Summary: Wouldn't it be great to assume a new identity and leave all that old "junk" behind?
A New Identity
Following the Spirit / Redemption; Holy Spirit / Acts 9:1–19
• [IMAGE] Federal Witness Protection Program - (Witness Security Program) WITSEC for short.
• Run by the US Marshal’s service.
• Over 19,000 witnesses and family members since 1970.
• Typically witnesses in Org. Crime cases. Most often they are criminals whose testimony is considered valuable enough to secure a conviction and therefore worth expunging the witnesses crimes and giving them a new life.
• They get new names, ssn’s, new location. Sometimes kids get new grades.
• A stipend for a period of time but are expected to eventually get jobs and support themselves.
• Over 80% are never in trouble with the law after entering the program.
• Beyond a general fascination with the whole idea, that last stat really caught my attention.
• People who were guilty of crimes, living outside of society’s norms, are released and given a brand new life. It appears the majority of the guilty criminals choose to take advantage of that fresh start and leave their brokenness and guilt behind.
• Redemption is a powerful motivator.
• While we’re not guilty of federal crimes, there are seasons, circumstances, where we’d all love to chuck this life and get a brand new one. Just dump the problems, the decisions, the challenges, get a new start, new name, new identity.
• As we follow the Spirit in the book of Acts, we meet a man with a terrible, violent, rage-filled life who gets a chance at redemption, a new life, and new identity.
Getting a New Identity
Acts 9:1–2 NLT
1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
• Saul is a violent, rage-filled man who hates the followers of Jesus.
• He sees nothing wrong with hunting them down and bringing them to a trial that can have only one outcome.
1 Timothy 1:12–14 NLT
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
• How in the world does a transition like this happen?
• Saul meets Jesus.
Acts 9:3–6 NLT
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” 5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
• This is cooperative between the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ followers.
Acts 9:17–19 NLT
17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days.
• The new identity takes hold quickly!
Acts 9:20 NLT
20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
• Saul didn’t waste any time “trying on” his new identity in Christ.
In His Own Words
• For the rest of his life, Saul - now Paul - testified about the new life that is available to everyone in Christ.
• When you examine his letters through the lens of a powerful new identity offered to us by the Spirit, there’s a consistent and passionate plea to accept your own new identity.
Galatians 2:20 NLT
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
• Identity is now based on Christ.
Ephesians 1:4–5 NLT