You Are Not Dead

(This is cross-posted from my other blog, myfullcup)

20180421_122307If you are in Christ, you are not dead. In Christ Jesus, you are not a sinner.

There I said it. If you are a believer who has claimed the forgiveness Jesus bled and died to give you. You are not a sinner. That is not your nature and it is not your identity.

Every time we say “I am [fill in the blank]” we are making a statement of identity.  We are telling ourselves and others who we are and that, in turn, tells others how to treat us.

In Romans 6 we read, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”  (Romans 6:2b-3 nasb)

Before Jesus came we were dead IN sin. (Ephesians 2:1) After Jesus came we are dead TO sin. (Romans 6:11). The life of Jesus changes prepositions. And in changing prepositions lives are changed. Dead things begin to breathe.

The Lord is Life.

This means you are alive IN Him and TO Him. His life, His power reign supreme. He lives in and through you. The life that breathed life into dead things and made them live, breathed into you and now you live.

You are alive in Christ Jesus.
You are alive to Christ Jesus.

His life makes dead things live. His life changes people-from dead to living.

You cannot be a slave of sin and a slave of righteousness at the same time. And you are not, but the enemy wants you to believe and live the lie that you are his slave, when you are not. He has the uncanny ability to make the truth seem like a lie and a lie seem like the truth.

This is why we are so often told “Don’t be deceived!” Anyone who knows the truth won’t be duped by a lie unless they are somehow deceived into believing the truth is a lie.

Adam and Eve knew only the truth. Before satan whispered in their ear that what they thought was true was in fact, a lie. It was not in their nature to sin. When satan, our enemy, approached Eve the only way he could get her to sin was to deceive her. The only thing he has to do to get you to sin, after you have come to Jesus, is to deceive you into believing a lie.

All we need to sin is the freedom to choose and the ability to be deceived. And everyone has both.

We are all born dead. Jesus brings us life.

“even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” Ephesians 2:5 nasb

He made you alive! He made you live. At the cross we were crucified with Him. When something is crucified, it is dead. There is no question as to its deadness. It is completely dead.  Because Jesus didn’t stay dead neither did we. We were raised up in Him.

“and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

You were dead. You were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). You were raised with Him. You are in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.

How can we who have died live in the dead places any longer? If He made us new, why do we still live in the old? That old is gone, it is dead, and as believers, we must stop hanging out at the grave as if that were us and our reality. It is not. We are new. Now is the time to act like it.

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 nasb

To say that we still must live with the dead means that God lacks the power to fully resurrect us. It means He is not omnipotent, because He could not fully resurrect us and make us alive. It means my dead is stronger than His life. There is no hope in that.

New life doesn’t begin when we die physically, it begins the moment Jesus breathes His life into our soul and we become a living being.

Our flesh is dead, it is and it always has been.  Our dead flesh has always had one wish, one desire, one burning passion–to do whatever it pleases, whatever it wants. It controlled us. The flesh wants us to believe that we still have no choice to and in sin. It wants us to believe it is still in charge and therefore still our nature.

When Jesus says “I set you free from that power. I made you alive. I made you a new creation. Your old way of life is gone. Now you have My nature, walk–live in that.” And we say, “I can’t because my dead flesh is still too much alive. This is who I am, it is what I am and it is how I am, there is no hope for change.”

Jesus says, “Your flesh has been crucified. You are Mine. I redeemed you. I redeemed your life from the pit. Walk, live by My Spirit in you and you will not gratify the flesh.”

And our enemy says, “Nope. That is alive. See I can still make you respond, react in the same old ways. He isn’t that powerful after all. I have more power over you than He does.” And we believe him.

But Jesus says, “I set you free. Abide in Me. I abide in you. You are Mine and the graveyard is not your address.

Oh dear readers, please grasp this! You are not a sinner, sinners are dead. You have been bought with a price, you have been redeemed from the pit. You have been made alive with and in Christ Jesus. Your old nature has gone and you’ve been made new.

Yes, we will still sin and struggle with sin and a desire for it, because we still have an enemy, the freedom to choose, and the ability to be deceived. That is all we need to sin. But we are so easily deceived into thinking, into believing we have no choice because this is who we are when it is so not who we are.

