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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Individuality


          We each strive to be our own person, to be an individual. No one wants anyone telling us how to live or what decisions to make. We shout for our rights and sometimes demand our privileges are our rights. You notice this when children demand things at home when they are growing up and stretching their wings to be independent.   


This gift of individuality is not a right, but a gift. So, how is this gift? Well, first, go back to the first assumption, God created you; He created each of us. If we stop with only that statement and pursue it no further, we say, “Yes, He made me.” God’s great knowledge and understanding in creating my body is amazing, for without the heart, I would be dead or without the brain, I would be dead. Consider though, your spirit and individuality. If we were involved in a Christian religion as a child or as an adult, we will grant the fact God made our spirit; He gave us a spiritual essence. You say, however, individuality is what I made of myself since my birth. It is the choices I chose to make; the road I chose to travel. God has nothing to do with my individuality, we may say. Maybe this is so, considering we made choices that were not always the best choices but good choices. Is that not the common thought expressed in the poem, “The Road Less Traveled,” by Robert Frost? Yet, is there not more to individuality than this? Consider then, we human beings have been in existence since day six of creation; hence, we are “old enough” to choose our own way, to become who we want to be. “No one is in charge of me but me,” we might have said or heard. Now, consider, since our creation, which we admitted, God was before we began, since before time began. With this reasoning in place, that He made us, we must realize individuality does not come from ourselves, but is a gift from God.   

Now, since we conceded individuality is a gift from God, we should consider then, how is that to play out in our realm of life of four score and ten years with the spirit God put in us? How do we reconcile our spiritual side to our individuality? Many of us consider our spiritual side and our own individuality separate from each other. We consider it our way to live, living our own lives. Consider though, since individuality is a gift from God, individuality is the gift God gave us to express in our own way how God is working in our lives and how He wants us to work in His world for His purpose. “What?” you say. Yes, if you agree individuality is a gift from God, as spirituality is a gift given to us at our own creation, then you must acknowledge each of these is to be used somehow in His purpose for our lives on this earth at this time. Wow, what a consideration!    

When we give our lives to Christ, not only are we accepting His free gift of salvation from our sinful life and accepting eternal life with God, but we are giving all of ourselves, which includes every aspect of our personality/individuality, to Him to use for His purposes. Jesus said this in Matthew 16:24-25 when he tried to explain to the disciples about following Him,
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone desires to be my disciple,  let him deny himself, forget his own interests, and take up his cross and follow me [Conform wholly to my example in living] . For whoever is bent on saving his temporal life will lose eternal life, but whoever loses his life, his comfort and security here, for my sake will find life everlasting.”
Individuality is the shell outside our spiritual life; our individuality is what we must give to God if we are to be followers of Jesus. To say no to this is either to be a child and means we have not grown into a deeper relationship with God or we actually have not given ourselves to Jesus. Which have you done?
Individuality is the shell or covering of our whole person. Inside resides the part of us God made for Himself and most like Himself, the spirit. Our individuality/personality must be given to God for us to give ourselves to Him to be in fellowship with Him. Individuality can corrupt human nature for its own gain and purposes, so, if we are going to follow Jesus and become more Christ-like, we must yield our individual nature, a gift from God, back to Him. We can stay as little children who are self-centered and interested in their own gain or we can allow God to break the outer shell of individuality, which allows our spiritual life to emerge. 
If we are going to grow more Christ-like, we must continue to yield ourselves to Him so we can grow. In doing so, He will break through the individual of self, which desires its own way and its own wants, to get to the essence God has put into each of us at our creation, our spirit. Each of our individual spirits is the part of us that hears and understands God. Through this hearing and understanding, He leads us to obedience and we become more and more as He is. God wants to bring you into complete union with Him just as He is with Christ, but until we give up the right to ourselves, He will not. We must “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24 New American Standard Bible). From this point, our spiritual life will grow. Individuality is the part of our selves which expresses our spirituality; yielded to Him, we will not only grow but also show the world the way to true Life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being Made One



          God gives us another gift, conviction of sin. We cannot see our fallen-ness and seek after Him without conviction of sin. We cannot  be glorified in Heaven by God without freedom from sin. It is not God’s love that saves us; it is Christ’s death.   

