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Introduction

From the beginning of time, mankind has been searching for an answer to the age-old question, "Who are we?". We’ve been searching for a reason for our existence. A purpose. An explanation. The meaning of life. If we could just figure out why we’re here, then maybe we could complete our task and find fulfillment.

And so for thousands of years, man has created myths, theories (such as evolution), and false gods (idols) to explain our existence. We’ve searched everywhere from money and power to drugs and sex, trying either to find our purpose or to escape the pain of purposelessness.

But our purpose is not found in all of our searching, and we lose hope. Even in our spirituality, we do not find peace in our searching. It seems far too simple that we were created just to fellowship with and enjoy God. Our lives are far too complicated for that. There are too many needs in our world, too many missions, too many vain attempts to build our own kingdoms, or even to build God’s Kingdom, and we get so caught up in doing that we just can’t accept our real purpose. It’s too simple. There must be something more. Eve must have thought that when she ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. “It can’t be this simple. What’s God not telling us?”

The Scriptures leave so many unanswered questions about our creation. Why did God create us? Of course, many speculate that He was lonely, but then what of the angels? What of the eternity He spent without us? Why was He suddenly lonely? Why create us in the way He did, in natural form, in the scope of time and space, though He is Himself not bound by those things?

If we were to subdue and rule the whole earth, why were we put in a comparatively small garden? Did God know that we would be cast from the Garden? If we weren’t to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, why did God create it in the first place? Was He expecting us to eat from it anyway? Why would it be so wrong to eat from both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge together that God cast us from the Garden? And if after gaining the knowledge of good and evil, man thought it was evil to be found naked, why did God create us naked in the first place?

Why did He create man with reproductive organs before He ever created woman? And if He was planning to make woman all along, why didn’t He make her at the same time as man? Why was man lonely in the first place, if He was with God? And why does the mere existence of woman now cause so many men so much loneliness?

If we’re made in God’s image, does that mean that He also desires purpose? Is that why He created us? And why did God create a being so obsessed with purpose and yet leave so many questions unanswered? Is it because He knew that our search for answers would continually lead us back to Him?

I could go on and on with the questions raised by such a simple story as is portrayed in the book of Genesis. And I may never know the answers to any of them. But the fact is, I’m still here, and I want to know why.

So where better to look for answers than in the beginning?

Indirect though it may be at answering our question, the account of creation in Genesis 1-2 gives us great insight into our quest for purpose. Looking particularly at the life of man before our fall, we can gather much about our purpose, our identity, and the meaning of life.

Continue to We Are Like Him ->

Conclusion

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There may be a lot in this chapter, and as one who’s given his life to full-time occupational ministry, I know well that there are a lot of details and distractions in fulfilling this purpose of God on the earth. But there’s a simplicity in all of it—to glorify God and enjoy Him forever—that, if we can grasp it, brings a glorious freedom and peace in and of itself.

This isn’t something we have to strive for. It’s not something we have to earn. It’s not even necessarily something we do. But it’s who we are. It’s the choices we make every day that determine our character, our integrity, our impact on the world around us. It’s living life to the fullest and never losing sight of the Giver of Life. Glorify Him. Enjoy Him. It really isn’t rocket science. But sometimes we make it seem that way. What we were created for is more natural to us than we realize, but to come back to our roots, to find our identity once again, we need to get past the distractions, the voices all around us trying to pin us with a different identity (as with every thirty-second TV commercial or online advertisement that flashes in front of our eyes), and we need to once again believe in who God says we are.

We are special. We are enjoyable. We are rulers. We are creators. We are producers. We are responsible and must give account to God for the way we live. And we are made in the very image of God—true sons and daughters of the Most High.

Continue to Next Steps ->

We Are Like Him

In the beginning, God spoke. And out of His mouth came, not words, for there was no one to hear them, but came life itself. All of creation is the very words of God. And since we know that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34), all of creation must be the expres- sion of God’s heart—His desires, His dreams, His emotions, His love, His very being.
We’re not talking about little things here. Jesus said that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. That is, when the heart is overflowing—when the heart can’t hold it in anymore—that’s when it just has to be spoken! And it’s not that the thoughts didn’t exist before, but they were simply not expressed. Likewise, we are the expression of what already existed—of God Himself.

