Chapter One"I AM" IN CHRIST
"It sounds like this is all about you and not about God, Drew."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're concentrating so hard on doing the right things
that your attention is out of focus."
"You mean I shouldn't do anything about my temptations?"
"No, all I'm saying is: Focus on Him, not on the problems."
I have two teenage daughters. Almost every day, as they were growing
up, I would tell them certain things that I never wanted them to forget.
When they went to bed at night, when they left to go to school each
day, when they went away for the weekend, I would always say:
"Remember whose you are."
One day a friend overheard me. He said, "Don't you mean rememberwho you are?"
"No," I replied. "I know that they will have to learn about who they
are. But I want them to know whose they are-that they belong to God
and to me."
When a person trusts Christ for salvation, the Bible says many
things happen to that person besides receiving eternal life. One of
those things is becoming part of God's family. If you thought that all
people who are created are all God's children, you were wrong. They are
all God's creation, but not necessarily His children. Think about it. John
1:12-13 says, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his
name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born
not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but
born of God." Paul kind of says the same thing in Galatians 3:26, stating
that we are "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
Only the person who trusts in Jesus is a child of God. The apostle Paul
refers to it as being in Christ. Being God's child brings great responsibilities
but it also provides great privileges. Most of the time we hear only about
the responsibilities, and these often come with a list of things we have to
do because we wear Christ's name. Now don't get this wrong; those responsibilities
are important, and we'll talk about them later in this chapter. But if
we hear only about the responsibilities, we can become discouraged.
There are privileges too. When I told my daughters to remember
whose they were, I wasn't just reminding them to watch their behavior.
I was also encouraging them to enjoy their family life.
So now that you're clear about whose you are, are you ready to get
more specific about your own privileges and responsibilities? Let's jump in
by looking at three implications of being in Christ. The first two focus on the
privileges, and the third one focuses on the responsibility. I've come up with
three words to help you remember: Ownership, Sonship, and Partnership.
WHOSE I AM IMPLIES OWNERSHIP
How well I remember the day when each of my daughters was born!
Those two days are riveted into my memory forever. Years later, I recall
thinking, These two precious, wonderful, beautiful girls . belong to me!
The more I thought about it, the more profound the idea became. I
started to think that someday they would get married and change their
names. But that didn't make them any less mine. They have my DNA.
My genetic code is written through them, and no matter what, they
would always belong to me. They could do nothing to change that.
That's exactly what it's like when you belong to God. Ownership
means you belong to Him forever. Stop and think about that for a
minute. If you are a Christian you belong to the God of the universe,
the God who just speaks and things suddenly exist, who holds all things
in the palm of His hand. He's the almighty, all-knowing, all-being God.
He owns you. How cool is that?
Here's how it works. At one point, sin owned you, because you
were born in sin. The book of Romans tells us that because of Adam
and Eve's sin, a sinful nature was passed on from generation to generation.
Carefully study the verses below to see how this generational
problem unfolded . and then was solved through Christ.
You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma
we're in-first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either
sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything
and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not
clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this
huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape
from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn't sin precisely as
Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had
to experience this termination of life, this separation from God.
But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One
who will get us out of it.
Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing
sin. If one man's sin put crowds of people at the dead-end
abyss of separation from God, just think what God's gift
poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There's no comparison
between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving
gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence;
the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful
life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man's
wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life
makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this
wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right,
that the one man Jesus Christ provides?
Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and
got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did
it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of
trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put
many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put
many in the right. (Romans 5:12-19, MSG)
As you can see, along with the sin nature came death, making you
dead . in sin. That means you were in sin-dead (owned by sin). The
only solution to becoming alive is to be in Christ. Christ has to become
So He bought you: "You are not your own; you were bought at a
price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
What a great price was paid to buy you-the blood of Christ!
Consequently, this means you are incredibly valued by God. He thinks
that you are so valuable that He bought you by dying for you.
Ownership means you are highly treasured-esteemed, cherished,
So many times I run into Christian high school students who think
they are worthless. Satan wants you to believe that lie. You are not
worthless; Jesus Christ bought you, and He paid the highest price He
could to own you. You may not be worthy of that price, but you certainly
are far from worthless.
Being bought and owned by Christ is what theologians call the act
of redemption. Redemption doesn't just mean you were purchased. It also
implies that you were bought and then remade, new and improved.
When you are in Christ, you are continuously made into a brand-new
person. The old things, the old attitudes, habits, and behaviors of your
sinful nature, keep on passing away or dying out. That new person God
is making you into keeps on becoming new, stronger, more dominant.
As Paul put it: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has
gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the new keeps
coming! I know this is a hard concept to grasp, but think of it like this.
There is never an old; when God redeems, He only keeps making you
new. You are not the same person you were a second ago because that
person was changed into a new person.
