Month: October 2012

The Gap

We all want things to be better in our lives, no one says, “Wow, I wish things could be worse.”  We all want to be healthier, more fulfilled, happier, more successful, more loved, more loving, and experience increasing significance. We want to look in the mirror and be completely satisfied with who we are as a person on how our life is being lived. Nothing wrong with that, for sure.

Yet, if you are like most people, there are areas where you are dissatisfied. The person you want to be isn’t who you are. The way you act, live, and interact with others leaves you painfully aware of the gap between what you hoped for and what reality is.  Everyone senses these gaps on a daily (even moment to moment) basis, though they may not be able to put their finger on what they are feeling. Like the gap between the teeth of that cute girl you fell in love with in 1st grade, there are gaps in our lives between what we expect out of ourselves and what we end up being and doing.

Underneath the gap that we see between who we are and who we want to be, is a deeper gap. It’s the gap between God and ourselves.  We sense we were created by God, to live eternally, with God, forever.  That’s why seek God, that’s why we desire to overcome death, that’s why we imagine paradise-like existences.  It’s the stuff of poets, philosophers, and alike.  All sensing the gap, trying to bridge it, and imagining what life is like without it.

At every level, spiritual, emotional, and physical, there are gaps.  The question isn’t, “are their gaps in my life?” the question is, “what are you doing with them?”

To the the question, “what are you doing with them?” most people respond with one of four answers… religion, church, self-help, or life-enhancement.  The problem with each one of these is, they don’t work.  “Religion” just makes you more aware of the gap as you can’t seem to bridge it no matter what spiritual gymnastics you do, “church” futilely focuses on keeping you from acting on the gap with a bunch of rules to follow that you end up breaking, “self-help”  tries to convince you that the solution to the gap is within you when it’s not, and “life-enhancement” simply tries to put lipstick on the gap, hoping you won’t notice it anymore. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it.

Admittedly, I have first hand experience with all four attempts to overcome the gaps in my life. In college, I dabbled in “religion” in the form of new-age trends. I have read all kinds of “self-help” books and psychological theories and applied their principals. I have even tried “life-enhancement” through pursuing success and behavior modification tactics available in both religion, church, and self-help arenas. And to be sure, as a pastor of 17 years, I have tried “church” as a way to fix the gap through focusing on overcoming it by following Christian “rules.” So, I can tell you through first hand experience, none if works. None of them made me a better person, neither in my being nor in my doing. No gaps were closed nor diminished. In fact, a lot of it made me frustrated, disillusioned, and exhausted.

There are a lot of genuine people (maybe even you) who are simply looking for solutions who feel the same way… frustrated, failing, and fatigued.  Yet, we wonder what to do. If we can’t find a real-deal-solution through going to church, applying some self-help technique, pursuing life-enhancement, or signing up for some kind of religion, what are we to do?  Especially since many Christians churches are actually contributing to the problem because they aren’t presenting the true Gospel. I must admit, at times, the way I have presented Jesus and His Gospel has contributed to the problem. As a pastor, I was like many Christian churches when it comes to the Gospel, so close yet so far away.

So here’s what has finally and truly changed my life and satisfied my soul. Here is what I want to tell you, and the message God has em-blazed upon my heart and as is using Amy and I to build a church around…

God loves you, as is-  He is not waiting for you to clean up, shut up, or grow up. He loves you with an everlasting love. God’s love of you is perfect. In fact, God is love. He can do nothing but love you. And you simply being created by God is reason enough for Him to make you the object of His love. It has nothing to do with what you have or have not done or will do.

In a real sense, it would be illegal for God not to love you, He would be a house divided against Himself because He is love. Don’t worry about coming to Him, you can’t. That’s why, through Jesus, He comes personally to you. Throw out the image you have of God who is simply waiting for that moment of failure in your life to push you under His thumb and make you pay. His deepest desire is to love you, give His life to you, and be with you forever. He believes your best days are ahead, and that nothing in your past needs to keep you from having His future.  God is on your side, always has been, always will be.

God loves you, it’s that pure and simple.

Because God loves you so much…

Jesus came to give you a completely new identity-  

This is critical to understand because your identity is the combination of who you are and who you believe yourself to be. It’s about 1) who you actually are, and then 2) your perspective of you are. Both are critical.

That’s why giving you a new identity involves first making you into a completely new person with a new nature, new standing, new future, and a new purpose, through your faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus gives new life by first giving us a new identity. There isn’t much of a new life without  a new identity. Becoming a new person doesn’t do much if you don’t know you are a new person. To give us a new identity, He must make us into a completely new person, through and through.

