You’re not the main character (Identity Matters)

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is takiimagesng us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Back in my younger years, I used to view life as a story and guess who the star of the show was?  Me!  That’s right.   And you would have been supporting cast. It was all about me.

I fear that sometimes I can still slip into that mindset even though I may not articulte it quite that way. We all have a tendency to become self-focused and everyone around us becomes merely supporting cast, including God.  For some, God may be a background character that occasionally makes a cameo. For others, God may be a very important character, just not the central role.  God may be the co-pilot, but we’re flying the plane and charting the course.

In our ongoing, expositional journey through the book of Ephesians, we are learning a lot about our identity and who we really are.  In my last post, we reveled in the glorious truth that as redeemed children of God we are not guilty.  That is a truth to be celebrated.  However, what we are discovering in Ephesians chapter 1 is another truth that isn’t as fervently celebrated, but should be.  Namely, that you are not the main character of the story.

imagesNow, we are right in viewing life as a story, but the apostle Paul is going to remind us of something very important. Paul is going to put us in our proper place and show us that Jesus Christ is at center stage.  What’s more, He’s not just at the center of your story.  Instead, the destiny of the entire Cosmos revolves around and is summed up in Jesus Christ.  God is,

making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10)

In the New Testament, Paul likes to use the word “mystery” to describe a secret that was once hidden or vaguely understood, but now has been fully disclosed and revealed in light of what Christ has done through the gospel.

And what is this mystery? What is this secret that God has graciously allowed us in on? Paul says God has a purpose.  A plan for the fullness of time.  God is sovereignly moving history in a specific direction towards a specific goal.  And what is that goal?  Paul says in verse 10 that the goal is to unite all things in Jesus Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

The Greek word translated as “unite” is anakephalaiosis.   It’s basic meaning is “to bring something to a main point” or “to sum up.” The word connotes the idea of a re-unification or a re-establishing of harmony where discord and division once existed.

That describes beautifully where history is headed.

Ages ago, when God created the heavens and the earth, everything was in harmony and united under Jesus Christ. All of the angelic powers obeyed God. Man was perfect and holy and at peace with God in submission to His will, dwelling in a garden paradise where there was no pain or sorrow or death.  The earth was totally perfect.

imagesBut at some point in the distant past things went terribly wrong. One of the angelic powers launched a cosmic conspiracy against God and he led Adam, the first man, to commit treason and join the revolt. The reverberations of Adam’s sin were nothing short of cataclysmic. Man became alienated from God and banished from paradise, and all of Adam’s descendants have continued in that sinful rebellion against Him.   Man also became alienated from man. From the discord we see between Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, to Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4, to all of the racism and wars and conflicts and division we see everywhere among people today, no matter where we look, we see the cataclysmic effects of the fall of man.

The Bible says that sin also ruptured the fabric of the universe. Creation itself was spoiled. The earth that yielded its produce for Adam before sin, now resists him, producing thorns and thistles.   A world that used to be at peace now produces earthquakes and tornadoes and floods.  When Adam fell, all of creation fell with him. We have a Cosmos in revolt against its original design. Man shakes his fist at God and fellow-man,  Satan is described in the Scriptures as the god of this world, and death reigns.

When we think of salvation and redemption we tend to personalize it.  We tend to make it about us, as if we’re the main character in the story.   But the mystery that God has revealed to us is showing us that the stakes are much bigger than we think.  God’s redemptive plan includes more than we realize.  It’s not ultimately about you.   It’s instead about God taking a universe that is being torn apart and fractured by sin and bringing all things back into their proper place again.  He has set in motion a plan where he is now gathering all things together in Jesus.  Though things are now out of alignment due to sin, God is realigning the universe towards a proper relationship to Jesus.

How?  Through the gospel of Christ.  Paul writes,

For in himimages all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Through the blood of Jesus man can be reconciled to God.  We’ve already seen this truth earlier in Ephesians 1.  But Paul, going into chapter 2, will remind his Jewish and Gentile readers that while their races have been marked with discord and division, the two sides have been brought near to one another “by the blood of Christ.”

Jesus is recreating the harmony between humans that once existed in the garden.

In addition, redemption includes a restructuring and recreation of the entire universe. The entire planet, which Paul describes in Romans as “groaning” under the weight of sin’s curse will groan no more when Jesus comes and restructures the Cosmos into the paradise it once was, ushering His people back into the paradise that was lost.

But what about the enemies of God? What about humans that persist in their rebellion, refusing to bend the knee to Jesus Christ and acknowledge His Lordship? What about Satan and his wicked angels who instigated the revolt in the first place?

