New Identity

What's New?

Pastor Jerry Gillis - April 28, 2019

Community Group Study Notes

  • Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
  • What are some of the things that we allow to shape our identity – from childhood to present day? How can we allow the truths of Ephesians 1 to re-define and re-shape our identity?
  • Of the 5 “We are” statements from Sunday’s message, which one is particularly meaningful to you? How does it change the way you live?
  • What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?


Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning. I want to welcome everybody from every campus, whether you're listening online, whether you're listening on the radio in WDCX, or whether you are here or at one of our campuses, our campus Lockport and Cheektowaga. Wait a minute. Did I forget one? Oh, yeah. I did. Niagara Falls is on for the very first time streaming live with us. Let's hear it for them. Fantastic. We are super thrilled. Now, I'm excited about what God is doing in Western New York. I've been here now for almost 17 years. This summer will be 17 years I've been in Western New York. I feel like I've been here forever. That's in a good way. I have a lot of conversations with people who move in from other parts of the country when they find out, "Hey, you mean you're not originally from here?"

Then they want to talk about Western New York. They want to find out more about it and things that are distinctive about Western New York. I can talk to them all about the food and all of those kinds of things. There are things about being from Western New York that are kind of true to this place. For instance, this isn't true for everybody, but generally speaking, if you can plug your nose and say salad and then unplug your nose and say it and it sounds exactly the same, you're probably from Western New York. I got a lot of these. I've been noticing these for 17 years. It's funny, though. Now, I do some of the same things. When people come in from out of town and they're like, "Hey, we want to go get some buffalo wings."

I just look at them and go, "What? I don't even understand what you just said. You mean just wings? We just call them wings. We don't call them buffalo wings. We don't call them chicken wings. We just call them wings. You know why? We invented them. That's why. We invented them. We don't have to qualify that. They're just called wings here. Get out of here with your buffalo wings and get out of here with your chicken wings. We're just having wings. Now, stop talking, start eating. You're going to like it." That's how I treat people, not really. Oh, man. If, for instance, you're from Western New York if you claim to either have gone to high school with or know someone who went to high school with Rick James or Ani DiFranco or Tim Russert or the Goo Goo Dolls. You know someone or you act like it. You're like, "Hey." They're like, "I went to high school with all of them." They didn't all go to the same high school, so stop it with your Western New York fairytales.

You know you're from Western New York if you put the word the in front of every expressway name, the 290, the 400. You know you're from Western New York if you can pronounce Scajaquada, because everybody from out of town, they're like, "Ah. I'm not getting on that road." Yeah, I could also do this for people from the South, by the way, because I'm multilingual. English is actually my second language. I'm pretty good at it, but I speak redneck fluently because I'm originally from the South. When they start talking crazy like, "Y'all hungry? You eat yet? Nah. You?" Everybody goes, "What just happened right now? What were they saying? Were they talking about the Jewish people right there?" No, they were saying, "Are y'all hungry? How's mom and them?" Mom and them means mom and everyone else in the family. That's mom and them. You ever need me, I can translate for you. Just let me know. I'm here for you.

The reason I tell you that is because, to some degree, geography shapes identity. To some degree, geography, where we are, shapes identity. You actually hear it when people are asking questions about their identity, like who they really are and what they're looking for. They actually use geographic terms to describe it. Listen to it. They're searching for meaning, as if it's a place that you could discover and find. I'm trying to find contentment or peace. It almost sounds geographical, right, because geography does shape identity. Maybe if we state it principally, we could say it this way. Where we are affects who we are. Geography shapes identity. Where we are affects who we are. Now, why would I even begin that way when I'm supposed to be preaching the Bible and whatnot? It's because where we're going to be entering in today in Ephesians chapter one...

And if you have a Bible, I'd encourage you to get there because the passage is super loaded and you'll need to pay attention. If you have a Bible, you can grab one in front of you somewhere if you're in a pew or if you got a table or whatever or if you got a digital device. Ephesians chapter one is where we're going to be in a moment. Now, the apostle Paul who wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, he knew full well that this people that were there in Ephesus were going to struggle in relation to their own identity. Why? Well, this was a real cosmopolitan town. You could just about be anything here. They had a couple of really big temples. There more than just these, but there a couple of really big ones. The Temple of Artemis, Artemis was like kind of the Roman-Greek goddess of some would call fertility, of wild beasts. It's kind of a combination of things. Then, there was also this Temple of Isis. Isis was an Egyptian goddess.