Too many people who claim to love and follow Jesus spend to much time hanging out at their own grave. Move along, folks, there is nothing to see here. Go live. His blood bought your life and you won’t find it by looking in the grave.

 

(For further study, read Romans 6, 7, 8 and Galatians 5.)

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Why You Are Not A Mess

nature flowers plant flower

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A few weeks ago I was browsing my Twitter feed somewhat mindlessly reading when I saw another one of those tweets. You know, those tweets that sound spiritual but they just hit you wrong. They might be a true statement at first glance but there is just something not quite right about it.  You’ve seen the statement before, you might have believed it but now it’s sitting on your heart like bad pizza.

There’s something wrong with that tweet. You might not know what, but it’s just not right, not right at all. You try to read further but you just can’t get past it, you find yourself scrolling back up to it and nope, it’s still not right.

You might do this a time or fifty before you distract yourself by doing something else, like the church bulletin for example, or maybe scrubbing the toilet. As you’re scrubbing away this message keeps taunting your mind, you’re mulling it over and over. Your mind is mauling it like a dog mauls a bone.

Then when it hits you, you sit back wondering why on earth it took you so long to realize that the reason the statement seems wrong is because it IS  wrong?

red garden plant green

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white and yellow flower with green stems

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“I am a {hot} mess, yet deeply loved by God.” 

It’s wrong because it is a lie.

It’s like one of those questions on a personality quiz, “are you this and/because of this?” Your answer might be yes and no, or no and yes. One part is very true, but the other part is not even remotely true.

The only part of the sentence that is true is “…deeply loved by God.” That part is truer than true.

As believers in Jesus we are so adept at Christianizing lying to ourselves. We say things about ourselves to ourselves and others that sound really, really good, but are, in fact, really, really bad.  We lie to ourselves because that is what we hear from others. They lie about who they are and who we are. We believe them and so we perpetuate the lie with our own mouths.

People! This should not be.

You might be wondering why I don’t like the statement, “I am a mess, yet deeply loved by God.” I mean, it sounds good, it sounds right. It sounds humble. It sounds holy. It sounds true.

But it isn’t. You see, “I am a mess” is an identity statement. You are telling everyone who you are, and who you are is a mess.

No. Who you are is not a mess.

Why do I say that and how can I say that? I don’t even know you. That is true. But I do know Jesus. I know His nature.

I know He is not a mess. Not even close to a mess. He is the furthest thing from a mess.  And to call yourself a mess is a lie and it denies the power of the cross and the power of the Blood of Jesus that was shed for you.

I know you are not a mess because I know Jesus is not a mess. If you are in Him, His Spirit, His nature, His Life dwells in you. In your flesh, in your sinful state before coming to His cross to receive His grace and His nature freely bestowed on you, you are very much a mess. You are without help and without hope.

But you are not. Because you are in Him.

Do you want to know what else you are?

  • You are chosen. (1 Peter 2:9, John 15:16, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
  • You are holy. (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 1:4)
  • Loved and beloved (1 Thessalonians 1:4, Romans 5:8, Jude 1)

This list is by no means exhaustive. You are so much more than you think, so much not a mess. You’re chosen, you’re adopted, you’re declared Holy, blameless, you’re sealed in Him and with Him.

This is your identity! And you identity matters. Because you will walk out whatever you believe about yourself.  So choose now to believe the truth.

And the truth is; in Jesus there are no messes, only messengers with messages. Don’t give the wrong one, to yourself or to others.

 

Hope for When You can’t Say Goodbye to a Friend

(Cross Posted. You can also find this blog post here.)

two white teacups

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I thought she was someone who had my heart and who had given her heart to me. I thought we had exchanged the sweetest of gifts, the gift of friendship. But her letter to me proved my thoughts were faulty.

No, she didn’t specifically say to go away and leave her alone but that message came through her words. Her words pierced my heart, where once I felt the soft, sweet kiss of friendship; now I felt only the hard slap of rejection.

Until this moment, I’ve only told two people of the loss of this friendship. Both of them immediately asked if it was a permanent break of friendship or if there was any hope of restoration. I was taken aback by the question. Didn’t they hear me? I said I had a lost a friend. When you lose something, you lose it and you don’t get it back. It’s gone for good, gone forever.

