Being Identified With Christ

What does it mean to be identified with Christ? Before you rush to answer consider the rich young ruler whom Christ told to go sell everything he owned before he could be identified with Him. Scripture says the rich young ruler went away grieved because he had many riches. After he left, Jesus went on to say, “Truly I say to you, it will be difficult for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” The riches that can keep you from following Jesus can be anything you value more than following Him. In my experience I have seen many people turn away from Jesus because they were unwillingly to relinquish a particular lifestyle, habit, status, or association. They obviously valued those things more than what Christ was offering. The requirements for following Jesus are the same today for you and I as it was for the rich young ruler. You have to be willing to surrender everything. To be born again you have to be willing to pass through the cross just like you passed through the birth canal. That means stripped of everything.  The scripture says that following this statement of Jesus the disciples were bewildered thinking it was impossible for men to be saved, but Jesus assured them saying, “All things are possible with God.” What you are reading may be grieving you as it did the disciples but the good news is that God can change your perspective. I was once grieved as well at the prospect of giving up the pleasures that comforted me and the self-image I struggled to maintain for the cross of Jesus until my world started to topple around me from the inferior material I used to build my life. Once you grow weary of trying to build your life on the things outside of God like false ideals, corrupted values, carnal pleasures, physical strength, fleshy ambitions, the finite reasoning’s of man’s logic, and physical instinct you will be ready to let it all go. I thank God that I threw in the towel at an early age. Some people just have higher pain tolerances than others. When you are financially wealthy you can often afford more ways to self medicate so it can keep you out there spiritually languishing for much longer.

Jesus taught that if a man sought his own life that he would lose it, but if a man forsook his own life he would then find it. The sinking ship that many are holding on to is not salvageable and they must let it go in order to enter the unsinkable ship that Jesus captain’s. It is imperative to let go of the old in order to receive the new. Many people confuse the invitation of Jesus to come as you are as an invitation to stay as you are. Yes, Jesus loves you as you are but He also loves you too much to leave you that way. You must be ready to see yourself and your life from God’s perspective. You must be prepared to accept a new identity. You must be ready to accept a life centered on God’s will instead of your take on things. It is much like a teen-ager living with their parents. There is this person that the teenager is trying to portray to himself and friends, along with a highly marketed lifestyle that doesn’t figure in their total dependency on their parents. A teenagers highest priority should be complying with their parents since they are the ones sustaining their life. Ok hold on a moment parent before you amen to loud. God the Father is your parent. What kind of example are you setting? How submitted is your life to the One who is sustaining your life? I know, we just think we are grown but we have to be as children to enter the Kingdom. That is what I love so much about the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit can take things right in front of us and show us the path. Just like some of the things expected of teenagers not appearing cool to their peers, a life lived in identification with Christ is going to be senseless to the world. So just as teenagers often give in to peer pressure, “grown folks” conform to the world.

In order for a worldly person to be identified with Christ either they are going to have to change or they will have to make Christ worldly.  Consequently, the Christ preached from many of the pulpits around the world today vaguely resembles the Jesus Christ that the rich young ruler spoke with or the Jesus the apostle Peter denied three times. The Jesus Christ preached today more often resembles the mythical Santa Claus or officer friendly from preschool with his flash light shinning down on his head. Nothing threatening or demanding about him, just be nice and try not to be naughty and things will work out fine. Here are some of the one-sided ways people comfortably portray Jesus.

  1. Jesus loves you as you are so just come as you are. (Repentance paves the way to Jesus- Matt 4:17)
  2. Jesus paid for all of your sins on the cross. ( He requires you to take up your cross as well- Matt 10:38)
  3. Jesus knows your heart so don’t worry about it. (Plan out your salvation in fear and trembling- Matt 18:9)
  4. Jesus is love. (Love is often expressed through meeting the needs of others. A problem arises when people don’t value the things they really need- Matt 6:19-21)

There is always so much talk about who will be the anti-Christ but few people realize his personality and doctrine has already been accepted in many churches. The absolute authority of God and His personality are being challenged every day by hearts that are in love with this world. James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” What a friend we have in Jesus…kind of depends huh? Jesus says in the Day of Judgment there will be many people caught off guard when He looks at them and essentially tells them they identified with Him as Lord with their mouths but not with their lives, so be gone ( Matt 7:21-23). Being identified with Christ means taking up our own cross as He did, however instead of dying a physical death, we should daily be putting to death in our own lives the carnal values and earthly priorities of this world in order that we can live to please our Heavenly Father just as Jesus did. In doing this we will become rich eternal rulers with Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us.”

