. The result many lives is that people listen to cultural expectations,  and not God's expectations. God may have chosen someone for a role and that someone does not assume that role, because he/she does not meet the cultural expectations. 

To live a life of obedience requires we embrace our role. Yes, there is learning required. But we have the Holy Spirit as our teacher. And the Father wants our success, so he will not place us beyond our limits.

● God's Perspective

I am a trusted, faithful servant. I will fulfill my place in God's plan. I will completely,  faithfully,  competently fulfill my responsibilities with excellence. And God knows all this from the day I chose to follow him.

So, does this means that I will always be faithful,  always obedient and never fail? Of course not. If we are half successful,  that would be amazing.  But this is how God chooses to view us.

"You are my servant.  I expect you to succeed. I expect you to bear fruit. And I have placed all my resources at your disposal to make sure you do succeed. I am not glorified by your failure. So,I am going to do what I can do to make sure you never do. "

It seems that God, in appointing us as his ambassadors,  has taken a substantial risk. But he also declares to the world what our value to him. You are worth dying on the cross. You are worth God putting his reputation on the line. You are worth God making all the resources of heaven available.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Identity in Christ

I recently discovered that someone has put videos of one of my favorite speakers on YouTube. So, watching YouTube for a short while on Saturday morning has become part of my devotions. One of the things this person seems to do is generate “sound bites.” That is, he says one or two sentences that stick in your brain. One that I have been thinking about recently is: “God does not relate to us according to our behavior; God relates to us according to our identity.”

Why is this important?

If God relates to us according to our behavior, the burden rests with us. And, therefore, no one would be saved, because we continue to fail. At best, we would need to continually choose to follow Jesus. But, with God, whose standards are perfection, we would never know.

If God relates to us according to our identity, before we choose allegiance to Jesus, we are sinners, enemies of God, and rebellious. We have broken his law and deserve condemnation. After we choose to follow Jesus, our identity changes. Even though we still sin, we are not who we once were. We are “in Christ,” children of God, citizens of his kingdom, priests of God Most High … to name a few. And the burden rests with him.

(I have a list of 67 items that comprise our identity, once we are in Christ. I don’t know if I will post all 67 items. But I have decided that I ought to think about all 67. If these things comprise my identity, then understanding them gives me greater understanding of how god views me, and what my life should be like.)

Our identity changes from something God hates to something God loves. Our identity changes from something God finds worthless to something God finds valuable.

Knowing God views me through the lens of my identity – an identity given to me when I gave Jesus my allegiance, an identity that was designed by God in eternity past, and forged on the cross – and not my behavior, gives me tremendous confidence in my relationship with God. My relationship does not stand on what I do, because I am not big enough, nor holy enough, to stand on my own. The burden rests with him. My relationship, my destiny, stands on what Jesus did and how God views my position with Jesus. And my position is “in Christ.” My identity is bound to him.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

If The End Was Near - 6

The last instruction concerns spiritual gifts.

As many know, the church is the body of Christ. There are many different pieces connected together to fulfill Christ's mission and complete Christ's life in the world. Like a human body, each part has a different function. Each function fosters growth, maintenance, repair and change within Christ's body. There is communication, resourcing, problem solving, and task resolution. All of these things involve skills that promote healthy life and growth in Christ's family.

(Growth can be looked at in two ways. One is greater efficiency and effectivenessof an individual life. The other is lives effected and more people choosing to become part of God's family.)

There are lots of theories. (How many; how and when given; the identification and definition.) But Scripture makes several things plain.

● It is the Holy Spirit who gives them.

● He has a strategic and tactical purpose for each person, and therefore, each gift.

● This gift gives a clue to each person's purpose and place in God's kingdom and mission. (I say clue rather than an exhaustive definition, because there is room within each gift for different applications. If someone has a gift of teaching, who is his audience? Churches, classrooms, individuals, adults, two year olds, teens, workers, retirees, mothers, fathers, couples, singles and a host of others not mentioned. )

This instruction is God has empowered each one of us to fulfill a part that completes his mission and builds his family. Be diligent to fulfill that part.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

If The End Was Near - 5

The next instruction is about hospitality. It could be a further comment about love, but it could stand on its own.

