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Who We Are / Who I Am / In Christ

Picture taken from YouthWorkInternational
(Picture taken from

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of my identity in Christ and how who God says I am in Christ Jesus reflects on how I think about myself, what I believe about myself, and how I therefore react based on what I believe.

The Holy Spirit makes some pretty big statements about who we are in Christ in the Scriptures. Colossians 3:3 says that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. It is making a statement of an event that has occured (past tense) for those who have believed in Jesus, and then afterwards it goes on to talk about the things we used to do (sexual immorality, covetousness, anger etc.) and then the things we ought to ‘put on’ now that we are in Christ Jesus (compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiving others, and much more).

What are the Scriptures doing? They are telling us who we are and who we were. It does the same in Romans and Galatians. See Galatians 5:22, for example, where the fruits of the Spirit are listed. The Scriptures talk about how Christians are filled with the Spirit — and what are the fruits this Spirit produces? Goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, love, joy, and faithfulness.

Colossians 2: 6 says:

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Very often, and perhaps rightly so, we’re trying to walk with Jesus rather than walk in Jesus. But we’re told to walk in Him, not just with Him. Our lives are hidden in Christ in God. We’re covered by the blood of Jesus, so God looks on us as righteous (see the book of Romans).

So what does God see when he looks on us? He sees us as who we are in Christ. He sees us as good, patient, loving, kind, gentle, self-controlled people. That is our real identity.

I, as much as anyone, know of the tension between our real identity and our old identity that still creeps up. But just because I struggle to live up to my actual and real identity doesn’t mean that that isn’t my actual identity.

Have you ever thought and said to yourself, “I am a good person. I am a gentle person. I am a patient person. I am a kind person. I am a faithful person. I am a loving person.”? It’s difficult to do that, it’s difficult to believe that, it sometimes feels unrealistic to talk about ourselves that way, but God thinks like that about us. Because we’re in Christ.

A son is still a son even if he struggles to be one. Nothing can take away his sonship. His identity is still ‘son’ regardless of anything.

That this is a our true identity is nothing short of a miracle, of course. But that’s the point. God has done a miracle.

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Faith is of the Heart

In a previous post I outlined my struggle with ‘faith-healing’ teachings and how Jesus commended certain people for having faith in the Bible.

I said that his commendation wasn’t so much a commendation to them as a rebuke to others – that, it may be, the thing is that faith is actually an easy thing to do. Putting our trust in God is something that isn’t difficult to actually do – anyone can do it – yet so many in Israel couldn’t do it. Perhaps one of the points of those stories in the Scriptures is to show how the ordinary people could trust in God yet many of the scribes, Pharisees, and all those who should have found it easy to trust in Him found it difficult.

Since then I’ve come to realise something more and that is that faith comes from the heart, not the head. But in all my life I guess I’ve kept trying to get the head to believe, when the head is only there to help the heart to believe.

And it’s the heart that God wants, isn’t it? That’s why faith can be hard – while it isn’t difficult to place our trust in Jesus it is difficult for the trust to remain when things go wrong. Yet faith means we continue to believe despite that. Faith means we continue to believe even when our heads tell us we shouldn’t.

That’s why faith is a relational thing; not an agreement to certain beliefs of statement, but a trust in a person called Jesus. A trust that says, ‘Yes, you are good,’ despite whatever is happening around us.

Beliefs of statement can help us to get our trust aligned correctly, but doctrine must drop from our heads into our hearts – if it stays in our heads it’s actually no good, really.

Doubt and unbelief in the Bible are an issue of the heart, not the head. Faith is a thing of the heart, not the head. The promise from God is that He will change our hearts (Ez 36:26).

Our part is to take the risk with him that He will — and that too is faith.

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Your Faith Has Made You Well

I’ve often been quite confused about certain verses in Scripture where Jesus tells those he has healed “Your faith has made you well.”

Why it has confused me is because of all the faith-healing teachings I’ve received in my life. Most of faith-healing teaching revolves around faith being the secret ingredient to see you well, and if you’re sick and someone prays for you and you DON’T get well, you’re told “You don’t have enough faith.”

This has confused me. Just how much faith am I supposed to have to receive a healing? How do I know when I’ve got the ‘right amount’ of faith? I’m pretty sure I believe, I’m pretty sure I trust God to heal, and now you tell me I don’t have ‘enough’ trust? It doesn’t make sense – it’s impossible to have more ‘trust’ than just plain simple trust.

Jesus’ words “Your faith has made you well,” seen in Mark 5:34 to the women with the issue of blood (who just touched his garment and was made well); Mark 10:52 to a blind man who was persisting for Jesus to heal him; and Luke 17:19 to the leper who came back to thank Jesus for healing him (and many other places), have all been used to validate this kind of doctrine.

Plus, Jesus’ commendation to the centurion who had ‘great faith’ in Matt 8:5-13, where Jesus also says to the man “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed,” is used to further illustrate the point.

