Forget Not

Tomorrow will usher in a new year for each of us. With the New Year, we will exert new effort and commitment to those things which we feel will make us “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Many of us will closeout 2014 singing “Auld Lang Syne” in remembrance of great times we have experienced this past year. As we do so, let us give special celebratory attention to the One who is the “Chief Architect” of our life—“the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). David, the author of the 103rd Psalm, reminds us to “forget not” all the benefits of the Lord.

The 103rd Psalm is a general praise psalm written to magnify the name of God and boast of His greatness. In this psalm, readers are told to “forget not” the extraordinary benefits God have extended to His covenant people. These same benefits are ours today, in the twenty-first century.

Forgiveness of iniquities. Who other than God can forgive sin? Through Christ’s sacrifice and atoning blood, not only are our sins forgiven but our “sin nature” has been rendered “inoperative” (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 2:14-15). If we “fall short”, we need only confess and God faithfully forgives us (1 John 1:9). He then removes remembrance of them to the furthest points of existence—even to the heavens (Ps. 103:11-12). There is no other god or religion that offers such forgiveness.

• Healing of diseases. Disease is the result of sin’s entrance into the world. It was not part of God’s original plan for His beloved creation. Yet God, within His providential will, provides physical healing—both on this side and the “other side” (2 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4). Spiritual healing is now available to release us from anger, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness. After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit and spoke these words in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:14-19). Jesus is our Healer today.

• Redemption of life from destruction. In Hebrew, destruction or sahat, is translated pit or dungeon; corruption or decay. Before God’s intervention (through Jesus Christ) we were “in a hole, destined to die.” The sin of one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). God will continually save us from the world, Satan, and our “old nature.” He is our Preserver (Ps. 145:14-20).

• Crowning with lovingkindness and tender mercies. God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies are evidenced from Genesis to Revelation, as He provides and protects His covenant people. Through our confession of faith in Christ, lovingkindness was extended to us, as Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The literal translation of tender mercies is “tender and compassion.” It expresses love of a superior for an inferior; this love is seen in the deep feelings that move the superior to help. While we were without strength to save ourselves Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6).

• Satisfaction with “good things”. The NIV rendering of this verse is “He satisfies your desires with good things.” When we are obedient to God, we are in the center of His will. He will give us what is best for our life—even when we don’t see it. The result is renewal of hope and trust and the ability to continue our walk of faith. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)

As you celebrate this New Year Eve, remember to “forget not”, throughout the year!

Our Lord’s Coming

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8 (NKJ)

I hope all of you have enjoyed the Advent reading for 2015: A Time of Devotion. It is my hope that this special devotional gave you an opportunity to experience God in new ways as you explored Christ’s return upon your life.

Advent is rapidly coming to a close and giving way to the glorious celebration of Christmas. Advent not only commemorates the historical entry of our blessed Lord and Savior into our time and space but also anticipates the prophetic promise that Jesus Christ will come again. The fulness and understanding of the meaning of Advent is not simply the understanding that Christ has arrived (past tense) but that He is still coming (present tense) AND will come (future tense).

Jesus has come. During His first Advent, Jesus brought peace to all “who were once far off” (Ep. 2: 13) and estranged from God. God manifested Himself in Christ Jesus to save us from the sentence of death, created by our sinful state. We are now are reunited and reconciled to God—no longer destined to suffer God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18).

Jesus is still coming. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to reveal Himself (John 16:13. The Holy Spirit is the present manifestation of Christ in our lives. He teaches and directs us in all that we do. He empowers us (Eph. 2:19) to do the work of Christ in the church today.

Jesus will come. Much is written in the gospel accounts about Christ Second Advent (Matt. 24:44; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:28). Jesus’ return will be a time of judgment: to punish those who failed to accept the good news of the Gospel and to reward believers for their works of righteousness (Rev. 20:12). We don’t know when Christ will return but we can be assured, He will come.

