Positional TruthRomans 8:16-17 • Dr. Jim McGowan • November 30, 2003 • Topical Sermons by Dr. Jim McGowan
Sugar Land Bible Church, November 20, 2003
That’s not fair, I’m supposed to get up and preach after that; that was fantastic. I know we’re a very conservative church and I hope that you’re going to agree with me but I just have to say glory to God, that was wonderful, thank you so much. I just am so blessed and I want to just say before everyone here how blessed I am to be here this morning, and how privileged I am [can’t understand word]. What I want to say is this: I want everyone to know how much I appreciate all of the things that are done at this church. Look at the ornamentation around here. Look at the song preparation up front. Think about the teachers that are back there waiting impatiently for me to finish so that the children can be dismissed. All of these things that are done and it’s all behind the scenes and it happens every week. No one is looking for any favor, no one is looking for any outward expression of thanks but I just want to take this moment just to tell you all how much I appreciate each and every one of you. And not just that but those of you that are here today because it would be very easy to be missing when the main pastor is not here. Now having said that, I am to tell you at this point in time that all of the children are going to be meeting downstairs for Jr. Church is room 111, so parents, please make a note of that; you children will not be going upstairs this morning, they’ll be in room 111. Having said that, all of the children that are dismissed for Junior Church may do so now. If you’d like to get up and go you may go. Have you all taken time to just watch them as they leave? They are just precious, just precious! They can’t wait to get back to their class. I wish my adult Sunday School people were that way. [Laughter] Again, that’s going to be room 111 so at the end of the service that’s where you’ll pick your children up. No one will be upstairs.
If you haven’t noticed I’m not pastor Mark, I’m not pastor Jay, they both fled the coup, they’re out on vacation so earlier when Ed mentioned the fact that we’re taking up staff love gifts, since they’re gone if you’d just like to make your check out to Jim McGowan, that last name is M-c-G-o-w-a-n. [Laughter] Now that was a joke… that was a joke!
I am very glad you’re here this morning and I would like to speak with you this morning about what I’m calling positional truth. For many the holiday season is like a tsunami and everyone knows what a tsunami is, right—a tidal wave! This time of year it’s like a tsunami that’s building up offshore and as it grows bigger and bigger so does the anxiety of what it will do once it makes landfall. Sadly, although this time of the year is supposed to be a time of great joy and happiness studies tell us that at no other time of the year do so many people seek help from psychologists and psychiatrists. But ironically studies also show that psychiatrists have the highest suicide rate of any profession. So one wonders if the medicine is perhaps worse than the disease. During what is supposed to be a time of great celebration too often we find sadness, frustration, and anxiety abounding in the world.
But what is even worse is the fact that this state of confusion is not limited to unbelievers. In many cases it is the condition of God’s own children. Why is this so? Well, there may be many contributing factors to this sad state of affairs. I would like to suggest that the main reason we as believers do not consistently enjoy the victory which Christ won for us can be traced back to an imperfect understanding and contemplation of this thing called positional truth. This doctrinal deficiency therefore is catastrophic because positional truth is the basis for and the foundation of victory in every area of our Christian life. If the structural integrity of our personal spiritual foundation is unknown or in doubt in times of turmoil our confidence in it will be shaken. So you can see that positional truth is critical.
Now before I can go further let me clarify for you what I mean by the expression “positional truth.” I didn’t invent this phrase, it doesn’t originate with me. The phrase “positional truth” actually refers to the historic orthodox Christian doctrine of justification and sanctification, and specifically how these doctrines relate and apply in the Christian life. Now I know someone out there the blood just rushed from their face because they’re afraid that I’m going to bore them with an comprehensive teaching on the issues of justification and sanctification. Let me reassure you that’s not the case. We don’t have time for that this morning so let me do this. Let me just give you a brief definition, if I may, of justification and sanctification. And then we’ll move forward.
What I’m referring to with regard to the term justification is the fact that we were once for all, and the emphasis is that expression, once for all declared to be justified before God. And this occurred at the very moment we received Christ as our Savior. And what I’m referring to with regard to our sanctification is the act which began at the moment of our justification and is in fact dependent upon it. Sanctification is that act whereby we were once for all, and again the emphasis is on the once for all sanctified or set apart unto God.
So with this as a working definition we can now biblically say that positionally we have been justified and positionally we have been sanctified. In God’s mind we are declared righteous and in God’s mind we have been set apart to Him. It is an established fact! In other words, whereas we were at one time enemies of God previously, through the new birth we are now positionally related to and belong to God, eternally. We’re once justified always justified! And once sanctified always sanctified!
