Tag: righteousness

If You Were Truly Conservative, You Wouldn’t Be Anti-Gay

You’ve stared down the aisle of homosexuality, perhaps taken a few steps of examination. It didn’t take long for the reality to overwhelm. The issues are complicated with lots of moving parts. From terms like LGBTQ to issues of biology, from political creeds to long held theology. You’re trying, you really are.

With an inner heartbeat pulsing toward love, if only to be free, yet chained to prescribed understandings of an ancient text, lines drawn by the God of your faith upbringing. At best, you’re now straddling a fence. Who’s right, who’s wrong? Bending and twisting, juxtaposing Grace and truth— two chopsticks in hand, insisting that one must be the fork and the other the spoon. Perhaps, the tension is too much, you’ve insisted on landing—the road most traveled, the familiar path. Determined, that as far as God is loving, He is also condemning of all things LGBTQ. One big mess of sin, a grotesque abomination, some foreign reality to God’s rendering that requires transformation. Not just a fork, not just spoon, but a knife, declaring gay doom.

Where you are is where you are, not going to debate that.

But on top of it all, the icing on the cake, you’ve boxed up all your concrete conclusions, wrapped them in black and white paper, and packaged it all as being “conservative.” The genetic codes of your believism, your safe and sure home base. Declaring the inside scoop to a sacred text, years of ecclesial tradition. Self-proclaimed protectors of Christian values, the clear and plain teachings, not to mention… God-inspiration. This is America, the Jesus-sanctioned nation. “Oh-o-say can you see…”

Keep on singing, why stop there. Not just defining what’s in some “conservative” box, claiming it as your own. But labeling all those outside it, throwing shade from your man-made throne.

The hymns of your condemnation. You’ve made it all so loud and clear. To you, I’m a slippery slope pastor. The rest of us, lost and wayward Christians. Heretical to the nines. We’re all just one of them, those liberals, bending to the sway of culture, watering down, sponging in a bath of perversion. Gently tickling, feathering the ears of all that would listen. To make it feel so good, to feel so easy. Living in the grey, postmodern relativism, all with the agenda, to do Satan’s bidding. Looking down your nose, patting me on the back, hoping one day I’ll graduate from this gay-affirmation. Sometimes with words, other times with silence, you say I’ve sold out a sovereign God, joined a long list of false prophets, blinded by culture’s coercion. I’m just another one of those misguided progressives, who simply can’t handle truth.

Well I don’t know who you think you are, but in my humble opinion, you’re way off base. Quite frankly, not even on the planet. You have no idea, not a clue, the journey I have taken, and that of many others.

So, I sure hope you have your adult diapers on, because here comes the truth. My gay-affirmation didn’t come from smoking some kind of progressive liberality, it actually came from the incense of my deep seeded conservatism.

I love Jesus, the Bible, and truth just as much as any other. It’s out of an ardent, soul stirring quest to get this right, that I have come to this LBGTQ-affirming conclusion.

I’m determined, to conserve the singular essence of God who is love, nothing more, nothing less. While you take your liberalities, dancing far outside the box, making Him into a schizophrenic, condemning monster of multiple personalties. I’m holding fast, staying close and true to His clear delight and hand in all creation. While you take your liberalities, twisting, bending, fabricating God into a human-hating, sin-focused old man, sitting at the edge of heaven’s seat, licking his chops for the moment to show the unrepentant the back of His eternal hand.

I’m determined, to conserve the seriousness of the Bible, its sacredness and divinity. While you take your liberalities, raping it, reducing it into a text that should be understood, in all things, only literally. As if God gave you the Bible as a whore of words with which you can simply have your way. Making it all seem so black and white, so you can control, manipulate, label and sway. Adding words, translations, and meanings, stripping them from their context. Treating the Bible like a three-ring circus, parts that seem to light your enemies on fire, gaining the height of your attention, even the rise of your entertainment.

I refuse to play these religious games, to have my faith spoon fed, joining in lines of religious herds, feeding from the trough of self-righteousness.

I’m determined, to conserve the person of Jesus, the only Word of God, who for the joy set before Him, the entirety of humanity, endured it all. His Gospel of Grace, His message of peace. The goodness, value, acceptance and pleasure He takes in all that He has created. The very One who declared our leather-bound Bibles aren’t our salvation, often reinterpreting long held beliefs, always to the displeasure of the religious.

I’m not going to stand aside while you play eternity games with people’s lives. While you hijack the Gospel with your no-gospel Gospel, and pimp it as life. Making “church” into a club of like-minded people whose greatest spiritual gift is to talk amongst themselves and judge the world. Turning Christianity into a moral play, and you, the holders of the script. Scaling the heights of true liberality, truth twisting, backsliding, all while you’re pointing fingers. Puffed up with arrogance, you call it “conservative,” lifting yourselves as the keepers of all that is God’s intention and will.