There are two ways that Christ will create peace and harmony according to the Scriptures. One, is through the removal of hostility and corruption through redemption and the gracious forgiveness of sins.

The other way is through conquest.

The reconciliation that happens through the blood of His cross is expressed in salvation for those who believe, but for the Satanic powers it is expressed through their shameful defeat and disarmament as Christ triumphs over them. (Col 2:15)  What’s more, the triumph that began at the cross will be fully consumated at the end of history.

The Bible is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, and as in ancient times you would have the conquered publicly acknowledge before everyone the lordship of the conqueror and begrudgingly pay homage to Him, you have the Bible giving us this same kind of picture of what’s to come at the end of the age in Philippians 2, where Paul declares that God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

There is a time of reckoning coming. Jesus Christ is Lord. All will acknowledge it sooner or later. You will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, with joy and gladness, or you will be forced to your knees when the King returns and rounds up all the traitors and rebels.  In the end, even the most powerful of the rebels, Satan himself, will drop to his knee as a conquered foe, bowing low in homage, and will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.images

When you and I live like we are the main character in the story, we’re not just being naively self-centered, we are being Satanic.  Self-centeredness is a form of idolatry as it makes life all about me.  I am putting me and my efforts and my glory at the center of all things and that is a the heart of Satanism.

The Scriptures are telling us a different story.  A better story.   Jesus Christ is the star of the movie. He’s the main character.  He’s the hero.  He’s the King.  He’s the center of all things, and from eternity past the plan of God has always been the enthronement and exaltation of His Son.

If the core of your identity is bound up in yourself.  If you are moving through life with tunnel vision as if it’s all about you, that’s going to have dramatic consequences in your life and in the lives of those around you.

But if we see ourselves rightly, and put our lives in context, then the story of our lives must always be viewed within the greater context of God’s amazing and beautiful and eternal story of Redemption, which is His plan to unite and reconcile all things to Jesus in heaven and on earth.  Knowing that changes everything.

Are you grieved over broken relationships? Are you mourning injustice? Are you weary of the heartbreak in this world? Are you broken by sickness and living in the shadow of death?  Take heart that we are moving towards a time where all things will be made right and new.

So we do not lose heart… For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 )

Oh how we must have an eternal perspective and remember that the things that grieve our hearts so much are not the end of the story!  Instead, the Scriptures tell us,

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death… (1 Cor 15:21-25)

imagesAll of history is marching forward to a specific destination determined by God, and God is orchestrating everything in a way that is getting us closer and closer to that end. History has a destination, and that destination is Jesus, with the entire Cosmos submitted to His Lordship.  A Cosmos that will be remade, renewed, and restored.  Paradise lost in the garden will be regained in the New Heavens and New Earth where there will be no more pain or sorrow or sickness or death.  (Rev 21:4)

None of that can happen if God is only your co-pilot.  Thank God that He is calling the shots and not us!

Your identity, your story, your very life, is bound up in the bigger and grander and more glorious story of Jesus, our King and Savior and Hero. He has graciously chosen to let you in on this beautiful mystery that assures us that something much better is coming for all who believe.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Not Guilty! (Identity Matters)

Probably there are few things worse than hearing the accusation, “Guilty!”  To see the imagesheads shake, to see the fingers pointed in your direction, and to come to the realization that your accusers are right.  Your sin has found you out.  Your deeds have been exposed.  You did what they said you did and there’s no question about it.

We’ve all been in situations where we’ve felt that way.  The question is, how should a Christian respond to guilt?  Denial?  Excuses?  Downplaying it?  Blame shifting?

How you respond to guilt has everything to do with understanding your identity in Christ.  Earlier this year I launched an expository blog series through Ephesians called “Identity Matters”, and I’m making the case that understanding who you really are in Christ can revolutionize your life.

In my last article, we began focusing on Ephesians 1:7-10.  In particular we considered the truth that”we have redemption through His blood.”  One of the things that flows from our redemption is that we are forgiven.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Ephesians 1:7)

What exactly does “forgiveness” mean?

It’s not denying reality. It’s not saying what was done in the past was actually not done. That would be a lie.  Forgiveness is not saying that the evil that was done was ok and not a big deal. That too would be a lie.

Instead, forgiveness is deciding not to hold someone’s sin over their head.  It’s a refusal to throw back someone’s sin in their face over and over and over again and accuse them over and over and over again and punish them for it to make them pay for what they did.

