What Is A Child Of God?

A lot of my past and future posts may refer to a particular topic or condition that is contingent upon being a child of God.  For example I may write something along the lines of, “if you are a child of God.”  I even referenced in a previous post that I would create a post that answered the question “what is a child of God?”  First and foremost, I am not referring to the Son of God, Jesus.  Nor am I suggesting that people can one day become divine or God-like with God-like creative capabilities, that is completely different from Christianity and I would put this litmus test in front of anyone who would suggest that you can be a follower of Christ, a Christian, and believe that man can one day become gods or demigods (son of god like Hercules):

Litmus Test

  • What do you believe about the Person and Work of Jesus?
  • What do you believe about the Trinity?
  • Do you believe in justification by faith alone?
  • What do you believe about the authority of scripture?

How that individual answers these questions will give you a pretty good idea whether or not they are following the Jesus of the New Testament.  There are many different versions of Jesus that try to mislead people to believe a false version or anti version of Him…Biblical Eschatology refers to these false Jesus’s as anti-christs (not to be confused with THE anti-christ).

To help clear up any further understanding when I refer to a “child of God” in the remainder of this post I will be referring to what the Bible defines it to be, just to make sure that we are all on the same page.

Where were we…ah yes “What is a Child of God?”   Maybe it would first help to list some scripture, place some Bible down as the foundation that we play on top of in this post.   In no way is this an exhaustive or complete referencing of what the Bible says about what a child of God is but it is just a snipit.

John 1:12:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

To be honest that was pretty straight forward and more direct than I had previously thought.  Of course the “he” in this passage is referring to Jesus.  If you need more Bible (who doesn’t?) here are some more verses that help in understanding what or who is a child of God:

Galatians 3:25 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Hopefully that helps…now here is a follow up question to the question that this post is featuring…how do I become a child of God?  That will be for another post….

Why another post?  Because there is a quick answer and then a really deep, deep, heavy (Marty McFly voice) answer….but it has given me such comfort and joy….and peace in knowing how I became a child of God…I have truly been set free and liberated by knowing how it all happened…

As a teaser into the future post that answers the question “How do I become a child of God?”  take a look at this to prepare you for what lies ahead.  I pray that the Lord will bless you and guide you in His will and His purpose for you and your life:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14

Reference List

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Advertisements

No Longer I

I thought I would take the time to introduce myself with a little more detail than what my profile says.  I am a rare native of Georgia and an even rarer native of Atlanta (statistics in 2008 said that roughly 60% of people living in Georgia were born in Georgia and just 30% of people living in Atlanta are actually from Atlanta). I currently live in Sugar Hill, GA which is in Gwinnett county just NE of Atlanta.  I am a fan of all Atlanta sports teams, which proves that I have to be a subscriber to grace, mercy, hope, loyalty, love and long suffering.  I am unashamed to admit that I am a fan of the Falcons, Hawks, the 2017Atlanta MLS team and I am a fan of the Braves who can remember when Dale Murphy was the only reason to go to a game. I grew up watching NASCAR with my grandfather back when Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott were the names to beat. I currently root for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and up and coming son of Bill Elliott, Chase Elliott. I am also an avid supporter of the USA Men’s soccer team. My father went to the University of Georgia so I have been barking like a Georgia Bulldawg all my life and believe it is no coincidence that the Bible is written in red and black (humor). I graduated from Kennesaw State University with a B.A. in History and I am looking forward to their first football season in 2015.  I currently have only 4 classes left of my Masters of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Theological Seminary and I am a huge Liberty Flames fan! I enjoy sports but I have learned not to allow them to rule and run my life or become so emotionally entangled with my fandom that it jeopardizes or harms my relationship with God.

I was raised in a Christian home and realized that Jesus had claimed me as “His”, repented of my sins and believed in Christ at a young age in 1989. I thank my parents often for the foundation that they laid for my life. In April of 2003, I joined the United States Marine Corps and served for five years. During those five years I made many mistakes and rebelled against all that I knew was right and pleasing to God. There were many times where God made it crystal clear to me that He had a plan for my life and that He was protecting me in a mighty way. One of the sparks that helped my spiritual awakening from my sinful coma was a radio program by Ravi Zacharias that I would listen to inside a small Barracks room in North Carolina. The seed of an obsessive desire to draw closer to God, share with others the Gospel and an interest in apologetics kindled in me in late 2007.

