Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Identity in Christ - 30b (Holy)

Let’s pretend that I am right. Being Holy is not just following the rules. It is rather thinking, speaking and acting in ways that are distinct from the world. And this distinction is a magnet towards the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and relationship with them.
What does holiness look like? The simple answer … it looks like Jesus.
If people lived the way they were designed to live, what would they look like? The simple answer … they would look like Jesus.
People were designed and created to be holy. Scripture was written to show people how to have relationship with God, how to have relationship with other people, and how to live in holiness. So, being holy, God’s family would follow the rules. But Obedience would not be forced externally. It would flow naturally from the heart.
We will never be perfect in this life. There are areas we will fail in time and time again. There are areas we may never resolve … in this life.
This does not mean we should give up. This does not mean we should not be upset at our failure. God hates sin. Being upset demonstrates that we are like God. In being upset, we agree with God that sin is bad.
God will not give up us. It is he who works in our hearts to heal those fallen areas. Final resolution in any area is a heart upgrade by God, by the spirit.
When we fail, we don’t act like nothing has happened. And we do not merely resolve to try harder. Final resolution in any area is a heart upgrade by God, by the spirit.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Identity in Christ - 30 (Holy)

Many people commonly define “holy” as “being righteous” or “being good.” But the idea associated with the word in the original language goes more along the lines of “set apart.” Kind of like when you put the good china in a separate place, away from the everyday stuff.
The Greeks used the word to mean “dedicated to the gods.” There is a connotation of “like the Lord, because unlike the world.”
God is holy, because he is totally unlike any other. He is infinite. He is the only one who thinks, speaks and acts 100% totally true to his nature. God has revealed his nature to us. We can always count on the fact that he will faithfully act as he has revealed himself. In that sense, he is totally predictable.
But, we don’t always know how God will work. That is not predictable by people. God always knows. People assume that when they have the ability to predict, it gives them some sort of control. And control usually results in the opposite of humility. God always acts in love. God always acts in righteousness. God always acts in ways that require us to pursue trust and relationship with him. So, sometimes surprise is healthy for us. Surprise can lead to wonder, awe and worship. 
Yes, God does reveal his intentions. He gives us instructions so that we can know him better. He gives us instructions that enable us to partner with him in establishing his kingdom, to growing as designed, to teach us his nature and how he defines the proper running of our relationship. But God reveals his plans in ways that empower these things, and weakens the tendencies people have of moving away from him and their design. 
People are holy, because they have chosen to accept God’s invitation to relationship. In giving allegiance to him, we dedicate ourselves to him.
● God's Perspective
There does seem to be a lot of debate about how God views his children. Who does God approve of? What does God approve of?
People who are "good?" People who keep the rules?  God does give standards for us to follow. Christian groups also give rules. Usually the group meets a situation in society, that does break one of God's commands. They agree together to not engage in this activity, to draw a distinction between themselves and society. This might be a very good thing . Especially if it opens up conversation between people, and draws them into relationship with God. Unfortunately, the rule often gets set in concrete, and stays forever. 
At one time, dancing took place in settings of dubious morals. So, Christians agreed not to participate. But there is a passage of Scripture that encourages dancing as worship. So, is dancing per se wrong? Or dancing in certain situations. What if, during a worship meeting,  a couple got up and did the jitterbug as an act of worship? In some places, many people would be offended. 
But what about God? If dancing the jitterbug was truly an act of worship, I think God would be pleased. If there hearts were not in the right place (showing off? protesting?) I think God would be grieved.
If holiness is drawing distinctions to show God's presence to the world, then God does not just look at actions, but attitudes and the heart.
● Living My Life
Holiness is living in distinction to the world, so that people are drawn to God's presence, God's nature and character, and ultimately,  relationship with God. Holiness is more than being good. Scripture says that love draws people to God.  Scripture says unity draws people to God. So, how God's family treats those in the "immediate family", in the "extended family", and those "outside the family" matters.
Many Christians conclude that having a high moral code matters. I will not dispute this. Yet, as we just asked, is dancing per se wrong? The Jewish leaders of Jesus' day had a high moral code. They had God's Word. One group, in order to ensure they obeyed God's Word, created over 600 regulations. In God's Word, God said that one day a week should be set aside for celebrating our relationship with him. So, no one should work that day. Some of these 600 regulations were intended to refine what work entailed. How far could a person walk before he was working? So, if you hiked up to the top of a peak, brought your lunch,  and your Bible, to pray and meditate, overlooking the valley,  maybe interceding for a village below, is God displeased because you broke a sweat on his day? 
Morals are important. Love is moral. Unity is moral. Stealing and lying are against good morals. And, yes, people seek to be released from morals, so they can feed their baser appetites. And, yes, maybe God's people should make declarations against those things. 
I consider our focus, intention s and actions should concern things that lead to a relationship with God. Jesus did not seem to focus on getting the wicked people to keep the rules. He knew that righteousness would come after relationship with Father. He focused on prayer to break through to people's hearts., love and service, and enhancing his family's relationship with him.
There is not one perfect to-do list that covers that. Unfortunately,  each one of us needs to develop their own to-do list.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Identity in Christ - 29 (heirs of God; joint-heirs with Christ)

