Family Matters

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We live in a world, not our home, but one where we live as ambassadors of Christ desiring our Lord’s Kingdom to come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We desire this for the world, however, when we bring this hope into the scope of our personal lives, we begin to consider the relationships with have with others. Peter, in the third chapter of his first letter, describes how a husband and wife are to relate to one another, as well as how all believers are to relate to others. Peter desires for the church’s witness for Christ to be effective. He begins by teaching on the sacred relationship of marriage.

In 1 Peter 3:1-2, Peter begins by writing to Christian wives. The teaching about the relationship between a wife and her husband was especially relevant to the first-century married woman who had started to follow Jesus. Christian wives with unsaved husbands were prominent in the early church. She would ask questions such as “Should I leave my husband?” or “Should I change my behavior towards him?” or “Should I assume a superior position to him because I am in Jesus?” Peter decides to answer these questions by addressing: “How will you see your husband saved?”

There can be significant conflict when one spouse is a believer, and the other is not. This has always been the case. It carried great weight in the first century where it was unthinkable for a wife to adopt a different religion than her husband. Christian women who came to Jesus before their husband needed instruction. Peter writes that their husbands “may be won,” gained, or acquired for the Kingdom, not by continual complaining or faultfinding, but by the way, they, as wives, behave. He, in 1 Peter 3:3-4, challenges wives to focus on their inward beauty, even pulling examples from women of faith from times past (see: 1 Peter 2:5-6). Godly love is powerfully attractive. The simple truth is that those who refuse to hear the Gospel will find it difficult to look away when it is being lived. So Peter instructs wives to love and respect their husbands.

Peter then turns his attention to husbands. In 1 Peter 3:7, we discover that a husband is to live with his wife in a manner that recognizes the loving, selfless nature of the marriage relationship. Scripture teaches that men and women complement one another as a married couple. Therefore, a husband is not to be demeaning or domineering, but have a special place of respect in his heart for his wife. Peter even warns that discord hinders our prayers. In other words, failure to live as godly husbands has spiritual consequences. The simple truth is that husbands, like their wives, are to love and respect their wives.

Peter then leaves the field of married couples and concludes with a summary of the attitudes Christians, as the family of God, should demonstrate to others, in both their actions and reactions. In 1 Peter 3:8-12, Peter instructs believers to “have a unity of mind.” The problem is that most of us are willing to “have unity of mind,” as long as that “unity” is with our own mind! Our mind needs to be conformed into Christlike thinking. A “unity of mind” speaks of unity in Christ desiring His will in all things. When we look at the example and teachings of Christ, we discover a selfless servant who even loved his enemies. For a believer to follow in His footsteps takes having faith that God cares for and rewards those who trust in Him. God’s call for the believer is to live under a general principle of love and respect for others.

I believe all of us desire to be loved and respected. Love and respect do not mean that we agree or approve of another’s actions. It doesn’t mean we choose to follow directives that go against God’s known will for us in His Word – the Bible. Love and respect mean seeing others as being image-bearers of God. Selflessly desiring God’s best for them and being aware of the impact of our witness. Imagine what it would look like to trust God, allowing Him to be our foundation and security. Imagine the impact not just on our lives, but on the lives of those around us as we, by the Spirit’s power and leading, love, and respect others. The question we need to answer is this, as ambassadors of Christ will we, by the Spirit’s power and leading, love, and respect others?

It is a privilege following Christ with each of you. It is not easy loving and respecting others, especially when they don’t love and respect us. However, when we allow the Spirit to make us more like Christ and trust in God’s goodness, we are unleashed to be supernatural witnesses for the Lord that not only blesses us but benefits others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christlike Living

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God has called believers out of this world to be His ambassadors to the homes, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces where we live. We live in a world that is not our home, but where we have hope in Christ, and it is His hope we are called to share with the world around us. The simple truth is that the hope of Christ is witnessed through the lives of those growing to become more and more like Jesus (see: 2 Cor 3:16-8).

Peter, in the second chapter of his first epistle, verses 11-25, explains how a believer is to engage in Christlike living. In verses 11-12, he states that Christlike living involves dealing rightly with sin  (lack of living in alignment with God’s will for us). Peter urges the believer to fight against the lusts of the flesh (sinful nature or inclination). This battle continues as long as we live in the flesh (human body this side of paradise). Paul writes of this battle: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). The only way to conquer the flesh is to yield to the Spirit. As believers, we are to walk in alignment with God’s Word by the power of the Spirit. As a believer walks this way, they grow in greater likeness to Christ and in their witness to others.