While it is generally true that most evangelicals, and that would be you and I, we’re familiar with the concepts of justification and sanctification, unfortunately too often we’re not familiar with where that takes us. In other words, we understand something about positional truth but we don’t realize where that naturally should lead us, and that is to the corresponding concept or what I call identification truth. Identification truth deals with our relationship and our participation with the Lord Jesus in His death unto sin and His resurrection unto God. Identification truth teaches us that when we receive the Lord Jesus as our Savior we were born into Him as our life in that instantaneous moment of time all that our Savior is and all that our Savior has became ours. This is a mindboggling concept! And so much so that about all that the new believer can initially grasp or even hope to grasp of this truth and understand it is the aspect of this truth as it relates to our justification.
What I mean is this, that the moment I’m born again somehow in some wonderful miraculous way the Holy Spirit reveals to my spirit that Christ’s righteousness is now my righteousness. But as important and as significant as justification is let me just say that that was only the beginning of an incalculable and unlimited number of awe inspiring wonders into which we are to enter, both in this life and throughout eternity. Discovering what the Word of God has to say about these wonders is what identification truth is actually all about. Identification truth was an important topic to the Apostle Paul, in fact, he specifically addresses it in Romans 8:17 where he declared that we’re not merely children of God by virtue of the new birth, and that’s a lot, and that’s a good thing, but he didn’t stop there, he went on and said that we are also heirs… heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. [Romans 8:16- 17, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”]
What Paul is setting forth here in this particular verse is that by virtue of our new position in Christ, and again, that position is one of justification and sanctification; that’s our new position. By virtue of that new position all the necessary resources of life and godliness are held in trust for us “in Christ.” And these resources for life and godliness become a reality in our condition as we mature step by step in faith.
Now before Paul arrived at his conclusion here in Romans 8:17 it’s important to note that first of all he teaches positional truth to the Romans. And this can be seen especially in the foundational chapters of the Book of Romans, specifically chapters 1-5. And I encourage you to go back and read through those. After he presents positional truth in the first five chapters and then once he satisfies that the Romans understood that teaching, Paul then moves into the wealth of identification truth and we find that in Romans chapters 6-8. What this means for us is that like the Romans we must first be firmly established in positional truth concerning Christ dying for our sins and rising again for our justification. And THEN and only then are we prepared to appreciate our new position and enter into the benefits of our having died and risen with Him.
Since the order is so important the question we should ask is how do we become firmly established in positional truth? And perhaps the best answer to that question is just to let the Word of God speak for itself. In Romans chapter 6, we’re going to spend some time there, Romans 6:5, notice what Paul says here. He says, “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.” Paul is saying here that for us to be reborn, newly created in the risen life of the Savior God had to free us from the penalty of sin and the nature of the fallen Adam.
But how was this realized? God accomplished this by placing us “in Christ” on the cross, by identifying each one of us with Him. This means that when Christ died unto the realm and reign and principle of sin we too died unto sin “in Him.” He was identified with our sin in order that we might become identified with His righteousness. Now we know that that’s true because Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For God hath made Him” Christ, “to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
We also know that the Lord Jesus rose again once He had paid in full the wages of sin, therefore through our identification with Him in His death not only were we freed from both the penalty and power of sin but we also arose with Him in His resurrection. Romans 6:8 declares, “Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Not only did the Lord Jesus die unto the power of sin and the reign of sin but according to Hebrews 7:16 he rose again in the power of an endless life. [Hebrews 7:16, “Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” KJV] Since we are identified with Him on the cross we too died unto sins tyrannical dominion. Since we are identified with Him on the cross we can boldly claim with Paul that we have been buried with Christ through spiritual 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.” [Romans 6:4, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”]
Notice that Paul first establishes the fact of our identification with Christ. In Romans 6:3 he says “Know ye not, that all who were identified with the Lord Jesus were identified into His death.” In verse 6 he says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, [in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;”] Once the facts are understood Paul then, and only then, admonishes the Romans to exercise faith. This is vitally important because we see in Romans 6:11 that God, speaking through Paul, commands you and me, in the light of our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, He commands us to consider, to reckon, to evaluate ourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. [Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” KJV]
God’s command that we consider ourselves by faith to be dead to sin but alive to God would be utterly impossible if this were not already factually so. Nor could He ever call upon us to consecrate ourselves to Him as alive from the dead, as He does in Romans 6:13, if He had not already made us new creations in the risen Christ. [Romans 6:13, Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” KJV] But it’s true and certain as our identification with the Lord Jesus is if we are not fully aware of the biblical facts we derive little benefit from them in our daily life. And let’s face it, that’s where we need them. To be fully aware of the biblical facts concerning our identification with the Lord Jesus means that we reckon upon a positional fact. We meditate on, we reflect upon our position in Christ. That is to say we see it clearly, we believe it, we count upon it and we receive and appropriate the practicality or the practical reality of it. And we do all of this with thanksgiving!
