“The practical demonstration of God’s LOVE through Christians helps us see we are beloved by God.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today –July 21, 2023
Guest writer Tom Ashbrook
Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12, NIV…The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. John 17:22-24
Last week we explored the amazing reality that God “LOVES” us by connecting Himself with us, mind, body, and spirit, in a life-giving way. He literally gives Himself to live within us, and we within Him. The Apostle Paul told the Greek philosophers in Athens that “…in Him, we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) God says it’s like “resting between His shoulders.”—in His embrace, in His heart eternally! This connection changes everything in the most mysterious and miraculous ways imaginable—He changes our identity, our way of living, and our destiny. Let’s reflect on each of these transformations.
If you and I were to meet for the first time, how might we introduce ourselves? I suppose we’d start with our names. Before Covid, we would probably shake hands, but now maybe only a smile or an elbow or fist bump. After that, we might exchange a host of largely irrelevant data such as where we live, grew up, do for a living, kids, and so on. Over time, we might learn more information, and, in a few cases where trust develops, we might actually divulge our identities—who we really are.
Some years ago, I would have identified myself as a frightened little boy hiding in a man’s body. I feared that any failure would prove me worthless. I hid my fear by doing only what I thought would produce excellent results. I knew God loved me “just as I am,” but I didn’t think anyone else would. I equated worth with value to others. My identity was tied up in fear. What about you? How might you identify yourself at that level beneath your facades?
Only after I really received God’s LOVE as a life-giving connection was He able to gradually “put a new heart” within me that could believe the truth—I am worthy only because I have become His beloved! I am His; I abide in Jesus as His prized possession! I am learning not to be afraid of failure but to embrace it as an opportunity to learn and grow. I can stop hiding and live vulnerably, openly, and in peace and joy because I have a new identity—His beloved. Jesus describes this transformation as being born again. (Cf. John 3:3) With His LOVE connected to us, we become more and more like Jesus. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18) Where do you find yourself in this process of accepting your new identity as God’s beloved?
Now let’s see how our new identity as God’s beloved opens up new dimensions of abundant life that sets us free to live abundantly. I used to joke about the second-greatest commandment. If I were to love my neighbors “as I love myself,” I wouldn’t have a friend in the world. Eventually, as I lived more and more into my belovedness, I understood why Jesus gave us a new commandment, “that you love one another, even as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) I realized that Jesus invites me to LOVE others, not by feeling fond about them, but through life-giving connection. Now, as God’s beloved, I can become fully present, connected to another person through listening or seeing or helping or sharing the gospel, or…. LOVE can flow through me to them whether they know it or not. Jesus said it this way: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.” (John 7:38-39) That’s the way God’s Kingdom comes on earth—through us in LOVE. I’ll bet you connect with many people in life-giving ways. When you do, miracles happen! Yet we’re invited into an even greater dimension of our destiny.
Jesus gave us another commandment that adds an amazing dimension to our connection with Him and others. We connect/become one in LOVE with other believers. When we connect with others in whom Jesus lives, a whole new dimension of life opens up to us. We experience our Lord both spiritually and in human form! In this deep, trusting oneness with our Christian brothers and sisters, Jesus can speak to us audibly, look us in the eyes, and show us God’s compassion through smiles, tears, and warm embraces. We need to experience God in human form just as much as the first disciples did. We experience God’s glory in these precious relationships. (Cf. John 17:22-24)
Personally, I know that I could never have seen myself as God’s beloved without the practical demonstration of God’s LOVE through my Christian brothers and sisters. Do you have relationships through which that can happen to you? Jesus also makes Himself known to the other believer through us. Others see the life-giving LOVE which engulfs us—a love they have always longed for. LOVE opens a life-giving connection that lets the Spirit’s living waters flow. In this flow of LOVE, transformation, oneness, and sharing the Holy Spirit, we actually experience the glory of our destinies—daughters and sons of God!
Thank you, Lord, for my new life, my new identity, and my new destiny from abiding in Christ and His love, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Try another spiritual exercise. Prayerfully picture yourself in your beautiful and resurrected body, standing before the throne of God. See Him in all His glory and radiant beauty with arms outstretched with an invitation for you to come to Him. With His arms around you, He shows you all the other beloveds whom He used you to LOVE into the kingdom of God. Let yourself soak into the scene as His beloved.
We The Kingdom: Mine
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