One of the NT paradigms so helpful in growing or maturing as a Christian (sanctification) is that we live out our new identity in Christ. We are a new creation in Jesus, with our old self dying and a new me rising to life with him (Col. 2:11-13; 3:1-4). From this foundation of our new status as God’s forgiven, remade, and beloved children, and from this new identity where who I am is integrally connected to my union with Jesus, we then put to death sin and put on Christ. We say “out with the old and in with the new” when it comes to those desires, thoughts, and behaviors that aren’t fitting of me now in Jesus or are fitting. Unlike how our clothes become out of fashion every few years, the virtues of Christ we’re to put on (Col. 3:12-15) are unchanging. They are attractive, fitting clothes in every season and through the ages.
Discipleship is essentially following Christ for the purpose of maturing in Christ-likeness. Disciples rediscover and then faithfully live in light of their identity in Christ. Or to say it differently, discipleship is the process whereby we’re remade and we regain who we were created to be as image-bearers of God by being transformed into the image of Christ.
If believers have a new identity in Christ why don’t we live it out? Obviously layers of answers could be offered here related to doctrines of sin, sanctification, and glorification so let me narrow the question. What are a few identity issues that keep Christians from understanding and living out the reality of who we are as a new creation in Christ?
There are things we take for granted until we really need them. Like windshield wipers. I vividly remember driving down the interstate in a downpour. Rain pounded my car. As I flipped my wipers into high-speed, they suddenly caught on one another. Not good. I pulled over to the shoulder, jumped out of the safety of my dry car, and got soaked as I separated the wipers like two fighting children. After a quick rendition of “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I returned to the road, exhaling a deep, grateful breath.
Most Christians would agree that unity is a good thing. We’d like more unity in churches and in our relationships, not less. But what often impedes progress is we don’t like what’s required to make unity possible. There is no unity without humility.
There is no joining ourselves with others apart from some dying to self. Each of us must decide, is the payoff of peace worth the price of a gut-punch to my pride? We might desire the beauty of oneness and the sweetness of harmony, but we wait for others to bend and come to us. We want peace on our terms, without the baggage of humility, empathy, and selflessness. Unity is important, but do we value it as much as being heard, exercising our freedoms and rights, and expressing my opinion?
Part of the Christian life includes walking through spiritually dry seasons. That’s normal, and yet we don’t want to get stuck there or remain apathetic. Here are six things to remember or to do when your walk with Christ feels stagnant.
(This devotion is day twenty-three of a 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge. Each day includes a daily reading that will be accompanied by a post on this blog.)
Read Deuteronomy 8
The Bible is full of admonitions to remember God, what He’s taught us, and what He’s done for us. Through remembrance, we hold on to what we’ve learned in the past and live in light of it in the present. Throughout the Bible, God’s people face future fears by recalling God’s former faithfulness. Remembrance stirs up greater trust in God, it brings to mind what He’s done and said in the past, and it reminds us what we’ve learned from God. But the Bible also has many warnings not to forget.
There is a growing tendency within the church to call any issue a “political issue.” Examples include how we treat refugees and immigrants, racial reconciliation, climate change and creation care, gun control, care for the poor, sexuality, gender, and marriage issues. My problem isn’t connecting faith and politics (which should be done), but that this often is a way of stiff-arming contemporary issues from the Bible. Rather than approaching a topic from our faith, everything is viewed through its political angle, party disputes, and social divides.
Children are a gift from God. We love and treasure them. Children are also sheep needing shepherded. Parents must know, feed, protect, lead, and care for their kids.
But did you know the Bible also describes children as arrows? “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4). This metaphor gets at the missional aspect of raising a child. God wants us to love and enjoy them but also to train them so they can be missionaries wherever they go. God doesn’t want us to hoard them or shelter them but to release them. Parents think about their kids in terms of what they mean to us or what we want from them and for them, but we often neglect what God intends to do in them and through them.
How would you describe your style of parenting?
Some parents take a Hands-off approach. They shy away from being an authority and give lots of freedom and allow their kids to make their own decisions and discover who they are. Some parents adopt a Friendship style where the goal is to be your kid’s BFF. Others act like a Coach, offering good advice, steering children in the right direction, focusing on educational and career goals, and cheering them on. And then some practice the Helicopter approach. Stressed-out, fearful, chopper parents tower over their children, suffocating them by not giving any breathing room or freedom.
Testimonies exalt God, encourage believers, and evangelize the lost. Our churches need more time for personal testimonies as a corporate way to remember God’s gracious work in our lives. You can read more of my recent post at 9marks.org.