Sept 19 Sermon Synopsis — Identity in Christ

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The video from this sermon can be found here:

The text for the day was Galatians 2:15-21. In this text, Paul stresses the utter importance of faith in Christ. We are not justified by adherence to the law (to certain rules), but rather, identification with Christ’s crucifixion. And once we experience that salvation, our lives are lived for him as he lives in us. I highlighted these two important points from Paul’s argument:

FIRST, we are justified by who God is and what God has done rather than by who we are and what we have done. I accentuated this point by using this graphic that’s been floating around social media in recent days:

The false gospel starts with us and what we do: I adhere to the law >> which makes me a law-keeper >> God rewards law-keepers >> God is cosmic gumball machine designed to reward me. The true gospel starts with God and who God is: God is love >> God loves all creation, including us >> I am a beloved child of God >> I live a life in which I love God, self, and others. The difference is subtle but profound.

SECOND, Paul highlights a tremendous mystery—that we don’t die to the law, but die to Christ and in so doing, we take on a whole new identity in which we live in Christ and Christ in us. I showed how this language shows up in other parts of the New Testament: Colossians 1:27-28 (27-Christ in you, 28-You in Christ), Colossians 2:6 (you in Christ), Ephesians 3:17 (Christ in you), Romans 8:1 (you in Christ), John 14:20 (you in me, and I in you). It’s a great mystery how all this works, but it’s part of the core identity of anyone who accepts the saving grace offered in Jesus. We are in Christ and he is in us.

Taken together, these two important points from Galatians 2 have huge implications for the way we think about relationships by God’s design (our sermon series theme). In the sermon, I made mention of THREE of those implications: (starting here)

  1. Implications for what’s meant by identity — Christians assume that identity is driven by external forces; namely, God in Christ. This stands in direct contrast to many assumptions within our late-modern, Western culture. In that schema, we search within ourselves to find the truest version of our selves. Yet, Christians affirm that what’s in us is inherently depraved and thus, we also affirm that we don’t find our true selves simply by searching within, but actually have our true selves defined by something outside of us; namely, God. Our identity is something we are caught up into. We are caught up into Christ and we are caught up into His body. As Barth wrote, “what I am, I am in relation to God.” My primary identity is not as married, divorced, single. Nor is it driven by whom I am attracted to. And as Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
  2. A great rebuke to legalistic ways of living (starting here) — part of the point here in Galatians is that we’re not justified by works, and yet, we often set up systems of Christian sexual morals in which our justification comes from adhering to certain rules. I cited a great example: 90s purity culture (driven by this book and this book). The rules were presented as a sort of “law“ by which you could please God or earn favor from God. This sort of legalism has all sorts of negative consequences; most notably, it leads to shame and a consistent sense of insecurity/fear. Yet, the gospel frees us to live a different way. When we are in Christ, we adhere to various principles because of, not so that. That change in perspective has the power to change everything. (and if you want a book that pushes back against purity culture, try Talking Back to Purity Culture)
  3. Lastly, this has profound implications for the way we treat those who are not yet in Christ (starting here) — We cannot expect others to behave by Christian moral standards if they have not yet met Christ. i.e., the goal is not to get them to obey God’s rules so that they please God. We believe in salvation by faith alone. Thus, the Bible doesn’t teach “salvation by sexual ethics through faith in Jesus Christ.” It is simply salvation by faith in Christ.

When we think about Paul’s message through Galatians 2, there are many implications for relationships, not just these three.

Questions for Further Reflection

(1) As best you can, retrace Paul’s argument in Galatians 2 about being justified by faith in Christ instead of the works of the law. Make sure you understand his reasoning. Can you provide your own examples of how each side of the “gospel ladder” works?

(2) In the sermon, Pastor Drew highlighted three implications for relationships. What would you add to his list? What other implications can you think of?

(3) A LOT of people seemed to resonate with his comments about legalism and purity culture. What’s your testimony around that? How as it a positive influence on you or your children? How did it have unintended negative consequences? For starters, here’s one testimony Drew received:

A number of years ago, in marriage counseling, I learned a valuable lesson! The counselor asked, “In an Alcoholic home or a Teetotaler home, what is the center of attention? (Alcohol) The same can be used for any legalistic regimen." In my home the center of attention was sex. Not only were you to abstain from sex until marriage, but the message was also that all sexual desire was a curse that would destroy your relationship with God. How confusing! I was made in the image of God, but was cursed at the same time. We got married at a far too young an age so we could have sex. I wish somebody would have taught that marriage is not having sex but rather a relationship that is beautiful and has the power to reflect our relationship with God (Eph. 5). We went through a dark canyon before learning that. At one point, I was ready to throw in the towel. Thank God, we were given a Christian Mentor/Psychologist that gave us the tools to put things back together. And such an amazing spouse who stuck it out with me. Are we perfect? NO, but we are journeying together. My point is we can make anything an Idol that seeks God’s favor. Just like Alcohol is the center of a Teetotaling/Alcoholic family, Sex becomes the center of the legalistic Abstinence/Promiscuous family. 

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