Identity and Freedom

Paul has a very interesting way of framing the idea of freedom. He talks about it a lot but specifically in Romans Romans 6:18-20. This is just verse 148 but you should go read the whole thingDo you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” In the Roman world where Paul lived if you were a slave, you had no personality. There was even a special phrase for this idea: Servus non habet personam. A slave had no past, no future, no property of their own, no family name, and no personhood. They were just property. It was possible to buy your freedom but that was typically not until you were old enough to not be of any value to your master. Some were treated better than others but they were still slaves. If you were a slave, you wanted freedom but generally, there was little to no hope of obtaining it. You were personless property. You did not belong to yourself. That is the idea behind the meaning of what Paul talks about when he talks about being a slave.

With that in mind, we can add in that Paul says we are either in Christ or in Adam. It’s a clear either-or scenario.  There is no in-between we are either in Christ (sometimes called Spirit) or we are in Adam (sometimes called the flesh). You cannot be in both. This is important because Paul is framing an argument throughout all of his writing that says we exist as slaves one way or the other. The question is who the master is. What is unique is that Paul says we get to choose our master. Now by default, the master is sin or flesh.

Before Christ we were slaves to sin, we were slaves to our sin nature. We belonged to it. Sin was not something that we did as much as it was part of who we were. It owned us. We had no identity outside of it. Some of us embraced that more than others but true to the reality of the situation we all belonged to sin. Our natural default position was self-focused. Being controlled by sin means you are free from the requirements of righteousness. You belong to one master and do not need to listen to the other.

After you come to Christ the whole thing changes. We move from this position of self-focused to Christ and Spirit focused. We transition from one master to another. It’s like the old Bob Dylan song Gotta Serve Somebody says “yes Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody” and yes I just quoted Bob Dylan while talking about the Bible. You don’t get a choice in whether or not you serve but you do get to choose whom you serve.

When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we chose to serve Him, that’s the Lord part of the equation. We now not only have the power to stop being self-focused, but we have new requirements for service. Before when we served the sin nature the requirements were to do what feels good. Do what you want. Lookout for you. Now we are bound to the requirements of righteousness. That means we are outward and upward focused. We are called to seek the kingdom of God and let Him rule and reign in our lives here and now. We are called to walk as Jesus walked. We are called to love the Lord God with all of being and love one another.

The amazing thing is that as slaves of righteousness we are also adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High. We are no longer just slaves and servants but children who are promised an inheritance. We get something we did not have before. We get a future.  We get personhood. With the change in masters comes a change in identity. This is an amazing and glorious thing. We went from slaves with nothing to servants who are adopted by God. But that is not cause for bragging. On the contrary that is a call to surrender. In Philippians 2:6, speaking of Christ, Paul writes that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to used to His own advantage. Instead Jesus, fully understanding who He was laid down His rights and served.

That is our call. We are called to now understand our rights and lay them down. We say, yes, I am a child of God, and yes, I will one day see heaven but until then I have work to do. We place ourselves under the authority of Christ and do like He did. We submit ourselves and find our identity in God just as Christ did. We do not use our freedom for our own good but seek ways to serve and love one another. When we do this, we can rejoice that we truly know who we are.

We need to understand our identity and when we do, we can go out and do the things of God and for God without fear and with less hurt because we know who we are. We can move from a position of being a child and serving as obedient slaves and servants.

