Of Dead Men and New Life

I recently skirted around the topic of our deadness to sin a few weeks ago. If you missed it you can find that post here. In that post I stopped just shy of saying we are no longer sinners.

Fear is what kept me from saying it outright. Yes. I know what you’re thinking. You’re either agreeing with me or looking for some way to either remove my head as a heretic or to point out the obvious-to-you flaws in my thinking.  I’d like to go on record here and now saying that I welcome any and all dialogue on my posts, provided they are civil and only ideas are discussed and people are left unscathed by words.

I know it’s hard to differentiate between the two. I’ve struggled with that myself. One of my most faithful friends (Proverbs 27:6) has often told me how vital it is for us to be able to separate our identity, who we are in Jesus, from what other people say and think about us.

One thing that recently struck me like a ton of bricks right between the eyes is that very thing. What someone else thinks of me, whatever they think I am is really none of my concern. Their thoughts and opinions are not strong enough to change who we are.

Back to we are no longer sinners after we come to Jesus, it seems to go against all that we think and are taught from our earliest days in the church nursery. We all know we’re sinners, sinners saved by grace, and that one day we’ll have eternal life and gain entrance into heaven. A quick glance at Romans 6,7 and Galatians 5 seem to support this, but let’s take a closer look.

I’m going to move through these quickly and then we’ll come back and elaborate on them in subsequent posts.

Romans 6.
We’ve been taught to read this as “try really hard not to sin” and “don’t use grace as an excuse to sin”. The last part is true. The first part could not be further from the truth.  Why? Because we are dead to sin. Not just a little dead, but very dead, completely dead.

Dead things don’t live. Dead men don’t sin.

In verse 4 of Romans 6 we read:

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life

And 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come.

(emphasis mine.)

What is new and what old has gone, except our old nature?

The new would be the life and nature of Jesus. We were baptized into His death and raised in newness of life. Since our old nature was dead, our new nature is life.

To redeem means to buy back; to restore means to take back to the original. We were redeemed by Jesus and His blood restored us to what we were. And what were we originally? Perfect. Without a sin nature. (Read Genesis 1-3)

All one needs to sin is an enemy, the freedom to choose, and the ability to be deceived. Adam and Eve had both. And so do we.

If we believe we still have a sin nature, we think we still have no choice (and therefore no responsibility) in sinning. “It’s just the way I am. I’ve always been this way. I can’t change that.”

No, you can’t. Jesus did!

We also then do not believe Jesus redeemed all of us. There are parts of us He did not and could not redeem. In other words, His blood wasn’t enough. He needs our help.

So salvation–complete salvation–becomes based on what I do and not based on what Jesus did.

We still struggle with temptation and sin, but it is not our nature to sin. We struggle with sin because we still have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us. Just as he tempted Eve in the garden, he tempts us and tries to deceive us.

You don’t need a sin nature to be tempted and deceived. Neither Adam and Eve or Jesus had a sin nature. All were tempted. One was deceived, one sinned and One was perfect.

I am a sinner is a statement of identity. It is also a lie. However, if we believe it, we will live it out.

And when we live it out, the enemy wins.

Tell yourself the truth. You are not a sinner. You sin. You’re tempted. It’s not your nature. It’s not who you are. Who you are is in Jesus and nothing can change that. In Him you are holy, blameless, made right, redeemed, His people.

You are a saint.

 

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Decluttering Emotional Shoes

IMG_20170615_084136“You would be so proud of me!” I gleefully exclaimed one day when my new husband came home from work. “I cleaned out my shoes and I’m down to 23 pairs!”

You can probably imagine his horrified look as first surprise, then shock, and then horror overtook his features. “Twenty-three pairs? Surely, you mean 23 shoes, right? You have twenty-three shoes.” I quickly assured that I did indeed have an even number of feet and so I meant twenty-three pairs.  “But, you know you can only wear one pair at a time, right?”

Obviously, this man just wasn’t getting the importance of my actions. To whittle down a collection of shoes to just a few pairs was outstanding. I had de-cluttered my shoes and kept only those that were my absolute favorites.

I should not have been surprised by his lack of enthusiasm; I mean the man only had two pairs of shoes; one pair for work and church, and one pair for recreation. (That sounds so much nicer than play shoes, doesn’t it?)

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For a number of years, I treated my inner life just as I treated my shoes. I would occasionally de-clutter my heart of excess junk, old opinions I had held on to, sins I had committed, grudges I had nursed, thoughts I deemed necessary to life, emotions that were destructive. I still hung on to the vast majority of sins, in thought and deed. I kept only my current absolute favorites. I tenaciously held on to every feeling that defined my identity.

Just as some shoes can be painful and pinch my feet, parts of my identity were painful and gripping them to my chest caused immense pain. Still I held on tight. People would complain, they would reject me, and I would still cling tightly to who I thought I had to be in order to be me.

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But now you also, put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:8 (NASB)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor be put away from you, along with all malice.” Ephesians 4:31 (NASB)

Eventually, over time, I began decluttering my shoes even further. I never had only two pairs of shoes, but I ruthlessly got rid of shoes. I felt free. I wasn’t tripping over them, I wasn’t having to work to keep them organized.

In that same way, I’ve been in the process of doing with fewer emotional pairs of shoes. I began by praying for Jesus’ eyes to see the truth about my identity, I prayed for His strength to de-clutter the shoes of my heart. He has been faithful to reveal to my soul the next emotional pair of shoes that needs to leave.

As I am dealing with less emotional baggage, I am feeling much freer in the expanse of His life. I am finding that my life has increased as I have whittled down emotional shoes. Where I once thought I had to hang on to something because it was such a part of me, I am finding immense freedom in getting rid of what I once thought me only to find myself and my identity in Jesus.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in the view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8 (NASB)

 

Strongholds and Arrows and Identity, Oh My!

strongholdA stronghold is a mental or emotional fortress the enemy of our souls creates to keep us trapped in sin. He will use any means necessary to ensure that these walls are never broken down.

We all have these strongholds of the enemy.  We all have places we run to when life bumps and bruises us. We have strongholds that have been built over time to keep us safe and secure from anyone and anything that would cause us pain. Every time we are hurt by someone we either add a brick, or wall to our fortress or we join forces with our enemy and just start a whole new stronghold.

Since most of these stronghold fortresses are began in childhood, by the time we are adults we are so full of strongholds we can’t see through the gun sight, we keep the drawbridge up almost all the time. The times we lower it and let someone in it tends to end badly for us.

People use the access they have gained into our lives as an opportunity to launch arrows right at our painful memories. Most of the time we aren’t even sure what they said that made our heart hurt so much, but it does. Often time we’ll launch an arrow right back.

Some arrows launched are obvious and intentional. “You’re ugly!” There is no question that an arrow was thrown. And we lob one back, “Yeah well you’re stupid!”

Some arrows though are not intentional, sometimes our friends and family members will launch an arrow without ever intending to hurt us. We still react and act out in pain but we might not know why what they said hurt us.

Each stronghold is based on a message we received either intentionally or unintentionally about who we are. From these messages we act out, or walk out our identity. In this living out what we believe to be true about us, we teach those around us how to treat us. Every single stronghold is a lie, planted by the enemy of our soul, and designed to keep us in bondage to him.

Strongholds begin with “I am”. I’ve stated it before and I’ll state it again, when we make statements about ourselves beginning with “I am” what follows is our identity.  Some examples of identity strongholds.

  • I am bad.
  • I am too much.
  • I am not enough.
  • I am at fault.
  • I am responsible.
  • I am dirty.
  • I am disposable.
  • I am not important.
  • I am wrong.
  • I am invisible.
  • I am stupid
  • I am a bother.
  • I am a failure
  • I am a screw up.
  • I am nobody.
  • I am inadequate

There are many more, the list could stretch on forever and still we would have more strongholds to add to the list.

Strongholds can make us believe that they have written the final word on our life. They can speak to us that this is just the way we are, it is the way we have been and the way we will always be. There is no hope. The pain in our life is forever and it is all we can ever hope for.

We find different ways to mask the pain. But just let someone launch an arrow and we are reduced to lobbing our own back or a puddle of tears.

And we think that is all there is.

But Jesus.

to be continued…

You Are Not Dead

 

20180421_122307If you are in Christ, you are not dead. In Christ Jesus, you are not a sinner.

There I said it. If you are a believer who has claimed the forgiveness Jesus bled and died to give you. You are not a sinner. That is not your nature and it is not your identity.

Every time we say “I am [fill in the blank]” we are making a statement of identity.  We are telling ourselves and others who we are and that, in turn, tells others how to treat us.

In Romans 6 we read, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?”  (Romans 6:2b-3 nasb)

Before Jesus came we were dead IN sin. (Ephesians 2:1) After Jesus came we are dead TO sin. (Romans 6:11). The life of Jesus changes prepositions. And in changing prepositions lives are changed. Dead things begin to breathe.

The Lord is Life.

This means you are alive IN Him and TO Him. His life, His power reign supreme. He lives in and through you. The life that breathed life into dead things and made them live, breathed into you and now you live.

You are alive in Christ Jesus.
You are alive to Christ Jesus.

His life makes dead things live. His life changes people-from dead to living.

You cannot be a slave of sin and a slave of righteousness at the same time. And you are not, but the enemy wants you to believe and live the lie that you are his slave, when you are not. He has the uncanny ability to make the truth seem like a lie and a lie seem like the truth.

This is why we are so often told “Don’t be deceived!” Anyone who knows the truth won’t be duped by a lie unless they are somehow deceived into believing the truth is a lie.

Adam and Eve knew only the truth. Before satan whispered in their ear that what they thought was true was in fact, a lie. It was not in their nature to sin. When satan, our enemy, approached Eve the only way he could get her to sin was to deceive her. The only thing he has to do to get you to sin, after you have come to Jesus, is to deceive you into believing a lie.

All we need to sin is the freedom to choose and the ability to be deceived. And everyone has both.

We are all born dead. Jesus brings us life.

“even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” Ephesians 2:5 nasb

He made you alive! He made you live. At the cross we were crucified with Him. When something is crucified, it is dead. There is no question as to its deadness. It is completely dead.  Because Jesus didn’t stay dead neither did we. We were raised up in Him.

“and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6

You were dead. You were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). You were raised with Him. You are in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.

How can we who have died live in the dead places any longer? If He made us new, why do we still live in the old? That old is gone, it is dead, and as believers, we must stop hanging out at the grave as if that were us and our reality. It is not. We are new. Now is the time to act like it.

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 nasb

To say that we still must live with the dead means that God lacks the power to fully resurrect us. It means He is not omnipotent, because He could not fully resurrect us and make us alive. It means my dead is stronger than His life. There is no hope in that.

New life doesn’t begin when we die physically, it begins the moment Jesus breathes His life into our soul and we become a living being.

Our flesh is dead, it is and it always has been.  Our dead flesh has always had one wish, one desire, one burning passion–to do whatever it pleases, whatever it wants. It controlled us. The flesh wants us to believe that we still have no choice to and in sin. It wants us to believe it is still in charge and therefore still our nature.

When Jesus says “I set you free from that power. I made you alive. I made you a new creation. Your old way of life is gone. Now you have My nature, walk–live in that.” And we say, “I can’t because my dead flesh is still too much alive. This is who I am, it is what I am and it is how I am, there is no hope for change.”

Jesus says, “Your flesh has been crucified. You are Mine. I redeemed you. I redeemed your life from the pit. Walk, live by My Spirit in you and you will not gratify the flesh.”

And our enemy says, “Nope. That is alive. See I can still make you respond, react in the same old ways. He isn’t that powerful after all. I have more power over you than He does.” And we believe him.

But Jesus says, “I set you free. Abide in Me. I abide in you. You are Mine and the graveyard is not your address.

Oh dear readers, please grasp this! You are not a sinner, sinners are dead. You have been bought with a price, you have been redeemed from the pit. You have been made alive with and in Christ Jesus. Your old nature has gone and you’ve been made new.

Yes, we will still sin and struggle with sin and a desire for it, because we still have an enemy, the freedom to choose, and the ability to be deceived. That is all we need to sin. But we are so easily deceived into thinking, into believing we have no choice because this is who we are when it is so not who we are.

Too many people who claim to love and follow Jesus spend to much time hanging out at their own grave. Move along, folks, there is nothing to see here. Go live. His blood bought your life and you won’t find it by looking in the grave.

 

(For further study, read Romans 6, 7, 8 and Galatians 5.)

 

How To Get Your Needs Met

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Almost twenty years ago Mr. FullCup and I knew we needed to move from where we were living but we had no idea where we should move to. So we did what we typically do when we don’t think we have all the answers, nothing. We did nothing about it. We had talked about it, decided on it, and did not speak of it again.

One day in early November, he placed a fun phone call to some friends of our to tell our happy news that a new baby was on her way. In the course of that conversation it was mentioned that a fellow employee of our friend was moving on and he would need to find someone to fill that position. I jokingly told Mr. FullCup “Tell him we’re interested!” We all had a great laugh over that.

Until the next day when we got home from church and listened to the message on our answering machine from this friend. “Hey. I know we were just joking yesterday but now I’m serious. I’d love to have to come and work for us.”

Gulp. We called and got the particulars, and just about choked over the salary offered. It was considerably less than what we were making and it made no sense at all to take the position.  On paper it made no sense. To us it made no sense, we only knew Jesus was directing.

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Right now I am being led to do something again that seems impossible. The list of items that I think have to happen before I start this new venture stack up like dominoes. I must have this happen. I need to see this happen. This MUST happen or I just can’t/won’t do it.

And the sweet voice of Jesus says, “Trust Me.

What is the difference between my saying, “this all needs to happen before I [fill in the blank] and what Nehemiah told the king in Nehemiah 2:7-8?

You might remember the story of Nehemiah. He hears about the condition of Jerusalem and is discouraged, his face reflects his heart. He was bold enough to go before the king looking sad and the king was astute enough to notice and caring enough to ask about the sadness.

He prayed. He spoke. He believed.

The king not only gave Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem, he funded the whole expedition and bought the lumber that was needed to repair the walls. He demanded Nehemiah be given safe passage to Jerusalem.

So what about us? What can we learn from this?

  • Go to the King honestly.

We don’t have to hide our heart, our feelings from Jesus. We don’t have to be perfect to come to Him. We can take our heart, pain and all, to Him. He doesn’t require us to be happy in His presence.

  • Be Honest with the King

Nehemiah did not lie to the king. He did not tell him, “Oh it’s nothing. It’s okay.” He told him the truth. And so should we.

  • Tell the King what you need.

You might be thinking, “But He already knows.” Yes, He sure does. But you still need to tell Him.

  • Act On It.

Nehemiah didn’t sit around wondering if the king meant what he said. He took the king at his word and he acted accordingly. He knew the king was trustworthy to do what he promised.

  • Expect opposition.

Let’s face it, there are those who will oppose you when you walk in the fulfillment of your needs. Just because the King meets your needs does not mean the enemy will be happy for you.  In my experience the opposite happens.

Who do you think you are? You’re walking around here like you own the joint! You’re not all that. He didn’t expect you to really do this. You’re wrong. 

Expect this. And cling to Jesus.

Life In The Furnace

We all have times when life hurts. It’s hard and painful and we wish it would just quit. We aren’t suicidal but we want the pain to just go away and leave us alone. We know in the pit of our soul that we are being refined but our heart feels condemned. Like we’ve screwed up again. We feel helpless and hopeless.

We find comfort knowing that the smelter is never far from the furnace when his gold is in there being refined. We know that Jesus is close when we’re going through a time of testing, we can’t feel Him, can’t see Him, and can’t hear Him, but we are pretty sure He is right outside the door to our furnace.

Oh my soul, people. We are so wrong.

“…He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light…” 1 Timothy 6:15-16

The word translated “light” here means firelight.

“Our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29

Oh people. He doesn’t put us in the furnace to burn off our impurities, so we can be acceptable. He put us IN HIM-the consuming fire-and He purifies us. We are never a part from Him.

The fire He uses to burn off our impurities is the very fire of His own Holiness. He does this because we are told over and over and over throughout all of Scripture that He is in us and we are in Him.

This is the why and the how of James 1:3,

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,”

We dwell in Light, we live in firelight because He dwells in us and because we dwell in Him.

You are protected by FIRE in the Fire. He never leaves you. He never puts you someplace and stays close but separate. He dwells in unapproachable Light and He also dwells in you and you dwell in Him in unapproachable light.

 

The Positives and Negatives Of Your Natural Inclinations

Last week my boss arranged a time for us to get together to evaluate the last three months. He wanted to use this time to see where we both were in our working relationship, for us to have time to talk about some of the hard things and some of the good, easy things.  This was a time to sit down during a non-confrontational time and share our hearts about the things that excited us and we knew were good. Those things that filled us with warm fuzzies, that brought a smile to our face, that made us sit back and say, “Oh wow, Jesus! This! This is why You have called us to this ministry. This is why You have us working shoulder-to-shoulder, rubbing elbows together every day. This is what You designed us to be as You work through us. This is Your body in action and it’s a beautiful thing.”

But also those things that made us sit back and say, “ouch!” The times we didn’t react or respond as we hoped the other would. Maybe it was our fault, maybe it was a mistake the other made, but those times when we wonder why on earth we’re in this battle together, we ponder if somehow along the line we made a mistake.  Over the past few months we’ve had those hard things, those things that brought out a response from us that neither one wanted.

Jesus began speaking to my heart about a natural inclination, a way of being hard-wired if you will. Specifically the issue surrounded my lack of attention to detail.  I am not shy about my lack of attention to detail. I talk about it. I make jokes about it. Yes, sometimes I revel in it. But I also make it an excuse.

“Oh! That’s a detail and I’m not a detail person.” As if that automatically gave me an out. In short, it doesn’t. Not being detail-oriented is my natural inclination, but it is not my excuse.

Now I can focus on details, I can. But it takes work, time, and a ton of effort and energy. Quite frankly, I can be rather lazy.

And so can you.

None of us want to be held responsible for the way we think we’re hard-wired. We want to use that as an excuse, a cop-out, an easy-out. We see it as an escape from negative consequences. But it just isn’t. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Our natural inclination is not always going to be right. It’s just not. It might be how we are wired by Jesus but it has been affected and infected by sin. When we realize this, and we realize how desperate we are for Jesus and His life living in and through us, perfecting us, it often brings conviction. When we staunchly hold to the thought of “this is how I’m made and I can’t (or won’t) change” we put ourselves in the place of God. That is a scary place to be.

So let’s chat a bit about a natural inclination. I mentioned one of mine was my lack of attention to detail. This can be both a positive and a negative. Used as a negative, things slip through the cracks, and the cracks keep getting wider. I fail to focus on a task because “oh look! That is more fun” and I’m off. I forget things if it isn’t right in front of me. I don’t completely do my job because some things need more detailed attention than I give it. All of these are negatives and they negatively affect not only my performance on the job, but they also negatively affect how others (in and out of leadership positions) view me and my gifts.

But lack of attention to detail can also be a positive, and we need people who are more Big-Picture People. Big Picture People do not get bogged down in the making of endless lists, and lists of their lists. They don’t focus so much on minute details that they don’t move, don’t accomplish anything. Big-Picture People are the movers and the shakers. These people make great leaders and designers.

Why?

Because they see the big picture, they see the end result from the planning stages. They design it, then they hand it to the detail, Small Picture People, who work out the details. In this process the Big Picture People serve to encourage the process, they ensure it is getting done and no one is bogged down in the minutiae.

And this is just one side of one natural inclination. There are positives and negatives to each one and to each side of each one. Jesus made us all so wonderfully unique and different so we blend together to do the work Jesus gave us to do.  As we all rely on the life of Jesus and do the work He prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), keeping in mind all the while that He is the One doing the work through us as we live yielded to Him. We need to keep a few things in mind; we are different and different doesn’t always equal wrong. Jesus in me will look different than Jesus in you, because we are different, we have different likes/dislikes, talents, abilities, life stories and histories. But the same Jesus.  We need to be held accountable but we also need grace to be extended. We need to remember;

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins (1 Peter 4:8)