God also reminds you that He is the one doing all the work, not
you. Because He owns you, He does the work of perfecting you and
maturing you. All of this reminds me of a conversation I once had with
a guy named Drew.
Drew was a typical high school student who believed that God had
saved him, but that he (Drew) had to work hard to prove that he was
saved. Every time he messed up, he would get discouraged. One day I
confronted Drew about his thinking patterns.
"You know, it sounds like this is all about you and not about God,
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it sounds as if you're concentrating so hard on doing the right
things that your attention is not on the God who really is in control of
your life. You are trusting in your own power to overcome some problem
instead of trusting in the Lord to make you new. You're focusing
more on the problems and on changing rather than on the God who
can control the problems and is already changing you."
"Does that mean that I just shouldn't do anything about my temptations?"
"No, it means remembering that God started a great work in you
and that He will complete that great work like Philippians 1:6 says. He
started the work and He completes it. All I'm saying is: Focus on Him, not
on the problems."
God owns you and values you. And because He owns you, He is
making you new all the time. What a relief, right?
WHOSE I AM IMPLIES SONSHIP
One day an important man came to Jesus. He didn't want anyone to see
him because he was a religious leader and teacher. He was expected to
have all the answers about the spiritual life. So he came at night, when
there were no crowds around Jesus, to find out: Is there a guaranteed way
that I can be a part of the kingdom of God?
Jesus answered Nicodemus's question by telling him that he needed
to be born again. Well, you can imagine a grown man's reaction to that!
Nicodemus had never heard such a thing before. He never read about
rebirthing in any of the sacred writings. None of the prophets ever
mentioned it, and Moses never wrote about it in the Law. What did
Nicodemus truly wanted to be part of the kingdom of God; he didn't
get it when Jesus started to talk about being a part of the family of God.
But Jesus was telling Nicodemus that, as a family member, you're already
in the kingdom. He explained to Nicodemus that he needed to be born
spiritually into God's family. (You can read this entire story in John 3.)
Jesus talked about something the religious group had never heard.
He was introducing them, and us, to the fact that we get the distinct
privilege of becoming God's children. That's sonship. That carries a lot
The apostles John and Paul help us understand this more clearly.
They knew what it was to be a part of God's family. John says that
because we are called the sons of God this shows that God is pouring
His great love on us (see 1 John 3:1). It's a love that can never separate
us from God, according to Paul:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or
hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or
sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered
as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither
death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor
the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love
of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Think about it! Because you have sonship in God's family, He loves
you with a great love from which you can never be separated. That love
is so enormous that you can't even wrap your mind around it. It is limitless;
it never has any conditions; it can never be changed, affected, or
taken away. This means nothing you can do will ever even dent or put
a ripple in God's love for you. Fill in the blanks:
But what if I did ________________________________?
But what if I said ________________________________?
But what if I thought ____________________________?
But what if I went ______________________________?
But what if I tried ______________________________?
But what if I __________________________________?
No matter what you put in those blanks . God would still
On the other hand, Satan wants you to think that you can screw
things up when it comes to God's love for you. He wants you to believe
that God will love you less if you mess up. That's not true. In the
Romans 8 passage that you just read, Paul supplies a list of categories
that includes just about everything bad that you can think of (plus, he
adds anything that you can't think of that would be created), and he says
that because of your sonship, none of these things can separate you from
God's love. He will never not love you; you're His kid. That also means
He will never love someone else more than He loves you.
The other side of Satan's lie is that, while God will love you, He
will love others more than you. While my wife was pregnant with our
second baby, I remember worrying that I might not love this new child
as much as I love my first child. I loved my first daughter so much that
I didn't think I had the capacity to love another child to the same
degree. We have this idea that there is only so much love in us, and that
when it's used up, well . it's used up. How ridiculous! I learned fast
that my capacity to love was far, far greater than I had thought. My second
daughter was born, and I loved her instantly and equally as much.
And the amazing thing is that my love for both of them keeps growing
and growing. Now, if I am a limited man, and I can love my children
like that, how much more can an unlimited God love His children?
You see, God doesn't love others more than you. You don't have to
compete for His love. And you don't have to earn it! We think that we
can get more of God's love if only we were better in our behavior.
There's Satan's lie again. You are God's child. That sonship means you
are the receiver of His great love. It is an unlimited love that you can't
alter by doing bad things or good things. You get it all.
So, should I just kick back and enjoy that love? No. There's a little
matter of expressing some gratitude. Being God's child and getting all
this love makes me feel very free and it makes me want to do things for
God. God's love motivates me to do good things because I'm so thankful
to Him. As a matter of fact, Paul felt the same thing. He said that it
is the love of Christ that controls him (2 Corinthians 5:14). Christ's
love, demonstrated by His death for me, is the motivation for me to
live for Him. His love drives, or compels, me to want to please Him.
I hope you're getting this. I hope you feel that freedom and motivation,
too, because it comes with the territory of being God's child.