Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Concerning yesterday's post and the responses to it (thank you, by the way), here are a couple from readers I think you'll find interesting.
Someone wrote that the “old self is dead but we keep dragging it around with us, pretending it is not dead.” And another person asked, “Does dying to self and sanctification mean the same thing?”
There is no more “it” to drag around. The old self is gone, having been replaced by the new. Christians do not have two selves, each competing with the other, one that needs to be beaten and killed, while the other needs to be nurtured and grown. The “bad self” that some refer to is the flesh, which is in conflict with the Spirit (Gal 5:16,17), and which still produces behavior through us (Galatians 5:19,20). Life for the Christian is found in sowing to the Spirit, who then produces eternal life. And that looks and feels great (Gal 5:22-25).
Sanctification, then, is not about killing “self” or even a former self; that has already happened in and through Christ. Sanctification is about believing and trusting God concerning your new self, putting that on and growing in what that means. Sanctification isn’t so much about change as it is about growth.
I've got a couple of funnies I will post over the weekend that I think you'll like. I hope you have a great one--
Thanks for reading.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
If we were crucified and have become literal new creations, then the ONLY self we have now is the new one. The flesh and all of its activity is not us, and it must not be confused as though it is. The former self has been removed and replaced. We may now trust ourselves.
We've got to! It's a high act of faith when we trust that God did what He says He did. Learning who we have become and living in faith that God is right about us is the most exhilarating way of life there is.
We're not bad anymore! We have a bad thing, the flesh, but we're not the flesh.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
When someone discovers the love God has for them, and when that same person makes remaining in the knowledge of His love the goal of his days, he will be more enamored with Jesus, experience greater freedom from sin, and be more passionate about reaching and loving people than anyone clinging to life based upon rules and strategies and obedience, no matter how Christian he may look. The “look” will fail because it is inauthentic, but life from God never will.
Remain in His love.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Do you recall seeing the commercials that frequently asked, “Where You At?” Sponsored by a clever mobile phone company that offers GPS (Global Positioning System) as a benefit with its phones, I have found several of their ads more than funny—they’ve struck a chord with me.
One of the most significant aspects of life in Christ is that that’s where we’re at—in Christ. (I know it’s bad grammar because the "at" isn’t necessary, but just go with it.) Ever since God put us in Christ through the new birth, that’s where we’re found at every moment—in Him.
It doesn’t look like it, I know. Come by my house and you’ll see me in jeans and a long sleeved shirt, drawn up to my desk and laptop. That’s what your eyes see. And if during our visit I told you to close your eyes so you could see more clearly, maybe you’d think I was nuts. But I’d be trying to help you to live according to what’s really real.
You and I are learning more and more to live by faith—in what God says is true of Himself, and in what He says is true of us. If we only look with the eyes in our head, we’ll frustrate our growth and twist our experience. It can’t be otherwise. We’ve got to see with the eyes of our heart, the ones Paul asked God to open for the Ephesians so they would know the great hope to which He had called them, the wealth of His incredible inheritance now in the saints, and so they would know His “incomparably great power” for them (Ephesians 1:18-21).
I think that because we rarely use the eyes of our heart, the ones that believe and see people the way they have become in Christ, we miss hope, we forsake our inheritance and poorly experience the power of God.
If you’re a Christian, then right now you’re in Christ. Yes, He is in you, and that’s fantastic to know and discover—God in you! But according to God, you’re also in Him. What does that mean? That’s what Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was about.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7,8)
Being in Christ means God has made us exactly as He wants us—that’s what redemption means. Think of it. Picture yourself in Christ. Can there be anything sinful in Christ? Can there be anything flawed in Christ? Can there be anything faulty in Christ? Can there be anything that needs a beating in Christ? No, no, no, and no! Your change of location has changed everything—that’s the gospel.
This is how it is in Christ, and I contend that believing the gospel which says it is so will change your life. It will certainly improve your view on things.
