Friday, May 13, 2016

Corpse Alive (Inseparable Chapter 3)

In Christ, I am alive.

When I accept the power of Christ into my life, I am no longer dead to sin.  I am alive by Him dwelling within me.  I have the presence of Christ Himself inside of me.  Because of His presence, my focus can be on the work of the Spirit, not on my fallen, corrupt nature.  Romans 8:6-7 tells us, "A mind focused on the flesh is doomed to death, but a mind focused on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.  You see, a mind focused on the flesh is declaring war against God; it defies the authority of God's law and is incapable of following His path."  I had to read those words a couple of times before it really sank in.  A mind focusing on the Spirit will find full life and complete peace.  A mind focused on the flesh is declaring war against God.  When I am focused on the wrong things--the things that are not of God--I am declaring war against God.  I do not want to be a person on the wrong side of any war that involves God.  That will not turn out well for me.  That concept reinforces my perspective that my righteousness matters.  But it's not about the rules or the is about our heart.  The condition of my heart is where my righteousness comes from.  If I am alive in Christ, then I should desire to do what pleases Him.

"When we are without Christ, we are dead.  How do we come to recognize we are dead inside?  Only one who has been brought to life can tell another dead soul what it is like to be revived."  This is why our personal testimonies are so important.  Our resurrected souls can share our stories of how we are alive again and can impact other people.  We need to use our own experiences to keep pointing people back to God.  

The next section deals with life after our souls have been resurrected.  We are no longer dead to sin but we are alive in Christ.  So why do we continue to focus on all the ways we have sinned in our lives?  "It can be really easy to be preoccupied with our sinful nature even though we've been rescued from sin's ultimate consequences.  It is true that we will struggle against temptation for the rest of our lives...But what bothers me is how often we continue to view ourselves only as sinners."  That is such a good point.  I am a sinner.  I do mess up more frequently than I like to admit.  I still struggle in so many ways.  But I am a lot more than the sum total of my sins.  I am alive in Christ.  I have the embodiment of the Spirit living in me.  We are new creations with abundant life.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly."  We need to stop focusing on our sins and focus on all the we can do through the power of Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).

So what do we do with those sins, mistakes, and other flaws in our lives?  Ignore them?  Pretend like they never happened?  That is my natural response, but God can use those very areas of our lives in order to reach someone else. Although it isn't easy, we can pray for God "to use our past mistakes as tools for justice and goodness in this world."  I love that phrase.  "Tools for justice and goodness" makes me feel like a superhero ready to rescue the world!

The Bible character in this chapter is Lazarus.  It is a familiar section, but there was a new application for me here.  Lazarus was dead.  Completely dead and buried in a tomb for four days.  When Jesus raised him back to life, he called for those around him to help him get unwound from the grave clothes.    He couldn't do it by himself.  "When Jesus raises our souls from the dead, sometimes there are things about our old, dead life that are trying to hold us back.  We need help getting untangled, and that's part of why our new lives are meant to be lived alongside other believers.   We need to leave the things that wrapped us when we were dead where they belong--in the grave.  We are in Christ now, and instead of grave clothes, we are tangled up in His grace, mercy, and redemption.  We are alive."

Here are some ides that stood out to me in Romans 5.  We are to celebrate in times of suffering because it produce endurance, and that shapes our character.  From that we can learn to hope and anticipate God's goodness (v. 3-4).  We have grace--and have it abundantly--through the legacy of Jesus Christ (v. 17).  Although we don't aspire to be sinners, God's grace is more.  No matter how much sin creeps in, there is always more grace (v. 20).

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and I am in now way being compensated for this post.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Made Right (Inseparable Chapter Two)

 "Made Right."  I love the name of this chapter.  It holds a double-meaning for me.  I am "Made Right," as in I am made correctly, perfectly, exactly as He wanted me to be.  No mistakes there.  This is near and dear to my heart as it was the theme of my #write31days project last October.  The second meaning is more what the author Ashley Linne intended in this context.  I am "Made Right," as in I am right with God.  Christ's blood covers me so that I am not separated from God.  His sacrifice makes me right as it washes away my sins.

We are fallen creatures in a fallen world.  On our own, we can never be right with God.  Only through the Anointed, the Liberating King can we be justified.  "But that ability has not come from living by our fallen nature; it has come because we walk according to the movement of the Spirit in our lives" (Romans 8:4).

The next section talks about Eve.  Ashley states, "Somewhere along the way Eve forgot who she was. In fact, she forgot who God was because somewhere in her heart she started thinking He was holding out on her."  Sometimes I think Eve gets too easily blamed for her sins.  After all, if she hadn't eaten that piece of fruit, then we would all be better off, right?  But today I am thinking about it like this: Eve (and Adam) lived in a perfect world and walked in the garden of Eden with God, and yet they still had doubts and insecurities.  Satan knew just where to poke and prod them to get them to fall.  How much more will he know where and how to attack us?  His biggest trick is to convince us to take matters into our own hands instead of trusting God.

Sin in our lives is going to happen.  It is inevitable.  That is why we need Jesus so much.  He is the One--the only One--in all of mankind who never sinned.  I can't even fathom what that would look like. Jesus never back talked his mother for that would be dishonoring her.  He never gossiped about his fellow carpenters for that might be bearing false witness.  He never put anything or anyone between him and God the Father for that would be having an idol.  No sins.  Ever.

Because of His perfect nature, He was able to be the perfect sacrifice for us.  He loves us so much that He didn't want us to be separated from God, even though it meant He would have to be through His death on the cross.  "Jesus gave everything of Himself so I could had everything of Him.  Not just a 'get out of hell free' card, but a destiny, an identity, a purpose, a brotherhood... a life."  Salvation is so much more than an absence from hell's gateway.  I think some people miss the importance of that.

In the next section, Ashley Linne talks about how our reconciliation is already complete.  Jesus did it.  We cannot do it on our own.  "There is no way we could ever make amends with God on our own, and we need to allow ourselves to enjoy the freedom that brings our souls.  I hope you have felt the sweet relief of having the weight lifted off your shoulders through His forgiveness.  Don't go back and pick up baggage you have already left behind."  Man, that had a lot of weight for me.  Don't go back and pick up baggage you have already left behind.  Ouch!  How many times have I done that?  Leave it in the dust; don't keep going back for it and quit carrying it around.  Lay it down already!

In each chapter, Ashley ties the trait she is describing to someone in the Bible.  Abraham was made right with God by his faith and his faith alone.  Not his good works, not his striving to do the right thing, but simply by believing God.  God said, "I have a plan for you, Abraham."  And Abraham said, "Let's do it."  That's my paraphrase, of course, but that's essentially what transpired.  Romans 4:3 says, "What does Scripture say?  Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  So what does it take for you and me to be righteous?  To do the same thing as Abraham:  to believe God and follow His plan.

Here are some standout moments for me from Romans 3.

God is faithful.  He does not change.  No matter how unfaithful or untrustworthy we as individuals are, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  "If every person on the planet were  a liar and thief, God would still be true" (v. 4).  The purpose of law is not to be a set-by-step plan for becoming right in God's eyes; the law was designed to show us how much we need a Savior (v. 20).  All have sinned and fail to reach God on their own ( v. 23).  We are saved and redeemed through the grace that only comes from Jesus the Anointed (v. 24).  We are made right through faith and not deeds (v. 28)

In Christ, we are... made right.

The opinions expressed are my own, and I am in no way being compensating for this post.