In the Identity Series we’ve focused on truth that are bedrock for the Christian faith. Our last lesson recounted man’s tragic choice to flee from God’s loving protection, causing death to enter the world. But through another man’s choice death was defeated and new life was born, restoring our broken connection with God. This truth is not just an event confined to history, as today we’ll see how Jesus death, burial, and resurrection is at work with power, here and now.
Let’s look at a question that lies at the very center of human experience. “Who am I”? Whether we realize it or not, your answer impacts your life in just about every way imaginable. You see, everything we do, every single day, affirms who we really believe we are.
To illustrate this point, imagine tomorrow morning you’re visited by authorities possessing detailed records of your DNA and hospital records. To your surprise, these records definitively prove you were switched at birth, revealing your true biological parents to be Bill and Melinda Gates. As their eldest heir, you instantly possess a multibillion dollar fortune. Would your newly found heritage influence your behavior? Of course, suddenly you’d find yourself more comfortable rubbing elbows with the famed and fortuned, able to look people in the eye that intimidated you just minutes ago. But you are still you, the same person you were just moments ago.
Clearly, identity drives behavior, as who we believe we are, influences how we act. But how did you come to define who you are? Who told you, and is that source reliable or accurate? Unfortunately, the more common experience is an identity built on failures and shortcomings, or built on some specific ability or role that can change in an instant. But what you do, how you feel, or how others treat you doesn’t define who you are. What does is way more simple than you think.
Why is a bird a bird, because it can fly, or has feathers? The ostrich and penguin never take to the air and the Kiwi Bird has more of a hair like coat instead of feathers. The nature and identity of any creature is simply given at birth. A bird is a bird because it was born as bird, given bird DNA by its bird parents. Birth Determines identity, in every case. This statement is the heart of our lesson.
We inherit our nature, our identity, from birth. Our last lesson revealed how Adam passed on a sinful nature to all humanity upon our arrival at birth. It was our nature, which then guided our behavior. And as hard as we may try, no creature can behave its way into something different.
But there is hope for those who desperately want change. In John 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, you must be born again. This was not just a clever saying. If anyone could behave their way into a new person, Nicodemus could. But Jesus states that it’s never enough to just act like a new person, we need to be a new person, born again with a new nature. Since Jesus is the resurrection and the life, He offers the solution, to be born again into a new nature with a new identity.
Jesus didn’t come to improve certain behaviors in us, nor to just teach us how to act different. The gospel isn’t a program for moral improvement, it’s the dead coming back to life. You see, the scriptures teach that in the same way we were born into spiritual death in Adam, we can be reborn with a new nature in the likeness of Jesus. Jesus became as we were, so we could become as He is.
If we’ve been born again through faith, we have a new identity. Listen closely, we are no longer sinners, but saints, who may sometimes, less and less sin. Fifty-Seven times the New Testament refers to believers as saints, compared to zero as sinners. On only two occasions the word sinner is used in connection with believers, but always in the context of their life before salvation.
In Corinthians Paul proclaims, “anyone who is in Christ is a new creature, the old has passed away, behold All things are made new.” Paul says again in Romans, “knowing this, that our old nature was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” Again in Colossians, “for you died and your life is hidden with God.” Read these verses slowly and notice that they are all past tense, and they all reference the death of believers’ sinful nature. We are no longer by nature sinners, but have been born again into a new nature, a nature in the likeness of the God who now lives in us.
There are over 150 verses that describe our identity in Christ. Verses that describe us as holy, set apart, made for good works, redeemed, justified before God, having peace with God, complete, perfect, accepted, and sharing in the mind and heart of Christ.
You see, it’s really this simple. Act like who you are. What would your life look like if you honestly, whole heartedly, believed God’s word about your new identity and birth in Christ. Well, as the verses above stated, you would behave in accordance with who you really are. Take God at His word, and we will see ourselves begin to act holy, produce good works, walk free of condemnation, free of shame, peaceful, possessing self- control, loving, joyful, selfless, gentle, and kind.
The biggest barrier to experiencing this wonderful truth of our new identity in Christ is our propensity to trust our experience and emotions above the Word of God. But if God says we are justified, holy, patient, kind, self-controlled, gentle, faithful, good, joyful, and full of peace, we are to believe Him no matter how we feel.
So, you’re not who you think you are, you’re not defined by what you think you are, and you don’t have to act like who you’re not. Stop acting like the old you and walk in the newness of life God has given you, a nature of goodness, righteousness, peace, faith, and love. He has made you new, will you trust his word and act in accordance with the nature you possess?