This is blog #3 in the “Pathways to a Joyful Walk” series that covers what a faith walk is and the different pathways you can take to having a joyful walk with the Lord every day of your life.
In the first blog, we covered why a Christian life is called a walk in the Bible and what joyful means. We also learned that we must choose the right pathways to take for our faith walk to be a joyful and enjoyable one.
In the second blog, we looked at Pathway #1 for a Joyful Walk: Know Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ. It is a relationship with Him. That relationship begins with knowing who He is and putting your faith in Him to be your Savior. This is a required pathway to have a joyful walk because you can only experience real joy through knowing Jesus. This is a walk with someone you love and who loves you.
Picture in your mind one of your favorite places to walk. A place that is very familiar to you. You know all the spots where you have to watch your step. Maybe there is a bench to sit and rest a bit. You know the place to see a sunrise or a sunset. You could describe this walk to someone who had never been on it with a lot of information that gives that walk an identity in your mind.
Identity drives everything about life.
For us in this world, identity drives everything about life. Everyone listening to me has at least one official document identifying who you are. Birth certificate. Passport for travel between countries. Driver’s license for your own country or state. Or, maybe it’s a student ID that lets you eat lunch in the campus cafeteria.
Knowing our physical identity information is very important to function in our world. Our IDs tell us who we are, where we can live, how and where we can travel. Our ID drives what we can buy with our finances and qualifies us for employment. That’s why we are so devastated when it’s stolen. That awful experience may have happened to you.
For every Christian, knowing your spiritual identity is even more important. How you see yourself as a person directs how you live out your faith walk. In this blog, we’ll concentrate on “how you see yourself.” In the next one, we’ll talk about the how to live it out part. How you see yourself is the next pathway to having a joyful walk. Pathway #2 is this: Know Who You Are. You need to know who you are as a Christian.
You need to know who you are as a Christian.
Listen to these beautiful words in 2 Corinthians,
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all (that’s Jesus), and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live (believers in Christ) should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)
Trusting in Christ gives you a new identity.
If you are in Christ, that means you have trusted in Christ as your Savior. From that very moment, you are made a new creation and given a new identity. It’s like the Witness Protection program offered here in America to those who put their lives in jeopardy by testifying against dangerous criminals. The witnesses get a new identity and all the details that go along with it. New name, new background, new address, new career. Sometimes new looks. They can never go back to being what they were before that time.
That is who we are in Christ. We each have a new spiritual identity. But, the world is not going to validate your new identity. From a worldly point of view, you and I are the same old stinkin’ persons. All that baggage is still dragging around our necks. And, the world does things to punish us, like credit scores and memories of all that we’ve done wrong in the past.
But, every Christian is a new creation with a wonderful new identity. And, there are wonderful perks to discover about our new position in life.
Your new identity sets you apart from the world.
Paul referred to this identity change at the beginning of his letter to the Roman Christians. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write this,
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God… And you also are among those … who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all … who are loved by God and called to be his holy people …” (Romans 1:1, 6-7)
When Paul wrote that he was set apart, the word he used there means to be set apart from the world and dedicated to God for His purposes. That’s an identity change.
Then, Paul went on to say that every believer likewise belongs to Jesus Christ, not to the world. Belonging to Jesus Christ means you are loved by God and called to be his holy people. Other translations use the word “saint.” The Greek word used there means that you and I are set apart from sin and everything we had in the world before Christ. We are now dedicated to God for His purposes. You and I are no longer common run of the mill human beings. We have a new identity.
Your new identity sets you free to live a radically new kind of life.
Romans chapters 3, 4 and 5 describe how our faith in Jesus Christ sets us free from our previous sin-stained existence to enjoy a new life. But, Paul also knew that our ability to live out this freedom depends upon our understanding of who we are as believers in Jesus Christ.
Throughout this letter, Paul asked and answered questions he anticipated his readers were thinking. That’s how he started out chapter 6,
“…Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1)
In other words: “If our sinfulness makes God’s grace look so wonderful, then why not go on sinning so God can dish out more grace? Won’t that make Him look good?”