So now God speaks, “Let there be . . . ,” and the entire universe is created. But something is different about the account of mankind. When God makes man, He doesn’t just say, “Let there be . . . ,” but He says “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness . . .” (Genesis 1:26). Never before had there been a creature so magnificent as to be the very description of God’s own image.

The best way I can relate this to my own earthly understanding is to think of myself as God’s biological child. A spittin’ image of my Father. Now, I grew up the son of a pastor, and I knew who I was, because nobody would let me forget it. I was the preacher’s kid. My identity wasn’t found in my unique character or qualities. It wasn’t found in my name or in my looks or in my talents. My identity was solely based on who my father was.

While I milked it for all it was worth, I still despised being known by someone else’s reputation. I wanted people to know me for me. If anything, I wanted the preacher to be known as “Matt’s dad,” since after all, the world did revolve around me.

And everyone had their expectations of me. They expected me to not have any issues, because I was the preacher’s kid. They expected me to do well in school and be the best at everything, because I was the preacher’s kid. They expected me to be happy all the time, and to have the best family life, all because I was the preacher’s kid.

With all those expectations, and an identity belonging to my dad, I went on a mission. When I hit my teenage years, I rebelled against everything, and I made it my goal to prove to everyone that I was my own person. That meant going from a straight-A student to not turning in homework assignments. It meant turning an already-difficult family situation into a much worse one. It meant proving to the world that I was not who they expected me to be.

People would even ask me as a kid if I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a pastor. I’d tell them “absolutely not.” I didn’t want that association, because it seemed like an attack on my identity. I would become my father, and that meant I couldn’t be myself.

And yet after all that fighting, I finally realized that who I wanted to be was exactly what people expected of me (and shortly thereafter was called into ministry). Like the prodigal son who took his inheritance and squandered it to make a life for himself, I realized that giving up the identity I’d received from my father was giving up everything I really ever wanted.

We, as God’s children, have been fighting for far too long. We’ve spent thousands of years trying to do this our own way. Trying to prove our independence. Trying to find our identities apart from God. And it’s no wonder that the world has such a negative view of the Church. We’ve become so caught up in our own agendas that we’ve stopped reflecting the true glory of God. We can no longer be identified by our Father.

It’s time to come back.

It’s time to realize that the identity we’ve been searching for—what we really want to be—is to be found once again in the image of our Father. To be known by His work and by His character. For people to look at us and see “the spittin’ image” of God.

Continue to We Are Rulers ->

We Are Rulers

The very next words that God spoke over us during our creation, in the same sentence, no less, as being created in His image, say of mankind, “let them rule.” “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

We were made to be rulers. To have authority. Dominion. Just a few verses later, God says, “fill the earth and subdue it” (verse 28). Conquer it. Bring it under control. Bring it under our own will. Everything that we can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear (on the earth, anyway) was given to our care and leadership.

Can you imagine being the only two people on the entire planet, before it was overpopulated, polluted, and covered in concrete, and being given the command to subdue it? What an awesome responsibility!

And what an adventure! You see, we were never meant to live life on the sidelines. Think about God’s creation for a second—Niagara Falls, ocean waves that could swallow a city, the Himalayas, the Grand Canyon, lions, elephants, giraffes, the rain forest, the Sahara desert, the polar ice caps—our life was to be full of excitement, of conquering every obstacle, of exploration and awe at the everyday wonders of God’s power and majesty.

We were also meant to make tough decisions as rulers often do: to direct creation, to guide it, grow it, protect it, and even to create and establish it for ourselves. When God commanded us to rule the earth, He gave us authority over it. “Authority” comes from the root “author,” and to have authority means that we also have the power to create, to build, to design, and to change. God painted the most beautiful picture ever painted, and then He gave it to us and said, “Now my painting is your canvas. Take it and make it your own.”

Now we don’t have a concept of how long it took between creation and the fall, but we do know that something went terribly wrong only three chapters into the story. Almost as quickly as they were given authority, mankind gave it up to another.

You see, though we were given authority, we were also under authority. Job 1:21 says that the Lord gives, and the Lord also takes away. It is only by His authority that our authority meant anything to begin with. But that same spirit that led the greatest of all angels to become the devil himself, convinced us that our authority was greater than the Lord’s.

