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Our Identity “in Christ”

If I were to ask you to give me an hour of your day and explain,
“who you are,” your could tell me a lot about yourself in a short
period of time. You would probably start out by providing your
name and then proceed in discussing where and how you live, and
what motivates your life. As the conversation continued, perhaps
pictures of family and friends would come out defining your life
even more. Within the hour I would have discovered much about
your character, personality, interests and history.

Now, if I were to ask you to explain who you are as a Christian,
could you do that? Could you tell me what happened to you
spiritually and what you became when you were placed and sealed
in Christ? Could you share your rich inheritance because of God’s
blessing and grace? I find most can provide an excellent portrait
about their physical life but struggle to explain their spiritual image.
Why is that? When we were “born again” we became new
creations in Christ. The apostle Paul instructs us that old things
have passed away and now new things have come. (2 Cor. 5:17)
He illustrates the dramatic change again in Ephesians 4:22-24. In
these verses he references our former corrupt manner of life (our
old self born from Adam), as having been laid aside so that the
new self (new man born in Christ), created in the likeness of God
is now an ongoing presentation of righteousness and holiness. Did
you know your new creation has been made in the likeness of God
and endowed with His righteousness and holiness? These are just a
couple of the marvelous spiritual gifts given to us because of the
enormity of God’s grace.

The Old and New Never Mix

I believe one primary reason for failing to discover our spiritual
identity is because we have a tendency to continually mix the Old
and New Covenants. Like human food processors we keep
throwing the Old and New together hoping to blend two elements
that cannot harmoniously co-exist. There is a clear separation of
Old and New covenants installed into human history by three
important acts of God. These historic events resulted in the Old
Covenant becoming obsolete and replaced by a New Will or
Testament. (Hebrews 8:6, 13)

The first activity of God which introduced the New Covenant to us
came at the time of Christ’s death. We need to see that God
initiated a different way for us to have a relationship with him by
eliminating the sins of the world (past, present and future), through
the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross. Our entire means for
salvation needed to be started and finished at the cross, because
we could never accomplish the task of making ourselves right
(righteous) with God.

The second came as a result of His resurrection. The provision of
eternal life came as a result of the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
In addition to taking upon Himself the sins of the world, He was
raised fully sanctified and He includes us through faith with Him,
thereby making us holy just as He is holy.

And lastly, God introduced to the Apostles the filling and
permanent indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to the church on the
Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Realizing this, the Apostle Paul could
confidently ask, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 1:16) And since
believers in every generation after that day can say “yes” to that
question, each can also agree on the purpose of that indwelling.
“We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might
know the things freely given to us by God…not in words taught by
human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining
spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”(1 Cor. 2:12, 13) We not
only have the insight into spiritual things but also have the ability to
live them out as a result of being His temple, created for His
service and fellowship. As a result of these three actions initiated
by God in human history, we are constantly aware, or we need to
be, or how God views us on a daily basis. It is dramatically
different from how He viewed the Jews in the Old Testament; thus
it is critically important to not compare believers then and now.

Timely Prepositions

A simple clue for understanding this Good News of the Gospel is
tied into three grammatical prepositions of the English language.
The first, God would come “to” people or upon them in the Old
Testament. Throughout the Old Testament we see God coming
“to” people to get things done. When He concluded His work, He
would pull back and allow faith to be built from miraculous events
and intercessions.

The second clue is connected to the preposition “with” Do you
remember the angel coming to Joseph when he was confused
about what was taking place with his wife Mary? What was
prophesied and later announced in Matthew 1:23 were these words
about Jesus. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a
Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated
means, “God with us.” Therefore, Christ was with mankind on
earth for thirty-three years and was the only representative of New
Covenant life. He was both God and man who transitioned
mankind from the Old into the New. He fulfilled the Old Covenant
and brought in the New Covenant. Everyone who encountered
Jesus had the opportunity to witness the indwelling life of God
lived out in His Son. And what they witnessed, He told them
would come to each of them at the appropriate time, on the Day of
Pentecost.

Te last clue, which you have seen over and over again in New
Covenant writing, comes to us with the preposition “in” We
discover who we are as Christians when we observe from
Scripture the word “in” as it associated with Christ. “In Him or In
Christ” is frequently repeated throughout the New Testament
letters of the Apostles. Authors and teachers know we need to hear
the same message over and over again in various contexts in order
to grasp and retain the meaning of what they are trying to
communicate. The Apostles have done a great job doing that with
the “In Christ” message. Since they have been so consistent, it is
with great pleasure and excitement that I can describe your identity
“in Christ,” because it is identical to mine (listed below in the
declarations of “Our Identity in Christ”.) This identity is given to all
of us as a gift of God’s grace at the time of conversion, never to be
taken away or changed, because it has been crafted from the very
likeness of God who is unchangeable in His character. The genetic
source of our New Creation (our spiritual DNA) is the result of
having been immersed or baptized into the life of Christ. We
cannot improve on or maintain our new creation by being virtuous
since the origin of it is from the One who is perfect. Thus, Jesus
guarantees a perfect spiritual nature within our new selves. You
can see this wonderful endowment stated in Hebrews 10:14. “For
by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are
sanctified. “Who are the sanctified? Those of us in Christ! Who
has been made perfect? Those of us in Christ!

How does understanding our identity “in Christ” apply to our
spiritual development and why is it important? The implication of
this truth is far reaching. One of the most amazing implications is
this: Christianity is not a membership into a self-improvement
program for dedicated religious workaholics who are looking for
purpose in their lives. Instead it is a planned rich inheritance
produced from an exchanged life with Jesus Christ who is
responsible for rest in our souls.

Do you remember Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28-30 concerning
salvation? “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I
will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your
souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” After hearing
these words, there are going to be some who will have an
inspirational light turn on and say, “This is the best news I’ve ever
heard concerning how I should walk with Christ.” And there will
be others who are going to conclude the message of grace, built
around these words, will only justify a nonchalant view of the
Christian life. They believe there will be too many who will
become lazy, unappreciative and undisciplined in regards to their
salvation. I know of some who will avoid teaching passages like
this for fear of being misunderstood in this matter.

To help reshape the argument, I will ask this question. “If Jesus’
yoke (His spiritual work) isn’t easy or purposeful, providing rest
for our souls, then we have either accused Him of being a liar or
we haven’t understood what he was trying to explain concerning
the victorious Christian life. Also, if the words easy and light imply
permission to avoid God’s will at times in our lives, then we have
greater issues beyond what can be addressed in a short article. I
believe the answer to our debate can be found by looking a how
Jesus approached the work of the Father.

What was Jesus’ approach to spiritual work? He says, “He worked
as He saw the Father working.” John’s Gospel has a great example
of how Jesus lived out His daily life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the
Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the
Father doing; for whatever the Father doe, these things the Son
also does in like manner.” (John 5:19, ref. :30; 8:28, 38) Jesus was
our New Covenant model, a reflection of a life dependent upon the
Father for all things. In the same way, a grace dependent person
believes that God will display his work to an individual for the
purpose of accomplishing His eternal plans. Christ takes away our
spiritually dead and ineffective lives and replaces it with His
spiritually active life which is connected to the Father’s will and
working energy. He is in us and we are in Him doing what he loves
to do!

We can see spiritual life has a natural progressive nature to it. A
close personal relationship will produce intimacy; intimacy
produces love; love produces faith; faith produces works; works
produce spiritual fruit; and spiritual fruit reflects God’s concern for
everyone and everything. We can all truthfully say that the person
who depends upon God will be in a constant adventure with Christ
doing the will of the Father. “Behold, the old is gone and the new
has come!”