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Posts from the ‘Identity’ Category

Reflections of Regret and Remembering

At the end of the year, we review.

Yesterday, we sat with our kids and recalled by saying, “Look what the LORD has done for us.” It’s always fun to look back over the friendships we have gained, the goals accomplished, even the goals left undone. Radio and T.V. will cover the “year in review” — the best new songs, the worst clothes.

But, there are times, we look upon our year in disappointment. As sinners, that’s no surprise, right?

There are two words that make my heart feel really tight, cause my eyes to well up with tears, and bring some regret when I look back on this year: selfish ambition. Looking back, I can see it. I can see it in so many ways. Chris and I were caught up and didn’t even know it. But God is light. He is truth. In Him is no darkness.

So, when God whispers, selfish ambition into our darkness, we pause. We don’t argue. We stop dead in our tracks to review. Confess. Repent.

Nichole Nordeman said, “Today we pull the blanket back on our sin and try not to look too quickly away. It’s worth lingering. Grace isn’t going anywhere.”

Fortunately, regret is not the only take-away from this year. For as much as I look back and see my selfish ambition, there was a much bigger theme that was increasing higher and greater over the theme of my sin.

Remember, also whispers the Holy Spirit. Remember who you are.

You belong to me.

As children of God, we have been given the gift of belonging — to Him — the God who holds all things in place, the only one who can be trusted, the one even who keeps count of the amount of times we’ve turned over at night when struggling to sleep.

And, when we belong, our belonging cannot be shaken. It cannot be removed, undone or changed. God is for us. He pursues us. He fights for us.

“You have kept count of my tossings;

put my tears in your bottle.

Are they not in your book?

Then my enemies will turn back

in the day when I call.

This I know, that God is for me.

Sin has no victory when the One who reigns the world, reigns in our hearts.

Because grace is greater than sin, remembering who we are is greater than the regret of what we’ve done.

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Three Days Bring Much Change

This morning, the first words to meet my eyes were “We are Easter people living in a Good Friday world,” and my mind went to a million places at once. I went to all of the encounters I have had meeting with people over coffee and lunch and in my living room with couples counseling with my husband. I was taken back to my own warped identity that I am still tempted to sink back into of lies and skepticism and resistance. I pictured Chris seeing a distorted identity of himself, skipping to the future and wondering what traps my children will fall into.

The unraveling of Friday to Sunday is the most beautiful 3 days we can experience in our lives. The eyes being opened. The chains falling off. The heart being set free. The justification of the sinner — Jesus covering our sins on Friday, then rising for our righteousness on Sunday is and always will be the greatest day in history. But, it is also the greatest day in present and future.

We are no longer slaves to sin. Friday

But slaves to righteousness. Easter

The old has gone. Friday

The new has come. Easter

I have been crucified with Christ. Friday

It is no longer I who live. But Christ lives in me. Easter

Do not be conformed to this world. Friday

But be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Easter

Dead in your trespasses. Friday

Alive together with him. Easter

Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Friday

Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Easter

Once were far off. Friday

Have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Easter

Under law. Friday

Under grace. Sunday

Wages of sin is death. Friday

Free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Easter

Unbelief, Skepticism, Doubting, Resistance. Friday

Faith. Easter

Despair, Glum, Drudgery, Sadness, Dismay. Friday

Hope. Easter

Hate, Scorn, Judgement, Ridicule, Betrayal, Enslavement. Friday

Love. Easter

It is true that we live in a Good Friday world, and we are mostly surrounded by Good Friday people, but as followers of Christ, we live a life in the glory of Resurrection Sunday. Our identity is that of Easter people.

“…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.”  N.T. Wright

 

Chit-Chat

Sitting around with a small group of women, coffee in hand, engaging in a little chit-chat is one of my favorite places to be. In the last few weeks, I’ve been able to do that, and twice, our “shooting the breeze” has led to such matters as substitutionary atonement, double imputation and justification. Anything can happen when a group of women get together and jaws start flapping!

One of the most important and powerful verses in all of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus, although sinless, was regarded as sin for our sake.

Christ became our substitute. He bore the wrath of God in our place.

God imputed our sin and guilt to Christ.

God imputes the righteous of Christ to us, a righteousness not our own.

We are regarded as forgiven.

We are declared forgiven.

Amazing the weight that one sentence can hold! Pervading what this truth should do to our lives and families!

How should such deep theological truths impact our marriages, parenting, self-image in this world?

