Posts Tagged With: Jesus Christ

The Christian’s True Identity

“During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:2–5, ESV, emphasis added).

Jesus-washing-feet-01-1.jpg

Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. He could assume the lowliest servant’s role, because He knew His true identity.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a one-day retreat organized by one of the ministry teams at my church. Throughout the day, we reflected upon and discussed several questions about our identity as Christians. “How am I known in heaven? Who do I say I am? Who does God say I am?”

Such questions about identity guide our lives. A person with a distorted, diminished, or deficient understanding of who they are will act on that sense of self-identity. A person who views himself or herself as a “loser” or a victim will expect to fail. (Sadly, many people make the opposite mistake; with a delusional, inflated self-image, they may try to be something they are not and fail at that.)

As Christians observe Holy Week, we note that Jesus had a clear awareness of His identity, which was necessary for Him to complete His mission of redemption. John notes that, as Jesus prepared to eat the Last Supper with His disciples, He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was returning to God. He knew who He was. He knew He was operating from a place of victory: indeed, even a place of omnipotence.

He had lived His entire life with this keen awareness that He was the Son of God and that He had been sent from heaven. Luke 2:41–51 tells the story of Jesus, when He was 12 years old. After celebrating the Passover feast in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary started the journey home, only to realize later that Jesus was not with them. Finally, they found Him in the temple, discussing theology with the pre-eminent rabbis of their day. Mary reprimanded Him for causing them to worry. Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 12:49). Approximately 13 years after angels told Mary and Joseph that they would raise the Son of God, they seemed to forget. However, Jesus remembered Who He was, Who His Father is, and what His purpose would be.

Without knowing His true identity, Jesus probably would have been happy to open a carpentry shop and build stuff for the people of Nazareth until He was old and gray. However, He knew He was sent for something more significant. Because He knew Who He was, He could accept the most mundane, demeaning task of a household servant and wash the disciples’ feet. Knowing that He was the Son of God, for the joy set before Him, He could endure the cross, despise its shame, and obtain eternal life for all who would follow Him.

What about us? Do we truly know our true identity as Christians? Perhaps most Christians have a false spiritual self-image. After church today, a few men from our church’s drug and alcohol recovery program addressed the congregation during the post-worship coffee hour. At one point, one of the men said, “Well, I’m no saint, but….” A member of the congregation responded that none of us are. Scripture says they were both wrong.

The Bible says that we are saints. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul addresses his letter to “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” It is true that the Corinthians Christians were imperfect; much of the letter corrected them for their shortcomings. However, he still called them saints along with all those who call upon the name of Jesus. As Christians:

  • We are saints.
  • We are holy and blameless in God’s sight (see Ephesians 1:4).
  • We are children of God, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17): In other words, we are Jesus’ little brothers and little sisters, loved by God the Father.
  • We are alive in Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:4–5).

The list goes on, much longer than I can include in a single blog post. We once were sinners—that was our identity before we came to know Jesus—but that is no longer our true identity. Even though we struggle with sin,  it is no longer how God sees us. He does not define us by our sins, our failures, our defeats, our mistakes, or the mistakes of our parents. He defines us as His children, saints who are blameless because we are alive in Christ.

Let us each claim our true identity in Christ, believe it, and live by it. This is a major element of being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). It is e a lifelong journey. I expect to devote many hours of prayer, Bible study and reflection to learning more about my new identity in Christ. A one-day retreat is a great place to start, but habitually embracing one’s identity in Christ takes a lifetime.

As we observe Holy Week, I will remember that “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” (Galatians 2:20). I have been crucified with Christ, so that I may live in the power of His resurrection (see Romans 6:6–11). This is the privilege and identity of all true saints who call upon the name of Jesus.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

God With Us, and Us With God

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us'” (Matthew 1:22-23, NASB).

Seven days into the New Year, and I am finally writing my first new blog post of the year. I wish I could find more time to write, but other responsibilities can crop us: my last post was Part II of my series, “Modern-Day Elijahs.” That series may be delayed, but it has not been cancelled: the rest of the series is in the works.

Many people view the new year as the chance to make a fresh start. Some people make “New Year’s Resolutions.” On January 1, my Facebook feed reminded me that, about six years ago, I resolved to publish a book by the end of the year. It did not happen: Since then, my only New Year’s resolution is to avoid making New Year’s resolutions. Every now and then, I will take some time for self-examination, seeing where my life is and how my relationship with Christ is developing. While that often occurs around the changing of the years, it is not limited to that.

Still, it is hard to avoid making new starts with a new year. At work, we begin establishing goals for the new year. Why? Because it is January. In fact, part of the reason I took a few minutes to write tonight is because I signed up for an online course, “Blogging 101,” which offered the opportunity to kick-start a year of writing. Once again, I think there is only one reason why the organizers thought now would be a good time to have this course: It’s January.

For many Americans, New Year’s Day signals the end of the “holiday season,” which begins around Thanksgiving and climaxes on Christmas. However, the Christmas season proper does not end until Epiphany (January 6), ending the “12 days of Christmas.”

In some ways, this makes it a fitting time to consider ways that your life can change in the coming months and year. We commemorate a time when God became human, so that He could redeem us and restore us.

Over the last two weeks, I have been brought back to the verse at the top of this post several times. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the proclamation that Mary’s baby would be Immanuel, God-with-us. It ends with Jesus’ promise that He will remain with us, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He came to become a man, to live among us, so that we could abide with Him and His Father forever. He promised to stay with us. The only question that remains is this: Will we stay with Him?