Continuing in Romans chapter 6, Paul basically answered with: “To think that way is ridiculous and illogical. Don’t you know who you are?“
“By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:2-4)
The New Testament teaches that believers in Jesus Christ get a new life with a radical new identity, something we never had before. No one before Jesus’ resurrection ever had this new identity! Do you realize that? And this new identity sets us free to live a radically new kind of life. A joyful life. But, not knowing our identity enslaves us to shoddy thinking and behavior.
Not knowing your identity enslaves you.
Most Christians throughout the past 1700 years or so mainly knew they could have their sins forgiven and go to heaven when they died. And, even then, they weren’t sure of that. The information about who they were as believers got lost in 2 things:
- Illiteracy of the Bible through a lack of education and knowledge of what it actually says, and
- Bondage to poor teaching that one has to live by the church’s rules to maintain God’s acceptance—any church.
About 500 years ago, Martin Luther and other faithful believers who followed him rediscovered this identity treasure by reading and studying the Scriptures. But, over time, that teaching was replaced once again by emphasis on just getting your sins forgiven so you could go to heaven when you die with the addition that you had to live by certain “rules” to maintain that salvation. People were in bondage once again to illiteracy of the Bible and poor teaching.
The last 40 years has seen a great Grace Awakening. Thank you, Jesus. Teaching about our new identity in Christ is everywhere in bookstores and on the radio, TV, internet. Yet, I venture to say that most believers still have no idea what their new identity is and all the benefits that come with it.
Do you? Could you list them off the top of your head? And, if you and I don’t know who we are, how will we know we’ve been set free to live a different kind of life?
Identity drives everything about life—especially spiritual life. And, frankly, saying, “I am a Christian” just doesn’t communicate much to you or to anyone else if we don’t know what it means.
How you see yourself directs how you live out your faith walk. You must know your identity. You can know your identity in Christ. And, knowing your identity sets you free. So, do you want to be free?
Knowing your identity sets you free.
Then, let’s begin by knowing who you are in Christ. 130 times the Bible says believers are “in Christ.” That must be pretty significant. What does that mean?
From God’s point of view, there are two kinds of people in the world —those who are in Adam and those who are in Christ. There’s no middle ground. Who you are “IN” determines your identity and your options for living.
Everyone born on the planet is born in Adam. We inherited his sin nature. Sin is somewhere in our DNA. Scientists haven’t found the gene for it, but it’s there. If someone ever found it, I bet all of us would sign up for elective surgery. Get that thing out of there!
I was born in Adam. But, now I’m in Christ. How did I get to be in Christ? Somebody died. Actually, 2 somebodies died. Jesus died for my sin, and the Bible says that by my faith I died with Him. I don’t feel dead. So, what happened?
In Romans 6, the Bible tells us what actually happens to believers.
You are “dyed” with Christ.
Let’s go back to Romans chapter 6.
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death….” (Romans 6:3)
The Greek word translated “baptized” or “baptism” came from the process for “dyeing” cloth. It didn’t matter if the cloth was sprayed, dipped, or immersed. The significance was taking on the identity of the dye.
For us, the Spirit does the dyeing. With Jesus. Not with water. Water baptism is a picture of what the Spirit does to us, but there’s no mention of water in this passage. According to Acts 1:5, John baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. That is much more significant with far greater effects.
When you believed in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you were immediately baptized into Christ. You were dyed with Christ. D-Y-E-D. When God looks on you and on me, He sees Jesus. We have been dyed with Christ. But, wait, there’s more!
You are “fused” with Christ.
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)
The Greek word translated “united” literally means, “to make to grow together, to fuse.” Being united with Christ, therefore, means that you become fused together with Him.
Consider items that are fused together such as fabrics or welded metal. The purpose of the fusing is usually to create something stronger, thicker, and holding together better than the original items. That happened to you and to me. We are fused with Christ. That can’t be undone.
At your moment of fusing with Christ, you are no longer on your own, but Jesus’ transforming life-giving power now lives in you. You are now connected to the King who has supreme power and authority. Your life is stronger and fulfills a greater purpose than what you could have done before the fusing.
John Wesley, the 18th century Methodist preacher, said this, “Never think of yourself apart from Christ.” You are continually fused together with Him and can live to enjoy the benefits of being in Him.
