Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my purpose? At some point in our lives, we all ask these questions. It’s very easy to base our identities on things like our careers, our relationships, our achievements, or even the influence around us. But those things can change in an instance, then what are we left with?
In the Bible, we find the only solid unshifting view of who we are and what we are made for. So today, we are being a brand-new series called “If I Am in Christ” where we will dig into the book of Ephesians to discover exactly where our identity lies, why we are here, while discovering spiritual blessings that are ours when we place our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus.
The book of Ephesians does a great job of answering these questions. In 52 AD, the Apostle Paul traveled to Ephesus and dedicated two years of his life to starting a community of believers there. Years later, Paul ended up in a Roman prison and wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus.
And in this letter, he has two major points. The first point is focused on the “if.” Chapters one through three establish that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the climax of human history. He is the Son of God, and His work on the cross has changed everything. The second point in the letter is focused on the “then.” Chapters four through six concentrate on how the work of Jesus impacts our story, how it changes us personally, how it changes our communities and our world.
And the two sections of this letter are divided by a very important word: therefore. Paul is saying that, if this is the truth, therefore, this is the outcome. If this is true, then, this is the outcome. But the key word here is IF, if we are in Christ. The letter starts like this.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Paul starts his by stating that there are incredible blessings available to us (verse 3). These blessings will be fleshed out over the following six chapters, but Paul offered in his first three verses the condition of these blessings. He said it twice. First in verse 1, “to the faithful in Christ Jesus,” and then again in verse 3, “God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Notice Paul wanted us to see the key to everything he was about to share was about being found “in Christ.” What does it mean to be “in Christ?” Being in Christ, means uniting with Christ, but it goes so much deeper.
POINT #1 – BEING IN CHRIST IS ABOUT POSITION AND IDENTITY
The Greek word Paul used is the word en, which is translated into English as in. This word is a preposition word, which means that is meant to show direction, time, place, or position. To be in Christ is first and foremost all about position. It is about proximity. You see, the proper responses to what Jesus has done for us on the cross are repentance and belief. Repentance means we change our course—recalculate our route.
Before faith in Christ, we’re headed in our own direction and doing our own thing in pursuit of sin. But in response to God’s love, Christ’s mercy and sacrifice, we turn 180 degrees and head toward Jesus in pursuit of righteousness. Our proximity and position changes.
Paul said it another way in another letter to the early church in Corinth.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
If any man or woman is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old ways of life become a thing of the past. There are new ways of living that come from being found in Jesus. Being in Christ is about position and proximity, and according to 2 Corinthians, the closer we get to Jesus, the more our identity changes.
It’s like when we start spending a bunch of time with a new group of friends. We start picking up some of their mannerisms, their way of speaking, their interests. We aren’t recognizable any longer by all our old markers. We identify in a new way in light of our relationship with Jesus.
There is another way Paul fleshed out this idea of being in Christ. It is about our position, but it is also about identity. Paul spoke to it as he wrote to the church in Colossae.
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Therefore, Paul says in light of all that has been said about Jesus, we are to clothe ourselves in the Christ-like attitudes that are listed. Like a coat or a jacket, these virtues and ways of living become what we cover ourselves in.
I brought with me my letter jacket from high school where I was in the color guard in the marching band. I turn 45 last week, (this coat is 31 years old) so it has been some time since I was strutting around in this. When I would put on this jacket in high school, it meant something. It immediately told the world I was affiliated with Carlisle High School Marching Band. I wore it with pride to show I was a band member, one of the best in the area at that time.
To put on Christ, means we wear Him each and every day in our actions. As much as our position matters, our identity matters too. Being in Christ means we are easily recognized by our compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Being a Christian changes our position before God, but it should also change our identity before people. Here’s my plea this morning. I believe being found in Christ is the most important thing about us. Repenting of sin and drawing near to Jesus. Believing that He is who He says He is and actually living like it.
I am a pastor, but that is not who I am. That is the calling God gave me to do while here on earth, but when I go to heaven, that’s gone. That’s not who I am. My real identity is that being in Christ, I am a child of God.
POINT #2 – BEING IN CHRIST AFFECTS EVERY PART OF OUR LIVES
After Paul introduced the idea of being found in Christ in Ephesians, he didn’t leave us hanging for very long. Take special note of what he said in verse 4.
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Paul laid out five different blessings that come from placing our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus Christ. If we are in Christ, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed. I would imagine that if we actually believed these things to be true about ourselves—if we believed we were chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed—it would drastically change the way we lived each and every day. If you are in Christ, these things are true about you.
Let’s look at them one at a time. If we are in Christ, we are chosen to be a blessing. Many scholars believe Paul, the author of Ephesians, is trying to tie together what is happening in the early church to what took place in Jewish history with a man named Abraham.
In Genesis 12, God chose Abraham and his family. He does not, however, choose Abraham to the exclusion of all others. Rather, Abraham is chosen by God to be a conduit of blessing to the entire world. To the Jewish mind and the early church mind, being chosen was not an elite privilege that was not afforded to all. Rather, being chosen in Christ gives us the responsibility to let others in on the Good News.
Look at how Paul said it in verses 11 and 12. If his readers were the first to put their hope in Christ, it implies there would be others to follow. It is predestined because the plan all along was for Jesus to be the vehicle of salvation. Abraham was just the first in his time to know about it. In the same way, some of us here today were the first to know about it, but it is not meant to be kept to ourselves. We are chosen to share the Good News with others.
