One of the most detrimental things we can do to our spiritual life is to think it's all about salvation. What I mean is staying in the idea that Heaven is on the way once we've said the prayer, therefore, this life is rather inconsequential. I'm not about to go into explaining what Paul has to say about the proper response to our salvation and grace. I want to talk about how the salvation of our souls is only one cog in a much larger machine.
Salvation is just the first step in this adventure.
Salvation gives us a sure eternal destination, but, it also makes it possible for us to receive the Holy Spirit and have real communion and intimacy with God here and now. The Holy Spirit gives us authority and power to usher in The Kingdom on earth as we are being transformed into the image of Christ. And, most importantly, there's a closeness with God that we just won't experience any other way than embracing the authority God has given us.
The concept of salvation and authority goes back to the foundations of identity. If we only see ourselves as "saved souls" but not also "authoritative souls," we are missing out on great intimacy with Jesus. If we only live out of part of our identities, we are only experiencing Christ in that one part of ourselves. Increasing our understanding of the expanse of our identities increases our experience of Christ's love.
Let's take it back to Sunday school and John chapter 3. John 3:2-3, "He [Nicodemus the Pharisee] came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.' Jesus replied, 'Very truly I say to you, no on can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.'" And John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. So that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life."
These verses are about identity and calling: God's identity, our identity, and what we've been made for.
They are about identity because they clearly display God's motivations for us and His heart towards us: His main goal is to love us and help us live out our high callings and identities as Kings and Queens in His Kingdom. Notice that Jesus responds to Nicodemus's claim about signs (miracles and wonders) with a comment about seeing The Kingdom. We usually think of The Kingdom as what's through the Pearly Gates on the other side of eternity. However, Nicodemus was referring to things Jesus was doing here on the earth which Jesus says we will only be able to see if we are born again and have God with us (His Spirit on us). I read this and see that Jesus just laid out for us how life works (as usual): we are saved so that we can experience closeness with Him here and now as we trust who He is and who He has called us so that we can watch The Kingdom flourish here and now. The reality of Heaven says we can't lose which is meant to give us an unshakable hope and motivation.
God sent his Son so that we could not only have eternal life, but also so that we could step into our true identities as Kings and Queens who fight to take back ground the enemy stole. Because we are saved, we can partner with God's winning team and live in our fullest authoritative identity.
I want to bring this down to earth for us. Thinking about life through a "saved and authoritative" identity heals much more heartache and answers much more questions than just staying "saved". And, in my own experience, it's carried me into depths of God's heart that I wouldn't have otherwise known.
1. What our authority means for prayer
I love to write about prayer. And I love writing to audiences who sincerely don't understand what it's about though they try to be faithful to God in it anyway. I believe God honors that, but, He also doesn't want prayer to continue to be confusing.
If we stay in the "just saved" identity, I think it's hard to understand prayer. If we ignore the part of ourselves that is meant to hold and practice authority to usher in The Kingdom, then prayer looks optional instead of vital. We can fall into the thought that God's sovereignty means that we have no influence. But, when we step into the authority Christ has given us, prayer becomes an incredibly powerful weapon and place of intimacy. God's sovereignty becomes a motivation to engage in warfare because we are sure we cannot lose.
If we believe our words and lives have power when we allow the Spirit to work in us, then we must also believe that our prayers to God hold immense weight. Proverbs 18:21 says that "death and life are in the power of the tongue." And Jeremiah 29:12 says, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." If the Lord is listening, He will act on our behalf because we are His chosen vessels empowered by His Spirit to push back the darkness in the world.
This doesn't mean "it's all on us." We can't really screw up God's plans. But if I truly want to live within my God-given identity fully and experience the intimacy that comes along with that, then I won't even ask the question, "Do my prayers matter?" "Can I make a difference?" The answer is "yes" because God doesn't want to win back His Kingdom without us. He's a relational hero. That's something I want to be apart of and someone I want to belong to.
