Sunday, October 28, 2012

Moving from Religion to Christianity

Christianity is a living system of God working His life in and through us for His purposes on earth, for His glory, not our own. Christianity is more about God’s glory than about our improvement. Christianity is about us being who we truly are in Christ, not us trying to be something we think we should be or trying to do something for God to somehow earn His favour.
The opposite of Christianity is religion. Religion is when we attempt to work for God to please Him. Religion is also when we try, in our own efforts and best wisdom, to do God’s work. In Christianity, God does His work in and through us, not for our sake, but for His own glory, as He brings His creation back in line with Himself. We are being religious when we think we have something to offer God. We try to do works for God as if God needs something from us, as if our works will somehow add something to God or help Him get His work done. God needs nothing from us, but He enjoys working with us.
Religion has pride and self at its core. When we think we are better than the person next to us, we are being religious. On the flip side, when we seek to improve ourselves or seek to feel better about ourselves in the guise of loving God or experiencing His love, we are being religious. Religion says I must work on myself to make myself more acceptable to God, or to get closer to God. The feeling of religion is that I am somehow not complete enough or not fully accepted by God, so I have to work on myself and try to be better. Religious people often love self-help books because they seek to improve self.
Religion also says I must do all the things He expects me to do and sets about trying to obey God’s rules. There is a feeling of never measuring up or never being able to be or do all we think God wants us to be and do.
Christianity says, I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live.  Christ now lives in me.[1]  Self is crucified; the old man is gone.[2] In the old man’s place is the new man who is created by God in holiness and righteousness.  Now, we say, “I am accepted by God, holy and righteous.  I am complete in Him.” If we truly believe this, we will have little concern for our lives and circumstances.  We will no longer try to work for God, to be approved by Him.  We will seek to work with Him and be who we now are in Him:  righteous and holy children of God.
Christianity says deny yourself and accept that self is dead, crucified with Christ. Religion says I must try to be good or try to look good. Christianity says I was evil, and could never have made myself good no matter how hard I try.  Through Jesus Christ, I have been made good by God.  I am good and righteous, not based on works I do, but based on the work He has done in Christ.  This is the central different. Now I desire to be who I am, as a righteous being who is dearly loved by God.  I desire to walk by faith in God.
Religion feels like a heavy burden on our backs. It’s hard. Have you experienced the weight of trying to be religious? It has the appearance of spirituality, but lacks joy and power. Religion has trying and rules as the core, as we keep trying to be what we think we should be. Christianity’s rule is light and easy and comes from a heart of love, yet it may cost us our physical life to live it out.  Religion says we must continuously keep working for God or we will be lost, creating fear and guilt. Christianity says we are kept by God.

[1] Galatians 2:20
[2] Romans 6:6

(Except from Kingdom Disciples:  8 Keys to Life-Transforming Discipleship by Alan Braun and Nancy Ingold)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Interesting Conversations

I have been so encouraged lately.  There seems to a trend, as if God is waking up the church to be who He made us to be. Missionaries, pastors, and Christian leaders seem to be having a fresh touch of God, as if eyes are being opened for the first time. I hear people say things that sound like Jesus.  Is revival in the air?  A reality that it's just Jesus we need?

We no longer want to try to run our own lives. We are tired of working, trying to do things for God, trying to do ministry, trying to win souls.  We seem to be moving away from performance based Christianity into a love relationship with God that is vibrant and alive and moving in submission to God.  There is an awareness that we can do nothing apart from Christ and that what we try to accomplish on our own means nothing to God.

We seem to be desiring to move away from dead Christianity, devoid of power, to a Christianity that is moving in the power of the Holy Spirit, by faith alone.  We no longer desire to rely our own wisdom and methods, but to rely on the One who is taking over the world and calling people to and into Himself.  It'sand awareness that it's no longer about us trying to do,  but it's about God doing in and through us, carrying out His perfect will.  It's dependence.  Total dependence on God, knowing that we have been crucified in Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.  It's the reality of dying that we might truly live.

We seek His wisdom which He graciously gives to all who ask. So we ask and believe and walk in the wisdom He gives us by faith.  We seek His life, lived out in and through us. His power for His glory. For His Name's sake.  We seek Him.  Him who saved us, calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  He who transformed us, making us new and holy beings. It's just Him.  And He receives all the glory. All the praise.  He is worthy. He is worthy. He has set us free from the power of sin and death and made us into righteous children of His, not by any merit of our own, but by His grace and love.

We walk with Him now, in His grace, in which we stand.  We walk with His power that lives within us, knowing that we are in Him.  He flows in and through us, unhindered by unbelief.  But in complete abandon, we rest in Him, knowing He will lead and conform us to the image of His Son.

We are one with God and we walk according to His will, not our own.  As His new creations, we have no other will, but His. We love Him. We delight in the law of God. We desire only to please Him, and we know that faith is what pleases Him, not busyness, not ministry, not running ourselves ragged to try to do His work-- but simply faith.  Loving Him. Obeying Him and Living to His glory.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Pressure of the Old Way

I'm reading Larry Crabb's book, "The Pressure's Off"  and I thought he does an excellent job of explaining the struggle to live an abiding, abundant life in Christ.  He speaks about the Old Way of the Law vs. the New Way of the Spirit of God.  The difference of doing things in our own strength and for our own purposes and living in the strength of God for His purposes.  This difference is everything!  The rest is from Larry Crabb:

When any ambition other than drawing near to God assumes first-place significance in our hearts, whether the ambition is blatantly self-serving or clearly kingdom-advancing, we’re living in the Old Way.  Drawing near to God will purify our desires and energize godly ambitions to counsel well, preach powerfully and write helpful books, and that’s good.  When our first-place privilege of nearness to God remains in first place, we abide in the vine...the fruit grows on the branch.  That’s New Way living.
But the moment we let our desires for blessings become demands, the moment we expect blessings to come because we've met the requirements for God to grant them, the moment we think any blessing other than nearness to God is essential to life is therefore promised now, we've chosen to live the Old Way. And that means we've forfeited the opportunity to experience supernatural reality and must now depend upon our own resources to arrange for the blessings we want.  We end up leading natural lives, lives energized by the flesh no matter how religiously disguised.
Preaching good sermons, raising good kids, building good friendships, developing good ministries, running good businesses – they all become activities of the flesh.  The pressure’s on. We have to get it right to get what we want most.
At conversion, the Spirit placed four distinct resources within us that make supernatural living possible:

Ø  A New Purity that makes us clean in God’s sight even when we roll in the mud
Ø  A New Identity that permits no labels other than ones like saint, child of God, beloved, and heaven-bound pilgrim to be accurately pinned on us;
Ø  A New Disposition that actually prefers holiness to sin;
Ø  A New Power to draw near to God as a forgiven heir who long to behold the beauty of the Lord.

When we choose to pursue the Better Life of Blessings over the Better Hope of Intimacy, these resources become useless...
Christ promises no help when you make it your goal to secure certain blessings by doing good things You can pray and fast and attend seminars and buy books and double-tithe and refuse cable service on your television and practice contemplative prayer and never miss an anniversary or your son’s ball games – the resources of the Spirit will have no value to you at all.  God will not help us live the Old Way.

Excerpt From Larry Crabb’s book, “The Pressure’s Off” pp. 53-54

Monday, October 15, 2012

Radically Align to the New Creation


Why radically align your thinking to the new creation in Christ?  Because it's true.  It is who you are.  "Behold you are a new creation. Old things have passed away. All things have become new."   You ARE a new creation in Christ, that's why.  It's disobedient to say less.

Why then is it all too common to say less.  We accept so much less, when Christ's death and resurrection accomplished it all, setting us free from the power of sin and death.  I think it's because we do not understand or perhaps never learned certain truths that reveal the power and mystery of what God did in and through Christ to set us free.

I think perhaps we are not clear on what the circumcision of the heart really is. Perhaps we are not clear on the true identity of a believer as being someone who is completely righteous, having received the righteousness of Christ through faith.  Perhaps we also are not aware that we are a triune being, with a spirit, soul and body.  Our spirit is pure and holy and new. Our soul needs to be transformed and our body will follow what we actually believe.

Romans become a central text for understanding what God did in Christ. It's amazing how Paul write down the doctrine revealed to him by Jesus.  Even Peter says that some of Paul's teaching is hard to understand. Peter was a pillar of the early church, and it was challenging for him to understand Paul sometimes.  The things that Paul write are spiritually discerned.  They are revealed by the Spirit of God to our spirit.  The Spirit searches the deep things of God and reveals them us if we will listen.

Circumcision of the heart is central too.  Col. 2:11-14 and Rom. 2:28-29 teach circumcision as does Ezekiel 36.

I am amazed by the gospel.  For years, I did not understand these things.  I lived less and I struggled to live a victorious Christian life. I knew I loved God, but I did not understand the truth of His word.  Jesus said if we will abide in His word we will be His disciples.  He will teach us. Then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.  What does it set us free from?  From the lies that we were believing that were holding us back in our walk with God.

Dig deep, my friend.  Dig deep and ask God to reveal His word to you.  Come to Him, not with an agenda to press your understanding.  Seek Him for His understanding and when it comes to you, His understanding will set you free.

Being Who You Are

Who are you?

How do you view yourself?  What statements do you believe about you?  Your life reflects what you believe about who you are and about what God did to save you.  How is your life going? How is it functioning?  Do you have joy?  Are you walking a victorious walk with the Lord?  Or are you struggling with ungodly thoughts and living a life that is less than the abundant life Jesus died to give you?

If you are truly a Christian, having been impacted by the Spirit of God when you turned from your sin and surrendered your life to Him, certain words are true for you.

If you are not a Christian, or are living a religion life without having a relationship with God, certain words are true for you.

Your identity is formed by your birth.  When you are born onto the planet, you are born in the sin of Adam and you are a sinner.  There is nothing good in you.  Nothing profitable or useful is in you.  God will receive nothing from you in your life of sin.  You must be born again to have eternal life.  No amount of effort or work can save you. You must surrender to Jesus Christ, admitting you are an enemy of God.  You must turn from your life living independently of God and ask Him to take all your sin away.  You then receive by faith all God accomplished in Christ, receiving the righteousness of Christ.

Words that describe you are:  sinner, dead, enemy of God, unrighteous and no good.  If you are a sinner, you are in serious trouble with a Holy God and you are at His mercy.  Then end for you is eternal separation and torment in hell.

Once you surrender to Jesus Christ, He births you new, giving you a new spirit and heart. He seals you with His Holy Spirit and circumcises you away from the sin of the flesh.  He has transferred you out of darkness and conveyed you into the Son of His love.  You are His and you are clean and new.  

Words that describe you as a Christian are:  holy, blameless, righteous, royal priest, child of God, clean, new, free from sin, slave of righteousness.  You are God's child, having been born again through the seed, who is Christ.  You are no longer a slave of sin and death.  You are free.

How do you describe yourself?  Who are you?  Do you know?  How are you living?  Your life will show you. If you accept the truth of who you are in Christ, you will walk in joy and power of the Holy Spirit. You will walk in the victory and abundant of a child of God. And God will use your life for His glory and His namesake.

Do you know who you are?  Do you need help to sort this out until you understand more deeply?