Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Protecting our New Identities - BTCH Part 3

Sunday I posted Mistaken Identity that discussed how the world can mistake our identity as still belonging to it when in fact we are ransomed out of the darkness through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Today, I wanted to look at identity a little further.  Once we know what our identity is, what do we do to protect our identity?

After Moses died, God told Joshua in Joshua 1:8

Joshua 1:8  This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

I want to focus on a couple of things in the scripture above.  First, what does it mean to meditate on something? It means to think deeply or 'focus one's mind' on something.  How often do we actually sit in our quiet places and actually focus our mind on the Word of God? Look at the word "observe" in the scripture above.  Observe in the original Hebrew means:

  • to hedge about
  • to guard or protect
  • to take heed to
Remember, we are to guard our hearts, too (Proverbs 4:23).  Now, if I may, let's insert our new definitions into what God told Joshua and let's see what it says:

"This Book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall think deeply and focus your mind in it day and night, that you may place a hedge about it to guard and protect and take heed to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."  

I am not trying to add anything to the Gospel here.  I am only exercising a concept that we used to use in English and Grammar classes - replacing the word with the definition of the word.  It changes slightly the meaning of the scripture doesn't it?  Once we know who we are in Christ, then this is how protect who we are.  But notice something else...God also Joshua to take heed to "do all that is written in it."  He didn't say some, part, only what is in two books of the Bible.  He said to do ALL that is written in it.  So, as it relates to our identities, what are we to do?

Colossians 3:8-11  But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.  (9)  Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,  (10)  and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,  (11)  where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

As I study this subject, Building the City on a Hill, more I am noticing how everything in the Word of God is interlocked.  One thing cannot happen or exist without another thing.  Above in Colossians we are told to put off all these behaviors. (Which we have seen Paul and Jesus say in other places.)  It is up to us to put off behaviors from our mistaken identity.  It is an action that we must complete.  When we are getting dressed in the mornings, no one does that for us. Or at least I don't have a lady's maid that helps me dress, laces up my corset, and does my hair for me.  I have to get dressed all by myself. The same is true here.  We have to make the conscious decision to no longer be angry, or use filthy language.  Our new man is renewed, Paul said to the Colossians.  As part of our identity, we are the elect of God, true?

Colossians 3:12-14  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  (13)  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  (14)  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

So as the elect of God, we are to put on things just as we are to put off.  As I stated earlier, no one does this for us. It is an action we have to complete.  God doesn't do this for us.  He gives us the power to do it through the Holy Spirit, but He does not do it for us.  Do you see a correlation with the things in Colossians we are to put on with the Fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5?  Do you see what I mean when I say it is all interlocked together?  We cannot do one thing without doing another?  

Ephesians 4:1-3  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,  (2)  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,  (3)  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Paul asked the church at Ephesus to walk "worthy of the calling."  Those that believe only in grace will say that we are saved by grace through faith and that is all there is.  There is nothing more for us to do.  God has done it all and therefore we are relinquished from any responsibility of doing anything.  Our works don't save us and can't get us into Heaven.  That is true.  Our works and being a good person do not get us into heaven.  They do not save us. Only the grace of God saves us as we have faith to believe in His Son.  However, we are not intended to stay children.  To protect identities and prevent the enemy from trying to keep us deceived, we have to grow spiritually in the ways of the Lord and the mind of Christ.  Paul said,

1 Corinthians 13:11  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

We don't stay a child forever in our natural bodies. We grow up and pass through various stages of development. Nor should we stay a child in our spiritual minds.  

1 John 2:12-14  I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.  (13)  I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.  (14)  I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.

