Are We Really Who We Think We Are?


Have you ever considered how we develop our worldview?  The formative years of our lives are considered to be between birth and age five. What we are exposed to and taught during early childhood has great influence on who we become, how we see ourselves, and our motivation in life. That, however, does not mean we are limited by those influences and mindsets; yet is can be where we get stuck in our thinking.

In John 3, Nicodemus, a prominent leader of the Pharisees, came to Jesus at night to ask Jesus about His teaching on second birth.  He is seeking to understand something physically, “how can I again enter into my mother’s womb to be born again?”  Rebirth is not a physical phenomena, Nicodemus is looking from an earthy perspective not from a heavenly one.  Jesus explains:

“Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” John 3:5-8 (MSG)  

     Jesus describes rebirth as our submitting to God and His original plan for us. He is speaking of us placing our faith and our lives in Jesus Christ; accepting His death, burial and resurrection as the payment for our short-comings, mistakes and rebellion against God and His Word. Salvation covers our faults by Jesus sacrifice on the cross. His resurrection conquers death and gives us new life. When we make the faith decision, we then become part of the Kingdom of God. We are now born from above. But what does that really mean?

Imagine for a moment growing up in a very small village in a meager household with only one parent, an aunt, or a caregiver.  Suddenly, when you’re almost grown, two people come into your life and claim they are your long lost parents. You were taken from them when you were quit small. It is apparent that they have been searching for you, they love you, and missed you very much. They sweep you back to this grand palace with everything you could need at your disposial.  Might it take a while before you actually are comfortable with your new situation and what is available to you? Are truly ready to step into your new role? Are you up to the challenge of what is expected and how you are to act in your new role? Would it be east to fall back into the ways of your old life? How do you break the old mindset? Can you fit into this new place?  First, you have to want it. Even so, it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, it is a transforming process.

Stepping into a new role effectively requires a new mindset; a renewing of one’s thinking and perspective, otherwise we will be less than effective in our new life.  We must know who we are and what is expected of us.  Mastering this requires us to be intentional, surrendered and patient because it is a process. It is possible as believers in Christ, for us to be quick to enjoy the benefits of being part of the Kingdom; yet be much slower to renew our thinking and become Kingdom thinkers. We must desire and seek Him and His wisdom. As we walk by His Spirit, we begin to look more Christ-like and be transformed from glory to glory.

“To this day, in fact, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit.”            2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NABRE)

God has call us kings and priests and ambassadors. (Revelation 1:6) (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) How do we renew our thinking to think and act from the Kingdom perspective in order to represent Him will?  When in a pinch, do we respond as Jesus would rather than from our nature? Have we learned to respond in love, rather than defend ourselves or retaliate when pressed?  Most of us know that His Word is part of the transforming answer but do we understand the Holy Spirit’s roll in the transformation? Do we believe 1 Corinthians 2:16? We can have the mind of Christ in our situations!

For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him?  But we have the mind of Christ. “ 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (HCSB)

Lord, give us grace, strength and desire to: Make our own attitude like that of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 2:5)  and “Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15)


Days of Grace-Day 17

Yesterday, we found ourselves in John looking at John’s declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”  We observed that because of His fullness, we have received grace upon grace, and He has revealed grace and truth. As we follow the grace trail, we pick up next in Acts.  Jesus has fulfilled the Father’s plan.  He came back victoriously from the grave after three days, appeared to Mary, His disciples, and according to 1 Corinthians 15:6, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus ascended before the disciples eyes into Heaven.  Just before He left, He had instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, which is where we find them as we approach Acts 2.

Jesus disciples, the women, His mother Mary and His brothers were all together in one place. They were gathered in Jerusalem in an upper room praying. All together there were about one hundred and twenty.  When the day of Pentecost came, so did the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came in power, rested on each one in the room and they were filled with the Spirit of God. Peter stood up with the other eleven disciples and he preached a powerful sermon that was heard and understood by each in their own language.  As if that were not amazing enough, apparently a very large crowd gathered because about 3,000 people accepted Peter’s message and were baptized that day. All of these devoted themselves to the apostles teaching,  spending much time together, sharing meals and praying together. Our first example of grace in the book of Acts describes the early church this way:

“They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NET)

The NET translation, along with a couple of others, uses the words good will when translating Charis to English; others tend to use favor. The impression we are given from the verses is that those who believed were of one heart and one mind; they had all things in common. They faithfully taught as Jesus had taught them and told of His resurrection. There was no one among them who was lacking.  According to scripture, not only was this early church growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and in His teachings, they were genuinely caring for each other, getting along well and making a big impression on all the people around them. Acts goes on to tell us in chapter three about the healing of the lame man at the gate beautiful and a sermon at Solomon’s portico. Chapter four opens with the arrest of Peter and John. The priest and leaders of the temple thought they had solved all their problems by getting Jesus out of the picture. Now not only were his followers the twelve or the one hundred twenty; they had grown to over three thousand and continued to grow. This made the religious leaders very upset and here we find Peter and John in custody.

Peter and John went before the Sanhedrin and spoke. The Sanhedrin saw that the men, despite the lack of education and training were bold and smart and were amazed. They knew instinctively these men were with Jesus. They came to the verdict, no one could speak the name of Jesus again. These bold followers refused to back down, asking the leaders “is it right to obey God or man; you judge, but we must speak out these things we have witnessed.” They were threatened again and released.  Peter and John reported back to the people all that had happened and they began to pray for boldness! No holding back in fear of the religious leaders here; they petitioned to the highest authority for boldness to continue His will and His work. They could have prayed for protection, but they prayed for boldness and an increase in healing and wonders. They didn’t shrink back.

In chapter four we are told: Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NKJV)

What can we learn about grace from their example? What united these people to not only live in harmony but to build this incredible early church?  Could it be regular fellowship, sharing meals, and prayer? Is it having everything in common and helping those in need? Maybe it was time together in the temple? Did the resistance coming against them from religious leaders cause them to bond and become closer? I am sure all of these were contributing factors to their harmony and powerful growth. Perhaps the most powerful reason is found in their finding the one thing that can unite them, Jesus. I believe their uniting factor was their extreme dedication to Jesus, the empowering of the Holy Spirit and their willingness to both give grace to each other and ability to receive it back from one another.

May His grace abound so that we can give grace abundantly!