Identity… Part 2; New Creations

October 21

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17a)

We ARE new creations… we are NOT becoming new creations.

If this is true, then we need to know what it means to be a new creation… and how that happens.

To be a creation is to be the handiwork of a creator. It follows that the quality of that creation is dependent upon the skill and ingenuity of the creator.

A few months ago, we were cleaning out our basement and ran across a few boxes filled with our children’s early art “masterpieces.” Smiles came to our faces as we took the time to look at each one. The people looked strange (stick arms and grossly deformed fingers and faces). The color choices were often weird (brown grass, purple sky, red suns, etc.). But, the children poured themselves into those odd scenes and took great delight in giving them to their “adoring” parents. Their creations were low on the “art skills” meter – but high on the “treasured value” meter of their parents.

kids drawing

When it comes to being our Almighty Creator’s new creations, we are talking about work of infinite skill and ability. His workmanship is never haphazard or incomplete. His workmanship is perfection. His work always reflects His Own character and nature.

This is true in the area of being new creations. The Apostle Paul reminds us: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” (Ephesians 2:10)

God's workmanship

Sometimes we can get the idea that we are just the same old person with a new lease on life. Same old us… just different packaging, with some potential enhancements or improvements.

But we are not just spiritual retreads. We have not just turned over a new leaf on our same old life.

When God says new, He means completely new. The word in the original language means: “something entirely fresh, something unused or unworn, of a new kind (superior to what it succeeds).” We are not God’s refurbished creatures. We are new creations, superior in every way to what we were before.

Why would that be?

Because the old you had you and you alone. And, quite frankly, you were not good enough, or strong enough, or smart enough, or pure enough, or willful enough to do what God required of you. The old you relied upon you… and you couldn’t do what needed to be done.

not_good_enough

But the new you has an amazing advantage… the new you is eternally connected to the One Who both made you and Who made you new. Did you notice the requisite for being a new creation… being “IN Christ.”

We ARE a new person because we have been brought into a new arrangement. The God we seek to please actually lives within us, and does what He desires to do, through us. This new arrangement naturally produces some new results. Good results. Godly results. That’s why we ARE God’s workmanship… we ARE “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

We are new creations. We are IN Christ Jesus. We ARE reflections of God’s magnificent work. As one translation put it… “We are His masterpieces…”

Masterpiece

Prayer Focus: Thank You for making me completely new… help me to understand the wonder of all that means for my everyday life.

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Identity… What We Were vs. What We Are

October 20

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

new creation b

Much of the New Testament is written to help us understand that something amazing has happened because we have placed our trust in Christ. It was none of our doing. We never deserved it. We didn’t win God’s approval or favor by anything we did. God did it all. And what He did, He offers to us freely. It is a gift, pure and simple, and this gift has the power to completely transform our lives.

With this gift comes some astounding changes. The long and short of it is this: ALL of us were the enemies of God, all of us were wicked to the core, all of us were deserving the wrath of God (only!), and all of us were without any chance to escape our condition on our own. That is what we were. That was our identity. But God’s love couldn’t leave us that way!

The gospel is centered in the fact that Jesus came and took everything we WERE upon Himself. Upon that cross, He actually became sin for us (2Cor. 5:21). He willingly embraced our enmity with God, our wickedness, our punishment, and our imprisonment to sin and our sinful state. He exchanged His glory for our destitution – all because God would rather die than live without us.

became-sin-for-us

But that is not the end of the story… Jesus did not just come to pay the price for our sins, to make God’s forgiveness available to us. He came to open up something completely unexpected – and immensely more amazing.

He came to give us the gift of a whole new life. Forgiveness (as great as that is) was never His end game. God’s entire plan was to take away everything we WERE and to make us totally new – to make us into what He wanted us to be.

