Letters from Prison - Ephesians 1:1-14
As Paul traveled about the Roman empire, he came to colonies and to cities where people were spiritually and materially impoverished -- they were poverty-stricken people. Many of them were slaves. They had nothing of this world's goods. They were depressed, discouraged, beset with fears and anxieties, jealousies, and hostilities. They were under the grip of superstition and filled with the dread of the future. They had no hope of life beyond death. And it was the apostle's great joy to unfold to them the riches available to them in Jesus Christ -- riches which, if accepted as facts, would free them, would transform them and make them over into wholly different people, would bring them into a sense of joy and love and faith and radiant experience. That happened again and again. So the apostle gloried in these exceeding great riches in Jesus Christ. You have these same riches.
The first three chapters of Ephesians deal with doctrine (teaching), and the last three with practice (application). In the first three chapters, he tells you what your riches are; and in the last three he tells you how to use them, in key areas such as sex, marriage and alcohol. Of course, there is some doctrine in the last three chapters and some application in the first three, but generally this is how Paul organized his material.
The first 3 chapters are filled with truth about who God is and what he’s done in the gospel; the last 3 chapters offer some of the most practical instruction you’ll find anywhere in the Bible— on marriage, forgiveness, conflict management, family, workplace relationships and a host of other day-to-day issues. Some say that you could do all your biblical counselling from Ephesians alone. This is said because Paul, in Ephesians, places so much emphasis on our identity being in Christ alone. As Christians, we live from our identity, not for it. We are defined by who we are in Christ. That’s why Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians the way he does; he defines himself, and he defines his listeners, both in relation to Jesus.
"In Christ." “How is this possible? How can I possibly believe God could love me unconditionally when I know I failed?” “Am I really worth all of this?”
Do you think He would waste His time on you – sending Christ to die for your sins and mine – if we weren’t worth it? Remember, Christ didn’t die for you because you were good. He died for you because you are made in His image and have eternal worth.
First, you are created in God’s image and though fallen (God’s image has been defaced but not erased), you are not worthless. In fact, you are loved by God and have much to offer the world. This gives you personal respect and dignity.
Second, you must tie your self-worth to your identity in Christ. In theology, we talk about positional truth. There are two spheres: one is Adam and one is Christ. Adam and Christ are the two representative heads for humanity. In Adam, we rebel and gratify the flesh. Adam failed and death and exile was the inheritance he left for us all. We all stand condemned in Adam alone.
But a new Adam came, taking upon himself our identity – cursed sinner – so that we might take upon ourselves his identity – obedient son – and eat once again of the tree of life. So when you are “in Christ” (Eph.1:3-14; Romans 5:18-19), many things become true of you (from Living Free in Christ by Neil Anderson).
“The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity (Neil Anderson).” If I am in Christ, all those things God affirms are true of me. And all those intrusions of sin are not part of the person I was made to be. It is not the absence of sin that makes you a believer. Rather, what makes you a believer is that there is this radical shift in your thinking that says, “I trust Christ to tell me who I am, what I am, and what I am created to be. There may still be sin, but it no longer defines me!” That’s why repentance is not just a one-time event; rather, it’s the posture of the believer because sin will crop up in our lives. Rather than defend our right to commit our sin of choice, we declare God to be sovereign and He can tell us who and whose we are.
Who is living your life? Who do you think you are? Who told you that you were not enough? Who told you that you weren’t loved? Who told you that there is something outside of God that you need? Who told you that your dream was foolish? That you would never have a child? That you would never be a parent? That you aren’t a good mother or father? That you aren’t worth anything? That you’ll never know love again? That this world is all there is? The “in Christ” status and “Christ in you” means, you are not worthless, ugly, or forgotten, things are not hopeless, and the best is yet to come. A person gets their identity in life based on how the most important person in their life sees them.
What do you think would happen to a person’s life if Jesus were the most important person in that person’s life? We are wired such that we need some great authority outside of ourselves to tell us who we really are. And if you don’t have that authoritative voice because your life is not oriented toward God, the very first thing you’ll do is question your worth and value. That’s how we get addicted to the approval of others. When we’re busy getting our validation from the people around us, we stop looking for it from God.
Can I invite you to allow Jesus to speak over you a new identity today?