Just a thought,

Mike

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Dead and Free

As believers in Christ, we are dead and free because we are no longer part of this world. Jesus stated in John 17 that believers, like Him, are not of the world because He is not of the world and Paul takes this thought and says in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are ambassadors of Christ. I like to think of it in terms of nations. When someone becomes an American citizen they renounce their former allegiances and pledge themselves to the United States of America. They no longer have obligations to their former country but are now protected and must serve the US. They are in a sense dead to their old nation. We are still in the world but we are no longer servants of it, instead, we belong to the kingdom of God and are here in the world to do the bidding of our new King. Our allegiance is to God and we are to represent Him here on earth. This transaction has taken place because of Christ’s death burial and resurrection and our belief and receiving of that give us His benefits. We are not free to do as we please but have a new set of guidelines to follow. We now follow the Law of Christ. We are now dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Don’t Mourn, Rejoice

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This has to be one of my favourite verses and I know I say that a lot but hear me out. The people had a great celebration because they understood the words that were explained to them. Now, at first, the people mourned and wept because they saw their own sinfulness. They heard the law read to them and found they were not as well off as they had thought. That happens when we have the Word of God. It cuts right to the heart and shows us who we really are. No masks, no hiding, and no trickery. It just cuts, but the same words that break us are meant to heal us.

We too can be sad at times when we find that we do not match up to what we want to be or maybe even should be. But the same Bible that says all have fallen short of the glory of God says that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. You in yourself cannot be good enough but there is one who is. In that we rejoice and in that we celebrate! We look to the cross and rejoice that God loves us that much. That God loves us so much He took our place, He took our shame, and He gave us life. There is so much to celebrate so much love to give and it starts with understanding the word.

In Isaiah 5:11 God says that His word does not return void but it will succeed. In John 1 we read that Jesus is the Word of God. He succeeded. He accomplished His goal. He preached good news to the poor. He has proclaimed freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and He set free the oppressed. We should rejoice and have a great celebration because of this. We live because He lives. He has won the grave.

Just a thought,

Mike

Trust the Promise

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Of the many promises made in the Bible, the best in my opinion has to be Jesus in John 14:18 where He says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to.” To settle that Jesus promised we will not be alone should change the way we view things. This promise is really also an echo of Deut 31:6 where it says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

We are not alone, we are not orphans, and we have not been abandoned. Jesus left the earth but at the same time He never really left. He sent the Comforter to be in us, to guide us, and to show us. We as Christians have that this is not a question. The question is will we use it?

Just a thought,

Mike

 

 

The attitude of Christ.

I was thinking about the attitude of Christ in John 8:11. Specifically I was thinking about how He loved the woman caught in the act of adultery and how He loved those about to stone her. Because I believe He was showing love to both the woman and the group wanting to take her life. So lets start with the group about to stone her.

They (the Scribes and Pharisees) brought the woman to Jesus as He was teaching and said “This woman was caught in the act of adultery and the Law of Moses says we kill her.” What Jesus did not do was argue, point out that they forgot to bring the man as well, tell them their right or anything else. Instead He wrote on the ground. Now what did He write? I honestly have no idea but I like to think He was writing down the sins of those around Him. Not with names just sins and those around Him knew which ones were theirs but that is just a thought. Then He told them to cast the stones, but the first person without sin should throw the first one. Then He went back to writing in the sand. They dropped their stones and left.

So how is this Jesus showing love? Because it made them realize their own sin. It makes sense the oldest dropped their stones first because age brings wisdom and you are aware of your own sinfulness. You know your shortcomings all too well. By not condemning them of their sins He shows mercy which is love.

Now the woman. It is easy to see how Jesus showed the woman love because the Law did say to stone her. She was guilty of adultery and adultery was punishable by death. So Jesus showed her love by stopping the crowd from killing her. That is pretty loving if you ask me. But the fact that He says “I do not condemn you either” is major and has some major theological implications but let’s not get sidetracked. Jesus showed love to both her and the crowd in the same way He could have condemned them both. The woman for her adultery and the crowd for their various sins.

Jesus shows love that is clear in the Bible. Jesus says “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:17. Jesus was not looking to condemn anyone Jesus was looking to love people and set them free. He goes on to say that in 8:32 “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free (hence the website and tattoo). So again to be clear Jesus loved people right where they were at no strings attached. Just pure love.