I’ve really battled with this as it doesn’t make sense. It makes ‘faith’ to be the power to see you healed, not God. If you have enough ‘faith’ (who knows when you do?) then you’re healed. Otherwise God is powerless?

I’ve been battling again with this yesterday, especially as I’ve been doing a study on Acts 3:16 where Peter has healed a cripple and says it was neither by their power or their piety (holiness) that it happened, but by the authority of Jesus. As I said above, I’ve often even heard people speak about faith being the ‘power’ to heal. That makes no sense whatsoever – how could trusting someone (a relational dynamic) be a ‘power’? This isn’t magic we’re dealing with.

But, lying in bed last night I think Jesus showed me something that really opened my mind and heart.

All of these people above didn’t really have any special ‘faith’. Jesus says their faith (which means ‘trust’, a believing that also incorporates some action) has made them well. The point was that they were ordinary people trusting as much as ordinary people can and do. They did nothing special except act on that trust, by going to Jesus, touching his robe, pleading to him, etc. They had as much faith as any normal person in the history of the world and today has ever had or can have.

When Jesus commends the Centurion for having great faith in Matthew 8, notice what he says in verse 10 – “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Was Jesus commending the centurion as much as he was rebuking Israel? Sometimes we may miss the clear rebuke to Israel – Jesus is saying not even God’s people could do something as simple as the Centurion did. There was nothing special about his faith. The marvel is that Israel couldn’t even just trust in such a simple way – Israel was unable to do the simplest of things, because of the state of their hearts.

These are written down for our edification. There is nothing special about any of the people Jesus made well. They possessed no more faith than ordinary people — they were ordinary people! That’s the point. That’s what Jesus is illustrating..

In Luke 17 the disciples ask for Jesus to ‘increase their faith’ in vs 5. He answers by saying they need faith like a grain of mustard seed. We all know it’s small, and we also know that it can grow. But to trust God for healing is not difficult and it requires no major effort. You just have to do it – but it’s in the ‘doing it’, in the actual trusting, that we struggle. But if we believe, we believe, we don’t have to believe ‘more’ to see ourselves healed. There is no measure of ‘more believing’ – we can all believe as much as the next person, and that believing is enough.

Immediately after the disciples ask for their faith to be increased Jesus talks about unworthy servants – is he saying that trust (faith) is more than just doing what you’re told? Then it goes straight into the story of the lepers, where Jesus says to one of them ‘your faith has made you well’.

He didn’t do anything special, he came back and thanked Jesus when the others didn’t. But he did nothing ultimately special. He did something every single one of us has the ability to do. Every one of us have the ability to trust Jesus. Jesus keeps harping on people’s faith to show how simple it is, not to give us some ridiculous bar we must measure up to.

I think this makes a heck of a lot of more sense than what I’ve been taught previously. The only thing is, it needs to be put into practice, and that’s where I struggle. I need to risk it with Jesus and pray for others to be healed, trusting they will be. Is that easy? No. But it doesn’t require a great amount of faith – it requires the amount of trust in God that any human being has the ability to have – it just requires I do it.

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Atheism, Scepticism, Miracles, Apologetics

Who's going to believe the dog really ate your homework?

I’ve been spending some time milling about the blog Debunking Christianity, the spot in the great www from the writer and debater John Loftus, a former Christian turned atheist.

I haven’t really engaged Loftus directly in any way, as I’m probably fairly unskilled at the kind of apologetics he is probably used to engaging. However, I spend a lot of time reading up and mixing myself in these kinds of debates on the Internet and with those I know, and the relentless arguing can get quite irritating eventually.

I have rejected atheism for a number of reasons, one of which include its tendency to be very one dimensional and quite sure of itself to have all the answers. I could go into detail, but that would be beyond the scope of this post.

What I really wanted to say is that I’m becoming increasingly aware that the arguments really don’t go far very quickly. I know that the debating between Christian apologists and Atheist apologists is mostly for the sake of those listening, not for the debaters themselves, who never really seem to change their viewpoints but just get more clever. But some of the arguments ARE indeed clever, and for most normal people perhaps overwhelming (so they easily lose faith) or irrelevant, depending on where they are at.

There’s a song we sing quite often at Church on the Square, called “Famous One” by Chris Tomlin. In the second verse, there is a line that says this about God:

“Revealed by nature, and miracles…”

I believe God is revealed through his creation (nature), and the Bible affirms this in Romans 1. But it does seem that this revealing can often be misunderstood, which is perhaps why God has also provided us with the Bible and other ways of revealing himself.

But one of his other ways of revealing himself is surely the use of miracles, which we see Jesus use extensively.

The fact of the matter is that I feel that most of the time miracles will probably cease all the arguing. Sure, a true sceptic will ALWAYS find a reason to disbelieve and that is one of scepticism’s principle weaknesses, but most normal people cannot dispute miracles, which perhaps includes the prophetic in some way.