Peter continues in verses 13-17, drawing our attention to the reality that Christlike living involves honoring God by living respectably towards human institutions. Human institutions are social establishments such as home and state. God has established these institutions for people (see: Rom 13:1-7). For the Lord’s sake, believers are to honor them. In other words, to dishonor these institutions dishonors God. As Christians, we ought to be good citizens, submitting to government, when their laws do not violate God’s laws. Why? Because Peter knew that our conduct is a way to defend the Gospel. Those who have never read the Bible will read our lives. What does such Christlike living look like amidst human institutions? We are to honor everyone, being concerned for the welfare of all people. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to fear God, revere Him, respect Him, stand in awe of Him, and love Him. We are to give our ultimate loyalty to God but respect civil rulers. Such a life shows love for our Lord and allows our witness to shine throughout our society.

Then, Peter writes in verses 18-20 that Christlike living involves choosing to respond in all circumstances in a way that points to Jesus. Peter uses as an example among the most disadvantaged in his contemporary society, household servants. This passage has been a difficult one for some to explore mainly because it does not denounce such servitude, but we must look at it in context. The whole of Scripture does not condone servitude or slavery. In fact, it was those who understood scriptural teaching who fought to abolish slavery in England and here in the United States. In Peters day, household servants often had more economic and social mobility than free agricultural workers or peasants, although most of them did not have much. A large portion of the early church was made up of household servants. How does such a passage apply to us today? This passage could be seen about employee/employer relationships today. However, keep in mind, unlike the freedom many, if not all of us have to leave a bad place of employment, these servants only had a choice of how they would react. Peter challenges believers to be respectful to those over them and to endure for Christ’s sake, even in suffering. Suffering is not a blessing in and of itself, but, if one’s duty to God is involved (see: Acts 4:20), then on can meet it with a joyful heart (see: Matt 5:10-12). Such a life advances our walk with the Lord and witness to others.

Lastly, Peter in verses 21-25 explains that Christlike living involves following in Christ’s steps. Peter, who was an eyewitness to the Lord’s suffering uses our Lord’s torture and salvific act of dying on the cross for our sins to exemplify the Lord’s commitment to selflessly endure suffering for God’s glory and our benefit. Further, Peter encourages us by reminding believers that we have been spiritually healed by Christ. Christ heals our sin in that He by one suffering put away sin forever (see: Isa 53:5). The encouragement to believers who suffer is that a person may bring harm to your body, but through Christ’s suffering sacrifice, no one can harm your soul. Through Christ’s example and salvific act, believers can be assured of their salvation, grow in their walk with Him, as well as, in our witness for Him.

The world Peter lived in was not much different from our own. For sure, we live in an age with a greater understanding of the universe and where technology is far advanced from the world in which Peter lived. But, the spiritual and cultural challenges to those desiring to live Christlike lives are the same. We still live in a world, not our home, where our hope is found in Christ. We still are challenged to take a stand against sin in our lives, to honor those in authority over us, and seek to follow the example of Jesus in all circumstances – to follow in His steps. This kind of conduct stands as a true witness to others to belief, silence the tongue of accusers, and bring approval from God.

It is such a joy serving the Lord with each of you. Imagine the power in our lives as we grow in Christlikeness as well as the exponential witness we will have for Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

Missional Church

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You do not need me to tell you that as believers, we live in a world that is not our home, but desperately needs God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. In response to this reality, Peter writes in First Peter on how then a believer ought to live. Peter describes how God’s sanctifying work in the life of a believer produces Christlike love for others. This love is not to be expected from those who don’t know Christ, because it can only be produced in a life filled with the Spirit of God and empowered by Him. In the most genuine sense, a person must be in fellowship with Christ to live like Christ. Peter explains that our living like Christ is rooted in the fact that we have been called by God and to live on mission with Him.

Peter writes, in First Peter 2:4-5, that God has actually called us to walk in fellowship with Him. Peter presents us with an image of Christ being the foundation of a cathedral and believers being the bricks stacked upon Him in its construction. He also draws from the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices to pronounce that every believer today is a priest, unto the Lord, who is to present Him with spiritual sacrifices. When we offer God our lives and offer Him our love as well as love others, He accepts it as an offering with joy.

