An Upside Down Kingdom!

John 12:24-25 “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus words are both compelling and convicting. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom to the popular voice of self-centeredness and self-absorption that we are saturated with in our culture. Jesus says that in order to truly live, you must love this temporary world less for the sake of others eternities. A life surrendered to Christ doesn’t exist for ones self but for the benefit of others. Following Jesus isn’t “me first” but “Christ first” and the application of that is in the way we relate to and treat others. 

From Battler to Blesser!

Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them and said “Be fruitful and multiply.”

One of the unhelpful results of the fall of mankind is we tend to battle our way through life. Unfortunately too many of us tend to cope with life rather than conquer in life. Because of Jesus’ restoration of dominion through the cross we can not only be more than conquerers but we can be blessed. In fact we are told in John 15 that God chose us an appointed us to bear abundant fruit. Blessing is the birthright of the believer. Being blessed doesn’t mean we won’t face resistance but it does mean we are positioned to choose victory in the face of resistance by faith. God doesn’t want you to be a battler but to be a blesser of others. To do so you must settle in your heart that blessing is yours today through Jesus Christ.

Prospering in Your Purpose

1purpose_t_nvThe universal question that plagues the minds and hearts of people the world over is, ‘What on earth am I here for?’ 

Unfortunately, some people live recklessly because they have no idea why or what they exist for. Many people are frustrated by 2 key things in life, a lack of purpose and not prospering in their purpose. I’ve observed that there are 4 key elements to prospering in your purpose:

1. Person-hood = Are you secure in who you are? Do you base your identity on your achievements or on God? People who are relaxed with themselves prosper in their purpose. Too many of us try way too hard because we are not comfortable with ourselves and yet the more we overcompensate in our behaviour the more we actually repel people and purpose away from us. I encourage you to let people into your life that help you to not take yourself so seriously but also help build the authentic you.

2. Purpose = What’s your life purpose? Knowing your purpose is liberating and central to your life as a human. God has created you for a purpose and He wants you to fulfil that purpose. Knowing your purpose begins with identifying the passion that energizes you. Secondly, get clear on the gifting that is making room for you. And thirdly, be aware of the convictions that define your worldview. When Passion, Gifting and Conviction intersect, you start to live on purpose.

3. Prosper = Are you prospering in your purpose? You know you are prospering in your purpose when 3 key things happen. You’re in your element. You’re producing fruit and you’re getting rewarded for it. The bible says, ‘You shall know them by their fruit.’ Your fruit is the outcome of your actions. When you are in your element, you will produce fruit and you will be rewarded for it, not only in eternity but in the present as well.

4. Empower = Are you empowering others to prosper in their purpose? Apart from leading someone to Jesus, the most noble cause on planet earth is to help people find their cause to live for. If your success stops with you, you’ve wasted it. We’ve got to pass onto others what we have learned for ourselves. John Maxwell said to Bill Hybels once, ‘Bill, you’re a great leader but until you understand why you’re a great leader, you’ll never be able to help anyone else.’ The person who is good at something is a dime a dozen. The person who knows why they are good at something and is able to help others become good at their something is very rare indeed. The best way to learn something is to actually teach someone else.

You can know what your purpose is and prosper in it. God has created you for a purpose and the world needs you to prosper in your purpose.

The Oracle!

Rethinking Christian Progress!

The one thing the bible promises us regarding life in this world is that it will be hard and filled with trials, temptations and tribulations. Nowhere does the bible promise that we’ll have our best life now (as popularized by Joel Osteen). in 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul tells Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

This morning I tweeted an important phrase from pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s book Jesus + Nothing = Everything and it is the idea of an “over-realized eschatology”. I want to use this term to say, too many Christians live with an “over-realized eschatology” expecting  now on earth what God has promised only later for eternity. This causes us to live with unrealistic expectations for what we will and won’t face in this world.

In light of this how do we approach growth and progress in our faith?

The Gospel didn’t just ignite my faith but it’s the fuel that keeps it going and growing me everyday. The Gospel has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14). Progress begins with understanding that in Christ, we’ve already been qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed and forgiven. Working out your salvation with fear and trembling is focusing on working out what Christ has already given to us and worked into us by his will and for his pleasure.

Our natural instinct as believers is to almost exclusively measure Christian growth around behavioural improvement but the greater issue is what is behind the good or bad fruit of our behaviour? Bad behaviour happens when we fail to believe that everything we need, in Christ, we already have. On the other hand, good behaviour happens when we daily rest in and receive the finished work of Jesus in deeper and deeper ways, destroying any need to secure for ourselves anything beyond what Christ has already secured for us.

The hard work of growth we are called to is to believe again and again the gospel of God’s free justifying grace everyday and resting in what Christ has finished on our behalf. I think real spiritual progress happens when our natural understanding of progress is rooted out and it’s not about first behaving better but believing more fully what Jesus has already accomplished.

Gerhard Forde, in his work, Justification by Faith, once said, “It’s not our movement toward the goal but the movement of the goal on us” that helps us progress in the Christian life. Pastor Tullian (Pg173) says, “Sanctification involves God’s daily attack on our unbelief – our self-centered refusal to believe that God’s approval of us in Christ is full and final.”

When we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better, that is what it means to get better. The more we focus on our need to get better, the more neurotic and self-absorbed and worse we actually get. I have to admit that I’ve been too pre-occupied with myself for most of my life and my pre-occupation with my performance over Christ’s performance makes me increasingly self-centered and distant from God and others.

Christian progress is forgetting about yourself! So, aim for progress but remember what it isn’t, your personal improvement and moral progress. Progress is washing your hands of you and resting in Christ’s finished work for you, which will inevitably produce personal improvement and spiritual growth.

Grace! 

Identity and your Call!

Hidden roots of brokenness prevent people from being able to do what God has designed them for. We are unique by God’s design and intention, however, our uniqueness is distorted when hidden roots, of sin, offense and pain undermine the unique call of God upon our lives.

When there are blockages in the root system of our lives, it stops the flow of the Spirit moving through our call. We need God to help us identify the blockages and have them removed. The primary function of roots is to hold a plant in place and supply it with nourishment from the soil to help it grow. Likewise, roots are found in the hearts of each one of us and if these roots are infected with deep hurts, wounds, fears and insecurity, then we will not grow as we should. We are known by our fruits. Healthy tree, healthy fruit. Unhealthy root system, unhealthy fruit.

If we suffer from a distorted identity (all of us as fallen beings do in some way), we need to enter a process of healing and restoration so that the Spirit can move freely through the root system of our lives. Your identity is who you are, not just your perception of who you are. Someone once said, “We are three people. We are who others think we are. We are who we think we are and we are who we actually are.” The challenge is to live out of who we actually are in Christ, as God has designed us and intended for us.

In Scripture we see that God would give a new name to certain people to symbolize a new identity or a sign of God’s promise in their lives. God renamed Abram, Abraham and Jacob to Israel. God renamed several of the disciples, including Peter, whom originally was Simon. These new names represented significant God encounters in these people’s lives and were marks of God’s call upon them.

Your identity is linked to your call. Your call is limited by a lack of self-worth and false perception of who you are. We need to know who we are in Christ and how God sees us before we can move freely in our calling. Whatever you and others have thought about you in your past, God wants to declare new things over your life that positions you to move powerfully in your call in the future. Bring your hurts to Jesus and allow the healing process to begin. As you do, your identity will be restored as God intends for you and your call will carry more weight as you live it out from who you really are in Christ.

Insight!