Monday, December 28, 2015

Identity in Christ - 54 (Sons of Light)

Although, it says “sons,” there is no separation by gender. The writer is trying to get a something different. Jesus had both titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” Although, “Son of Man” has prophetic overtones, both titles aim at the nature of the person. A “son” has the nature of the parents. As the “Son of God,” Jesus has the nature of God. As the “Son of Man,” Jesus has the nature of men.

When we give Jesus our allegiance, we take on the nature of light.

Light is a symbol of God’s nature, presence and revelation. God, by his nature and essence, expresses truth. So, light is an expression of truth. So, the nature of people, who have given their allegiance to Jesus, are people who live in the truth. They have accepted, know, and live by, and according to, the truth. As truth is god expressing himself, God’s family lives by God’s word.
  • God’s Perspective

We give allegiance to Jesus. With that, we move into relationship with the Father. Relationship always involves some type of communication. And relationship with the Father means receiving his communication. The Father expresses truth to us. He reveals the nature of the world and people. He reeals his heart.

So, we know his intentions, his motives, his values, and his priorities. We know what is important to him. We know what he thinks about the world, people … and us. I know what the Creator of all, Lord of the universe, thinks of me.

These identities, that we have discussed,  are – at least, part of – what God thinks of me. These are who I am. These are who the Father intends me to be, to live out in reality.
  • Living My Life

As sons of light, we need to live in the light. First, we need to know the light. That means we need to communicate with the giver of lift. That means reading, writing, speaking and listening. That means meditating.

Second, we need to accept the light. That means we believe it is true. The light is as immutable as the law of gravity.

Third, we need to obey the light. We need to take as important what God considers important, and pursue bringing that to fruition. We need to understand our role and complete it.

Knowing, accepting and obeying are all part of a continuing process. Vial parts of God’s restoration of his family.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Identity in Christ - 53 (Saints)

According to the common understanding of the word, a "saint" is a person of exceptional character. Totally kind, sacrificial, virtuous and loving.

Accoding to the definition in the original language, it could be written as "holy one." Indeed, it should be more associated with "holiness" meaning "sperated," rather than "morally excellent." That does not mean that God is not interested in moral excellence. Because he is. But moral excellence does not come from intense effort, a positive upbringing or good genes. It comes from God's grace transforming people's hearts.

A saint, a holy one, is someone separated from normal pursuits for God. Not divorced from normal pursuits. Making a living and maintaining a house are normal pursuits God wants us to pursue. But we are also invited to pursue his heart, his purposes and his practices.

So, a saint is one separated from the world in order to be joined to Christ.

• God's Perspective

A saint is one who aligns himself with God, in pursuing his purposes. We align ourselves with God and his purposes when we give allegiance to him. It is then we recognize God's way is superior to ours, we recognize our failure to live as we should,  and we choose to trust the Father, yielding our hearts and lives to connect, to serve, and to unite with him in his mission.

Everyone in God's family is a saint, not because of our superiority of life, but because of the intention and focus of our hearts.

• Living My Life

Many years ago,  a man wrote an allegorical pamphlet comparing a person's inner being with a house. The purpose of the allegory was to communicate how people try to retain control over their lives, rather than trust the Father's influence. We say, "I don't want to give up this part of my life." God says, "Let me into this room. I will clean it up,  and you will be better off. You will be happier too."

I mention this allegory because the basic factor in giving allegiance to Jesus is the realization that we are allowing Jesus into our lives, and into our world. God invaded the world with Jesus. He intends to recreate the world according to his original design. The main factor involved in his design is love. And we have agreed to this invasion,  agreed to its purpose,  agreed to its methods, and agreed to participate in the revolution.

We will not participate perfectly, but we will grow. We will see his mission better.  We will see our part better.  And we will grow,  learn how to participate better.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Identity in Christ - 52 (Slave of Righteousness)

Scripture says we obey what we give our hearts to. Whatever we focus our hearts on, that thing controls us. Be fore we gave our allegiance to Jesus,, our hearts were usually focused on ourselves, our appetites, our desires. So, we were a slave to those things.

