Monday, April 25, 2016

Identity in Christ - 67 (No Zenith)

Obviously, worded to get a "Z". (Also, this is the last trait. There may be others, that I haven't found. But this is the last for the time being.) Zenith means the highest. At the zenith, it is impossible to go any higher.

The passage reminds that God has so much love, and so much mercy, for us that he gave us life. We had none. The passage says that we were dead. We had physical, biological life. But we were cut off from relationship with God. We could not live as we were designed. We were without significance, without meaning. Christ on the cross enables us to have all of that.

We have it, because we are in Christ. Because we are in Christ, we share in everything Christ did.
  - We were crucified with Christ.
  - We died with Christ.
  - We were buried with Christ.
  - We were raised with Christ.
  - We were glorified with Christ.
  - We were seated in heaven with Christ.

Another passage says that Christ is seated at the Father's right hand. God's throne is the Zenith of all reality. And Christ is there, seated with him. And we are there, seated with Christ, because we are in Christ.

◆ God's Perspective

We are seated there as a picture, a demonstration, of God's immeasurable grace, and God's immeasurable kindness. We were rebels. We were enemies. Our intentions, motives, and desires all led us away from God. They all led us to act in ways contrary to God's design.

Western Christ-followers tend to focus on the judicial aspects of the God-man relationship. Man sinned. Man was guilty. Man was condemned. Man accepts Christ. Man is pardoned. Man goes to heaven.

God Is vitally concerned about the actions of people. In part, because actions produce alienation and condemnation. In part, because actions can pull us away from our design. Scripture defines how to live out God's design.
  - Obedience to Scripture is a obedience to God. 
  - Obedience to God is living as designed. 
  - Living as designed yields joy, peace, meaning, and significance.

God intends to show, not only how he has pardoned his enemy, but he has put him into his family, and he works to lead this former-enemy to significance.

◆ Living My Life

As I said, western Christ-followers tend to focus on the judicial aspects of the God-man relationship. If we are in Christ, we have died with Christ. And Scripture says those who have died, have died to the Law. If they have died to the Law, they are removed from God's judicial system.

God is vitally concerned with how his children live. Not because it breaks his Law, because they are not under the Law anymore.  Not because it will condemn them, because it is the power of the Law that condemns, and they are not under the Law anymore.

People live in two sets of spiritual conditions. In God's family; not in God's family. God's judicial system applies to people under the Law, therefore, out of God's family. They are not in Christ. They have not died to the Law. They are still under the power of the Law.

People in God's family are in Christ, dead to the Law, and no longer affected by God's judicial system. But God is vitally concerned about their actions, because sin blocks their relationship with him, and pollutes the design of God.  Sin is living diametrically opposed to God's design. It breaks, joy, peace, meaning, and significance.

Living in obedience facilities relationship,  the flow of grace, the transformation of spiritual DNA, and the increase of joy, peace, meaning, and significance. Obedience adds new brushstrokes, new color, to God's masterpiece ... the portrait of his family.

God's plan has always been to create a family that lives in close relationship with him, that demonstrates his character and nature, and (since the Fall) partners with him in advancing and growing that family. Obedience facilitates all of this. Obedience is agreement with God's definition of best, and a continued embrace of God's life and purpose.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Identity in Christ - 67 (Yoked with Christ)

In this passage, Jesus invokes the image of a yoke of oxen. The yoke is a wooden "collar" that a team of oxen wear while working.

A team of oxen can accomplish an extraordinary amount of work, when joined to together. Much more than two oxen separately. The trick is: they need to move and work together. A yoke is constructed so if one ox moves on its own, it twists the yoke, choking both oxen, and they both stop. To make any sort of progress, the oxen have to move together.

Jesus invites us to take his yoke. We are on one side; he is on the other. We are partners with Jesus. We move together with him. But he is the lead. He moves, and we need to move with him. As the lead, he teaches us how to work within the yoke. He a gentle and kind teacher.

He promises us rest as we work with him. The yoke is easy to wear, and all burdens easy to pull, because he pulls with us.

God's Perspective

God's plan is to create a family, and the family will demonstrate his character, and proclaim his glory. He has a lot riding on that family. He has bound his reputation, his mission and the destiny of the world tightly to that family.

He wants their success. He wants fruit and growth. He has designed the destiny of his children, and he want each one to walk in it. He is willing to go to extreme lengths to assure that success. He is willing to walk with each one, sharing their loads, to ensure that success. He encourages each willing heart.

What he gets is: fear, sin, failure, and hard hearts. What he wants is a nation of priests and ambassadors. What he gets are televangelists.

NOTE: I am not against churches using television. I am against God's children living out their relationship with God through Christian celebrities. I am against God's children believing that sitting in front of their tV is sufficient to reveal God to them, and not prayer, his word, and meditation.

Living My Life

We are yoked with Christ. We are a team. We are connected. We are directed, empowered and provisioned to complete God's mission, demonstrate God's glory. All while walking with him.

