Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Discipleship. Show all posts

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Random Thoughts

Thoughts culled from my random file, gathered from my Twitter tweets, Facebook updates and Instagrams. About love, forgiveness, glory, divine grace, and finding our lives in Christ. Some have come to me in moments of prayer and quiet reflection, some in interaction with others. Offered as “jump starts” for your faith.
  • When we are unwilling to forgive, we put up a roadblock to what God wants to do in us and in the world.
  • If we are not ready to forgive those who have sinned against us, we are not ready to pray the prayer Jesus taught us.
  • The ability to truly forgive others is a miracle, a gift of God’s grace.
  • To forgive others requires repentance on our part. On our own, we do not wish to forgive, so we must turn our soul toward God, who alone can work that miracle in us.
  • Faith is not so much about certainty as it is about trust.
  • Haters are gonna hate. Lovers are gonna love. Which will you be?
  • If a literal reading of the Old Testament contradicts the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, then the literal reading must give way.
  • The Christian life is one shaped by the death and resurrection of Christ.
  • If we are disappointed in others on Jesus’ behalf, we probably need to spend more time with Jesus, who is not disappointed in any of us — he came to rescue all of us.
  • The light of Christ shines in every human being and the darkness cannot overcome it.
  • There is nothing that could ever put to shame the love Christ has for us.
  • Sin is not a broken law but a broken relationship — with God, with each other, with creation, even within our own selves. Christ came to turn us back to God and each other, to restore all of creation and make us whole.
  • Jesus entered into our darkness and faced down the accuser of our souls. He is our light.
  • The light of God does not come to condemn us but to free us from our darkness.
  • Salvation is not so much a matter of destination but of transformation by the divine fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • True repentance, the turning of the soul toward God, is a miracle, a gift of God’s grace.
  • The love of God, wisdom of God, justice of God, holiness of God — these are all one. For God is one, and God is love.
  • There is no us and them in Christ. There is only the union of all things in heaven and on earth.
  • The ability to see things from a different perspective is a miracle, a gift of God’s grace.
  • The love, mercy and grace of God are with us always, without limitation or condition.
  • You are created in the image of God, and there is nothing you can do that could ever change that. It is the truth about who you are.
  • All humankind is summed up in Jesus Christ, in whom God became one with us — even in all our brokenness.
  • Discipleship is learning to live in the reality of King Jesus.
  • Discipleship is learning to live in the divine fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • Discipleship is learning to live in the fullness of God and our completeness in Jesus Christ.
  • Lord my rest, teach me Your way, the simplicity of Your love.
More random thoughts …

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Works Contract Mentality
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
A few days ago, I talked about how many evangelicals have a contractual view of the gospel, except that in place of works, they have substituted faith as a condition of the contract. Even so, the works contract mentality remains with many of them.

Much of Western Christian theology has imagined some sort of works contracts in our relationship with God. That we were supposed to keep the rules and do the works, but we failed disastrously and broke the contract. That Christ came and kept the rules and the works perfectly, making up for where we had failed, and then at the cross paid a penalty for our failure to keep the contract.

This sort of thinking can be seen in how merits and penances are thought of, at least at the popular level, in the Catholic Church, as credits and debits. And many in the Protestant tradition have turned the penalty they imagine Christ paying into one that is paid to God one our behalf because of our failure to keep the rules and do the good works, or because of the bad works we have done.

The works contract mentality persists even further when it is turned into a system of rewards for the redeemed: doing good works for added honors or benefits. That is nonetheless works-oriented thinking, the supposed contract being that, if we will perform good works, God will give us special rewards as a sort of bonus to our salvation. In that thinking, we are saved by grace through faith, but additionally rewarded for individual merit. Whenever we are talking about earning anything from God, however, we are no longer talking about grace but about something earned — and that misreads the gospel and the life of faith in Christ.

The apostle Paul, however, speaks very differently about good works. In Ephesians 2, he sets aside any idea that we are saved by Law-works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but also any idea that we ever earn anything from God. He understands that we are God’s workmanship, not our own, and that we are created in Christ Jesus by God, not by ourselves (Ephesians 2:10). We are God’s work, so any good that comes from that is God’s good, and any merit that comes from that is God’s merit.

In another letter, Paul tells us that it is God himself who is at work in us, not only doing through us the things that please God, but also working in us the very desire to please God (Philippians 2:13). It is God’s work from first to last — and that’s grace. So, Paul can declare, as he does in Galatians 2:20, “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.”

