How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 2

“ ‘While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ ” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.” John 12:36

In our study of the gospel of John we have come to Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the Cross. The people to whom He spoke had important decisions to make before Christ left them. In John 12:23, 32-33, Christ said that the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up on the Cross rather than be lifted up as a Ruler over the nations. This confused many of the people of Israel. We are looking at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ. Last time we learned to challenge them to seek God while there is still time (John 12:34-35). The second way we can respond to them is to COUNSEL THEM TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST ALONE WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:36).

Jesus said to the crowd, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36a). These people needed to “believe in the light,”Jesus Christ, as soon as possible (“while you have the light”), before the Cross. After the Cross, when the Light was no longer with them, it would be more difficult for them to believe. No person is promised tomorrow on earth, so it is important for them to respond in faith to Christ while they still have time.

Notice that Christ says they can become “sons of light” simply by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of salvation. This verse does not say they become “sons of light” by going to church, being baptized, confessing their sins, keeping the commandments, or praying. The only condition is to believe in the light which is Jesus Christ.

How often today do you hear a Christian use the word “believe” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It rarely happens. Search the internet and see how many Christian churches and organizations use the word “believe” or its synonym “trust” in their plan of salvation as the sole condition for obtaining eternal life from Jesus Christ. It is very seldom. Instead they use unclear clichés and phrases such as “accept Jesus, give your life or heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, repent or turn from your sins, confess Jesus as Lord, or submit to Jesus as your Lord.” Lost people are being told to do everything but believe in the Lord Jesus for eternal life. I am convinced that the greatest need in evangelism today is for Christian workers to return to using the words that God uses most in evangelism – the words believe and faith.

Some people confuse the use of the word “believe” in the Bible with common uses of the English word “believe.” For example, we may hear people say these common phrases in English:

– “I believe it is going to snow today.”

– “I believe I voted for the wrong candidate.”

– “I don’t believe voting makes any difference.”

– “I believe I gave her the wrong directions.”

So when people hear us use the word “believe” in relation to Jesus Christ, they may think it only conveys speculation. But the use of the word “believe” in the Bible communicates absolute certainty. When Christ says, “believe in the light” (John 12:36a), He is inviting people to be convinced that He is God Who is “the light,” and then to trust in Him alone. John writes in his epistle, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (cf. I John 1:5). There was no darkness or sin in Jesus Christ because He is God (I John 5:20; cf. Hebrews 1:8; 4:15). Therefore, only Jesus could give them life that never ends. Jesus does not direct unbelievers to the Father to receive everlasting life. He directs them to Himself for this gift (John 5:21, 40; 6:40, 47). Christ proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).

Sometimes I will encounter non-Christians who think they must do something in addition to believing or trusting in Christ alone to give them everlasting life. For example, when I ask a person, “What does God say you must do to get to heaven?” He or she responds, “I must believe in Christ and … be baptized or live a godly life or love others or take communion or confess all my sins.” And the list goes on and on and on. But is that what Jesus says?

Christ said to a religious leader named Nicodemus, 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever BELIEVES in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who BELIEVES in Him is not condemned; but he who does not BELIEVE is condemned already, because he has not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18).

According to John 3:14-16, who has everlasting life? The one who “believes in… the Son of Man,” Jesus Christ, Who was “lifted up” on a Cross (cf. John 8:28; 12:23, 32-33). According to John 3:17, Who is the one Person by which one must be saved? “Through Him,” God’s only begotten “Son,” Jesus Christ. According to John 3:18, what is the basis upon which a person is condemned or not condemned? Belief or unbelief in God’s “only begotten Son,” Jesus Christ.

It does not matter what your religion or denomination or pastor or priest teaches. What matters is what Jesus Christ taught. Repeatedly Jesus teaches that believing in Him alone is the only condition for everlasting life (cf. John 3:14-18; 5:46; 6:29, 35-36, 40, 47; 7;38; 8:24, 45; 9:35; 10:37-38; 11:25-26; 12:36, 46; 13:19; 14:1, 11-12; 16:9; 17:20; et al.).

When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Greek word translated “finished” is tetelestai. It means “paid in full.” Receipts in New Testament times were stamped with this word which meant that the debt had been paid in full. Christ did not make a down payment for our sin when He died on the Cross so that we must pay the remainder of our sin debt to God. God does not accept us on the basis of our good life, our keeping of His commandments, our water baptism, or the sacraments we have taken. We are accepted by God on the basis of the full payment for our sin debt to God when Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf. God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sin. The verb tetelestai is in the perfect tense. This means Christ made the full payment for our sin debt when He died on the cross and it remains paid in full to the present.

When we communicate the gospel with non-Christians, we must be clear that all people have sinned against God and deserve to die forever in the Lake of Fire (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). No amount of our good thoughts, words, or actions can change the fact that we are sinners before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Because Jesus finished paying the penalty for our sins when He died in our place, that means we do not have to work for our salvation (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). All God asks of us is to believe in Jesus alone and His finished work on the Cross as sufficient payment for our sins (John 3:14-15; 19:30). When we do, He gives us everlasting life and forgives all our sins (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s complete payment for all of our sins when He died in our place on the Cross.

Those who “believe in the light [i.e., in Jesus]… become sons of light” (John 12:36; cf. Ephesian 5:8). Every believer in Jesus is defined by the “light” of Jesus Christ instead of by their sin or shame. Christ, Who is Light, lives inside us now (John 8:12). Our sinful hearts have been made new and are good and noble (Luke 8:15). God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

We have been given a new identity and a new nature defined by Christ’s light. A passion resides deep inside us that can be stronger than our passion for sin when we yield to the Holy Spirit inside us (Rom. 7:21-25; 8:1-7). It is a passion to love God and walk in His ways, just as Christ did. Because we are defined by the light of Christ, it is important to pay attention to the God-given passion He has given us to live for Him.

