Monday, June 09, 2014

No 'Cloning' Around

It should go without saying that you were created to be who you are and not who somebody else is, or who somebody else expects you to be or thinks you should be.

The human body is one unit, and it's made up of many different and diverse parts.  It's the same with the body of Christ:  One body, one unit, many different and diverse parts.  We're not all meant to be the same, or to do the same things.  Christ Himself is the head of this body.  As the head, He has specially gifted you to carry out certain "functions" in His body (just as an arm or a tongue carries out certain functions in a human body).

Other people may be able to see things in you and point things out to you that help you to see the part you play in the body of Christ, and that's a good thing.  We're called to encourage one another and build one another up in who we are and how we fit into the body of Christ as a whole.  But in the end, it's not anybody else's determination as to what part you play in the body of Christ.  It's Christ's determination as He leads and guides you.  Follow His leading.

At the same time, don't expect others to do the same things you do or to walk in the same functions that you walk in.  They're not meant to!  They're meant to walk in the functions that Christ has ordained for them to walk in.  If you're "equipping" or helping others find out what special gifts and abilities they walk in for the sake of the body, it shouldn't be your goal to create copies or clones of yourself and your particular acts of faith and service, or even to create copies or clones of various Bible characters and their particular acts of faith and service.  What God does in people may look absolutely nothing like the "religious" or "spiritual" ideas we get when we think of Christ's work in people.  (For example, Rahab the Harlot was known for hiding spies.  How spiritual-sounding is that?!)

Your job isn't to point others to a robot-like series of preprogrammed instructions to follow, but rather to point others to Christ Himself and His unique ways of working in them.  He knows what He's doing in them individually and in the body as a whole!

Friday, May 23, 2014

We Live in the New, Not the Old!

Israel was under the old covenant. They were promised something new. This new thing wouldn't be like the old, nor based on the old, but would be completely different... Brand new. It would be a "better covenant," a "better hope," based upon "better promises" (see chapters 7-9 of Hebrews). They were even told in advance that what was promised in the new covenant would be for the Gentiles as well.

So now we who are in this new covenant (whether Jew or Gentile) don't live according to anything that pertains to the old. We live according to what is new. We don't live according to the way Israel lived. We live according to what Israel was promised. Israel was promised something new!

What's new in the New is that the Old Covenant laws have been "abolished" (Eph 2:15), made "obsolete" (Heb 8:13), and have been "wiped out," "taken out of the way" and "nailed to the cross" (Col 2:14), and it's all been replaced with new-creation Life in the Spirit! ("Life" is something that could never be brought about by law - see Gal 3:21). What's new in the New is that there is no longer any self-effort involved in trying to keep laws, but in place of the law is the Life of the Spirit of Christ in us, who produces the fruit of the Spirit - which again is something law could never do!

The Old Covenant law was never God's will. "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God," Jesus is quoted as saying in Hebrews 10:9. The verse continues, "He takes away the first that He may establish the second."

So today, not only are we not under God's law, but it is the very thing that had to be done away with - "abolished" - in order for this new life in Him to be possible. It's not that there are no longer Jews and that there are no longer Gentiles, but anyone who is in this "one new man" (see below) is neither Jew nor Gentile. We (Jew and Gentile believer alike) have been grafted into Jesus, with the law having been "wiped out," "taken out of the way" and "nailed to the cross."

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. Eph 2:14-16
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.Col 2:13-14

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hot Lovers

Great Facebook Post by Ralph Harris.
“Hot Lovers” – Those invaluable and heroic people who, out of a genuine and burning love of the truth, persistently annoy us to the message of the cross and the anti-slavery message it insists. “Christ set you free to live by His grace,” they might say, “and I will not be silent when someone suggests even a subtle return to the prison of the law.”  I am deeply thankful for them.
Hear hear!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I'm Successful

Here's a list of reasons why I'm successful. As you'll see, it all depends upon how you define "success."

Why I'm Successful:

Simply put, I'm successful because I do what I'm called to do.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be what I'm not. I'm simply being what I am.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be or copy someone else. I'm being who I am.

I'm successful, not because I'm the best among those who do similar things to what I do, but because I am the one who does what I do. I am not trying to be the best among my peers, but among my peers I'm the best at being who I am.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to be "big." I'm not trying to be "larger than life." I'm simply being me.

I'm successful bcause I'm not trying to be part of a "movement." I'm just doing what I do.

I'm successful because I'm not trying to cater to anybody else. I'm not trying to please other people and I'm not trying to fulfill the expectations that others would have of me. I'm being who I am.

I'm successful because what I do benefits one person.

I'm successful because I don't care about what people think about what I'm doing, but rather I think that what I'm doing is worth caring about.

I'm successful because I don't hold myself responsible for how others respond to what I do, whether positively or negatively.

I'm successful because I listen to the counsel, criticisms and objections of others and then I go with what I believe in my heart is right. I weigh things out and I'm teachable, but I don't allow myself to be in bondage to the thoughts and opinions of others.

I'm successful because I'm neither jealous nor envious, nor haughty nor vain when other people have "bigger" audiences or "bigger" ministries, or "smaller" audiences or "smaller" ministries. "Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt. To compare my works, activities, fruit, knowledge, etc, with that of anyone else is to compare an eye to a nose. And so...

