Knowing who you are will change your life

mysteryWhen we walk by the flesh, we are walking outside our true identity and we have more problems. When we walk in the Spirit we walk with power and authority and we conquer the enemy. Too often we view ourselves in very negative terms. We are weak. We are prone to fail. I’m just a sinner saved by grace. All of these pronouncements are focusing on our flesh (which has been crucified), rather than who we are in Christ. We tend to view ourselves in terms of what our flesh does, rather than who we are in the Spirit. Our flesh was crucified with Christ and we should no longer be “taking it out for a spin.”

When we view ourselves in the flesh we will continue to walk in the flesh. I teach a Bible study in a prison and deal with a lot of addicts. Most are taught in recovery to say, “My name is X, and I am an alcoholic.” This is one of the reasons that they stay addicts. I realize that admitting there is a problem is important, but this becomes their identity.

They are alcoholics. If that is the case, then what do alcoholics do? Drink. They define themselves in terms of the problem. In fact, much of the rehab mentality is that “I am only one drink away from disaster.” Then they live in fear and on the brink of failure. I am not being flippant with these words or trying to imply that alcohol abuse is no big deal. Rather, I want to bring about a more powerful way to walk in victory.

The better solution is to say “I am <your name>, and I am a son of the Living God. I am a new creation in Christ.”[1]

“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.”[2]

Christ gave His life for me. “The life I live is no longer mine, but Christ who lives within me.” This puts us in a mindset of victory rather than defeat. The same is true of all areas of our lives. Is Christ an alcoholic? Is He a sex addict? Is He a gossip? Is He a failure? I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I have a new nature and a new identity. I must not live by the flesh!

If I go around telling people that “I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” then I am reinforcing that my identity is sinner. I start at a point of weakness and my identity is in my flesh and the old man. There is a much better way: To see yourself in Christ; to see yourself as Christ sees you. That means I can say I am redeemed. I was bought with a price.[3] I am worth the life and blood of Christ. I have the mind of Christ.[4] In Him I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[5] I stand forgiven and righteous. I have the Holy Spirit indwelling me.

Based on this, I will walk in power and authority. I will walk in strength. I will not be ashamed[6] and I will not be defeated. Many people fear this, because they have been taught that a Christian must be humble and lowly. They mistake defeat and self-deprecation for humility. They confuse the poor state of their flesh with the power and authority they have in the Spirit.

I am no longer thinking about myself, but rather I think about Christ in me. That is who I now am—and He is awesome. So guess what? I am awesome and so are you. Let’s stop talking about us and what our flesh is doing. Rather, let’s talk about Christ in us and how we are now more than conquerors.[7] We are victorious. Rest in it. Delight in it. Praise God for it.

[This was an excerpt from “Extreme Turbo Mega Grace”, chapter 3.]

[1]. 2 Corinthians 5:17

[2]. Galatians 2:20

[3]. 1 Corinthians 6:20

[4]. 1 Corinthians 2:16

[5]. Colossians 1:14

[6]. Romans 1:16

[7]. Romans 8:37

Still stuck under the Law?

hammerThere are many great treatments of Grace and Law in the New Testament, but the real sledgehammer against the Law is in Colossians 2:

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[d] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

This part is our victory over the condemnation and judgment of the Law. But that’s not enough. Paul goes on to say:

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Stop living in bondage, and under the judgment of the Law (and of others). Start living in the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Power of Christ. We are more than conquerors. We are His children, and should live as such.

 

Behavior Modification

God does not look upon us and say “I wish they would just behave better”. Far too often, we think what God cares about most is our behavior. That is putting the cart before the horse. God desires our heart. He desires that we are led by Him and are empowered by Him. When we do so, the behavior will follow.

The wrong order is:  behavior -> intimacy

The correct order is: intimacy -> behavior

When we focus on behavior first, then we tend to fix the behavior through our flesh. We do get “better”, but we are doing so independently of God. God loves us deeply and His desire for us is that we walk in intimacy with Him. When we do that, we will also walk in a manner that is pleasing to him and produce Godly fruit. When we do it our own way, we produce worthless things.

A final emphasis: behavior is not a goal; it is a result. It is one of the fruits the Spirit will produce through us. Our job is not to produce fruit, but to bear fruit. We do that by staying connected to the vine. He is the vine and we are the branches. Apart from Him, we can do nothing!