Without becoming a new person, we are as good as dead. As is, everything about is has an expiration date… our hopes, dreams, love, abilities, and admirable qualities. Everything. As good as we seem to be, because of sin, we are as dead as can be.  Look around, everybody dies. And the truth of the matter as, we can never measure up spiritually, emotionally, and physically as we are. We don’t just live in a broken world tainted with sin, we are a broken world, tainted with sin. Everyone, everywhere, everything.

The good news is, Jesus offers us a completely new identity by killing our old self, and giving us a completely new self. This is the essence of what Jesus accomplishes for us on the cross. He didn’t come to enhance our life, He came to crucify it and then resurrect it. It’s not about renovating your life, it’s about resurrecting it by killing it (spiritually) and then rebirthing it (spiritually). If your old self doesn’t die, your new self can’t live. We don’t give our life to Jesus (as well meaning as that sounds), Jesus gives His life to us. Our former life is of no good to Jesus, we have nothing to give Him. Additionally, our life is no good without Jesus, through His lavish Grace, He has everything to give us.  And by “everything,” I mean everything. Only His Grace can bridge our gaps!

That’s the heart of the pure Grace and Gospel of Jesus Christ. We give Him nothing (cause we can’t), He gives us everything (cause only He can). This exchange happens through one action, our “faith.”

The new identity and life God offers you through Jesus (received though faith) makes you into a completely new person with a new way of seeing yourself. Did you take that in? A completely new person! Your sins past, present, and future are forever forgiven. You become the righteousness of Christ, having no longer any form of condemnation from God in your life whatsoever. Don’t read that too quickly, let it penetrate your heart… “no condemnation”. You are completely made whole, lacking nothing. Every gap is filled. You are free from guilt and shame, and are given the mind of Christ. You are no longer under the law (rules), but under Grace. You don’t have to perform to get to God or even keep Him close. You don’t have to be a better person, you get to be a better person. Your performance no longer shapes your identity, your identity shapes your performance. God’s Spirit lives in you, not to convict you, but primarily to convince you of your righteousness in Christ, the very thing Satan wants you to discount!  Though you will still sin (because of our flesh), it is no longer your nature to sin (or worry, fear, doubt etc.). Sin no longer defines who you are, Jesus does; His life, living in and through you. You are perfectly loved by God and completely pleasing to Him. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you. You lack nothing, you have all the fruits of the Spirit in seed form, and the Holy Spirit will help you to will and act according to God’s pleasure in your life. It’s all Jesus, not you! If it were you, it wouldn’t work.

Jesus doesn’t just want to give you a new life, He wants you to believe you have it! He wants it to become your identity. 

See, if you don’t believe it, you first won’t receive it. And if you receive it, but don’t continue to or truly believe it, you won’t be blessed by it. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God. It’s how what God has becomes what you have. That’s why so many people aren’t Christians, and why so many Christians are living defeated, discouraged, divided, and desperate lives. They don’t prevail, they fail. As 2 Peter 1:9 says, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins”  Right belief leads to right living. If you miss the Grace of God and who you have become in Christ, you will miss the blessings of it. That’s why the complete Gospel of God’s grace is so critical! You will never know your true identity until you see it and believe it’s true about you!

That’s why…

As you believe it, you will live it.  The goal of the Christian life isn’t your obedience, it’s faith in Jesus’ provision. Sadly, for many Christians obedience is the root, and faith is the fruit. Yet, the opposite it true. Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit.  A new identity equals a new way of living, not the other way around. The more you believe in who you are by the Grace of God in Christ, the more you will live it.

Satan always tempts us to do the wrong things by first tempting us to believe the wrongs thing about who we are and what we have (or can have) in Christ.  Notice that with Jesus, immediately after His baptism, Satan first tempted Jesus to doubt His identity as the “beloved son of God with who God was well pleased” which God had just declared over Him mere hours before Satan tempted Him to turn the stones to bread. In fact, Satan strategically and conveniently removed any mention that Jesus is beloved by God and well pleasing to the Father. Instead, he simply asks, “If you are the son of God…turn these stones…” in a futile attempt to get Jesus to believe the wrong things about who He is and what He has in the Father so that He would do the wrong things.

Satan is still vigorously trying to do the same with us, subtly trying to remove from our sense of identity that true believers are sons of God, beloved by God, and completely pleasing to Him. If we believe the wrong things about our identity, we will do the wrong things in life. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. A gap problem is always a Grace problem.

