Living By Faith Blog


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Identity In Christ: Crucial, But Not Enough

Glasses from Microsoft Publisher Clipart 2How Can I Experience God’s Power?

God’s power can transform us so we love our enemies, resist greed, and rejoice in trials.

But too often I don’t experience that power.  Too often I’m angry at my enemies, tempted by greed, and  discouraged by trials.

So — how can I experience God’s power?

A crucial step is understanding —

Our Identity In Christ

Think of our condition before Christ saved us.  We were —

  • alienated from God (Eph 4:18)
  • facing God’s wrath (Eph 2:3)
  • enslaved to sin (Rom 6:17)
  • dead in sin (Eph 2:1)
  • enemies of God (Rom 5:10)

That was me.  That was you.  Feel the hopelessness?  The despair?

But God looked at us in that condition, and He loved us.  He sent His own Son to the Cross so we could be forgiven.

And so, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who trust Him are changed.  Now we are —

  • forgiven by God (Eph 1:7)
  • justified through Christ (Rom 5:1)
  • loved by God (Gal 2:20)
  • adopted by God our Father into His family (Eph 1:5)
  • righteous in God’s eyes (Rom 5:17)
  • new creations in Christ (2Cor 5:17)
  • dead to sin and alive to God (Rom 6:11)

When we see who we are in Christ, our hopelessness and despair disappear.  We see that we are forgiven.  Sin’s power is broken.  God is rejoicing to do us good.

So if we are going to obey, it’s crucial to understand who we are in Christ.

But Is That Enough?

I’ve heard people say that the power to obey comes from understanding my identity in Christ.

They say that if I’m struggling to obey, I need to remind myself of who I am in Christ.  And that when I do, my heart will be changed and I will obey.

But that’s not what the New Testament says.

The New Testament says that what changes us is —

Seeing Christ

That’s what Paul says in 2Cor 3:18 —

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

Here Paul talks about how we are transformed.  And what does he says transforms us?  Beholding the glory of the Lord.

But how does that work?

Let’s say I messed up at work.  Badly.  And I want to lie about it to avoid embarrassment and a possible demotion.  So how can I be transformed so I no longer want to lie?

Paul says it’s by seeing Jesus. 

At that moment Christ is standing before me with these promises —

  • “My presence will satisfy you infinitely more than looking good at work” (Psa 16:11).
  • “If you obey Me I will give you even more of My presence” (John 14:21).
  • “If you seek Me first I will provide all the finances you need” (Matt 6:33).

If I really saw Jesus standing before me with these promises, my heart would change.  I would no longer want to lie.  I’d want to tell the truth, because I’d trust that Jesus would satisfy me more than looking good, and that He would provide what I need even if I got demoted.

But the problem is that I’m not seeing Jesus — which is why I want to lie.  So how can I move from not seeing Jesus, to seeing Jesus?

I could go into my office, close the door, and pray.

I could come to Jesus just as I am, and confess that my heart wants to lie, because I’m not seeing Him clearly.  I’d ask Him to forgive me and change my heart.

And I could open my Bible and pray over those promises until the Holy Spirit strengthens my faith so I see and feel and trust all that Jesus promises to be to me.

That would change my heart.  I’d no longer want to lie.  I’d want to tell the truth.

And like Paul said, that change came from seeing Christ.

But what about my identity in Christ?

Identity In Christ Is Essential

Why?  Because when I’m tempted to sin, I’m not seeing Christ.  And the only way I can see Christ is by coming to Him as I am, trusting Him to love me, forgive me, and change my heart so I once again see Him and His precious promises.

But if I don’t understand who I am in Christ — if I think Jesus is mad at me, if I think I’ve got to earn His love before He’ll help me, if I think I’m a hopeless slave of sin — I’m not going to seek Him.

But if I don’t seek Him, I won’t experience the Spirit enabling me to see Him, and my heart won’t be changed.  Which means I will still want to lie.

So identity in Christ is essential.  But —

It’s Not Enough

What changes my heart is seeing who Jesus is.  Not seeing who I am.

Picture it like this.  The only way your heart will change is by seeing Jesus.  But if you don’t understand who you are in Christ, it’s like you are wearing glasses that are dirty, caked with mud, and filthy.

That dirt will keep you from seeing Jesus.  But when you remember who you are in Christ, it’s like cleaning your glasses.

But if all we do is remember who we are in Christ, it’s like we’ve got clean glasses, but only look at our clean glasses.

But the point of cleaning the glasses is so we can look through them to see Christ.

So clean your glasses, yes.  But then focus on seeing Jesus.

And you will be transformed.

Comments?  Feedback?

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(Picture is from Microsoft Publisher Clipart.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience


8 Responses

  1. lorrainekashdan says:

    I don’t understand the word ‘obedience’ in this context because we are not under law, obedience to what specifically?

    Regarding seeing him, does this include really examining him through nature as well as ‘the word’?, I sometimes think we emphasise the Bible to the exclusion of other ways of ‘seeing’.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great questions, Lorraine (as usual!).

      By “obedience” I’m restating Jesus’ words in John 14:21 — “whoever has my commands and keeps them.” One of Jesus’ commands was to let our Yes be Yes and our No be No. So it’s not a matter of being under the Law, it’s just about trusting Jesus and His promise in John 14.

      I agree that we can see much of God in creation, as Romans 1 says. But I think the most clear and Holy-Spirit-empowered viewing comes through the Spirit-inspired Word.

      It’s great having you on this blog, Lorraine. Thanks for your participation and comments.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Luke says:

    Great post Steve! I’ve experienced plenty of defeat throughout my Christian walk and have been experiencing some recently that’s made me feel pretty discouraged. I realize now that a big part of it is because I’m doing one of two things: I’m either coming to Christ with an incorrect view of who I am in Him (which makes His glory terrifying rather than transforming) or I realize who I am in Him, thinking that seeing who He’s made me to be will free me rather than looking at Him through my shiny new spectacles. Far more often than not its because of the former reason though. Thanks so much for the wonderful reminder to wipe off my lenses before I try to see Jesus!

  3. Brian says:

    Just an observation from the scriptures for you. Seeing Jesus brings power:
    It was seeing the Lord that caused Isaiah to recognize his sin and uncleanness (Isa 6).
    It was seeing Jesus that kept Peter on top of the water (Matt. 14). And, it was seeing other things that lead to Peter sinking.

  4. Jor says:

    We were talking about this in homegroup last week. We said, “Along with knowing who I am in Christ, I have to know who Christ is in me.”

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