Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Belonging to Jesus

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new series of sermons on the book of Romans.  Eric also has a special gift of music he’d be glad to send you for a donation of any size to The Ranch ministry this month.  Please see his note in the P.S. below for details). 
Belonging To JesusLesson 1 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
God would love to renew your mind.  And one of the best places to start is with how you identify yourself.  For how you view yourself affects how you view everything around you.  
Let’s take a look at how Paul identified himself in the opening words of his letter to the Romans.  Paul introduced himself by saying:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” (Romans 1:1a).
It’s a simple, but powerful statement.  In the original Greek language—which Paul used to write this letter—the word servant is more like our word for slave.  
We bristle at a word like that today.  No one wants to be a slave.  But it all depends on who your master is.  When you serve a master who loves you, cares for you, feeds you, clothes you, and would die for you, what better person to serve?   
Some people might not like the idea of belonging to someone else, but Paul didn’t mind.  He was glad to be a servant of Christ Jesus.  
The truth is, we all serve something or someone.  We’re either slaves to sin, slaves to work, slaves to others, or slaves to ourselves—which may be the worst master of all.  As for me, I’d rather serve Jesus!
Paul went on to say that not only did he belong to Jesus, but he wanted the Romans to belong to Jesus as well.  After introducing himself, Paul said:
“And you also are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6).
I love that phrase, that he wanted them “to belong to Jesus Christ.”  It made me think about my own life, and how I identify myself.  As I read Paul’s words to the Romans, I felt like God was saying to me: 
“Eric, what is your identity in?  Your family?  Your ministry?  Your website?  I don’t want your identity to be in anything but Me.  Not that your family isn’t great…and your ministry…and your website.  But I don’t want you to draw your strength from them.  I want you to draw your strength from Me.  I want you to draw your life from Me.  I am your Source.  I am your Life.  I am your All in All.”
It made me want to stand up and shout:  “I belong to Jesus!”  He bought me.  He paid the price for me.  And I know that He’s willing to do whatever’s best for me—something that He’s already proven true by doing the most extreme thing for me that He could possibly do:  by giving up His life for me.
It reminded me of the saying: 
“Sometimes you don’t realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
Thankfully you don’t have to lose everything you’ve got in order to realize that Jesus is all you need.
I remember going to a training class one time in order to work with AIDS patients.  It was a weekend class where the teacher tried to help us understand what life was like for someone who was dying of AIDS.
During one of the exercises, the teacher asked each of us to write down, on three slips of paper,  the three most important things in our lives—whether it was a person, a car, a house, a job, health, money, or whatever!  
So we took a few minutes to write down those things that were most important to us.  
A few minutes later, the teacher came around the room and took from each of us the paper on which we had written our third most important thing.  Then he asked:  “How does that feel?”  
Well, it felt like a punch in the gut.  On my paper, I had written down, “my family.”  And to have my family taken away gave me a horrible, sinking feeling.  He went on to say that this is what AIDS patients often feel when they lose those things that are most important to them.
Then he came around a second time and took away our second most important thing.  On my paper, I had written the name of my wife, “Lana.”  Again, when the paper was taken away, he asked:  “How does that feel?”  Again, I had that horrible, sinking feeling.  The whole room was silent as everyone considered what it would be like to lose this second most important thing in our lives.
Finally, he started to walk around the room the third time to take away our last piece of paper—the most important thing in our lives.  As he walked towards me, I began to smile.  I couldn’t help it.  I almost burst out laughing, I was so happy!
As the teacher walked up to me and asked for my paper, I didn’t know what to say.  All I could say was, “You can’t take it away!”  
He said, “Yes, I can.  Give me the paper.”  
I said, “Well, you can take away the paper, but you can’t take away what’s written on it!”  
On my last piece of paper, I had written the word, “Jesus.”  
You see, if your identity is in anything other than Jesus, those things can all be taken away, whether your spouse, your family, your job, your car, or anything else that is important to you.  But if your identity is in Christ, first and foremost, His love for you can never be taken away!
