Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jesus Culture - Who Can Compare (feat. Mary Kat Ehrenzeller)

Authentic Personality

Being a people person, I so enjoy observing people, and thinking about what makes them "tick". My current class, Personality Theories, has only added to my fascination. As I have read through the different theories, ranging from Freud to Allport (one of my favorites so far), I have been given the unique opportunity of looking to the Bible to find what God has to say about the subject of personality. Indeed, the Bible has much to say on this subject, but I think God is absolutely clear that as believers, we are to be like Christ.

In 2 Peter 1 we find...

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

I love that in verse three we are reminded that through the work of the Holy Spirit, He has given us everything we need to be conformed to the image of Christ. Matthew Henry beautifully states what occurs in the lives of those who are being conformed to Christ. He says,

“Those who receive the promises of the gospel partake of the divine nature. They are renewed in the spirit of their mind, after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; their hearts are set for God and his service; they have a divine temper and disposition of soul…” 

Through the promises of the Gospel, a believer's entire personality has been changed which allows his or her temperament and disposition to radiate Christ! Paul implores the believers to pursue character traits which will allow them to be the person God created them to be.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

I believe the ordering of these traits is hardly coincidental. As believers, it is vital for us to first have a foundation of faith.

Once we have this foundation, we must add to it goodness which is the Greek transliterated word areté, meaning virtue, moral excellence, or perfection.

Adding such a characteristic to our lives will then allow us to pursue knowledge....knowledge of God, discernment between good and evil, understanding God's will for us.

When we more fully understand God's will for us, we will be more able to exhibit self-control through all of the temptations which life brings.

As we become self-controlled we will be enabled to persevere, to continue on in our faith in Christ regardless of what comes our way.

Continuing on in godliness, our heart's response toward God will be one of reverence.

Knowing how God desires that we love one another, it makes sense that out of reverence for God, we would be filled with a brotherly love for our family in Christ. 

Colossians 3:14 says, "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." 

The word love, found in both verses, is the Greek transliterated word agapé. Only God can truly work this benevolent, sacrificial love into a person's life. It is the love which Christ exemplifies when He died for us while we were still sinners and wanting nothing to do with Him (Romans 5:8).

Continuing on we read,

8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

As Christians, through God’s grace, we ought to strive after building the aforementioned character traits into our personality. As we learn His Will and live out His Will, our growing knowledge of Him will allow for our personalities to be conformed to Christ so that we can be effective and productive for His glory.

Thus, regardless of what has been done to you, where you have been, what you have done, what biological characteristics influence your behavior, how you have been trained, or what inborn traits influence your behavior, Christ is bigger than all of that and His divine power has given you everything you need to have a personality which is conformed to the image of Christ.

"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become- because He made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be... It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own." 

-C.S. Lewis

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughts from Valentine's Day

As I was reading in 1 John today, my heart was so encouraged by the reminder of the {reality and richness} of God's love for me.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9, 10 NIV84)

Oh the heart of my God! Gracious, merciful, and filled with a love so {selfless and pure} is the heart of my Father! Only His is a heart filled with a love so powerful that it would cause Him to pursue my heart with all of His being, even to the point of giving His own life for mine. What an example! Truly, only His love can ever restore and fulfill the dark, lonely crevices of the wounded, broken human heart!

{So blessed to be His!}

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hebrews and James: Faith Without Works Is Dead

As I have studied the Bible I have been continually {amazed} by the way God conveys His messages through His Word.  Studying Hebrews and James together was eye opening.  Faith cannot {and will not} exist without works.  Faith without works is like a tree without fruit.  It is is not reality.  Get this people... JESUS {RADICALLY} CHANGES YOU.  When Jesus is in your heart, you are {FOREVER} changed.

So how do Hebrews and James fit together?

In Hebrews we are encouraged to stand strong in our faith in the Work of Christ.  Instead of living a rebellious life, we are to be so {enamored} with the grace of Christ that we {reject} our sin in favor of honoring God.  The author of Hebrews gives examples of people of the Old Testament who stood firm in their faith.  Interestingly, the author of Hebrews does not simply state that, “Abraham had faith”, rather, he focuses on the work that was provoked by his faith.  

Faith produces fruit and this theme is apparent...

Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, Noah built an ark, and Rahab did not perish because she followed instructions to stay in her house. (Check out Hebrews 11 and this post to see more examples of beautiful faith!)

Jesus Himself {perfected} our faith and is the example to which we ought to look.

Likewise, James makes it very clear that faith does not exist without works.  He goes so far to say that {faith without works is dead}. Does this mean we must work to earn our salvation?  

Absolutely not!  

Essentially James outlines the fact that true faith in Christ is not a stale and unchanging faith, but instead a {life-altering renewal} which changes us from the inside out. When we place our faith in Christ, we will be given the grace to {love} those we once hated, to {think} before we speak, and to {overcome} the temptations of the flesh even when the world scoffs at us.  Knowing that Christ is both the author and finisher of our faith, we can live out our changed lives, out of love for Him.

...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

~Hebrews 12:2

Thoughts from Thessalonians

I cannot read Thessalonians without being reminded of how wonderful it is that my identity is found in Christ.  As I marvel at God's greatness, I cannot help but to be reminded of nothingness. Here is one lesson I learned from the study of Paul's letter to the Thessalonians...
Basing our self-esteem on ourselves is vain, imprudent, and comparable to building a house on the sand.  

As humans we are imperfect.  

When we believe that we are great based on our own works, we are setting ourselves up for depression when something does not go our way and our self-fabricated life comes crashing down.

Contrarily, basing our self-esteem on God is like basing our self-esteem on a rock.  

Finding our esteem, not in what we have accomplished through our own determination or hard work (or for that matter our failures),

but rather in the work of Christ 

is vital, as regardless of what happens in our lives, 

our status before God will never change. 

What hope, what joy, what sweet freedom may be found in this astounding truth!