Let me remind you again, for a true believer in Jesus, there is no condemnation over their life, none. You have become, through Jesus’ shed blood, the righteousness of Christ, and that is not merely a positional reality, but a complete reality. You are without blemish, all your sins (past, present, and future) have been put away (killed) through the cross, they are no more in the eyes of God. You have been made a new creation, the old is completely gone. You don’t have two natures, you have one. The old Adam is gone. (ref. Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) Christ lives in you, you have His mind. It is no longer your nature to sin, fear, worry, be depressed etc. It is no longer our nature to sin (though we do), and when we sin, it no longer defines us or separates us. You don’t live from you, trying to be a better person bridging the gaps, that will never work!  You live from Jesus, through faith in His work in you, and become a better a person. In Christ, you aren’t just a better you, you are a completely new you. 100% Jesus, 100% you. You lack nothing, absolutely nothing. I think you need to hear that again, “you lack nothing!”

This is the right belief of your identity, it’s all focused on Jesus and His Grace, not on your performance. Which, ironically enables you to perform with increasing faithfulness. As I stated earlier, right identity leads to right living. People who believe in the true Gospel of the Grace of God through Jesus don’t sin more, they sin much less. The gaps in their life don’t expand, they close. Their freedom becomes a catalyst for faithfulness because their heart overflows with thanksgiving for what Jesus has done as they walk in a completely new sense of self and life without guilt, shame, and sense of condemnation. It truly is amazing Grace.

“For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17

An abundance of Grace is what leads to prevailing (living much better) in life, not an abundance of guilt, shame, and rules. Believe in the abundant Grace of God for your life and see the results! Watch the gaps close. Remind yourself every moment, “I am already forgiven, I am the righteousness of Christ, there is no condemnation, it is no longer my nature to sin, I am better than that, I lack nothing, greater is He that is in me than is in the World, I am fully pleasing to the Father, I am perfectly and completely loved, I am a son of God (Galatians 3:26)” and see how your life and living improve.

God gave me a great analogy that I hope will bless you… Trying to live like Christ and bridge the gaps in our life  from our own efforts is like trying to sing like Celine Dion. You can hear her voice in your head, but you never can match it with your own. But if Celion Dion could somehow live in you, you could sing just like her as you allow her voice to become your voice. Her identity becomes your identity. In the same way, Jesus lives (or can live) in you (through faith), and when we live from Jesus in us and the identity we have because of Him, we will more and more act just like Him.

Living a gap-closing life is about our actions catching up with our true identity, not our identity being caught up in our actions. You cannot become a better person until you become a new person and believe it. Only Jesus can make you new. If you are in Christ through faith, you are a completely new person. You are a much better person, and when you believe that, you will act more and more like the person you are in Christ… much better!

In Christ, you have no gaps, now believe it, receive it, and live it! The more you have faith in the Grace of God, the more God’s blessing flow to you.  When you rest in God’s Grace, He goes to work on your behalf. When you go to work on your behalf, God’s grace rests. Happiness, success, joy, peace, loving and being loved, health, and even wealth are stored in God’s grace, not your own your efforts.

Believe it, receive it, live it!

The Undiscovered You (free ebook)

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Moving Away from Insecurity

So, do you want the real solution to insecurity?

I believe as the Bible declares, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”  The way we see ourselves is foundational to how we go about living our lives, especially when it comes to dealing with things like insecurity. This is a critical truth to understand. Identity problems lead to living-life problems. It’s hard for people to make you feel insecure about something in your life that you first don’t have a certain amount of insecurity about within yourself.

Much of how we see ourselves (our identity) has been influenced by how we believe God sees us, even if the reality of God hasn’t been a significant topic of care or concern in your life. The perceived reality of or absence of God is a concept all humans give much mental and emotional attention, and much of the conclusion we draw are of great influence on our thoughts and conclusions about ourselves.

It is our sense of identity that has tremendous influence in our security of self. Whether we are secure or insecure as a person has much to do with our sense of identity. The challenge is, in order to truly deal with issues of security and insecurity in our lives, we need to examine our beliefs about God and our beliefs about our self in order to get to the root and vines of insecurity. For it is within our identity (which is deeply influenced from our sense of God) that we find the issues and remedy for insecurity.

With that in mind, not that I want to box in or label anyone, but for the sake of this post, there is one of 3 general categories people will likely fit into when it comes to their beliefs about God and how they are worked out in their lives, especially their identity.