I was mad at Chris this weekend. Something he did irritated me, and I was wrestling with how to let go of it. I remembered what a friend said when discussing this verse, What if I viewed my husband as righteous the way God does?, and it hit me from a different angle. Justification is outrageously difficult for us to grasp for ourselves as believers; do we accept our brothers/sisters in Christ as righteous as well? I understand we’re not capable of seeing through the perfect lenses of the Creator, but my unwillingness to forgive was challenged when I realized I was withholding from a man who had already been forgiven by God.

The pressure is off of our believing children when the expectations of them being perfect has been shifted to their true identity in Christ. When we consider our children wrapped in the righteousness of Christ, they will no longer be required to meet our expectations, and good behavior for the sake of good behavior will no longer be the goal; seeking and loving the One who has draped them will be our primary desire for their lives.

I sat across the table from a beautiful friend recently. She keeps her body in excellent shape. Her eyes, smile, hair, skin are all incredible. By the world’s standards, she’s very attractive. She thinks she’s ugly. Ugly enough that she shouldn’t leave the house some days. Who would have ever thought that what makes her beautiful is blood? She is completely blanketed in a righteousness not her own. Jesus took the most beautiful pieces he could find to cover every square inch of the ugliness of sin, pieces like daughter, alive, redeemed, loved, chosen, joint-heir, atoned-for, forgiven, justified. When we look in the mirror, those are the words we should see.

These are just some of the ways these deep theological truths should pervade our lives and homes.

It may stir a different conversation in your circle of friends.

How should these truths change your

marriage

family

parenting

neighborhood

job

self-image?

Personality and Christianity

I used to take aerobics.

Now, before you get the picture of a really cool 80s class, this was in the 90s. Instead of sweat bands, leg-warmers and Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, think appropriately long t-shirts, tights and C+C Music Factory.  We all “stepped” to “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” well, everybody except a girl we’ll call Gina (because that was her name).  Gina was without rhythm by her own proclamation.  Because she knew she could not follow the music or the steps, she brought her walkman (more 90s fun) and listened to the music of her choice while watching the instructor.

Such is life that we step to the beat of our own walkman being that our personalities are unique in the way God has made us.

Do you expect others to look just like you?  Are you critical when another believer doesn’t react the way you do?  A great gift of a creative God is the differences he has weaved purposely in each of us.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Though we are all Christians together, we are all different… We are all in the same fight, of course, as we share the same common salvation, and have the same common central need. [We shouldn’t] act on the assumption that all Christians are identical in every respect.  They are not, and they are not even meant to be.”

Let’s look at this a little further.  Suppose Gina arrived not only with her own music but her own moves.  She would, in essence, be saying I can’t deal with your music or your moves.  This is how I am.  Deal with it. Her attempts would be the opposite of following the leader.

Personality is a beautiful gift from God, but it is not liberty to treat others however we choose, explaining ourselves away.  Under the Lordship of Christ, we are responsible to who He has called us to be under his will first.

“The natural man is always controlled by his temperament, he cannot help himself; but the difference that regeneration makes is that there is now a higher control even over temperament.  The moment the Holy Spirit enters in, He controls everything including temperament, and so He enables you to function in your own particular way through your temperament.  This is the miracle of redemption.  Temperament remains, but temperament no longer controls.  The Holy Spirit is in control.”  Lloyd-Jones

That’s just the way I am we are prone to say.  And, that is true.  But what Lloyd-Jones is saying is also true. When the Holy Spirit enters our life, our personality no longer controls.  That personality is redeemed.

Do you delight in the personality God has given you?

Have you seen Christ’s redemption in your personality?

What Are You Waiting For?

J.R.R. Tolkien said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Shauna Niequist starts her book Cold Tangerines by saying “I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have… And through the waiting, here I am.  My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start… But this is what I’m finding, in the glimpses and flashes:  this is it….I don’t want to wait anymore.  I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day.”

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really:  Get busy living or get busy dying.” -Andy, Shawshank Redemption

Tim Tebow in Through My Eyes starts his preface this way, “We all know of people who thought they could do it (whatever “it” is) tomorrow… It happens time and again, putting off things that we convince ourselves might be better, more meaningful, more appropriate for another time.”

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Ann Voskamp says in One Thousand Gifts, “They say time is money, but that’s not true.  Time is life.  And if I want the fullest life, I need to find fullest time…In Christ, don’t we have everlasting existence?  Don’t Christians have all the time in eternity, life everlasting?  If Christians run out of time — wouldn’t we lose our very own existence?  If anyone should have time, isn’t it the Christ-followers?”

The Thessalonicans were instructed to not be idle with their time.  Many were forsaking work for the return of Christ.  “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching received from us… We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.  And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3-6,11-13)

We should not allow circumstances to make us idle.  Our identity in Christ is that we live a life of abundance in the here and now.

We seem to always be waiting… for the New Year, until we get married, until we get divorced, until we have kids, until the kids leave home, until we sell the house, until we buy a house, until we get a job, until we quit the job, until we complete the degree, until we lose weight, until we get sober, until we get up the nerve, until the house is clean, until we’re ready to forgive, until the weather warms up, until the weather cools down…

What are you putting off?  Are you sitting idly as time passes by?  What are you waiting for?

Isolation: Enemy of the Believer

Isolation is an enemy of the believer.  We were meant to be in fellowship with one another, so when we’re not, our lives are out of balance.  If you’re like me, isolation is one of those things that slips up on you — like realizing you’re out of shape after 6 months of not exercising.

I tend to isolate myself.  It’s a weakness.  Because it’s a weakness, I don’t always know I’m doing it, and because it’s a weakness, I’m pretty good at covering it up.

I’ve tried to pinpoint the reasons I isolate myself, and I’ve realized a couple.  One is because I don’t mind being alone.  I need my alone time, and when life is overwhelming, I need my space.  I don’t really see any harm in that.  But the other is far more harmful; I withdraw when someone has hurt me.  When I’ve been hurt, I isolate myself, and I will let one person keep me from hundreds.  Unfortunately, 6 months can pass before I recognize what I’m doing.

Are you isolated?  What causes you to withdraw?  Are you sitting in your home alone, at your desk, in the coffee shop assuming things in your mind that may not be true?

The gospel is the truth that opens our eyes, and other believers must have a door into our lives to listen and speak that truth.  Our isolation has to be shattered.  If we continue to live our lives withdrawn, believing lies, we will sit stagnant, living as orphans without hope, and that is not who we are.

But, if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. 1 John 1:7

Leaving/Cleaving is Easier When Identity is Firm

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

“Our parents are crossing the line.” is one of the biggest complaints Chris and I get in pre- and post-marital counseling.  We have the “usual” of what we recommend, but a few days ago, I posed a question to a friend of mine who has married children.  What boundaries have you set to give your children space in their marriages, I asked.  Any tips?    Her response was that she and her husband have encouraged their children to set the boundaries — it is their marriage after all.  Also, she hopes they come to them for advice, but that’s not really up to them as parents, either.

I would say Chris and I have come from the same direction when advising couples.  We help couples discern what it looks like to set up healthy boundaries with their parents while honoring their parents.  You know what’s hard? Having the courage to tell your parents “you’ve got it.”  We’ve got it mom and dad.  You did a good job.  Now, we’re holding fast to one another, and we’ll take it from here.  And, you know what else? We’ve even got it with the kids.  That’s difficult stuff, but it’s what is needed.  If you are getting married or are newly married, some of the most important boundaries you will set are with parents.  Sometimes your actions will show, but most of the time, words have to be said.

The reason Chris and I have to take this angle is because it’s the only one we’ve got.  We’re meeting with the married couple.  Not the parents.  So, what would we say to the parents?  My friend with married children helped me with this one, too.

Parents, if your identity has been so wrapped-up in your children that you no longer know who you are, it will be very difficult for you to loosen your grip.  When you no longer have a place of authority in your married child’s life, that loss of control will turn you into a possessive maniac.  A healthy parent stakes their identity in Christ, not their children, not their grandchildren.  When the tides turn, the core of their existence will not be shaken because Christ is a firm foundation.  There is no control to lose with Christ as the surety of our status — not mom, not dad.

Overwhelming – that’s the feeling I get even now when thinking about handing our kids over in marriage, but there is wisdom in my friend’s words — Our children’s identity has to be in Christ, not us, so they can stand firm without us.  Our identity has to be in Christ, not them, so we can stand firm without them.  We were never meant to find our value in earthly status but in an eternal status that will never perish or fade.

A New Name, A New Way

For much of my life as a Christian, I lived as an orphan, not realizing God looked upon me with favor, lovingly — as His. I didn’t realize that God is pleased with me because He is pleased with Jesus in me.  I was unaware of my identity as a believer, and I read scripture as an attack on my life.

