A church building does not make up the church, the people in the church make up the church. Where we are, God is. There is no way we can be the church God’s called us to be if the people in the church aren’t being the church God’s called them to be. Because the church is not a building, it is not an activity, it is not an event that you attend. The church is people, the people of God coming together, anytime we come together and anytime we set our minds attention and our hearts affection on him we are having church, we are the church. The church starts when we get there.
If there was a message that needed to be repeated from now until Christ comes it would be the message of who you are with Christ. Your Identity in Christ.
90% of our issues comes from our identity issues not our behavioral issues. A lot of us have been trying to live for God through all the wrong places and all the wrong spaces in our lives; and all of our effort has produced a lot of frustration; a lot of us have made commitments to live harder and faster and better for God and you may fall short. A lot of you may have made commitments to pray longer and read more scripture and do better things and be nicer to our in-laws or elderly parents and be more selfless in the way you live your life, you’ve fallen short, so whether you’ve stayed outside the faith, whether you’ve fallen short in the faith or whether you’ve fallen away from the faith that you once had; the key issue for you is an identity issue. Because the Christian life is not so much about what God wants from you as what he wants for you, and if you never get that, you will run yourself trying to please a God who already loves you and can’t love you anymore than He does the moment you receive Jesus into your life.
Three things Christians are not:
1) God’s improvement projects.
(Ephesians 2:1-10) “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
This passage is about our identity in Christ! The bible makes it clear that ALL of us craved into the desires of our sinful nature.
You can’t understand how good it is inside the Christian faith until you understand how hopeless it was before the Christian faith. → Steven uses the example of the show Extreme Home Makeover. How the people would make improvements on the houses before and now they just tear the house down and rebuild the foundation. We are not God’s makeover, we are his start over, God has to start all over when he changes our lives. When we aren’t in Christ we are considered dead. A frequently asked question young people ask Steven is if it is ok to date a non-christian if you are a christian? His response is → In (Ephesians 2:1) it says “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” And that once you’re in Christ you’re made alive in him, so if he were you Steven says he would not date dead people. If you’re alive and their dead it probably will not work. How can you be with someone who’s so different from you? Different backgrounds, and make that thing work without a supernatural presence of God breathe life into that marriage or relationship?
Every evil desire that you have can be dealt with at the cross, and Jesus doesn’t want to dress you up and paint you up or hammer out a few dents in your life, he wants to start all over and rebuild the foundation and make you brand new!!
2) We Christians are just sinners saved by grace.
This statement is an insult to Jesus, that those of us who he has purchased by dying on the cross for our sins would ever call ourselves ‘just sinners saved by grace’ this isn’t all we are if we know Christ, that’s just the beginning of who we are, that’s just the starting point.
The New Testament calls Christians Saints 63 times!!
The reason why so many of us make promises to do more and try more and live better for God and it doesn’t work? It’s because we’re trying to be a sinner saved by grace and God has called you a saint and until you get the identity issues squared away your behavior modification won’t fix anything.
The bible calls you God’s workmanship, his creation, his child. That once you enter into a relationship with God you are God’s righteousness and God no longer sees your sin and he’s raised you to life, you can be a sinner saved by grace if you want to, but I’m going to be a saint.
3) Spiritual Schizophrenics.
There are some pastors who teach people that when they come to Christ they will have two natures inside of them fighting against each other for the rest of your life. But the Bible teaches that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Matthew 12:25 says God would never make you, his creation, a house divided against yourself. So what you have on the inside of you is a ‘good nature and a dead nature’ that old nature is gone the bible says. And your identity now is determined by your birth not your behavior.
You know why a lot of you’re friends don’t want to come to Christ? Because they're watching on the outside, and they don’t want to come inside because they can’t taste the joy and see the fulfillment and the purpose that belongs to the Christian when your identity is changed. The moment Christ comes into our life, our identity should change, we shouldn’t be the SAME!!
The moment your identity changes, your nature changes. You’re actions are different. Everything you say is different. God made us BRAND NEW, he started all over. Raised us up to life, its not our nature to do what we used to do. We all have issues, that might cause you to still have an old sinful nature running around somewhere, the NIV version of the Bible says the word ‘sinful nature’ in reference to Christians, that is not the correct word for what Christians have on the inside of them, the word is the greek word sarx, it means flesh. The flesh is the pattern and behavior that we have established in our life, that we still may fall back into during our moments of weakness and temptation. But that is NOT our nature, identity determines nature, my identity is determined by my birth. My identity is determined by who my father is, and what He calls me. As a Christian I have a new identity, I have a different picture, I have a new desire. My habits determine my behavior, my patterns determine my behaviour. My identity determines my nature, my patterns determine my behaviour. And the reason I don’t behave like I should behave is because of patterns not nature, and anytime I see sin in my life as a Christian it’s not simply a matter of behaviour, it’s a matter of my identity and my behaviour being misaligned.
This is core of who we are in Christ.
The father that you have in heaven is looking for everything you do right, and he’s proud of everything you do right. (2 Corinthians 5:17) “If you are in Christ Jesus you are a NEW creation. The old has gone the NEW has come.” Thats good news! Those of us who are in Christ have the life of God on the inside of us, and we’re a saint with the nature of Christ at the very core of our being.
4) Stopping what you love and starting what you hate.
Those questions that non-christians ask themselves before they come to Christ, “What will I do with all the parties I used to go to, and the ones I still want to attend? What would I do about...” Insert the desire and the tendency. A lot of people haven’t been taught about how big God’s wrecking ball is, or that when God invades a life, he builds a seven lane highway down the middle from His heart to yours, and gives us Psalm 37:4 desires. “Delight yourselves in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
When you want to sin, lust or say something about somebody that you would never say if it weren’t
for the fact that you wanted to make yourself feel better by saying something about them, thats not
really you. Christianity is not doing all of the things that you would like to do and doing dutifully all the
things that you have to do. Praying and reading your bible. But the core of your want to is to be like
Jesus, the core of your want to is to be changed and pure, if you’re in Him. There will still be
tendencies and residue of all the behaviour patterns that have been in our lives, the aftershock of all
of the things we taught ourselves to do independent from God. But the good news is you can have a
brand new start.