Posted by: pastortomvabeach | February 22, 2012

Thought for the Week February 26, 2012

In the last installment, I gave an assignment to read over Ephesians 1-3, and list all the gifts God gives us “in Christ”. What did you find? Did you see things like, “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places”, “chosen to be holy and without blame”, “adoption”, “accepted in the beloved”, “redemption”, “forgiveness of sins”, “inheritance”, and “the Holy Spirit of promise”? Mining out all that God says we have and are because of being “in Christ” is a valuable exercise.

I believe Paul understood grace in a personal and powerful way that we miss because we are in such a performance based culture. We learn early on that if we are good, we get good things. Santa Claus brings toys to good little boys and girls. Teacher is happy when we do all our homework and do well on tests. We get time out or “red light” if we behave badly. Now I am not saying that we should not be good and do right. What I am saying is that God’s method of acceptance is not based on performance but on relationship. When we trust in Jesus Christ, He receives us into His family as if we were His own and actually makes us His own.

Two of Paul’s letters are designed to explain Christian theology in a systematic way. The letters to the Romans and to the Ephesians both follow the same pattern. The opening chapters of the letter tell why we need redemption and what God did about it. Romans 3:23 says, All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Ephesians 2:1 makes it more personal, You He has made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins. In both cases, Paul shows we were hopelessly separated from God and needed help.

In both He shows the help came through God’s free gift. Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-9 both show that redemption, forgiveness, justification (all words that describe being given a right relationship with God) come only through Jesus Christ and are given when we believe. Ephesians even says the ability to believe is also a gift.

In those opening chapters, Paul then lists all that God has already done for us and in us as a result of faith in Jesus and by grace. Romans is far more detailed while Ephesians is concise and to the point. Again you can read all about this in Romans chapter 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3. As you read these chapters take note that Paul does not say anything about what we should do in order to receive any of these things. Everything is what Jesus has done. The only stipulation here is faith which is counted, considered, or determined to be “righteousness”.

I am trying to get you to see that everything we need to live in God’s kingdom as a fully accepted child of God is a gift. We can not make ourselves more loved, accepted, fitted for His fellowship than we are the moment we believe in Christ. Romans 6 tells us that the old sinful person we once were was crucified with Christ (6:6) and that we have been raised with Him and freed from sin so we can live right before Him (6:8, 6:22). These are current, now realities for everyone who is trusting in Jesus Christ.

Why is this so important? Well, firstly it does not mean we need not and should not live in ways that please God. What is vital is for us to see that God, by grace, has given us everything we need to enable or empower us to live right. I think Paul takes such great pains to show us all God has given us “in Christ” before he says anything about how to live out the “Christ life” because God wants us to live out of our real identity rather than to struggle to somehow get it.

What and who I believe that I am makes a tremendous difference about how I live. If I see myself as a poor, struggling, miserable sinner, who isn’t good enough to measure up and, though saved by grace, still must fight to be “good enough” for God, that will seriously hamper my ability to live out my salvation in victory. On the other hand, if I see God’s view and believe that I have been washed, given a new nature that is not predisposed to sin, made right in God’s sight, given power to live by the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, that’s powerful. If I believe myself to be God’s child who represents Him in the earth, having been freed not just from sin’s penalty but from it’s powerful grip on me, I can actually live that out.

Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God…”; and in Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore…beseech you…” This opens the part in both letters where Paul lists some characteristics of those who are God’s children by His grace. After seeing who I am because of God’s mercy, Paul says, “therefore” live like this! It’s not trying to live up to some standard but just being the person God has made me to be. This is the way of grace.

I don’t know about you but knowing my identity in Christ makes it a whole lot easier for me to be what God has made me to be. It doesn’t mean I don’t stumble occasionally. But I stumble not because I’m a “sinner saved by grace” but because I am a “saint who sometimes sins”. Which is easier for you to accomplish? This week will you read Romans 1-11 and list all God has done for you because of Jesus? Then tell yourself what God says. See if it doesn’t help. Just a thought.

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