Tag: freedom

Why Trump’s Speech To Congress Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

On Tuesday evening, President Trump gave his first solo speech to Congress. To be sure, speeches are important as are congressional gatherings.

However, what is drastically more important and far more telling than speeches and tender political moments is our response to them—many conservatives, orgasmically licking their chops of jubilation upon Trump’s teleprompted performance. “Now that’s my president!” “It’s Trump 2.0,” “This is the best speech ever given before Congress.”

I was not only unimpressed, but mortified—fearing we have all slipped even deeper into the diabolic “art of the deal.”

For it should be a sad and horrifying day when, in our country, we elect a person as president only to jump for joy when weeks later, based on a speech, he is determined to finally and all the sudden be presidential. Seriously? Are we hearing ourselves? Shouldn’t that have happened a really long time ago? Besides, are speeches now the litmus test to what makes one presidential? I thought “grabbing pussy” was the new norm.

As much as I am trying to look on the bright side, where am I to go from this freakish circus show? I’m trying to give it time, I really am, but if I look towards his actions, the clown appears. If I look towards what he says, the clown appears. Somebody, wake us all up to this nightmare we’re being sold as the American dream—before it’s too late.

It feels like as a nation, we have tragically become the abused, enabling, and codependent spouse who repeatedly falls for flowery speeches, rhetoric, appearances, and empty promises that things “will be great” and the abuser has changed their ways. Have we sunk so low that we actually become delighted and relieved when a person of authority and leadership actually gives signs of having basic levels of decency? That’s not presidential, that’s just coming up to the level of being remotely human.

We have spent far too long blindly giving credence and weight to seductive voices with pricey lifestyles, fame, allure, and wallets. Our narcissism as a nation has postured us for exploitation, especially from among the religiously conservative. Like an alcoholic who knows they have a problem but can’t help themselves away from the Scotch, many have become addicted to whatever new cocktail serves their ideological and personal agendas. What used to be a Statue of Liberty standing as a promise and hope for the “least of these” has become a self-centered, political stripper pole of rationalization, purposed on serving the power of the privileged—scheming to seduce us all into seeing the substandard, abusive, and evil as being standard, healthy, and of God. If only we could see ourselves and the people we have become. 

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from the speech writers or the important moments of Tuesday evening. However, you know you are in bed with the devil when you are so desperate for moments that you can latch onto that serve to convince yourself that you aren’t.

That my friend, is a sure sign of a delusion that should haunt everyone of us.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

My Dreams Are Made Of You : From Jesus To The LGBT Community

My dreams are made of you—from first light to the setting of the sun.

All that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—radiant shades and gleaming colors of the human tapestry—in every way, beautifully and wonderfully made. The stars, dull in comparison to your splendor.

Those special souls who bear these children, conceived by the moving of My Spirit bringing forth life—not just a life, but Light for all to see, exposing and revealing truth with every breath they breathe. Be it forever known in crystal clarity, you parent not just flesh and blood, but a cosmic awakening, pulsating from My creative majesty. Each one, a birthing from the throne so universe shaking—the mere truth of their divine being chases religious hearts out of deep seated shadows, setting free poets and prophets of true love and Grace in waves the size of eternity. Yours is an honor bestowed, a high privilege—the threads of Mary and Joseph spooled and weaved into the adornments of your calling.

All that are gay, all that are lesbian, all that are bisexual, all that are transgender, all of every shade of heaven in between—My dreams are made of you.

You are My smile that extends as far as the east is from the west. You are the joy the Father graciously sets before My chest.

You are the laughter that can’t be contained from the depths of My belly.

You are warmth of a winter’s fire, the breeze of a summer’s shower.

You are the echo of my voice through a river of mountains. You are the stream of sheer jubilation, welling up from My eternal fountain.

You are the delight that sends Me love-drunk into the streets. You are the pulse moving through My veins with every heart beat.

Forever and ever and ever I say—My dreams are made of you.

I know the hurt, the skin melting pain, the soul stripping floggings of condemnation. When I was ridiculed and rejected by My own bigoted family—there I was thinking of you. When I cried over Jerusalem, begging to be understood and simply accepted—there I was living as you. When I was in the garden, on bended knee, begging for divine reprieve, my cup flowing over with doubts and hopelessness—there I was scared just like you. When I was left to die on a religiously conspired cross, murdered in body, mind, and spirit, crucified to death by ignorance and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged—there I was dying, not just for you, but on the Tree, as you.

There has never been a time you have ever been alone.

You are not the forsaken.

You are not an abomination.

You are not a sin that needs reformation.

You owe no apology, no explanation, no verse, nor spiritual transformation.

This is your time, this is your permission, this is your affirmation, this is My decision.

Be you, be fully you—for My sake, for my Name, for my Fame throughout all the universe—be you, unashamed.

