Discovering Your Identity in Christ – Part 3 – A Study in Ephesians

How do you Identify Yourself?

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“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:1-2 NIV

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Ephesians 1:1 ESV

How do you identify yourself?

Would you identify yourself as a sinner or a saint?

If you are a Christian, are you a sinner that’s forgiven, or are you a saint that has been transformed?

Here’s the problem if you see yourself simply as a sinner that’s forgiven

You might see a non-Christian as a guilty, evil, fallen sinner.  You see a Christian as a guilty, evil, fallen sinner that’s forgiven

If this is your view, you see Christians and non Christians as essentially the same – except one has received forgiveness of sin.  Christians and non-Christians are the same.  There is no change in their nature.  There is no difference in who you are or in your nature or identity.  The only difference is that one is forgiven, but neither are transformed.

Listen to the language of Paul as he begins his discourse to the Ephesians.  He refers to God’s people as “holy people” in the NIV or the ESV says to the “saints.”  It is likely that few Christians see themselves as holy people or as saints, but that is what Paul calls us!    

How do you identify yourself – a sinner or a saint?

This is a problem I personally struggle with.

This is an important question to answer because it determines how we live our lives.  Sinners are identified with their dark past.  Saints are identified by their bright future.

A major problem in the church is that too many Christians today identify themselves as primarily as sinners (that are forgiven).  Because they see their primary identity as sinners, they identify themselves as sinners who are tempted by sin.  They are driven by their sinful nature.  Just like non-Christians, they naturally return to sin.  Unlike non-Christians, they feel a heavier sense of guilt, shame, and fear, so they come back to God for forgiveness of their sin, until they fall into sin again.     

When we who are in Christ identify ourselves primarily as sinners, we are stuck… unable to move forward because we feel shame, condemnation, and guilt.

Paul begins his letter by pointing out that God’s people are saints.  He points out that God has forgiven them of their past.  Paul identifies those who are in Christ as saints.  He challenges us to see ourselves as a new creation.  He says that if we are in Christ, we are genuinely new.  The decisions we make and things we do are brand new.  We cannot change on our own, but we can change in Christ.  We can be obedient in Christ.  We are righteous in Christ.

How do you identify yourself – a sinner or a saint?

When you see yourself, don’t just see your sin.  See your savior.  See yourself as a saint.

Paul urges us not let condemnation rule in our hearts.  There is a major difference between conviction and condemnation.

Conviction vs. Condemnation

I’ve heard the explanation of conviction and condemnation put like this:

Conviction is from God. Condemnation is from Satan.  Conviction leads to life.  Condemnation leads to despair.  Conviction ends in joy.  Condemnation ends in sorrow.  Conviction makes us want to change. Condemnation makes us believe we cannot change. Conviction leads to a new identity in Christ.  Condemnation leads to an old identity in sin.  Conviction brings specific awareness of a sin. Condemnation brings vague uncertainty about sin.  Conviction causes us to looks to Jesus.  Condemnation causes us to look to self.  Conviction in a saint is a blessing.  Condemnation on a sinner is a burden.

When we are under condemnation, we have no hope, we are embarrassed, shamed, ridiculed, and we allow the worst day of our lives to define the rest of the days of our lives.  This gives Satan’s great delight.

When we are under conviction, we have the freedom to recognize God as a loving Father who points out corrections, but still loves us.  He doesn’t reject us because His love is not based on our performance.  He loves us because we are His children, not because we earned His favor.  He is a Father who loves because He can see that who we are and who we are going to be, not who we once were.

How do you identify yourself – a sinner or a saint?

A sinner is burdened with sin, while a saint is remorseful of sin

A sinner is overpowered by sin, while a saint has power over sin.

How do you identify yourself – a sinner or a saint?

Lord Jesus, today I recognize myself as a saint – redeemed, empowered, and made brand new in You.  In You, I can overcome whatever challenges before me.  In You, I am transformed.  Yes I have sinned, but in You, I am a new creation.  In the awesome name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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