Devotional for July 30, 2017 – “The Crucial Piece of the Gospel”

Jesus – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born anew, he is unable to see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:2

Paul – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away, behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Yesterday, I said that today I would talk about a piece of the gospel that can get overlooked, and when that happens, the power of the gospel is diluted at best or at worst removed altogether. What is that piece?

The change of nature.

Notice what Jesus said? One must be born anew, a new creation with a new nature, the nature of God because being born anew means being born of the Spirit of God. The old nature has gone away. Paul confirms this reality from what I quoted from his second letter to the Corinthian believers. If this has not happened, one cannot see the kingdom of God.

This has everything to do with our identity and how God sees and knows us and how we must see and know ourselves. We don’t have two natures, one good and one bad, inside of us fighting it out. If that were true even after belief, then the gospel isn’t truly good news, well, no more good news than any religious system of belief, because the gospel really isn’t any different. The idea of two warring natures inside a believer is not biblical; it’s actually far Eastern philosophy.

The good news of Jesus is that, through Him and us participating in His death and resurrection, the old nature has been killed and done away with and we are raised to walk in the newness of life as Jesus did. So, after being resurrected spiritually, we no more have a sin nature than did Jesus.

Wait a minute, though, you might be saying. Why then do I still sin if I no longer have a sin nature? Because you still have a sin habit, but habits can be broken; nature cannot. An apple tree must grow apples; it has no choice. A person with a sin nature must sin; s/he has no choice.

But when we have a sin habit, it can be broken. It’s like learning to do things differently because you can. That sin habit is a default mode because you haven’t learned yet what it means to walk in your new nature. And that’s the job of the Holy Spirit, and He loves His job.

But to start, we must remember who and what we are. We must remember what has happened because of Jesus and why that is good news. If what I have just said didn’t truly happen, then the gospel, which literally means good news, isn’t really good news. It’s what has always been, just packaged differently.

So, remember what you have become. Remember what your identity now is. Remember that because of what God did through Jesus is truly good news and something totally different than what any religion, previous or hence, teaches, you have become something and someone new.

You have become an adopted son or daughter of God and have been given His nature. Now you are in the process of learning what that means. But you must first see yourself in that way, or you’ll never truly progress because, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

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Devotional for July 29, 2017 – “What Are You?”

As a follower of Jesus, how would you answer the following question:

What are you?

  1. A sinner
  2. A sinner saved by grace
  3. A saint

If you are like most people, you probably answered “2 – a sinner saved by grace.” But what if I told you that what you see as your current status isn’t biblical? What if you were a sinner, who was saved by grace, who then became a saint? Skeptical? Let’s look at the biblical evidence.

Name a letter of Paul’s where he addresses it to “To the sinners at…” or “To the sinners saved by grace at…” You cannot, because they are addressed “To the saints at…” But what is the common teaching and the common mentality of believers? It isn’t that we are saints. It’s that we are sinners saved by grace, not saints.

But nowhere in Scripture does that phrase appear as the identity of those who believe. What does appear specifically in Scripture is that those who believe have become the righteousness of God in Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made him who knew not sin sin on our behalf so that we should become the righteousness of God in him.”

That’s a very bold statement on Paul’s part. What he’s saying is that upon belief, a change in identity takes place. Every part of the old identity has disappeared in God’s eyes. That’s the reason why the Spirit had Paul start his letters with “To the saints…”

It is crucial that we realize this. It is of vast importance that we see ourselves in our new identity as saints of God. It is crucial that we think of ourselves in this light. Why? Because as the writer of Proverbs said, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) If you still see your identity as a sinner, albeit one saved by grace, it is no wonder that you don’t move forward much in being conformed to the image of Christ. Because you think of yourself as a sinner, and it shouldn’t then surprising that what you do is sin.

There is a crucial piece of the gospel that often gets overlooked and when it is, the power of the gospel is actually removed and is made to truly be nothing different than what religion teaches.

And that is tomorrow’s topic, but, first, consider yourself, see and know your identity, as God sees you and knows you – as a saint.

Devotional for July 28, 2017 – “Freedom: Part 2”

“For being free from all things, I have enslaved myself to all, so that I should gain more people. So, to the Jews, I became as a Jew, so that I should gain Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law, though not being under law myself, so that I should gain those under the law. To those without the law, I became as one without the law, though not being apart from the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I should gain those without the law. To the weak, I became weak, in order that I should gain the weak. To all I became all things, so that by doing all things I might save some. But I do all things on account of the gospel, so that I should become a fellow-partaker of it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The freedom of Christ is the freedom to “be.” That means that you have the freedom to move seamlessly between different groups of people, acting one way with a certain group of people while acting in a different way with a different group of people. For many, that is frowned upon because it is seen as disingenuous or hypocritical, but for Paul, it was the essence of how he sought to bring people to Christ.

The freedom Christ has given allows for that moving from group to group. It allows us to “be” what we need to be at that moment and with that group in order to draw people to the kingdom. How else can you explain how Paul had no problem whatsoever in acting like he was under the law with one group, but as not under the law with a different group?

He was secure in the freedom that he enjoyed, having received it from Christ Himself. And he sought to use it to the fullest. He sought to position it and utilize it in order to carry out the mission of the gospel.

So, remember, you have the freedom to “be,” to be whatever the situation calls for you to be. Don’t worry about anyone who would, under misguided religious thinking, criticize you for “being” because of your freedom. You would be joining good company in Jesus and Paul.

Be.

Devotional for July 27, 2017 – “Freedom”

“With freedom, Christ did set us free; therefore, stand fast and do not again be entangled with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

It is impossible to give something that you first do not possess yourself or have not been given the authority to give. I can say all I want that I will give you a $1,000,000 tomorrow, but unless my bank account has at least $1,000,000 or I have been given control of an account with $1,000,000, I’m just not going to be able to give you $1,000,000, no matter how many times I promise you.

This is why what Paul said to the Galatian believers is so important. The freedom that we now possess as believers in Jesus we possess because Jesus used that same freedom to set us free. Jesus first possessed it, as well as had the authority to use it and grant it, and then he gave it to us who believe.

What is important to remember, then, is that the same freedom Jesus has we now have. The freedom that Jesus possesses as the Son of God, we now possess as adopted sons and daughters of God.

That means that nothing in this world, no philosophy, no religious rules, no man-made regulations or expectations, has authority over us.

That means if someone tells you that you’re not supposed to do a particular thing or not do a particular thing, like having a drink of alcohol or getting a tattoo, you are not beholden to that rule because you have been given Jesus’ freedom by Jesus himself. Jesus was not constrained by the rules the religious leaders established. Neither are we because we have the same freedom Jesus has because that was the freedom Jesus gave to us when He set us free.

This isn’t to say that we flaunt this freedom or throw it in the faces of others arrogantly, because Jesus didn’t. There were times (Matthew 17:24-27 would be an example) where Jesus didn’t want to be a stumbling block to someone. Paul talks about the same principle in his first letter to the Corinthian believers. There are times to not assert one’s freedom, but for the reason to draw other people to the realization of the freedom that we have been given by Jesus himself.

So, the next time someone tells you that you must or must not do something, consider it in light of the freedom you now possess. Then make a decision whether or not to assert your freedom, but do so for the purpose of drawing someone to Christ and him or her experiencing the same freedom you now possess.

You are free because Christ set you free. Live it. Cherish it. Relish it.

Devotional for July 26, 2017: “Desperate?”

Imagine, during a conversation with a friend, you had this exchange:

Friend: I’m desperate to get a million dollars in the bank.

You: How much money do you have in the bank right now?

Friend: A million dollars.

You: (standing there with a confused look on your face, shocked into silence)

I’m thinking that your response to your friend would be something along the lines of, “If you already have a million dollars in the bank, why are you still desperate to have a million dollars in the bank?” And that would be an understandable response, right? It makes no sense to be desperate for something you already have.

Yet, the idea of a believer, a follower of Jesus, being desperate for God shows up multiple places: in songs and in things said by followers of Jesus. A follower of Jesus has no need to be desperate for God because that follower already has God indwelling him/her through the Holy Spirit and the nature of Christ. It makes no more sense for a follower of Jesus to be desperate for God than it does for a person with a million dollars in the bank to be desperate to have a million dollars in the bank.

Being desperate for God is the activity of someone who doesn’t already have God dwelling within him/her. It is an activity of someone who is religious and follows how religion says s/he should feel and be.

Remember the episode of the prophet Elijah going up against 450 prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel? (1 Kings 18) The 450 prophets were desperate for Ba’al to do something. So, they acted accordingly. They acted out their desperation. They had no choice to act out of desperation because they, and their god, were being put to the test. Elijah had no need to act desperately. He had no need to do the things that those 450 prophets did. He simply prayed and God responded. He knew his relationship with God because he had one.

So, as a follower of Jesus, there is no need for you to be desperate for God. He is already dwelling within you. He is already there. Stop thinking and acting like a desperate person who desires God but doesn’t already have His presence indwelling you.

Start acting like someone who already has that presence because you do.

Start thinking like someone who already has that presence because you do.

Starting talking like someone who already has that presence because you do.

Stop acting, thinking, and talking like a person who doesn’t already have that presence of God dwelling within him/her.

Rather, start focusing on what God has already given – His presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – and the incredible and radical difference that makes on how you live and approach life.

There’s absolutely zero need to be desperate for the presence of God because it is something you already have. Anything, and I don’t care if it is a Christian song, or anyone who tells you something different is lying to you and has believed a lie him or herself.

Don’t be like that person. You have been set apart from having to be just like the religious who are desperate for the presence of God. You have been freed from that. Live in that freedom. Enjoy it. Relish it. Cherish it.