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)


Life before death?

Eternal Life.

Think about those two words for a minute. How would you define them?

Kingdom of God.

Again, what do you those three words mean to you?

Many Christians would say that eternal life is what happens after they die. A life in heaven. And they would be right.

Many Christians would say that the Kingdom of God is where they will reside after they die. And they would be correct.

But there is so much more to eternal life in the Kingdom of God! The moment we come to trust God with our lives, placing our trust in the shed blood of Jesus, who took our sins upon Himself in the most blessed exchange ever to cleanse us and give us His righteousness, we are given the gift of eternal life. But this isn’t just life after death. He doesn’t just save us and then meet us again after we die. There is so much more!

Jesus Himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19, NLT)

Does that sound like He came to just give us a ticket to heaven? No, He came to give us eternal life NOW. It should be called “eternal living” because we are given God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us leading us, guiding us, teaching us, and even chastising us as we live out this life of freedom. We are free from trying to do everything right, because Jesus did everything right. We are free to fail, because Jesus succeeded. We are free to lose, because He won. We are free to be weak, because He is strong. We are free from having to perform, because all the work has been finished. This is true freedom.

Living in the Kingdom of God is not something that just happens after we pass away. Kingdom living happens (or can happen) every moment of every day. It is not a state of mind but a state of being. It is both a conscious decision and a surrendered condition. It is a place of trusting in the sovereign King of the universe, knowing that He is aware of all that is happening, and that He is using it all to grow us and shape us to be more and more like Jesus. It is a condition of living that brings true freedom and joy. Because we reside in this Kingdom, we are able to trust God for all our needs. Therefore, it is a place where the focus is no longer on ourselves but on God and others. This is abundant life (John 10:10). This is living in the Kingdom of God.

And this is tremendous news to a watching world which is looking for hope and searching for the one and only strategy for successful living. This is it! If you are a Jesus-follower, you have found it! We only need to start living like it.

Shane Claiborne said,

“Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.”

Eternal living. Kingdom living… Good News indeed!

“In all things…”

My friend, Cindy, is a prolific poster on Facebook. 99% of all her posts are about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and her love for God. She is a tremendous example of God’s grace and mercy. She exudes a strong and bold faith lived out for all to see.

She posted something yesterday that we should be reminded of everyday. Here’s what she wrote:

“Happy Sunday morning everyone!

“I know several of my friends are going through hard times, so I just want to remind you that whatever it is you are going through, it is not the end. It is only a small part of your story. The difficulty will pass and better days will soon come. God is working everything out for your good and His glory.”

As she continued, this is the part that stood out to me:

“And remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are in, divine love would have put you there.

“Keep your thought on things above and your eyes on Jesus. He is our very great reward, and He is always enough.”

I have to repeat that one sentence:

Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are in, divine love would have put you there.

Wow. That is having an eternal perspective. That is living in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. That is living the words:

And we know that IN ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, my emphasis)

IN ALL THINGS, including (of course):

… that pink slip
… that bad test result
… that unplanned pregnancy
… that miscarriage
… that dead-end job
… that lonely house
… that “Dear John” letter.

No, these things aren’t good and God didn’t cause them to happen. But God wants to work, as Cindy said, “for your good and His glory.” He loves you so much that He wants to make your character like the character of Christ.

Of course, ALL THINGS doesn’t end with just the major, life-altering events. They include small things, because small thing are included in ALL things. Things like:

… the traffic jam on I-81 that is making you late for work
… the flat tire that is making you late for work
… the talkative old lady at the grocery story line with too many items that is making you late for (you fill in the blank)
… the co-worker that won’t stop telling you about American Idol while you are trying to get your work done
… you get the point. IN ALL THINGS.

Remember who this came from yesterday. About 16 months ago, Cindy lost her beloved mom to cancer. It was crushing to Cindy and her family. To Cindy, her mom was everything. She still is. Her mom was (and is) a tremendous example of a follower of Jesus (and that is an understatement). And I understate how much Cindy misses her mom.

But as Cindy will tell you, in ALL THINGS, including her mom’s death, God was (and is) working to draw Cindy closer to Himself. And now I see a trophy of God’s grace. I see someone who is an awesome example of Jesus, like her mom. I see someone who lives in the unshakeable Kingdom of God.

If I could just live with that perspective everyday. If I could just remember that God wants to use what I’m going through right now to make me more like Jesus.

Kingdom perspective. Like Cindy. Like her mom. Like Jesus.

It changes everything.