Jesus is “God-with-us.” My mission in 2016 is to be “Mike-with-God.” I hope to write more in 2016. I would love to finally publish that book. I have other goals and dreams for the coming year. However, all of that depends on where God leads me. If I remain “Mike-with-God,” I can be certain that “God-with-us” will lead me to accomplish His perfect will.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E.
Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Light of the World

Light of the World

Light of the World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, ESV).

The Gospel according to John highlights seven “I am” statements by Jesus, where He made bold declarations about His divine identity. He spoke several of these, including the one cited above, when debating His opponents (usually leaders of the religious establishment).

There are several interesting things about this statement. First, it is interesting that light was the first thing God created. In Genesis 1:3, God initiated His creation process by saying, “Let there be light.” Light is so important that God created it before anything else. Life on earth is impossible without light.

Light is important for guidance and direction. Psalms 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” I really do not think people from urban or suburban communities, like myself, can truly appreciate how much we need light just to find our way around. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily find my way around the apartment, even while all the lights are off. There is always minimal light creeping in (perhaps through the street lights outside, or from my alarm clock), so I can see at least an outline of my surroundings.

However, when I have gone camping in “the middle of nowhere,” the darkness was completely thick. If I tried to walk anywhere without a flashlight, I would very quickly see absolutely nothing: Not even a dim outline. The flashlight became essential to find my way.

God’s Word is a lamp to guide our feet along the paths of life. It shows us the obstacles that seek to make us stumble, and the distractions that try to lure us off of God’s path.

Jesus especially is our Light. “[I]n these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). If we want to know what God is like, we need to look at Jesus. He is God Incarnate, God in human flesh. We do not need to imagine God as an abstract concept or an amorphous “higher power.” We can look to Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, and by coming to know Him we can know what God is like and how He wants us to live.

This is not just an academic lesson for us. God calls us to imitate Christ, to live like Him. Christians, as “the body of Christ” should “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27), much as we put on our clothes. When they see us, they should see a reflection of Christ: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

May each of our lives radiate the love of Jesus to those around us, and may we always find our direction by looking to Him.

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith or Provision

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which to Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal'” (John 6:26-27, ESV).

This passage begins the “bread of life” discourse in John 6. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus had performed one of only two miracles that are reported in all four Gospels (His resurrection being the other one). He fed a crowd of 5000 men, plus women and children, with only five loaves (probably more like biscuits) and two small fish; despite the small amount of food, His disciples still gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers. The crowd followed Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would give a discourse relating His miraculous multiplication of a meal with His Father’s miraculous provision of manna to the Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea. He would identify Himself as the Bread of Life. By the end of the discourse, instead of gaining more disciples, Jesus would see many of His followers turn away.

This discourse is a hard lesson to swallow, because there is a lot to chew on. The lesson starts easily enough. If Jesus had been into numbers, like many ministries today, He would probably have ended the message quickly. Things start well.

I have preached several sermons on John 6 over the years. It is a great passage to return to. Here, I would like to focus on verses 26 and 27. Here, Jesus commends His listeners for getting off to a good start on the journey of faith.

“You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus often criticized His hearers for seeking signs. Twice in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matt. 16:4; see also Matt. 12:39). This crowd had gathered initially because of the signs He performed (John 6:2). However, something else drew them now.

“You ate your fill of the loaves.” Jesus had satisfied a need in their lives. It may have been a minor need. In the past, He had healed people of life-threatening illnesses. Hunger can lead to problems, but the greatest threat at this point was that they might faint on the way to buy food. Nevertheless, Jesus had met a need in their lives. It was not so much that He performed a miracle; He had given them something that they needed. He had proven that He could be their provider.

Yet, Jesus now calls them to something more. He exhorts them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life.” The physical is good, but it is more important to seek the spiritual bread that He provides.

Far too often, we seek what Jesus can give us. Entire churches focus their preaching and ministry around what God can do for us. Sermons focus on a prosperity gospel or divine healing. People focus on what God can do for them; they treat Him like their galactic bell boy, not their Lord.

Before pointing at “those churches” (the ones that seem only slightly less wild than the snake-handling congregations we read about), we should take a close look at our own hearts. Much of what passes for Christianity today is little more than a “what have you done for me lately” theology. In the book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, authors Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, summarized an emerging worldview among American youths which they defined as moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD). Central to this worldview are the following ideas (I have copied this summary directly from the Wikipedia article about this topic):

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

While the authors describe this as a worldview that is very popular among today’s teenagers, it very accurately reflects the views of many American adults as well, including people who claim to be religious or spiritual. I hate to say it, but I occasionally even speak to professed born-again Christians who speak the language of MTD. It grows out of the ideologies of other recent generations: “If it feels good, do it” (as long as you don’t hurt anybody in the process); “follow your heart”; and so on.

Essentially, many Christians have chosen to follow Jesus for whatever benefit they can coax out of Him. Do you suffer from depression? Jesus will heal you. Is alcoholism destroying your life? Jesus is the Perfect Higher Power for your Twelve Step program of recovery. Is your marriage falling apart? Perhaps you and your spouse should come to church. These are all great blessings, and I have more respect for the Christian who is seeking such emotional and spiritual blessings from God than those who are naming and claiming a new car. But, they have stopped short of genuine faith in God. Yes, faith in God offers these emotional blessings. But, it also demands repentance and relationship with Him on His terms. MTD, along with its pseudo-Christian variants, focuses on what the believer wants from God, not what God wants to do in the believer’s life.

Jesus calls His hearers beyond seeking what He can give them in this world, to seeking the life He offers. Later, He says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He calls us to relationship with Him, a relationship on His terms. Are we willing to follow Him, or use Him?

Categories: Bible meditations | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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