To Discover, All Along, to Whom I Belong

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these … Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Matthew 19:14, 16 (NIV)

God has been speaking to me about identity lately. Who am I? What is my real identity as God sees me. Matthew chapter 19 contrasts two different identities. A little child, who is totally dependent for food, clothing, everything. A little child whose identity is in his family – I am somebody’s child; I am somebody’s sister or brother. A little child who clings to his mother and father because they are life itself. A little child aware of his helplessness.

The other person is a very self-sufficient young man intent on building his own identity – what must I do? The child possesses very little, if anything. In fact, especially in those times, a child was legally considered a possession, whereas the rich young man saw himself as having many possessions. To one, the Kingdom is freely given, the other is intent on getting it – what must I do to get? The Greek word means to have i.e. own, possess. His identity was bound up in his doing and his possessions.

The children were invited to simply come to Jesus and the Kingdom was given them. Jesus invited the young man to enter also, to come and follow – but he would have to leave the possessions and the doings, his present identity, outside. He would need to become a dependent child, and that was something he felt he could not do.

For most of us, our identities are broken, the result of rejection and based on hurtful lies we have taken down deep into our souls. I am not (good, pretty, smart, etc.) enough. I am a disappointment. And worse, much worse. We spend our whole lives rebuilding our broken identities by doing, performing, acquiring. Trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations. Trying to be somebody that could be loved and accepted. Performing in the crazy, imaginary theatre in other people’s heads. Or, completely rejecting them all, thumbing our nose at everyone. Either way, writing our scripts and collecting all the props and costumes needed to play the part we choose. I become the book person, or the cat person, the financially successful person. I am the wise professor, the talented musician or mechanic, I am the good prayer warrior, the effective evangelist, the humble servant of Christ. None of those things are bad. Just like the rich young man, we may be doing everything right, but our identities are built on the wrong foundation. I am significant because of what I can do, what I can “get.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen† has written of how self-rejection is the enemy of our true identity. “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection … Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”

Our core, the essence of our being is our identity – who I am, who I was made to be. Anne Voskamp in The Broken Way writes – “at the core of every one of our issues is this attempt to construct our identity on something else besides Christ” – in other words, to give in and accept the world’s definition of our identity, or to stand defiant and create my own. But, listening to the self-lies, in some kind of self-pitying martyrdom, trying to create my own acceptable identity – is sin and deadly. “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God … Human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love him supremely, center their lives on him above anything else, and build their very identities on him. Anything other than this is sin.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God). My identity is not what I “must do” or what I “get,” like the rich young man in Matthew 19. My identity is found in simply accepting the invitation to come and be.

I must receive my true identity as His little child, totally dependent on Him for strength, faith, life, breath, food on the table, shelter over my head, talents and gifts. I’m realizing that even the words that come out of my mouth when I pray for someone, the love in my heart for them, the willingness and passion to serve – it all comes from Him – everything. At least the part that brings life to others. Otherwise, it is just me doing and getting for myself.

Receiving my true identity as accepted in the beloved and a delight and a treasure to Him is like a consuming fire, searing and painful, but cleansing and healing and life-giving. Lord, I pray that you would be all my treasure, all my identity, all my value, all my significance. A dear friend once prayed for me that I would “discover, all along, to whom I belong.” I believe God is answering that prayer. I am finally opening the Invitation.

I am a child of God 

I am beloved 

I am precious in His sight 

I am His 

And you also are among those who are called (invited) to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6 (NIV) 

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
With faith like a child
from Like a Child by Jars of Clay

 

† You are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living. 2017, p. 12.

The image is a photograph of me with my beloved Mom.

This blog post has been revised into a Bible study which may be freely used and copied. It can be accessed at Hidden Treasure Bible Studies here.

Excavation

I’m sure God feels like it has been an excavation project to get through to me.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire (take pleasure in, delight) to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:6-8 (NIV)

In the old testament if a slave came to love his master and wanted to stay and serve him for life, the master would bore a hole through his ear as a sign.