As Paul says later in the book of Romans:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
When you belong to Jesus, nothing in all creation could separate you from His love!
My daughter, Karis, recently wrote a blog post about how finding her identity in Christ is helping her to live the fullest life possible, even during her single years.  Here’s an excerpt from what she wrote:
– – – – – – – 
A few weeks ago I was at school praying about what to major in, what I should be doing with my life and just what God would want me to do after I finish college.
Then as I was praying I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me, What if you were single the rest of your life? What if all you had was Me? Would I be enough?
I know I’ve read stories of women who have had this happen to them, but never would I have thought that would be me. A life of singleness? Ha, not me.
But as I sat there, I realized… I could honestly answer yes. 
And as soon as I did, I had such peace.  I realized that all my ideas of what I was going to do with my life after I left school, how I pictured my life in ministry, everything, it was all with a husband, like I planned my life around him (and I don’t even have a boyfriend!). Which isn’t wrong at all, but I feel like I could use my single years so much better if I focused on God wholeheartedly, not holding anything back.
Sometimes a girl will completely wrap her identity around a guy that she likes and without him she doesn’t even know what to do. He is everything to her, she spends all her time with him, her identity is in him, her source of satisfaction, and contentment, and just everything. And in a human relationship that is not healthy. 
But towards God, our identity should be Him. A woman’s love for a guy should come from their love for Christ. And I want my identity to be found in Him. I definitely believe that if you’re not content with who you are, being in a relationship isn’t going to make it better.
When I decided I was just going to live totally in love with Jesus, being content with Him no matter what happens, and doing the things I want to do even if I don’t have a husband, it felt so perfect. I felt so free.
And it’s not that I still don’t want a husband, not at all!
But if I never do find a guy, I’ll be perfectly content with the love of Jesus.  
– – – – – –
As you can tell from just these few stories, how you identify yourself can make a huge difference in how you view everything around you.  That’s why finding your identity in Christ is such a great place to start if you’re wanting to renew your mind.
Paul could have identified himself as a tentmaker, because he made tents for a living.  It was a great thing to do and I’m sure it helped a lot of people.  But that’s not how he identified himself.  His identity was in Christ.
What about you?  How do you identify yourself—in your mind, at least, if not publicly?  Are you a mother, a husband, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, nurse, janitor, assistant, homemaker, pastor, president, king?  There’s no higher title than to say that you’re a servant of Christ Jesus, the King of all kings, the Giver of all good gifts, the Doer of all good things.
Jesus wants you to belong to Him.
If you already belong to Jesus, then draw your strength from Him.  Draw your life from Him.  He’s your Source.  He’s your Life.  He’s your All in All.
And if you don’t belong to Jesus, can I ask, “Why not?”  Is there anything holding you back from giving your life fully to Him?  He really does love you and He wants to make things right between you and Him again.  Turn away from anything that’s holding you back, and put your full faith and trust in Him.
As Paul would tell you—and I would concur—there’s nothing better in life than belonging to Jesus!
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for Paul’s reminder to us of the importance of belonging to Jesus.  Help us to remember that we belong to Him.  Help us to find our identity in Him.  Help us to draw our strength from Him, realizing that He is our Source, He our Life, and He is our All in All.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hymns - 100% Pure Piano from Marilyn Byrnes

P.S. I’ve been mailing out copies of a beautiful CD this month that I believe can help you in renewing your mind.  It’s 100% pure piano, featuring eleven favorite hymns like “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Immortal, Invisible,” and “How Great Thou Art.”  Even though they are classic hymns, they’re all played in a flowing and contemporary style by Marilyn Byrnes.  I’d be glad to send you a copy of her music, either on CD or as downloadable MP3’s, for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  Your donations really do make a difference to us, and we’re glad to send you this music as our way of saying thanks.  To make a donation and get a CD or the downloadable MP3’s, just click the link below.
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 1:1-7.  How did Paul identify himself?
2.  What was Paul called to do?
3.  How do you identify yourself?
4.  How might your life be different if you were to identify yourself—whether publicly or privately—as someone who “belonged to Jesus”?
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