In 2012 I knew that I had the desire to pursue a M.Div. at Liberty University but I had no further direction than that. I struggled for months with the thought of “wasting” my military service benefits on higher education other than a discipline that would better prepare me for the business world or something more “stable” according to the world. The closer I sought the Lord, the more push back I got from these thoughts and I stepped out in peaceful faith that I was doing the right thing. Not only have I for the first time in my life been able to now live with such peace and freedom out of total surrender to Christ, I have been so incredibly blessed for attending Liberty. Once I surrendered my plans to Christ, He is revealing His plans for me. My thirst for apologetics has increased over the years from that seed that was planted in 2007 in my Marine barracks room.

What really plunged me forward in this were the questions that one college age young man had for me. Some of the questions I was able to answer with confidence, the others not so much. This motivated me to pursue studying the answers or how to answer. It has opened my realization to loving the Lord with not only with all my heart, soul, and strength but MIND as well. As I surrender to Christ daily, the more I realize that He is all that I need and that He is worthy of all that I am. Knowing that He is in control is a type of relief that I cannot fully explain and I am confident that only the one who experiences it for themselves can fully understand. I am now in a place where I not only love Jesus because all that He has done for me, but because of Who He is.

The Lord has blessed me so much through all of this to draw me closer to Him and I am so excited to see what He has planned.  I am not sure where exactly He plans to take me, but knowing that He will be with me is all the confidence that I need.  I have 0% confidence in me but I have 100% confidence in Christ!  My favorite Bible verse is Galatians 2:20; “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  This is where the name of this blog comes from, “No Longer I.”  The more I press into the reality of who I am in Christ, the more I realize that it is truly, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”  This has helped me to understand the true freedom, liberty and joy in Christ that comes from saving faith in Him.  It has helped me to see that when I examine myself to see if I am in the faith, if I am looking to see how I am growing, how I am doing better spiritually, then I do not understand spiritual growth, do not understand grace, and do not understand what Jesus meant when He said, “it is finished.”  Whenever I or anyone else examines ourselves to see if we are in the faith, if we do not think of Jesus and what He has done as the source for our faith and examination then our hope is placed in our “doing better” “trying harder” “living righter” attempt at life than Jesus’s conquering and fulfilling of it.  Salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

I yearn for and desire the growing bond and cooperation between followers of Christ, no matter denomination, geographical location, cultural difference, barriers to language or personal Biblical convictions that are not essentials in order to be considered a follower of Christ.  I yearn for a united Church who is united by a belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, the Trinity and the authority of Scripture.

I believe that America is in need of and is on the verge of another Great Awakening or potentially another Reformation.  Yet instead of the Protestant Reformation that was ignited by Martin Luther in 1517 in response to the Catholic Church, I believe that if a Reformation occurs it will be in response to the American Western Evangelical Church.  None of this will be achieved without a serious repentance and return to a church life of prayer.  I have an amazing wife and 3 year old little boy who are both showing me a kind of love that is beyond what I deserve. Every time I am around my wife I am reminded how God likes to show off. Every time I am around my son, I am reminded how much it cost God to send His Son to the cross and how much God loves me.

I have recently been capture by God’s amazing grace.  More so than I ever have before.  I have always enjoyed God’s grace but not at the level that I am right now.  I am currently soaking up material that is being presented by individuals like Tullian Tchividjian, Steve Brown, ministries like Liberate and Key Life.  If the American Western Evangelical Church experiences a Reformation it will again be because we have uncovered the joy of God’s grace once again.  To give a better idea of what I am referring to, please allow this illustration that I found in Tullian Tchividjian’s book, “One Way Love.”

“As Robert Capon writes:

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distilate of Scriputre, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.  The word of the Gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started (Tchividjian 2013, 24).”

May you be overwhelmed and in awe of God’s glory and grace where you cannot help but desire to worship Him and enjoy in the joy that comes from doing so.

Because He Lives,

Zachary James Cole (a sinner who Jesus loved and died for)

Reference List

Tchividjian, Tullian.  2013.  “One Way Love.” Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.

Radical Grace

Radical Grace

A few years ago I read a book by David Platt titled, Radical.  For those who haven’t read it there is a call to take part in something Platt calls the Radical Experiment.  It consists of the following components:

  1. Pray for the entire world;
  2. Read through the entire Word;
  3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose;
  4. Spend your time in another context;
  5. Commit your life to a multiplying community (Platt 2010, 183).

