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Our Identity in Christ

This morning I want to begin with a mini-interview. I know that Greg has been part of our church for a couple of years now, but I think there are still some people who don’t really know Greg all that well. So I’m going to ask Greg to come up here and I want to have a brief interview with him.

So Greg, come on up here. Actually, I just want to ask you just a single question, but I think this question will really help us get some insight into who you really are. So here is your question: Who are you? That’s the one question I want you to answer. Who are you?

[ Greg to respond several “I am….” statements  ie… I am Rob & Nancy’s son, I am Nicole’s husband,… (uncle, brother, son-in-law, neighbour to, oilers fan, etc…) ]

As you can see, there are a lot of different aspects that make up our identity. Things like the family that we’ve come from or the relationships we’ve grown into –  things like the jobs we have or positions we hold – things like the hobbies we enjoy or the sports teams we cheer for. There are a lot of aspects that blend together to create our identity.

But the interesting thing about our identity is that some aspects never change – while other aspects do. For example, Greg will always be the son of Rob & Nancy Waddy – that will never change. He will always be their child. However, he may not always be an Oiler’s fan. One day He might see the light!

Maybe that’s not the best example. How about this: Last year at this time, he was not the husband of Nicole. But today, he is.

As of August 10, 2019, Greg’s identity changed. And with that, his entire life changed. In fact, he’s probably still adjusting to his new identity as a husband. He’s learning to act like a husband, he’s learning to think like a husband, he’s learning to take on the responsibilities of a husband. And for those of us who have been there, we realize what a huge adjustment it is to take on this new identity that comes with marriage.

But it’s critical that we do take on that identity, because there are always responsibilities and privileges that comes with every aspect of our identity. 

For example, as a child of Rob & Nancy, Greg had many privileges – they fed him for years, they gave him a place to live, they provided for his needs, they gave him love and support. He got that all simply because he was their child. But at the same time, he had some responsibilities to them. He needed to obey them – he was subject to their authority. I’m sure he had some responsibility to help around the house (cleaning his room or washing the dishes or whatever) – and now, as they grow older, he’ll have the responsibility to help to care for them in their old age – and that all comes simply because of his identity their child.

In the same way, when Greg takes on his new identity as a husband – that too comes with certain privileges and responsibilities simply because he is now Nicole’s husband.

So it’s critical that Greg embraces this new identity as a husband. If Greg fails to do this, he is not going to have a happy life! Not only will he miss out on the joys and privileges of being a husband, but if he neglects his responsibilities as a husband, he’s going to cause Nicole to miss out on the joys and privileges of being a wife.

And certainly, embracing and adjusting to his new identity takes time, but it’s so important that Greg makes that transition from living and acting like ‘single Greg’ to living and acting like ‘husband Greg’. 

And I don’t say all this to pick on Greg! Just for the record, I think Greg & Nicole are doing a fantastic job of learning to be husband and wife! But I know it’s a challenge – because I’ve been there. I’m still there! It’s a long process to embrace this new identity!

And the fact is that all of us have to go through this process. Not necessarily the process of taking on a new identity in marriage, but the Bible tells us that then when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we take on a new identity as a Christian.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Just like we take on the new identity as a husband or wife when we get married, in a similar way we take on a new identity as a Christian when we accept Christ as our Saviour. And it is critical that we embrace that new identity. If we fail to understand and recognize who we now are, we will miss out on the many joys and privileges that come from being children of God – and at the same time we will also neglect to carry out the responsibilities that we have as well.

And so today, I want us to take some time to look at our identity in Christ.

If you were here last week, you’ll remember that we started a new series called “Visual Theology”. 

And I know that sounds intimidating, but theology is really just the study of God. It’s learning who He is, what He’s like, and what’s He done. 

And so Visual Theology is an attempt to explain the truth about God in an easy to understand way filled with lots of visual aids. And as I mentioned last week, the outline and the visual aids for this series comes from the book “Visual Theology” by Tim Challies and Josh Byers.

They’ve laid out a great presentation for how we live in relationship with God – and so we’re going to use their book as our template as we go through this series.

And we started last week by looking at how we grow close to Christ. Of course, the foundation for our relationship with Christ is the Gospel. 

The Gospel is the relational connection between us and Jesus. Without the Gospel, we have no relationship with our Creator. But through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, we can be reconciled to God and we can enjoy being in his presence both now and for eternity.

Our key take away from last week is that we need to remember the Gospel – we need to preach it to ourselves, we need to preach it to others… We need to be reminded of it as we worship with our church family and as we regularly celebrate the ordinances that God has given us.

And as we are reminded of the Gospel, as we are reminded over and over again of what Christ has done for us, we can’t help but love him more and more.

So the Gospel is our foundation and it’s the means for us to grow close to Christ.

But as we’ve already said, as we seek to grow in our relationship with Christ, it is critical that we understand our identity in Christ. 

If Greg is going to grow in his relationship with Nicole, He’s going to need to understand his identity as her husband. In the same way, if we are going to grow in our relationship with God, we need to understand our new identity as Christians. And so that’s exactly what we’re going to look at today.

