Blood Saves Lives!

As I opened my email program to draft this message my inbox had one from the blood bank encouraging me to give a pint! I regularly donate blood, so at one level this is no surprise. But I thought it interesting because this “installment” is the one which addresses the truth of our identity as those who are blood bought!

Let’s briefly review. We have already discussed two phrases:

I am – what we are considering is true, not make believe, and our focus in not on what we do, but rather on who we are.

a dearly beloved – not just God so loves the world, but an individual—different from any other—whom Papa dearly loves—just as much as He loves Jesus!

And today, blood bought.

The idea that Jesus shed His blood on our behalf is oft stated in Scripture. But what is the point of including this in an affirmation of our identity? Why is being blood bought significant to who we ARE? Two key passages in the new testament help us understand.

In First Corinthians 6, God is speaking through Paul on the importance of living holy (doing the right thing, living different than when we were of the world). In that context he says, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. Sometimes what we don’t know can hurt us! Did you hear the question? Paul asks specifically, Or do you not know? To live right you need to know that your body is a temple, that you are not your own, and that you have been bought with a price.

In the second passage, this one from First Peter, we are told that Jesus bought our redemption, we were bought and set free from slavery (a way of life which led nowhere). His purchase wasn’t accomplished with gold or silver, but rather with something far more precious: the blood of Jesus. Once again knowing the truth about being blood bought is being shared in the context of how we live. Peter says, live well while here on earth, knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

I absolutely believe we will live-out who we are. But often we need to know who we are before we will live it out. Regularly speaking an affirmation of our identity can be used by God to lead us into living (“walking about in”) newness of life. Based on the Scriptures, being blood bought is something we need to know before it will show up in how we live. Particularly as we approach Easter, may He remind you of what Christ has done as you affirm:

I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of the King.

 May He enable us to live who we are.

John

Don’t Forget to Remember!

On Thursday The Seattle Times ran a front page article under the caption:

Tireless Search for Identity
Woman, 68, clings to quest for donor father

You can surmise the thrust of the story from the title. But I found it of interest, in part, because in my 60 years I have found many who want to be followers of Jesus but don’t know their spiritual identity. They know the right words: They are “born again,” God is their “Father,” they are part of “the family of God,” but they don’t really know who they are! They often talk as if they have no true heavenly lineage, which is the focus of the final phrase in the affirmation: I am a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King!

What does it mean to be a child of The King? Most of us are Americans, so we fail to realize that prince or princess is a gender-specific way of saying child of the king. Very few Christians live as a member of the royal family—but we should, because we are!  Most Christians I have met struggle with this reality, often thinking these truths are figurative or future rather than a present privilege.  Many have accepted a lie about who they are, to the point they find the truth “unbelievable!” at best, and often deeply disturbing. The Spirit’s revelation of your true identity is a vein of gold, of great value if you allow Him to open it to you. So today I point out two nuggets of truth for each child of God, that you are His child by both new birth and adoption.

The need for new birth was explained by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3, with the words: You must be born again (or as Peterson has it, you have to be ‘born from above’). The reality of the new birth having already happened to all of us who are in Jesus is a common theme among new testament writers. Consider, for example, whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God . . ., who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope . . ., love fervently from the heart for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable . . . (I John 5:1, I Peter 1:3; 1:22, 23, respectively). Did you notice the tense of the verbs? None are future, instead they are present, past, or past perfect. They express a present reality, not a future hope. Indeed, in these scriptures this present reality of new birth is being used as the basis or reason changed conduct is possible (see I Peter 1, I John 3, 4, & 5).

Being born of a particular father affects you. For example, one of the reasons the woman in the Times article longs to know about her biological father is because it would explain certain traits—things as “simple” as her brown eyes and as complicated as her personality. In the physical realm we accept the role of genes and heredity. But Papa, who created the physical to picture life in grace, uses this “genetic characteristic” idea in relation to being born of God: Because we are God’s children by new birth we have His character as a part of who we now are, and it ought to show in our conduct (I Peter 1). Other aspects of “God’s character” are now also our own. For example, we have been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4) and we have a heart which is true and pure (Hebrews 10, I Peter). It is of great practical importance that we know and live into this present realitynew life is ours now!