Category 1) You don’t see Jesus as your Savior.

Category 2) You see Jesus as your Savior, but still live your life with a reoccurring sense of condemnation, guilt, and lack.

Category 3) You see Jesus as your Savior, and live you life with no sense of condemnation and believe you lack nothing.

All three of these have critical things in common. All three bottom line on 1) how you see (or what you believe about) Jesus 2) how you see yourself 3) how you see that your life should be lived. Additionally, depending on which category you fit into best, each will have a huge impact on your sense of security in self. In fact, only one category truly leads to having victory over insecurity, the other two lead to insecurity.

Let’s take a closer look into each of these categories as you discern into which one you might best fit.

People in Category 1 don’t see Jesus as their Savior. To them, He might be a very wise teacher, a very spiritual man, or simply a great motivator, but He is not seen as their Savior.  Some people in this category don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they have intellectual issues with doing so. Perhaps they don’t even believe there is a god at all or that all religions represent or lead to God. Others don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they are applying other methods and solutions to remedy or improve their life. They don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they believe in simple terms they don’t  really need to. Some are outwardly satisfied with their lives as is, feel they can make it through on their own, or don’t believe they need anyone or anything to “save” them.

People in Category 2 are Christians by profession. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins.  Yet, they believe that their closeness with God and many other aspects of their current life with God are based on their spiritual performance.  Though they might be saved, much of God’s presence and blessing are based on their performance in life. As a Christian, they believe they need to continually ask God for forgiveness to maintain their right standing with God.  They believe that they are still by nature, prone to sin and must battle to feed the old self (they believe still exists within themselves) more than then new self in order to have victory. When they sin, they still harbor levels of shame and guilt as they conclude God’s judgement and condemnation are still upon them. For them, God’s punishment is an every present possibility, and whether or not His favor is upon them is in direct proportion to their performance.  Though they received God’s salvation through a sure sense of Grace, they approach their spiritual walk with a sense that God’s love for them and His work in their life has many conditional elements upon which their performance hinges.  They tend to believe that  too much Grace leads to furthering a life of sin and encouraging unfaithfulness. Beyond having faith and belief, their efforts are seen as a critically important part of determining the closeness, stability, and standing of their relationship with God. For them, a primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict both the unbeliever and the believer of their sin.

People in Category 3 are Christians by faith. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins. Yet, they believe that they have become completely new creations (creatures) in Christ.  Other than their earthly flesh, their entire self including their old sinful (Adam) nature is completely gone as it was crucified with Christ. As a new person, they see themselves as the righteousness of Christ, receiving every spiritual blessing, having had their sins (past, present, and future) forgiven on the cross. They don’t believe it is any longer their core nature to sin, but rather that sin has now become unnatural to them.  Additionally, they don’t believe they need to continually ask God to forgive them (sin that was accomplished on the cross) but rather to continually apply their faith in His finished work on the cross, knowing that it is not their performance that determines their standing, closeness, or favor with God, but rather their standing that is to determine their performance.  Their spiritually life is not a battle between two natures within themselves, but rather the desires of the flesh verses the leading of the Spirit of God.  For them, the primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their unbelief of Jesus and convince believers of their righteousness in Christ. They believe that having been given Grace and having been graced with many blessings, it is their privilege, passion, and honor to live their lives diligently building the Kingdom and cooperating with the Spirit’s work in their life. It is because God first loved them that they love.

So let’s talk about how these categories effect our identities and thus our sense of security in self.

For those in category 1, their identities are based on their performance, other’s opinions, or the circumstances around their life. If they believe in a different religion than Christianity, their belief system will dictate that much of their standing with God and His feeling towards them are directly related to what they do or don’t do in life.  All other religions apart from Christianity have this conditional moving-upward-to-God system of beliefs. If they don’t believe in God, they are left with themselves, others, and/or their circumstances as the source of their identity and self evaluation.

At times, for those in category 1, the opinions of other have a profound influence on their opinion of themselves. Furthermore, the circumstances of their life have a great impact on their self evaluation. Many internal and external factors dictate their self esteem. For example, for some, if their physical appearance is pleasing, they feel adequate. Perhaps for others, if their financial circumstances cast them in a positive light, they feel good about themselves.  With or without their religion, there are many “ifs” in their performance or circumstances that have a strong baring on their identity and self-esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 1.  Our ability to perform and get things right certainly fluctuates as so does the opinion of others and our circumstances.  When our abilities, outward circumstances, and the opinions of others become the source of our identity, insecurity is just a mistake, inadequacy, misfortune, or rejection away.