I'm successful because I'm not competeing with others, but rather I'm working alongside them. We're one body. It's a support system, not a competition. We support one another, not break each other down or compete to see who's the "biggest" or the "best."

I'm successful because I'm content doing what I do.

I'm successful not because I have a big vision, but because I have a big God.

I'm successful because God Himself is at work in me to will and to do according to His good pleasure.

I'm successful because I follow the wind of the Spirit, not the whispers of man.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Be Who You Are

There are billions of people here on Planet Earth.  Billions more have lived in times past.  Out of those billions of people, how many of them are you?  And how many of them are you supposed to be?

The answer to both questions is, of course, Zero.  None.

You are who you are.  Nobody else is you, and you are nobody else.  It's meant to be that way!  God designed it that way.  He's such a magnificent Creator!  He knows how to make billions and billions of unique individuals.  He didn't make you to be like any of them.  He made you to be you, and He made other people to be who they are.  There is something so incredible in all of this:  We are individuals and yet we belong to God and we belong to each other.  When each of us is who we are, it all works together.

God Himself makes it work together in a similar fashion to how the individual parts of a human body function:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Rom 12:4-5, NIV

So be who you are.  You are free to be who you are!  You were created by your Creator to be who you are!  He didn't make a mistake when He made you.  He made you to be who you are and He made you in such a way that you, as you are, fit into a much larger body.  You are a not only a part of that body, but you are a vital part of that body, along with all the other parts of that body.  (So allow them to be who they are, as well!)

God's not asking you to be like someone else.  He's not asking you to be something that you're not.  That would be like a body's brain sending a signal to the knuckle of a thumb to act like a lung!  In reality, a lung has certain functions that a knuckle can't even begin to try to emulate.  A knuckle is meant to be a knuckle, not a lung!  And it's the other way around, too.

You are special to God.  You are His beloved child.  The Holy Spirit works in and through you just as He works in and through all the members of Christ's body.  He has created many different parts to fit into His body.  You are unique, as is everyone else!  There is such a vast diversity in the body of Christ, and while we can each appreciate and admire what God is doing in and through others, we've each been called to be the unique person that we are.

God's not impressed with any member of His body any more than He's impressed with any other member.  Hello?  He made them all!  And He made them all to function together as one body!  God thinks highly of each member, because He is the one who created them all, for the sake of the body as a whole.  No one is greater, no one is lesser.  We are individuals and we are one.  God takes great pleasure in each of us being who we are.

Here is the podcast version of this blog post: Be Who You Are.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Gospel Is About the Righteousness of God, Not About Man's Sin

For in (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (Rom 1:17)

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. (Rom 3:21-22)

In the above two passages, Paul tells us that something is revealed in the gospel: The righteousness of God.

God's righteousness is what the gospel is about.  The gospel isn't about the attempts of people to earn or maintain righteousness through the things they do.  It's about the gift of God's very righteousness.  This gift is given freely to all who believe.

As you look in your Bible, you'll see that in between the two passages above, there are sixty-four verses that essentially tell us about the unrighteousness of man.  These verses are not what the gospel is about!  These sixty-four verses, from Romans 1:18 all the way to Romans 3:20, were written to show us the reason the gospel was needed.  That is, they were written to show us the reason the righteousness of God needed to be given to us as a gift, by grace through faith.  Paul writes about how the wrath of God was "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men..."  He lists all kinds of ways in which the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men has been demonstrated.

As all of this continues into Chapter 2, Paul makes the case to his fellow Jews that it's not only the Gentiles (non-Jews) who have missed the mark, but they themselves are also transgressors of the very law of God that they make their boast in!  In other words, Paul points out that we're all in the same boat in regards to "the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," so there's no room for anyone to judge or condemn anyone else!  All (both groups: Jews and Gentiles) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  "For we have previously charged that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin." (Romans 3:9).  "There is no one righteous, not even one." (Romans 3:10).

The only thing the law of God had done was to reveal sin.  "BUT NOW," Paul writes in Romans 3:21, "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed... even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe."  The law revealed sin, but could do nothing about it.  The gospel revealed God's righteousness, which we receive as a gift.

Can you see what Paul was doing, by first telling us in Romans 1:17 that the gospel revealed God's righteousness, and then spending quite a bit of time (64 verses) telling us about man's unrighteousness?  Sadly, many in the church have used a portion of those 64 verses to pronounce guilt, judgment and condemnation upon not only unbelievers, but also upon their fellow believers!  But that was never the reason those verses were written.  The reason Paul built this lengthy case for the unrighteousness of man was to show why righteousness could never be earned or attained by our performance.  Only God's perfect righteousness would ever do, and the only way anyone can attain it is to receive it freely as a gift!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Convention 220

I'll be heading to Dallas, TX from March 28-30, for a convention hosted by Andrew Farley.  "Convention 220" is based upon Galatians 2:20, and what many would call the "Exchanged Life."  I'm all about stuff like this, and it's been a while since I've been able to gather together in a corporate setting like this with so many other grace-minded people, so I'm really looking forward to this!

It will be wonderful to meet so many really great people there, including many who I've known online for quite some time, but have never had the chance to meet in person.  The interactive workshops look fantastic, and you just can't beat the lineup of teachers (see link).