YOU ARE LOVED AND CHOSEN

In July, 2007 when I became serious about Ralph Howe Ministries – the exact launch date being July 1st – I started using what was then a new copy or a new version.

A  new version to me – ESV (English Standard Version)
It is now the battered and tattered well-worn friend that I still preach from although near  retirement as I have broken in its twin brother recently…
The first thing I read when I first started this version was the book of Ephesians
In this book Paul, the author and apostle, tells us a lot about who we are as believers and what we have been given…

Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us…
That we are:
Blessed
Chosen
Called
Redeemed
Forgiven
Sealed
That we have received:
Wisdom
Insight
Revelation (“…made known…”
An inheritance
Truth
God’s plan for us (predestined)
But, (and it is a big ‘BUT’) how we think about ourselves
How we relate to who we are
How we talk to ourselves
How we talk about ourselves
The way we think, speak and behave are often far different than what God thinks about us and what God’s Word says about us
We are often our own worst enemy.
We often ‘self-speak’ and actually end up putting ourselves down.
We hear ourselves saying things like:
“I’m a loser.”
“I failed again.”
“I’m ashamed of myself.”
“I will never get it right.”
“I screw up every relationship I have ever had.”
“I know better than this”
We end up defeating ourselves … beating ourselves up … disagreeing with God’s Word
We fail to see ourselves as God sees us and thus live far below our potential in Him
Of course, we know that beating ourselves up like this is not helpful.
But, we do it anyways.
I wrote in the margin of that old beat-up Bible:
“Anything you wouldn’t say to someone else, stop saying to yourself.”
This has all come flooding back recently because of a story that I hear and my continued reading of God’s Word…
The parts of Scripture that has spoken loudly recently…
Colossians 3:12a “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (ESV)
Chosen = Called, hand-picked, desired and set apart
Loved = unconditionally, totally, just as we are
But if you are still working to earn His love then you have not received and are not walking in His unconditional love
TPT “You are always and dearly loved by God! So robe yourself with virtues of God, since you have been divinely chosen to be holy.
Jude 1:1b “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (ESV)
TPT “I’m writing to the chosen ones who are wrapped in the love of Father God—kept and guarded for Jesus, the Messiah.
Kept = guarded, defended, guided, surrounded by
It seems we have two choices placed before us every day…
1> Speak kindly to ourselves according to God’s Word
God’s perspective of us
God’s opinion of us
2> Speak out of our own opinion of ourselves
Our impression of ourself (self-image)
Our limited perspective
Our understanding based on life experiences
What God thinks (believes, sees) and says about us
Often very different than what we think (believe, see) and say about ourselves
And, believe it or not, what God thinks and sees and says is far more accurate and correct than what you think and say…
The story:
Sofia had lived through an autumn filled with heartbreak and loss
Her best friend moved away
Her church fell apart
A work crisis demanded her attention for 12 hours a day – including weekends
This made her feel enormously guilty since she was raising two young sons
On January 1st, when people make resolutions, Sofia decided to dust off her bathroom scale and survey the damage
“I’m a comfort food kind of person,” she says.
“When I feel stressed, food calms me down. I know it’s not healthy, but sometimes you’re just trying to get through the day.”
She had been avoiding the bathroom scale because she knew the numbers wouldn’t be good.
So she wasn’t especially surprised when her scale spit out three numbers in a combination she had never seen before
It was a slap in her face
Sofia has a way with words ….
“My bathroom scale has no compassion, no understanding, and no empathy for how difficult my fall has been. Personally, I believe the scale should have given me a break. It could have taken a few pounds off, knowing I had truly weathered a very difficult season and was already facing enormous guilt. But the scale was harsh. It said, ‘You’ve got a lot of exercise and some much smaller meals in your immediate future. Oh, and forget about any pie or ice cream until at least Thanksgiving.’”
Our brains can be like Sofia’s bathroom scale – cold, calculating, unfeeling, and unyielding
We can become our own worst enemies, pouring toxic thoughts and words into our daily life in a way we never would do to anyone else
And really, we should be much more concerned about the thoughts and words we have about ourselves
Much more concerned than the numbers on our scale
“I’m so weak”
“I’m ashamed of myself”
“I never get anything right”
“I’m just a loser”
“It will never work out”
Sofia comments … “The other day I lashed out at my husband, but really, I was just having a bad day. And then I let fly against one of my daughters for accidentally making a mess. I went to bed thinking, ‘Sofia, are you sure you’re even a Christian?’”
Speaking toxic words to yourself may not be your problem
But it is the problem of most people on Planet Earth so listen up for their sake if not for yourself
Again, from the margin of my old Bible:
“Anything you wouldn’t say to someone else, stop saying to yourself.”
And, maybe weight isn’t your issue… It’s not mine.
But, recently I realized that I felt inferior and unqualified when I stood before a group of pastors and leaders from Iraq and Iran and Armenia
I said to myself:
What do I have to offer that they might want?
Who am I to be speaking to them?
They have accomplished more in the Kingdom
They have suffered more for the Kingdom
They have given more of themselves for the Kingdom
It is then that God drew my attention to the two verses we are looking at…
Colossians 3:12a “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (ESV)
Jude 1:1b “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (ESV)
I remind myself of what God says about me…
I am chosen
I am loved
I am called
I am kept
God loves you
You are chosen and dearly loved!
God hates it when others attack you and say things about you that are not true
He hates it when you talk about yourself in a toxic and non-biblical way saying things that, in God’s heart and mind, are not true
So, I had to reach the point in my own life when I realized that Jesus, not me, is the hero of my life
When I expect myself to be what only Jesus can be – perfectly loving, infinitely wise, supremely strong – I’m going to hate myself for falling so far short every day
When I accept that Jesus is my hero and will always be my hero, and that His life and grace are my only hope
