Day 265

Understand Your Identity

Wisdom Psalm 109:21-31
New Testament Ephesians 1:1-23
Old Testament Isaiah 51:17-54:17

Introduction

Have you ever felt like a failure, or of no use to God, or thought that God wouldn’t want to answer your prayers?

Until I first read Colin Urquhart’s book, In Christ Jesus, I had never realised how significant that little word ‘in’ is in the New Testament. Understanding that, as a Christian, you are ‘in’ Christ Jesus revolutionises how you see yourself, your self-image, your identity and how you understand your value to God.

Write your name on a piece of paper. Take hold of your Bible to represent Christ. Place the paper in the book and close it. You are in Christ. Where the book goes you go. Where the paper goes he goes. You are not part of the book, but you are now identified totally with the book.

Paul uses this expression, ‘in Christ Jesus’, over and over again. God has taken hold of you and placed you in Christ. In Christ, you have received ‘every spiritual blessing’ (Ephesians 1:3). All of the blessings, including those that the Old Testament speaks about, are yours in Christ.

Wisdom

Psalm 109:21-31

21 But you, Sovereign Lord,
   help me for your name’s sake;
   out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
   and my heart is wounded within me.
23 I fade away like an evening shadow;
   I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees give way from fasting;
   my body is thin and gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
   when they see me, they shake their heads.

26 Help me, Lord my God;
   save me according to your unfailing love.
27 Let them know that it is your hand,
   that you, Lord, have done it.
28 While they curse, may you bless;
   may those who attack me be put to shame,
   but may your servant rejoice.
29 May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
   and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord;
   in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
   to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

Commentary

The blessings of God’s love and healing

You will bless,’ writes David (v.28). All of God’s blessings flow out of his love for you: ‘out of the goodness of your love’ (v.21; Ephesians 1:4,5,11; Isaiah 54:10). God’s love supports you and helps you to stand, even when others ‘scorn’ and ‘curse’ you (Psalm 109:25–26). He stands at your ‘right hand’ (v.31a).

God saves our lives (v.31b, Isaiah 52:10). He heals our wounded hearts. David says, ‘My heart is wounded within me’ (Psalm 109:22). God loves to use people who have been wounded and then healed because no one can minister better than a person who has had the same wound and then been healed by God (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your wonderful love for me. Heal my wounded heart and help me to bring healing to others.

New Testament

Ephesians 1:1-23

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Commentary

The blessings of being in Christ Jesus

Many struggle with a low self-image. The New Testament answer to this problem is to know who you are in Christ Jesus: ‘It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for’ (v.11, MSG). Understand what your identity is in Christ. While you may not have every material blessing you want (Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter), God has blessed you ‘with every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (v.3). This passage lists many of these blessings:

  1. Grace and peace

    Paul starts his greetings with ‘grace and peace’ (v.2). Later he says, ‘The riches of God’s grace... [have been] lavished on us’ (vv.7–8). Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues. You have peace with God.

  2. Chosen, destined and adopted

    ‘Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world... He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children’ (vv.4–5, AMP; see also v.11).

  3. Redeemed, forgiven and free

    You are redeemed through his blood (v.7a; Isaiah 52:3,9). ‘Redeemed’ was the word used for the buying back of a slave – a captive set free for a price.

    Your sins are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7b). Marghanita Laski, a well-known atheist, made an amazing confession on television. She said, ‘What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness.’ She added, rather sadly, ‘I have no one to forgive me.’

    ‘We’re a free people – free of penalties and punishment chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!’ (v.7, MSG).

  4. In-dwelt by the Holy Spirit

    ‘Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit’ (v.13). The Holy Spirit has come to live within you. In the ancient world when a package was dispatched a seal was placed on it to indicate where it had come from and to whom it belonged. You have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

  5. Hope for the future

    Your inheritance is guaranteed. You have ‘the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it’ (v.14, AMP). You have ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints’ (v.18b).

  6. Power and position

    His ‘incomparably great power for us who believe’ is in you (v.19a). This is not power as the world sees it, which people strive to achieve through possessions, status or social media following. Nor is it power achieved by force or human strength. This power comes from the Holy Spirit. Power belongs to God, but he has come to live within you and to give you ‘endless energy, boundless strength!’ (v.19, MSG).

    You are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (v.20). God has placed us ‘in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments’ (vv.20–21, MSG).

  7. Authority and responsibility

    In Christ, God has placed everything under you for the sake of the church ‘which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way’ (vv.22–23). At her coronation when the orb (the globe under a cross) was placed in her hand, the Queen was reminded: ‘When you see this orb set under the cross, remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our redeemer.’

    God has given you great responsibility. His plans for the universe are now in the hands of the church, which is Jesus’ ‘body’ on earth (v.23). ‘The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church’ (vv.22–23, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, I praise you for every spiritual blessing that you have given me in Christ. May the eyes of my heart be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which you have called me, the riches of your glorious inheritance, and your incomparably great power living within me (vv.17–19).

Old Testament

Isaiah 51:17-54:17

The Cup of the Lord’s Wrath

17 Awake, awake!
   Rise up, Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord
   the cup of his wrath,
you who have drained to its dregs
   the goblet that makes people stagger.
18 Among all the children she bore
   there was none to guide her;
among all the children she brought up
   there was none to take her by the hand.
19 These double calamities have come upon you—
   who can comfort you? —
ruin and destruction, famine and sword —
   who can console you?
20 Your children have fainted;
   they lie at every street corner,
   like antelope caught in a net.
They are filled with the wrath of the Lord,
   with the rebuke of your God.

