When you walk into our home, the first thing that might catch your eye is the large painting that greets you upon your entrance. Beth painted it several months ago and it serves not only as decoration for an otherwise boring wall, but as a vital reminder to us about what is most important in our lives: our value in God’s eyes.
One of the biggest struggles I had as a new believer in Jesus Christ was understanding how God truly viewed me. As my awareness of my shortcomings began to grow, I continually felt guilty over my poor performance and often wondered if God was angry with me. Even if He wasn’t angry, He was at least disappointed that He had saved someone so prone to failure. This of course led to discouragement, which then led to trying in my own strength to work harder at not sinning, which of course would again lead straight back to failure and deeper discouragement. I knew that God’s desire for me as a believer was a lifestyle free from slavery to sin and the flesh; free to love Him and love others.
On the flip side, when things were going well, I felt secure in His acceptance, but it was only because of success in my efforts to keep sin at bay and engage in praying, reading my Bible or loving people. My understanding of God’s acceptance of me was solely based upon my own feelings of success or failure. The problem with my “successes” is that they were always short lived.
Along with this, I also cared so deeply about other people’s opinion of me. (Was I cool? Was I funny? Was I smart?) I often masqueraded my true self around people I wanted to impress, which was of course, everyone.
A Good Identity Crisis
Then something awesome happened. Some people started teaching me what the Bible actually says about those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. A man named Rex once gave me a stack of papers that listed every Bible verse that talks about what is true about all who have believed on Christ. It was amazing. That stack of papers travelled with me for several years, as I kept it nearby to review time and time again. Then again through our classes on Romans and Ephesians in Bible school, our instructor named Michael unloaded upon us the vastness of all that God had given us in Christ and the reality of our new identities in Him. We learned how we believers had died with Christ and were raised to new life in Him (Rom. 6). We learned that we had been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1). All the while I had been trying to change the things I did to make me feel more acceptable, when what I needed was to change my understanding of who I was already, and align it with what God’s Word says.
“Its not enough to change what we do; we have to change who we are.” -Dennis McCallum, (Walking in Victory, p. 13)
Another man named Butch would make it practical for me when I would arrive to his house early for Bible study. I would share about how I felt about myself and my life and failures, and he wold respond with all that Christ had done on my behalf and all that God had given us believers in Him. His continual encouragement would be to stop focusing on myself and look to Christ.
Since that time, I have continued to grow in my understanding of the truths of scripture in this area and find them to be some of the foundational pillars of my relationship with God.
What the Bible Teaches About You
The Bible really has some remarkable things to say about all who have trusted in Christ, and they are not just fun theological facts. They are truths that are meant to be believed and are even there to help us live the Christian life. Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image writes, “Only when we define ourselves by the truths of the Word rather than thinking and experiences of the world can we discover our deepest identity.” (Conformed to His Image, p. 35) Because of our faith in Jesus Christ we have been given a new identity. The following verses teach us about our new identity.
- You are a New Creation – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17*
- You are Forgiven – “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7
- You Have Been Declared Righteous – “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:24
- You have been Purchased – “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7
- You are Accepted – “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” Romans 15:7
- You are Reconciled to God- “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Romans 5:10
- You are Loved – “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
- You have been Adopted – “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.'” Romans 8:15
- You are Under No Condemnation – “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
- You are Free – “All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.” Revelation 1:5b
- You are Complete – “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” Colossians 2:10
- You have been Showered in Kindness – “He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:8
- You have been Made Alive – “…that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Ephesians 2:5
- You are Seated with Him – “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6
- You have Passed from Death to Life – “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” John 5:24
- You are a Co-Heir – “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8:17
- You are a Child of God – “But as many as received Him, to them gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” John 1:12 (NASB)
- You are United with Him – “Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.” Romans 6:5
- You have been Chosen – “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5
- You are Sealed in Him – “…and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:22
- You have been Brought Near – “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13
- You have been Blessed – “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
- You are a Citizen of Heaven – “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-2
- You have been Saved – “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 1:8-9
- You are Sanctified – “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
- You are Perfected – “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14
- You have been Rescued – “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” Colossians 1:13
- You are Hidden with Christ in God – “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
“The Truth Shall Set You Free”
Wow! This is spiritual reality for all who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior! “When these truths begin to define our self-image they make us secure enough to love and serve others without seeking our interests first.” (Boa, Conformed to His Image, p. 45)
Even though I am still learning and growing in these AMAZING truths, my experience thus far has been that as I have grown in my understanding of who I am in Jesus Christ, the freer I have been to serve him confidently as a completely secure child and accepted servant of His. It has freed me from continual enslavement to poor feelings about myself, it has freed me from bondage to what other people think about me, and it has freed me from being so tripped up with thoughts of myself to truly love others. It has helped me in the battle between my selfish desires and the new desires that have been placed in me as part of my new life in Christ; in my ability to step out on faith and actually live the new life that I have in Him.