Beloved, not only are we born of God, we are also His by adoption. This seems a bit strange to us, but in the Roman world adoption was a process in which you took someone into your family, cancelled all his or her debts, and granted them full rights and privileges as an adult member of your family. Thus, in most passages where our adoption by God is addressed we are encouraged to live in recognition of our rights as “adult” sons and daughters of God. For example, in Romans 8, we read: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ . . . or as Peterson has it, What’s next Papa?

Through His death, burial, and resurrection Jesus accomplished more than our forgiveness. Much more. Although none of us understand the full extent of His provision, His Spirit reveals truth to us, including our real identity—for if you are in Christ, you too are a dearly beloved, blood bought, child of The King.

Remember who you are!

John

Many United as One

It was two weeks ago tonight that the “opening ceremonies” of the London Olympics unveiled a special Olympic Cauldron. Instead of the large bowl design we have come to expect, each participating country is represented by a hammered copper “petal” which was (during the ceremony) fitted to a stainless steel pipe and lit with Olympic flame. The Cauldron contains 204 moving pieces intended to graphically depict the countries of the world coming together in the joy of athletic competition. While the Cauldron will be extinguished on Sunday in a closing ceremony, the graphic imagery of many united as one will linger in our memories. Many united as one . . .

It has been longer than usual since I last wrote, and have had some recurring thoughts of flames as an image for us to consider. I begin with the Olympic Cauldron, not only because it has been prominent in many televised events but because many united as one describes who we are as followers of Christ Jesus our Lord. Unfortunately, we seldom (dare I say never) come together as smoothly as did the various petals in London! Nevertheless, visible oneness of His followers is central to Jesus’ plan for us. In His prayer (recorded in John 17) Jesus asks Papa (Abba, “Daddy”) not only to make His followers many united as one, but also that their oneness would be visible to the world.

One of the complaints about the Olympic cauldron in London is that, apart from images on the telly, it is visible to only the “privileged few” who can buy tickets into events at Olympic Stadium. Sadly, in this regard the Cauldron is too representative of The Church. The unity we share as followers of The Risen One is seldom expressed in ways which can be seen by the world. Too often we have allowed our focus on “sound doctrine” (which I generally commend) to interfere with our expression of love. Even within “orthodoxy” true followers of Jesus have a wide range of beliefs. We don’t have to agree with one another on every point of doctrine to become part of Papa’s family!  But when we only express love to those who hold theologies consistent with our own we exalt the teachings of men above the clear instruction of Jesus. He did not say, everyone will know you are My followers if you have doctrinal agreement. He said, Everyone will know you are My followers if you love one another (John 13:35).

It is not “good enough” that we “get along” or even embrace one another within a particular congregation, nor that we not “speak ill” of our brothers and sisters from other congregations. Jesus longs for His love to be shown among many united as one in ways that will be seen by those who don’t know Him, so that they may come to know Him. Or, as He expressed His yearnings to Papa that night:

I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (v 23).

I have not always lived this way. For years my pride about the “correctness” of my beliefs kept me from fellowship with many other Jesus followers. But the Spirit used this longing in the heart of Jesus to convict me. He also used some words of challenge from Ray Stedman to embolden me to actively reach out in love to some of my brothers and sisters from other congregations. In Talking with my Father Stedman wrote:

“I have resolved that my heart shall be always ready to love every person, without exception, in whom I sense a love for Jesus Christ, the Son of God – regardless of his denominational label or lack of it and despite any theological differences of viewpoint.  I am ready, God in me and helping me, to give myself in love to any Christian, anywhere, whom I may chance to meet and in whom I sense a fellowship of love for Jesus Christ. . . .”

I was particularly convicted by his next paragraph:

“Are you willing to join in that?  Are you ready now to say, in order to reach the world around us, Lord teach me to give up my prejudices, these separations, this withdrawal, these sub-Christian attitudes toward my fellow brethren in Christ and make me willing to love them and to show it for Christ’s sake?”

I am. God in me and enabling me, I do.

Are you?