Through the very creation we were given rule over (the serpent), we were deceived, and we made the decision to abandon God’s authority to make gods of ourselves. We let the rulership go to our heads. This is why Proverbs 16 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (verse 18)

But interestingly enough, just as God has the power to take back the authority He’s given, we too have the power to restore rightful authority to the earth. Romans 8:20-22 tells us the story of coming redemption.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

Since the time of the fall, creation has been groaning, waiting until the day when it will be delivered into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” We were made to be rulers, but when we abandoned our position, this world went into bondage. It is waiting, longing for that day when we take our rightful place again, and creation will be set free. The Scripture doesn’t say “if creation will be delivered,” but that it “will be delivered.” It’s simply waiting for us to realize who we really are, and subdue the earth once again.

One of my all-time favorite stories is that of The Lion King. In it, Simba, the young prince of the Pride Lands is deceived by his uncle Scar. Scar leads Simba to believe that he was responsible for his father’s death, and so he runs away from his identity as king, giving authority instead to his uncle, the one who was really responsible for killing his father.

All alone in the wilderness, and with death fast approaching, Simba is discovered by two friends, who themselves were outcast from society. Timon and Pumba are fun-loving, care-free, and altogether odd personalities. They rescue Simba and teach him their motto, “Hakuna Matata.”

“It means no worries, for the rest of your days. It’s our problem-free philosophy. Hakuna Matata,” or so the song goes, and Simba is enticed to forget the trouble behind him, forget about his dreams and identity of being king, and distract himself with the good things of life, completely avoiding all responsibility for his actions.

But when someone from his past enters the story again, Simba can’t help but face reality. Scar has ruled with an iron fist, and the Pride Lands lay in ruin. The people are starving, overworked, oppressed, weary, and afraid. They no longer enjoy the “liberty of the children of God.”

And through the help of a crazy monkey, Simba realizes his true identity as king. He realizes that his father lives on in him (a spiritual lesson for us all), and that he must rise up, face the truth, confront his deceiver, and restore the kingdom to its rightful order.

Though this is just a story, it bears witness, like so many of the stories we love, to the bigger story unfolding around us. We, like Simba, have forgotten who we are. We are distracted by the things in our lives that keep us from the pain of our forsaken identity. But the time has come to remember. One of the most powerful scenes in this story is when Simba’s father appears to him in the clouds, and I can’t help but hear God speak to me every time I see it.

“Simba,” he says, “you have forgotten me. You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.”

“But how can I go back?” asks Simba. “I’m not who I used to be.”

“Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king . . . . Remember who you are.”

It’s time for us to remember. It’s time, as the children of God, to take back our authority over all creation, and bring it once again under the Lordship of our Creator. We were made to rule.

Continue to We Are Creators ->

We Are Creators

Although God first said of us to be rulers before we were created, He spoke something first to us once we had ears to hear. “Be fruitful and multiply,” He said. “Fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

God’s greatest joy (or so it would seem), is found in His creation. At the very pinnacle of creation, He chose to reproduce Himself in us, making children in His own image. And how incredible it is that His first command to us is to share in that joy!

Now it’s quite obvious that this means to have children (or to create those in our own image), but there is much more to be found in this command than that. To be fruitful and multiply is a command for every aspect of our lives. From finances to relationships to even how we spend our time, we are to find joy in multiplication. But the joy of fruitfulness is not just for the fruitful.

Fruit is made for others to enjoy. It’s made to give life and nourishment to the hungry. It’s a very selfless thing. A tree does not need its fruit. It doesn’t care if it reproduces. It cannot be a mother to a young sapling. It cannot teach its child how to be a tree. Its fruit is for the enjoyment of others. It is to give life and food and shelter to God’s creation.

We spend so much of our lives trying to get for ourselves—even spiritual things—to build our own kingdoms, and to satisfy our own hunger. But Christ’s example to us was not about gathering. It was about sowing. “Give and it will be given to you,” He said in Luke 6:38. We were created to give. We were created, not for ourselves, but for others, to bring life and nourishment to all who would receive it.

We’ve spent way too long seeking the things of Heaven out of selfish ambition and wondering why God seems to be holding out on us. But if we start seeking the things of Heaven so that we might share them with others, we’d be amazed at how the Lord pours out. We need to stop looking for the next personal touch from God that will change ourselves, and start looking for the personal touch that will change all the lives around us. It comes down to the original sin of prioritizing our own kingdoms ahead of God’s Kingdom. But we were made to give.

