I’m excited about this message and it is something that I felt has been burning in my heart for the last couple of months. In the youth group, I’ve been going through the book of John. As I have continued to go through the book of John, I’ve realized that the descriptions that he’s giving to the different people reflect who they are in Christ, and who they are in relationship to Christ.
That phrase “in Christ” has been changing my perception of myself. I have often looked at myself, rather than ‘who I am in Christ.’ My identity has always been focused on who I am, in direct relationship to what I’m doing. It has been hard to separate from that mindset because there have been so many times when I didn’t look at myself through God’s eyes. I looked at myself through what I was accomplishing in life; what I was not accomplishing; what my victories were; and what my failures were.
To say, “who I am is represented by my victory, and who I am not is represented in my failures,” is a difficult thing for me. I have a really hard time with my identity ‘in Christ,’ as opposed to my identity in my ‘works.’ I feel that I’m trying to live my life for God. Unfortunately, I tend to look at myself as the author and the finisher of my own faith. I don’t mean to do that. That’s not my purpose or intention. But unfortunately, so many times I find myself getting caught up in that mindset of, “it is about what I do” that makes a difference with God. I’ve had to come to terms with, “Oscar, you try to earn your grace.” Ephesians 2:8 spells it out clearly for us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
So why do I do that? I don’t do it on purpose. I’m not trying to say, “God, I’m trying to earn your grace by doing this-and-that,” but it’s just something that has happened since I was a kid. Growing up, even at a young age, I had to be a contributing member of the family. I had to wake up and do the dishes, or do chores. There was no such thing as an allowance. I didn’t get paid to wash the dishes. That was just what I had to do. Because of that and because, unfortunately, my mother passed away at a young age, that meant that I had to step up and do even more at that age. Because of that, I got into this mindset of “you just work for what you have.” But the kingdom of God isn’t like that. “By grace you have been saved, and NOT of yourselves…”
Yes, you will still have to work. God calls us to do and accomplish certain things. There is a calling on every one of our lives that God wants us to do. But God doesn’t call us to our work in Christ because he has an allowance — which is called Grace — to give to us. Grace is not earned. “It is the gift of God.” I’ve struggled with that for many years. Often I didn’t even realize I was struggling with it, but I was. If I wasn’t busy for God or if I wasn’t accomplishing certain things, then I felt ‘unworthy.’ The truth is, my worth ‘in Christ’ has nothing to do with what I’m accomplishing or not accomplishing.
I have prepared a series of devotions for us to explore more about living ‘In Christ.’ We will look at what it means, how we get there and stay there, things that try and trip us up, and what is possible when we live ‘in Christ.’ Most of the devotions are meant to be around 5-7 minutes of reading. Each will have 2-3 key verses for us to discuss, and hopefully, for you to consider for your lives. It is a healthy thing to memorize scripture. Many of these verses are good verses to memorize, as you will find that they are helpful to pray through in most trying situations.
Read through Ephesians 2:8 during the day as it is so important. There are three (3) lessons I want you to take forward in your life. (1) If we have ‘faith’ — that is full trust and belief — in Christ, then we get the gift of Grace. It is un-earned. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a gift. (2) It is ‘not of yourselves.’ Whether you are the best or worst of people, your actions and accomplishments don’t get you eternal life. (3) So don’t focus on yourself and what you do, but spend time acknowledging Jesus Christ for his gift of grace, which leads us to eternal life.
God bless you and keep you. ~OS