Monday, March 30, 2015

Identity in Christ - 17a (Dearly Loved)

I have been becoming convinced over the last few months that the most fundamental fact is "God is love." God created the universe to show his glory. But God created people to show his love ... which does show his glory. (I have read recently, at least according to one person, that God's holiness, justice and punishment of sin is really a demonstration of his love.)
I have previously said that I was given this list of identity traits. Each trait had a Bible verse associated with it. When I first read the Bible passage for this trait, I wondered if it was a misprint of the reference.  As a result,  I looked for another verse.  But I also thought about the given passage. Ergo, 17a and 17b.
The passage begins by reminding us that, although Jesus had lived among us, he is no longer here. He is with the Father in heaven.
When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, we were placed in him. Our position is in Christ. So, our position is "where" he is. He is in God's kingdom,  seated with the Father. We are in God's kingdom, seated with the Father. Since, we are with the Father, we are not in the world. So, we should not think like we are in the world. 
The passage continues by stressing that we are separated from the world.  The separation is so total and complete that it can only be compared to death. And to the same extent that we are separated from the world, we are connected to Christ. The separation is total and final.  The connection is total and final. Scripture goes one step further.  We are concealed in Christ. The Father declares how much he values his children by creating them like buried treasure.
  • God's Perspective
Our lives are concealed in Christ.  People do not put valuable items in insecure places. People put valuable items in safe places, so they won't be lost, stolen, damaged, or  misused. The more valuable the object is the safer the place it gets put.
Collectors put unique, valuable art in vaults that have strong locked doors, are temperature, humidity and UV controlled. Procedures for allowing people into the vaults are developed. Is there anywhere safer than next to the Creator of the universe, on the throne with the Son, surrounded by millions of angels?
The Father demonstrates his love for his children by treating them as if they were more valuable than Rembrandt's and Van Gogh's It says in another place that we are his masterpieces. He treats us like masterpieces because he loves us.
  • Living My Life
The passage says that since we are concealed in Christ, we need, first of all, to develop different patterns of thinking. We have a new life. We are no longer citizens of the world system. We need to learn the standards and expectations of our new home, God's kingdom. We need to learn the behaviors that flow from those standards and expectations.
If we are in Christ, seated on the throne at God the Father's right hand, then access to the Father is easy, immediate and complete. The Father is close to Jesus, and always listens to him with 100% focus and attention, and will act on his behalf. So, the Father will listen and do for us.
If we are God's valuable and beloved masterpiece:
  1. We need to remember that God has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect and preserve us. We should be wise in what we give ourselves to. 
  2. We need to hold God’s opinion of us. We are his masterpiece. It is impossible for him to lie. 
  3. We need to hold to God’s view for failure and discipline. They are not for making our lives miserable, but to purify and facilitate our growth. God sees us the same way in success or failure.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Identity in Christ - 16 (Chosen in Christ)

Here is a mystery. At times, Scripture says things like this, and people can only go "huh?" Humans are limited by time and space. God exists outside of both. So, he knows what happens at one end. He knows what exists at the other end.

When we looked at "adopted by God," we saw that God chose us to be his children. Scripture also says he chose us "in Christ." He did not choose us, because we were the best behaved, or the cutest. We were chosen based on our response to Jesus.

The confusion stems from the fact that God saw of time from outside of time, and before any process of history. God knew everyone's choice before they made it. God could have written the Book of Life before the creation of the universe.

God saw us, knew us, loved us and chose us before creation.
  • God's Perspective
This gives a lot of people problems. If God saw, knew, loved and chose those who responded to Jesus, he also saw, knew and did not choose those who rejected Jesus. To many, that means God did not love them.

Love does seek inclusion. Love does not guarantee it. Ask anyone who has experienced unrequited love.

Still, many ask some version of the question: if a person knows something bad will happen, as a result of their action, should not common decency indicate the person should choose a different action? When such a question is applied to God, with such things as love, eternal judgment, and eternal blessing taken into consideration, a person find themselves stepping into a quagmire. I am not going to deal with such questions here. Others do a much better job of it than I would do. (for example)

I would to consider me though. There are times I consider my life and I am amazed at how black my heart is. Most people would generally consider me a pretty good guy. Yet, I see bad things no one else sees. And God, who sees much more clearly and completely than I do, must see much more.

So, the amazing thing is that he still chose me. Given what I know of my failures, I don't know if I would choose me. He still affirms his choice, his love and his acceptance of me. He still works to bless, to strengthen, to help me grow and to use me as his agent in the world.
  • Living My Life
Knowing that God sees and knows me, and still loves and chooses me, in spite off what he knows fills me with amazement.

