Archive for the “Our Identity in Christ” Category

The book of Philippians is often called “The Book of Joy!” That sounds like a perfect book to study as we look toward the most joyous event in the Christian calendar – the resurrection of Jesus. So over the next few weeks I’ll be writing blogs that look at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.

Just as the path to Jesus’ resurrection lead Him through suffering and even death, we’ll see in Philippians that there is a relationship between joy and suffering. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with Paul’s greeting:

This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the elders and deacons.
Philippians 1:1 (NLT)

The greetings in the New Testament letters are fly-over country for many people. Not me. The Apostle Paul wrote greetings that were personal, sincere and instructive. Let’s not miss the treasure in this greeting.

If you read the New International Version of the Bible, verse 1 describes Paul and Timothy as “servants of Christ Jesus.” Whether the word in your translation is servants or slaves, in New Testament times, it denoted someone who didn’t have the freedom to obey their owner/master or not to obey him. What the master required, the servant or slave did.

It’s important to understand slavery in New Testament times to get an accurate understanding of Paul’s greeting. Slavery has existed in different forms in many different cultures. In New Testament times, slavery was not based in racism (that is, slaves were not a single race) and slave masters were typically not abusive. Most slaves worked hard but lived at least as well as other lower class citizens. They didn’t have freedom to leave or pursue the trade of their choice, but they were treated with respect. Masters often trained their slaves in their own trade so slaves could be found in jobs at many levels of society. Slaves had the security of having a place to live and food to eat. What they did not have was freedom to spend their days as they might want or to leave their masters. Slaves belonged to their masters.

Paul could have used many different words to describe himself and his relationship with God, but he chose “servant/slave.” The word would have had clear implications to the Philippians – Paul and Timothy were slaves of the Lord. Bound to serve Him.

After defining his relationship with the Lord, Paul goes on to define the relationship of the Philippians to the Lord. He describes them as “God’s holy people…who belong to Christ Jesus.” What an interesting juxtapositioning of phrases:

  • As believers, we are God’s holy people. What an awesome thing – that we (1) are God’s and (2) we are holy people. Knowing that just makes me feel good – because it emphasizes to me that I am God’s in a protective way. I am His and He will take care of me. One of the ways He takes care of me is that He has made me holy – cleansed me by the blood of Jesus.
  • As believers, we belong to Christ Jesus. As I read Paul’s greeting, this phrase carries a different connotation than the previous one. Just as the slaves in New Testament times belonged to their masters, we belong to our master. Just like Paul, we are slaves to Christ.

So we are God’s both in the sense that He treasures us and cares for us and we belong to Him as a slave is bound to his master.

My guess is that you’ve heard lots of sermons about how you are treasured by God and how He promises to care for you. I wonder if you’ve heard any lately that encourage you to reflect on your relationship as a slave to Christ. As I read this greeting, the Holy Spirit whispers a few questions:

“Do you submit to the Lord as a slave to his master?”

Hmmm. If I’m honest, the answer to that is no, not always.

“Do you view yourself (and live your life) as an indentured servant of the Lord?”

Well, I’d rather think of myself as a child of the King, co-heirs with Christ. Or I’m happy to meditate on being the Bride of Christ or a part of the royal priesthood. I’m afraid meditating on being a slave of Christ isn’t something I do regularly.

It’s true that if we know Christ – if we’ve placed our trust in Him – that we are children of the King, co-heirs with Him. We are the Bride of Christ and a part of the royal priesthood. And yes, we are also to be slaves of Christ Jesus – listening for His voice and ready to be immediately obedient.

Ready to be immediately obedient…whatever the task. Perhaps that’s the best description of a slave. At least that’s the description that I’d like to have applied to me. Ready to be immediately obedient to the Lord.

Lord, help me to hear Your voice. Give me a heart that is ready to say “yes!”

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV)

Being in Christ – saying “yes” to God’s Lordship – gives us new roles and responsibilities. One of those roles is that of reconciler. God reconciled us to Himself and has now given us the ministry reconciliation. Our message is to be the same as Paul’s – a heartfelt “Be reconciled to God.”

The word “reconcile” means “to restore to friendship or harmony; to settle or resolve” ( That is our job – to be one who brings reconciliation.