Our verse today is the centerpiece for this truth.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating (because it is really hard for us to believe!): Jesus’ work (on our behalf) brings immediate results and offers us immediate transformation. We are NOT becoming new creations… we ARE new creations. We are not gradually being fixed over the course of our Christian lives… the new HAS come. What we WERE (our old life, in its entirety) has passed away. The new life (what we ARE now) is a present reality.

our-new-life-in-christ

Practically speaking… everything that was so indelibly attached to the old you “has passed away.” Your addictions… Your failures… Your bad habits… Your sins… Your desire to sin… your character flaws… have “passed away.”

What is more… every hurtful and abhorrent thing that was ever done to you by others “has passed away.”

The new you is completely liberated from everything you WERE — and from everything you WERE carrying in the depths of your soul.

But you are not a void. God made you new – and God made you to be a place where He lives, and works, and loves.

Your old ID has been tossed aside. You have been given a new ID. You ARE changed. You ARE new. You ARE somebody else entirely.

new life old life 2

You were the object of God’s grace all along.

Prayer Focus: God, I need to see myself in the light of Your handiwork in my life. Fix my thoughts on the fact that what we were is “passed away” and what we are has come to be.

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Being Worthy

October 19

A few days ago, we talked about this stubborn thing within us that seems to think that we still need to gain God’s favor by doing a bunch of “right” things. The Apostle Paul acquainted that with our human nature trying to earn God’s love by attempting to keep the Law. His conclusion: IF we want to struggle and fail throughout our Christian lives… we can choose to do so (God forgives!). But IF we want to truly live as Christians were meant to live (free from sin, and free from all obligations to try and earn God’s favor) then we need to simply place our trust in Jesus and what He has done (and will do) in, and through, our lives.

But there is another significant obstacle with which many people struggle. It stems from the problem of how we see ourselves versus how we see God.

We look at our lives, see the mess, see our mistakes, bad habits, failures and character flaws – and all the terrible things we have done to ourselves, and others, in our past. ashamedThen we try and approach God… and we feel the weight of our own insignificance… or unworthiness… or wretchedness… We find that, with every fiber of our being, we just don’t feel worthy to be with a holy, all-powerful God. He is glorious and perfect. We are dirtbags (literally!) and such troubled souls. We just don’t feel like we belong in the same picture – let alone IN a relationship with Him.

But such is the wonder of God’s grace. He chooses not to see us as we are, but as we are meant to be – when our hearts are united with His. He welcomes us, not because we are worthy of His favor, but because He has chosen to love us – AND because we have chosen to receive what His Son did for us.

jesus_holding_man-w-hammer

So much of our lives is dependent upon what we do with Jesus.

God has simply said: “If you will look to My Son, and place your trust in Him, it does not matter to Me what you were, or what you are – because I will give you a new identity: you will by My Own.”

Here’s the beauty of God’s grace… God knows exactly what we are, and what we have done. But when we receive His grace, through faith, He chooses not to call to Mind all those things that we were and refuses to recall what we have done. The Bible says that He removes those things as far as the east is from the west (in an infinite line). He locks our past… in the past. He chooses to look at us through what Christ has done, rather than what we have done. And one thing more…

The eternal God of Heaven doesn’t just forgive us, pat us on the back, and send us back out into the world – He chooses to call us as His Own…

1peter2-9

We get to wear His Name and enjoy the wonders of all that He owns. And we get to share life with Him (HE desires to make His home with us; John 14:23!).

Jn 14 23

We must remember: God doesn’t do all this because we are worthy of His love – it is His love for us that makes us worthy of Him.

The miracle of God’s grace is that His infinite love trumps all our feelings of insignificance. We are divinely redefined by the unlimited power of His love.

Prayer Focus: God, I seek to live in Your love for me… Help me to see that I am treasured because of Your love for me.

