Sunday, November 29, 2015

Emmanuel: God With Us...Understanding The Divinity and Humanity of Jesus

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings... (Hebrews 13:8-9)

We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to earth. He is “Emmanuel,” God With Us. While reading over Thanksgiving, I was troubled to come across the following statement about Jesus: “When He chose to come to earth, He laid down His divinity and picked up His humanity.” Now it is true that Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, emphasizing his humanity. But it is equally true that He is God. Colossians 1:19-20 and 2:9 tell us: 

“For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross......For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily” 

God in the Flesh. This union of humanity and divinity in Jesus is a mystery called the “hypostatic union,” and it is a foundational teaching of the church, confirmed by the council at Chalcedon in 451 A.D.  

The incorrect doctrine that Jesus was not fully divine is a mistake easily made and it is being taught by more than one prominent figure today, accompanied by assertions that Jesus was incapable of doing anything without the Holy Spirit. The problem with this teaching is that it is a form of subordinationism, a mistake which views one member of the Trinity as inferior to the others. Yet, John 5:17-18 shows that Jesus is equal with the Father: 

My Father has been working until now AND I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him because He not only broke the Sabbath but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

This new doctrine has also been called a form of “Neo-Arianism.” The Arian heresy and others denied the divinity of Christ. This new view is more subtle and easier for some to accept. It is not necessarily a heresy, since it acknowledges that Jesus was fully God, but then it denies His position as fully God and an equal member of the Trinity during His time on earth. One pastor has gone so far as to say that Jesus was completely emptied of divine capacity. [Insert: Now, during this summer of 2016 another version of subordinationism has blown up all over the internet, upholding Jesus' divinity, but claiming that Jesus, the Son, is eternally subordinate to the Father, and using this teaching to promote certain views about gender roles] Any teaching that questions the fullness of Jesus' divinity is dangerous because it is only 1 step away from the liberalism that plagued the church during the last century. Here is a brief summary of the evidence for Jesus' divinity:

Under His own authority, Jesus forgave sins, healed, healed on the Sabbath, made a covenant, performed miracles and cast out demons. He displayed His omniscience, telling the woman at the well everything she had ever done. He displayed power over life and death, claiming to have the power both to lay his life down and to take it up again, as well as raising Lazarus and others from the dead. He displays his creative power and control over nature and the elements by using the dust of the ground to give a man born blind His eyesight and turning water into wine. The disciples also healed and cast out demons in JESUS’ name, under His authority.

Rather than claim, that Jesus laid down his divinity and therefore relied on the Holy Spirit and the Father, I would submit to you, that it was Jesus’ divinity that allowed Him to work in full cooperation with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead was in operation through Jesus’ actions. It was the Father’s will that Jesus do these things. Jesus had the authority to speak these words and it is the Holy Spirit who caused the healing and miracles to take place. One verse that is misunderstood comes from John 5:19 where Jesus says The Son can do nothing of himself, but what He sees the Father do for whatever things He does, these also does the son likewise. Some translations say he can do nothing BY himself. This word, "apo," in Greek describes being separated or operating apart from the Father. This verse does not mean that Jesus is unable or lacking in divine capacity, but rather the opposite. It means that it is absolutely impossible for Jesus to be separated from the Father, that they operate as one. It is a powerful affirmation of his deity and divine capacity, not a denial of it. What we see here, is not Jesus without divine capacity, but rather, Jesus, operating as fully divine, just as He did in creation, in perfect cooperation and in relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus could not lay down His divinity because He IS divine. He could never be without the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is HIS Spirit. He IS God. It is His very essence. He, The Father and The Spirit are separate persons of the same essence. John 10:30 reads “I and My Father are one.”

RELATIONSHIP is the key to  understanding it all. Jesus spoke to His Father often because He values relationship. The Father sent the Holy Spirit to Him because He values relationship. During His time on earth, Jesus was seeking the same relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit that He had always enjoyed. Christ also refrained from bringing judgement because He wanted relationships with people. He invites us into this relationship saying: “Abide in me and I in you…He who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit for apart from ME you can do nothing.”

Jesus has always been fully capable. In Systematic Theology, we discussed the fact that [Jesus chose not to exercise his abilities at times (such as not knowing what day and hour He would return), He did not give them up. This is self-limitation. He was fully God. It wasn’t that he only relied on God and the Holy Spirit because He was divested of His diety—He chose not to use certain abilities at certain times in order to have a relationship with us.] Throughout His ministry on earth, Jesus displayed His glory through patience, gentleness and self-control. As the God of angel armies He could have called upon legions of angels to do His will at any time, yet He chose not to for our sake. At any moment He could have destroyed His enemies with a word, but he refrained for our sake. He stayed on the cross and endured torture for our sake. At any time, Jesus could work any miracle that He wanted, but He chose to do them when people showed faith and did not do many miracles in places where faith was lacking. Three of Satan’s temptations to Jesus were temptation to use His power as God for a self-serving purpose and He refused. If He wasn’t divine, then there would have been no real temptation present because Satan would have been tempting Him to do things He was incapable of. Jesus, however, was fully capable. He is Able.

