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Lesson 3: The Christ-Centered Life

Written by: Biblical Studies Foundation    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                            Lesson 3:                                     The Christ-Centered Life

                                  The Doctrine of Positional Truth

                                           Introduction

       A foundation is the basis upon which a thing stands, is founded, or is supported. A solid foundation is        necessary to withstand the storms of life. Build your house on sand rather than on a rock and it will crumble        under the tempests of life.

       As the Lord taught in Matthew 7, the same is true for our spiritual life. The only adequate foundation for        eternal life and a life that results in true spiritual transformation is the person and work of Christ and the spiritual        wealth of our position in Christùour co-identification or union with Christ in His person and work.

       This study introduces us to the concept of positional truth. Positional truth has to do with who we are in Christ        as believers. Since it has to do with who we are in Christ, it will also affect our self-concept. The focus,        however, is on who we are in the Savior through faith in Him and how that should impact our lives as believers.

       We must understand that the first key to effectiveness in living a godly life is to know what God has done for        us. This forms the foundation for our response. Only as we understand and rest in how God has acted in Christ        are we able to act through Christ. In terms of all aspects of our salvation and all that it brings we must know        and consider that God has done it all.

                 Begin to show [people] what they are in Christ and all that the Great Physician is                  and they will apply it to their own lifeà . That is why preaching positional truth                  always proceeds in point of importance to life truth. In the great epistles, the                  doctrinal epistles like Romans and Ephesians you have this order. Take Ephesians                  and its six chapters. The first three chapters tell you what Christ has done for you                  and then the next three chapters tell you what you can do for Him.33

       Understanding what God has done for us and who we are in Christ is foundational to having the right motive in        living the Christian life, and the right motive is a vital key in the process of transformation. Chafer called this        ôthe right motive.ö Lawrence quotes Chafer who said:

                 What is your motive for doing right? I suppose that above anything else in the world                  you want to honor God with the right kind of a life. I believe that, men. You do not                  need to convince me of that. But what is your motive? Why do you want to live                  right? Is it in order that God might accept you or is it because He has accepted                  you? à Ninety-nine out of one-hundred people who are members of our                  Protestant churches today à think their job is to win the favor of God and they do                  not know that they have the favor of God from the moment they believe on Christà                  . He has given you everything that He ever required and that is yours right now                  when you believe. Never are you called to fall back on the merit systemà . Are                  you living the best you could because you were set right, or did you live the best                  you could hoping to be set right?34

       Commenting on this statement by Chafer, Lawrence writes: ôThis is the foundational factor in obeying GodÆs        commands: obedience is a response to GodÆs provisions for holiness, not an attempt to earn GodÆs blessings        and provisions (cf. Rom. 8:32).ö35

       We hear a great deal today about our self-worth, self-esteem, and self-image. Many psychologists focus on        self-worth with the goal of simply helping people feel good about themselves. Understanding just who we are        and self worth are important aspects of emotional and spiritual stability and are a driving force within all human        beings. As human beings created in GodÆs image, we each have value, meaning, and purpose in the plan of        God. Having a right concept of ourselves is biblical, but only if we keep the right focus and purpose.

       For instance, in Romans 12:3 we are told to think properly about who we really are according to GodÆs grace.        The means for knowing who we are, so that such knowledge transforms our motives and thinking, is a        renewed mind in the Word (12:2).

                 Romans 12:1-3 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present                  your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual                  service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed                  by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that                  which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I                  say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to                  think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a                  measure of faith.

       The goal and motive of a right self image, rather than self-centered objectives, is loving ministry to the body of        Christ that is empty of hypocrisy.

                 Romans 12:4-9 For just as we have many members in one body and all the                  members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in                  Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 And since we have gifts that                  differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if                  prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he                  who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives,                  with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.                  9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

       An accurate and biblical self concept has two important sides or contrasts. It contains both strength and        humility. It contains both a deep concern over the fact of our sin and joy and relief over forgiveness, and both a        strong sense of our inadequacy and need of God with an understanding of how God in grace has perfectly met        that need in Christ.

       As human beings who are spiritually weak, we not only need a proper self-concept we need GodÆs power and        ability to change and overcome the sinful nature (the flesh) and those patterns of life that are so destructive to        ourselves and to others. The ChristianÆs position in Christ and his co-identification with Christ in His death,        burial, and resurrection form the foundation for victory over the flesh and a new capacity for life.

       To be sure, the Spirit of God, whose responsibility it is to glorify Christ and mediate His life to you and me, will        never produce spiritual power or bring true spiritual change into any life that is not resting in the merit,        significance, and sufficiency of Christ as the source and ground of all life and meaning. Such would be out of        the question due to the purpose of the ministry of the Spirit as declared in Scripture.

       If we want to experience the transformed life, we must understand who we are in Christ by GodÆs grace and        how that affects our walk in life. Understanding the practical ramifications of our position and union in Christ        (Romans 6) is foundational to the walk in and by the Spirit of God (Romans 8).

                 The Holy Spirit cannot cooperate or engender any reality of experience when the                  very basis of a grace relationship to God is ignored. How, indeed could the holy                  Spirit empower a life which is wholly misguided and wrong in its objectives,                  methods, and motives? His benefits, of necessity, have significance only for those                  who recognize and believe that they are perfected once-for-all by simple faith in                  Christ as Savior and that their new obligation is not to make themselves accepted                  but rather to walk worthy of the One in whom they are accepted.36

                                        A Note of Warning

       In Colossians 2:8 the Apostle Paul gives us a word of caution and one that is particularly fitting for our focus in        this study:

                 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,                  which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than                  on Christ. (NIV)

       Satan is a master of deception and, aided by his world system in which we live and by our own blindness, he        seeks (as he did in the beginning) to hold us captive as slaves to a whole range of false beliefs and strategies by        which we attempt to achieve that which only God can give. Ironically, we seek to achieve by our own        self-effort that which we already have in Christ. The result is we often become focused on false goals which,        like a hypnotic spell, hold us captive and keep us from experiencing GodÆs love, strength, and freedom, and        the significance of life in Christ. These goals we so often pursue involve standards of achievement we (or        others) have established as evidences of our success and thus of our self-worth.

       Obviously, there is nothing wrong with doing our best and in doing things well for GodÆs glory and for the        blessing of others as well as for our own enjoyment. However, when this becomes the focus, we can become        a slave to perfectionism or to defeatism. Note some of the problems which typically occur with the        perfectionist or those who are under pressure to meet self-imposed standards to feel good about themselves:

            They usually base their self-worth on how well they do things and on the response of others to how well             they have performed.             They tend to be critical and look down on those who donÆt do so well.             If criticized they are devastated and become defensive because they seek their value through their             performance. Perfectionists tend to be vulnerable to big mood swings depending on their success.             In their pursuit of a perfect standard, they tend to become controlling as they fight to have things perfect             so they will feel okay.             The self-imposed standards usually result in a rule-dominated life. They set rules and schedules for             nearly every area of life and focus their attention on their ability to accomplish the rules and meet their             schedule.

       In contrast to this, the ChristianÆs focus needs to be on Christ and his new life in Him, not on self-imposed        regulations, schedules, achievements, etc., regardless of their nature whether religious, social, or secular. Christ        will bring order with spiritual control and ability into the life, but He will be the center, the focus, motive, and        source of what we do and how we do it rather than neurotic motives to achieve.

                                    Definition of Positional Truth

       Positional truth is the doctrine of the believerÆs heavenly, spiritual, and eternal position in Jesus Christ by which        a person spiritually and positionally is united and identified with Christ in His person and workùpast, present,        and future. This truth is especially seen in the Pauline epistles where, over a hundred times, the apostle uses        such phrases like ôin Christ,ö ôin the beloved,ö ôin Him,ö ôwith Christ,ö etc. These phrases draw attention,        indeed, they put the focus on the secure position and many blessings that all believers are given through their        union with Jesus Christ. The basis of these blessings is the finished work of salvation accomplished through the        person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.

                              Scriptures Showing the ôIn Christö Concept

                 1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been                  sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the                  name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

                 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us                  wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 that,                  just as it is written, ôLet him who boasts, boast in the Lord.ö

                 Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man,                  there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

                 Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means                  anything, but faith working through love.

                 Philippians 3:9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own                  derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness                  which comes from God on the basis of faith,

                 Colossians 2:6-12 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in                  Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in                  your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it                  that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according                  to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather                  than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form,                  10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and                  authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made                  without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;                  12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with                  Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

                 Colossians 3:1-3 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the                  things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on                  the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your                  life is hidden with Christ in God.

                 2 Timothy 1:1 and 9 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according                  to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, à 9 who has saved us, and called us with a                  holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and                  grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

       Compare also Romans 6:1-11; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:4-10.

                              The Mechanics (Who, When, Where, How)

       When people receive the Lord Jesus Christ (the who and when) by personally believing in Him as their Savior        (trusting in His person and work on the cross for their sinful condition) they are placed into vital union with the        Savior (the where) through the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit (the how) so that they become co-identified        spiritually and actually with Jesus Christ in His person and work (the results).

                 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 For even as the body is one and yet has many members,                  and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is                  Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or                  Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

                 Romans 6:3-5 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into                  Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried                  with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the                  dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For                  if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be                  also in the likeness of His resurrection,

                 Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also                  raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the                  dead.

                                  Key Concepts of Positional Truth

       ItÆs the Foundation for Growth and Change

       As stressed in the introduction to this lesson, understanding positional truth is foundational for growth in the        Christian life. When properly grasped, it protects against manÆs and SatanÆs substitutes for spirituality, and it        forms the foundation for spiritual victory over the sinful nature or the flesh. In other words, the truth of Romans        6, our position in Christ, is crucial for the truth of Romans 7 and 8, overcoming the power of indwelling sin by        means of the Spirit who indwells within. One finds the same concept in PaulÆs letters to the Galatians and the        Colossians.