If your wife is a Christian, then right now, “Where’s she at?”
If your husband has received Christ, then “Where’s he at?”
If God is right now in your children, then “Where they at?”
If you’ve got friends who are Christians, then right now, “Where they at?”
Do you see what happens to you when you see where they are? You feel better and invigorated because you’ve shifted your eyes and view of life to the unseen facts that stimulate true life—life by the Spirit. You’ve chosen His view, and you’re reaping from Him. The Bible says a lot about those who will live that way.
When you know you’re in Christ, your worries tend to dissipate, your hope increases, and your confidence in God and in yourself leap up. Everything changes when you know where you are.
So right now, “Where you at?”
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
If you haven't seen this short video yet, here's your chance. I have no better way of describing it than to say it's Irish Hand Dancers! If you like River Dance or Lord of the Dance, you'll love this.
Have a great weekend!
Friday, October 15, 2010
The way to invigorate your life, including your home life, is not to have better strategies for getting more stuff done, to be more organized or to have less clutter, as tempting as those things are. The way to life for Christians is Jesus and life by the Spirit. "Life" is what He is, so it's always what He has for you.
Life for the Christian is all about receiving.
The intention of our lives is not to live well, to work hard and to be nice—let’s teach each other how. Our goal is to grow in the grace and life of Christ. If, in fact we’ve been crucified and no longer live, but Christ lives in us, and the life we live is by faith in Him (Galatians 2:20), then that’s what will work, that’s what is normal for us now, and that’s what will work in our homes. Particularly with our kids.
The primary struggle my kids have is the same as mine—to believe what God thinks about them and to live from it.
As I have written in my book (“Better Off Than You Think”), our Christian children are as foreign to this world as Jesus was (John 17:14-16). They are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), they are in union with God (John 14:20), the very dwelling places of God Himself (Colossians 1:27), and no one—not anyone—can take that away from them (John 10:29). As challenging as that is for you to believe, think how difficult it is for them.
Our Christian children are aliens. If they don’t know it, or if we teach them only techniques to be successful in this life, as though that were Christian, we’ve set them up for frustration. Let me put it this way: when I see a trained monkey wearing children’s clothing and playing with children’s toys, I think it’s cute but I’m not confused. It’s not natural. I don’t leap and exclaim, “Wow! The monkey has become a kid! What shall we name him?” In the same way, as I train my children to function in this world, what must remain clear to them and to me, is that they are not of this world. They’re from another. If they don’t know it, their deluded attempt to fit with this world will make monkeys out of them.
Our Christian children are lights in this world, holy and blameless sons of God in whom lives the Holy Spirit Himself. They’re not on a long and winding path at the end of which (if successfully negotiated) they will arrive—they’ve arrived already.
Do you see them? Not if you’re looking at them only with the eyes in your head and not the eyes in your heart. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.”
What do I do? First, my wife, Sarah, and I believe that Ellen and Emma were chosen by God, and that makes all the difference. Because we believe it, we work with the Holy Spirit to help us maintain that belief, concerning ourselves and concerning our daughters. In our conversations and in prayer (together and apart), we regularly bring up the fact of our security because God chose us before He made anything or set any of it in motion (see Ephesians 1). We were His idea and we frequently return to awe, thankfulness and rest because of that. It sets us right.
Often we work so hard to get our children to make good choices that I don’t think we’re much impressed by God’s choice of them. So we don’t marvel. We don’t wonder at our kids because we’re not convinced that He is convinced they’re so wonderful. We need to be.
Second, surface activity gets our attention, but it doesn’t always reveal what’s below.
Our Christian children are not what they do, they’re not how they behave, and they’re not what they say—they’re who God says they are. Without excusing poor, fleshly behavior, we must not allow it to sell the lie that our kids are how they look. When our kids’ surface looks particularly stormy, we know that under the waves there is something amiss, something out of line, and we go there. If our children’s flesh is on display, in all of its ugly glory, we rescue them! We revive them! If their behavior is stinky, it’s usually because their thinking is too. Building them up in Christ, reminding them of how Christ has made them and that He is in them and has not one moment of condemnation for them is really fun. Really.
