Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our Identity as a Son or Daughter of Our Heavenly Father and King

Sons and Daughters of the King

 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Galatians 4:4,5

The relationship between God and man as workman and workmanship; poet and poem; Creator and created is only the beginning. When Adam fell, God made a promise to redeem him as well as his (Adam’s) offspring. In this redemption we receive “full rights of sons (and daughters).” What are the “full rights of sons”? When God the Father grants rights to His children, He is guaranteeing those right as promises to be fulfilled.  To understand this let’s look at a functional family. God created the family when He created Eve out of Adam to be with Adam. The fall however twisted and tainted what God intended for the family. In spite of this we can still get a sense of what a family and especially the father might have looked like before the fall. In a well-functioning family with a well-functioning father we will see the following promises (rights) to their children.

Promise of their father’s love                     Romans 5:8
Promise of access to their father               Ephesians 2:18
Promise of protection                                 Psalm 91:14
Promise of provision                                  Matthew 6:25-34
Promise of their father’s guidance             Psalm 31:3
Promise of their father’s discipline             Hebrews 12:6

As sons and daughters of the King of Kings we are promised the same, in a perfect sense, of our Heavenly Father as the verses above indicate.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kingdom Identity 1; God's Workmanship

God’s Workmanship
 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

The greek word for workmanship is poiema, we get the word ‘poem’ from it. How special to understand that God crafted each one of us uniquely, as a poet crafts each one of their poems different from the others. This verse makes it clear the His workmanship is not be a decoration or adornment like a painting which does nothing but hang on the wall and look pretty. God created His masterpieces with function and purpose as well as beauty. In days gone by craftsmen added beauty to their work even when it did nothing for its function. Look at the great cathedrals of Europe, or a house built in a Victorian style.  They had purpose, function and beauty. He has crafted each one of us with a unique set of talents, physical attributes, life circumstances, experiences and passions. When we are saved the Holy Spirit adds a personalized set of spiritual gifts. All of these are combined to address a God given purpose and ongoing function which we are especially qualified to address. 

I played basketball at the bible college I attended. Our coach tried to instill in each one of us an attitude he called ‘praise performance’. The idea was that the only one that mattered as we played was the one gave everything for us, that is Jesus. He knew how hard we tried when the coach and teammates didn’t.  Similarly he knows what we are best suited for and what our true potential is. What others think about us and what we think about ourselves are often distractions, diverting our attention from God’s best purpose for our lives. The only person that matters is God and what He thinks of us. To Him each one of us is a carefully crafted masterpiece with a unique purpose.

We can abuse our identity as poiemas when we refuse to recognize what we were created for. Like using a screwdriver to pry or to chisel, when we try to operate outside of our God given design and purpose the result is often at the very least damage to us and ineffectiveness in what we were trying to accomplish, at worse, damage to what we were trying to accomplish.

Let’s never lose sight of the fact that we are God’s masterpieces then live live in accordance with who He created us to be.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kingdom identities

One day, as I was walking, I began to think about the acorns crunching under my feet and consider the huge oak trees from which they fell. I began to reflect on the fact that these huge oak trees are the result of little acorns becoming what they were always intended to be. What happened to turn that little marble sized acorn into a sixty foot tall oak tree?  Put simply, it died. As long as the acorn remains an acorn it can never become what its DNA says it should be. Only when it loses its identity as an acorn can it become an oak tree. In fact it isn’t long after the acorn dies that any evidence of its existence is gone, replaced by root system that bears no resemblance to the acorn from which it came. 
A tiny acorn doesn’t look much like an oak tree yet all of the information required to become a mighty oak tree is stored in it. Its intended identity is significantly different that it’s initial identity.

Individual believers and local churches are like the acorn, unless they first and continually die to everything they think are and have been they will never become what God intends them to be.

I can guarantee this truth: A single grain of wheat doesn't produce anything unless it is planted in the ground and dies. If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain. 25 Those who love their lives will destroy them, and those who hate their lives in this world will guard them for everlasting life.
John 12:24-25 (God’s Word translation)

In life we can have a number of identities. Father, mother, brother, son, daughter, sister, homemaker, engineer, professional athlete and president are all identities we may have. Some of these are based in achievement while others are inherent. Identities based on achievement are earned and can be changed, diminished or even lost. Inherent identities are descriptive of who we are apart from any earned status or achievement. Our gender is part of our inherent identity. We are born either male or female. We are also either a son or daughter. We didn't earn the status of son or daughter, we were born into it. Likewise there are a number of inherent identities that we have been given as believers. Too often we choose to operate under identities that we no longer have. We tend to live like slaves to fleshly impulses, or living like losers, defeated, as if we had no purpose in life. Maybe we continue to buy into the lie that I am master of my own destiny. Paul speaks to these former identities in his letter to the Church at Rome when he said, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (12:3) He also addresses this in his second letter to the Church at Corinth, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We have been given brand new identities in Christ. The best thing about these new identities is that they are not earned, they are simply declared. They are gifts!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Simply Being

Who are you? If you asked 10 people this question most of them would probably answer first with their name and then with what they what they have achieved. It might be teacher, wife, father, student or barista. In fact I had two people respond with, “that’s a hard question!” This question haunts all of us at one time or another. We talk of ‘finding themselves’. We say things like, “who do they think they are?” or “who are they to think they can…?” For many the answer lay in what they do or have done. Even when we ask someone who someone else is, after we get their name, we often get information on either what they do for a living or who they are related to. Is our identity defined by what we done or who we are related to? I want to consider two distinct approaches to life and identity. The first is basing our identity on externals.. This approach defines our personal value by the socially decided value of what we do or who we are related to. The second approach is to know who we are and what we do follows. This approach defines personal value based on identity
It really comes down to being and doing. Does being result in doing or does doing result in being? I believe that only when we know who we are will we find ourselves doing what we were created to do.
There is a danger in identifying and categorizing people based on achievement. I regularly hear, especially in educational and sports circles, about, ‘overachievers’ and ‘underachievers’. These can pigeonhole people and leave them resigned to an underachieving life, living up to significant others expectations. I was one of these. Epileptic since the age of 5 I was constantly battling with “you could do so much better if you just applied yourself”. I could never do enough or perform at a high enough level to satisfy teachers, coaches, church friends, and sometimes family member’s expectations. What none of us knew until much later was that the levels of medication I was on were affecting my ability to apply myself. Because of these experiences I learned that I was a lazy, underachieving, waste of potential both academically and athletically. At least that was the identity I gave myself based on what I thought people’s expectations were of me. My identity was developed through my doing (or lack thereof).
The other approach is to understand our identity (being) apart from our activity (doing). This means that our identity is based on something outside of our control. I didn't have any control over the fact that I was born to Boyd and Lois Brue. I can’t change the fact that I was (thankfully) born to these two people. There is evidence that I was born to these two people in that I resemble them. My identity as a Brue has nothing to do with what I have or have not done and it is not affected by anybody’s expectations of me. I am a Brue because my DNA says I am.

The big question is this, Will we strive to achieve an identity that meets our’s as well as our significant others expectations, or will we seek to understand our given identity and let the activity of our life flow from it? A life lived out of being which leads to doing, or a life lived from doing which creates our being. 

Until we have an understanding of who God says we are, we will never be able to settle into what we have been created to do.