Day 13 – You Are A Follower

“Come, follow me…” (Matthew 4:19)

A disciple is someone who follows another.

When Jesus was hanging around earth in human form he collected 12 disciples. Each one he called to follow him, and as they travelled with him they got to know him more and more. This was typical of the day. Rabbi’s, Jewish teachers of the Law and Prophets, would have a group of followers, a group of disciples, who they would teach. In the case of Jesus, he choose people who weren’t typically considered disciple material. Lacking in education, and not well versed in the scriptures, Jesus’s disciples would not be people normally associated with a Rabbi. Yet, Jesus doesn’t do things that people would expect, does he?

Today, we are expected to lead from the front. You may even hear the term ‘self-leadership’. This means that we are to take responsibility for our own learning, growth, and decisions, and lead ourselves. We’re not people who are to follow others but are to follow our own dreams, passions, and feelings.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Follower

From a young age we’re told we can do whatever we want. We can do anything in life, whether that be career, study, or sport. We’re constantly told that the most central and important person in the world is us. And with that comes the expectation we are to forge our own path in life.

For some this comes in the form of not following the advice and desire of parents. The rebellious nature of adolescence, pressures of school and family too, can bring about feelings of resentment. Instead, some decide to follow their own path out of spite, in direct opposition to what their parents would believe is the best for them or approve of.

Others recognise they have a particular passion and gifting in an area and seek to pursue that until they have reached a level of success others around them will never attain. The pressure of popularity, being better than others, and comparison, can drive people to work hard at following their passions and desires.

And then, of course, there is the chase of wealth. The pursuit of money and riches is easily one of the defining pressures of our day. Wealth and perceived success is a certain driver for many decisions and career choices.

When we look at Jesus we see he chose people who were ordinary. He didn’t choose those who were the best at their craft or artistry. He didn’t choose them because of their wealth or potential success. No, Jesus chose some average and ordinary men to come and follow him.

In Melbourne we support our football teams with passion. We’ve all seen those supporters who go the extra mile. They buy the membership and all the gear–the jumper, the scarf, the hat, the badges. They have their seat at the ground. And they follow the players and team constantly.

In some ways these kinds of supporters put many believers to shame. Why don’t we follow Jesus with the same passion and support as these football supporters? Often we find ourselves dragged down by what life throws at us. But considering we know what Jesus has done for us through the cross shouldn’t we be the ones who are passionately and actively following him?

Following Jesus isn’t always easy. That was never the deal when we committed our lives to following Jesus. Following Jesus may bring with it a fair bit of struggle. People may not like us, we may not be popular, we may have to sacrifice wealthy opportunities, but within all that surely we should be passionate about following the one true and almighty God!

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his book, The Cost of Discipleship,

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

This means that he calls us to follow him with our all. He calls us to follow him with everything. He calls us to follow him with our lives. Not just part of our lives, or on a particular day of the week. All.

It’s a gripping and scary thought.

But for those of us who believe it resonates and resonates strongly – That we are followers of a great and holy God who through his Son has enabled us to have hope now and for the future.

When we say “yes” to God we are saying we are willing to become a follower.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Do you consider yourself a follower of Jesus?
  • Are there areas in your life that you aren’t following Jesus in?
  • That quote by Bonhoeffer, how do you react to that? Are you letting Jesus lead in your life?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading?

I suspect, every year, thousands of people give up on their attempted bible reading plan because they’ve fallen so far behind they don’t believe they’ll ever catch up, and they feel guilty about it.

You know the situation, I’m sure. You start off the new year with a plan to follow. You’re aiming to achieve what seems like the impossible–finish the whole bible in one year. But by the time the third week of January comes to a close you find yourself three days behind, the equivalent of 12-15 chapters to catch up on. The doubt about actually doing this in the first place creeps in. The guilt of not doing what you said you’d do piles up. And suddenly you find yourself questioning whether your relationship with God is actually where you thought it was.

Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading_

From a young age, in church or in a Christian home, we are taught that reading the bible and praying are simply parts of the Christian identity and rhythm. I’m not going to disagree with that. I think the bible itself speaks of the need to read God’s words and be active in prayer with him. This is vital to any relationship with God.

When God gives Moses his words in Exodus 24 there is the understanding that his people are to respond and obey it. Then as part of the words God gives Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, there is the command to have them on repeat.

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.”

