A recent movie told the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who lived a pretty boring teenage life full of disappointments until one day when her grandmother came into town to make her aware of some surprising facts about her birth. The girl had not grown up with her birth father and had no idea that he was the prince of a small country. He had died unexpectedly before becoming the king and as his only descendant, she was the heir to the throne.
The young girl was quite shocked to discover that she had been a princess her entire life. She hadn't lived like a princess because she didn't know she was one!! For years, she had struggled with all of life's problems alone and she didn't have to do so. She was stuck in her mediocre existence because she didn't know who she really was. When her grandmother made her aware of her lineage, she had a decision to make. She could either reject or accept the reign and live the life she was entitled to live. But even if she rejected her right to reign, it would not change the fact that she was a princess, because she was a princess by birth.
As Christians, we have been given privileges and benefits out of which we can live abundant lives. But like this young princess, many Christians spend their entire earthly existence in mediocrity and defeat without knowing who they are and what they have as a result of being born again into God's family. Once we are made aware of our new identities, we also have a choice to make. We can choose to live fully out of our benefits as sons and daughters of God, or we can choose to continue in the mediocre lives to which we've become accustomed. But even if we reject the truth about who we are in Christ, it doesn't change our identities because our identities were established by our birth into God's family.
The first key to understanding and accepting your new identity and all its benefits is to understand and accept the full truth of justification.
"Justification is a legal term and it describes the declaration of crediting the righteousness of Jesus to sinners who appropriate it by faith. In other words, through a judicial act of God, He removed the record of all the sins I have ever committed and even those I will commit in the future. He then replaced my record with the perfect sinless record of Jesus and put my name across the top of it! I have been JUSTIFIED and nothing that I do in the future can change that because it was a judicial act of God that accomplished it. "
If we have accepted God's gift of salvation through Jesus, then we have already been justified. As a result of our justification, we were made into a new person, given a new past, and strengthened for earthly lives with a new power.
A New Person
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous."
Romans 5:19 (NKJV)
The blood of Jesus was enough to pay for our sins and purchase our forever forgiveness, but the blood alone didn't take us out of the line of Adam. According to Romans 5:19, we were "made to be" sinners because we were in Adam when he sinned and we inherited his sin nature. "Sin" is not just wrong doing; it is wrong "being." Since our bondage to sin came to us by our birth in Adam, in order to be delivered from that bondage it was necessary for us to be "re-born."
"1. There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3. Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
John 3:1-3 (NKJV)
The Pharisees were zealous leaders of the Jews and considered themselves to be religious and pure. Nicodemus was one of the most prominent and influential Pharisees and was even a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. If any man could ever achieve a right standing with God on his own efforts, this would have been the man. But the answer that Jesus gave Nicodemus confirmed the truth that no man can ever live a life that is good enough to attain to salvation. To enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again. Nicodemus had questions about what Jesus meant by the term "born again." He realized the impossibility of going back into his mother's womb and felt hopeless that such an impossible feat would be required of him. But Jesus explained to him that this "re-birth" was appropriated by faith. Being re-born is not something we have to do. It is something God does to us when we surrender to Him and receive His gift of salvation.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of the Jesus Christ from the dead."
I Peter 1:3 (NKJV)
Notice the phrase "has begotten us again." God has given us a new birth. When we come to salvation in Christ, we are automatically born anew into God's own family. We are taken out of the line of Adam and placed into the family of God. And we are not born this time as sinners. By this new birth we are completely new creations.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
II Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)
In Christ we are completely new creations. Everything that was the essence of the old "me" is gone. Everything in me after salvation is fresh and new. Identity is the most important understanding for a Christian to have because accepting who you are is an essential element for living the abundant, victorious life God has planned for you. A person can only have one true identity. Many descriptions and roles may be lived out of that identity, but you can only have one identity.
Who is this new person that God has created me to be in Christ? What is my new identity? My old identity without Christ was that of a sinner. But my new identity is that of a holy, pure, and righteous child of God. No matter what I do for the rest of my life, my identity cannot be changed because God has made me who I am. I have become a saint forever by my new birth!
