Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Who Are You, Christians? Discovering Our True Identity...

Do you know who you are?

If you do, then you are blessed. People rarely know where they come from, their heritage and have a good grasp on who they are to be. Ancestry.com makes a lot of money selling this dream to people that with a few clicks, you can "know" where you come from. You can "know" who your ancestors were and connect with other descendants in your family tree. But does that tell you what you want to know? Does that tell you the full story of you and your people?

Many Christians are experiencing an identity crisis. 

They know they’re "saved," but they don’t really know what to think about themselves. I say this, and I already know that three of you have stopped reading here. You roll your eyes. You think that this won't pertain to you. Some of my Apostolic friends are already nervous that this will be about standards. Maybe it will be about standards to you. If the BIGGEST trial you ever face is getting your personal control over how you present your body to God, then GOOD FOR YOU. If you skirt length or the color of your hair is truly what stresses you, then you need to get out more. There are real struggles in the world.... like folks getting shot and murdered in foreign lands for admitting they follow Jesus. Or even gunned down just walking the street in their own hometown. 1 in 6 Americans... think on that... ONE IN SIX AMERICANS are underfed or go hungry. So, maybe this will resonate with you about your personal modesty. Maybe living for God is hard for you on something as simple as looking and talking like a Christian. I hope, though, it doesn't. Maybe it won't. Maybe this will reach deeper to you. There are folks that fight every day to live drug free, alcohol free and to live a life that doesn't lead to death, prison, or shame. Surely living a Christ-like life in American  can't be your biggest obstacle? Not with all He's done for all of us. Maybe this will reach to the substance inside of you. Maybe the author of your salvation, and the measure of faith given to us all will rise up and read this for what it is intended... Or maybe some of my friends that subscribe to NO GOD will think this is stupid. Maybe this is about you. Or maybe my friends that think that just being a decent person will work and that we all end up at the same place with just different roads... maybe you think I'm talking to you. Maybe I am...

Maybe, for all of you, thinking that it's about you IS the very action makes this ALL about you. Let’s take a little test. Do you consider yourself a sinner saved by grace or a saint who occasionally sins? Huh? Let me repeat this. Do you consider yourself:

  • A sinner, but you have been redeemed and saved by grace, or
  • A saint, but you know you are not perfect and still need God's grace

Both statements are true, but here is the message: the first one dwells on your past identity, where the second focuses on Jesus' perception of you.
1 Corinthians 1:1-9: "From Paul, who was called by the will of God to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus,and from our brother Sosthenes - To the church of God which is in Corinth, to all who are called to be God's holy people, who belong to him in union with Christ Jesus, together with all people everywhere who worship our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. I always give thanks to my God for you because of the grace he has given you through Christ Jesus. For in union with Christ, you have become rich in all things, including all speech and all knowledge. The message about Christ has become so firmly established in you that you have not failed to receive a single blessing, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be faultless on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is to be trusted, the God who called you to have fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord."

Now, I'll have to write this slowly, so I won't get caught up shouting and fail to finish today's #DailyProverb. But that passage is the opening greeting of his letter and it gets skipped over in MANY messages preached today. We get by on the major Apostolic teachings and forget that there are some DEEP promises in just a greeting. If you are a believer, God’s Word says that you are a saint (v. 2). If you are in union with Christ, then your speech and knowledge will be rich in the things of God. When you are so focused on Jesus, and you are FIRMLY established in Jesus, you will not fail to receive a single blessing or gift in the Spirit. You will be kept and maintained until the end, so that you can be found faultless. All of this, just from the "Hello" of a letter to a church that was founded at the crossroads of a multi-cultural, multi-national, and multi-religioned city. 

Remember from history and using context, that Corinth was a hot bed of activity in commerce, in power, a cross roads of trade and language and even religion. The temples there to various Gods were competing with and condemning these baby Christians for their "brutal" and "bloody" religion. And to them, in the infancy of Christianity... the crucifixion and the symbolic "blood" purification we required for the remission of sins was ghastly to the city. So, the fact that Christianity had a church established there was amazing, and the fact that it was a powerful and firmly planted church was because of God's grace to them. Paul knew this and called it out.

What about us? Does that sound familiar?

Huh, Michael? What am I even talking about? THIS is what I'm talking about: the world is exponentially becoming ingrained in commerce and travel. The world is small to us. We are bored. We are ALL within a few clicks of being at a crossroads. We all have access to anything that is multi-cultural, multi-national, and multi-religioned at a moment's notice. To live for Christ, and BY Christ's teachings is rare. People use the term "Christian" and the guise of "Christianity" to sell money-making conservatism. Being a white, conservative, Republican in a Red State doesn't automatically make you a good, God-fearin' Christian. Following the teachings of Christ will make you a good Christian. Fakers will wage war on the poor, and not on poverty. They will tell you that family is first, but break up homes with outdated laws, outdated prejudices and fight people. They will tell you that the money making as conservatives is to continue to trust the way that it's been working, but it's not been working. Corporate greed and corrupt human politics are fighting to keep people poor and putting money after money after money into corporate coffers through the guise of progress and consumerism. BEWARE of this and realize what Paul wrote is true. Be FIRMLY established in Christ. You focus on Jesus, what Jesus did, what Jesus said, and HOW Jesus lived... you help your neighbor, you feed the hungry, help the sick, worry and show care for widows and the elderly. Be kind to those others would shun. You bring people to church that others would ignore. Don't focus on giving them a makeover or having them as a "project." Focus on showing God's love. You can NEVER go wrong being kind to people, loving people, and helping people.