But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. (Deut. 15:16-17 NIV)

The words in Psalms 40 prophesy the coming Messiah, the one who came to be the Servant Savior, “my ears you have pierced … I delight to do your will.”

God doesn’t long for our sacrifices and all the offerings required by the law, but our love and surrender (not all those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom). He wants us to hear his voice and know him, to delight to serve him. The word translated “pierced” in the Hebrew means “to dig, excavate, dig through, to bore or open.”

I think it is kind of funny that it means “to excavate.” I’m sure God feels like it has been an excavation project to get through to me. One of the meanings of excavate is to uncover buried remains – perhaps remains of my first love? The burning passion to do His will? Digging down through the many rocks and bitter roots, to the buried remains of my first love, down to the “fountains of my soul” as Charles Spurgeon wrote in his commentary[i] on Psalm 40:6-8.

Our Lord was quick to hear and perform his Father’s will; his ears were as if excavated down to his soul; they were not closed up like Isaac’s wells, which the Philistines filled up, but clear passages down to the fountains of his soul. The prompt obedience of our Lord is here the first idea. There is, however, no reason whatever to reject the notion that the digging of the ear here intended may refer to the boring of the ear of the servant, who refused out of love to his master to take his liberty, at the year of jubilee; his perforated ear, the token of perpetual service, is a true picture of our blessed Lord’s fidelity to his Father’s business, and his love to his Father’s children. Jesus irrevocably gave himself up to be the servant of servants for our sake and God’s glory.

Yes, Lord, I need you to excavate me. Let the fountains of my soul burst forth again with your spring of Living Water. Grant me grace, each day, to irrevocably give myself up to be your servant. I will delight to do your will.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 NASB)

I delight to do Your will, O my God. (Psalm 40:8 NASB)

[i] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 40 http://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps040.php

 

Image in the Public Domain

Put on Jesus, Part One

I am not, intrinsically, loving and compassionate, kind or humble. Definitely not patient. I am not incorruptible, imperishable, or immortal. I even have to put on faith and hope.

Rather, clothe yourselves with (put on) the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:14 NIV)

I have really struggled with this concept. How do I “clothe” myself with (or “put on”) Jesus? Galatians 3:27 Paul also writes, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  The New Living Translation translates that last part of the verse as “have been made like him” and I think that is a good clue. In both verses, the Greek word is enduo (ἐνδύω).

“Clothe yourself” or “put on” sounds like slipping into a jacket or something. In fact, in the parable of the Prodigal Son it is used that way, “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on (enduo) him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet” (Luke 15:22).

The word enduo means to sink into “in the sense of sinking into a garment,” “to invest with clothing … array, clothe, endue.” It comes from a word that means to “go into, enter, go under, be plunged into, sink into” and is used of the setting of the sun.[i]

“Sink into” reminds me of the feeling when you put on a favorite piece of clothing, a shirt or something that just makes you feel good, even secure. It also reminds me of John leaning back unto Jesus, sinking back unto His chest at the Last Supper (John 13:23). In fact, the word used for Jesus’ chest or bosom in that verse is kolpos (κόλπος), which in addition to meaning “the front of the body between the arms” also means “the bosom of a garment, i.e. the hollow formed by the upper forepart of a rather loose garment bound by a girdle or sash, used for keeping and carrying things” like a fold or pocket. It is the word used in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom (kolpos). (KJV)” It also means a bay, as in a place of safety.[ii] In John 1:18 it says that Jesus is in the bosom (kolpos) of God.

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (NASB)

I love that! Jesus explained God to us. He is a loving Father who wants to keep us safe and carry us in the fold of His garment, in His bosom. And if we are in Jesus, if we have clothed ourselves with Jesus, endued ourselves with Jesus, have become like Him, we are there with Jesus. Paul says this is something that we can choose to do – clothe ourselves with Him. To be enveloped in Him.

“Sink into” or “plunge into” indicates complete commitment. You can’t plunge into a pool and at the same time just get your big toe wet. Jesus demands full commitment, giving up everything to follow. Romans 13:14 is translated in the New Living Testament as, “But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires.” Oswald Chambers said in Disciples Indeed, “Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest.” Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In denying ourselves we identify with Jesus, we put Him on, and gain so much more than we might lose.

