Do Not Change Your Identity!!!

SCRIPTURE

‘From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” John 6: 66- 67

OBSERVATION

Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand, and the people were so impressed that they wanted to come and take Him by force and make Him king. But Jesus knew this was not the job God had destined Him for, so He quickly departed to be alone.  When the people found Him again, they wanted Him to perform more miracles to prove who He was, but Jesus did not because He knew He was not a performer.

Instead He talked to them in deeper spiritual terms about who He really was and what He was really here to do, but no one understood.  The Jews quarreled and complained, and now even His disciples began to doubt and turn away from Him.  But Jesus stood firm, He turned and asked His other twelve disciples if they wanted to go also.

APPLICATION

Jesus was not afraid of people abandoning Him physically or spiritually because of His testimony of who He was.  He gave them free will to come and go as they pleased and did not fight for them to return. More importantly, Jesus did not change His identity to make Himself more acceptable to others.  He refused to be king.  He refused to perform.  He refused to change to make other people happy.

Why? Because Jesus had His identity wrapped up in God His Father and His spiritual foundation was based on God.  Jesus was not dependent upon the disciples or the approval of others to help Him feel better about Himself.  He depended upon God and who God had told Him He was.  Even though the people did not accept Jesus as the Bread of Life, Manna from Heaven, the Son of God, it did not phase Him or lead Him to question Who He was.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father

I am thankful for the example that Jesus continues to show us of steadfast faith and a secure identity in You. It is very easy to be a people pleaser and to change to make others happy, especially when they decide to leave. Though it is hard to watch people leave, we know that Jesus had to let people go who did not accept the identity that You gave Him.

I pray that you will help us all to hold onto the characters that you have given to us and to seek approval only from You, and not from man.  Our job, is to make You happy by fulfilling Your will and to testify of it, just as Jesus did.  We need to daily claim our identity in You, knowing that we are indeed Children of the Heavenly King!

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

Apostle or Christian?

Nowadays anyone can call themselves a Christian if they profess to believe in God. But are they Apostles for Christ – messengers of the gospel and ambassadors making disciples of others? I overheard the following conversation between two fellow co-workers discussing Christian ministries. “Have you ever thought about serving outside the church?” said one. “You know – I’m not sure about totally going outside of the church, though the idea is appealing” replied the other. They went on to describe how their circle of acquaintances and family were in the church and that was their target area of ministry.

Although I recognize the need for people to minister inside the church and while I do not want to doubt the sincerity of any person who serves God. I did wonder how much of those remarks were based on the ministerial needs of the church or of the individual needs of the person having a familiar group of people around them.

The call to go totally outside of the church is not an idea, it’s a commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world…and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:17) 

How many of us have become comfortable Christians? Professing Christ and serving busily in roles which serve other comfortable Christians. Do we hide behind the comfort and security of the church, hoping that the drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, mentally ill, and any other non-conforming group will stay safely outside of the church? After all, we don’t want anyone coming in lowering the church standards or making us feel uncomfortable, do we?

unwelcome mat
Image courtesy of theguardian.com

Why are we unwilling to sacrifice the creature comforts of the church walls to seek the lost in the community?

“They’re a crazy drug mob…What if they have AIDS?…Maybe they’ll ruin our church! Or take my favorite seat…They’ll bleed our budgets dry!… They’re a bad example for our children!”

Though these comments are not always expressed verbally, it is often clear in the way we treat our visiting brothers and sisters, and it becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at our church to receive the message that God quite clearly told us to preach to all the nations.

Where would we be if Jesus had said:- “You know, I’m not sure about going down there, they’re dangerous, crazy and they just don’t get it…they could even kill me!  Why would I want to bring those sinners up here anyway? They’ll bring our standards down, they may even try to sit on my throne! I’m going to stay here in Heaven and hang with my angels…”

Thankfully He didn’t!

We need to remember that the majority of Jesus’ ministry was outside of the synagogue with the apparent ‘unsavory’ characters of His time. Furthermore, it was Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up His heavenly home, throne, family, angels, and His Father and suffered incredible discomfort – to save us.

Jesus did not call us only to believe in Him as a Christian, but also to follow His example as an Apostle, a messenger and ambassador. Following Christ’s example in sharing the gospel requires some discomfort and potentially a ministry outside of the church with God and the gospel being our only partners. What better lesson could we teach our children about love and overcoming fears, than to serve God in the community sharing the gospel with others? The nervous unease of inexperience and meeting different people as we seek to move outsideimagesCAL2PEE0 of our comfort zone is positive growth.  The confidence in our abilities and acceptance of others as God’s children usually becomes more assured as we allow God to equip us as He promised.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 4 – 6).  Has the time come for you to take the next step from being a comfortable  Christian towards being an Apostle for Christ?

I am a Child of God.

Whether a Methodist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Mormon etc., becoming a part of a church family can become a large part of one’s identity and lifestyle.  Church membership is a place where you can belong and there was a time when I wore my church denomination and local membership with some level of pride. However, there also came a time when I had to truly figure out ‘Who I am’  and to ‘Whom I belong’.

Quite simply, I broke it down and figured out that this is who I am.

I am a Child of God – a Christian.

Nothing more… nothing less.

I belong to God. He is my Father. God created me, formed me in my mother’s womb and claimed me as His own. He loved me first, before anyone or any other church or denomination ever existed. My identity is in Him. My choice to serve God as a Christian is based on my belief that God is my Creator, my Father, and that he has given me the free will to claim salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The denomination that I attend – it’s not as important to me as it once was. The churches in the New Testament were of no denomination, they were just referred to by their location – Corinth(Corinthians), Philippi (Philippians) and so on. People attended these churches regularly depending on where they lived, not according to the doctrines that each church held. People were simply ‘Christians’ or the ‘Saints in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:1, Eph 1:1).

Whilst each denomination may claim to hold ‘the truth’ – claims of exclusivity in areas of doctrine, prophecy etc., often yield an unfortunate consequence of dividing the body of Christ based on our limited ability to accurately interpret the Bible.

Therefore church denomination and membership, programs and prophecy interpretations, being theologically ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ are no longer a priority to me. I want to focus on following the example of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy that Jesus gave to us.  My priority is to serve God outside of the church, just as Jesus served and nurtured people outside of the synagogue.

Church denominations and conflicting doctrines are not going away. However, it is important that we do not forsake fellowship with other Christians.  Choosing a church requires individuality, humility, prayer, questioning, direction from the Holy Spirit and Bible study regardless of whether our family has a generational history in a particular denomination. We need to be open minded and aware that every church is fallible and there is no church or doctrine that can save us – therefore it is vital that our relationship with God is well-established as we search.

As I write, I am reminded of the promise that God has given to me:-

‘In my Father’s house are many mansions; If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.’ (John 14: 2 -3; NKJV)

I firmly believe that the True Church that I am seeking, the ‘True Church Membership’ that I need – safely rests in Heaven – with My Father.