Let’s say I had a large group of kids hanging out at my house. Suddenly, the ice cream truck rolls up. I might say to my son, “Hey, come here. The ice cream truck is here.” I may choose him to hear about it first, but I am letting him in on something that is meant to let everyone else know ice cream is available for all.
If you are in Christ, you are chosen. God has chosen you by His grace so you might respond in faith to bless others with the Good News.
The next blessings is if we are in Christ, we are adopted to be a part of the family of God.
Behind this letter that Paul wrote to the Ephesians is the monumental shift in terms of who were considered to be the people of God. As the good news of Jesus spread from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, God was opening up his family to individuals outside of the Jewish heritage. Anyone outside of Jewish culture was known as a Gentile, and they were being invited into God’s big plan to rescue and redeem the world. God’s family was expanding, and the Gentiles were being adopted into it.
Matt and I have friends who adopted a young boy about 5 years ago. Though the child may technically have DNA from different parents, you would never know it by the way his adopted mother and father love him and make sure he knows that he is loved. It’s a true gift to have wonderful and generous friends in our midst because they demonstrate for us the kind of love, grace, compassion, and welcome that is given to us through Jesus.
Our spiritual adoption takes place by God’s grace and ensures we have a loving Father who meets our every need. It ensures we will receive an inheritance of resurrection and eternal life. It also makes us brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. This is one reason why being found in Christ is such a powerful truth. You are grafted into a family and adopted by a heavenly Father who can loves you with all that He is.
If we are in Christ, we are redeemed to be free.
The Bible says that in Christ we have redemption through his blood because of God’s grace that has been lavished upon us. Paul used a very interesting word to describe this spiritual blessing in Christ. The Greek word means to be released based upon a payment of ransom or to buy back.
The origins of this word come from the Roman slave markets. Because of the extensive Roman military campaigns to tax and keep the people under pressure, there were many individuals who couldn’t pay and were therefore captured and taken into slavery. This caused a steady flow of slaves who would be sold at market.
In chains they would be brought before the crowd and sold to the highest bidder. There was, on occasion, someone who would come and purchase a slave, only to remove their chains and then let them go free. Those individuals were redeemed. The picture Paul has painted is from this background.
According to the Bible, before we were in Christ, we were slaves to sin. The evil one had control over us, and we were subject to sin and death. But in Christ, we have been redeemed because the blood of Jesus paid for our debt. The blood of Jesus has covered us and broken our chains so we might walk in freedom. This means sin no longer has power over you.
But Paul wanted to make one thing very clear. It is not a result of our hard work. It is not because we deserve it. It is the grace of God that has been lavished on us. Now that is a good word, isn’t it? Lavished means exceedingly enough or overflowing. In Christ, God has lavished his grace upon us and has bought us back by His blood shed on the cross.
The next blessing mentioned is that if we are in Christ, we are purposed to live on purpose.
Paul told us it is in Christ that God has made the mysteries of His good and perfect will known to us. Each one of us was knit together in our mother’s womb. God wired us and designed us just as we are. Though sin has broken us and made us sinful, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection offers us the power to be restored and fully equipped for the purposes for which we were originally made.
My heart is often broken as I look around and see so many people live each day without a purpose that is bigger than themselves. For some of us, our days consist of waking up, eating breakfast, working an eight-hour day, going home for dinner, and going to sleep only to repeat it all the next day.
Can I just say you were made for more than that? In Christ, you don’t just flip hamburgers, you don’t just sell cars, you don’t just go to school, and you don’t just teach children in a school. Your greatest purpose on earth is being a witness for the kingdom of God in everything you do!
When we live without purpose and direction in our lives, any choice is a fine choice because any result will do. But when we are revealed the mysteries of God’s intention for our lives, every choice matters, every conversation matters, every moment with our family, our neighbors, our co-workers matters. Our desk becomes a mission field, and even the mundane becomes meaningful.
Lastly, if we are in Christ, we are sealed to be faithful.
Paul said when we become followers of Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit. God takes up residence inside of us.
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Paul called it a deposit because it is the initial investment in your eternal outcome. The Holy Spirit is the seal and sign that we are God’s, and it gives us guidance and direction.
It’s like that of like an engagement ring. When Matt put a ring on my finger, it was a sign and seal that I was taken and off limits. But for that ring to have a forever effect, it takes faithfulness on our parts to say, “I do.”
Here is the good news: God is always faithful to us. He always holds up His end of the bargain. We are sealed in Him by His love. The question is whether we will remain faithful to Him.
When we find ourselves tempted to forget about God and live life on our own, the Spirit of God will nudge us and remind us that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. We are God’s!
An in Christ, these amazing spiritual blessings are ours: we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed. That is the life God wants for us. That is what we are designed for. The hard part is learning to live as if they are true each day.
Maybe this morning, the first decision you need to make is to receive the grace and mercy of God and repent of your sins so you can be found in Christ. I’d invite you to pray with me this morning.
Father God, thank you for loving me and sending your Son to die for my sins. I want to be found in Him. I repent of my sins and receive your grace and forgiveness. Thank you for the spiritual blessings that are mine in Christ Jesus. I am blessed to be chosen, adopted, redeemed, purposed, and sealed. In Christ’s name, Amen.