And it’s pretty hard to do that job wholeheartedly when I am harboring an offense against someone. No matter how hard I try to suppress or hide it, I’m not successful. I’m just not that good an actor. And hopefully you aren’t either! Because being a good actor in this case, simply means being good at deception. We don’t want to be deceivers, we want to be people of love. People who have worked through anything we might be tempted to have against a person.

One of the marks of Christian maturity is not being easily offended. Francis Frangipane refers to this as having an unoffendable heart. Of all the heart conditions we’ve studied so far this year, I think this one takes the most work. This one requires that I choose to turn my back on intentional and unintentional attempts to offend me. It means that I choose not to take offense. It means that I choose to forgive even before there is a need to forgive. It’s so much easier (in the natural) to take offense and hold onto a grudge!

I can’t choose to have an unoffendable heart without the love of Christ in me and without making a decision to let His love rule my heart. His love overlooks offenses. It is patient, kind, not prideful or rude or self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) The person who is easily offended isn’t characterized by those things. They are not patient with others. They do not respond kindly when they are offended, and their pride makes them easily offended. In not letting go of an offense, they are keeping a record of wrongs against them. Which, of course, makes them more easily offended with each interaction.

The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NIV) His answer included the following:

10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Matthew 24:10, 12 (KJV)

As the world turns away from Christ, people take offense more easily. That leads to betrayal and hatred. Satan is on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour – one of his tools is to bring you to the point of taking offense. Yes, you!

It can happen so easily – unmet expectations, frustrated progress, or a bad night’s sleep can all lead to slipping in our practice of love.

We can’t develop an unoffendable heart on our own, but Christ has made us a new creature. God has kept His promise from Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

Need help with this one? (I do.) Ask for it.

Lord, help me to develop an unoffendable heart. Remove from me my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. Put the love of Christ within me – filling my heart so there is no room to hold an offense.


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Therefore I [Paul], a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)

I like the word “worthy.” The word evokes in me a strange combination of awe and respect and allegiance. God is worthy – He is worthy of my praise, my respect and my allegiance. I love to worship Him by singing/chanting the word “worthy.” He is worthy. He is worthy. Not vain repetition, but heartfelt and sincere adoration. Sometimes I engage my mind more by emphasizing each word and meditating on them individually.

He is worthy. (He is God. God is worthy. Only God is worthy. He is worthy.)

He is worthy. (The one who is and was and is to come – the everlasting God, the God who is ever-present – He is worthy. He is alive and active in my life. He is now worthy and always will be. He is worthy.)

He is worthy. (He has value. He is honorable. He is righteous. He is good. He loves me. He took the punishment for my sin. He paid the price I owed so that we could spend eternity together. He created the heavens and the earth. He knows my heart and still loves me. He is worthy.)

That’s my take, my strongest association with the word “worthy.” So when Paul “begs” me to live a life worthy of my calling I take a step back. Let’s take the end of the sentence first – “for you have been called by God.” That’s the answer to the question “why should I?” I have been called by God. You have been called by God. Invited. Beckoned. Bid. Urged. By God. Who is worthy.

Imagine that you received a personal phone call from ________________. Fill in the blank with the person that you would be the most impressed to receive a call from – the President of the United States, a Hollywood celebrity, a sports icon, the president of the company you work for. How would that make you feel? That such a person found you worthy enough to call. Wow!

Well, friend, the God who created the universe has found you worthy enough to invite to spend eternity with Him. The One I call worthy has called me! I am blown away by that. God’s very act of calling me makes me worthy to be called. The One who is most worthy finds me worthy. Can you imagine that? It’s true. No matter what your experience with me is, no matter what my life experiences have been – the One who is most worthy finds me worthy. By definition, then, I am worthy. Period. I am worthy.

That makes me want to respond positively to the Apostle Paul’s urgings – to live a life worthy of that calling. Let’s not squander the value God has placed on us. Let’s respond by stepping up to that calling. By purposefully stepping away from our own failings and sinful desires and living as He calls us to live.

Paul continues his letter to the Ephesians by explaining what that worthy lifestyle looks like, but I think it best for today to meditate on our value to God. Make that your task throughout the day tomorrow – meditate on God’s worthiness and the fact that you are of great worth to God. What a blessing that is!