Because there were people from Egypt that would travel in because of the trade, it was a trade city, there were a lot of Egyptians that came through, so they had this temple for Isis. Well, they also built businesses around these places. There were a lot of things going on in that regard. You know, kind of like when you go to Disney and there's all the little things that pop up everywhere and they want to sell you little Mickey Mouses or you go to Niagara Falls and they want to give you postcards with Niagara Falls on it, all these little kind of cottage industries popped up in Ephesus around some of these things. I don't know if it's like, "Hey, here's a bobble head of Isis." I don't know if they had that or not, but that's kind of the idea, right, except for the Temple of Artemis, it was temple prostitution. That was the business that actually cropped up there in Ephesus.

Now, you also had things like magicians and sorcerers that were there. We actually know that from reading the book of Acts and seeing what happens in Ephesus. There were all of these various influences, whether they were Egyptian or they were Roman or Greek. They had all of these various gods associated with them. Of course, also in Ephesus, there was a reasonably small group of Jews who were there. They had their own synagogue, and they were trying to obey the law of Moses. They were there. Then you've got who Paul's writing to, which is the church at Ephesus, made up of both Gentile and Jew. By the way, if you're new to church or God or the Bible, when I use the term Gentile, it just means not Jewish, everybody who's not Jewish. It's kind of a big term that means that. When you hear Jew and Gentile, it means Jew and everybody else who's not Jewish.

There were a lot of mostly Gentiles making up the church at Ephesus because of where it was. It was kind of under Roman governance, and it was mostly Gentiles, but there were some Jews in the church as well, not a ton, but there were some. You've got to imagine, "What are these Gentiles particularly thinking about who have believed in Israel's Messiah?" They're thinking, "Where does this leave me? What does this look like for me? I'm believing in this Jewish Messiah, the one who is promised, but does that make me Jewish or am I still Gentile? What's the deal?" Plus, in that city, all of the various influences that are weighing on them at the same time, it almost makes them confused about their identity. In other words, "Who am I?"

1996, I can remember back that far. No jokes, please. 1996, I was a staff member at a church in Florida. I hadn't been there very long, just two years, where I was on that staff team. I was working on seminary at the time, was serving a church in Florida at the same time. The church was associated with the Baptist denomination. I ended up going to what was called the Southern Baptist Convention. It was held in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1996. They have one every few years or whatever, but one of the interesting things that they do before the convention part, which is a lot of propositions and resolutions and all that stuff. That's just really not my thing, but before that all happens, there are two days that are pastors conference. They elect a president of the pastors conference who will put together a conference, where there will be all these preachers. There will be some great worship times and some really inspirational stuff. That was I digging. I wanted to go to that.

Plus, the guy who was the president of the pastors conference that year was the man that I used to work for, the pastor I used to work for in Atlanta before I went to Florida. His name is Johnny Hunt. He was the president of the pastors conference. I was like, "Awesome. This is cool because I know the guy who's putting it on." Plus I'm thinking, "Maybe that means special privileges for me." I got to the New Orleans Superdome. I walked in. You had to kind of sign in or whatever. Well, I looked over to my left, and there's this long hallway that looks like it goes down and into the bowels of the superdome in a tunnel. There were two people sitting on a golf cart, and I knew them because they were from the church that I came from in Atlanta. I'm thinking, "Yes." I call over to them. Instead of going with kind of the mass of people that are all walking in where they're supposed to go, I looked at them, and I'm like, "Hey. What's going on?" I shook hands, and then I sat on the golf cart with them.

I'm like, "Let's go for a spin. Let's ride around." They were like, "You're not supposed to be here." I'm like, "It's me. It's your buddy Jerry. Let's just ride around." I don't know how old I was at the time, but I was maybe too old to be doing this. I got on the golf cart. We drove. I said, "Now, where you guys going?" I'm thinking, "This is awesome. I'm going into the bowels of the superdome. Let's go by where the New Orleans Saints' locker room is." We drive by there. Then, they had to stop. They stopped, and they got out of the golf cart. They had to do something. I took the golf cart and drove around a little bit. There was no one there. I had the place to myself. I'm in the bowels of the superdome, just driving around on a golf cart. It was fantastic. You can picture it. I came back, and then there they were.

