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…so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. - Romans 12:5 (NLT)
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will probably take years to unpack, particularly the impact of quarantine and social distancing. It is well-assumed that after the pandemic is over, one of the biggest battles we will face as a nation will be recovering our mental and emotional health as a result of forced separation.
I’m not an expert in human health, but I do believe that God, in His wisdom, created us for relationship. The bonds we have with one another serve to shape us and root us. The person standing in front of us is a tangible reminder that we are all made in God’s image. We need people in our lives with whom we can laugh and cry and play and love. Throughout the Bible, we see God relating not only to individuals, but to households and nations. There is an ultimate “togetherness” that makes us who we are.
Jesus reminds us of this in His parable of the vine and the branches. Paul reminds us again in Romans that we are all part of the body of Christ. Jesus gives us His Spirit because His intention wasn’t to leave us alone when His time on earth was done but, instead, to forge an unbreakable bond between us and the Father, between Heaven and Earth. There is, in this existence with God and each other, a connectedness that we cannot escape.
We are talking about accountability this week, and I wanted to frame the rest of our week by saying this: Accountability means pursuing God with relational vitality. We need a relationship with our Father, and we need relationships with other people. It is within these relationships that we find the kind of accountability that moves us towards joyful obedience to God.
Given the barriers that are keeping us physically separated, consider these questions: How are you pursuing a relationship with God right now? How have you felt the social impact of quarantine and social distancing, and what has it taught you about the importance of personal relationships?Share Tweet
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
Testimonies are powerful motivators for change. A dear friend from our church has been very open with me about his journey to sobriety from drugs and alcohol. Over three years sober now, he has sought every opportunity to attend support meetings. In addition to meetings, he has become a sponsor for other men who are seeking freedom from addiction, helping them to find the same joy he now has.
My friend is adamant that it is God who has brought him into freedom—not by his own power, but by God’s alone. He doesn’t neglect his support group because he knows staying connected reminds him to not take his freedom for granted. Recently, he has even begun to travel to churches to give his testimony, offering hope to those who are at the beginning of the long road to recovery. Just a couple of months ago, my friend told me his doctor informed him that he will no longer need the pacemaker he has had for the last 10 years… his life has been so transformed by the love of God that his heart is literally healed. Guys… we can’t miss the significance here!
Testimonies of faith show us the power of God is very real, that He really does make all things new. Not only that, but Paul says “all who have been united in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes” (Galatians 3:27 NLT). Baptism is the moment where we acknowledge that Jesus is the change we need in our lives and choose to be joyfully obedient to His Spirit, who sets to work transforming our hearts to look more like Him.
In addition to the gift of salvation, we also find ourselves now in the family of God. Through Christ, we are united, and we will always have each other. To remain steadfast in our walk with the Lord, we’ve got to stay connected with our brothers and sisters in the family of God. Together, we can shock the world by the transformation stories they witness in us.
Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. - Romans 6:22 (NLT)
Actually, before I say anything else this morning, go read Romans 6. It’s alright, I’ll be here when you get back.
It’s true that our lives are now and forever changed when we declare Jesus as Lord and acknowledge that, by His blood, we are washed clean, and by His wounds, we are healed. But as Paul urgently reminds us, we have a major sin problem still. This is frustrating... disheartening even. To be new creations, it would be wonderful if all of creation could go ahead and become new with us. But when the waters of baptism run off our cheeks and we open our eyes wide with hope, we are alarmed to see the world is still peddling vice like a bad infomercial.
That is why we simply don’t go back out into the world alone. First of all, we go with God’s Spirit—that is His gift to us. And we also go with other believers, and invite them into our inner lives to help us uproot stubborn sin and keep our eyes fixed on Christ. It is a shame to walk away from sinful patterns only to turn around and go back to them. It is so much better to be able to say, with the power of God and with the help of faithful friends, I no longer pursue the things of this world, but the things of God—“those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.”
