Saturday, January 23, 2016

Identity in Christ - 58 (Sent Ones)

After Jesus rose from the dead, he walked with his apostles for 40 days. First, they needed to get used to the fact that he rose from the dead. Second, ne needed to make sure the apostles understood his last instructions.

Jesus came to demonstrate his Father's nature to people, to be an example of how to live, to invite people to enter into relationship with his Father,  and to restore his family.

Now, this mission falls to his family.  He sends his family into the world.

◆ God's Perspective
When we chose to follow Jesus, we chose to walk in relationship with the Father. We chose to become part of his family. We chose to become a member of his kingdom. And the Kingdom of Heaven is at war with the kingdom of the world.  All the members of the Kingdom of God are soldiers. All the soldiers of the Kingdom of God are part of an invasion of the kingdom of the world.

It is an invasion, because God seeks to replace the kingdom of the world with his Kingdom.

Of course, it is not a normal war. There are no guns, no bombs, no tanks. The weapons we wield as soldiers of Christ are: love, prayer, faith, grace, and the message of Jesus. Those who are "conquered" receive grace, God's love, sonship, forgiveness,  and life.

We wage war by living as much like Jesus as possible.

The word "apostle" is derived from a word in the original language meaning "sent one." The word "mssionary" is derived from a word in another language meaning "sent one."

We are all sent ones. We are all apostles. We are all missionaries. We are sent from the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of the world. We are sent to live like Jesus in the world. We should act like Jesus, follow his pattern and lifestyle,  and proclaim his message.

Some of us will be missionaries thousands of miles away from the p.aces we were born. Others will be missionaries in our home towns. But no matter where we are, we are missionaries in the places we are in.

◆ Living My Life
As we are soldiers invading the enemy's kingdom, we ought to be prepared for this warfare. However, like physical armies, the soldiers in God's army have different roles. But they also have some of the same training.

1. We ought to be able to give an explanation of Jesus' message.

There are many methods developed for this. Each has different strengths and weaknesses.  And I do not have any particular recommendation, one over another. But, as Jesus followers,  we ought to be able to use one.

And we ought to be wise enough to realize that no conversation will follow the pattern of our tool. Those we speak with will bring in their experiences, problems and objections. They will feel the need to debate, rather than discuss. (Note the difference.) Seeing all problems as nails, and the gospel as a magic hammer, will move no one closer to Jesus.

Jesus met people at their point of need, at their place in life and experience, and applied the gospel to that point. We need to learn to do the same.

2. We need to have our hearts around the world.

Most of us will never go to the ends of the earth.  Our part of the invasion will be waged from our front porch and living room, into our home town. However, our Father's heart is not only in our lives homes, our neighborhoods and local taverns. It is also 10,000 miles away with peoples of different languages, cultures, and circumstances.
Our hearts should be like the Father's heart.

3. We need to remember to use our greatest weapon.

Our greatest weapon is God himself. The Holy Spirit.  Although, we cannot command him, as if he were a tool on our utility belts, we can appeal to him. We can connect with him, focus our hearts, and appeal for him to act.  I do not fully understand the ways of prayer. Why do we need to invite the Father to act on behalf of people he loves, people for whom he is chomping at he bit to act for?  But when we pray, a door seems to open in the spiritual realm. A door our Father seems eager to jump through, and act in ways that bring his presence into whatever situation is on the other side of the threshold.

We need to find ways to invite God's presence into our homes, neighborhoods, and towns. We need to find ways to invite God's presence into homes10,000 miles away. We need to find ways to apply the gospel to people's lives -- in demonstrating God's nature, in love and service, in proclaiming Jesus' message.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Identity in Christ - 57 (Sealed)

A seal is a mark of ownership or security. It is like a sign that reads "This is private property. No trespassing allowed. This property is protected by Acme Security. They have motion detectors, electrified fences, armed guards, a pack of angry dogs, and a flock of specially trained pigeons."

We are marked with God's seal. It indicates we are his property. It indicates his concern that we remain his property.

The Father has paid the very high price of his Son to bring us back into his family. He seals us to ensure his moment by moment,  100%, focused attention to our needs, our growth, our place in his family,  his kingdom,  his mission,  and his purposes.

◆ God's Perspective

Some people act as if God is totally indifferent to people.
    - He designed people before the creation of the world.
    - He campaigned to win people back after the Fall.
    - He labors diligently to get his plan back on track, by his renovation project in our lives.
    - He imprints us with all these identities.

We should notice that the mark of ownership IS the owner. It is the Holy Spirit (the person of God himself) who marks us as God's possession.  God does not just hang a sign around our necks. He stands next to us with his hand on our shoulder,  yelling "Hey! Heads up! This is mine! Y'all take care with what's mine!"

At the lowest level, he is demonstrating how serious he is about our relationship with him. He is maintaining his personal attention in our lives. He is personally overseeing the restoration of our original design.  And I suspect there are several other layers involved that I don't know about.

◆ Living My Life

If the Father takes our relationship this seriously,  we ought to take our relationship just as seriously.