A very old hymn expressed it this way:

Now crucified with Christ I am, the self within is slain
But still I live, and yet not I – Christ lives in me again
I am sinking out of self, out of self, into Christ
Sinking out self into Christ
I am sinking, sinking, sinking out of self
Sinking out of self into Christ (Sinking out of Self, W.F. Crafts, R. Lowry, c1875)

Here is a list of things that the New Testament says that we can put on or sink into (enduo):

Power from on high (Luke 24:49)

The Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27)

Incorruption, imperishable body, immortality (1 Cor. 15:53)

New man (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10)

Armor of light (Romans 13:12)

Faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thess. 5:8)

Whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience (Colossians 3:12)

Love (agape) (Colossians 3:14)

Pure, fine linen, white and clean (Rev. 15:6, 19:14)

All these things are only found in Jesus, are only available to us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Having to “put on” these things indicates to me that they are not in me. I am not, intrinsically, loving and compassionate, kind or humble. Definitely not patient. I am not incorruptible, imperishable, or immortal. I even have to put on faith and hope. If I don’t choose to put on Christ Jesus, I am left with myself; if I don’t put on incorruption and immortality, I am left with corruption and death; If I don’t put on His power, I am left with weakness; I am left with fear, hopelessness, bitterness, anger, sin and darkness. From the beginning God had to clothe us.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

I am not, but He Is!

There is another word in the New Testament that means to clothe or put on. It is only used once, but it is very powerful. We will look at that word in part two of Put on Jesus next time.

 

 

Image from Holly Else https://www.timeshighereducation.com/content/holly-else

[i] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary

Everlasting Ruins

It seems like the Psalmist is very depressed, thinking of the continual, constant destruction of the enemy. Do you ever feel like that? Like you are constantly being beat down, all your hopes a pile of rubble? your life always in ruins? Yet, the word translated “everlasting” in this verse has a very positive meaning.

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Psalm 74:3 (NIV)

In this verse, the Psalmist mourns the destruction of the temple, possibly by the Babylonians. It seems like the Psalmist is very depressed, thinking of the continual, constant destruction of the enemy. Do you ever feel like that? Like you are constantly being beat down, all your hopes a pile of rubble? your life always in ruins? Yet, the word translated “everlasting” in this verse has a very positive meaning. It means “a goal, the bright object at a distance travelled towards.” It means: eminence, perpetuity, strength, victory, enduring, everlastingness. It comes from the root word that means “to glitter from afar,” to excel, be bright, be enduring, be preeminent, be perpetual, be overseer or superintendent (as in the Temple services), be director or chief (such as of the music and musicians in the Temple).[i]

The combination of such a positive word with “ruins” seems like such an oxymoron – a ruin looking toward a bright, victorious goal. I wondered what it could mean. This is what God showed me – Yes!

In Christ, we are the temple:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 1 Cor 3:16 (NIV)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Cor 6:19-20 (NIV)

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 2 Cor. 6:16b (NASB)

But the temple is in ruins. God always meant to dwell and walk with us, even from back in the garden. People were meant for glorious strength, to be victorious, to excel, to be a bright light. But instead, they chose to be disobedient and sinned against God, and, as a result, men became natural born sinners.

Watchman Nee in The Normal Christian Life writes, “We are sinners. we are members of a race of people who are constitutionally other than what God intended them to be. By the fall, a fundamental change took place in the character of Adam whereby he became a sinner, one constitutionally unable to please God; and the family likeness which we all share is no merely superficial one but extends to our inward character also. We have been ‘constituted sinners.'” As Oswald Chambers wrote, “there is a heredity of sin running straight through the human race.” In other words, we are everlasting ruins, but not hopeless!

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23-24 (Message)

 The Rebuilder

Psalm 74 goes on to say in verse 12, “But (Yet!) you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation (Hebrew = yeshua) upon the earth” (NIV). Jesus, Yeshua, came to save us out of this state of ruin.

Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ Zechariah 6:12-13 (NIV)

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” … But the temple he had spoken of was his body. John 2:19, 21 (NIV)

Jesus came to rebuild the everlasting ruins. Israel’s physical temple was always a picture of our Lord – it’s destruction and rebuilding a picture of his death and resurrection. The Messiah was foretold to be the rebuilder of the temple – but this time not a building, but a group of people, believers, followers, who would be what God first intended and reach that bright goal. Jesus did this by dying and rising again – the destruction of the Temple and it’s rebuilding – the destruction also of the sinful nature and the restoring of the people of God. And if you are in Him – “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9) – you may feel like a hopeless ruin right now, but you are the rebuilt, glorious temple. Cry out to Him and rise!

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:6-7 (NIV)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NIV)

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:21 (NIV)

And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 (NLT)

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign  (from Glorious Ruins, Hillsong)

Christ is Risen! And we are risen with Him, in Him, no longer ruins, but a holy temple, bright and shining, glorious, victorious! Hallelujah! 

[i] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

This blog is also a Bible study available for free use here Everlasting Ruins Bible study

The Mutual Gaze

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

“When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is ‘Thou God seest me.’ When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chapter 7, The Gaze of the Soul)

“God looks at us lovingly, searching for room in our hearts. Knowing this, how can we not turn our attention to God? In the measure you desire Him, you will find Him. He so esteems our turning to look at Him.” —St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, 26.3

“Meanwhile brethren, that we may be healed from sin, let us now gaze on Christ crucified; for ‘as Moses,’ saith He, ‘lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth on Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Just as they who looked on that serpent perished not by the serpent’s bites, so they who look in faith on Christ’s death are healed from the bites of sins.” – Augustine, Tractate XII ch.3 Homilies on the Gospel of John

Have you ever seen two lovers staring into each other’s eyes, or have you been one? When my husband and I were going together we could sit and gaze into each other’s eyes forever, it seemed, without saying a word, and be perfectly happy and content. That same kind of mutual gaze appears in the Bible between God and the apple of His eye, His delight and love – that’s us!

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes (gazes at) the sons of men; his eyes examine (try, prove) them … For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright (straight, level) men will see (gaze at) his face. (Psalm 11:4 and 11:7 NIV)

At first, these verses may sound kind of scary. He is examining me to see if I am upright? Sounds like I am being judged. Can I only gaze back if I pass the test? Job 36:7 says “He does not take his eyes off the righteous.” But who is righteous? In this verse God is looking down at us, and the righteous are gazing back at Him. Sometimes God is gazing only hopefully, as in Psalm 14:2, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.” He is always looking for somebody who is looking back.

But, if I had to depend on my own merits I would never be able to look him “full in his wonderful face” as in the beautiful hymn by Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. In my own strength I will always fall short; I will always fail and hurt those around me. But he loved us and yearned so much for us to have that relationship with him, to be able to gaze back, that he made a way through Jesus. In Numbers 21 the people of Israel were being bitten by poisonous snakes and dying. God gave Moses instructions to save them: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived” (Numbers 21:8-9). Jesus refers to this incident in John 3:14-16 when he said,

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So just as the Israelites had to look at the metal snake and believe that it would heal them, so we look up at Jesus hanging on the cross and believe in what he accomplished there. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Me and you, the righteousness of God! He did that for us so that we could gaze back, unafraid, unashamed. In Hebrews, Paul urges us to “fix our eyes” on Jesus.

Let us fix our eyes (consider attentively, look, turn the eyes away from other things and fix them) on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy (gladness, persons who are one’s joy) set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

Jesus had his eyes fixed on us as he endured the cross – the “persons who are one’s joy”† – and the joyful fellowship we would have together. Let us turn away from all things that would keep us from gazing back – sin, rebellion, self-centeredness – and fix our eyes on him as we walk with him on our journey, for we are his joy and he is ours! Let us pray with David:

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4 NIV)

Keith Green put it so well.

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clear
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear

I want to take Your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live Lord
And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You

Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

(from Oh Lord You’re Beautiful by Keith Green)

“O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen.” ― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

† Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament