Live Like a Champion – Week 29

The Promise of Good Works in Christ!

Revelation 5:9

 

Who is Jesus?  If you take some time to look at things on the internet you will find many think he lived on earth.  Some think he was a good teacher.  Some think he was a philosopher.  Some think his claim to be God ludicrous, and some who believe Jesus to be the Son of God.

 

There is a lot of talk about fact checking stories these days.  I personally think going directly to the Source of Truth is the best place to do our fact-checking.  The inspired Word of God has a much better answer. 

 

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible points to Jesus.  The entire Bible is about Jesus.  It is not about us – although we sometimes think it is just about us. It’s not.

 

The Bible is clear it is about Jesus, who He is, and what He has already done.

 

John Calvin said,
 
“The Scriptures should be read with the aim of finding Christ in them.  Whoever turns aside from this object, even though he wears himself out all his life in learning, he will never reach the knowledge of the truth.”

 

You see my friends, when we find Christ in Scripture, we will know better how to be His followers.  We will understand better who He is.  We will also understand better who we are in Christ. 

 

In Jesus, we find our true identities. 

 

My Goal Today

 

My goal today is to help us see, understand, and live in our identity in Christ.  It is my desire that when you leave here today you will have the tools with which to fight your strongest temptations. 

 

The best way I have found to do that is to know who I am in Christ. I want to help you understand who you are in Christ.

 

Many of you have heard about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.  What you may or may not realize is in that passage Satan attacked His identity.  In Luke 4 verse 3 and again in verse 9 Satan says “IF” you are the Son of God.

 

Satan was daring Jesus to prove His identity by turning stones into bread or jumping off the Temple so angels would catch Him.  Jesus didn’t have to prove His identity.  Jesus knew Who He was.  He understood His identity because He knew what Scripture said about Him. Quoting Scripture withstood temptation.

 

I would like to attempt to help those of you in the sound of my voice to do the same thing.  Understand your identity IN Christ according to the Truth of God’s Word.  We all need to be able to withstand Satan’s attacks on our identity.  It is my contention that when we know who we are in Christ it makes all the difference in the world.

 

Satan attacks us by lying to us about our identity too.  We can use Jesus as our example and counter those same attacks with Scripture and let Satan know that we know who we are when we choose to be in Christ, and then he can’t trick us as easily.

 

If Satan can keep us off balance wondering who we are or what our purpose in life is, he can paralyze us and keep us from fulfilling our God given calling.

 

2 Timothy 3:16,
 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, (complete) equipped for every good work.

 

We are to interact with Scripture in order to be equipped for the calling of God in our lives.  And if you profess to know Jesus as your Savior, you have a calling for ministry. 

 

Those who are in Christ have a responsibility to build up the body.

 

What we do with and for others depends on what we understand God does with and for us.  What God does with us is what we do with others.  God builds us up and we build others in the body.

 

 

So let me remind you of your identity in Christ.  Turn to Ephesians chapter 1.  I will be lifting out the phrase “in Christ” throughout these verses. Please take note.  The prepositional phrase is significant.

 

1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: to the saints and believers in Christ at Ephesus.”

 

Notice that the object of the people’s faith is Christ Jesus.  They are believers “in Christ.”  The people to whom Paul is writing have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ. 

 

They have heard the message of the Gospel and believe Jesus is the Son of God, Whose death burial and resurrection is the payment for their sin.  Paul is writing to these believers.

 

In v 2 Paul offers a blessing to the readers

 

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Paul then follows in V3 with a word of praise.  He is praising God as he writes to the people in Asia Minor. 

 

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 

 

This verse starts with praise, speaks of blessing, and ends with the person of Jesus, because Jesus is the focus.  In Paul’s writings he starts with Jesus, talks about Jesus, teaches about Jesus, and ends with Jesus.
 

The verse starts with praise then what follows are the reasons for that praise worthiness…

If you have a position in Christ, you have something that is absolutely praise-worthy!

 

First: You are Blessed in Christ.

 

In verse 3 we have already read that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing! That is reason to praise!  Be aware of the condition here.  The spiritual blessings God gives are only for those who are in Christ
 

This is one of the ways we make Scripture about us.  We read we have received blessings and we figuratively or actually kick back and say I can relax.  It says here that God pours out His blessings on me.

 

These blessings are conditional.  They are for those who are in Christ, and have, by faith, agreed that what Scripture says about Jesus is true.  You have EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING as your possession right now and you will keep them throughout eternity IF you are IN CHRIST.

What does it mean to you to hear that the God of the universe has blessed you already with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING??  Not just some, not a few, but EVERY blessing! (if you are in Christ).

 

Again, I do not want you to miss the qualifier.  Notice the words “IN CHRIST.”  You must be in Christ to receive every spiritual blessing.  You must be living your life under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit.
 

Maybe you’re sitting there saying my life is not all that blessed.  Being blessed is not my experience – at times maybe – but being blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing isn’t how my life is. 

