The more I study the Bible the more I think our identity is key. Since the fall of Man, everyone of us have struggled with who we are. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s letters we see a pattern though and he always begins his letters identifying himself, for the sake of the reader, and then he tells them who they are. For instance, he says, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle…” Then he says, “To the saints at Colossae, Philippi, Ephesus, Rome” and so on. So we immediately know who he is and who we are.
While this may seem very basic to some, I think many sort of gloss over it. The reason I know most don’t recognize the importance of this is because the church, made up of born-again people, are quick to identify themselves as “sinners” when the Apostle Paul clearly calls them saints. Some might say, “Okay, Louie so what’s the big deal here? Don’t we all still sin?” Ah! now we’re getting somewhere and this is exactly why how we identify ourselves is so important.
Recently while studying Romans six, and reading how we have died to sin, “for he who has died is freed from sin” (v. 7). I was struck by how most “church folks” claim to believe the Bible, but if you were to ask them if we have been freed from sin, while they might agree because it’s written there in black and white, underneath they would still be thinking “but we still sin everyday.” This brings up another question, “Do we have to?”
Talking about our identity is crucial to how we behave. It occurred to me recently the story of Tarzan is a great illustration for us here. If I remember correctly Tarzan and his parents were shipwrecked, both his parents died, or were killed, so that’s how he ended up being raised by apes. This of course caused him to grow up thinking he was an ape rather than a human being–talk about an identity crisis! Later on he returns to civilization but has to be taught how to be human because his whole life had been spent swinging from tree to tree living as an ape. This is where the illustration fits in for us. The Apostle Paul addresses his readers as “saints” because that’s what they are, but they have spent so much of their lives thinking of themselves as “sinners” it’s difficult for them to see it any other way.
When God’s word tells us we are saints, who have died and been freed from sin, it doesn’t mean it is impossible for us to sin, it simply means we don’t have to. God’s provision for us in His Son Jesus Christ is enough. The more we learn to see ourselves as dead to sin the more we will see it lose its grip on us. Just like Tarzan, we have to see ourselves in a new light.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). So we don’t deny who we were, but like Tarzan, we have to stop seeing ourselves as “apes/sinners” and begin to identify ourselves as “washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God.”