Third, Sarah and I work to believe Ellen and Emma are in Christ, no matter what happens. That keeps us sane!
Every difficulty Ellen and Emma go through (or put us through), each triumph they achieve or failure they endure, they are still at all times in Christ and have everything because of it. Jesus is their strength. Jesus is their righteousness. Jesus is their life. Jesus is their hope. Sarah and I work to keep that foremost in our thinking and approach. We work to keep that secure foundation in Ellen’s and Emma’s thinking as well. And we’re careful to not send them a confusing, false message that they don’t already have everything in Christ—they do! We want to be so positive about God’s grace to us, that earning God’s favor and blessing remain something Jesus already did for them and not something they have to do for themselves.
It’s the good news about God’s grace to my girls that teaches and enables them to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live as the godly young women they are in this world (Titus 2:11-14). It makes them eager to do well.
Fourth, Sarah and I regularly talk with God about our girls, asking what He thinks of them. He shows us that Ellen and Emma are godly already—right on course and right on time. When their behavior or experiences or thoughts expressed to us say something to the contrary, we believe nothing has changed. You may assume correctly that we talk with Him a lot!
Ellen and Emma aren’t just on their way to heaven, they’re already from it (see Ephesians 2:6). God is far more active with His children than we are! Because we don’t always see it, we ask.
Further, we ask ourselves questions such as whether or not our girls are learning and getting Jesus from us, or if, because we just want them to be good and to get things done, they’re getting a heavy dose of the Ten Commandments. Are they getting shepherds who enjoy walking with them or Pharisees who walk with them only to keep them in line? One enjoys intimacy while the other sacrifices it for a proper performance. Are we truly enjoying our girls and are they truly enjoying us? If we get stung by these and other questions, we head into some focused time with God, who has the grace and love to set us aright.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if our little aliens don’t live by faith? What if they don’t make the right choices and follow God—what then? Then we’ll be living by faith in God—we’ve no other plan.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Friday, October 08, 2010
After posting “Remember To Breathe” on Wednesday, I received the following question:
Hey Ralph, I am loving this note. I have read it three times just so I can try and soak it all in. I was wondering if you could rephrase the following paragraph so I might understand better? And thanks for writing this stuff down so I can come back to it. - Jeremy
And here’s the cited paragraph:
“In truth, new Christians aren’t first trying to change and behave better because they’ve got a lot to do, they’re getting their bearings because they’ve got a lot to believe. Get that order wrong, and, well, it’s going to be a mess.”
So here’s a re-write, and then I’ll write more to clarify further: “The first need of a new Christian is to believe he has become a new creation, an actual alien in this world because he belongs and fits with the heavenly one more than he does with the earthly one. That’s a lot to believe, and it will likely take a while for him to grasp the magnitude of the change made to him. As he grows in faith, his behavior will begin to change in keeping with who he has become. If he tries to change his behavior before believing that he has been changed already, he will make a mess of things and grow tired of the attempt.”
And now to clarify.
Many new Christians are not adequately taught about what happened to them when they received Christ. They don’t know that the life they had before being born again was not life; it was something else. The Bible identifies it (and them) as “dead.” (Ephesians 2:1-6) Picture for them something like zombie life, and you’ve helped them get a glimpse of how bad off they were, especially in comparison with now.
Now they have life because they “have” God! He lives in Christians and has made them a perfect place for Himself. Unlike during the former covenant, when God did not dwell in man but only amongst man in a tabernacle meticulously and perfectly made, God changed the very nature of believing man to His own, and made them holy, blameless, and forgiven new creations—a perfect place in which to live and influence the world.
