Tag: favor

One Resolution: What God Truly Wants From You

So, have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?

If you have, undo them, throw them away, no matter how noble they are in intent. Do it now, before it’s too late.

If you haven’t made them… make sure you don’t even start!  Don’t even think about starting!

If resolutions worked, there would be no need for Jesus. Everything we want, desire, and need would be just a resolution away.  We could simply muscle, will, and effort our way into a better future, one goal at a time.

Problem is, more so than not, though resolutions feel inspiring at the start, resolutions ultimately leave us with one thing… the result that we have fallen short. We didn’t lose the weight (or keep it off), keep our mouths shut, reach the goal, play nicer, or be as positive as we promised. Somewhere along the way, our performance breaks down. If we do, by chance, square up with a resolution, we think it’s our strength and will-power that got us there. Our flesh is stroked as we deceivingly believe that the power that moved us forward was from our resolve, or some portion of it. Our identity and self worth become attached to the tubes of our efforts and abilities, our striving and our trying. Behind every resolution is the facade and self-deception that within our performance are the answers to a better future.

Spiritually, we have been taught (falsely) that God wants more and more from us; do more, become more, achieve more… all for Him of course. We have bitten the lie that the goal of the Christian life is to become successful for Jesus. So, we make all kinds of spiritual resolutions… pray more, study more, get more Jesus. Hunger for Him more, go to Church more, get on fire more. Do more of this, and less of that… and on, and on, and on.

Yet, I believe, God has something much different in mind for our 2016! One resolution. A RESTolution.

Rest in His resolution to love you, bless you, favor you, forgive you, and accept you. To empower you and carry out His good work in you. To have you will and act according to His pleasure. To prompt you, protect you, heal you, change you, clear the path for you. To lead you, delight in you, provide for you, give success to you, and give you favor among people.

God wants ONE resolution from you. To realize there is no resolution you can have that works but resting in His resolutions towards you. He is the author and perfecter of your faith, not you. He has already saved you, set you apart, sanctified you, made you Holy, pure, and blameless, lacking no spiritual blessing in your life. There are no resolutions needed from you when you awaken to and rest in God’s resolutions towards you. What could you possible achieve that God hasn’t already achieved for you and in you, and promises to achieve through you.

God has one resolution for you to have this year… a RESTolution.

Rest in Him, for everything, and in every way.  Stop resolving to do more, and resolve to believe more. Stop resolving to become more and resolve to be more of who you already are… made complete, eternally and unconditionally loved, Holy, pure, forgiven, accepted, secure, beautiful, qualified, approved, having the mind of Christ, favored, justified, sanctified, successful, without guilt, shame, or condemnation… all done by Jesus’ resolution-work, not yours.

Trade in all your 2016 resolutions, for God’s ONE resolution for you… to have a RESTolution 2016!

Because of Christ’s resolution-work on the cross, there is nothing more to achieve, just everything to believe!

As you do, watch God work, change, and transform you, your world, and the world around you as you simply enjoy Jesus and rest in Him.

Happy RESTolution 2016!

Never Fear Again

We all have fears and situations that present us with plenty of opportunity to be afraid. Some fears are good, in a sense, at least the ones that keep us from doing stupid things. But for the most part, fears serve a destructive purpose in our life.

The real issue behind our fears is… what are we doing with them? For most of us, we are trying to use our will and might to subdue, bury, or pretend they don’t exist. From playing mental games to engaging in all kinds of spiritual gymnastics, we find ourselves facing our fears with the mindset that we need to try harder, be more courageous, preoccupy our minds, or bribe God in order to get our anxieties under control.

And then comes the issue of faith. If I just somehow believer harder, or believe more, or just have more faith, that will do the trick against fear. The fact that I have fears in the first place must be a sure sign that there are flaws in my faith.

Hogwash, throw all of that our of your mind!

It is not the strength of your faith that matters, it is the object of your faith that dissolves fear. Keep reading, this revelation is going to change your life!

The Bible sums up its teaching on dealing with fear in one short, but powerful phrase, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Because for years we Christians have lost sight of the original Gospel of Grace and the essence of the Christian life, we have wrongly placed the emphasis of our faith on our ability to have it. In our performance-driven, Christian culture, we have automatically assumed that when Jesus said things like, “Oh ye of little faith…” that He was referring to the size of our belief or ability thereof.  If that were true, then a similar teaching about needing only a “little” faith to move mountains would be a contradiction. I suggest, in the phrase, “Oh ye of little faith…” He was addressing the size of our small perception of God’s love and Grace, not the size of our faith.

The essence of faith is not in your ability to have enough, but in God’s ability to deliver upon it. It’s the object of our faith, not the caliber of it that matters.

When God says in His Word, “Perfect loves casts out fear” He is teaching two powerful revelations.

1) If the object of our faith is anything less than the perfect love of Jesus upon our lives, we will be susceptible to fear.

2) When we place our faith in the object of God’s perfect love, fear dissolves.

The problem is not the level of your belief, it’s in what you are believing in. “Perfect love” is not referring to a level of love or faith we need to have in Him in order to combat fear, but to the quality and character of God’s love for us.

If I am putting my faith in a God who I believe loves unconditionally but with conditions, fear has room to flow freely in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who is at times angry and disappointed with me because of things I am doing or not doing, fear has room to grow in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who places or removes His favor upon me based on my actions, fear has opportunity to ignite in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who never forgets, is keeping score, and may turn His back if I push things too far or make too many mistakes, fear has a warm place from which to grow. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who mixes Law with Grace, unconditional love with conditions, acceptance with judgement, forgiveness with punishment, salvation with spiritual performance, new creation with old nature, then fear has save harbor from the power of His perfect love.