 

 

The importance of the basics

Some time ago, I read a story of a guy who studied Kung Fu. He wanted to do the really cool things that you see in the movies. However, his master always worked him on the basics: How to punch and how to kick. He went over them over and over, year after year. Eventually the student was getting tired of the boring basics and wanted to do the “cool stuff”. His master just kept emphasizing the basics.

One day, it dawned on the student that he always won his fights. He did it not by spinning back kicks, or something from the movies. Rather, he won because day after day, he practiced a few things and had them perfected. He did the basics and he did them well.

As Christians, we can get into trouble when we forget the basics, and try to go out into the esoteric and obscure things. There is nothing wrong with learning things that are little “out there”, but if the foundation is not there, the house will fall. We will be defeated by the enemy. So here are a few of the basics:

  1. We must be convinced of the character of our Good and Loving God. He sent His son to seek and save the lost. He is love and He loves us. He pursues us passionately. He is always faithful, and will never leave us or forsake us.
  2. We have become sons of God through the work of Christ. We are reconciled to God, and stand in forgiveness of all of our sins.
  3. He empowers us and leads us by His Holy Spirit.

Those are just a few, and there are many more we will talk about in future articles. So why are those so important?

When we have a false view of the Goodness of God, we will tend to view Him as hostile to us and unapproachable. We will either move away from Him in fear, or try to approach Him through works of our flesh. As a result, we do not ever rest in the divine rest that Christ has called us into.

If we are not confident in who Christ has made us (sons and standing in forgiveness and righteousness) we will act in weakness and the flesh. We will not confidently walk in the Spirit, and we will not come boldly before the throne of “Abba, Father.” This will masquerade as humility, but it is weakness and fear.

If we are not led and empowered by the spirit, then we are led and empowered by the flesh. Those are the only two options–choose wisely. So walk in who you are. Not in arrogance, but in confidence as a son of the Living God. Walk as one who is righteous and is loved by his Father.

 

Behavior modification

Your mindset will determine your joy. Too often our focus in on behavior modification. The legalistic persons says:

When I have modified my behavior, I will be Godly(er)

Grace says:

As I am dependent on Christ, He leads me in His Godliness and my behavior is consistent with Him as a result.

God does not look upon us and say “I just wish they would behave better.”

Good behavior is never the goal of God. His desire is a loving relationship with Him. When we walk in Him, proper behavior is one of the results. He leads with intimacy, we follow in His love.

Read the Whole Thing!

Reading random verses with no context is the fast track to confusion. For instance the Book of Romans is a complete discussion of salvation, and the Christian life. However, if you pull out a random snippet, you might end up confused. In chapter 2 Paul says:

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Well look at that. It sounds like Paul teaches salvation by works. I thought he was the “grace” guy. Well, keep reading. When we get to chapter 3, he says:

There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Never mind, apparently no one is righteous. So what do we do? Keep reading. He goes on to say:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. .

The problem is that we can’t just quote a verse a build entire doctrines on a verse out of context. Romans is a masterful work, and Paul takes 5 chapters to establish that:

  • Knowing the truth is insufficient (knowledge without action)
  • We can be righteous if we are good
  • By the way you aren’t good or righteous – you failed
  • There is a righteousness from Christ, not by works.
  • God provided this while we were terrible sinners.

Understanding the word can be a lot of work sometimes. Not understanding it leads to a lot of pain and hardship. When we do not know what God has done for us, we tend to spend our time trying to figure out what we have to do for God. Know God, know His Word, and know the context–and that will help you to truly know Him.

 

 

Your Identity in Christ

There will always be people who want to control us and tell us what we should do. These people are mostly interested in making us to be like them. We are not called to be like them, we are called to be like Christ. Through the blood of Christ we have been given freedom from the law. We have been given a new nature and we are a new creation. We are free from the opinions and control of others. I have only one responsibility and that is to Christ, through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

You might then ask: “What about family, friends, work, and all the other areas of responsibility?” The answer is that everything else falls under the umbrella of Christ. If I obey Christ, I will fulfill all the other responsibilities. If I obey Christ, then all the right things will get taken care of. If I obey Christ, I can be satisfied with what I have done and not live under the judgment of others.

Freedom is in Christ. In Him I have the perfect leader taking me to the perfect destination. I do not need to worry about provision or resources. In Christ, I do not need to worry about the opinions of men, because He has made me acceptable to the Father. The lie of Satan is that we need to submit to rules and what others think. This brings bondage. The truth is, only in Christ are we free.

