Reimaged

There are multiple voices that can keep us from the destinies Christ has planned for us. Through my journey of rediscovering Christ, I have had to learn which voices to listen to and which not. I’ve also had to learn how to speak to myself and view myself, which I think is equally as important. What the world and others tell us we are is often based on several factors. Two of the biggest are what we’ve done right, and what we’ve done wrong. Some people like to measure us by our past. I know lots of people who have relocated or moved jobs just to start over. That’s because most people I’ve ever met have a really hard time allowing someone to start over after making mistakes (small or big). I find that those people really haven’t grasped the concept of grace, for themselves, or for others. But God brings us encouragement.

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.””

Hebrews 8:12

And also…

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Our society is also very success driven. I was raised in an athletic-minded family and academically-driven family. My life was pushed in a way that anything short of an A in a class or a medal at a tournament was not success. I developed an identity based on how good I was at school, sports, relationships, my career, etc…Nowhere in that was the true measure of success found. But God reminds us that our success is tied up in His success and that we have been individually crafted by Him for a purpose He’s prepared for us.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10

In the tech world re-imaging is the process of installing a new operating system on a machine. This process includes wiping, or clearing, the hard drive entirely, and installing a fresh operating system. When the reimage is complete, it is almost like getting a brand new machine. We, as believers, go through this same process. Check out what it says in Titus.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Titus 3:4-7

It can be hard at times to believe this. But we are being washed, regenerated, and renewed from within. We are becoming something brand new. We are neither a sum of our mistakes or of our accomplishments. We are heirs of eternal life. We are Christ’s. And because of that, we are a sum of Who He is and what He is making us into.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

We are meant to be compelled by love. To be reimaged means we are no longer viewed the same, and by extension, not viewing others the same either. Christ is literally installing a new operating system in us. The new system means we no longer live for ourselves. This process also means we’ve been given a new calling as ambassadors for the gospel.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

We all have a story. In that is the story of God’s goodness and grace. We can display the before and after stories. We can live out our faith so even the doubters can see what a changed heart looks like. God is in the business of remaking lives and using broken people. That’s something I find very encouraging. Just listen to some of these names from the Biblical story:

  • Moses (murderer/fugitive)
  • Samson (promiscuous)
  • David (adulterer/murderer)
  • Rahab (prostitute)
  • Jonah (ran from God)
  • Woman at the well (sexual sin)
  • Saul (murdered/prosecuted)

Each of these people, today, are not looked at by what they did, but by who they became in and through the grace of God. They all serve as powerful stories of repentance, mercy, love, and a passion for the Lord. Everyone loves a redemption story. They are the most compelling. I think that is because we all long for that in our own lives. The good news is, that same thing is extended to all of those Bible heroes is also extended to us. No matter where we meet Him, at a well, a burning bush, the road to Damascus, a car ride to work, or in front of the bathroom mirror. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the response.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:8-14

There is nothing more precious than the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. The very thought that Christ has made you and me His own is overwhelming. It’s time we lay aside our past and keep pressing on toward Christ and His call on our life.

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This is a look at the last public teaching that Jesus gave before going to the cross. He did this, like usual, through the use of parables. And in many cases, Jesus used multiple parables to teach the same principle. He did this with the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and the prodigal son. We see Him doing it again with another trifecta of parables. In your Bible they are probably labeled as the parables of the 10 virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. Before we start breaking these down, let’s take a little more look into the context of these teachings.

As I mentioned before, this is the last public message that Jesus taught before the last supper and his eventual betrayal in the Garden. Jesus delivers them following His return to Jerusalem. Starting back in chapter 21, Jesus goes into the temple and cleanses it from the ungodly practices of all the Passover vendors. After leaving, He would return to the temple in order to address the leaders and religious members of society. This is where He called out the hypocrisy of the teachers and pharisees of Israel and warned the people not to follow in their example. Once again, Jesus leaves the temple and begins His discourse on the end of the age. Also referred to as the “end times” or “second coming”. It is at this point that Jesus delivers these three connected stories.

In each illustration, Jesus divides people into one of two groups. There’s the Wise Virgins and the foolish virgins in the first parable He teaches. In the second, people are divided into the Good and Faithful Servants or the Wicked and Lazy Servant. And in the last parable He teaches the two divisions are the Sheep and the Goats. Let’s look at the distinction between them now.

