Truth That Changes Us

As part of our In Christ Sunday teaching series we’re blogging some short devotionals to help us get to grips with what the New Testament means when it describes Christians as being ‘In Christ’. 

Truth With Big Consequences

“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who can condemn us? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Romans 8:31-34

I first came across this Bible verse in the film Saving Private Ryan of all places. In it one of the soldiers misquotes it like this ‘If God’s on our side, who the hell can be on theirs?’ It became the first Bible verse I could recite from memory.

Paul’s reasoning in these verses is step by step, convincing and it’s life changing. He starts with the promise that God is for us. This idea in itself is so glorious that it ought to change everything about how we approach life. If we were to spend the rest of our lives reflecting only on this idea and living in the light of its consequences – things would be radically different. 

God is for me and as a sign of his commitment to me, he sent his son Jesus. He knew what needed to be done to bring me back to him, and he did it, not even sparing his son. Can you even begin to imagine the torrent of affection and emotion that must exist inside someone who is willing to do this? The words of the song ‘How He Loves Us’ go some way in conveying this emotion; this deep unrelenting affection that He has for me! Check out the song here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoC1ec-lYps

Paul’s statements in this paragraph are logical and step by step: if A=B he says, then and B=C. I’ll explain.

Each statement flows out of the previous: 

1. God is for us. He did not even withhold His son.

and consequently…

2. He will not withhold any good thing from us.

AND

1. God, the ultimate authority, has justified us.

and consequently…

2. Who then can bring charge against us? Who can condemn us?

If you’re a Christian today, do you see how secure you are? Do you grasp how permanently you’re loved? Do you see how deeply you’re cared for?

If you’re a Christian then you can say:

In Christ I am immovably wedged in God.
In Christ I can never be taken or parted from God’s love for me.
In Christ I have seen the passion that God has for me.
In Christ I know how much I’m loved.
In Christ I am secure.

Everything means EVERYTHING

As part of our In Christ Sunday teaching series we’re blogging some short devotionals to help us get to grips with what the New Testament means when it describes Christians as being ‘In Christ’.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Reflections
No one loves God unless they’ve been called and transformed by God. Elsewhere in Romans it says ‘no one understands. No one seeks God.’ (Romans 3:11) and Paul also affirms in Romans 1 that our natural, fleshly heart is not only cold toward God but is opposed to his purposes. We are, all of us, anti-God by nature from birth.

But, something has changed.

If you’re in Christ (the New Testament’s term for Christians) something has changed deep within you and something dramatic has changed regarding the circumstances and fabric of your life.

If you’re a Christian then you have come to not only believe in God but also to love him. Deep within your new self there is now the desire to not only pursue God’s will for your life but also to know him more. So, what’s changed then? You have been born again, the old has passed away and the new has come.

Now Romans 8:28 is true of you. You have been called by God,

and now (as a result of the call) love God,

and (since you love God and have been called by God), the rest of this verse also applies to you. All things work together for your good.

Two ideas stand out as a result from this verse:
1. All things work together for your good.
2. God has a definite purpose for your life.

All things work together for good; that means everything. Nothing finds its way out of this verse! Whether insults or encouragements; failures or successes; hurt or joy. Whatever it is, God works it together for your good. Your need not fear anything since you can now know that everything works together for good. Everything conspires in some rich tapestry, for your good. We won’t always understand how, we won’t always see in this life the full extent of that good but still all things work together for your good. If only we lived and thought like this were true, our lives would be transformed. Nothing is going to happen to you, read it againnothing is going to happen to you, that God does not plan to use for good. 

You can be sure of this since the second part of the verse tells us that God has a purpose for your life. God isn’t stuck for ideas about how to use suffering and sickness for your good and his glory. He isn’t stuck for ideas since everything that occurs to us can be and is used in accordance with his preordained plan for your life. AND since it is his purpose that you’ve been called according to, you should make it your aim to always stick close to him. 

In Christ – in once, in for all time

As part of our In Christ Sunday teaching series we’re blogging some short devotionals to help us get to grips with what the New Testament means when it describes Christians as being ‘In Christ’. 

guarantee

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

Seal: stamp, authentication, assurance, confirmation, ratification.                                                                             Guarantee: promise, word of honour, pledge, oath, bond, covenant, security, surety. 