I was parked outside of the speakers lounge room or whatever. It's where the speakers go to check in and where they got some refreshments and that kind of stuff. There was a lady who was a security guard. She was out front. There was a big table right out there. It had all of their credentials. They had to have all those clip-on credentials or whatever. You had to have them to be able to get on the platform and all that stuff. I kind of looked at her like, "Hey, what's going on?" She's like, "Hey, can I help you?" I was like, "No, no. Everything's cool. I'm just kind of hanging around. I'm waiting on some friends." It's just me literally stalking the speakers' room.

She's like, "Now, are you a speaker?" I was like, "Not this year. I'm not a speaker this year. I'm not a speaker any year, but I'm not a speaker this year," that's pretty much what I should have said, but I'm not a speaker at all. She's like, "Okay." Well, she ended up, I don't know for what reason, she ended up leaving the table. I just came up to the table. I didn't go in because that would have been wrong. Instead, I just went to the table. I took like 10 or 15 of those, and I put them on the inside of my jacket. I clipped them on like dudes in New York City selling you watches. I clipped them on the inside of my jacket. This is ridiculous. I can't believe I'm telling you all this story. The lady comes back. I'm just standing out there minding my own business.

She comes back, and she looks at the table. She looks up at me. She looks at the table, looks at me. She's like, "Hey, hey, hey." I came walking over. I'm like, "Hey, what's going on?" She went, "Who are you?" I did this, "Who you want me to be?" Me and her were dying laughing. I thought I was getting arrested. She's cracking up. I'm like, "That was funny," and I walked right into the speakers' lounge. I took Jerry Falwell's, and I put it on. I'm getting me some watermelon and cantaloupe. They're like, "Hey, how you doing?" I'm like, "Hey, Jerry." They're shaking my hand. They're looking at that, and they're looking at me. They're like, "Hey, it's nice to meet you. You're not Jerry." I went, "My name is Jerry." They're like, "Oh, okay. That's cool."

You see, I tell you that story because I think the Ephesians might have been in a similar place, asking a similar question that the security guard asked. To Paul, they might have actually postured this question, "Who am I supposed to be? Who are we, and what do we look like?" It's that very thing that Paul begins to address in Ephesians chapter number one. Now, when we look at this passage, it starts off innocently enough, because when Paul writes a letter, he usually has a similar format. Here's how it begins. He says, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To God's holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus," remember that phrase, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Now, leave that up for a second.

Here's usually how these letters begin, "Here's who I am. Here's a little bit about me. Here's who I'm writing to. Here's a nice greeting." That's generally how these letters all begin. You can look at some of the other Pauline epistles in your Bible, and you'll see a similar format, but Paul does something interesting here. He actually addresses to whom he's writing. He calls them God's holy people. That was actually something that was addressed to the people of Israel. The people of Israel were called God's holy people. Now, Paul is referring to the church, everybody, whether Jew or Gentile who's put their faith in Jesus, he actually refers to them as God's holy people, similar language. You'll find in Ephesians one he's making a lot of references that used to be to Israel that are now also to the church. He says he's writing to the faithful in Christ Jesus.

Now, I don't want you to miss this. It's super important for us because this phrase, in Christ or in Christ Jesus, actually appears in Ephesians 36 times. I don't want you to miss it, and here's why. What Paul is doing from the very outset of the letter is he's trying to establish the fact, listen carefully, he's trying to establish the fact that the place where you are is what determines your identity. Your geography, which is in Christ, determines actually who you are. Where you are affects who you are, and Paul is trying to say to us in Christ Jesus is where you are located. Now, he basically made that term up. There wasn't really a history of that term. Paul says, "In trying to figure out how I'm going to talk to the people of God and help them understand who they are, how do I describe that?" He uses this phrase in Christ. This is what you are. You are in Christ. This is the place that you find yourself. You are in him.

It's interesting that he uses that term because he says in Christ Jesus. Now, this word Christ... I know I'm talking quick. Stay with me. This word Christ, when a Hebrew would read this... Now, when we read it in English, we just say Christ Jesus, but that word Christ is actually the Hebrew for Messiah. The Greek rendering is Christ, but a Jew would read that and they would read Messiah Jesus. We would say Christ Jesus. They would say Messiah Jesus. What does Messiah mean? It means anointed one or chosen one. That's what the term actually means. Why is that important? We'll get to that in just a moment, but he's identifying from the very outset, listen to this, that our position is in Christ, in the chosen one, and that's what he wants to establish from the very outset. Why? Because where we are affects who we are. He wants to establish right away that we are in Christ for those of us who have believed.

