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Identify: Christ is Your Life

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)

If you forget for a second that you’ve ever heard these two verses before, they should sound a little spooky. You died? Your life is hidden? What’s all that about?

identify_350I don’t think we can understand it completely, but here’s the big idea: Christ is your life. He is your new identity. When you became a Christian, you basically said, “I want to accept the gift of trading Jesus’ sinless life for my sinful one, his death on the cross for the death I deserved. I want to take on his identity as my own.”

So when Christ returns, when he appears, your real life will show up, too. Your identity change from the old you to the Christ-like you will be complete. But the transformation has already begun, and we can join in making it happen.

Step one: Set your heart and mind on the above things. Step two tomorrow: Do violence to your sin.

Think: What are the implications of thinking of your real life as being hidden in heaven with Christ? What are the implications of making Christ your identity in this life on earth?

Pray: Thank God that your life is hidden with Christ and that you will appear with him in glory when he appears.

Do: Read Romans 6:1-14 to get ready to think about the next few verses in Colossians.

Identify: Think Where You’re Headed

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

What better time than now to dig deeper into your new ID as being “in Christ”? Paul describes is this way: You died to the old you when you became a Christian and then you were raised from the dead with Jesus into a brand new identity.

identify_350That sounds like a radical transformation, so shouldn’t it be more noticeable in your day-to-day? It can be. You can choose to be Jesus in your home, at your school, in your church. (We could use way more Jesuses in our churches.)

How? We stepped on square one yesterday: Make heaven your goal; set a heading beyond this life and into the next one. That’s what “set your hearts on things above” means. Next: Think about where you’re going. More clearly: Think about heaven and the stuff of God more than you think about the stuff of this short-term existence.

It’s work to think about stuff. You’ve got to do it on purpose or it will never happen. So what’s so great about heaven, anyway? What makes it better than this life? What are we missing now that we won’t miss there? And how will you be different when you’re done with sin and death once and for all? (Are you thinking about the “above things,” yet?)

Think: What’s your strategy to spend more time thinking about the things above? How could you use technology or relationships or your new school schedule to make that happen?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set your mind on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Do: Make a quick list of five things you know about your future and forever life in heaven.

Identify: Who Will You Be?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1)

Happy New Year! Okay, it’s not actually New Year’s, but it’s never too early or late to make a new beginning. It’s only really hard. But we can do hard things.

identify_350The obstacle is this: We’re still us, right? Aren’t we doomed to just keep repeating the pattern of our strengths and weaknesses until we die? In Colossians 3, Paul says, “nope.” At least, that’s what he says to Christians.

Believers have this superpower we don’t talk about much. Because of the Holy Spirit, we can say “no” to sin, “yes” to powerful new choices, and we can become wildly different people. In fact, we can exchange our identity for a brand new one. Starting right now.

How? Step one is found in verse one above: Make a new goal. Paul says to aim to live in the identity of Jesus Christ Himself. And that means setting your life in the direction of heaven. More tomorrow.

Think: Do you like making new beginning or do you dread them? Is making a goal of becoming like Jesus a goal worth setting? Is it worth it enough to make it your first and biggest goal?

Pray: Ask God to help you to set the whole direction of your life toward Jesus and heaven. And then ask him to overwhelm you with the desire to keep moving that way.

Do: If you’ve got a few minutes, let Paul’s description of Jesus true identity in Colossians 1:15-19 blow your mind.

The Ten: Don’t Crave Your Neighbor’s Stuff

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)

The final commandment in The Ten is this: Don’t covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. The dictionary tells me that covet means to “wish, long, or crave” for something that belongs to someone else – in an envying or jealous way.

theten_350I wonder if this is the hardest command of them all. Watch some pre-schoolers playing, and you’ll see coveting in action almost immediately. It doesn’t matter how cool the toy I have is – it’s that you have something I don’t and you seem to be enjoying it. And even if I get it away from you, I’ll be happy only until you pick up something else and make it look fun.

God hates our coveting, though, because we are essentially saying this when we covet what someone else has: “God, the good gifts you have given to me are lame! You have not provided for me adequately. I refuse to be content until I have the same thing, relationship, car, parents, or iPhone that she has.”

Here’s the best advice I’ve heard about coveting: Use gratitude to train yourself to like what you have, and use love to train yourself to be happy for what other’s have.

Think: Are you most likely to covet the things of people you like or people you don’t? Why? In your own words, how is indulging our tendency to covet insulting to the God who provides for us?