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Reading 1 Peter 1 yesterday was such a joy! While I would like to include the whole chapter here, that seems a bit crazy – after all, you can just go to your Bible and read it. So let me concentrate on the first two verses and then throw in one of the last ones in the chapter.

To God’s elect, strangers in the world…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
1 Peter 1:1-2a

There is so much meat in those verses! Peter makes it clear that he is writing to “God’s elect” – in other words, believers. He goes on to describe them in ways that apply not only to those first century Christians, but to us today. We are:

  • “Strangers in the world” – The word translated “strangers” means “alien resident” or “pilgrim.” The moment we accept Christ, we are no longer citizens of the world in which we live physically, but we become “alien residents” in that world and citizens of God’s Kingdom. As such, we have a higher authority than our earthly government and a higher purpose than what we see with our eyes. Additionally, as we are conformed more and more into the image of Christ, this world will feel more and more alien to us. We will feel like strangers in a foreign land.
  • “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” – As strangers it’s easy to feel separated and alone. It’s at those times that I love to remember that I have been chosen. My choosing wasn’t an accident, it was according to God’s tremendous and glorious plan for my life. I may feel alone here, but God is always with me. Further, Scripture says he places the lonely in families. He does that by planting us in churches where we can develop relationships that help us know our value to God, grow in godliness, find His purpose for our lives and live out that purpose.
  • “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit” – Lest we begin to believe that it is our own doing that brought us to Christ, Peter reminds us that it was through the sanctifying – cleansing, purifying – work of the Holy Spirit that we came to know Christ. It is through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit that we are conformed to His image. When we are struggling with a sin our prayers are often too focused on the Lord helping our efforts to resist sin. Perhaps a better approach is asking the Holy Spirit to do His cleansing work in our hearts. This prayer is an act of submitting our will to God’s will. Knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who enables and that we are relying on Him brings a humility to our prayers and our attitudes. It honors God and brings grace into our lives.
  • “who have been chosen…for obedience to Jesus Christ” – We have been chosen for a purpose! Now I like to think that means God has a plan for me and my life has purpose – some great purpose even. It does mean that, but the purpose is quite different from what I imagine. I have been chosen for the single purpose of being obedient to Christ. This is both humbling and freeing. God has called me. He has called each of you. He has called you to be obedient to His Word – that is living according to God’s sovereign commands in Scripture. He has also called you to specific tasks that are unique to you. The wonderful thing is that He has called you to be obedient in doing those tasks. The results are up to Him. Success in God’s Kingdom is not defined by the outcome of our efforts, it is defined by our degree of obedience. What freedom that brings! It doesn’t give me freedom to work halfheartedly not caring about the results. No, it brings the freedom to follow God full-heartedly regardless of the results. The results may be thousands of souls won into the Kingdom (think the Apostle Peter) or the result may be years of seemingly futile prophecying and imprisonment (think the prophet Jeremiah).
  • “sprinkling by the blood” – We have also been chosen for salvation – that is, having the blood of Christ sprinkled on our hearts (Hebrews 9) so that our sins are forgiven. Scripture is clear – without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. Christ’s blood was shed for my sin and your sin so that we might live for eternity with Him. Hallelujah! The Jewish Christians who had practiced the sacrificing of lambs and other animals to temporarily cleanse themselves from sin clearly understood from this phrase that Christ’s blood would cleanse them from all sin permanently. The implications are enormous but I today I just want to remind each of us that this means you are forgiven. Don’t hold on to past sins or false guilt for those sins. If you have confessed the sin to God and asked His forgiveness, that false guilt is condemnation from the devil. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1)

Whew! What a treasure the first two verses of 1 Peter are! If you’ve read the rest of the chapter, you’ve found that it just keeps getting better. Let me bring us to a verse near the end of the chapter:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:13

Because of all this, “prepare your minds for action!” God doesn’t want us to just sit back and enjoy the tremendous benefits of knowing Him. He wants us to prepare our minds for action! He wants us to get in the game! He has called us for obedience to Christ, so set your mind to it and get moving! “Be self-controlled,” and when you need a little more motivation (and don’t we all need it all the time) “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

We have been called to a glorious hope – it’s described in the verses between 2 and 13 of this chapter (and many other places in Scripture, of course). It uses phrases like “inexpressible and glorious joy” and “living hope” and “inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” But I’ll leave it to you to read more.

