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.”
I was reminded today how our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood. Even though I know, or knew this, it is amazing how easy it is to get distracted and start thinking someone, other than the enemy, is our problem especially if it is someone you love.
In Ephesians 6 we discover our real fight is “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” While this may sound strange to some it is true throughout the scripture. We are told in chapter 2 of Ephesians before we were born again we all walked according to “the prince of the power of the air…the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” In other words, we all have had our time of being manipulated by the enemy.
It’s no wonder the 11th chapter of 2 Corinthians tells us “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” So it’s not only those that blatantly do us wrong it is even those that come across as being from God. It’s no wonder we are told to be “sober and alert” because we are dealing with an enemy whom Jesus himself called “the Father of lies.” That means he is an expert at it!
Let’s look at a few more verses in Ephesians 6 and see just exactly how we are told to fight this wiley enemy? Interestingly enough we are not told to fight back at all but rather to stand. In fact when we have done all we know to stand we stand some more. Stand? I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like very smart battle plans or does it? You see we are told to stand in the armor of God which is then described as the truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith and salvation. Hmmm? This sounds like it’s describing Jesus Christ to me. Oh, we are being told to stand in Christ! That’s it! We are to fight the enemy by standing in who we really are, our true identity in Christ. How does this look in real life you may ask? Well let’s see if I can help.
The Bible tells us the enemy, Satan, has many names or titles he is known by and one of them is “The Accuser of the Brethren.” When someone is constantly accusing you of something, whether it is true or not, it’s a safe bet it isn’t God. You see the enemy works through people just as Christ does and sometimes even well intention-ed people. I’ll use the relationship between my wife and I as an example. Back in my B.C. days, or before Christ for those that didn’t catch that, I wasn’t such a “good” guy, if you will. This combined with many other things led to us getting divorced. Since then I have been born again and we have remarried. God now dwells inside both of us and we don’t bring up past behaviors as weapons to use against each other. In fact if there are thoughts or accusations that come into my head I know right away they aren’t from God but you know who.
When a spouse or friend continuously rehashes the past and can’t seem to get over it, it means one thing. The enemy is working. He loves nothing more than to break up couples and families over things that can’t be fixed. When I say, “can’t be fixed” what I mean is the past is as good as it is ever going to be. Christ can heal any damage from lies or betrayal but it only comes from walking in who you really are and then letting others do the same. Just as we believe the Holy Spirit in us has transformed us we must start trusting him, and give him the room, to do the same in others. When the enemy attacks with lies about you stand in the truth. We get into trouble when we start believing we are what we used to be rather than being a new creature in Christ. So the way we fight is by standing in Christ, our real identity, and not being drawn out into a battle over some false accusation that is an attempt to get us to think we are someone other than who the Bible teaches us we are.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “You have never seen your own face,” until I heard it one more time, not directed at me. Then the next thing said was, “the Bible is the mirror who shows us who we really are.” Now think about this, when we see our face in a mirror, it is merely a reflection. So, it proves true that the Bible reflects who we are and what we look like to God. The world may say a lot of different things about us, who live in Christ, but most of the time, it isn’t true. I know a lot of the girls sitting in jail-church have heard people they trusted say horrible things to them and eventually believed them.
We all have an identity but what is it? Some people put the label of alcoholic on themselves even though it has been ten years since their last drink. Some people call cancer, “my cancer, or my depression,” as if it is who they are. Sickness may be in my body, but it doesn’t identify who I am. We tend to make our sin who we are, but it’s just not true. Born again people call themselves sinners, saved by grace. There is no such thing as a sinner saved by grace, you want to know why? Because sin means you are separated from God, if you are born again that means Jesus lives inside you and said you would never be separated from him again. Grace means unmerited favor; it means it has already been provided. It’s by grace through faith that we are saved.
Paul writes several letters in the New Testament addressed to the Saints. That word means sacred, pure, blameless, consecrated, and holy; that is who Paul is writing to. But you say, I don’t feel sacred, pure, blameless, consecrated or holy. Because it’s not about a feeling, it’s about believing what God says we are. 2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore if anyone, is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things have passed away, behold, all things become new.” A metamorphosis takes place inside us, supernaturally. We get the mind of Christ, He takes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh and He changes our heart to be for others.
It isn’t until we know who Jesus Christ is that we can know and see who we are in Him. Eph 2:6&7 says, “He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in heavenly places.” When you go to a reading of the last will and testament of someone in your family, you find out you have been left a large amount of money. It was there all along, but you just didn’t know it. The person who is leaving this to you has died, that is the only way it can belong to you. Jesus died on the cross and left us His inheritance of the Kingdom. Grace has already provided it, you just didn’t know it. The Bible is the mirror to us to show us who we are in Christ. I John 4:17 says it best, “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment because as He is, so also are we in the world.”
The two girls I counseled I had talked with before. The first lady says she is getting out soon, and she is already doing things differently. “If I can live for Jesus in here, I can live for Him out there,” she told me. “I am not doing the same things to get me in here.” She continued. When she first arrived in jail this time, she couldn’t cry, she had a hard heart, but the girl I listened to tonight has cried and her heart is soft.
Following her was Princess, and she is more open about what she wants when she gets out of jail this time. She will be attending a 28 day program before she goes home. She is faced with making some difficult decisions for herself and her children. She wants her “baby daddy” to marry her, to make an honest woman out of her. But most of all, she wants him to join her as she follows Jesus. She wants to bring her children up in the Lord, but doesn’t want to do it alone. I know how she feels, and the best answer I can give her is to let God be God in her life. He is able to keep her and her family.
Written by Tracey