Pray: Ask God to help you to like – and to say thanks for – what you have. Ask him to help you to be truly happy for people who have good things that you don’t.

Do: Without looking at anything, try to list all ten commandments in order. Peek once to refresh your memory, then try again (if needed).

The Ten: The Big Ones

“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:13-16)

Can you believe that’s four whole verses up there? Commandments numbers six through nine are so simple and straightforward. And they’re probably the easiest to keep, right? I mean, you don’t usually just have a bad day and kill someone. Or sleep with someone’s spouse. Or steal a car. Or lie in court about your neighbor.

theten_350Nope. Those are the biggies, the ones that most good Israelites could put on their list of “bad things I’ve never done.”

Then Jesus showed up and took an eraser to their lists. He said those biggies start as real sin in the secret places of the heart. To tune your mind to lust, he said, is heart adultery. To hate a person, John wrote, is to be a murderer. We’ve all learned how to steal a digital thing or two from the anonymous privacy of our computers. And lying in court is only a public version of lying to our parents.

None of us is really innocent, even of all the biggies. Part of the point of the Law was to convince us all that we can’t keep that Law, that we are not good enough on our own for God. We needed Jesus to keep them all for us. And we thank God he did, then died to pay for all the ones we broke.

Think: Do you have a list of sins you are proud not to have committed? Is there any real honor in having broken some of God’s Law and not other parts of it?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to kill, hate, lust, commit adultery, steal (anything ever), or lie (for any reason). Thank him that Jesus died for all your sins and that you’ve been forgiven for them through faith and by his grace.

Do: Read Galatians 3 to hear what Paul has to say about the difference between living by faith in Christ and living under the Law of Moses.

The Ten: Honor the ‘Rents

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

For some reason, nearly everyone I’ve ever met went through a season (short or long or endless) of thinking this command from God is on the “optional” list. I know I spent a semester or two feeling that way. It’s not optional, of course. In fact, it gets repeated word for word in Ephesians 6:1-3. God takes “honor your parents” extremely seriously.

theten_350One problem is we don’t really know what “honor” means. We understand when we’re obeying and disobeying – and we know that’s wrong, even when we choose to do it, anyway. But honor means to treat someone as if they are worthy of respect. It means, in a way, to act as if they outrank you.

But what if they don’t deserve respect? What if, in fact, they deserve exactly the opposite of respect because they haven’t been good to you or others? Yeah, God doesn’t mention that. He doesn’t give us any way out of the command. He just says, “Honor them,” meaning, “Be respectful, kind, gracious, forgiving, honest, and decent to them.”

It’s a hard thing to do sometimes. But God wants us to trust him enough to do the hard things he tells us to do even when we don’t get why, even when it costs us something, even when it hurts. Honoring them is one way we honor him.

Think: On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being hardest), how hard is it for you to honor your parents lately? What makes it hard? Why does it matter that we do it anyway?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust him enough to honor your parents.

Do: Ask a parent or two what this command means to them. Then ask how they think they did at honoring their own parents. Be ready for an interesting conversation.

The Ten: A Day Off

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

Of the Ten Commandments, this one about the Sabbath is the only one, more or less, not explicitly restated in some way for New Testament Christians. If it were, the church would not have moved its primary day of group worship to Sunday and none of us would do any work on Saturdays.

theten_350Does that mean the commandment doesn’t matter? Of course not. Each of God’s Top Ten in Exodus 20 were important to him and, therefore, important for Israel. God cares about the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus said that the Sabbath was created for us. It is a gift. Like all of the commands, God meant this one for Israel’s good.

The word Sabbath means “rest,” and we all need rest. God chose to rest after his work of creation. In that creation, he designed us to function best with a day of rest each week, as well. We’re not meant to go 24/7 without a break. We’re built to follow his pattern of 6 + 1 – and for that one to involve focused worship of the Creator.

Ever since Jesus showed up, people have been debating about what, exactly, are the rules of the Sabbath. But our Christian freedom from the law of Moses doesn’t mean we have to give up the benefits of the Sabbath command in some form or another. We can still enjoy a day off each week for God’s glory and our own good.

Think: Do you or your family intentionally find a way to enjoy a day of rest each week? If not, what would it take for you to do so? What would it cost you? How would it benefit you and/or God?

Pray: Ask God to help you know how you should practice keeping a “day of rest and worship” each week.

Do: Ask some of the Christians you know and respect if, how, and why they practice a day of “Sabbath rest” each week.