Again Boa writes on the significance of knowing our identity in Christ, “Grace teaches us that the most important thing about us is not what we do but who and whose we are in Christ. In scripture, doing (our actions) should flow out of being (our identity); the better we grasp our identity in Christ, the more actions should reflect Christlike character.” Bible teacher Dennis McCallum, “The point is, doing arises out of being. You do what you do because you are what you are… What we do arises out of what we are.” (Walking in Victory, p. 36)
Through my experience I learned that, first and foremost, I needed to stop relating to God on the basis of fear because of my poor performance (or pride because of excellent performance for that matter) and start relating to Him on the basis of thankfulness for Christ’s perfect work on the cross on my behalf, and thankfulness for all that He has given me.
Does Talk Like “Security in Christ” Promote Sin?
Emphasizing what the Bible teaches about believers in Jesus Christ does not mean that God does not care about sin and how we live our lives. On the contrary, God has much to say in the Scriptures about how we choose to live our new lives before Him. Holiness matters to God. The truths of our new identity in Him are meant to liberate us out of slavery to sin and self. To use them as an excuse for sin would only reveal a vital misunderstanding of some of the most fundamental elements of God’s grace and our salvation in Christ.
It is my conviction that a solid, Scriptural perspective on who we are in Christ will actually help us to view and deal with our failures in a more productive way towards growth and maturity (and freedom from sin), rather than lead us into the slavery of lawlessness.
Choosing to Walk in Confidence
It is solely because of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross than anyone is found acceptable before God. All who trust in Him and His work are freely given God’s kindness, without regard to their personal performance. We might believe that we are not worthy of such love, and we are correct. But what we need to remember is that it is not about our unworthiness, but rather Christ’s worthiness, and we stand before Him on that basis alone. What we are is ACCEPTED. Everything we do should stem out of that and the other truths listed above. Miles Stanford writes, “God’s basis must be our basis for acceptance. There is none other. We are ‘accepted in the Beloved.’ Our Father is fully satisfied with His Beloved Son on our behalf, and there is no reason for us not to be.” (The Complete Green Letters, p. 11)
But it doesn’t stop there. I need to consciously make the choice to lay hold of and truly believe what God has said about me for my Christian life. This is not about positive thinking; it is about believing God, and like many things in our lives, we will need to be reminded again and again of what is true. We can walk confidently in our spiritual lives and spiritual endeavors because of our identity in Him, even in the face of opposition.
Kenneth Boa offers a recommendation, “I recommend reviewing frequently this powerful inventory, since it reminds us of truths we quickly forget amid the worried and cares of the world. The more we embrace these affirmations from Scripture, the more stable, grateful, and fully assured we will be in the course of our lives.” (Conformed to His Image, p. 45)
[For a fascinating exploration into how these truths of our identity in Christ relate to spiritual warfare in the life of the believer, read Dennis McCallum’s book Satan and His Kingdom, specifically Chapter 16.]
So, Who Are You?
When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you see yourself as other people see you? Or do you see yourself as God says He sees you? Believing what God says about us is a choice, and it is a choice that I have found I need to make regularly in the face of conflicting evidence based on my performance and my ever changing feelings about what I believe other people see or think about me. “To believe and consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.” -William Newell, (Romans Verse-by-Verse, p. 172) There is great freedom and joy that comes from believing God and consenting to be loved by Him by aligning our thoughts with His thoughts and submitting our feelings to the wonderful truths of His word. We need to let these truths drive us into a deeper commitment and life of sacrifice for Him as a response to His mercy and grace.