When Christ finished speaking He “departed, and was hidden from them” (John 12:36b) supernaturally. He seems to have vanished, reminding us that He is in control. His death will take place in God’s time. This departure of Jesus was an example of what He had just predicted (John 12:35) and should have motivated them to believe in Him while there was still time.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please give me Your clarity and wisdom when communicating Your gospel message to non-Christians. So many people today are confused about what they must do to get to heaven.They are being told to do many different things in addition to believing or trusting in You alone for Your free gift of everlasting life. Satan is such a deceiver. He is not against any religion that leaves out a Christ-alone salvation because he knows it will lead them into an eternal hell. By Your grace, please bring all Christians back to Your basic promise that “whoever believes in Him [Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life.” The more clearly we communicate Your gospel message, the more people can understand and believe in You alone for Your free gift while there is still time. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for making this message so clear and simple. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.  

Since eternal life is free and can never be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord?

In John 10:28-29, we discovered that believers in Jesus are secure forever because eternal life is a gift which can never be lost. But someone may say, “Since eternal life is free through believing in Jesus and cannot be lost, why would I want to live for the Lord? What is to keep me from living like the devil since I know I will go to heaven after believing in Jesus? There are several incentives for living a godly life after believing in Jesus for the gift of eternal life. We will look at four of them:

1. GRATITUDE: When a sinner believes in Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of eternal life, the most natural response is a heart full of thanksgiving.  The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). When you are convinced God loves you no matter what and that His arms of grace are always open for you no matter how badly you fail or fall, you will want to do what He tells you to do out of gratitude and because you know He wants the best for you (2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20).

For example, let’s say you are drowning in the ocean, and a man on the seashore hears your cries for help and swims out to save you from certain death. After he brings you safely back to shore, you ask him, “How can I ever thank you for saving me?” He replies, “You would have done the same thing for me,” and then he drives off on his motorcycle. Two weeks later you are driving your car down the highway and you notice the same man standing beside the road next to his motorcycle which has two flat tires. The man is frantically waving his hands to get you to stop, but you just wave at him and keep going. That, my friends, is no way to thank the man who saved you from drowning. Likewise, when we fail to live for the Lord, we are still saved, but that is no way to thank our Savior who saved us from an eternity burning in the lake of fire.

2. GOD’S DISCIPLINE: Just as an earthly father disciplines his wayward children, so God will discipline His disobedient child (Hebrews 12:5-11). It is possible for a believer to be more miserable living outside of God’s will than it would have been to remain a non-Christian. If a believer continues in sin long enough, God may even take his or her physical life (cf. I Corinthians 11:29-32). Knowing the price of sin in a Christian’s life ought to be a strong motivation for godly living. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

3. YOUR NEW IDENTITY: When a person believes or trusts in Christ for the gift of eternal life, God’s grace gives him a new identity or capacity to overcome sin and live for the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; I John 3:1-9). Romans 6:14-18 says, 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

When we become Christians, we are under a new authority. We are now under God’s grace, not the law. When we realize and submit to Christ’s rule over us, regardless of our feelings, our sinful flesh progressively loses its domination over us, and the grace of God is activated in our lives. We then obey because of our relationship with Jesus. Some immature Christians might think that living under grace means they can go on sinning. But Paul refutes this thinking. If you are living under grace, you will actually keep the law. And if you don’t keep the law, it only proves you’re not operating under the grace of God. Christians obey the standard, but the motivation isn’t the standard. The motivation is God’s grace. The more believers experience the grace of Jesus, the more he or she wants to live in way that is consistent with his or her new identity in Christ.

At this juncture, I believe it is important to talk about sanctification. Sanctification is being “set apart” or made holy to God. The Bible alludes to pre-conversion sanctification whereby the Lord sets apart the unbeliever for salvation and/or service (Jeremiah 1:5; Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1; I Corinthians 7:14; Galatians 1:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2).

For the Christian, sanctification is realized in three ways. All believers are positionally sanctified when they first believe by virtue of being in Christ (I Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:10, 14).  That is, they are completely and permanently set apart from their sin and shame, and placed into the body of Christ. God totally accepts the believer at the moment of faith in Jesus regardless of how much or little they manifest His holiness.

Christians are personally or progressively sanctified as they allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives, and begin to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Luke 14:25-33; John 8:31-32; 15:1-8; 17:17; Romans 6:12-23; 8:1-17; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 5:13-14; I Peter 1:15- 16; 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18).  Therefore, obedience to the Word of God, while not necessary for obtaining everlasting life, is the essential responsibility of each Christian to grow in the Christian life (Romans 6:12-23; Hebrews 5:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4). However, the Bible does not teach that this obedience will be manifested in all believers. If a believer does not yield to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his experience, failure will result, evidenced by sinful acts or even prolonged disobedience (1 Corinthians 3:1-15; 10:1-13; Galatians 5:16-21).

Christians will be ultimately sanctified when they become completely conformed to the image of Christ in His presence (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22; I John 3:2-3; Jude 24- 25).  There will be no more sin in their words, thoughts, actions, or motives.

For example, the apostle Paul in writing to the church at Corinth, says, “To those who are sanctified (hagiazō) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (hagios).” (I Corinthians 1:2). Paul calls them “saints” which means, “set-apart ones” (I Corinthians 1:2). He was not referring to their behavior because they were acting very immature and disobedient (I Corinthians 1:11-6:20; 11:17-32; et al.). He was obviously talking about their identity or their position in Christ, which was sourced in their spiritual birth. Paul calls them “saints”(positional sanctification) in chapter 1 and then challenges them to act like the saints they really are (progressive sanctification) in the remaining chapters of the book.

When the Corinthians were committing sexual immorality with prostitutes he questions their knowledge about their new identity in Christ, not their salvation (I Corinthians 6:13-20). Paul describes believers’ future resurrection bodies which will be “raised in incorruption” and “put on incorruption” (ultimate sanctification) to encourage Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in the present (I Corinthians 15:42, 53). Because Christians will receive future resurrection bodies that no longer yield to sin, they are to abound in the work of the Lord now knowing He will reward them for their faithfulness in the future (I Corinthians 15:58; cf. 3:8-15; 9:24-27).

