Tag Archives: eternal life

Who Are You?

Grace 101

Identity

Our family just watched The Magnificent Seven, the western movie with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen and other well-known cast members.  The young man, Chico, was an important character in the film.  Chico wanted to be something much more than just a farmer in Mexico, so he took up the gun and rode with the “good guys.”  Chico fit right in among the Mexican villagers, except for the fact that he didn’t want to be like them.

Interestingly, the character of Chico was played by Horst Buchholz.  Note the name.  If you watch the movie, you might expect Chico’s real name to be Menendez or Gonzales, but the actor was German.  Born and died in Berlin, Buchholz was able to make us believe that he was a young Hispanic man.  Obviously, he was a pretty good actor.

Over the past few weeks, we have been unpacking many parts of the wonderful gift Jesus gave to us when we were saved.  All those amazing things—hope, righteousness, wisdom, holiness, peace, and more—are ours in the gift of salvation.  But many people unpack the gift box as though it were an actor’s traveling chest.  From it they take different things to cover up who they really are.  They put on holiness, but know they are not holy.  They put on forgiveness, but doubt that they have really been forgiven.  They put on strength, but feel weak inside.  They try to wear the costumes, to act the part, but they think of themselves as just the same as before.

What these people fail to understand is that the gift box is not so much giving you things as it is revealing what has already become yours.  In fact, it is revealing you.  You don’t have the gift of righteousness in a box so you can take it out and connect with it from time to time.  It was given to you as a gift so that you are now righteous.  That’s who you are.

All of these things describe you.  You are filled with hope.  You are strong.  You are good, and wise, and forgiven, and holy, and free.  Something fundamental has changed.  The old you is gone.  The new you has come.

When you allowed Jesus to enter your life and be your Lord, you became a new person.  The old you died.  He did more than just clean house in you.  He washed away everything that defined you and gave you a new identity.  You became what He designed you to be.  In fact, for the first time in your life, you fulfilled your potential.  You entered in Christ and He entered into you—and that’s the way it was supposed to be from the beginning.  Now the eternal life of Jesus Christ lives in you.  He is your life.

Listen: you are not a pretender.  You are not an actor playing the role of a Christian.  You are a Christian who remembers what used to be.  Perhaps you have forgotten the truth, or no one ever told you, but you are far more than what you were.  Pretenders are weak and afraid and insincere.  They have no assurance and no strength.  That’s not you.  Jesus has made you who you are.

It is time to live as who you really are.  Everything you need is in your relationship with Jesus.  Trust Him and believe Him.  You belong to Him and He is with you forever.  That’s good news!

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Because He Loved Them

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton   No Man is an Island
 
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night

 

Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things.  We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants.  So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants.  Right?

But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do.  He wants us to love one another, and that is rare.  He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t.  This is the Almighty God!  Why doesn’t He get what He wants?

Because of love.

Listen to God’s own description of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love “does not seek its own.”  That means it does not demand its own way.  Love allows the other person to be a real person.  Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity.  Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys.  Love lets others be who they are.

And God loves us.  He loves all people.

So God doesn’t force anyone.  From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever.  They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him.  But they were free.  They were intelligent and able to make moral choices.  He allowed them to grow and create and live.

And, when the time came, they chose.  They chose something God did not want.  He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it.  We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.

They did it their way.

Because they were free.

Because He loved them.

He let them go because they wanted to go.  He warned them.  He grieved when they did it.  But He knew they would.  Because they were free.

And they lost so much.  He knew they would and He told them they would.  But He didn’t stop them.  He already had a plan in place.  Because He loved them.

God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one.  Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way.  They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone.  He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.

So He set in motion an amazing plan.

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Finding our Selves

I have never fully understood why some people insist on making the Christian life so negative.  They talk about what we have to give up, what difficult things we have to do, and how much it costs to follow Christ.  Maybe that’s how they see things.  Maybe they have been told through their own lives that suffering is the price they were to pay for their salvation.

Contrast these two statements:

From Bonhoeffer – “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

From Jesus – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Bonhoeffer wasn’t wrong, but many of those who teach his words are.  We are called to die, to die to the old and worthless values and attitudes that took us ever deeper into grief and despair.  We are called to die to the things of this world which bring so little benefit and so much trouble.  We are called to die to that which Christ came to deliver us from.

