GROW, Our 2024 Focus
Identity. What a loaded topic this has become in the last decade. With all the attention given to “understand” our identity, one would expect that we, as a culture, had learned something. But the sad reality is that we haven’t. How do I know that we have not learned from the exorbitant attention given to identity by our media, the music industry, government agencies, advertisement, and the public school system, and pop-culture? It is evidenced by not only the gender confusion being produced, but also by more subtle observations such as how people have become nearly obsessed with labeling themselves with logos, flags, tattoos, clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, and music. This is an attempt to find and secure identity in things, celebrities, sexuality, and brands. It is sad to watch as people created in the image of God seek meaning in everything but God. This is condition of lost humankind.
In the Epistle to the church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul expounds some of the great truths of Christian identity. We learn in chapter one that our identity as believers in Jesus Christ is secured by God’s choice in eternity past (1:3-6). We rejoice in the identity we’ve been given by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (2:1-9). Our identity is not just in eternity but it is also here and now as we live (2:10) so that our new identity in Jesus comes with a new purpose for life - good works.
But that’s not all, not by a long shot! Our new found position in our Lord Jesus Christ includes new relationships, new foundation for life, and a new purpose for existence!
As the Church of Jesus Christ, Scripture says we are…
Fellow Citizens with All the Saints
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (Ephesians 2:19, ESV)
To understand the import of this truth about us, we must look back to the context of chapter two. After expounding the matchless grace of God displayed by the Father in verses 1-10, Paul reminds them of the new relationship these gentile believers now have because of their trust in Jesus Christ. He does this by first recounting what they were before expounding what Christ has now made them. He says:
- We were separated from Christ (v. 11-12).
- We were alienated from Israel.
- We were estranged from the covenants and promises.
- We were without hope and without God.
Through the death of Christ, where he shed His blood, Christians were brought near to God and into the covenant family of God as saints (2:13-18). This is the gospel. In 2024 let’s make much of the gospel both in our fellowship and in our evangelism.
Founded upon the Apostolic Word with Christ as the Cornerstone).
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, (Ephesians 2:20, ESV)
This new identity, we’ve been given in Christ, was purchased by Him for us upon the cross. In keeping with our redeemed identity, we have new guide, a source of truth and reality that may be new to us but is by no means new itself. What is that? It is the Scripture of the holy Apostles and Prophets of God. This Word is now our foundation and it all squares with Jesus Christ Himself as the cornerstone. By this truth Christians grow into their new identity (Romans 12:1-2) being transformed by God Himself by means of the Word and the Spirit. Paul says that anyone who refuses this Word from God is puffed up with pride and arrogance (1 Timothy 6:2b-5; 2 Timothy 3:10-17) because they are pushing against God’s authority, not man’s. So in 2024 let’s make sure our fellowship is built on the Word and Christ.
A Fortress of Faith Growing Inward & Upward in Worship to God
In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:21-22, ESV)
What is the endgame? The big picture? Again, we look to the Scriptures for our answers and for our identity. In verses 21 and 22 of the above Scripture we see where the Father is going with all of this. He, as Jesus remarks in St. John 4:24, is building for Himself a holy temple for worship. The Father is constructing through those whom He redeems a great cathedral of praise, not of brick and mortar but of flesh, blood, and sprits of mean and women reconciled to Him through the blood of His Son’s cross (Ephesians 4:13; 2 Peter 2:1-12). So as we move through 2024 let’s make sure we keep the Big Picture in view.
As Christ’s flock let’s embark upon the adventures of 2024 by laying aside the weight that hinders, and run our race with fidelity and fervor, for the prize is Christ and His Kingdom. We are saints, together in Christ. We are called to be the church by the powerful Word of God in Christ. We are growing inward in our love for one another and upward in our love for God!
Love you all in Christ,