The result of our reckoning concerning our position is that according to Colossians 2:7 we will be “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” [KJV] As the Holy Spirit reveals to us the positional truth concerning the Lord Jesus’ death unto sin and our identification with Him in that death and resurrection by faith in the facts we acknowledge our position, that is we reckon ourselves likewise to have died unto sin and to be forever alive unto God in Christ. [Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” KJV]
The blessed result of our reckoning is that our eternal position “in Christ” over time becomes our experiential condition. Now I hope that didn’t just fly over everybody’s head. I want to say that again, listen to this: as we count ourselves, are the blessed result of our reckoning, when we reckon ourselves and understand the positional truth the blessing of that is that our eternal position in Christ and everything that means to us becomes over time our experiential condition. As we count ourselves to have died to sin on the cross “in Him” the effect of the cross is applied by the Spirit to our sinful self life. By virtue of our reckoning self is crucified; it’s held in the place of death and we are led into sacrificial paths for His glory. As self is thus dealt with by the cross our condition begins to progressively reflect the facts of our position in Christ.
Now earlier I said that positional truth is the basis of victory for every sphere of our Christian life. But in fact, all life and growth, both physical and spiritual, is based upon this principle of position. For physical birth we entered into our human family position; it is from this human family position that we derive certain human characteristics and abilities. Just as we are the product of our physical natural birth even so now we are the product of our new spiritual birth for through our new birth we have entered our eternal family position, which is the source from which we derive all of our spiritual characteristics and abilities.
When we were born again the risen Lord Jesus became the source of our Christian life. When we were born again we were positioned before the Father “in Christ” the One in whom we live and move and have our being. [Acts 17:28, “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.”’] We are now His workmanship created in Christ Jesus. [Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”]
The Father, in redeeming and recreating us also raised us up with Christ and has seated us with Him in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 2:6, “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”] That is our position brothers and sisters, and it is perfect, it is eternal, it is established in the Father’s presence. When we received the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior the Holy Spirit caused us to be born into Him. This is the eternal position into which every believer has been placed, whether he is aware of it or not. However, it is only the one who comes to see his position in the Lord Jesus who also begins to experience the benefit of all that he is in Him.
In other words, our daily condition is developed from the source of our eternal position. Our condition is what we are in our daily Christian walk as we develop from infancy to maturity. And while our new position remains unchangeable and constant our condition is variable. Now if you’re just not sure that that’s true I encourage you to (husbands) ask your wife about that. I believe you will find out that they will agree that your daily walk with the Lord is variable. Someone laugh, some smile, someone do something… my goodness gracious, we have the sword of Damocles hanging over us this morning.
Again let me say our position is unchangeable, it’s constant but our daily condition is variable. Although it is true that the exercise of faith based up our eternal position positively affects our daily condition in no way does our condition affect our heavenly position. Did you hear that? Did you understand that? Paul makes this clear when he writes in Colossians 3:1, “Since then you have been raised up with Christ” there’s your position, “keep seeking the things above,” that’s your condition, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Based upon your position your condition is developed. A balanced understanding of the differences between position and condition is vital and yet sadly, in most cases, the believer is more focused upon his condition than his position.
This is the reason for so much failure and stagnation in the body of Christ. When the believer does not realize his position in the Lord Jesus and he doesn’t realize how to abide in Christ as his very life, there can only be one result. He will continually struggle in vain with his un-Christ-like condition rather than rest in His Christ centered position. And this is so because when we concentrate on our condition we’re not living by faith, we’re living by feelings and appearances. The inevitable result is that as we focus on our condition we become increasingly self-conscious, self-centered, and self-absorbed. In contrast, John the Baptist, in [can’t understand word] concerning the Son of God in John 3:30, where he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
When we center our focus on our condition our daily life’s mission statement becomes He must decrease and I must increase. On the other hand, when we focus upon and rest in our heavenly position “in Christ” there will be continual growth and Christ will be more and more manifested in our condition for as we with open face behold the glory of the Lord we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” [2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” KJV]
If then we are to grow and become fruitful and if we ae to experience victory in our condition our faith must be anchored in the finished work of our position in Christ. A spiritual fact-centered faith in our position in Christ before the Father is the only means of experiencing that finished work in the growth of our daily condition. I want to remind you that every true believer has been positioned forever in the risen Lord by spiritual birth, BUT ONLY the believer who knows grows. It is faith in the facts of our position that gives us the daily benefits of growth in our condition. If the believer is not clearly aware of the specific truths of the Word he cannot exercise the necessary faith for grown and service. He can only speak out his own insufficient resources that are based in the realm of self.
