Our Identity in Jesus

The Israelites were God’s chosen people but they often times forgot that they were. In the Old Testament there is a recurring theme of God blessing His people and eventually as generations passed they would forget what God had done for them and as they forgot what God had done they would slowly turn away from Him. God would eventually get fed up with them and would hand them over to their evil ways, but He would not leave them forever. He would always do something to bring them back. This happened over and over again throughout the Old Testament and although it is not a specific motif in the New Testament I would say that in part we continue to do the same thing today. The problem boils down to God’s people not understanding their identity in Him.

What does your identity in Christ look like? Last time we saw that we can either call ourselves children of God or children of Satan (1 John 3:9-10). If we call ourselves children of God then we need to realize what our identity in God actually looks like. Just like as we grow our identity begins to look different, the same thing happens when we grow in Christ. When we are first converted we need to be “fed with milk, not solid food (1 Cor. 3:2),” just like when we were born we needed milk to grow; however, just as when we were born we eventually grew up and began to eat solid food we must also grow in Christ and learn to feed ourselves and to become mature in Him. As we begin to develop our own personality and character traits we must be seeking to become more like Christ in all that we do and we do that by following Him.

For those in the Old Testament things were a bit different than what we have them today. They had a much different system of approaching God, because when Jesus came He gave us access to God by tearing the veil that separated us from the most holy place when He died upon the cross. Matthew 27:50-51 says that “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” Now that the veil is torn we have direct access to God. We have Jesus who “always lives to make intercession for them [those who draw near to God through Him] (Heb. 7:25)” and we have the Holy Spirit living within us (1 Cor. 6:19) to guide us and direct us through our life.

So if we have the Holy Spirit living within us and Jesus making intercession for us then how can we get so caught up in the ways of the world that we forget where our identity lies? To answer that let’s take a look at Exodus. By the time Exodus 5 rolls around Moses and Aaron have already confronted Pharaoh and asked him to allow the Israelites to go and worship God. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart though and increased the oppression upon the Israelites so that the Israelites turned against Moses and Aaron and said to them…

Exodus 5:21-23

‘May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!’ Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, ‘Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!’

The Israelite’s had become so accustomed to the oppression that they were under from the enemy that they did not want Moses and Aaron to continue to talk to Pharaoh. Though they groaned to the Lord about the oppression that they had been under they were not willing to trust that God would save them, they were not willing to put their trust in Him. Moses and Aaron were no different even though Moses had gotten his orders directly from God. They were scared and saw that Pharaoh was a hard man and would punish them if they continued in their current course of action, but God had different plans just as He has different plans for you and me.

It is so easy to get caught up in the ways of the world without necessarily realizing it if we are not regularly communing with God and I do not mean by just going to church regularly or even once in a while. In John 10:27 Jesus says that, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” A good shepherd does not leave his flock when He knows that the enemy is near, likewise Jesus is always watching over us when we follow Him because the enemy is always lurking around the corner waiting to attack us. Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy, but our identity lies within Jesus who came to give us life in abundance (Jn. 10:10).

So if our identity and our security lies within Jesus then how do we ever get away from Him? The answer lies in our actions. Typically we have a tendency to fluctuate between being close to God by following Him closely to being far from God by doing our own thing. This doesn’t just happen overnight typically. For the person who is intentionally following Jesus it typically happens over time as they get focused on other things that are happening around them. Sheep get tend to get focused on eating and as they see greener grass they begin to move towards that and are unaware of what is happening around them or even where they are going. We are much like sheep. We have a tendency to seek comfort and to seek something better than what we have and as we focus our attention on getting something better we can easily take our eyes off of Jesus and wander away, even though He will care for our every need.

The Israelites had wandered away, far away. They had turned from honoring God just as we do, but God wasn’t done with them yet. He had different plans for them other than to be under the oppression of a tyrannical ruler, just as He has different plans for us. Let’s go back to see what God did for the Israelites.

Exodus 6:1-8

Then the Lord told Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!” And God said to Moses, ‘I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.

‘Therefore, say to the people of Israel: I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’

These are some pretty big promises from a God who allowed them to fall into slavery in the first place, but it was not God’s fault. Sure, He allowed them to fall into the place where they currently found themselves, but it was to teach them a lesson. Just as earthly parents must teach their children our Heavenly Father does the same thing with His children. He has plans for and hopes for us that He longs for us to follow and when we veer away He doesn’t force us back instead He allows us to reap the consequences of our actions and to grow through the process.

It should be noted that each of us has a different lot in life and that God will use us wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Our status is of no regard to God, for God opposes the proud and shows favor to the humble (Prov. 3:34). He is able to use each and every one of us who chose to follow Him and He promises to give us life in abundance (Jn. 10:10), but that does not necessarily mean earthly riches. When we follow God and do His work we are building up for ourselves and inheritance in Heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

God keeps His promises to us in the face of the enemy, just as we will see with the Israelites who have been under the oppression of Pharaoh. God went on to harden Pharaoh’s heart over and over again as He brought plague after plague upon the Egyptians and their land until eventually Pharaoh along with the inhabitants of the land begged the Israelites to leave and even gave them their possessions, just as God had told them He would do.

Exodus 12:31-36

Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. “Get out!” he ordered. “Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.” All the Egyptians urged the people of Israel to get out of the land as quickly as possible, for they thought, “we will all die!”

The Israelites took their bread dough before yeast was added. They wrapped their kneading boards in their cloaks and carried them on their shoulders. And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The Lord caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!

God keeps His promises and He follows through in ways that we could never imagine. It is not our job to try to figure out how to accomplish the things that God has told us He will accomplish; it is our job to do exactly what He tells us to do which starts with repenting of our sins and following Jesus. God desires us to be holy and will cause circumstances to happen around us to refine us and to strengthen us and to make us into the holy people that He desires.

I have lived a fairly blessed life, even in the face of having walked away from God for six years, but I have faced my fair share of trials and obstacles as well and it never ceases to amaze me how God has used each of those trials that I have gone through to not only bring me closer to Him, but to draw others in as well. For instance the death of a loved one has given me insight into suffering, into the stages that lead into death, the grieving process, hospice, etc., and has given me much valuable and personal experience and insight to use as a hospital chaplain where I often times am dealing with death and sickness.

You see our whole identity is in Christ and the more that we follow Him the more we become like Him. He takes our hard hearts and softens them, He gives us patience, teaches us humility, shows us how to love, but He also reveals to us the strength that we have in Him. When we understand that we are Children of God and that we have been given power through the Holy Spirit to fight the enemy and win we start to live life in a completely different way. We begin to live life in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and attractive to others even if it doesn’t seem to make sense to them. When we take on the identity of Christ our whole demeanor and even our appearance begins to change. Have you ever noticed that someone who has faithfully followed and worshipped God for a long time looks much younger than others their age? Have you ever noticed that they actually seem to have a glow to them? That glow is the light of God reflecting from within them as they have faithfully taken on the identity of Christ and chosen to do the things that He has instructed them to do throughout their life.

Just like God kept His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob He kept His promise to Moses and the Israelites to pull them out of their oppression and to cause His name to be exalted throughout the land. He wants to do the same thing with us. When we get off of our seats and start doing what Jesus is calling us to do we begin to see more of God around us. When we choose to follow Him we begin to see our lives change for the better and are filled with more joy and peace even in difficult situations. When we understand and embrace our identity in Christ we will not be content with standing by and doing nothing while there are people who are lost and hurting around us, people who do not know God and the power that He has over Satan. Satan has already been defeated! In the end we know that we win, but we must be diligent in the battle and stand strong in Jesus Christ who gave His life so that we could have life.