Notice the stages of development that are mentioned above and what differentiates each.  A child cannot protect itself and relies on his or her parents to provide and care for them, and keep them safe.  Teenagers or "young men (people)" are invincible!!  Or so they like to believe.  They can take on the world and win!  They are overcomers.  Fathers, parents, those that are older, have known God.  This is a part of protecting our identities - growing in our Father, developing the mind of Christ, learning to be an overcomer, putting off the things of the old man and putting on the things of the New Man.  We cannot protect our identity from being mistaken if we do not think deeply on, focus our minds, guard and protect and take heed to do all that is in the Word of God.  Anything less keeps us in a state of vulnerability, no knowledge of how to use the Word of God, which is our weapon - the Sword of the Spirit.  As we meditate day and night on the Word of God, we can also learn how to hide in Him; how to run to our refuge and fortress; and most importantly how to trust God.  

I know there is a lot of information here, but there is so much more that I wanted to include, but I guess that should be for another time.  This morning before you go out to your job or take the kids to school or do whatever, choose a scripture and meditate on it today.  Think about it.  Ask God to show you what it means and how to apply it.  When the day gets tough, go back to the scripture you selected and remember, if our God is for us, then who can be against us?

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Mistaken Identity - BTCH Part 2

We have all heard the stories of the police arresting the wrong person for a crime because an eye witness thought they had identified the perpetrator.  The eye witness may have gotten the hair color wrong, or another feature incorrect causing an innocent to be arrested.  The actual perpetrator of the crime and the one whose identity was mistaken often end up resembling each other in many ways and it becomes easy to see why the wrong person was arrested.  

It is also easy for people to mistake our identityas disciples of Christ...and we don't help our cause in many cases.  Let's look at what our identity is first...then we will look at how it can be mistaken by the world for something else.

1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Ephesians 1:5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

John 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:

1 Corinthians 12:27  Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

So, our identity with Christ consists of several things: we are chosen; a royal priesthood and a holy nation; adopted sons; children of God; the Body of Christ.

Are we easily identifiable with the characteristics above to all who look at us?  Consider the medieval times.  Each King had a banner that was flown before him as he traveled and over his castle.  Each banner was different and each crest and colors were specific to each king.  People knew who the king was and where he was from just by the banner that was flying.  When he would send messengers to other kingdoms they flew that banner or they had a seal that identified who they belonged to and whose business they were attending to.  If they did not have these identifiers with them, then they could be mistaken as spies or even outlaws by the kingdom they were traveling through.  Today, what is the banner we should be flying?

1 Corinthians 13:13  And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love!  The greatest of these is love, Paul said.  Love is also the first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians (Galatians 5:22-23).  Can others look at you and see the love you have for other people?  Can they see the joy, peace, kindness, goodness, self control, etc. that is growing inside you?  Can they listen to your words and know that you are an adopted child of God?  

Galatians 5:24  And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Have you crucified your flesh and natural desires?  What are you putting out there for people to see first?  Just notice that Paul told the Galatians "those who are Christ's HAVE crucified the flesh..."  If we are Christ's and we belong to Him, then we have to crucify our flesh and put off the ways of the old man.  We can no longer walk in the way of our flesh, because if we do, then our identity will be mistaken by those around us.  We might have the appearance of one that has the King's banner outwardly, but when they take a second look and compare us to Christ, will they think they have made a mistake in their identification of us?? 

I used to believe that just telling people my beliefs and that I was saved, a born again, blood bought spirit filled Christian was enough.  I have learned in the last few years that it is not.  God makes it very clear throughout His word how I am to act and behave and speak.  What I am to say and the behavior we are to put away is clear.  I have to have inside of me the fruit of the Spirit that is so bountiful that it can be seen by any who look at me and who talk with me.  

In the world, when a couple adopts a child, that child's identity is changed.  No more does that child carry around the last name he or she was born with.  It is officially and legally through the court system changed to the last name of the adoptive parents.  Why?  So the child can be identified as belonging to their family.  If the name is not changed, then the child cannot be identified as belonging to the adoptive parents.  Well, it is no different with our spiritual adoption.  We should be changed so that we can be identified with the family we belong to and that family is the Body of Christ.  It is a Body that Jesus, our bridegroom, is returning to receive.  The Body is to be spotless and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).  The Body is to have a new identity.