In the meantime, friends, know that you are chosen by God Himself for obedience to Christ. Wow!

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For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.
Colossians 1:27b (NLT)

25I have become [the church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:25-227 (NIV)

Over the past two months there has been a constant theme in my spirit. I’ve tried to write about it again and again, but have yet been unsuccessful. Perhaps today will be different, and if it is, perhaps it is a message that needed to be put off until closer to Christmas.

The message, friends, is this: If you know Christ, “Christ lives in you” and that inner life, that life within, is your “hope of glory.” He who lives in you is with you all the time. Let me reiterate that. He who lives in you is with you ALL the time.

The implications of that statement are stretching me. Christ is in me and because of that, He goes with me…to every meeting, every event, every gathering. At this time of year, that means (dare I say it)…He is there when I attend those family events that sometimes bring out the worst in me. I mean absolutely no disrespect to my family. My family is a blessing to me. They are the people God has put in my life to love me and encourage me and…help me conform to the image of Christ.

At Christmas (and Thanksgiving and Easter and birthdays and other family-centered events), it’s very easy to fall into family roles. Those family roles do not always bring out the best in us. Well, in me anyway. I’m guessing I’m not unique in that. But God….But God…(I love the buts of God)But God can make me different. In fact, He has made me different. In Christ, I am different from that child and young adult that I am so tempted to revert to at family gatherings. I have become a new creation and that creation carries the living God and the hope of eternity with her everywhere she goes.

The message, friends, is this: If you know Christ, “Christ lives in you” and that inner life, that life within, is your “hope of glory”…for you and those around you. Because when you attend those family gatherings (and gatherings of old friends as well), He goes with you. Christ is in the house because you have attended the gathering. He wants to impact each person in the building. And he probably wants to use you to do it!

How? Here are some ideas that challenge me.

  • By reflecting Him in you instead of reverting back to that child and/or young adult.
  • By showing unexpected kindness.
  • By holding your tongue when you want to argue the same old arguments.
  • By speaking gently instead of criticizing or speaking harshly.
  • By remembering the good things instead of bringing up old hurts and disappointments.
  • By embracing instead of walking away.
  • By smiling instead of scowling.
  • By taking an interest in the lives of others instead of remaining separate.
  • By living as the new creation you have become instead of being fearful of what they will think of you.
  • By loving.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 (NIV)

Friends, Christ lives in you and He wants to impact those around you. Let His love shine through at your family gatherings this month.

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In my last blog, we looked at Ephesians 1:3 and learned that we have been blessed beyond our understanding – “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” simply “because we belong to Christ.” (NLT) I know that I don’t begin to understand the heights and depths of those blessings. I don’t begin to understand how those blessings impact my life even today – although I sure enjoyed meditating on the passage yesterday. Another verse that came to mind – one that we looked at just a week or so ago:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

It’s how I want to live my life – so confident of the realities of heaven, so confident that this world is not my home, that the things of this world have less and less power to drag me down. That was the message and application of Ephesians 1:3 for me. Now let’s move on to verses 4 and 6. I’d like to continue looking at the verses in two different translations, the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT):

4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:4-6 (NIV)

4Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

6So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

When I read these passages, several words stand out to me, and they make the verses have very personal meanings:

“chosen” – Before the creation of the world (“before the foundation of the world” is how it reads in the King James Version) God chose me. I am not in Christ because of some fluke accident. I am in Christ because I was predestined to be in Christ. Now I’m not going to get into doctrinal discussions about predestination vs. free will because I don’t believe we can fully reconcile the passages in Scripture that address both subjects – but I believe they are reconciled in God. (God’s mind is so much bigger than mine, which is quite a comforting thought!) Suffice it to say that I am fully confident that it is not God’s desire for anyone to perish but for all to come to the point of repenting for their sins and turning to Christ for forgiveness (2 Peter 3:9). Furthermore, I’m confident that I have been “chosen before the creation of the world” and that knowledge changes me. It does something in the core of my being that changes how I view myself and the world around me.

Furthermore, I have been chosen for a purpose – to be “holy and blameless in His sight.” When I view myself as someone whom God has called, chosen and predestined to be holy and blameless, I act differently than when I view myself as someone who is called to a lower standard. I walk taller and am more aware of my actions. I want to please the One who chose me.