So where does that leave us? It is important to maintain the mystery, the tension and balance between Jesus’ humanity and His divinity. He is fully God. He is fully man. Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23 show the prophecy and the fulfillment that Jesus would be the God-Man:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which translated means, GOD with us”  (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14)

Here is a look at a few verses that speak to Jesus humanity:

Philippians 2:6-7 has been the basis of this mistaken theory that Jesus was emptied of divine capacity because it says that He emptied Himself.

“Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!

The KJV translates this passage as, made himself of no reputation, which is a faithful and good understanding of what is being communicated. One of the meanings of the word “emptied” is also to describe being emptied of wealth. 2 Corinthians 8:9 provides a very helpful commentary on this concept telling us: 

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Jesus never stopped being divine. He left heaven and came to earth to suffer as a man. But Jesus’ circumstances did not dictate His true identity. He came in the form of a slave, but He WAS God. Jesus, whom all things were created through and for, came as a poor servant. Jesus, who had every right to be worshipped, honored and respected as God, humbled himself to save and redeem US. That is Powerful. Humbling. Shocking. Scary. Awe-inspiring. When we realize that the Sovereign God of the Universe came to earth and was despised, rejected and murdered, we have no right to expect anything but judgement and punishment, yet He offers forgiveness instead…Astonishing. Instead of destroying us, He chose to show mercy:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.(Hebrews 2:17)

Here are a few verses that speak to Jesus’ divinity:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him.… Colossians 1:15-16

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:1.9)

I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down AND I have power to take it again. (John 10:17-18)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1)

In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. –Hebrews 1:2-3

Isaiah 9:6 sums it all up nicely, describing both Jesus’ humanity and the fullness of His divinity, with the verse, so fitting to the Christmas season:


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Most importantly, we can now receive this divine nature within us. The very power that Jesus had within Him is available to us if only we will ask and receive it through faith:


His divine power has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness, 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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Helping Refugees: A Biblical Perspective

If I was a refugee, and especially a child, and I was rejected by nations and people I perceived to be Christian, I might hate Christians. If a country or leader refused to allow me into their state, I might learn to hate America, or Christians, or both. Resentment and anger could sprout seeds and grow in the manure of selfish politics and fear. But what if they Fed me? Clothed me? Educated me? Loved me? How would I feel then? Would I wonder what is so different about the God they serve? Would I love the state and country that took me in and showed me kindness?

Sometimes the Bible tells us EXACTLY what to do. How should we treat foreigners and refugees in need? Politics aside, God has made His position crystal clear. How much more should we show the love of Jesus to Muslims. What an incredible opportunity for evangelism. While the United States does not have a covenant with God the way that Israel did, His perspective toward refugees is made abundantly clear in the instructions they received.

And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. -Deuteronomy 10:19
Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. -Exodus 22:21
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. -Leviticus 19:34
These people have escaped oppression and while they are to be expected to follow every law of the United States, Here is what God says about those REFUGEES who have escaped such oppression and are seeking refuge among us:
If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them. -Deuteromony 23:15-16
And...churches should pay for their keep out of the tithe because God established the tithe to take care of them:
You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor, and your needy in your land. -Deuteronomy 15:11 Notice the term "your," indicating that the poor and needy are our responsibility.
"At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town." The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the foreigner, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do....Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge". (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 24:17) Give them what God says belongs to them

It is true, that there is nothing new under the sun. Ancient Israel was repeatedly harmed by a nation full of terrorists, the Assyrians. Jonah was given the task of preaching to them. He was reluctant, in part because of their evil and the harm they had done. But God had a different viewpoint:

"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

By ministering to them, not only was the city, including their many children who didn't know right from wrong, spared because they repented, but we do not know how much relief and protection Israel may have received in the short term as a result of Jonah's actions. Only God knows. The fact is, that God cared for those people and the children of the terrorists, just as he cares for the refugees, especially the children and we should have compassion.

If you are concerned about terrorists sneaking in with and as Refugees, so am I. Pray. Witness. Show them the love of Christ. Keep wary eyes open, but show them kindness and the love of Christ. Prove that they have been told lies about not only our nation, but about Christians and the God that we serve. I am not saying that America is a truly Christian nation, but God has promised His blessing to Christians for our obedience and if that obedience brings blessing or protection to our nation, then all the better. It is HIS job to protect us. It is OUR job to protect those refugees and to care for them. Whatever position our government takes, Christians must be compassionate. I encourage you to meditate on the following verses today, especially if you live in America, perhaps the most blessed nation on earth:

"Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? James 2:15-16


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

End Times Prophets? Or PROFITeers? A Halloween Blog On Witchcraft

As Halloween is fast approaching, I can't help but think how sad it is that a person is likely to find more of what the Bible calls "Witchcraft," on the pages of books written by End-Time Prophet-teers (PROFIT--teers), than on the pages of a Harry Potter book. In Christian bookstores and on Wal-Mart shelves, many books marketed to Christians contain everything from predictions based on the interpretation of omens and harbingers to prognostications based on moon cycles and astrology and numerology. All of these methods are called divination by Scripture and are not legitimate means of prophecy, but are clearly defined as false prophecy and explicity forbidden. As Hermione says: "Divination is a very wooly discipline." It's bad enough that the fleecers of the flock take Scripture out of context in order to manipulate and mislead believers, but they blatantly defy God's word and engage in practices that are clearly condemned. Here is what the Bible says:

You shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or engages in witchcraft or one who casts a spell, or is a medium, or consults with familiar spirits or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to disposses, listen to fortune tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.  -Deuteronomy 18:9-13

I hoped that when last September passed and all of the Blood Moon prognosticators and omen interpreters predicting disaster and economic collapse were made fools out of, that the church would learn its lesson and stay away from End-Time PROFITeers, to stop paying attention to man-made signs and wonders, but rather to the word of God and to prayer and to giving God glory for His redemptive actions and healing in our lives. Unfortunately, with this election, we are instead seeing another side of false prophecy. In the ancient world, diviners, magicians, astrologers and soothsayers served as advisors to rulers. They used their craftiness to manipulate kings and influence the destinies of nations as they gave advice about important decisions, even whether or not to go to war. It has been incredibly disheartening to see so-called Christian pastors, authors and celebrity figures take Old Testament passages wildly out of context to claim that Trump was prophesied or that he is the new Cyrus or to take passages of scripture about Israel and twist them to make them seem like they are about America. There are serious Biblical truths and issues at stake and many Christian leaders seem willing to sacrifice the Gospel for the sake of a political victory. I do not understand how any responsible pastor, teacher or theologian could bend and manipulate Scripture for the sake of getting attention or winning an election. The stakes are much too high. The one lesson we can learn from this is that one of the most commonly used techniques of Satan and his minions is to present people with two bad choices or two wrong choices, just as we are being presented with. We are experiencing this particular type of witchcraft, in terms of psychological manipulation, that happened in the ancient world as people were swayed to support untrustworthy leaders.

I am not suggesting that we go out and start burning these End Time PROFITeers at the stake as witches. That idea likely comes from a misunderstanding of the following text which shows how such people will not escape God's judgement and the lake of fire.

...in spite of your many sorceries and your many spells. You felt secure in your wickedness, You said "No one sees me." Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray...But calamity will come upon you. You won't know how to charm it away. Disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone. Catastrophe you CANNOT forsee will suddenly come upon you. Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, which you have toiled over since your youth. Perhaps you will succeed? Perhaps you will cause terror? You are weary of your many consulations (they had consulted everyone and everything in creation except for God) So let the astrologers, star-gazers, predicitng by new moons stand up and save you from what will come upon you. Behold, they shall be as stubble. Fire will consume them. They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame! It is not a coal for warming by or a fire to sit before! So much have they become to you, with whom you have toiled, trafficking with you from your youth, each wandering about his own way (going astray)  No one will save you. -Isaiah 47:9-15

Here is the lesson. A person prophesying falsely is someone who directly contradicts and ignores the clear teaching of Scripture or who makes predictions by using methods the Bible forbids. Such predictions are often based on human observance of natural or general revelation--observing nature or human behavior to predict unknowable future events. In the Bible, when God speaks prophetically it is through special, or supernatural revelation such as His word, visions, prophetic words and dreams. While God does reveal something of Himself through nature, because of sin, nature can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and manipulated, often for financial benefit and the glory of the individual. The Bible calls this dishonest gain. True Prophecy is when God reveals Himself supernaturally. False profit-teering, or divination is where man tries to make predictions based on other means.

I encourage believers to exercise discernment and oversight and to carry on, following the advice Paul wrote to overseers:

Be hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast to the faithful word as taught, so that he (you) will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain. -Titus 1:9-11

(updated 10-18-2016)


