Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence in the Greek. After His usual greetings of a biblical letter, Paul opens up this epistle with an overwhelming statement captivated by the sheer greatness, immensity, size, and sweetness of God’s. As Paul shares this goodness of God he doesn’t even pause to take a breath. He writes in a state of controlled ecstasy. And at the heart of his elation is the idea of our “union with Christ.” We have been blessed, he writes, “in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (1:3): we’ve been chosen (v. 4), graced (v. 6), redeemed (v. 7), reconciled (v. 10), destined (v. 11), and sealed forever (v. 13). Paul says everything we need and long for, we already possess if we are in Christ. He has already sweepingly secured all that our hearts deeply crave.
We no longer need to rely on our self-made position, promotion, power, prosperity, pleasure, or popularity that we’ve so desperately pursued for so long. Based on Ephesians we should seek to come to a deeper understanding of what we are positionally because of who we are in Jesus.
I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain qualities and attitudes I was lacking. You know I looked at a “good Christian” and I simply mimicked their “good life”. If I really wanted to mature in Jesus, I needed to live with more joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc. While these are the fruits of a godly individual, my problem was that I was putting the cart before the horse. Consider these thoughts from Tullian Tchividjian:
“I came to the shattering realization that pursuing these character qualities as a primary means isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation, but Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an Advocate, Mediator, and Friend. But what we need most is a Substitute. Someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.
The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of me and my performance and more of Jesus and his performance for me. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my effort over God’s effort for me makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
You could state it this way: Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification–receiving Christ’s words, “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, into our rebellious regions of unbelief. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.
One reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we are cleansed from our sins. In other words, ongoing failure in sanctification (the slow process of change into Christlikeness) is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel. If we lack the comfort and assurance that his love and cleansing are meant to supply, our failures will handcuff us to yesterday’s sins, and we won’t have faith or courage to fight against them or the love for God that’s meant to empower this war. If we fail to remember our justification, redemption, and reconciliation, we’ll struggle in our sanctification.
Christian growth, in other words, does not happen first by behaving better, but believing better–believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners.
Preach that to yourself everyday, and you’ll increasingly experience the scandalous freedom that Jesus paid so dearly to secure for you.”