So, I ask today...Can you be a victim of mistaken identity?  Can people recognize who you belong to...who your adopted Father is when they talk with you? they still see you the way you were before you were saved?  Are you cursing and using foul language?  Are prone to bouts of outbursts of wrath and anger?  Do you gossip about others?  Are you living in sin with a boyfriend or girlfriend without marriage?  And the list goes on and on...

God places the seed of righteousness within us.  He places the seeds for the fruits of the Spirit within us.  It is up to us to learn how to cultivate and grow them through the Holy Spirit.  (Read the post Are you like the Cursed Fig Tree?) It is up to us put off the ways of our old man so that we can confidently know our own identity.  It is up to us to put on the ways of our Father so the world will know who we are and who we belong to.  

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Building the City on a Hill...Part 1

This is the first part of a series that I hope will spark some discussion, some personal reflection, and action driven from faith for all of us.  As I said in a post yesterday, I have been talking to a few people and we all are trying to decide how to be a City on a Hill, or how to let our light shine before men.  We live in a society that is so easily offended by everything. How do we, as disciples of Christ, be the light in today's world?  First, we need to talk about what being a city on a hill means.  Jesus said,

Matthew 5:14  "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."

Think about looking off into the distance and seeing the skylines of major cities.  Or as campers my family and I tent camp frequently.  There are no street lights and depending on where we go without a flashlight or the campfire we can't see in the dark.  In those situations it is very easy to see where a campfire is burning in the distance.  It burns and sends it light out to be easily seen.  We are to do the same.  Jesus went on to say in Matthew 5,

Matthew 5:15-16  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (16)  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

We have all heard the phrase that our lives are our best testimony.  I whole heartedly agree with that sentiment.  Jesus said it in the above scripture, "let your light so shine before men."  They will see our good works and glorify the father.  If we are saying one thing with our mouths and doing another with our behavior and actions then we have effectively destroyed the credibility of our witness to the world.  By continuing to participate in the things of the world, showing the same behavior, not putting off the things of the old man, without renewing our mind, then we can't be separate from the world...we cannot build the City on a Hill.

There are many things we do, say and participate in that do not separate us from the world.  But, Paul said,

2 Corinthians 6:15-17  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  (16)  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE."  (17)  Therefore "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU."

So, what do we consider unclean today?  Not much, right?  Look at our TV shows, movies, books, etc.  Are we separate from the world?  Can we say that we look different?  Can we say we are a light shining from the hill?  Does our behavior reflect the behavior of Christ?  

1 Corinthians 2:16  For "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM?" But we have the mind of Christ.

and two verses before that:

1 Corinthians 2:14-15  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  (15)  But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

As I asked yesterday, are you allowing yourself to be led down the path of life, the path of righteousness, the way of everlasting?  Are you letting the Holy Spirit direct and guide your thoughts, actions, words so that you look, act and sound differently from the world?  We cannot be a natural state, our fleshly state, to receive the things from the Lord.  We have to be spiritually minded so that we can receive and discern the things of the Spirit.  

A City on a Hill cannot be hidden.  The light will shine.  The light will draw others to it.  If there is no light, there is nothing that will draw others.  How are we to be the light, the City on a Hill, if we do not separate ourselves from the world?  In the business world, they would say what are differentiators?  What makes us different from those that are not spiritually minded and walking on the path of life?

This is a particularly important question to ask yourself as Halloween approaches.  Are you a participant?  I would hope not, but if you are ask yourself why. Ask yourself who you are following...which path are you walking.  

As we walk this journey to learning how to be the City on a Hill, I pray that our hearts and minds are open to what the Holy Spirit would say to us. I pray that we are willing to do what God asks us to do and that we are obedient to His word.  This weekend as you go through your weekend ask the Lord to show you where you are not separate from the world.  What events and activities you are participating in that are appropriate for a disciple of Christ to participate in...  I will be asking myself these same questions.  I will be keeping my heart and ears open to the correction of the Lord.

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