Monday, October 19, 2015

Statement of Faith

Statement of Faith
I originally prepared this statement for my Philosphy of Christian Education class. I feel that it has value and could be helpful so I am sharing it here. The purpose of this document is to examine eight key areas of theology and the corresponding educational application.
General Revelation
General Revelation is the way that God has revealed Himself through His creation. (Psalm 19:1-6). Creation shows the divine attributes of the Creator, the majesty, the power, the goodness, the providence and the creativity of God can be seen by all. (Romans 1:19-21)
Creation shows the crafty design of the Creator in the intricate way our bodies are made, (Psalm 139:14) and in the inherent beauty and love that God poured into designing the earth. There are many object lessons such as the sun coming up, like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber (Psalm 19:4), and God protecting us beneath the shadow of His wings, using creation to reveal God’s protective nature by the way a bird protects her eggs and her young. (Psalm 63:7)
Special Revelation
General Revelation is meant to draw people to God. Special Revelation is meant to bring people into relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, His Son, who is the Word. He reveals Himself primarily through His word, the Bible. God’s mighty works, His providential care for His people, His justice, His merciful lovingkindness, His righteousness, His supremacy, and most importantly, His plan of salvation are shown forth through His word, Holy Scripture. God also reveals Himself by calling us to repentance and convicting us regarding sin and righteousness. (Hebrews 3:15, John 16:8) While, God’s word is complete and no words will be added to it, He is God and has the power to speak to people any time He chooses. He does this through words of knowledge, words of wisdom and prophecy. (1 Corinthians 12:8,10) These words are given for comfort, encouragement and edification which provide wise counsel and advice. (1 Corinthians 14:3) No word from God will ever contradict Scripture, and often He speaks through Scripture, or by bringing specific passages of Scripture to the forefront of our minds at just the right moment. A word spoken at the right time, in the right way and for the right reason is like apples of gold served on a silver platter that sets things in motion. (Proverbs 25:11)
Faith comes through hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Teachers must clearly present the gospel message and a person must respond to it in faith in order to be saved. (Romans 5:1)
THE TRINITY
God is all-knowing, all-powerful and omnipresent. God exists in three distinct persons, each fully God and in perfect harmony, in perfect unity with the other two. God is the Creator of all things.
God the Father
God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and full of merciful lovingkindness. (Psalm 103:8) God is righteous and He loves justice. (Psalm 33:5) God is Holy and cannot be tempted with evil. (1 Peter 1:16, 1 James 1:13) God is the author of salvation. No one has ever seen God the Father. (John 1:18)
God the Son
Jesus is eternally co-existent with the Father and all things are made through Him. (John 1:1) He is one with the Father and the exact representation of Him. (John 12:45, Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is fully God and fully man, having been born of a virgin from Mary’s own egg, supernaturally fertilized by the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:35) He lived a perfect sinless life and fulfilled the law completely being beaten with rods, scourged, crucified, cursed and dying in our place. (Galatians 3:13, Proverbs 23:13) He is the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 2:2) He came to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8) He rose again on the third day, victorious over sin, hell, death and the grave. (1 Corinthians 15:4) Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. (Acts 4:12)
God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a person. He is fully God. He convicts us of sin and calls us to repentance. (John 16;8) The Holy Spirit is omnipresent. He dwells within believers. (Ephesians 3:17, John 15:4,26) He brings the fruit of the spirit forth in our lives (Galatians 5:22) and gives spiritual gifts to be used in service of the church (1 Corinthians 12). He sanctifies us. (Ephesians 3:20) He is our comforter, counselor, advocate, guide, friend and helper. (John 4;26)
Application
It is important to teach people the role that each member of the Godhead plays in salvation. Understanding that each member of the Trinity is fully God helps us not to neglect any of God’s work in our lives.
Man
Man is created in the image of God and is the masterpiece of His creation. (Genesis 1:26, Ephesians 2:10) Every human being has inherent value and worth and should be treated with love and respect. (Matthew 5:22) Because of sin, all of mankind is in desperate need of a savior and cannot save themselves, but must be born again.
It is important to teach carefully that no one will be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ alone. (Ephesians 2;8)
Sin
For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 3:23, 6:23)
Every person who has ever lived has sinned, save Christ alone. Everyone is guilty before God and deserving of punishment and judgement. Only through Jesus Christ is there an atonement for our sins. Only through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins can we be forgiven. (John 1:29) These truths must be taught clearly and never compromised.
Salvation
God the Father is the author of salvation. (Revelation 13:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:9) Jesus has completed the work of salvation. (John 19:30) Jesus has paid the price for the redemption of all mankind. (1 John 2:2) Everyone who believes will be saved. (John 3:16) God has chosen to offer salvation and to show forth His love to the whole world, but He only accepts those who love Him in return, who choose Him. (Joshua 24:15)
To be saved, a person must believe in their heart, repent of sin and confess Jesus as Lord. (Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9) The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, calls to repentance, and Baptizes us with fire, an act which is represented by our outward expression of inward change, Baptism with water. It is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:17). Every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation and is completely justified, forgiven and received as a child of God.
After salvation, believers “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. This begins with an initial experience at the time of salvation and continues through a process by which we are sanctified. There has been much confusion on this issue and while each person’s experience with daily dying to self and yielding to the Holy Spirit is different, the important thing is to remain open to God’s continuous work in our lives and to be completely immersed in His Holy Spirit, dyed in the wool, so to speak, so that every fiber of our being is soaked through, changed to become more like Jesus. Once we receive Him, He will never leave us or forsake us and no one can snatch us out of His hand. He is always with us, taking us from glory to glory. In gratitude and joy we should continually seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, satisfied and sustained by Him, as we come into a deeper relationship with God through prayer, reading of the word, fellowship with other believers and worship. The signs of being filled with the Holy Spirit are the fruits of the Spirit. Each believer is given spiritual gifts to use in service for building up the Body of Christ. (Matthew 3:11, Ephesians 5:18-20, Acts 2:38, Galatians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:22)
The Church
The church, Ekklesia, is the Body of Christ gathered together. We gather to edify, encourage and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) The church meets together to spur one another on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:25).
Beth-El, The House of God, is the place where the church gathers together. (Genesis 28:16-19) However, we are each, individually, the temple of God, His Holy Habitation and the place where He dwells. (1 Corinthians 6:19, Ephesians 2:22)
It is important to teach that we are the house, or dwelling place of God and that we need to gather together in the place set aside to worship God corporately.
Last Things
At the end, Jesus will return and will take the church out of this world. (2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, Revelation 16:15) There will follow a period of seven years of tribulation which is intended to allow all of those who remain on earth the opportunity to repent. God will pour out His wrath. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years and there will be a millennial kingdom, essentially, a 1,000 year victory celebration where Jesus reigns on earth and we experience earth as it was meant to be. At the end of this 1,000 years Satan will be briefly loosed and will make war one last time, God will defeat him and cast him into the lake of fire. Everyone who’s name is not found written in the Lamb’s book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. There will be a new heaven and a new earth and we will rejoice in heaven worshipping God and abiding in Him forever. (Revelation 4-22)
In teaching about the end times, it is important to have deep respect and considerate dialogue over differences of opinion. Revelation is extremely complicated to put on a timeline, but theologically, it is rich with important doctrine. God loves justice and He will do away with Satan and all evil. Those who love and trust in Jesus will live for all of eternity in heaven with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God keeps His promises.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Prodigal Son, Line by Line

