Pathways to the King: Identity

Full Sermon Audio:

There is a thirst for revival.  We long to see the movement of the Spirit in our personal lives and in our churches – we long to see Him come and bring a freshness and abundancy of life that draws people to God and shows them the real impact the gospel can have in this world.

Too often we swing the pendulum too far, one way or another, in seeking revival.  Sometimes we work really hard, study, learn everything we can, max out all our resources, and wonder why revival isn’t coming.  Other times, we sit back, pray, and wait for God, and wonder why He isn’t coming.  We swing the pendulum back and forth between these two extremes of, “Everything I can do” and “Everything God should do.”  But throughout history, God has wanted to partner with His people to affect the wonderful change in this world that the Gospel longs to do.

 The first pathway is personalizing our identity in Christ.  Understanding who we are in Christ helps us know the potential of the Spirit in our lives.  It helps us draw closer to God.  It helps us garner expectations for the experiences of our lives.  Our identity in Christ opens up the other pathways to God as we truly learn what it means to be a child of God.

 Read Romans 8:1-17

 This is a passage that can be hard to understand.  The Apostle Paul is writing here about the transition from the Jewish theology about law and salvation to the new theology in Christ and the Spirit that come as a result of the cross.  Romans 8 is also a passage that comes from a long build up – the first seven chapters of Romans are all leading up to this, “Therefore…” that the chapter opens up with.  The complex context can make Romans 8 hard to understand, but within its verses is a powerful message about who we are in Christ, and what is available to us in His Spirit.

 1.       We are saved.  The opening line of this passage proclaims the wonderful truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ.  We often limit our concept of condemnation to the next life – we proclaim that we are saved from the fires of hell.  But we are also saved from condemnation from God in this life.  We don’t have to let our sin stand between us and God.  Whatever we have done, the cross has taken care of it, and we can be in the presence of God confident and secure.

2.       We are adopted.  We are welcomed into God’s family.  We have the ability to cry out, “Abba!  Father!”  just as Christ did.  God longs to be the perfect representation of a Father in our lives.

3.       Sealed in the Spirit.  While more explicit in Ephesians 1, this passage in Romans 8 reveals a sense of ownership and promise that God will complete His work in us.

4.       The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.  Our identity is more than just a status – it is an opportunity to move beyond our own limits into something more.  When we seek revival and spiritual strength, it is this Spirit that lives in us that brings it about.  As we understand more and more what it means to be in Christ, we will understand more and more exactly what this power of the Spirit makes available to us in our lives.

5.       We are called to something greater.  This salvation, adoption, seal and power that we are blessed with in Christ, put a wonderful potential in us for something greater in life.  Ephesians 1 tells us how we have been gifted to accomplish specific tasks.  God as a role for you in this world to share the love of Christ and the strength of the Spirit in the midst of the darkness.

6.       We are a new creation.  While the cross of Christ was enough to atone for our sins, God loves us too much to keep us in our sinful state.  Our identity in Christ is people who are being brought into righteousness by God’s strength.  He wants to cleanse us.  He wants to restore us.  He wants to transform us to be the people He created us to be.

7.       We are people who rejoice in suffering.  This is a point we don’t often talk about, because it is difficult to talk about.  If you look at the first six points, it is easy to think that the Christian life will be filled with harmony and wonderful good times.  But the reality is, nobody in this world goes without hardship.  Nobody goes without pain. The gospel does not promise us a life free from hurt, but it does promise us a different mindset with which to go through the hurt.  “We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  James 1 talks about the potential for trials to develop maturity.  1 Peter talks about how we all will suffer, but if we suffer for the right reasons, we have hope for something greater.  Those who come through severe suffering often have the most impact on the world around them as the strength and perspective they needed to endure gave them wisdom and vision to make the world a better place.  I encourage you to skim through the writings of Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch woman who helped many Jews escape during the holocaust and was herself put into a concentration camp.  Her writings are deeply simple and profound having come through such evil and terror.

So how do we make these points of our identity in Christ a part of our reality and the way we live?  Romans 8:6 gives us a clue.  “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life.”  A lot of what we believe about ourselves and how we live begins with our mind and what we allow to fill it and have sway over it.

