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

Day 1 – You Are Created

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Think about the song you sing along to when no one else is around. The lyrics you instantly recall when you hear the opening few bars of music. Add the music to the lyrics and the song inspires emotion. Some songs may lead you to bump, grind, jump, bounce, move, and bop and others may move you to tears. Music, and their lyrics, can be profoundly powerful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Created

The first chapter of Genesis, the first book of the bible, tells the story of God creating the world and its creatures through the power of his words.

He speaks and things are created.

He speaks and things are made.

Through his words God creates the land, sun, moon, stars, vegetation, and animals before he comes around to creating human beings. When creating humans, male and female, he creates them in his own image. Humanity reflects certain characteristics of God because they are created in his image.

When an artist creates a painting, they display their thoughts and ideas on a canvas. When God created humanity, he displayed himself through each and every person that has roamed the planet. And while an image is never as good as the real thing; just look at the last selfie you took, God has displayed elements of his character and beauty through his creatures.

When we acknowledge this we understand that we, and everyone else, are of worth.

Humans, everywhere in the world, across every tribe and nation and land, are of worth because they have been created by God. Whether it is our neighbour, the person we sit next to in class, or the sponsor child we support; all have worth because all have been created by God.

This has massive implications on how we operate in the world.

First, at its most foundational, we come to understand that everyone has been created by God, and therefore there is no life worth more or less than anyone else. Everyone, no matter their particular identifying label, deserves to be respected, loved, and cared for by their fellow human.

The question comes back to us. How do we respect, love, and care for each person we come across? The person serving us at Macca’s has been created by God. The person in the team we play sport against at the weekend has been created by God. The person we walk past in the street and found a little odd has been created by God. Do we recognise their worth because they’ve been created by God? At all?

Second, to be created by God means we have one who knows us, each and every part of us. God, being the Creator, knows his created.

He knows you.

To be created by Him means we have worth and our lives are not a mistake or meaningless. God has created us for purposes beyond our craziest thoughts and dreams. Through God’s words we have been spoken into being and given life. Like an engagement ring given to a fiancée we are precious, yet worth so much more than jewels. We have been created by God who gives us worth and a life worth living.

This ATAR score that comes out this summer apparently portrays your worth in an academic sense. Some people will achieve high scores; others won’t get over 30. This numbers evaluates your academic success and determines your worth to the educational system and to the university, TAFE, or apprenticeship you have applied for. God, however, has created you for greater worth. He knows your ATAR score comes no way near to what you’re worth. And while study is important right now, remember that your worth as a person is infinitely precious to He who has created you.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What does it mean to you to know that God has created you?
  • How can you show someone that they are worth more than they think they are today?
  • How can knowing our worth comes from God help settle our spirit?

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.

You’re More Than A Number – The Series

Canterbury Baptist Church is situated in the heart of Melbourne’s private schools. Within two kilometres of the church there are six private schools, two public schools, and a number of primary schools. The suburb has one of the highest university entrance rates within the country, and is one of the wealthiest areas in Melbourne. It produces the leaders of tomorrow, in any industry you can think of. Students are well-educated, well-resourced, and driven.

But there’s a problem.

You're More Than A Number - The Series

Expectations on students in this area is astronomical. Expectations come from parents, who have paid plenty of money for their child’s education. Expectations come from teachers and schools, who expect a certain level of achievement for their organisation. And then there is the students own expectations, the results needed for their university course, the ATAR score to match their peers, and a false understanding that their final marks dictate the next 40-50 years.

But this problem isn’t just limited to wealthy areas of Melbourne.

It occurs in every part of the state and country.

Expectations placed on students in their final years of high school has seen many deal with high levels of stress, an increase in anxiety, and even depression. The amount of VCE students with health concerns, mental illness, breakdowns, and other physical symptoms causes concern for friends, family, schools, and society.

In Victoria, all students, at the end of year 12, are ranked against each other. This is known as the Australia Tertiary Entrance Rank (ATAR), where each student is ranked against another from 99.95 down to below 20. In essence, each student is competing against their fellow classmates to see who will achieve a higher score.

By the time a student is 17 years old they have been taught that their results are the most important thing in their life. And while we’d like to think that everyone is simply trying their best, the pressure and expectations from the system tells otherwise.

The underlying assumption taught to our students is that their final score defines their intrinsic and extrinsic worth. In other words, their identity is wrapped up in what they achieve in their final two years of their schooling.

So, for a number of years it has been my desire to write a devotional series for VCE students that speaks to the heart of their identity. Often we define ourselves, often we allow others to define us. In the bible we see it is God who defines who we are.

Identity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It is central to how we understand ourselves in light of being Spirit-filled followers of Jesus.

It is my hope this series will help you as a student, or anyone who reads these posts, to understand God and who he has created you to be. I hope to shift your mind to consider how God truly sees you, rather than what others and our wider culture forces upon you. Rather than simply being a number ranked among your peers, you are a unique individual made to glorify God. You are indeed more than a number.


I will kick the series off on Wednesday 1st November, a few hours before all students undertake the English exam. From there daily reflections (I hope!) can be delivered directly to your email (see below) or you can find them through my FB page.


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Here’s the list of the various posts for this devotional series:

  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
  13. You Are A Follower
  14. You Are Relational