 

If that is the case, I ask you a question and give you a challenge.  The question is how are you defining blessing?  If it is in material wealth or ease of life, or some other false gospel, you are defining blessing in the wrong way and basing your theology in a false gospel.  

 

The blessings God gives to those who are in Christ are spiritual not material. The challenge I offer is, if you don’t sense blessings in your life, you need to examine your heart.   The question is do you know Jesus personally?  Have you ever asked for forgiveness?  Have you said to God or anyone else I believe that what Jesus did on the cross is the payment for my sin?

 

You see my friends, this FACT of Scripture is- and it is fact- IF you have a relationship with Jesus, God pours out His spiritual blessings.  That absolutely transforms the way you live. 

 

Knowing that when you acknowledge by faith, that Jesus is truly God’s Son, and realize that He is the Messiah, the Savior of the world, you live differently. 

 

You live with the freedom Pastor Jerry told you about two weeks ago in his message on Galatians 5.  Being yoked with Jesus– living for Him not yourself.  Putting God first, others second and yourself last.

 

If you don’t live differently, then I question your belief.  You may believe that Jesus professed to be God’s Son.  You may believe that Jesus lived and died on the cross.  You might even be able to give all the right Sunday school answers to religious questions. 

 

But you must come to a conscience decision to believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that His death was for you so you could be forgiven.

 Who is your faith in?  Do you have faith in faith, or do you trust in the finished work of Jesus?

 

You see when you understand who you are IN CHRIST you can let go of those things that hold you down.  You can accept that you have everything you need – God’s blessing is enough! 
 
Notice something else – this reinforces Ephesians 2:8-9.  You don’t perform in order to earn it. 
 
“It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourself, it is a gift of God…”

 

Constantine Campbell is a senior lecturer in Greek and New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney Australia. In his book Paul and Union with Christ, he speaks directly about the prepositional phrase “In Christ.”

 

“In Christ performs a characteristic role in the description of God’s acts and gifts of kindness toward his people.  In some sense, it would seem, God’s acts towards believers are performed through Christ or are in some way conditioned or associated with Christ…such usages of in Christ primarily have to do with the role of Christ in mediating the work of God toward believers.”

 

What Dr. Campbell is saying is Jesus is the instrument God uses to do His work.  You must know Jesus if you want to experience God.  Jesus is the only door.  Without Jesus, there can be no spiritual blessing.
 

Here is a thought for you.  Maybe the reason you don’t experience blessedness is you have a belly button view of your life.  You have become good at using people to make you feel good instead of living in Christ.  You are not allowing Jesus to mediate God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and blessings in your life because you are too focused on yourself.

 

Living in Christ means dying to self, giving up on your own selfish desires.
 
Luke 9:23-24,
 
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For, whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

 

1 Peter 2:24,
 
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

 

What the Gospel does – what being blessed is about – is freeing you from using and manipulating people to meet your needs.  Being blessed with every spiritual blessing means God renews and transforms your mind, your will, and your spirit.

 

You stop looking at your own navel or looking to other people to meet your needs and realize that Jesus has already met your needs as you stay connected with Him as the Vine.  You are blessed and have your needs met in Him.  Listen for that phrase in Christ throughout this message.

 

Second: We have been chosen in Christ.

 

Ephesians 1:4 
 
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

 

Before the foundation of the world was laid God chose you to be holy and blameless.  Paul applies to believers a concept that formerly applied to Israel alone. 

 

Deuteronomy 7:6-8,
 
“The Lord had his heart set on you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors, he brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

 

My friends, God chose you for redemption from the slavery of sin in this world, just like He redeemed the Israelites out of Egypt.

 

The word “holy” refers to being dedicated or set apart for God.  Abraham and his descendants were set apart, and so are you if you have a relationship with the Savior Jesus.  Those who are in Christ are holy.
 

Not only are those who are in Christ holy, they are also blameless.  What Paul means here is if you are in Christ, you are seen as being without fault before God.  That is for now… here on earth – not waiting for us in heaven. It is to be lived out here on earth.  That is important!

 
The opposite is also true.  If you are not in Christ, you are guilty of every sin you have ever committed, and you will be held responsible for that sin.  The consequence of sin is Hell.

 

To be holy and blameless in His sight is where chapter 4 starts but he gives a glimpse of it here. Chapters 4-6 is about how we are to respond to what God has already done.  Chapters 1-3 is what God has done; What I want to dwell on this morning is the work of God in Christ, for you. 

 

I want everyone in the sound of my voice to realize the work of God in Christ for all of us who believe.

 

What I want you to understand is that if you have a relationship with Jesus, if you are in Christ, you are given the righteousness of Christ here on earth. 

 

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation, so you are not blamed for your past. You are blameless if you are in Christ.

 

Please notice there is a condition.  You are only blameless of your past sins if you are in Christ.  If you come to church and have heard thousands of sermons and you understand about Jesus that is not enough. 

 

You must personally acknowledge Jesus as your Savior, repent, and believe.  True repentance is transformative.  You have not repented if you are still living like you always did.  You must be born again, made new.  That requires change.  As Pastor Jerry says, “You are not saved by good works you are saved for good works.” 