 Do we spend time in prayer and the word trying to instill our spirits with God’s truth?

 In his book, Pathways the King, Rob Reimer has a declaration of identity that he encourages us to read daily.  It is a declaration derived from the Scriptures that lays out what it means to be a child of God.  He encourages us to speak it and pray it in our daily lives until we see it starting to become the reality we know, not just in our minds, but in the experiences of our lives.

 This identity is the first pathway to the King.  Knowing who we are opens the door to seeing what we can be

Declaration of Identity in Christ

I am a child of God.  I have been justified through faith in Christ.  I have been pardoned and acquitted.  I have been forgiven.  I am clothed with the righteousness of Jesus.  My history has been rewritten.  I belong to my Father.  I am deeply loved by God.  God’s love is unconditional.

 God’s love for me is unchanging.  My performance cannot change it.  The demonic hosts cannot stop it.  The future will not alter is.  No one can separate me from it.  I am deeply loved by my Father in Heaven.  I am secure in Christ.  I belong to God.  I am a possessor of grace.

 I am chosen by God.  I am wanted.  I am adopted into his family.  I am an heir with God and coheir with Christ.  I am a prince/princess in his kingdom.  I am included in Christ.  I have been marked with a seal.  The Holy Spirit lives in me.  I am in Christ.  And Christ is in me.  I am deeply loved by my father.  I belong.

 I’m on the road to glory.  I am God’s friend.  I am at peace with God.  God is for me.  And if God is for me, who can be against me?  I have been bought with a price.  I am not my own.  I have been set free.  I have been redeemed.  I have no condemnation.  I have eternal life.  I am a new creation.

 I am more than a conqueror.  I am victorious.  I have been called to the family of God.  I have been called to carry His presence.  I am an ambassador for Christ.  I am a witness.  I am the salt and light of the world.  I am God’s co-worker.  I carry the keys to the kingdom.  I am a kingdom carrier.

 I am empowered by the Holy Spirit within me.  I partner with God to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.  I am deeply loved by my Father in Heaven.  I have eternal significance.

Whole Life Worship – Sunday June 11

The English language is an ever evolving mess of shifting definitions and meanings.  For example, when the King James Bible was written, the word ‘prevent’ meant to come before, rather than to stop as we use it now.  So passages like, “But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee,” (Psalm 88:13) are easy to misunderstand, and look just plain confusing.

There’s another word that has shifted meaning, though we still use it in our modern translations: Worship.  Understanding the real meaning behind this word is essential to living the life Christ has called us to.  We often think of worship, adoration and praise as synonyms.  In truth, while adoration and praise are forms of worship, the real call of the Bible goes far beyond singing songs and celebrating God in our prayers.

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Romans 12:1-2
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV)

I like to think that the, “Therefore,” this passage starts with is encompassing the entire first eleven chapters of Romans.  In these chapters, Paul gives his detailed views on the problem of sin and death, and the reconciliation and freedom that can be found in Christ through his suffering on the cross.  Now with Romans 12, Paul is calling his readers to act in light of these beliefs.  “Therefore… in view of God’s mercy.”  Rather, therefore, in view of the cross of Christ and power of His death and resurrection, “off your bodies as a living sacrifice… this is your true and proper worship.”

What other response can there be to Christ giving Himself to us, than for us to give our whole selves to Him?  Worship isn’t about select times during the week that we set aside to pray or sings songs.  Worship is about the way we live.  It’s about turning our goals over to Christ.  Its about turning our ambition towards Christ.  Its about sacrifice for the sake of Christ.

Listen to how Paul follows this up in the rest of Romans 12:

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Read through that again!  Look at the call this view of God’s mercy puts on the Church!  Can you imagine how incredible of a testimony that people who lived like that would be for Christ in this world?

To pursue our gifts and give them to God, to be sincere in our love and devoted to one another, to be humble, to associate with people of low statue, or bless those who persecute us – to live and Christ lived.  That is our worship.  When we live as Christ lived, we worship Him.

I encourage you this week to spend time and prayer asking yourself this question, “Who does my life worship?”