DAY 41 - Missing Your Identity in Christ

Am I sensing more of my identity coming from Christ, as I put His words into practice?

21 He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

INSIGHT:  Think of all the sermons and books we hear/read on the importance of having our identity in Christ.  Who we think we are (our identity), determines how we will live and behave.  So, where does our identity come from before we know Jesus? Is the answer in counseling, recovery groups, good family or friends, books or positive affirmation?

I remember when I was seven years old feeling a real sense of fear that I was going to lose my best friend to another boy, who had just about everything a little better than me.  I was so young and I already had a message subconsciously burning in my head; “You don’t measure up; you will be rejected and replaced.” Our own carnal imaginations can do quite a number on us, but I am also convinced that evil spirits target young children with lies.  After the lie was planted in my mind, there were betrayals and abandonments that provided evidence to make the lie seem true.  I didn’t have anyone to tell me the truth about who I was in Christ, so who was determining my identity?  Who is in control of the whole unredeemed world (1 Jn 5:19) and who leads the whole world astray (Rev 12:9)?  It’s clear in Scripture that until we remain in Christ through obedience to Him, our identity is being determined by Satan and the world system he rules.  He can use evil spirits to inject thoughts into our minds (1 Sam 18:10, 1 Kings 22:22, Jn 8:44, 13:2, Acts 5:3), and he can use the disobedient around us to hurt us and thus shape us.  I remained insecure even as an adult and even after much “Christian” counseling (which only provides temp results if any) until late 2009.  There is only one way to find your identity in Christ, and it has nothing to do with running to a counselor or books.  Imagine this scenario, Jesus walks up to call one of His disciples and they say to Him, “Sorry Jesus, I had a pretty ugly and dysfunctional childhood—let me go get some “Theophostic” counseling and inner healing and then I’ll be able to follow you.”  Can you even imagine how that would sound to Jesus?  Some incorrectly believe, “But you can’t just give people the straight word of God—you have to first meet people where they are at.” Really???  Would Jesus agree with that?  Would we tell Him that the living Word of God isn’t enough to help PTSD, but some new technique from a man made of dust gets it done?  Most Christian counseling is based primarily on secular Psychology and then just wrapped with a few verses of Scripture.  Would God honor a vehicle the devil built just because it has a Jesus fish on the back?  There is no such thing as inner healing by the aid of man-made methods in Scripture.  The Psalmists trusted God and His word alone for their healing, and so have the millions that lived before some secular psychologist created “counseling” just decades ago. What of the people before then?  Were they just out of luck?  When we don’t know the truth, or we don’t want to hear it, we run to men to scratch our itching ears and we get a placebo, but never lasting results.  People need discipleship and Biblical counsel, not counseling. When I finally stopped looking for answers from man, or clever techniques from counselors, and instead I got intentional about obeying His teachings, my life changed dramatically.  Christians don’t have to allow their circumstances to define them.  Christians are to receive their identity from Christ alone, but this does not happen by positive confession or daily self-talk.  The only way to find our “identity in Christ” is for Him to impart his identity to us by his grace (power).  Jesus does this when we turn from our sins (repent) and begin obeying Him.  He then puts His Spirit inside of us (Christ living in us), and we are able to live in and for Him the rest of our lives. (1 John 3:24, 2 Tim 1:14, Rom 8:9-10, 2 Cor 13:5-6)

Before you go to any counseling that is not strictly based on the word of God, read Jeremiah 17:5-8

DAY 40 - Doing the Will of God

Am I intentionally adding obedience to the words of Christ, to my genuine faith in Him?

21  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23  Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!' 24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

INSIGHT:  I think of the thousands that go to the “revivals” of false prophets and get sucked into the false signs and miracles being done in the name of Jesus, but which are being done by the power of the devil.  There were the “fire tunnels” and “glory clouds” at Bill Johnson’s church in Redding, CA, the being “slain/jerking uncontrollably” at the Todd Bentley meetings and Jesus Culture concerts, the gold teeth fillings, gold dust showing up on pastors, manna and precious stones “falling” from heaven, and thousands of false prophesies and so called words of knowledge.  It makes me indignant to see people get sucked into the devil’s traps so easily, because I too almost got sucked into it.  I started going to a Charismatic church and was introduced to videos of all this supernatural stuff and supposed “revivals” happening at certain churches.  It was fascinating at first and I began to wonder if I was missing out on something (Just like Eve in the garden).  I even said, “Lord, if I’m missing anything you have for me, I want it, so I can do your work.”

A friend of mine once told me that 99% of the truth is the biggest lie.  This is the devil’s best strategy—wrap the deadly lie in so much truth that you cannot detect it (Rat poison is 98% nutritious).  Shortly after seeing the videos, I began listening to the podcasts of some of these teachers.  Ninety-nine percent of the teaching was true and powerful; then came the deadly 1%.  There was a gross twisting of key passages and doctrines that I knew no real man of God could possibly believe.  It was a grievous perversion, but you had to really listen to a lot of teaching to hear it.  I was so thankful for the thousands of hours of study time I had put in the Bible.  It’s as if God forces the false prophets to leave clues of their true nature, but it often calls for Berean style diligence (Acts 17:11) to see them.  This is why we have to stop allowing our pastors to do our studying for us.  After all my study on this subject, here is my very top safety tip.  As soon as you go to a certain church, a certain teacher/pastor, a certain crusade, or a certain conference looking for a miracle, or to see the supernatural, you are likely headed towards evil!  In the Kingdom of God, your job is to seek and love God through obedience, and to trust Him to bring the supernatural if He chooses.  Don’t ever go looking for the supernatural.  As soon as a person tries to bypass intentional obedience to the words of Christ, and instead tries to go get filled with the Spirit, or find their miracle, they are going to meet with evil spirits who will gladly put on a supernatural show for you, take over your life, and totally ruin you.  
  
