Monday, June 29, 2015

Identity in Christ - 27 (Forgiven)

We are forgiven. In the original language, the word means “to release.” Before Jesus died, before we gave him our allegiance, God held onto our sins. They were counted. They were weighed. They were assessed. They were evaluated. God knew more about our sins than we did.
Then, Jesus died. Punishment for all sins fell on him. And then, we gave him our allegiance.
We had lived in the kingdom of the enemy. We lived for his interests. Jesus sent a rescue mission. He delivered us from the enemy’s kingdom. He gave us membership in his kingdom and family. And – the point of this post – he released us from our sins.
When I think about releasing, I get this mental picture of an event – the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Cup final – where organizers have thousands of doves or pigeons in cages at the event. At the right time, all of the cages are opened, the birds are released, and they fly away.
Did you ever wonder,  how are they going to get all those birds back into the cages?
As far as God is concerned, that’s the point. The birds are never going back into their cages. They are gone. No one will worry about them anymore. No one will feed them. No one will need to clean the cages.
  •  God’s Perspective
There is a passage of Scripture where it says the all-knowing, all-seeing God does not remember our sin. Our Father has so released our sin, it is gone from his memory. In his current dealing with us, it is not a factor. He does not deal with us according to our failures. He deals with us according to our lack.
God’s sovereignty, holiness and authority gives God the perfect right to punish our sin. Forgiveness means God has released any claims to exercise this right.
  •  Living My Life
First, I need to approach God on the basis of this releasing. If I treat my sin as if God has not released it, then I approach God with fear. Maybe I could be punished again. Maybe I am living in disfavor. And I become more focused on how I am living. And my living cannot affect my acceptance by God. I cannot earn forgiveness. I cannot earn right standing. And if God has released my sin, and his right to punish my sin – in Christ, on the cross – then I cannot by my sin get the “pigeons” back in the cage.
By no means, does this mean that God takes how I live, how I conduct myself lightly. But he does not approach me through my failures. He approaches me to rebuild me life, my character, to live as I was designed to live.
If I am free of fear, I am free to love, to serve, to pray, to act by faith.
Second, I need to approach people and their failures as God approaches me. I need to open the “cage doors” and release their sins. I need to release my rights to demand punishment. This does not mean I take their actions lightly. But God does not deal with me with a view toward punishment. Rather he deals with me seeking redemption, transformation and reconciliation. This is what the focus and intent of my heart needs to be.
Sometimes God allows the consequences of actions to occur, so people will realize they do not live in agreement with God’s design. So, people will turn from trying to fill their lives with false fuels. We may find ourselves in the same position. It breaks God’s heart to see people like this. It should break our hearts too.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Identity in Christ - 26 (Foreknown)

