3 July 2014 by Jason Law CM –
We often hear that as Christians, we were given New Identities at the point of Salvation. Seriously, though, how often do we put thought into how we came into this knowledge, what it means, and how we should govern our whole approach to it?
The Bible – and Jesus through it – tells us that we arrived at our identities as Christians through divine Revelation. God Himself told us who we are and we become what we are told when we believe what we are told. This Revelation is a gift from God and in it there is supernatural power. Foremost, through it, we come to know our true identities.
There is a significant development in coming to know ourselves as followers of Christ. Romans 8:15-17 tells us that the Spirit we received frees us from fear and confers Sonship to us. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children; not just created by Him but for a relational purpose and intention. Furthermore, as children of God, we are also given positions as His heirs. If indeed we share in His sufferings at the present moment, in time we will also share in His glory.
This is a momentous revelation. How then could we take it lightly? As Soren Kierkegaard argued, either you’re a Christian or you’re not. You cannot be both at the same time, and Jesus said pretty much the same thing in Matthew 6:24 when He said you cannot serve two masters at the same time.
The Bible counsels us many times to contend for our faith. Despite his busy schedule, Paul pressed the point many times to the Early Church. In Philippians 1:27 he advised them to stand firm and conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ no matter what it takes. In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, he advised them to rest their faith not on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. In 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, he reminded them that the gospel did not just come through words, but also with power from the Holy Spirit.
It is a spiritual war we fight, and the battles are intense. The devil wants to rob us of our heritage, and many Christians fall by the wayside because they did not take their identities seriously.
There are many ways the devil attacks, among which are the dangers of:
Jude 1:4 warns us against the danger of apostasy and the company we keep. There will or may be people who are among our midst that will try to convince you to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and His identity as the only Sovereign and Lord. There may be others that will direct you to change the grace of God into a license for immorality.
As Christians, we must have firm knowledge of God’s words and a deeply-rooted position in the things of God.
2. Tendency to Fall into Legalism
The warning against this can be found in Galatians 3:2-5. In this passage, Paul rebukes the Early Christians in Galatia for putting a disproportionate focus on the Law. The point Paul was trying to make was that the Church had received the Spirit as a result of the grace of God and not through their self-effort. The question is; does God love us less when we fall short? Does God love you more when you attain a certain standard?
We risk prioritizing the Law more than a relationship with God if we’re not careful. Good Works come from a natural response through our relationship with God. It is the result of faith in God and the working of the Spirit, not through our self-effort or how well we keep the Law. We should always remember this lest pride sets in (Ephesians 2:8-9).
3. Tendency to Fall Into Tradition
Another danger that is similar to legalism is that of tradition. Like legalism, unbalanced spotlighting on traditions will lead us into following a set of rules and rituals instead of a living relationship with God, and our faith becomes a dead thing. While many things are cultural and not spiritual, we need to discern which is which. Certain traditions or cultural hand-downs that have spiritual significance need to be given up. Matthew 15:3-6 and Mark 7:13 give strong warning about this.
4. Tendency to Drift, Ignore, or Neglect
This is the area where many Christians fall by the wayside. How often do you hear people calling themselves Christians but who do not even go to church or have even the basic foundational knowledge of what they believe? Jesus placed immense heed in His caution to Christians concerning this, and a huge part of His parables dealt with this matter. Many of these parables are familiar to us (The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, The Parable of the Seeds, The Parable of the Three Servants).
Hebrews 2:1-4 cautions us to pay careful attention to what God tells us so that we do not drift away. God testifies His words through revelation from the Holy Spirit and even many outward signs.
A central deception of the devil is to turn our faith and relationship with God into a religion. Religion looks good from the outside but it is a form without power. It shifts our focus away from its proper place. The devil knows by shifting our focus away from God, he can mess with us, either by deluding us into thinking that we are more righteous than others, or that we can never measure up so we might just as well give up.
In Luke 5:15-24, we find Jesus being confronted for healing the paralytic man through the forgiveness of his sins. The Pharisees knew the letter of the Law but Jesus understood the spirit of the Law. He saw the faith of the paralytic man and his friends, and He rewarded them according to their faith. Christianity is a holistic thing, and nothing in it can be separated from the others. The Laws from God, His Grace, the outpouring of His blessings to those around us; they all make up a perfect whole.
Are we following a set of rules (ie. a religion) so that we can get to Heaven? Do we feel that we can never measure up to a certain standard set by our own minds? Is our relationship with God based on a performance test? More importantly, how much do we communicate with God? How eager are we to find out more about Him? A good point of reference is how we relate to our own parents and siblings. This is the true meaning of relationship and what God desires most from us.
It is time to stop arguing over the petty things like church politics and denominational differences. Shift your focus back onto God and stop turning your relationship with God into a religion. Know your identity, and no label anyone else can throw at you in this world has the power to change who you are. It is time to be confident of your identity and find rest in God; it is time to return to Him.
Note: Guidelines for this reflection was provided from a class on Revival by Pr Derek Hong of Church of our Savior, Singapore.
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