To me, this is one of the scariest and most important of all of Jesus' teachings for the church culture we are living in now.  I think of the shock when so many “Christians” stand before Christ and find out that they are going to hell, not heaven.  This sobering passage reminds me to ask, “Am I intentionally practicing His teachings and do I have evidence that He actually knows me and that His Spirit is truly in me, or am I just a religious groupie, supernatural hound, or grace chaser?”

DAY 39 - Grace vs. Law

Am I intentionally practicing the commands of Christ and teaching them to others?

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

INSIGHT:  I met an award winning Christian video producer over coffee one time.  I shared my testimony of how my relationship with God became extraordinary when I got intentional about obeying the commands of Christ.  He grew up in a very religious home here in the Bible belt.  He saw legalistic righteousness, apart from an actual loving relationship with God, and so the idea of obedience seemed repulsive to him.  As a result, he had run to the grace movement and wanted me to know a few reasons why I should probably lighten up. I walked away sad, knowing here was another man who the devil was able to cut off from a personal relationship with God, by perverting the concept of obedience to Him. We can’t know God without intentionally obeying Him (1 Jn 2:3-6).  

Have you ever been confused on this whole issue of grace vs keeping the law, etc.? In order to be in relationship with God and to go to heaven, we have to be in right standing with Him (righteousness).  In the OT, righteousness came from obeying all of God’s laws (Deu 6:25).  However, because of their sin nature, they were not able to keep the law consistently and there were constant breaks in the relationship.  Their sin could be forgiven by God through animal sacrifices, but they were not able to completely remove their sin or guilty conscience which still impeded their worship and their relationship with God (Heb 10:1-4).

Think of it like this.  The Law of Moses, with all of its regulations and rules, were intended to be like keep out fences around sinfulness. However, because of our sin nature, the Law makes people want to sin even more, (Rom 7:8) making them slaves to sin (Rom 7:14).  But, the righteousness that comes from Christ not only cleanses us from all past guilt (Heb 10:22), but gives us a new nature (born again), setting us free from sin, making us slaves to righteousness (Rom 6:16-18).  When we are born again, The Holy Spirit lives in us, and as we surrender to Him, He fills us and empowers us. He not only gives us a burning internal desire to live godly, rather than just the old external pressure of the Law, on a guilty conscience and an unchanged sin nature.  A “Christian” that still struggles with living in sin, like Paul struggled with under the law (Rom 7:14-20), before he was born again and set free by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:2), should consider that they may not yet be truly born again.  A guilty conscience and a desire to do good is not evidence of being born again.  Even sinners can feel guilty because right and wrong is written on their hearts (Heb 10:16). However, a truly born again Christian is no longer controlled by the sinful nature (Rom 8:9-10).  Yes, we still have a sin nature that wants its way and creates conflict (Gal 5:17), but it is to be considered dead (Rom 6:11, 15-18) because it is over powered by the Spirit. Christians can still be tempted to occasionally sin, but they will not be able to stay in it, enjoy it, or keep returning to it. (1 Jn 3:9, 5:18)  The Bible warns us much about not being “Carnal Christians” who end up missing out on heaven, in spite of how much false teaching tries to twist the Scriptures saying it’s ok (Mat 5:29, Rom 8:6-9, Gal 5:19-21, 6:8, Heb 10:26-27, Titus 1:16,  Jude 1:4).  Yes, Jesus did abolish the external regulations like circumcision, festivals, sacrifices, don’t touch, don’t eat, etc. (Eph 2:15, Col 2:20-23) but we are still required to uphold the moral law of God (Rom 3:31) and we have an obligation to live by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13) and grow up into our salvation (Heb 6:11-12, 1 Pet 2:2).

Day 38 - Dare to Obey God

Do I realize that true Life comes not from food, but from God, to those who obey his words?

1  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  2  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  3  The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."4  Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

INSIGHT:  With God’s permission, and by His will, Satan had just tempted Jesus to disobey God.    Satan tempts Him to provide for Himself by turning a stone into bread, at His weakest moment.  Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3, where we see the context is obedience to God’s word, not just hearing it or reading it.  Jesus is saying that it’s more important for Him to trust and obey God than it is to satisfy His deep hunger.  (See also John 4:31-34.) 

Satan tempts us to solve our problems or to place our personal comfort or desires ahead of God’s will, because it robs Him of His glory.  God knows our every hurt and need, and even though it is hard, we can trust Him while we do what He has told us to do.  Don’t let Satan tempt you to make his will for your life more important than God’s will for your life.  Satan attacks your thoughts, but his goal is to get you to act, to get you outside of God’s will.

Not too long after the divorce started, I was tempted to save myself in a big way.  I had tremendous financial need and was eager to get back to a decent income, to pay my child support, and to start putting my life back together.  Through a chance meeting at the 2011 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, I met a man who offered me a $150k a year job just a few weeks later.  Before I could even make the first phone call to a friend, God confirmed He wanted me to stay put and say no to the job.  Someone might say, “What’s wrong with taking a job—we are supposed to work or, what’s so wrong with eating some bread when you’re hungry?”  It’s wrong because it’s rebellion against God, if He has said to do otherwise.  We might imagine the devastatingly bad consequences if Jesus had failed that test of His faith (not that He could even do that).  However, I could have failed, and I have failed tests of my faith before.

Unknown to me at the time, God would one day use my “staying put” to shape me and train me for a ministry that would encourage many suffering hearts.  Even now, as I look at what God had already done, I already see a huge cost that would have resulted, had I not resisted the idea of saving myself with that job.

I have suffered a great deal by denying myself, and obeying God, when it didn’t make any sense, but that was only temporary discomfort.  The blessings in my heart are still coming every day!