‘You shall be Holy, for I am Holy!’(1 Peter 1:16)
In the winter, when it’s not very practical to be outside, I like to work on our family’s genealogy. I work on all the family lines, but especially my grandfather Anderson’s family. That line is the most difficult to follow. Tracking that line means working their Scottish ancestry. The Andersons can be traced to an area near Aberdeenshire, Scotland, near Falkirk along the Carron River. Anderson is the 8th most used name in Scotland and originated from the name ‘son of Andrew’ (Scotland’s patron saint). In the Highlands of Scotland they referred to themselves as MacAndrew (Mac designating ‘son’), however, the more common name in the Lowlands was Anderson. The name first appears about the year 1400, and at that time the family was known as MacAindrea.
My great, great, great grandfather, John, a Scotsman, was a stonemason, who with his wife Elizabeth and son William, originally settled in Pope County near the town of Golconda, about 1818. He built the first brick home there. There is one document that indicates he originally came from Pennsylvania, and married Elizabeth, an Indiana girl, before coming to Illinois. William was born along the way to Pope County. Working Scottish genealogy means you must find your ‘tartan.’ It’s pretty easy to do actually. For you ‘non-Scots’ a tartan is the colorful, plaid blanket, whose color patterns have, over time, become associated with certain clans and families of Scotland. The tartan colors have become more important over the centuries, and expanded to kilts, socks, and bonnets. All you have to do is look at the tartans people are wearing to know exactly to what family or clan they belong. The Anderson tartan pattern is made of the colors blue, green, red, azure, black, white and yellow.
Researching the tartan and how much it was used for family identification caused me to think about the family of God. I remembered scripture that spoke of being in Christ and being identified with Him. I thought about our identity in and with Christ. How God prepared a specific identity for His family members. How He made a covering for us that, when seen, would indicate Whose we were.
That was God’s way of solving our alienation from Him. According to Ephesians 1:4, it was His plan to do so from the very beginning of time, long before we had even chosen Him. (Eph. 1:4) The solution was that God was going to place us into the lovely, innocent, holy Christ and declare us innocent rather than guilty. God knew we had such an impossible need, that only He could provide the remedy. The Word of God came to earth and solved that problem by placing us inside Himself. Where were you when Jesus went to the cross? According to Scripture you were crucified with Christ. You were in Him on that cross. (Gal. 2:20, Romans 6:6) You were executed that same day, in Him. He who knew no Sin became Sin on our behalf, and we, who were guilty of Sin, were raised up to Righteousness, placed in His Righteousness as a free gift. There was a line drawn that day: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new! Now all things are of God…” (2Cor 5:17-18) God is ‘seeing’ things differently now, at least the way He sees you. I know for a fact that my thoughts and actions disqualify me for God’s blessing, and I’m growing increasingly suspicious of your qualifications as well! However. He ‘reckons’ us to be innocent because we are in Christ. Not because we are innocent, not because we actually can live perfectly, but because we have entered into a holy place that is glorious! He has set us there so that we can be in His presence. Otherwise, we deserve– even the very best of us deserve– to be separated eternally from Him. By placing us in Christ, He has done what we could not do in ourselves. No one qualifies for what God has prepared for us, ‘no, not one!’
I like the Book of Colossians because it’s completely written in past tense. Things mentioned in those Scriptures have already happened. Paul teaches: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walkin Him having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude. See that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world rather than according to Christ. For in Him all fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the workings of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Do you think that is true? I hope we can let our minds permit that to be true. That’s part of the ‘renewing’ of our minds that needs to take place. We need to be converted to that truth.
We usually watch what people are doing in the natural to assume their heart. God looks at the heart of a man to interpret the natural. He doesn’t ‘see’ the same way we do. As an example, how many sons did Abraham have? Obviously, he had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael. (one by the flesh and one by the Spirit) But, God told Abraham that he should take his son, his only son, to the mountain. God looked at Abraham’s life a little differently than Abraham did. God perceives His believers differently than just what we see in the natural world. In God’s eyes, we are not simply old sinners saved by Grace, rather we are saints changed by Grace because of being in Christ. In the spiritual world of God, when He looks at you He sees you in Christ. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Why did He do that?) in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His Grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).
A few years ago, Rich Mullins told a story about his Irish ancestry in one of his concerts. Seems that the Irish fishermen’s wives wove heavy, cabled sweaters for their husbands to use as they worked in their boats fishing along the shores of Ireland. The sweaters would keep their husbands warm in the chill of the North Seas, but there was also another purpose for those sweaters. The wives would weave specific patterns, sometimes sewing or tying on a ribbon, so that each husband had a unique sweater that set him apart from the other fishermen. As you might imagine, many fishermen were lost at sea in storms and accidents. Sometimes the men were not found for days, but when found they were easily identifiable because of the sweaters they had on. As Rich told it, the women would see the sweater and know immediately, ‘he’s mine.’ Rich liked to share that story because Rich says that’s what happens to all of us. We wash up on the shore of Heaven and because of our ‘clothing’ (being in Christ) God will say without hesitation: “I recognize that sweater, I made that for him, that one’s mine.” We are reckoned as righteous, as blameless, as sanctified, as holy, not because we are truly all those things but because we are in Christ, and His life has been placed on us like one of those Irish sweaters. God uses it to identify us as one of His. Does this knowledge of being in Christ push us toward a liberty to sin? No! It produces in us a gratefulness, an appreciation, a gratitude, an awe, a thanksgiving that pushes us to do better-not worse. I think we have to let God’s Grace be that big; it needs to be that complete. If we do not, we reduce its importance and its ability to make huge changes in our everyday lives and bring the Peace that passes our own understanding.