Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I am Very Very Special, But in a Good Way

Some time ago I heard a preacher tell a story.  He was talking about a time when someone at work who was not a Christian questioned him about his faith.  He asked "What makes you different."  What a wonderful opportunity, but that opportunity was squandered.  The pastor gave a horrible answer.  He said (paraphrase) "I am no different, I am only forgiven and you can be too."  Now, I will give credit for some kind of a gospel presentation, but it was a pretty sad one to be honest.  The fact is that while we may have been no different than the sinner before coming to Jesus, we are different now.  We are special.  I was reading a book this past weekend where the author pointed something out in a verse that I never really took the time to notice.  Here is the verse.
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.  Matthew 5:48 NKJV
How would things be if this verse read "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as God is heaven is perfect."  It does not have the same ring to it, does it?  I mean I can not be perfect like God.  God is God and I am just me. For those outside of Christ, that is the reality.  When you are outside of Christ, God is just God.  God is a lawgiver, a punisher, and a judge.  For those in Christ, things are much different.  God is not our punisher, lawgiver, or judge.  God is our Father.  Notice that Jesus makes this very personal.  He does not say "Just as THE Father."  No, He says "Just as YOUR Father" (emphasis mine).  We are not called to be perfect like some distant God is perfect.  We are not called to be like someone we do not know, but is beyond anything we can ever be in what we imagine God to be.  We are called to take after our Father, and that changes everything. 
If you love Me, keep My commandments.  John 14:15 NKJV
Am I saying that we will obtain perfection?  Yes, but not in this life.  In this life we may never obtain perfection, but we surely desire it.  We are not like other faiths where we try to live up to God's standards to earn His love.  We are not like even other faiths where our salvation is dependent on how well we measure up the the law given by a brutal lawgiver.  No, we already have the love of God and share a special relationship with Him as our Father.  We already have our salvation and not because of anything that we have done, but because of what Jesus did in our place.  Our desire for perfection is purely out of love for our Father.  We want to please our Father. We want to take after our Father.  We know our Father loves us and our desire is to love Him back.  That is what our motivation needs to be.  It is loving our Father by our lives and not just through empty words. 
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:15 NKJV
Even better is that our Father works through our desires.  We have no ability on our own to achieve any progress towards our ultimate perfection when we are glorified.  We may have that desire to please our Father, but we do not have the ability.  When we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit and operate under His direction, we are no longer working in our own ability.  At that point, we are working in His strength and those desires to grow more and more like God begin to become a reality.  Just as an earthly father carries his child until he learns to walk, so does our Father as we learn to walk with Him.  
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest [your] hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, [as] in your ignorance; but as He who called you [is] holy, you also be holy in all [your] conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:13-16 NKJV
God not only imparts upon us His ability, but He also imparts upon us His nature.  When we were in the world, our nature was to sin.  We could not help it as we lived our lives in rebellion to God.  When we came to Jesus, God freed us from that bondage and gave us a new life and new desires.  When we were born of the flesh, we took on many of the characteristics of our fathers.  This characteristics are physical things like hair and eye color, height, and even some of our medical problems.  Some children are very much like their fathers and some are not like them very much at all, but all bear some resemblance.  This is simple genetics and there is no way around except for artificial alteration of how we look.  The same is true spiritually.  When we are born of the spirit, God is our spiritual father.  Some of us will look more like the Father than others, but all of us will have some of the Father's characteristics within us.  Furthermore, just like with earthly fathers, we can only get around resembling the Father through artificial means.  This is when we lose our saltiness or hide our lights.  The Christian is naturally like the Father and grows more and more like the Father.  The only way to prevent that is to actively work against the work of God going in inside you.  Remember Jesus tells us that we are the light and salt of the earth, not that we should become those things.  He also warns us against losing our saltiness or hiding our lights. We are children of God, people should see the Father in us just as we see earthly fathers in their children.

And what is the purpose of all this?  Just as any earthly father raises his child, our Father is raising us up for our lives in Him.  We are being raised as children of God to be a witness to the rest of the world.  I think the Bible says it the best.
But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once [were] not a people but [are] now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV
That is our vocation in God's kingdom.  We are called to proclaim His praises. We are called to give the invitation to bring others into the family of God.  Surely not all of us are called to be evangelists vocationally, but everything we do in the church supports evangelism in some way.  And while we may not all be called to be an evangelist, we are all called to evangelize.  We are all called to share the hope that is in us.  We are called to "Let (our) light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Mat 5:16 NKJV).  All in all we are called to love our Father and to share our love for Him and His love for us with all the world. 

We Christians are a very special group of people.  We are a distinct group of people set apart from the world and made holy unto God. No one else can truthfully call God their Father.  No one else is the salt of the earth.  No one else is the light of the earth.  No one else is part of a royal priesthood or chosen generation.  No one else can bank on the promise that God will work all things together for good.  No one else is accepted by God.  No one else can rightfully approach the throne of God to let our requests be known to Him.  No one else has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside their hearts. No one else can claim the blood of Jesus when they stand before God.  We were chosen before the foundations of the earth.  What is even more amazing, is all that we are as children of God has nothing to do with us.  We merely accepted the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, an invitation open to all.  We were chosen because God knew that we would choose Him and not because we were any more or less special than another other man or woman created in the image of God.  So, getting back to the beginning, the correct answer would have been that we were no different than any other unsaved person, but we invited God into our lives and now we are children of the most high God. Please understand what that means.  God, the creator of the universe, sees us as His beloved children.  My prayer is that we truly begin to understand and appreciate all that being His children means for our lives and beyond.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."  Romans 8:15 NKJV

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