The Power of Affirmation

I used to view the New Testament as basically a how-to manual for living the Christian life.  But I have since come to realize the message is much deeper.  It is less a to-do list and more an explanation and affirmation of who we are in Christ.  The New Testament writers consistently explain who we are and then launch into, “This is how we are to live in light of our new identity and new power over sin.”

So, how does knowing our new identity affect the life we live?  Let’s start with who we are.  As a believer in Christ, we are citizens of His new kingdom, children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, the dwelling place of God the Holy Spirit, a new creation, holy and beloved, blessed with every spiritual blessing, adopted as sons, God’s own possession, partakers of the divine nature, forgiven our trespasses, the very seed of God, and raised up with resurrection power; just to name a few of our New Testament identifiers.  And each of these phrases are direct quotes from Scripture.

With all this identity affirmation, we are exhorted on the basis of our new identity to live in the moral resemblance to God that we already possess.  This understanding brings a new power to our ministry.  Gone are the days of, “Now, I know you are not going to want to do this, and you will most likely fail at it because you are still basically a sinner covered by Christ’s blood, and it is going to be extremely hard, but put your head down, grit your teeth, and go give this Christian life your best shot.”  No.  No. No.  This is not the New Testament model of ministry.

What is the New Testament model of affirmation?  You were created for good works (Eph 2:10).  You are empowered for moral goodness (II Pet 1:3).  You were rescued to follow Christ’s commands with joy (I Jn 5:3).  His commands are not burdensome because, as a new creation, they fit who you are.  How many of us work in vocations where we say, “Hey, this fits who I am!”?  I enjoy my job because it fits my interests, talents, and bent.  Similarly, if you are a believer, the Christian life fits your interests, talents, and bent.  The Christian life is all about unfolding who you are, not a list of qualities to aspire to.

This approach brings so much joy and affirmation to our ministry.  Instead of feeling like we are pulling teeth (my apologies to dentists), we are inviting our fellow believers to join us in the adventure of faith.

The message of affirmation is also a powerful force for good in your family.  I believe the affirmation approach to parenting is not some pop psychology gibberish, but is built on the foundation of the New Testament model of affirmation.  With that biblical model in mind and based on our own child training ups and downs, we will share over the next several weeks 29 ways to affirm your children.  After talking the list over with some of our kids, we actually came up with a few more.  But we will start with 29 ways to affirm your kids since it is a memorable number (one for each day of the month…if it is February…and if it is a leap year).  Join us for number 1 next time.

Love is the Unifier

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3).  Love is the unifier in the bond of peace.

Pastor Ray Stedman summarized theses verses well in his book, Body Life.  “The church is never told to create unity.  There is a unity that exists in the church by virtue of the simple fact that the church exists.  It can only be produced by the Spirit of God.  But once produced, Christians are responsible to maintain it.  And maintain this unity through Christlike love.”

All the “one anothers” of the New Testament are most effectively carried out under the overarching umbrella of “love one another”.  In fact, I would suggest, they cannot even happen without the power of love.  Bearing one another’s burdens only happens well when we love.  We will be motivated to pray for one another more often when we love.  Can we honestly forgive another person without love?  Even our efforts to admonish one another will only have a positive effect on the other person when they know we love them.  Love is the answer to every question of unity in the church.

“And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against any one; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col 3:12-14).  Love is the unifier.