When Jesus had spoken these things, He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come.” Glorify, exalt, honor, and magnify Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify and extol and honor and magnify You. Just as You have granted Him power and authority over all humankind, now glorify Him so that He may give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.  And this is eternal life: it means to know You, the only true and real God, and likewise to know Him, Jesus as the Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You down here on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me along with Yourself and restore Me to such majesty and honor in Your presence as I had with You before the world existed. (John 17:1-5, AMP).
Because God is holy, He can only be in the presence of holiness. The only way to make us clean to stand before Him was to offer a sacrifice for our sins. In the Old Testament, God provided for sins by pronouncing to the Israelites that they were to offer sin offerings through the Levitical priests by use of animals. They understood that, otherwise, they could not enter God’s presence because they were not clean. With the New Covenant, which came in to being upon the birth of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, a new way was available to cleanse our sins. We are not required to make a new sacrifice every time by accepting this new way. This was a perfect sacrifice prepared for humanity from the beginning of the world. Jesus, the Son of God, became the sin sacrifice for every sin. His sacrifice covered sin for every time. Now, do not get me wrong, He was not a martyr. If that were what was necessary, there would have been many sacrificers who offered themselves over the millennia. No, God required a pure sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins. Who is better than sinless Jesus, a person whose sole reason for existing in human form is to present God to the world and  give the perfect sacrifice for sin? 
Though Jesus became the perfect sin sacrifice for the world, this does not mean forgiveness happens automatically now and we are cleansed. No, this new covenant (covenant being the key word) is available to us if we ask believing Jesus is the Messiah who came freely from the Father to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins. God will not force Himself upon you or me. He will wait patiently for you to ask for Him. God will not be as other leaders of whom we met or heard. He will not break down our door, nor force us on pain of death to give obeisance to Him. No, God gave us free will to choose our way in life. He gives us the opportunity to choose to go our own way, to be our own destinies,  and make our own mistakes. God also gives us the alternative, of letting Him lead and guide us through life so we become more Christlike. With His guidance, we choose the best path in life and are able to not sin in the as we live. With this choice, He is providing not only life on earth but life forever with Him in heaven. 
So what must we do to accept the new covenant God has provided? Well, believe Jesus is the Son of God and came to earth to be the once-and-for-all sacrifice for your sins. Confess your sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. Walk in newness of life allowing God to lead and grow you into a close relationship with Him as you pray and read the Bible each day. These two things will grow you to be more Christlike each day. These also make it easier to give control of your life to Him and follow Him, not yourself, everyday. Jesus, the Son, and God, the Father, are one in Spirit and truth. Jesus wants us to be one with our Christian brothers and sisters and with the Father each day. He states this in John 17:19-21 (NASB).
Therefore, for their (the disciples) sake and on their behalf I sanctify and dedicate Myself, that they also may be sanctified and dedicated in the Truth. Neither for these alone do I pray, it is not for their sake only that I make this request, but also for all those who will ever come to believe in Me through their word and teaching, that they all may be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me.  
If we accept this gift of God’s Son, Jesus, the gift of conviction of sin, and act upon it in obedience, we will see God has provided an even greater blessing than we could imagine. God provided a once for all perfect sin sacrifice for everything we did wrong. What is the cost to us? The cost is our allegiance and obedience given out of free choice and love to the Father and the Son. God wants to glorify us, take us to heaven with Him, as He did with His Son. He wants to honor us in front of everyone by doing this and through that declare we are His children. How difficult is it really to give our lives to God to be lived in the best possible way and to live for eternity with Him? Is that not better than the other choices, to live doing what we want to do and then die forever at the end of this human life? By living our own lives, we do not acknowledge our heavenly Maker nor give our lives back to Him. He, then, cannot redeem us from our sin, cleanse us and take us to Heaven to live with Him because we are not holy. He cannot be in the presence of sin and evil. Consider it, would you rather live your physical life for yourself and die for eternity?  Or, would you rather live the best life and live for eternity in Heaven with our Creator and Savior
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 Dictionary:
“Glorify” – to take to glory/heaven
“Exalt” – to life up
“Extol” – to praise
“Magnify” – to make great, like God’s name, Yahweh
“Honor”- To honor someone, then, is to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one's life. A person grants honor most frequently on the basis of position, status, or wealth, but it can and should also be granted on the basis of character. While honor is an internal attitude of respect, courtesy, and reverence, it should be accompanied by appropriate attention or even obedience. Honor without such action is incomplete; it is lip service ( Isaiah 29:13 ). God the Father, for example, is honored when people do the things that please him (1 Corinthians 6:20 ). Parents are honored through the obedience of their children. The source of all honor is God on the basis of his position as sovereign Creator and of his character as a loving Father. The granting of honor to others is an essential experience in the believer's life. Christians are to bestow honor on those for whom honor is due. The believer is to honor God, for he is the sovereign head of the universe and his character is unsurpassed. (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Perfect Peace


I have told you these things so that in Me you may have perfect peace. In the world you have tribulation, trials, distress, and frustration, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world and deprived it of its power to harm you.   (John 16:33, AMP


These are a few of Jesus’ last words of encouragement before the soldiers took Him as a prisoner. Do we think they are only for those twelve disciples? They are for every one of Jesus’ followers of all time. Nothing Jesus said was just for that moment in time. As God is in control now, was in control in the past, and will always be in control, so Jesus’ words, as the Son of God, are for the past, present, and future. So what does this verse mean for us? Jesus said you will experience trials, distresses, frustrations, and tribulations. He did not say if you have them, but in the world, “you will have.” The world will  affect us. We are definitely going to flounder in this world. Yet, we do not have to go through them alone. Jesus, in verse 7 of this chapter, said He is sending a Comforter, a Helper. That knowledge should bring cheer to us each of us by itself; we retain God-sized help for our daily walk. Jesus said He gives more than this. We will possess cheer and peace, not just any peace but perfect peace. Peace and joy are not things we can find within the world or even within ourselves. They are only found in a relationship with Jesus. We might hold peace for a moment in ourselves when a calm night is with us and when we have completed necessary tasks and our needs are provided. We might say, what need have we for Jesus when we acquired this by our own hands. What about tomorrow, though, when peace is not relative with us, when things are out of your control? Do we possess peace in the midst of the troubles in which we find ourselves? Jesus gives peace for this situation, peace that comes because He has conquered the evil one, the one who is causing our troubles. Satan knows He is beaten; he is just hoping we have forgotten so he can steal our peace from our minds. We must remember we have Jesus as our conquering Savior; He is the provider of perfect peace. This is nothing new. The writers in the Old Testament testified to this peace many times, read Psalms and Proverbs again. Read about the Israelites’ travels to the Promised Land. Peace is here through Jesus, in the past, the present and for the future. We must never fail to remember and believe it comes through Jesus as Conqueror and Savior. Job did not fail to give praise to God and remember from whom his blessings had come in the past. He even went so far as to pray for his friends who appeared to have forgotten this fact and lost their peace. (Job 42:10).    

Now here is the question, are we remembering Jesus blessed us with perfect peace? Are we allowing Satan through his tricks to confound and blind us to the reality of God’s absolute sovereignty, blessing of victory, and perfect peace? Remember, as Isaiah said, “You will guard and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You” (Isaiah 26:3, AMP).