If new believers do not know this, if they’re not taught the truth of what happened and who they are now, then often they’ll think of themselves as something just a little better than zombies. . .and set about to change themselves—as if God had not yet. Am I being clear? They won’t believe they’ve been changed already, and if the Christian life is all about faith in God and in what He says is true, then they will be frustrated because they won’t believe Him about themselves. Further, they won’t really believe that God lives in them—in all of His glory and ability—so they won’t look for Him to produce the fruit of His presence; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Question: Do you know more Christians who obviously believe that God lives in them and has made them actual sons of His, or more who believe they’ve got a lot of changing and work to do? Do you see more Christians who actually believe the gospel is fantastic news—Oh, what God will do for you!—or more who evidently believe the gospel means you have to change and get to work?
Do you see what’s happened?
We’ve been induced to skip over growing in our faith in God (who He is and what He has done and what He will do), for growing in a style of behavior we think He will like. If you were a car(!), this is like trying to also be the fuel. Behavior is important, but how we get to it is more so.
Really, what I do is produce materials and books and sermons and posts that are remedial in nature. I offer the grades or courses many Christians missed in their formative years. I’m thrilled when I get to talk with new believers too, but it seems I mostly work with the church.
I hope this helps, Jeremy. Thanks for your question.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Truth. What do you do with it?
There’s a lot of stuff that’s true: it gets light in the morning and dark at night; when it rains, stuff gets wet; if you don’t eat, you’ll get hungry; politicians want more money. Right?
But what about eternal truth—what do you do with that?
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, . . .” (Colossians 3:1a)
Well? That phrase is worth at least a pause.
When you received Jesus and became a Christian, you were raised. The facts are that you won’t one day punch your ticket and finally be raised to heaven because you already have been. When you and I one day leave our bodies behind, we’ll go to where we already are.
While that might sound odd, suffice to say that we are no longer people of the earth since our second birth was not only a new beginning, it made us new creations with a new point of origin—heaven. We’ve been born of the Spirit, and now have the nature of our Father. Jesus said that in the same way He was not of this world, neither are those chosen and changed by God (John 17:14-16). Not only are we new, we’re from heaven. We’re very much like the beings in heaven, where things invisible to our eyes are visible to theirs—they can see the facts, but we’re learning to live by faith in the facts. We’re learning to live by the truth.
In truth, new Christians aren’t first trying to change and behave better because they’ve got a lot to do, they’re getting their bearings because they’ve got a lot to believe. Get that order wrong, and, well, it’s going to be a mess.
You were raised with Christ. I don’t know why we pray, “Oh, Lord, be with me now,” since not only is He with us, we’re with Him—forever and always. We’re in Him, united with Him, and everyone in heaven knows it. This is one reason why you and I need regular revivals, great awakenings to who we are and where we’re from. Think of it as getting desperately needed oxygen, not because you’re so high up and there is no air, but because your earthly experience is so low down and the air is awful—and foreign. Our interaction with Christians often has a lot to do with giving them the air from home, the oxygen of heaven. Picture a scuba diver many feet deep in the ocean of this world, and you’ve pretty much got the idea of a Christian’s experience in this lifetime.
There have been many occasions where, burdened by the things and situations of this world, I began feeling like I couldn’t breathe. With the pressure getting to me, never have I felt better by simply working harder. What always saved me and what saves me today is the air of my homeland—the gospel, the truth of God, which the Holy Spirit uses to oxygenate my blood. I’m revived because I’m breathing fresh air again, the air of heaven.
That’s why I love the Bible—It’s pure oxygen, baby!—and why I’m always on the lookout for great Christian books and music that fill me with the pure air of heaven. Get all you can—you can’t live without breathing. (See my recommended book list at www.lifecourse.org.)
These days are a foreign missionary experience in the depths of this world, where dangers abound and breathing is at times difficult. But I look forward to the day when I’ll pop up on the surface of heaven, mask, tanks and burdensome wetsuit removed, and take my first breath. I know I’ll recognize the air.