Now some people want me to stop right there. Jesus loved and did not condemn stop now before you offend someone. But I cannot stop there because the story does not stop there. Jesus goes on to tell the woman “go and sin no more.” Well if Jesus was loving her He still is. Jesus loved her enough to save her life and then tell her to stop sinning. It is not good for you or your relationship with Him. Jesus loves you enough to want you to not sin. That is love.

So where are you at today? Maybe you are the woman maybe you are the crowd. I don’t know but I do know Jesus loves you. I live my whole life from that basic idea. It is not a bumper sticker or phrase for me but it is everything. I live my life as someone who has committed sins that would make your head spin but Jesus still loved me. He loved me enough to spare my life and to tell me to go and sin no more.

Just a thought,

Mike

The truth comes out in the end

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I was reading through Genesis 13 this morning and I was thinking about the phrase “the truth always comes out in the end.” Some people say Abraham did not lie he just withheld information. To which I say that tells me a lot about you.

A lie is a lie regardless of the severity or impact. I have issues with lying because I was very good at it. I used to lie about anything and everything. I would lie just to see if I could get someone to believe the story. I am pretty talented storyteller (at least I think so) and can craft a story with enough truth to make it believable. The trick is not to make some insanely crazy story but something that is almost unbelievable. Just a little more than reality. It is like an action movie where the hero jumps just a little further than one actually could. It needs enough truth to be bought.

The problem is a lie is a lie, and lies lead to other problems. When we lie or withhold vital information there are consequences, and they usually create a larger problem. But the other issue with lying is it creates an idea in us that we can take it a little further. It is the snowball that creates an avalanche. I am not implying that every lie leads to a catastrophe but why risk it. Abraham started with a lie about his wife and later sleeps with her servant and I think two events are connected. Abraham liked to stretch it out a little.

There is a way out though. If you have a lie or half truth you have been keeping just get it out before anyone finds out. Be the one to out the truth and then no one holds power over you. Jesus said the “truth will set you free” and while He was talking about knowing you are a slave to sin the principle remains. When truth is let out into the open you become free and the weight is lifted.

Just a thought,

Mike

Reconciliation and other fancy words

Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do. – Mark Twain

I like that quote because it reminds me as I study new things to not to use the words to sound fancy.  However these words exist for a reason, and there are places and times for them.  There seems to be a general consensus that we need to dumb down everything in order to be easy on those that do not know.  To which I reply somethings are inherently difficult to comprehend and refusal to express them to appease those that refuse to learn is ludicrous.

Now that I have given a rant on to the topic.

I love the reconciliation.  I love reconciling my checkbook, and most importantly I love being reconciled to God.  I have been reading a book by an author I will not name and I must say that while I have gleaned a few things from it mostly I am frustrated with every word I read and page I turn.  Why am I doing this to myself you ask?  Am I glutton for punishment?  Do I enjoy wanting to throw a book?  No, it is because I want to better understand his (in general the larger movement) point of view.  I find that the most frustrating thing is not the ideals that are being espoused but the manner in which they are communicated. I have also noticed that the manner in which these particular ideas are communicated is indicative of the movement as a whole.  Chiefly it is arrogant, condescending, and overstating of their opponents views.   I will not name the movement because the very nature of how they label themselves is absurd to me, and I will not name the author because it would start an argument I do not wish to have.  I will however talk about reconciliation.

Again this is a bigger word than I typically like to use but it is very important.

The movement I am referring to likes this word and the 5 verses that contain it very much.  I agree, however as Inigo Montoya said “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

So what is reconciliation?  Reconciliation is the element of salvation that refers to the results of the atonement.  John calvin describes it as the peace between humanity & God that results from expiation of religious sin.  D.M. Loyd Jones says of reconciliation God & man are no longer at war.  Two great verses on reconciliation are 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (below)

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

From the verses about I will draw out a few important items.