Jesus died on the cross to "cancel the record of our sin" and "break the power of the Devil." He worked to make sin a non issue.  He worked to make our connection and communication with him the issue.  He worked to make reality in our restoration the issue.

We ought to focus on these things too. I am not saying we should not take our sin seriously.  I am saying we should not obsess about our sin. I know people who have a tendency to fail in a particular area. Their hearts are filled with their failure, their inability to change,  God's hate of sin -- especially this sin -- and their expectation of God's judgment.

Our spiritual renovation is not based on our ability to stop sinning. Scripture makes it plain, we cannot.

Our spiritual renovation is based on God's injection of new spiritual DNA into our hearts,  our moment by moment connection with the grace and love of God, and the renewal of our mind's -- a revolution in the pattern of our thinking. Focus on these things.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Identity in Christ - 56 (Sanctified in Christ)

At one time, each member of God's family had a heart focus toward sin. They were rebellious and selfish. They pursued sin. Sin was their identity.

But each member of God's family chose to change. They focused their hearts on the Father of all. They chose to give him their allegiance. They chose to live in relationship with him. And they chose to walk with him and to walk toward him.

And the Father chose to walk with them. The passage says he completely cleansed, he made them holy, he made them right with him.

We all know we do not walk in total perfection. But as God's family, we focus our hearts on walking with him. And we are focused on walking better -- with him and in the world.

"Sanctification" is a theological term expressing the step by step walk toward restoration of Christ's image in our lives. Scripture also says that we are already sanctified.

• God's Perspective 

God keeps two things in mind as he relates with us. He does keep in mind where we are. He knows where we fail; he knows where we are weak; he knows our greatest tendencies to sin.

He also keeps in mind who we are. All these traits that I have been writing about are who we are. Our identities were forged when we aligned with Christ. In Christ, all these things are true.

God also keeps the end result in view. Because we have given Jesus our allegiance, where we will end up is not in doubt. So, God gives 100% focused attention on how do we move past our failures. How do we move into Christ's image. He plans out all our steps in our restoration.

The word in the original language can also be stated as: "made holy." (Some English translations do use those words.) We have looked at this concept in a couple other places. "Holy" does not mean perfect, rather it means dedicated, separated for a special purpose.

It is here that we can see best that we are already sanctified. God chooses that all people -- past, present and future -- should be dedicated to him, separated for a special purpose.

It is here that we can see best that we are already sanctified. God chooses that all people -- past, present and future -- should be dedicated to him, separated for relationship with him. When we give him allegiance, we agree to this dedication. We agree to the process and identity God gives us. And God dedicates us and separates us. God names us and gives us our identity. And he works to bring our identity to fruition.

• Living My Life 

We need to accept our identities. God has proclaimed who we are. We have to believe him.

We need to accept, participate, and cooperate with the process. This means engaging in relationship. (Communication. Prayer. Meditation. Listening. Obedience.)

I am beginning to wonder if we should pursue his standards, not because failure means breaking the rules, rather because failure means a disruption of fellowship. We cut ourselves off from our primary spiritual fuel. We divert God from focusing his heart towards us. The love, life and grace of God gets throttled down.

We are designed to live in relationship with God. We live to the fullest when the relationship throttle is fully open.

It is an act of spiritual war, when the enemy attempts to convince us that living in relationship with God robs us of life. It is the opposite. Whatever hinders the relationship robs us of life.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Identity in Christ - 55 (Sheep)

There was a book written about sheep by a man who raised sheep. In the book, he claimed there was nothing that could be more destructive to land than a herd of sheep; and there was nothing that could be more constructive to land than a herd of sheep. The difference depended on the shepherd.

If the shepherd was wise and knew how to care for the sheep, sheep could actually improve the land. If the shepherd was foolish, or did not know how to care for the sheep, sheep could destroy the land.

Sheep are not the wisest of animals. They will follow one another through danger. They will find something good and waste it through over indulgence or misuse. They will find something bad and use it the same way. All of which leads to destruction, bad health and very sad sheep.

That’s why a good and wise shepherd is necessary. He will lead the sheep away from bad things. He will lead them to good things. And he will help them utilize the good things in ways that are not wasteful, good for the land and good for the sheep.
  • God's Perspective
We are Jesus’ sheep. Like natural sheep, Jesus’ sheep can be the best thing for the land … or the worst. (Guess which “thing” the Father wants us to be.)

Like natural sheep, it is all about the shepherd. It is all about where he puts the flock, the ground he puts them on and how they travel over it.

We are Jesus’s sheep. We list to his voice. We follow him.

This is our part. To listen to his voice. To follow his voice. To act on what he says. It is that which injects health into the world.
  • Living My Life
Jesus lives perfectly, expressing love and giving grace. That is also how he wants us to live. We fall short, of course. But our struggle can give some hope. It is not just perfect people who follow Jesus.

And there is competition. Many other voices fight for our attention. The enemy, hos servants, the world and even, our own inner voice seek to lead us away from acting in agreement with his voice.

It is the agreement and the resulting action that yields health and good in the world. It is the agreement with the other voices that breeds destruction.

One of our most important areas of focus is learning to hear his voice, and giving time and energy to this practice. And learning how to act in agreement with what we hear.