Today’s preaching is from a series called “Living out our Identity in Christ”.
Good morning church. It’s great to be with you this morning and it’s always a privilege to open to Scriptures together like this.
With the news of increasing persecution in places throughout India, again in China, and in other places throughout the world, I don’t want to take this time for granted. Those are contexts where believers must gather together in secret locations and be very careful how they handle God’s Word in public. I don’t want to take this opportunity for granted.
We get to gather as God’s church and freely worship Him this morning. We get to come together in plain sight and study His Word together. This time is such a gift!
So let’s approach His Word this morning with a sense of reverence, with a sense of humility & awe, and with a hunger to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus. To that end, I’ll have you grab your Bibles and turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. While you’re turning to 2 Corinthians chapter 5, I’ll take a few minutes and pray for all of us – that the Lord would do His work in us this morning.
Here’s what I’d like to do with our time this morning. I want to take the first portion of our time to recap where we’ve been over the last 3 weeks in this series.
If you’ve been here for those sermons you’ll know that we’ve spent the last few weeks talking about our IDENTITY IN CHRIST. The reason I want to spend a good amount of time recapping those discussions is because there is literally nothing more important that we could talk about.
There is nothing more important than the subject of who you are because of who He is.
In fact, everything that comes out of our lives must be shaped by our identity in Jesus Christ or we’ll easily find ourselves doing things with the wrong motivation. Isaiah 29:13 — “This people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.”
We don’t want to find ourselves saying & doing the right things but with hearts that are far from Lord. And one of the primary ways that we can keep that from happening is by continually reminding ourselves of our true identity in Christ. That’s the point of this series.
So, we’re going to invest a good amount of time this morning in reminding our hearts of the truths that we’ve already discussed in this series. I think there will be great value in hearing those things presented together.
And then, once we’ve done that, I want to forge ahead and discuss a new aspect of our Identity as Christians. We’ll add another building block to the foundation that we’ve already laid.So let’s recap where we’ve been before we read our text and explore what’s next. As I lay these things out, I want to encourage you to hear these fresh ears.
And, I want you to PERSONALIZE THESE THINGS. These things aren’t just true for Christians in general.
If you are in Christ, these things are true of you! And the application on all of these points is that you would believe. That you would hear the truth, be reminded of the gospel (of who you are), and that you would believe these truths.
That you would believe them to the point where you begin to act like who you really are
1) Chosen and adopted. God chose you from before the foundation of the world. You have not earned your way into God’s favour. He acted upon you. And He chose you for adoptions as sons and daughters.
You didn’t do anything to earn that name. you were given God’s family name and that now defines who you are and shapes everything you do.
2) Accepted, loved and forgiven. God has accepted you through His Son! People will live their entire lives looking for the approval and acceptance of other people.
They are really just trying to fill the longing that we all have to be accepted by God. What a beautiful reality that, in Christ, we are fully accepted by God.
And not just accepted, but loved deeply. God didn’t just foreknow you, He for-loved you. He set His affections on you.
When you and I were unlovely, God loved us. And, because of that, He has forgiven us. You have been washed clean, you have been purified. Your sin has been removed from you.
3) We are citizens of God’s Kingdom. This is not our home. It doesn’t matter what your passport says. If you are in Christ, your citizenship is to another place and you belong to another King.
That truth helps remind us to not tie our hope and affections to the things of this world.
Just think about this list so far: chosen, adopted, accepted, loved, forgiven, citizens of the Kingdom of God. That is an incredible list of things that are true of you if you are in Christ.
But, here’s my question: If all of those things are true of the Christian, if those are the things that are supposed to be shaping our identity and driving joy, and hope, and peace in our lives, then why are so few people who profess Jesus Christ experiencing actual joy, hope and peace? I think that’s a fair question.
Because, if we’re going to be honest, when you look around the landscape of modern Christianity, you see a lot of people who claim to be Christians. They claim to love & follow Jesus. They know a lot of things that are true about God and they profess those things with their lips.
But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of joy, or contentment, or satisfaction in God. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. There seems to be a deep dissatisfaction that’s driven by the circumstances of life. So, here’s my question: Why is that? What’s broken? What’s misfiring?
I believe the answer is that there are a lot of people who genuinely do want to know God. There are a lot of people who genuinely want to walk with Him and experience more of Him, but they are living their lives with the wrong perspective (they have the wrong mindset).