4. ETERNAL REWARDS AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST: The last book of the Bible (Revelation) provides an outline of future events (see picture) beginning with the current church age to the eternal state…

1. We are living in the Church Age which began at Pentecost (Acts2) and will end with the rapture or removal of the Church from the earth which could take place at any moment (John 14:1-3; I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11; Revelation 4-5). Knowing that Christ could come for us at any moment motivates Christians to live faithfully for Him so they are prepared to face Him as their Judge.

2. Soon after the Church is taken in the Rapture, seven years of Tribulation begin on the earth.  This period begins when the Beast of Revelation makes a covenant with the nation of Israel (Dan. 9:26-27). This will be an awful time of death, disease, hunger, famine, earthquakes as never seen, warfare, entire seas turned to blood, darkness, scorching of the sun and multiple other judgments (Revelation 6-19). It will end when Jesus returns to earth with His Church and Christ will destroy His enemies (Revelation 17:12-14; Revelation 19:11-21). At that time, the Antichrist and False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20) and the Devil will be bound for a 1000 years (Revelation 20:2-3).

3.  Then Jesus will reign as King over the entire earth for a thousand years from the city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14; Revelation 20:4-6). This period is called the Millennium which means “one thousand.”

4. At the end of the Millennium God will destroy the entire creation (2 Peter 3:10). Every person who did not believe or trust in Christ alone for the gift of salvation will stand before God as He sits on the Great White Throne to judge each unbeliever according to their works to determine the degree of their punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Satan will receive his final judgment in the Lake of Fire at this time.

5.  Then a New Heaven (Universe) and New Earth are created which are perfect and beautiful (Revelation 21-22). This will be the eternal home of believers in Jesus.

Knowing the future should motivate Christians to live for what is eternal and not what is temporary. Why? Because there is another Judgment. During the Tribulation, in heaven, Christians will give an account for all their work for Christ. While Christians will never be judged to determine their eternal destiny since they already have eternal life (John 5:24), they will face another kind of judgment to determine what if any rewards they will receive in Christ’s eternal Kingdom. In Revelation 4:4, 10-11, “the twenty-four elders” represent faithful (overcoming) believers in heaven who possess “crowns” (rewards) received at the Judgment Seat of Christ and will rule with Christ in His coming Kingdom (cf. 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:10b, 2:26-27; 3:5a, 3:11, 21).  This Judgment is to motivate Christians to be faithful disciples who obey the Word of God. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.

God wants to reward all Christians for their faithfulness to Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ. “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:9-10). Paul was motivated to live a life that pleased the Lord knowing that he would appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat in the future to determine what if any rewards he would receive (Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; Revelation 22:12). Every Christian must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to answer to Jesus for the “good” and “bad” things he has done since becoming a Christian. The word “bad” (kakon) means “worthless, wicked, and evil.”

Is this scary for you to think about? Certainly! Even the apostle Paul was afraid to face the Judgment Seat of Christ. He writes, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Why would Paul fear the Judgment Seat of Christ? He was afraid of the possibility that his life will be revealed as one wasted and spent in selfishness rather than in devotion and obedience to Christ. Selfish living and wasted opportunities will bring more regrets when Jesus evaluates a believer’s life than most of us care to think about. Knowing this should be sufficient  motivation for God’s people to aim to please the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24).

Knowing that we can earn eternal rewards should motivate believers to live for Christ now. Christians can earn heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21) by giving a cup of cold water to God’s servant (Matthew 10:42), doing a charitable deed in private (Matthew 6:3- 4), praying in private (Matthew 6:6), and fasting in private (Matthew 6:17-18).

Christians who remain faithful in their service to Christ to the end of their lives will be given rewards that include wearing special white garments (Revelation 3:4-5), ruling with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21), eating the fruit of the tree of life (Revelation 2:7), eating hidden manna (Revelation 2:17), receiving a white stone engraved with your own special name that only the Lord and you will know (Revelation 2:17), and receiving a special entrance into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:14).

Christians can also earn a crown of rejoicing for making disciples (I Thessalonians 2:19), a crown of righteousness for loving the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8), a crown of life for enduring trials and temptations until death (James 1:12), a crown of glory for faithfully shepherding others as a servant leader (I Peter 5:4), and an imperishable crown for living a disciplined life (I Corinthians 9:25).

By focusing on the Judgment Seat of Christ, Christians will develop a desire to please God rather than men. Because Christ is first in the life of a disciple and could come back at any moment, a disciple should seek to win as many people to Christ as possible and become more like the Judge who will evaluate his or her life at the Judgment Seat.

Knowing we have eternal life which can never be lost does not give Christians a license to sin or live like the devil. God did not save us to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15). We have looked at several motivations to live for Jesus untill we go to be with Him in heaven.

I will close with some thoughts from Dave Breese in Living for Eternity said, The child of God is a creature of eternal destiny. For him no day is without consequence, and no fleeting moment can be called incidental or unimportant. The hours he spends and the decisions he makes have implications that carry on into eternity. What he does today will matter a thousand years from today.” (Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], pg. 145).

Who are you and where are you going? Part 1

“But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.” John 7:29

In his book Grace Walk, Steve McVey writes: “When I was a student in high school, a hypnotist came to our science class. He brought four students to the front of the room and hypnotized them together. While they were in a trance he told them that when they woke up, they would each be an animal. One boy was told that he would be a monkey. Another would wake up as a dog. One girl would be a chicken and the other a turkey. The hypnotist said, ‘I will count to five and snap my fingers, and when I do you will wake up.’ He slowly counted to five, snapped his fingers, and they woke up like he had said.

“What happened next was quite a sight. They behaved exactly like the animals they had been told they would become. One hopped around all stooped over, with his hands swinging by his sides like a monkey. He jumped up on a desk and screeched like a Cheetah. The other boy started barking and running around the room like a dog. The first girl folded her hands under her arms and clucked as if she was trying to lay eggs. The other started around like a turkey, gobbling as aloud as she could and scratching at the floor with both hands. It was a comical sight to see people act like the animals they thought they were. After a while the hypnotist woke them up and let them come back to their real identities. You can imagine how embarrassed they were when we told them how they had behaved.