When we gave our allegiance to Jesus, he invaded our hearts and lives. He injected new DNA into our spirits. So, our hearts are new. Our heart focus is new. We are now focused on the things of God. So, we are not only being transferred/restored to our original design (thew image of Jesus), our motivations and values are being renewed. We desire to live as designed. We desire righteousness.
  • God's Perspective
God's desire is for our heart (God's and people's) to meet, to connect. He has built us to have relationship with him. Sin has cut the connection entirely. So, Jesus died to repair the connection. Jesus died to restore our design.

Restoration is inevitable. But it may not just be a slam dunk. It may not just be a victory lap. There will be failures. There will be wrong choices. Even, intentional decisions away ffrom God and what God wants. We will even choose what we know is sin. We live a half-life -- our hearts focused one way, then the other, vacillating back and forth.

And, of course, God is totally surprised by all of this. He had no idea we were going to struggle. So, when we do struggle, he gets angry with us. "Keep this up, and I'll throw you out of the family!"

Foremost, on God's heart, is the desire for creating a family. He has invited everyone to become part of his family. Moreover, he wants everyone to be restored to the image of Jesus. Moreover, he has the patience of infinite love. Moreover, he works hard to keep everyone IN the family. Throwing people out is not really on the agenda.
  • Living My Life
We have chosen to follow Jesus. We have chosen to cooperate with him. We have chosen restoration to the image of Jesus. We have chosen to undergo the fuss and muss of spiritual renovation ... including the demo. The Father injected his new DNA in our spirits. And he patiently waits for our renewal. If he can be patient with us, then we can be patient with us.

One result of becoming God's child, and his Spirit invading our lives, is discipline. Discipline does not seem to be particularly spiritual or mystical. Yet, discipline is the "boots on the ground" of spiritual transformation and living.

Discipline is "choosing to do the right thing and the right time." If a person works, it is discipline to get out of bed each day, in time to get to work. It is discipline to perform one's job well ... whatever it is: cleaning tables in a restaurant, writing bug free computer code or performing brain surgery.

It is discipline that produces in us habit of focusing on God, practicing habits of righteousness, and practices of devotion. (That is, practices that God grow our relationship with the Father.)

We chose a new life with the Father. It is discipline that recognizes we fail, chooses to renew our focus on our relationship with the Father, and to re-establish a walk towards restoration.
NOTE: We do not want to accept failure and sin. Neither do we want to become obsessed with it. If we are to be obsessed with anything, we should be obsessed with love. If we are consumed by our guilt and failure, we are blocked with respect to love.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Identity in Christ - 51 (Salt)

Jesus said his family is the “salt of the earth.” Most people who write about this passage focus on salt and its importance in the life of the people at Jesus’ time. It apparently was used to preserve food. There is also the fact that it is an important nutrient. However, Jesus did not focus on its value as a preserving agent or a nutrient. Jesus focused on its value as a condiment.

People use salt because it makes food taste better. And Jesus said if salt loses its flavor, people will just toss it out. People will ignore the fact that maybe its other benefits still work.

God designed people to live a particular way. Because of sin, Jesus was the only person to live that way. Jesus came into the world as a sacrifice for mankind. But he also came as a model for us. He is a model of what relationship with the Father should look like. He is a model of what relationship with other people should look like.  If God’s family manages to live like a faint caricature of Jesus, they will probably look like the most amazing person anyone has ever met.
  • God’s Perspective.

The world is a mess. I could go through a litany of problems, issues and other “hot buttons” that are being debated. And they are being debated long and hard … with a multitude of solutions being offered on all sides.

The world was a mess in Jesus’ time too. Half of the people living in the roman empire at that time were slaves. Two percent of the people had half of the wealth. Half of a family’s income could be given in taxes. Health and sanitation systems in cities were non-existent. The empire was essentially in a state of war for hundreds of years. It maintained the “peace” by violence and brutality.

And Jesus entered this mess, and lived a life that looked like how all people should live. He fed people. He healed people. He pointed them to God and encouraged them to enter relationship with him. It did not matter who the person was, he encouraged, taught and loved them.

Tons of people followed him. Some followed him to see if he would follow the “rules.” Some followed him for a hand-out. Some followed because they genuinely wanted a new life, and hoped he could provide it.

From God’s point of view, the only way to clean up the mess is for revelation to happen in each person’s heart. He created government, families and culture to inhibit evil, and facilitate good. But lasting permanent good will only occur person by person, as each person undergoes a heart revolution, establishes relationship with the Father, and begins living as he/she were designed.

If God’s family does not instigate revolution – live as they were designed, motivating people to abandon the kingdom of the world, give allegiance to the King, and unite with the kingdom of Jesus – then they are failing to be effective partners in God’s mission.

And if God’s family assumes and supports programs that promote political, social, economic or any other type of solution, and ignores or minimizes the Father’s revolution of the heart, then they effectively cut themselves off from the Father, from his Spirit and grace … and they loses the ability to draw people to Jesus. The are salt that loses its flavor.
  • Living My Life

To put it as simply as possible: to be salt, we need to live like Jesus. We need to practice the “commandments of Jesus.” We need to live as we were designed. We need to live out identity in Christ: salt, light, priests. The family of God should rely on the Father. It should not rely on governments, human programs or human strategies.

The family of God relies too much on the church. Do not misunderstand me. The family of God is the church, the assembly of God’s people (ekklesia) called together to carry out God’s purposes. But the family of God has grown to depend on the structure, the organization and the professionals that groups of people have devised to facilitate the business of God.

Again, don’t misunderstand me. When large groups of people join together, some type of organization is necessary to facilitate communication, to avoid confusion, to ensure needs get attended to. I am not against organization, training of leaders, or special buildings. I am against the mindless reliance on such things. I am against the children of God abandoning their role as priest, because there is a professional. I am against the assumption that god’s life can only be manifested inside a special building by a professional. Too many of God’s children accept these assumptions with a corresponding loss of saltiness.

Focus you hear on the Father. Listen to him speak to your hearts. Act on what he says. Fulfill your role as priest. Love, pray and serve.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Identity in Christ - 50 (Righteous in Christ)

“Righteous” refers to “getting right” with God. Our relationship with God is broke, because of sin. On the cross, Jesus assumed the role of “substitute sinner.” It even say “became sin” itself, so that all of God’s rage could be poured out.

All that is wrong in the world is due to sin. All pain. All sorrow. ISIS. Pollution. Poverty. Crime. God designed human life to be love, joy and peace. Satan used man’s sin to break the world. God’s plan to restore the world require the destruction of sin’s power. So, he smashed sin in Jesus on the cross.

Only Jesus, as perfect man and eternal God, could effectively break sin itself. People – finite and imperfect – could only satisfy God’s justice for their own sin. And a finite being cannot satisfy an infinite break. Only a perfect sacrifice could mend the schism. 
  • God's Perspective

Scripture describes the sacrifice that will meet God’s specifications as a lamb without blemish. But the offerings Israel gave were not big enough. The could only be acts of faith that God was going to find something big enough. And God did.

Christ’s sacrifice was so big, it covered all human beings. Those living now. Those who lived in the past. Those who will live in the future.

Not all human beings will give him allegiance and become part of his family. But God values people so much, he acted to cover all.

God valued relationship with his children so much, he went big to ensure that relationship would be restored. And he continues to pursue relationship.

“Righteousness” can be viewed as having “right standing” with God. It is God taking action to ensure he can walk with people once more. It is God restoring a road for easy access to his family. (Moreover, he added a high speed, huge bandwidth pipe for quicker access. And the uploads and downloads use the same pipe at the same speeds. And both are free.)
  • Living My Life

God takes relationship with his children so seriously, that he paid an impossibly high price to secure that relationship. He paid the price for all, so he could have relationship with some.

Since, God takes relationship seriously, we ought to take relationship seriously. We ought to take the commands of Jesus seriously. We ought to take the focus of our hearts seriously. We ought to take the hearts and lives of other parts of God’s family seriously.

Relationships can take many forms. And it should grow and change form and shape over time. So, what it looks like will be different. It will look different for each of us. It will look different for each of us at different times.

As the main fuel of our spirits is our relationship with the Father, as we gain clearer vision and understanding of the Father, how we connect will be different. How we access and process the fuel will be different.

It will always involve taking time to communicate. Times of worship, meditation, prayer will increase and decrease. Modes, means and methods will change. Possibly it will only entail attitude shifts, or an adjustment in how we focus our hearts. Our forms of prayer may take on new meaning. We may invent new forms.

It will always involve intent, energy and discipline. It will always involve an active listening to the spirit, and an openness to change. It will always require an attitude of being alert and prepared to act.