Everything I am, everything I make—everything that is of mine is forever and freely yours. You are the diamonds from which dreams are made, extravagantly, specifically, and intentionally created.

Bend your ear, release your soul, I’m shouting from the heavens—from the edge of My seat, the tip top of My heart.

Listen to the cry of My trinity, Three in One wrapped in infinity.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of—

You.

Pushy School Prayer People

So you read the title of this article, and your back has already tightened up. As we speak, your mind is powering up remembered “prayer” passages from the Bible as your eyes drift down to find the comment section of this post.  But before you have a cow, or some other farm animal, read closely. I believe prayer is important. I pray, I value prayer, and encourage others to do so.

But holy steaming manure Batman, not only have many of us Christians turned prayer into everything Jesus never intended it to be, we have also become so ridiculous about this “prayer in school” issue.

“You need to pray more of this,” “you need to pray about that,” “pray this way,” “don’t pray that way,” “pray here, but not there.” Hot off the shelf,  “6 steps to more effective prayer,” “10 steps to bending the ear of God.” All with the vibe, if you aren’t doing prayer like us, you aren’t doing prayer.

I mean seriously, we have created such a huge fermenting debacle out of prayer; eroding it into spectacle, verbosity, formula, ritual, work, Law, and God arm pulling.

Yes, I believe prayer is important, Yes, giving a time for all students to silently reflect or pray as school begins seems benign. For the individual this can be either religious or not, and always kept personal. I get it.

But common, nothing is perhaps worse than Christians who have become reckless about the issue of prayer in schools.  Some demand that students have a set time to pray in school (even audibly) and whine like little school girls when in some instances they don’t get their way, or their way is threatened. Many blame the lack of prayer in school, or its restriction, as the reason why students’ behaviors and morals are in decline. Some, even go as far as to say that if prayer (the Christian kind of course) was more prevalent and planned in school, there wouldn’t be near the school shootings and other tragedies. “Don’t let them throw God out of school” is the battle cry of many, as if that would be possible anyways.  I’m just shooting in the dark here, but I think I remember reading a semi important figure in the Bible discovering something like… “I can never be lost to your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.” Gee, I wonder if that includes schools. Probably only those where Christians are praying.

It all makes perfect sense to me now.  Duh, God only answers prayers from certain locations, right? God thinks to Himself, “Yeesh, I could have kept that tragedy from happening if they only allowed or encouraged kids to pray in school.”

It’s interesting to me, how many Christian adults care so much about having kids pray in school, but never, or rarely pray at home. And by the way, that religious “bless this food, Jesus” around the KFC bucket doesn’t count. Ranting about prayer in school all while buying your kids tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert, sounds like a plan to me.

I mean really, does God think to Himself, “Now that you asked me to ‘bless this food’ not only will I Jesus-zap the Ecoli out of it, but I will make it send your body into the next level of fitness and vitality.” It’s so obvious this is the way God works with prayer. I mean can’t you tell by how healthy, fit, and slim all those Christians are who religiously ask God to, “bless this food, Jesus.” Besides, no one ever gets sick at the local church barbecue… never.

Nothing lacking or present in the daily school life of a child can resurrect what is being put to death or ignored at home.

Furthermore, none of this is to even begin to get into the whole issue of Church and state and the constitutional restrictions and freedoms thereof.

I find it interesting that Jesus taught…

And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you. Don’t recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!  -Matthew 6:5-8

See, if you pray the way Jesus taught, every person has the freedom to pray biblically anywhere at anytime. And believe it or not, Jesus listens and responds to it just as much (and maybe more. *wink wink).

I know, but there’s no spectacle in that, no religious pushing and shoving, no freedom fight, no work, no spiritual notch on your belt, no protest. Praying Jesus-style takes all the Evangelical fun out of it. Dang nab it.

Did I say fun?  My bad, I really meant “flesh.”  Stupid spell corrector.

“We just need to keep prayer in school.” “God is offended we are keeping Him out of schools” It sounds all so spiritual, like we are real-deal Christians, but it’s so reflective of how religious, insecure, selfish, political, parental-outsourcing, and Jesus-doubting we have become. We obviously believe prayer is primarily about location (school), behavior modification and personal performance (kids do better), and getting God to do certain things He wouldn’t normally do or hasn’t done. This is absurd and nothing like Jesus’ attitude towards prayer.

“I don’t entertain guests in my closet. You’ll never hear me tell visitors after dinner, “Why don’t we step into the closet for a chat?”. Denalyn and I prefer the living room or the den. God apparently likes to chat in the closet. The point? He’s low on fancy, high on accessibility. To pray at the Vatican can be meaningful. But prayers offered at home carry as much weight as prayers offered in Rome. Travel to the Wailing Wall if you want. But prayer at your backyard fence is just as effective. The One who hears your prayers is your Daddy. You needn’t woo him with location.” -Max Lucado

Let’s stop outsourcing and pushing prayer onto schools. Let’s do our jobs at home to spiritually lead the way. Trust me, teachers and administrators would trade their salaries for parents to start doing that.