At least that’s what we’re taught. If someone tells you to leave, you obey and you leave. And when you leave you don’t ever come back. You don’t come back because you can’t come back. Rejection is final because rejection is fatal. It’s fatal to your heart and fatal to your friendships. Once you’re rejected, or you reject, you can’t trust.

And if you can’t trust, you can’t have friends because that relationship has at it’s very core, trust. If I can’t trust you to not reject me, I can’t trust you with my friendship.

A quick look at the book of Ruth throws this whole mindset under the proverbial bus. It debunks it for anyone with an open eye to see.

“And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Then she said, ‘Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’” Ruth 1:14-15

First Naomi took both Orpah and Ruth with her as she headed back to the Promised Land of blessing. Then something, maybe bitterness of soul, happened to make Naomi tell both of them to leave her and return home. Initially they both told her they would not, but when she insisted, Orpah kissed her and returned.

But Ruth clung to her. In the face of rejection, she clung. In the face of being pushed away, sent back, unwanted, abandoned, she clung to the very one who didn’t want her any longer.

Clung is a verb meaning, to adhere closely, stick to, to hold tight by grasping or embracing. Can’t you just picture this? Two women in the desert. One is casting a pointed finger indicating the other one should leave. But the other one isn’t looking in that direction, she is clinging in a tight embrace to the one with the pointed finger.

I can hear the heart and see the tears in Ruth’s next words. See if you can too.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do no urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.’” Ruth 1:16-17

So often used in a marriage ceremony. But these words are not spoken to Boaz. They are not spoken to the one who wanted her. They are spoken to the very one who was rejecting her heart, her offer, her friendship.  Naomi is stiff-arming her, saying “Go away. I don’t need you. I don’t want you. You’re not welcome. Go home. Go back. You’re not wanted. You can’t come. You aren’t included.” And what is Ruth doing? She is holding Naomi in a tight embrace saying, “Don’t make me leave you.”

And something in her words, in her plea, maybe in the tone of her voice, gets Naomi’s attention and breaks down defenses. The two of them continue on the way the promised land.

The shot of hope this passage blasted into my veins can’t be explained away.  Jesus spoke to the soul, the heart of the matter, “It’s not over. There is hope. Cling!”

I know I’ve talked here about needs and our need Meeter being Jesus and He is the One to whom we are to cling. Sometimes though, we forget that we get to cling to His blessings as well. Apart from His life lived and given out for me I can think of no greater gift than the sweet gift of friendships. We learn so much about Jesus through our friends.

So how can we cling to a friend who is rejecting us? How do we know when to cling and when to let go and walk away?

Pray.

Trite and possibly a pat answer but it’s the truth. Not every friend is to be a friend forever. But some of them are. Not all friendships that end are over for always. Some of them are.  How do we know the difference? We listen to Jesus. We cling to Him, we bind ourselves to Him, we go where He tells us, we say what He tells us, we love who He tells us to love, we give what He gives to us.

It might take some honest asking for wisdom.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who give to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Ask Him. And then cling.

That Sweet-Sweet Spot

Yesterday our pastor opened up the service for people to share how they have found sweetness of life in and with Jesus. As those around me shared their thoughts, I cast about in my mind for one. What would I say was the sweetness I have found because of Jesus?

I was in a near panic when nothing really came to mind that I deemed worth sharing. Everything sound like a trite, pat answer. It sounded like I knew all the Christian-ese to make me look superior to everyone else.

But not only that. I’ve been attacked on social media and in my own personal life on planet earth. I’ve been walking a bit wounded and angry. Mostly wounded but the wounds come out in anger. I did not want to open myself up to anymore hurt, anymore angry feelings. I didn’t want to give anyone a chance to tell me how wrong’ I am about everything.

So I kept quiet. But I also kept praying. Because I really wanted to know and I really wanted to hear it straight from the lips of Jesus. I needed to know like I need coffee in the morning and like I need sleep at night. I needed to know He really loved me and we had a sweetness of relationship.