Once you’re in – YOU’RE IN.

Reflections
Jesus’ sacrifice for us was not incomplete. It is not as though Jesus died to save us, and now sneaks us into God’s presence like we’re an uninvited guest at a party; like we’re the misfit child at school who stands out as being different and therefore not accepted at the parties. Christ’s sacrifice was totally complete; totally transforming! It took us from dirty to clean; from stained to white; from having no seal to having God’s seal of approval, his royal stamp on us. God puts his seal of approval on us. Our rescuing is a very public thing. It’s not hidden away. This is important because it helps us to see just how secure we are in God. God sets us up before all the angels and demons, before Satan and all the sleeping saints, to show them that we are in Christ. He raises our spirits to life and enables us to breathe the pure air of God’s love and presence – because we are in Christ. God also puts his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee! As a guarantee of what?! Of our ‘forever-and-ever-ness’, in Christ; so that we know we will eternally bear His seal. It’s not dependent on certain conditions which, if not met, discontinue the guarantee. No! It’s an eternal guarantee. Once it’s made, it can never be broken.
Truth to declare aloud:
God has forever established me in Christ.
God has forever anointed me in Christ.
God has put his royal seal of approval on me in Christ.
In Christ, God has sent his Spirit into my heart 
This will always be true of you if you’re a Christian since you are intimately, completely, and intrinsically united with Christ. What God does he doesn’t regret, he doesn’t undo, he doesn’t ‘take back’. God’s work is permanent.
This is great news. Allow this truth to resonate in your hearts this week. Once you’re in – you’re in for good!

Beautiful Things

gardens need gardening

I’m free!

I’m healed!

I’m whole!

I’ve forgiven and the weight has lifted!

How does God work beautiful life-changing things in our lives? That’s a question I’ve wrestled with often. How do the above statements become our own personal story? What needs to happen? Here’s part of the answer I came to a while back that has really helped me:

I like gardening. I never thought I would, but when we bought our first house (an end of terrace with a patio and several 3x9ft flower beds) I caught the bug. There’s little else in life that you can spend so little time working on but get such huge satisfaction from. It’s amazing. I can spend 15mins with my fingers in the dirt pulling up weeds and trimming bushes, stand back and feel a rush of satisfaction – yes I just used the word rush to describe gardening.

After a good days gardening, beauty and order has been brought to the garden – job done. For days afterwards I’ll come down to breakfast, put the kettle on and just stand and stare out into the garden. The frustrating thing about gardening though is that it only stays beautiful for so long. After a while plants have grown, weeds have returned, storms have wreaked havoc and the garden needs well, gardening – again.

It’s the same with our lives and we miss it at our peril. Beautiful things in a cursed, corrupt and fallen planet don’t stay beautiful for long without regular maintenance.

This is an obvious and fairly simple point but we miss it at great detriment to our happiness and damage to our faith.

‘Why,’ my cynical brain asks, ‘when I was healed of that has it returned?’

‘Why, when I was free from that am I enslaved again?’

If you’re anything like me, those thoughts often try to point me towards doubt and away from trust. Things ‘wear off’ I tell myself, ‘reality’ kicks back in I remind myself. Perhaps God didn’t really do anything in my life. Perhaps there isn’t a God after all…

Maybe those accusations are valid. Maybe my own inability to stay free or stay whole is a sign that we’ve all been lied to, that Jesus is still in the grave. Or maybe, just maybe the Christian life operates according to the same patterns, and is subject to the same principles as everything else in this world; that as Christians we’re not exempt from life. Stagnant stationary things corrode and corrupt as much as moving, growing organisms. Beauty fades and chaos returns unless we continue to lean into and look to the creative creator who brings life out of death and beauty out of pain. It’s what God did at Creation when he gathered the formless and void universe and began to shape it and it’s what God is constantly doing by upholding and sustaining all things to ensure that they keep their order and beauty.

This week, let’s not overlook this valuable principle. Let’s ensure that we tend the gardens of our lives.