Christ desires for us to be identified with Him alone. This means we should derive all of our self-worth and understanding of our potential from who we are as new creatures in Christ, nothing more. Jesus Christ is the head of the body so all body members need to get on board with this or the body won’t be unified.  Everything about you comes after belonging to Christ. I tell people all the time that I am a man who is black, not a black man. I don’t put my ethnicity before the fact that I am first a man created in God’s image. The color of my skin does not define who I am as a person or what I am capable of. I am defined by the divine nature of God that orders by entire being. The spirit dictates to the flesh and not the other way around. This is the reality of being born again according to the will of God. Hear me out. I am not saying there is no purpose in race. I am saying that whatever that purpose is does not trump being in subjection to Christ which is the head of the body. This is what is being expounded upon in Colossians 3.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter and I pray that God will open it up to you. I will leave you with Colossians 3:10-11.

“ Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all.”

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Proverb 20:13 A Warning Against Slothfulness

Proverb 20:13

“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread.”

Do not love sleep:

The sleep here is not merely relating to slumber upon the bed but the unconsciousness brought about through over indulgence in escape: movies, sports, video games, hobbies, pleasure, eating. I understand we all need recreation but too much can make us comatose instead of merely giving us rest. There are treasures within us that need to be unearthed and time that could be spent digging is wasted in life dulling slumber. The lack of time spent mining the treasure within leads to poverty.

Lest you come to poverty:

The true riches of life cannot be purchased with silver and gold. Though some may have an abundance of this world’s wealth, their soul can be impoverished. Money definitely can assist in the journey but too often money is considered the end instead of a means to the end. Money is not always a profitable exchange for time spent, especially when it comes to time spent away from family and friends. Some jobs, though they pay a lot, may cost you more than you earn. There is a poverty that is not reflected in a bank statement but is evident in broken families, drug abuse, and the volume of pills medicine cabinet.

Open your eyes:

Though the dreamland of popular opinion and rationalizations may be less challenging than truth, it is a wasteland shrouded with darkness and yields unfulfilled living. Don’t squint your eyes in denial, open them wide and let them adjust to the light of the truth. The burden that goes with sustaining falsehoods is much heavier than sustaining truth because truth sustains itself. The truth does bring freedom.

You will be satisfied with bread:

There is a saying that all men die but few men truly live. Most people sleep their lives away avoiding challenges, conflict, and the uncomfortable. Jesus taught that we would enter the kingdom through much tribulation. In order to have a full life, we have to embrace all of life, which means the not so pleasant parts too. Let the hope of the gospel reinvigorate you to live, to face the challenges, to welcome the conflict, and to endure the uncomfortable. For all that choose to do so will be satisfied with the bread of life; righteousness, peace, joy, love, and true fulfillment.

Ephesians 5:14-16, “Therefore He says:  Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Endeavor to meet every day with the hope of receiving your daily bread just as The Lord’s Prayer indicates. God has given us abundant life through Jesus Christ. May we learn to live well by His provision through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Two Covenants of God

We cannot have a relationship with God without a covenant. God is holy and requires a covenant for intimacy with Him. The word “intimacy” may seem strange in context with God however He refers to the church very often as His bride. God desires to make us His Tabernacle and dwell inside us. That’s pretty intimate.  The covenant of marriage between a man and a woman has been established by God to reflect His relation with the church. People today enter intimate relationships all the time without a covenant and it is considered by God unholy and wicked. To enter an intimate relationship with God we have to enter covenant with Him. The bible teaches us that God loves order and peace and a covenant is a way to avoid confusion and to affirm commitment. We don’t determine the conditions of the covenant. The conditions have already been laid out by God. All the terms and conditions are spelled out in the volumes of the Holy Bible. There have been two main covenants during the history of the world that govern God’s relationship with man. They are the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. The condition for not having a covenant or not fulfilling the covenants of God is condemnation to death and separation from God. Jesus Christ came to earth and fulfilled the requirements of the Mosaic covenant since it was impossible for man to do it. Jesus also made provision for us to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant so that we could enter the promises rewarded by God to all that fulfilled the covenant. The Mosaic covenant was made with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai which included following, to the letter, a long list of rules and ordinances. The bible tells us plainly that the Mosaic covenant was instituted because men were wicked and obstinate after the disobedience of Adam. After Adam was compromised in the Garden man inherited a slant toward rebellion and selfishness that created an incongruity between man and God. This incongruity caused the mind of man to be alienated from the mind of God thus creating a condition where no long term relationship could be maintained without provocation. The selfish and rebellious nature, now dominant in man, would always surface and pull man away from the ways of God into immorality.  The Mosaic Law was a list of ordinances that laid out conditions for a rudimentary relationship with God which entailed the bare minimum of what God’s holiness could endure. Even at this base level man could not keep even the lowest tenants of God’s moral law in order to fulfill the Mosaic covenant. Therefore in the Mosaic Covenant every man was condemned to death and separation from God.