As believers, what we discover in the gospel is that God is able to not hold your sins over your head anymore because when Jesus Christ hung on the cross your sin was held over his head instead!  Your sin was imputed, or put on Him, and God punished your sin in Jesus.
When mostimages people think about the gospel they stop there, but there’s actually more to it than that.   What we experience because of our faith in Jesus is more than an elimination of our sin debt.  When we receive Christ and when we are united to Him by faith we find also that His righteousness is imputed to us.  Therefore when God looked at Jesus on the cross, He saw your sin and when God looks at you, dear believer, He sees you clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t struggle with sin anymore.  What it means, however, is that in God’s great courtroom you are declared by the judge as “Not Guilty!” because all of your guilt was transferred to Christ and fully dealt with on the cross.  John MacArthur describes it this way,

“In biblical terms, justification is a divine verdict of “not guilty—fully righteous.” It is the reversal of God’s attitude toward the sinner. Whereas He formerly condemned, He now vindicates. Although the sinner once lived under God’s wrath, as a believer he or she is now under God’s blessing.”

This does not mean that the Christian no longer sins and does things that are wrong.  On the contrary, as we move further in Ephesians we will see many exhortations that warn against sin.  In the wake of God’s legal declaration of “not guilty”, we still practically battle sin regularly.  But one of the main points of Ephesians is that we need to now practically live in accordance with our new identity.  We’ve been adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and declared “not guilty”, and therefore Paul will urge us in chapters 4-6 to “Be who we really are!”  Later on we’ll explore Ephesians’ exhortations for practical living, but for now we need to pause and consider God’s amazing, divine, “not guilty” verdict. This is stunning, and should have radical implications on our lives.

There are many Christians that carry around a truck load of guilt.  They are paralyzed by it.  They are depressed and in despair about all the bad things they’ve done in the past.  They cannot move forward and enjoy life because they are wallowing in the guilt of things they’ve done decades ago.  They live in a state of guilt and condemnation.

Perhaps you can identify?   You have received Christ.   You have repented of your sins.   You have forsaken your sins.  You have tried to make amends or restitution towards those you’ve sinned against.  You’ve done all that the Bible would expect from you but nevertheless you still hear the whispering voices of accusation.

“You did that. You are guilty. God will never accept you.  He has rejected you.  God can never use you. Your life is forever ruined. You’re not totally forgiven.  There’s something else you must do to earn God’s favor”

You may think that those kinds of voices are your attempts to be humble.  You may think those kinds of voices are just evidence that you take your sin more seriously than others.  But in actuality, those voices are Satanic and to agree with them is to be a co-conspirator with the Devil against the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the main ways that the Devil attacks us is through finger-pointing accusations and guilt.   He is like a imagesprosecuting attorney.   Even the names “Satan” and “Devil” carry those courtroom connotations.

What many Christians don’t fully realize is that part of God’s redemptive plan is to silence the devil’s accusations.

Let’s consider a text that you may not have ever read in your morning devotions.  Zechariah chapter 3.  In this chapter  we see Satan doing what he does best.  Accusing. Let’s see how God deals with Satan’s accusations.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5)

Now what’s the point here?   Were Satan’s accusations false?  Was Satan lying about Joshua’s sin? Absolutely not. The scripture says that Joshua’s clothes were filthy! Satan was right. Joshua was unrighteous, Joshua was dirty because of sin.  But the wonderful meaning of this strange vision is that the accusations of Satan are powerless against the one whom God determines to make clean.  This vision, which at first shows Joshua as filthy, moves to a picture of having those disgusting, excrement covered clothes removed from him, with new, fresh clean clothes put on him.

Now Joshua is viewed by God as clean and righteous, just as if he had never sinned.   But notice that it is not a righteousness of his own.   Joshua instead is covered with a righteousness, with clothes, that did not belong to Him but belonged to God.

If you are in Christ, you need to recognize that as the Devil accuses you of all your sins, (and if you are like me there is a laundry list of sins),  God’s response to Satan’s accusations is, “The Lord rebuke you! The Lord has chosen this one!  Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

God has taken you, believer, and he has removed your filthy clothes and He has clothed you with new garments called “The righteousness of Christ”, and the clothes are yours forever.  The righteousness you possess is not your own but has been given to you, which means God gets the glory!