Understanding the “supernatural fact” of Christ’s Advent is too wonderful for our “natural mind” to comprehend. Jesus Christ has made His presence known to us in such a way that cannot be limited to time but extends throughout time as we know it. So we await Christ’s second coming “rejoicing in His glorious appearance” (2 Tim. 4:8)—past, present, and future. Jesus has come, is still coming and will come again. Hallelujah and Amen!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year as you receive more of God’s revelation through His Word.

Spiritual Fruitfulness

“(That you may) walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him,

being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  Colossians 1:10 (NKJ)

The symbols of Thanksgiving are inescapable as we prepare for yet another holiday with friends and family.  We long for the traditional turkey, baked to a golden brown with its legs trussed in white.  The children make paper turkeys with the outline of their hand; the thumb is positioned perfectly as the turkey’s head, complete with a red wattle hanging beneath its neck. My favorite representation of Thanksgiving, however, is the plenteous cornucopia, bursting forth with ripened fruit from its wide and ample opening.  It is this image of Thanksgiving that has caused me to evaluate my own personal fruitfulness.  Since I have been “rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:7), am I bringing forth fruit pleasing to Him?  More importantly, what does spiritual fruitfulness look like?

Fruit (the product of fruitfulness) is used metaphorically of work or deeds (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:8).  While works are evidence of Christian activity, it does not always tell the whole story.  Jesus’ teachings often encouraged listeners to look beyond what they could see with their physical eyes and to examine the motives and intentions behind the deeds (Matthew 7:16-20).

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

This view of fruit bearing was very intimidating to the religious establishment of Jesus’ day and still is to believers who gauge the quality of their “spiritual” fruit by calendars filled with church activities and hours dedicated to devotional activities.  Fruitfulness is not “busyness for the Lord” but “transformed living” resulting in the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).  Fruitfulness reflects the heart and mind of our beloved Lord and Savior, in whose image we are to be daily conformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

How do we become fruitful?  Fruitfulness begins and ends with the Chief Source of all life, God the Father through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Fruitfulness is the visible expression of the Holy Spirit’s power working inwardly and visibly in the life of the believer.  The fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is not the result of impotent human efforts but is the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit being reflected in our lives as we divest control of our mind, will, and emotions to Him.

Our role in developing spiritual fruit is to abide in Christ.  To abide means to “tarry and remain”. As we abide, we listen for His voice, we obey His instruction, and we serve at His pleasure.  Jesus is the True Vine.  Believers are His branches and therefore dependent on Him for spiritual nutrients which can only be provided by the Giver and Sustainer of life.  Without Him we, the branch, can bear no fruit (John 15:4-5).  If we successfully abide in Him, we produce “much fruit”.  As we produce much fruit, the Father is glorified (John 5:8).

We are Christ’s disciples and have been appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16).  This Thanksgiving is a great time to evaluate the fruit you are producing.  How does your garden grow?

 Good to the Last Byte…

Abiding requires believers to not only dedicate time alone with the Father but also practice the art of being in His presence continually.  Since Christ is with us continuously (in the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit) practicing His presence must become an intentional act of abiding.

Exalted Lord

 “Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power.”   Psalm 21:13

November 4th was Election Day across the nation.  For months we have listened to the political rhetoric of men and women attempting to capture our vote.  Candidates lifted their record and reputation as proof of their suitability over their opponents in hopes of influencing our final choice.  While I am not negating the importance of voting and the value of the electoral process, I think it is essential to revere the only One whose record and reputation deserves all our trust.  That One is the Lord.

The 21st Psalms carries the title of “Thanksgiving for Victory.”   It is written in acknowledgment of God’s role in the success of David, the king of Israel.  Unlike the world that assigns confidence to its own ability and control, the Psalmist recognizes that God’s faithfulness and favor is the true source of David’s achievement.  This thought is captured in the following verses:

How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD! He shouts with joy because of Your victory.  For You have given him his heart’s desire; You have held back nothing that he requested. You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.  He asked You to preserve his life, and you have granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. Your victory brings him great honor, and You have clothed him with splendor and majesty.  You have endowed him with eternal blessings. You have given him the joy of being in your presence.  For the king trusts in the LORD. The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.”   Psalm 21:1-7 (NLT)

Note the number of times the Psalmist uses the pronoun “You and Your”.  The Psalmist boldly esteems God, not David, for all of Israel’s victories.  It is God alone who is worthy of all the praise and all the glory.  We, in our humanity, often assign blame to God for our trials and tribulations.  Do we boldly praise Him for our successes?  Will we not also exalt the Lord?

