We don't buy glasses – we buy vision.
We don't buy cars – we buy transportion.
We don't buy a newspaper – we buy information.
It isn't the product we want.
It is what the product will do for us.
Many are pursuing something, not because they want the "thing" itself,
but because they want what that "thing" will give them or do for them.
Many are pursuing wealth, purpose, love, for power.
Unfortunately, many are settling for substitutes.
They are content with cheap and dangerous imitations.
Instead of wealth, they grab money.
Instead of purpose, they settle for ambition.
Instead of love, they accept sex.
Instead of power, they go for clout.
No matter how appealing – the substitute never satisfies.
Imagine yourself adrift on the ocean and out of freshwater.
After many hours under the blazing sun, you look at that ocean of water surrounding the boat.
If only you could take a drink, but if you do – it will kill you!
Drinking salt water will dehydrate you, and you will die – it will kill you!
The human body needs water.
If we go too long without water, we develop a deep, driving, natural thirst.
But it is thirst for the real thing – pure water.
Salt water can never satisfy the thirst – it will kill us if we drink it.
Our only hope is pure water.
The same is true for our desire for wealth, purpose, love, and power.
There is nothing wrong with these things.
God has created us to value these things.
But He has also created us so that He, and He alone, can satisfy these desires.
True wealth, purpose, love, and power are gifts God wants to give us in Christ.
So, when we feel these longings, it is really God we want.
Today, many are adrift in life amid a sea of money, ambition, sex, and power (clout).
None of these things will satisfy our thirst.
Instead, they will dehydrate our souls.
These things will drive us to our death.
Our Only Hope Is The Water Of Life – Christ Himself!
As children of God we have spiritual treasures the world does not have and cannot recognize.
In a world of pain, frustration, and death, we can rejoice in sorrow –
love in the face of hate – and triumph in defeat.
There are many in our world who would say, "Those things don't sound very exciting.
I would rather have a truck-full of money, great opportunities, exciting love-life,
and personal power rather than any of that stuff."
We should understand that kind of thinking.
Those things look pretty good... for the moment.
Unfortunately, no matter how good they sound,
those things don't satisfy -- not completely, and not for very long.
Rich men and women have an empty longing in their souls that money cannot satisfy.
When the powerful retire, they are forgotten overnight.
Ask anyone in a nursing home or in an emergency room
how important sex, power, or ambition is to them.
If this life were all there is, we could say,
"Well, grab all you can while you can because in the end it all turns to ashes anyway.
Enjoy it while you can."
But this life is not all – it is just the introduction to eternity!
That changes everything.
Wealth, purpose, love, and power – these longings are very real.
But remember, these really are longings for immortality.
It is really God we seek!
It is heaven we long for!
We must not settle for substitutes!
C. S. Lewis: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling with drink and sex and ambition
when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum
because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea.
We are far too easily pleased."
People spend a fortune today trying to discover who they are.
This is true for us even as Christians.
We do not understand who we are and who we have become.
We do not see ourselves as God sees us.
Instead of accepting and comprehending who we have become in Christ,
we identify with the person we used to be.
So, we must be imprinted with the proper identity.
If not, we will be like the duck who thought he was a dog.
The dictionary defines imprinted as "a rapid learning process
that takes place early in the life of a social animal and establishes a behavior pattern
as a recognition of and attraction to its own kind or a substitute."
For example, ducks attach themselves to the first thing they see after they hatch.
Normally, this works just fine because the first thing they see is Momma Duck.
They attach themselves to her and begin thinking and acting just like her – which is fine!
They are like her.
They are ducks.
Occasionally, this early attachment backfires.
Like the duckling that hatched under the watchful eye of a collie dog.
The first thing the baby duck saw was the collie, and a bond was forged.
The duckling took one look at the collie and decided that it, too, was a collie.
It followed the dog around, ran to it for protection,
spent the hot part of the day under the porch with the dog, and slept with it at night.