Peter continues, in First Peter 2:6-8, to describe how a believer who lives in fellowship with God treasures Christ. If we are being built into a cathedral or spiritual house, we can be confident of what God is making, because Christ is not just its foundation, but the chief cornerstone. Therefore those who believe in Christ for their salvation and sanctification (becoming more like Christ) will never regret it. In contrast, those who reject Christ have no firm foundation on which to build their life. They will pay the penalty of their choice. In fact, Peter explains that they will stumble and continue to stumble over the Truth that is Christ. The simple truth for the believer is that God wants to do more in and through us then they could ever imagine.

Then, in First Peter 2:9-10, Peter explains that those who walk in fellowship with God, not only cherish Christ but live on mission with Him. We have been created to live on mission with God. We are His precious possession because we belong to Him, and He loves us and calls us to partner with Him to share His love and message with others. God desires the whole world to live in right relationship with Him. He desires you and me, our families, neighbors, co-workers, and schoolmates to enter into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. His divine plan is for His followers to partner with Him in life and mission. In other words, all believers are called to be everyday missionaries.

Everyday missionaries are those who practice a life on mission where God has placed them. Everyday missionaries understand the prayer “God’s Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to mean, “God’s Kingdom come in my home…in my neighborhood…in my workplace…in my school…as it is in heaven.” When we choose to join God on His mission as His church, we allow him to use our ordinary life to do extraordinary things.

No doubt, we live in a world where we battle culture, our own weaknesses, and our enemy the devil. It is often against the current that we walk with God. But, it is a possible walk because believers are led and empowered by God’s Spirit. We can see “God’s Kingdom come and His will be done” as we

…Answer God’s calling of us to walk in fellowship.

…Treasure Christ.

…Live on mission with God.

 Imagine how such a walk with Christ would impact you and me, our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and yes, our region for God’s glory.

I am so honored to be on mission with God along with each of you. We can press on in confidence, no matter the circumstance, because we know that our foundation in Christ is rock solid and He cherishes us. Therefore, let’s live on mission with Him so the world will know the love and saving work of our God. Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone)!

Christian Love

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In 1 Peter, we discover a call to a genuine love for others, especially those who are part of the family of God. I think all of us would admit that to love like Jesus is not natural. It can be difficult. The world, the flesh, and the devil are always working against us. This makes it challenging to receive the love of Christ, as well as able to radiate His love to those around us.

Peter offers divine insights to unleash us to love others. He writes:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Peter is writing this compelling call to love to Christians because he knew the believers would be tempted to participate in one of two damaging behaviors. Some would be tempted to, after accepting Christ, go back to their old ways of doing life with old friends, even preferring their company and influence over that of their church family. Now, there is nothing wrong with having friends who are not Christian. In fact, we must if we are to love them into the kingdom. However, to do so in such a way as to abandon Christian fellowship and influence is destructive to one’s life in Christ. Also, like today, these new believers came from different social statuses (slaves and freepersons, rich and poor). The privileged were slow to take the underprivileged to themselves in Christlike family love. Peter declares that a Christ-follower is to radiate Christlike love to others.

Peter explains that since a believer has had their souls purified by obeying the truth of God’s Word through the power and leading of the Spirit, there ought to be fruit. The fruit is a genuine love for others. The believer is to love one another earnestly with pure and self-sacrificing love, having been given new life through the living and ever true Word of God that is unlike the stuff of earth that fades away. Therefore, it’s inconsistent and incomplete to claim Christ as Lord and Savior and not love others.

Peter then writes:

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

Peter has just demonstrated our call to love empowered by the glory and eternal character of God’s Word. Now, in light of what God’s Word is to us, He shares with us the particular heart we must have to receive the truth of the Bible genuinely. We need to put away sin. To “put away” literally means to clean off or take off, as in clothing. Peter presents a list of unloving actions that are not intended to be exhaustive, but in keeping with the theme of love, addresses actions stemming from ill will towards others. A Christian has no part in malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander. These things contradict what it means to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.’

A believer also needs to desire God’s Word. God’s word is food for spiritual growth. Simply stated, the Word of God is necessary for Christian growth. We live in a culture where there is a belief and drive to develop an evolved gospel, but Peter makes it clear that the believer ought to know and walk in the teachings of the one true enduring Word of God. The short of it is that the believer has an obligation and the ability to love as Christ loves. This is made possible as we are cleansed of sin, filled with God’s Word, and empowered by the Spirit. A spiritually healthy believer is a loving Christian.

