Divine Determination: Identity in Christ

by Mary Beth on May 18, 2022

 
 

“… we always live out of some kind of identity, and the identities we assign ourselves powerfully influence our response to life.  As people pursue the process of lifelong change, they need to live out of a gospel identity.”  

~ Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Who are you?  From where or who do you draw your true identity?  Since we’re all created in the image of God, we’re called to reflect His holy character and to imitate Him in daily life.    There’s many ways to answer this question.  Whether it is our individual upbringing, experiences, single or married, past or current struggles, hobbies or career, it’s common even trendy to think and actually believe these imprints or constructed words of identity define us.  We all have our preference to style, social status, race or culture but regardless of these choice’s or difference’s, they’re not sustainable for a strong foundation upon which to stand for our identity.

As a biblical believer, looking into the hope, face and life of Christ Jesus forms our understanding of our true selves with direct implications for our identity in Christ.   The primary overflow of a biblical believer will not center on outward religious activities for worth, value, acceptance and love but an inward reality, of wholehearted living for God’s glory and kingdom that responds to Christ in being adopted as a child of God, maturing into a disciple and ambassador for Christ.

Our Identity in Christ rises as a child of God~

It is through faith in Christ Jesus that God adopts us.  As J.I. Packer states in Knowing God, “Sonship to God, then, is a gift of grace.  It is not a natural, but an adoptive sonship, and so the New Testament explicitly pictures it.”  We receive a new status through the Son to become God’s children and experience becoming His child through the Holy Spirit.

“…God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.  Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

~Galatians 4: 4-7

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”   

~1 John 3:1,2

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has blessed us in the beloved.”    

~Ephesians 1:4-6,

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or husband’s will, but born of God.” 

~John 1:11-13

In His example, Jesus led and taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven…” ~Matthew 6:9, knowing that in returning to God for strength and sense of belonging, it would be central to remember that we live, move and have our being before our gracious Father. 

It’s good for my own soul to remember, a subtle temptation was also given to Jesus, to doubt his God given identity:  “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3)  The Devil will taunt, pester or aim to bring doubt, confusion or lack of confidence within the understanding of our identity in Christ.

Our Identity in Christ further develops as His disciple~

“…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.    What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  Luke 9:23-25

To become our true self, we must die to those parts of our selves that are not true.  To know and believe that our soul is in need of spring cleaning is one thing, yet to have the cleaning done is another matter.  Our faithful Shepherd will gently lead and guide us by the Spirit’s wise conviction and counsel to seek and further surrender ourselves in His work to sanctify and restore us.  In our walk with God and within true biblical community, the exercise of prayer, studying of scriptures, silence and solitude to name a few of the spiritual disciplines, will help us “speak the truth in love..” to one another to gain further understanding of our new identity in Christ and to faithfully walk it out in our everyday lives.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  2 Peter 1:3-8

Finally, our Identity in Christ in the joy of being co-workers, as His ambassador~

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”   2 Corinthians 5:17-21

How exciting to be invited by God to participate as co-workers for the Kingdom of God!  The purpose, adventure and joy He ignites in our hearts, while serving for His glory, is like nothing else in this life.  His love is better than life!  God’s heart and work is vast and boundless in vision, being gospel-centered and faithful with His gentle presence, yet strong to sustain us in His design often through true biblical community.   To be invited to partner with God and experience the joyful transformation of another soul through the powerful Word and Spirit of God, from the bondage in darkness to the freedom of light in Christ Jesus, is an honor and privilege of every child of God.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” 

~Matthew 28: 19, 20

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.  But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace…”   

~2 Timothy 1:8-10

Our identity in Christ calls forth a life of holiness within these three points of discipleship; we see a call to wholeness and fullness of life.  Each point of discipleship with our identity in Christ, be it as a child of God, a disciple and ambassador develops and builds within each other, not at the cost of one another.   As we grow in our faith into all its fullness through the gospel message that Christ Jesus died, was buried and rose again initiates our identity in Christ as a child of God, a disciple and ambassador, following the Lord who is our Shepherd.

 

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Confession and Repentance: Out of Darkness

by Mary Beth on March 31, 2021

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 “In our human nature, we’re masters of self-deceit.” R. C. Sproul

It is not natural for us as human beings
to be open with our struggles and sufferings.
We have an innate propensity to hide.

A healthy and mature gospel community,

walks in open, godly confession and repentance.

Such attitudes and acts continue throughout our lives as Christians.

We have the charge and honor to bear each other’s burdens in the darkest of times.

~Confession and repentance are never out of season.

In struggling with sin,

an invisible veil of confusion can cover our hearts and minds.

But through faith and persistence,

our hearts can break through barriers of shame to the beginning stages

of confession and repentance, towards healing and restoration.

We are all in need of the Spirit’s provision to renounce individual sin.

~Confession is a grace aided by guidance.

Genuine repentance involves a godly sorrow for specific and general sins.

In Rosaria Butterfield’s successful book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert,

she communicates a powerful and bold witness to the Spirit’s fruit from her unbelieving heart and lifestyle of sexual sin.

From a prominent professor teaching a secular worldview-

to a believer growing in Christ, Butterfield articulates the process of the

“hard edges and dark valleys” in her painful confessions and changed lifestyle.

The process of freedom she “experienced in coming face-to-face with the living God”  led her to say,

How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important.” 

Wow, I absolutely love this statement!

Rosaria’s honesty and vulnerability,

will challenge all Christ followers to such ruthless trust in God.

In a self-centered society of worldly priorities and shallow success,

it is refreshing to see a sincere confession,

accompanied by godly sorrow and genuine repentance.

~Repentance, like faith, is beyond an intellectual understanding.

We need the holy Scriptures to show us sin is wrong,

as well our need to God’s direction and guidance.

 
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow,
and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~Hebrews 4

We turn to Christ for salvation from our sin, yet we also turn from our sin.

The gospel of grace helps us do this.

In our repenting, we must ask ourselves

if we are making a genuine commitment to forsake sin.

To be open with our struggles and suffering,
is a call to come out of the darkness.
Out of hiding and into the light.
“…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with ne another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   1 John 1:5-9 & John 1:9-11 

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Chosen Friends

by Mary Beth on April 1, 2022

“{Pain} removes the veil, it plants the flag of truth within the

fortress of a rebel soul.”   ~C.S.Lewis

Lent is a sacred season, as

we remember our Lord Jesus,

our suffering Servant.

Jesus suffered as a thing to be despised; 

rejected by man, a man of sorrows,

 and familiar with suffering.

The Prince of Peace was perceived as

someone punished, struck by God and brought low.

Jesus suffered for us, Luther writes.

“Son to the mercy of sinners.” ~Is. 53:2-5 & Lam. 1: 12, 16, 21

*

-Jesus endured suffering.

Even His own disciples failed to understand His mission and kingdom rule of sacrificial love for God’s glory.

By their actions, they added to His pain.

-All the disciples left him and ran away. ~Matt. 26:56

Jesus loved enough to patiently endure this pain of betrayal.

Likewise as followers of Christ,

we’ll encounter painful trials of rejection,

betrayal, misunderstandings and

“bruising” from those closest to us;

even chosen friends.

*

-By His grace we’ll endure suffering.

As a writer and poet,

  writing Chosen Friends provided

a healing process for me,

 after a painful betrayal

experienced from a friend.

Through the obedient life of our great Shepherd;

His gentle and creative guidance,

specifically while observing Lent-

provided a balm that gently blew a

new perspective into my soul like none other.

From Genesis to Revelation,

we understand the painful depravity

experienced within our humanity.

Christ offers His example and strength to love patiently;

to endure trials through prayer, forgiveness, and

seek godly counsel to discern if our response

is wise or beneficial.

Reflecting on David’s prayer,

that our words and meditation would be pleasing to the Lord,

especially to navigate through challenging relationships

and in our society that encourages an

individualistic and bravado attitude.

Help me to understand such love and courage.

*

Chosen Friends

Chosen friends are but trouble,

Unless walking side by side.

The soul exposing an imposter; a double.

Truth that sharpens, cuts and divides.

Many claim boldly to love.

Offering a shadow of service,

What is the kiss?

Betrayal or an honest answer?

Conditional, upon the well they sip.

God of all comfort & compassion oversee,

A boldness must breathe, rest and plea,

Content in our deeper soul, I pray.

Mighty Warrior of the soul,

Tear the veil;

chip away, and awaken our hearts.

Reign through your beauty and art.

                                                                     ~mba

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“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, 
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
                     ~2 Corinthians 3: 17
*

-Perseverance of the Saints

“Therefore, my brothers, therefore, sisters dear,
However I, troubled or selfish,  
fail in tenderness, or grace, or service clear,
I every moment draw to you more near;
God in us from our hearts veil after veil
Keeps lifting, till we see with his own sight, And all together run in unity’s delight.”
~George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

The gospel message of Christ,

the sacrifice of His life and death on the cross,

speaks volumes about God and His gracious offer both of

forgiving love, and His serious wrath to all sin.

Both love and wrath meet at the cross.

Both mercy and grace join together at the cross of Christ.

God’s tenacious love, truth and merciful call

for our obedience to be holy, will show forth as fruit on a tree.

Job personally and painfully experienced this costly truth,

which sharpened his soul among friends.

*

As Rabbi Abraham Heschel states: 

“Faith like Jobs cannot be shaken

because it is the result of having been shaken.”

Our experiences of betrayal or trials

are significant and painful struggles.

Suffering presents a theater of questions

that perhaps encircle our beliefs;

often to potentially shake the foundation of our faith.

How might we be hopeful when the winds blow,

or when we feel like we’re drowning, or the skies darken?

We will stumble. We will err. We will fall. We will grieve.

As Job, how might we learn from the wrestle,

to grow our trust in God’s providential love and watchful care?

To trust within the deep waters,

the hard to understand questions of the soul.

Questions flood into our minds and hearts with a force like an

ocean wave, regarding suffering and His sovereignty;

questions about our eternal God who sees,

knows, and hears all things.

We must encourage one another in His multitude of mercies,

to be among the perseverance of the saints.

Then we’ll proclaim as Job,

“I know that my Redeemer lives.”

*

 “How painful are honest words! 

Does he not see my ways and count my every step?

       If I have walked in falsehood or my foot

has hurried after deceit

—let God weigh me in honest scales and

He will know that I am blameless

                     –if my steps have turned from the path,

if my heart has been led by my eyes,

or if my hands have been defiled,

                      then may others eat what I have sown.”

                                                                       ~Job 6:25, 31: 4-8

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Justice is Turned Back

January 18, 2022 Discipleship

“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stand far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” Is. 59:14,15. Isaiah’s prophecies from the Living Word are just as relevant today. Scripture continues to resonate belief through a living […]

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