Now, verses like “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you,”  and “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death,” are strength to my soul.

In the mindset of an orphan, I believed I was controlled by sin, condemned and enslaved to sin and death. But, in Christ, I am a child of God.  My identity is that I am not controlled by sin.  I am not condemned.  I am not a slave to sin and death.  I believe that, and scripture is not attacking me but breathing life into me.  God loves me, and I am His.

C.J. Mahaney says, “It would have been extraordinary enough for God simply to redeem us, to forgive our sins, to declare us righteous.  But he does not stop here — he makes us his children (Gal. 4:4-7).

Romans 4:17 says, “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” Also worded this way — God names the things as though they are and then makes them that way.  This is such good news!  God gives us a new name — a new identity — then He makes us that way!

He adopts you and transforms you by the renewing of your mind.

He calls you righteous and causes you to believe Him.

He calls you “not condemned” and causes you to love your brother.

He breaks the chains of enslavement to sin and brings forth joy.

He redeems and forgives and His kindness leads to repentance.

Do you believe this, or are you living like an orphan?  Pray for the spirit of God to pervade your unbelief.  If you are in Christ, you are His child.  Live in the joy of your inheritance today.

Shame, Shame – He Took Double Shame

Shame and embarrassment are not the same.  I know because I did a little research. Shame does not necessarily involve public humiliation while embarrassment does. They differ in intensity.  I would say they differ in intensity because shame is a deep, inward feeling that we hold inside of us — no one knows of the disgrace and condemnation we feel in that isolation.  Some might say embarrassment is more intense because it is visible to everyone.

Justin Holcomb quotes Tangney and Dearing as saying, “Shamed people feel exposed. Although shame doesn’t necessarily involve an actual observing audience that is present to witness one’s shortcomings, there is often the imagery of how one’s destructive self would appear to others.”

I found that I am completely familiar with the feeling of shame but not the intellectual meaning of shame.  I carried shame for years, and sometimes I still do.  We carry the shame of what we have done.  We carry the shame of what has been done to us. We even carry the shame of what we’ve thought about doing.

Something else I found:  shame is associated with the words disgrace and condemnation.  Well, that just makes sense to me.  One, because Christ does something beautiful with shame.  He turns disgrace to grace. Then, he turns condemnation to There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

So, “As for me, where could I carry my shame?” or “Where can I get rid of my disgrace?” as Tamar asks in 2 Samuel 13:13.

It’s been carried, and it’s been disposed of — at the cross.  We don’t have to carry our shame.  Our hope is in Christ and His accomplishment on the cross on our behalf  “and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5).

Holcomb says, “The good news of the gospel is that Jesus endured the cross, disregarding the shame.  The good news is that Jesus disregarded the shame of dying by crucifixion, and in doing so also took our shame upon himself.  Jesus willingly suffered the most shameful death and this exposed the extremity of sin’s shameful consequences and the despicable character of our humanly devised shame.  He ‘despis[ed] the shame.’  We can say that Jesus both shared our shame and bore our shame so that we can have freedom from its dread and power.

Resurrection Power

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11

What does it mean to you that God raised Jesus from the dead?

If our view of the resurrection is small, our view of the Spirit living in us will be small.

Neither of these are small truths.

I’ll admit.  My mind and heart cannot encapsulate the resurrection.  I cannot grasp what a big deal it is.  I am holding on to truths essential for my faith, loving them and hoping that through growth, they seep deeper into my soul.

Scripture helps me to better understand scripture.  1 Corinthians 15:17-19 helps me to know what a big deal the resurrection is:  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  

If Christ didn’t get out of the grave, I’m a sad soul, forever indebted to my sin, BUT

Since Christ conquered death and sin and rose victorious out of the grave, there is more to be said:

The same God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us!!!  In Christ, we become recipients of that power. That gives new meaning to Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  The same God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same God who works grace in us, forgiveness in us, patience in us, compassion in us, etc.  He is the same God who dispels the lies we believe, breaks our addictions, breaks our family cycles.  He is the same God whose Spirit reminds us of our identity daily, reminds us of the gospel daily and directs us toward His will daily.

He overcame death, and we will overcome because He dwells in us. “There is coming a real, objective, historical day when God’s people will be raised as Jesus was.” -Piper

The resurrection of Christ is magnificent.  

When we are aware of that truth, we will recognize the power of His Spirit in us.