None of this means that God takes the sin of a believer lightly.  He took it so seriously that He crushed His own Son for it!  None of this means that God’s will for your life is not to kill the remaining sin in your life and pursue holiness.  Later on in Ephesians, Paul urges us to be “imitators of Christ.”  God isn’t pretending your sin never happened and that you won’t be tempted in the future.  Instead, what the reality of the gospel means is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 8:1)

If you see your identity bound up as one who is still under the condemnation of sin, as if  the blood of Jesus isn’t good enough to cleanse you,  then you will be paralyzed with guilt and shame and you’ll be constantly running on an endless treadmill of religious works to try to pay for your own sins.

imagesBut if instead you see yourself as someone whose sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Jesus, you will experience the joy and freedom that comes with being regarded by your Lord as “Not Guilty!”

If this is true, then our response to our own sin need not be excuses, cover up, denial, blame shifting, our wallowing in depression.  All of those things are very self-centered and distract us from genuine confession and genuine repentance.

But the person who is declared “Not Guilty”, has nothing to hide and can more freely confess his sin and repent.  The person who is seen by God as clothed with Christ’s righteousness doesn’t feel the need to shift the blame for their sins.  Instead, we can more easily take responsibility for our own sin because we aren’t afraid of judgment.  That sin you committed this morning has already been judged by God in Christ on the cross 2000 years ago.  The person who has stumbled does not need to wallow in depression over how bad they are.  Instead, our sin should eagerly drive us back to the cross, knowing that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20).  Yes, we should be angry at our sin.  Indeed we should feel deep conviction and brokenness when we fall.  Most certainly we should desire growth and change and have a repentant attitude.  But in addition to all of that, our own consciousness of sin should also lead us to enjoy, thank, and magnify Jesus all the more, as Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

As redeemed and forgiven believers, our response to our sin should not be a constant self-finger pointing session where we descend into the pit of self-centered despair.  If that’s all we do, we are collaborating with the invisible Accuser.  Instead, do a little spiritual Judo on the enemy and turn his accusatory attack into an opportunity to praise God!

Remember the words of that great old hymn, “Before the Throne of God”

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

You are a child of God.  You are free.  You are forgiven.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

You have been redeemed (Identity Matters)

 

Just who do you think you are, anyway?

imagesHow you answer that question is urgently important.  For several weeks now I’ve been blogging through the book of Ephesians which is a book written to Christians to answer that question. Ephesians discloses to us who we really are in Christ. Now, we all have what I suppose we could call, “secondary identities.” “I’m a dad…I’m a mom… I’m a teacher…I’m an American” There’s nothing wrong with recognizing those secondary identities, but when I’m discussing “identity” with you in this blog series, I’m talking about the core of who you are. Identity with a capital “I.”

Who you think you are at your core matters. If one of your secondary identities becomes the core of who you are then you will open up a door to all kinds of problems.

Tim Keller defines sin this way: as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment.

We all need reminders of what our true identity is bound up in.  So far in our look at Ephesians chapter 1, you’ve discovered three amazing things about who you are!  If you’ve missed any of these three truths, click on the links below.

You were chosen by God the Father

You were adopted by God the Father

You are delighted in by God the Father.

As spectacular as those truths are, Paul is not finished. He’s not done recounting all the ways we are blessed by God and he’s not done showing us who we really are in Christ. So in Ephesians 1:7-10, Paul reveals three more things to us about your true identity as a believer.

1) You are redeemed

2) You are forgiven

3) You are not the main character in the story

For this article, we’ll just consider the first point.

You are redeemed

In him we have redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7)

Redemption is not a common word in our vocabulary anymore. But in the 1st century it was often associated with slavery. Sometimes people became slaves through military takeover. Sometimes, because they didn’t have bankruptcy law (no chapter 11 or 13), they sold themselves or their family into slavery because it was the honorable thing to do. There was no other way for them to repay the debt.

But if a relative heard about your slavery he could redeem you.  He could buy you back and set you free.  All the relative had to do was go to the local pagan temple and pay the redemption cost plus an additional cut.  The temple kept the cut and gave the rest of the money to the slave owner.  Therefore, in theory, you weren’t totally free from slavery.  Instead, you were now a slave to that particular god.

 

The New Testament picks up on this language. Paul in Ephesians 2 says we were slaves to sin and slaves to Satan and now we are free. But we are not free to be autonomous and do our own thing. We are free….to be slaves to God!

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

There is no such thing as an autonomous, independent person. We Americans struggle with that concept because our country is built on the notion of independent freedom. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How we tend to interpret freedom in America is that we have a right to do whatever we want. “Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say! This is America! I do my own thing and chart my own course.”

