Happy 2017! I hope your year is off to a great start!
And if it’s been not-so-great, I hope and pray Jesus speaks some encouragement to your heart, and that you experience His love and peace today.
Maybe this little blog of mine could be the way in which you are encouraged by Christ, as over the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about our identity in Christ and what it looks like to live in that identity.
Who we are, who we believe we are, directs how we live. Satan would have us believe that we are the total of our experiences, our actions, and our emotions.
If we’ve experienced rejection or betrayal, then we are worthless.
If we mess up or make a mistake, then we are a failure.
If we feel lonely or ugly than we are unloveable.
But in Christ, we have an identity that supersedes our experiences, our actions, and our emotions. We have an identity that, when we choose to live in it, will guide and direct those emotions and actions, and the reactions we have towards the different circumstances and situations that we experience. We have an identity that brings joy, peace, hope, courage, patience, kindness, compassion, and power, even when we’ve experienced rejection or betrayal, even when we mess up or make a mistake, even when we’re feeling a bit lonely, and a bit less-than-beautiful. Our identity brings us this, because our identity is found in the Giver of true and full life. The One who accepts us, who sees us as altogether lovely, who picks us up when we fall, who is always with us and holding us.
We’ll be journeying through Colossians 3, learning from God’s Word about this identity.
You have been raised with Christ.
After His death on the cross as the redeeming sacrifice for the sins of all, Jesus was buried. After three days sealed in the tomb, Jesus was raised to life. Death could not keep it’s hold on Him. Death could not gain the victory over Life.
And we have been raised with Christ. In Him we are victorious over sin and death. We overcome temptation. We are crowned as heir with Him. We are give life that not even death snuff out. For it is life in Life. Eternal, abundant, full life.
When I think of this, you know how I feel?
Not held down by my past. Not chained by my mistakes. Not buried in shame and guilt.
Raised. Unbound. Free.
For indeed, that is what I am.
That is what you are.
In Christ, you are free.
Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Jesus freed us so we would be free. Not chained by striving to be good enough. Not held captive by shame. Not bound by feelings of condemnation. Not shackled in feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, worthlessness, ugliness, bitterness, selfishness.
Yes, we are free. But how do we live in this freedom?
The passage from Colossians tells us that since we have been raised with Christ, we are to set our minds and hearts on things above, not on earthly things. And Galatians 5:1 goes on to say, “Stand firm, then, and do let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Set. Stand firm.
These words speak of focus, steadfastness, resolve, and commitment. Unbending and unwavering. Planted and rooted. Not allowing a yoke of slavery to once again be placed upon our shoulders.
The New Living Translation says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
Our desires, our thoughts, and our priorities are to be set on things above, the things of heaven. On that which is of God, in line with His character and will. What we strive for, what we seek, should be the Kingdom of God, His will done on earth as it is in heaven.
In heaven, Christ is seated at the right hand of God. He is exalted and sovereign over all. And He intercedes on behalf of you and me. This is the reality of heaven, the reality we are to set our hearts and minds on. Because of Jesus’ intercession, we are continually free from sin, and cleansed of guilt. When we set our hearts and minds on this truth, when we stand firm in this truth, we are living in freedom.
Now, how do we do that? How do we set our hearts and minds on things above?
Satan tries to trap us into believing lies. And he’ll attempt to chain us up with those lies.
You’ve experienced rejection and betrayal, so you’re worthless. Even to God.
You’ve messed up and made a mistake, so you’re a failure. Even to God.
You feel lonely and ugly, so you’re unloveable. Even to God.
Did God really say… ?
We’ve all had these thoughts. We beat ourselves up and compare ourselves to others. Words that are negative and self-deprecating role through our minds like crushing boulders, leaving the conclusions that we are worthless, unlovable failures in their wake.
Does God really care about me? Could He really love me? Can He really help me? Will He really do what is best for me?
Satan likes to skew our view of reality. He likes to fog up our perspective so that our reality isn’t that reality of heaven. But a false reality where there is no all-powerful, all-good, all-loving God, in which we live under an alias as slaves to fear, worry, bitterness, arrogance, selfishness, depression, hopelessness…
We do still deal with these things, even when focusing our eyes on Jesus, even when striving to live in the reality of heaven. But we are not controlled by them. We are standing firm in the midst of them. Standing on God’s truth.
That is what we need to break the chains of lies: Truth.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” We are to fill our minds with that which is of God. When our thoughts are full of the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy, there’s not room for the false, bitter, negative, critical, selfish, or hurtful to make a home.
Rather than our thoughts taking us captive, we are to captive our thoughts, making them obedient to Christ. If a thought is not in line with the truth of God, with the realities of heaven, it needs to be replaced. We find the truth in God’s Word.
In Romans 12:2, we are called to be “let God change you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Reframing the way we think, renewing our thought patterns, changing our perspectives, brings about transformation. No longer do we live as slaves, but as free children of God.
The thought patterns that develop in the mind make their way to the heart, where they shape our beliefs. Our of our beliefs, comes our actions and attitudes. Our lives are lived based on what we believe. We must be very careful what we allow to take root in our hearts.
We are promised in Philippians 4: that when we pray, submitting our requests to God, His peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ. Praying is a way of setting our hearts and minds on Jesus. It is standing firm in His power and love, rather than our own strength.
I want to leave you with an encouraging promise:
Maybe you feel overwhelmed by certain situations. Maybe you feel you’re drowning in spiraling emotions that you can’t seem to get under control. Maybe you feel trapped, with no way out.
Who you are is not based on what you feel, but on Christ. Set your heart and mind on Him. Stand firm in Him. His Spirit is with you, and in Him, there is freedom. In Him, you are free.