Fortunately the Mosaic Covenant did not disannul the Abrahamic Covenant which was 430 years before the Mosaic Covenant. Under the Abrahamic Covenant God promised that the children of Abraham would be as plentiful as the stars in heaven and would be justified by God through their faith and trust in Him just as Abraham had faith and trusted in God. God promised that these blessed descendants would come from the union of Abraham and Sarah his wife. Abraham being imperfect gave into the pleading of Sarah his wife who doubted the promise of God and compelled Abraham to give her a son from her bondmaid Hagar. From the union of Abraham and Hagar came Ishmael. Later, just as God promised, Sarah gave birth to the son of the covenant, Isaac. Ishmael and Isaac symbolize the two covenants of God. Ishmael being born out of doubt from Hagar in bondage symbolizes the Mosaic covenant. Isaac, born out of faith to Sarah the free woman symbolizes the Abrahamic covenant. The lineage of Jesus Christ through Joseph can be traced all the way back to Isaac the child of promise so that man would know that Jesus Christ is the door way to the covenant of Abraham which provides for justification through faith.

Though God has provided salvation through the Abrahamic covenant in Jesus Christ, Jews reject Jesus as the Savior promised through scripture. The Jews lack of faith in Jesus Christ leaves them condemned under Mosaic Law. Those who have faith in Jesus Christ are considered by God to have fulfilled both covenants. The sacrificed life of Jesus fulfills the conditions of the Mosaic covenant and the faith in Jesus fulfills the conditions of the Abrahamic covenant.

How does faith in Jesus enable wicked man to have a lasting relationship with God? Man finally convinced of his wickedness through being unable to keep the lowest of God’s moral law cries out to God and surrenders his attempts to self govern his own life. He accepts the love offering of Jesus Christ and shows this by taking up the cross of Christ every day in surrender of his life, trusting and having faith that regardless of how things may appear, he has been accepted into the family of God and with every day that he lives his Father God is saving him through a transformation of his life. Redeemed man believes that the Jesus, the Lamb of God, gives him access to God the father enabling him to know God intimately. This intimacy with God will allow man through the power of a born again spirit to understand the perfect intent of the law even the mind of God so that man can live righteously and holy. The Mosaic Law was never intended to do this nor could it. Taken from the Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible this quote expresses what I am saying very well, “No literal precepts could fully comprehend the wide range of holiness which LOVE, the work of the Holy Spirit, under the Gospel, suggests to the believer’s heart instinctively from the word understood in its deep spirituality.” This quote speaks of the excellency of the spirit through Christ and the Holy Spirit in the administration of the Abrahamic Covenant also called the New Covenant in comparison to the administration of the law under Mosaic Covenant.

There are those that believe that the law under the Mosaic covenant, even after being shown to be inferior to life in the spirit, still has a place under the administration of the Abrahamic Covenant. This influence comes from the promotion of Judaism by Jews who have not embraced the fullness of the grace provided through the Savior Jesus Christ. As it was in the days of the early church, so is it today. We see this in the obstinate minds of the Scribes and Pharisees as they tried to condemn the spirituality of Jesus Christ by accusing His actions that appeared to them to violate the Mosaic Law. We also see this conflict between the liberty of the spirit and the bondage of Mosaic Law in the ministry of the apostles after the ascension of Jesus.  Jesus taught that ALL the law and the prophets hung on LOVE as in Matthew 22:34-40,

“But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul was trying to reinforce the same truth to the Galatians after he found that they had been persuaded to take up the Mosaic Law by those in his day promoting Judaism in a confusing mix with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see this in Galatians 5:1-6,

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

This is huge. You who are attempting to keep Mosaic Law remember that you are a debtor to do it ALL. If you ascribe any merit to your standing with God due to your being circumcised, abstaining from meats, or observance of a day, then Christ is of no profit to you.  Paul says, you frustrate the grace given you by Christ. A little leaven ruins the whole loaf.

Here is a list of chapters out of the bible that deal specifically with the subject I have posted here. Put on your spiritual ears and hear the message of liberty and holiness that the spirit is teaching through these texts.