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Grace is Greater

October 18

“My grace is sufficient for you!” (God, Almighty – from 2 Corinthians 12:9)

godsufficiency.jpg

I have mentioned before that I was raised in a church tradition that steadily proclaimed two certain beliefs: “We all sin every day – in word, thought, and deed.” And “we are all just sinners saved by grace.” It seemed to me, at the time, that there was no hope for any of us Christians to ever escape the power of sin over our lives. We just can’t help it – we ARE sinners, we sin every day – but, “Thank God, He loves us and forgives us our sins.”

Imagine my profound surprise when I could never find those beliefs in Scripture. (In fact, this was the beginning of my own personal journey to discover WHAT the Bible actually taught, rather than just accepting what people were saying about it).

What I found instead was something very curious. I found the Apostle Paul saying things like: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2a) And the Apostle John: “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin…” (1John 2:1) The attitude of Scripture seemed crystal clear. In the lives of Christ-followers, sinning was meant to be a thing of the past – no longer an integral part of our every day lives. How can that be?

One word…

Name in 3D coloured lights

As we talked about yesterday, grace is all-sufficient for our lives. It is not just so we can get forgiveness whenever we might need it… grace is to give us the ability to live, just like Jesus lived, every moment of our lives. Apparently, Paul and John had the same way of thinking in this matter… for us who follow Christ, sin is no longer our destiny. We have a new life to live – empowered by the God Who loves us… to live life in the abundance of His goodness, robed in divine ability to do what He desires us to do.

Because of the work of Jesus, God’s grace has granted us a new identity. NOT: “sinners” – but “saints.” Nearly every letter to the churches (in the New Testament) is addressed to “the saints at ___________.” When you realize that the writer is addressing every believer in those churches (and not just the super spiritual) this is even more illuminating. The word “saint” means “ones who ARE holy” – and “holy” means those who ARE set apart for special (divine!) purposes.

set-apart-as-holy

Why would God give us a new identity but withold the ability to live up to our new name? The answer is… He wouldn’t. And He didn’t. God’s gift of salvation came with a whole new way to live our lives – enabled to do what our identity implies. We ARE forgiven our sins. But we ARE also empowered to live beyond the power of sin.

That is what the Bible declares. That is our identity in Jesus. We are not sinners saved by grace. Now, we are saints saved by grace. The difference is monumental.

But what about when we fail? After all, we are still tempted to sin. And sometimes we give in. What about that?

One word, again… 

Grace

I love what John said after He declared the power of God’s provision for our lives: “I am writing this to you so that you will not sin…” Then, he goes on to say: “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the One who is truly righteous.” Even when we fail, we are met with God’s grace – His all-sufficient provision for our EVERY need.

Wherever we find our selves, we find God’s grace. Grace to live. Grace to forgive us. Grace to empower us. As Christ-followers, there is no place we can turn that we are not met with the abundance of God’s all-sufficient grace.

Prayer Focus: God, open the eyes of my heart to see the fullness of grace… and to see myself robed in Your divine ability, through Christ.

One of my favorite anthems of Grace…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqd8MoiCbcI

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A Bigger Grace

October 17

“It is by grace you are saved, through faith…” (Ephesians 2:8)

It is so important for us to understand that God’s grace is sufficient for our lives.

your grace is enough

But when we talk about grace, so much of the time, our view of grace is just too small. Biblical grace is much bigger than we often see it. And because our view of grace is too confined, so also is our application of grace to our lives.

failing 2If “the righteous will live by faith…” then we will only walk in the strength of what we believe. If our belief is too limited, we will not walk in the fullness of God’s provision for our lives. Our walk will be deficient. We will struggle. We will find ourselves, more often failing, than living in victory.

Spend any amount of time talking with Christians and you will often hear them speak of weaknesses, failures, brokenness, and of the need for God’s forgiveness. It seems our common thread is our inability to be like Jesus. I do not think that this is what God had in Mind when He sent Jesus to deliver us from our sin and from our selves. Jesus came so we could live our lives just like Him (Mt. 10:25a). If we are not living that way, there must be a problem on our end.

