Monday, May 23, 2016

New Life, New Identity

When we were born, we lived away from God, against him, and against our design. The internal combustion engine is designed to have optimal functionality, if it operates with certain parameters, and given certain fuels. The human body is designed to have optimal functionality, if it operates with certain parameters, and fed  certain fuels. The human spirit is designed to have optimal functionality, if it operates with certain parameters, and fed certain fuels.

The main fuel our spirits need is a connection, a link, or a relationship with the Father of All. The parameters are described in Scripture.

Because of sin (life outside of the parameters) we began our lives with no connection, or relationship with the Father. But God works in our world, and on our behalf, to draw us to him, and into this relationship.

When we chose to come to him, when we begin this relationship, he begins to teach us how to return to living as designed, within the parameters. However, the main thrust of many people’s approach to God is: do this, don’t do this. People compile lists of “this’s.” They develop a law mentality. They develop a religious mentality.

Religion is man acting in ways that attempt to achieve God’s approval of man. Christianity is God acting in ways that achieve God’s approval of man.

God told Israel, after leaving Egypt, where it was saturated with laws and religion, that if they obeyed his Law, they would receive his approval. Israel demonstrated, over and over, that it is impossible for people to keep God’s law. Scripture says, over and over, it is impossible for people to keep God’s Law. Scripture also says, over and over, that Jesus came into the world to achieve God’s approval of us, for us.

We cannot achieve God’s approval, so we gave our allegiance to Jesus, and he gained God’s approval for us. Then, people create a new and different set of laws to continue in God’s approval, and to re-create God’s design in us. If we cannot keep the Law God gave us, what makes us think we can keep the law we give ourselves?

God is vitally concerned with how we live our lives. God is vitally concerned with re-creating his design in us. But if we can’t keep the Law, or any law, maybe God does not expect us to base our lives on a list of do’s and don’ts.

When we gave Jesus our allegiance, he gave a new identity. He declared who we are. Scripture says we are dead to the Law, but alive to Christ. Maybe, we should base our lives, not on lists of expected behavior, but on living in agreement with our new identity? Maybe, we should focus our hearts, not on something that God has declared to be dead, but on something God has declared to be new, and true?

New Life and God's Purpose

After Jesus' death and resurrection, God revealed his purpose to specifically chosen messengers. And the messengers began to reveal his purpose to people. Thus began the process of gathering people into God's family.

The messengers:
    ♦ persuaded people to give their allegiance to Jesus, and enter God's family.
    ♦ explained how to live in relationship with God.
    ♦ explained god's design for people.
    ♦ explained how to cooperate with God, and to return to living as designed.

All people are invited to become part of his family. All people are invited to share in this relationship, to share in God's goodness and generosity, and to participate in God's promises, because they belong to Christ, because they are united to Jesus.

God's family is a demonstration of God's nature, God's character, and God's wisdom to all in the heavenly realms, and all those on earth.

We have been given complete and total access to the Father, because we are united with Jesus. And he has complete, and total access. We have all this, because we accepted god's word with trust and faith.

The New Life and God's Family

God chose Abraham to create a nation, Israel. This nation had two purposes. First, Israel was the physical, familial context for Jesus. The Promised One, as God become man, needed a physical, family to become part of. A small, ordinary family in Israel became that family. The writers of the Bible gave the Promised One an “address” so people would know where to find him.

Second, Israel was God’s representatives to the world. Since the Fall, God has worked to demonstrate his nature, his character, and his plan for people through a group of people who would belong to him. Other people would look at his family, see not only an excellent group of people, but see who God was, and what it meant to live with/for him.

Israel only succeeded as a negative example. They said they would follow the Lord, but only succeeded temporarily. Individuals, who chose from their hearts, worked out better.

A person could always choose to become a part of God’s family. Israel ony understood it from their perspective. They never quite made room for the rest of the world.

But Jesus went out of his way to bring the world into his family. Both Jews and Gentiles make up his family, receive his covenant, and his promises. Gentiles have the same access, the same promises, and the same identity as Jews, who follow him. They are God’s family, God’s people, because they are united to Jesus. There is no longer Jew and Gentile. There is only God’s family.

He broke down what separated the two groups. He ended the system of the Law. He made peace with God’s people. He formed one family from all peoples.

