We all want to be winners. We’re hard wired to survive and scramble for top position. For some, winning comes easy and for others it never comes. Victory. I told myself it wasn’t that important. If there’s a drawing to win, I won’t. If teams are chosen, I’m last. It’s just the way it is.
But it is important.
Christ set us free for freedoms’ sake. For his sake. He didn’t set us free so we would struggle and believe the lies of defeat. Victory is important. Winning is important because God wins in the end. At the end of it all when the dust settles and the fight is over, God is triumphant. You and I need to have winning attitudes.
In Christ, I am victorious. I don’t have to live defeated and it’s something I have to remind myself of everyday. You are victorious. But maybe you doubt it? Maybe you think winning is bad. We live in a world where children receive trophies for participation rather than for winning. But participation in the kingdom of God isn’t our end goal. Victory is.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV
Step One to Victory
The first step to victory is to put off our old selves. We’ve been given a new identity in Christ. We’ve been covered with robes of righteousness. The problem is that sometimes we still wear our ratty, smelly clothes underneath. So that stinky sock? Throw it away. That shirt that’s seen better days? Burn it. Colossians 3:8-9 has a lovely little list of stinky clothes we need to throw away: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language, and lying. Throw them all off if you can, and if you can’t, then tackle them one by one.
Step Two to Victory
The second step is to be made new in the attitude of our minds. It doesn’t work to merely change our outsides. That is temporary change that burns up like dried kindling when under pressure. Lasting change happens when our minds are changed: specifically the attitude of our minds. An attitude is a tendency or orientation of the mind. So if you’re trying to put off swearing, but you’re still thinking it, eventually it will slip to the surface. If you’re acting cordial to someone, but in your mind you’re thinking the worst of the person, it will be made known. Our attitudes must be renewed and the power of Christ does that for us.
Step Three to Victory
The third step is to put on the new self. The gift of righteousness is given to us through Jesus Christ and God sees us as righteous, but in order to love people as he commanded, we must put on righteousness so others can see God in us. Colossians 3:12-14 gives us a list of our new clothes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Once we’ve exchanged unkindness for kindness, throwing kindness around like confetti becomes easier. Loving others becomes a reflection of selflessness.
We achieve victory in this life when we put off our old selves, have our attitudes in our minds renewed, and when we put on the new self. It won’t matter if you’re chosen for the team or you win a contest or if you’re the slowest runner in the race. It won’t matter because you know that in God’s eyes your life victory is assured and everything else is merely a training ground for you to learn to walk in that victory.
Many years ago, I was Women’s Ministry President, Children’s Ministry Director, and a Youth Sponsor—all at the same time. It was exhausting and in the midst of the busyness I realized I had forgotten how to sit at Jesus’ feet and just be.
So I finished out my term as Women’s Ministries president and declined reelection. I found a replacement for the Children’s Ministry and informed the youth pastor I could no longer be a sponsor.
I thought this “learning to be” would be easy, but it was not. I had looked to my roles and the spotlight as indicators of my significance, and with nothing to do, my heart panicked.
Identity is so much more than my roles, reputations, accomplishments, past, present, or future. Through faith I’m believing that I’m accepted and secure in Christ. Although there’s still an internal wrestling, especially on days when I’d rather give up and move to the wilds of Alaska, except for the snow thing and the dark days.
But this significance thing? I still don’t have it figured out. Significance and pride are so interwoven in my heart that it takes the grace of God to unwind. I’m writing and living from that tangled place.
The desire for significance is not an ungodly desire, but I make it ungodly when I chase after success in my roles, approval ratings, and reputation. Only God can fulfill my desire for significance and it’s only when I began exploring God’s definition of significance that I discovered three areas that, when combined together, make significance simple to understand.
Part 1 of significance is tied to our purpose and it’s only when we embrace our purpose— as defined by God— that we can grasp part 2 of our significance, which is our position:
Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” NIV
1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you?” NIV
2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” NIV
I am God’s temple, but it’s not about me.
After I die to my own sins, God raises me up and seats me with Christ, not so I can lord it over people, but to serve.
God makes me a new creation and pours his grace over my life, not so I can be blessed, but so that I can effectively be his minister of reconciliation to a lost and dying world.
My purpose is tied to my position. I am not in this world for my own pleasure and happiness, although I have a great deal of things that make me happy and bring me pleasure, like sharing song and words and beauty, but ultimately I have been given a position that needs good fruit.
Our position as God’s ministers is to make him known and to reconcile the world to him. But we can’t do this if we don’t know him or understand our identity in him.
This is where I can scare myself into inaction because the gravity and responsibility of this position is weighty. It also explains why I sometimes flat out refuse to take the next steps in growth in my Christian walk.
All those years ago, God was calling me to let go of my positions so that I could sit at his feet and begin to understand the significance that he calls me to, but I was scared to obey. I liked being in charge and having “important” things to do. I wrestled with giving up my positions in the church because I was afraid of losing significance. What I gained out of the perceived loss of significance was the beginning of the journey to truly embracing my identity in Christ.
As I took the time to be in his presence rather than be busy in his church, my definition of significance was replaced with his. Bearing fruit and serving others through the ministry of reconciliation is a gift.
It’s a weighty gift because I know how hard it is to stay grafted to the vine and engaged with culture. I know that if I reject the position God has called me to be as his temple and as his minister, that the purpose of bearing good fruit is pointless.
There will be times when we’re tempted to find our significance in other things, we’ll misrepresent God to the world, and we’ll do and say things that are opposed to his holy righteousness. Our purpose and position can feel impossible to accomplish. But it is possible and we find the key to success in the final area of significance.
When we combine the three aspects of significance we will find that fulfilling our purpose and position is accomplishable. Till next time.
I can’t believe that there is a love that is great enough to die and live for me.
I can’t believe that I am chosen.
I can’t believe that he calls me holy.
I can’t believe that I can boldly come to grace’s throne.
The litany of my regrets and mistakes are clear under my magnifying glass. But what if I were to step back and look at my mistakes through the magnifying glass of grace. Could I believe the truth that says I am forgiven? Could I believe that I am worthy?
I think so?
But I have to determine to know truth. I have to determine to know God on his terms, not mine. I have to be willing to surrender my ideas of truth for his truth. I have to be willing to remove my critical magnifying glass from my life and replace it with his magnifying glass and allow the Holy Spirit to come along and whisper change and acceptance.
I am singing the words of this song to myself. I am determined to know Truth. I am determined to know Christ in order to know his truth. I hope you will join me.