Much of the problem stems from the fact that our picture of grace is incomplete.

incomplete puzzle

We have equated God’s grace ONLY with His unconditional love for us. While this is certainly true, it is NOT the entirety of grace. Grace is not just God’s unmerited favor… it is also His sustaining and enabling power to do what needs to be done.

God’s grace gets us into relationship with Him… AND God’s grace also sustains and empowers us to live IN that relationship. The grace of God is not only poured out to us (whenever we fall short of what God intends) but also poured out in us, and through us (to be a living demonstration of the power and goodness of God). God’s abundant grace is always supplying, equipping, providing, and enabling us to be everything that God desires us to be!

spritual-power-word.jpg

Grace not only brings us connection to God’s unlimited love but also strengthens us (Hebr. 13:9), sustains us in difficult circumstances (2Cor. 12:9), inspires us to give sacrificially (2Cor. 8:1-3), teaches and sanctifies us (Titus 2:11-12), builds us up (Acts 20:32), enables us to serve in God’s ability (1Peter 4:10), makes us what we are, powerfully affects our lives, and works within us for God’s purposes (1Cor. 15:10), and grants us immediate access to divine assistance (Hebr. 4:16).

These verses are just a sampling. There are many others. But, as we see, grace is much more than just tapping into the love of God – it is connecting us to the whole essence of the divine power and character. This is why the Apostle confidently proclaimed: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

The nature of grace is God’s sufficiency… available to His people at all times and in all circumstances – that we may live in the fullness of God’s provision for our lives.

As Christ-followers we have a job to do. That job will not be done by human ability, effort, or ingenuity. That job can only be accomplished by the all-sufficient grace of God working in us, and through us, to the praise of His glory!

Prayer Focus: God, help me to see the fullness of Your grace for my life… and to walk in the all-sufficiency of Your grace.

Grace is

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No Condemnation

October 16

romans-8 1

If there is one thing that I hear over and over from Christians it is this: “Man, I do love God, but I mess up daily… every time I turn around I am struggling to do what I know is right. I am trying to do good. But I always seem to do the wrong… But thank God for His forgiveness!”

So many Christians find a relatable connection with the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-25. There, the Apostle talks about the frustration of trying to live a Godly life – but always failing. There is the wanting to do right. But it always ends with doing wrong. His summary of this condition: “Wretched man that I am!” (7:24a)

“Amen, Paul. We hear you,” we agree. And conclude: “See, even the Apostle struggled with living the Christian life. At least we have the hope of the Apostle in our lives, too – even though we are a mess, there is ‘no condemnation for‘ us!” (8:1)

But we are missing the point. We are missing the context of the Apostle’s words (chapters 6 and 7:1-14) – and failing to see the reason behind his triumphant declaration in Romans 8:1.

In Romans 7:15-25 the Apostle talks about being a slave to sin, about wanting to do what is right but never having the ability to do so – and of knowing the truth of God’s law, but possessing no power to keep it. We latch onto these words like they are words to live by (or, at least, they offer us a strange comfort).

slave to sin

But in Romans 6, the Apostle talks about being a slave to God, and of being dead to sin and alive to God, and of having escaped the power and dominion of sin, making this powerful summary statement: 

romans 6 14

Well, which is it, Paul? Are we slaves to sin (and always going to struggle to do what is right [Romans 7:15-25])… OR are we delivered from the mastery of sin (and able to leave sin behind us and live for God [Romans 6 – 7:14])?

The answer is… Yes.

IF we see ourselves as the same old person, always struggling to try and do what is right (trying to live according to God’s Law, by our own efforts) we will always be a slave to sin. The Law can never deliver us from the power of sin to rule over us. 

But IF we turn to Jesus, receive what He has done for us – and realize that we died with Him (Romans 6:6), were raised with Him (6:4), and are now totally connected with Him (6:3) – AND that our righteousness is already accomplished through Him… then, sin has no power to be our master… ever!