In this exaltation, the Psalmist not only celebrates through thanksgiving past victories but also anticipates future success.  This anticipation is based on trust—trust in the character and nature of God.  God, through His past acts of goodness and mercy, can be relied upon for future protection and provision.  As we look back on God’s work in our lives, is He not worthy also of our future confidence?  Will we not also exalt the Lord?

   The Psalmist ends his song with the only appropriate response to the overwhelming goodness of the LORD.

 “We praise you, LORD, for all your glorious power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.”

 And what should be our response to the Lord for all He has done for us?  If we were to reflect on the events of just this past week, I’m sure we would find that God’s love, strength and favor has been upon lives.  Let us thank God for all He has done, is doing and will do in our lives.  Let us, like the Psalmist exalt the Lord and celebrate His mighty acts.

Never Alone

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18a (KJV)

We are never alone because God has promised always to be with us (Heb. 13:5).  This seemingly simple affirmation concerning God’s presence reflects our assurance that in spite of present circumstances or situations, we are never in it by ourselves—we are never alone.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence was associated with specific places.  After witnessing God’s messengers ascent and descent upon heaven’s ladder, Jacob humbly responded, “Surely the LORD was in this place and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).   Jacob then erected an altar to acknowledge God’s presence and named that place, Bethel, which literally means “House of God”.  Jacob realized he was never alone.

During Israel’s journey to the Land of Canaan, God revealed His presence in “smoke and fire”—first at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:18).  Later when the Tabernacle was erected, the Israelites would observe (from afar) the Presence of the Lord descend as a pillar of cloud and stand at the door of the Tabernacle as the LORD talked with Moses (Exod. 33:9).  Even in the wilderness, the Israelites discovered they were never alone.

The Temple in Jerusalem would ultimately be the place where the Nation of Israel would worship Jehovah.  It was there that “God dwelled’ and where His people would journey to observe the three Hebrew feasts—Passover (Lev. 23:5-8), Pentecost (Exod. 23:16) and Tabernacle (Lev. 23:34-44). The Temple and the city of Jerusalem were often referred to as Zion (fortress).  Zion was used figuratively of God’s spiritual kingdom where He dwelled (Ps. 125:1).   Those who worshipped God had to go where God dwelled.

“God with us” (Immanuel) was fully realized through the incarnation of Jesus (Matt. 1:23). This was the first time since the Garden of Eden that man would again experience fellowship with God.  This time it would be through His Son.  Imagine then, after three years of unbroken fellowship, the sense of abandonment Jesus’ disciples must have felt as they prepared for His departure.  But Jesus promised that He would not leave them comfortless or alone (John 14:17).  After His ascension into Heaven, Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to be their Comforter, Guide and Teacher (John 14:8; 15:26; 16:13).  On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) they received the full measure of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit and with it the power and boldness to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote of his unwavering confidence in God’s presence even in the midst of persecution for his faith (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.   But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”

The Apostles knew they would never be alone.  Believers must echo that same confidence knowing that Deity resides within each of them.  Today we can experience the fullness and power of God’s Presence through His Holy Spirit.  God is with us in unbroken fellowship and joyful intimacy (John 17:22-23).  During this time of transient relationships, it is reassuring to know that God is and will always be with us.  In spite of trials and tribulations, we are never in it by ourselves—we are never alone.

Good to the Last Byte…

With each new dispensation, God revealed His presence in different ways that reinforced the fact that His chosen people are never alone.  Throughout the writings of the Psalmists, God’s presence was recognized to extend beyond the spatial limitations of tabernacles and temples.  In Psalm 139:7-10, God’s immensity is featured:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?   If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.   If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

“Dats what God’s Word do!”

