Discipleship & Identity (Part 2)

Before we can walk with Jesus we must understand who we are in Jesus.

I believe that.  We need something to pursue before we will actually join the pursuit.  Now, I understand that knowing who we are in Jesus is something we will be learning all our life.  But, we need to communicate to both lost folks and new believers just who they are in Christ.  Salvation is not just a proclamation of faith or conversion, but rather an actual joining with Christ.  Paul understood this when he proclaimed, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, the One who loved me and gave himself for me.”  
Ephesians 2:1-7 offers a wonderful picture to us of who we were before being rescued by Christ and who we now are in Christ.  Four statements of difference between these two realities can be seen in this passage…
1. Who we used to be: Spiritually Dead
    Who we are now: Alive together with Christ
The wages of sin is death.  That wage is paid to us from our very birth.  We are stillborn in our trespasses and sins, Scripture tells us.  Therefore, all that even Lady Gaga offers does not lead to life, but rather more death.  Eternal life is more than a state of being, it is actually knowing God through Jesus.  This is what Jesus meant when he told us that he came to bring us life more abundant.  To know God is to be in communion with our Creator.  To know our Creator is to begin to fully know what it means to be made in the image of our Creator.  A redeemed self-identity is rooted in understanding ourselves within the framework of the Imago Dei.  To know God is to know and experience life.  To know God is to be awakened to our true created identity and purpose.
2. Who we used to be: Enslaved by flesh and desire
    Who we are now: Ransomed (freed) from slavery
Before Christ we were enslaved to sin.  Satan deceives us by feeding us the lie that sin is actually the only vehicle that will take us to life.  In reality, we sin because that is the only thing we can do.  This passage tells us that we are completely captive to the evil one, following blindly our sinful desires.  Our hearts are deceitful, using emotions as a powerful narcotic, numbing us to the reality of our sin’s deadly consequences.  Although that sin continues to pay us in death, we continue to follow it blindly and buy into its lies.  However, in Christ we have been ransomed from that slavery!  We have been awakened and inoculated by Truth.  We have been empowered by the Spirit to overcome the sin that pays us in death and to live lives that reap blessing and joy instead.  This ransom (payment for our sin-debt) was paid in full by Christ, both in his perfect life and his atoning death.  It was sealed through his victorious resurrection, in which we now share.  It was paid not because we deserved it to be, but because of his great mercy and gracious love.
3. Who we used to be: Children of wrath
    Who we are now: Objects of God’s kindness
Because of sin, those outside of faith in Christ are presently identified as ‘children of wrath.’  God’s standard is perfect holiness, of which we all fall desperately short.  We cannot earn the affection of God because none of us can live up to that standard (Romans 3:23).  God, being perfection and holiness, has a righteous hatred of sin, and must punish all sin.  The rightful punishment of our offending an eternally holy God with our sin is eternal separation from God’s blessing, experiencing only his wrath.  (The punishment fits the crime)  Ever heard the expression ‘dead man walking’ used to identify a death-row inmate?  It’s kind of like that for those outside of faith in Christ.  Jesus is our only hope of salvation because he is the only one who has sufficiently accomplished for us what we have failed to accomplish ourselves.  He is the only one who can be called our propitiation, completely satisfying God’s anger and wrath toward our sin by becoming our curse on the cross for us.  But look at the language change for those who are in Christ.  Having been atoned for by Christ in his life, death and resurrection, we now are identified with Christ.  Instead of rightfully being objects of his wrath for eternity because of our sin, we will forever be objects of God’s intense kindness!  How is that for self-identity!?  This is not only our new identity in Christ now, but what will be our identity for all of eternity in God’s blessed presence!
4. Who we used to be: Common
    Who we are now: Sons and heirs

This is a point that has really stood out to me as I have been thinking through this issue.  Look at what the passage says.  Verse 3 ends with the words, “like the rest of mankind.”  How sad that phrase is.  To live in sin is to be common.  We may find unique ways to express sin, but sin will never make anyone unique.  The Scriptures tell us that narrow is the path that leads to life, and few will find it.  Those that find that path are the only ones that can truly claim the status ‘unique.’  Through Christ we have not only been redeemed, but we have taken on the status as sons and heirs of the most high God!  We are no longer common, but find our unique place in the family of God.

In summary, here are four promises sin makes but can never deliver.  These promises can only find their fulfillment in relationship with Jesus:

1. Sin promises life.  In reality it results in death.
2. Sin promises liberation.  In reality it is the result of slavery to flesh and desire.
3. Sin promises freedom.  In reality it brings bondage through shame and guilt.
4. Sin promises uniqueness.  In reality it shows that we are just like the rest of fallen humanity.

This last point leads well into what has become a key verse to me in my own discipleship, Ephesians 2:10.  This is the verse that speaks of where we find a redeemed understanding of self-expression.  I will explore that verse in my next post.

I Married my bride, Erin, in 2003. We have 3 children: Emma, Elijah, and Lydia. I have served full-time on staff at Westwood Baptist Church, in Roxboro, NC, since summer of 2006 as Pastor of Students & Discipleship. I am currently enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, pursuing my Doctorate of Education.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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