The instruction is to provide hospitality with a positive attitude for those in need. given the context and main theme of the book, I believe this instruction is aimed primarily at other believers who lose their homes and livelihood, because they are members of Jesus' family. We should joyfully bring these into our homes, feed and clothe them.

There is not much more to be said -- use your physical possessions to serve, shelter and feed others.

However, imagine if the command had universal scope. The homeless. Refugees. The unemployed. Since, Jesus' heart covers these also, it would not be too hard to include these too.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

If The End Was Near - 4

The next instruction is about love. But it is not next in priority. This Scripture says "first of all" or "most of all." Meaning love has first priority.

Why does God give love first priority? Because life is built on relationships. It is not built on jobs, accomplishments, or adventures. Life is built on God and people, and people and people, connecting with one another.

And love is important, because relationships are messy. People make mistakes, act selfishly, and sin. Love covers sin. Love makes relationships possible in the middle of the mess. Love makes unity possible when there is failure and sin. And it is love and unity that demonstrates God's nature to the world.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

If The End Was Near - 3

There are several instructions the writer gives, because the end if near. The first instruction involves prayer. I find it interesting that there is no “thou shalt pray.” Prayer is assumed. The writer believes that God’s people will be given to prayer. Some more than others, of course. But it is a significant part of each believer’s life.

No, the instruction is not “make sure you pray.” The instruction is make sure you pray with a right heart, right attitudes and right perspectives. Words used to describe praying with a right heart are: earnest, alert, disciplined, sober, self-controlled and right-minded.

Prayer as the writer describes it should be a serious, focused, intentional connecting with God. This does not necessarily preclude a free, emotionally released time of worship. But, there ought to be time when we place our heart as intermediaries between God and people, between God and the world, and between people and the world. It is not a fun sort of prayer. It is a burden of love. It is assuming the burden of suffering with people and for people – in our hearts, minds and prayers.

We ought to be concerned by slowly God’s kingdom is growing. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit’s invasion of the world.

We ought to be concerned by how small God’s family is. We ought to pray for the Word, the gospel and the Spirit to invade hearts, cities, people-groups, cultures and societies, turning the upside down as they learn about God’s love and his desire to adopt them as his children.

Yes, we should pray for jobs and healing for people we know. We should pray for parking places. But we need to expand our hearts. God wants to touch those close to us: family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. He also want to touch those far away.

We also need to understand our authority. When the disciples were still immature spiritually, Jesus sent them out, told them to proclaim his message, and gave them authority to heal and cast out demons. He gave them authority to validate their message. He later went on to give authority to his church to “bind” and “release.”

Maybe he gave this authority to increase our faith. Maybe so we would develop his heart toward the world. In either case, we need to recognize he has given us authority, and we need to learn to wield it … in love, for people, for God’s kingdom, for good.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

If the End Was Near - 2

As one would expect, there should be an impact on your life when you live at the end of your life.

Some people might not be able to face it. Some people might have the ultimate, unending party. But if you are a member of God's family, you know the party is coming. Now is the time for something else. And the writer discusses things we should focus on, in light of the end of time.

I find it interesting to note that the instructions do not include: 
   • make sure you don't sin, 
   • share the gospel a lot.

I can imagine some TV preacher speaking on this subject and those two things would be at the top of his list.

"You are going to go into the presence of the Lord. Don't go with the stains of sin on your soul. "

"This is your last chance to make your life count for eternity. Millions are going to hell. Don't let them perish without the opportunity to know about Jesus' love for them."

I will not argue against these two "made up" statements. The issues are important. But the writer of Scripture did not include them in this case. What did he include? What did he, and the Spirit, consider important?