In fact, I think to some degree, that has crept into each one of our hearts. That, on some level, each one of us has areas of our lives where we don’t have the right perspective or right set of lenses. In fact. I know that’s true, because that’s where idolatry & unbelief are born. They are often born in our blindness.
And there’s an underlying principle that we need to understand, if we’re really going to get to the heart of this issue: I believe that many Christians are waiting for something to happen that has already happened.
And it’s crippling our ability to rest in God, to live content in Him, and to live for His glory in the world. That’s what I want to consider with you this morning and I want to consider it from 2 Corinthians chapter 5. Let’s read this text and then we’ll unpack it together. Beginning in verse 13 and reading through the end of the chapter.
2 Corinthians 5:13-21
“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
I absolutely love this section of text. In fact, it’s one of my favourites in the entire Bible because it paints such a vivid picture of what Christ has done and what that has done to us.
And that’s essentially what this week’s message and next week’s message are all about. We’ll talk this morning about what Christ has done to us and then we’ll talk next week (from this same text) about what that calls us to in the world.
So, for our purposes this morning, I think that what Paul is saying here hinges on the statement we find directly in the middle of the text: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
That’s our identity statement for this week: : “If you are in Christ, YOU ARE A NEW CREATION.” That phrase, in this text, helps us understand what Paul writes before and after it, and I believe it helps us understand why so many professing Christians lack the kind of abundant life (joy, peace, and hope) that we’re called to in Christ.
So, here’s what I’d like to do. I want to break this down for us in a way that we can, not just cognitively understand it, but actually live in it practically. Where we begin to walk this truth out so that it produces real fruit in our lives.
The first thing I want to highlight is that Paul uses a word for creation that doesn’t just refer to an individual person, but that refers to the whole of creation.
The way that Paul phrases this he’s really saying that if you are in Christ you are a part of a newly created order. In other words, when you are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, you are brought into the work that God is doing to make all things new. It’s not just that you are a new creation, but you are a part of the new creation.
But, here’s what we need to understand (and this is where I think we miss it): THAT’S TRUE RIGHT NOW. There is a sense in which we are waiting for God to glorify us in Christ; to finish the work that He has begun in us. But that doesn’t change who you are right now in Christ. And Paul says that you are a new creation.
Now, if we’re going to be honest, there’s tension in that for us. That sure doesn’t feel true a lot of the time, does it? Because, even though this is true of us, we still live in a fallen world and sin still resides in our mortal bodies. So, while we are a new creation, we are still carrying around this flesh that houses sin and evil desires.
This is what Paul highlights at the end of 2 Corinthians chapter 4… . He says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (Verses 16-18)…
Paul is saying that there’s an aspect here of the “already & not yet”. If you are a believer in Christ, at the very core of your being, you are new and you are being renewed daily by Him. That’s true of your spiritual self, but it’s not true yet of your physical body. Your physical body is currently wasting away, but will one day catch up and be renewed as well.
So yes, you are a new creation. However, you still battle sin in your flesh. It’s vitally important that we know and understand this because, if we’re going to live out our identity in Christ, we must learn to live by the reality of who we are spiritually and allow that to shape everything else in our lives.
That’s important because we have the choice to live according to the Spirit or to live according to the flesh. This is what Paul says explicitly in Romans 8:5 — “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
That’s what I meant earlier when I said that I think many of us are living with the wrong mindset; we’re living with the wrong perspective. We forget about the fact that we are a new creation.
Which causes us to focus on our flesh and the struggle happening within us. Which causes us to regard everything according to the flesh. Which causes us to set our minds then on the flesh and not on the Spirit.
And that produces the opposite of joy, peace, satisfaction, contentment and fulfilment. It causes discontentment, and worry, and anxiety, and frustration, and the like.
So, the question is, how do we remedy this? How do we live differently? Well, it begins on the level of belief. Do you believe that you are a new creation in Christ Jesus? Do you really believe that He died (for you) and was raised from the dead (so that you could be made new)? Do you believe that, as you sit here right now, that is true of your life?
If you believe that, this is just a matter of changing the set of lenses that you are wearing. You need to get used to taking off the lens of the flesh and putting on the lens of the Spirit. And you need to remember that you will always have a tendency to drift back toward the lens of the flesh.
In this life, you and I will always have a tendency to forget the gospel. We will have a tendency to forget the things that are true of us. That is why it is so vitally important that we are reminded consistently of the gospel.