I have seen in my life that my love capacity grows when I am walking rightly with the Lord, and as I seek to master His Word. As I seek to master His word, by the power and leading of His Spirit, His Word masters me. When I drift from the Lord and become lax in dealing with sin and neglect His Word, my love capacity shrinks. I don’t just need Jesus as my Lord in Savior for eternities sake; I need Him every day for my own sake and that of those I encounter. As Christ’s Word abides in me, the truth of His Word, His love radiates from me. I am not perfect, but I am being perfected.

Imagine what it would look like for each of us to take seriously our obligation and trust in our God-given ability to love as Christ loves. Imagine what it would be like to believe that Christ can cleanse us, that we can be filled with His Word, that His Spirit has the power to transform us and make us conduits of His love. We and the world around us will never be the same. Have you received, and are you radiating God’s love?

It is a privilege to be a part of God’s family with each of you. Let us put off sin and get into His Word. As we seek to master the Bible, I pray it will master us. Let’s encourage one another onto Christlike love for others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Be Holy

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We discover in First Peter a message offering Christ’s church hope in a world, not her home.  Jesus said:

“If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you” (Jn 15:19, MSG).

As followers of Christ, we are called to live out our faith in a world that often does not understand us and sometimes is quite antagonistic. Peter does not want us to be taken by surprise by the opposition we’ll face. In fact, he writes to teach us how to stand firm, living with hope as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, awaiting eternity with Him by making an eternal difference in this world.

We discover in First Peter 1:13-21 the answer to this crucial question: How ought a believer live in this world? First, we discover in verse 13 that believers are to set their hope in Jesus Christ. When life gets hard, we are constantly looking for someone or something to place our hope in – to be the answer that will right our lives and give us what we need. It is only natural that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we seek to find that something or someone who will rescue us. Unfortunately, we often look in all the wrong places and many of them common places, such as education, marriage, profession, and on-and-on we go. Here is the simple truth: Our only real source of hope is found in Jesus Christ.

Second, Peter in vv. 14-16 teaches that believers are not only to set their hope in Jesus Christ but be holy. God makes us holy and calls us to holiness. The believer is not to be “conformed” or “molded” into the form of the world, but transformed into the pattern of God (see: Rom 12:1-2). Holiness speaks both of our position in Christ as well as our practical conduct.  The main idea behind holiness is not moral purity, but it is the idea of being “set apart” or “apartness.” The idea is that God is separate, different from His creation, both in His essential nature and in the perfection of His attributes. Here is something amazing: Instead of God building a wall around His apartness, God calls us to come to Him and share His apartness. We can only conduct ourselves with holiness (Christlikeness) because we are made holy by Christ’s salvific work and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In this sense: Holiness is not so much something we possess as it is something that possesses us.

Thirdly, Peter in vv. 17-21 informs us that believers are not only to set their hope in Jesus Christ. They are not only to be holy. They also are to do this because of who God is and what Christ has done and is doing in their life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our motivation is love, God’s love. It is the Good News of salvation in Christ that’s the primary motivation for our holiness, as we live in this world. We don’t deserve God’s love, but by His grace we abundantly receive it. We receive mercy because God has purchased us with the blood of Jesus. This is why our hope is in Jesus. Our call is to be like Jesus. And our motivation is the salvific work of Jesus. Believers set their hope in Jesus Christ, being holy, because of who God is and what Christ has done and is doing in their life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine what it would look like to place you hope in Christ. Picture what it would mean to trust Him as you follow in His steps becoming like Him. As we respond to His love, I believe each of us, our homes, our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, this region, will never be the same.

It is my privilege to serve Christ alongside each of you. This world we live in is not always easy. But, we can find hope in Christ. God calls and empowers us to become like Christ. And, our motivation to such a life is found mainly in God’s abundant love for us. Let’s encourage one another to be holy. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Living Hope

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Nearly 2,000 years ago, Peter wrote a letter to believers in a situation not much different than our own. As followers of Christ, we are called to live out our faith in a world that often does not understand us and sometimes is quite antagonistic. We live in a world that is not our home, but desperately needs God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, Peter does not want us to be surprised by opposition but see it as an opportunity to live out our faith showing the difference life in Christ makes. There is no greater apologetic to the world than for the believer to display the love of God while sharing His message of hope and salvation in all the circumstances of life.