No amount of faith can suffice against fear when the object of our faith is anything less than God’s perfect love for you. There will always be room to doubt, second guess, worry, and wonder. Is God mad at me? Is He allowing this to happen in order to punish me? Have I pushed Him too far this time? Is He making me pay? Is this happening because of something in the past? Will this be the one time He turns His back or removes His favor? Can I really trust Him with everything? Does He even care?

Yet, when I believe in the true expanse, depth, volume, quality, and character of God’s love for me, there is literally no more room for fear. God loves you perfectly. Completely, thoroughly, eternally. His love never misses the mark, slips, sleeps on the job, pauses, takes a break, slows down, lightens up, messes up, gets moody or has doubts. It may feel that way at times. But our feelings (and even the facts) don’t always reflect nor lead us to the truth.

God has made a once and forever decision to love you wholly with a never-ending, uninterruptible, unstoppable, never waning love.

God perfectly loves you and is working out all things for your good. His care is microscopic of every detail in your life. There is no place nor aspect of your life, past, present or future, where God is not already present and that God does not already completely love. Now that is grace-a-licious!

The truth is God loves you and there is nothing you can do about. It’s never really been about you, it’s always been about Him, His nature, His desire, and His affection… for you.

Rest in God’s perfect love of you. Trust in His goodness, the quality of Jesus.

It’s not about how much you believe, it’s about what you believe is the measure of God loves you. How big is the love and Grace of your God? How perfectly does He love you? Who is God to you? Is He who He says He is… “God is love”

God perfectly loves you, be not afraid. Walk in confidence, peace, and assurance today.

Should Christians be Hungry?

We have all probably heard and even expressed the following…

“I just need to get more Jesus in my life”

“God, make me hungry for you!”

“Your problem is, you just need to get more hungry for Jesus.”

In fact, much of our modern Christian worship is guided by lyrics that assume that as Christians, we live from a foundation of lack and distance from God that needs to be supplied and remedied by our ardent desires, cries, and petitions for more of Him.

As well-intentioned as these phrases, lyrics and sentiments are, they are actually misguided and unhealthy. The truth is, Christians who feel they are “hungry for more Jesus” in their life are actually speaking from a place of misunderstanding.

Hunger for the Christian isn’t healthy. It’s not a sign of a deeping or developing faith, but rather of a misguided or decreasing trust.

Look at what Jesus said about hunger and thirst…

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’” -John 6:35

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” -Matthew 5:6

The result of belief in Christ is not a remaining or continuing in hunger, rather it’s “never thirst,” “never hunger,” and “shall be filled.”

For the non-Christian, hunger is a blessed, good thing. It’s a sign of humbleness and desire. But for the Christian, it can be a sign of spiritual pride or a sure sign that there is a misunderstanding of who one is and what we have in Christ.

As a believer, we have “every spiritual blessing.” The fullness of Jesus lives in us. We have the mind of Christ. We are “partakers of the divine nature.” We are His righteousness. “As He is, so are we in this world.”  Is Jesus living now hungry for more of Himself? If not, than why are we? As Christians, we are “as He is in this world.”

On the cross, Jesus has not only satisfied every need in our lives, He has given to us everything needed to supply for them. We are in fact, a new creation. Jesus recreated our entire being, not with remaining areas of lack, but with everything we need to reign in life. As Jesus promised, Christians are “filled.” It is in believing what Jesus promised and delivered that we are awakened to these realities, not the idea that if we pursue God He will give us the “more” of Him that He is believed to be withholding.

So, why do some hunger or believe that hunger is a good and Godly thing? Because either they don’t realize and therefore believe that God has already supplied what they believe they need to pursue from God. Or, they are turning to their flesh (efforts, striving, and trying) to seemingly receive more of God. And no matter how spiritual their doing so may appear, they are turning to their efforts (flesh) to get from God what He has already thoroughly provided, perhaps even taking pride in their “hunger” or the sense that they are able to seemingly perform their way to God or tip the generosity of God further in their direction through their passion.

The truth is, and I don’t mean to burst any spiritual bubbles, for the believer, you can’t get any more Jesus or His presence than you already have. You can’t get any closer than He already is. You can’t be any more “blessed” “loved” or “favored”  than you already are.  No matter how “hard” you pray, how long you worship, or how desperately you cry out.

When we believe, we enjoy, walk in, and share the blessings we already have. When we turn to the flesh, we try, strive, and perform all kinds of spiritual gymnastics to ignorantly or pridefully try to get or earn from God what He has already graciously and completely supplied, not realizing nor living in what we already have. The very thing we are pursuing is the very thing we miss, because we don’t realize or are satisfied with the reality that we alreay have it.

Being hungry for God is only good for the believer as far as much as it points out areas where we are not believing or trusting that Jesus has already given us all things, and that His supply, His Grace is sufficient for us.

The cross is not just the place where Jesus did something for you in making it possible to get our of hell into heaven, but He also did something to you. He made you into a new creation that has the fullness of Jesus living in you and as you. You are the righteousness of Christ, Holy, and sanctified completely. You lack NO spiritual blessing. You are not just a child of the living God, but a king and priests.

You are not a person living in or from lack, hunger, or thirst. But a person living in and from fullness.

The Bible teaches we “grow in Grace,” not by pursuing things God has already graced us with. If the Christian life is anything, it is not a process of becoming something you a not by getting “more” of God. But a process of becoming who you already are in Him by believing the “more” you already are and have in Him.

Believe it, receive it, and live it today!

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

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!

© 2019 Chris Kratzer

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