A bible reading habit is about having God’s words on repeat.

Yet, while this is vital, helpful, and beneficial for us as believers we often feel guilty if we skip a day or fall too far back on a bible reading plan.

The point of a bible reading plan is not to make us feel guilty.

It’s to help us in our worship of God. It is to help us hear from him.

It is to help us understand the story we are part of.

It is to help us know more of our identity as the people of God.

When we do fall behind in our bible reading our response doesn’t need to be guilt. We aren’t saved or made right with God because of our bible reading. We are made right with God because of what Jesus has done. The Good News. Instead, when we do fall behind, we just continue reading where we were up to.

You see, there are no explicit rules around reading the bible. No one is restricting or demanding or making it a law to read a certain part or certain amount of the bible. The important thing is to read it. If you read a verse or read a whole book, whatever it is, the aim is to read it.

I was talking with someone a month or two ago who had a 100-day streak in their bible reading. Things then came up and they didn’t do it for about a week. Instead of just picking it up from where they left off, they gave up. They felt they were too far behind that they couldn’t catch up. Therefore, they didn’t see much of a point to continue reading.

But that’s not the point!

It’s an awesome achievement to read 100 days in a row, but the point isn’t how many days in a row you can read your bible. There’s no competition going on (unless it’s self-imposed, and that’ll probably raise questions around ‘heart’). It’s about connecting and engaging with God through his words. The point is that reading the bible is helpful for our relationship and understanding and worship of God. It’s vital.

I like bible reading plans because they actual help me work through scripture systematically. They help me have a goal and show me where I’m going. But at the end of the day they are just that, a plan. If I didn’t have a plan then I reckon I’d be flip-flopping through the bible and never really achieve anything in my reading. Instead, a plan gives structure in my bible reading and shows me what I have actually read.

I’d always encourage a bible reading plan to anyone (this one is a good one). What I wouldn’t encourage is feeling guilty about not meeting someone else’s bible reading requirements. Read what you can, work through a plan at your own pace, and worship God in the process.

Day 11 – You Are A Slave

“…and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

The bible pictures being a servant of Jesus in extremely strong language.

In the New Testament the use of the word servant can often be translated as the word slave. You can see the two uses of the word in the verses above.

One writer has talked about the distinction of a servant and slave in this way,

“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired; slaves are owned. Servants have an element of freedom in choosing whom they work for and what they do. The idea of servanthood maintains some level of self-autonomy and personal rights. Slaves, on the other hand, have no freedom, autonomy, or rights. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were considered property, to the point that in the eyes of the law they were regarded as things rather than persons.  To be someone’s slave was to be his possession, bound to obey his will without hesitation or argument…” (MacArthur, Slave, 16-17)

To our modern ears the use of the word slave sounds harsh, ugly, and distasteful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Slave

When we think of a slave or slavery we think of someone who is being used and abused for the profit of another. We think of sex slavery, the slavery of Africans for the promulgation of the United States, the slavery of young girls and women for the pleasure of ISIS fighters in the Middle East.

Slavery is not seen as a good thing. Nor has slavery ever been thought of as a good thing. It has constant negative connotations associated with it.

Yet, the word servant, as in being a servant of Christ, can also mean being a slave, being a slave for Christ.

And while we aren’t being used and abused by our perfect Heavenly Father there is a sense of the commitment and identity we now have when we are follower of Jesus.

When we are called and chose to follow Christ we are all in.

To be a believer in Christ is to not just assent to being a Christian of some description. No, to be a follower of Jesus means we sacrifice our whole lives to follow him.

Our all.

Our everything.

Our entire being and soul and purposes are committed to follow Jesus.

There is no turning back.

When Jesus calls his first disciples we read in many of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke particularly, of how he instructed them to “come, follow me”.

The call to follow Jesus is not simply a call to come with me to the shops, or let’s go for a drive, or “c’mon, let’s go to the footy match”. The call to follow me is a costly call.

It is a call to slavery.

This slavery is not the slavery depicted above. This call to slavery is one that recognises that we are now servants to the Most High God. That we are at the beck and call of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, while this slavery is all that and more, it is really a freedom-giving, redemption-purchasing, forgiveness-finding kind of slavery. It is a kind of slavery that places us in a better position than we find our self otherwise. We find ourselves loved, adopted, and saved through being slaves of Jesus Christ.

In this way, our identity has changed from being about self to being about service.

Our identity is not defined by who we are in any way but by who he is.

Our identity is not determined by the failures we have but by the faithfulness of God.

Jesus calls us to follow him and in doing so calls us to a life of service. A life of slavery for the cause of Christ.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What kind of thoughts come to mind when thinking about slavery?
  • Have you thought about the cost of what it is to follow Jesus? What do you think that means for you?
  • How can knowing being a slave for Jesus inspire you to greater works and commitment to follow him?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God

Day 10 – You Are A Child of God

“…through faith you are all sons (and daughters) of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

Have you ever spent time thinking about time before you were even born?

It’s weird, isn’t it?

It’s weird to think that life existed before you were born, and that your parents had a life without you.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Child of God

As weird as that is, it’s even stranger to think that God knew you before you were born. Before you were even a child in your family, let alone alive and breathing in human form, God knew you and had created you.

Just as we were once non-existent in our own families, there was once a time when we were not considered part of God’s family.

We’ve been reflecting in this series about our identity. And it is our identity, who we are, that changes when we begin to follow Jesus and accept his lead in our lives. But another aspect to this new identity is that we become a ‘child of God’.

In accepting Jesus by faith we find that we are adopted into God’s family and become one of his children. Of course, we continue to keep our own earthly characteristics, such as our name and personality traits given to us from our biological parents. However, we are now part of God’s family and he considers us one of his children. He becomes our heavenly father perfectly leading and loving us as his children.

And being included into God’s family changes everything.

No longer are we on our own.

No longer is our identity resting on self, or upon anyone else’s view of us.

No matter the circumstances we find ourselves in we can know that we are God’s and he is ours. Our identity is no longer based on our family name, our achievements, our job, our test results, our final score, our sporting successes, our failures, our sexuality, our gender, our looks, our fashion, our social media following. No. No longer are we defined by any of those sorts of things. They fall off the cliff into the river of irrelevance.

We are identified, you are identified, I am identified, as a child of God.  

Galatians 3:26 says, “So in Christ you are all considered children of God”.

This is a powerful statement of our identity.

We are all children of someone, whether we have a good relationship with those who brought us into the world or not. Through Jesus and his work on the cross, through our accepting of that by faith, we find ourselves now part of God’s family. And in God’s family we find we are loved, cared for, forgiven, accepted as we are, and given royal status.

I say royal status because becoming part of God’s family leads us to be considered divine royalty.

The only experience of royalty I’ve ever had is through watching them on a screen and reading about them in the news. A few years ago, when young prince George was born to William and Kate, there were plenty of pictures and articles focussing on the new heir to the family. It was celebratory news. It was a highlight for the world, as the royal family not only had a new child but one of significance who would now be in line for the throne in years to come.

In another part of the bible, Romans 8:16-17, we find we are considered royalty, or heirs, because we are God’s children. It reads:

“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ…”

What an amazing truth! We, who are sinful and in need of being saved and redeemed, are actually considered a coheir with Jesus because of what he has done! We are part of God’s divine royal family! Wow.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What impact does being known as a child of God have upon your life?
  • How does being a child of God redefine your identity?
  • In what ways can you be encouraged today, realising that you are child of God and part of God’s royal family?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen

Day 9 – You Are Chosen

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

When I was in school I fondly remember the lunch time sports I used to play. In summer, it was often cricket, and in winter, it was often football or basketball. The way the teams were chosen were through two captains, usually the most out-going, bossy, and controlling classmates, picking person after person to be on their side. The way the players were chosen was based on perceived ability. The best players chosen first, then the mid-range players, and finally, those who weren’t that great but allowed to play were chosen last. Those chosen last were usually the same every time. And soon enough there would be two teams and off we went.

In the bible, we read that we have been chosen by God.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Chosen.png

We read in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world God has chosen us to be part of his holy family. That even before he created the world, and before we were created and knitted together in our mother’s womb, God had chosen us. And being chosen by him in order for us to be holy and faultless in love. That we would be part of his family and he would give us grace and more grace, and love and more love because of who he is. Because of his great love for us he has chosen us and given gift after gift through his Son Jesus.

This choosing was not like choosing a sport team at school. God didn’t choose you to be part of his family based upon how good a person you are. He didn’t line you up and then look at all the good things you would do in your life and pick you because of that. No, God simply wanted to show his love to you, he wanted to know you, he wanted to be with you and you with him. And so, God chose you.

We have been chosen by God!

God himself cherishes and loves us and has chosen us to be with him.

This idea can also raise some questions. Is God playing favourites? Is he choosing some people and then decisively not choosing others? Is this fair?

These are good questions to ask. It can seem like God is playing favourites.

Yet, no one knows whether they are chosen until they know him. From a human perspective God’s grace is open to all. Everyone is called to come and believe. Everyone is called to come and follow. Everyone is called to come and know. In this way, God’s grace and love and choosing is open to all people.

At the end of the day none of us are actually in a position to earn our acceptance by God anyway. No one deserves to be part of God’s family, that’s why it is such a glorious thing to know we are part of his family. Through Jesus, and his death and resurrection, we are able to believe and follow. To know and be known. To trust and be accepted. To cherish and be chosen.

God is God, and we being chosen into his family is such a great and almighty gift to us. Who he has chosen to be our brothers and sisters we don’t always know. But what we do know is that he has called us, and he calls us to call others, into his loving family.

Every few years we undertake local, state, and national elections. The election process can take some time and depending on how certain members of parliament and political parties are doing in their roles will depend on whether they continue to be elected as our representatives. In recent years voting seems to have turned very populist. That is, whoever can market themselves and galvanise people the most will likely tip the votes in their favour. Yet, how long an MP stays in politics and in government is indefinite. Some may spend only one term, 3-4 years representing their constituents. Others may last for over 20 years in office.

For those of us who follow Jesus and know Jesus we can rest assured that we have been adopted into God’s family forever. There is no need to doubt that we are part of his family because God has chosen us to be in it. We don’t simply stay in the family for a short period of time before leaving. We don’t get chosen on the basis of our performance or the basis of popularity. God has chosen us, he has chosen you, because of his great and glorious love for you.

Because of this we can say we have been chosen.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What effect does knowing that God has chosen you have upon you?
  • What kind of questions does this raise for you? Make a list of them.
  • How can you help others realise God’s love for them and his delight to have them in his family this week?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free

Day 8 – You Are Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The movie ‘Room’, adapted from the book of the same name, is about a young boy and his mother who live in a small 2m x 2m room. At the beginning of the book there is detailed descriptions of how the young boy, having grown up in this shed, refers to items within this room as his friends. At night he says, “Goodnight table”, “Goodnight chair”, “Goodnight lamp”, and so forth. The reason he does this is because he knows nothing but life inside of this room. Spolier Alert: His mother was kidnapped a number of years ago, fell pregnant to her kidnapper, and raises the boy in this small secured room. It is a terribly sad and harrowing story. However, when he is five years old they hatch a plan and in the end they both get out and survive. They are freed after so many years, and reconnect with her family and loved ones.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Free.png

As we’ve been exploring who we are we come to the great truth that we are found to be free.

We have found freedom.

This occurs in two ways.

First, we are spiritually free.

Exodus is the second book of the bible and speaks of the liberation of God’s people from the hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. God’s people have been under slavery for 400 years, being used by the Egyptians to expand and grow their kingdom. While they have worked for Pharaoh the slavery upon them has been exhausting and crushing. However, the time comes for God to liberate his people through the leadership of Moses. God’s hand is upon Moses and his people and enables them to leave Pharaoh and Egypt behind, no longer slaves. The night before they are to leave God instructs his people to paint their door frames with the blood of a lamb. This is so the spirit of death will passover the house and not kill the first-born son. This is God’s final plague upon Egypt and is the one that makes Pharaoh give God’s people their freedom.

In the New Testament, strong connection is made to this story. You might be able to see the connection in the Romans 8:1-2 verse above.

Those who believe in Jesus, and put their trust in him as their saviour, have their sin ‘passed over’. Those who believe are no longer under the judgement of God nor under the curse of the law, nor under the slavery of sin and death. Those liberated and free from the judgement and condemnation of God are those who God has ‘passed over’. That is, Jesus has taken our sin and dealt with it himself on the cross.

Second, we are free from any laws or rules.

Because of this freedom, through what Jesus has done, we seek to follow God’s commands out of a place of gratitude and grace. There are no rules, no matter how many we believe we need to obey, that will help us please God. God is already ready pleased with us because of what he has done.  