But so many people twist this idea so that we are supposed to die to our selves.  We should have no desires, no hopes, no expectation.  We are, in their teachings, supposed to die to everything that makes us who we are.

And that’s where we find the LIE.  The lie tells us that we are the old man, tied to this world and Adam’s sin.  The lie tells us that the patterns of the flesh, built in us to deal with life apart from Jesus, are who we really are.  That’s the lie.  The truth is that we belong to Jesus now and we have a new life in Him.  New heart, new Spirit, new life.  We died to the old and we live to the new.

Christ does not call us to die to self, but to find our selves in Him.  He is the fulfillment of our self.  In Him we find the abundant life, the whole self.  He gives us what we were made to have and to be.

We are our selves.  Before Jesus, our selves were held in bondage to sin and error.  We were lost, broken, wicked, and unfulfilled.  But when Jesus gave us life, His life, the bondage to sin was broken and we became what and who we were always meant to be.  Our selves found freedom and identity in Jesus.

Let the old man die.  Let the flesh die.  But don’t die to self.  Instead, find your self in Jesus.  Be free and full of the joy of knowing who you really are.

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Living in the Sonshine!

Most of us like a good motivational speaker.  And a good motivational speaker will agree with my statement from last week:  your past does not determine your future—your present determines your future.

Of course, the motivational speaker will say that the decision you make today is the one that really matters because it can change the future.  Just because you were lazy or foolish or whatever in the past does not mean you have to continue that way.  Make a decision today to change your future, they say.

But that’s not what I am saying.  Because you have eternal life, your future is already in your present.  In Christ, you already own what God will give you in the future.  The “mansion on the hilltop,” if you like that image, is already yours.

So what?  If I am not living in the mansion now, in this world, then what difference does it make to know that it is already mine?  Well, it makes a lot of difference.

Living in eternal life is the difference between striving and resting.  Eternal life is the difference between wishing and thanking.  It is the difference between desire and assurance.  You don’t have to strive to measure up, to win the love of God, to deserve Heaven.  You don’t have to worry about what lies in store for you after you leave this world.  You don’t have to be content with wishes and hopes because you already live there.

We are, according to Ephesians 2:6, already seated with Christ in “the heavenly places.”  We are with Him forever.  No one can snatch us out of His hand.  The kingdom of God is already in us and we are already citizens of it.

Apart from the message of grace and the understanding of what we have received in Christ, many people struggle with assurance.  They fear the future and worry whether they are good enough for the judgment.  They long for the day this life will be over and they can enter into hope and promise.

But not you and me.  We know that eternal life means we are secure in Christ.  Because He has loved us, He has given us all things.  Heaven is ours—we will never die.  We do not fear the evil one and his lies, nor the eternal hell that is his.  We do not strive to earn what is already ours.

And, best of all, we are beginning to see glimpses of eternity today.  The Son is shining through!

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Tomorrow is Today

What is the difference between someone who is mature in the faith and someone who has just opened his heart to Jesus?  When the church teaches about leaders and elders and pastors, is there any substantive difference between those positions and that of a new believer?  Is the 90-year-old believer who has been in Christ for 85 years any different than the five-year-old who has just asked Jesus to take his life?

We want to point out the differences, don’t we?  After all, there are mature believers and immature believers and that means something.  But all it means is that some have had the time or the inclination to receive more of what Christ has already given them.  In other words, all of Christ is available to anyone in Christ.  Nationality, gender, age—these things make no difference in the spiritual nature of the individual.

I have always enjoyed the teaching of Major Ian Thomas.  He said it like this: the Christian life is the process of becoming who you are.  Yes, there is growth, but it is growth in understanding the riches in Christ that are already yours.  All that you will ever have is yours today in Jesus.

Why?  Because you have entered into eternal life.  The life that will be yours in the future is yours today.  There is much that you and I don’t understand and we will learn much more, but nothing will really change for us.  Even when we die, the only change will be that we will become even more of what we already are.

Eternal life brings the past into the present and redeems us as whole people.  Eternal life also brings the future into the present and sanctifies us in Christ forever.  We belong to Jesus just as much today as we ever will.  Our sins are washed away and we are whole.

