How an Eternal Perspective Shapes Our Present Living

Let’s face it – we are chronically self-focused. Our gaze is usually turned inward, and we evaluate and engage everything through the lens of personal impact. In seasons of suffering or bouts of difficult emotion, our vision is narrowed even more. But in Christ, our mind and heart are being transformed, renewed in the image of our Creator. A big piece of that sanctification process is growing in developing and nurturing an eternal perspective, so that our affections and purposes come into line with God’s. We need our lives to be shaped by God’s promises.

Eternal perspective has become a pervasive theme in what God has been teaching me lately. And the more I learn and grow, the more clearly I see how having an eternal perspective shapes every aspect of our present living. Here are just a few examples of areas that are impacted:

  • SUFFERING | We are given hope and comfort in the midst of suffering and grief. We are motivated to persevere and surrender.
  • FOCUS | We lift up our eyes and take the focus off ourselves. It cultivates a heart of humility.
  • SPIRITUAL GROWTH | We are motivated to know God more and walk with Him daily, and to put off sin and grow in sanctification.
  • PURPOSE | Our priorities are reoriented to focus on God’s purposes. We recognize that life is a gift to be stewarded rather than a competition to gain all we can.
  • WORK | It changes our perspective on work and ministry. Everything we do is fueled by the ministry of reconciliation that has been entrusted to us.
  • FEAR | In the face of anxiety, we are led to trust God and rest in the peace that He gives. This life is fleeting, and the pain and hurt is temporary. God is bigger than the things we fear, and we stand in reverent awe before Him.
  • IDENTITY | Our story is enveloped in God’s, and all glory goes to Him. He redefines and reframes our identity.
  • RELATIONSHIPS | We are motivated to pursue reconciliation in our relationships. We let go of offenses more quickly and remember that relationships are for Him, not for us.
  • LOVE | Our affections are loosed from earthly treasures, and our heart is fixed on our Father who has so abundantly loved us. We are devoted to Him above all else.
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Being Defines Doing

A common problem that many of us share is defining our identity and value based on our work and performance. We let the roles we fill (wife, mom, student, athlete, employee) become the central, orienting piece of our life and identity. We also evaluate ourselves based on how well we perform. In a nutshell, we tend to operate out of the belief that our doing defines our being.

But Scripture points us to the fact that, for those who are disciples of Jesus, reality is quite the opposite. Our core identity consists of two parts: being created by God in His image in order to display His glory; and being redeemed by Christ and adopted as a child of God, so that we may know God and make Him known.

This identity is where our value and worth are derived from. We did nothing to merit our creation or salvation, so the quality of our performance cannot touch our value. And with our core identity being rooted in Christ, the job we do and roles we occupy do not define us. Instead, the identity given by God shapes and drives what we do and how we live. Our roles become unique avenues for us to know God more intimately and live as His image-bearers.

So let us hold our work loosely, remembering that we are defined by something more eternal. And let us humbly and boldly live in a way that exalts our Savior, in whose perfect righteousness we stand secure.

The Humility of Image Bearers

We were each created by God, made in His image. Though the image in us has been marred by our voluntary enslavement to sin, it is still present. This identity as His image bearers is what defines our value and our purpose.

As creatures, our natural right position before God is one of humility as we yield to Him His rightful place of honor and authority. We exist to glorify and exalt Him. Just as the moon has no light of its own but merely reflects the sun, so we are only reflectors of His glory and image; we are not the source or center of anything. Humility is “the sense of entire nothingness that comes when we see how truly God is everything.” We are to be empty vessels that are filled up and used by Him. Our design as God’s image bearers is to be wholly dependent on Him — that is the essence of humility.

Pride is the loss of humility and the root of sin. Pride can be expressed in a multitude of ways, including taking control, exalting ourselves, going our own way, rejecting God’s leadership, and redefining our own identity. The kingdom is for those who have nothing in themselves and seek nothing for themselves. So here’s the question — who or what are you seeking? If we would grasp the fact that our value and identity are found in God, we could stop seeking them elsewhere and instead let Him define us and give us purpose. In pride, we constantly strive to exalt and protect ourselves. But humility rests in our union with Christ, remembering that our life is hidden in his…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4, NLT

When it comes down to it, humility is a matter of worship and affection. Who will we serve, and what will be our posture before God? Humility is a basic component of our salvation — admitting the depth of our sin and our need, and quietly resting in His grace rather than relying on ourselves. And humility is “the first and most essential element of discipleship.” The initial step toward obedience is recognizing the holiness of the Father and submitting to His authority.

Humility is often misconstrued as something negative and undesirable, but that is far from true. In reality, the path of humility and service is the way to freedom from sin and self. Humility is joy — living as we have been designed to live…in dependent communion with our loving Creator.

 

* quotes above are taken from the book Humility by Andrew Murray

 

Our Identity in Christ

As I’ve counseled others and worked through my own struggles, a foundational truth has come to light. As believers, our identity is found in Christ, and that fact changes and shapes everything. Who we are in Christ defines our worth, our purpose, our ability, our love for others, our hope and joy in the midst of difficulties… and on and on. In so many of our struggles, part of the answer is to know, remember, and walk in the truth of who we are as children of God.

There are many ways that our identity in Christ functions in our lives. When we face hard things like fear, loneliness, discouragement, anxiety and depression, looking to who God says we are can be a source of great comfort. Our identity in Christ also illuminates our sinful habits and reminds us that we are weak and needy and lost apart from the Lord. Finally, our identity in Christ motivates and enables us to serve others and follow God. One important thing to note — our identity in Christ is absolutely dependent on who God says HE is. So as we think through these truths about ourselves, let us remember that our ultimate focus should be on the Lord and His steadfast character and faithfulness.

From time to time, I plan to return to this topic on the blog, breaking down the different truths about who we are in Christ and providing some Scripture passages for further study. For now, I’ll leave you with a story of how Jesus’ identity informed his actions.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples ‘feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

– John 13:1-12

Most of us know this story well, but one key element is often overlooked. Check out the bold sentence above, this statement that immediately precedes Jesus’ counterintuitive and countercultural actions. Jesus knew three immensely important facts about himself (and God):

  1. Jesus knew that God had given everything into his hands. This enabled him to give freely of himself, humbly stooping down to serve his disciples.
  2. Jesus knew that he had come from God, so his identity was secure and he didn’t seek affirmation from people.
  3. Jesus knew that he would be returning to God. This future hope motivated him to lay down his life.

In the same way, the things we believe about our identity fuel our thoughts, our actions, and the way we live. As you journey this week, I encourage you to start thinking about these things… What does God say about who you are as His child and a follower of Christ? Are you living out of that identity, letting it shape your thoughts and actions?

* Click here for further teaching on this story *