The Prodigal Son is one of the most famous stories in all of literature, speaking to the deepest part of the souls of fallen humanity. It is a story that dates from the beginning of time when Adam sinned, rejecting his purpose and identity by choosing to believe Satan’s lies over God’ s truth and was cast out of the beautiful garden his Father had made for him. All of mankind has followed in Adam’s footsteps, each one going astray and falling short of the glory of God. Woven through the pages of Scripture, the consummation of this epic tale comes in Luke 15, which beautifully illustrates the acceptance and reconciliation that has been provided for us through Jesus. I invite you to join me on this journey as we walk through this beloved passage line by line.

I hope that each person who reads this can understand and accept the wonderful honor and privilege of entering into a restored relationship with God. It is my sincere hope that each of you can feel empowered to live out your true calling and purpose by realizing 3 truths about your identity as a child and heir.

Luke 15:1-13
And He said, A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with riotous living.

The first thing we learn about this young man is that he has thrown off all authority and rejected the covering and protection of both his father and usurped the authority of his older brother, who would traditionally have overseen his father’s estate. The Hebrew word for this is na’ar, a teenager or young adult who is roaring or one who is separated from his father’s household and without covering and supervision. Not only does he fail to exercise good stewardship over his estate which should have been used to provide for his future family and to care for those in need, but he squanders it on riotous living. This word riotous is asotos in Greek. It means the opposite of sozo, which is the word for salvation. He is engaging in a lifestyle that is both self-destructive and destructive to others. When I click on this word in my logos bible software it automatically links to the Hebrew equivalent of this word, zalal, which means gluttony—He had adopted a lifestyle of devouring everything and everyone around himself. His lifestyle and behavior were the very opposite of a saved person and will ultimately destroy him. Verse 13 makes it clear that he is living an asotos, or unsaved life.

Verses 14-16:
Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the carob pods that the swine were eating, but no one was giving him anything.

Famine is a sign of the absence of God’s blessing and in the Bible, famines usually occurred when the people of an area were worshipping false gods and engaging in sin. Having wasted his entire estate, the prodigal is no longer free to be his own man, but must hire himself out as a servant to another. This was a very low position for a Jewish male. Pigs were an unclean animal and under the Old Covenant, Jews did not eat pork.

Expository note: [Animals, like pigs, which do not “part the hoof,” do not have the sophisticated digestive system of cows and sheep that clean toxins out of their bodies and make them healthy for food. Pigs store toxins in their fat. Not only do they not sweat toxins out, they even eat their own excrement, taking the toxins back in. While Christians can bless their food and make it safe through prayer under the New Covenant, and we can cook meat in better, safer ways to get rid of those toxins, God’s food laws had a purpose and the health and well-being of his people was and still is part of the covenant.]

Caring for pigs is one of the lowest jobs he could have taken. Pigs were often fed carob pods, a sort of sweet fruit to fatten them up. Poor people were also given these pods to eat. The fact that no one would give him any shows the complete disdain with which this man was treated. They treated the animals better than him. They viewed him as less valuable than the pigs—one of the lowest and most despised animals to a Jewish mind. He has sunk as low as he can go.

Verses 17-19:

But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger. I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”

Verse 17 is the turning point of the story. He comes to himself, or comes to his senses. This moment is a picture of God’s call. While God has given all men the ability to make choices, just as this father allowed his son to choose to walk away from him, the choices have consequences. The more a person chooses to believe the lies of satan and to live in a wrongful, sinful lifestyle, the deeper they go into bondage and slavery to sin. What we witness in this verse is the Holy Spirit calling this man to repentance. John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will “convict all men concerning sin and righteousness and judgement.” This young man has a choice, whether he will return to his father, or continue his life of sin. Hebrews 3:7-8 tells us “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says: Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts….” At this point, he can either choose to repent, to change his mind and return to his father, or he can sink back into his deception and reject the call to repentance. He chooses to repent and go back to his father. He will humble himself and ask for mercy. His physical suffering paints a vivid picture of the spiritual anguish a lost human soul. This verse shows us a picture of freedom, how God’s call can separate a person from harmful, destructive spiritual influences and give them back the freedom to make their own decision. When we proclaim God’s word it has the same effect. “God’s word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged blade, capable of dividing soul from spirit.” His word, whether it comes from His Spirit calling men to repentance, or from the Bible, can separate a person from the lies they have believed and clung to.

Verse 20:
So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

The Father’s reaction is astonishing!!! Under the Old Covenant, such a son, having lived a gluttonous lifestyle and according to verse 30 engaged in the sexual sin that comes with such a lifestyle would have been deserving of the death penalty under the Law. Because of his youth, his Father could have chosen instead, to beat him with the rod as punishment and if he yielded and repented, his life could be spared. Otherwise, he would have been put to death and hung on a tree. [This punishment with rods was NEVER used on someone under the age of 12 and ONLY used on those who had committed very serious crimes.] Unfortunately, since Romans 3:23 tells us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, we ALL deserve to be beaten with rods and put to death. But, because Jesus was beaten with rods in our place, scourged and hung on a tree, we have forgiveness of sins. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and by his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The rest of Romans 6:23 tells us that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. This young man received correction from the Holy Spirit, instead of the rod. He received GRACE instead of the LAW and he chose to live under grace instead of going back to living the cursed life he was under. Every person must make this choice: “Today I call heaven and earth to witness against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse, therefore choose life, that you and your children may live.” (Deut. 30:19) If you have never made that decision, I encourage you to accept Jesus into your life today. Repent, just as this prodigal did, ask for forgiveness and invite Jesus into your heart and life to heal, restore and renew you. enter into a relationship with God. 

Verse 21-24
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ BUT THE FATHER said to his servants ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. And they began to celebrate.

This parable follows the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin which tell us that there is rejoicing in heaven and among the angels over one sinner who repents. This is a picture of that type of rejoicing. All children are created by God. All of us, just like sheep, have gone astray. This prodigal son returned to his father and there was great rejoicing. The moment He humbled himself, he was exalted. Here is a mini-lesson on these 4 verses to show just how this incredible teaching applies to our lives:

1. The Robe Represents God’s Anointing
The robe represents being honored, being clothed in righteousness and power.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, Isaiah 61:10

And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49

Just like Joseph, Daniel, Elisha, and even Jesus, when we come to our Father, we receive a robe that shows we are the true Sons of God and heirs of the kingdom.

2. The Ring Represents Authority
On that day…I will make you like My signet ring, for I have chosen you." This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.  Haggai 2:23

A signet ring represents the seal and authority of the King. When we become heirs with Jesus, we receive authority to act as God’s representatives.

3. The Sandals Represent Being Sent Out
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16:15

How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who proclaims salvation, And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

Illustration:
Slaves were not given shoes. Shoes not only represent sonship, but the ability to come in to God’s presence and go out as His ambassadors. When we humble ourselves as servants, Jesus lifts our heads and calls us friends. My pastor has called these the “shoes of peace,” and he is very much correct because when Jesus sent the disciples out he told them to speak Peace first thing to every house they came to. And that is exactly what we are meant to do—to share the good news with everyone that they can have peace with the Father because of what Jesus did for us. We also preach the good news to ALL creation—meaning that we exercise spiritual authority over powers, principalities and spiritual forces of evil to bring the blessings of God’s Kingdom everywhere we go.

Application:
Thank God for the incredible honor to be his ambassador. Think of 3 practical ways you can represent God and bring the blessings of His kingdom to those around you. Ask God if there are any areas of your life where you need to be exercising spiritual authority over the enemy to close doors and take back ground he has stolen. God has honored us. List 2 ways that you can honor someone in your everyday life to show them the kind of dignity, honor, compassion and respect the Father showed the prodigal son. List 3 ways that you can honor prodigals when they show up on the doorstep of the church. Pray for a prodigal that God would grant them freedom from harmful spiritual influences and would send people into their lives to minister to them. Ask God to speak to them and call out to them and miraculously intervene in their lives to reveal his goodness to them.


And Now, THE REST OF THE STORY.....

Part 2: The Other Son

Verse 25-28
Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound. But he became angry and was not willing to go in...

The older son was the firstborn. He can represent anyone who has grown up religiously who becomes jealous of a new believer and the attention they are getting. Earlier in chapter 15, we learn that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who need no repentance. It was his joy, right and privilege to join the celebration, but instead, he covets the attention being given to his newly restored brother and angrily refuses to enter in and join the family. It is worth noting that dancing is seen here as an appropriate means of celebration when a person returns to their Father, God. One of the principles taught in the parable of the laborers is that those who serve God will receive the same wages, the same eternal reward which is heaven and being in the Father's Presence, whether we are saved young or old, spend a lifetime serving him or a few short years. All believers will be at the great celebration in heaven.

Verse 28-32
...and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours, and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might make merry with my friends, but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him. And he said to him, Son you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.

The older brother can be shown to represent religious leaders and even the nation of Israel as a whole. Israel had always had God's commandments, while the Gentiles did not, though all were rightfully His children (Acts 17:8), the Gentiles had chosen to act in evil ways and become sons of the evil one instead. Most prostitutes were cult prostitutes and a goat was the sacrifice that was used in the wild parties, or Bacchanales of the ancient fertility cult. This cult manifested as Ba'al worship and then as Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. This mention, along with the tending to pigs, shows how thoroughly Hellenized, or Greek, the prodigal son had become. He was living as a pagan. I believe the older brother is intentionally referencing the fact that he, himself has not participated in such activities. This is more than simply a complaint about not celebrating with his friends, He is emphasizing his own piety. The claim that he had never broken a commandment is false because Romans 3:23 says that "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." This brother represents Jews who rely on good works and the law for their salvation, instead of grace and this passage paints a picture of how many Jews rejected Gentile believers, refusing to celebrate their acceptance by God. This is a very hypocritical position, since the nation of Israel had very much gone astray and committed all of the same sins as their pagan counterparts. The Old Testament presents the story of Israel, as God's prodigal son, going astray and prophesies God's plan of redemption and reconciliation. Even the Pharisees of Jesus' day, had dark hearts and secret sins. He called them whitewashed tombs--beautiful on the outside, but rotten internally. Even one failure to follow the law is breaking God's covenant. No one can come into the Father's house except by grace. The older son could no more claim perfection than the nation of Israel could. Even in this instance, the Father comes to plead with the older son to enter in. This is the position He takes with unbelieving Jews today, who have been cut off from their own family tree through stubborness and hardness of heart. This passage shows that God's promises still stand true for Israel, but they must choose to accept the Father's invitation and enter in to the celebration. Just like any person who has grown up in church, but never accepted Jesus as saviour, the unsaved Jews, the nation of Israel has become like the older brother, standing outside of the Father's house, refusing to enter in. 

As believers, it is not our position to judge who is worthy of hearing the good news of salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:6 says: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Jesus has provided the way for us to be reconciled with the Father and He has judged all people worthy of hearing the message and being given the opportunity to accept the invitation and be welcomed home. It is not our place to point fingers, throw past sins and accusations at them in front of the father and say unworthy--it is our place to celebrate and welcome new believers home in the same way that we were welcomed home. They have been rescued, forgiven and given a clean slate, just as we have been saved and forgiven. 



Monday, September 7, 2015

Identity Theft: Who are you...really?

Our true identity is a precious thing. The Bible says that if we trust in Jesus, we are God's children who are dearly loved and longed for, chosen and redeemed. We are called citizens of heaven, God's representatives on this earth, priests and kings. Satan is terrified of us finding out who we really are and what we are meant to become. He will tell us all sorts of lies to make us forget who we are and to cause unbelievers to continue rejecting God. We should not be unaware of his schemes. 2 of his main strategies for identity theft are: 


1. To tell people lies about who God really is 


2. To tell people lies about who they really are 

He uses these lies to cause people to fall short of fulfilling God's calling and purpose for their lives, or to cause them to reject Jesus and their identity in Christ entirely and to choose him instead. I invite you to read on and explore an example of how he tried to steal the identities of 4 Hebrew boys and what happened when they remembered who they really were and claimed their true identity.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul says: 
I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.”  

One very clear example of this scheme of Identity Theft is found in the book of 
Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-6:

In 605 B.C., after Nebuchadnezzar’s first conquest of Jerusalem, He ordered that young men from Israel of royal descent be brought to Babylon to be educated. Among them were 4 boys from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. When these boys arrived, they were given new names.

If we take a look at how these boys were renamed when they were hauled off to Babylon, we can see the lies the enemy tries to tell us and by studying their true names, we can see who they really were, what they meant to God and most importantly, we can catch a glimpse of who God really is and what he is really like. I will be including some New Testament passages to help us make an application of these Biblical truths.

HANANIAH
Hananiah was renamed Shadrach. His new name was actually a false prophecy over his life. It meant "I am very fearful of God." His true name means "Yahweh is gracious," Jewish teachers love to use the hinting method, to quote part of a passage of scripture in order to bring the whole thing to mind. This phrase should bring to mind this often quoted passage: 

"Yahweh is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding (overflowing) in faithful lovingkindness" 

While it is true that God had punished the nation of Israel, He had supernaturally preserved all of those who trusted Him by promising through the prophets that those who did not resist the Babylonians would be spared their lives. God was already miraculously protecting these Judean boys before they ever arrived in Babylon. The judgement that had come upon Judah was an answer to the prayers of the faithful, calling out for help and God dealt graciously with those who trusted him even in the midst of judgement on the nation. This lie called "Shadrach" was an attempt to undermine his faith, trust and confidence in God. His true name told Him who God really was, that HE was reliable, the HE was faithful and that HE was compassionate.
While we respect God, as His children we do not have to be afraid of Him. In the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 16 this is written: 

Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.(Hebrews 4:16)

AZARIAH
Azariah was renamed Abednego, which means Slave of Nebo--a false God. The message contained in this name means--you are a slave and you will never be set free. Because Nebo was a moon god, and the moon goddess is Sin. This name is like saying "you are a slave to sin" and will never be set free. But his true name, Azariah means "Yahweh has helped." It means God HAS helped us, He IS helping us and He WILL help us in the future. His true name told Azariah that God was on HIS side, helping Him. Here are some Scriptures about that illustrate how this truth applies to all of our lives: 

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart...You have been set free from sin.....Romans 6:18

Helping is an essential aspect of God’s character. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John 14:16

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. Psalm 91:15

Azariah’s true name told him that if he cried out to God, He would be faithful to help, just like Hananiah’s true name told him that God would be gracious and compassionate.