And not only is our fruit for others, but it’s also full of seeds. Fruit is made to reproduce itself. A single piece of fruit with ten seeds in it could potentially create ten whole trees of fruit that would each continue to reproduce. That’s so much more than just addition—it’s multiplication (“be fruitful and multiply”). And the same is true of us when we bring life and nourishment to others.

Now, some trees bear good fruit, some bear bad fruit, and some bear no fruit at all. I don’t think very many of us fall into that last category, and aside from a total recluse, I’d say that almost everyone bears some sort of fruit in their lives.

The question is whether or not the fruit is good. Does it give life to those who eat it, or does it suck the life out of everyone who takes a bite? Jesus says, in Matthew 12:33, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

This is not just a lesson about your children. Yes, being fruitful does mean having children, and those of us who are parents know what a joy and privilege it is to raise a child in their image. But whether or not we have physical children, we can still reproduce in our own likeness. It’s called discipleship.

After His resurrection, Jesus spoke to His disciples and said, “All authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19). First off, we see that He took back the authority that we had forsaken. But then, we see Him give it right back to us, telling us to be fruitful once again. Just as He (the tree) created fruit in His disciples, He also commanded His disciples (of which we are fruit) to go and do likewise—to become trees themselves, and to make more fruit—to multiply.

We produce fruit in those around us, and we either leave the taste of Christ in their mouths, or we leave them tasting death (which can sometimes be deceivingly sweet). This often boils down to the question of whether we’re giving or taking in a relationship. I personally think we’d all be happier if there were no taking whatsoever—only giving and receiving (and there’s a big difference between taking and receiving).

But the next question is, what’s being given? A tree, and ultimately the fruit that comes from it, is a product of the soil it’s planted in, the care it receives, and the amount of water and sun it receives, among many other things. The life it gives comes from the life it receives.

And that means that if we are to produce good fruit, we must first be planted where we can draw from the life of God. This means being careful about what we let enter our bodies, especially through what we see and hear, as what we draw from will become the fruit we bear. Ephesians 3:17 says that we are to be rooted and grounded in love, and so long as we remain in God’s love, we will bear good fruit, and we will see our fruit multiply, just as God intended for us from the beginning. This is who we were made to be.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3)

Continue to We Are Producers ->

We Are Producers

I have a sign in my office that says the word PRODUCER on it. Each letter stands for a different quality I expect from my staff (Personable, Relational, Others first, Defined, United, Compassionate, Efficient, and Reliable). At first, when I introduced this concept, some people were put off by the term “producer,” thinking that I expected them to be performance-oriented machines, but when I explained a different application of the term, their perspectives changed.

When you think of a producer, I told them, think of a movie producer. Yes, do think of someone who completes a project, keeps it on schedule, and does it with consistent quality and efficiency. But also think of someone who casts vision, who takes ownership of the project, who puts a piece of themselves in every detail, and who takes responsibility for not only the things that go well, but also for the failures of the project and of the team.

In Genesis 2:15 (and alluded to throughout the creation story), it says “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” We were created to work. It’s part of the reason we were created, to care for the rest of creation, but it’s also part of the reason God made the rest of creation—to give us something to do—to give us purpose.

God knew that, being made in His likeness, we would find fulfillment in our work. He knew that we would find joy in fulfilling our purpose, and so He created us with purpose, to care for creation, to be producers of creation—to put our vision into it, to take ownership of it, to put a piece of ourselves in it, to take responsibility for it.

God created us to enjoy our work. As He enjoys His creation and said, “it is good” (and of us, “it is very good”), and as He took time to enjoy His creation (see Genesis 3:8), God wants us to enjoy our work as well. And so He gives us each a job that is a perfect fit with our skills, our desires, and the vision He’s given us, so that we can be thoroughly satisfied in doing that which we were made to do.

But some of us are so far from “that which we were made to do” that we’re completely miserable in our work. Still others are following the will of God for their lives, but their wrong motives and lack of trust are their source of misery. Of course, our original source of misery is sin. It was when we took on the knowledge of good and evil that pain entered our lives, and in Genesis 3:17-19 God curses our labor, saying, “through painful toil . . . [and] by the sweat of your brow,” you will work the land until you die.