Tim Keller, a NYC pastor, puts it like this,

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

Some believe the Christian faith is a restrictive faith. But this is not the case. Our willingness to follow the commands of God only come from recognising what he has already done for us. And our following of these are from a place of joy and thankfulness. 

There are no restrictions on what kinds of foods we are to eat, there are no restrictions on what we wear, there are no restrictions on what spiritual activities we have to do to be right with God. No, out of our freedom we choose to follow the commands of God, to love him and others. But, there are no tight restrictive rules given for us in order to make God love us. 

We are given freedom.

This freedom comes from God. 

There’s a great song called ‘No Longer Slaves‘, which has lyrics that speak of this theme of liberation and freedom. It’s a good way to end our reflection for the day with these words. 

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Have you ever felt trapped, believing you had to do something for the sake of doing something, rather than undertaking a task for the love of it?
  • Do you see how God has freed us from sin through his Son?
  • What is it that makes you willing to follow his commands? Is it out of freedom or out of duty?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved

Day 7 – You Are Saved

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We’ve been looking at the guts of the Christian faith over the past week and now come to this idea of ‘being saved’. I don’t tend to use the term ‘saved’ when talking about my identity and faith. I know it’s often used in movies and shows that depict Christianity and churches. It is a term used by a generation that were all about having people ‘saved’ at big faith rallies and events. And occasionally, you may still hear it in conversation between Christians when they are talking about people, ‘whether they are saved or not’. It’s just a good old Christianese word.

To say that ‘you are saved’ is to say that you have salvation. As Christians, we believe we have attained salvation because of what God has done for us on the cross.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Saved

The dictionary defines salvation as, “the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction”. And when we seek to define it in faith terms, it means that we are saved or protected from the judgment and consequence that we are under due to sin. Some might even go as far as saying that we have been saved from a particular place, hell.

I imagine we can all relate to what it means to be saved or protected from harm.

I remember a cousin of mine struggling to swim in a pool when we were kids. After she’d slipped off the step she found herself in a panic, thrashing around in the water. One of the adults around, my mum I think, saw what was happening and quickly grabbed her by the hair and yanked her up.

We would say she’d been saved from harm wouldn’t we?

I wonder if you can think of a time when you were saved from harm? Perhaps it was crossing the road without looking. Perhaps it was while you were climbing a tree. Perhaps it was swimming yourself.

Throughout the storyline of the bible we read of the constant effort people go to in order to attain salvation. To be saved.

Once Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction to not eat of the tree there has been a need to find salvation. The initial judgement they faced was being booted out of Eden, their disobedience had physical consequences. However, there were further costs for them, further costs which had eternal consequences. In order to find salvation many people throughout the Old Testament seek to make good their bad by providing sacrifices and avoiding mistakes and errors in their life. They don’t want to face the judgment and wrath God has toward their sin and so go to extraordinary lengths to avoid actions that disobey God.

It’s like knowing the curfew your parents have placed on you for the party. There will be consequences if you disobey. We get that right. But, to make this even more legalistic, like the people of the Old Testament, we would make sure we are home well before the curfew to avoid any sort of possibility of being late. We might even leave 30 minutes earlier so we know we’re back home in good time. (Probably not realistic I know, but I hope you get the idea).

Some people continue to operate this way when they think about Christianity.

But, Christianity is not about law and legalism, it is about faith and freedom.

To be saved, to find salvation, is something that we are given by God. God, in his wonderful grace, has given us salvation. He has saved us from his own judgment and wrath through his Son Jesus.

Just as we have explored the forgiveness that comes through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored being bought back to God through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored the love God has for us through Jesus and the cross. So too, we find another aspect of our faith is centred around being saved from judgment and wrath through Jesus and the cross.

Here we can say that Jesus saves.

Here we can say that we are saved.

Praise God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Can you remember a time where someone saved you from harm or injury?
  • What picture do you have of God’s wrath and judgment? It’s not often we think on this, mainly because it’s not a particularly appealing thought.
  • Do you recognise the need to be saved from God’s judgment and see how Jesus achieves this?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved

Day 4 – You Are Called

“But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Purpose.

We strive to know our purpose.

Why were we created? What are we here for? What is our purpose right now?

As we reach VCE we can’t help but wonder and contemplate this topic of purpose.

Parents, teachers, principals, career advisors, and others begin to demand we make decisions that will apparently, “lead us down our career path for the rest of our lives”. When we choose subjects, refine our skills in certain pursuits, and reflect on things we like and things we don’t, we start trying to work out this thing called purpose.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Called

I’m not sure about you but I found it hard to decide what subjects I should be doing when going through VCE. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what might help me in five years time. Five years time! That’s a fair while away!

As time to decide these things came closer it all began to get overwhelming. The more pressure applied, the more indecisive I felt. I mean, it was hard enough to decide what subject to choose the following year, let alone what university course I’d like to do or work I wanted to undertake post-study. Give me a break. Why all this pressure on decision-making, purpose, and career?

But the way the game of life works right now, and has done for a number of years, is that we are to be educated for a long period of time, expected to get a job immediately post-study, make some money, buy some things, continue making money to pay for those said things, and then retire and read a good book. The underlying effect of this is that we are told there is one path to trod. One particular destiny in life. One particular purpose.

Throughout the bible we see plenty of people called to various roles. Some are called to lead, some are called to submit, some are called to life on the road, some are called to ransack cities, some are called to be kings, some are called to speak into other people’s lives on behalf of God.

There are plenty of people who have been called to particular things in particular places for a particular purpose.

We are also called.

And first and foremost, we are called by God to himself.

That is, God woos us and calls us to come and know him.

To come and worship him.

To come and love him.

We are called to come and follow.

Jesus, when beginning his work here on earth, called twelve men to follow him. The phrase “follow me” should be self-evident, it is Jesus calling people to follow him. A life of following what he does and what he teaches.

If we describe ourselves as Christians – people who believe Jesus is the Son of God, who has died and risen for the forgiveness of sin and where true life can be realised – then we are called to follow him.

A question for you at this point would be, are you following him?

In regard to purpose, at its most base level it is simply to follow Jesus.

He is our guide, our leader, our captain, our coach.

Any worthwhile captain or coach is one who inspires, motives, encourages, disciples, and leads people to a better place, to a place that changes and transforms them for the better.

Jesus is that captain.

Jesus is that coach.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Is purpose something you’ve been thinking about in recent months or years? How do you react to such thoughts?
  • What or who do you think you are following right now?
  • Are you following Jesus? Would you like to?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

Day 3 – You Are Forgiven

Day 3 – You Are Forgiven

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Yesterday we looked at the idea of sin.

It wasn’t pleasant.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Forgiven

Sin impacts each and every facet of our life. All pain, brokenness, selfishness, and hurt can be tracked back to it. And, more than impacting our life, it also effects our ability to have a relationship with God.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m constantly making mistakes. I make mistakes in how I think, in how I act, in how I make decisions, and in the decisions I make. It might be the way I communicate with my wife. It might be the way I treat my young daughter. It might be the attitude I have toward another person. It could be as little as taking the wrong way to a friend’s house, which means I’m late for dinner. I make mistakes. I suspect you do too.

When it comes to mistakes and exams the idea becomes clearer. Mistakes in exams can cost final marks. A mistake in the answer to the physics question can have damaging results for the final answer. A mistake in the Chinese language exam has consequences. And a mistake in the music performance exam will be costly too. The idea of mistakes and making them in tests and exams is something we can get our head around.

Thankfully life is not a test. Thankfully it’s not an exam.

But this idea of mistakes helps us understand our need for forgiveness. Because of sin and our sinful-selfish-selves we are unable to have a relationship with God. Our sin has consequences, costly consequences, on our ability to know God. Our sin means we have made mistakes that destroy any chance of us being able to relate, know, and commune with God. As today’s passage says, “God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.”

Thankfully God has dealt with our mistakes. Thankfully God has dealt with our sin.

To do so God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to provide forgiveness for us. In the final verse of today’s passage there is mention of being cleansed of all sin. Instead of being held to account for our mistakes and errors for our sin, God has provided a way for them to be wiped clean. It’s like he sees our final exam paper with all our mistakes on it and says, “Not to worry, I’ve forgiven you for all the mistakes here, you have full marks”. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we find ourselves forgiven of all our mistakes, of all our sin.

How unbelievable is that!?

Because of this we can say that we are forgiven!

You are forgiven!

I doubt that you’ll have an exam marker who gets your test paper, looks over it, sees all the mistakes you’ve made, and declares it 100%. It’d be nice. It’d help. But I don’t suspect that’ll happen.

But God doesn’t do that with an exam. God does that with our life!

He declares us 100%. He declares us perfect. Even though he knows we have made mistakes and sinned each and every day of our life. He sees this and declares us clean of it all because of what Jesus has done on the cross.

What an amazing gift.

What an amazing God!

Through this forgiveness we can have confidence in coming to God. We can come to him and worship him for his grace, love, and kindness to us. But even more, we can simply come to him and know him. We can know God in a true and real sense because we have been forgiven. Through his act of forgiveness I am no longer separated from God, there is no longer a barrier between us, he is no longer a distant and abstract figure. He is God and he is knowable. My sin and my sinful nature no longer stop me from being able to have a relationship with God, and everything stupid, silly, and wrong I’ve ever done has been wiped from my record. I find myself forgiven.

What an amazing concept.

What an amazing reality!

FOR REFLECTION

  • What are some of those mistakes you’ve made that stop you from knowing God?
  • How does this idea of forgiveness impact your life?
  • What is your reaction to understanding that you have been forgiven and can know God?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

“The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

It might seem odd, in the early stages of a devotional series about identity, to have a focus on sin. It doesn’t really seem encouraging or uplifting, does it?

It’s not meant to be.

Sin is a reality.

Sin is hurtful.

Sin is bad.

We are sinful.

You are sinful.

The bible speaks about sin in a number of ways. It is called ugly, shameful, guilt-giving, people-hurting, relationship-destroying, heart-wrenching, gut-twisting awful.

Sin is something which can be done by a person, but first and foremost it is a state of being.

It is a reality.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Sinful

The reality is that our hearts are naturally inclined to sin. Sin isn’t just what we do that is bad, or immoral, or hurtful, it is more than that. It is a heart position. It is the state of our heart that means we are utterly against God in everything we do.

Even if it looks good.

The bible speaks of our heart as being against God and His goodness. Our hearts, from birth, are defective. They are selfish.

So, often we will operate out of a place of self-interest. We will make decisions and act in ways that will be for our good before anyone else’s. We place ourselves as king or queen of our own lives, neglecting others, and particularly God.

Often this plays out in action. When we think of a school assessment we might want to short circuit hard work and steal the answers off the person next to us. When we are filled with lustful thoughts of that person down the corridor. When we think poorly of a person in our team. When we joke amongst friends about the loner sitting in the playground during lunch. When we do something that hurts someone else. All this is the outworking of our sinful heart.

We are always wanting the next best and greatest thing for ourselves, no matter the cost. Whether it costs us friends, relationships, family, or even be harmful for ourselves, our hearts chase after sinful things and drive us toward sinful action.

Because God is supremely good and holy everything He does is good and holy. And because we are not we find ourselves in a bit of trouble.

There is a problem.

The state of our hearts, our bodies, and this world is not entirely good or holy. Therefore, God wants nothing to do with those things that are sinful, things that are against his holiness and goodness.

The focus on ourselves brings us to the point where we think nothing of believing that we rule the world on our own. Instead of acknowledging God as the true and right ruler of this world we have bought into the lie that tells us we are the centre of this world.

We are living in a world that tells us we can have satisfaction and joy if only we are true to ourselves.

We are told we can have everything if only we can put in the hard work.

We are told that at the end of the day, if we have looked after our self and put ourselves first we will find some form of wholeness.

The culture we absorb from a young age spills over into our thinking and is something we find completely natural. What is unnatural, it seems, is to realise that there are greater things going on in the world. That God is actually the right and true ruler of this world, and when we place him at the centre of it all then we will find that satisfaction and joy we desire.

The putting of self at the centre is just another form of our sinful heart leading us away from God.

And because we operate out of a sinful heart we find we are separated from God.

Because of his goodness and holiness God can’t have anything to do with sin. And because he can’t have anything to do with sin this means he can’t have anything to do with us. We are a bitter taste on the tongue of God.

This means our relationship with God is non-existent. Our relationship with God is broken. There is a large fjord between God and us, and no matter how hard we try to reach him and know him we can’t.

The divide is too wide.

Our sinful nature leaves us apart from God. It leaves us lonely, self-absorbed, and heavenly homeless.

FOR REFLECTION

  • How does understanding our sinful nature help us understand our position in life?
  • What sort of feelings rise up in you as you read what has been said?
  • Do you know what brings this separation with God back to wholeness?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created