We just recently celebrated one of the most beautiful, somber, and celebratory weeks of the Christian calendar—Holy Week. I’m still thinking about it. We were reminded of the unimaginable suffering Jesus endured to fulfill the will of our Holy God. We took time to ponder what the cross means. That Jesus, the perfect son of God, was nailed to a cross and not only experienced great physical pain, but all of the sin of everyone in the entire world – ever. I cannot fathom the weight and guilt and shame and horror that Jesus must have known as He hung on that cross, condemned to death as a criminal.

Praise God that is not the end of the story! After He was dead and buried, He was resurrected! He rose from the grave! He claimed victory over death, over sin! His death ushered in a new era for believers. We are saved by grace and not by works (Eph 2:8-9). There is nothing we can DO to be in right relationship with God. Jesus did it for us, and we, as believers, stand in righteous glory before our Heavenly Father, fully restored to Him in Christ Jesus.

Salvation is such a big and beautiful word and the extent of its importance cannot be adequately conveyed. Any person who knows Jesus as their Lord and Savior should know they are redeemed. They will be with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for eternity.

As I have worked through our current Thistlebend study, I have been considering what it truly means to be a redeemed child of the King of kings. Who am I in Christ? I know Christ has plucked me out of the pit of destruction and set my feet upon a rock (Psalm 40:2). I know I have the gift of salvation. I know what I have been saved from. But what have I been saved to?

Throughout the Old Testament, we are instructed in what our life post-salvation should look like. But in our homework this week, we camped out a bit in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Romans 12, Paul shows us how we are to live in the light of God’s grace, and how we are to live in unity within the body of Christ. Note: I have recorded specific passages in which Paul tells us how we are to look:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to:

  • Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
  • Do not be conformed to this world.
  • Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
  • Do not to think of (yourself) more highly than (you) ought to think.
  • Think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 
  • (Be aware that) as in one body we have many members,[e]and the members do not all have the same function.
  • (Recognize…we have been given) gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.
  • Let love be genuine. 
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. 
  • Be fervent in spirit;serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 
  • Live in harmony with one another. 
  • Do not be haughty.
  • Associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
  • Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[I]to the wrath of God.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Friends, this sort of love is what we have been saved to. The cross makes it possible for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to walk in this kind of self-sacrificing love.

This week, my Taking the Truth to Heart scripture comes from Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” My plans to “put on” the truth of this scripture for the week include: writing out the scripture on a card and placing it on a small clipboard on my dresser; entering it into my phone so it automatically comes up at a certain time each day, and setting prayer reminders throughout the day (via my phone). The choice to fix our eyes on Jesus and not on ourselves is a daily commitment we must make, over and over again. As Lauren Daigle says in her song, “Refuge,” “There is no distance, That cannot be covered, Over and over….”

We will always walk certain paths back and forth as we seek to work out our salvation (Phil 2:12). I know some paths very well. But God has endless patience, and is at my side the entire time I cover that same path.

May you know the sacrifice and love of our Lord this Easter Season, and may you take time to thank the Lord for the life He saved you from and the life He saved you to.

Growing in Grace

 

My favorite musical of all time is “Les Misérables.” The musical has been around for over 40 years, so it’s likely you have seen it. If not, the musical (supposedly) takes place during the French Revolution, and follows the life of its protagonist, Jean Valjean, through harsh imprisonment to becoming a major of a town. His transformation to mayor, however, requires him to invent a fake identity, a false name, because he is being relentlessly pursued by a vengeful policeman.

One of my favorite scenes in the musical is when Jean Valjean sings, “Who Am I?” He sings about the inner turmoil of seeing another person mistaken as him – the “old” Valjean who was a convict – being condemning to prison and the prospect of freedom. After all, if this man who resembles him goes to jail, Valjean will finally be free of the past. Ultimately, Valjean finds that freedom in boldly declaring who he is.

The idea of “Who Am I” deeply resonates with me. It’s weird to think we can go through life not really knowing who we are, but many of us do. I’m over 50 years old and still not sure of who I really am. Is it possible to change as we age and experience life differently? We have all heard about the “mid-life crisis,” which apparently causes people to do crazy things like buy sports cars they can’t afford, seek out extramarital affairs, change jobs…all because they hit a certain age. The reality is, most people who are “middle aged” have lived most of their lives, and lots of people don’t know what to do with that.

Sometimes, I think I feel pretty grounded and self-aware, and then other times, I really struggle to live in the present and absorb – not just “experience” my life. I’ve played the “description game” to figure out who I am. I can describe my physical attributes, my roles (i.e. wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, etc.). I can describe my talents or spiritual gifts, or identify things I’m good/bad at. All of these things tell me something about me, but they don’t tell me WHO I am.

The truth is, apart from God, I don’t think we can really answer this question in its entirety. God’s Word tells us who we are, and He says it in powerful ways:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-7; italics added)

“…and we have a priceless inheritance– an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. “(1 Peter 1:4 NLT; italics added)

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1; italics added)

Yes, that’s WHO I AM. A child of God. God’s daughter. He chose me to walk in good works He prepared for me long ago. He considers me a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

I cannot wrap my head around being a masterpiece. When I hear the word “masterpiece,” I think of something extraordinary, like a Van Gogh painting, a Rodin sculpture, a Beethoven sonata. But me? I see nothing extraordinary about myself. But God does. The mighty God of all creation, the King of the Universe, sees me as His masterpiece. He considers ME His daughter. His word tells me I am adopted into His family through the redemptive work of the cross. Jesus brought me into the family. I have a priceless, imperishable inheritance awaiting me in heaven.

This is who I am. Everything else about me describes me. But at my core, I am a child of God. And I was created for a purpose: to bring glory to my Heavenly Father, to walk in the works He prepared for me, to be obedient to His will.

It’s sometimes (ok, most of the time) hard to imagine a love like that. We know human love. We look at ourselves and others according to human standards. We do not think like God. We cannot. We never will. And that’s ok. We just have to believe what He tells us.

The more we can remind ourselves by using scripture to tell us WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST, the more sense we make out of our lives. The more we lean into this truth, the more we see our purpose. The more we embrace that our true identity lies with the Lord, the more we recognize the good works the Lord Himself prepared for us. We realize that life isn’t really about us.

Seek until you know, really know, who God says you are.

Growing in Grace