For those in category 2, though they might feel that their eternal identity may be secure (though not all Christians agree in this) in Christ, much of their relationship with God in the here and now is not.  Sadly, as with category 1, much of their identity is based on their performance as a Christian. Though many would claim they are “forgiven” their trust and sense of identity is measured much more by the level of their faithfulness, particularly in the area of obedience. For some, when they see they fall short in their faithfulness, they resign themselves to an identity as a “sinner saved by grace” having the identity of a “sinner” as their core sense of self.  Many Christians in category 2 live their lives with significant layers of guilt and shame and find it very hard to apply forgiveness to themselves, believing deep down that they are unworthy of continued Grace or that they are still under a certain amount of condemnation. They conclude that God may have forgiven them, but he certainly isn’t happy, nor does he like them, and therefore, might withhold His favor and blessing at any given moment. Many Christians in category 2 see their identity as both sinful and yet forgiven with a sense of having two opposing natures. The goal therefore of a Christian in category 2 is to subdue the old self and somehow stay true to the new self. Here again, it’s their effort and performance in this area that is used to evaluate not only their closeness with God but also how God feels about them and thus their sense of self. Indeed, there are many performance based Christians that turn to their efforts, work, and making headway for significant aspects of their esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 2. In fact, you may find as many religious Christians being as insecure as people who don’t share in their Christian profession. Since so much of their stance with God hinges on their performance, the foundation for a secure identity is shaky at best. Furthermore, since they believe God still looks against them when they sin (a distance and disgust is created) and their nature is divided between good and evil, they see themselves as broken people who are sinners at heart.  If only they could pray more, do more, take more steps, and sin less, they would feel secure in themselves. This is at the core of the religious spirit that infects many Christians today.

For those in category 3, their faith in Christ is deeply connected to what Jesus did on their behalf. For them, they believe not only are all their sins forgiven (past, present, and future) but that God has remade them into a completely new person, with a new identity. When they sin, instead of believing this a moment where God’s condemnation, disgust, and distance are given and thus they should feel ashamed, they apply their faith in claiming their identity in Christ as forgiven, continually cleansed, and the righteousness of Christ. Sin does not define them.  This claiming by faith and applying Jesus finished work on the cross to their identities does not make sinning easier, but enables them to sin less.  Their performance in life doesn’t determine their stance with God, but rather, their stance with God determines their performance.  The emphasis in their identity isn’t placed on their work, but on Christ’s finished work applied to their life through faith. For them, the Old Covenantal system where so much of one’s relationship with God is based on following rules and being obedient has been fulfilled through Jesus, and a New Covenant of Grace has been brought through Jesus that focuses not on rules to produce obedience but rather through the Grace of God giving people a new identity and standing with God. The more you think you are a sinner at heart, the more you feel you need to perform in order to have God be on your side, the more you think God’s favor and blessing depends on you, the more you will rely on yourself and not on Jesus and ironically, the more you will be prone to sin. As the Bible declares, the strength of sin is the Law.  The more you place yourself under the rules, the more you end up disobeying them. For those in category 2, obedience is the root, faith is the fruit. For those in category 3, faith is the root, obedience is the fruit. The foundation is what is different.

For these reasons, people in category 3 have far less moments of insecurity in their life. When they do, they simply apply their faith in who they are in Christ and the assurance of God’s grace and their new life/identity in Christ. Instead of trying to improve their behaviors to make things right, they apply their faith that all is right because of Jesus, and thus their behaviors follow their identity. An obedience problem is first an identity problem. Jesus isn’t into behavior modification, but life transformation. To be sure, people in category 3 have learned the secret that you can’t become a secure person until you become a new person through Christ, and believe it about yourself.  Right belief leads to right living. Right belief in the pure Grace of God through Jesus applied through faith leads to secure living.

Let me encourage you today as you finish reading this post to become a person in the category 3 club.  God completely and perfectly loves you and has a “new you” ready to be given the moment your heart leaps to what He has done for you on the cross. A life of complete security, assurance, peace, and confidence is waiting for you, and it’s all wrapped up in one person, Jesus.  Walk in freedom and strength, and allow your old life of condemnation, shame, guilt, searching, emptiness, inadequacy, and insecurity to be put to death with Jesus on the cross, and a new life of wholeness, salvation, security and freedom be yours.

Looking forward to your thoughts…

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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