God has reconciled us to Himself – God is done with the issue on His part.  He was the offended party and has said I forgive you, lets move on.  That is a done deal no questions asked (on my part).  The verses above and others (Rom 5:10-11, Eph 2:14-17, Col 1:19-22) are very clear that God has reconciled the world to Himself and placed all things in Christ.  That is not something I can or wish to argue.  The wall of separation has been removed, and now we can access the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.  No arguments here.

Reconciliation is not relationship – This one is very important as well and cannot be missed.  As we read above, God is reconciled to us but that does not mean we have a relationship with Him.  Some of of the writings I have read will not say this but imply it.  That should not be.  God is no longer counting our sins against us but that does not mean that we have fellowship with Him.  Instead we can have a relationship with Him because He has reconciled the world to Himself.  How about an example.  I have a brother I have never met.  I know he exist, and he knows I exist.  Yet I have never spoken to him, and do not have a relationship with him.  We are reconciled as in there is no hostility there.  If he were to reach out to me (I do not have contact info for him) then I would welcome him with open arms.  One leads to the other but it does not equal the other.  Reconciliation does not equal righteousness (or relationship) as Romans 5:19 points out.

Reconciliation is not sanctification – This is one that gets hot but again they are not synonyms.  They are not the same thing.  Sanctification is both a one time event and an ongoing process.  Quick definition time; Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.  It is being set apart.  We are at the moment of accepting the finished work of Jesus Christ sanctified (set apart, and looked at a holy) in the beloved.  But we must also continue to sanctify our lives as we grow more like our Saviour.  This is what I believe Philippians 2:12 means.  I have seen in my own life how it has become and how I have become different because I have continued to sanctify my life to the Lord.  It has been a process of continual growth and maturity one which I am confident will not stop (Phil 1:6).  Think Romans 12:2.

Reconciliation is not removal of rules – This is the one that might cause the most outrage among my friends.  Some will shout “He’s a legalist!” or “Pharisee!” or possibly (and quite likely) “I am under Grace not Law!”.  Well calm down already, I am not promoting legalism, or some sort of mixed grace message.  What I am saying however is there are certain shoulds and oughts you are supposed to adhere to.  Not for earning or keeping salvation but because you are saved.  For example, love the Lord, love your neighbor.  Thinks these don’t apply?  Jesus disagrees.  He said “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:16.  What does that mean?  Well He leaves that up to you to for the most part.  But generally speaking don’t be a jerk, help people when you can, treat God with the respect He deserves.  You get the general idea.  Two last points on this one.

First I have been told this analogy a few times.  You do not do things for your spouse (and children) because you have to, you do it because you love them.  I see the logic in that and believed it for a minute or two.  The problem is that it is wrong.  You do things for your spouse (and children) because you love them and are obligated to.  For your spouse, you took a vow to love, honor… sickness, health.. you get the idea.  It is because you love them you keep the vow to love and serve.  Your children come with an implied and legal obligation.  You do it out of love, but you must do it all the same.  It is still something I should and ought to do.

Secondly some claim there is no law that applies to them but yet they confess they still sin (at least on rare occasion).  This I do not understand.  1 John 3:4 defines sin as the breaking of law.  If there is no law there is no sin, therefore you do not sin, therefore cheating on your wife is OK, being a drunk is OK, murder is OK, and so on.  You cannot have one and not the other (as I understand it).  If you sin you break the law, if you break the law there is law.

The question is not is there law, and it is not how do I keep this law, and it is not should I keep this law.  The question is even though I break it what is left for me.  The answer is Jesus.  Jesus came in Grace and Truth.  He is bigger than my ability to fail, and by His working in me I find a removal of desire to sin.  I live by the faith of the Son of God, not I but Christ in me.

Reconciliation is part of the bigger picture.  When I look at a motorcycle, I see many parts working together to create a thing of beauty.  The wheels, the motor, the handlebars, and so forth.  They all work together to make it a motorcycle.  Reconciliation is part of a bigger picture called Salvation.  Lets not put God in a little box and say this is who God is instead lets unwrap His presents and enjoy each of them.

Just a thought,

Mike