“Many Christians behave in ways they don’t understand. They want to be saints, but most of the time it seems that living like saints demands too much effort and attention. It is usually much easier just to ‘be yourself.’ That thought raises an important question. Who are you? … If we believe we are a dog, nothing can keep us from barking. If we believe we are a monkey, all the evidence in the world can’t make us behave like anything else. Through the power of suggestion many Christians have been deceived into believing that they are something other than what God has made them to be. Jesus said, ‘The truth will set you free.’ Our identity in Christ is one of the most liberating truths we will ever understand.” (Steve McVey, Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life [Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2005], pp. 41-42).

We are going to answer two questions that are raised in John 7:25-36: Who are you and where are you going? In this article, we will look at who you are by focusing on … THE QUESTION OF JESUS’ IDENTITY (John 7:25-31). The people Jesus was speaking to in the temple were confused about His identity. “Now some of them from Jerusalem said, ‘Is this not He whom they seek to kill?’ ” (John 7:25). Some of the residents of Jerusalem heard a nasty rumor about the religious leaders’ plan to kill Jesus. Their question expects a negative answer: “This can’t be the guy they are seeking to kill, is it? Afterall – “But look! He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?” (John 7:26). The crowd was impressed with Jesus’ courage to speak openly despite the plan to kill Him.

The people were wondering if perhaps the reason why the religious leaders had not sought to kill Jesus yet was because they had recognized Jesus to be the Messiah-God. “However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from.” (John 7:27). The crowd doubted Jesus’ identity as the Messiah because they could trace His origin from Nazareth in Galilee. Some of the Jerusalem residents held to a tradition which said that the origin of the Messiah would be unknown. But this was a smokescreen to avoid the obvious facts about Christ.

We live in a culture today that is very confused about the identity of Jesus Christ. According to Mormonism, Jesus Christ is a self-progressing deity who was created through procreation between the male and female earth gods. Jehovah Witnesses claim that Jesus was a created being who pre-existed as the angel Michael and then was changed into the mortal man Jesus. The Iglesia Ni Cristo cult in the Philippines believes Jesus was created by God the Father and is His highest creation, but He is not God. Many of today’s world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism view Jesus as either a prophet or a good moral teacher, but not God Himself. So the confusion that existed in John’s day still exists today. But when Jesus speaks, the confusion turns into clarity.

“Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, ‘You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.’” (John 7:28). “So you know Me and where I am from, do you?” They knew He was from Nazareth but they didn’t know the more important sense of where He was from. Jesus was sent on a mission by the One who is true, His Father Whom the crowd did not know. If they knew the Father, they would know the One whom the Father sent. Jesus continues, “But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me.” (John 7:29).But Jesus knew the Father because He has always been from Him – He was with Him from eternity past. Christ was sent by the Father to show people what God is like and to save them from their sins. We see from this that Christ’s claim to be the eternal Son of God calls for a response.

Some of the crowd rejected Christ. “Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.” (John 7:30). They sought to arrest Jesus because He claimed to be the Son of God but they could not touch Him because it was not God’s time for His Son to be crucified. The time of every man’s death has been fixed by God and no one can interfere with that (cf. Psalm 139:16). “And many of the people believed in Him and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’ ” (John 7:31). Their question expects a negative answer. In other words, they could not imagine that the prophesied Messiah would do more miraculous signs than Jesus had done. Hence, they were persuaded to believe in Jesus as the Christ because of the miracles He had done (cf. John 5:36; 10:25, 38; 14:10-11; 20:31).

So we see that Jesus knows who He is – the eternal Son of God sent by His Father to save mankind. Knowing who He is resulted in great boldness before a mixed audience (John 7:26). But what about you? How would you answer the question, “Who are you?” You might tell us your name, but if I asked you to tell me about yourself, what would you say then? If you are like most people, you will tell me what you do. “I am a student, an electrician, a construction worker, a customer service representative, a teacher, or a pastor.” You have sought value through your title or position.

Or you may say, “I drive a BMW or I own a $500,000 home.” Perhaps you have new stylish clothes thinking that these possessions will add to your importance. Or you may be a “name dropper” because you think that having an association with someone who is successful or famous will increase the value of who you are. Some of us may seek validation from our appearance. So we go to the fitness center to gain the “right” body image to increase our attractiveness thinking that it will give us a new level of importance.

Another common way we may try to establish our value based on performance is through our skills. In our American culture, we idolize actors, athletes, and musicians because of their skills. We believe that if we are great at doing something, it will increase our value. This also applies to mental abilities. We are convinced that if we are mentally gifted, people will admire us more. So we try to get the best test scores in school or demonstrate greater mental skills on the job to get a promotion. This area breeds perfectionism. Mistakes are not okay because they reveal weaknesses and bring shame on us.

We have been programmed to think of identity as inseparable from behavior. We have been taught that our value is based on what we do rather than who we are. Most people believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.”

But listen – God doesn’t look at it that way. God determines identity by birth, not behavior. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:3, 23). A person born into the family of God by faith in Christ (John 1:12) receives a new identity: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you believe in Christ alone for His gift of salvation, you become a new creation. God created a new person when you were saved. You are not the same person you were before you became a Christian. When you were born into the family of God, you received the following family traits:

YOU ARE FULLY ACCEPTED BY GOD. The Bible says, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6). It is difficult to warm up to someone if you think they don’t accept you, isn’t it? It is hard to have an intimate relationship with someone if you perceive they don’t like you. But because Christ has received you and He is fully accepted by the Father, you are fully accepted by God as well. You are totally accepted by God because you are “in the Beloved,” Jesus Christ. You don’t need to change a thing about yourself for God to accept you. Your acceptance by God is not based on what you do, but on who you are in Christ. You no longer need to withhold your true self from others. You are free to express who you are without shame.

