Summary: This sermon is the second in a series of four entitled "Our Identity In Christ" which seeks to lay an important foundation for growth, maturity and usefulness in the Christian life.
When you first met “J.E.”, you could tell he was a very angry man. In fact, at age 54 he’d been an angry person for many years. In a Bible study that night, many questions had been raised in his mind. Talking with the leader afterward, J.E. said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. But nobody ever taught me about who I am in Christ, that I’m accepted by God or that Christ lives in me.”
“What were you taught?” the Bible study leader asked.” “Where I grew up, we heard all the time about how perfect Christ was and about how we should learn to live like Him – if we didn’t, God would judge us.” J.E. went on, “It didn’t take me long, I’d say in my teen years, to figure out that I was never going to cut it. So I gave up trying. I guess I’ve been living in guilt and running from God ever since. Off and on through the years I tried to go back to church, but I just got more guilt piled on top of me. I’ve sat under so many teachers who made me fearful that I was afraid to turn in any direction because God was going to get me. This is the first Bible study I’ve ever attended that gave me any hope” J.E. concluded.
At that point, J.E. was 54 years old. That means, even though he had been born again through trusting Jesus Christ at a young age, he had spent at least 35 years running away from God. Tragically, his experience isn’t that unusual. Thousands of people who sincerely responded to the gospel message they were taught spend years thrashing around trying to make it work, but without success. In fact, I believe the reason so many Christians struggle in living the Christian life is their lack of understanding their Identity in Christ. You see, knowledge of the believer’s identity in Christ is an essential foundation block of the Christian life. In fact, it’s impossible to make progress in spiritual growth if you’re still unsettled concerning your acceptance before God. So today I want to give you an introduction into this truth of your identity as a believer in Jesus Christ. So, first of all let’s consider:
I. The Introduction of Identity
That’s what was introduced to J.E. in the Bible Study – Identity. It was said to J.E. in the Bible study, “It’s no wonder you’ve been running from God J.E. First of all, the Christian life is not trying to imitate Christ. The fact is, YOU can’t live the Christian life; only Christ can!” We’re taught to trust in Christ to take us to heaven, which is good. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus Christ didn’t just come to get people out of hell and into heaven. He came to get Himself out of heaven and back into mankind. He came to get Himself out of heaven and into you! God did for you what you could never do for yourself. He took away all your sins through Jesus death on the cross, then He raised you to life spiritually. Now your role is to do the same thing as the apostle Paul: reckon yourself as crucified with Christ and to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.
Another part of the introduction of identity is, what we experience in running away from God is the most predictable thing in the world – if you don’t understand His love and acceptance of you, you and I will avoid intimacy with God. We will shy away from knowing Christ more personally. We will run away from a real relationship if we don’t understand God’s love and acceptance of us. You see, you can never grow to know and love a God that you’re too afraid to go near! God’s role is to unconditionally love and absolutely accept you and me. This, He has done in Jesus Christ as Ephesians 1:6 says, “To the praise of His glorious grace through which He has made us accepted in the Beloved”(KJV). Having absolutely accepted us in Christ, He has given us a new identity as Christ lives in you and me (Galatians 2:20). Your role and my role is to reckon ourselves as crucified with Christ and to live by faith in Him. So, let’s look further at:
II. The Issue of Identity
The issue of identity is inescapable and so central to our lives as Christians. We all ask again and again, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?” We all have a drive for identity. And tied up with this drive for identity are our God given needs for unconditional love and acceptance as well as for meaning and purpose in live. Every human being wrestles with these questions and needs during his or her lifetime. You see, these are basic spiritual needs. And the answers we adopt determine the direction of our lives.