Let’s see prayer as a way of life, a humble communication with God, not a spectacle, ritual, or Evangelical badge to be worn.

Prayer is simply talking and listening to God.  Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s not how you pray, as if God were into verbosity, postures, formality, formulas, or eloquence as a condition or key for prayer.

It’s not where you pray, as if God was a location snob, territorial, or contextually limited.

It’s not how long you pray, as if God were holding a stop watch, doing a word count, or was impressed by stamina, waiting for that “o.k, that’s enough” moment to respond. The false notion that “the more you pray, the more God responds” places the power of prayer on you and not God.

It’s not how hard you pray, as if you have to bend God’s ear, wrench His blessings, or prove you’re seriousness in order for Him to reply or to increase His willingness to reply favorably.

It’s not how loud you pray, as if God is hard of hearing.

It’s not how good you are as a person, as if anyone’s righteousness before God comes from their own performance.

God already knows what you need long before you ask, He knows the desires of your heart, long before you express them.

So, why pray?

It’s simple, because God enjoys hearing from you and you could benefit from hearing from Him. Prayer, from a posture of thanksgiving and faith, draws our minds and hearts to all that we already have in and with Jesus, and reminds us that He works out all things for our good. Prayer is not about getting what you want, but much more about embracing, enjoying, and resting in all the you already have in Him.

In prayer, you don’t get anything more from God that you don’t already have, you just become more aware of it, and thus can enjoy it, harness it, believe in it, and be blessed by it. Bam, there ya have it!

Make you prayers full of thanksgiving, words (declarations) of faith, and honest requests. Then… listen, with the Holy Spirit as your guide.

Keep it simple, personal, and genuine. And for crying out loud, stop being so ridiculous, pushy, and preoccupied with prayer in schools. Jesus is bigger and prayer is higher, deeper, and wider than all of that.

If your particular brand of Christianity requires you be pushy, be pushy about making sure prayer happens at home. And even more so, be pushy about making sure you and your kids have the right heart, understanding, and attitudes toward it.

Stuff Jesus Never Said

To many believers and non believers, Jesus is a powerful person. His words have often been quoted and interpreted by people of varying views. But as with any person, sometimes Jesus has words and assertions put into his mouth that He never said, or even suggested.  And truth be told, the largest culprit in all of this is often we Christians. Yet, no matter where you are in the conversation about Jesus, sometimes we come to Him with our own perspectives and hope we can find a way to make His words sing our song.

So, here is some stuff you may have heard said or suggested, that Jesus never said or suggested at all…

1) “I am a card carrying, camouflage wearing, conservative republican.”  

No, Jesus stands above and outside of any one political group. Though His message is very relevant to politics and all of life, He himself exists and stands by Himself, outside of any one political affiliation. And, take it from His brothers, Jesus isn’t a fan of being used for political gain or being pimped out as a political figure. (John 7:1-14)

2) “Danger Will Robinson, gay people are especially disgusting”

Though some in our culture do and would say Jesus does, the truth is Jesus never said nor suggested that homosexuality is any more dirty or disgusting than other sins. Where some churches and Christians take a hands-off, arms length approach to this issue and the people involved, Jesus is found drawing close to the people who the religious would just as soon condemn, discard or disregard.  Debate as you will the issue of homosexuality and sin. No matter your conclusion, Jesus never shows by example nor words any kind of assertion that homosexuality is a special class of sin, and homosexuals a special class of sinner.  If homosexuality is a sin in serious need of confronting, so is the flan-fed, fat back… Jack.

3) “The bigger and slicker the church and its pastor, the better”

Indeed, today we live in the age of the celebrity pastor and the franchise church. Some are healthy, some are not. We have been led to believe that when it comes to church and ministry, bigger and slicker is automatically better. In fact,  it would take some digging through the tons of mailings sent to churches every day to find me a ministry conference for pastors that doesn’t have church growth and pastor performance as top topics of emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about ministry effectiveness in reaching people far from God etc. etc. God’s church should be a growing movement where creative and freedom flourishes. But, bigger and slicker does not automatically equate to better. A church and a pastor can have a lot of sharp, impressive looking activity and avatars going on without accomplishing near their redemptive potential. The way we do ministry these days as Christian leaders, you would have thought that Jesus actually said, “Brand it, buff it, build it, box it, as big as your ego can bake it.”  Indeed, we have replaced “shepherd” with “franchise owner,” and “church” with spiritual “consumer club.”