Or as one version puts it: "knew his people in advance."
One of the logical, philosophical quagmires people can get into is trying to wrap their brains around the fact that the all-powerful, all-knowing God, who hates sin, has given his created beings free choice. He knew before creation who would choose him. He knew before creation who would refuse him. He knew before creation who would totally mess up and who would succeed.
This could start a chain-reaction of unanswerable questions. In order to answer these questions, we would need to read God's mind. And no one but God's Spirit knows what's in God's heart fully. And he lets us know what's on God's heart, but not answers to those types of questions. He tells what he knows to be sufficient for us to trust him, to choose relationship with him, to seek to obey him.
God knew his family in advance. And he chose them, but not just for salvation. He chose them to be like Jesus. (Jesus is now the first-born of a very large family.) He chose them for relationship ... a close relationship.
And if they chose his invitation for relationship, he chose to give them, not only relationship, but right standing. He chose them to become his possession, his nation and his family. He redeemed them and forgave them. There is peace between God and his children. He does not hold their sin against them. He chooses not to remember it.
And, now that his children have right standing, he chooses to share his glory.
  • God's Perspective
It is practically impossible to approach this area from God's perspective. God expresses himself pretty thoroughly in most other areas. He is pretty much silent about this. Hence, the unanswerable questions.
We do know:
    1. God created the world to be perfect.
    2. God designed people. God provided fuels to power their bodies, their minds and their spirits.
    3. The main fuel was a relationship with the Father of All. And the Father's love is the main component of the relationship.
    4. Man sinned. Sin broke Man's design. People are cut off from their main fuel.
    5. God loves people. God hates sin, because it breaks the relationship with people. It breaks his design of the world and people.
    6. God knew it all before it would happen ... and he went and did it anyway.
He even went through extraordinary lengths to re-connect with people. He goes through extraordinary lengths to "fix" his design.
I certainly am not in a position to explain how all this makes sense. In part, we experience God's choice of re-connection and "fixing." And, in this, we experience God's glory now.
  • Living My Life
It is hard to see how this can have any practical impact on living. The only thing I can say about it is God knew me. God knew my heart. God knew my motivations. God knew my successes. God knew my failures, my weaknesses, and the areas I am still failing in, and will continue to fail in. And still:
    1. He pursues relationship.
    2. He chooses to work with me.
    3. He chooses to work through me.
    4. He delights in me.
    5. He loves me.
    6. He includes me in his family.
    7. He includes me in his mission and purposes.
    8. He has a place for me that gives one purpose, meaning and heart satisfaction.
And I can enter into and experience all this as I trust him, are open to his communication, and seek to follow that communication.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Identity in Christ - 25 (Fellow Citizen)

At one time, God chose to demonstrate his nature, to invite people into relationship with him, through the nation of Israel. Israel was given his revelation, his promises, his mission, his commission as his agents.

The Bible documents how Israel moved to "least favored nation" status with God. Not that God hates them. God loves them as he loves all people and nation. But Israel consistently chose not to follow God.

God gives limits to move people to live in congruence to their design. Israel consistently went beyond those limits. So, God apparently changed his plan, and chose a different "group" to fulfill his mission.

(Some would argue that God was not caught by surprise, and using an international family was his plan all along. Certainly, Jesus was his plan. And Jesus was an Israelite. So, God still used the nation to provide the Messiah.)

  • God's Perspective
Israel, like many people groups, had an us/them identification. "Us" was Israel. "Them" was everyone else, or the gentiles. There was a definite separation of the groups in Israel's thinking.

Then, Jesus came. He tore down the walls. He made one people. He created a new family. His family. And everyone in his family had access to his revelation, his promises, his resources, his presence. Everyone in his family had a part in his mission.

More, the Spirit of God used to "come on" his servants. He would empower people to live for him "temporarily". Astounding work and miracles were done. Then nothing. Now, the Spirit dwells with people. There is potential for works all the time. There is a sin-wall that blocks the Spirit from flowing from a person's heart into the world. God's work in the lives of his family to weaken, break down and dissolve that wall. Eventually, there is breakthrough, and God's Spirit flows unchecked into the world.
  • Living My Life
The word for "fellow citizen" in the original language means "possessing the same citizenship with others." It is in contrast with two other words: strangers and aliens. "Strangers" refers to "no knowledge, no share." "Aliens" refers to "living in or near, but without rights." So, as citizens, we have knowledge, a share and rights.

We are one of God's people, God's family, God's chosen. We have intimate access. We have the right to request resources, and should expect to receive resources. We can use the "family car." We are the Father's favorite. We have his attention and concern 24 x 7 x 365. Every minute of the day. Any time. Any place. Nothing is too trivial.

No doubt many reading this are concerned that some will spend the riches of God on the mundane, the trivial, or the sinful, even.

Remember, our original design was to be like Jesus. When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, he gives us citizenship, puts us in his family and puts his Spirit in our hearts. And the Spirit works to break down the sin-wall around our hearts. We were designed to be holy. We were designed to love. The Spirit works to unlock our lives to live as we were designed. And sin is not according to spec. Sin goes against our design. Putting the resources of heaven in our hands should be like putting them in Jesus' hands. Sin only brings loss and death. Grace brings love, joy ... and yes, holiness.