Thursday, January 15, 2009

John 15:1-11

I joined a group on FaceBook the other day, SBCToday. It is a group of people who want to discuss "important" things going on in SBC life rather than some of the trivial or mean spirited things being discussed on some blogs. The creator of the group asked for ideas to be discussed so I gave him one. It has to do with discussing our "new" position in Christ. He liked the idea and asked me to write the discussion starter. The following is what I wrote. I can't take credit for the ideas I presented, the credit for that belongs to Bro. Herb Hodges, one of my mentors and friends. I did just preach a two message series entitled "What's New for a Christian" based on a study Bro. Herb wrote from John 15:1-11. I took his ideas, made them my own, and wrote from my heart. I hope you enjoy.

“Our Identity in Christ”
Michael Madaris

I have been apart of the SBC all my life, and one thing I have noticed is that there is, seemingly, a great emphasis placed on “position” within the convention. Men of all ages scramble for “position” within the political arena of the SBC. I have noticed this even more so in the last few years of ministry. “Young” ministers are demanding their place at “the table” of the SBC.

I was at a meeting yesterday, and a former pastor in Texas was leading the discussion. During our time together he gave us two questions to ponder; one of them being, “Who am I?” He said that answering this question is one of the most important things we, as Christians and ministers, have to answer. I believe he is right.

Is our identity found in what church we pastor? Is our identity found in what position we serve our great convention? I do not believe this is where we truly find our identity although many seem to think so. I believe we find our identity in a person and a relationship with that person.

One of the keywords of the Bible and of the Christian life is the word “new.” The Bible speaks of a new heart, a new spirit, a new creature, a new covenant, a new birth, a new man, a new life, a new Jerusalem, and many other wonderful new things. The Bible paints beautiful pictures of these new things to help the reader understand what God has for us. One of those beautiful pictures is found in John 15:1-11. In the passage the reader finds Jesus sharing with his disciples the dynamics of the relationship they are in together, and in clarifying the importance he uses the illustration of the relationship between a branch and a vine.

I will not discuss here the four “new” things Jesus presents to the believer in the text, but I do want to highlight the first “new” thing. It is the “new” position the Christ follower find himself in. Six times in the first seven verses, Jesus uses the phrase, “in Me,” to describe the new position of the Christian. Herb Hodges says, “Jesus uses the word ‘in’ about thirty times in chapters 14 and 15, and it reaches its pinnacle of use when he uses the preposition with the personal pronoun ‘Me.’” They are two small words, but when combined they become the resting place of the souls of men.

The phrase “in Me” is found throughout the New Testament. Over and over again Scripture tells us of our “new” position, in fact the Apostle Paul uses this phrase 164 times in his epistles. God is trying to get a point across. The believer is to find himself in his “new” position.

Every person on earth is seen by God in one of two positions according to I Corinthians 15:22. The only two possible positions a person can be found are in Adam or in Christ. And no person can be in both positions. It is an either or proposition, and both carry extreme consequences. Herb Hodges states, “To be ‘in Adam’ means that you fell into sin when Adam fell into sin, you became lost when Adam became lost, and came under the judgment of God when Adam did. It is a matter of position.” Scripture goes on to allow us to examine what is entailed in the “new” position of being “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1; II Cor. 5:17).

The world has a standard of success. It is, seemingly, found in the clothes one wears, in the house one lives in, in the car one drives, in the place one vacations, in the salary one is paid, and so many other things. There are some within our convention who believe that to be successful you must lead a large congregation, to be respected you must serve as a trustee of some board, and the list goes on. But are these things the measure by which godly success is determined? Are these the things that are held in high esteem by our “Commander-in-Chief,” by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? I believe the answer is an overwhelming no from the throne of grace and from the pages of Scripture. Faithfulness and obedience, relationship, service and humility are the elements of success in the kingdom of God.

How does one come to be successful according to the standard of Christ? There are two significant answers in my opinion: 1) answer the question “Who am I in Christ?” and 2) obey the command of Christ in John 15:4 which says “Abide in Me…”

There is so much talk today about bringing reconciliation to the SBC, but I do not believe it will happen as long as those who make up the SBC try to “find themselves” in any other place than in Christ.

1 comment:

Michael and Kristi Rains said...

Amen Brother!
Excellent post. As a "missionary" to a foreign country, I find myself in uncomfortable situations, relating to position, many times. These typically come from churches or believers from the U.S. when we are held up as saints on a different level. We are normal people, with normal struggles, that are following God's call. I see myself as no different than anyone in the U.S. that is following God's call, rather that be a pastor of a large church, a farmer that teaches Sunday School, or a grandmother whose prayers can move mountains. I believe that God's favor is much more for my wife's retired grandfather that pastored a small country church with all his heart (with no pay) than anyone that strives for what the world says is successful. Not that being in the spot light is bad, but, it is just as you said, what is their focus and in what (or whom) do they find their position.