Series: Christ In ...
Christ In Me
August 04, 2019 | Randy Smith
Christ In Me
2 Corinthians 5:11–17
Sunday, August 4, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
As we continue our summer series entitled, “Christ In,” this morning I would like to examine, as the title indicates, “Christ in Me.” Often we refer to this as our “Identity in Christ.”
Two weeks ago, Kayla and I were enjoying our final day in New Mexico. We were hiking in the mountains looking for a natural hot spring we heard about. While there we ran into a nice family with four children from Oklahoma on the same mission. We found the hot spring and I started filming. Conversation with the parents naturally led to the YouTube channel. The children had been quiet until they heard those words. The first utterance from the young boy was, “How many subscribers do you have?” In his mind, that number would validate my channel and potentially my worth as a human being. Obviously the bigger the number the more the youngster would “worship me.” And the temptation was there for me to desire to appear successful in his eyes.
When I was younger, the magical question was, “Oh you lift weights, how much can you bench press?” Now that I am older the question is, “Oh you are a pastor, what is the size of your church”
How much do we want the approval of other people? How much do we want to be “successful” in the things that are oftentimes meaningless in the eyes of God? Does God care how much I can bench press? Additionally, will my family love me more if the church attendance grows by 10% this year? In wanting the praise and approval of man, are we settling for the superficial and often ignoring what matters the most, what really should mark our character, what really should ultimately determine our identity?
According to the dictionary, our identity is “the set of characteristics that somebody recognizes as belonging uniquely to himself or herself and constituting his or her individual personality for life.”
Without overthinking the question, what is your identity? Who are you? All of you have some form of an answer.
- Is it based on what you enjoy doing? Gardening, Baseball, Surfing, Dancing, Drawing.
- Is it based on how you look? Underweight/Overweight, Short/Tall, Black/Brown/White.
- Is it based on your occupation? Businessman, Stay-at-Home Mom, Teacher, Musician.
- Is it based on your accomplishments? Graduate Degree, Sports awards, Financial Success, Straight A’s.
- Is it based on your station in life? Grandparent, Great-grandparent, Child, Parent, Middle-Aged, Teenager.
- Is it based on your health? Former Addict, Diabetic, Cancer Survivor, Vegan.
- Is it based on your personality? Introverted, Depressed, Talkative, Witty, Stubborn.
Possibly your identity is not based on what you think about yourself, but entirely by what others think about you. In other words, we think we are who what we think others think we are.
Almost all people, even within the church, identify themselves in the manner I mentioned earlier. In one sense there is nothing wrong with it. It is what makes us unique. It is how God has providentially directed our lives. However, when stake everything on these attributes, we run into very significant problems.
- It’s superficial. Is a homosexual man’s greatest identity as they are taught the fact that he enjoys being with other men? Is that the extent of this individual’s worth?
- It’s temporary. Most likely you will not always have that vocation. Just look at the folks that found their identity in their jobs and then wander aimlessly throughout their retirement years not knowing who they are. As your circumstances change your identity will change.
- It’s never satisfying. If you identity is in the things you do, you will naturally try to keep doing more of it to affirm and increase your identity. If the size of your home is your identity, you will continually desire a bigger home in an endless trap of comparison and boasting.
- And it’s uncertain. When we find ourselves in the opinions of others, we will be man-pleasers to get them to say what we want to hear. And since we cannot program people, there is no guarantee they will do as we desire. Thus we'll no longer love people, but continually manipulate people for our own selfish gains to hear their praise.
When we seek to find our identity, our core value, in the things of this world, we will always feel empty, insufficient, unworthy and insecure on one end or proud, boastful, smug and self-righteous on the other end. Basically, as we see with most people, there is no satisfaction on either side of the equation.
A bold disclaimer before we begin. This message is addressed to Christians. The new identity that I want to talk about, one that brings satisfaction and joy and peace, is only one that God can give through Christ. It is not about turning to what is inside of us – what we think about ourselves or what others think about us. It is about God changing our hearts and bestowing upon us amazing promises from His Word when we trust Christ by faith. Therefore< it is about ignoring our feelings and the opinion of the world and accepting what God has to say about us. This is about what God does to us. This is about how He now defines us. And since He is God, there is no greater verdict when it comes to our true reality.
It’s the classic “do” verses “who.” You see, we gain God’s acceptance not because of what we do, but rather who He is and what He says we are in Christ.
It begins with 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
You are “new creation.” You are re-made by God, born again! This does not mean you entirely lose who you are. Rather it means you now have a heart that has been recreated and you find your true self in Him. In this sense, the old self is gone. Listen to how Paul put it in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
So it is perfectly fine to define your personality and interests and goals and vocation and ethnicity, but we must understand they are not what give us ultimate value. They are important. They make us unique from other people. But they do not ultimately define who we are. They are temporary. God’s promises are eternal. They are superficial. God’s promises are deep.
Therefore in order to appreciate who you really are and bring God honor by gratefully accepting what He has done, let’s take a few minutes (before he head to the Lord’s Table) to look at who you ultimately are from His perspective.
Let’s see what God defines us from His Word. Turn to Ephesians 1, beginning in verse 3.
3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us
Apart from God choosing and calling you to Himself, you would still be rejecting Him. You have been personally chosen by God for Himself. It is nothing based on your merit, but rather His sovereign grace. You are chosen.
in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless
You are also “holy and blameless.” You and I are still sinners, hopefully growing more like Christ progressively. The perfect identity of Jesus was transferred to your account. In the eyes of God, you are as righteous as Christ – fully accepted and justified as “holy and blameless.”
before Him. In love
You are “loved” by God. Let that one sink in!
5 He predestined us to adoption
It would be great if God forgave us, but kept us His slaves. Here verse 5 says we have been adopted into His family. He is our “Abba Father.” As Tim Keller once said, “The only person who dares to wake-up a king at 3:00 in the morning for a glass of water is his child.”
as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption
We were in slavery to sin awaiting the just wages of sin in hell. However, God paid the ransom through Christ’s death and redeemed us.
through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
Our debt against Him has been paid. According to the grace lavished upon us we are fully forgiven.
according to the riches of His grace.”
So according to this brief snapshot from Ephesians 1 alone, if you are in Christ you are chosen, loved, adopted, redeemed and forgiven by God and seen as holy and blameless. That is your identity in Christ. I’ll take that over winning a Super Bowl!
Want more? Look at Ephesians chapter 2, beginning in verse 1. What a great chapter for the contrasts.
1 "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
You were a spiritual corpse with a sinful nature.
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,
You followed and were imprisoned by the God-hating culture of this age.
according to the prince of the power of the air,
You were led by the Devil.
of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh,
Your anti-God desires drove your existence.
indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath,
You were under His righteous judgment and commendation awaiting an eternity apart from His presence.
even as the rest. 4 But God [the new you recreated by God!], being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive
God regenerated your heart, gave you the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit. You are born again.
together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him
We are secure with God as if we are already in heaven.
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Beloved, continually review who you were and who you are now! That’s hope and true joy!
So many other places to turn. Let me give you one more section of Scripture. Take a look at 1 Peter, chapter 2, verses 9-10.
9 "You are a chosen race,
The God’s who needs nothing has chosen to chose you. You want to play the “race card” – you are part of God’s chosen race! This is our true race and the solution for all “race issues” in the church.
You are of royal blood. Your Father is the King and you are joint heirs with Christ. Do children of the King worry about what some guy says about him on Facebook?
Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, whom one at best could directly approach God one time each year, you have around the clock access to His throne without any human intermediator. You can approach God with boldness and confidence with your smallest concerns.
a holy nation,
As I already said, you are positionally set-apart declared by God to share entirely in Christ’s holiness. Positionally God declares you to be a saint.
a people for God's own possession,
You belong ultimately to God. He desires to use you for the noblest purposes of declaring His glory.
so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God;
You are no longer on Satan’s team living in a world subject to destruction. You are now identified with God and He is not ashamed to call you among His very own.
you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
So as we close, let me ask you some questions for personal reflection:
- Am I a Christian redeemed by Jesus Christ who is my Lord andSavior?
- Am I finding my worth in external circumstances or God’s truth?
- Have I given control of my life to God or someone else I am trying to impress?
- Do I allow the words of others to sink deeper into my heart than the words of God?
- Is my identity rooted in the worship of idols or is it rooted in the worship of Christ? We become what we worship. In whose image am I growing more?
- Is God’s opinion the highest standard and the only verdict that ultimately matters to me?
- Is my self-image shaped by the media, experiences, feelings, relationships or culture? Or do I understand who I really am in Christ based on God’s promises from His Word?
- Is it my desire to tell others about Christ increasingly because the more I understand who I am in Christ, the more delight I have to make known who He is through my words and actions?
- Have I discovered God’s identity for me? Is it now a committed choice?
- Am I continually examining where I am defining my true identity? If it is not in Scripture am I repenting? “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).