In college I took a class called “Pauline Literature”, where we studied the New Testament letters that the apostle Paul wrote. So, let’s take a look at the intro for some of his letters
”To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people” –Romans 1:7
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to thosesanctified in Christ Jesus,called to be saints together with all those who in every placecall upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…” I Corinthians 1:2
“To the church of God that is at Corinth,with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia” II Corinthians 1:1b
“To the churches of Galatia” Galatians 1:2
“To the saints who are in Ephesus, andare faithful in Christ Jesus” — Ephesians 1:1
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…” Philippians 1:1
“To thesaints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” Colossians 1:2
“To the church of theThessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” I Thes. 1:1
“To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” II Thes. 1:1
Do you notice a theme? I notice two.
First, as previously stated Paul reminds the recipients of the letter that they are in Christ. He does not describe them as who they were only as who they actually are, now. Not just one day. Now.
And who they are–are saints. As a woman found “In Christ” you are a saint. But it doesn’t end there. The letters are written to the Church in that regions, therefore it is easy to assume that he is writing to more than one person. He’s writing to the church, in that region/city, as a whole. He wants to “all” the church in Rome, to the “saints” in…
This is so significant! You see, I’m learning that Christ is sooo big that I, by myself, cannot contain him. I need the other members of the body to show me who Christ is, in them. Together we are the body of Christ, together we live, move and have our being–in Christ. John 15 says that when we abide in Christ, He is in us.
As you walk throughout your day today, remember who you are, who we are together. We are saints. You show a different aspect of Christ than I do, Do not hide him, do not keep him to yourself. We need to be united as His body in our cities. It’s so much richer together than it ever has been by ourselves.
My brother entered our home at eight months old. He came to us the size of a newborn (roughly six pounds, up five pounds since birth), he was on oxygen 24 hours a day, his eyes were crossed and he had a hernia. He was also failure to thrive and just learning to function as a person not addicted to crack or alcohol.
I will never forget the excitement in my mother’s voice when she told me we were getting a baby. I had had foster siblings in the past, they were all teenagers. We had never had a baby.
After my parents divorce, my mother chose to adopt my brother. She chose to make him part of our family–never to be separated. Honestly, it was an easy decision. He was three at this time and had spent his life with us. He was my brother, official or not.
I’m pretty sure my mom had decided in her head long before the papers had been filed that she would adopt him. I mean, why else would she get up at two o’clock in the morning and stay up three hours to feed him four ounces of formula? Why else would she fight for him, for his life?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Eph 1:3-6)
When I read this passage, I relate because of my brother. I was born into the family–my brother was chosen to be apart of it. There is something to be said about being wanted like that.
Before the earth’s foundation was laid–while the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were in community together outside of time and space–we were chosen. We were chosen to be adopted, to be as sons through Jesus Christ.
Because of Christ–I am in. I am wanted, chosen, adopted. I have been given a family in Jesus and with Jesus and for Jesus.
This is my identity. This is unchanging. This chosen-ness, this adoption it fills my heart in ways words can’t explain. It brings significance. It gives purpose.
Whether you feel like you need oxygen 24 hours a day, or you are just getting used to functioning as a person, remember who you really are.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy, blameless, before him…. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him, things in heaven and on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance…so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth….and believed in him were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it….” (Eph. 1:3-4, 7-14 ESV)
You still with me?
Blessed. Chosen. Redeemed. Forgiven. United. Inheriting. Hope. Sealed. Guarantee.
These words describe who you are, because of Christ. Because you are in Christ, they are true, and they are unchanging. When God the Father and Jesus talk about you, these are the words they use.
Eight times in less than 14 verses, Paul tells the Church of Ephesus who they are…in Christ. He doesn’t describe them outside of Christ. When Paul thinks of the Church, he only has eyes to see them as Christ does. II Corinthians 5:16-17 reminds us that we no longer look to each other according to the flesh, because in Christ we are a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.
As believers we need to relish in the relating of who we are, not who we were. We are in Christ. We are blessed, chosen, redeemed, forgiven, united, inheriting, hopeful, sealed.
Which of these descriptions do you need to repeat to yourself today? Remember who you are — not who you were.
In 2002 and I moved to Nashville without knowing anyone and without a job. It was a big leap of faith. I made myself get a year-long lease, knowing that if I hated it, I could always move back home. The first six months were horrific. But I’m now in year nine, obviously things got better.
It was in the summer of 2002 when I had my first, of what would be many, quarter-life crisis’. I distinctly remember hyper-ventilating in my car before getting ready to walk into the church building. While trying to breathe normally I had to ask myself why I was acting this way. What was really going on?
I realized it was because I did not know who the people in the building expected of me. I did not know how to act or what to do to be liked. (Hello, my name is Heather and I’m a recovering people pleasure.) I did not know who to be or who I was. So I began the journey to figuring that out.
Fast forward to February of 2008, when I was having yet another small crisis. A lot had changed in six years and I again found myself in an odd state of being, wondering who I was. But it was then when I realized why I kept visiting this same place over and over again.
I had been defining myself by things that changed. I would say “Hi, I’m Heather and I work for ______” ”No, I do not have children, I’m single.” ”I have great roommates though and try to be a good influence on high schoolers.” When I would change jobs or have roommates move, and high schoolers graduate it would again make me ask “Who am I?” I had let the things I did become my identity.
In 2008 I made the conscious decision that it was time to start defining myself by things that do not change. The only thing that is unchanging is Christ. If you are in Christ, you and I can define ourselves the same way. We have share and identity–we are image bearers. It is time we start defining ourselves as such.
When I align my identity, the depth of my being, with being in Christ–it makes a difference in how I introduce myself and who I say that I am. And it will for you too.
Over the next couple entries we are going to take a look at who we are in Christ. It may or may not include a some of the following. (I got this list from my friendMilt Rodrigeuz) Let me encourage you to read up! Declare these things daily. I welcome your thoughts/comments/encouragement about identity. What have you learned about who you are?
*I am a son of the living God (Romans 8:28-30) *I am a piece of the Rock, who is Christ (Matthew 16:15-18) *I possess all things in Christ (Col. 1:19-20) *I am a chosen, holy one; a saint (Eph. 1:3-6) *I am crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6-11; Col. 3:1-3, Phil. 1:21, Gal. 2:20) *I can do all things in Christ (Phil. 4:13) *I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-7) *I am a member of the Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23, John 17)
There are three main questions women will always struggle with no matter their age. They are “Who am I?”, “What is my significance?” and “What is my purpose?”
Over the next few entries, I’m going to be talking about our identity but first I wanted to hear from you. Who do you say you are? How do you describe yourself? What’s the 30-second intro you give about yourself when you meet new people?
From “Heaven is for Real”Have you ever had one of those moments when you hear/see a song lyric differently than you have in the past? In the song, Give Me Jesus, there is a lyric that says
And when I come to die, and when I come to die, and when I come to die, just give me Jesus
Singing this in the past, I always pictured the end of my life. I had envisioned being blinded by the Light that is Christ the Lamb. However, I think differently about it now. Because I get to die to myself everyday. I come to die every morning so Christ, the Light and Lamb, can live now. Not just then.