By: Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker
“Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name. You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1b
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.” Psalm 107:2-3
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I (Jenni) work part time at a tutoring center where we provide after-school math instruction and homework assistance. As kids of all ages come through our doors on a daily basis, occasionally a water bottle, a mechanical pencil, or a homework folder gets left behind when they leave at the end of their session. Normally when an item is forgotten, we can easily track down the student who left it behind. Then one day, it happened: someone forgot a black zip-up hoodie. On this particular day, none of the instructors knew to whom it belonged. Not only that, but no one would claim it. It was displayed for all to see in the lobby in hopes that someone would recognize it. Yet throughout the entire week, every person that we asked about it gave the same answer, “No, it’s not mine.”
Finally, we hung the lonely black hoodie on a hook in a corner at the back of the room. It hung there for months. Person after person walked by it without a glance until one day I pointed out to my center director that no one had claimed it yet. Since she always gets cold no matter how hot it is outside, she jokingly pulled it on and zipped it up. It fit. She felt warm and cozy. And with that, she declared that the search was over and the mysterious black hoodie now belonged to her.
This is a slightly humorous illustration of the way many of us feel at times. Am I noticed? Do I fit in? Am I wanted? All of these are echoes of a much deeper question inside of us: Do I belong? As a Christian redeemed by the work of Christ, there are three truths that God wants you to be deeply assured of in response to this question:
- You belong to God.
- You belong to the family of God.
- You can help others to belong!
Let’s begin by exploring this first profound truth: that we literally belong to God! But it has not always been this way. When Adam and Even first sinned by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they could no longer remain in the Garden of Eden in communion with the Lord. Genesis 3:23 explains that “the Lord God sent him [and his wife] out of the Garden of Eden.” The result of this was a separation from the Lord not for Adam and Eve but for all mankind. Every person born after that was born into sin, creating a separation between us and our Creator that could not be reconciled by man alone. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin separates, it divides, it produces pain, and it brings sorrow. Romans 6:6 says that we were “slaves of sin,” separated from a holy God. Another way to say this is that we belonged to sin; we were literally “dead in trespasses and sins,” and sin reigned in us (Ephesians 2:1).
But the good news is that is not the end of the story! God had a master plan of reconciliation. He chose Abraham to be “the father of many nations,” and throughout the Old Testament the Jews were His chosen people. But He did not stop there. Through the work of Christ, we can all be reconciled to God as “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). John Piper points out how so many modern people today “would simply shrug their shoulders at this announcement” because “they have no sense of the stupendous value of the blessing promised to Abraham’s children.” (Check out more of his studies on the matter here: www.desiringgod.org/messages/those-who-have-faith-are-the-sons-of-abraham.) God’s plan was not just to have a covenant with Abraham’s biological descendants but to extend it to all who would receive salvation through His Son. When the Bible describes Christians as “Abraham’s children,” it is describing a familial position, an inheritance, a belonging. Galatians 3:29 explains, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Through this truth of Galatians 3:7 and 29, Paul shows that we as Christian believers are not only sons of Abraham but part of a new covenant in which we belong to Christ! Romans 5:19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience [Adam] many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that He made a way for us to be bought back from the slavery of sin and death (Ephesians 2:1-5). Ephesians 1:7 tells us, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” The grace and redemption of God and being part of His family are freely available to all who will receive it!
A New Identity
But what does it look like for us to live our lives here on this earth as “the redeemed of the Lord”? This is something that should affect how we see ourselves. We have a new identity that is literally in Christ. We do not deserve to belong, but we were chosen to belong! As such, how we see ourselves and the way we speak should align with the truth of God’s Word about who we are as His sons and daughters in Christ. While we may not forget our old identity as slaves to sin, we must walk in our new identity through the work of Christ alone.
There are many passages that emphasize this truth throughout God’s Word. Zechariah 3:4 says, “He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Again, He said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.’” This beautiful imagery demonstrates how we receive our identity, belonging, and worth from the Lord.
In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells a parable demonstrating how the church is to prepare for the return of Christ. It is about a king whose invited guests do not make themselves ready for his son’s wedding. His response is to command his servants to “go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite them to the wedding” (verse 9). Verse 10 describes that the result was a wedding hall “filled with guests.” The last time I read this parable, I was struck by something – even though these guests were just found out in the streets and highways and compelled to come to the wedding, the guests did not lay in nakedness and desperation on the floor of the wedding hall; they had been invited, were clothed for the wedding, and they belonged as such! In a similar parable, Luke 14:21 describes the people brought in to the wedding feast as “the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.” But upon arrival, they did not say over and over, “I am not worthy, I am not worthy!” Rather, they feasted and celebrated the marriage of the king’s SON!
Likewise, we are to clothe ourselves in our identity in Christ. Does what we say line up with the truth of God’s Word? Does how we act and how we believe demonstrate that It is to Him that we belong? Like my employer’s response to the black hoodie where she claimed it as her own, there is a truth that God wants to help each one of us to settle in our hearts. That truth is found in Isaiah 43:1, in which God says to His people, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name. You are Mine.” We belong through redemption in Christ. We are known, we are called, and we are His!
“It gave Him great pleasure…”
In one of my (Beth’s) favorite children’s novels, The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis depicts a story of two children and two talking horses on their way to Narnia to escape the brutality and slavery of the pagan land of Calormen. The main character, a young boy named Shasta, has been brought up without a family by a fisherman and treated little better than a slave. Throughout the story, we see that he has not allowed his suffering to make him bitter, but that he still feels a deep sense of unbelonging and loneliness. It is not until he encounters Aslan, the great lion, that he begins to see the hand of the almighty at work in his life and discovers family, community and abundant living. In Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre production of this story, C.S. Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, comments that the story’s setting in a foreign land encapsulates a sense of “unbelonging” in the characters that Lewis ultimately meant to reflect the same “unbelonging” found in all humanity that is only filled in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There was an article recently published in the Tulsa World entitled Oklahoma’s Heart. It spotlighted children in need of adoption. The majority of children pictured were of elementary school age and older. Each one of them needed what they referred to as a “forever home.” Spiritually, we each are also in need of a “forever home,” and each person who accepts the work of Christ has just that! Ephesians 1:5-6 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son.”
Ladies, our identity is now as the redeemed who belong to our Lord! But so often our words and beliefs do not align with the truth that God, with great pleasure, brought us “to Himself through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:5). We are no longer orphans nor are we slaves of sin. We belong to Him now (Isaiah 43:6-7, 21). Believe and declare this truth! Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Wholehearted women of God, we belong to our Lord; we are the redeemed! Let this truth be settled in your hearts and permeate every part of your life.
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