After the duckling grew up it acted like a duck part of the time,
and yet, when a car pulled into the driveway, the duck would explode from wherever it happened to be,
quacking viciously and pecking at the tires.
After all – that was what the "other" dog did.
The duck had an identity problem.
It did not see itself as a duck – it saw itself as a collie dog.
That didn't change the fact that it was a duck.
So, sometimes it acted like a duck and sometimes it acted like a dog.
All of us suffer from a certain kind of imprinting: negative spiritual imprinting.
We have all grown up in a fallen world.
The world was the first thing we saw and we identified with it.
We became like it.
But when we are born again, we become children of God.
We are no longer what we were.
"If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away;
behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5: 17)
Too often, however, we don't see it that way.
As a result – we act like the world rather than like who we really are.
We are ducks acting like dogs.
We believe the right things and try to do the right things, but the imprint of the world is strong.
We forget our true identity.
Instead of swimming around in clear, blue lakes, bobbing for seaweed,
preening our feathers and laying eggs, we are quacking at cars or harassing the cat.
We must see ourselves as God sees us.
Fortunately, we are not permanently imprinted like the ducks – we can change.
God will change us.
He will change the willing mind and will work supernaturally within us to bring about that change.
We can begin to act more consistently with who we are.
How do we do this?
We must begin by seeing ourselves as God sees us.
The Book of Ephesians can help us.
This letter was addressed to ordinary Christians like you and me, but notice how
Paul addresses them.
He calls these ordinary Christians "saints":
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus,
and who are faithful in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 1: 1)
All Christians are saints in the biblical sense.
"Saint" comes from the Greek word, hagios,
which means "set apart for God."
It does not necessarily mean a saintly lifestyle such as that of Mother Teresa.
It simply means anyone who has become a Christian.
Anyone who has believed in and received Christ as his or her personal Savior.
So, if you are a Christian – if you have trusted in Christ and have committed your life to Him –
you are set apart for God. You are hagios.
You are a saint.
Everything that the Lord says to the Ephesian believers through Paul, He says to you.
So, what does Paul say to these Ephesian believers?
First, he uses a phrase that is particularly important.
It is so important that he uses it and related phrases twenty-seven times in this letter.
The phrase is "in Christ."
If we are going to understand how God sees us,
we must understand what it means to be "in Christ."
That's not always easy with our finite minds; so, an analogy might help.
For example, substitute the word "Congress" for "Christ".
If you were an American senator or a representative, you would say that you were "in Congress".
What would that mean?
Well, if you are "in Congress", you have been elected to that position.
All the power, privileges, and responsibilities of that position are yours.
You are a member of Congress.
You have a place there.
You were elected; so you deserve to be there.
When you walk into the congressional chambers, no one looks up in surprise.
Nobody says, "What are you doing here?"
Because you belong there.
To be "in Christ" means you belong in Christ.
All the power, privileges, and responsibilities of that position are yours.
You are a member of His body.
You have a place there.
You are accepted there.
You got there through the way that God required; so, you deserve to be there.
When you walk into heaven, no one will be surprised.
Nobody will say, "What are you doing here?"
Because you belong there.
It is your eternal home.
Since we are dealing with infinite things, let us move beyond this finite analogy.
Now – there is no mystery about Congress – except how they ever manage to get anything done.
There is something about the spiritual that is just a bit beyond our human understanding.
A member in Congress is secure only until the next election.
Being "in Christ" means that everything that is His is ours forever.
Just as He is holy and righteous, so we are holy and righteous in Him.
All His holiness, righteousness, goodness, glory, power, and wealth are ours!
"Whoa! Wait!" You say!
"There must be something wrong here.
I don't feel wholly, righteous, good, glorious, powerful, or wealthy.
In fact, just between you and me, I'm not always good.
I do some ugly things.
I hurt people at times with my critical tongue.
Sometimes, I know what I'm doing is wrong, but I do it anyway.
