Are you a Pretender?

12 11 2018

Tony

God says I died with Christ and that I no longer live (Gal.2:20). That means when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t die by Himself for me or instead of me (Rom. 6:6). He had become me, identifying with my old self so that His death could change my life whether I knew it or not (2 Cor.5:21).

God also says that all humanity died in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). That means all humanity has died to the old self. Christ, the second Adam, replaced all the progeny of the first Adam when He died and rose again with a new race of humanity (Rom.5:19). All mankind has had their lives changed through His death but unfortunately most, even believers, don’t realize it or prefer not to believe it. If they don’t believe it, it will not benefit them. They still live in or battle their sinful condition until they accept fully what Christ has done.

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“You are not acting like Christ.”

18 10 2018

Broken_Vessel_The most common response to someone who professes that Christ is his life is, “Well, you sure don’t act like Him”. The assumption is that if Christ lives in you, as you, then everything you do has to be perfect since Christ presumedly cannot be imperfect. While this seems logical, God says that our lives are earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). Clay vessels are imperfect and full of cracks. So, if we are really imperfect vessels is it ever possible to show perfection?

Christianity has claimed that perfection has to come first before Jesus. In other words, sinful man must find perfection before he can ever be found in Christ. But again, what does God say? He says, “All things in Christ are made brand new” (2 Cor. 5:17) and “We are complete (perfect) in Christ.”(Col.2:10). He is not talking about just a part of us or He would have made that distinction. He is claiming that we are perfect – body, soul, and spirit in Christ who is “ALL in all” (Col. 3:11).

But, still, how can God be OK with our seeming imperfections? It’s because Christ took on my defects in the garden when He drank the cup of my sinfulness (2 Cor.5:21). He accepted it and covered it with His blood and death, swallowing it up in His life. Jesus has become me so that I could become Him. And, if Jesus has become me then He has become ALL that I am.

So, what is God’s view of perfection? It’s Him showing up in human weakness. It is not in my perfection (which I can never achieve anyway!), it is in my mistakes and failures that God chooses to show Himself and His grace. Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). He said to the churches in Galatia that it even though he was known as a persecutor people “glorified Christ in me” (1:24). How did these people overlook the imperfect, negatives in Paul and see Jesus?

The Law says that I must strive to be perfect because I am not there yet. Grace says that even though I am not “seen” as perfect in my flesh, I am in my spirit (I Jn 3:9). And it’s when the Spirit comes out of that weak flesh Christ is seen. It’s the matching of my negative to His positive. It’s watching death being swallowed up with life. It’s showing that I am human but something, someone is shining through my humanness. It’s why Paul also said that even though he was “dying” (showing weakness and imperfection) the “life of Jesus” was also being manifested in his body ( 2 Cor. 4:10). If Jesus is going to be real to you and me then we must know Him in our weakness. In fact, God prefers to show up in the foolish things of this world rather than in the perfect (wise) (1 Cor.1:27).

Here’s the bottom line. If God lives in me and I am His life then He takes full responsibility for my imperfection. If He can’t, then He really isn’t God. The next time someone reminds you that you aren’t acting like Jesus just say, “Thank you for pointing out an opportunity for Jesus to show Himself in my life”. If I never make a mistake (which is impossible) is that evidence of Christ living in me? Someone could say that I have that ability or discipline but they would be fooling themselves. But, if I do make a mistake, recognize it and accept it, isn’t that more evidence of the grace of Christ?

Be unashamedly Jesus in ALL that you are.





Are you believing in another gospel?

29 09 2018

untitled

One of the most subtle delusions of modern Christianity is the belief in “another gospel”. Paul was so emphatic about the intrusion of this deception into the 1st century churches of Galatia that he repeated his warning twice with strong words, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal. 1:8,9 NIV).

What is the “other gospel”? Most teachers will tell you that obviously Paul was referring to those Jewish believers who, while acknowledging the sacrifice of Christ still felt the necessity of keeping the old covenant law. To our modern understanding this is absurd. Christ fulfilled the law, so, of course, Christians don’t practice the law any longer. So, the “other gospel” is no longer relevant today.

Really?

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TO LIVE IS CHRIST

27 08 2018

 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of facilitating a graveside for a dear friend who deeply loved the Lord. He was kind-hearted and full of love for his family. The feeling was mutual. At the graveside, his grandson, son, daughter and grand nieces all spoke of how they were influenced by him to either believe or were strengthened in their faith in Christ.

When the grandson stood he cited Phil.1:21 where Paul confessed that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He went on to state that he believed that his grandfather was like Paul, undecided as to what was better, to go on living (as hard as it was for him to endure the pain in his body) or to be with Jesus? Obviously, to be with Jesus, as Paul admitted, is far better but the point is that either way it was all about Jesus.

To stay in the flesh means simply to let Christ be seen in our lives. We are His vessels, His branches, His temples to let the world see who He is. God cannot be seen, nor can Christ anymore as a historical person. But God says that we are now His manifestation ( 2 Cor. 4:10,11). This body of flesh is God’s showcase to reveal His likeness and image (Eph. 5:30). There is no other purpose for man’s existence than to be the expression of God. When this grandfather showed patience, compassion, and love, who was that? It was Christ. What better way to know Jesus than to see Him in each other?

When our time comes for our bodies, God’s vessels, to be “destroyed” (2 Cor. 5:1) we are transported into the full presence of Jesus in our spiritual bodies. Living in the realm of heaven, we are no longer seen in the world. We have been taught that heaven is a perfect place and is splendid beyond measure. But one thing is lacking there – people don’t have their incorruptible bodies yet. Until they/we all receive our new bodies no one can see us or God. That is why Paul thought about staying in this worldly realm a little longer so that he could reveal Christ to world a bit longer.

What a thrill to hear this man’s relatives give him praise because they saw Christ in him. We can tell people about Jesus all day long but how much better to demonstrate who He is through our humanness.

Christ is your life, you have no other life (Gal. 2:20).

Be Jesus





Are you what you think?

26 07 2018

thWUEWMK6EThe most powerful fact in the “good news” of Christ is that people are not what they think or have been told that they are. We have heard countless pastors and teachers tell us that we are not yet what we should be and need to work on developing the character of Christ. But, according to what God says, man is already the image of Christ (Rom.8:29; Col. 3:4). Man doesn’t need to try to be like Jesus, he already is!

But against that truth, we hear a common objection, “If that is true then how do you account for behavior or character that is not a reflection of Christ? From what we have read and know about Jesus He is perfect, sinless. If we are really in His image then how do we account for the character and behavior that doesn’t match Him? This leads many to conclude that we must actually be two different people at the same time – the Christ, the perfect person in us versus our person that is “fleshy” or imperfect. We are told that we need to “kill” or deny that fleshly side of our being in order to become more like Christ. Read the rest of this entry »





Jesus has become me?

4 07 2018

adult attractive contemplating face

 

Have I become like Jesus or has He become like me?

For most of my life it was my desire to become like Jesus. I was told that this should be my greatest desire. Countless discipleship programs have been written (including writing my own) to help fulfill this ambition.

I discovered, shockingly, that my intention was nothing short of practicing Old Testament Law. It was based on my effort, my own pursuit of Him. I was excited to learn the full truth of the Gospel that Jesus has instead, become like me. The Law says “ try to be”. The grace of Christ says, “I already am”. God doesn’t say, “Try to be like Christ”. He says that I already am “perfect in Christ”, that “Christ is my life”, “to live is Christ”, “I have no other life”. (1)

How did that happen? How can it be true considering that I am just a human with weak flesh? Read the rest of this entry »





What is a Christian?

24 05 2018

not-a-fuller-brush-manIn season 2, of Netflix’s original series “The Crown” Billy Graham is pictured preaching to a curious Elizabeth II and her family in her private chapel at Windsor. Graham’s topic is “What is a Christian?”. He uses Colossians 1:27 as his text to define a Christian as someone who has invited Christ into his life (1). What he spoke about is the central truth of the Christian faith. But while this truth has been the core of our faith it is also the most misunderstood. If you ask most brothers or sisters to explain it you will get a variety of answers that still miss the essential meaning.

Traditionally, Christianity has held to the doctrine of a Jesus removed from earth by the resurrection and is somewhere in heaven “seated at the right hand of the Father”. The only time that we will see Him again is when He returns to earth to judge everyone (2). In the meantime, the Holy Spirit, who is Himself relegated to nothing more than a “power” or an impersonal force, has been sent to help man until man is transported to heaven. This has made Christianity nothing more than a belief system offering man a promise that if he keeps the faith, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he will get to join Jesus in heaven someday. Thus, most believers are dutifully “holding on” until that day. “Christ in you” is nothing more than having a “deposit” on the future.

The truth is that Jesus is not somewhere in heaven chatting with the Father until He is told to come for us. He is HERE NOW! He didn’t die on the cross to make a path for us to heaven but to make a home IN US for the Father and Himself (3). The whole purpose of the cross and the resurrection was not to take us out of the earth but for He and Father to come live in us in this earth. “I go to prepare a place for you” is not referring to yours and my personal, celestial palace, it’s God’s home in us (4). God’s home address is your heart and mine, not left of some obscure planet.

To claim to be a Christian means that you are the embodiment of Christ, not just the owner of a free ticket to heaven. He is a living person, residing in your human flesh. You are His temple, His vessel that displays His person. Jesus and you are one with Him and the Father (5). To deny any part of that truth is to deny the ultimate desire of Christ, to make your life His life on this earth. This is the central truth of our faith. It may be hard to explain and maybe accept but no less the truth.

It’s time to “be Jesus”.

 

(1) Netflix: “The Crown”, Season 2, Episode 6.
(2) See the Nicene Creed
(3) Jn 14:23
(4) Jn. 14:3
(5) Jn. 17:21-23








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