Jesus issued a call to discipleship that warned of dangers ahead:  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). Jesus is not looking for mere believers, though belief is the first command. Christ has called for His disciples to follow Him while being changed by Him and committed to His mission. We learn from 1 Peter how to stand firm, living with hope as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus awaiting eternity with Him; while making an eternal difference in this world that is not our home.

In 1 Peter 1:1-2, we discover that Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote this letter and he wrote it to believers in Asia Minor that is modern-day Turkey. This letter was not written to any one congregation but intentionally written to all believers. As we read the letter, we discover it was written for all believers at all times. In other words, it was written for each and every one of us.

Then, in 1 Peter 1:3-5, we discover by God’s mercy we are invited into a living hope. Mercy, as an attribute of God, speaks of His goodness expressed to those who are afflicted. No other attribute of God could have helped us had mercy been refused. It is from God’s mercy that all our hopes begin.

In Christ, we are saved to a living hope because we have eternal life in a Savior who has conquered death Himself. It is faith in Christ that activates the preserving power of God in the life of the believer transforming us into a newness of life characterized by a living and active hope, which allows us to be in communion with God. One of the great blessings we have in Christ is this living hope that leads to an eternal inheritance of life with our Lord in paradise.

Peter continues to write in 1 Peter 1:6-9 that regardless of how bad our circumstances may appear, God is in control, and His love for us is constant. But why then do believers face trials and testing? Is it because God wants to know the strength of our faith? No, our faith is not tested because God doesn’t know how much or what kind of faith we have. God’s purpose in testing is to display the enduring quality of our faith. The simple truth is that when we have a living hope, where our joy is rooted in Jesus Christ, we are armed to face whatever suffering we may experience as Christians. Believers in Christ have a living hope characterized by joy in all circumstances, even though we at times genuinely grieve living in a world of hurt and pain.

Then, Peter concludes the first section of his letter, in 1 Peter 1:10-12, by describing how the prophets of old deeply desired and even the angels were eager to see the coming and salvific work of Christ. In other words, from the time of Peter to our present time, and into the unforeseeable future believers are privileged to live on this side of salvation history. Believers in Christ have a living hope characterized by joy in all circumstances that allows us to witness to all people at all times.

How does this impact the trials you are facing right now? How does this truth impact the grief you may be experiencing? We all know that you can’t simply ignore difficulties and pain. It certainly is not healthy to belittle it, but we must not despair in it or be crushed by it. In Christ, our sufferings are not wasted, but used to glorify Him, ultimately bless us, and as a witness benefits others. In Christ, we have a living hope and an eternal inheritance that significantly impacts our todays and endless tomorrows for a great purpose allowing us to rejoice in God and His goodness in all circumstances.  Even though this world is not our home and at times we face difficulties and pain, we can have joy in Christ with a living hope and as His followers see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

It is an honor to walk in this living hope with each of you. Imagine the impact on each of us, our homes, our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and our region. Although none of us are immune from suffering, tests, and trials this side of paradise, I hope and pray each of us will live in joy through our living hope in Christ. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Believer’s Identity

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A believer’s identity in Christ speaks of them being a new creation. The old self that lived apart from Christ is dead (crucified with Christ), and the new self emerges living in the power of God from Christlikeness to greater Christlikeness (see: Gal 2:20 and 2 Cor 3:16-18). A Christ follower is united with Christ and called to live in community with other believers, becoming citizens of heaven.

Part of the result of a believer’s identity in Christ is that we no longer belong to this world, but are separated from it. Paul writes to the church in Corinth:

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial (Satan)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty’” (2 Cor 6:14-18).

If an ox and a donkey were put in a double yoke, they would be unequally yoked. They would be unable to evenly pull a load. In a similar sense, a Christian is not to form a close and permanent marital, social, or business tie with an unbeliever. This is not to be interpreted as forbidding friendship with those who have yet to receive Christ, but as a caution not to enter into a relationship where the believer can be influenced to stray from Christ. God does not cause us to cease contact with the world, but to make sure we are not molded into its form (see: Rom 12:2).  We are to live in the world, but not of the world (see: Matt 5:13-16). We are to live in an intimate relationship with God, made possible in Christ, whom we are identified. By His power we can, “make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without” (2 Cor 7:1). This separateness allows the believer to effectively reflect and direct others to Christ.