And I’m not convinced that this is as much a punishment as it is the reality of what we do to ourselves with this knowledge of good and evil that we acquired. How much of our pain in work comes because of our own expectations of ourselves, pushing ourselves so hard to accomplish more and more and more? How much of it comes from trying to please others to avoid the pain of rejection? How much of it comes from working extra hours to avoid dealing with the pain that creeps in when we’re lying around, not doing anything? How much of it comes from us trying so hard to fill the void in our lives that is caused by our separation from God—the void we try to fill with busyness, with worldly possessions, with food, with an adrenaline rush?

Our misery in work is of our own doing. Our “painful toil” is our own effort to make up for the evil we brought upon this world. But we were created to work, and we were created to enjoy it.

I get so much satisfaction out of a good day’s work, especially when I finish a project and can sit back to enjoy and admire my creation (like God, on the seventh day). I enjoy it when after a speaking engagement, or after months of praying with and encouraging people through tough issues, someone comes up to me and tells me how much it impacted their life and drew them closer to God. I love it when I do a project around the house (like fixing a leaky faucet, or building a deck, or painting a room, or mowing the lawn), and I feel tired and sweaty and sore afterward, but I can look at what I’ve done and enjoy the accomplishment of it. I can enjoy what I’ve created, and it gives me satisfaction, probably not too much unlike God’s satisfaction when He made the universe, and when He made you and me (though I’m sure to a much lesser extent).

On the other hand, however, I don’t always enjoy my purpose. There are parts I love and parts I don’t, and there are times when the parts that are usually enjoyable are absolutely miserable, just like there are times when the miserable parts are full of joy, peace, and satisfaction. But because those times can switch like that, I know that my pleasure and my misery are not rooted in my work by itself, but rather in my motives and in my trust.

When I start doing things for the wrong reasons (like to build my own kingdom, to make a name for myself, to feed my own sense of identity, or to stay so busy that I can avoid dealing with more important issues, like my family and my health), then my job becomes a chore. But when I am doing what I do for the Lord, and when I trust in Him even when things don’t make sense—like when the finances aren’t there or when He asks me to step outside my comfort zone—that’s when I find peace. That’s when I find comfort. That’s when I find joy and strength and life through my work.

I mentioned before that you can be a slave working for your master but never be allowed to enter His house. All the work will get done, but you won’t share in the master’s joy and blessing because you lack relationship, and because you’re doing the job out of necessity or obligation. But when you work as a son or as a friend, you do it out of love. The job becomes your own, and you share in the vision and purpose (big picture) of your work. You also share in the blessing of your work with your Father and Friend, because all that He has is yours, and He cares more for you than for your labor (see Luke 15:11-32). Ultimately, you become not just a stagehand, but a producer in the biggest story ever told.

Continue to We Are Under Authority ->

Next Steps

Answer the following questions, journal about them, pray about them, or discuss them with a counselor or trusted friend.
  1. Do you have a particularly difficult time seeing yourself in the ways described in this section? As one who is like God? As a creator? As a producer? As one under authority? If so, why do you think that is? What’s keeping you from seeing yourself in that way?
  2. What else has God spoken to you about your identity, about your unique and individual purpose, and about what He thinks about you? Do you struggle to believe any of those things? If so, why?
  3. Do you struggle with the simplicity of your purpose on this earth, or have you noticed yourself making things far more complicated for yourself than they need to be? What steps do you need to take to return to God’s simple intentions and align yourself with your true purpose?
  4. Take some time to journal your thoughts and your response to this section and to the question of identity and purpose as it relates to your own life.
Now pray this prayer with us:

God, thank You for making me who I am. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and You made me that way! Thank You for my unique personality and for the unique calling You’ve placed on my life. Thank You for giving me purpose and hope and direction, and thank You for continuing to form me in your image, according to Your will. Thank You for making me enjoy- able, for making me special, and for making me Your child. Thank You, God, for me! I love You, Daddy. Amen.

The Journey to FreedomThis section is taken from a chapter of Matthew Bauer's book, The Journey to Freedom.  To learn more about who you are in Christ, click here to order the book, including Matthew's full teaching on "Know Thyself."