When you think of your life in Heaven, don’t you think of it as a relief, a rest from the labors and frustrations of today?  Haven’t we been taught that life in Heaven will be good, while this life is evil?  But what if that was not true?  What if this life, the life we have in Christ, is just as good as life in Heaven will be?  What if the victory over sin that we long for and expect in Heaven is already ours in Jesus?  What if the reconciliation and peace we look toward is already available to us today?  This is what eternal life means.

All that you look forward to is already yours.  The more you look to Jesus and away from the struggles and distractions of this world, the more you will understand that peace He has already given.  The struggles and distractions are the things that will no longer be in the life to come because they are inconsistent with who He is and who you are.

The joy of the Christian life is already ours.  The forgiveness, the reconciliation, the acceptance, the love—these are all ours now.  We just have to begin to understand who we are and what Jesus has done for us.  He has given us eternal life.

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It’s All Good

We have learned all our lives to think of time according to the simple formula of “past, present, future.”  I suppose we really have no choice, since that’s pretty much how we experience life.  But when someone tells us about eternal life, we then assume it somehow fits into our basic formula.

Last week I wrote about the past and how the past, even those sins and mistakes we did, have been redeemed by the present in Jesus.  Because of Him, we live in the present—always.  Just like He does.

Remember the name God gave Moses?  I AM!  Not: I was and I will be.  Just: I Am.  In the present.  Right now.  Right here.

He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph—not was.  And Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”  When you and I received eternal life, this is the life we received—life in the present.  We do not live in the past.  The things of our past are part of us in the present—redeemed, forgiven, loved.

We often wonder how God can see everything and know everything at once.  I have had people deny the full deity of Jesus because they didn’t believe that He could be everywhere at once.  But all of that misses the point.  God is present.  Wherever you are, He is there.  And He is here.  He is with all of His people at the same time—in the present.  It doesn’t matter if they lived 2000 years ago, or they live in some far away land, or they haven’t yet been born.  He is with them.  That’s His promise.  And He can do it in His eternal present.

The ramifications of this are nothing less than astounding.  It means that there is no time in my life when I was without Him.  Once I entered into eternal life (or eternal life entered into me) my past, present and future became a single point, the present.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not one of those who think that all people are already saved.  I believe that personal faith is a choice and is necessary.  But when you and I came to Jesus, we were saved “to the uttermost,” from beginning to end.

So I never have to deal with my past again, in terms of spiritual repentance or compensation.  And whatever consequences continue with me today, even the simple memories, are part of who I am in Christ and it is all good.

Now here’s a thought to chew on:  Your past does not determine your future.  Your present determines your future.

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Live Today!

My past doesn’t feel gone.  So when the preacher tells me that my past is washed away, that those things belong to a different person, or that God has removed them from me, I struggle.  I still remember those things.  I still suffer consequences from those things.  It is hard to say that they are gone.  The message is wonderful, but is it true?

One of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln is about a time, just after the end of the Civil War, when Lincoln welcomed a man into his office who had been on the side of the South.  They talked and parted as friends.  When others saw Lincoln’s openness to the man, they criticized him.  They said, “Don’t you remember that this man was your enemy?  You should destroy your enemies!”  Lincoln answered in his simple logic, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Perhaps the most powerful way to wash away sins and overcome mistakes is to change their purpose.  What once was meant for evil is now used for good.  What once was stained like scarlet is now white as snow.  If the evil of your past works together with everything else for good in your life, then that evil is truly gone.

You see, we do remember those things and why should we try to act as though they didn’t happen?  Some of us live with consequences for the rest of our lives after the things we did.  We are stuck with remembering.  But our Lord does not want us to look back and relive the shame and guilt.  He does not want us to place new accountability on ourselves when we remember.  He wants us to know that we are forgiven and those things have been made new.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not saying that sin is not evil.  I am not saying that we (or anyone) should just go do whatever we want because God will work it into good somehow.  Sin still has consequences.

But the Lord has taken the sins and errors of your past and has given them a purpose in your present.  They have worked together to bring you here.  Those things no longer bring shame and guilt because they no longer need to do that.  Now they are simply part of the path you walked as Jesus brought you to Him.

Today you belong to Jesus.  Today you are free and clean and victorious.  Today you are alive.  Live today!

Tell me what you think…

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