Do You Know Who You Are? February 23, 2020

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Ephesians 1:1-2

Do you know who you are?

The contemporary business culture loves to analyze and categorize people based on surveys and questionnaires. There is a huge industry that has evolved simply around the concept of profiling and the analysis of personalities. However, you can go through all the programs and personality profiles you like, you can be placed in fifteen different categories, but ultimately your identity, your real self can only be found in Christ Jesus and who he created you to be.

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Ephesus around A.D. 62, and the primary focus of the letter is our identity, who we are in Christ.

This book is only six chapters that will take about 20 minutes to read aloud. But it is one of the most influential and practical books in the Bible.

Unfortunately, we live in an age, particularly in the western church where we have a very superficial, cultural Christianity. This book will make us think and challenge us by what the Apostle Paul calls, “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8)

This book is extremely practical, for example, through these six chapters we learn:

  • Why we worship.
  • What we should pray for.
  • We learn about the incredible gift of God’s grace.
  • We learn about our identity in Christ.
  • We learn why the church is really important.
  • We learn how we can be unified as a church.
  • The letter to the Ephesian church teaches us about marriage, parenting and our careers.
  • And finally, as we come to the last chapter, we learn about the war we are engaged in and how we are to fight.

The Apostle Paul was the former persecutor of the church who had a dramatic conversion experience as he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was radically changed; he received a new identity because he knew what Jesus has done for him.

The letter begins in verse 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”

Paul knew he was an apostle, someone who was sent and commissioned by Jesus.

Notice he says, “by the will of God”, not of his own choosing, and along with that came the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and to suffer for the Gospel.

The recipients of this letter are the church in Ephesus. Ephesians 1:1b, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”

It is quite likely this letter was meant for the entire region; hence it is general and does not call out specific people or false teachers as his other letters do. We read about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in Acts 19. Paul came to the region of Ephesus in Asia Minor (Modern Turkey) and stayed in Ephesus for about three years during his third missionary journey, the longest he stayed in any city while on his missionary journeys. Ephesus was a large city, possibly the 4th or 5th largest city in the world at that time.

But his ministry was not without difficulties. Because of his teaching, there was fierce opposition from idol manufacturers who made a living out of making silver idols for the people to buy.

Here is something to note as we remember Paul writing this letter while in chains. Just because there is opposition it does not mean that you are outside the will of God. The plan of God for your life and mine does not include freedom from opposition. In fact, opposition is very often the opportunity to give glory to God in the midst of the challenge.

Ephesus was also the headquarters of the cult that worshipped the Roman goddess Diana and the Gospel threatened the trade of idols. Paul confronted this warfare head-on and in Acts 19, we read of the account of the seven sons of Sceva who were beaten and stripped by a demon possessed man. These sons of Sceva brought glory to Jesus through their humiliation and many burned their magic books and turned to Christ (see Acts 19:20).

The result of Paul’s preaching was a city-wide disturbance. Are we creating a holy disturbance in our city?

Paul writes this letter to believers who needed to be reminded of the warfare they were engaged in. We too need to be reminded that this world is not our home and we will encounter things and see things that deeply trouble us and offend us, if we aren’t aware of our true identity.

You see, in our western educated mindset, we compartmentalize our Christian Spiritual experience and then our American life experience. But as followers of Jesus we are not of this world.  If we are people who have truly given our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then we have a new identity and that is what this entire book of 155 verses is all about.

Paul has a term that is used in the first verse that explains it all, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus”

While the believers in Ephesus lived in Ephesus, they were spiritually IN CHRIST.

That term in Christ has intrigued me for years and I don’t think we will ever fully understand the incredible blessing that it brings to us.

Paul uses the term “IN CHRIST” about 164 times in all his letters, and 36 times alone in this letter to the Ephesians.

To be IN CHRIST, is the heart of Christianity.

As we look through Ephesians, we will see:

  • IN CHRIST, we have access to every spiritual blessing.
  • IN CHRIST, his riches are our riches.
  • IN CHRIST, his resources are our resources.
  • IN CHRIST, his righteousness becomes our righteousness.
  • IN CHRIST, his power is our power.
  • IN CHRIST, his position is our position.
  • IN CHRIST, where he is, we are.

Even though you may encounter opposition on every side, we are secure in him. We have our identity in Jesus Christ.