BUY NOW: The Journey to Freedom - Navigating the Roadblocks to Abundant Living - by Matthew Bauer

We Are Under Authority

One thing that has always bugged me about the creation story is why Adam and Eve hid from the Lord because they were naked. I mean, why were they afraid to be seen by their Creator in the very form in which He created them? And for those who had never seen someone with clothes, why were they ashamed of their nakedness to begin with?

It also says in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve had already made clothing out of fig leaves before they hid from God, so despite what they told God (verse 10), I think there was a far deeper reason behind their hiding.

You see, I don’t think they hid because their bodies were naked. I think they hid because their souls were naked, and for the first time, they had something to hide. They hid because of their weakness. They hid because they did not want their true nature to be revealed. They hid because they knew they would have to answer to God for what they had done. They hid because they were under authority, and they had broken the rules.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” All of us must answer to God for the way we live (see also Romans 14:12). Even the devil himself has to give account to God (Job 1:6). So why do we continue to live as if we are not accountable? Why do we continue to live as if we are the end-all authority in our lives?

The danger with being rulers is that we can let it get to our heads. God gave us just a little authority when He gave us charge over the earth, and in no time at all, we fell to the belief that we could do a better job without Him. But whether we’re generals, lieutenants, privates, or anywhere in between in the Kingdom of God, we must all give report to our commander-in-chief, not only for ourselves, but also for that which we have been given charge over.

We fear authority in our lives, because we fear being seen for what we really are—naked. We fear being seen in our weakness. We fear being accountable for our sin. We fear being held responsible for our actions, because we don’t really believe we have what it takes to do them without failing.

We also fear being asked to do things that we don’t want to do, proving that “submission is not submission until you have to submit” (thank you, Dr. Robert Stearns, for teaching me that very important lesson). If we find ourselves choosing only to submit to what we agree with, we end up only submitting to ourselves.

So because of our fear, we either avoid authority altogether, or we simply give the appearance of being under authority, the whole time clinging to the idea that we can walk away at any time (thus maintaining the ultimate authority and control over our lives). We pretend to be in submission, so long as we’re also in agreement, but we hang on to an escape plan in the back of our minds, should the situation change against our wills.

But being under authority requires absolute surrender. And we need not fear authority in our lives. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18) and by His example, His authority was demonstrated through His love.

Earlier in this chapter, I mentioned that the word “authority” actually comes from the root of “author.” Giving God authority in your life is allowing Him to be the author of your life. It’s allowing God to write the story of your life. It’s actually allowing Him to write you into the story of His life.

And righteous authority protects us. It guides us. It gives us peace. It frees us.

Righteous authority (God’s authority) takes the ultimate responsibility for all that happens, which is not to say that we can abandon our position, but is to say that we need not worry about our own abilities in the matter. It means we have all the resources of our Authority (God) at our disposal, and it means we have the backing of our Authority should we run into opposition.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about authority is that a good leader always takes the blame for the failures of his team, and he always passes on the credit when things go well. It’s something I didn’t understand when I was wrapped up in the world’s systems, but which has blessed my life and my leadership skills tremendously. In God’s authority, we find that same lesson. He took upon Himself the responsibility for our failures (on the cross) to spare us (His team) from being “fired” (all puns intended). Being under authority is a good place to be.

Authority doesn’t stop us from being creative (as God is not a micromanager, despite the way many of us act around Him), but it frees us to live our lives with the protection of God, the resources of God, the direction of God, and the abundant grace of God all around us. Are you submitted to His authority?

Continue to We Are Enjoyable ->

We Are Enjoyable

I so enjoy the way God is portrayed throughout the creation story. Even before there was light, we see a picture of God, as His Spirit hovers over the waters. Throughout the days of creation, God took that which was “formless and empty” and began to fill it with beauty, with majesty, and with life. And every day, He said it was good.

Still, on the last day of creation, He made mankind and He said it was very good. And out of all creation, with hundreds of billions of galaxies and planets, and even with all the earth He created, God chose the garden where we lived to walk around in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Of all the places for Him to hang out, He chose to be with us. Throughout the entire story, we see just how much God delights in His creation. He thoroughly enjoys us!

But it’s so easy to think at times that God is just putting up with us. It’s easy to think of God as frustrated with His creation, perhaps even regretful, and that at any time, He’s just going to say He’s had enough, snap His fingers, and we’ll all disappear into dust. Now surely throughout the Scriptures we see God’s wrath and frustration toward His people when they turn away from Him (and yes, it’s coming again for those who oppose Him), but it was for those same people that He sent His son, because He so loved them (John 3:16).