The fact that God does not give up on me is one of the main motivation factors of my life. I submit my life to his expectations, training and discipline. I choose to embrace my role as his agent and representative. I organize my life to pursue worship, learning, transformation, prayer and service.

His choice before the creation of the world that he is totally committed to his children, his plan and his purposes. Which means among other things, he is totally sold out for me.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Identity in Christ - 15 (Complete in Christ)

Scripture says that when we are seeing Jesus, we are seeing the Father. We don't physically see the Father, but we do see Jesus. So, one way to know what the Father is like is to look at Jesus. They have the same attitudes, motivations, habits and goals.

When Jesus lived in the world, he had the same personality as the Father, but he lived a human life. He lived a life in submission to the Father, in dependence, by faith. All that he accomplished in life, he did in faith, in the authority granted to him by the Father. And because we have given Jesus our allegiance, we are united with him before the Father. And because we are united with him, all the resources available to him are available to us.

● God's Perspective

We have stated here beflre, the key component of our identity is: we are "in Christ." God the Father sees us, treats us and reguards us through Jesus. It is like we are in an airplane. If we are in an airplane and it's flying, we are flying, but it's not really us. It is the airplane. So, whatever Jesus u dergoes, we undergo. Whatever Jesus receives, we receive. Jesus died, was buried, was raised and went to heaven. And we went with him. Jesus had a close relationship to the Father. We have one available. Jesus had all the resources of heaven available to him.  So do we. He was complete. So are we.

● Living My Life

We are complete. We need nothing, because God has given everything. But we will probably not experience everything, because creation is still broken. God is restoring it, but it is still not complete. We live in a "here, but not yet" kingdom.

Part of "not yet" is: we are learning to approprate God's grace.  It is available,  but we have hearts that cannot receive. We don't have faith for it.

Part of "not yet" is: the world is in rebellion. We are at war.

There are no doubt other factors involved in "no yet" that I don't know, perhaps no one does. The question becomes: how do we live in completeness?

Scripture says Jesus gave his disciples authority to do what he did, live as he lived, to become like him. We can pursue that. Pursue:
● our relationship with the Father.
● transformation of heart.
● keeping our hearts tuned to his voice, his guidance.
● walking in love and faith.
● praying BIG.
● obeying BIG.

And living with failure, realizing that we are partners with God. The plan is his. The strategy is his. The results are his.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Identity in Christ - 14 (Circumcized in Christ)

"Circumcision" is a surgical procedure. It is a removal of skin. God commanded Israel to follow this procedure to make them district from the people groups around them.

But it is not obvious.  You can't walk down the street and see that someone is circumcised; and that someone else is not. God directed Israel to institute an un-obvious distinction.

If God wanted everyone to see this distinction, he would have done something else.  Israel would have had a different hairstyle or clothing. The distinction is not obvious for a purpose. The distinction is communicated to the hearts of Israel. Distinction based on undergoing a surgical procedure is no different than a distinction based on a different hairstyle. If it doesn't get into the heart, there is no difference.

The distinction was not obvious, but each Jew knew it was there. And that was the point. It was intended to create that awareness. The mark in the flesh was designed to make a mark in the heart.

● God's Perspective

Israel was chosen as God's people to demonstrate his character to the world. God worked in Israel's history, in their culture,  so he would become more real, and his works would become more real. As he becomes more real, more solid,  we learn to lean on him, trust in him, and live in obedience to him. We confidently live out his purposes.

Does God want us to speak to those, who have no relationship with him, about him? Of course he does. When was the last time? When it comes down to it, there are very few reasons why people do not obey God in this.  It comes down to love (God and people) and trust (God).

I am not accusing. I am just as guilty. It is just obvious that if we loved him, knew and trusted him, and believed what he said, we would move naturally into situations where revealing Jesus to people would be as easy as falling off a log, as simple as ABC, and as natural as organic granola.

● Living My Life

Scripture says anyone, who gives his allegiance to Jesus, is circumcised with Christ -- whether they have undergone the surgical procedure or not. Anyone in Christ undergoes a procedure of the heart. There is a removing of "flesh" from the heart.

The process of being identified in Christ's death (crucifiction, burial and resurrection) is a metaphor of how sin's power is crushed in our lives. Circumcision is another metaphor of sin's defeat. Just as flesh is removed from a human body, sin's power is also separated from us.

We will always live with sin's presence. We will unfortunately also sin. But without the defeat of its power,  any hope of growth is in vain.

The penalty of sin is paid. The power of sin is defeated. Only the presence of sin remains. It will be defeated, but only in the fullness of God's kingdom.

We now have the authority to choose. We can choose love, trust and obedience. We can choose humility and generosity. Right choices breed right choices. Which breeds right character. Which breeds fruit in our lives and the lives of others.