YOU ARE GOD’S WORK OF ART. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). The word “workmanship” is the Greek word poiēma from which we get our English word “poem.” A poem is a collection of words that are specially chosen and put together so that they make a powerful statement that lasts. God is saying that you are His heavenly poem—you have been specially created by God to make a powerful statement about His grace that endures forever. You used to be defined by sin and shame, but now you are defined by being “in Christ.” And God sees in you holiness… beauty… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in you. You may see yourself as this person who has failed or who lacks certain abilities, but God sees you as His heavenly work of art – His masterpiece!!!

YOU ARE AN AMBASSADOR. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20). What is an ambassador? The highest ranking diplomatic representative appointed by one country or government to represent it in another country. When you become a Christian, you also become God’s representative here on earth. You are on this planet representing the King of kings and Lord of lords. This a great honor to be appointed this position. The more you see yourself as Christ’s ambassador, the more of His boldness you will have in living and speaking for Him. You represent the most powerful and important Person in the universe. He has your back (cf. Joshua 1:9; 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17; Psalm 118:6-7; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20).

But you may be thinking, “I don’t feel accepted by God. I don’t see myself as a heavenly poem. I don’t behave like an ambassador for Christ.” I can understand this. But we must decide whether we will trust what we feel and think or what God has said in His Word. Satan has caused many Christians to believe that they are not really new persons in Christ. He tells them they should try to act like new creations because that is their Christian duty. But God says you are a new creation. When you come to believe that fact by faith, you won’t feel the need to act. You can just be yourself, allowing Christ in you to flow through your personality and out of your life. 

You may wonder, “Why don’t I act like who I am?” Remember the people who acted like animals when they were hypnotized? They acted that way because they temporarily believed a lie about their identity. When they were brought out of the hypnotic trance and understood reality, they began to behave like the people they really were.

Why do people who are holy act unholy? Why do many believers struggle with sins, constantly trying to overcome them? Because Satan has deceived them into believing they are the same persons they were before they came to Christ. And we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Satan, the great deceiver, has caused us to believe that at the core of our being, we are nothing more than rotten sinners. That describes what we were before we were saved, but not anymore!

If the hypnotist had been able to keep those four students believing his suggestion, they would still be barking, cackling, gobbling, and screeching! But they did wake up to the truth. That’s what needs to happen to many Christians today!

Have you been hypnotized to live under a false identity, so that you see yourself as nothing more than a saved sinner trying to serve God? Let this truth wake you up! You are not just a sinner saved by grace. You are a saint who has the life of Christ at the center of your being. A sinner saved by grace spends his time on the defensive against Satan. Someone who knows he is a saint goes on the offensive.

When those four hypnotized students woke up and realized how they had behaved, they felt pretty silly. That pictures the attitude of believers who wake up to their true identity in Christ. They will sometimes lapse into old patterns of living and will choose to sin. But when they do, they know that their behavior is inconsistent with who they are in Christ. And it won’t be long until they open their eyes and realize, “It’s ridiculous for me to behave this way!”

Prayer: Father God, so much of my life has been driven by shame. I have sought to hide or even numb my shame through my performance. I am realizing, that apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ, I cannot break free from shame. None of us can. Thank You, Father, for changing me from a sinner into a saint the moment I believed in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. I am not the same person I used to be. But Satan keeps trying to deceive me into believing I have not changed. Please renew my mind about who I am in Christ. The more I see myself as You see me, the more I will live in a way that is consistent with who I am in Jesus. I want to speak boldly about Jesus just as He did in the temple in front of a mixed audience. Father, help me see myself as You do so Christ’s boldness will flow through me and people will come to faith in Him. In His powerful name I pray. Amen.

I am sheltered by God’s Word from my antagonists

23 Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes. 24 Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:23-24

This morning I woke up to an onslaught of lies that attacked my character and standing before God. Voices that said, “You are a loser.” “You can’t do anything right.” “You are pathetic.” “You are all alone and unloved.” “You are worthless.” Who needs enemies when you wake up to this kind of self-hatred and self-condemnation?

This has been a pattern throughout much of my life. I know where these lies come from. They have been attached to wounds in my past by the father of lies, Satan himself (John 6:44). Throughout my life I have unconsciously sought approval from men who are unable to accept, affirm, or appreciate me. But God is teaching me to seek out godly and available men who are channels of God’s love and grace towards me.

Instead of obsessing on a barrage of lies this morning, I got out of bed and sat at my new desk to focus on God’s Word. I was drawn to Psalm 119:23-24 where the Psalmist writes, “Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes” (119:23). Instead of focusing on the antagonism of “princes,” the Psalmist “meditates” on God’s “statutes” or “testimonies.” The word “statutes” (choq) refers to boundaries established by God in His Word. And the word “testimonies” (siach) refers to God’s witness or testimony from the Scriptures.

When the Psalmist speaks of God’s Word as his “delight” (shaashuim), he is referring to that which he “desires or bends toward” much like a house plant that bends toward the rays of sunshine coming through a window to receive its nutrients. Instead of leaning toward the life-taking words of his antagonists, he bends toward the life-giving nourishment of God’s Word. God’s Word was also like his “counselors” (etsah) in that it gave him guidance and wisdom he would need as a “servant” of the Lord.  

God reminded me this morning that what I focus on is a choice. I can either focus on the lies of my antagonists which deplete me of life and nourishment, or I can focus on God’s truth which gives me life and love throughout my day. I choose to turn to God’s life-giving Word which defines who I am:

– In Christ I am a winner (Ephes. 2:5-6).

– I am loved and cherished by God (Psalm 27:10).

– In Christ I am good enough (2 Cor. 5:21).

– I am loved by Jesus just as I am (Rom. 5:6, 8).

– I can do what is right through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).

Will you join me in doing this?

Prayer: Precious Lord God, when I am overwhelmed with lies that degrade and shame me, please help me lean towards Your truth and focus on what it says about You, myself, and this broken world in which I live. I am so familiar with lies that degrade and shame me. Please grant me the resolve to become much more intimate with Your truth which comforts, guides, nurtures, and loves me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am God’s holy temple

“…20b Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephes. 2:20b-22

The apostle Paul sees believers in Jesus as a magnificent temple created by God with Jesus Christ as “the Chief Cornerstone” (2:20-21). At the time Paul wrote these words, the “cornerstone” was the essential part of the foundation of a building. It was the stone with which the builder squared up all the other stones to give the building stability and strength. The “Chief Cornerstone” of this temple is Jesus Christ (2:20b; Matt. 16:18; I Cor. 3:11; I Peter 2:4-7), and all the other stones represent Jewish and Gentile believers who are “being fitted together” much like a building under construction (2:21a; I Peter 2:5), with God continuing to add (“grows”) new believers as the gospel is preached (2:21b).