Then he goes on to say this. This is where he begins the actual letter. He does it with a burst of worship. He says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Pause right there. This phrase right here is actually the same phrase, praise be, it's the same root in the Greek language as this word, blessed, and as this word, blessing. In other words, some of your translations properly, and this is okay translation as well, but properly would say this, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." It's blessed three times over. There's kind of a triad of blessing. In other words, Paul says, "God, I bless you for blessing us with the blessing that is Christ." That's what he's saying. This begins as like an explosion of worship.

Now, those of you that have your Bibles or your devices or whatever, I want you to look at your text itself, and I want you to look at verse three all the way to verse 14. You don't have to read it, just look at how much it is. It's a lot. Right? Verse three to verse 14, it's a big chunk of text. In the Greek language, listen to this, that's all one sentence. When you read this in the original language, that is one humongous run-on sentence because Paul is not starting out the letter with a systematic theology. Paul is starting out the letter by worshiping God. Blessed be God. It's almost like here's how I would give the impression of this. It's almost like Paul has been invited to walk through an exhibit of the glory and the grace of God, and he's so feverishly writing. Oh, I just lost my ring. Fortunately, my wife's over there, so even if I lose my ring, didn't lose my wife. He's so feverishly writing, Paul lost his ring, first. That was the illustration. Just kidding.

He's so feverishly writing because he's worshiping. He's like, "This is unbelievable." He's writing, and he's writing, and he's writing. It's just one humongous sentence of worship. You see, we need to understand that from the outset because Paul is doing what he's doing. He is worshiping. Then, he says this blessing is in the heavenly realms. Now, when he talks about the heavenly realms, he's basically talking about where Christ is because he says our blessing is actually in Christ. He even calls it a spiritual blessing. Some of you are going, "Okay. I don't really know what a spiritual blessing is. I know I'm blessed when I get some money I didn't count on, and now I'm blessed. What's a spiritual blessing? Is it just something out in the ether that I don't know what it means, and I don't know what it is? What's a spiritual blessing?"

Really, what Paul is saying there when he uses the phrase spiritual blessing, he's saying this: everything that the Spirit has given us to enable life in Christ Jesus. That's what he's saying, that we have all of that in Christ Jesus, everything the Spirit enables for life in Christ Jesus. Now, what are those things? That's what Paul goes on to articulate. Verse three, he's basically just setting the table, saying, "Praise be or blessed be God who has blessed us by giving us the blessing of being in Christ." Then he starts to unfold what being in Christ actually looks like when you begin reading through it. I'm going to give you just a handful of things, and here's the first. To be in Christ means we are chosen. Now, as you're jotting that down, I want you to also pay careful attention to what it says in verse number four. Notice what Paul writes, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."

In other words, what Paul is saying is this because he's already set up that we are in Christ Jesus. Christ, Messiah means anointed one or... How many people were listening? You're here, right? You were here. I was here. We were both here when I said that. Chosen, right? Here's what Paul is saying. We are chosen in the chosen one. We're chosen in the chosen one. That's important for us to remember. He says this choosing that God did was before the creation or the foundation of the world. Now, what he's not trying to get at is this, "Hey, 30 minutes before he made the earth is when he did this." That's not the point of what Paul's trying to say. What Paul is establishing here is that before anything was created at all, what does that leave? God, only God. Before anything at all, before the creation or the foundation of the world, before anything is ever made, only God exists as Father, Son, and Spirit in the Trinitarian nature of who he is. Only God exists.

Paul says that in the essence of who God is, in God's own heart, before anything ever was even created, God had chosen us. You're going, "Okay. I don't really know what to do with that." I'll tell you why you don't know what to do with it, because you're making the mistake that most people make when you read this text. Tell me if you're not... Don't tell me. I'm generally going to guess. You're thinking about you as an individual. That's not what Paul's talking about. Put that verse back up there for me, if you would. "For he chose," what's the word here? Us. He chose, say it again, us in him. Does it say he chose me? No, Paul's not getting after that. Now, granted the us involves a bunch of mes, but Paul is actually here talking corporately, not individually. His concern is a concern of active worship. What he's doing is he is praising God, blessed be God because before anything ever was, God chose that he would have a people called the church.

Just like before anything ever happened, God had chosen that he would have a people called Israel. In fact, the same language is used of the church as it was of Israel. When you read in Deuteronomy chapter number seven, speaking about Israel, it says, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God." Remember, he called them holy people in the beginning, right? "The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, King of Egypt."