 

Realizing what God has done in us when we acknowledge Jesus is Lord in making us holy and blameless transforms a person’s thinking. The change in thinking causes a change in focus, which in turn causes a change in behavior. 

 

Third: Those who are in Christ are adopted.

 

Now look at verse 5.  Ephesians  1:5
 
He (God) predestined us to be adopted as sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 

 

When you acknowledge, by faith, Jesus is Lord, God the Father adopts you as His very child!  You are joint heirs with Jesus – that is reason to praise! 
 
Adoption refers to the bestowing of familial rights and privileges on a person born outside the family.  We saw a fantastic illustration of this right here in our congregation a few weeks ago when Zach and Natashia Hamilton gave us their personal testimony of adoption.
Each child gave a word about what being a part of this new family meant to them.  It would be good for all of us who are in Christ to do the same. 

 

I think all of us, me included, have taken the fact of our adoption rather lightly.  It would be good to reflect on exactly what God has done for us.

 

Paul uses this metaphor to illustrate believers’ privileges in Christ. As children of God, we who are in Christ now have a heavenly inheritance[1]

 

Peter sounds a lot like Paul when he writes in 1 Peter 1:1-9
 
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 

Fourth: In Christ we have redemption

 

The fourth point is found in verse 7. 

In Him (there’s that phrase again) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

 

The fourth point is you are redeemed by the blood of Christ. 

 

Let’s make sure we understand the him and the his’s.  In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His (Jesus) blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His (God’s) grace.
 

 Your redemption is the will of God and it’s the work of Christ on the cross.  You cannot earn it, you cannot pay for it, you cannot go out and get it – you receive what has already been done for you.

 

This is what our memory verse is talking about.  Let’s read the memory verse in Revelation 5:9,
 
“And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'”

 

The Good news is that Jesus redeemed you; He purchased you for God when He died on that cruel cross of Calvary.
My friend, do you know Him?  Have you accepted His payment for you?  Or are you still trying to get to God on your own?  There is no other way for you to be in Christ!
 

So far in this message we have seen that it is God who blesses, God who adopts, God who chooses, and God who redeems.  All of this is done in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. 

 

Fifth: You are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit

 

This is found in verse 13,

 

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 

 

You are saved by faith – having believed – you are sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  That is the work that is done.  You can’t earn it, you can’t pay for it, you don’t even deserve it, but that is who you are if you are followers of Christ!  If you have come to Jesus in repentance, if you are IN CHRIST that is your identity and neither Satan nor anyone else can take that away! That is God’s gift to you.

 

Do you see the work of the Trinity in this passage?

 

The Father blesses, chooses, and adopts you.

 

The Son redeems you.

 

The Holy Spirit seals you.

 

Now let me go back to my earlier premise.  You are not living transformed lives because you either have never had a born-again experience or you don’t understand your identity in Christ.

 

The first question is, have you made a conscious decision to believe the message of salvation that Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life, suffered, died on the cross, rose, and is coming again? 

 

Have you received by faith that Jesus is God’s Son, our Savior?

 

Does that belief cause you to live life in a way that bears the fruit of the Spirit that others can see?  Scripture says Satan knows about Jesus.  So the question is not do you know about Jesus, it is do you have a relationship with Jesus?  Are you in Christ?

 

These realities of your identity being found in God’s blessing, choosing, and adopting you, the fact that Jesus has paid the price for your redemption and the fact that the Holy Spirit seals you should impact your relationship with God and with others.

 

Notice verses 6, 12 and 14.  This is how Paul responds to these realities.

 

V 6 “to the praise of the glory of His grace,” (because God has blessed, chosen, and adopted.

V 12b “to the praise of His glory.” (Because Jesus has redeemed)

V 14 “to the praise of his glory” (because the Holy Spirit has sealed us)

 

Paul is worshipping as he writes!  We are to worship as we read it.  These realities lead us into the presence of God in worship and adoration.

 

The reality of your identity in Christ and your praise and worship also transforms our relationships with others.  This praise is not only personal; it is with the body of believers.  We worship together because of these realities.

 

When God is always in the forefront of your mind your relationships with others are changed.  You become loving, joyful, and peaceful.  Your patience increases, you find it easier to be kind to those around you, and you can be gentle with others, no matter how they treat you.  Being faithful to the people around you, at home and at work gets easier.  Your self-control is also noticeable.   

 

God the Father has already done the work for you. When you come to believe that Jesus is Lord, God blesses, choses, adopts, redeems and seals you.  He gives the fruit of the Spirit freely.  What I have missed, and what I think many in the church have missed is these blessings are conditional. 

 

We must be IN CHRIST- outside of Christ none of these are yours. 

 

That is a scary thing my friends. 

 

My encouragement to you is to ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart.  Ask the Spirit to reveal to you the state of your relationship with Jesus. 

 

 

FOOTNOTE:

 

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Eph 1:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


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