Today God does not inhabit a physical temple like He did in Old Testament times (I Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chron. 7:1-2). He now indwells His church which is a spiritual and “holy temple in the Lord” spreading all over the earth (2:21b). The church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and it will continue until the day of the Rapture when it is removed from the earth (cf. Matt. 24:36-51; I Thess. 4:13-5:11).

The moment a person believes in Jesus for His gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit seals him and places him in the Church through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (2:22; cf. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; Acts 10:43-48; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27). God’s Spirit lives inside us now and our purpose is to reflect the glory of God (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19-20), not to draw attention to ourselves or to other Christians. We can reflect God’s glory by relying on the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a holy life; a life that pleases the Lord Jesus.

But when we choose to sin, we are acting in a way that is contrary to who we are in Christ. For example, if we see ourselves as an alcoholic at the core of our being, what will be the most natural thing for us to do – stay sober or get drunk? Get drunk. What will be the most unnatural thing to do? Stay sober. But if we see ourselves as a holy temple of God, what is the most natural thing for us to do – stay sober or get drunk? Stay sober.

Satan wants to convince us that we are sinners at the core of our being. Why? Because sinning is accepted as a natural expression of our true selves. But if we realize that at the core of our being we are a holy temple of God, we will come to the conclusion that sinning compromises who we are. Sin hides who we truly are in Christ.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, I praise You because I am not alone. You live inside me now and promise never to leave me nor abandon me. I am no longer a piece of trash or a dirty vessel because You indwell me, and that makes me holy. You are my Comforter and Teacher Who heals me and instructs me. I am now a part of a spiritual temple that continues to grow exponentially all over the earth as the gospel is preached. I now have many brothers and sisters in Christ who love me and whom I can love. Lord Jesus, You are the Chief Cornerstone of this expanding spiritual temple, and I can look to You for the stability, security, and strength I need to live a holy life which reflects Your glory to a lost and perishing world. Thank You, Lord Jesus, and Holy Spirit, for healing my broken and wounded heart so I can experience the fullness of Your love. Help me to see myself as Your holy temple so I may be and live holy for You. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray. Amen.

In Christ I am God’s masterpiece

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” Ephesians 2:10a

Before we come to Christ in faith, we are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephes. 2:1). That is, we do not have God’s life (eternal life) in us and therefore we do not know God on a personal level. Our lives were defined by trespasses and sins. But look how that has changed.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Ephes. 2:10a). I used to be in trespasses and sins – that is what defined me and drove my life. But now I am “in Christ Jesus.” I used to be dead, but now I am God’s “workmanship.”

The word “workmanship” comes from the Greek word poíēma which is where we get our English word “poem” from. A poem is a collection of words that are specially chosen and put together so that they make a powerful statement that lasts. God is saying that you are His heavenly poem – you have been specially chosen by God to make a powerful statement about His grace that endures forever.

Another word that describes this is the term “masterpiece” – like a painting that has been specially created or like a potterer carefully creating something out of clay that is unique and has his personality and stamp put on it. You are God’s Masterpiece –  something He has poured Himself into to change your life. You used to be defined by sin and shame, but now you are defined by being in Christ. And God sees in you holiness … beauty… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in you.

You may see yourself as this person who has failed or who lacks certain abilities. Perhaps the voices from your past have told you that you were a mistake…that you can’t do anything right. But God is now telling you that you are His masterpiece… a beautiful work of heavenly art that He is putting on display for all to see and admire just how great His grace is toward you. Take time today to look in the mirror and say to yourself, “In Christ, I am God’s masterpiece, not a mistake.” The more you see yourself as God sees you, the more you will reflect this truth in your daily living.

For example, if someone unfairly criticizes you, step back and ignore the lie that says, “You are a big mistake,” and replace it with the truth that says, “You are God’s masterpiece!” The more you see yourself through God’s eyes, the more you will live the way God made you to live.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, much of my life I have seen myself as a big mistake; as someone who cannot do anything right. I am asking you to heal these deep wounds in my life so I can begin to see myself as You see me. I am Your masterpiece, not a mistake. I am Your heavenly poem that You want to put on display for others to see just how great Your grace is toward me. Please apply this truth to my heart so I can see myself as You do and begin to live as Your wonderful masterpiece! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am seated next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ

5 Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5-6

Before we became believers in Jesus, the Bible describes our spiritual condition as being “dead [separated from God] in trespasses and sins,” controlled by “the course of this world,” under the authority of “the prince of the power of the air,” and driven by “the lusts of our flesh” (2:1-3). Today let’s focus on being under the authority of Satan and his world system.

Before Jesus Christ, we were under the power of the devil. He directed our thoughts and our lives through the voices of unsaved family, friends, the media, the government, the educational system, the economy, and the laws of the land. When we listen to these voices of Satan they will draw us in a direction that will destroy us. Voices that say, “It’s just pictures on a computer or a magazine. It doesn’t hurt anybody.” Or “You can’t be complete or fulfilled if you don’t have a man or woman.” Satan’s voice says, “Whatever it takes to get what you want, you do it.” This voice says, “You can’t forgive that. What he or she did to you is too terrible to possibly forgive.” And we could go on and on. These voices lead us down a path that results in defeat and destruction. So before we were saved, we were dead in our sins and under the power of the devil. But when we come to Christ, we are now under a new Power and Authority.

The first two words of verse 4 are the most powerful words in all the book of Ephesians: “But God…” Would you circle those two words? Since we were dead in our sins, separated from the Lord, God breaks in to help! We need to be reminded of “God, who is rich in mercy” and “love” (2:4). “My life is spinning out of control”BUT GOD. “I feel like I have to do drugs or have sex in order to be liked”BUT GOD. “My parents cannot get along”BUT GOD. “I have no hope” BUT GOD.

