New Identity: Be like God

Ephesians 4

Caitie has been writing all week on our identity in Christ, but as a busy Bible College student she needs the day off to concentrate on her other Bible responsibilities. She’ll be back tomorrow to finish off her series.

Today, let’s look at Ephesians 4 with an eye for who we are created to be – and a little bit of who we are NOT created to be. We don’t have to go far to start creating our list. In verse 1 Paul reminds us he is a prisoner – not an identity we usually strive for – but he wears it rather proudly as a prisoner for the Lord. We must remember to not seek to fit in with what the world may tell us is good and proper and respectable – but what GOD says. Are we living worthy of the calling we have received from God? Even if it puts us in a position that the world doesn’t commend?

What does He call us to be? COMPLETELY humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love (4:2), making EVERY effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (4:3). In other words – be nice. Put away prideful, rough and rude, easily irritated selfishness. There is no place for it in the church family. In any group or partnership made up of individuals it is easy to have the individual needs, wishes, personalities, selfish desires dominate. And, pretty soon, people aren’t playing nice. Paul reminds us of all the things we have in common with the other members of the body of Christ. ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE Hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all, and that God is the biggest and the best – remember that! (4:4-6). All on the same team – the BEST team. Don’t destroy yourself. You, the church, are ONE body – take care of it.

You all have different roles to play: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, etc… Don’t neglect yours. Do it the best you can, and appreciate others who are doing their role. Only when we are working together can we create a healthy, growing, maturing body becoming more and more like Christ. (4:11-13)

Wisdom will be needed. We don’t want to stay babes in the faith who are easily led astray. It will take work and wisdom to grow up. Beware of men and women (in and out of the church) who do not speak the things of Christ. Don’t let yourself, or your brothers and sisters, be deceived. Search for God’s truth. Know the truth – and share it – in a loving manner. “Speaking the truth in love.” (4:15).

Remember to ALWAYS keep Christ as the Head. It’s not about you – it’s about Jesus. Keep his mission, his vision, his voice, his dedication, his words, his wisdom, his passion, his love for God and others, his focus foremost. That’s the only way to be a church that brings glory to God. Keep God’s beloved Son as the Head. Do your part, support the other parts, and keep Christ as the Head. (4:15,16)

You will be surrounded by worldly people engaging in worldly ways. That is NOT who you are to be. Put off the old self with its wicked ways. Be the new person you were meant to be. Your new self was, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) That’s huge! My new identity is to be LIKE GOD! First we were told to be nice. Then we were told to keep Christ as our Head. NOW, we are told that our new identity is to be LIKE GOD. Not to be like God in His supreme power, majesty and sovereignty. We are not expected to become all-knowing and all-powerful like the Creator. We are told our new self was created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Do what God says is right and set yourself apart from the world. How’s our righteousness and holiness looking today? What tweaks – or major construction projects – can you and I begin today to become more and more Godly – by doing the right thing and by being set apart from the world?

Paul gives some suggestions.

Is there an area where we need to practice being more truthful to our neighbor (perhaps even to save their life)? Do it. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Is there an area where your anger is controlling you and leading you to sin? Stop giving the devil a foothold. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Is there an area where we need to replace harmful habits and lifestyles with time and energy spent doing good to benefit others? Stop leaving the work for others. Get busy helping others. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

Are there times when our mouths (and hearts) are full of unwholesome talk: put-downs, complaining, lies, swearing, negativity, coarse joking, or slander? What do we do and say that saddens God’s Holy Spirit? Stop it! Get rid of it! Replace it! Be nice. Be kind. Be compassionate. Forgive. Because you have also been forgiven. Become more like God and more set apart from this world.

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

-Marcia Railton

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at Bible Gateway here – Isaiah 1-2 (what can you find referring to the old and new self in Isaiah 1?) and Ephesians 4

Identity: Made in God’s Image

This week’s theme is all about our identity in Christ. In our modern society, we associate our identity with things like our name, age, what we look like and our personality. But in reality, our identity is not who WE say we are or even how the world perceives us. Rather, our identity is not WHO we are but WHOSE we are. Our identity is who God says we are. We’ll get into that in a little bit, but I first wanted to share a summary of why this topic resonates with me so much. So, let’s go on a little journey.