Our identity has nothing to do with our performance, popularity or our productivity, we have everything, because we are “IN CHRIST”.

Christianity, being a follower of Jesus is not religion. It’s not about becoming a nice person who follows a set of rules, becoming a Christian is about becoming a new person.

Steve Timmis wrote in Total Church, “It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a church. My being in Christ means being with others who are in Christ. This is my identity… If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians.”

Samson Part 1 – Do you know who you are? July 10, 2016

Sampson Title-01

Who am I?

Judges 13

Do you know who you are? In answer to that question most would answer by stating where they were born, what do you do for a living or how many children or grandchildren you have and if you were brave, you might say your age. We all have an identity, we all have identifiers that we tell people in order for them to know about us and possibly categorize us.

But the truth is, this not how I am defined in the sight of God. Christians face an identity crisis in the modern world. I believe that we struggle simply because we don’t know who we are.

Samson the Judge was one person in the Bible who did not have a clear understanding of his identity, and as a result he missed out on living to his fullest potential.

This period of time in the nation of Israel is called the period of the Judges, roughly 1375 BC to 1050 BC.

Joshua died and left the nation with two instructions, defeat the remaining Canaanites and obey the law of Moses. The children of Israel do neither. The begin to relax and integrate with the local tribes and adopt their religions. During this period there began a familiar cycle; the Israelites rebelled against God, God punishes them by sending oppressive nations to rule over them, Israel repents and cries out to God for deliverance and God sends a hero, a mighty leader who stops the oppression.

That is the period of the judges, the time between Joshua and the anointing of King Saul. Sampson was the most famous judge who was appointed by God to be a Nazarite. A Nazarite was someone who takes a vow of consecration and dedication to the Lord. The Nazarite had three requirements, never to eat or drink anything that came from a grape vine, never to cut their hair, and never to be in the presence of a dead body. The purpose of the Nazarite vow was for a period of consecration, in order to seek the Lord. Sampson on the other hand was to be a Nazirite from birth, for all his life. He didn’t have a choice in the matter, he was a special child.

Sampson’s parents were unusual in their dedication and commitment. They were godly people who prayed and understood the importance of the sacrificial system. (Read the Prayers of Manoah in Judges 13:8 and 12).

Manoah had faith that what God told him was going to happen, and he also knew that he needed to hear from God the instructions he needed to raise up this child. In a time of spiritual darkness, God found a couple who were faithful to Him. Sampson was being born into a good home.

In addition to this, the promise of the Angel of the Lord in verse 5 says that: “He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” It was a promise over his life even before he was born, he was destined for greatness.

So much potential was promised and early in his childhood we read in verse 24; “and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan..” He was destined for a life of unlimited potential, unfortunately he did not keep the requirements and he failed to live up to his potential. His poor choices limited his potential.

It is the same with us, the choices we make in life either fulfill the potential we have in Christ, or they hinder the potential we have in Christ.

The truth is that when you and I became followers of Jesus Christ and we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our potential changes, we become people of unlimited potential.

Getting back to that question, do you know who you are?

The Bible is full of descriptions of our identity in Christ; 1 Peter 2:9-10 says; “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Imagine what would happen if we truly got this, if we truly grasped who we are as followers of Jesus.

Too many Christians are walking around in fear, anxious of what might happen tomorrow, this is a symptom of mistaken identity. We fear because we don’t know who we are, we fear because we simply don’t grasp the awesome power of God. We need to walk as Children of the King.

When you and I become followers of Jesus Christ, we begin a new life, we are born again. No matter how old or young we are, we begin a new life of unlimited potential. Sampson began life with unlimited potential, but as we will see next week, he made poor choices and threw away that potential. Maybe you realize that you have not lived up to your potential as a Christian, you are still living for yourself, making poor choices, not trusting God with your life and your future. You realize that you have an identity crisis, and need a fresh understanding of what it means to be a child of the King. A prince or a princess in the kingdom of God.

Pray that God will give you a fresh revelation of who you are, and read the promises found in the Word of God.

Read: Phil 3:20, Phil 4:13, Phil 4:19, Col 1:11, Col 1:22, 2 Timothy 1:7, John 17:14, 2 Peter 1:3, Romans 8:1, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 5:1.