[From Extreme Turbo Mega Grace]

There is no such thing as Hyper-grace

I have been hearing a few people complain about hyper-grace and the “abuses of grace” lately. A book was written on it, and I’ve heard a few sermon fragments online.  The problem is that they use the word incorrectly. Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  I can’t get too much of that.  I can’t use too much of that.  Grace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace is what the entire Christian life is composed of.  Grace is walking in freedom.

These people feel that if I completely walk in grace, then I will start sinning a bunch as a celebration of grace. The problem is that these people are using the wrong word.  The correct word they are thinking of is not grace, but “license” or “licentiousness”.  The concern is that grace will lead to sin, so we better reign in the grace, to keep people behaving correctly.  This, is living under the law.

In simple terms, Grace is Christ.  Legalism is the law, and license is ignorance of the saving life Christ.  The legalistic person is under the impression that we need the law to keep people under control.  They have no understanding of grace. The law was designed to drive us to Christ, because we can’t do it on our own. The licentious person does not understand that they have been freed from sin. They have no understanding of grace.  They are still trapped in their sin.

The Bible does not advocate a balance of grace and law.  It teaches grace for the believer, and the law for those who wish to be under the curse of the law. The true understanding of grace, is that I have been reconciled to Christ, and have been made free from sin and it’s bondage.  I have also been freed from the law.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  I am led by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by Christ.  If I return to sin, then sin becomes my master.  In Christ, I am freed from the penalty of sin, and the penalty of the law, but I am not free of the consequences of sin.  If I choose to go on sinning, I am still fully loved by Christ, but I am living back in bondage.

I lead a bible study at a prison, and one of the men said “I gave up drugs for Jesus”.  I replied “No, you did not”.  My explanation was this:  When you say “I gave up drugs for Jesus”, what you are actually saying is:

  1. Drugs are good.
  2. I was willing to sacrifice the goodness of drugs so that Jesus would benefit from my action.

This if course, is a complete misunderstanding.  The real situation was:

  1. I was in bondage to drugs
  2. Christ freed me from slavery

When we have the right perspective, we can have the right attitude.  Sin is not something I get to do because of grace, but rather sin is what I have been freed from by grace. I cannot abuse grace, but I can be abused by my sin. The holy spirit will lead me in all truth, and will show me what to do and when to do it.  That is walking in freedom. Christ came to bring us true freedom.  True freedom is not living in sin. That is bondage. True freedom is being led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment, and enjoying the places that He will take me, and knowing that He loves me because He is my Father, not because of how I perform.

Saving the Next Generation

I just watched a video that showed how 70% of kids in church will leave the church.  It’s a great tragedy. There is another push called >4% that aims to make sure we don’t fall to less than 4% Christians in this country. I have seen statistics about how each generation is less and less Christian. I don’t remember the precise statistics, and it’s not worth the effort to look them up, but people talk about “the greatest generation” (the one that won WWII) and how they were 70 or 80% Christian. Then the “Baby boomers” (the 1950s and 60s kids) were 50% or less Christian. And finally, the current generation is 10 or 20% Christian and dwindling.

When these statistics are quoted, too often the emphasis is on the later generations, and how they aren’t getting it. I think the emphasis is wrong. I have seen efforts to give better information, better discipleship, or better something. But all of those will ultimately fail, because they miss the root problem. The current Church (including the past few generations) rarely preaches the grace of Christ. It has preached Jesus for salvation, and then a life of joyless law. Try harder, work harder. That is the death of the Church. The younger generation is not leaving the Church because they are all bad or uninformed. They are leaving the Church because they don’t see Jesus.

We are trying to attract them back with “hipster Church”, and lights, and candles, and contemplative services. We give stuff away, we use video streaming, Facebook, and Instagram, yet the youth keep walking. They don’t want that junk. They can get it in the secular world at a lower price. They want Jesus. They want grace. They want the love of Christ, not our generations of rules and traditions. They want to see the Spirit work in mighty ways. They want what Jesus brings, not what our traditions bring.

I listen to all sorts of pastors on the radio, and most of them talk about the same old stuff. They spend way more time talking about how hard I need to try, and very little time telling about what Christ has done, and will do through me. There are a few good teachers and preachers out there, but you have to look for them.

If we want to reach the next generation, and truly change the world, we need to stop being a religion, and start becoming Christ to the world. When they see Christ in us, they will want it, and they will come running.