As a saint, am I still able to sin? Yes. Do I still sin? Yes. Does that reverse my identity back into a sinner? No. I'm still a saint. I'm just a saint that sins. You see part of what Satan uses to distract us from the truth of our identity is that we have been trained by society to be identified by what we do. But we must remember that God does not identify us by our performance. We didn't become sinners when we committed the first sin. We were sinners by birth. (Romans 5:19) That was our identification and even when we did "good" things, we were still sinners because we were born with that identification. But when God "re-birthed" us, we were given a new identity and even when we do "bad" things, it doesn't change who we have become by our new birth. Our performance does not determine who we are.
Sometimes I go swimming. As a human being, is swimming something that determines who I am? No. If it were, every time I went swimming I would turn into a fish!! And likewise, because my performance does not determine my identity, I do not turn back into a sinner when I sin.
Why is it so important to accept your new identity in Christ? It is an established fact that we humans behave based on what we believe about ourselves. If you believe that you are just an old sinner saved by grace, then what are you going to think is the natural thing for you to do? You will believe that you have to just continue sinning with no hope of overcoming a sinful lifestyle. You will live under the assumption that sinning is just the natural thing for you to do. But when you realize that you are a saint of God, a new creation, you will have to face the fact that every time you sin, you have chosen to go against what is the natural thing for you to do. You have been reborn to walk in a new life. You have been reborn as a new creation. You have been reborn as a holy, pure, and righteous saint. And when you fully believe that, you can begin living the life you were designed and created to live.
The other reason that it is so important to accept your new identity in Christ is that, until you believe you are who God says you are, you will believe you don't deserve any of the good gifts God wants to give you. If you just believe you're an old sinner that God saved by His grace, you will think you're being humble by continuing to believe that way. But in reality, you are believing a lie, and that lie is keeping you from enjoying the blessings of God. You will just settle for mediocrity and think it's what you deserve!
God wants the absolute best for you. He didn't send Christ to die for you so that you would live a mundane existence. His plan is to give you victory over every trial and temptation. His plan is to give you an abundance of every blessing. His plan is to give you an exciting life that is fresh and new every moment!!
A New Past
In his book, "Handbook to Happiness," Dr. Charles Solomon, does an excellent job of explaining all that this verse means to us. Here are some excerpts from that book.
".our existence really began in Adam. It is easy to see that we were in our parents before we were born and they were in their parents. Therefore, if our grandfather had never had children, neither would we! Being in Adam, whatever happened to him happened to us...We were in Adam positionally when he sinned. This is what made us sinners from birth..The Spirit of God takes us out of the old Adam life and puts us into Christ. Once we are in Christ, we are in an eternal existence, a life that is not based on time..Eternal life didn't start. It has always been! The truth is that once we have entered into the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have entered into eternal life, a life that spans the past as well as the future."
Do you get the full impact of those truths? When God took us out of Adam and placed us in Christ, His eternal life became ours. And eternity has no beginning, just as it has no end. Therefore, when we get the eternal life of Christ, we don't just get His future. We also get His past.
In our pasts, we all have things we would like to have removed. Maybe you were abused or hurt terribly in some other way. Maybe there was one traumatic event that shaped your life forever. Perhaps you bear the scars of past sins and you just can't seem to get past the guilt you still feel for those deeds. God has great news for you! He has removed all of that from your past and given you the spotless past of Christ! You have been given a brand, new past. Those events may be in your memory, but they are no longer in your past as far as God is concerned. He wants you to realize that He can take every hurt, every fear, and every pang of guilt that is based in your past and bury it in a sea of forgetfulness for you. Far too many Christians are haunted and halted in their spiritual growth by an unhealthy grip on the past. You can let it go! God has made that possible.
A New Power
Is the abundant, victorious Christian life just a dream that will only be realized in heaven, or is it really possible to experience it here on earth? Not only is it possible to live it in our present lives; it should actually be the normal life of every Christian!!
What often holds Christians back from experiencing that normal life of victory is a misunderstanding of something we call our "sin nature." We inherited that sin nature by being born in Adam. But the misunderstanding comes when we don't fully realize what happens to that sin nature at the point of our salvation. According to II Peter 1:4, after our salvation, we become partakers of the divine "nature" of God.