So exactly what kind of identity have we taken on when we become a Christian? In what ways are we a ‘new person’ as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – how are we a ‘new creation’? How are we different from the person we were before?

Well, let’s look at six aspects of this new identity.

The first, and very much the foundation truth of our new identity, is that we are now “in Christ”

That is the core of our new identity –  I am in Christ. 

Well, what does that even mean? What this means is that you and Christ have been spiritually united – you’ve been joined together so that His life is your life. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:17….

“But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.” 1 Corinthians 6:17

It’s kinda like when you graft a branch onto a tree. 

Some of you may have seen these apples trees that you can get that have like 4 different kinds of apples all growing on the same tree… In case you didn’t know, those four different kinds of apples all come from 4 different kinds of apple trees – those are different branches that have been grafted onto a single apple tree trunk. 

Just out of curiosity, has anyone here ever grafted a branch onto a new tree before? I’ve never done it personally, but I know my dad has. And there are different ways to graft branches onto other trees, but the basic idea is that you take the branch you want to graft and sharpen the end of it into a bit of a pointed wedge shape. Then you cut a notch out of the tree where you want to add that branch. The final step is to insert the wedge of the branch into the notch on the tree – tightly fit them together and binding them in place. When you do that, the sap from the tree begins to flow into the new branch and over time, the branch and the tree fuse together and they become part of each other. They grow together as one tree and you couldn’t even separate them again if you wanted to.

The tree and the branch are united together. The life of the tree becomes the life of the branch.

It’s kinda like what Jesus said in John 15:5

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Just like how that grafted branch has life from being united with the tree, in a similar way, we receive life from being united with Christ.

And actually, we receive more than just life. Because we are in Him, all that Christ has is ours and all that Christ did is credited to our account. 

  • His life is our life. 
  • His death is our death. 
  • His resurrection is our resurrection. 
  • His joy is our joy. 
  • His relationship with the Father is our relationship with the Father. 

Everything!  Tim Challies writes:

“Anything that Christ did as your representative, God counted as if you actually did it. God was considering you as belonging to Christ, as being one with his Son. In God’s eyes, what Christ did, you did.” ~ Tim Challies

So when Jesus died on the cross, because you are now in Christ, God sees you as having died on that cross and your sins are now paid for.

When Jesus lived a perfect, holy, sinless life, because you are in Christ, God see you has having lived that perfect, holy, and sinless life.

Jesus did all the things that we could not do – but because we are in Him, those are all credited to our account.

You can see why this truth is the foundational element of our identity. While the world around us finds their identity in so many other things, we find our identity in Christ.

Our identity isn’t determined by our success or our failures.

Our identity isn’t determined by whether we’re married or single.

Our identity isn’t determined by our sexuality or our race or our skin color.

Our identity is determined by Jesus Christ – by who He is and what He has done – because we are IN CHRIST.

There’s much more that we could say about that, but I’ve still got 5 other points that I want to make yet this morning, so we’d better continue on. 

But this is the foundation of our identity – I am in Christ – and these next five points all come out of that.

The second aspect we want to look at is that we are Justified.

And we’ve touched on this a little bit already so I won’t spend a long time on this one. But the key idea here is that even though we are sinners and we are fully deserving of punishment, because we are in Christ – we are justified.

Not to be confused with our Wednesday night conversations at Brian’s house… (That’s not the kind of “Justifed” that we’re talking about. Being justified is kind of a legal term. It means to declare that the accused is innocent. So for example, if I accused Caleb of stealing my chocolate bar – the two of us might go to court. But because he didn’t actually steal my chocolate bar, the judge would find him to be innocent. In that case, Caleb would be justified. The judge would declare him to be innocent. So Caleb, you’re off the hook!

But the problem for us, is that we are not innocent. We are all guilt of sin and we deserve to be punished. How then can we be justified? How can a righteous judge like God declare us to be innocent when we are clearly guilty?

We are justified because we are in Christ. Christ already pay the price for our sins when he died on the cross. He served our death sentence for us. The only thing left on our record now is Christ’s righteousness. His innocence. His perfection.

Because we are in Christ, never again will God hold any of our sin against us – past, present, or future. We are justified. Romans 8:1 says…

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 NIV

There is no guilt. There is no shame. There is no punishment.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

You are Justified.

And understanding this aspect of our identity is a game-changer. The way your think, the way you see yourself, the way you see God – it all totally changes when we understand that God doesn’t see us as filthy sinners – He see us in the same was as He sees his own beloved Son. Clean. Holy. Innocent. Justified.

So don’t forget that – you are justified!

The third aspect of our new identity is that we are adopted.

Sometime ago I shared with you the story of a family who are Christian refugees from Pakistan – currently living in Thailand – wanting to come to Canada.

But anyway, I’ve been emailing him back and forth over these past few months – praying for them and encouraging him however I can. But I’ve noticed that in all of their emails, they always calls me “Brother Dave”. Actually in an email I got from him this week, I counted three times in a fairly short email, he addressed me as “Brother Dave”.