Our identity in Christ ought to draw us closer and closer to God and His kingdom and farther and farther from the stuff of this earth (see: Col 3:2). Our new kingdom perspective means we understand that our enemy is the devil and not the people around us. Our enemy is the spiritual forces that endeavor to keep people from knowing God and believers from growing in intimacy with Him (see: Eph 6:12).

If all of this seems overwhelming, remember that one of the greatest blessings of our identity in Christ is the grace we’re given to grow and reflect Him to others. Paul encourages the church in Philippi and us as well with these words: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). God is committed to our spiritual growth as a believer. The God who has saved us will complete what He has begun. We will enter into the final blessing that Christ has prepared for us when He returns. Today He calls us to embrace our identity in Him and allow the light of that identity to fill us and shine through us in the hope that others will receive life in Him.

I am so thankful to be on mission with Christ and with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to live for God’s kingdom and not the kingdom of this world. Let’s help one another to embrace Christ’s love and share it with others. Our identity in Christ fills us with the presence and power of God. As citizens of His kingdom, let’s pray and participate in seeing His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Personal Identity

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For a believer to be a new creation in Christ is truly a fantastic blessing. The newness a Christ follower genuinely experiences not only impacts the individual believer but her impact on others as well. When a person enters into a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ, he is saved, but also is sanctified – increasingly being transformed into the image of Christ. In a genuine sense, a Christian’s identity is found in Christ.

Among the many benefits of being identified in Christ is becoming part of His forever family. The family of God embraces an immense body of believers who strive together to grow in their relationship with God as well as making Him known to the world around them. Paul wrote of the church this way:

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

It is the Spirit who incorporates believers into the body of Christ, a spiritual transformation symbolized by baptism. All believers are filled with the Spirit when they are renewed through salvation in Christ (see: Titus 3:5). It is the Spirit’s presence and workings that unites and empowers the church to be witnesses of Christ to the world.

The believer’s identity in Christ is demonstrated by their genuine concern for each other. The Christ follower does not merely seek their own good but desires to see the needs of others met (see: 1 Cor 10:24). The church is characterized by encouragement and forgiveness (see: Gal 6:1-2 and Matt 18:21-22). God’s forever family has a place for everyone to use their gifts and abilities in an atmosphere of respect and grace (see: 1 Peter 5:1-5).

The cornerstone characteristic of Christ’s church is love. This love is more than a feeling. It is a selfless, sacrificial, love modeled after Christ and empowered by the Spirit. Paul expresses this truth to the Christians in Galatia: “

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

This is undoubtedly a testimony worth memorizing and modeling. Paul writes that the old self who attempted to live apart from Christ is dead and his new self lives in Christ. He actually says, rather, Christ lives in him. The life Paul now lives on earth he lives in union with Christ through faith. Paul declares that he is crucified with Christ (old self is dead), and Christ lives in him (new self is alive in Christ). It is only by this work of God, that one can be identified in Him as well as reflect His love to others. Such love in the church is a witness to the world that we are His as well as testifies to the hope found in Him (see: John 13:25 and John 17:23-26).

Our being identified in Christ adopts us into His forever family. Therefore, our identity that unites us with Him unites us with brothers and sisters all over the world and spanning all of time. It is within this Christ-centric community that we share in Christ’s love extending it to one another and to the world.

It is an honor to be a part of God’s forever family with each of you. Out identity in Christ blesses us with community with Him and other believers. Let’s encourage each other to embrace Christ’s love, share it with one another, and spread it to throughout the world. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Genetic Identity

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I think the discovery of our identity can be a complicated process. I am not talking about our name, social security number, or nationality. I am talking about our God-given identity. This is difficult, in part, because we live in a world that often denies there is a God. I believe all of us understand that our pursuit of knowing who we truly are is clouded by the hurtful words of others, poor self-talk, and the destructive words of our enemy, the devil.

People will resort to drastic measures to discover their identity. I had a friend invest a year traveling the world to “find himself.” In the end, he returned more confused than when he left. Since God created us, it only makes sense that we ought to look to Him for the answer.

We learn in the first chapter of the Bible that we have been made in the image of God (see: Gen 1:26-27). This means that humanity is unique among all God’s creations, having both a material body and an immaterial soul. Having the “image” or “likeness” of God means, in the simplest terms that we were made to resemble Him. This likeness is mental, moral, and social. When Adam chose to reject God as Lord of His life and placed himself in God’s rightful place, sin entered the world. One of the consequences was the marring of our likeness to our Creator. The good news is that through Jesus’ finished work on the cross He has redeemed us making us a new creation (see: 2 Cor 5:17). In Christ, a believer is transformed and enabled to be rightly identified with Christ as well as reflect Him to others.