You can live to enjoy the benefits of being in Him.
The moment you believe, the old self that was born in Adam died. A new self with the same body but a new interior started life as a new person with a new nature and a new inheritance. This radical new identity means you can never go back to not being in Christ. Ever!
The many aspects of your new identity
Your new identity in Christ contains at least 35 characteristics of identity. God is not a vending machine, parceling out these benefits one at a time. No way! You receive all of these at the moment of your salvation because you are in Christ.
Wouldn’t it be great to carry an ID card with your new identity on it? To have a reminder of all the benefits of being in Christ. If you download the “Pathways to a Joyful Walk” study guide, you will find a list of those 35 aspects of your identity in Christ. There’s also an ID card you can use. Choose 7 of the benefits that are the most meaningful to you and write them on your card. Keep that card in your wallet or somewhere you will see it often to remind you of your real identity now.
Here are just a few:
- You have permanent forgiveness of your sins—past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14).
- You have peace with God, no longer an enemy because of your sin (Romans 5:1).
- You are safe from God’s wrath against all sin (Romans 5:9).
- You are reconciled to God and have an open relationship with Him (Romans 5:10).
- You are freed from condemnation, judgment and punishment (Romans 8:1).
- You are given Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is called “the Great Exchange.” We give to Him all that we were—spiritually dead guilty sinners—and Christ gives us all that He is—resurrected life, righteousness, and acceptance. Because of this Great Exchange, …
- You are completely loved and accepted by God (Romans 8:38-39 and 15:7).
God gives you these because of His love for you.
What God does to give you and me a new identity with all these wonderful benefits is His choice, not ours. They are unconditional. They are God’s gifts based on His love for you. The burden of performance is upon God—not on me, not on you. That’s why knowing this is the pathway to a joyful walk. Anybody excited about this? How about a hallelujah? Thank you, Jesus! Amen!
And, if you have responded to God’s grace and have a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ, you are not who you used to be. Doesn’t that give you joy?
You can know and speak your identity.
By the way, my identity is not sinner saved by grace although that is a condition true about me. My identity is this: I am Melanie, in Christ, a Child of God and one of God’s saints, totally accepted and loved by Him.This is who I am.
The same is true about you, dear believer. Now, read it aloud, filling in your name:
I am __(your name)__, in Christ, a Child of God and one of God’s saints, completely accepted and loved by Him. This is who you are!
Knowing your identity sets you free from the world’s point of view.
You can know your identity. And, knowing your true identity sets you free from the world’s constraints and expectations. You are set free from your past. You are set free from the garbage that others feed you about your failures.
Here’s the contrast between the world’s lies about you and God’s truth about you:
- The world says: You are still a sinner because you sometimes sin. God says: You are my saint who sometimes sins.
- The world says: You get your identity from what you have done. God says: You get your identity from what I have done for you.
- The world says: You get your identity from what people say about you. God says: You get your identity from what I say about you.
- The world says: Your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself. God says: Your belief about yourself directs your behavior.
How you see yourself directs how you live out your faith walk—whether your faith walk will be a joyful one or not.
Our Graceful Living Bible Study will teach you more about your identity in Christ.
God commits Himself to make your life match who you are in Christ.
No matter how long I’ve been walking with the Lord, in lots of ways my behavior and thoughts just don’t look like Jesus. I bet yours don’t, either. God knows this about us. That’s why we need to understand His promise in Philippians chapter 1.
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
God commits Himself to complete His work of salvation. Jesus’ transforming power in you is continually working to match up your daily life with who you are, with what God sees when He looks at you in Christ. That’s His part. What’s your part?
You have a part in making your life match who you are in Christ.
- Know and believe who you are—by faith, even when you can’t see it in yourself, and
- Yield to Jesus’ transforming power working in you. That’s the “how you live” part. We’ll talk about that in the next blog.
So, my dear listeners, how do you see yourself? In Christ? Or, as another one of the billions of humans walking around on this planet? Know who you really are. Ask the Lord to help you see yourself as He sees you and to help you grasp the absolutely amazing gift you have through your faith in Jesus Christ.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with joy so that your daily walk with Him will be a joyful one. Choose to step through life satisfied by Him.