He gave to all who came to him, to follow him, the Holy spirit to live with them. Unity with Christ is the only requirement to peace with God, and unity with God’s family.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Starting the New Life

In every person's life, there was a time they gave their allegiance to anyone, or anything, but Jesus and the Father. We surrendered our hearts to other things. And we reaped death.

We were in rebellion, and we reaped the penalty of rebellion. The penalty is separation and alienation from the Father. The Father is the giver, and definer, of life. Alienation from him is death.

Moreover, we also lived contrary to how he designed us. We sought meaning, significance, distraction, and entertainment in things that move against God's life, and word. People were designed to be fueled by walking in agreement with God. Walking outside of God's way is death.

We obeyed the enemy, who seeks to distract from God's glory, and contrary to what he promises people, he seeks to multiply misery. He urges people to live contrary to their design. People starve themselves of proper spiritual fuel.

But, God has abundant love and mercy. His heart, plans, and purposes are to create a family, who will live in relationship with him. So, he built a bridge, so we can go back to him. If we return, we will not suffer the penalty of sin. We will grow in living out our design.

Christ is the core of his love and mercy. One the cross, he received the penalty of sin for all mankind. He died, and the power of Law (the power of condemnation) is broken. Because death cancels the Law.

And the Law is cancelled in our lives, when we are covered by Christ. We cross the bridge, when we give our allegiance to Christ. He covers us. He represents us. He substitutes for us.

We are united with Christ. Our lives are joined to his. He is in us. We are in him. We are a demonstration, a picture, of God's heart and purpose.

This new life is not something we can earn, purchase, or command. We can only unite ourselves to Christ. Trust, and surrender ourselves. Then, he will renew us. He will transform us by rebuilding our spiritual DNA, and rebuilding our hearts. The world will see us as we designed to be. We will live as we were designed to live. We will flourish in life, as he intended. The world will be better as we act.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Love is Foundational

Scripture reveals God’s nature and character to people. He reveals various attributes of his character to us. As people are complex, God is complex. But there are a few attributes which are central. They are the primary, or controlling, aspects of God’s character. One of these is love.

Love is so central, that Scripture says love demonstrates that someone is in God’s family. We don’t have to hear them say anything about Jesus, if we see love, we will know.

“Love” as a word, and a concept, gets tossed about quite a bit. Everyone seems to know what love is, or at least, they say they do; but does what people say agree with God’s definition?

Scripture describes love in a number of places, and in a number of ways. We have discussed several of those here. Primarily, Jesus’ life defines love for us. If people live in love, the way he did, then we know they have a relationship with the Father.

If they live a life that dos not love (or does not agree with God’s definition) they do not necessarily have a relationship with him.

Their relationship with God does not define what our relationship with them should be like. Our relationship with Jesus defines our relationship with them. It is love. Jesus loved no matter what. We love no matter what … relationship with Jesus or no relationship with Jesus.

Monday, May 09, 2016

All Things for Good - 3

When we give our allegiance to Jesus, we become citizens of his Kingdom. As far as God is concerned, we are already there. We are already living in the Kingdom of Heaven.

If we get totally realistic, we live in two kingdoms, with two truths. (Two sets of motivations. Two sets of rules. Two sets of expectations.)

One set of expectations says life is full of pain and misery. The other says there is no pain, no misery. There is only joy and peace. The trick is: we have given ourselves to live according to one set of motivations, rules, and expectations, while surrounded and immersed in the other set of motivations, rules, and expectations.

In God’s Kingdom, there are no negatives. That’s what he says. That’s what we should expect.

In the enemy’s kingdom, he seeks to multiply misery. That’s who he is. That’s what we should expect.

Each day, we can choose which kingdom to live. If we choose to live in the Father’s kingdom, when we encounter something negative, we need to remind ourselves: “There is nothing negative in God’s kingdom.” Then, we need to pay attention for what God says about this situation. Because he speaks good in every situation. We need to be alert for his promise and his provision, because he gives both in every situation: to bring good, to advance his mission and kingdom, and to demonstrate his glory.

Because God speaks and acts to bring his kingdom into reality, we should look at life in its entirety, at each event, and at each situation differently. We tend to grieve, and worry. We ought to wait in anticipation, because God will act.

