Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Trevor Hudson's recent book, Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved, (InterVarsity Press, 2010).
You’ve probably heard many times that God loves you. But does your life reflect that reality? If you really lived as God’s beloved child, you would notice many of the exciting ways God is at work in your life. That knowledge will then empower you to make decisions that help you fulfill God’s purposes for you.
Here’s how you can live as God’s beloved child:
Draw a picture of God. The picture of God that you have inside your mind profoundly shapes the way you live each day. If you have an accurate view of God, you can enjoy a healthy life. But if some parts of your mental picture of God are distorted, your life will be dysfunctional as a result. So ponder your current image of God and consider how well that lines up with the picture God presents of Himself in the Bible. Remember that God stepped into history as Jesus, so you need to look in Jesus’ direction to get a clear picture of God, and keep in mind that Jesus is characterized by unlimited, unconditional love.
Discover who you are. Just as it’s important to view God accurately, it’s important to see yourself accurately. Your identity is much more than just your temperament, the opinions that other people have of you, or your ability to achieve success in your pursuits. Your real identity is nothing less than God’s beloved child, made in God’s image, with His Spirit living inside your soul. Read Bible verses that reflect that truth to remind you of who you really are, and relate to other people with the love and respect that comes from knowing who they really are.
Develop a Christian memory. Remember details that help you recognize God’s constant presence. Read the Gospels to remind yourself of how God worked through His Son, Jesus. Write down some stories of ways that God worked powerfully in your life in both joyful and painful situations, as well as ways that God has used you to bring hope to other people. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to examine how God has worked in your life during that day.
Receiving the kingdom. God wants you to experience the gifts of His kingdom, but do to receive those gifts, you need to confess your sins, repent, and trust Him to help you move from living selfishly to pursuing God’s purposes for you.
Find your sense of belonging in God’s family. Realize that you can’t truly follow Jesus alone, because He intends for faith to be expressed in community. So join a local church and build close friendships with some people there, encouraging and supporting each other as you grow and serve together.
Become holy. As you yield yourself to God’s transforming Spirit, He will help you become the person He wants you to become – someone who is holy, reflecting Jesus’ character. Spend some time regularly in solitude and silence so you can listen well to what the Holy Spirit says to you. Also, spend some time regularly with someone you know who is suffering – maybe someone who’s ill, or someone who’s lonely – and invite God to use that time to help you become a more loving person.
Love those closest to you. The acid test of your faith is whether or not you love people. So give the people who are close to you the gift of listening carefully to them when they share their thoughts and feelings with you. Take advantage of opportunities to help people through loving actions however you can.
Discover God’s call for your life. Ask God to help you and discern and fulfill His call for you to make the world a better place in the ways He has uniquely designed you to do so.
Practice God’s presence. Turn your mind toward Jesus often throughout each day and night. Constantly notice what God is doing for you, and express your gratitude to Him in all circumstances. Welcome God into all of your daily tasks, and do everything you do for Him.
Open your heart to God. In prayer, honestly pour out your deepest thoughts and feelings to God and listen for His responses in your soul. Look to the Psalms and the Lord’ s Prayer as models on which to base some of your own prayers so you can connect to God in deeper ways.
Overcome evil within and around you. Fight the evil in this fallen world and invite God to use you as an instrument of His liberating love in the world. Acknowledge and confess your own capacity for evil and your struggles with sin and temptation. Take action to right wrongs whenever you can, and engage in intercessory prayer to fight evil.
Witness to the good news. Share your faith with other people whenever God brings you the opportunities to do so. Witness without words by living out your faith so people can clearly see that you’re a person of love and integrity. Witness with words by responding to people’s questions about faith in ways that are relevant to their lives. When the time is right in your relationships, share some of your personal testimony of faith.
Faithfully steward what you possess. You must make a crucial choice in life: either you put God first, or you put money first. It’s impossible to divide your allegiance between the two. Decide to pursue God over money, and manage money the way He calls you to, by spending responsibly and giving generously.
Speak words of life and power. Recognize the great power that your words have to bring about either good or evil results. Stop speaking untrue, angry, or discouraging words to people. Choose to speak truthful, kind, and encouraging words to people instead.
Look to the life beyond. Prepare for your coming life in heaven by basing your decisions right now on eternal values. Focus your mind on God through centering prayer whenever you can, view all of your daily tasks as sacraments, and let go of your past while trusting God to lead you into the future.
Grow to become more like Christ. Since a love for people is central to Jesus’ work, ask Him to help you learn how to love other people more deeply. Practice hospitality by inviting others into your life and home and reaching out to help them whenever you can. Pray for your enemies, and as you intercede for them, God will change your heart to empower you to love them. Continue to keep a love for people paramount in your spiritual journey, and you’ll become more and more like Jesus Christ.
Adapted from Discovering Our Spiritual Identity: Practices for God’s Beloved, copyright 2010 by Trevor Hudson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com.
Trevor Hudson has been in the Methodist ministry for the past 30 years, spending most of this time in and around Johannesburg, South Africa. Presently he is part of the pastoral team at Northfield Methodist Church in Benoni, where he preaches and teaches on a weekly basis. He has written nine books, including A Mile in My Shoesand Listening to the Groans,which have recently been published in the United States. Much of his ministry has been shaped by two passions: helping ordinary people experience the transforming presence and power of Jesus in their everyday lives and helping people build the kind of local faith community that seeks to take seriously the suffering of those around them. His interests include watching sports, walking and running, discovering new places, reading and writing.
Whitney Hopler is a full-time freelance writer and editor. You can visit her website at: http://whitneyhopler.naiwe.com/.
Publication date: April 26, 2011