So if you have not been diligent in your walk with Christ then it is time to start. God is not looking for part-time help. It is an all or nothing gig that we have signed up for. There are people around you who are hurting and need to know the love of Christ. There are people around you who are lost and wandering and need to find their way. There are people in your life that you have influence over that need to know that Jesus died so that they can have life if they choose to follow Him, but first you have to know where you are going and that starts with following Jesus and giving Him your heart and whole life. It starts by repenting of your sins and humbling yourself before Him. Anyone who wishes to call them self a child of God must do this. The choice is yours, it has always been yours. And for those who choose to follow Jesus life will be given, but much will be asked of them. It is not a decision to take lightly. It is a decision that requires a community of believers to work together to support one another, encourage, lift up, and even help one another get back on track when needed. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian so if you have decided to follow Jesus then your next step is to get involved into a deep relationship with Him within a community of believers who are diligently following Him.

I pray that you will earnestly seek God in your life and let the Holy Spirit guide your actions. If you have found yourself far from God then I pray that you will turn back to Him and will repent of your sins. I pray that you will fall before Him and that He will forgive you of your sins through Jesus Christ who has shed His blood to blot out your sins for you and to make you pure in the eyes of God. May God be with you as you go and share your faith with others and shine your light into the dark world that you have been placed in. May God reveal who you are in Him and show you just how much you mean to Him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

On the Road to Acceptance of who we were made to be

Yesterday we looked at Philippians and how Paul had learned to be content and we looked at what contentment can do for our lives, but mostly from a monetary and physical needs perspective. God desires so much more for us than for us to be cared for merely in the physical needs and monetary departments; God desires for us to be content in every situation to include our personal lives. I’m not talking about the physical things around us that help to give us an impression of safety; I’m referring to feeling fulfilled within life, being content with who you are and what you have been called to do.

We have all been called to do something, God has given us gifts through his Holy Spirit, He has given us desires, and He has whispered things into our hearts that only He knows. Each one of us has something different within us that we are called to do, different things that we are passionate about and long to share. We each have a role to play. I have wanted to be different people throughout my life, maybe not fully but definitely partially. There are certain aspects about different people that I wish I had. For instance, I would love to be more of a people person, someone who can strike up a conversation with anyone and be immediately liked. I used to work with a person just like this. He is a friend of mine and has characteristics about him that make him very personable and well-liked by almost everyone he comes into contact with. I’m sure though that if I asked him he could come up with some things about me and others that he wished he could emulate. I would venture to guess that we all have people that we would like to be more like in one way or another.

I had the opportunity to meet with a friend a couple of days ago who is a missionary in Mozambique Africa with his family and this exact topic came up. Jon and his wife Carla joined up with a local church in Mozambique and started a mission organization called Equip Mozambique. Their intentions are to build up the church in Mozambique by breaking the cycle of poverty through discovery, partnership, and empowerment of godly Mozambican leaders. There are many characteristics that the two of them share that I wish I had, characteristics that God has given them to make them successful in what they are doing. As Jon and I were talking over coffee we got on this very topic of wishing we could be like someone else, typically they would be called heroes or maybe even idols today. They are people we look up to and would like to emulate in some way or fashion, but the reality is that we are all different for a reason. Jon has characteristics about him that I desire, and maybe someday God will give them to me or give me an increase in those areas, but it will be on His time and for His purpose. If I was just like Jon we could likely accomplish a lot together, but then there would be a void in the areas that we are currently gifted. I am not Jon though and thus God has given me a different calling and different gifts.

The Kingdom of God is like a huge team in which we all have our specific positions that we are to play. Let’s just say we are playing football. If we all play in our proper positions and work together as a team, using our God given talents, with a common objective then we will be productive in what we are doing; however, if we all tried to be quarterback we would fail miserably. If we did not embrace our gifts and use them appropriately then we would fail miserably. If we were not working toward the same common goal we would fail miserably. Could you imagine being on a team in which everyone was going in a different direction? How much progress do you think would be made? Without a diversely gifted team with a united goal the progress would be minimal, and the same thing goes with God’s Kingdom.

Paul spoke of this in terms of the human body and how there are many parts. He said:

1 Corinthians 12:12-20
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing” If the whole body were an ear where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of the, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is there are many parts, yet one body.