Signs of New Life

When a person receives and agrees with the gospel, when a person gives his\her allegiance to Jesus, new life flows into the person. New spiritual DNA is injected into the person’s inner being. And changes on the inside result in changes on the outside.

The two primary changes are faith in Christ, and the love of people. These are obviously two large general areas, that have lots of specific practices possible. Results can be giving food, cleaning, comforting, rebuking, becoming a missionary, TV/movie choices, books we read, places we go, and friends we spend intimate, extensive time with. Each area could be the subject of many, many posts.

Other areas grow also. I am going to focus on some secondary areas, which grow from the first two.

Prayer is the first. A natural communication should develop between Father and child. The child should express his honest feelings about his life, his situation … fears, joys, sadness, frustrations, successes, failures. And god will express his expectations, reinforce the identity he has given his child, and give additional revelation. (Clarifying revelation, rather than new revelation.) There is speaking. There is listening. There is open, honest communication.

Experiential knowledge is the second. As we walk in relationship with God, we gain in understanding of who he is, he nature, his character. We learn to see the world as he sees the world. Which changes our thinking. Which changes how we act. Which changes how we experience the world. Which changes how we experience God. And we begin another cycle. In reality, we are all probably in the midst of several cycles.

Understanding leads directly to experience. Many people understand experiential knowledge to pertain to an emotional flood. God did design people to have emotions, and emotional experiences. Joy is in such short supply that people seek it in any way they can. I will not speak against “special events” that people use to fill the empty spaces in their lives. But I do think God wants to fill us with joy. I also think God wants joy to be more regular, more consistent and every day. And I think God wants to give it within the context of our daily walks.

But our knowledge of God goes further. As we act on a promise, we understand God’s faithfulness. As we move to a word whispered in our hearts, we understand God’s intimacy, and his care.

Confident expectations is the third. We learn our identity from our Father. We learn his intentions. From that position, we can stand assured of what the future looks like, what our lives will be like. Because our Father cannot lie. Because we are his family, we are his inheritance.

The last, that I am writing about here, is the power that he has put at our disposal. The passage I am referring to sometimes confuses me. Sometimes, it seems like he has handed us a magic wand. Sometimes, it seems like he is saying, “Look what I have done for you! Image what I can do for you!”

The writer reminds us that God has already exerted tremendous power in executing his plan. That power was demonstrated in the life of Jesus.

- He was with Jesus.
- He raised Jesus from the dead.
- He honored Jesus by putting him at the Father’s right hand.
- Jesus has more authority than anyone else.

The Father has given Jesus all authority. Jesus has the authority to benefit God’s family, and to complete God’s mission. And we are part of both.

Moreover, we are not only part of Christ’s family, we are part of Christ’s body. Jesus completes and fills his body. It represents him. It fills every place with him.

And he goes wherever his family goes. Wherever his family goes, he should be obvious, his effects felt, and people should bow to the King.

Monday, May 02, 2016

God Works His Plan.

Before creation, God established his plan for mankind. He was going to create a family of all mankind. He was going to have an intimate, daily relationship with each of them. He would build into them, and they would reveal who and what he was. They would demonstrate his nature before one another. Their identity would be founded on their relationship with him, and his image that he imprints and builds into them.

Then, he realized that his plan of a perfect world, with perfect people, would fail, because people are not big enough. But the plan did not change.
  • He will build a family.
  • He will have relationship with them.
   • He will build each one through that relationship.

He knew that he could not have relationship with people, because of the failure, because of sin. So, he chose to have Jesus be a substitute and a representative. He chose before creation to have relationship with any and all who chose allegiance to Jesus. For those, Jesus would re-connect people to the Father, because he would solve the problem of sin. Because he was our representative, the Father chose to view us, and treat us, as holy and without fault.

The Father chose pain and sacrifice, because his love, and his vision of close relationship with each one, gave him so much enjoyment. God was, and is, pleased to connect with us. We cannot fathom how much pleasure the Father receives to have complete access to us … and we to him.

So, he provided freedom from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin. He instructs us, so we grow in wisdom, and understanding. And he reveals his heart and plans to us.
   • He will give all authority on earth to Jesus.
   • Those who gave him allegiance will become his special possession.
   • God marks his people as his, by putting his Spirit, his presence, in their inner beings. His Spirit is God’s guarantee that we are his, and that he will keep his promises.