Tag Archive | Conformed to the image of Christ

Jesus: Our Example of Surrender

This week, we are coming to the end of our study of I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life, by Laura Story.

Christian author Katherine J Walden said concerning surrender:

“The enemy knows that without surrender, we will never experience the freedom that God offers us. Without surrender, we will remain spiritually malnourished, ill and confused. Without surrender, our foxholes become prisons of the enemy’s making. Our lack of full surrender limits God’s ability to both work in our lives and through our lives.

“God’s call to surrender is not an intimidating, angry bark heard from the other side of a battlefield. God’s invitation to surrender is expressed through the example of his Son, Jesus, as described in Philippians 2:5-11.”

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians‬ ‭2:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The call to surrender is a call to live like Jesus lived. He willingly took on human flesh, taking on the very nature of a servant. He humbled himself by becoming obedient, even to the point of death on the Cross of Calvary. His choice to always do whatever his heavenly Father asked enabled him to be victorious.

The decision to live a lifestyle of surrender to God can simply be described as following Jesus. And by making this choice, we are set free to live in the freedom God offers us, to walk in the victory he gained. 

A lifestyle of surrender is also a life of putting others before ourselves. As Laura Story says,  surrender has a “ripple effect.” If you’ve ever thrown a stone in the water, you’ve noticed the ripple effect – with concentric circles going out from the place of contact. How we live matters, not only in our personal lives but also in the lives of those around us. As we follow Jesus’ example, we aren’t the only ones who are changed.

Philippians 2:5 mentions that the mindset of Christ Jesus is to make a difference in our relationships with one another. And to understand more clearly what that means, we just need to look at the two verses right before this passage about the mindset of Jesus.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

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I wanted to close today with Laura Story’s latest song, one that reminds us of the victory that Jesus won on our behalf. As she says, “Our fears and our failures hang dead on the cross.” And because we were crucified with him, we are able to share in His life and His victory.  Following Jesus is choosing the lifestyle he lived, a life of daily surrender to the will of God. And doing so means sharing in His victory, which includes all of the benefits that are a part of that.

 

Facing the Unknown With a Known God

Youth With A Mission, better known as YWAM (pronounced “WHY-wham”), is an interdenominational Christian missionary organization founded by Loren Cunningham and his wife Darlene in 1960.

While on a beach in Hawaii, looking out at the waves, Loren Cunningham saw a vision of a different kind of waves – waves of young people taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. YWAM was founded as a result of that vision. Fifty-nine years after it began, YWAM continues as an effective tool for fulfilling the vision He gave Loren and the Great Commission of Acts 1:8 upon which it was based and of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

YWAM has had a special place in our lives. Some close friends of ours, Billy and Lyn Littlefield, went through the YWAM discipleship training program in the 1970s, and their training became the catalyst for a discipleship training program my husband Mitch and I were a part of in the early years of our marriage. A few years later, Mitch’s sister Shirley also spent time with YWAM.

I think the thing that has stuck with me more than anything else from these early years of our marriage and our indirect involvement with YWAM is the stated purpose of this Christian organization: To know God and to make Him known. I can’t think of a better description of the effective Christian life!

To Know God

John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The Christian life begins with a personal relationship with God. Through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we receive forgiveness for our sins and come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. J. I. Packer, author of the book Knowing God, said:

“There’s a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God, you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”

Knowing God begins when we become a part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ. But it is also a growing process as we come to know Him more fully through His written Word. As we read and study the Bible, we learn what He is like – a faithful God, loving us with a steadfast love, showing us mercy by not giving us what we deserve and grace by giving us what we don’t deserve. His names, attributes, promises and the total of Scripture progressively reveal the fullness of Who God is. This kind of knowing is a lifelong process.

To Make Him Know

Once we know God through a personal relationship with Him, Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and share that knowledge with others. Starting with our “Jerusalem” – the neighborhood, town or city where we live and moving out from there, we begin sharing the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As disciples, our call is two-fold, to grow personally in our knowledge of God and to be disciple-makers, introducing others to the good news that has changed our lives.

When An Unknown Future Looms Ahead

At no time in our lives is truly knowing God more important than when we face an unknown future. When things feel totally out of our control, knowing God gives us confidence that our circumstances aren’t out of God’s control. God has not promised to shield us from trouble. He has promised to be with us, whatever we must walk through.

Peter Marshall, pastor and chaplain of the United States Senate from 1947 to 1949, said: “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of Ravensbruck German concentration camp and Christian speaker and author of The Hiding Place, a memoir telling the story of her family’s hiding Jews from the Nazis, said: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

As I write this Teach Me Tuesday post, I’m preparing for an MRI on my left knee that has been swollen and extremely painful since the end of May. As I await this test, scheduled for today, I don’t know what lies ahead. So I’m choosing to focus on what I do know.

  • I do know God has promised to go before me and be with me, no matter what lies ahead, and He always keeps His promises. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭
  • I do know God promises to work all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purposes, and I am one of the called. “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 ‭
  • I do know that God uses the circumstances He allows to touch my life for His purposes, specifically, to conform me to the image of His Son. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans‬ ‭8:29‬
  • I do know God is good and I believe I will see God’s goodness while I’m still on this earth. “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Psalms‬ ‭27:13‬ ‭
  • I do know God is faithful. He never promises and then fails to deliver. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ‭
  • I do know God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. With His love, He embraces each of us personally. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬
  • I do know when this life is over I have an inheritance awaiting me in heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:3-4‬

As Corrie ten Boom said, if we know God we have no reason to fear the future. If we understand His love for us, we can know the difficulties we’re currently walking through will produce blessing, both in this life and in eternity when we go to be in His presence forever.

No Longer Ashamed: The Righteousness of Christ is Ours!

Is there some event in your past that causes you shame whenever it comes to mind? Do you battle condemnation every time you fall into that “sin that so easily entangles you” (Hebrews 12:1)? If so, today I have some good news for you.

For the last two weeks, we have looked at some of the less emphasized benefits of the fact that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave, and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. Because He kept His promise to not leave us alone and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all who place their faith in Him, we are filled with and empowered by God to live the life He has planned for us. And because the veil separating us from God’s presence was torn in two by the hands of Almighty God, we have been given open access to His presence and the privilege of coming to His throne of grace in our time of need.

Today we’ll be looking at another sometimes overlooked benefit of the finished work of Jesus Christ: Being declared righteous because of Christ’s righteousness.

What Is Righteousness?

If you look up the word righteousness in a modern English dictionary, you find definitions such as “morally right” and “free from guilt or sin.” The Greek word includes this but goes beyond this. “Dikaiosune” speaks of whatever is right or just in itself. It includes always conforming to the revealed will of God. In essence, it means meeting the sum total of all the requirements of God 100% of the time.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said these words:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew‬ ‭5:48‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you’re saying “that’s impossible,” you’re right. Because of our sin nature, none of us are able to meet this standard. The only human who every met all the qualifications of perfect righteousness was Jesus Christ. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (therefore man’s sin nature was not in Him) but born of a woman, He was fully God and fully man. He and He alone was able to meet God’s standard of perfect righteousness.

So how does God expect us to walk in perfect righteousness? He doesn’t. And now we come to the often overlooked benefit of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Understanding Imputed Righteousness and Imparted Righteousness.

In simple terms, imputed righteousness is the righteousness of Christ given to us as a gift when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and make Him our Lord and Savior. It is Jesus transferring His righteousness to us. It is the fulfillment of the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says; “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because of imputed righteousness we have been declared righteous in God’s eyes.

But God’s full work of righteousness in our lives also involves an ongoing process. We are righteous, but we also are becoming righteous. The second type of righteousness is often called imparted righteousness. It is the practical, day to day process by which we begin to look more like Jesus. It’s an ongoing process that begins the day we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and won’t be completed until the day we see Him face to face. This is the kind of righteousness described in Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

‭‭Imputed righteousness is ours in it’s fullness on our first day as a born-again follower of Christ. Imparted righteousness comes through the process of sanctification, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives to build practical righteousness. Neither type of righteousness is within our ability. We are now righteous by the gift of Christ’s righteousness, and we are growing in righteousness by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

‭‭Do you sometimes struggle with condemnation for something you did many years ago? Do you feel ashamed for some recurring sin that you think you’ll never gain the victory over? If so, there’s an essential question you need to settle in your heart: Have you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and accepted His gift of forgiveness and new life? If your answer to that question is “no”, feel free to contact one of the ladies on the God-Living Girls leadership team. We’d love to help you in this area. But if your answer to this question is “yes,” then the condemnation you are battling is coming from the father of lies, the devil.

If you are in Christ, Romans 8:1 says God is not the one condemning you. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Most of us know the truth of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” But don’t forget the truth of John 3:17 and the first part of verse 18, which is equally important. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned…” Yes, God convicts of sin. Conviction is meant to lean to repentance, condemnation results in hopelessness. But He never condemns His blood-bought children.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful that I have been declared righteous in God’s eyes. The perfect righteousness of His Son has been imparted to me. And I’m also grateful that the Holy Spirit is at work in my life making me a little more like Jesus every day. How about you, do you think these truths from God’s Word deserve a prayer of gratitude to God? If so, I encourage you to share your personal prayer in the comments section below this post.

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Going “Gratitudinal” – Changing My Attitude to One of Gratitude

The final chapter in Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, is about change. When we are facing difficult circumstances, change sounds inviting. But this chapter isn’t talking about a change of circumstances. The change referred to in this chapter is a change in our attitude toward our circumstances.

An attitude is a set of emotions, beliefs, and behaviors toward a particular subject, situation, person or group of people. Attitudes are often the result of our experiences or upbringing, and they can have a powerful influence over our behavior. While attitudes are enduring, they can also change. Attitudes are a learned tendency to evaluate things in a certain way, and since they are learned they can also be unlearned.

Woodrow Kroll, evangelical preacher and radio host of Back to the Bible has said concerning our attitude about difficult circumstances, “Nothing is so sour that it can’t be sweetened by a good attitude.”

Author, speaker and pastor John Maxwell wrote in his book Developing the Leader Within You, “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

While changing circumstances is a great goal, sometimes we are powerless to do this. For example, I can do nothing to change the fact that our special needs son David suffered for thirty-four years with profound mental retardation, spastic quadriplegia CP, seizures and fragile bones prone to fracture and then graduated from this world to heaven last November. I also can do little to change my personal pain and limitations from the chronic illness and disability I live with daily as a result of an auto accident in 1975 that also took the life of our first born daughter Teresa. But in both of these situations, I do have the power to change my attitude. I can choose to have a God-honoring attitude in whatever circumstances I’m currently walking through.

New attitudes start with new mind-sets and result in new behavior. Let’s take the two circumstances I shared above. In dealing with the challenging life and recent loss of our precious son, I could focus on how hard life was for David and the pain of our recent loss, or I could shift my focus to the truth that David is now in the presence of the Lord and whole after a lifetime in a broken body. In my chronic illness and physical disability, I could turn my mind on all the things I’m unable to do, or I could thank the Lord for the blessings in my life and all the things I am able to do. As Nancy says, “The pathway to personal transformation requires a change in perspective.”

She says, “I’d like to coin a new word for those who may be deficient in the gratitude department (which includes all of us from time to time).” Instead of speaking of “attitudinal change,” Nancy calls us to “gratitudinal change.”

Gratitudinal change comes from choosing “to live in the fullness of your relationship with God, not hindered and hamstrung and holding Him at arm’s length, but experiencing Him richly. Feeling at home in His presence.”

It results in rewriting our story “into a tale of God’s grace, one that He uses to help you be an effective minister of His hope and healing to those who are walking the same kind of path” He has helped us to walk. It’s being “so available to His Spirit’s leading, so aware of others’ needs, and so willing to be open and genuine, that God takes the things Satan meant for evil and transforms them into things of value.”

It’s living as God’s Word instructs us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

‭‭The author gives several specific recommendations to get us headed in the direction of “gratitudinal change.”

  • Surrender your rights to God. If we are to bloom and flourish as children of God in this harsh and suffocating culture – shining like ‘lights in the world’ – we must pour ourselves out as a drink offering before the Lord.”
  • Commit to a set season of gratitude. “Like any other virtue, a grateful spirit is the work of God’s Spirit within the life of a believer who is purposeful about putting off fleshly inclinations and cultivating spiritual ones. And that takes time, effort, and focused attention.” 
  • Take stock of your gratitude accounts. “Who deserves (or needs) a word of thanks from you? Who in your life could use a bit of encouragement today?”
  • Write thank you notes. Remember, “the act of expressing gratitude breeds joy. In the sender and in the recipient… Don’t get hung up on the ‘technique.’ Do resolve to have a thankful heart and to take time to express your gratitude as frequently as possible, by whatever means possible, to as many people as possible.”
  • Do it together, as a Body-building exercise. As we bring this nine-week study of Choosing Gratitude to a close, I encourage you to share with the other members of our group how you plan to put these principles we’ve studied into practice.

Understanding the place of suffering in the Christian life is a key to walking through whatever God permits to touch our lives with a Gratitudinal attitude.

Joni Eareckson Tada became well acquainted with suffering when at age eighteen she suffered a cervical fracture when diving into some shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. She has identified suffering as “God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us... the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.” She adds, “God is more concerned with conforming me to the likeness of His Son than leaving me in my comfort zones. God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstances – things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my character.”

Elizabeth Elliot was plunged into the world of suffering when her husband Jim was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. She said, “This hard place in which you perhaps find yourself is the very place in which God is giving you opportunity to look only to Him, to spend time in prayer, and to learn long-suffering, gentleness, meekness – in short, to learn the depths of the love that Christ Himself has poured out on all of us… The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”

Author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth brings this study to a close with these words, “Some of the holy work we need to have done in us and through us can only come through the valley of shadow and suffering. Are you going to be resistant to that? Or are you going to be clay in His hands, knowing that He is intent on shaping you into the image of Christ and wants to use your life for something far bigger than you own comfort, convenience, and pleasure? He wants your life to be part of a grand, eternal redemptive picture that portrays the wonder of His saving grace.”

I encourage you to meditate on these quotes concerning the benefits we gain through suffering. And allow them to cause a change in your perspective concerning the difficult circumstances in your life.

Do you want your life to reflect the character of Christ? Do you agree that God is more interested in inward qualities than in outward circumstances? Do you want to know the depths of God’s love? Do you want to “go forward in ways that are pleasing to Him, ways that place us in the center of His great will and plan”? Then, make the decision to begin looking at your world through “gratitude-colored glasses.”

I want to close today with a song by Joni Eareckson Tada that perfectly expresses the attitude God desires us to have toward the suffering He has allowed in our lives.

Boundaries and the Christ-Controlled Life

I woke up at 6am today, with the pulse-oximeter alarm going off in our special needs son David’s room. He has drops in his oxygen level and changes in heart rate that require monitoring using an oximeter, and when his numbers go outside the pre-set boundaries an alarm sounds. It doesn’t mean he is in grave danger, but it is an indication he needs to be checked and possibly some treatment done. This morning he simply needed some oral suctioning – he was sound asleep with his mouth open and saliva was blocking his airway.

After taking care of this routine care of our son, something I’m well acquainted with during the hours when he doesn’t have nursing care, I sensed God speaking to my spirit. “Setting boundaries is necessary for David’s physical health and for your spiritual health.”

I have heard of the concept of establishing boundaries in Christian circles for many years, but during the last year it has become a daily part of my life through Taste For Truth, a Christian weight loss program I’ve been following. This program does not recommend a specific diet to follow, that is between you and God. Instead, it has two main emphases, renewing your mind to replace the lies you are believing with the truth of God’s Word, and prayerfully setting boundaries concerning eating and exercise. Through these two principles, an area of my life that has been a lifelong struggle is coming under God’s control.

But boundaries are needed in more than just eating. Any area that needs to come under God’s control in our lives requires these same two steps of renewing our mind and setting boundaries. This applies to our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, how we use our time and how we spend our money. Without renewing our minds to know what God says in His Word about each of these areas and then setting boundaries we will follow, change won’t consistently happen. These two principles are our part in being conformed to the image of Christ.

Boundaries alone do not result in change, but when we renew our minds according to the Word of God and yield our lives to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives within every person who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, transformation will come. It may not be overnight, but if we do our part in the transformation process it will result in change.

So what exactly are boundaries, and how do we set them? A boundary is something that indicates a border or a limit. With property, it may be marked by a fence that indicates the end of one piece of property and the beginning of another. Biblically speaking, boundaries are related to self-control. For example, as I set my boundaries in Taste For Truth, they limited how many calories I would eat per day and how many days per week I would exercise. With managing money, a budget sets boundaries concerning how we will spend our income. Relationship boundaries might include separating yourself from people who pull you down or ridicule your faith.

So how do we go about setting and keeping within wise boundaries? First, seek God’s will by praying about the area where you recognize a need to set boundaries. See what God has to say about the issue in His Word. Consider the consequences of failing to set boundaries in this area, and make a decision. Trust God to lead you and empower you to change this area of your life. For me concerning weight loss, having an accountability partner was also helpful, someone I could contact for encouragement when I was struggling.

Boundaries have been a part of life on earth since shortly after creation. The first boundary given to man mentioned in Scripture is in the second chapter of Genesis. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ ” (Genesis‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭NIV). ‬‬Living within this boundary would have brought Adam and Eve and their descendants blessing, but unfortunately they chose instead to overstep the one boundary God had given and as a result sin entered this world. Boundaries are an effective way to limit destructive behaviors and take personal responsibility for our lives. They are a key to overcoming besetting sins and learning to walk in freedom from bondage. Are there some boundaries God is calling you to set?