And it is really much more complicated. He is yoked with each individual. He is yoked with each local family of God. He is yoked to the entire family of God. It is like the way each cell of the human body is synchronized to the brain. Each cell is coordinated to achieving the overall purposes of the person directing the body. But it reduces down to each cell, each part, obeying its directives.

How do we walk in step with him> How do we walk "yoked" … knowing that getting out of step robs us of our strength, and cuts us off from life? Looking at modern day Christianity, with its many different directions, emphases, interpretations, bright lights and clamoring voices, is God's family not following him? Is he directing them in an almost insane manner? Or is it simply to complicated for us to see?

Scripture plainly promises that if we live in relationship with God, we will experience abundance: abundant life, abundant love, abundant joy, and abundant peace.

It is walking in this yoked arrangement that is the main step toward personal success in living, as well as growth for churches, for movements, and for God's kingdom.

So, the first step toward abundance is learning to detect and understand God's voice. And once it is detected and understood, to act on this information. Since, there are scores of books, lectures and YouTube videos about this subject, I will refrain from further comment. Except to underline, that this is the first step to bring God's life into the world. And it is the first step in establishing his kingdom.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

All Things for Good - 2

It is in God’s heart, God’s intention and desire, that people experience good. Because of sin, that’s not always possible. Because of sin, and its fall-out, it sometimes seems like there is never any good.

Yet, Scripture says that no matter what happens, God moves in it, so good results. If something bad happens in a person’s life, God speaks into that area. God gives revelation concerning anything negative in our lives, and attaches that revelation onto the negative.

God intends the revelation to shift our thinking, our expectations, and our perspectives about the negative.

Part of this is God’s method of training us in spiritual discernment. As we grow in the Lord, we grow in seeing life the way he sees life. God is the ultimate definer of reality. He says what is true, and what is false. And part of growing in the Lord is agreeing with him.

If we agree with him, we speak the way he would speak, and we act the way he would act.

The first step in this upward spiral of positive effects is learning to listen to God first about any situation.

Even, when he speaks in correction, faith, hope, and encouragement should grow. If we are under the pile of condemnation, and discouragement, it is not God speaking. I am not suggesting that we will always like what God says. But God desire is that we move back toward him, not that we feel like an idiot. If we feel like an idiot, it is not God talking. Feeling like an idiot does not motivate me to get back on the horse. Our Father has designed us to ride. If we have fallen, our Father knows we need to climb back in the saddle.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Identity in Christ - 66 (Ambassadors for Christ)

After leaving the A's far behind, I discovered recently that we missed one.

An ambassador is an agent of one government, chosen to represent the government to another government.

An ambassador is a trusted, respected person, fully capable of communicating the heart and position of the government he/she serves. Fully capable of acting in a way that brings honor and favor to the government he/she serves.

♦ God's Perspective

We choose allegiance with god. We become a part of this family. We become a citizen in his kingdom. And he names us an "Ambassador at Large to the World."
We do not have a particular country or culture that we represent the kingdom to. We are representative wherever we are.

There are some who represent God to particular people groups. Usually, it is the people group around them.

We are trusted by God to represent him truthfully and accurately. We are trusted by God to demonstrate his motives, his desires, his habits, his practices, and his ways.

People know what God is like, by looking at Jesus. People should also be able to the same thing by looking at his ambassadors.

Yes, Jesus is going to do a much better job that we are. Yes, we are going to fail. There are children of God who keep sinning. There are some who keep sinning in the same area … for 30 years!

Do you suppose the Father does not realize that we are a bunch of air-heads? Has he ever revoked the office of ambassador from anyone?

He does not expect perfection. He expects truth, and reality. He expects growth. He expect the pursuit of his image, and maturity.

We expect these things too. But we tend to see them in terms of "following the rules" with less failure. Is the Father merely concerned with following the rules. Scripture says love automatically follows the rules. Maybe we need to focus less on the rules, and more on love. Scripture says God wants relationship with us. Maybe we need to focus more on being connected to him, listening to him, and being reliant on him.

♦ Living My Life

We are God's representative. We need to demonstrate who he is. We need to listen and carry out his instructions.

I do not mean to imply that obedience to the King is not necessary or important. However, some people assume that maintaining a particular standard of morality, or a particular set of Christian practices is enough. We can see through the life of Jesus that he went beyond the status quo. It was this following the heart of God, beyond what the religious authorities preached, that got him into trouble with them. But his Father was very pleased.

I do mean to suggest that our focus and emphasis might be slight skewed. Perhaps we do not emphasize love enough. Perhaps we are not alert for persons of peace enough.

"Person of peace" is a term Jesus coined for people who are open to learning the things of God. They were open to the point of extending hospitality. They wanted to include friends and family in the learning process. Jesus instructed his disciples to be watching for these people. Not only could their lives be affected by the gospel, but there could be a door into a family, or a community.

Ultimately, being God's ambassador in the world is living like Jesus in the world.
- Loving the world's rejects.
- Seeking to connect everyone to God.
- Creating a community of ambassadors.
- Creating a community of servants.