Jesus said, “They (my followers) are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

John 17: 16

 

Here is a fundamental truth regarding the way that a relationship with Christ changes people. We are born into this world, and our identity is formed, framed, and established by the values and the priorities of the world. We are inevitably driven by the forces that are generated from the core of this sin-infused and fatally flawed environment. We are all born as children of wrath and iniquity, and our parents and everyone else who seeks to influence us have no ability to change this. We, however, can choose to claim transformative change. We are granted the opportunity to accept a new identity and a renewed orientation through accepting the offer of grace that God has provided in Christ.

 

When we have done this, Jesus claims us as one of His own followers, and His Spirit comes to live within us; so that, we are changed from the center of our beings. We no longer find our identity, our values, and our perspective on life in the old places. We now possess God’s heavenly, righteous, and eternal view of what it means to live in this world. We are now empowered and equipped to become people who bring about change in our world, for we gain the ability to see the people, institutions, and organization of this world from God’s perspective, and we have the capacity to embrace His heart of loving grace and His desire to see the fallen restored.

 

This is a highly challenging thought; for, my life is still filled with thoughts and actions that look more like those worldly ones that I was born with than they do like the ones that Jesus expresses. Yet, Christ has said that He has taken me out of the world and into His realm; so, the parts of my life that are still oriented to that old, worldly form of thought are the result of my stubborn refusal to let go of them. Lord, take these unloving, self-centered, and defeated attitudes from my life, and fill me with the newness of your Spirit; so that, I can walk through my life as a person who brings the redemptive power of the love of Christ to the world where I live.

 

To Thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,

For Thou hast given me wisdom and power.

Daniel 2: 23

 

Everyone has a family history of faith, and it doesn’t matter if your parents and your grandparents knew God in a deep and an intimate way or not. For each of us who does know the Lord in this personally redemptive way is a direct descendant and a personal participant in a long line of people who have likewise been close to God. Their stories and my story are entwined by Christ’s redemptive love. I am truly thankful to God for the way that He has always been the active seeker of the hearts of people, and I am very blessed by the way that He has worked trough these people to make Himself more accessible and better known to me. God has caused others to write down their story of how they came to know Him, of what the Lord has done in their lives, and of the transformation that His love brought about in them. Then, He continually speaks to my mind to provide me with an understanding of these stories that makes them applicable to my life.

 

God wants to be understood and clearly available to all people. He doesn’t need the type of power that comes from being obscure; so, He makes the process of entering into a relationship with Him very simple. Then, God stays with us through the entire journey of life, and His loving grace continues to make it possible for even a person as flawed and weak as I am to stay in close relationship with Him. Thus, I am thankful to God for His love for me, for His desire to be close to me, and for His continued interest in my life. Additionally, I praise God for the amazing ways that He works in my heart and my mind on a daily basis to bring about an on-going process of growth and of movement toward His will.

 

It is through this process of recognition of all that God is in our lives that we come to a place where we are made open to the interaction of His Spirit in us. As I look at the stories of my spiritual fathers that are told in God’s word and as I reflect on the odyssey that is my own life, I am led to see the never ending and unfailing touch of the Lord’s hand at every turn of those roads. Knowing God is to know His power, mercy, grace, and love. Truly knowing God places me in a position to humbly allow Him to be my strength throughout the day.

 

 

 

Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2: 4

 

Repentance is a word that most people would prefer to leave out of our functional vocabulary. We can readily embrace the idea of God’s kindness and of His loving grace. We rely upon the fact that God is patient with us as we test the waters of sinful thought and behavior, but it is harder to connect His call to repentance to it all. Yet it is exactly what God does call upon people to do. Repentance was the cry that John the Baptist uttered as he announced the coming of the Christ, and God continues to call to all people to turn away from the sin that entraps and destroys and to embrace the purification and restoration that Christ grants to us.

 

Repentance requires for us to accept the fact that we are sinful beings. It is based upon the realization that there is a dramatic and total divide between the ways of this world and those of God’s kingdom. Thus repentance demands that we change direction, turn around, and surrender ourselves totally to God’s way of being. Until we accept the necessity of such radical submission to Christ, we will continue to struggle through a life in which we seem to gain ground for a while and then give it all back in times of weakness, discouragement, or doubt. These periods of return to old ways of functioning are discouraging, and they are not the way that God wants to see His people living. He gets no pleasure from our suffering and our struggles.

 

It is a simple fact that God is very slow to judge. Without question He holds all of the evidence that He would need to convict every one of us of our capital crimes. Still God is the kindly and loving Father who waits with great patience for His children to embrace His truth. He withholds the judgment that we all deserve in anticipation of our turning to Him. God wants for each of us to make the decision to seek Him out. He grants us that ability, and He allows us opportunities to continually seek Him and His righteous way. God’s grace and His kindness are offered to us in order to call to us out of a life of self-determined worldly truth and into an unending, moment by moment state of yielded submission and total surrender to Christ and to His transformative truth. True repentance is not always easy to engage, but it is more than worth the pain that is involved for it leads us into the will of God.