God’s grace has made all the difference in our lives when we come to Christ. I once was dead in my sins, but God “made us alive together with Christ” (2:5a). Why? Because “by grace you have been saved” (2:5b). Grace which I could never deserve or earn has made me alive with Christ. According to verse 6, where are you seated? “And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:6). We are now seated next to Christ in the heavenly places. When God the Father looks to His right and sees His Son seated in a place of power, He sees you sitting there with Him.

What happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago happened to you when you believed in Christ for salvation. And where is Jesus seated in relation to the devil according to Ephes. 1:20-21? God the Father “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion,” including the devil. So Jesus is seated “far above” Satan. So if you are seated with Jesus, guess where you sit today in relation to the devil? Far above him. In God’s eyes, you are now seated in a position of power and victory over all the opponents of God.

Satan cannot really get to us unless we let him. There is safety and power in the heavenly places. We need to go up high where God is located so the Enemy cannot get to us. We do this through prayer and abiding in the truth of God’s Word. God wants you to know that in Christ, you are a winner, not a loser.

Whenever you change your position you change your perspective. When you look at your life while seated next to Jesus in the heavenly places, things that looked chaotic and confusing down here on earth, suddenly take an orderly shape, like the way fields and houses do when you are looking at them from a mountaintop. This is one reason why I love to hike in the mountains. God gives me a new perspective up there. The Lord is saying that if we want to experience victory over sin and Satan, we need to start living life from our new vantage point.

I am reminded of a joke about a thief who had been watching a family for several days in a residential area. He observed each evening that this family failed to lock their back sliding glass door at night. So one night, after the family went to bed and turned off their lights, this thief sneaks up to the back sliding glass door. With a flashlight in one hand, the thief slowly opens the back door with the other hand and starts shining his flashlight in the kitchen. Suddenly he hears a strange voice say, “Jesus is watching.” The thief is spooked and drops his flashlight on the kitchen floor. As he scrambles to pick up his flashlight, again he hears this strange voice say, “Jesus is watching.” Finally the thief picks up his flashlight and shines it in the direction of the voice and sees a parrot in a cage. With a sigh of relief he says, “Oh, it’s just a talking bird.” The parrot then looks down to another corner of the kitchen and says, “Jesus is watching.” The thief then shines his flashlight towards that corner of the room and sees a huge, ferocious Rottweiler dog. Immediately, the parrot commands the dog, “Attack him, Jesus!”

When Satan comes knocking at the your door of your heart, you can say to the Lord Jesus Christ, “Attack him, Jesus!” and then slam the door in Satan’s face. Why? Because in Christ, you are seated next to the most Powerful Person in the universe! In Christ, you are a winner, not a loser. Before you were saved, you looked up to Satan in fear, but now, seated next to Jesus, you are able to look down at the devil with confidence knowing that you are on the winning side. Take a moment and look in a mirror and say to yourself, “In Christ, I am a winner, not a loser.” The more you see yourself as a winner in Christ, the more you will act like a winner for Him and ignore the voices of the devil.

Prayer: O Lord God, thank You for being rich in mercy and love towards me even when I was dead in my sins and living in rebellion against You. Thank You for making me alive in Christ the moment I believed in Him for the gift of salvation. Thank You for showering me with Your grace when You seated me in the heavenly places next to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ far above all Your enemies, including the devil and his demonic armies. Although I used to look up to Satan in fear, I can now look down on him with confidence knowing that I am seated in a position of authority and power next to Jesus far above the devil and all his armies. I pray Your Holy Spirit will apply this amazing truth to my life so that I will see myself as a winner in Christ and ignore the lies of the devil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Are we what we do or what God says?

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know you, because it did not know Him.” I John 3:1

When John uses the word “behold” (3:1a) it’s like holding up a flashing neon sign to get our attention. “Stop and take a look at this! Look with wonder at the amazing love that God has toward us in that we should be called His children.” It is an awesome privilege to be called God’s child. When we stop to ponder our new identity in Christ – that we are God’s children – it will take our breath away. When you believe in Christ, you are born of God and share in His divine nature (cf. John 1:12; I John 3:9; 5:1). At the core of your being you are God’s child no matter what you or others do, say, or think.

Many of us may believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.” We tell ourselves that what I do determines who I am. So if I sin, I must be a sinner. What Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), tries to do is deceive us to believe this lie. So when I sin, he whispers the lie that I am a sinner so I will perceive that sin is the normal and natural outgrowth of who I truly am at the core of my being. But listen to what God says: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

Our born again self (“whoever is born of God”), John tells us, “does not sin.” Sin can never be traced back to my new identity in Christ. At the core of my being, I am now God’s dearly beloved child through faith alone in Christ alone (I John 5:1; cf. John 1:12). I am defined by what God says about me, not by what I do. Satan cannot “touch” or defeat our born again nature (I John 5:18). This is important to remember especially after being humbled by our sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really God’s children after we have failed, thus leading us into more failures. But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 3:1 and 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (cf. I John 1:9) knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned.

God is righteous and we can now share in His righteousness. This new birth has changed who we are. We are now God’s child having been begotten by Him. The world does not understand this new nature because they have not experienced the new birth (I John 3:1b). John goes on to explain that the time is coming when this new nature will be the only nature we manifest (3:2) because our sinful nature will be taken away and we will receive a new glorified body like that of the Lord Jesus at the time of His return (Phil. 3:21). The certainty that we will be completely conformed (both spiritually and physically) into the image of Christ in the future motivates us to live holy lives for the Lord now (3:3).

Since I am what God says and not what I do, I no longer need to find my worth in the things I do but in my relationship with Jesus which can never be lost. Knowing this gives me the security and motivation to live for Him who loves me unconditionally and eternally.