What you are saying may be true for other Christians, but it is not true for me.
There is something wrong with me."
One of the most common negative feelings among Christians is that:
"There must be something wrong with me... things work for others, but not for me."
But central to understanding what it means to be a saint –
central to overcoming the negative spiritual imprinting of the world
and reidentifying with who we really are – is this understanding -- we are in Christ.
That means that God sees us through Christ's righteousness.
He is satisfied with Christ.
He is satisfied with us because we are in Christ.
It is true that we must receive His salvation that comes through Jesus.
But after we have received His salvation, our security does not depend on who we are.
It depends on who He is.
We are secure in God's love because it is:
His will, not ours (1: 5)
His grace, not ours (1: 6-7)
His good pleasure, not ours (1: 9, NIV)
His purpose, not ours (1: 11)
His power, not ours (1: 12, 14)
His calling, not ours (1: 18)
His inheritance, not ours (1: 18)
His love, not ours (2: 4)
His workmanship, not ours (2: 10)
"But I don't deserve it," you say.
In a sense that is true. You don't!
In another sense, you do!
You don't have a right to it, and you don't deserve it because of any of your own actions.
But you have inherent worth... you and I were created in the image of God.
Jesus said, "Your soul is worth more than the whole world."
God sent Christ to die for our sins – yours – mine!
You and I do not earn salvation. We cannot earn it!
But we cried out: "Lord, save us!"
And He did!
Because of that we are "in Christ".
So, what Christ has, we have!
We are "fellow heirs" with Him. (Romans 8: 17)
He calls us brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2: 11)
What Christ possesses, we possess – an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled
and will not fade away, reserved for us in heaven. (1 Peter 1: 4)
God has "Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
(Ephesians 1: 3)
Are you saying at this point, "I don't feel all that blessed. I used to feel that way.
I thought that, as a Christian, I ought to have a continuous sense of being blessed...
but I wasn't even sure what those blessings were."
However, Paul did not leave that to our imagination.
He enumerated our spiritual blessings in Christ."
He chose us to be holy and blameless. (1: 4)
He predestined us to adoption. (1: 5)
He freely bestowed His grace on us. (1: 6)
He redeemed us and forgave our transgressions. (1: 7)
He gave us an inheritance. (1: 11)
To get a more personal sense of what this means to us,
we must say as personal affirmations.
I am chosen by God.
I am holy and blameless before Him.
I am adopted through His Son.
I am a recipient of His grace.
I am redeemed.
I am forgiven of all my sins.
I have been given an inheritance.
Our response -- what a fitting response to such overwhelming largeness?
First, a "thank you" would be in order.
Not just a onetime "thanks", but an ongoing attitude of gratitude.
"O give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad." (1 Chronicles 16: 8-10)
A second response is obedience.
Not grudging obedience.
Not obedience with gritted teeth, but with thankful hearts.
Everything God asks of us is for our good.
So, when we are tempted to be dishonest or unethical or immoral or lazy
or mean-spirited or divisive or selfish – God says, "Don't do it! It will only hurt you!"
Remember – who you are!
Remember – your identity!
You do not belong in the world anymore.
You are "in Christ."
God says, "Don't do these things. Not only for My sake, but for yours."
God would say to us that He hates sin because He loves us, and sin hurts us.
When we understand who we are, we begin acting like who we are – and not who we were.
When we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, we can enjoy sweet fellowship with God.
Certainly, there is still much to be done – responsibilities to be assumed
– reverence to be maintained.
But our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Not until we enjoy God, have we entered into the fullness of what He wants to give us "in Christ."
We must stop seeing ourselves as children of the world.
We are children of God!
We must begin seeing ourselves as God sees us.
We must enter into His joy.
We must enter into His glory.
Dare to accept what He is promising to give.
Dare to accept the riches that are ours because we are "in Christ."
The bank is open – the treasures of His blessings are there for all of us who are "in Christ."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White