I have noticed something deeply seated within our human nature. Because we desire to do right… it is so hard to accept that the right has already been done for us. Jesus has done what we could never do for ourselves (see Romans 8:1-4). But there is this stubborn thing within us that still wants to try – that still thinks we can… and should.

The message of grace is… STOP! Cease the striving to do what we could never do (or else we will always live in Romans 7:15-25) and simply trust completely in the One Who is the Source of all righteousness, for all of our days.

forgiven-only-the-cross

It is our choice. Either live endlessly trying to do what is right (and failing)… OR live IN the One who holds us in His righteousness (living daily in His victory!).

Oh yeah… the reason why “there is therefore now no condemnation” is because we are IN Christ Jesus. IN Him, we are no longer under the Law… we are now under His grace!

Prayer Focus: God, my heart needs to trust in the completed work of Jesus on my behalf. Teach me to know the fullness of resting in Your grace. 

Posted in Daily devotional, Free from sin, Freedom in Christ, Grace, True Christianity, Trust, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Cultural Clamor: Wisdom and Understanding

October 15

Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding…” (Proverbs 2:2)

Have you ever wondered why so many people have such differing views about things?

Take just about any topic, and you are almost certain to find (at least) two people with opposing views on that topic – and both sides will contend that they are 100% right. It is kind of obvious… both sides cannot be right!

But then, that is quickly becoming the issue (or non-issue as the case may be)…

In our current cultural climate, many folks are seeking, not just to blur the lines of right and wrong – but to eliminate those lines altogether. At the heart of popular subjects like “acceptance” and “tolerance” is the view that there are no absolutes – and every person should have the right to do what is right in their own eyes (as long as it’s not hurting anyone). And every such view should be accepted and validated by everyone else (at least, that’s what should happen in a “compassionate and enlightened” society).

While this seems “proper” and “sensitive,” it is one of those roads that lead to nowhere. And roads that lead to nowhere are never worth traveling.

road to nowhere

The point of life, and living, is that we should all be going somewhere… and that our destination should bring us joy and peace in the journey. The current state of affairs in our society cannot be described with words such as joy, peace, or even happiness… Most of what we see (each and every day) is mass confusion, unrest, anger, and a seething frustration building up in the lives of so many.

Civil-Unrest-600x360

Why is this?

This happens because people are misled. The Bible tells us that all human unrest has its source in the mindset of those who do not own the Creator’s view of things.

The Creator’s view is known by a very simple term in Scripture… it is wisdom.

Wisdom is God’s way of seeing things – and thinking about things. And God’s way is the right way. Every point of view that seeks some other view than that of the Creator, is going to lead us astray. And the effects upon our lives, and our culture, can be disastrous.

In our verse for today, one who was known for his wisdom implores us all to give wisdom and understanding top priority in our lives. It is declared: “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding… For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it.” (Proverbs 3:13; 8:11)

Our culture is in such trouble because we are reaping what we have sown into our minds. We have bought into every view… except the one view that matters most.

We are defined by the fact that we are concerned about offending everyone… but God. In the end, all disregard for God and His ways will be exposed for what it really is… utter folly. For those who do not seek His wisdom… that will not be a good day.

But, as Christians, what do we do?

We do the one thing that matters most. We love. We do what Jesus did. We treat people with grace and tenderness. We extend His kindness to everyone we meet. We remember that it is not the truth that leads people to change their minds, it is kindness (see Rom. 2:4). And we live out the wisdom of God in our everyday lives.

We walk in the joy and peace that is ours through Jesus – until we catch the eye of someone who needs what we have. The thing that they are needing most.

And we pray. For our culture. For those around us. For God’s grace to work through us to open doors to their hearts and minds that cannot be opened otherwise. And we thank God for all the ways He is working to draw people unto Himself.

These are dark times, indeed. But the Light always shines best in the darkness.

light-shining-darkness

Prayer Focus: God, teach me Your wisdom… and let me be a shining example of Your love in this world that needs to see Your love so clearly.

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