December 2012


Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

1 Corinthians 15: 49

 

Some of us were born into this world with parents who loved and adored us and thought that everything we said and did was a clear indication of just how wonderful we were and of how great our potential was. Others breathed the air of abuse, neglect, and were filled with a sense of their own lack of value and worth, and some were totally abandoned by their birth parents. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding birth and upbringing, all of us were born as children of this world with all of the sinful attributes that come from that relationship; also, we were all born with an unlimited potential for becoming people who are living, flesh and blood images of God.

 

The influences that come from our upbringing and from our personal histories are very real, and they affect us in ways that are obvious and others that are subtle every day of our lives. Yet, these influences do not have to rule us, and we have the ability to choose freedom from the power of our original, earthy and sinful, existence. Christ is the perfect image of the heavenly, and He came in order to bring us all the opportunity to select freedom from this world’s crushing weight of evil, doubt, and fear. God has provided me with a new image to carry through my day, and that image is one that is continually being molded and shaped into one that is like Jesus.

 

As I am willing to accept the change that this relationship with Christ brings in me, the less earthy my image will be. The more I seek God and allow His Spirit to open access to my areas of earthiness, the more rapidly this movement from worldly person in to righteous person will occur. As I choose to seek Christ by living as He desires, by loving others, by working for their freedom, and by trusting the Lord with all of my mind and heart, He will produce the image changes in me that will make me more and more like the heavenly.

 

Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.

1 Timothy 6: 6

 

When considering the state of my personal fortune, it seems important for me to check the right ledger for my true account balances. During my life, I have put a lot of energy into growing my income, building up my worth, and caring greatly about the things that I own. Unfortunately, most of this has had little lasting positive effect, and there have been too many negative ones. Earning a living, even earning a good living is fine in God’s eyes. After all, He designed us with a drive to do so, and He is the provider of all of the aspects of our ability to work, our drive to succeed, and the need for gainful employment. It’s my attitude toward all of this that matters.

 

From the Lord’s perspective, the ledgers and the accounts that matter are covered with attitudes, spiritual growth, and healing. As Christ invested totally in people and in their relationships with God, so we are called to do the same. Gain in our world is an interestingly elusive thing. One day we can be substantially ahead of where we were; then, suddenly, it can all disappear. When our investments are in people, a really similar thing can happen, for some people just stop responding or they turn to follow a different voice. So, this is why contentment is vital in this form of investment. The contentment that God wants us to enjoy doesn’t come from what we accomplish or from how good we are at the task; rather, it comes from the growth in our personal relationships with God that comes through these efforts.

 

There is great gain to be had from following Christ, and some of it may even be financial. However, God promises us that we will receive a form of riches and wealth that is beyond the levels of our most aggressive investment plans if we do truly follow Him. The Lord asks us to trust Him with all that we have. That is all of our time, money, assets, ego, fears and concerns, inhibitions, lack of training, fear of rejection, and anything else that stops us from investing in making Christ more real in our world. When we commit and enter in fully to God’s investment plan, the Lord of the Universe promises that He will bring us gain and contentment beyond our ability to dream.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will bring it to pass.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24

 

Everyone faces issues and challenges that are hard to deal with. There are the long standing personal characteristics and traits that continue to plague us, and the issues of sin that are wound around our hearts and minds in a manner that makes them resist our best intentions and our genuine desire to change. The hard to win battle may be wrapped in a seemingly impenetrable covering of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, or it might be anchored by the hardened cement of our stubbornness. However, whatever it is that is causing you to hesitate to commit fully to Christ, to trust Him absolutely with everything, or to release your grip on the remnants of your old way of thinking and acting; God has an answer for it, and He will do all of the hard transformational work for you.

 

All that the Lord requires of us is that we be willing. He wants us to desire the change and to seek the relationship with the change agent; that is, with His Spirit. As we become open to the need for a new or a different way of viewing various aspects of our lives and we allow Christ access to those areas of our hearts and minds, His Spirit will start to change us, and this change will always be for the better. The Lord never requires us to give up something that He doesn’t replace with something far greater, and He always stays with us all the way through the process.

 

This all starts with accepting Christ as the One who makes that crucial difference. This is the difference between life and death, and the difference between futility and fulfillment in this life. Then, once we are engaged in that relationship, true living can begin. Then, the Spirit of Christ becomes engaged with us in molding our hearts into ones that function more and more like God’s, and He provides us with the direction, process, and strength to make these changes. The Lord calls us to live a life that is full of promise, hope, and joy, and He will make it all real for anyone who desires the transformation and who allows Christ to make the needed changes.

 

When Jesus saw the man lying there (by the healing pool) and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”

John 5: 6

 

This is the question that God asks people every day. These words are the opening of a dialogue that has been going on between the Lord and us since the beginning of time. We often respond by telling Him that we are completely healthy and that there is nothing that we could possibly need that we don’t already possess in ourselves. Sometimes we say that we are too far gone to be worthy of the effort to heal us. Then others say that we’ll check back later, you know, go to the doctor if we decide that the need is great enough or the symptoms linger too long.

 

These can be adequate responses when we are dealing with something like the flu; yet, even then, waiting to allow the physician access to our illness can be catastrophic or even fatal. How much more do we need treatment when the illness carries an absolutely fatal prognosis? The man that Jesus came upon waiting by the spring was just like everyone else in this world. He was ill, crippled by the effects of disease, injury, and neglect. He knew that he desired to be made whole, and he had no idea about how that was truly possible. Hopeless, helpless, and beyond desperation, he waited for the miracle but didn’t trust that there would ever be one. He dreamed of walking upright while knowing that this would never be his waking reality. Jesus walks into the lives of everyone, everywhere. Christ’s Spirit is resident in the souls of each person who has allowed Him to heal us; thus, Jesus goes with us through every day that we live. Sure, there are still symptoms of the illness, and there are days when these relatively minor ailments get us down, but the fatal disease, the heart infection of sin has been permanently conquered. Each of us who knows Jesus as the healer of our souls needs to share the joy of getting up off of the sick bed that evil tried to tie us to with the fatally ill who surround us daily.