21 Therefore hear this, you afflicted one,
   made drunk, but not with wine.
22 This is what your Sovereign Lord says,
   your God, who defends his people:
“See, I have taken out of your hand
   the cup that made you stagger;
from that cup, the goblet of my wrath,
   you will never drink again.
23 I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,
   who said to you,
   ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’
And you made your back like the ground,
   like a street to be walked on.”

52 Awake, awake, Zion,
   clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendour,
   Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
   will not enter you again.
2 Shake off your dust;
   rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
   Daughter Zion, now a captive.

3 For this is what the Lord says:

“You were sold for nothing,
   and without money you will be redeemed. ”

4 For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“At first my people went down to Egypt to live;
   lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

5 “And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord.

“For my people have been taken away for nothing,
   and those who rule them mock,”
   declares the Lord.
“And all day long
   my name is constantly blasphemed.
6 Therefore my people will know my name;
   therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it.
   Yes, it is I.”

7 How beautiful on the mountains
   are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
   who bring good tidings,
   who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
   “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
   together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
   they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
   you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
   he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
   in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
   the salvation of our God.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there!
   Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
   you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house.
12 But you will not leave in haste
   or go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you,
   the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The Suffering and Glory of the Servant

13 See, my servant will act wisely;
   he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
   his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
   and his form marred beyond human likeness —
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
   and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
   and what they have not heard, they will understand.

53 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Future Glory of Zion

54 “Sing, barren woman,
   you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
   you who were never in labour;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
   than of her who has a husband, ”
    says the Lord.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
   stretch your tent curtains wide,
   do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
   strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
   your descendants will dispossess nations
   and settle in their desolate cities.

4 “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
   Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
   and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
5 For your Maker is your husband —
   the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
   he is called the God of all the earth.
6 The Lord will call you back
   as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
   only to be rejected,” says your God.
7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
   but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
8 In a surge of anger
   I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness
   I will have compassion on you,”
   says the Lord your Redeemer.

9 “To me this is like the days of Noah,
   when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
   never to rebuke you again.
10 Though the mountains be shaken
   and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
   nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
   says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

11 “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
   I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
   your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
   your gates of sparkling jewels,
   and all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children will be taught by the Lord,
   and great will be their peace.
14 In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
   you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed;
   it will not come near you.
15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
   whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
   who fans the coals into flame
   and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
   17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
   and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
   and this is their vindication from me,”
   declares the Lord.

Commentary

The blessings of the good news of Jesus

Isaiah writes, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news… who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”’ (52:7). God’s salvation is such good news that it makes even the smelly feet of the messenger seem beautiful! This good news is Isaiah’s message in the next chapter (52:13–53:12). It is the last and greatest of the four servant songs that reveal God’s plan of salvation. There are five stanzas, each revealing an unexpected contrast:

  1. Apparent failure and actual success (52:13–15)

    The cross shatters human expectations. Here, Isaiah foretells Jesus’ scourging and death, his ‘ruined face, disfigured past recognition’ (v.14, MSG). Yet the cross is not the end. The stanza ends in success and triumph, with an image of cleansing and forgiveness across the world; ‘he will sprinkle many nations’ (v.15).

  2. Our view and God’s view (53:1–3)

    ‘Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?’ (v.1, MSG). Here we see a contrast between God’s view and the human view. Isaiah foresees that the people would reject Jesus, even though he came to save them.

  3. Our sin and his suffering (vv.4–6)

    Jesus loves you so much that he died instead of you. That is the message at the heart of this passage – indeed of the whole Bible:

    'He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    | Through his bruises we get healed.
    We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    | We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
    And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him’ (v.5–6, MSG). Wow!

  4. The guilty and the innocent (vv.7–9)

    This stanza tells of a miscarriage of justice, but one that the innocent Jesus took upon himself voluntarily to bring salvation: ‘He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people’ (v.8, MSG). It also predicts Jesus’ death with extraordinary accuracy: foreseeing his silence at his trial (v.7); that he would die with the guilty and that he would be buried with the rich (v.9).

  5. Tragedy and triumph (vv.10–13)

    What looked like defeat was in fact a victory, ‘what God had in mind all along’ (v.10, MSG). What makes Jesus’ death a triumph? First, ‘he will see his offspring’ (v.10) and ‘make many righteous’ (v.11, MSG) – the millions of transformed lives which are the fruit of his death. Second, ‘he will see the light of life’ (v.11) – Jesus rose again! Lastly, God exalted him, giving him ‘a portion among the great’ (v.12) because of all that he did for us.

As a result of what Jesus did for us, we are promised expansion and growth (54:2). You need not be afraid (v.4) because ‘your Maker is your husband’ (v.5). His love and compassion will never leave you (v.10). ‘No weapon forged against you will prevail’ (v.17).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the good news of the gospel; that through your suffering, I am made righteous. Help me to expect great things from you and attempt great things for you.

Pippa adds

Isaiah 54:2–3

‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left…’

This is a constant challenge for me not to play it safe, but to keep going for growth.

Verse of the Day

Isaiah 54:17, NLT

‘… no weapon forged against you will succeed’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

Colin Urquhart, In Christ Jesus (Hodder & Stoughton, 1981)

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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