4) “You should make sure people notice how devoted and super-duper in love with Me you are”  

I know what you are thinking, but what about when Jesus says things like, “Let your light shine…?” Jesus’ words about “letting your light shine” are not a reference to your love for Jesus, but the new person you are in Christ. In fact, Jesus says ” you are” the light of the world. It’s about Christ shining as you and in you, not you shining how much you love Jesus.

Take it from Peter, boasting of your love for Jesus places the emphasis and burden on you and your performance, and in the end, shows you up as the denying hypocrite. However, boasting of Jesus’ love of you, like John, puts the emphasis and burden on Jesus, and leaves you reclined with Him at the table, resting in His Grace. Boasting of your performance and passion for Him leads to denying His, boasting of His performance and passion for you, leads to receiving and resting with Him and in Him.

5) “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music”

The way some churches feel about modern instruments and styles of music, you would have thought Jesus would have said just that, “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music.” Holy sacred cows batman. The truth is, Jesus never said nor suggested anything close to that, and there is no such thing as a Christian “style” of music. What makes music “Christian” or “sacred” is the words, not the style. A style that is worshipful to some may not be worshipful to others, but it does not make it any less worshipful to God. Furthermore, the same traditional hymns and instruments deemed to be exclusively sacred by some  today, were in fact, highly controversial, contemporary, and even deemed “satanic” as little as 50-100 years ago.

6) “Your Bible is actually best used as a taser”

The way some Christians uses their Bibles, you would have thought Jesus had said, “Memorize it, mark it, and make it sting”

Jesus in fact said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:38). Jesus said this as a message to make sure we never place the Bible and our use of it over Him and understand the purpose of the Bible is to lead us and people to an encounter and experience Jesus and the life He brings, not to tase them with it! Religious people use the Word of God to condemn, corner, control, and complicate. Jesus wants us to use the Bible to give His life, healing, Truth, freedom and Grace. The goal is not memorization and highlighting, but receiving, experiencing, and giving His life.

7) “Drinking beer will just make you burn brighter in Hell”  

The very one who turned water into wine, and drank with sinners said that?  Nope.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Matthew 11:18.

Yes, drinking can be dangerous. Getting drunk is an obvious no brainer.  And, in some instances and contexts, it can work against our ministry to people.

Yet, condemning those who drink responsibly as hell-bound sinners and second class Christians (and leaders) is both unfair and misguided. Furthermore, I would say in some contexts this attitude has done more to damage potential ministry to people than the puritanistic, religious approach to alcohol Jesus (and I) referenced above.

8) “The fast track to spiritual maturity is reading books by popular pastors”

We pastors and teachers are used by God in powerful ways to help people understand and experience God and His life. You would do well to learn from people who are wise in the ways of God.

Yet, what pastors teach and preach are often revelations from God they have experienced from their own study of the Word or other pastors/teachers who have studied the Word. Either way, somewhere along the way, someone has done the chewing on the Word so that there is something to teach/feed you.

As a Christian culture we have become fast-food spiritual consumers. There is a lot processed food out there. Book after book, conference after conference. Processed from some pastor or teacher who did the chewing, into your mouth.

This is perhaps a good start for the new believer or even a nice appetizer for the experienced Christian.

Everyone of my children started with processed, pureed foods that required little to no chewing.  Later however, they started to chew it for themselves; having to process it, taste it, chew it, and digest it for themselves, over and over.  To eat processed, pureed food now as emerging adults would leave them hungry, malnourished, and lacking the joy of real food.

This is what the Bible calls meditation. Meditating on the Word of God.  Tasting, chewing, processing it for yourself. A direct revelation from God to you, for you, through you.  Nothing wrong with listening and learning from pastors/teachers like me, but it never should take the place nor become more of your spiritual diet than you personally tasting, chewing, and processing the Word of God for yourself. What makes for a nice appetizer, won’t make for a good meal.

Stop relying on popular pastors for your spiritual diet and making them your main meal. You won’t grow through reading their books until you have made reading God’s book for yourself your primary way of encountering Jesus and His wisdom and revelation for your life.

Reading books by popular pastors isn’t a fast track to spiritual maturity. Besides, some (if not many) of them just present the Christian life (and the Gospel) as a bunch of new things you need to be doing more or better. To be sure, we live in the age of the performance-driven Christian, and there are tons of books to get you feeding on a diet of steps, strategies, and “to do” lists that will ultimately still leave you hungry.

Spiritual hunger for the Christian is a sign of immaturity, not maturity. Jesus actually said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

No, the fast track to spiritual maturity is to realize in Christ, as a new creation, you have already been made fully mature!  Now, believe it and go live what Jesus has already made you.

Spiritual maturity isn’t a process of performance-progress, but a process of believing more in who Jesus already made you into through His performance, not yours. It’s not about becoming a son (or daughter), it’s about living out your sonship that God has already given you and made you to become.

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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