       Positional truth means we share in all that Jesus is in His person and we share in what He did and will do, His        Work. Thus:

            As He died unto sin, so we too have died unto sin.

                 Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ                  Jesus have been baptized into His death?

            As He rose from the dead, so have we.

                 Romans 6:5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death,                  certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection,

            As He is seated at GodÆs right hand, so are we.

                 Ephesians 2:6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly                  places, in Christ Jesus,

            As He is the Son, so we are now sons.

                 Galatians 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

            As He is eternal life, so we have eternal life.

                 Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in                  Christ Jesus our Lord.

            As He is perfect righteousness, so we have His righteousness.

                 Philippians 3:9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own                  derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness                  which comes from God on the basis of faith,

       Note the chart on Positional Truth.



       The Nature of Our Position in Christ

       Our position in Christ is not a conscious experience, an emotion, or a second blessing to be sought. It is a        spiritual fact and takes place as a grace work of God when one believes in the Savior, and this is true for all        believers regardless of feelings or understanding. Of course, understanding positional truth is important to        experiencing the benefits of being in Christ. This is most obvious in Colossians 2:6-12 quoted above and in        Romans 6:3-12.

                 Romans 6:3-12 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into                  Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried                  with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the                  dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For                  if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be                  also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was                  crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no                  longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have                  died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ,                  having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master                  over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life                  that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin,                  but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal                  body that you should obey its lusts,

       The BelieverÆs Position Is Perfect and Complete

       Unlike spiritual growth and maturity in the Christian walk, positional truth is not progressive. From the        moment of salvation, having been placed into Christ by the Spirit, believers are blessed with every spiritual        blessing and are complete. They lack nothing, but they do need to grow in their understanding of what they        have in Christ.

                 Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has                  blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

                 Colossians 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over                  all rule and authority;

                 Hebrews 5:11-14 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain,                  since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be                  teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles                  of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For                  everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of                  righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of                  practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

                 1 Peter 2:1-2 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and                  envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that                  by it you may grow in respect to salvation,

                 2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus                  Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

       Positional truth means at least three wonderful facts for every believer:

            Christ totally surrounds us; we are enveloped by His life.

                 Colossians 3:3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

            Christ protects us from everything that is hostile or dangerous.

                 Romans 8:32-39 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us                  all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a                  charge against GodÆs elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who                  condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the                  right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the                  love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,                  or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, ôFor Thy sake we are being put to death                  all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.ö 37 But in all these                  things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am                  convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things                  present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other                  created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ                  Jesus our Lord.

            Christ supplies us with every possible need for life.

                 Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has                  blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

                 Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in                  glory in Christ Jesus.

       Raymond Ortland writes:

                 WeÆre in Him the way a babyÆs in a wombùbut better.                  WeÆre in Him the way a moth is in a chrysalisùbut better.                  WeÆre in Him the way a deep-sea diverÆs in his diving suitùbut better.                  WeÆre in Him the way birds are in the air, or fish are in the seaùbut better.37

       The BelieverÆs Position Is Eternal and Permanent

       Salvation is totally a work of GodÆs grace and based on the merit and worth of Christ and His finished work        rather than our works. Since that is true, there is nothing we can do to lose it. In addition to Romans 8:32-39        quoted above, note our LordÆs promise.

                 John 10:28-30 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no                  one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 ôMy Father, who has given them to Me,                  is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the FatherÆs hand. 30 I                  and the Father are one.ö

       This truth is evident from the fact that the carnal believers at Corinth are still viewed as permanently set apart,        sanctified in Christ.

                 1 Corinthians 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been                  sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the                  name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

       ôHave been sanctified in Christ Jesusö represents the perfect tense which looks at an event or fact completed        in the past with results going on in the present. Though he declared them carnal in chapter 3, the apostle        viewed them as still positionally in Christ.

                                        The Wealth of the                                   BelieverÆs Position in Jesus Christ

       As to ChristÆs PERSON

       Being in Christ we share in the following:

            As He has perfect righteousness, all believers have ChristÆs righteousness imputed to them.

                 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we                  might become the righteousness of God in Him.

            As He has eternal life, so all believers have eternal life.

                 Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in                  Christ Jesus our Lord.

            His eternal destiny becomes the destiny of all believers.

                 Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that                  we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to                  adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of                  His will,

                 Ephesians 1:10-11 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the                  times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things                  upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been                  predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His                  will,

            As He is the Son of God, so all believers become sons and members of GodÆs family by             adoption and by regeneration, the new birth.

                 John 1:13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of                  man, but of God.

                 Ephesians 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to                  Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

                 Galatians 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

                 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet                  what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because                  we shall see Him just as He is.

            As He is the FatherÆs chosen One, so all believers are chosen ones. [Some see this as a             corporate choosing, others as personal and corporate which fits best with Scripture as a whole.]

                 Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that                  we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love <

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