One question has to be answered first. What does the word "nature" mean? A dictionary would define the word "nature" as the "basic character of something." Our natures are the driving force behind our actions. When we do what is the "natural" thing for us to do, it is as easy as breathing. But when we attempt to do something that is not "natural" for us, then that action results in a struggle.
In the past, you may have been taught as I was taught; that when I became a Christian, the new nature I received from God was placed in me alongside my old, sinful nature. But the Bible tells me that I am a "new creation" and that all old things have "passed away." And the more I studied the Bible, the more I realized that God never gives anything new without removing the old!! Why would God keep inside me what drove me to sin? And the more I researched human nature, the more convinced I became that it is impossible for a person to have more than one nature. So the dual nature teaching became something I could no longer just accept.
So then what happened to my old nature? Read Romans 6:5-11 carefully. According to these verses, my old nature, the old me, is dead and gone. The Greek word used for old in this verse means "obsolete" or "useless". My former self, which was of no value or use, was crucified with Christ the moment I received His salvation.
In the Old Testament, the worship celebrations and rituals God instructed the Israelites to conduct, were all foreshadowing pictures of what life in Christ would be like. One of the most important of such worship events was Passover. The Passover meal included unleavened bread. With the instructions recorded in Leviticus 23, the celebration observed in remembrance of the original Passover event, would be followed by seven more days called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, during which time no leaven could be eaten. The obvious point of the unleavened bread was that there was no use in adding leavening since the Hebrews would have to leave in such a hurry that they wouldn't be able to wait for the bread to rise anyway. But an even more symbolic lesson is that in the Bible, leavening is always related to sin. The Hebrew word for unleavened bread is "matzo," which means "sweet, without sourness." Eating unleavened bread as part of the Passover meal symbolized that with the eating of the sacrificed lamb, sin was put away. It portrayed the sweetness of a life without sin. It was a foreshadowing picture of what Jesus, the true Lamb of God, would do.
The symbolism of the unleavened bread is perhaps the most exciting significance of all the foreshadowing pictures for New Covenant believers. In the days in which the original Passover occurred, housewives always pulled a chunk of dough from a loaf of bread before baking it. Those chunks were set aside, left raw, and then later mixed into the next batch of flour and water to create a new loaf. These aged leftover chunks were the leavening that caused the newly mixed dough to rise. Brides were most likely given "starters" from the loaves of other housewives so that they could bake bread for their household. Think about this for a moment. By this practice, each loaf of bread was theoretically organically linked to one original loaf of bread from which all others were derived
When God gave the instruction to bake bread without leaven, He was doing more than just instructing them to make bread that wouldn't rise. He was instructing them in how to "break the cycle" of the leavening. Since leaven is a symbol of sin in the Bible, unleavened bread is a symbol of a life without indwelling sin (a sin nature). The world's first loaf of bread did not contain leaven and the world's first man was created without a sin nature. But since his original sin, every descendant that followed Adam inherited his sin nature, just as new loaves of bread inherited the leaven of the original loaf. With the symbolism of the unleavened bread, God was foreshadowing a day when it would be possible to begin again without the "leaven" (the sin nature) of the past. His goal is to transform us back to the life that was possible before Adam's sin. The newly created loaf, without the leaven that connected it to previous leavened loaves, was a beautiful picture of how God would accomplish that transformation. It would be a part of partaking of Jesus, the ultimate sacrificial Lamb.
"6. .Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7. Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."
I Corinthians 5:6b-7 (NKJV)
This should cause you to shout!!! God's ultimate plan for us was not just to give us a new nature to exist along with our old sinful nature. It was not enough to just give us a new nature if the old nature (leavening) was left in us, because just a little sin infiltrates the entire life as a small amount of leavening effects the entire loaf of bread. The sin nature had to be eliminated and removed so that we could be completely new creations, free of sin's power. He paints that picture in the symbolism of the unleavened bread. The Passover meal recorded in Matthew 26 (The Lord's Supper) took place on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26:17). That is no coincidence. By declaring Himself as "The Bread of Life" (John 6:35) and then inviting the disciples to partake of His body, He was symbolizing the way in which they could become a new "lump" without leaven. He was showing them the path to becoming a new creation.
