We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Romans 6:4 (NIV)
The core of strong spiritual living is attachment to and understanding of resurrection.
What proves and confirms God’s power is His ability to bring people back from dark and dead realities—whether physical, spiritual, emotional, or otherwise. If you want to measure how God is working in a person’s life, don’t look for signs and wonders floating around them. Look to the evidence of resurrection in their life. There is no miracle that is as confirming as the resurrection of a person’s life from a dead state to a living hope.
Don’t ever minimize the kingdom of God down to performance and demonstration because there can be no performance or demonstration that is stronger than God’s power to resurrect a human life that was once in meaningless existence but which God has raised to meaning and purpose.
This revelation is as relevant for us today as it was when Jesus walked this earth. We are not nurturing our spiritual lives to perform for people as if our religion is for entertainment purposes. We can’t measure each other’s spiritual relationship or strength on performance.
Instead, we are nurturing a spirituality that offers a huge revelation, and that revelation is this: God is gifting to every one of us a real path from death to resurrection.
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:43 (NIV)
When the criminal on the cross next to Jesus repented of his sin and asked the Lord to remember him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus responded with these words of acceptance and assurance: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
God’s grace is what makes today the start of everything different. Jesus offers to change your mind, change your heart, change your life—and He offers it all today.
He doesn’t say, “Make your confession and I will put your forgiveness on an installment plan.” He doesn’t say, “Due to a high demand and an industry backlog, we’re waiting on parts to come in and I’ll have to place your prayer on backorder.”
No, Jesus’s timeframe is today. When you repent, you get today shaped by the Lord’s will. You get today graced by the Lord’s forgiveness. You get today strengthened by the Lord’s power. You get today justified by the Lord’s sacrifice.
You also get peace by the Lord’s atoning work at Calvary. You get your weaknesses made perfect in the Lord’s strength. You get the spiritual riches of His kindness and grace.
And that grace guarantees that all of it can be yours today when you repent.
What a difference today makes!
Give God What Belongs to Him
They brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Matthew 22:15-22 (NKJV)
God gives you freedom. He gives you freedom to imagine, freedom to be inspired, freedom to aspire, and freedom to go about testing assumptions. In fact, He supports this freedom so much so that He infuses grace in it, power to it, anointing over it.
God supports the time you focus on you—the things you do for you, the thoughts and opinions and convictions you generate through your own experiences, your interactions with others, your upbringing, your exposure to thought leaders and the sharing of their opinions, and the traditions that help to frame all of this.
These things are what you pay to Caesar.
But before you give your life to those things, remember why God gives you freedom. God always expects that you pay Him what you owe Him, which is prioritization of the Word of God in your life over everything else. Pay Him what you owe Him by holding Scripture in your life as the highest authority over everything else. Pay Him what you owe Him with thoughts filtered through the Holy Spirit instead of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration filtered through your convictions.
These things are what you pay to God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV)
Prayer is not a magic wand.
Prayer is not a genie in a bottle.
Prayer is not a lottery ticket.
Prayer is not a fairy godmother.
Prayer is not a roulette wheel.
Prayer is a spiritual grounding. Prayer is a weapon of protest. It’s the protest you put up against your flesh. When your flesh says, “I want to do this,” prayer raises the protest and says, “I’m going to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.”
Prayer is a strong act of human defiance against self, and a strong act of human reliance on God. When you pray, you’re not attempting to control God. You are grounding your thoughts in the will of God and you’re making the powerful protest statement: “No matter how my life unfolds, I’m going to interpret it through lenses that are spiritual. I have other choices, but because I belong to Jesus, I’m going to seek God’s direction. I could seek retribution. I could get revenge. I could go the way of the flesh. I could let my mind wander. I could listen to the advice of others. I could go crazy like the toxicity of this vitriolic culture. But I’m not going to do all of that. I’m going to talk to Jesus about it so that every decision I make is grounded in the Lord’s will and clothed in the Spirit.”
Acknowledging Our Guilt
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
The Dutch artist Rembrandt sometimes took liberties with the paintings he was working on. On one occasion, he was so impacted by the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:5-7, he kept reading them over and over again:
“If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
These verses impacted Rembrandt deeply. They touched him spiritually, and he was inspired to create a painting of Jesus on the cross. What was more inspiring is that as he was painting Jesus on the cross, he also painted himself at the base of the cross in the center of the crowd that was crucifying Jesus.
Most of us wouldn’t have done that. Most of us would have made ourselves the hero or the heroine of the painting, put ourselves on the side with tears streaming down, painted ourselves on our knees, begging that Jesus’s life be spared.
But Rembrandt, based on Paul’s words, became so convicted of his sin and his distance from Jesus that in the painting he tried to portray himself as one who was guilty of putting Jesus to death. When he was asked why he did it, he said it was because it gave him a chance to check himself daily and to ask himself what he was perhaps thinking or doing that puts him at the center of the crowd, crucifying the Lord afresh.
It’s only God’s presence in our hearts and minds that can cause such reflection and inspire such repentance.
The whole world may be under the impression that you’ve got it all together, but Jesus knows the depth of your sin and is able to help you face the reality of your shame. When you confess your true self to Jesus, He can then be allowed to transform you by the renewing of your mind.
Today, acknowledge before the Lord just how sinful you are inside, and then ask Him to make you into a clean vessel to be used for His glory.