Why is this concept so foreign? Because too many of us still see ourselves as the same old sinner, who’s been forgiven and patched up and yet is basically unchanged inside. We stay so "grateful" for being brought out of sin, that we forget to GROW in Christ. We forget that we are NEW creatures and that we are to walk in the callings that GOD gives us. We still think the same. We don't shift and fight and contend and WORK at being good Christians. We just expect God to miraculously change our personalities into these bound, Stepford-like "sheeple" that don't think, don't express personality, don't use their God-given gifts and talents... God made EACH of us to be unique and to do exactly what we were created to do. Not everyone is famous, not everyone is known publicly, and not everyone will be given their due recognition. But EVERYONE has a job to do, a soul to win, a work to accomplish and a measure of faith given to them. Don't sell yourself short. When God can trust you with a little, He starts trusting you with more. If you can be faithful with a just a little... you can grow that.

Are you new? Do you know who you are? Did you The Lord says anyone in Christ “is a new creature; the old things passed away” (2 Cor. 5:17). That’s what being born again is all about. We are new. If you are not new, if you can't get over yourself, and your past, and your regrets and your mistrusts, and your failure... how do you expect others to see you differently? How can you expect others to trust you and work with you, when you won't trust yourself or work with yourself? If you can't manage yourself, how can you manage others? Be new. Be changed. YOU are the ONLY key to that. Trust God to help you and have the FAITH that when God does a work in you, He is THOROUGH. We can never go back to the way we were.

The solution to this identity crisis is to change the way we think about ourselves. If we don’t, we’ll rely on how we feel, and Satan will bombard us with reminders of our failures and sins. But we walk by faith, not feelings. The devil wants to keep us focused on being a sinner, because he knows that the recognition of our sainthood will lead us to live like saints. We’ll be motivated and empowered to obey God, and the Devil will lose his foothold in our lives. 

You missed that point, didn't you. The DEVIL will use LIES like, "I don't 'feel' saved. I don't feel like being kind. I am just 'made that way' and I can't help it when I 'lose my temper' or 'run my mouth.'" Then we just give in to whatever is near. We stop trying. We stop fighting for our own causes and actions and to be better. We stop being CONTENDERS. But, those are lies. Those are untrue things that YOU control. You are the ONLY person that can control you. If you don't want to smoke, then don't. If you don't want to drink, then don't. If you don't want to do drugs, THEN DON'T. You are personally accountable and culpable for your actions. 

Jesus didn’t come just to save you from hell; If your only goal in loving Jesus is to avoid hell, you have it all wrong. You'll probably go there anyway if that's your mindset. (Yes, I just said that.) Jesus wants to live His life through you. He wants to use you to show love and kindness to others. Your testimony, your kindness, the newness of YOU will draw others to Christ, and then more, and then more. Your success in the Lord will RIPPLE throughout the body of Christ. The Kingdom will grow, thrive and future generations will feel YOUR life and what you decide today. In Christ, you have a new identity which has replaced your old one. So, live like it.

Be new. Be a new creature. Live like a new creature. Walk, talk, work, shop, drink, eat, and laugh like a new creature. Show up at work like a new creature. Show up at your family functions like a new creature. Show up with your old friends and live like a new creature. Don't throw away people or shun them if they are not just like you. Don't give up on others that you once partied with and sinned with if they can't follow you on your new journey in Christ. They still love you, so you need to still love them. One of the biggest reasons that we don't have people wanting Christianity is because WE, as Christians, don't live it out in front of the world. The reason we don't live it is because we don't believe it. (!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you believe I said that? Yes... you should. If you really believe something, your actions and your behavior will support that belief. If I 'believed' my house was on fire, my 'behavior' would be to get up and get out and get help. If I 'believed' my health was at risk, my 'behavior' would be to get to a doctor. WHY do we say we believe in Christ, but never follow the teachings he set forth?) But it's true! Why would ANYONE want to be a Christian when those that preach, teach and tout how great it is can't even live it or show it?

LIVE your life in front of your family, your friends, your colleagues. Show them. Be salt. Be light. If you will focus on who you are now, your actions will follow, and you’ll experience the enjoyment of a victorious Christian life.

I love y'all.
Cheers, #JustBeingMichael ツ

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