Because some relationships–dear relationships—relationships I love and need like air—-are still in difficulty. They are still broken. There is a still a very painful, misunderstood silence to them. The sweetness has for a time seemed to go out of those relationships, there is just an almost bitter sweetness to them. Sweet because of what they were and bitter because of wondering if we’ll ever get back to that.

There is one particular relationship that is broken, not beyond repair but still broken. This relationship was, no IS, so very dear to me. In this relationship I found a sweet place of acceptance.

“Hey! We fight like we’re brother and sister – awesome!”
“Why is that awesome?”
“Because it means we feel comfortable enough with each other to be real and argue.”
“I’m sorry I fought with you.”
“And me you.” 

That is also one of my sweet places of life with Jesus, or rather the sweetness of having His life living in and through me. Finally my heart finds a home, it finds the acceptance and place of belonging it has always looked for and eternally needed. I am fully heard, completely seen, always accepted, and so lavishly loved.

It means I have a family. It means I belong to someone. It means I don’t have to look to myself to meet my own needs. It means I don’t have to be in control. It means I’m not at fault for every sin since Eve ate the fruit in the garden. It is that I no longer have feel condemnation because I can’t and don’t do it all.

The sweetness is this abandoned, abused little girl gets to belong to someone forever. It is knowing fully that even if everyone left me I would still have Jesus and He is enough, even for that.

That luscious sweet spot that says my needs are met fully by someone else and I don’t have to work and manipulate to get them met on my own and in my own strength.

It means I have a whole new life. The old is so completely gone. It means everything is made new. Old attitudes? They’re made new. Old thought patterns and heart attitudes? They don’t affect me anymore. They are dead and I’m, I’m more alive than ever.

The sweetness is I am free. I am free from; death, sin’s consequence, sin, sin’s power, the grave. But I am also free to live! To love. To have joy, peace, kindness.

LIFE IS OH SO MUCH SWEETER WITH JESUS. 

What’s Your “The”?

I’ve been studying the book of Ruth lately. Painstakingly slow. I began the beginning of February and I’m still only on chapter 2. I hadn’t planned on studying it, but our pastor began preaching through the short book and I began reading it in preparation for his sermons.

Also I needed to make a graphic for the bulletin cover which necessitated my reading also. But I digress.

The story of Ruth is a wonderful picture of the life of an indwelt Christian. We all know it is the love story of Boaz and Ruth. But it’s also a love story of God and His people. In the first chapter we see ourselves as we really are before Jesus. We’ve fled the freedom of the promised land because of famine and are living exactly where God told us not to live…the Land of Moab.  But God begins wooing us out of our sinful state by noticeably blessing those around us. We decide to return and that is where the love story really begins. We come to the realization that He is our Kinsman Redeemer, and He has gone to great lengths to buy us back from captivity and sin.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 2 dawns with Ruth asking Naomi’s permission to go glean in a field, behind someone in whose sight she would find favor. Naomi obviously gives her permission and off Ruth goes. In gleaning that day she happened (actual Hebrew word means, “her chance chanced upon”) to come to the field owned by Boaz. I’m not going to get into the whole story here because that isn’t the topic or issue for this post.

In this chapter Ruth is continually referred to as “Ruth the Moabitess”, I believe the same holds true in the rest of Scripture. Everywhere she is named the two words, “the Moabitess” follows her name. It struck me as odd this morning. She is constantly referred to by who she was.

I am firmly convinced that she had a complete heart and life change when she left Moab with Naomi. I am sure it wasn’t after she left, but the change started before, while they were all still living in Moab. Before her father-in-law died, before her brother-in-law died, and before her husband died.

But nowhere is that change noted or mentioned. It’s striking to me, Rahab isn’t always known as Rahab the Harlot. But every time we see Ruth, we are reminded that she was an outsider, a non-Israelite. She didn’t fit it, didn’t belong, she wasn’t one of them.

In chapter 2 we also see that she is known for her kindness to Naomi, or what she did. When Boaz asked the servant over the reapers who she was, he was told “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi…”. He didn’t even say her name, but he did say what she had done. Apparently words got around in those days too. Everyone knew who she was because they knew what she had done.

Why the difference? Is it even important? Why call her by who she was every time? It’s an Identity thing! Her identity was in being from Moab.