Baseball and the WordKansas City is alive with excitement as the Kansas City Royals approach a World Series that has eluded them for twenty-eight (28) years.   The team has been blessed with young and exciting players that have added personality and flair to Kansas City baseball.  One of its newer players is Gerrod Dyson, who is noted for his extraordinary speed.  When asked by sportscasters as to the secret of his ability to steal so many bases during a game, he humbly and laughably replied, “Dats what speed do!”  After reading Gerrod’s response, I felt humorously inspired to write this week’s teaching on the extraordinary power of God’s Word.

God’s creative WORD was evidenced throughout Genesis.  God would speak and it was done.  Darkness separated from light and the result He called night and day (Gen. 1:4-5).  God said “let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven” and the sun and the moon came into existence (Gen. 1:15-16).  Greater still was God’s Word of salvation in which He sent His only begotten Son to save us from sin’s death grip. “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me” (Heb. 10:5).

God’s transformative WORD can be found in both the New and Old Testament with the clearest benefits being outlined in Psalm 19.  Ps. 19:7-8 uses several descriptors to convey the power of God’s Word in the life of the believer.  “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.   The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”   God’s Word transforms by reviving the sorrowful soul, making wise the ignorant, and giving joy and light to its reader.

God’s prophetic WORD bears witness to His claim as the only all-wise Sovereign of both heaven and earth.  His spoken Word becomes reality (Num. 23:19).  Throughout the history of Israel, God’s WORD guaranteed deliverance, protection, and provision (Is. 7:7) resulting in confidence and trust in Him alone (Dan. 10:19).  “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Is. 50:4).

God’s effectual WORD is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12).  His Word, whether read or spoken, will “not return empty but will accomplish the desire and the purpose for which it was sent” (Is. 55:11).  God’s Word accurately hits its target—the broken heart, the wayward soul, or the spirit of disobedience.  Because of its effectiveness and accuracy, it can be trusted to bring the unredeemed to salvation (2 Tim. 3:16; 4:2).

God’s WORD is the source for all we need in navigating life on this side and in preparing for life on the other.  How can believers live victoriously in a world that is anti-Christ and dangerously fallen?  We can faithfully embrace what God has taught us in His Word (Col. 3:6-7).  We can maintain joy in the midst of life challenges (1 John 1:4).  We can experience peace rather than fear (Phil. 4:6-7).  Why?  Because “Dat’s what God’s Word do!”

Spiritual Identity Essentials

In this final teaching on spiritual identity, I’d like to focus on three (3) essentials that will assist us in our journey toward spiritual maturity and wholeness.  These principles will help believers to remain true to their identity in Christ when confronted by the negative influences of the world, Satan, and our flesh (Gal. 2:20).  Jesus’ ministry and personal relationship with His Father provides us solid principles that will help us guard our true identity in Christ and keep the “main thing the main thing”.  These essentials include knowing:  (1) where you came from, (2) why you are here, and (3) where you will ultimately return.   Jesus knew the essentials.

Jesus knew where He came from.  At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, people continually inquired as to His origin.  Questions came from the scribes, the Pharisees, and the priests—any and all who questioned His works (Matt. 13:54) and His authority (Mark 11:28).  There was even a moment of doubt by John the Baptist (Luke 7:20).  However, Jesus was never hesitant to proclaim His origin.  He came from God, His Father.   “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5)

Jesus knew why He was there.  Jesus was never dissuaded or confused as to His purpose.  Early in his life, the boy Jesus reminded his earthly parents of the need to be “about His Father’s work” (Luke 2:49).  Even when Jesus was burdened by His imminent death and separation from His Father, He quickly refocused His attention to God’s purpose for His life—salvation for mankind through the Cross.  “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27)

Jesus knew where He was ultimately returning to.   Jesus’ return to heaven would not mark the end of His life but the fulfillment of His destiny. In heaven, as a result of His obedience, He would be exalted and glorified as Lord of Lord and King of Kings.  “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,   and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Philippians 2:9-11)

So how do these three principles affect our spiritual identity?  The knowledge of our origin (in Christ) gives the believer confidence knowing that Jesus is the Source and Sustainer of our life.  We have divine access to God who is all powerful, all knowing, and ever present (Ps. 145:13).  Our purpose becomes the channel through which God’s purpose is fulfilled.  Our life has eternal value and consequence.  We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us (2 Cor. 5:15).  Our destiny is inexplicably connected to heaven where Christ now resides (Ep. 1:10).  Knowing our true destiny redirects our efforts “to store up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) while teaching us to wisely “number our days” here on earth (Ps. 90:12).