In other words, Paul is saying, "God, how I bless you that before anything was made, you chose a people for yourself, Israel, but you always had in mind a people that would be a bride, a people of your own dwelling who are Jew and Gentile, who have put faith in Jesus Christ." In fact, that's what he gets to in chapter two. "You have chosen to do this by your own grace." What that means is this. Everyone who is in Christ, that's the boundary, that's the foundation, everyone who is in Christ is chosen, everyone. Why? Because Jesus is the chosen one, and everyone who is in him is chosen. Why is that important? Because that's what Paul is getting at in this passage. What are they chosen to be? Put that verse back up for me again, verse four. Sorry. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."

That's what he actually chose for them to be. Why is that? You say, "Well, I don't know if I really meet that requirement, Jerry." Listen carefully. Positionally, we are holy and blameless when we are in Christ. You know why? Because he is. We're in him. We are now holy and blameless because we are in him positionally, even if sometimes we're not practically. Positionally, we are in him. Paul actually uses terms like, "We are already seated in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." He says that in the present tense. It's extraordinary, really. We are positionally holy and blameless as a people because we are being prepared as a bride for a wedding who is going to be presented holy and blameless the scripture says. We're chosen.

Secondly, we're loved. This is good news for all of us. In fact, I want you to see at the very end of verse four, here's what it says, "In love." You see, this is a really interesting thing for scholars because this is one run-on sentence. There's no periods. It's just one humongous sentence. The struggle for scholars is to determine if that phrase, in love, actually is a part of what came right before it or if it's starting what comes right after it. In other words, those of you that are looking at your text, you've got a copy of the word, you could either see it this way, that, "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight in love," or it could read this way, "In love, he predestined us," and it goes on to say some other things. You say, "Does it matter?" Not terribly, and I'll tell you why. Either way that you look at it, whether it's modifying what just came before it or whether it's modifying what comes right after it, it's still focused on the same thing.

It's this, that the sovereign God has done what he has done in love. That's why he has done what he has done. It is all about God's sovereign action that is coming from love. Now, we need to remember that because it goes to our identity. Sometimes we forget it. I've been in conversations with people who call themselves Christians, who claim to be followers of Jesus. We might be talking about something that has happened in their world or in their life that is absolutely incredible. They thank their lucky stars. I'm sorry, what? You just thanked your lucky stars. Paul started out by saying, "Bless God," and we thank our lucky stars or we thank the universe. I'm hearing that everywhere now. Is anybody else? Man, just trust the universe. Trust the universe, what are you saying? Should I jump on an asteroid and go, "Help me"? Am I supposed to bow down to meteors? What am I supposed to do? What is trust the universe?

You're trying to give godlike qualities to something that was created by the God who made them. You can't do those kinds of things because it just gets all turned around and upside down. Listen, our experience of being in Christ is not about lucky. It's about love. It's about the God who has loved us. "But God demonstrated," Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." You see, listen. This is not about some weird thing. This is about blessing that comes from a God who loves us. I'm not lucky. I'm loved. You're not lucky. You're loved. That's a good statement. "I'm not lucky. I'm loved," should be a song. If our team could get ahold of that, that would be a good song to do. Right? I'm not lucky. I'm loved.

Now, here what I want you to do. Let's drill this in a little bit. Turn to your neighbor right next to, whatever campus you're on, and just say... Turn to your right. Go right. Say, "I'm not lucky. I'm loved." All right? Now, turn to your neighbor on the other side and say, "I'm not lucky. I'm loved." Okay. I'm good with that. That's a Jonathan McReynolds song, so we already knew it was a song. They didn't surprise me. I knew they were coming. You're always like in the second service, you're like, "Did they do that in the first service?" We don't typically take to people sneaking on stage. It's just not good. We've got the FBI all around the back of the building. We needed to be reminded of that, though.

I wanted to drill that home. Here's why. Because when we talk about God's love, God's love is so rich and so deep and so wide and so high. We need to be reminded of that because it really shakes us and shifts what we understand our identity to be. When we understand the love of God that God has for us, it shapes our identity. Where we are in Christ and greatly loved affects who we are. Our geography in Christ, where we are greatly loved, actually shapes our identity. That's important for us. You see, in the day and age that we live in, we like to talk about love in a variety of different terms, some of which are the farthest thing from love that I can even imagine. Anything that's trying to have a conversation about love that doesn't have a conversation about God hasn't gotten it straight because God is love.