Prayer: Father God, please replace the lie that says, “I am what I do,” with the truth that says, “I am what You say of me.” Thank You for the amazing way You have given Your love to me by declaring that at the core of my being I am Your dearly loved child no matter what I or others say, think, or do. Since I am Your child, I have all I need (Your nature, Your Spirit, and Your Word) to manifest Your righteous and loving nature. In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Where do you go when you feel insecure?

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9

King David praised God for being a just Judge who delivered him from those who hated him (9:1-20). He affirmed that “the Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (9:9). The Hebrew word for “refuge” (misgab) literally refers to a “mountain refuge” or “a high place of security and protection.” When David was “oppressed” or bullied by his enemies who hated him, he often sought refuge in the mountains where he was safe and secure. But he regarded the Lord as the best Refuge of all. In His presence there was safety and security that could not be taken away from him.  

Where do we go when we feel insecure and vulnerable? Where do we turn when we face dangers and difficulties? Some people may turn to an addiction (e.g. alcohol, drugs, pornography, social media, work, worry, etc.) to medicate their feelings and forget about their difficulties. But addictions only numb the pain for a time and actually cause more pain and shame in the long run.

If King David were sitting next to us right now, I believe he would advise us to run to the Lord for the safety and security we long for during times of trouble and vulnerability. In fact, I believe the apostle Paul would echo that advice. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul informs us where the Lord Jesus Christ is seated in relation to His enemies: 20…which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephes. 1:20-21). Christ is seated far above all His enemies, including the devil.

According to Ephesians 2:6, where are you and I seated? “And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” When God the Father looks to His right and sees His Son seated in a place of power above all other authorities, including the devil, He sees us sitting there with Him. What happened to Jesus 2,000 years ago happened to you when you believed in Christ for salvation. So if we are seated with Jesus, guess where we sit today in relation to the devil?  Far above him.

In God’s eyes, we are now seated in a position of power and victory over all the opponents of God. Satan cannot really get to us unless we let him. There is safety and security in the heavenly places. We need to go up high where God is located so the Enemy cannot get to us. We do this through prayer and abiding in the truth of God’s Word (John 8:31-32; 15:7). God wants you to know that in Christ, you are safe and secure far above all other authorities and powers.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, when I feel insecure and vulnerable, I resolve to run to You because You alone are my Refuge. I can find safety and security next to You in the heavenly places far above all other authorities and powers. You are the only One I trust to always keep me safe and secure. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who are you?

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9

If you were asked, “Who are you?” how would you answer that question right now? You may say, “I am a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a Hawkeye fan, a friend of…, a wife of…, a son of…, a guy who owns that fancy house or boat, a divorcee, an alcoholic, a drug addict, a victim of abuse….” We define ourselves by what we do or what was done to us, our feelings, what we possess, or by our associations with others. The problem with this is that all these people or things can change or be lost. But God wants us as Christians to see ourselves through His eyes which never changes. He has defined who we are in the Bible.

In the book of I Peter, the apostle Peter uses different figures to describe the church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers (2:9). These descriptions provide a powerful description of how God views each of His children. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is essential for Christian growth and victory because we behave in the way we perceive ourselves to be (cf. Proverbs 23:7). Let’s look at how God views us in verse 9:

“You are a chosen generation.” God has “chosen” you , not overlooked or ignored you. To be chosen means that others want to be with us, to know us and spend time with us. May be you grew up not feeling wanted. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been chosen by God to have a special relationship with Him. Before this world was even made, God chose you to have a special relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesian 1:4). So many children grow up in homes where their parents tell them directly or indirectly, “We never wanted you. You were an accident… a big surprise.” Child of God, your heavenly  Father has always wanted to be in a relationship with you. He chose you for a purpose. He wants you to “proclaim the praises of Him” (2:9). Look in a mirror and say to yourself, “I am chosen by God.” Are you seeing yourself as God sees you? The more you believe what God says about you, the more you will feel it and live it. No longer do you need to seek everyone’s approval to avoid rejection. You are chosen by God which reveals your infinite worth as a person.

– You are “a royal priesthood.” You are “royal,” not inferior. You are a person of high status and importance. Perhaps you have viewed yourself as being a nobody. No one seems to pay attention to you. God wants you to know that you are extremely significant because you are a member of the royal priesthood of God. In the Old Testament, there was a separate class of priests who represented the people of Israel before God, but in the New Testament, all believers are priests before God who worship, intercede, and minister (I Peter 2:5; cf. Revelation 1:6). Say to yourself, “I am a royal priest before God.” You no longer need to work hard to prove yourself to anyone because you are a member of God’s royal priesthood.

– You are part of “a holy nation.” Originally God wanted the nation of Israel to live distinctly “holy” lives before other nations to attract them to Himself (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 42:6). But Israel failed to be a Light to the nations because she preferred to be like those nations (cf. I Samuel 8:5), so now God wants His church to be His “holy nation” to go to all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (cf. Mark 16:15) as His ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to “proclaim” His praises because He called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Say to yourself, “I am a holy ambassador for Christ.” Therefore, you do not need to listen to the voice of this world that calls you to pursue your own sinful desires. God has set you apart to represent Jesus!

– You are “His own special people.” In Christ, we are “special” to the Lord. You are not a nobody. You are a somebody because God has declared you to be special to Him. You are greater than what is usual or common. You may not realize this, but God the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son! Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). God loves you just as much as He loves His only perfect Son! Say to yourself, “I am special to God.” Therefore, you no longer need to work hard to earn the love of others. You can rest in God’s outrageous love for you!

God wants us to know that we are chosen, royal, holy, and special to Him. Each of these descriptions convey our infinite value and significance to God as His children. The more we see ourselves as God sees us, the more we will fulfill His purpose for our lives which is to proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of the darkness of our sin and shame into His marvelous light filled with His love and hope!

Prayer: Lord God thank you for declaring who I am in Christ. I am chosen, not overlooked; royalty, not inferior; holy, not dirty; special, not ordinary. Please apply these magnificent truths to the depths of my being so I may proclaim Your praises for having called me out of the darkness of my sin and shame into the marvelous light of Your love and hope!!! In Jesus’ name. Amen.