Our identity isn’t in WHAT we do, but it’s in WHO we are.

We all struggle with seeing our identity in what we do. We ask people, “What do you do?” instead of asking, “Who are you?” Oh, yeah, we’ll ask someone’s name and then say, “Hilda, what do you do?” We identify with our actions.

I am a writer. I’m an attorney. I’m a CPA. I’m a banker. I’m a bank robber. I’m a teacher. I’m a student. I’m a Momma. I’m a secretary. I’m a bum. I’m a broker. I’m a cop. I’m a store clerk. I’m a librarian. I’m a barbarian.

It’s all what we do. But our actions don’t define us or identify us.  We are not what we do.

We pray all the time for Jesus to show us what He wants us to do. We need to stop that. Don’t ask Jesus what He wants you to do. He created you a human BEing not a human DOing.

But also don’t pray to be WHAT Jesus wants you to be. Pray to be WHO Jesus wants you to be. You’re a WHO not a WHAT.

Remember, you are not what you do.  Your job, your title, your activities do not define or identify you. Allow Jesus to be your identity, find your identity in Him and allow Him and His life to identify and define you.

Identity Matters!

I’ve heard that bantered around a lot lately. It almost seems like the latest buzzword in Christendom. I hope it isn’t.

Our identity is important, no, it’s more than important, it’s vital. If we don’t know who we are we will flounder in pits of selfishness and self-pity. We will wonder why we don’t seem to live the victorious Christian life, why we always seemed doomed to failure and despair.

If we don’t know our identity we will wallow in bitterness, we will be hardened by life’s trials. We will stay stuck in pits of unforgiveness and anger. We will live in hopelessness, and defeat. We will live convinced that victory is for other people who are more special, more loved by God than we are.

This simply is not true. Jesus promised us that He came so we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10)

Full. Abundant. Free.

When we know who we are in Jesus and because of Jesus we will know victory. We will know and experience His full, abundant, and abundantly free life. And it is good.

The same passage mentioned above (John 10) begins by teaching us about our shepherd and the false shepherds. There are a few characteristics of fake shepherds.

  • The fake shepherd doesn’t enter by the door, instead he climbs in some other way. He’s sneaky and desires to catch us unaware. When we’re watching the front door he’s coming in the back or in the window. He comes in where we are the most vulnerable and exposed. Living in moment-by-moment surrender to His Life means we will hear His voice and follow Him.
  • The fake shepherd comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Do you feel you’re being destroyed? That’s not Jesus in you. He prunes and He perfects, but He does not destroy. He gives, He takes but He doesn’t steal. He lives, He loves but He doesn’t kill.
  • The fake shepherd flees from the sheep when danger approaches. He not only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep himself, he leaves them unprotected when danger comes.

Jesus is the Door of the sheep. This means that anything and everything that gets in must go through Him. There is no hoping in the side window or waltzing in the back door when we are sealed in Jesus.

It also means when we enter the door we are instantly made part of His flock and we are His. This means we are sealed in Him.

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Ephesians 1:13

Jesus though is more than the Door. He is our Great Shepherd. He alone knows us, calls us, leads us out to find good pasture. He alone lays down His life for the sheep.

Let that last line sink in for a pair of minutes. He lays His life down for the sheep. The enemy, the false shepherd will flee but not Jesus. He lays His life down for His sheep.

The good news is Jesus already did this, so there is no need to fear that your Great Shepherd will die and leave you. His death meant you live because He lives and He lives in you. And you live in Him.

Safe. Protected. Secure. Loved. Known.

I don’t know about you, but there are days my heart desperately needs to know that. I mean really know it. It seems I’m prone to forgetfulness. I take my eyes off my Great Shepherd and lose my sense of being safe, loved, protected, secure, and known. I allow the enemy, the false shepherd to come in the window. He steals, he kills, and he destroys.

He steals kills, and destroys joy. He robs us of peace. He destroys our love. When he is around we feel unsafe, unprotected, unloved, unknown, and insecure.

I’ve live that way for far too long. I’m done. I’m walking out. I’m walking away. I’m walking in the new identity of one who has been clothed with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)