That’s how Americans view freedom. That’s not how the Bible sees it.

Every single person on this planet is a servant and has a master whether they realize it or not. And so the Scriptures tell us that man, pre-salvation, is a slave to sin and Satan. If you are not a Christian, your master is sin and Satan. You are a slave.

If you are a Christian, The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6 that you are not your own but instead you were bought with a price. Someone came and purchased you from your old master.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is warning the church to flee from sexual immorality. Now in America, sexual freedom is one of the biggest sacred cows you can think of. You can get away with a lot of things in this country but once you start trampling on someone’s sexual choices or criticizing them, get ready for a brawl!  Get ready for someone to scream, “How dare you tell me what I can’t do with my own body?”

As far as believers are concerned, Paul thinks otherwise.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Notice that Paul tells the Corinthian church to glorify God in their bodies, to honor him by only expressing their sexuality in ways that God intended.  But notice why.  Paul doesn’t just give you a command in a vacuum. He gives a reason. He is essentially saying, “You may think your body belongs to you.  You may think you are autonomous, but you aren’t. You are not your own. You have been purchased. You have been bought with a price. So for that reason, glorify God in your body. God is your new owner. God is your new master.” This is a huge part of your new identity.

God has bought you. And what price did God pay to make you His own?

 

In him we have redemption through his blood… (Ephesians 1:7)

imagesAs sinners and slaves to Satan, God said the penalty we deserved was death and Hell. There’s no way we could pay that price on our own in this life, which is why Hell is forever. So Jesus comes to earth as a Man and He dies in our place. As Jesus Christ hung on that cross, with blood pouring out of His veins, God the Father poured out the Hellish wrath that you and I should have gotten, on Jesus.

Make no mistake.  The death of Jesus wasn’t an accident or a tragedy. It was planned by God. It was His rescue plan to release you from satanic slavery. Jesus deliberately gave His life for this very purpose.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

His life, His blood, was the ransom price to release you from your former condition. You’ve been bought by God.

Now, think about this. If this is a part of your identity, how might this change your life? How differently might you make decisions in how you live? How you talk?  How you work? How you do marriage?  What you do with your money, your time, your body? How might this alter the way you live, knowing that your life is not really your own but that you are a slave to Jesus Christ?

There have been times in my life where one of the truths that helped me to do what I should is the understanding that my life is not my own and I am not my own Master but I am a slave to Christ.  I have confessed sin to people when I was terrified to admit the truth. I have forsaken sin that every fiber of my being wanted to commit. I have taken paths that some thought were crazy. Why? Because my life is not my own. Because part of my identity is bound up as a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns me.

If you’re a Christian, He owns you.

As a matter of fact, look down at verse 13

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)

imagesThis notion of sealing would bring a few images to the minds of Paul’s 1st century readers. One, is that often seals were stamped in wax on a document to show who it belongs to. Also, the image of animals being branded, being marked, would have gone through their minds. Of course, that’s a practice we can relate to as the branding of cattle still happens today.

And what does cattle branding indicate? It indicates ownership and protection. It was not uncommon even for slaves to be branded, to have a mark put on them signifying who they belonged to and who was responsible for them.

Paul is saying you, as a Christian, have been marked. You have been sealed with the Spirit. God has put His stamp of ownership and protection on you.

This notion of God marking His people is seen elsewhere in the Scriptures.

In Revelation 13-14, you’ll see that everyone has a mark. They either have the mark of the Beast, Satan’s mark, or they have the mark of the Lamb. If you have the mark of the Beast you are protected by the Beast and you can do whatever the Beast allows you to do.  So in Revelation 13 you have people buying and selling in a world that is under the control of the Beast.  You can live in that world and not face the wrath of the Beast.  But guess what?  You do have to face the wrath of the Lamb, who is Jesus.

Alternatively, the book of Revelation shows us that if you have the mark of the Lamb you’ll   be protected from the wrath of the Lamb.  You will be saved in the Last Day, but on the other hand you will face the wrath of the Beast.  In the book of Revelation you see everyone facing someone’s wrath! Who’s wrath you’ll face depends on who you belong to. And of course, the wrath of the Lamb is far more devastating and terrifying than the wrath of the Beast, and unlike the wrath of the Beast, the wrath of the Lamb is forever.

This is why Jesus says elsewhere,

….do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

 But for those of us who have been bought and purchased by the blood of the Lamb, the book of Ephesians tells you that you have God’s mark, God’s seal, which is the Holy Spirit.