Monday, January 2, 2017

Random Thoughts

Thoughts culled from my random file, gathered from my Twitter tweets, Facebook updates and Instagrams. About faith, divine love, the kingdom of God and new life in Christ. Some have come to me in moments of quiet reflection, some in interaction with others. Offered as “jump starts” for your faith.
  • We do not overcome evil with evil — not even with the lesser of two evils. We overcome evil with good.
  • Do good and leave the results to God who knows how to redeem every situation.
  • The will of God for you and me, in one word: Love — to love and be loved.
  • God is love. The will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven is nothing else but the manifestation of love.
  • Jesus knew how to multiply five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand. He knows how to multiply His body and his blood to feed His people.
  • Wherever the will of God is done on earth as in heaven, there we find the kingdom of God. And there heaven and earth have become one.
  • The glory of God is not found in the will to power but in the will to love. The greatness of God is not found in the ability to take but in the ability to pour Himself out for love.
  • What counts, the apostle Paul said, is faith expressing itself through love. God is love, and faith in God looks like love.
  • Christ did not come to hold us accountable for sin but to set us free from the bondage of sin.
  • Love is unconditional, not co-dependent. Or controlling.
  • The gospel is not a sin management program.
  • The cross was not a management tool for God’s anger issues — and Jesus was not being co-dependent.
  • We are not defined by our faithfulness to God but by God’s faithfulness to us.
  • Father, Son and Holy Spirit, lead us all into the eternal bliss of Your divine fellowship. Amen.
  • We are holy not because of what we do or don’t do but because of whose we are.
  • I desire no other reason for doing good then that God is love and Jesus is Lord.
  • Christ became a human being that we might become our true selves and know real freedom.
  • Christ has irrevocably, inextricably entangled Himself with all humanity — the Incarnation cannot be undone. O Glorious Entanglement that saves the whole world!
  • The Cross was the inevitable consequence of the Incarnation, when He who is infinite life joined Himself to a humanity bent toward death — it could only ever result in Resurrection.
  • Teach me today, Lord Jesus, for You are my proverb and my psalm, my wisdom and my praise. Amen.
  • Christ, the True Light who gives light to everyone, has come into the world. Follow Him.
  • Neither death nor evil nor sin have any purpose, any rightful place in God’s creation. They are imposters, detracting from life and good and wholeness. But their power has been broken at the Cross, where they were shown to be the frauds they are, and they are destined for destruction.
  • Christ is the True Light who gives light to all the world. Look for His light in everyone you meet.
  • Faith in Christ looks like following him.
More random thoughts …

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Faith Means Following the Shepherd

The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:25-28)
Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication (aka Hanukkah) and was standing in Solomon’s Colonnade, in the temple complex. Several of the Jews who opposed him came up to him and demanded, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you did not believe me” (v. 25), then spoke to them about the works that testified about him. But they did not believe him, he said, because they were not his sheep.

Now, mind you, the whole of John 10 is about Jesus the Shepherd and his sheep. He talked about the Pharisees and others who tried to sneak into the sheepfold in order to steal the sheep (v. 1). He said that the one who comes through the “gate” is the rightful shepherd (v. 2). That the “gatekeeper” “opened the gate” for him (v. 3) — perhaps a reference to Moses (see John 5:45-47) or more likely to John the Baptist (see John 1:29-34). Jesus said that his sheep listen to him and follow him because they recognize his voice and not the voice of a stranger (v. 4-5). That he himself is the “gate” for the sheep and that all who enter in by him will be saved (vv. 7-9). That the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus comes that the sheep may have abundant life (the life of the age to come) because he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (vv. 10-11). He is the good shepherd — he knows his sheep and his sheep know him, just as he knows the Father and the Father knows him — and he lays down his life for the sheep (vv. 14-18).

And now, even though he and others have testified plainly to his opponents about who he is and has done healing signs and miracles in the name of the Father, they still refuse to trust him, to listen to him, to follow him. They did not really believe Moses and the prophets or else they would have believed Jesus, because he is the one Moses and the prophets spoke of.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say? (John 5:45-47)
They did not listen to Jesus’ voice because they did not listen to the voice of Moses and the prophets. They did not follow Jesus because they did not follow Moses and the prophets. They were not Jesus’ sheep because they were never God’s sheep.

But now let’s look at who Jesus’ sheep are: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus’ sheep are the ones who listen to his voice, the ones who follow him. That is what faith is, what it looks like, what it does. Faith is more than an acknowledgement of who Jesus is or agreement with some facts about what he has done. Faith means trusting him, which is to say, entrusting ourselves to him — putting our lives in his hands. So it is listening to him and following him. The man who says he is trusting Jesus but does not listen and follow is not really trusting after all, merely acknowledging something about him.

Acknowledging who Jesus is may be more than those Jewish opponents were willing to do, but it does not measure up to faith. More importantly, it falls short of how Jesus identifies his sheep. Listening to his voice and following him describes their faith, their trust in him. And it is specifically of these that Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Divine Initiative of the Christian Life

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The truth of the Christian life is that it is the work of God in us, by His Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is all about love and manifests the life of Christ in us. It is all by divine grace, through faith, and not by our own effort to become anything. This does not mean, however, that we are simply dead weight, being shuttled about by God. Rather, we must be attentive to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the work God is doing in us.

The Lord Jesus, although he was fully divine as well as fully human — or perhaps we should say because he was fully divine as well as fully human — was always attentive to the Father. He did only those things he saw the Father doing and said only those things he heard the Father saying. Our new life in Christ means that we, too, have the capacity to see what the Father is doing and hear what he is saying, and so we, also, must be responsive.

We must likewise be attentive to the Lord Jesus. He is our example, and God is conforming us to his image, that we may be like him and reveal the Father even as Jesus did. We are disciples, learning Jesus. To be Christian means that we are following him — not being dragged along behind him.

