Today’s Scripture focus: Ephesians 2:1-10
While I’m quite certain that the use of affirmations did not start with 12-Step groups, they have become a powerful tool in fighting addiction. At its most basic level, an affirmation is a declaration that something is true. In dealing with addiction, one of the greatest battles is to distinguish between truth and lie. The inner addict is so powerful in convincing a person to believe the lies of their addiction – lies like, “you can stop anytime you want,” “this will be the last time,” “you deserve a little something for yourself,” or “you’re not hurting anyone else with this behavior.” Addicts have a way of convincing themselves of just about anything and everything.
Affirmation are statement that a person knows to be true, regardless of how they feel on any particular day. It is the sober mind putting in writing the truth that an addict wants to remind him/herself when the lies of the addiction are threatening to lead them to compromise. It helps to look in the mirror and say the affirmations to oneself. Hearing them out loud helps to let those truths sink in to one’s life.
I have found affirmations to be a powerful tool in my own battle with sin and the “old self.” Jesus said that our enemy is the “father of lies” (John 8:44), seeking to convince us that those lies are truth. A few years ago, my wife compiled a list of affirmations straight from scripture about who God says that I am. While there are many days that I don’t necessarily feel that these are true about me, I try to remind myself that if God has said that they are true, they must be. Since then, I have shared this list with many people struggling with understanding their identity in Christ.
I thought of this list as I read today’s passage. It reads very much like an affirmation of our true identity in Jesus Christ. “We were dead in our trespasses,” it tells us. I don’t feel dead, my mind tells me. I’m pretty sure that I’m still breathing, my lungs say. I’m still pumping, my heart chimes in. All true, but the reality is that I am dead. Sin is a living, breathing death and I’m a victim of its vile venom. In reality, I don’t have to work really hard to believe this one. I know myself. I know just how many times I blow it each and every day. I realize, as the common prayer of confession used by many different Christian denominations states, that I “have sinned by [my] own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what [I] have done, and by what [I] have left undone.” I know just how bad I’ve screwed things up. This whole Lent process has continually pointed that out to me as well.
But it doesn’t end here. “Even when we were dead . . . [God] made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Even when we were dead . . . Even when we had nothing that we could offer . . . Even when we were still enemies . . . Even when all hope seemed lost . . . Even when all others had turned their back on us . . . Even when God should have left us to wallow around in the massive mess we made for ourselves, Christ reached in and pulled us out. No, more than that. Christ took our place. We are already raised up to new life with him. It’s a done deal. It is a fact. New life begins today.
And there’s still more. “God . . . raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Not only are we raised to new life, but it is a fact that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. It’s as though he wants to be sure that we get it – it’s not just new life, you are royalty in Christ Jesus. In those days that you look in the mirror and can only see your sin and failure staring back at you, remember that you are a prince/princess. You are a child of the king. You are seated in the place of honor among the royal court. It is a fact.
This is an affirmation, if ever I heard one! This is something of which we need to be reminded. This is not a future hope, but a present reality. This is not something we’ve earned, it is a gift. And should you ask, “Why?” Why has God met you in Jesus at the lowest point of your life? Why has God breathed new life into your bones? Why has God seated you among the royal court in the heavenly places? “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (emphasis mine). This is your identity. This is your life purpose. Go live it.
Prayer: God, that you for the reality of who I am in you. Thank you for new life. Thank you for forgiveness. Thank you for adopting me. Thank you for making me an heir to the throne. Thank you for giving me a purpose. Help me to live into this reality and reject the multitude of lies this world would have me believe. Amen.
* Note: This blog post is part of a series of reflections for Lent. The passages are based on a booklet Steven wrote for Ecclesia, the church he pastors in Fairview, NC.