At the end of the day, it comes down to being fully known. Where sin once cast a shadow, the light of Love shines upon us and reveals sin powerless in the presence of the Almighty. By being fully known, sin cannot trick us into thinking that we are anything less than worthy, and anything more than saved by grace.
Since your baptism, where have you seen the tension between Flesh and Spirit? Where have you seen sin continue to sneak (or shove) its way into your life? If you haven’t confessed that sin to another person and to God, today is the best day to do that. Start laying that foundation of trust today!Share Tweet
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” - John 10:7 (NLT)
My kids don’t love our “screen time” rule. My wife and I offer them 2 hours of screen time in the afternoon to help them manage their expectations and give them a framework for how to structure their day. However, simply setting up time expectations wasn’t enough. The kids started sneaking onto screens, so we had to change the passcodes on the devices to help curb the temptation to cheat the system.
They couldn’t understand what we already knew to be true: Too much screen time inevitably leads to all kinds of behavioral challenges and poor decision-making. And they couldn’t trust themselves to simply abide by the rule, so safeguards were necessary as well. Within these safeguards, the kids have been able to enjoy screen time as intended, but also know when it is time to get off. With those boundaries came the freedom to enjoy screen time.
Paul said it best in Romans 7: “The trouble is not with the law… [it] is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.” Any law or rule is a means of defining the space in which we can safely operate. It alerts us to when we are putting ourselves or others in danger. It cannot save us from ourselves, but it can help us discern right behavior from wrong behavior.
That’s why I am so intrigued by how Jesus describes Himself in John 10. He says that you can know a thief because they sneak over the walls of the sheepfold, but Jesus says by comparison that He is the gate for the sheep. The Shepherd calls His sheep out of the pen through the gate by name. In verse 10, he says, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
Jesus is not saying that we live a full life by keeping ourselves locked up in a pen. What He is saying is that those who go through Him “may come and go freely and will find good pastures.” That is an invitation to fully live through joyful obedience to Him alone.
Read John 10:1-16. What does this word from Jesus stir in your heart? Is there conflict in your mind with the idea of being led as opposed to leading yourself? Do you see the path of sanctification (becoming more like Jesus) as prohibitive or as life-giving?Share Tweet
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. - Ephesians 5:21 (NLT)
Jesus revealed Himself to us so we may know God fully, and gave us His Spirit so we may also be fully known. This is how we experience all of the love God wants to give us, because it is impossible to completely love someone you cannot know.
Honestly, being fully known is uncomfortable, but it reveals that love which is unconditional. In this life, we spend a lot of time and energy building our public personas so that people will only know us in the way we wish to be perceived. But we sell our Creator short when we think that we’re only as important as what we make of ourselves, and we cheapen His grace when we think we’re only as good as the things we get right.
Because we are justified by His grace alone, submitting ourselves to God’s redeeming work in our lives ought to feel more natural a process than it often does. That tension is largely thanks to pride.
Pride will clothe itself with self-reliance, or self-justification, or even fear. Pride will say the consequences of ignoring what is holy is worth the cost of self-preservation. Pride, in a word, is the front we put up between God, others, and ourselves so we don’t have to see the ugliness of our sin in comparison to a perfect God.
But God doesn’t front with us, nor should we with Him or anyone else. The accountable life is a life where one is fully known. When Jesus finished the great work of salvation for the world, the veil was torn between Heaven and Earth. We aren’t called to restore the veil—we are called to be reflections of His light so others may see and come running to find love and healing in the arms of their heavenly Father.
And if I should experience a little discomfort at times for the sake of the light of Jesus being seen through the veil, then it will be worth it a thousand times over.
Pray this prayer today: “Father, I ask that You would look inside my heart and cast out any pride You find within me. Fill that space with a yearning to know You and be known by You. Help me to follow Your lead as I go into today, prepared to be real with the people in my life so that they may see You and know You better. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”Share Tweet