Summary: This sermon is the first in a series of four entitled "Our Identity In Christ" which seeks to introduce persons to the importance of the idea of identity from the perspective of "The Exchanged Life."
Today I want to share with you “A New Truth” that God began teaching me in 2003 about living the Christian life after 26 years of trying to live it with God’s help. Of course, I have come to realize that trying to live the Christian life even with God’s help is doing it in the flesh. God never expected me to live the Christian life. He expects me to allow His Eternal Son Jesus to live His life through me!
So, this year I experienced my 33rd spiritual birthday in Jesus January 11th. It hit me this year (2010) that Christ has been living His life through me the same number of years that he lived His life here on the earth. That is an awesome reality, the God of the Universe has been co-habitating my spirit, soul and body for 33 years.
I only now wish I had realized how God expected me to live out of Christ and who I am in Christ closer to the beginning of my spiritual birth. God gave His life for me, in order to give His life to me, so that I might live through His life. It is this truth of who I am "in Christ," my identity "in Christ" that has made all the difference in the peace, contentment, restfulness, joy and fulfillment of my current Christian life. So, first of all, let me share with you:
I. The Truth About Bruce
My hometown is Dadeville, Alabama the county seat of Tallapoosa County, and I presently live and minister in Clay County, Alabama . However, I was born in San Diego, California when my dad was in the United States Navy for 4 years. He met my mom there who was from Fort Meade, Florida - married her, conceived me and we moved back to Dadeville when I was 6 months of age.
I grew up there the oldest of 5 children born in 6 years and 9 days to Donald and Alice Willis. My parents and grandparents owned a retail grocery business and we all worked in it. I grew up a block behind the First Baptist Church there. I joined the church when I was about 10. I was the last one in my Sunday School class to join the church. Of course, my motive was for acceptance by my peers. In my teen years I made a rededication at about 15 years of age. A professional football player was speaking at our church. I felt someone should reward him for a job well done. So out of the motive of reward, seeking to sense esteem, worth and value for myself - I went forward in the service.
By the time I was 17 I got married. Shortly afterwards I was introduced to marijuana. That gateway drug led from one drug to another. And by the time I was 20 years of age I came to an addiction to cocaine. It was at that point the Holy Spirit revealed God’s love for me and set me free from that addiction supernaturally. I was born again with a new spirit, made truly alive for the first time spiritually, from above by the Spirit of God. My life was totally changed, made new and different than I had ever been.
However, I seemed to still take charge of my life. I seemed to struggle with a sense of low self-worth, self-esteem and sought to find a sense of acceptance. As a young adult I still sought to find a sense of identity and an answer to the question - "Just who am I?" In doing that I went to numerous seminars, conferences and participated in courses using personality profiles, capability analysis, on and on I could go – all to find a sense of identity and acceptance. Then in 2003 the Lord began to teach me:
II. The Truth About Identity
He began to teach me about the truth of who I am as a child of God. One thing is indicated in verse 1, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus. . .” Paul refers to believers as “saints” meaning set apart ones or separated or holy ones. We are no longer sinners, but saints. Our identity has been changed. No longer are we to view ourselves as “sinners saved by grace.” We are saints who occasionally sin. Our identity is no longer sinners, we’ve been changed into a child of God. In fact, the Bible refers to Christians as saints 63 times in the New Testament
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: . . .,” literally, a new creation. This brings me to verse 3 which states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: . . .” This phrase “in Christ” is used to characterize our identity. This phrase or it’s equivalent “in Him “ or “in whom” can be found at least 27 times in this letter, which talks about the difference in our nature which we’ve experienced since being made new. As Paul said in the above reference, "the old is gone" (Romans 6:6) and "the new has come" (Romans 5:17). Peter puts it this way, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: That by these you might become partakers of the divine nature . . .” (2 Peter 1:4).