Our spiritual identity is found in Christ.  This union with Christ connects our origin, our purpose, and our destiny with Him.  What Jesus has, we have!  We who were once dead in our sins are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).  This “sameness” guarantees us a common spiritual life with the Father and Son (1 Cor. 6:17), eternal security from all spiritual enemies (Heb. 7:25), and access to all God’s blessings (1 Pet. 1:4).  Such knowledge of our true spiritual identity is too wonderful for words yet let us boldly proclaim our identity in Christ!

Spiritual Identity Theft

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26 (KJV)

The recent security breaches at Target, Home Depot, and other million dollar merchants, have left many of us extremely nervous concerning identity theft.   It has become a lucrative business as personal information is illegally accessed and sold to the highest bidder whose intent is to defraud and swindle.  It is an event we pray never happen to us. Similarly, theft of our spiritual identity can be a costly event.  Why is protection of our spiritual identity important?

First, our spiritual identity connects us to our source of life, God the Father. In Christ Jesus” we are reconciled to God. Now we are “children of God” and His “son” (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14). Understanding our spiritual identity, we can access those rights and privileges that are rightfully our “birthright”. Our identity, which was loss in the garden, was restored at the Cross.

Secondarily, our spiritual identity replaces the distorted view we have of ourselves communicated by Satan and the world, and through unhealthy attachments and relationships. It is here that we develop “false identities” of who we are. These false identities leave us brokenhearted and emotionally damaged. God’s truth, our identity in Christ Jesus, is needed to replace the lies we believe (John 8:32; 10:13).

The key perpetrator of spiritual identity thief is Satan. Our true identity was established in the Garden of Eden. There man was created in the image of God and shared unbroken fellowship with the Father. He was given authority over all creation and total access to limitless resources (Gen. 1:28). That was God’s identity for man–beloved creature and ruler–until his identity was “stolen” through deceit and deception. Satan took man’s glorious identity, given by God the Creator, and robbed him of his “good name”, leaving him “spiritual bankrupt.”

God, in His mercy and love, sent Jesus to retrieve and strengthen our true identity that was stolen in the Garden. “In Christ Jesus” we have been given a new name and new blessings to be enjoyed now through eternity. Our true identity is now safe and secure, “theft resistant” because of that which Christ accomplished on the Cross.

Identification with Christ

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20  (KJV)

While “identity” denotes that set of characteristics that constitute our essential self or personal uniqueness, it also describes our sameness with groups.  We identify with groups based on their characteristics, values, and/or belief system.  For example, we may identify with a particular area (Midwesterner, New Yorker), a certain demographic (Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials), or even a certain cause (MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Save the Whales).    Our identity with certain groups may be intentional in hopes of elevating our status or gaining influence.  Identification with Christ is, however, what really matters both now and for eternity.

“Identification”, for purposes of our teaching today, denotes association in name, feeling, interest, or action.  When identification is used in this manner, it is usually followed by the preposition with, such as, “He preferred not to identify himself with that group.”  How do we identify with Christ and what does it look like in our lives?  Mark Hankins, in his book, The Power of Identification in Christ, gives us great insight as to where identification with Christ begins:

“Your identification with Christ or who you are in Christ begins with the grace of God.  God puts you in a place where you can see His glory, get in His presence, know and experience Him.”

This grace of God was demonstrated to us through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

 “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:4-6

So how do we begin this journey of identifying with Christ?  We begin identification with Christ by identify with…

His deathBefore Christ came into our lives we were dead in our trespasses (Col. 2:13).  We were bound by our human tendencies to follow the impulses and temptations generated by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).   Now with Christ, our old nature has been put to death ((Ep. 4:22; Mark 8:35).  This dying to sin and self is possible as a result of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

His burial.   What do you do with dead things? You bury them!  Sin is no longer “operative” (effective) in the believer’s life.  We do not have to respond to sin’s demands (Col. 2:12) and we are released from Satan’s control over our lives (Romans 6:11-12).    To return to a lifestyle of sin is as unthinkable for a Christian as for one to dig up a dead corpse!