…who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)

The Holy Spirit is like a deposit, a down payment, a guarantee that we belong to God and that we will receive a great inheritance from God in the age to come.

imagesNot only that, but the Holy Spirit in us signifies God’s ownership of us and God’s protection over us. And the most important thing we are protected from is the wrath of God, and the reason we are now forever protected from the wrath of God is because God’s wrath has been satisfied in the death of Jesus.  His blood purchased us from our slavery to sin which would have led to Hell.  Thanks be to God that He paid the price.  Jesus, on the cross, said, “It is finished!”  And if it is finished, that means that the purchased ones forever belong to God and are forever forgiven to the praise of His glory!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

 

God the Father Delights in you!

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

Kids often get their picture of God the Father from how they view their earthly fathers.  Dads, I don’t know about you, but that terrifies me, because I know my own flaws and sins and tendencies to NOT correctly image God’s perfect Fatherhood.  For that reason I am so thankful for God’s grace and mercy and patience with imperfect dads as He is conforming us to the image of Christ.images

With that said, as a pastor, it saddens me when I see Christians gripped with depression and despair and hopelessness because of a wrong view of God.  A view that sometimes projects the image of their own imperfect fathers onto our perfect Father in heaven.

There are Christians who feel like God’s attitude towards them is exactly like that of their sinful earthly father’s attitudes.  They see God as irritable, unapproachable, harsh, distant, or cruel.  I’ve known of believers who sincerely think that God is constantly disapproving of them, shaking His head in profound, stern dissatisfaction and anger.

In my last post on Ephesians chapter 1, I noted the amazing truth that we believers have actually been adopted by God into His family.  God has really become our Father and we have really become His children.  We should feel great about that.  But that begs the question, “How does God feel about this arrangement?  How does God feel about you?”

In Ephesians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul reveals to us an astounding truth.  Are you ready?  You may want to sit down for this.

You are delighted in by God the Father.

Look at what Paul writes in verses 4-6.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

 In the ESV translation, that word “purpose” is translated from the Greek word, Eudokia.  I actually like the King James translation here because I think it captures the essence of that word a little better. King James says,

according to the good pleasure of his will…

 Peter O’Brien in his commentary on Ephesians says that this word, Eudokia, signifies

“…not simply the purpose of God but also the delight that he takes in his plans. It has warm and personal connotations, and draws attention to God’s willingness and joy to do good.…the preposition ‘according to’ indicates the norm or standard, showing that his choosing many to come into a special relationship with himself was in keeping with what he delighted to do and with his saving plan….He enjoys parting riches to many children.”

Now if I like how the KJV renders verse 5, I love how the NLT really captures the point.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Don’t let this thought just pass you by.

God is not what some of you may think He is. Some people have this picture of God as some old crusty curmudgeon.  Some stingy old man. And if you call on Him, maybe He’ll respond if you just happen to catch Him in a good mood.

In Ephesians 1, we don’t see here a God who is reluctant to save.  God’s not like, “Well, I imagesguess since I’m supposed to be a good God, I suppose I’ll save a few of those wretches even though I’d rather just squash them all right now!  But since I’m supposed to be a God of mercy I guess I’ll do it, but I don’t have to like it!”That kind of God has more in common with Greek mythology than the Bible!  That kind of God is more like the fake mythological god Zeus who was irritable and short tempered and who would just rather toss lightning bolts at people who got on his bad side.

The true God revealed in Scripture is not a grumpy old man who is dispassionately saving some out of duty. Instead, it gives God great pleasure, great overflowing and abundant joy to extend mercy to you and me! God is not just someone who is saving you. He’s someone who is joyfully and abundantly loving and delighting in you.

I remember once when I was laying on the couch, my son Elijah ran over to me, crawled on me and snuggled up against me.  I remember in that moment just quietly rejoicing over him.  My son is not perfect, and I don’t always respond to my kids perfectly.  But in that moment I realized I was imaging something about God the Father.   Knowing those flaws and imperfections didn’t stop me from enjoying him in that moment. I didn’t turn him away.   I just laid there thinking, “This is my son and I am so pleased with him.” It didn’t matter that he wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t matter that he was adopted.  I love him as I love my biological children and he has full status as a “Webb” in our family.

God has one natural Son from eternity past. Jesus imagesChrist. And when Jesus Christ was baptized the Scriptures record the voice of God booming from the heavens with great delight in His Son.  God the Father cried out, “This is my son, in Him I am well pleased!”