But once we as believers become aware of the specific truths of the Word concerning our position in Christ we must then take our position. It’s not enough to know, and this is the hard part, for we take our position not by toiling and struggling to get into it but simply by accepting that we are already positioned in the Lord Jesus. We abide in Him by resting in the fact that we have been in the risen position ever since our new birth. As we come to realize this truth and as we come to stand in our standing “in Him” we begin to experience the daily benefits of our life that his hid with Christ in God. As we come to realize this truth the attitude of our heart becomes I see my position in the Lord Jesus and I abide there, I rest in Him not only as my Savior but as my life.
So faith in our position then brings growth in our condition. In Ephesians 1:17-18 you’ll remember that Paul prayed this for the Ephesians. He said, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” [19, “ and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might  which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”]
Paul also said in verse 3, “Blessed be God, …who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places 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”]
From these verses and others we can see that our heavenly Father intends for us to know and understand that He has already provided for us in Christ our life everything… everything required for our Christian life, both in time and eternity. Based upon the fact that the provision has been made we are then admonished to do in faith what our Father has already done in fact. At the cross He freed us from the reign of sin; He freed us from self. In the resurrection He united us to the risen Lord Jesus. By faith in the work of the cross the old man is put off. By faith in our heavenly position “in Christ” the new man is put on. Walking in this reality frees us to dwell within the very source of every spiritual blessing with which our father has blessed us.
Let me conclude at this point and the way I would like to do that is I would like to just ask you to examine yourself this morning. Just do a little introspection right now. Is your condition consistently matching your position? Let me help you in your examination. Let me give you four questions that you can ask yourself that will help you decide if you’re where you ought to be.
Question number one, ask yourself, do I truly see and understand my position… do I TRULY see and understand my position, my identification with Christ in having died unto the dominion of sin and been made alive unto God in Him.
Question number two, am I honest with myself? Am I honest concerning my need to be separated in my condition from self and unto Christ.
The third question, am I consistently exercising faith in the completed work of my position by reckoning upon the fact of my death and resurrection in Christ?
And finally, am I confident that on the basis of my faith the Holy Spirit will translate the truth of my position into my daily condition?
Now I’m not going to ask for a show of hands on this but I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that as I ask myself these questions I find that I come up lacking. Therefore as I ministered this message to you this morning I’m in fact ministering this message to myself. And I can tell you right now that I don’t reflect enough on my position in Christ, and because of my lack of understanding, because of my lack of commitment to do so I vacillate in my condition. As you in your heart this morning honestly answer these questions you may find, as I, that your condition does not consistently match your position as it should. If this is the case let me encourage you to ask the Father… are you ready, right now, this very moment, I want you to ask the Father right where you are, ask Him to begin to reveal to your spirit the reality of your position in Christ and while you’re at it, thank Him for helping you to daily walk in the light of your eternal position. And I can promise you that if you’re sincere in your asking He will answer your heart’s cry and you will discover that your condition will begin to reflect your position more and more each day.
Now the message this morning obviously has been directed towards believers. But there may be those present who have not yet trusted in Christ. We don’t want you to feel slighted if you’re here and you don’t know the Lord and if you fall into this category this morning, and you know who you are because you know whether or not you have accepted God’s free gift of eternal life in Christ, if you haven’t done that I would like to invite you to seek out one of the members of Sugar Land Bible Church, they will be thrilled and happy to talk to you about how to become a Christian and what it means to have new life in Christ.
Will you pray with me. Lord, I just want to come before You this morning and before my brothers and sisters in Christ I want to confess to You that I focus too much on my condition, that I vacillate, Father, in my walk, that I’m not the man of God that I should be. And Father, I also ask You right now to just help me to begin to make my position in Christ of more value, of more importance. Help me to make it a focus in my life, Father, and Lord, I just confess to you that I trust that as I do so You will translate that into my daily walk with You, my condition. And Father, I want to pray for all those that are present here this morning, I want to thank You again, Father, for bringing them because it is a divine appointment, no one is here by mistake, and I ask, Father, that You will take the Word that I have delivered this morning and that You would use it in the hearts and lives of each one of these individuals, that Father, they might see the truth of it, that they might live the reality if it and that they might see victory in their life, Father, because of it. Help us, Father, this week to walk in our position and we pray these things and thank You so much. In Christ’s name, Amen.