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Citizens of Heaven (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 23, 2021 4:00 am

Citizens of Heaven (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 23, 2021 4:00 am

When we come to faith in Christ, we become citizens of heaven. Belonging to Jesus changes who we are! So what are the benefits of our new identity in Christ? Can we do anything to earn or lose them? Hear the answers on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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As believers in Christ, we are citizens of heaven. We belong to Jesus, and that changes who we are. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg highlights two benefits that are grounded in a believer's identity in Christ.

Is there anything we can do to earn them or to lose them? Our study continues in Philippians chapter 3 and verse 20. When you read 1 Corinthians 15, which you may do at your leisure, you discover that Paul is making the point there that Jesus is the second or the last Adam who has come to undo all that Adam did by the fall and to do all that Adam failed to do on account of his disobedience. So if you like, he is Adam in reverse—undoing what Adam did and regaining what Adam lost. And that is the significance of being in Christ.

We are all in Adam by nature, but we are only in Christ by faith. Before you were a Christian, whether you were growing up in your home and your parents told you and Jesus died upon the cross for sinners and he lived a perfect life and we're accepted on the basis of his righteousness, we just nodded our heads. It seemed like a mathematical formula.

It seemed like one of these equations that always has to balance out whatever they're called. If people would sing, In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song, and we realize we've gone through four or five lines and we haven't a clue what we just said. But now when we sing it, it means everything to us. Because you are in Christ. Because all of the blessings and benefits that have been accomplished in Jesus have been applied to your life as you have come to trust in Christ. And that is Paul's personal testimony, isn't it, in chapter 3? You can read it again for yourselves at home. He says, if you want to think about acceptance with God in terms of personal righteousness—and a number of you apparently want to put up your hands and say yes—then he says, I can tell you that I had that covered in the extreme. If you want to hear my credentials, they are as follows.

I was circumcised on the eighth day, I was part of the tribe of Benjamin, I was born as a citizen of Israel, I grew up in this way, and so on. And then he says the most remarkable thing. But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss.

Something has happened to him. This morning I was thinking about this as I drove here, and I thought of the song that begins, A debtor to mercy alone. And then I went and found it. And let me just give you a… This is Augustus Toplady in the eighteenth century. Here is the testimony of somebody who is in Christ, who understands their identity. A debtor to mercy alone, Of covenant mercy I sing. Or fear, With your righteousness on, My person and offering to bring. The terrors of law and of God, With me can have nothing to do. Oh, who do you think you are? The terrors of law and of God, With me can have nothing to do.

Oh, I want to hear the next line, Augustus. You must be one special person. You don't fear the judgment of God? You don't fear death? I mean, you're singing that In Christ Alone song, no guilt in life, no fear in death?

Where does that come from? The terrors of law and of God, With me can have nothing to do. My saviors, obedience and blood, Hide all my transgressions from view. I am in Christ. Therefore I am viewed in one sense by God as being as righteous as Christ. As righteous as Christ. Because the only righteousness I have is the righteousness of Christ. Has nothing to do with what I'm doing.

Everything to do with what he has done. There is no story like it anywhere else except in the Bible. And if you are in Christ today, if you are a Christian, then to some degree this will be your testimony. Somewhere along the way you will be able to explain that by agency of your parents, your loved ones, your friends, your pastor, a book, a neighbor, or somebody, you were brought to repentance and to faith. You came to a point where you said, I need Christ. And you came to trust in him. And the Holy Spirit worked in you the miracle of new birth, so that although what you thought you were doing was just mumbling out a bunch of phraseology—"I admit that I'm a sinner, and I need you," and so on—and you walked away from wherever the encounter was and somebody's back garden or in a prayer room or whatever it is, and you said, Well, who knows what that was about? But today you know what it's about, because everything changed.

What happened? God regenerated you. You were made new by the Holy Spirit. You were united to Christ.

And as a result, all that Jesus had accomplished on the cross was applied to your life. And so your identity is entirely in him. Second word is the word security, and it follows naturally, I think. There is a security that emerges from our identity. I've been traveling largely on my American passport, but if the line is shorter, then I use my British passport.

And Sue comes with me, and I go with her, it doesn't matter, but we manage to work our way through the shortest line. Both passports, I think, are pretty good. I wouldn't want to argue they're the best passports in the world to have, but they're up there. And with that passport comes all of the benefits and blessings of citizenship.

It is because of the relationship that is enjoyed with the nation and through the nation that the secretary of state stamps on the inside of the passport that the bearer of this passport is to be allowed free passage, is allowed to go to their destination, is allowed to do all of these things, and all of that is backed by, grounded in, the fact of our identity, so that our security is found in who we are. That is the point that Paul makes. Just when you think about it, it's very important, because inevitably somebody says, Well, I've begun to follow Jesus, but I don't know if I'll be able to keep going. Well, who started the thing off for you? The answer is God did. Oh, you believed. God didn't believe for you. But when you look back on it, you go, It's quite amazing to me that I ever come to trust in Christ. And so Paul, in Philippians 1, he encourages the folks. He says, I'm very confident of the fact that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. God began the good work in you, and he will bring it to completion.