When I spend more time thinking about Him, His excellence, than my own pathetic weaknesses
Then I begin to see myself in light of Him
Then I begin to really believe what He says about me
I don’t always succeed in this – I don’t have it down pat yet
Especially true when I am struggling with things – troubles in life
And just as true when I am working through temptations
It is then I can readily beat myself up …
“I’m so weak”
“How can I be so stupid?”
“Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt AGAIN”
But, you know, Jesus said we would always have troubles (John 16:33)
Jesus said that “no temptation will happen to us that we can’t handle with His grace” (1 Corinthians 10:13))
But then I do realize that without all these life-issues I really would not understand the total acceptance, and grace of Jesus > His unconditional love
I would be half the person I am because these situations help form us
I would not be able to offer grace, mercy and love to others because I would not have personally experienced them
So, again, I remind myself that regardless…
I am chosen
I am loved
I am called
I am kept
From this foundation:
I realize that I don’t have to be perfect to be used by Him
I don’t have to deny my sin
I can face my failures and thus experience His grace and love
I can count on Him to keep me – guard and protect me
I don’t have to believe what others say about me
I don’t have to defend myself (Let the Lord defend you)
I certainly should not focus on all the times that I have failed
I simply enter into a place of thankfulness for His mercy and grace
I can focus on, concentrate on, and believe that what He says about me is the truth and then let Him show me more and more of the real me … His version of me
Here the truth I want you to grasp:
When others get you down and attack you
When you begin attacking yourself
Turn your eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face…
And then, keep your eyes on Jesus….
And say to yourself – over and over again…
I am chosen
I am loved
I am called
I am kept
This will change your life…
I use to obsess over people who wounded me
But then this simply leads to hating people
I use to focus on how weak and passive I am naturally > Introvert
But then I simply began to hate myself
But when I changed my focus to Jesus and what He says about me…
It was like taking a “miracle drug” and totally changed my life and continues to bring change on a daily basis
STORY – happened this week as I am writing my notes for this teaching:
Someone stating that they wanted to learn a lot more about apostles
So I wrote back to them and asked how I could help … book titles, one-on-one…
They decided to purchase a course on-line from someone I never heard of
Self-talk … “So, after three years of working with them and for them – what am I, chopped liver!”
Guess I am a nothing – a nobody (feeling sorry for myself)
So, not smart enough for this new season (rejected)
See, they don’t believe in you, appreciate you (self-image)
So I helped you – now you don’t need me (failure)
That may all be the reality (I don’t know if it is) …BUT focus on Jesus and what He thinks
I am chosen
I am loved
I am called
I am kept
I am now collecting celebrations of God throughout Scripture for my own use …
Here are a few others I recently gathered from Colossians …
Imagine what could happen if you stopped worrying about someone who is hurting you
Stopped thinking about how weak or stupid we are again
And started thinking about this:
Jesus’ grace (Colossians 1:6)
That Jesus is the source of all wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9)
Jesus’ glorious might and power (Colossians 1:11)
That God rescued us from the domain of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13)
That in Jesus all things were created (Colossians 1:16)
That Jesus is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17)
That in everything Jesus has the supremacy (Colossians 1:18)
That through Jesus, God has reconciled us to Himself to present us holy, without blemish, and free from accusation (even self-accusations) (Colossians 1:22)
That we are to delight that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3)
That in Christ, God has made us alive (Colossians 2:13)
Lest I despair, I hold on to the fact that God forgave all our sins (Colossians 2:13), disarmed the powers and authorities of the world (Colossians 2:15), and testifies that He chose us and loves us dearly (Colossians 3:12)
That Jesus is our peace (Colossians 3:15)
That God is our Father (Colossians 3:17)
All this substantial and amazing list out of just one short book in the Bible
There are hundreds of other pages to explore in the Bible
So, we need to keep our eyes – physical and spiritual – on what the Bible states…
About who we are
As well as what it says about…
What we have ‘in Christ’
Our soul – our mind, will, and emotions – need to hear more of God’s Word – which brings healing to your soul and nurture to your spirit
Here is a key to remember:
“Don’t dwell on where you fail; dwell on where Christ excels”
His strength is greater than our weakness
Just one quick in-depth look into the heart of Jesus can change the way we think, feel, and live
In a world of constant negatives where we are constantly reminded of where we are failing and falling short…
Meditating on Christ is like breathing pure oxygen
Get off the mental bathroom scale and stop thinking about yourself
Think about the purity and sufficiency of Jesus
And remember that God – the wisest and more perceptive Being in the universe
Chose you and loves you
You are chosen
You are dearly loved
He will also keep you (protect you)
What do I care if the rest of the world rejects me when the most brilliant Being alive – God Himself – not only chooses me but loves me dearly?
God says, “I chose you and will keep choosing you”
God says, “I am passionately pursuing you”
God’s grace
God’s acceptance
God’s affirmation
God’s love
We need to choose to live life out of His affirmation…
Sofia lost ten pounds by May but gained five back over a difficult summer
She realized that feeling bad about herself and speaking negatively to herself didn’t help – AND didn’t please God
She began again to speak gently to herself
Speaking what God said about her …
Realizing every day that:
I am chosen
I am loved
I am called
I am kept
That was enough for Sofia …
She stopped berating herself and focusing on the negatives (and there were many)
She started speaking to herself what God said about her
She started looking at herself – speaking to herself – with…
Compassion
Kindness
Gentleness
Patience
After all, “If that’s how God wants us to treat others, isn’t it how He wants us to treat ourselves?”
And this only happens when Jesus is our hero and we focus on …
Who we are as Christians
What we have received from Him (and continue to receive)