I tried to apply most of the components of the experiment in my life and did so with excitement.  I soaked up the message and realized the importance of the call to live radically for God and for others.  I subscribed to the email posts by Operation World as Platt mentions in his final chapter in order to pray for the world (Platt 2010, 189).  It lead me to seek out organizations like Voice of the Martyrs where I have a calendar on my desk that has a prayer for a specific people group and or fellow Christians throughout the world each day.  I am thankful for how God has used Radical in my life to wake me from my realization that modern American Christianity and my perpetuation of its continuance was wrong.

However, I came to learn very quickly that it is easy for me to fail when it comes to following the challenge to live radically for Jesus.  I also learned that I will continue to fail often in trying to hold true to this challenge loyally every day.  I mean I can fake it outwardly and make people think that I am doing it well.  But if my motive in doing so is so that others will think highly of me rather than highly of God, does it not render my efforts as being misguided or even sinful?  If my motive to live radically is so that others or even just myself would see/reflect on the perception of me living radically for God, wouldn’t that be a pursuit to feed my own pride?  If I thought that it would result in making me feel better about myself so that my self-pride could be fed, just like my flesh desires for it to be, would that not be wrong?

Even if that was my motive, I did not get very far.  It was quick to wear me out, leaving me feeling exhausted, wore out, feeling like I had failed God, that He was disappointed in me and that I was willing and understanding to accept whatever punishment or pause on any blessings that He had for me if I had simply remained faithful to Him and to the Radical Experiment.  I tried to do it on my own and it left me feeling hopeless and burned out.

That is where I went about it all wrong.  I tried.  I tried when I was supposed to “die.”  Die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).  Deny myself, take up my cross and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  I tried to do it without resting in the grace and finished work of Jesus (Hebrews 4:1-4).

Because I am in Christ, because I have been covered by God’s grace and the righteousness of Christ; all of my mistakes, failures, sin, misguided attempts at righteous acts with sinful motives have already been consumed and atoned for on the cross by Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus meant it when He said “it is finished (John 19:30).”  I am free to live dangerously following Christ.  Because I am a child of God “there is therefore now no condemnation for” me (Romans 8:1).   When the devil reminds me of who I am without Christ while I am falling and failing miserably making my sad attempt to live the Radical life, I now remind Him of who I am in Christ while resting on Christ who actually did live the Radical life.  My joy no longer hinges on how well or how awful I am doing but hinges on how well Jesus lived His life for me so that it may be imputed and blanketed over me.

Joy that is grounded in what Jesus did cannot be shaken because Jesus lived out life perfectly.  It is the life of Jesus that pleases God.  It is Jesus only who was able to fulfill the law and fulfill all righteousness.  This was the plan all along.  Jesus did this so that the Father might be glorified when out of His love, mercy and grace He offers us this gift of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s law and fulfillment of all righteousness to us for us to wear like a robe.  Not because we deserve it, but because we don’t deserve it, realize we don’t deserve it and are given the desire by God to ask for it which then leads to it being given to us freely, lovingly, mercifully and gracefully from God.

AND it pleases Him to lavishly coat us in it (check out Ephesians 1 and Luke 12:32).

Do I desire to live radically for Jesus?  Yes of course.  Do I always faithfully live radically for Jesus?  No, I fail often.  I do not look to fail or like it when I do, but I do.  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25)!”  My joy is in knowing that God knows and knew that I would fall and yet while I was still a sinner Jesus died for me (Romans 5:8).”  I now can live the Radical life without fear and without hesitancy because I take comfort in knowing that Jesus has already lived the Radical life for me.

There is no fear.

There is no anxiety.

There is no burden.

There is no guilt.

There is no shame.

There is no “me.”

There is no “self.”

There is no longer “I.”

There is now no condemnation for me when I desire to please God now because Jesus has done that for me already and has given it to me as a gift of God’s grace.  I have traded the heavy impossible yoke that I was carrying for the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30).  The reality that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, has literally changed everything (Galatians 2:20).  Everything.

No

Longer

I

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 

Galatians 3:10-14, ESV

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17, ESV

 

Reference List

Platt, David.  2010.  Radical.  Colorado Springs: Multnomah.