Why is that? Well, because the righteousness, the right standing before God, comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. The righteousness comes through faith in Jesus to all who believe. But God's acceptance of us, God's declaration about us, doesn't depend on our accomplishments or our endeavors, but upon Christ's accomplishment and Christ's endeavors.

And that once-and-for-all completed life and death and resurrection is not only the basis of the Christian's identity but is the ground of the Christian's security. Every so often you make a purchase, whatever it might be—you might buy a tie, you take it outside the shop, you walk down the street, you take it out to have another look at it when you're having a coffee, and you go, I think this is a miserable tie. I'm going to take it back. And your wife says to you, Well, why don't you just look at the receipt?

And you look at the receipt, and all the dreaded words on the bottom. No exchanges. No refunds. You're stuck with it—unless you want to give it to your uncle for his birthday.

The transaction has been affected, and there's no way out. Well, from the negative side, that's disappointing. But from the positive side, which is the nature of the gospel, it's fantastic.

What Jesus has accomplished on the cross and affected for us in applying it to our lives is final and complete. He's not going to back out. It is an inviolable contract. It is an inviolable covenant. There is no rescinding of it. No exchanges.

No reversals. That's why it is so wonderful when you get to Romans chapter 8 and you read these glorious words, there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. To them that are in Christ Jesus. Why is there no condemnation? You say, Well, I feel condemned, I feel ashamed. That was a bad thing I did. That was a bad thing I said.

Of course. And it was, and it needs to be repented of. But it didn't alter your standing with God. It didn't alter your identity. You didn't move three seats down in the classroom like when you were at primary school, and you filled in the report, and you're no longer third top of the class, you're now seventeenth in the class. Why? Because of your performance.

It doesn't work like that. Because all of our identity is in Jesus. You say, What am I going to do when my past condemns me, when it rears its ugly head, when out of nowhere something jumps up and says, Yeah, I can't believe you did that, said that, were that? Or when our present disappoints us and disappoints the people around us, and when we know ourselves to be miserable, or when our future paralyzes us and makes us fearful. What do you do then?

Where is security? Only in Christ. Only in Christ. That's why we sang what we sang. Be thou my battlefield, sword for the fight. Jesus goes out as our champion in the way that David went out before the armies of Philistines, remember? And he goes out not simply as David the shepherd boy, but he goes out as David the representative of Israel.

And that's why when he defeated Goliath and chopped off his head, all of the armies swarmed behind him and declared their enjoyment of the great victory that David had accomplished. It was a picture of what Jesus would do—that he would stride out onto the battlefield with the evil one, that he would dislocate him, that he would deal with him, that he would put him out in the garbage waiting for final collection, and all who are in Christ come behind in the champion of Jesus. And we say, he is our victory.

He is our battlefield. The answer is that our identity is found in Christ, and our security is found in looking away to Christ. It is in the reminder of what we are in Christ that serves as a constant defense against our slipping back into what we are by nature.

You got that? It is the reminder of what we are in Christ that serves as the defense mechanism against slipping back into what we are by nature. That's the argument that Paul uses, isn't it? He says, Given that you are in Christ, do you mean to tell me that you would engage in this activity? He doesn't give them a long list of rules and regulations to try and protect them from that which may be in violation of the law of God.

No, he simply reminds them of what they are. You are in Christ. All of the benefits of Jesus are yours. All apply to your life. Therefore, it's not impossible for you to act in this way. But it is incongruous. And it is the very incongruity of it which, of course, alarms us, and we understand it. And that is why the Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that as Christians we're involved in a continual and irreconcilable war. Romans chapter 7 works it out. There we are, aware of the fact that we're a mess and so on. And where do we look? Well, we look to Christ, who by his death bore the penalty of our sins, and by his life and in his resurrection, didn't simply bring us back to square one—back, as it were, in the monopoly game of life, back to zero to start again.

That wouldn't be very good, would it? All that happened was that we got all our bad stuff cleaned up, and you got a clean sheet and then you had to go at it on your own. What confidence would I have that in the time that I've now got from getting the clean sheet to finally handing in my sheet, I won't make a complete mess of the whole sheet? What confidence do I have that now, having had my past all dealt with, my future's going to be any better than my past was?

How do I have any confidence that when I stand before the examination, I will have anything to say? The answer is the same. It is in Christ, in what the theologians refer to as the active righteousness of Christ. That since we are in Christ, all of his keeping of the law, all of his perfect obedience, all of his absolute life is our life. He lived it for all who are in Christ. Gresham Machen, who died on the first of January in 1937, was a professor at Princeton and then a founder at Westminster Seminary, and writing to his dear friend, the late Professor John Murray, days before his death, he sent Murray a telegram, and the telegram simply read, Dear John, I am so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it. I am so thankful for the active obedience of Christ.

No hope without it. What was he saying? Well, in a radio broadcast, he addressed that very subject, and I'll give you a brief quote. We'll go to our final word, and we'll be through.

Listen to this. Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ are in a far more blessed condition than was Adam before he fell. Adam before he fell was righteous in the sight of God, but he was still under the possibility of becoming unrighteous.

Right? Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God, but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over. It is not because they have stood it successfully, it is not over because they themselves have earned the reward of assured blessedness which God promised on condition of perfect obedience, but it is over because Christ has stood it for them.

It is over because Christ has merited for them the reward by his perfect obedience to God's law. That's why Augustus' top lady can write what he writes—the terrors of law and of God, with meek and of nothing to do. Well, just one word concerning our dignity. Where does our dignity lie?

In Christ Jesus. All of our dignity. So the dignity that attached to their identity and their security didn't have a rap to do with whether Paul was writing to somebody who read it as a doctor or somebody who read it as a soldier, somebody who read it as a homeowner or someone who read it as a slave. Because all of them recognized that their dignity was found in their identity, and their identity was found in the Lord Jesus Christ. You see how amazing this is?

It allows no basis for division—no basis for division on the strength of race, color, education, finance, school tie, whatever! All the things that are mechanisms for identifying ourselves. And who are you? Well, I'm a sinner.

Oh, really? Very nice. Who are you? Well, this is what I do, but who I am is… I'm a sinner saved by grace.

No reason for us to be divided, and no reason either for us to be defeated. We know who we are. We know what we're like. I have told you before, to quote Dick Lucas, that if you knew what I was really like, you would never listen to me preach. And if I knew what you were really like, I probably wouldn't preach to you. I'm aware of failure and sin and of shame and of disgrace. But that is not the whole picture.

That is not the completed story. I am, by God's grace, in Christ. On what basis are you planning to stand before God? What are you going to offer on the day that he asks you to give an account? Let's suppose you can get rid of every bad thing you've ever done.

You can eradicate it. What are you going to offer in your defense? What will you wear? What would you wear if you were going to see the king? What would you wear if you were going to see the president? You'd spend a long time, wouldn't you? You might even look at all your wardrooms and say, You know what, there's nothing that I can go in there in. Even my best stuff looks, like, not so good. But what if he came out of his chambers and said, Here, I have a robe for you to wear.

Wear this? That's the story of the gospel. That on our best day, when we've polished up all our dudes, all our best endeavors to make ourselves acceptable before God are frankly a shambles.

And we have no basis upon which to approach him, unless he would give us a robe of righteousness from God, through faith in Jesus, to all who believe. To all who believe. So go out and enjoy today.

Go out and rejoice in the privileges of freedom, democracy, American citizenship, and everything else. But do not go out and spend a nanosecond assuming that those freedoms and those benefits and a knowledge, an intellectual knowledge, of what I have just told you is equivalent to those truths being applied to your life through personal faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I beseech you, as though God were making his appeal through my very mouth, be reconciled to God. We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life.

Alistair will be back in just a minute to close with prayer, so please keep listening. We learned today that all the benefits we enjoy as believers come to us as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, not because of anything we have done. In fact, there's nothing we can do to earn God's saving grace. The Bible tells us that grace is a free gift for those who believe. If you'd like to know more about how you can receive God's gift of salvation, we invite you to visit slash thestory. There you'll find a helpful video presentation that explains the gospel message.

Again visit slash thestory. Now do you find yourself amazed as you stop to think about all Jesus has done for you? We could spend a lifetime trying to grasp the extent of his love, and the Apostle Paul understood that.

In fact, when he wrote to his friends at Ephesus, he encouraged the believers there, and he prayed often for them, boldly asking God to help them grow in their understanding of God's love for them. How can we learn to pray like that? That's the topic of a book we're recommending today.

You may have heard me mention it already. The book is called Pray Big, and it's written by Alistair. Paul prayed big because he believed in an all-powerful, sovereign God, a God who does what he says he'll do. And the truths that shape Paul's prayers can motivate us to pray big. We invite you to request your copy of the book Pray Big. It comes to you with a corresponding study guide, and both are yours by request when you give a gift of any amount.

Tap the image in the app or call us at 888-588-7884. Now here's Alistair with the closing prayer. Father, thank you that you have made so wonderfully available to us this great and glorious good news. Thank you that it turns on its head all of our notions, every religious idea about acceptance with you, and when we reach the end of all of our endeavors, we find there stands Christ. Forgive us, Lord, when we have stayed away from you, because we think we're so good that we don't need a Savior. Help us when we think we're so bad that you would never be our Savior. Hear our prayers. Let our cries come to you for your son's sake, Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Hope you enjoy your weekend and are able to spend time worshiping with your local church. Join us on Monday as Alistair begins a new series from the book of Philemon and challenges us to do something radical. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the learning is for nothing.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-20 12:50:45 / 2023-09-20 12:59:37 / 9

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