My biological parents got divorced when I was a toddler, so I was too young to remember any of that process. However, this granted my mom physical custody and my biological father weekend visitations. From my early childhood up until my pre-teen years, he was mostly in my life, but the consistency tapered off as I got older. When I did have visits with him, they were traumatic because of the choices he made. There were consistent patterns of irresponsible and violent behavior that resulted in me no longer having contact with him.

Through these experiences, I learned a lot about identity, even though I didn’t recognize that at the time. But in retrospect, I subconsciously sought out validation from other people and I placed my worth and my identity on the perceptions of others. I felt the need to prove something to this world and I got so exhausted trying to be liked and understood for who I thought I was. I didn’t understand until much later that my identity came from God, and that I could rest in Him knowing that I didn’t have to seek anything out from my peers or the World.

So, let’s go back to who God says we are. What is our true identity? Throughout the week, we will look at specific attributes of who God says we are, focusing on a unique one each day.

Today, we will concentrate on attribute number 1: We are made in God’s image. That means we reflect and display who He is. We’re not perfect like Him, of course, but we resemble and reflect Him because he made us with intention. But how do we go about bearing God’s image in our daily lives?

1) We are to reflect the fruits of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

2) We are to bring glory and honor to Him through our actions and genuine worship. (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31)

3) Jesus spoke and acted with the authority of his Father (Matthew 28:18) and therefore we are to reflect Jesus’ examples of love, ministry, compassion, obedience and sacrifice.

4) We should see people for how God sees them and love them as He does. Loving God and loving people is exactly how we achieve our Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) of making disciples of all nations.

5) Being in fellowship with other believers (Acts 2:42).

6) We rest in Him in order to lay our burdens at His feet and regain His strength so that we can fulfill our purpose (which will talk about tomorrow!).

-Caitie Wood

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway here – Ecclesiastes 9-10 and Galatians 5

Worship as an Identity

John 4 24

Free theme week: Worship
Chapter reading of the day: John 4

There are many names and titles that the church is given. We’re called the bride of
Christ, saints, children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, the body of Christ,
disciples of Jesus, and so on. However, there is another reference to the church in
John 4. In this chapter, Jesus and the Samaritan woman are speaking at the well. During their conversation Jesus makes this remark about worship: “But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be his worshippers. God is spirit and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth” – John 4.23-24. Biblical worship is worship that is so integrated into our life and weaved in through every aspect of our being that worship becomes our identity. We worship. That is who we are. And with being a worshipper we worship God in “spirit and truth”. The phrase “spirit and truth” has perplexed me for a long time. The last few years God has shown me what it means to worship him specifically “in spirit”. We are to worship God by the empowerment of the holy spirit. We worship God in and through and by means of the holy spirit. There is a spiritual aspect of worship that we can gain access to by the spirit. This could be prophetic utterances, words of knowledge, and having a very real sense of the presence of God near you during worship. At the same time we should worship God “in truth”. We should be careful not to let our experiences 100% determine what we believe about God. We should check our experiences with what the Bible says. We should engage our mind and reasoning faculties with God and the Bible. I believe that holistic worship is worship that is executed in “spirit and truth”. Jesus says that God desires true worshippers to worship him in spirit and truth. God doesn’t want a church-goer or someone who is defined by what they do in church. God desires a worshipper to worship him in spirit and truth. God wants worshippers. You are called to be a worshipper. Your identity is to be a worshipper. I pray that God moves on your heart and mine and calls us and teaches us to go deeper in worship. As I said in the beginning, living the best possible life God has for us in this world is inextricably tied to worship. You were created to worship with your whole being at all times in all seasons.
-Jacob Rohrer

Who I Am

l jones mon

“But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not ineffective…”

1 Corinthians 15:10

 

It is easy for us to focus on our inequities. It is easy to dwell on our shortcomings, failures, and insecurities. The truth is the world thrives on the failures of others. One’s shortcoming is another’s gain. The world tells us to find our worth in relationships, friendships, and our careers.

