Category Archives: Identity

Starting over

This means that anlightstock_1665_small_user_3963721yone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! -2 Cor. 5:17 (NLT)

What does it mean to start over? Every year, around this time, millions of people resolve to change certain aspects of their lives. Some succeed, many fail. Most resolutions fall short because there was no commitment to real life change. Goals without real resolve don’t produce movement or real transformation.

I’ve never been big on New Years resolutions. It’s always seemed to me that if I really wanted to change something about my life, I shouldn’t wait until a certain time of year to do it. The time is now! I get why people do it, though. The start of a new year on the calendar signifies a new beginning, a chance to start over. That’s a great time to make some choices towards a better life. There’s a much better chance to start over, though.

God’s Word says that when we place our trust in Jesus, He forgives us, cleanses us from our sins, adopts us into His family, and gives us a new identity. We get a chance to not only begin a new year, but begin a whole new life. The slate is not just wiped clean, the slate is gone completely. Our identity is not what it once was. Our identity is now in Christ. I’ll dig deeper into that idea as we go on. It’s important.

Starting over is a choice. I became a new person when I was saved, but only after I made a decision to embrace my new identity did I see revolutionary growth in my life. Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe you’re like me. You crossed the line of faith, and you’re forgiven, but you’re not seeing some of the expectations you had coming true for you. For me, that brought a lot of confusion and made me question my conversion. I hope that this one-year journey we’re going to take together puts to rest any doubts you have about your salvation.

Decide today to start over with the new life you’ve been given. Even if you’ve been saved for years, it’s not too late. Take the first step in the journey of discipleship and do as the disciples did when Jesus bid them, “Follow me.” This new life is from Him, for Him, and about Him. It’s a wild ride, and it’s all worth it.

Do not cease to give thanks

INGMRF-00042023-001Ephesians 1:15-16 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers

Spiritual growth comes in seasons. There are times when our faith is strong and there are times when it is not as strong. This is true with anyone. In those times when the momentum isn’t there and it seems that we’ve lost steam, it’s important that we never cease giving thanks.

It’s in those times, when we’re down but still giving thanks, that our faith grows. Our gratitude to our Father grows our love towards Him. Our increased love towards Him results in our loving others more as well.

Paul’s expression to the church in Ephesus demonstrates how thankfulness for someone else’s faith and love can encourage them and help them to be more thankful, to grow in love for God and in love for others. Thanks leads to faith, which leads to love, which leads to more love, more thanks, more faith, and on and on.

Try this. No matter how you feel right now about your current situation, just give thanks to God for all that He is. See if you don’t increase in your love for Him as you pour out gratitude. See if you don’t have a different attitude.

 

This is war

Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Life is not always what it seems to be. There are battles going on that we don’t see, schemes being put into play, and even protection we’re not aware of.

We’re in the middle of a war and it’s to be taken seriously. There’s no getting around the fact that God’s enemy, our enemy, Satan, is at work to destroy the plans of our Creator. We can’t stand by idly and allow him to take out families, marriages, ministries, and ultimately souls. We need to open our eyes.

The thing is, this isn’t an evenly matched war. Satan is not the evil version of God. He doesn’t have the might of God, the knowledge or the abilities of God. He’s incapable of victory. The strength of the Lord is our strength. If we take up the armor He’s provided for us, we have victory. We will prevail against all attacks.

We’ll talk more about the armor we’ve been given over the next few days. In the meantime, consider what it means to be on God’s side during this war.

Serve everyone

Ephesians 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Just as with the preceding verses to this one, people have often used this to justify the notion that the Bible upholds slavery. No! Read it again.

This passage isn’t saying “own slaves.” The fact is that many people during the time period in which this letter was written by Paul found themselves slaves for whatever reasons. It could have been because they had a debt that they couldn’t pay or that they couldn’t afford to take of their child so they sold them into slavery. No matter what the reason, there were people who were the servants of other people.

That’s not the point of Paul’s message, though. He’s not speaking on the right to own a slave or on the reasons for being one. He’s talking about loving and respecting everyone, regardless of your standing of your position. If you’re under someone’s authority (and we all are), obey them and respect them. If you’re over someone in a position of authority, show them respect and care for them, don’t mistreat them.

In the eyes of God, there is no distinction between the master and the servant. He is the Master over all. That means no one is in a position to treat others badly, especially if they call themselves a child of God. Most people don’t have servants or slaves today, but we do have bosses and subordinates. Regardless of which of those we’re dealing with, the command is the same: treat them with the love of God and with respect.

Slave or free, obey

Ephesians 6:5-8  Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

As with so many things in the Bible, people tend to focus on the wrong area of this passage and pull it out of context. It’s been used as an example to make the case that the Bible upholds the notion of slavery, or at least doesn’t speak against it, thus showing that God is not loving. That’s not the truth, and it’s not the point either.

Paul is not pointing out that people should own other people as slaves here, but rather he’s making the point that those who are slaves to others should obey them as a way of pointing to God. One could just as easily say, “employees, obey your employers that they may see God and worship Him.”

Everyone has someone in authority over them. Those who belong to Christ are to obey whomever that may be, as a way of obeying God himself. Children obey their parents, workers obey their boss, government officials obey the voters who elected them (Just kidding, that last one doesn’t happen).