MISHAEL
Mishael was renamed Meshach which means "I am of little account." His new name meant that he did not matter, that he was worthless. But the truth is, he was a treasure. Daniel carefully records that Nebuchadnezzer took some of the vessels, or treasures of the house of God and took them to the house of his god. But the true vessels of the house of God, Yahweh's true treasures are not gold and silver bowls or implements--those things are just symbols, a representation. PEOPLE are his true treasures and the vessels that carry His Presence as the following verses demonstrate:

For you are a holy people to Adonai your God—from all the peoples on the face of the earth, Adonai your God has chosen you to be His treasured possession. –Deuteronomy 7:6

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Matthew 13:44)

Just like these 4 boys, believers are the treasure, Jesus gave all that he had for us. That’s how much we are worth to him. 

1 Timothy 2:4 says that God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

2 Peter 3:9 says “He is being patient for your sake, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. “ 

No one is worthless to God:

Therefore, if ANYONE cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21

We are the vessels that carry God’s Presence, just like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah WERE the true vessels of the house of God.

The enemy wanted Mishael to feel worthless because he knew what God these boys represented. Satan wanted to undermine his trust by making him feel unworthy of God's time, attention and efforts--like He wasn't worth saving. But His true name means "Who is what God is?" Put that another way--There is NO ONE like MY GOD!!! Mishael clung to the truth. His name also points us to another passage of scripture by use of the hinting method

“Who is a God like You pardoning iniquity, overlooking transgression, for the remnant of His heritage? He will not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us. He will subdue our iniquities, and You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will extend truth to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, that You swore to our ancestors from the days of old.” –Micah 7:18-20

THE TEST
In Daniel chapter 3, the boys are faced with a decision. They were told to either bow down and worship an idol, or be thrown into a blazing fiery furnace. They took a stand: 

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” 

How could they show such amazing chudzpah? When we're facing tough situations, it's good to know what God's word says about it. Perhaps words like these gave them courage and strength: 

"I will be with you...When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flame burn you." -Isaiah 43:2 

"You will come as far as Babylon. There you will be rescued. There will Adonai redeem you from the hand of your enemies." -Micah 4:10  

These young men knew that they were really worshippers of the one true God and God showed up to save them out of the fiery furnace, giving us a picture of the extraordinary measures He will take to show us what we are worth to Him: 

“So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out from the middle of the fire…not a hair of their head was singed, nor were their robes scorched, nor was there a smell of fire on them” 

Not only did they come through their fiery trial unharmed, these men were promoted. They had already been appointed as administrators over the province of Babylon, after they won their first trial by refusing to eat unclean foods and now, because their identity was firmly grounded as Israelites, God’s chosen people, they refused to be stripped of their true identity and were promoted even higher.

DANI-EL
Daniel's new name, Belteshazzar, meant "Lady protect the king," it is also translated as the treasurer of Bel. It meant that he was owned by Bel, that He served Bel, that he was supposed to protect this false god and perhaps, worst of all, it meant that he was less than a man. His name meant that he was a slave who was less than a man, bound to a false god, But Daniel's true identity showed who he really was. Daniel means "God is my Judge" and I am all that He says I am. Only God could judge him. In Daniel 10:11 he was addressed as one dearly loved or highly esteemed. God’s favor was so strong on Daniel that he was made ruler over the province of Babylon and chief among the wise men under King Nebuchaddnezzar. Ultimately, it was Daniel’s influence and position of authority that allowed him to turn over Babylon to the armies of Cyrus, who would be the one to issue an edict allowing the Jews to return home and to begin rebuilding the temple. You see, Cyrus had 2 names as well, he was also called Darius. This is the king who loved Daniel so much—this Daniel whose careful oversight had allowed his people to prosper, even in exile. Daniel’s wisdom, influence and willingness to be used by God was instrumental in bringing down one of Satan’s most powerful strongholds on earth—Babylon--and in allowing his people to return to the promised land. Daniel’s identity was so undeniable that even pagan kings and rulers recognized that he had “an extraordinary spirit in Him” and proclaimed the greatness of God. Dani-EL knew who he really was. He survived wicked bosses/ kings, awful circumstances, life in a pagan stronghold and difficult trials and prospered and overcame them all. He is one of the greatest overseers of God’s people and all because he knew who he really was.

These 4 boys refused to compromise their IDENTITIES. They were shown to be 10 times wiser than the most educated men in the world. They became important and influential leaders and were delivered in miraculous ways. They remembered who they really were--forming their identity based on who God really is—and were blessed and fruitful because of it. God used them in mighty ways to lead, govern, and watch over His people. 

Just like these 4 Hebrew men, We can overcome any circumstance, bringing God’s kingdom into the middle of any situation, when we know who we really are. 1 Peter 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:20, Galatians 4:7 begin to give us a clear picture of who we really are in Christ:



“So you are no longer a slave, but God's child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir …You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light …Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God is making his appeal through us…”

Application: Who are you, Really?:
If someone asks who you really are, do you know the answer now? Are you a believer who has invited Jesus to come into your life? Do you know that God loves you? Are there areas of your life where you need to take spiritual authority? Pray more? Be a more humble and grateful servant? Be light to the world? Help others? How does knowing your true identity affect your daily thoughts and actions?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10