You can't have a conversation about love without having a conversation about God because true love actually comes from God because it's his very nature. God is love. Sometimes we call love a bunch of different things that maybe it's not so much. We even take terms that are beautiful and rich and meaningful like unconditional love, which I am so grateful for the unconditional love of God, but we have to understand what we're saying when we say that because that term, even in our culture, is misappropriated. What we say often times when we talk to other people, we're just like, "Can you just love me unconditionally?" What that means is love me and leave me alone. You see, the beautiful thing about the unconditional love of God is the welcome that it provides because it says, "I don't care where you've been. I don't care what you've done. Come. Come just as you are."

This is the unconditional welcoming love of God, "Come just as you are," but know this. God loves you way too much to leave you there because, you see, God's love actually has conditions. You may or may not realize that. It had conditions relative to Jesus, right? Jesus had to meet conditions. He had to fully and completely obey and fulfill the moral will of God as a human being and had to become a perfect, sinless substitute on behalf of sinners. That was a part of the conditions. Jesus fully meeting those conditions now gives us an even better love than unconditional. I call it a Christo-conditional love. I made that up, literally made it up. A Christo-conditional love, it means that the love of Jesus is better than unconditional.

Here's why. Because what we think when we talk about unconditional love is we get beyond the welcoming, and we think it means we just stay where we are. Love me and leave me alone. Here's why Jesus' love is so much better. Here's why God's unconditional love or God's love is so much better than just unconditional. Instead of God saying, "I'm going to love you just like you are," God actually says, "I'm going to love you just like Jesus is." That is incredible because if you think for one second that you can do better than that, you have made a tremendous mistake. The beauty of the gospel is not that God just loves us like we are. He welcomes us to come as we are, but he doesn't leave us that way. His love transforms us. The beauty of it is that God says, "I'm going to love you like Christ is. I'm going to love you in him." I would much rather have that than try and base it on my own merit.

In fact, the love of God that is unconditional for us and welcoming us is what also changes us. God's love actually, listen to this, it anticipates change. If I had time, and I don't, but you're the 11:00 service, so I can go a little longer. If I had time, I could take you over to Ephesians chapter five where Paul plays this out a little bit, where he says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself for her." That's unconditional, undeserved, not because of their merit, not because of the church's sweetness or specialness or anything, just because he is loving and he unconditionally loves. You know what the rest of that verse says? "He loved the church and gave himself for her so that he might present her as a spotless bride." The love that is unconditional actually anticipates change. It's not love me and leave me alone. It's love me and make me like you. This is the beauty of what it means to be in Christ.

We are chosen, and we are loved, and, thirdly, we are adopted. We're adopted. Notice what it goes on to say in verses five and six, "He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves." Now, when you look at this, it's hard for you to get by the word predestined. You're all stuck on that, going, "Okay. What are we talking about here, predestined?" Because, often times, we're reading it as individuals, thinking that this phrase is actually talking about an individual's eternal destiny. That's not what Paul was getting at. That wasn't Paul's concern. Paul is actually talking about, when he says predestined, that we are predestined to adoption, the adoption of sonship, the adoption of daughtership.

He's actually talking about something different. In other words, that what God had predestined is that for all of those in Christ, that they would be adopted sons and daughters in the family of God. That's what he determined beforehand. In fact, it's very much like Israel. Again, it's Israel language. When he talks about the adoption of sonship, that's Israel language. Paul actually referred to it in Romans chapter nine, when he was talking about Israel, he said, "The people of Israel, theirs is the adoption to sonship." In other words, Israel was called son of God. Israel was a called chosen son of God. So too the church is a called chosen son of God. We are chosen in the chosen one, Jesus.

Now, some of you are still saying, "Okay. I got it, completely, but talk to me more about predestination." I'm not going to to an extent. Here's what I'll do. I'll give you an illustration to help you understand a little bit. The illustration fails if you keep pressing on it. That's why I get concerned sometimes giving illustrations. If I try and press down too far, I'll break the illustration down myself, but just so that you understand. A number of months ago, three, four, whatever it was, five, I don't know, a number of months ago, I predestined that I would preach this message on this day. Now, you chose whether you were going to be here or not be here. You chose whether you were going to watch online or listen on the radio or whether you were going to show up to your campus and be here.