God made us all different for a reason. Each one of us has a separate part to play within the body of Christ. There are certainly different traits that each of us may desire to be built up within us, but when God desires for us to have those traits He will begin to give them to us. Until then we must learn to be content right where we are, as we are. This can be difficult as we yearn for more. We think that if we were only like this or able to do that then we would be better suited for whatever purpose we believe we serve, but God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. One thing that you can be certain of is that God knows the plans that He has for you and all that He desires for you to learn along the way.

Jeremiah 29:11-14
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord…

These words were spoken through the prophet Jeremiah to God’s people who were in exile. It was a promise by God that He would restore them after a period of time. It was a promise and a hope, an encouragement to trust in Him and to call on His name. God knows right where we are and He knows exactly what we need when we need it. He has plans to prosper us, plans that are good and not for evil. He has plans for our future that we may not know of. We must learn to be content in all things right where we are. This does not mean that we cannot be hopeful for certain things, but through prayer we must give them all to God and trust that He will deliver them to us when the time is right, knowing that the time may never be right for us to receive what we believe it is we need.

God made us just the way we are and each of us has a purpose as such, click here to learn more about your purpose in life. As Christians we are called to work together toward the goal of making disciples of all the nations, to baptize them, and to teach each individual to obey all the commands that He has given us (Mt. 28:18-20). We are called to unity within the body and because of such we each have a part to play and we must also rely upon our brothers and sisters to play their part. We cannot do it for them, we cannot make them do it, all we can do is pray for them and encourage them and do our part to the very best of our ability. Each member of the body is important and is essential for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. We must each spread the Word in any way that we can, we must love our neighbors in the good and the bad. We are not owed anything, but owe everything to God. We must learn to be who God has called us to be and realize that the world will not accept us because they did not accept Him. This does not give us permission to act in any way that is not honoring to God, but it does give us permission to be exactly who we are while praying for God to reveal more to us and to draw us closer to Him every day.

If this was helpful or encouraging to you please feel free to share it with others. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to make a comment. We all have a purpose and can be used to help others draw closer to God. God bless you in your journey to knowing Him deeper than before and accepting yourself with all of the qualities that God desires for you to have.

What is our Purpose?

Have you ever wondered what your purpose is in life? This is a question that I think each of us asks at some point in time in our life. If we are truly honest with ourselves we will find that outside of Christ we have no purpose. Imagine going through life just living for today. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior than this is ultimately what you are doing. We have no purpose outside of our Father’s will for our lives. If there is no God then we are literally here today and gone tomorrow and nothing that we do matters, but since God is real we can stand firm in knowing that we have a purpose.

I did not always believe this, in fact there is a time in my life where I walked away from Jesus for all intensive purposes. I actually reached a point where I did not even know if God existed anymore. What I found was that my life was empty and no matter how much fun I tried to have, no matter how much work I did, and no matter how much good I did it never filled the hole that was in my life and in my heart. My life was empty even though it was full of earthly purpose and enjoyment.

I praise God that He never quit pursuing me, because today I can tell you that I do have a purpose and I do have true happiness, even when things get difficult. I know that the Lord has called me into service and as I follow His leading I get closer to Him everyday and learn His heart for me and His purpose for me. You see God calls us into greatness when we say yes. He used the lowly shepherd boy David to defeat Goliath, He brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego through the fire when they refused to worship their king, and He used Moses to bring the Israelites through the dessert safely even though he was living in exile before he was called. You see God uses us in our weakness to show His strength and that we are nothing without Him. When we submit our lives to Him we, as vessels, are filled with God and His light. We are broken vessels and our brokenness allows others to see God’s light from within us, so never shy away from your past for your past is behind you, but it is your greatest tool to show others how mighty our Lord is.

Father we are so grateful that you give us purpose, that even though we are broken and make a mess of things at times that you use that brokenness to shine your light on the world around us. Use us Lord to illuminate the darkness around us so that there is no absence of light anywhere where we are present. Lord we long to follow the path that you have set before us to show others the goodness that they can have if they only say yes and trust in you. Help us to get out of the way and to quit trying to do it by ourselves. We want to be people who say yes to your every call, no matter how hard. Thank you for your son who said yes to death, even death on a cross so that we may live and live life to the fullest. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.