And for those of us who are adopted by God the Father, we are clothed with Christ’s clothing, with Christ’s righteousness, and because we are found in Christ, God looks at you and He says with delight, “This is my child in whom I am well pleased!”

The Lord’s love for His own is beautifully illustrated by the prophet Zephaniah who said,

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

I’ve often wondered what the singing of God sounds like.  Regardless, this isn’t angry, irritable Zeus.  It is a perfectly loving and happy Father, delighting in His people.  The God described in the book of Zephaniah is the same God who is your Father right now.  And you have full status in the family of God.  The inheritance of your Elder Brother Jesus is the inheritance you will receive.

Jesus stunnimagesingly says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

“Good pleasure.” There’s that phrase popping up yet again.  God isn’t begrudgingly offering you the kingdom.  Instead, He is with great pleasure and delight promising you a glorious inheritance.  An inheritance which includes the entire Cosmos in the next age where we will rule and reign with Jesus and be with our Father in unbreakable, joyful fellowship forever and ever!

This is your identity!  You were chosen by God the Father to be holy and blameless. (Eph 1:4) You were adopted by God the Father to receive the status of sonship in His family. (Eph 1:5a)   imagesYou are a child of God whom the Father takes great delight in! (Eph 1:5b)

 So if your identity is anchored in these glorious realities, how does this change how you live? How is it going to alter how you live in about 15 minutes when you walk away from this computer screen? How’s it going to affect how you do marriage?  How you do parenting? How you do your job?  How you deal with depression and discouragement and anger and addiction?

I’m not going to give you a long list of answers right now. I’m going to let you wrestle with that and figure that out in the days to come. I actually don’t think it’s that complicated. I just think a lot of times we don’t spend time thinking about how we are to live life in light of our true identity. And as we go through the book of Ephesians in future articles, I promise that we’ll eventually get to some application right in the book itself to help us so stay tuned.

Regardless if you’ve been a Christian for 50 years or if you just received Christ 5 seconds ago, if you missed everything else written today or in my previous Ephesians articles, don’t miss this:

You are chosen. You are adopted. You are delighted in. Praise God for His glorious grace.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

Identity Matters: You Are Adopted

This article continues an ongoing blog series, called “Identity Matters” which is taking us expositionally through the book of Ephesians.

imagesLast week we began to focus on Ephesians chapter 1 which contains weighty, paradigm-shifting truths about the true identity of a Christian.  In my prior post, we reveled in the mind-blowing reality that before the foundation of the world, God chose you.

In this article, I want to expand on that concept a bit.  God chose you for salvation, but the problem is that when we think of “salvation” we tend to think of simply “going to heaven.” While salvation  is not less than that, it actually entails much more.  Yes, you get heaven, but with it you get a new identity.

You are adopted

The Apostle Paul is telling us that we’ve been more than simply saved from Hell.  He writes in Ephesians 1, verse 5 that God predestined us for adoption as sons.  We’ve been welcomed into God’s family.  We are considered sons of God.

Now lest any ladies think that this talk of “sons” smacks of male chauvinism, recognize that Paul is doing something remarkable here in writing this way.  It’s not chauvinism. Instead, he’s actually blowing the hinges off of chauvinism.

Anyone in the ancient Greco-Roman world that Paul was writing to would have known that when you’re adopted into a family as a son, you receive a full share in the inheritance of the father of that family.  You would be treated just like the natural son.

That was true of adopted sons, but not of adopted daughters.

And yet here in Ephesians we have Paul doing something that would have blown the minds of people in that culture.  Paul is boldly declaring, “Sisters in Christ, you have a full share in the inheritance of your elder brother, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  You are all counted as sons and receive a full share in all the blessings which belong to the Son.  You enjoy all of the blessings and benefits of Jesus Christ.”

Paul says to both brothers and sisters in Christ that God predestined us for adoption as sons.

In other words God had a pre-planned destination already in His mind when he determined to save you, and that plan was for you to be adopted into His family. God determined that He was going to be your Father and that you were going to be His child. What does that mean? What are the ramifications of that?

We may lose the point of sonship in our culture today, compared to the times in which Paul wrote this letter.  In the ancient world, sonship was bound up with a lot of functional things.

99.9% of the time sons in the ancient world did exactly what their father did.

imagesThat’s not always the case in today, especially in the urbanized west.  Many times, in America, sons often do something completely different than what their fathers do.  That wasn’t the case in the ancient world. If your father was shepherd, you were a shepherd. If your father was a carpenter, you were a carpenter.  No one gave it a 2nd thought.  It was expected you’d take that path and follow in your father’s footsteps and do what he did.