1-Prepared vs unprepared: The wise virgins had enough oil. They were fully prepared and anticipated meeting the bridegroom. Same with the Good and Faithful Servants, who did the work and invested their effort to bring a profit to their existence that would please the master. For the sheep, Jesus provides specific examples of what it looks like to be prepared for His arrival, and how we can invest our faith to benefit others for His glory. They all included looking for the needs in others and doing our part to fill them. We have an abundance of hurting and broken people around us. We don’t have to look too far to find someone in need, physical or emotional. To be prepared is to live like Jesus did. To seek the lost and to give our lives away for the benefit of others. Oil is often used as a representation of the Holy Spirit. To be prepared then is to be filled with the Spirit and to live according to the spirit.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

2-Active vs. inactive: One key distinction between those who are looking for the return of Christ is how active they are. Life can easily get in the way but Jesus doesn’t take that as an excuse. No matter how busy we are, we are meant to do “everything” unto the Lord. Whether in word or deed. Family, work, hobbies…they shouldn’t get in our way of doing the things of the Lord, they should be all about doing the things of the Lord. That doesn’t mean we have to all be preachers, but we should all be preaching the gospel through our way of life and our words. We display Jesus at home, at work, and at play.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

3-Bigger mission vs. self-centered mission: The wicked and lazy servant operated out of fear. The foolish virgins cared more about the load they carried and their convenience rather than being prepared. The Goats were doing everything to promote their own religiosity. God knows when we do things for Him and when we do things to promote ourselves. Jesus said to let our lights shine before men so that they will see them and glorify God in heaven. But so many do things so that they themselves will be glorified on earth. Fear won’t be an excuse. Convenience won’t be an excuse. And self-glorification certainly won’t be an excuse.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

4-A knowledge of Jesus vs. not really knowing Him: Paul said to live as wise and not as unwise, knowing the things that are pleasing to the Lord. Jesus wants us to be watching for Him and investing our lives in the lives of others. He wants us to live in a manner that points others in His directions. We all need to live less for ourselves and more for Him. Jesus tells each of the people in the negative category that He does not know them. Those are fearful words that none of us should ever want to hear. We all need to live for the future hope by leaving the best possible legacy now. We all need to pick up our cross and follow Him. He has made it possible for us to know Him. The question is, are we walking full on into His invitation?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What is the overall purpose of these last few parables that Jesus teaches us? What is Jesus trying to get us to see? I believe He wants to leave us with a clear message of how to be prepared for His eventual return. These words are a gift to us. It’s His final reminder before He departs. It reminds me of the farewell address given by Moses at the conclusion of giving the law and before he went up the mountain with God to die. Laid before us is life and death. Jesus’ use of contrast imagery drives home the same message. The world’s only divided into two groups of people: those who know Him and those who don’t. In the end, that is all that will matter. Our socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. Nor does our bucket list. Our career path, net income, and accomplishments all fade away in light of what Jesus is really looking for in you and me. He wants to know us and be known by us.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 ESV

He entreats us all to take the time to listen. Hear His voice calling you by name, telling you that you are loved, inviting you into His pasture, into the abundant way of life. Listen to the good shepherd guide you to the life of love and legacy.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

The Flood of Salvation #3

One of the most hopeful themes of the flood story in the book of Genesis comes at the end. As the waters recede and dry ground appears, the earth washed clean from the stains of evil, new life begins to take shape. It’s the fresh start that the world needed. It’s the new beginnings story that everyone is drawn to.

People have a tendency to make mistakes, sometimes rather large ones, and in doing so we make a mess of things. We’ve all hurt others by our actions or words. We’ve all hurt ourselves by poor choices we’ve made at one time or another. Some of us have ruined careers or relationships, or both. Some of us have alienated children or have wandered deep into the path of addiction. Some of us have made choices in life that have led to battles with depression or anxiety. Whatever the person’s story is, God is the God of new beginnings. It applies to everyone’s world.

The flood brought salvation to Noah and his family, but also to the world that had been plagued by misuse and corruption. The flood was a clean slate. As the story goes from there, humanity makes a royal mess of things all over again. We’ve been spiraling into moral corruption ever since the flood. Which means, the slate will be wiped clean again, only this time it’ll be permanent.

In the book of revelation we can read about Jesus’ return. Throughout the book Christ’s return is proclaimed, prepared, and finally carried out. It’s a difficult read but very worth an in-depth study. The preparation for Christ’s return brings about a shockwave of catastrophic events meant to draw peoples hearts back to repentance. Instead, people get more bitter and push God away more than ever. These catastrophic evens serve to cleanse the Earth of the prevalent evil. That evil will finally be eliminated once Christ’s rule is established and Satan is destroyed forever.

It’s pretty obvious that the world we live in now is messed up and getting worse all the time. Truth has been distorted and evil runs rampant at every level of society, in every society. It was no different in Noah’s lifetime. God has always been in the process of reverting the world back to the form of its original creation. A form in which God and man can walk together in the cool of the day. A form in which all of creation lives in harmony and all sin is absent.

God is in the business of redemption and making things new. The flood story is an illustration of that. But as we’ve been looking at, it’s an illustration that points to a far greater event carried out by Yeshua the Messiah. Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection established the new life and new beginnings for anyone who pursues that in Him. The Spiritual cleansing has taken place and continues to because of Him. All of our bad choices can be erased. Our sins can be vanquished in the blink of an eye. Lives can be redirected. People’s hearts can be transformed. All because of Yeshua’s work on the cross. He rose to life so we too can be raised to a new life. As incredible as that is, it doesn’t end there. One day, there will be a physical cleansing of the Earth that Jesus will bring and it will be amazing!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Revelation‬ ‭21:1-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