Well, I’m not buying it, and countless others are beginning to see behind the curtain. You aren’t a conservative Christian, you are a convenient Christian. Anything to keep power, privilege, and authority— the trinity of your ambition.

Creationism, racism, nationalism, fundamentalism. Homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, all bare the stench of your true liberality, moving so far away from the heart of God, Jesus, and the faith diary of His people. It’s all so convenient.

You are about as truly conservative as crayons taste like their colors. Spiritual shape-shifters, blending into, and making fit, anything that furthers your agenda— the one thing your brand of “conservatism” is good at accomplishing, the conserving of your own religious, self-righteous bigotry. A condemnation in your heart, seated deeper than any scripture.

For if you were truly conservative, you wouldn’t be anti-gay.

You’d stay so close to His nature, His heart, the person of His son Jesus. The thought of moving even just one step from His expanse, the incomprehensible essence of His ways. Seeing His image, his hand in all creation. The science, the biology, the complexity of it all. It would all be enough to give you pause. To stand in one place, on one thing alone… love.

From there, you could not be budged, you could not be moved.

Convinced that God is in all, and that God is good.

He is greater, His love higher, and his affirmation, universe reaching.

Everything His hands have made.

For if you were truly conservative, you wouldn’t be anti-gay.

You’d be like Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Believing in love… all the way.

What to Do After You Sin

You have probably been taught that after you sin, there are certain rigorous steps and emotional postures you need to assume to make things right with God. Deep groans of profuse crying, long quivering statements of confession, and some kind of twisted punishment of one’s self are sure to be a good religious start, provided Jesus hasn’t already back-slapped you into hell.

As much as we love to try to work our way to God, we also love to try to work our way back to God once we have sinned. It makes us feel like we have some control (and credit) in the process.

Yet, no matter what you have been taught, the Gospel teaches us differently. First, you cannot work your way to God, and then once in Christ, there is in fact no need to work your way back to Him, if that were possible anyways.

For the non-believer, the prescription of what to do after you sin is simple… agree with God you sinned, believe in the forgiveness God has given you in Christ on the cross, receive it through faith, and stop sinning as you live from your “new creation” identity. (2 Cor. 5:17)

For the believer, however, things have been made a bit more complicated and confusing. So, to clear things up and get back to the Gospel, here’s what to do (and not to do) once you have sinned.

Once you have sinned…

1) Agree with God you have sinned.

2) Believe in the forgiveness that God has already applied to your sins… past, present, and future. No need to ask for what God has already given. He is not interested in your confession of sin (other than agreeing with Him that you sinned) but your confidence in His finished work on the cross applied fully to your life the moment you believed. (btw, 1 John 1:9 is written to non-believers, not believers.)

3) Trust that your identity, righteousness, and standing with God are still fully intact. Sin has not distanced you from God. The Christ that lives in you has not left the building or even walked to the front door. He has not given up on you, nor reduced His love or presence.

4) Believe on Jesus that He will enable you to overcome this area of sin in your life as you see that you are by nature no longer a “sinner.” Don’t get on a treadmill of trying and striving to “do better.” You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only God can, and that only by faith, not your effort. Believe in who you are in Christ, lacking no spiritual blessing, and live from that belief. Right believing leads to right living, not rule keeping. The more you try to stop sinning, the more you will. The more you believe and trust in Jesus through His Grace to will and act according to His pleasure in your life, the less you will sin. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. Behind every area of sin in your life is a wrong belief about God and/or yourself. So, when you sin, don’t ask, “what am I doing wrong?” and then strive to change your behavior. Rather ask, “what am I believing wrong?” and ask God to help you change your beliefs and increase your faith.

5) If your sin effects people, promptly ask them for forgiveness and do your best to clean things up and make things right. With people, confession and clean up are very important and often necessary.

6) Vehemently resist feeling condemned and applying false guilt and shame onto your life. Don’t live your life carrying an emotional burden Jesus already canceled. Forgive yourself from the forgiveness Jesus has already applied to your life, past, present, and future. To walk in guilt and shame is to deny the power of the cross and Jesus’ work in your life.

7) Focus on Jesus and His mercy, not your sin. Don’t be sin conscious, be Jesus conscious. Don’t give Satan the attention, give Jesus the glory. Thank Jesus and live from His mercy and favor, focused on His amazing grace.

8- Don’t start a spiritual battle with Satan that doesn’t exist. Rather, hold onto your identity, righteousness, and holiness in Christ. Religously praying “harder”, giving, serving, sacrificing, and going to church “more” will not bring you back into good standing nor keep you protected from the evil one. Resting in Him as you place your trust in His work and Grace is your spiritual armor.

