No Identity Crisis

As you may or may not know, I’ve been memorizing a passage of Scripture for the past couple of weeks. The passage is Colossians 3:1-17. I finally finished memorizing the final verse this morning. Of course, the test really comes tomorrow (and the next day and the day after that, etc), to see if I really remember.

Memorizing Scripture is an interesting exercise. I’ve seen how it has worked its way into my life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I find myself thinking about a certain verse or being reminded of a certain verse as I encounter a situation in my day. This sounds cliché, but it seems to have worked its way into every fabric of my being. I think about it when I wake up. I recite it driving down the road. I’m reminded of it as I live out my life and I think about the verses or recite them as I lay down at night.

One other thing that repeating the same verses over and over does — whether aloud or silently — you really get the overall meaning of the passage. You really understand it as a whole. Instead of concentrating or zeroing in on one verse and “standing on it”, as Christians are apt to do, you get the big picture.

Colossians 3:1-17 would seem to be the apostle Paul’s practical instructions on how to live… what to do and what not to do. There is a laundry list of things to avoid, as well as a list of virtues. “Do this, and life will be good; and be sure to avoid…” is what it sounds like.

But it is so much more than that. What Paul is talking about here is your identity in Christ. There are several words such as “Since, then,…”, “because”, and “therefore”, and when I see words like that in the Bible, they are referring to something previously stated or to a previously implied condition.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”
“Put to death, therefore…”
“But now…”
“… since you have taken off…”
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people…”
“… since as members…”

Our identity is now in Christ. Our old self is dead. Our new life has come alive in Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within and is growing. I am a child of God with Christ dwelling within me. I live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. The pitfalls listed in the passage are not only to be avoided, they are beneath me. That kind of living is not suited for a child of God. I have taken off my old, stinky laundry and am now clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (v.12). This is the kind of living that is more suitable for Kingdom-living.

Because of what God has done for me in Christ: a forgiven past, an abundant life lived here and now, and a secure hope and future, the old Tim is dead. As Paul says in Galatians,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Amen.

Gone ’round the bend

I know some of you think I’ve “gone ’round the bend”, because I keep posting about this “new” or “fresh” encounter I’ve had with God’s love. It is an encounter with the finished work on the Cross by Jesus. It is the love of Jesus that has changed me.

But some of you think I’ve gone crazy. You think I’m nuts because I keep posting stuff like:

“Because Jesus won, I’m free to lose.
… because Jesus was strong, I’m free to be weak.
… because Jesus was someone, I’m free to be no one.
… because Jesus was the ultimate leader, I’m free and content to be a follower.
… because Jesus was (is) extraordinary, I’m free and content to be ordinary.
… because Jesus succeeded, I am free to fail.
… because ‘It is finished’, the work is done.
There is such freedom in those words, but there’s more. I’ve said it before but I have to say it again and again because it is such Good News: There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. There is nothing I can do to repay God. There is nothing I can do to curry God’s favor, including surrendering more.” (Posted May 3rd)

And…

“All of us so easily fall into a trap of measuring our own righteousness. We measure it by how much we pray. We measure it by how much we read our Bibles. We measure it by our behavior day-by-day. We measure how we talk, what we drink, and even by how much or what we eat. We measure ourselves against others. But when we measure, by definition, we are self-righteous. We become legalists. We become like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.” (Posted May 15)

Because I said these things, those of you who know me think I’ve fallen off the doctrinal wagon. Some may think that I’m espousing some kind of radical license to sin or to be lazy. Some may even think that I have fallen into some kind of sin; otherwise why would I talk about grace so often?!?

I’m not saying:

Don’t pray.
Don’t read your Bible.
Don’t go to church.
Don’t serve in the Kingdom somewhere.
Don’t be grieved when you sin because you’re going to heaven anyway.

What I am saying is that my (and your) only hope is Jesus. If we truly understand what Jesus has accomplished on the Cross, we are set free from the pressure of striving and trying so hard to “be a Christian.”

Once we really understand the love that God has for us in Jesus, we are free to fully and completely trust Him. We pray because we want to know Him more. We read our Bible to know His character (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:1), His truth (John 14:17), His instruction and His correction (2 Tim 3:16). We go to church because that is where we find community with like-minded Jesus-followers. We serve because that is how we show the love of God to those outside our community who so desperately need it.

We don’t do those things because it’s our duty or we need to repay God, but in doing them, we know God more fully. And knowing God more fully is what you WANT to do when you truly understand what God has accomplished just for you and me in Christ at the Cross. Desiring to know God more fully just simply flows from a life which understands the freedom and victory the Cross has brought.

Lastly, some may think that I’ve adopted some form of “once-saved, always-saved” doctrine. Those four words have come to mean something else than what was originally intended. They’ve come to negatively portray a theology of license. In other words, once you’re saved by grace, you’re free to live any way you want, because God’s grace will forgive you in the end. The apostle Paul makes it clear that simply isn’t true in Romans 5:20-6:7. Instead, those four words “once-saved, always-saved” or the words, “eternal security” should bring freedom and take the pressure off. Once you truly understand the love of God in Christ and truly embrace the work done there, you don’t want to live any way you want. You want to live any way GOD wants. If you or I are living another way, then I wonder if we truly understand God’s love.

So… have I gone ’round the bend? Yep.
Have I gone crazy? You better believe it.

I have encountered the good news of the Good News. If you find that you feel worse leaving church than when you entered, something’s wrong. You need the Gospel. It brings freedom. It takes the pressure off. It’s brings joy and peace like never before.

And you’ll want to tell everyone.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NIV)

If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, NLT)

Not enough faith to persevere?

I recently listened to a snippit (definition: a very short portion of a video or audio) of a recent sermon some pastor was preaching. What I heard was enough to make me push “STOP”. When speaking of those folks who had recently left his church, he used an analogy and said they were like the Israelites who didn’t have enough faith before they reached the Promised Land and perished. The folks who remained were those who had enough faith and were further encouraged to persevere.

Perseverence through trials is one thing. Saying that someone didn’t have enough faith to persevere is another. Saying that so many didn’t have enough faith is absurb. I find that offensive and so should you. It is so wrong on so many levels. It is dangerous teaching and it hurts the cause of Christ. It has the power to damage the faith of many, and I’ve seen this teaching cause people to lose heart and walk away from God altogether.

Beware.

Read more here: http://wp.me/p4hpe8-y

I have faith in the One who persevered and He’s all I need. All the focus is on Jesus please.