God is God, and He doesn’t have to dwell among us if He doesn’t want to. No one is forcing His involvement with mankind. No one is forcing Him to keep His promises or to play out His will on the earth. He has infinite possibilities to create and to get what He wants. And He still chooses us.

From that, I can draw only two conclusions: either God is crazy, or we must be enjoyable, loveable—even delightful. Think about it. If the God of the whole universe loves you and me, we must really be something special!

Since man’s first sin, our perception of ourselves has leaned more toward our fall than our redemption, but no more. If we are at all to understand the journey ahead, we need to start believing that we, the children of God, are His greatest delight—better than the ocean—better than the mountains—better than a 50 percent-off sale at your favorite department store—better than ice cream!

We are something very special, and God loves us! He loves spending time with us. He loves talking with us. He loves when we sing Him songs and paint Him pictures and dance for Him. He loves when we laugh and have fun with Him.

That’s why He created us. That’s why He left everything else to walk with us in the garden during the cool of day. That’s why He sent His son to die for us. That’s why He walks with us still. He enjoys us!

Continue to What Do We Do Now? ->

What Do We Do Now?

So sure, this is what we were created to be—enjoyable, under authority, producers, rulers, creators, like Him. But what about the fall? We’ve strayed so far from the way we were created. What do we do now?

Since the fall, there’s a piece of us that’s unfulfilled—a piece that’s longing to see the fullness of our purpose in creation—a piece that’s longing for the way things were supposed to be. And whether or not we can totally reclaim all that was once ours on this earth, we’ve been promised an even greater inheritance to come. After a lifetime of searching for the answers to that age-old question, “Who are we?”, we are promised a new identity—a new name, written not in the sand to be washed away by the waves, but written in stone, never to be shaken (Revelation 2:17).

I believe that this question of our identity is the key to our freedom in Christ. For to know who we are, “without question or pause” (as Joe Darion so vividly expressed in his song, Impossible Dream), we can walk confidently in any situation, not being changed by our circumstances, but changing the world around us, taking our place again as rulers over creation.

Even though we’ve strayed from our original intent, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His values and character do not change, but at the same time, He is not stagnant. He does change in His desires, responses, and choices, as we can see throughout the Scriptures. He’s the same God who gave the law and who required blood sacrifice for lawlessness, but He’s also the same God who gave His own Son as a blood sacrifice so that we could enter His Kingdom by grace. He’s the same God who set out to kill all of Israel for their rebellion at Sinai, and He’s the same God who changed His mind when persuaded by Moses, and who spared Lot after negotiating with Abraham.

And though His values and character remain the same, and though His purposes remain forever, He also adapts His response to us amidst our sinful nature, and He responds to us in the context of our culture and understanding so that we, no matter how far we’ve strayed, can still find Him wherever we’re at.

And so now there are new expectations of us. With the knowledge of good and evil, we gained the capacity to do that which we know to be wrong. And after so long, we’ve become so deceived as to think that wrong is right, yet we wonder why we’ve grown so miserable.

To this, God responded and gave us guidelines to live in His promise (the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and all the other Mosaic law). He taught us how to care for His creation—even how to care for ourselves—so that we can have life and enjoy it to the fullest. So that the land flowing with milk and honey will be everlasting. So we will rule over all our enemies and have no fear of them, because the Lord will fight for us. It wasn’t for our salvation that He gave us the law, but for our joy and fulfillment, not that we should continue in fear and legalism, but that we should know how to live again, and that out of our order should be birthed our freedom.

And out of these commandments, we learn first and foremost that we are to love God, to love others, and to love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). We are to be lovers—first of God, for that is His greatest desire, and then that we would let the abundance of His love flow out over others. That we would love not only others as He does, but that we would also know and love ourselves as He does.

And at the close of His visit among us, Jesus gave us the command, “Go therefore [in His authority] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Not only should we know and be confident in whom He made us to be, but we should realize that our unique purpose and identities are to share with the world. With the confidence of His authority within us, we can share this gift of knowing who we are with others, bringing all of humanity back to the way it was intended from the beginning.

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