Do You Know Who You Are?

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21

My husband and I had an interesting conversation on the way home from church last Sunday. Someone made a statement in his Sunday school class that some of the men found a little unsettling. While discussing the struggle we all have with sin, the familiar comment surfaced that we’re all sinners who fall short of glory.

But one gentleman in the room interrupted to make a very different statement. He insisted he wouldn’t take that label. He wouldn’t call himself a sinner. He’s a redeemed child of God.

Most of the men in the room didn’t quite know how to respond to that. After all, everyone sins. Only Jesus lived a perfect life.

Well, that’s absolutely true. But once we’re saved, what does still calling ourselves sinners say about what Christ accomplished for us on the cross?

Bear with me for a moment here. Let’s pause to look at it from heaven’s perspective.

Every one of us came into this world bound by sin. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes it perfectly.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Our sin nature, bound to the prince of this world, made us children of wrath. None of us could do anything to save ourselves.

Then Jesus became a sacrificial Lamb to do something impossible.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Do you see it, dear one? Jesus made an exchange. In an astounding act of mercy and grace, Jesus became sin so that we could become righteousness. He took our old nature—our sin nature that positioned us for wrath—and exchanged it for His. Now we can celebrate the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I’ll be honest. For years, my mind translated that scripture something like, “if anyone is in Christ, one day if they work hard enough, they’ll eventually become a new creation.” Can you relate? But I need you to focus in on the tense of that scripture. It says that if I am in Christ, I am a new creation. Present tense. The old me has already passed away. Let’s look at a few more scriptures that confirm that truth.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:6

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24

Based on these scriptures, beloved, if you are in Christ, should you still call yourself a sinner? God’s Word answers that with a resounding “No.” Christ crucified your sin nature on that cross. Then He gave you His. Now you participate in Christ’s nature.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Jesus conquered your flesh and gave you His divine nature in its place. To continue to call yourself a sinner once you’ve been redeemed—though appearing like humility that recognizes your need of Jesus—actually denies what He accomplished for you on that cross. And that unbelief cuts you off from the power He poured out to accomplish it.

It’s time we start believing what God says about us. Faith alone ushers us into His grace. Faith alone transforms us from the inside out. As we receive the implanted word into our hearts by faith, the Spirit within us will water that seed, causing it to sprout fruit. Our faith allows the Spirit to manifest the word we have believed and empower us to live it out.

When something comes against me and I’m tempted to respond from my flesh, I’m learning to tell myself, “That’s not who I am anymore. Jesus crucified my flesh, and I refuse to give it life. Jesus has made me all that He is. I am love. I am purity. I am forgiveness. I am grace. Lord, empower me to live from the nature you have given me.”

That, dear one, is how I believe we live out Ephesians 4:22-24, which challenges us,

…to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Renew your mind with the truth of God’s Word, dear one. Your sin nature has passed away. You have been given a new self, recreated in God’s likeness in true righteousness and holiness. Your enemy wants to convince you you’re still just a sinner, giving you the excuse to justify your sin so he can keep you bound by it. Don’t let him win, beloved. He has kept Christ’s church in bondage for far too long with his deceptions. Only the truth will set you free and empower you to live the life God intends.

Put off the sinner, dear one. It’s time we put on the righteousness Christ bought with His blood.

You’re a Star! You Just Don’t Know It.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

Jesus called you and me the light of the world.

It only makes sense, really, since He is the “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9) and now He dwells within us. As His body, saved and redeemed by His blood, Jesus asks us to shine His light. And according to Matthew 5, that light should never remain hidden. Instead, it should light up the sky like a city on a hill.

Do you shine, dear one? Are you giving Jesus what He asked for?

I can’t help thinking of the song I used to sing as a little girl in Sunday school. We’d proudly hold up our hands with fingers pointing toward the heavens and proclaim, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”

Only it didn’t shine. I never let it out.

We often make the mistake of trying to act like Jesus. We think we shine His light by simply imitating what He would do. But we don’t have the strength to act like Him all the time, so that inner “self” we try to hide through our good behavior reveals itself more often than we’d like it to. And the watching world looks at our version of Christianity and calls it hypocrisy.

Can we really blame them?

You and I aren’t supposed to act like light, dear one. Jesus intends for us to become light.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus carried the burden of our sin to the cross so that we could become His righteousness. He actually changed our nature. Now He invites us to believe it.

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. Ephesians 5:8

Beloved, Jesus doesn’t want us trying to act like something we’re not. He wants us to know who we truly are and allow His Spirit to empower us to live it.

[bctt tweet=”Jesus doesn’t want us trying to act like something we’re not. He wants us to know who we truly are and live it.” via=”no”]

Jesus gave us His nature the moment we put our faith in Him and received His Spirit to dwell within us. Now we need to let Him out. We need to yield to the power of His Spirit and let His nature take over.

You see, beloved, Jesus shines through a transformed heart.

Have you offered Him your heart to mold and change, dear one? Have you told Him you’re willing to let go of your bitterness? Have you invited Him to circumcise your heart to love with His selfless love?

It’s time we stopped pretending and let Jesus set us ablaze with His light!