When I was placed into the eternal life of Christ, everything that happened to Him, at once became an experience that had happened to me. I died in Christ. But I was also resurrected in Him. However, it was not an old, but improved me that was resurrected. The old me is dead forever. The old nature did not have resurrection power of its own and God certainly has no desire to ever resurrect it. The old me will not be coming back!! It was the new me that was resurrected in Christ. And the new me has been freed from sin. I am no longer a slave to sin as I once was. What made us slaves to sin? It was the old, sin nature that we inherited from Adam. "Sins" that were the result of our sin nature could be forgiven. But you can't be forgiven for something you inherited. That has to be removed. The only way for God to set me free from its bondage was to kill it. And that's what happened when I was crucified with Christ. In our place, He died to sin and now He lives forever to God. And where does He now live a life that is dead to sin and alive to God? He lives it in and through us!! I was resurrected in Christ and He was resurrected in me!!
Romans 6:11 may be the most important key to living a life that is dead to the power of sin. The word "reckon" was a word used in the day in which this verse was written to refer to having an absolute confidence that determines the way a person lives. In other words, we must believe that we are dead to sin and alive to God with a confidence that is displayed in the way we live. We have to believe that just as Christ is dead to sin and alive to God, so are we - because He is dead to sin and alive to God in us!
You see, like the princess in the movie illustration, we can choose to live a life that is contrary to the truth of who we are. But the "natural" life for us, is a life that is not under the control of sin. The new you has the power to resist sin.
Now, that doesn't mean that you will live a life of sinless perfection. But it does mean that a life of habitual sin is no longer natural for you. Your new nature is not bound to sin.
So why does it sometimes feel like we don't have control over sin? If rejecting the temptation to sin is supposed to be natural for you, then why isn't it easy for you to say no? Why does it seem so hard to resist? Those are reasonable questions. Here's the answer. Even though your old nature is dead and gone, your new nature is wrapped up in your "flesh." Your new nature has been implanted in your body that is motivated by the same old brain you've always had. In the course of your life, you have established some patterns by which you have functioned and made sure your needs were met outside your relationship with God through Christ. You have grown accustomed to operating according to those flesh patterns and that's how Satan appeals to you and entices you to sin.
I don't know about you, but in my life, even though I sometimes yield to temptation and it would seem that I actually "wanted" to commit a particular sin, in reality my deepest desire is to resist the temptation! In other words, "I don't want to want to!!" My new nature, that is dead to sin and alive to Christ, struggles with the patterns established in my flesh that would lead me to yield to the temptation to find pleasure in something other than God's best for me. But at the core of my new nature is the overwhelming desire to settle for nothing less that what God wants for me.
Is it possible for us to be victorious over sin? Sure it is (Romans 6:14). If it weren't, then the promises of Romans 6 would not be true. But the truth of Romans 6:11 is essential for victory over sin. Here's where the "reckoning" becomes so important. When it doesn't "feel" like it's possible for you to be victorious, believe God with an absolute confidence. Trust that what He says is true. Rely on the new nature He has placed within you and yield to the deepest desire of the new heart God has given you. And know with all confidence that the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is at your disposal for resisting the temptation to sin.
The Truth About Transformation
If God gave you a new nature, but never took away your old nature, then would salvation truly be a transformation? No. If God allowed your new nature to co-exist with your old nature, then salvation would simply be an addition. To transform someone, you have to change them completely from the inside out! To put it bluntly, Christians everywhere do not experience victory because they are trying too hard to achieve it!! In churches, we usually focusing on training people to avoid sin and do the right things, in hopes that doing the right things will change them. But that is the polar opposite of the truth. You can never "do" in order to "be." Instead you must realize that what God has made you to "be" enables you to "do" what is right. Training people to do the right things will never bring about real transformation in their lives. But God transforms us from the inside out because He knows that true transformation of our natures will always result in transformed lives.