In Scripture, we discover that in our new identity in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin. Paul writes: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom 6:6). The death of our old self happened spiritually when we identified with Jesus’ death at our salvation. The old self speaks to our identifying with Adam to sin and its devastating consequences (see: Rom 3:23 and 6:23). The crucifixion of the old self is something God did for us, replacing it with a new self identified with Christ, allowing us to know Him and reflect Him to others. We are reconciled to God (see: Rom 5:10). We once were enemies of God, doing life our own way, rejecting Him. Now, in Christ, we are His, not only forgiven but also made right allowing us to live in fellowship with Him. This new identity, a return to our original identity before the Fall, completely changes our relationship with God, others, and our view of the world.

Our new identity in Christ means we are children of God (see: Rom 8:15-16). We are joint heirs with and friends of Christ (see: Gal 3:29 and John 15:15). We can approach God with confidence as our Heavenly Father (see: Heb 4:16). We can approach confidently but are not to do so arrogantly. In other words, we are not to demand anything from God, but we are to expect to be welcomed and cared for by Him. For instance, we can ask for His guidance and wisdom (see: James 1:5). Our new identity in Christ gives us the assurance that we are secure in Him (see Rom 8:38-39). This allows us to rest in Christ as Lord of our life and trust obediently in Him, understanding that such rest and trust is a vital part of remaining close to our Lord (see: John 14:23).

The believer has a rich identity in Christ. This identity is not just positional, but practical allowing us to know Him and make Him known as we walk in the relationship for which we have been created. It is so important to look to God to gain an understanding of our identity. Only our Creator has the ability and right to reveal our true identity to us.

I am honored to serve our Lord with each of you. I am so thankful to be found in Him. Let’s encourage one another to celebrate our wonderful identity in Christ and reflect Him to the world around us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Identity in Christ

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When we come to Christ, we are made anew. Paul writing to the church in Corinth declares: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). The believer’s identity in Christ is one of newness. The life-transformation that comes when we are joined to Christ by faith is nothing short of a new creation. The old self-seeking attitude is gone. All things are now viewed through the love of Christ.

When we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are identified with Him. Identity is defined as “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognized or known.” Therefore, our new identity in Christ ought to be something recognizable to others as well as ourselves.

There is another definition of identity: “the quality or condition of being the same as something else.” As the name “Christian” refers to one being a disciple of Christ and a disciple is a person who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and committed to the mission of Jesus, it would only make sense that a believer’s life ought to reflect that of Christ.

We learn what we know about Christ, in part, through the Holy Spirit illuminating the Bible for us. Illumination speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit by which He enables the understanding of Scripture by enlightening its reader. This work of the Spirit is necessary due to the spiritual blindness of people. Think of it this way, the Spirit who inspired Scripture opens up its comprehension (see: 1 Cor 2:10-16). Another reason this work is essential is that the world, the flesh, and the devil is always at work to draw us away from the truth. Paul, writing of the effect of our enemy on the unbeliever, declares:

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Cor 4:4).

Unbelief prevents the transforming light of Christ from entering our lives. Then, what hope is there? Paul goes on to explain:

“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

God Himself who first created natural light, now shines into our hearts to give us the spiritual light through Jesus Christ. Believer’s who are identified with Christ are to be walking billboards of our Lord and His love. We may not be perfect reflections, but as we grow in Christ, His Spirit uses us to exemplify the salvific work described in God’s Word. Since God’s Word is His preferred way to prune and cultivate a Christlike character in us, I ask the Spirit to give me the ability to understand and apply the Bible when I approach His Word.

Inasmuch as my own walk with Christ is profoundly affected by my understanding of my identity in Christ and a significant part of God’s plan to reach people with the love and message of Christ is tied my identity in Christ shinning though me, I need to make sure my understanding of who I am in Him is in alignment with His Word. I am a new creation in Christ. I am being transformed into His image.

It is a great joy to walk with our Lord with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to ask the Spirit to grant us understanding as we approach God’s Word. As we learn the truth of who we are in Him, I pray we will find ourselves increasingly confident in our walk with Christ as well as growing in our witness of His salvific work to others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!