Miracles and healing in the church has probably been ‘ruined’ in some way through some faulty theology surrounding it, and I think it should be the job of many Christians to try and break through and find the right theology surrounding it. In fact, we should probably spend more time doing that than getting involved in all these relentless arguments which, although helpful, are not the principal way we can actually DO apologetics. Jesus’ apologetics appears to not just be about arguing, but a lot of DOING as well.

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Saying Goodbye to the God of the Ideal

In my own life I’m going through a new phase, a new era… I’m getting married. Next week Friday, to be exact, and in this process leading up to the marriage I’ve been reminded again that God is not the God if the ideal. In fact, God isn’t interested in the ideal– he seems interested in something else, entirely.

Both me and my wife-to-be have made certain prayers during this phase, most of them to do with our financial matters and such; and today I found myself quite disappointed, as I was hoping for a particular financial matter to be sorted out (in some form of miraculous way, as that was really my only option left) and at the eleventh hour… nothing… at 11:45… nothing. At 12? Still nothing. So the only way I was able to sort it out was to borrow money (from the bank, as in… a credit card) and then had to wrestle with God with a ton of questions.

“God, don’t you say that debt is a bad thing? Why have you allowed me to get into debt?”

“God, don’t you say you will supply my needs? Well, this was a need, and you haven’t seemed to have come through…”

“God, don’t the psalms say that if we trust in You we will never be disappointed?”

Yes, probably in the next week I’ll be able to pay off the credit card, so God hasn’t truly let me down – He has supplied me enough business so that I can meet the need eventually. But why didn’t He sort it out so that I didn’t have to get into debt in the first place? Would it not have been ideal if I got paid the money I’m owed from various people today, as I was promised, so that I could pay for the thing we needed to have done? Why didn’t He do something? Why didn’t He produce the miracle I’ve heard other people talk about – you know, the cheque under the door, the surprise deposit, the something? Do I need to make excuses for Him – write this off with some excuse about me not praying hard enough? Or not planned wisely enough? Or not done something that somehow I was supposed to know to do even though I didn’t?

Then I’m reminded, again and again, that somewhere in my mind I still struggle to get rid of the lie that had been pumped into me from our culture, both inside and outside the church: life is supposed to be ideal. Life is meant to be what you need NOW. Life is Woolworths. You know, it’s nutritious (so they say) and it’s quick – just pop it in the Microwave. All you need in only a few minutes…

It's the happy Jesus... yes, I couldn't afford to buy it from iStockPhoto... didn't you read the entry?

It's the happy Jesus... yes, I couldn't afford to buy it from iStockPhoto... didn't you read the entry?

Faith is largely a journey of disappointments that end in surprises of joy. But it is not the journey of the ideal… yet, has not the modern church insisted that it should be? Haven’t we all heard the formula before? You know, the do x and y happens formula?

The live righteously and God will come through… miss it, and He won’t formula?

So, if God is not coming through, you’ve missed it buddy. You didn’t believe hard enough… you didn’t pray hard enough… you didn’t say the right thing to your mom this morning… you messed up, and so God didn’t come through. Had you not messed up, then He would have come through.

In disappointment there’s two people we can blame – either ourselves, or God. But neither of them are actually the problem… perhaps what we’ve been taught is the problem. Perhaps our culture is the problem.

We believe in the god of the ideal. Well, that’s not the true Living God. If it was, He wouldn’t have sent His Son to die for us… He would have probably just appeared and forgotten the whole thing.

Why a bloody crucifixion?

Why a mystery?

Why not fit into a box, God?

Why not do the ideal? What’s wrong with you?

What is God doing? Would the ideal not be to come down and sort out all the injustices of the world, right now? Why

Obama's got the Colgate smile... if Obama's got it, shouldn't Jesus?

Obama's got the Colgate smile... if Obama's got it, shouldn't Jesus?

put it in the hands of Christians to do (with Him, but nevertheless make it our responsibility)? Why is He not interested in the ideal? Why doesn’t He just do what makes sense?

On the journey of faith, we must let go of the God of the Ideal and latch onto the God who gets His hands dirty, who spits into the eyes of the blind, who writes in the sand. The God that doesn’t have a Colgate smile, but rather a dirty cloak and messed up hair. Maybe His breath even stinks. The God that died naked on a cross – dirty, ugly, smelly, disgusting… yet a sweet and beautiful fragrance. A picture of glory, of true joy! This is the tension of faith, the life on the edge, the beautiful view at the end of the cliff – where we’re on the knife-edge of danger and peril.

Let’s let go of the God of the Ideal, who we can formulise, theologise, scientifogise. It’s time to embrace the mystery… to embrace the dirt… to let our breath stink…

to die naked on a cross…

And perhaps not even know why…

But still know that He is good.