This past Sunday I preached from Ephesians 4:17-32 on how we are to live in our new life in Christ. God really met us and ministered to us throughout our worship gathering. I am so grateful for the band, the other leaders and all of you who make our Sunday worship gatherings so incredibly powerful.
The only question I got texted in to me about the sermon was someone asking what was the end to my story about showing up to a formal cocktail party in a tank top and wet bathing suit. It wouldn’t have really helped to illustrate my point about how God clothes us in Christ when we are in shame, but… the end of the story is that I did stay at the party and ended up making such a good impression on the host that I was offered a job by the end of the night. There’s probably some kind of illustration in that ending about how God can turn our failures into triumph, but I’ll have to save that for later…
I didn’t get this question, but it was one of the major questions I had as I studied this text: why does Paul write in vs. 20 that “this is not how you have learned Christ?” How can you learn a person? I expected Paul to write, “This is not what you have learned about Christ,” or “This is not what you have learned in Christ.” What is going on here?
I didn’t draw our attention to this for very long, so you might have missed the significance of it. By not using a preposition (shout out for grammar!), Paul is again drawing our attention to the unity that we have with Christ. We don’t learn a set of facts about Jesus. No, we learn Jesus in that as we place our faith in Him he comes into us and we come into him. Learning Christ is the experience of our unity with Him.
I think these two paragraphs, from an excellent book called Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne, capture the power of this. Mr. Wilbourne writes,
You are in Christ. When you feel defeated and ensnared, like you are never going to get over this particular sin, habit, or hangup; when the enemy accuses you, and your heart tells you to retreat in shame, you can rehearse and remember, “I am in Christ. I am one for whom He died.” The work of Christ sets you free from sin’s penalty. So rather than turning away from God, you can turn towards Christ precisely when you might feel tempted to hide from Him. You can boldly approach His throne with confidence because you remember you are completely covered by Christ’ righteousness. Only those who believe can obey.
Christ is in you. You are not left with your own resources. The obedient, powerful, merciful Jesus dwells within you. Christ in you is greater than anything that threatens you. (1 John 4:4). The person of Christ sets you free from sin’s power. When it feels as though you are drowning in a sea of trouble, you don’t have to medicate your feelings or reach for solutions that might temporarily relieve, but ultimately destroy you. You can choose instead to draw on Christ’ strength, and you will find that you are strengthened. You can take one step, even in the dark. You can make one new choice. You can hold on for one more minute. Only those who obey can believe.