Although we may believe Jesus died for our sins, and has given us Heaven, we often carry the weight of a lie within our hearts, thinking the commands are there to obey by exerting the power of our will; we attempt to find our identity in obedience. We think success in obeying means we are “good,” and failure means we are “bad.” This is the living death of which Paul wrote in Romans 7. It is the wretched-man existence, not the new creation life of union with Christ. It is a Christian saved from Hell in eternity by grace but trying to get free from the hell of his present sins by the exertion of his own will power.
This is the backwards Christian life. To oversimplify, we think erroneously that we’re saved from Hell so we’re to try by our will power to show God how grateful we are in return by being good, by trying to keep his commands.
This must be reversed. The commands are there to reveal when we’re not abiding, not living from our present-tense, God-given identity. They shine the light when we have tripped up in our trust and have started again to try being righteous by our own steam. Failure to abide, to rest, to remain, to faithe, to rely, leads to the frustrating life of Romans 7; we do what we hate, and don’t do what we love. We self-condemn, see ourselves as wretched sinners, and start again into trying to overcome the mess.
The cure is to go back out of Romans 7 via the narrow gate called No Condemnation in Christ and get back into living in the faith-life of Romans 8.
How do we do that?
In Christ there is now no condemnation. Now. We recognize our identity no longer comes from performance. We have been given a gift of sonship. It is something bestowed by God; we had nothing to do with it. We have been washed, and cleansed, and filled by the Holy Spirit. That is given to us by grace. We are partakers of the divine nature. That gift doesn’t diminish or disappear based on performance. We recognize that even when we sin, there is no “I have to get back to God.” He is there, in us, present, available, even though we have not recognized him as such, haven’t drawn on his resources; instead, we have lived from a false idea of our own independent, fleshly ability to be good. Exerting such ability ends either in Pharisaic pride or self-condemnation, because we are attempting to live from a mentality which thinks it can be good independently from God’s power within.
Our real identity simply is. It is a non-negotiable gift from God by his grace. When we step out of it, we thank God for the Blood, make necessary apology or reparation to others, and move back into reliance on our real identity of being partakers of the divine nature.
Of course, we want to be good. How, then, to be who we are?
Playing music at a high level involves a lot of background knowledge and practice, years of it. Undergirding that, though, is an attitude of faith that drives perseverance in learning and growth. If a person doesn’t have that, much of his work will come to nothing.
“If you are going to be a Christian, it is going to take the whole of you, brains and all,” wrote C.S. Lewis. Also, an old pastor of mine often said, “You don’t have to park your brain at the door to be a Christian.” So, knowledge is involved. But undergirding our growth in knowledge of “What is a truly Christian life? Who is God? Who am I? Why am I here?” is a faith which continually goes to God for the necessary resources – the God who claims to live inside us, in Christ, by the Holy Spirit.
From God and God alone proceeds all necessary virtue: love, joy, peace, patient endurance, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, moderation. The varied fruits of the Spirit are just that – fruits proceeding from the Holy Spirit into and through the abiding branch.
Without this reliance, much of our Christian life will turn to dust and ashes on that Day.
We have to begin to know who we are, and that means a Biblical definition. Not what the world says, not what the flesh says, not what the devil says. Not even what our friends say, or what our pastor says. Who does God say I am? The New Testament epistles are a litany of our real identity, and a word-picture of what that identity will look like when expressed.
How to live from our real identity? How to be what we are meant to be? Dig. The Word is full of it, and the Word spoken in faith causes the invisible to become the visible. Seeking, and the subsequent right seeing, will bring the goodness we desire. Knowing our identity, not just theoretically but in practical experience, brings a love-life through us, as 1John 4:12-13 says: “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” We know that we are dwelling, abiding, relying if our life is showing forth love. If our eye is single to our real identity in Christ, that Christ within us is the source and ground of our being, our body will be full of light. If we are doubleminded, seeing our identity half from God’s Facts and half from the world’s definitions, we will be full of darkness, and manifesting that darkness.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these will be given to you as well.” We will gain energy from the sustenance of the Spirit, and be walking clothed in his righteousness and not our own striving.
So, we must ask ourselves this question. “Do I see myself as God sees me? When the Word says I am dead to sin (Rom 6:2), do I agree with it, or hedge it about with all sorts of mental reservations? When God says I am a new creation, that the old man was crucified (Rom 6:6), do I eat that and say it is true, within myself? When the Word says I was buried with Christ through immersion into death, and raised to walk in newness of life (more Romans 6), do I faithe that as true, count it as fact, regardless of how I feel?
Faith is conquered doubt. Do we doubt God and his Word? Then something has to give.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he’s not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin’ on audiences around the world, he’s taking care of his donkey named “Trash” and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.