Challenging the Idea That it is All Up to You

It is so easy, especially for someone who has grown up in the modern evangelical American church their whole life, to think that there is something that you have to improve upon in order for you and God to be on good terms.  It is an all too similar message of “do better, try harder and God will be happy with you” and that is simply not what the Gospel teaches.  To know that I am justified and redeemed when everything inside of me and everything according to God’s law says that I am not, changes everything.  In life we have something inside of us that craves justification, from people and from God.  Many followers of religion will live their life on a gospel of works mentality (including many Christians) where they believe it is up to their blood, sweat, tears and effort that gets them into heaven, into the good graces of God.  To read verses like Romans 3:22-26; 28-30 causes one to realize that being justified has nothing to do with me but everything to do with God.  It was the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus who got us into Heaven, what could we possibly offer that is worth more than the blood of the Son of God (See Below Reference List)?  Why do we always seem to revert back to the mindset that we must do something to make us worthy of His love and gift of grace?  There is peace in knowing and accepting that I am weak and He is strong which helps understand fully what Jesus was saying in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

To read Romans 8:31-39 and know that nothing can separate me from God’s love frees me to be weak for Christ, it frees me to be able to lose everything for Him because I have received everything from Him.  What is in existence that is more valuable than the love of God?  Knowing that God loves me and that He will never stop loving Me, that His Son has already consumed all of God’s wrath that was meant for me (for sins I did are doing and will do) does not birth in my heart the thought “now I can do whatever I want” but instead brings forth cries that sound like “Abba, Father” or “here am I send me.”  I am reading and watching sermons by people like Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick  and Steve Brown who teach that if you are a child of God, nothing can remove you from His love and He will never stop loving you.

To have joy in the Lord changes everything.  To experience joy in the Lord changes your mood, how you interact with others, how you handle life’s situations and how you see your life.  I can remember reading and hearing sermons by John Piper who show us that in worshiping God we receive joy in God as the result of worshiping Him.  As our worship of Him increases our joy in Him increases.  This is how God created us that our greatest joy would be in Him.  This is not just a point of creation but a point of reality, there is no greater joy in existence than the joy that anything and anyone gets in the worship and praise of God and His glory.  When I have joy and it is as a result of worshiping God, it is a testimony to His glory.  When my greatest joy is not in possessions, power, health or earthly relationships but in God I am pointing to God as being the greatest thing in existence and God’s greatness is revealed to those who witness the joy that I have in Him.  “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him (Piper 2014, under “2. Christian Hedonism is the biblical solution to this problem).”

To know that I have been enriched with God’s grace falls in to the same category as the rest.  It is an empowering peace, a knowing that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”  Not that God will give me the power to do whatever I want to do in my life but knowing that whatever God asks of me, no matter how painful or how much personal suffering it may cause that His grace will be sufficient and that having His grace is liberating.  To be captured by His grace and know that you are under the protection of God literally, “if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?”  They may be able to kill our body, but “to be absent from our body is to be present with God (2 Corinthians 5:8)” and there is no fear in that because “to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).”

Reference List

From “See below Reference List” First heard a similar question to this asked by Elyse Fitzpatrick on a video of the Liberate 2014 Conference.  Link to her video here:  http://vimeo.com/88183103

Piper, John. 2014. God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him. Desiring God.  http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/god-is-most-glorified-in-us-when-we-are-most-satisfied-in-him.  Accessed November 26, 2014.

WHJD

I am an 80’s kid who also happens to be a kid who was in the youth group at my church in the 90’s.  There was a fad back then amongst all the other rad fads that tried to motivate and show kids that being a Christian was cool.  Surely this was done with good intentions and was designed to “get the kids” in the church.  One of those fads were these bracelets called WWJD bracelets (What Would Jesus Do).  The concept behind it was to be a reminder whenever you thought it would be a good idea to sin, that bracelet would serve as an alarm or reminder.  Not sure if calling it an ankle bracelet is too much…but it was meant to let you know when you were approaching spiritual danger (sin is bad, mkay).  Because as we all know, when you sin and mess up God is mad at you, Jesus cries and your points on earning salvation and your living better doing righter meter drops.

How many of us ripped that bracelet off out of frustration, anxiety, shame, exhaustion or “lost it” along with our hope of ever living up to the call to “be perfect as your Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48)?”  How many of us were reminded by fellow “Christians” of how much our sin upset God and how we should be afraid of the reality that we might not be saved?  Because surely we were reminded of and encouraged to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith we will always be discouraged and exhausted when we examine to see if we are living like Jesus instead of examining to see if we are looking AT Jesus.

Don’t bank or have faith in what you are doing. Bank and have faith in what Jesus has already done. A life focused on “self” cannot be focused on Jesus. It’s not about what you need to do it is about what Jesus has done.

So therefore…trade in your WWJD bracelet and realize that you have been branded (or tattooed, for those who are not offended by that) by God a mark that reads WHJD*

…If you are a child of God that is…

Are you?  Do you want to know how you can know?  That will be another post.
*What Has Jesus Done