Summary: Absolutely essential to your success as a Christian, is the biblical revelation of who you are in Christ. When a Christian tries to become something in God by good behavior, he is working backwards.
When a person is brought into the military, an extensive process begins to change his (or her) way of thinking about himself. He is stripped of his old civilian closes and dressed in a uniform consistent with his new identity. That uniform is a constant reminder that he is now a soldier. He learns to view his relationships from the perspective of who he is now. He salutes officers and operates according to military protocol. His boot camp experience is designed to transform his mind so that he lives, eats, and breathes military. Let me read you a quote from the U.S. Army Basic Training website. “Basic Combat Training (BCT) is a training course that transforms civilians into Soldiers. Over the course of ten weeks these recruits learn about the Seven Core Army Values, how to work together as a team and what it takes to succeed as a Soldier in the U.S. Army.”i The first thing they learn is the Seven Core Army Values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. So, on the battlefield, these values, your identity as a soldier, knowing who you are and why you’re there will drive the specific decisions that you make. The way we view ourselves is a powerful factor in the way we behave. The Army is smart enough to know that embracing the new identity as soldiers is absolutely essential for their success.
Absolutely essential to your success as a Christian, is the biblical revelation of who you are in Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17 KJV). The moment you were born again you received a new identity. You became a part of the new creation in Christ. That is a reality based on what happened at the cross. We talked a lot about that last week.ii But the challenge we face is to see ourselves in that light. I said earlier, the way you view yourself powerfully affects the way you behave. A soldier on the battlefield sees himself as a soldier and therefore he stands and fights—because that is what soldiers do. If that same person is in the same situation, but in his mind he is simply a tourist taking in the sights, when the first bullet buzzes by his head, he is out of there.
When a Christian tries to become something in God by good behavior, he is working backwards. God makes us something in Christ, He reveals to us by His word what our new identity is; and then He says, act accordingly. The book of Ephesians is six chapters long. The first three chapters are dedicated to telling you who you are in Christ. The last three chapters tell you how to live according to who you already are. That’s the way God approaches this. He brings you into His family,iii He makes you a child of God, He make you a new creature in Christ—all of that simply because He wants to and because He has loved you with an everlasting love, a love that reaches way back before you were ever born and before you ever did one good thing.iv
I have given you a handout entitled “Biblical Affirmation: Who I Am In Christ.”v It will strengthen your faith to write out those verses and meditate upon them. Let it soak into your brain and into your heart what God has already done for you and how He views you as His child.
In Gal. 2:20 Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet, not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (KJV). Upon a first reading, that almost sounds like double talk. You have to think about it quite a bit before it makes much sense. Here is a contrast: I am crucified (I am dead), yet I am alive. Which is it? Are you dead or are you alive? The old Paul is dead. He died on the cross with Jesus 2000 years ago (Rom. 6:6). That is when God’s judgment was administered to the old creature.vi God’s way of dealing with the old, rebellious, unregenerated Richard was to crucify him. The old Richard was bound and determined to have his own way, he was prideful, rebellious, unbelieving, unyielding to God; that creature operated out of a nature he inherited from Adam.vii The way God dealt with him was to simply crucify him with Christ. But there is a new Richard who lives, a new Richard who is born of the incorruptible seed of God, a new Richard who is righteous in the sight of God because he is in Christ, the resurrected Son of God.viii