9) Move on, focusing on Christ and your identity in Him. Have the mind of Christ who remembers your sin no more. The more you bring your sins with you into the future in your mind, the better chance you will repeat them in the future in your actions. It is for freedom Christ set you free.

Spiritual Warfare Revisited

If you think spiritual warfare is something you do against the devil, this article will hopefully change your mind. If you think that spiritual warfare is something that you do, with God’s help, against satan, I hope this article will challenge your thinking.

It is a misguided perception among Christians that the Christian life is primarily to be an avoidance of sin. We have been wrongly taught that believers have two natures, one evil, and one divine. Therefore, our job is to make sure Satan doesn’t entice the evil side more than Jesus inspires the good side.  If anything tries to cause you to stray or drag you down, you need to fight it like you would a dog biting your leg. Take out your spiritual stick and start beating away.

Much of the current teaching on spiritual warfare has created sin-conscious, satan-conscious Christians who feel their calling as a Christian is to battle the forces of evil clawing at their lives and the lives of others. Their spiritual radar screens are fine tuned to anything that looks like, talk likes, or smells like the enemy. And when they believe they see a blip on the scope, “Demon be gone as I bind you in the name of Jesus!”

Where I would certainly and passionately agree that evil is real and we face the schemes of the evil one, I would suggest satan has done well to get us fighting the wrong battles and misunderstanding our weapons.

The truth is, in Christ, the battle of sin, death, and the devil was finished on the cross. Any battle we have with Satan is an issue of our faith (0r another’s faith) in that finished work applied to their lives, not the reality of it. Spiritual battle for the Christian is done from victory, not for victory.

Paul described our fight as Christians as a “fight of faith,” not in who can shout, rebuke, bind, or pray the longest or loudest. Spiritual battle is not a battle of might, trying, or striving, but of belief. Satan’s weapons are ones of ignorance, wrong belief, false thinking and alike. Not the dramatic devices Hollywood loves to use to sell tickets.

Is the demonic a real reality in our world today, yes of course. But not for the Christian. If you feel you have to do battle with Satan in your life on any level or terms other than that of your faith (or another’s faith), than you are fighting a false battle no matter how real it is perceived.

When Paul introduced us to and described our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), he was showing us what we already have in Christ! Not something we need to spiritual achieve or weaponize through our efforts.  Paul was trying to focus and awaken our faith, not commission us into spiritual fist fight of Bible shaking punches. All the articles of armor Paul identifies are important spiritual blessing and realities we already have in Christ. The issue of spiritual battle is not in what we need to do, but in believing what Christ has already done! It’s not about how we perform, it’s about believing Christ’s performance for and in our lives, it’s not about how we act, it’s about who we are as new creations of Christ, and believing it through thick and thin!

Biblically, “light” is often used in conjunction or reference to divine revelation, “darkness” is often used as a reference to ignorance or wrong believing. Paul’s teaching on the spiritual armor is purposed on giving us a revelation of who and what we have in Christ and the need to believe it. That is the “stand” we take. This is the “obedience of faith” Paul also spoke of in scripture.

We “put on” this armor through faith, not effort or spiritual karate tactics. It is the armor that does the fighting and has won the battle, not we ourselves. The moment light comes (revelation is believed), darkness vanishes with no effort or fanfare. Notice the Bible says, “…my people are being destroyed by a lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)  It doesn’t say by “generational curses,” “demonic visitations”, or even “sin.”

If you want to see where the real battle is, look to what Satan is leading people to “believe” about the Gospel, Jesus, themselves, and what is means to be a Christian.

For example, the Gospel of God’s Grace has been so distorted by the lures of Satan to the point God’s character and finished work on the cross has been made into a set of formulas, steps, and ways to enhance your life or standards to hold over people so you can feel better about your own sin. The Gospel has been reworked by mixing in just enough Law to appeal to the American “do it yourself” mindset. The Gospel is Grace, or it’s not the Gospel. It’s NOT “God does His part, you do yours.” The Gospel is, “your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe” God loves all people, died for all people, and wants all people saved. The same Grace that saves you  is the same Grace that sanctifies you. He is not angry, mad, moody, or bi polar. God’s kindness is what leads to repentance (change of mind) not punishment or fear. He didn’t come to make good people better, He came to give dead people life. We don’t give our life to Jesus, He gives us His life. We give Him nothing (because we can’t) He gives us everything (because He is love and loves us). That is the Gospel.

Through the craftiness of Satan, Jesus has been misrepresented and misunderstood. He has been customized to fit just about every agenda, theology, and philosophy. His teaching in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are often NOT interpreted in light of the cross, but rather as if we remain still under the Law. By some, He has been made into merely a wise teacher, moral standard, philosophy creator, or radical social justice leader.  Indeed, Satan has created a funhouse of mirrors that have distorted people’s beliefs about the truth of Jesus.