And I think that’s a really good reminder! I know we always refer to our church as our church family – but I don’t often refer to Brother Mike or Brother Brian. But maybe we should because that really speaks to the reality of the situation. As fellow Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ because we have all be adopted into God’s family.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Galatians 3:26

That’s pretty incredible. Think back to the benefits and privileges Greg received simply by being the child of Rob & Nancy Waddy! We talked about how they fed him for years, they gave him a place to live, they provided for his needs, they gave him love and support – all because he was their child.

Now imagine for a minute the incredible privileges that would come with being a child of the Most High – God of Heaven and Earth. The most powerful, most loving, most giving, most perfect being in all the universe – that’s your Father!

I don’t know what kind of father you had growing up – but I think all of us can at least imagine what it would be like to have the perfect dad.  A dad who always kept his word – a dad who was always there for you – a dad who loved you like crazy even when you messed up big time – a dad who always kept you safe – a dad that always brought out the best in you. Now our own dads probably weren’t quite that dad – but God is!

And because you are in Christ, you have been adopted as a dearly loved son or daughter of that God – the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. 

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

You are adopted. You are the son or daughter of the Most High God.

And that leads us into the fourth aspect of our new identity: and that is that we are secure.

As the adopted children of God, we need not fear that God will ever un-adopt us. We don’t have to worry that God will one day change his mind. We don’t have to fear that if we mess up, God will toss us out and abandon us. No! Because we are in Christ, God would no sooner reject us than he would reject His Son Jesus. We are secure – safe in the hands of our loving Father.

“Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.” John 6:37

We have nothing to fear.

  • We need not fear that God will tire of us or tire of our sin God knew all about every sin we would ever commit before he choose us as his children. And Jesus has already paid for every sin when he died on the cross. We are justified, remember?
  • We need not fear what others may do to us – for greater is He who is in us, than He that is in the world. Our Father is the All-powerful ruler of the Universe – what can anyone do to us?
  • We need not fear even death, because God has promised us eternal, resurrected life. 

What could we possible fear?! We are secure.

As Paul writes in Romans 8:31…

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

You are secure.

And this leads us to the 5th aspect of our new identity in Christ and that is that we are free.

This is another one that we’ve talked about recently so I won’t go long on this one either. When we asked the question several weeks ago “What Good is the Gospel” – this was one the answers. Because we are in Christ, we are free. In John 8:34…

34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:34-36

In other words, in our old identity – we were slaves to sin. We were sinful people driven by sinful desires. But now that God has justified, and adopted, and secured us – we are truly free.

  • Because we are in Christ, we are free to become like Christ. Our old sinful nature is no longer in control of us. We are free to be the people God created us to be.
  • Because we are justified, we are free from the guilt and burden and the power of sin. There is incredible freedom in forgiveness – and we get to live in that freedom!
  • Because we are adopted, we are free to love our brothers and sisters even more than ourselves. We are free to give because we know that our Father will always take care of us.
  • Because we are secure, we are free from our worries and fears. That alone is worth the price of admission! To live life free from fear – free from worry – that’s incredible!

We are truly and gloriously free!

We just need to learn to live in that freedom! And that leads us to our final point, and that is that we are unfinished.

You and I are a work in progress. We are not yet all that God created us to be. Even though we are new Creations – we have been justified, adopted, secured, and set free – we are still unfinished. 

The big theological word for this is that we are being ‘sanctified’ – we are being made to be more and more like Jesus – but we’re not there yet.

I think every Christian, as we struggle with our own sinful nature, we wish that God had completed the process as soon as we accepted him as our savior. We wish that He had instantaneously removed every trace of sin from our lives and made us as pure and as holy as Jesus Himself.

But He didn’t exactly do that, did He? For God’s own good reasons, He choose instead to make our sanctification a lifelong process. It’s God desire that we continually grow in our relationship with Him. It’s his desire that we always increase in our holiness and our godliness.

And I don’t know exactly why He choose to do it that way, but I do know that He didn’t leave us to do all the work by ourselves. We talked a few weeks ago about how the Holy Spirit produces His fruit in our lives – (it’s not our efforts that make us more loving or joyful or patient – it’s God.) Likewise, in all areas of our lives, it’s God who works in us to make us more like Himself. Paul says in Philippians 1:16…

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

Yes, you are an unfinished piece of work right now – but God is working in you – and he will continue working in you until you are complete – fully restored to the image of his Son Jesus.

I hope that encourages you this morning. As you go through your week and you’re once again reminded of your short-comings and failures – take heart! Because you’re not finished yet. God is still at work in your life.

As we’ve looked at our identity in Christ – I hope that you’ve grown more confidence in who you are in Him.

 And I hope that you’ve been drawn to further know this God who has justified and adopted and freed you, and I hope that you’ve grown to love this God who holds you secure in his hands and who is working in you to make you into all that He created you to be.

Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you are plumber or a doctor. It doesn’t matter if you are married or single. It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy or bankrupt. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian or Pakistani.

Those are all inconsequential. What matters is that…

You are one with Christ.

You are a forgiven sinner.

You are an adopted child of God.

You are secure in God’s grip.

You are a slave set free.

And while you may be unfinished, you are being renewed every day to become more like Jesus.

That’s who you are.

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