Summary: We all have an image of ourselves and how we think others see us. When you become a disciple of Jesus, the most important vision of yourself is how God sees you. Here are just a few images of you.
In my last post, I concluded teaching in our Christian Perspectives miniseries by talking about vengeance and forgiveness. In this post, we start a new miniseries and described images of the Church and the disciple of Jesus.
We can add people to our family through system called adoption. It only has legal consequences, which is one of the drawbacks of our system. A person can be adopted into a family but still feel like he or she is not a part of it. Siblings are other family members may treat an adoptee with disdain.
No system is perfect except for the system God puts in place when you become a follower of Jesus. Even though Paul and others tried to describe this relationship, it cannot be fully realized with any of these images they use. However, these images are helpful for us to understand exactly what has happened to us.
The New Testament is full of images of how your relationship with God has changed because of Jesus’s sacrifice. By accepting His sacrifice on your behalf on the Cross, and entering into a relationship of growth and fellowship with Him, your status and who you are at the very core has completely changed.
I say you have a change in status, but you also have a change in your person. Jesus makes us new creatures in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your change in status involves how God sees you, and you may be surprised to see how many of them are personal and family statuses He gives you. He also changes you from the inside out, and there are images for that too. Let’s get started.
God’s Descriptions of You
These biblical images only scratch the surface of everything Jesus has done in you. People can take entire classes on their identity in Christ, realizing who they are in Him and what all that means. Suffice it to say, a pastor giving an altar call can only tell you so much in one shot.
If you have never studied your identity in Christ, I suggest you either begin your own study or find a group of people discovering who they are in Christ. What do these images reveal about how God feels about you? He created each of us to love us and for us to love Him and worship Him of our own free will.
As you go through this post and see all these images, thank Jesus for all He has done for you. It is because of Him that you have a reconciled relationship and can experience His love firsthand. God loves all of us because we are His creation, but those who do not know Him personally do not realize the truth of who He has made them to be.
Does how Jesus see you look very different from how you see yourself? I will begin with the personal images for each disciple and then finish with corporate ones for the whole body of Christ. This is just a glimpse into how God sees you.
Hostile Enemy Turned Family Member
When you come to Jesus, your status as an enemy of God changes. Paul describes this change in Ephesians 2:11-19 as a change from a hostile enemy and a person outside of the realm of God’s people to a person who is at peace with God’s people and a member of them.
He describes us as separated from Christ, aliens of the commonwealth of Israel (God’s people on earth) strangers to God’s covenant and promises, and without God and hope in the world. That is one bleak image for us to consider! Jesus made peace between Gentiles and Jews in His sacrifice. You are now exactly the opposite of those things.
You have hope in Christ, are one with Him and His people, and have become one of His people. There is no longer any hostility between us and God or His people. We are fellow citizens with the people of God, the Church.
Child of God
One of the most striking images of your new status and person in Jesus is that you are now a child of God (John 1:12-13). God chose to make you His child. Family relationships are at the core of your identity in Jesus. It is how God chooses to reveal Himself (God the Father, God the Son). This is one of the most understood images of becoming a Christian because of its earthly example.
Just to be clear, not every human being that walks the earth is a child of God. The Bible tells us we all bear God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). But you’re not a child of God until He makes you one of His children as part of becoming a believer and follower of Jesus. This is one of the phrases politicians latch onto, but when they say it, they misunderstand biblical truth. You have a privileged place as a child of God in His family.
Citizen of Heaven
Because you are now part of God’s family, you have full access into His presence and His grace (Romans 5:2). Part of your inheritance in Jesus is that you are a citizen of heaven and walk with Him (Philippians 3:20). Tied into your citizenship in heaven is the hope you have in Jesus to return for you at His second coming. We have hope for the future because of Jesus.
I return to Ephesians 2 because Paul has said that we are no longer strangers and aliens but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19). As such, we do not look to the things of this world but focus on that eternal citizenship.
Like Abraham, we look forward to the city with foundations built by God, which we will talk about toward the end of this teaching (Hebrews 11:10). Never forget that this world is not your home, your final destination.
Friend of Jesus
Jesus told the disciples in the Upper Room on the final night of His life that He no longer calls them servants but friends because they know what He is doing (John 15:13-15). We are also friends of Jesus, which is extraordinary when you realize that in the Old Testament the only man called a friend of God was Abraham (James 2:23), and Moses spoke with God face-to-face (Exodus 33:11).
You have a privileged place before God. He listens to you when you pray and speak to Him. He wants to be part of your life. He knows you better than you know yourself. He’s thoroughly interested in everything going on with you. Enjoy this privileged relationship.
A Holy Temple
When you commit your life to Jesus, the Spirit comes to dwell within you. There’s a long history of temples in the Bible beginning with the tabernacle in the wilderness. God allowed David to prepare for the building of a temple in Jerusalem for Him to dwell in, one that his son Solomon built.
All of these are patterns and earth the shadows of the heavenly, or celestial, temple. But the greatest temple God has made is through the new covenant where you become a temple for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). This is a great responsibility, and you must live a holy life of obedience to the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.
Disciple of Jesus
You are also a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is a person who learns from the Master all His teachings and puts them into practice in his or her own life. That is what you are doing now as we study spiritual formation together.
I want to move on to some of the corporate images God uses to describe us together. Throughout the New Testament, especially in the letters, Paul and the other writers of the New Testament address the Christians in the cities the letters are written to. They are called saints, which is the plural form of the word for holy in the New Testament. You are a holy one for God. You practice holiness and live with a different standard than the world.
It annoys me as a pastor when people quote that phrase, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” I would love to get everyone’s saying instead, “I was a sinner, now I’m saved by God’s grace.” It wouldn’t hurt to add “And I live a holy life with the help of the Holy Spirit to please my Lord.” I know, not very catchy. But I think we things to lowly of ourselves and leave room for sin to creep back into our lives with this statement.
Brothers and Sisters
We are together brothers and sisters in Jesus. Jesus is our big Brother, if you want if you Him that way. Because were part of the family of God, and the body of Christ is God’s family either invisible (saints already in heaven) or visible (the local body of Christ and other bodies still on this earth), we are related to one another in a spiritual family.
Living Stones and God’s Holy Building
Peter describes the Church and all its members as living stones like Jesus, the precious Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:1-10). As stones, we are all being built up together into a holy building, a holy temple for God. Ephesians 2:20-22 has some of the same imagery of this holy building for God. The Church is not only the body of Christ but the building in which His Spirit dwells. We are collectively the temple of God, just as each of us are temples for the Holy Spirit individually.
The New Jerusalem
In Ephesians, Paul describes in a couple places us as “seated with Christ in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:20; 2:6). It looks forward to our eternal inheritance with Jesus. At the end of the Bible and the book of Revelation, John describes believers as both dwelling in the New Jerusalem and the city of the New Jerusalem as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2-3, 9-23).
It may be strange to you, especially if you are a guy, that you are the bride of Christ (imagery of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb) but you are. We will live in a city that is like Jerusalem, God’s holy city, for eternity. But we are also the building God’s building for Himself as the New Jerusalem, adorned with beauty for Jesus forever.
Which one of these images has resonated with you? Do any of them surprise you? Take a moment to ponder in more detail who you are in Jesus and thank Him for saving you and bringing you into your true reality.
The Bible describes disciples of Jesus in so many ways. Next, let’s look at the importance of unity in the Spirit in the body of Christ.