 

But, the truth is that we weren’t created to find sufficiency in any of these things. We were created to glorify God and follow in the footsteps of his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

I know it sounds cliché, but we can only find our true worth in God. He is the only one who looks at us, can count the hairs on our head, wipe the tears from our eyes, and see us for what we are actually worth.

 

We are who we are. God created each of us in a unique, precious way that should be celebrated. None of us are perfect. And, all of us will fail. But, it is important to realize that even though we haven’t earned it, the God we serve will give us grace and favor.

 

This week, we are going to dive into what it means to find empowerment and confidence in God. Because, when it comes down to it, we cannot experience true joy without him.

 

-Leslie Jones

Boldly Be His

Saturday –

Boldly Be His & Who He Made YOU to Be!

Let’s recap who you are.

You are a new creation in Christ, created with a purpose.

You are God’s masterpiece, His poem.

You are an overcomer!

Once we begin to see who God had in mind when He created us, and we agree with Him to lean in to that (as opposed to running from it), we are then able to start living boldly for Him.

One of the dominant themes of the book of Acts is the boldness of the believers.

A short aside here:  Boldness does not mean crazy, irrational, illogical, or rude behavior.

Boldness is when we truly know something and our actions are determined by that belief.  The Greek word translated as ‘boldness’ in Acts is “parrhesia” and it conveys the idea of confidence, assurance, courage and acting without fear.

Remember Peter, who we talked about the other day.  The early Peter was characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions.  (Example, “Hey Jesus, everyone else may abandon you but not this guy, not me.”…..Proceeds to deny knowing Jesus repeatedly).  Yeah, that guy.

BUT, not long after that, Peter preached one of the boldest messages in history and said things like, “You are a corrupt generation.  Turn from your sin, repent and get baptized!”  (Acts 3-4)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The word that’s translated ‘ordinary’ is the Greek word “idiotas.”

Any guesses what that means?

Yup, Peter and John were idiots.  Idiots for Christ.  So we could give the book of Acts the subtitle, “The Idiots Guide to Boldness.”

When’s the last time someone was amazed at your boldness?

I think we often put the cart before the horse when it comes to boldness.  We want so badly to be used by God, to serve, to be bold…that we run ahead.  The key is that boldness that accomplishes something, boldness that matters, comes from knowing who we were created to be.  It comes from everything we’ve been talking about this week.

Your boldness won’t mean anything if you don’t know who you are…or should I say, whose you are.

And if I can offer one bit of advice from someone a bit further down the road…this process is not quick.  As we seek Him, God reveals bits to us.  It’s a lifelong pursuit, not an assignment to check off of our to-do list.

But that’s also kind of cool.  That there’s always more to know, more ways to grow.

Praying for you to see yourself through His eyes.

-Susan Landry

 

Note:  These lessons this week were drawn from Craig Groeschel’s book, “Altar Ego”.  If you’re looking to read more on the subject, I highly recommend it.

 

A Change of Perspective

Thursday –

Romans 8-28

 

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Repeat after me:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

If you didn’t actually repeat after me, we’ll wait.  (No, I’m not kidding).  Say it.  Out loud.  If you really want to believe something, it can help to speak it out loud.  So let’s try it again:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

I’ve never made a tapestry, or any major work of art, but I can understand that those who do need to repeatedly take a step back to look at the big picture.  Just looking at the little area where the artist is currently working doesn’t allow for seeing how that bit fits with the rest of the piece.

A change of perspective can make all the difference.

When Joseph was being sold into slavery, being accused of committing a crime he didn’t commit or serving time in prison (Genesis 37, 39-41) I’ll bet he wasn’t thinking, “Hey perfect!  Slavery!  This is the next logical step in accomplishing my leadership vision!”

Of course not.  But what Joseph did do was use the gifts God had given him even in his distress.