Many Christians don’t know and are not being taught who they truly are in Christ, some falsely believe they are still by nature “sinners,” are still under some level of condemnation, and are constantly being tested by God for “trueness.” Many believe that the Christian life is about their efforts, trying, rule-keeping, and striving to live better, become better, and do more. The truth is, the job of the Holy Spirit to those who don’t believe is to convict them of their unbelief, but the job of the Holy Spirit to the believer is to convince them of their righteousness, apart from their efforts!  The “labor to enter into that rest” that Paul charged us to be the foundation of the Christian life has been turned into a labor or serving, sacrificing, performing, achieving, rule-keeping, and doing. In many settings, the church has been turned into a club with a cross on top where traditions reign, political structures rule, and Christians talk amongst themselves and judge the world, instead of encouraging one another and talking with the world.   To be sure, the “Church” in many setting has been successfully sabotaged to the point it completely distorts the Gospel, manifests condemnation instead of Grace, turns good hearted believers into performance-driven Christians, and turns off and away the very people God purposed them to reach, love, and bring into the family.  The religious spirit is deeply entrenched in many a church today and has completely perverted the Gospel and the essence of the Christian life.

So, if you want a real spiritual battle, that’s where Satan is most effectively at work today, not among the sinners of the world nearly as much as among those who claim to be righteous. And for all, it all centers on the issue of right believing, not voodoo.  To be sure, Satan is not the real problem in the world that needs to be battled, it’s the epidemic he has ignited of the modern day rise of the pharisaical heart among those who claim to believe in Jesus, but live and believe by their own self-righteousness.

Not many are willing to say it, but I just did, that light might shine in the darkness.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Excuse Me, I Tooted

We adopted our daughter Madelyn from China 7 months ago. She is four years old.  Among other things, we are teaching her how to be polite, saying things like, “thank you,” “please,” and “you’re welcome.”  Like all human beings, Madelyn “toots.”  It’s a gaseous expression that crosses all international lines. No, China toots (we humorously call “Choots”) don’t smell any better or worse than American ones. When she toots, we have taught her to simply say, “excuse me.”

What has been interesting is to notice that Madelyn thinks she needs to say “excuse me” for all her toots, even the ones that make no sound nor give a smell. So, every so often, at random, we will hear Madelyn say “excuse me” for no apparent reason.  Though we are helping her to better know the ins and outs of when to say “excuse me,” she is so genuine and desires to be faithful to the point that she won’t even let a silent, non-odorous toot go by without the response, “excuse me.”  No one would know that anything ever happened except for the moment she says, “excuse me.”

In 1 John 1:9, we read “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

For most people, they interpret this passage to be directed towards believers.  Therefore, they believe a Christian needs to still confess their sins so that they can be restored to a state and position of righteousness with God.  In their mind, if you don’t confess, you could be in a mess.

Yet, I don’t believe this passage is directed towards believers, but rather to the Gnostic unbelievers the entire book addresses. On the cross, all our sins past, present, and future are put to death, and the moment you receive what Jesus did on the cross for your behalf, that forgiveness and righteousness become yours, always. Asking God to forgive you (as a Christian) is like asking Him to do something He has already done. For the Christian, God desires our belief and trust in His work on the cross for our lives, not on our ability to beg Him to forgive us every time we hiccup. Forgiveness has already taken place, it becomes applied to our lives the moment we believe. You don’t ask for what you believe you already have.  God wants our trust, not our confession tablets.

Does our continued sin grieve the Holy Spirit? Yes. Remove our righteousness, add unforgiven sin to our record, or distance us from God? No. There is a big difference between agreeing with God that we have sinned and confessing it. In fact, the job of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life isn’t to convict us of our sin, but rather to convince us of our righteousness in Christ.

But if you do believe 1 John 1:9 is for believers, then believe it all the way!  Like Madelyn’s understanding of saying “excuse me” every time she toots, every time you make a mistake, have an impure thought, or feel anything bad towards another, you had better be confessing it.  When you are in the mall and you lust at an attractive person, better get confessing. When you are driving and someone cuts you off, better get confessing. When you have a feeling of hatred towards a person, better get confessing. When you are coveting another person’s stuff, better get confessing. When you are playing a sport and you want revenge, better get confessing. When you wish something negative towards your boss, better get confessing. Every secret thought, word, or deed.

If you think about it, there won’t be many moments you have with nothing to confess.  But, if you are going to believe and teach 1 John 1:9 is for the Christian, you need to believe it all the way. Don’t lack authenticity, don’t fall short of integrity, make sure you are doing exactly what it says, because if you don’t, according to your own belief, righteousness will always allude you. And you never know, that one sin you forgot or forget to confess might be the one of which God says at your interview for heaven, “Excuse me, you missed one… hate it for ya”

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!

© 2020 Chris Kratzer

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