The New Living Translation doesn’t use the word “predestined” – instead, it describes it as God’s “unchanging plan.” We serve a God who never changes. His plan has been to bring us to Christ from the beginning of time. The Old Testament tells the same story as the New Testament. God has always made a way for people to find Him.

Why? Because it gives Him “great pleasure.” It boggles my mind that I give God great pleasure, but Scripture is clear about it. Psalm 147 is just one place that tells us that “the Lord takes delight in His people.” God takes delight in me. I love the word “delight.” If you look it up in a dictionary, you’ll find words like “extreme satisfaction,” “great pleasure” and “joy.” Adopting me into His family has given God great pleasure. I’m real good with that!

Lord, thank You! Thank You for adopting me into Your family. Thank You for purposing from the beginning of time – before you even created the world I would live in – that I would become holy and blameless in Your sight. Forgive me when I don’t live up to that calling. It is my great honor to please my King.

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Last Sunday was the 4th of July – in the United States we celebrated the founding of our country. 234 years ago the Continental Congress, as it was called, declared our independence from Great Britain. We would no longer belong to Britain. And from then on, if you were born in this country you automatically became a citizen of the United States of America.

Just as being born in America makes you a citizen of America, there is a second birth that the Bible refers to that makes you a citizen of another world altogether. Let’s look at the discussion Jesus had with Nicodemus from John 3:

1After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, 2came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”

3Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”

4“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

5Jesus replied, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven.
John 3:1-6 (NLT)

Scripture tells us that being what the Bible calls “born again” or born of the Spirit “gives new life from heaven.” And the moment we are born into that new life, we have dual citizenship – citizenship in two very different worlds – the one we live in now and the one we will one day live in for all of eternity.

Scripture has more to say about this new citizenship. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes how we were once dead in our sins. A new birth would be required to raise us to life.

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NIV)

Do you see that – if you are in Christ (and I pray that you are) –if you are in Christ, although you are still here on earth, you are also seated with Christ in heavenly realms.

Paul goes on to tell the Ephesians to…

12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ…
Ephesians 2:12

That is, before you trusted Christ as your Savior. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, you are still separated from Him. Trusting Christ as your Savior means first agreeing with Him that you have lived your life separate from Him, going your own way, making your own (wrong) choices; then turning from your own way (repenting) and asking Him to lead your life. Here’s another description of the process.

remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12 (NIV)

When you were separate from Christ, you were excluded from the covenants and promises of God. Paul actually uses the word “foreigners” – we were foreigners to the covenants and promises –we were not yet citizens of heaven. But Paul continues:

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ….18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
Ephesians 2:13, 18-19

Through the blood of Christ, we have become citizens of heaven.

I learned last week that nearly 1 out of every 20 men aged 16-45 died in the American Revolution. They died fighting to win our freedom from Great Britain. Given the population then and now, that would be the equivalent of 3 million men dying today. Their death bought us our citizenship in a new country. I don’t want to squander that freedom – I don’t want them to have died for nothing. I want to live recognizing and enjoying the freedoms that come with being a citizen of the United States of America.

It was Christ’s death that bought our citizenship in heaven. I’m so thankful for that and I don’t want Christ to have died for nothing either. I want to live and walk in the freedoms that citizenship in heaven makes available.

Listen to what it says in Colossians 3:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. 3For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

I love this passage! Because you have been raised to new life – set your sights on the realities of heaven. Notice that it says the “realities” of heaven – heaven isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky, wishful thinking, pipe dream. It is a reality. And we’re to set our sights on that reality – let it fill our thoughts instead of the challenges of this world. Why? Because your real life is hidden with Christ – where is that? Seated in heavenly realms at the right hand of God! Wow! Wow, wow!

Martin Luther, 16th century church reformer, founder of the Lutheran church, said this:

“Even in the best of health we should have death always before our eyes [so that] we will not expect to remain on this earth forever, but will have one foot in the air, so to speak.”
Martin Luther – 16th century church reformer

Let’s live, not only with one foot in the air, but with heaven filling our thoughts!

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But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Psalm 3:3

David wrote this Psalm at one of the low points in his life. He was running from his son Absalom who was trying to steal the Kingdom from him. Rather than stay and fight to retain his leadership of the kingdom, David runs to avoid losing his own life, the lives of his leadership team and bloodshed in the city of Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:14)

An aside: I paused in my writing to discuss David and Absalom with my husband. His summary is perhaps better than mine. Here’s how he describes David’s thoughts at the time: “My son Absalom wants to kill me and become king in my place. Let’s run for our lives…But wait! I have to write this song first!” It made me laugh out loud!

Phil can be irreverent at times, and it’s one of the things that make him such a great teacher. People remember the crazy things he says for quite a long time because of the way he puts them. It’s a gift I don’t have.

Imagine how hurt, embarrassed and afraid David must be. Out of that emotional place, He wrote Psalm 3. When I read verse 3, I was reminded of what we learned from Romans 8:30 in part 4 of my series titled “The Me I Don’t Even Recognize.”

29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Romans 8:29-30

This passage teaches that those people who come to know Christ have been called, justified and glorified. (Read the whole series if you missed it. There’s some great content about those words.) The word “glorified” relates to our Psalm and means praised, celebrated, held in high honor, and to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest or acknowledged. And from the context of Romans 8:30, we see that God has already done it!

David didn’t have the privilege of having the book of Romans to study from, but he knew the Lord so intimately that in the midst of being chased down by his son, he was able to write the very same thing as Paul: That God bestows glory on His children. Imagine how important that was to David at that point in his life. He was saying “Father, my son may be trying to ruin everything I’ve done in my life and is trying to kill me, but You hold me in high honor. You celebrate me. You lift my head when it falls to my chest in defeat or shame.”

What God did for David, He will also do for you, friend.

I usually interpret the first line of the verse – “You are a shield around me, O Lord” – to relate to protection from physical harm, but seeing it today and coupling it with the second half of the verse, I wonder if David also had in mind that God is the shield around his emotions – the One who constantly encourages so that David is not defeated in his spirit.

I need that God around me, sometimes more often than I’d like to admit. Life has a way of beating us down – there is always more to do and there are always setbacks; discouragement is always nearby. But for those of us who love the Lord, we have a shield against that discouragement. He bestows us with glory. He lifts our heads. He is passionately in love with us.

My walk with the Lord was revolutionized when I came to understand that God is my greatest cheerleader. I mean no disrespect to the Lord – He is so very much more than that, of course – but for the longest time I saw Him as my personal judge – the One who constantly evaluated my performance and found it lacking. I hope that’s not where you are, friend. I hope you’ve come to know Him as I have – the One who sees me as I will one day be, and who is ever encouraging me to become that person. He has already bestowed glory on me; He has already made my worth known; He has already celebrated who I am and He holds me in high honor – already!

He is the God who looks down from heaven and smiles to Himself as He sees me pursue Him in the midst of the life He has given me. He looks down and says “See her – she’s my girl – she’s doing great – she’s so faithful, so loving, so kind, so smart, so passionate, so talented, so…….” Now of course, I’m not all those things – yet! But as He shields me from the discouragement that would be so easy to succumb to, He lifts my head and I can begin to believe that I really am those things.

What He does for me, He is happy to do for you. If you don’t know Him, I encourage you to get to know Him and make Him Lord of your life. He will be your greatest cheerleader, your shield and the lifter of your head.

For a clear presentation of what it means to know God, click here.
For a discussion about what it means to make Him Lord of your life, click here.

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28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

We’ve already learned a bit more about being predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ and being called. Today’s blog will look at the last two actions God has taken on our behalf – He has justified us and He has glorified us.

“Those He called, He also justified.” Justified – He has made us righteous. He did what we could never do – make ourselves holy enough to stand before a holy God. At the moment we trusted in Christ, we were justified. We dare not take this for granted, although it becomes so easy to do so. God has made us righteous. He has set us apart as holy. The separation between sinful man and a holy God is broken and we can have fellowship with Him.

In the passage we’re studying, God has predestined us, He has called us, He has justified us and He has glorified us. Of those four things, justification is the most important because without it, we would have no relationship with Him and He would not have done the other things.

Finally, He has not only predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus, He has not only called us, He has not only justified us, He has also glorified us. The word translated “glorified” is doxazo – the same word from which we get “Doxology.” It means:

  • To praise, extol, magnify or celebrate
  • To honor or to hold in honor
  • To adorn with splendor
  • To impart glory to, render excellent, or to make renowned
  • To cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged*

Wow! Scripture says point blank that God has glorified me. He has praised me. He has celebrated me. He holds me in honor. He adorns me with splendor. He imparts His glory to me. He renders me excellent. He makes me renowned. He causes my dignity and worth to become manifest and acknowledged.

And what I love about this is that He’s ALREADY done it! God’s Word says that that I have already been glorified. My dignity and my worth has already become manifest and acknowledged. Are there times when you feel worthless? Are there times when you feel like there is nothing about you that could or should be celebrated? Your feelings are too late, my friend, because you have already been celebrated. Your worth has already been acknowledged. Your feelings are inconsistent with God’s Word because His word says that you have been programmed to be conformed to be like Christ and God has already made you righteous and has glorified you. Hallelujah!

Taking Hold of the Me God Says I Am
Earlier in the year I did a series of blogs based on 1 Timothy 6:12:

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

I talked about how we tend to think of eternal life as that thing which waits for us when we pass from this life to the next one, but that Paul’s writing to Timothy makes it clear that the eternal life to which we have been called is something we’re to take hold of in this life as well. I wrote several blogs about what it means to take hold of eternal life while we’re living for Christ on earth.

As I complete this series of blogs on “The Me I Don’t Even Recognize,” it seems a continuation of the same theme as 1 Timothy. If we were to take hold of the “me” that God says I am – predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, called, justified and glorified – how differently would we live? I think the difference would be dramatic.

I’d like to shed any old self-image and put on the Me that God says I am. Will you join me? Let’s begin to act as if we are conformed to the image of Christ. Let’s begin to act as one whose name God has spoken in heaven and who has given the title “Christ-follower” in this life. Let’s begin to walk in the forgiveness that enables God to say we are fully justified. Finally, let’s begin to act with the confidence that comes from knowing that God has already celebrated us and made our worth to become manifest – seen and known.

Lord, open my eyes to attitudes and behaviors that belie all You’ve done for me and help me to walk in the identity you’ve given me – predestined to become like Christ, called, justified and glorified.

*All definitions come from Thayer’s Greek Definitions.

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28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

Called – Hallelujah!
I hope yesterday’s blog began to give you a glimpse of a new you. Today, I hope to take it a step farther. Not only have you been predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, but He has also called you. I was incredibly blessed when I did a little research on the word “called.” The word translated “called” is kaleo? and it means several things:

  • To call aloud/utter in a loud voice
  • To invite
  • To give a name to
  • To bear a name or title (Thayer’s Greek Definitions)

From the heights, breadth and depths of heaven, God uttered my name aloud to invite me to join Him for all of eternity. He spoke my name – as Jesus did for Lazarus who was dead and buried. “Lazarus, come forth!” I was spiritually dead, and God spoke my name in a loud voice. He said “Sandra, come forth!”

He didn’t delegate it to His angels. He spoke the word Himself. He spoke my name aloud in heaven to invite me to spend eternity with Him.

I don’t know why, but that does something significant and wonderful in my spirit. There is something special about hearing one’s name. I remember watching the television program Romper Room as a child. I think every child’s favorite part of the show was at the very end when she would hold up her magic mirror and say that she was looking out at all the children watching television. Miss Barbara would then say “I see Tom and Sue and Joe and…” What a thrill to hear her say your name! God speaking my name out for all eternity to hear is way bigger than hearing Miss Barbara speak my name!

At the end of time as we know it, God will give each of us a new name, perfect for us and known only to us. At the marriage supper of the lamb, Christ will take me by the hand (you, too) and lead me to His Father and say “Abba, let me introduce you to my bride. I remember when you spoke her in heaven and I have been waiting for this day to present her to you. Father, I present to you Sandra.” And the Father will look at me and say “Daughter, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you in person. And you will no longer be called Sandra, but you will be called __________” I don’t know what my new name will be, but I know it’s special and perfect for me.

In the meantime, He has called me to bear the name Christian – follower of Christ. And He’s enabled me to become that because He has predestined me to be conformed to the image of Christ.

What a privilege to be called by God. It’s so much more than I had understood it to be!

Tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of the verse – we have been justified and glorified. Stop by to read it. You’ll be glad you did!

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