I am actually doing two identities. I was meditating on the first, making little progress in understanding it, when I remembered the second,  further down the list. Since, they both dealt with our inheritance, I included it with the first, thinking they should complement and amplify each other.

Understanding the "what" is actually fairly easy. We were separated from God, because of sin. In Christ, and with our allegiance, God adopted us into his family. We are his children.
In the natural world, when the father dies, the children receive part of the father's estate. Whatever the father had, that was valuable, was given to the children.

In the spiritual world,  our heavenly Father is not going to die. But, as his children, we still become his heirs. Jesus is, of course,  the first-born son. Traditionally, when the father dies, the first-born son becomes the leader of the family. So, Jesus becomes the leader of the family. But he is a son, so he is an heir. And we are heirs also.

So far, so good. But how does this change the way God views us or deals with us? How does this change the way we are intended to live?

● God's Perspective

When God declares his adopted children as his heirs, this is a further indication of God's acceptance and commitment to us as a father.  We are not just taken into the family and provided for. We are given equal status with the "natural" children.

A king could bring orphan children into his home. He could feed, clothe, educate and shelter them. That would be tremendously generous. But he could carve out parts of his kingdom. He could given them royal titles. (Count Johnny of Baltimore. Duchess Jenny of Philadelphia.) He could give them important positions in his kingdom. These would be unexpected steps, but would definitely demonstrate how highly the king values these orphans.

The word translated into English as "inheritance" in the original language means "possession," or, in verb form, "to come into possession." Scripture says we are heirs of God's kingdom and God's glory. God is giving to us, as our possession,  both kingdom and glory. Of course, we do not have ultimate authority in these things, because Jesus is the first-born.

I am still unsure how this works out practically.  Is this shown somehow after God's kingdom is fully established?  Are there supernatural resources at our command now?

● Living My Life

I have already sat that I do not see any practical outworking, except one. It is to me a further indication of how sold out God is for us, about us. He is putting all his resources into our possession.

We do need to remember our position in line. Jesus is the first in line. He has first dibs. But our hearts ought to be Jesus' heart. We should want the same things. We should aim to achieve the same things. Some goals. Same values. Same priorities.

There are some Christian theologies that seem to suggest that if you are walking with God and have sufficient faith, you will have a 20-room mansion and a Bentley. However, Jesus -- who walked closest with God, and who did have faith that moved mountains -- had no place to lay his head. He was despised, betrayed and died a criminal's death.

Jesus, God who became man, first-born, ruler of the kingdom,  had a totally different heart about possessions, lifestyle, and purpose in the world. He came as a servant.  He enabled people to get into a new and right relationship with God. He enabled people to return to living as they were designed.  And we need to have Jesus' heart, no matter what place or status we have in life.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Faith into Joy

There is a passage of Scripture that describes Abraham as the archetype of faith. Abraham is the pattern we all follow. He trusted God; God gave him a right relationship, a right position, approval and a new identity, because of his faith. We all follow that pattern.

The passage continues. Faith brings us into joy. First, we have joy because of our right relationship. We are back where we should be. We have peace with god. We have confidence in our relationship with him. Somehow, we will share his glory. Our position and relationship with God should fill us with joy.

We should also have joy in our experience. Even in the midst of negativity. Having joy when everything is going good is easy. When things are going bad, it is a different story. But the writer wants to correct our view of negativity.

The view of negativity then (and it is still a common view today) is that bad things are punishment by God. This passage refutes this view, at least for God';s children. The view presented in this passage of the Bible is:
  • This present existence is short and temporary. Our hearts should not be given to the temporary. Our hearts should be given to the permanent.
  • God uses the temporary to prepare us for the permanent. When we obey God, in the midst of negativity, We learn to persevere. And perseverance is one of the character traits of God. So, living rightly in the midst of negativity leads to transformation.
  • The primary reason we experience joy in the midst of negativity is that God loves us. And to demonstrate that fact, going beyond, but including the cross, he has given us his Spirit to dwell with all who give him allegiance. He chooses to walk with us in each step, each phase and each experience. He chooses to give close, personal attention to our training, transformation and resourcing. He chooses to give life to what is dead. He chooses to raise up what is failing in our lives.
If there is negativity in our lives, consider how God wants us to think, speak and act, and give you heart toward living that way, because God is in the midst of a systems upgrade.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Identity in Christ - 28 (Glorified in Christ)

I have always associated this identity trait as a part of dying with Christ. (Crucified, died, buried, raised and glorified.) And maybe it still is. But the passage I have associates it with a different string. (Foreknown, chosen to be like Jesus, invited, given right sanding and glorified.)

The two strings intersect at Jesus, of course. God has chosen to allow us to share Christ's glory, when he put Jesus on the cross for us. He has identified Christ with us so completely, that it was just like we were on the cross with him.

And God has identified us with Christ, because we voluntarily chosen to follow him. He has placed us in him, and him in us. We have become a part of his body. His Spirit dwells in our hearts.

This is not to say we are Jesus. He still has a name above all names. We are riding along on his coattails. Yet, somehow we experience his glory with him. Like the joy that friends of the bride and groom feel at the wedding? Maybe. And maybe somehow different.
  • God's Perspective
God had a plan. He made a world. He made people. He put people into a family. All of these, he designed and crafted as a master artist. He intended that all of these would move and exist in perfect love, joy and peace.

This world would show who he was, what he was like. The people would show who he was, and what he was like. There would be a continuous celebration of life, of God and of his goodness and love.

Of course, it didn't work out that way. The first people sinned, and it brought corruption into the world. It might seem that God's plan failed. But the plan is still the same:

  1. Create a world and people.
  2. Create a family.
  3. Create relationships with those people.
  4. Demonstrate his nature and character.
Now the family participates in his glory by living in a agreement with God, demonstrating his nature and character through their lives and persuading others to join the family.Persuasion by a clear communication of his message, and living as close to our original design as possible ... individually and as a family.

  • Living My Life
One way I can experience God's glory is by promoting, participating in and fostering God's plan.

Generally, this means
    • Growing in my relationship with the Father.
    • Growing my character to become more as it was originally designed.
    • Contributing toward the growth of relationship and character in my and God's family.
    • Contributing toward extending God's kingdom, both in showing God's character (love, service, giving grace and displaying truth) and proclaiming his message.
Specifically, it could mean a number of different things for each person. There are so many ways people have developed for reading, meditating and praying, there is not enough time to go into them all. There are also many different ways to get involved in God's mission. God has designed people generally. God has designed people specifically. We each need to work out our own ways to complete the four general ways I listed above.

As we walk in each area, we demonstrate God's nature, we work in partnership with him, and -- in success or failure -- we show his glory.