His resurrection.  We have been “quickened” (made alive) by the Spirit (Ep. 2:1,5 ; 1 Pet. 3:18) and are raised by the power of God into “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).  This power (dynamis) is the same power that God used when He raised Jesus from the grave (Ep. 1:19-20).   It is now the believer’s privilege and responsibility to “appropriate” that power in our Christian walk. 

His glorification.  Since we died and were raised with Christ, we will also be glorified with Him (Ep. 2:6).  The believer’s greatest hope is to partake in the future glory with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  This hope outweighs any trials we may experience now and becomes the goal of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).  Through identification with Christ’s glorification we see the culmination of God’s plan of salvation (Rom. 8:30).

Why is identification with Christ important?  By identifying in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and glorification, we begin to shed ourselves of the earthly entrapments that compete for God’s love and affection.  Christ becomes the standard as to what true love and obedience looks like—love for our Father and love for one another.  During this process of identification, transformation begins.  Our spirit man no longer must be coaxed to do what is right but finds joy in fulfilling God’s purpose, as willing bondservants to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet.1:1).

Our identification with Christ is our personal witness and commitment to the values and beliefs that are associated with Him.  Our life is now hidden in Christ and our attention is focused on a heavenly agendas and kingdom building (Col. 3: 1-3).   In the identification process, we become conformed to the image of Christ, which has always been the desire of the Father (Rom. 8:29).  It is through our identification with our Savior that we achieve our true identity of “Christ-likeness”.

Sure Facts, Overwhelming Odds, and God

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  Genesis 50:19-20 (KJV)

What do sure facts, overwhelming odds, and God have in common?  These are factors which often determine a person’s chance of success in the world.  While these may be actual considerations, they are not the final word.  We must always factor in the sovereignty and providence of God to not only level the playing field, but also to become the obvious advantage.

Sure facts take into consideration those elements we are born with or born into.  They include our “family factors”—our race, our gender, family structure (i.e., parental influence, number of siblings, birth order) and socio-economic position.  We had little control over their selection.  In the case of Joseph, he was born into the family of Jacob as the second youngest of thirteen children.  Jacob had two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah) who bore his children (Genesis 30) but Joseph was Jacob’s favorite (Gen. 37:3).  This created an unhealthy and toxic environment for child rearing marked with sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Overwhelming odds are circumstances that minimize the possibilities of success in life and relationships.  They sometimes affect one’s ability to earn a living, care adequately for one’s family, or to live safely and confidently.   Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver and was brought to Egypt.  Being a Hebrew slave, the odds of Joseph rising above his new found station in life was slim to none.  The odds became even smaller when he was thrown into prison as a result of the lies of Potiphar’s wife.  When it appeared release from prison was nigh, Joseph became the victim of the baker’s forgetfulness further obstructing any hope of freedom (Gen. 40:23).  But God was about to do exceedingly above all that Joseph could ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

God was on the scene for Joseph as the Holy Equalizer and Change Master.  What appeared to be sure facts and overwhelming odds for Joseph soon became “biblical history.”   God, the Holy Enabler and Way Maker, reversed the circumstances for Joseph whose journey began as a slave from Canaan but ended as a powerful ruler in Egypt.  He went from servant to savior for his people who would have perished from the famine in their land.  Joseph could have used the 16th Psalm as his personal testimony:  “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

Succumbing to what we believe are “sure facts and overwhelming odds” in our life can only result in despair and hopelessness.  Belief and trust in our God becomes the refreshing promise of rescue and provision regardless of the circumstances we face.  God’s plan and purpose for our life supersedes indisputable facts and devastating odds (Habakkuk 3:17-19).  Our future is not dependent on our family history or our personal past, but on Who we serve.  So the next time you’re weighing your options based on “facts and odds”, remember to factor in God.  God always has the final word.

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7