“Our identity in Jesus Christ is a fundamental truth that we believers need to understand, if we are to experience this promised freedom and grow to Christian maturity.” Neil Anderson
I was watching one of my favorite movies, The Bourne Identity, and in the opening sequence and to set the plot the main character, Jason Bourne, was asked by his rescuers “Who are you?” How did he try to identify himself? By his name? By his language? Perhaps it was his knowledge in his trade?
Neil Anderson writes that the search for meaning and hope is based on the Christian’s understanding of who you are in Christ. I have heard this terminology before. The infamous “IN CHRIST” statement. I never understood until this first chapter. It is the critical foundation “for your belief structure and your behavior pattens as a Christian.
First, I want to stop right here for a moment. If you are reading this blog with a skeptical heart then let me assure you that I was always skeptical. But let me first ask you a question. Have you come to a place in your life where you know for sure that if you were to die today you would go to heaven, or is that something you would say that you are still working on?
In another post I will share how I came to know for certain that I have eternal life and how you can know also but for now permit me to ask another question.
“Suppose you were to die today and you were standing before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ what would you say?”
If you are just flabbergasted that I would even ask such a question then you need to read on. You see Heaven is a FREE gift! (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)
A gift is not earned or deserved. Suppose your best friend were to surprise you with an expensive gift like a car, you would almost immediately start feeling like you should give them some money for it. Right? At least something for compensation. Actually that would be an insult to the gift giver. Besides if you did give compensation to the friend, it would no longer be a gift. I kills me to see the Krishna’s at the airports and malls when they give a gift and then expect a donation. (great lead in to the gospel by the way). My response has always been “How can the gift be a gift if I just paid for it?” It is the same with eternal life. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
This can be clearly seen when we study what the Bible says about man.
Man is a sinner. In Romans 3:23 it says that “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” When we think of sin many times we think of robbery, murder, adultery, etc. The Bible tells us that sin is anything that doesn’t please God or is a transgression of His law. Anything we do that we shouldn’t, like losing our temper or stealing- these are sins of commission. Anything we should do but don’t, like failing to pray or read the Bible or to truly love our neighbor- these are sins of omission. There are not only sins in deed, but also sins in word and thought like lying, cursing, lust, pride, and hatred. The Bible says that these are all sins. Lets put into perspective to see the seriousness of this.
Let’s say that I only sin maybe ten times a day, or even five, or just three. Why, I would be practically a walking angel! Imagine if no more than three times a day did I think unkind thoughts, or lose my temper, or fail to do what I ought towards God and man- I would be a pretty fine person, would I not? Think about this for a moment, even if I were this good, I would still have over 1000 transgressions a year! If I lived to be the age of 70, I would have 70000 violations of the law of God on my record. Think what would happen to an habitual offender in a criminal court with 70000 transgressions on his record.
So we see by this that man CANNOT save himself. In the book of Matthew it says that we are to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”(Matt. 5:48) If I were to have you over for breakfast one morning and I were to prepare an omelet with five good eggs and one rotten egg, I could not serve it to company and expect it to be acceptable.
Even less can we serve up our lives to God, which may have many things in them that men would call good, and yet are filled with deeds and thoughts that are rotten, and expect them to be acceptable to God.
If we want to get into heaven by our good works, then all we have to do is to be perfect “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. God’s standard is complete obedience to Him in all things and at all times. We ALL fall short of this.
Do you see now why it is impossible for anyone to get in to heaven by their good works? This really comes in to sharper focus when we look at what the Bible says about God.
God is merciful and therefore does not want to punish us. 1 John 4:8 say that “God is love”. God is also just and therefore MUST punish sin. In Exodus 34:7 God says that “He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”
This seems to be a problem for us as we just said that man is a sinner and cannot save himself but God solved this “problem” in the person of Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus? According to John 1:1, 14 He is the infinite God-Man.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
What did Jesus do? He died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and to purchase a place in heaven for us.