Whether you’re slave or free, you’re called to work as though working for the Lord, as though He himself instilled the power and authority held by others over you. Obey God. He says to honor those over you.

A father’s instruction

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the primary responsibility of a parent? How about of a father? What about a Christian father? If you said to raise kids who obey the law and treat others kindly, that’s just part of the equation.

Raising moral kids isn’t enough to sustain them through the circumstances of life. Only a strong foundation in the Word of God, in the gospel, can carry them through. It’s the job of a father (and a mother) to parent in light of the gospel.

If our kids comply to everything we instruct them to do, but have no understanding of God’s grace and mercy, have no idea about the sacrifice He was willing to go through for our reconciliation, then it’s wasted effort in parenting. Compliance to rules does not mean a transformed heart.

Fathers, don’t just expect your kids to do what you say. Don’t use your authority to bend their will to yours. Utilize the authority you’ve been given by the Father to raise them up to know Him. They’ll know Him because you show His nature and character to them by the way you treat them.

If you’re not a parent, this notion still applies for you.  There’s someone, somewhere who’s under your authority, however little it may be. The way in which you use that authority, the way in which you instruct and lead will either draw them closer to God or push them away from Him. Lead wisely and be a follower of the Holy Spirit as He guides you.

Honor your father and mother

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Marriage isn’t the only relationship the Bible speaks of, though it may seem that way in books like Ephesians where so much is said to husbands and wives. The relationship between children and their parents is an even more obvious depiction of the relationship between God and His people than marriage is.

Obedience, be it our obedience to God or the obedience of children to parents, is never just about compliance for the sake of compliance. God didn’t give us rules to follow just because He likes having His rules followed any more than our parents did that. There are reasons for the rules of the house; right? I’m always telling my kids that i don’t give them rules because I’m mean; I do it because I care about them and don’t want to see them get hurt. When they don’t obey, the result is often a negative experience. So it is in our disobedience to God.

The Law cannot be fully obeyed perfectly and we’ll never earn our way into heaven by keeping it. That’s not its purpose, though. We can thrive better, and live much more fulfilling lives if we stick to what the Lord has laid before us as right, avoiding what He says is wrong. It’s not about a dictator forcing anything on us. It’s about a loving Father who cares about His kids and wants to see them live well. His plan for us is better than our own plans.

How are you doing at obeying? Do you even see the need to do so?

Love and respect

Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

A lot of people read through Ephesians 5 (or choose to ignore Ephesians 5) without really considering the context in which it was meant. It’s not just about commands for husbands and wives. To see it as that makes marriage cold and it makes it seem like God doesn’t intend for us to be happy in marriage.

In reality, asking men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands is going to result in happiness for both. Marriage is about a mutual benefit, not just that of one or another. In depicting the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the Church, there is no authoritarian role, no slave role, just love and respect.

A man loves his wife by caring for her, protecting her, providing for her, and forever being a student of her. Likewise, a woman shows respect to her husband by tending to his needs, and helping him to be the man God has called him to be. When both a husband and a wife fulfill their God-given purposes, they’re both happy and godly. Both can enjoy the marriage and the spiritual growth that comes as a result.

How do you look at marriage? Do you see it as a gift from God to benefit both man and wife and to illustrate the relationship between bride and Christ? Or do you see marriage as constraining and unhealthy? Do you see it as God meant it or as how it has come to be viewed in society?

The two shall become one

Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

How important does something have to be for the Bible to quote it multiple times? It’s obvious that something mentioned so frequently is worthy of our attention. The picture of Jesus and His bride, the Church, that we see exemplified by marriage is not to be overlooked.

The fact that a man and a woman become one flesh upon marrying is mentioned no less than four times in Scripture (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7, 8; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). The call to leave behind the parents and become joined together as a new family is emphasized through this. Two individuals who were once separate, had their own rights and freedoms, their own preferences, and looked after their own needs and desires, become one unit, no longer separate. They now look to each others’ needs and desires, give up some of their own rights for the sake of the other, and bind themselves to their spouse.

It’s often said at weddings, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6) and the imagery is apparent. A couple is more than just two people who live together and have affectionate feelings for one another. They are an imperfect reflection of the perfect Bridegroom and His bride.

The breaking apart of a marriage is no simple thing. It’s not uncomplicated, mostly because two souls have joined together through a union that’s not supposed to be dissolved. Christ and His bride are joined together for eternity, inseparable, and that is the meaning of marriage. If you’re married, ask yourself if you’re reflecting the Bridegroom and His bride well. Even if you’re not married, consider how this earthly example of a heavenly concept is evident.

He who loves his wife loves himself

Ephesians 5:28-30 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.

Husbands don’t get off very easily in the Bible. Many assume that the calling of a wife to submit to her husband is a heavy burden, but in reality the heaviest responsibility falls on the husband himself. He is ultimately accountable for the marriage relationship and the spiritual well-being of his family.

It should be noted that God’s Word repeatedly tells men to love their wives. This is a command, not just to act with loving emotion towards their brides, but to serve them, protect them, lead them, and provide for them. To love one’s wife is to love oneself.

Because it’s so powerful, the notion that marriage is intended to provide a picture of Jesus’ relationship to God’s family, the Church, is also repeated many times. Jesus loves the Church and so husbands should love their wives. He cares for and nurtures the Church and therefore husbands should care for and nurture their wives.

Husbands, love your wives.