You chose whether or not you were going to do that, but your choice is actually still subsumed by what I predestined because no matter what you did, when you chose to be here, you are operating within the boundaries of what I had predestined would occur when you got here. Some of you are going, "Okay." I'm not trying to do this to start splitting theological hairs. Paul's concern, actually, here in this passage is not so much about how we come to be in Christ. He's already been clear. He's on record, when you read the fullness of the New Testament, that God is the initiator. Jesus is the one who said that as well. God is the initiator of our individual salvation. He's the one who draws us to himself. God is the one who initiates all of that. Do we have freewill? We do, but it's in the context of God's sovereignty.

We're not automatons who can't do anything for ourselves. God gives us that freedom. That's part of being created in the image of God, but he is sovereign, so sovereign, in fact, that our freewill operates perfectly fine within the context of his sovereignty. I don't want you to get too turned around because that's actually not what Paul's getting at here. What Paul's getting at is that God, he's blessing God because God has chosen us, because God has adopted us, because he's loved us, and, because, listen to this, he predestined that whenever we came to be in Christ, we would become sons and daughters of the King. This is good news for us. Don't forget that you're a son or a daughter of the King if you put your faith and trust in Jesus because that's where we are.

Let me give you a fourth thing. We're forgiven. Notice what it says in verse seven and eight. It says, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us." In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. This is actually Israel language too. It's referencing the Passover. You remember the Passover, right, where Israel was in bondage to Egypt. God said he was going to judge all of those by the killing of the firstborn, just exactly what Egypt had planned as well and what had happened to them previously. He said, "If you have blood of a spotless lamb put over your doorpost, then judgment will passover you."

Well, what Paul is reminding all of us here is this. All of us who are in Christ, in him, who've been found in him, we have been covered by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the spotless one, in our place. As a result of that, of being in him, the judgment of God will forever passover us, and we will never be under his judgment ever. We will not experience the wrath of God. Why? Because we are in him, and Jesus has already taken care of the justice of God in his perfect life on our behalf. That means that we experience the forgiveness of sins. It means that our sins, when we put our faith in Jesus, when we repented, we turned from going this way and we said no to our own way of living, no to being our own God, and turned our face toward Jesus and said, "We receive you. We humble ourselves before you."

When we repented, we experienced the forgiveness of our sins because of what Jesus did and because of who Jesus is, not because of us. Why? Because this is all about him. It's actually not so much about us. We are clinging onto the fact that we are in him. When we are in him, trust me on this, the blood of the Son of God can purge and wash away every single thing we have ever done in the past, that we do in the present, or that we will do in the future. It is that strong. It that powerful. It is that gloriously graceful to us who are in him. Let me give you a last thing here. The last thing is that we're indwelt. Now, all of these things is what Paul is saying it means to be in Christ. We're chosen. We're loved. We're adopted. We're forgiven. We're indwelt.

Listen to how Paul finishes up this long sentence that he is writing. He says, "When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession, to the praise of his glory." Truthfully here, he's again using Israel language. Why? Because Israel was promised an inheritance. What was it? The Promised Land. They were promised this inheritance, and God delivered on it. Now what God says to those of us who are in Christ, he says, "Hey, here's the deal. You have an inheritance as well. You have an inheritance of the glory of who Christ is. Do you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to make a deposit to guarantee that I'm going to come through on this promise. That deposit is," he says, "when you put your faith, when you believe, then the indwelling Holy Spirit is going to come and live in you."

Do you know what that means, ladies and gentlemen? It means that now we have living inside of us the ability to live in a different geography than just the one that we're in. We now have the life of heavenly realms living inside of us so that where we are affects who we are. No longer are we just earth dwellers who are bound by everything here, but now we have the life of God by his Spirit inside of us. By way, that's what the world needs to see. You see, in your life and in my life, this isn't about just kind of I'm going to willpower my way into being all that I'm supposed to be. No, no, no. I ask people, "Man, how is your walk with Jesus going?" "Well, I'm trying." Well, stop trying so much and start trusting because this is a life of faith.

It doesn't mean that you don't cooperate. It doesn't mean that you involve yourself in disciplines to help you move in that direction, but this is about cooperation of the spirit. It's not about an exercise of your willpower. It's about us yielding ourselves to the power of the Spirit. Why? Because this is the life of Jesus in us. What the world needs to see is they need to see the life of Jesus in us coming out of us because they'll see it in our language, they'll see it in our choices, they'll see it in our behaviors, they'll see it in our relationships, they'll see it in the stewardship of our lives. They'll see Jesus because it's his life in us, not just us just trying to work my way into it, but us just submitting ourselves to the Spirit of God and saying, "Holy Spirit, live out through me. Control my tone. Control my fingers on the keyboard." Right?