We are also to be attentive to the Holy Spirit, who reveals the Lord Jesus to us and guides us into the life of Christ. He shows us Christ, who shows us the Father, who sends the Spirit. The Spirit empowers us, enabling us to do what pleases God. He also enables our wills to desire what pleases God. But he comes to empower us, not overpower us. So we are still responsible to yield to him and allow him to do his work in us.

The initiative of the Christian life, every step of the way, is always God’s, his work in us — and that is a matter of grace. Our work is simply to respond to his gracious initiative — and that is a matter of faith. So shall we fulfill his good purpose.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Good Friday Mindset

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus has always been God, even before he was Jesus — that is, even before (from our time-bound perspective) he became human and dwelt among us. It was no contradiction for the eternal Son of God to pour himself out and become like you and me, even to become one with us, for God is self-giving, not self-serving. That is his nature, for God is love. So, becoming human did not take away one bit from his divinity. Nor did it disguise his divinity. Rather, it revealed his divinity. After all, when God created humankind, he created us in his own image, and Jesus, in his humanity said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Nor was it a contradiction for Jesus to humble himself and become a servant, for God is love, and the nature of love is to give and to serve. It was the very thing he modeled for his disciples when he took up the basin and the towel and washed their feet on the night of the Last Supper, the night before he poured himself out on the cross.

Nor was it a contradiction for Jesus to become obedient to the point of death, even to such a cruel and horrible death as the cross. For God is love, and as Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Love has always been the heart and mind of God. It was the mindset of the Incarnation and also of that Good Friday. And it is the same mindset he invites us to share with him. Not only to experience the love of God by receiving but also to experience it by pouring it, and ourselves, out for each other. So, Paul exhorts us, in his letter to the Jesus followers at Philippi, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Following Jesus Into Holy Week

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name! (John 12:23-28)
The time was now at hand for Jesus to be glorified. And he offered a parable concerning it, about a kernel of wheat. As long as the kernel is clinging to the stalk, holding on to its life as a seed, that is all it will ever be. But when the seed dies and lets go of itself it will, paradoxically, multiply. The life of the seed is transformed, becoming a plant that is the life of many other seeds.

If anyone loves his own life and his own glory at all costs, he is like a kernel of wheat that refuses to fall to the ground. He will end up losing his life anyway, and it will be for nothing. But anyone who “hates” the life of this present world and is willing to let it go will find that his life becomes something greater than he could have ever imagined — the life of the age to come.

The time was now at hand, and Jesus was willing to be like that kernel of wheat, to fall and die and bring forth new life for many. But now he turns the parable around to his disciples, to all who have been following him, all who would come to him: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.” The life of the seed that falls is multiplied and produces many seeds. Shall these seeds not fall also, for the sake of multiplying the life of the master even more? If we would be Jesus’ disciples, we must follow him even in this. We must let go of our own little idea of life and our own little glory so that his life in us may produce even more life. Then we will be like Jesus — where he is, we will be. To the extent we are willing to let go the life of this present age, we begin to experience the life of the age to come.

And yet letting go of this present life is a troubling thing. There is something in us that wants to hold on to what we already think we know or see. To let go would seem to be to fall into a great abyss of the unknown. That is always the test for us. It was the test for Jesus, too. As he thought of what was about to happen, he was troubled by it. Though something in his soul may have wanted to say, “Father, save me from this hour,” yet more than that, there was in him the profound realization that it was precisely for this hour that he came.

His prayer, then was “Father, glorify your name.” That is where Jesus’ own glory would be found, and ours, too. The hour for Jesus to be glorified had come, and it was just as much to be seen in the falling of the seed as in the multiplication of its life — in the cross as in the resurrection. And so it is for all who would follow him.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Random Thoughts in Lent

Some thoughts in the season of Lent, culled from my random file. About baptism, repentance, discipleship … and the impossible Christian life. Some have come to me in moments of quiet reflection, some in interaction with others. Many have been tweets and updates. Offered for your edification, inspiration and preparation in this season.
  • Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent remind us that we are the dust of the earth ~ and the breath of God.
  • The point of Ash Wednesday is to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God through King Jesus the Messiah.
  • Lent is a good time to take time ~ to watch, listen and think about what King Jesus is doing in the world ... and what he wants to do through you.
  • Lent is an opportunity to enter into the purpose, passion and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and be made more like Him.
  • What to give up for Lent: The vain struggle to overcome sin. It has already been overcome by Jesus the Messiah. Dwell on that.
  • The fast God desires is a fast that never ends, an ongoing process of faith being formed by the love of God and expressed through love for others.
  • Embrace your doubt in faith, like the man who came to Jesus for healing for his son (Mark 9:24). Here’s a simple breath prayer. Breathe in: “Lord, I believe.” Breathe out: “Help my unbelief.”
  • The Christian life is impossible. Only Christ can live it — and he comes to live it in you. Let him.
  • Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of John are, “What do you seek?”
  • A disciple is someone who is learning to live in the reality of King Jesus.
  • In the humility of baptism, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world identified with the people who very much needed to have their sin taken away.
  • The power of baptism is not that I was baptized but that I am baptized, and the life of Christ is mine — now and always.
  • Baptism is an epiphany, a revelation of Jesus Christ. When you’ve had an epiphany, it changes everything. It changes you and you can’t go back to the way things were before.
  • I am baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — and that is a wonderful fellowship to be immersed in.
  • The most fearful thing that can happen to a person is for God to let him have his own way.
  • Lord, fill me with the desire for You. Fill me with the desire for the things You desire. Then fill all those desires. Amen.
  • Repentance is turning to God, away from dependence on everything that isn’t God. Every day is a good day to repent and learn to trust God more.
  • Discipleship is learning to live daily in the reality of King Jesus and the love of God.
  • Today I am living out of the new creation and ignoring the remnant echoes of the old.
  • Today I silence all the voices that speak out against me. The blood of King Jesus declares much better things over me.
  • The devil is defeated. King Jesus reigns. See everything through that lens and dwell on that reality.
  • Lent is not a “Spiritual Strongman” competition, a season for striving to prove our mettle. It is for knowing our weakness and finding our strength in Christ.
More random thoughts …

Friday, January 23, 2015

Finding Jesus, Learning Stability

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:40-42 NIV)

Prophecies of a coming Messiah who would rule over Israel and the nations and set things right in the world. Rumors of unusual encounters with wise men and shepherds. A wild man of the desert preaching and baptizing at the Jordan. A fresh breath of anticipation was beginning to blow — at least, for those who were ready to breathe.

Andrew was learning to inhale. He had been one of the disciples of John the Baptist and heard him speak of Jesus of Nazareth as the “Lamb of God” and “God’s Chosen One.” He and another, who also heard John, followed Jesus. Literally. By the end of the day they had become his disciples. They began to understand what — and who — it was they were seeking, and discovered in Jesus an abiding place for their lives.

The first thing Andrew did after entering this new life with Rabbi Jesus was to go find his brother Simon. He was a man on a mission — he must tell him the good news: “We have found the Messiah.” 

Messiah is a Hebrew term, so John the Evangelist interprets it into Greek, the language in which the Gospel According to John was originally written. The Greek term for Messiah is Christ (actually, both “Messiah” and “Christ” are anglicized versions of the original Hebrew and Greek forms). More important, though, is what Messiah and Christ mean, and what they refer to. Both words mean “Anointed,” and refer to the one God promised to anoint as King over all (see Psalm 2).

Simon was, no doubt, familiar with the promises of a coming Messiah, as every good Jew was in those days, although there were differing ideas about what the fulfillment of those promises would look like. However, he does not appear to have been a follower of John the Baptist, as Andrew had been. Perhaps he was wearied by the various speculations about Messiah. Perhaps he was jaded by the religious/political factions and intrigues of his day. Maybe he was even losing faith that Messiah would ever appear at all. After all, it had been a long time coming.

And now here was Andrew bursting in upon him to announce, “We have found him. We have found Messiah!” Then in a “come and see” moment, Andrew brought him to meet Jesus. Simon would not return home the same.

Jesus “looked at” Simon. More than a glance, it was penetrating. Jesus was studying him, discerning him, perceiving him. The Greek word is the same one used about what had happened the day before when John the Baptist was with Andrew and another disciple. John, “looking at” Jesus, announced to them, “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:36).

Seeing Simon, Jesus understood something about him that Simon did not understand about himself, something that had not up to this point been revealed in his life. Then Jesus spoke it out: “You are Simon son of John.” Simon knew that well enough, of course. He had lived with it all his life. But then Jesus added, “You will be called Cephas.”

It was a life-changing moment for Simon. Jesus identified who he was, but then he announced not just what he would be called but who he would be. Indeed, in that moment, Jesus was calling forth that new identity in him, prophesying it over him, speaking a powerful word of destiny to him.

The name Cephas comes from an Aramaic word, kepha. The Gospel of John translates it into Greek for us: Peter (again, “Cephas” and “Peter” are anglicized forms for the original Aramaic and Greek words). Both words mean the same thing: Simon would be called Rock!

Peter was a passionate but impulsive man, and probably not the sort we would consider as possessing the strength of stability. He had a rocky personality and it was a bit humorous to call him Rock. Like calling a fat man Slim. Or a tall man Shorty. Or a bald man Curly. Yet, Rock is what Simon would be called — Jesus was calling it to be. All that was needed was for Simon to follow Jesus into that new reality.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Epiphany: Following Jesus

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)
The “next day” is the day after John the Baptist gave his testimony concerning Jesus: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He told how he saw the Spirit of God come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Jesus. He had received a revelation from God that “the man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33). John saw and testified that Jesus is God’s Chosen One, which is to say, the Messiah, anointed by God to be king over Israel and the nations.

The following day, John was with two of his disciples. One of them, as we learn in verse 40, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. The other was unnamed but has traditionally been identified as John (not the Baptist but the disciple of Jesus). John saw Jesus coming and drew their attention to him: “Behold the Lamb of God!” They embraced that revelation of Jesus and realized that this was the one for whom they had been waiting, the one whose way John had been preparing all along.

So they began following Jesus. Literally. One moment they were John’s disciples, then suddenly they were following after Jesus. Yet it all seemed quite natural. Their feet simply followed their hearts. They walked behind Jesus, as disciples did in those days, until he turned around and saw them.

Jesus stopped and asked them a question: “What do you seek?” (v. 38). It was a probing question. Did they understand what it was they were looking for? Were they ready for what it would mean in their lives? Many people do not know what it is they really want but often confuse means for ends. But it is an important question for all who would follow Jesus.

They answered Jesus’ question with a question: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” (v. 38). Rabbi was a title of great respect and was used to mean “Teacher.” The two disciples were looking for a dwelling place. Not a physical abode — they were not homeless — but a place for their souls to be at home. They wanted to learn from Jesus, to be his disciples.

Jesus’ answer was a simple invitation: “Come and see.” So they came and saw. They remained with Jesus for the rest of the day and, as it turns out, for the rest of their lives. On the night of the Last Supper, at the end of his ministry, Jesus would teach them something quite unexpected about his dwelling place: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). And, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Though they did not know it on that first day, they would be Jesus’ dwelling place and he would be theirs forever.

What do you seek? Where do you dwell? Come and see.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Radical: A Life Rooted in Jesus

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)
When we hear the word “radical,” we often think of someone or something that is extreme in some way. Edgy. Maybe even off center or out of balance, because of being on the edge.

“Radical” comes from the Latin word, radix, which means “root.” It is not about what is out on the margins somewhere but about what is deep down at the root. You can’t get more basic than that. The real question about being radical is not about what is on the edge but what is at the root. What is the foundation upon which it is grounded? When you change that, you change everything.

In Ephesians 3, Paul’s prayer for believers is that they will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, so that Christ might be quite at home in their hearts through faith. The result is that we would be rooted and grounded in love. In Colossians 2, Paul urges believers to keep on walking in Christ, having been rooted in Him and continually being built up in Him.

Living radically is about living in a different way and on a different basis, with a different center and a different focus. It is life from a different root and it produces a different fruit.

Jesus calls us to be rooted in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches,” He said. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:8). And what is the fruit? Love. “By this all will know that you are My disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

A life that is rooted in Jesus is a radically different life. It is not about doing extreme things. It is about living life centered on Him. It may seem extreme and out of balance to the rest of the world. This is because the kingdom of God turns the expectations of the world upside down — the last come first and the first end up last, and it is the servants who are considered the greatest of all, manifesting the life and love of God. Those who live according to God’s kingdom may seem upside down to the world, but they are the ones who are right side up in the world as it was meant to be, and will be, when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven.

A life rooted in Christ is a life rooted in love that reveals the kingdom God. You can’t get more radical than that.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spiritual Growth and the Divine Nature

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
Partaking of the divine nature is not instantaneous but a process that takes place over time. Peter clearly has spiritual growth in mind, as we can see from the verses that follow, about adding to our faith. By this he indicates the progressive and ongoing nature of salvation, the outworking of the salvation we initially entered into through faith in Christ. One day we will experience the fullness of salvation when our bodies are glorified and raised immortal just as Jesus’ body has been. So we can say, as Paul did, that we have been saved, we are being saved and we will be saved.

But it is also true that the progressive spiritual growth aspect (as well as our final glorification) are inherent in the salvation we entered into when we first came to know the Lord Jesus. From the beginning of our salvation, we have the ability to partake of the divine nature. It is there for us all along the way, and sums up all we need for life and godliness. But learning how to walk in (or live out) the reality of that is what our spiritual growth is about. And that is what Peter encourages us to in verses 5-9:
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Because access to the divine nature is inherent in salvation from the beginning, it is part of the atonement — what the work of Christ in the cross and resurrection secured for us. In verse 9, Peter speaks of being “cleansed” of our old sins. That certainly is an atonement reality and an important aspect of our salvation — Jesus washed our sins away. But in verse 4, Peter takes it a step farther when he speaks of escaping the “corruption that is in the world through lust.” In that, we can see that the power of sin has broken so that we no longer have to be corrupted by it. Through the cross, Christ offers us escape from corruption and lust , an escape we can learn to appropriate and live by. This present escape from corruption is also part of the atoning work of Christ.

We appropriate this escape by faith (which is more than mere mental assent to the propositions posed by the atonement), and that is where Peter begins in verse 5: “add to your faith.” What then follows in verses 5-8 (knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love) are not meritorious works but the outworking of faith and the outworking of salvation. It is ultimately expressed as love (last in Peter’s list, but certainly not least). As Paul shows us in Galatians 5:6, faith “works” through love. Again, this not a meritorious work by which we earn anything from God but is the expression of faith. It is love that fulfills the commandments and manifests the divine nature, and by it we really do partake of the divine nature — for God is love.

In Galatians 5, Paul talks about “walking in the Spirit,” and the “fruit of the Spirit.” The “fruit” listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love heads the list, and all the rest can be described in terms of love. This sounds very like the things listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8, which all seem to lead up to love. These things portray for us the character of Christ, and they come forth in us through the Spirit of Christ.

The way Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5, then, is very like what is described in 2 Peter as being a “partaker of the divine nature.” For how can we bear the fruit of the Spirit of God without being a partaker of the divine nature? Walking in the Spirit of God, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, partaking of the divine nature — this is salvation, central and profound and dynamic.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Following Jesus ~ Salvation and Discipleship

Discipleship is a process. We can also say that salvation is a process. There is a point where salvation begins, and we are “born again” — so that we can say that we have been saved. At the end, when Jesus comes again, there is a point where we will experience glorification (and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is) — so that we can say that we will be saved. And in between there is a process of sanctification going on in which the life of Christ in us is being worked out — so that we can say that we are being saved.

Salvation, then, is an ongoing process, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And in this process, we are with Christ from beginning to end. So, salvation is also a relational development, a growth in relationship with the Lord Jesus.

When I look at the Great Commission as it is expressed in Mark and Matthew, I do no think that they are talking about two separate things from one another. They are both talking about the same thing, but in two different ways:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15)

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
They are both about salvation and they are both about discipleship, even though Mark uses the word “saved” and Matthew does not, but speaks, instead, of making “disciples.” Salvation and discipleship are not two separate issues. When salvation begins, so does our discipleship. Discipleship is what salvation looks like in the process of practical sanctification. It is what faith in the Lord Jesus looks like in the life of a believer.

At this point, let me be quite clear that none of this — salvation, discipleship, sanctification and, indeed, the entire Christian life — is about our own efforts. It is all the work of God in us, by His grace, and we receive it by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now I would like to talk about a couple of passages I have been thinking about lately in regard to salvation and discipleship. The first is Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus says,
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The invitation to come to Jesus and receive “rest” is an invitation to salvation. And Jesus tells us here how to find that rest: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me.” That is discipleship. The Greek word for “learn” here is mathete, which is where the word for “disciple” (mathetes) comes from. But notice how this is sandwiched between the two statements about “rest.” Jesus is not talking about rest and discipleship as two different things but as one thing: rest that is expressed as discipleship. The invitation to come to Jesus for “rest” (salvation) and the invitation to “learn” from Him (discipleship) are the same invitation.

The second passage is John 10:27-28, where Jesus says,
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
Again, being one of Jesus’ sheep indicates salvation. Jesus says He “knows” His sheep. Compare this with Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says to the false teachers, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Now, notice what Jesus says about those He calls “My sheep,” and whom He knows:
  1. They listen to His voice.
  2. They follow Him.
Listening to Jesus’ voice and following Him — that is discipleship. Now, look at what Jesus gives to His sheep: eternal life, which is the life of the age to come — that is salvation. So in this passage, also, Jesus is not speaking of salvation and discipleship as two separate things but as essentially the same thing — salvation that looks like following Jesus. The life of the age to come is lived out as discipleship in this present age.

With all these things considered, then, the invitation to salvation is the invitation to discipleship. Not two separate and distinct invitations. But, again, whether we are speaking of it as salvation or as discipleship, it is all by grace through faith. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is not a matter of our works but a matter of faith in Jesus. Faith in the Lord Jesus is not merely giving mental assent to a proposition about Jesus. Faith in Jesus looks like following Jesus. Following Jesus is how faith in Jesus expresses itself.

This brings me back to the Great Commission, for an additional thought. The going, the baptizing, the teaching — it’s all part of evangelizing, all part of preaching the gospel. In Mark 16:16 we see that the expected response is faith and baptism. Likewise, in the evangelism practiced by the apostles in the book of Acts, the expected response to the gospel of Christ was repentance, faith and baptism — becoming disciples. In Acts 14:21, for example, making disciples was not presented as some separate activity from preaching the gospel: “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples.” To evangelize was to make disciples, and to believe the gospel was to become a disciple.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Contending for the Faith

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 3-4 NIV)
Jude urges his readers to “contend for the faith,” and the issue that raises his concern is so important that he has set aside what he initially intended to write to them about. He has learned that there are ungodly people who have slipped in among them, who “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

This is not merely a theological issue. It is a moral one, with theological implications. J. B. Phillip’s translation puts it this way: “They have no real reverence for God, and they abuse his grace as an opportunity for immorality. They will not recognize the only master, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

They are “ungodly,” which means that they have no regard and no respect for God, and it shows in how they live. It is not so much that they have denied the sovereign Lordship of Jesus as a matter of doctrine, but they have denied it by their practice. The life they live gives the lie to the faith they profess. They have taken the grace of God, by which we are saved, and have used it as a license to sin.

There is a connection between what a person believes and how he lives. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ leads to a life of obedience to Him. Those who trust in Him, follow Him. But a faith that does not connect to how one lives is not a faith worth having.

Contending for “the faith,” for Jude, was not merely a matter of embracing the correct doctrines but had just as much to do with how “the faith” gets lived out. These ungodly ones were false not only because of their doctrine but also because of their immorality. The two go together, because what a person actually believes affects how he lives, and how he lives reflects what he actually believes — regardless of what he might profess to believe.

These were false teachers Jude was warning about, dreamers spouting theological nonsense, who not only indulged in sexual immorality but scoffed at divine authority and the reality of evil entities (v. 8). They were as faithless as Cain, as greedy as Balaam and as rebellious as Korah (v. 11). They were completely selfish and lacking in love. Jude says of them:
These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (v.12 NIV)
It is against these, then, that Jude urges his readers to contend for the faith. For the faith is not simply a body of doctrine, it is a way of life that affirms the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good Works Are God Works

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
We are neither saved by good works nor kept by good works. But the salvation that is by grace through faith in Ephesians 2:8-9 is a salvation that results in good works in Ephesians 2:10. However, those good works are not our good works but God’s, for we are His workmanship.

When we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, though, we do not become robots, operating automatically or by remote control. No, we become born again, and we now have the life of Christ in us, the power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us, God Himself at work in us. This new life we have in Christ is responsive to God because it comes from Him. And God is at work in us not only empowering us to do His good pleasure but also creating in us the desire, the will, to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). So the good works that God does in and through us, and which result from salvation by grace through faith, are not a violation of our human will and desire. They are a manifestation of the salvation we receive when we come to Christ in faith.

This means that the change of behavior we experience as believers is not a result of our own works but of God’s. So we need not worry about how much change would satisfy God. For God will always be satisfied with the work He does in us, and He will do whatever work needs to be done in us. And the good work He has begun in us, He will bring all the way through to completion (Philippians 1:6).

This also means that perseverance is not a result of what we do but, rather, a result of what God does in us. Those who have begun in the new birth continue in the new birth. Those who have begun in eternal life continue in eternal life. And those who have begun by grace through faith continue by grace through faith. Because it is God’s doing, not ours.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Discipleship of Gentleness and Humility

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29 NIV)
“Learn from me,” Jesus says. It is an invitation to be His disciple (the Greek word for “learn,” in this verse, and the word for “disciple” come from the same root). What Jesus calls us to learn from Him is gentleness and humility. These are traits that reveal the Lord Jesus Himself, in His incarnation, in the saving work of the cross, and in His exaltation. It is not surprise, then, that the New Testament writers also hold them in high regard:
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16 NIV)
  • “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you.” (2 Corinthians 10:1 NIV)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Galatians 6:1 NIV).
  • “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV).
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV).
  • “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25)
  • “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2 NIV)
  • “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV)
  • “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6-7)
  • “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).
  • “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).
  • “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)
Given that Jesus invites us to come and “learn” gentleness and humility from Him, what should Christian discipleship look like?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Random Thoughts

Some thoughts culled from my random file. Some have occurred to me in moments of quiet reflection, some in discussion with others. For your edification, inspiration and/or amusement — or your money cheerfully refunded.
  • I have given up the idea of doing “great things” for God — I don’t trust my judgment anymore about what is “great.” I am learning to be content with doing what God leads me to do. He knows what He wants me to do, and I believe that will actually end up being the greatest thing I can do, whether or not it appears that way to me at the start. After years of ministry, I have learned that it is often the small things, things I don’t even remember doing or saying, that have the greatest effect.
  • If anyone thinks of ministry as a competition, he has already cut corners and is headed for trouble.
  • True ministry in the lives of others is always something initiated by God. We plan it one way, it often happens another. We stumble into it. We back into it. We wake up in the middle of it.
  • My advice to anyone who feels “called to ministry,” is to understand that the ministry is not his or hers — it belongs to Jesus. The ability to do ministry does not come from themselves — it comes from the Holy Spirit. When we yield it all completely to God, He will do amazing things through us, above all we could ask or imagine, because it will be His power at work in us.
  • My advice for Christians in other fields is similar. Our vocation (“calling”) is an assignment from the Lord, and it belongs to the Lord because we belong to the Lord. If He has called us to it, He will provide whatever we need to accomplish it. And when we yield it all completely to God, He will do amazing things through it, above all we could ask or imagine, because it will be His power at work in us.
  • I view preaching, both in the prep and in the delivery, as dynamic, not static. It is a process. I want to be aware of not just what the Word and the Spirit have said but they are saying in regard to the people to whom I am ministering. I have often experienced the message I end up delivering to be more effective than the one I prepared. There has often been an overlap between the two, of course, but not a 1:1 ratio. That said, I don't think it is usually necessary to announce that the Holy Spirit has given me something to preach that is different from what I prepared. I just go with what God is giving me, and count the prep for preaching to be a matter of the preparation of my heart as much (and usually more) than the preparation of my notes.
  • I don’t actually think much in terms of obedience. I think more in terms of loving God and loving others and letting the love of God work through me. It’s been said that we become like what we behold. As I get older, I find that my desire is to behold God more. In that, I discover that godly things flow out of my life, not as a matter of obedience or discipline or discipleship, but more naturally than that.
  • What does faith mean in the face of disappointment and tragedy? Faith does not deny the reality of tragedy, sickness or death, but it says that God is bigger than all those things, that He gets the last word on them and that that last word is a good one.
  • “Your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). Young men see what is, old men see what will be. Both aspects speak of awareness of who we are, where we are and why we are. God is from eternity — He takes the long view. His plans and purposes endure. “He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8). God has dreams a thousand generations long.
  • Every thought, word and deed should flow out of love for and relationship with God. Do nothing except what His love compels you to do.
  • The size of your God determines the size of your miracle. That is, how great and powerful and good you understand God to be will determine how big a miracle you will be able to believe Him for. Little God, little miracle. Big God, big miracle.
  • What does it cost to change the world? Everything. But it is well worth the price.
  • When you learn how to hear, you will know what to do.
  • Intimate relationship with God is the seedbed for every pure desire.
  • “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Believe the love.
  • Faithfulness — the ability to walk in faith, exercise faith, be full of faith.
  • Discipleship — in training to be like Jesus. Not a program but a relationship with Jesus and His people.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Following Jesus

