Bad breath, 100% organic bedhead, and incomplete sentences. These are some words I would use to describe my mornings.
Paul, author of much of the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, articulates his identity this way:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blamelessbefore him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…” Ephesians 1:3–8 (emphasis added)
Paul, writing to this church in Ephesus of new Christians, quickly launches into this prayer of praise.
Throughout the years I’ve continued to come back to these verses. One could spend months unpacking what just one of the emphasized words above mean (blessed, chosen, holy and blameless, loved, adopted, redeemed, forgiven).
Paul will say soon after that is by God’s grace, or unmerited favor, that we’ve been saved:
“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.” Ephesians 2:8–9
There are no words to respond accordingly once we consider our current condition. Deeper than the morning breath lies something even more horrendous: a heart bent towards sin (Rom. 3:10–18).
The Gospel, or the Good News, is that we can be restored into the relationship we were created to walk in. The Good News shows us the depths of the ugliness of our sin, and the heights of God’s love and mercy. This is ultimately displayed through God’s sending of his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life (without sin) and die the death that every sinner (anyone who has committed any rebellion against God’s perfect commands) deserves (2 Cor. 5:21).
This Gospel is powerful because by placing our faith, our deep trust, in Jesus as Lord of our life, we can be transferred from deserving the fullness of his wrath to experiencing all the benefits of being beloved son or daughter (Col. 1:13–14).
Though any believer in Christ will attest that they’re not now perfect, we know that by grace through faith in Christ, God sees us as perfect because he sees us in Christ (Col. 3:3–4).
This is the hope that believers in Christ have before their feet hit the ground in the morning. The Gospel is all about God taking the initiative and moving towards us (the guilty party) to reconcile the biggest conflict the world has ever seen.
It is only within the Gospel do we find the motivation and resources to pursue after the works and the righteous living God has called us to.
I love completing tasks. Sometimes I’ve created lists of things I’ve completed, just so I could mark them off.
Don’t judge me.
Culturally, I think that’s what America is largely about. We want to get stuff done. We’re all trying to meet the next deadline, the next project, the next whatever…
Most of the time I’m guilty of running this rat race, but not in tune with why I’m running or what I’m running for. Been there?
It’s easy for me to walk out of meetings, out of church, read through books, or even spend time in God’s Word, and walk away thinking…
“OK, I’ve got my list of things that I need to work on. I need to do better here… Need to stop doing this… Need to start doing this…”
Although this seems like the right way to approach anyone’s growth and development, it’s actually backwards.
Every action stems from the heart (Matt. 15:19), so we have to start there.
Practically, I have to be reminded not just daily, but throughout the day, what is true of me. I need to think on the answer to the question, “Who am I?”
That brings us back to the Ephesians passage we read above. Remember the words in bold? The Gospel says that I’m blessed, chosen, holy and blameless, forgiven, redeemed, adopted, and loved.
Even at my lowest, when I can’t seem to get anything right, and I’m wrestling with the motives of my heart and the sin in my life. Even at my highest, when I’m in a great season of seeing victory and joy doesn’t seem so elusive.
Paul, writing to another church, this time in Galatia, rebukes them in love because of the false teaching that is arising within their congregation.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3
God’s grace doesn’t just give us the faith to trust in him as Lord, it gives us the power through his Spirit to live out our righteous identity in Christ.
The motivation to live and pursue righteousness, Paul is saying, is because that is who we are already in Christ. Forgive the analogy, but it’s like a firefighter trying to fill one of your cavities. “What are you doing?! You’re a firefighter, not a dentist!”
In a similar way, for those who have placed their trust in Jesus as Lord of their life, we are in Christ. We are his children, holy and blameless, loved, forgiven, redeemed. We are to live as such, but even that is not fueled by our own self will, but by Jesus’ Spirit in us.
Practically in my own life, as I bring myself before the Word each morning, and reflect on who the Lord is (his unchanging character) and what he’s done for me, it stirs my heart in worship. I want to get to know him more. I want to pursue this God, who so continues to pursue me (even when I was actively rebelling against him and his commands).
This also means I have to check my motives throughout the day. Asking myself questions like, “Am I operating out of who I am in Christ? Or, out of another identity?” Only my identity in Christ will fully satisfy. Placing my hope and identity in anyone or anything else starts off a dwindling shot clock to my disappointment and frustration.
When I recognize that I am falling into this trap, by God’s power through his grace, I can run to him. Believers in Christ are forgiven of all past, present, and future sins. God has no wrath for me, Christ has taken that on himself fully (Rom. 8:1). I can confess to God my sin, and be reminded again of what he’s done for me through the Cross of Christ.
I invite you into this journey with me as we drive to work, talk with our friends, go to church, listen to music, etc. The Gospel reminds us of who we are in Christ, and the proper motivation and resources we need to live out of that identity.