You see, this is Paul's super long sentence. In that sentence, what he does is he basically establishes something that I've said to our church before, that this story of grace that we find ourselves in, it's, first of all, a he story. Then, it's a we story. Then, it's a me story. You see, that's what we see here. This is all about God. It's a he story. Then, it's about the people that God has predestined be a part of his work. Then, it's about my part in that. It's he, we, me. You see, that we is made up of individuals like you and like me. Why we need to understand this is because when we understand who we are in Christ, when we understand where we are in Christ, where we are affects who we are. Geography shapes identity.

Has anybody, when you were young, when you were much younger, for some of you, it will be hard to remember that far, like me. When you were much younger, anybody's parents ever take them to a public library? Remember when that was a thing, went to public libraries, which are great, by the way? Now, we're so mobile we can access anything. We don't go to public libraries so much. We would go, and they would have story time, and they would read. Well, my mom would take me and my brother to Gritters Library in Marietta, Georgia, but she would have to give us some coaching before we went in. We were all boy, me and my brother. It was like she says, "We're going into a library. It means it's quiet. You're going to read and play quietly. This is not a baseball field, boys. It's not a football field. This is not places you can practice shot put." We're like, "We got it. We got it. We got it." Then we go in there, and we were good for like five, six seconds, maybe minutes if it was really incredible.

We're in there just kind of hanging out. Then it starts to go off the tracks. We're just dudes, and it starts to go off the tracks. All of a sudden, I'm like, "Hey, run a post pattern. I've got Dr. Seuss right here. Green Eggs and Ham on five." You're just doing stupid stuff in the library, to which I don't remember exactly if my mom actually used these terms or whatever, but it's something along this line, "Boys, have you forgotten where you are?" Has anyone's parent ever chided them with those words? Have you forgotten where you are? It's a good reminder for us because it happens all the time in the lives of believers. We just forget where we are. We get so caught up in our jobs and in our stuff, and we get overwhelmed with life, and we forget where we are. We are in Christ.

We get so caught up with tracking everybody on social media, and all of the ladies that are on social media are putting their best face and their best body forward. We're looking at that. Ladies, you're making comparisons with that. You feel like you don't measure up. You feel like you're insufficient and all that stuff. You just forgot where you are. You're chosen. You're loved. You're adopted. You're forgiven. You're indwelt. These are remarkable things, so I encourage you don't forget where you are because where you are affects who you are. Let's bow our heads together. We're dismissed in just a moment. You may be here and never put your faith in Jesus. I want to encourage you there's no bigger decision that you'll make, and you'll never meet anybody who loves you like Jesus, never. It will never happen. It's stronger. It's bigger. It's more eternal. It's everything.

If you've never come to a place where you've turned from kind of doing life on your own and wanted to put your faith in Jesus and know that you're chosen in the chosen one, then I encourage you if that's what God is knocking on your heart's door about, when we dismiss in just a moment, come straight across the atrium, whether you're in this room or the East Worship Center. Come into the Fireside Room. We've got some pastors and some other friends in there who would love to take a moment and just talk to you about what it means to know Jesus. Father, I thank you for the reminder of your word today. It's so rich. There's so much there. I'm reminded that sometimes, God, I forget in the busyness of life and the things that I do and the places that I find myself, I forget where I am, not in terms of my location. I know that I'm at a school or at a park or at an office, but I just forget where I am in Christ.

I imagine that's true of all of us. I thank you for the inspiration that you gave to the apostle Paul to help the church at Ephesus realize that, who had so many influences on their life, just like today. We have so many influences on our life, and sometimes we just don't know what we're supposed to be. You've told us. There is no better place for us than to be in Christ Jesus. When we are in Christ Jesus, all we can say is, "Bless you, God, for blessing us with the blessing of being in him because in him we have everything we need for life and godliness and for the hope of eternity." Would you remind us all this day and every day where we are so that it will change who we are? We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

More From This Series

Watching Now

New Identity

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 1 - Apr 28, 2019

New Purpose

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 2 - May 5, 2019

New Hope

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 3 - May 12, 2019

New Position

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 4 - May 19, 2019

New Family

Pastor Jerry Gillis Part 5 - May 26, 2019

Share This Message

Share This With A Friend

Subject: New Identity

Sharing URL:

Send Email