Times are changing. Evil shows itself in increasing measure. Scripture foretells of astonishing things to come—some of them terrible, some wondrous—but all of them remain certain.

Yet in Christ, we have glorious hope!

But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:1-3

Those who walk in truth drawing others to their light will shine like stars. When will these things be fulfilled? God made this astonishing announcement to the prophet Daniel centuries ago.

“… When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” Daniel 12:7

When the power of the holy people has finally been broken? Why would God break His own people?

Consider the power struggle that rages within you. Each day you must choose whether to bow to your own self-will or submit to the Spirit’s leadership. More often than not, your flesh wins the battle, quenching the Spirit’s power.

Our selfish desires have remained too important to us.

Yet in the last days, the power of the Spirit will rise victorious. Christ’s own will finally overcome and claim the victory Jesus purchased for them through the cross. Like in the days when Christ first birthed the church, believers will choose to abandon self-will, leaving its power broken. His church will rise, yielding to His Spirit in glorious surrender, uniting in the love and unity glimpsed at the birth of the church and restored in time for the return of the King.

Beloved, you and I can hasten His return.

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 2 Peter 3:11-12

As we choose to surrender to the Spirit’s work in our lives, allowing Him to sanctify our hearts and renew our minds with His purpose, we move toward the fulfillment of Christ’s kingdom.

Like the Disciples who first answered Jesus’ call and paved the way for us, will you choose to live radically for Jesus, abandoning all else to the rise of His glory? I pray that you will, beloved,

. . . so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Philippians 2:15

Then our eyes will finally gaze upon our Lord and King without a veil. Glory rises, dear one. Will you allow Christ to reveal it in you?

The Heart of a Betrayer

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 NIV

Never forget, dear one. No one took Jesus’ life from Him. He laid it down. Evil men may have plotted and schemed, but they held no power over God’s Son. Everything He suffered, He allowed.

The perfect, sinless, Son endured so much for you and me. He faced rejection, ridicule, beatings and flogging. Nails pierced His hands and feet, fastening Him to the cross of our shame. Jesus became the very curse He would conquer, all for one very specific purpose.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Beloved, Jesus became sin so that you and I could become righteousness.

I hope you haven’t missed that part.

Jesus didn’t surrender Himself to the cross just to keep you out of hell, dear one. He gave up His life so He could get hell out of you. He purposed to redeem your character from the enemy’s influence and recreate you into the image of God.

Do you bear God’s image, dear one? Do you love compassionately, compelled to give of yourself? Or are you more like the prince of this world, driven to take for yourself?

We’d be wise to consider the question carefully. You see, we can do our best to look like God from the outside, but if our heart doesn’t resemble His, eventually we’ll self-destruct.

Judas learned that lesson the hard way. Let’s take a look at the event that sent him to the chief priests to betray Jesus.

And while he [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. Mark 14:3-5

Don’t miss the fact that some watching believed the ointment was wasted on Jesus.

I wonder how many times you and I have entertained similar thoughts upon witnessing a radical demonstration of love for our Savior.

He’s not worth that.

Verse 5 reveals that Mary’s gift had a value of more than 300 denarii, the equivalent of almost a year’s wages. Let’s get a bit of perspective, shall we?

In 2012 the median wage in the US per person was $26,695. What would you do with a possession worth that much? Would you be willing to pour it out for another? Or could you only see its potential to do amazing things for you?

Scholars agree that the flask of expensive perfume was likely Mary’s dowry, a treasure kept to ensure her future. Her bride price. When Mary broke it in an act of worship, she laid down her opportunity for a husband. Her future children. She poured out everything that gave her value in her culture, offering them to Jesus in an act of love.

I can’t help thinking of Matthew 16:24-25.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Mary was willing to lose her life for Jesus sake. And she found real life in the loving arms of her Savior.

Our friend Judas, however, had an interesting response to what he witnessed.

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. Mark 14:10

What about this particular event triggered Judas to sell his friend and master for 30 pieces of silver?

John 12:5-6 sheds some light on Judas’ intentions.

“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Consider this carefully, dear one. Judas was only with Jesus for what he thought he could get from Him. He was willing to steal from Him to have his own dream. Although he served the poor alongside Jesus, he didn’t really care about them. He stole from them to line his own pockets.

And when he witnessed Mary’s extravagant gift, money he believed should’ve been his wasted on Jesus, he took offense. That offense sent him straight to the chief priests.

We need to understand something about Judas, dear one. He was no more evil than you or me. He wasn’t a malicious man at heart. He served in the community helping people.

Judas was simply self-centered. And he loved money more than he loved Jesus.

No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 6:24,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Judas’ love of money caused him to despise God—at least momentarily—and it cost him everything. He immediately regretted his decision, but he couldn’t undo what he had done.

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5

Beloved, Jesus chose to suffer the cross to free us from the wretchedness within us. It’s our own self-centeredness that makes us most like Satan, that drives us to take instead of give. Will you let the Spirit of God recreate you in His image? Will you surrender your heart to be sifted and changed so it can beat with His love?

Life hinges on your decision, dear one. Choose to lay down your life and live.