Let’s imagine that I have a book in my right hand. It minutely details every account in my life. Each page details the sin of a particular day- every word I have spoken, every thought that ever crossed my mind, every deed I’ve ever done. Here then is the problem- my sin. God loves me but hates my sin and must punish it. To solve this problem, He sent His Son in to the world. The Scripture says “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6. Picture me taking that book that contains all my sins and it is transferred to my right hand because this passages say that God laid on Jesus ALL of my sins. All of my sins which God hates has been placed on Jesus Christ.
When the last sin had been paid for, Jesus said, “It is finished!” This is an interesting word in the original text. It is TETELESTAI, a commercial word which means, “It is paid; the debt is paid.” When He died, He was buried in a grave for three days but He rose from the dead and went to heaven to prepare a place for you and me. Now He offers heaven – eternal life – To you and me as a gift. And this gift is received by faith.
Faith is the key that opens the door to heaven. On my ring ring there are many keys. Some even look somewhat alike. Yet, when I go to unlock my front door tonight, I could try all these keys except the right one and I could not unlock the door . It does not matter how sincere I am in exercising my belief that a different key will open the door. The fact is that only one key will open the door.
The right key to heaven is saving faith. Before we talk about saving faith – the only key that will open heaven’s door- I want to talk about two other keys that people think will open the door to heaven. These keys are head knowledge and temporal faith.
Many people know certain historical facts about Jesus. They believe in Jesus the same way they believe Napoleon or George Washington. They believe He actually existed. They believe that He was a real person in history, but they are not trusting Him to do anything for them now. The Bible says the devil believes in God “The demons also believe–and they shudder.” James 2:19
So believing in God’s existence is not what the Bible means by saving faith.
Temporal faith is another thing that people often mistake for saving faith. When a person trusts in the Lord for finances, you could call that financial- faith. A person may pray and trust the Lord to take care of his family. You could call this family-faith. There is one thing that all of these have in common. They are temporary. For instance, once you reach your destination, you don’t need to trust the Lord for travelling- faith.
All the tings of this world will pass away. They are temporary. But saving faith is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. Acts 16:31 says that “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”. If we were talking in person right now you would notice that there is an empty chair next to me. You believe that the chair exists, right? Do you believe that the chair would support me if I were to sit on it? But you see, it’s not holding me up for one simple reason: I’m not sitting on it.
For the sake of making my point, let the chair I’m sitting in right now represent me and the empty chair represent Christ. For a long time I believed He existed and He could help me. However, I did not have eternal life because I was trusting in my own good works to get me into heaven. Years ago I repented of my sins and transferred my trust from myself to Jesus Christ- from what I had been doing for God to what He has done for me on the cross. Now I sit in the empty chair. By a simple act of faith I transferred my trust from what I had done to what Christ has done for me.
When I asked you earlier what would you say to God if He were to ask you , “Why should I let you into My heaven?” you said, “I try to be good. I try to live a good life. I have been a pretty good person. “Who is the only person referred to in your answer?
To receive eternal life you MUST transfer your trust from yourself to Jesus Christ alone for eternal life.
Faith is the hand of a beggar reaching out to accept the gift of a king. 13 years ago this beggar reached out an unworthy hand and received the gift of eternal life. I didn’t deserve it then and I don’t deserve it now. But I have it- by grace!!!
Why, then, should I try to live a good life? The reason for living a godly life is gratitude for this gift of eternal life. I’m not trying to gain something I don’t have by my efforts to be good. Rather, I’m saying, “Thank you, Lord.” The motive for Christian living is gratitude for the gift of eternal life.
If this makes sense to you then keep reading!!!
If you would like to receive this gift of eternal life the let me clarify what this involves:
1. Transfer of trust
2. Receive the resurrected and living Christ as Savior
Revelation 3:20- “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in eat with him, and he with Me.”
3. Receive Christ as Lord.
If this is really what you want, I can lead us in a prayer and we can tell God what you just told me. Email me or comment to this post and I will respond.
Next week I will pick up where we left off in the book. It is imperative that we know who we are in Christ and that we are a child of the King.
D. Shannon Rainwater <