Saturday, October 31, 2015

Identity in Christ - 44 (Predestined)

As I pointed out when we discussed "elect," understanding about the trait "predestined" has gotten colored largely by the writings of the theologian, John Calvin. Again, I am not a follower of John Calvin. Nor perhaps even a good understander of ... But the term is used in the Bible.

Given my limited understanding of the original language, the word rendered "predestined" is a compund word: a word meaning "before" and a word from which the English word "horizon" is derived. And "horizon" has the inherent concept of "established boundaries" or "established limits." So, we are talking about pre-established boundaries.

Scripture says that before the beginning of time, God looked at each person to come. He chose to love those in Christ. He chose those in Christ to be holy. He chose to use the work of Jesus on the cross to bring us into his family.

● God's Perspective
It's one thing to say God chose before time those who would follow him, as some seem to say. It's another to say God chose before time how he would deal with those who chose to follow him.

It seems from my non-Calvinistic perspective, that what God determined beforehand was how he was going to treat those who gave him allegiance.

Even if he looked into the future at our lives, he would say, "That one is in Christ. I will love him, set him apart (or make holy) and bring him into my family." God decided before time to think about, act toward and relate with his children in a particular manner.

● Living My Life
I don't know about you,  but I find I fail pretty consistently. I think wrong. I speak wrong. I do wrong. It is an encouragement to know that God has chosen how to interact with me, and because he does not lie, and always keeps his promises, he will always interact in the same way. Seeing my failures does not make me less his child. It does not affect any of the attention, time, energy or resources he has involved in restoring me to my original design, to Christ's image.

If the Father perseveres, then I can have hope, and I can persevere. And when I fall, I don't have to remain in the mud. It means something to get back on my feet,  and to choose to move forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Identity in Christ - 43 (Partaker in Christ)

In the original language, "partaker" literally means "to have with." So, other versions render it: to share in, to participate in. It begins to sound like being "the owner of all." Except that the write adds some conditions. He writes that if we are faithful to God's commands, then we can share in all that God commands.
  • God's Perspective
So, is this requirement of faithfulness to avoid punishment? We have said here numerous times that God's plan is to create a family of restored (or in the process of restoration) people. God designed people. He gave his commands as guides toward living as he designed. As we are faithful, we flow in agreement with our design.
Maybe being not able to share in God's resources is not a punishment. Maybe it is a natural result of not living as we were designed. And this is a warning like "don't touch the hot stove."
There is another aspect of this. If we move away from faithfulness, we move away from God. We break -- at least temporarily -- the relationship we have with God. God's resources flow through that relationship. It is our connection to him that allows us to be partakers, sharers and participants.
  • Living My Life
God does not demand faithful obedience or else. It is a warning that we will miss true, genuine life, because we will be living in a way that flows against the flow of God's Spirit. Living in faithfulness to God's commands means we remain connected to our source of life. The Spirit will flow towards us and fill our hearts with grace, love and all of his other resources.
Lack of faithfulness means death, because we are cutting ourselves off from the source of life.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Identity in Christ? (Prisoner of Christ)

This was included in the list of identities. (As I said in the beginning, I did not compile the list, I received it. I would have made sure it was in alphabetic, not quasi-alphabetic.) There are renderings into English of the original language as "the prisoner of the Lord." Other versions put it "prisoner for the Lord." Based on my limited knowledge of the original language, I would say the latter rendering is more accurate.

Which means being a prisoner is not an identity of being in Christ. It is a result of that identity.

Who a person is, dictates what a person does. We are what we are deep in the core of our being. This is true of any person, no matter who. So, the writer was in prison -- literally, in prison -- because he lived from his heart, obeyed God's vision for him, and offended a whole lot of people. (Although, it was probably not his individual behavior that offended. Rather, it was his ontinual confounding of the "experts." The experts were offended, because he kept showing them they were not so expert.)

Although, we always live from our hearts, we don't always live in agreement with our hearts. We have been born into the world, which is corrupted by sin, and chose to give God our allegiance. God has given us a spiritual DNA injection, and our spiritual transformation/restoration to our original design is assured. But we are in the "process" of transformation and restoration.

Moreover, in this life, we have made agreements, and given ourselves promises. This means, because of circumstances we have gone through, we have reached certain conclusions about ourselves, the world and God. This conclusions form a filter and frame of reference through which we live. And too often, the conclusions compel us to live wrongly.

The process of spiritual transformation is assured. We can cooperate with the process by changing perceptions and perspectives ... coming to new conclusions and agreements, and therefore, changing the filters.

So, the process of exploring our identity in Christ is a way of making these changes. We see God more truly. We begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Agreements and conclusions are proven false. And we begin to live in congruence with how God designed us.

The world still lives in agreement with the lies of the enemy. So, if we are living in agreement with our identity in Christ, we will cug across agreements of the world. And the world will react. And we will get caught in the reaction. We will suffer pain as a result.

And it is not pain because of thinking wrongly, acting wrongly or speaking wrongly. It is the opposite. (Doesn't mean there won't be pain because we act like jerks. Which Christians sometimes do.)

The world and this life will be a source of pain, no matter if you choose to live in agreement with the enemy,  or live in agreement with the Creator.

In this series, we are contending that God views us in a particular way(s), and that if we embrace it (them), we will move closer to living how God designed us, and we will move the world closer to how God designed it. And we will experience good, bad, reactions for God, and reactions against God. We will fail. We sill triumph. But we should never measure our ultimate value, progress or standing with God based on any of that. We should believe we are, what God says we are.

Monday, October 12, 2015

All Things for Good - 1

Because of what the Lord shared with me (here) about how he speaks into our situations, bringing good into the situations, and also bringing good into our relationships with the Father, I have spent more time actually asking the Father what he has been saying about different situations.
There is a couple we know. We are very invested in their lives. We care very deeply for them. And they have chosen to end their marriage. We are extremely sad. We have prayed. We have talked. We have agonized.
I finally asked Father what he was speaking into this situation, because I certainly did not see much good coming from it.
He spoke to me almost immediately, and said "I hate divorce." And I got the distinct feeling he was not just speaking about this marriage. And he was not just speaking about marriage.
God designed people to live in relationship. Especially with him. We can see all over -- in the news, in our lives -- relationships are being broken left and right. And God hates it. God hates divorce, because it is a broken relationship.
Then God said, "I know this situation is a mess. And I know the pain you feel. This is how I feel whenever a relationship is broken. This is how I feel when anyone chooses not to follow me."
God made people for relationship with him. God made people to know him, to be blessed by him, and to be made complete by that relationship. There are people, who have no knowledge of him. There are people, who have knowledge of God, but choose not to pursue a relationship with him. And there are people, who know about and have chosen to begin a relationship, and then, have walked away from God.
People do walk away. Things do not live up to expectations. Maybe life did not become easier. Maybe they did not live up to other's expectations. (Expectations usually from other people, and not from God.)
In all these cases, relationship with God is not formed as it should. And it quite simply brings pain to God's heart.
God says he will speak to every situation and bring good from it. I do not see and practical good at the moment in this situation. But I do understand God's heart better:
  • He is experiencing pain in this too.
  • He is also experiences the same sort of pain with those who do not know him.
    • People on TV: refugees, sports stars, reporters, actors.
    • People at work.
    • People in my neighborhood.
    • People in my family.
I am amazed at how big God's heart is. And I am amazed at how big my heart should be. And how my heart should be used.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Identity in Christ - 42 (Overcomer)

When we give our allegiance to God, a number of things happen. One thing that happens, we beome a child of God. God becomes our Father. We become part of his family. A new position. A new status.

A second thing, there is a change in our hearts. It is like God injects new spiritual DNA into our innermost being. As spiritual mitosis takes effect, this new DNA takes root, increases and we undergo change. Change will continue until the old DNA is gone, and only the new remains. At that time, restoration to our original design is complete.

As we have discussed before, this process will never be complete in this life. We will make progress. It should be significant progress.

This DNA transplant will affect every area of our lives, but it will be seen especially in a few areas.
      - We will grow in love for the Father.
      - We will grow in love for God's other children.
      - We will have a new attitude toward God's commands.

● God's Perspective

The main battle against the enemy is getting people to change their hearts, to give allegiance to the Father, to join his family. Once that decision is made from the heart, the Holy Spirit, who is both the carrier of this new spiritual DNA, and the DNA itself, invades our innermost being. At that point, it's all over but the shouting. Our faith has defeated the enemy. We are liberated from the enemy's kingdom. We are part members of God's family.  The enemy has lost any claim on us. Transformation to spiritual perfection is assured. Again, not in this lifetime. But the process has begun. It cannot be stopped.

God's commands are not just a set of limitations to keep us penned. They are guides toward Christ's image. All the commands in the Old Testament were intended to guide Israel to holiness. Towards Israel becoming separate from the world. Not a separation of disengagement.  A separation of distinction with engagement.  A separation defined by the quality of life that demonstrates God's design for people, and, therefore,  demonstrates God's superior way of living.

And all of the commands in the Old Testament are intended to guide people to Jesus. It is impossible to obey them.

Commands are valuable as guides. They give clues for life and conduct. Jesus said we only need to know one ... "love." "Love" obeys all the commands of God. Now, Jesus does instruct in other areas how to give love further resolution.  But all we really need to know is love.

● Living My Life

Many people walk in fear. They give their allegiance to Jesus. They get adopted into the family. Now, they feel they need to toe the line, or God will get angry, and toss them out of the family.

Before someone gives their allegiance to Jesus, they ars rebels and enemies. And God views people and their sin in that light. Sin is an act of war and rebellion.

After someone gives their allegiance to Jesus, they are beloved children. These people are dead to sin and alive to God. God views those people and their sin in that light.

Please do not misunderstand. Sin is still serious. God still hates it. But I think to God it tKes on a different flavor. It becomes less an act of war, and more an interference.

God designed men to have relationship with God. This relationship is man's main heart "fuel." Man is "powered" to experience life truly. Sin in his children does not make God mad as much as it makes him sad. Sad, because his children have chosen an inferior life. Sad, because the relationship God has made people for is broken.

The relationship can be fixed.  As we chose to follow Jesus in repentance and faith,  we can choose relationship again in the same way. Still, too often, we rob ourselves by delay.

And if we walk in fear of our Father rejecting us, it can have the same effect as sin. Our focus is not on experiencing the relationship with our Father, and not expressing life as we intended to live it.

We need to focus on living the relationship,  knowing God,  being present with him. The relationship leads directly to connection to our main "fuel" and directly to accelerating spiritual transformation.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Identity in Christ - 41 (Owner of All)

Or as one version puts it: "Everything belongs to you."
Now, does this mean I own the Eiffel Tower? Or Harvard University? I don't think so. So, what does it mean? Maybe we  need to look at the story.
This was written to a group of God's people who were experiencing some issues. One of the issues was disunity based on a popularity contest. That is, people in this group were divided, and quarreled, because they admired different leaders.

Because unity is one of God's foremost values for his people. this needed to be taken seriously. So, the writer addresses the issue. He points out that:
They were not living as they were designed.
  1. The men they admired were all servants of God, and each has their part of God's mission.
  2. Their parts are all important, though each one is different, but God has the most important part. It is he who causes the growth and the spiritual transformation.
  3. The objective of God's work, and the work of each of these men, is the increase and growth of God's family in Christ. Christ is the core, the end and the foundation.
So, Christ must be seen in every weave, every fiber and every filament of God's family. If Christ is not seen, then no matter how eloquent or brilliant they may seem, their work is dust and ashes. Everything these men do should further God's mission, which is the growth of God's family.

Then, the writer says "Everything belongs to you."
Again, the writer is not referring to Harvard, the Washington Monument, or other man-made property or object. He is referring to God's kingdom. All of God's kingdom belongs to all of God's family.
  • God's Perspective 
God's kingdom works in an upside down manner. In the world, leaders are first in position, first in privilege. In God's kingdom, leaders are servants.
In God's kingdom, leaders become leaders, because they have:
    • grown in their relationship to the Father.
    • gone further in being restored to their original design.
    • consistently serve others by helping others grow in their relationship to the Father, and make progress in reclaiming their original design. 
In God's kingdom, leaders are leaders because they pend time and energy showing others how to be leaders in God's kingdom, pushing others ahead of them, and seeking to have no job or position. (If leaders have pushed everyone ahead of themselves -- everyone else knows the Father better than they do, everyone else has been restored more fully than they have -- then they have given themselves a promotion to follower.)

And God demonstrates that he is a leader, because he gives 100% of his time, 100% of his energy, 100% of his attention, and 100% of his resources to each one of us, to foster his relationship with each one of us, and to rebuild our original design.

God does not consider leaders more than others. He had put his kingdom at everyone's disposal.
  • Living My Life
God's intention is that everyone becomes a leader. Everyone takes the resources of God's kingdom and uses them to promote everyone else's relationship with the Father, and everyone else's restoration. (And if someone does not have a relationship with the Father, God's children use God's resources to help that someone begin a relationship with the Father.)

Ultimately, nothing can stop god's plan. The only thing that might slow it down, is God's children not rising to their destiny, not living out their identities, not using their resources and not obeying Jesus' commands.

There have been movements of God in the past, and God will begin movements in the future, because men have put impediments to God's Spirit flowing through people. Such as, only certain men have the resources to do certain things. God has given us all things. There should be no check to the move of God's Spirit. If there is a check to God's Spirit, God did not put it there.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Identity in Christ - 40 (New Creation)

This identity trait spans all of a person’s being, except perhaps their physical body. Immediately anyway.

When we give our allegiance to Jesus:
  • We see God in a new way. As Lord, Father, Friend, Helper, Guide and Teacher.
  • We see the world in a new way. If it filled with people who are enemies and rebels of God, who is the rightful ruler of the world. But rebels and enemies who are loved by God. He has literally invested blood, sweat and tear into each and every one.
  • We see ourselves in a new way. We were once one of those rebels and enemies. We are now accepted and valued members of God’s family. We are a strategic part of God’s mission. All of these identities become ours, the moment we choose allegiance.
  • We have gone through Jesus’ cleaning process. We were crucified with Christ. We died, were buried, were resurrected and were glorified (and will be glorified) with Jesus. We went through God’s judicial process, and found guilty, but the penalty was already paid.
  • He put his Spirit in our hearts. He is god’s guarantee that we will always be part of his family, and one of his children.
  • We are going through God’s transforming process. His Spirit makes us God’s possession, child, subject and friend. It also inject new spiritual DNA into our life. Cell by cell, it grows this new life in us. Moment by moment, he speaks to us, encourages us, teaches us, and guides us. He works through the barriers in our hearts, creating channels for this new life. Over time, whole walls – habits, thinking patterns, past decisions and agreements – will collapse, allowing whole vistas of new life to flow through. 
  • God’s Perspective
We have only scratched the surface of what it means to be “new.” We have only scratched the surface of how God views it. But God has declared all these things I have just said, all the identities that I have gone through, and all the identities that I have yet to go through, to be true. They are true now. Moreover, he acts towards us based on their truth.
  •  Living My Life
God says we are new, and all these things are true. And he treats us, and acts towards us, on the basis of these things being true. And I confess I have no idea of all the ramifications of this. In each identity trait, we have caught a small glimpse of what this means. Ultimately, we need to embrace and live this truth. We are new.