2 Corinthians 3

The Book of Galatians

Romans chapter 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

1 John chapter 4

Genesis  chapter 15, 16, 17, and 18

I am including a link to the site where you can read all of these texts. The link is to Bible Gateway one of my favorite sites on the web.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/

One Step At A Time

I have met men who believed that the right woman could cure them from lust and infidelity. I have also met women that believed if they could be all that a man wanted then he would be faithful and not desire other women. I have known men that adored their wife, cherished their children and were gainfully employed yet their wives had affairs. So what is really going on here? Plenty, but let’s keep it simple. My prognosis, these are symptoms of people out of balance. People that are out of balance stumble. Again, I am going to keep this really simple. There are many dynamics that lead to people being off center and not properly grounded. Like things from the past, anxieties about the future, as well as current circumstances. Most often the imbalance surfaces in the form of an inordinate appetite. The most common inordinate appetites are for food, sex, and leisure (escape).

The problem is that people become fixated on the appetite not realizing that the appetite is the symptom of a much deeper problem. The appetite can never be quenched through feeding it. Many people have become slaves to appetites that are bottomless. Some of the common excessive practices include whoredom, gluttony, drug abuse, excessive TV time, excessive video gaming, and pornography. Thank God that there is a simple fix. All we have to do is take up the cross of Christ daily and concentrate on walking through each day one step at a time. I said the fix was simple not easy. Though the task is not easy God gives us strength sufficient for each day and each step. Let me explain what I mean by taking up the cross of Christ. Taking up your cross daily refers to surrendering the outcome of each day to God through seeking His direction in life’s decisions versus trying to force your own outcome through your own methods. We were never meant to live independent from God. God desires to shepherd us through life.

It is impossible surrender your life unless you are assured of Gods steadfast love for you. He has already offered this assurance in the sacrifice at Calvary. Now you have to exercise your faith in His love by trusting Him with your life. Surrender. Surrender the issues of your past. Surrender the outcome of your tomorrows. Lay aside the weights that are throwing you off balance and causing you to stumble. Now pick up that cross as your balancing pole and walk through your life taking one step at a time. As the piece of God grows in your heart you will find that the bonds of the inordinate appetites have been broken and you will experience true freedom.

I am living what I am writing about. I have been out of work for several months and facing difficult financial times but my soul rest in God’s care. My ability to compose this post is evidence of God’s ability to keep me sober minded and balanced through circumstances that has ripped families apart. Here are some scriptures that are foundational to what I have been sharing. I pray that they increase your faith and empower you to liberty and peace.

Proverbs 3:19-24

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; By His knowledge the depths were broken up, and clouds drop down the dew. My son, let them not depart from your eyes Keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 37:4-6

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Luke 12:22-32

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things[a] shall be added to you. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Unconditional Love

I recently searched for the word “unconditional” in several versions of the Holy Bible and you know what…I couldn’t find it. So, where does a person get the idea that God’s love is unconditional? My guess is the same place as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. I realize that this is a bubble buster for some readers but it shouldn’t be. Think for a minute, have you ever seen anything last that had no order, system, guidelines, or rhythm. I think not. Anything sustainable has to have order. Specific conditions are implicit to order. Love is realized through relationship. A condition of relationship is communication. Communication requires certain conditions to be effective. So where am I going with this. The flesh loathes the restraint required by conditions and will resist it even to its own hurt. So let me encourage you to read this to completion even though your flesh may already be rejecting it. The thought of unconditional love soothes the flesh. Unconditional love removes any consequences from our actions in relationship to God’s acceptance and approval. Where there are no consequences there is no need for restraint and this makes the flesh happy. Though the absence of restraint pleases the flesh it really grieves the spirit. The spirit loves order and judgment. The flesh and the spirit are opposed.

Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

Love is of the spirit because God is love and He is spirit.

John 4:22-24 reads, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

These are all conditions for having a relationship with God. God is seeking those who don’t have issues with restraint.

Here is what Jesus informed everyone in Luke 9:23, “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

The cross is where our flesh meets the conditions of God. The desire for unconditional love is the flesh trying to circumvent the cross. I am not saying that God withholds love from us until we meet His conditions. Gods knows unless He gives us the seeds of love in the first place we want have anything to offer back to him. God is a just God and it would not be just of Him to require something of us that He has not made sure we have the means to fulfill. It is because God has given us abundant love that He requires love of us, unto Him and our fellowman. The idea of unconditional love implies that God expects nothing of us and this is not true.

John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

God requires us to love, and not just in any old way we choose but He requires us to love even as He has loved. Unconditional love is love without standards and without standards there is no assurance of reliability. In order for us to have the abundant life that Jesus promised we have to follow His recipe.