2. What our authority means for heartache
This could be anything from feeling anxious or experiencing deep betrayal. Heartache creates so much space for the devil to come and spin tornadoes in our souls. I know for myself heartaches that came into my life in high school still rises up today. When that happens, I can either choose hopelessness and deal with the pain until Heaven, or, I can believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27) and authoritatively claim God's comfort and truth for myself.
If we don't live out and accept our God-given identities of authoritative vessels, then we are defenseless in spiritual warfare. We claim healing will never come and settle for an existence of struggle instead of an existence of triumph. But 1 John 4:4 tells us that a victorious life is what we are made for, "You, dear children, are from God and you have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."
3. How to fight for who we are
Colossians 1:29, "To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."
Luke 10:19, "I [Jesus] have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you."
One final statement I want to make about all this is just what it takes to nurture and protect our beliefs in our identities:
I've been learning to not only run from things that harm my identity, but to also run from the things that don't encourage my identity.
It never ceases to amaze me how much darkness we let ourselves live under. Not just the biggies here like sex, drugs, and alcohol. But things like anxiety, passive aggressive friends, boyfriends or girlfriends who critique before they encourage, poor time management...the stuff that the world deems as a "normal" part of our existence, but really isn't normal at all.
There doesn't even have to be concrete evidence to get out of a situation. Sometimes, we can point to how places or people make us feel because of certain behaviors or atmospheres, but, sometimes it just doesn't feel right. And if it doesn't feel right, then continuing in that place will only tear us apart: unrest either creates space to trust God or creates space for the devil to wreak havoc. And we very much choose which path we go down. If you're looking for a new home church, that church you tried last week may do everything right, but, if you're heart doesn't rejoice and feel at home, don't stay. That boyfriend or girlfriend might do everything right and treat you well, but, if it doesn't feel right, if you're heart isn't singing at the thought of being with them more than it's wondering, then that's grounds enough to leave. If someone critiques or makes mean or suggestive comments about you a little too much, but always turns around to ask for forgiveness, but the pattern isn't broken, over time those little comments will become footholds for the devil to tell you lies about yourself. "You really are worthless." "You'll never be able to make anyone happy." "You will never be able to love someone fully."
If we're not around what makes us grow, we're in the traps of stagnation; a breeding ground for lies.
We won't have a perfect life here on earth. I get that. But if we go through life without truly standing in our God-given identities, then we are cheating ourselves egregiously. An anxiety battle I engage in is whenever I let my "plan-less" future overwhelm my identity as a child of God. I want to go into ministry, but, there's not one organization I'm hoping to partner with and I don't have a grand idea for starting my own ministry. I'm still in the training grounds. I can look at other people who have clear goals and stepping stones and get anxious at my own lackings, or, I can remember that I am a child of God and that He has an amazing plan for my life beyond what I could concoct. As I claim that truth for myself and believe it and the anxiety flees.
Let it sink in. Because God already has a plan for us, because He is our provider, because He guides and communicates with us clearly, there's no need for me to be anxious about formulating my own plans and setting my own steps. Of course be wise with opportunities and self development, but, our preparation or lack of preparation doesn't have the final say. I don't want to get into a conversation about free will and sovereignty here. I just want to point out that any presence of darkness means we haven't let a stronger light into ourselves. The moment we ask, "What if I don't hear God clearly?" or "What if I fail on the path He's set out for me?" we've faltered at the identity level: God desires to communicate clearly and His plans will never be stopped for those He loves (which is you).
We can't think about our lives as just settling for what's good enough. God has more for us than "ok" if we follow our hearts cry for adventure and the call for more. This isn't about contentment. This is about being in the space and around the people who can see who God had made you and help you flourish in that. This isn't about just making it to Heaven and not doing the bad things while we are on earth. This is about stepping into the open floodgates of blessing that swing wide for us when we say yes to Jesus. It's about taking up our authority and experiencing tangible intimacy with Jesus; which I'll do anything for.
Even believe in miracles.
What I've learned about what it means to be transformed into the image of Christ, be reconciled to Him, myself, & others, and how to be His disciple.