 

Jesus allows us the privilege of walking into the lives of others and of inviting them to do as He said to the sick man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5: 8 In fact, Christ commissions His people to do this. He commands us to go into the world and to live in a manner that brings His glorious presence and His loving grace into its darkness. We are to take the message of healing to the fatally ill in our lives. We should carry the simple yet profound truth of God’s perfect love to each and every person that we find waiting for the miracle by the side of the pool, for Jesus wants us to bring His message of faith, trust, and hope to His beloved lost sheep. He wants us to do as He continually did and walk into people’s lives with the question whose answer brings eternal life.

 

Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4: 24

 

Most people have dreams and aspirations toward things that we would like to do or skills and qualities that we would like to have. When we are young, these are often at their wildest and most imaginative; then, we aspire to be athletes, super heroes, great thinkers, inventors, and actors. As life progresses we continue to hold dreams and desires for things that we would like to do and for ways that we would like to have influence in our world. God made us with hearts and minds that keep looking outwardly and ahead toward new and greater challenges. It would seem that our Creator gave us the gift of aspiration.

 

Yet, as we are in a relationship with Christ, the greatest thing that we can aspire toward is actually found within ourselves. Christ has called us to become totally new beings. We are now people who are different in all of the ways that are truly important. Christ transforms us into being people who are living lives that have lasting impact and eternal consequences. Thus, as the Spirit of Christ becomes a part of us, we are transformed by our Lord in a way that opens us up to the on-going and life long process of recreation that God has promised to perform in each of His children.

 

Our part in this process is vital. I need to recognize the need for change, accept the truth about how God is calling me to think and behave, and stay humbly repentant for the ways that I will fail to live in the righteous manner that the Lord desires for me. I also need to be a seeker after the truth that is the center piece of my new identity. There will be times when that truth is painfully revealing of how far I still have to go in order to have fully accepted my new self. Yet, this journey along the road toward the center of life is the greatest adventure that I could ever imagine, and the changes in myself that are the result of the travels bring me ever closer to being the person that my heart was created to desire to be.

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”

John 9: 39

 

Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but there seem to be two basic ways of viewing a personal relationship with God; in one, the person lacks an awareness of who God is and of how He works in this world and, more specifically, of how He seeks to relate to each of us. In the other, the person believes that he or she already possesses all the knowledge and understanding of God that are required and that there is no need for any change in these beliefs; this is essentially an attitude of self control, determination, and reliance. Fortunately, God understands both of these perspectives, and He seeks to communicate truth to all of us regardless of where we are coming from.

 

From my own experience, these states of being at times blinded to the truth and at other times overly confident in my own understanding and application of it continue throughout life. Although, I have known Christ and have been seeking to live in an intimate relationship with Him for a very long time, there are times when I still need to have Him apply His healing mud to my sin obscured eyes, and there are others when I need to have the Spirit of Christ grab me by the shoulders and shake the delusional thinking from my mind. The extraordinary thing about God is that He will continue to do both of these things for me for the rest of my life, and He never stops seeks to bring all people into a place of sound, solid, and complete understanding of His loving truth.

 

It is true that Christ came into this world in order to judge our sinfulness; however, the story doesn’t stop there, for He also came in order to bring healing and restoration to our wounded souls. For people who do not know Him, Jesus removes the blindness from their eyes and lets the light of relationship with God into their hearts, and for those who do know Him, Jesus is the answer to our need for ongoing guidance and direction in order to navigate the dangerous path that is the landscape of this life. Like He did with the blind man and the Pharisees, Jesus asks each of us to trust Him for our vision, to open our hearts to His truth, and to follow the path that He sets before us.

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.

1 Peter 5: 6

 

Humility is a tough concept to grasp. Worldly wisdom says that if you have too much of it, no one will listen to you. Its voice continually directs us to be wise and to exhibit strength so that others will respect and follow us. So there is established a daily challenge for people who know Christ. For during the course of every day of my life there is more than enough wisdom and way more strength available to me than I ever realize and than I ever utilize. This is particularly true on the days when I am most stretched by trying to just keep up with the stresses and the demands that life has covered me with. These are the times when I am most likely to go deep into myself to try to find the resources that my ego tells me are always going to get me through.

 

My mind tells me that I have it all under control, that I always have the answers, and that I am the captain of my own ship’s destiny. Yet, my relationship with Christ is slowly teaching me that everything that actually works comes from Him. So, I am placed into a quandary of decision, for in the most demanding and stressful of times in my life, I need to become the most submitted to the love, wisdom, and grace of God. In other words, at the moment that my experience, training, and practice drive me toward independence and personal strength, Christ asks me to let all of that go and trust Him first, and this is counter to my well trained, deeply-held and intuitive response.

 

Still, the truth is that God’s hand is mighty. His loving heart is huge beyond description, and His desire is for me to prosper in ways that matter at the eternal level. When I take the time to pray my way into and through the hard conversations, interactions, and decisions of my day, the Lord never fails to give me wisdom, understanding, and the peace that I need to proceed. As I let God’s word provide me with guidance and His Spirit mentor my decisions, things become clearer, and my responses take on a loving attitude that is not naturally mine.

 

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