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.”

Who Loves Ya Baby?

The famous words of Kojak! I know I am telling my age with that one. You youngsters will need to Google it. The question is valid though. We need to know who really loves us. I say “really” because everything called love is not necessarily so. It is also important that the love we give is “really” love and that the recipients acknowledge that. In relationships where there is mutual faith in the love shared, that relationship forms a bond which  becomes an enduring pillar of support and a rich source of esteem. This already challenging life is considerably tougher for those who feel they don’t share this love relationship with anyone and feel alone. By alone, I am referring to being in a place where no one is really interested in your voice, your personal feelings. I am also referring to a place where there is no one other than yourself that believes in your heart, and in spite of your mistakes believe that your intent is good. Unless you are narcissistic, without the affirmation of people that love you, you can begin to doubt yourself. One would think that this kind of love is a given in family, however having blood relatives does not guarantee this bond of love. It follows that having blood relatives does not guarantee that you will not feel alone. Before going any further, let me qualify what I mean by love.

When I speak of love I am referring to the love that comes from God. The bible teaches that God is love. So the love I am referring to comes from a divine source. Have you ever heard someone say they didn’t know how poor they were until they saw how the rich lived? Love is the same way. What most people consider love is poor in comparison to the real love of God. I Corinthians 13 give us a glimpse at real love:

 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

This love is not innate to our physical nature. We surely have some strong feelings generated from our physical being but they fall short of the wholeness comprised in divine love or real love. The big three feelings that dominate physical man are fear, lust, and pride.  These big three, though at times mimic love, are actually contrary to love. Fear comes from dread instead of hope. Lust is rooted in “taking” instead of “giving”. Pride is centered in concern for self instead of concern for the well being of all. Of the big three, PRIDE is the strongest and most dominant. Because the big three are natural to us, it takes the intervention of the supernatural to free us from the domination of them. The spirit of God in conjunction with our conscience convicts us to makes us aware of behavior that is detrimental to us and those around us. These are the actions produced by the influence of the big three. If we are sensitive to the conviction we can turn to God for help and He can begin the work of breaking the power of the big three which frees us from the behavior causing harm.  If we choose to override the conviction, this has a dulling affect on our sensitivity to harmful behavior and we become callous.  We never want to become insensitive to those around us because it can lead to us becoming detached from the reality of our actions. That is how people become beastly and demonic. Pride is the power of wicked behavior because it refuses to acknowledge fault and thereby blocks repentance. It is pride that fights the hardest against the reality that we need salvation from God. Most people readily acknowledge that we need the help of others but the pride of natural man will often fight the reality that we are helplessly wicked without God. So God orchestrates the fall of the prideful to humble places for an opportunity to be freed from the blindness of pride. God is so good, working in all things to bring us to freedom and fulfillment.  Those who grow weary of the tyranny of the big three and answer the call of God to repentance receive deliverance. Only those delivered by God are free to love. The big three will not allow a man the liberty to fulfill the requisites of love. This is what God proved through the Law of Moses. As hard as a man may try, he will always fall short of keeping the commandments of Love in his own strength.

Jesus says let the rich say they are poor and let the poor say they are rich. In other words, let those who think they have something to offer outside of the goodness that comes from God acknowledge that they have nothing, and those who realize they are bankrupt of their own goodness acknowledge that they are made rich by God’s goodness . Even though they may still have faults, their pursuit of God and commitment to grow is evident through their repentance. If you acknowledge your poverty then God has opportunity to make you rich, but if you say you are rich when you know you don’t have the goods then you will remain poor. I am definitely on God’s well fare. He gives me my bread daily. I don’t have anything but what He gives me. Every day that I awake I ask God to make a deposit into my heart so that I will have something to spend, if not, I will go about creating debts. Some days I create debts anyway but I am thankful for God and those that love like Him who know how to forgive us our debts. We need people in our lives that are rich with God’s love and we need to be one of those people enriching the lives of other with His love.

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.