Following Jesus is not just something we make room for in our lives, as if we work it into our busy schedule. It is a complete reorientation of our lives. Not just something we do in our lives, but a new way of living out our lives. It is a new way of life, and indeed, a new life. We view everything in life through a new focus — who Jesus is and what He is doing in the world, in us and through us.

It is not merely the priority, the first item on our list that we check off and can then move on to the next item. Jesus is all-encompassing of everything in our life. Everything is prioritized according to His priorities, everything evaluated through the lens of following Him.

There is no doing it by halves; it is an all or nothing proposition. Years ago, my father asked Jesus to come into his life. He says he heard the Lord say, “I would not touch your life with a ten-foot pole. But I will come and be your life.” And that makes all the difference.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fellow Servant, Faithful Discipler

As you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:7-8)

As the gospel, the good news about the grace of God through Jesus the Messiah, began to fill the world, it soon came to Colosse, where some believed. Ever since then, Paul says, it has been bringing forth fruit among them. The grace of God is not a one-off experience where you hear the good news, believe it and that’s that. That is just the beginning. There is a new life, and a new way of living. The grace of God continues to work, bearing its fruit in us. In Galatians, Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The grace of God is a tree of life within us, and the process of learning to walk in this grace and experience this fruit is called discipleship.

“You learned this from Epaphras,” Paul says. The Greek word for “learn” is manthano. From it comes the word mathetes, the Greek word for “disciple.” The believers at Colosse were discipled, taught how to live in the grace of God, by Epaphras. So who is this guy?
  • He is one of their own, a man of Colosse — one of you,” Paul says (Colossians 4:12) — who ministers throughout the region, in Laodicea and Hierapolis (4:13).
  • He is a well-loved “fellow servant” with Paul and Timothy, and indeed of all who serve Jesus the Messiah.
  • He is a faithful “minister.”
  • He is a man of fervent prayer and great zeal (4:12-13).
  • Not only a fellow servant, he is also a “fellow prisoner” with Paul. That’s what Paul calls him in his brief letter to Philemon (v. 23), one of the believers at Colosse. Paul wrote both of these letters, as well as the ones to believers at Ephesus and Philippi, while he was in prison for proclaiming King Jesus.
Notice that Paul calls Epaphras both a “fellow servant” (Greek, syndoulos, slaves together) and a faithful “minister” (Greek, diakonos, deacon). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains the difference between these two words this way:
Diakonos is, generally speaking, to be distinguished from doulos, “a bondservant, slave”; diakonos views a servant in relationship to his work; doulos views him in relationship to his master. See, e.g., Matt. 22:2-14; those who bring in the guests (vv. 3-4, 6, 8, 10) are douloi; those who carry out the king’s sentence (v. 13) are diakonoi.
Servant speaks of the One to whom Epaphras belonged. Minister speaks of the function he performed, the service he rendered to Jesus and His church. It was a work in which he was found to be trustworthy. He did not just introduce the Colossians to Jesus; he ministered the grace and hospitality of Jesus to them. With fervent prayer and great zeal, he discipled them in faith, hope and love and became founding pastor of the Church at Colosse.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Your Identity, Position and Possession in Christ

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
We are very used to leaning on our own understanding, particularly when difficulties arise. It is how the world has discipled us very patiently for so many years. When we do not have a vital relationship with God, it is all we know. But in Jesus Christ, we are called to a new discipleship, to understand and live in a radically different way. It comes out of our new identity, our new position, and our new possession in Him.

Who we are in Jesus Christ.
We are now children of God. We are no longer orphans, for He has not given us “the spirit of bondage again to fear,” but “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). As His children, we are made partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Where we are in Jesus Christ.
We are now seated with Christ in the heavenlies, at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20-21; 2:6), the place of ruling and reigning.

What we have in Jesus Christ.
Jesus has given us the authority of His name:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do , that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
Jesus has also given us the power of the Holy Spirit, just as He promised the disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me” (Acts 1:8). We have been given the testimony of who Jesus is, all His aspects, and why He came. It is not just the testimony of words, but also of power. “For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed … in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:18-19).

In the uncertainty of these times, do not let your heart be troubled by falling back on your own understanding. You believe in God, believe also in Jesus and who you are, where you are seated and what you have been given in Him.