Joseph had taken hold of God’s purpose for his life.  He believed that God had a plan for him.  But he still had to walk through very difficult experiences (for years) to see those plans fulfilled.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

How many things?

How many?

And who are you?

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  God made us to be overcomers, even when we don’t feel like it.

-Susan Landry

Who Are You?

Monday –

2 cor 5 17 sunrise

Do you ever feel like who you are is not really who you are?  Or maybe that you know you could be a better/different version of yourself, but aren’t sure how to find that person?

You know, all of us carry labels of some sort.  Maybe you’re the funny guy, or the smart girl, or the troublemaker.  Sometimes we may not feel like we totally deserve our label.  Like, maybe people see you as argumentative, but that’s not how you see yourself.  The fact is, right or wrong, we are all labeled in some way by those around us.

So…what’s your label?

Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist.  What is it?  How would people around you describe you?  What are you known for?

Got it in your mind?

  1. Now think this: What’s true about me now, doesn’t have to be true about me forever.

Our goal is not to reinvent ourselves by trying to be some perfect person.  It’s to uncover our true self as God created us.

Have you ever thought about that?  When God created you, he had the BEST version of you in mind.

And that is the version we need to be striving to become.  The best version of ourselves.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

We’re going to be looking this week at how we go about becoming who God says we are, who He had in mind when he created us.  So for today, remind yourself again that what is true about you now, doesn’t have to be true about you forever.  You can be a new creation!

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  Try to find examples in Scripture of times when God gave someone a new name.  Why do you think he did that?

-Susan Landry

Quit Something

Ezekiel 34-36

Ezekiel 34-36

Thursday, March 30

 

“It’s Thursday.  Quit being who you were.” – Bob Goff

 

Bob Goff, the author of “Love Does”, has a weekly ritual.  It’s called “Quit Something Thursday”.  Each Thursday, Bob Goff quits something to free up time or shake things up.  He has quit having an office.  He now works on a lobster boat he refers to as the Goffice.  He quit leaving phone messages to minimize the time that is wasted with the back and forth.  He throws away furniture, and has even resigned from the board of a non-profit charity.  Now the idea is not to back out of your prior commitments and become a wild-card liability for the people around you.  Instead, the idea is to give God room to show you something new. Bob Goff suggests quitting habits that keep us from being the best we can be.  On a more moderate scale, he suggests we might quit keeping score, quit sorting through our failures, or quit believing you are who you used to be.

 

So how does this relate to our reading today?  In Ezekiel 34 the sheep were scattered because the shepherd did not care for them; the shepherd only cared for himself.  However, we learn from Ezekiel 34:2-4 that it is the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the flock.  Instead, the shepherd “eat[s] the curds, clothe[s] [him]self with the wool and slaughtered the choice animals, but [he]did not take care of the flock. [He] did not strengthen the weak or heal the sick or bound up the injured.   [He has] not brought back the strays or searched for the lost” (Ezekiel 34:2-4).  The shepherds are too caught up in their own lives, their own ideas, their own health and fortune, that they lost sight of their purpose.  If not a shepherd, where is their identity? Thankfully God takes action and tells of the time when David (David’s line) will be the shepherd and God himself will be their God.  We see parts of the kingdom here on earth now, and we wait excitedly for the return of Jesus and the kingdom on earth.

 

We, too are shepherds tending to a flock.  As Christians who are no longer on milk, we have a flock to tend to.  We have a Church who needs us to show up in more ways than to simply fill a seat on Sunday.  As the shepherd cares for the flock, and strengthens the weak, we are called to do the same.

 

So the question becomes: what are you going to quit so that you can tend to your flock? Is your plate overfilled? How will you re-evaluate your obligations so that they align with your true priorities? It’s Thursday – quit something! I am going to quit washing my clothes because it takes up valuable time I could be investing in others…kidding mom, I really do wash my clothes.  But in all seriousness, I will quit placing so much emphasis on how others perceive me, and instead trust that the identity I have in Christ will carry me where I need to go.  What will you quit?

 

“We can’t change much if we don’t quit much” – Bob Goff

 

-Amber McClain

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