Out of this cultural context comes biblical idioms that reflect functionality.  This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt 5:9) Why? Because God Himself is a peacemaker. He restores peace between Himself and sinners.  Therefore, if you are really a child of God, you will do exactly what your Father does.

Of course, Jesus Christ is the son par excellence.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you…whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19,)

Now, of course, Jesus is God.  He’s equal with God.  There will be some ways that He can imitate the Father that we will never be able to. None of us have ever created a universe lately.  None of us are all powerful.  But to the degree that it’s in our nature as finite humans, God’s purpose for you is to do what the Father does because you are His child.

You are not just people who God saved from sin, you are instead considered as sons, and sonship implies not just privilege but responsibility, and part of your responsibility is to show a family resemblance in how you live and act and think.  And ultimately God’s goal in your adoption is for you to increasingly take on the resemblance of Jesus, your elder brother in God’s household.

Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most beloved verses in all of Scripture.  This powerful verse reminds believers that God works all things together for the good of His people.  That’s great, but the problem is that many of us tend to isolate that verse and just use it as kind of a catch-all panacea to make us feel ok when things are going bad in life. But the point of verse 28 is not simply, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  To get the point we need to look at verse 28 but not stop there.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  (Romans 8:28-29)

The ultimate good that God is seeking for you is that as a child of God you will be imagesconformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  For that reason, you have the assurance that God is working in all of the things that are happening in your life, both the good things, and the bad things.  God is working all of these things to serve His purpose of bringing you into conformity with the image of Jesus who is a perfect reflection of God your Father. Paul goes on to say in verse 30,

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

If God has predestined you to this, that means you don’t have to be fearful that it won’t come to past. If God’s choice of you is unconditional, that means you don’t have to worry about messing it up and losing your salvation. God already knew all the bad stuff you would do before you were born and He chose you anyway.  If you are an adopted child of God, that means you will never be rejected because a perfect Father does not kick His kids out of the family.  Instead, a perfect Father trains and disciplines His children, and sometimes that discipline can be painful but even when God disciplines us it is meant to work towards that end of resembling Christ.

The author of Hebrews says that when we are disciplined by God it is a sign that we are children of God and that discipline is for the good of His children.

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:9-11)

Our discipline is not coming to us because God is mean.  Our discipline is not coming from the hands of an abusive Father out to destroy us. Instead, the discipline will result in us sharing in God’s holiness.  It will result in yielding a peaceful fruit of righteousness.  It will result in further conformity to the image of Christ and there is not a single thing that happens in your life that does not fall into God’s predestined purpose for you because God the Father works all things together for the good of you His child.

If you see the core of your identity as a mom, as a career person, as your sexual orientation, or as your possessions, that will have a radical influence on how you live your life and it will influence it for the worse.

imagesBut if you see the core of your identity as a son or daughter of God, one who has been chosen by God before the foundation of the world, one who has been adopted into God’s family, one whose life is meant to be geared towards imaging your Father, towards holiness and towards Christ conformity, then everything in your life will be impacted.

Understanding your true identity in Christ will positively impact your choices, it will affect how you deal with your spouse when they let you down, it will influence how you handle disappointment, or anger, or temptation or fear.

If you understand your identity in Christ you’re gong to start asking yourself, “How is how I’m living imaging my Father?  Am I bearing a family resemblance or not?”

A lot of people argue over the doctrine of election and predestination. They analyze and imagesscrutinize and debate with people over what this notion of God choosing us actually means.  But as Paul is writing this opening section of Ephesians, he’s not telling us that God chose us and predestined us so that we could have theological fights about it.  Instead, Paul is telling us these things so that we will be tremendously encouraged!

The doctrine of Predestination is not something to argue about! It’s something that should lead us to fall down on our faces and praise God for! It’s a truth that we should revel in! Paul says we are chosen and predestined.  Why? Look at verse 6.  These truths are not to lead to arguing but to the praise of his glorious grace!

He has chosen you, an unworthy and undeserving sinner! And because He has chosen you and predestined you to glory, be assured that even when you do fail, even when you don’t bear that family resemblance, even on your worst day, you will never be cast out by God.  Being a son or daughter means you will always have a seat at the table with your Father. He is ever patient, ever kind, ever loving, and He has forever had his heart set on you, even before the universe was made. He knew about every bad thing you’d ever do and He chose you anyway and He is totally committed to your good, which is why Paul says in Philippians 1,

…..that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

To God alone be the glory!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer