The purpose of this study is to present the content of the faith that facilitates our sanctification.
GRACE #14: ACCEPTING OUR NEW IDENTITY
We have been examining the biblical concept of grace, particularly as the avenue for our practical, actual sanctification.
Grace is God’s vehicle for producing changed lives!
Clearly, the New Testament presents the following principle: For sanctification, we do not focus on trying to change our behavior; our focus is to let God change our thinking.
Question: How do we let God change our thinking?
It is amazing how many times in the New Testament we see that the Christian life is a matter of asking the right questions of God. James says:
You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and you ask wrongly. (James 4:2-3)
God has answers that we need, and we are not asking the right questions. It is not as if God is playing 20 Questions with us.
I have heard people say You better be careful what you ask for, or God will give it to you. I hate that because that implies that if you pray Lord, grant me fleas—I mean, peace then He is going to say No, you said fleas. No take backs. Here are some fleas.
That is the impression I get when people say You had better be careful, or God will give it to you. You said it. Uh-uh. Uh-uh. You get fleas. God is not that way, and it is not as if He is saying Okay, if you ask the right question, I will give you the answer. Nope, you missed it. Uh-uh. You did not put it in the form of a question.
Asking the right question means our heart is in the right position. I think if we really reach the point where we ask the question Lord, how can I rest in You so that You can change me? —and it is our honest desire to know—we would have the answer.
The Key Thing That Is Wrong With Our Thinking: The Concept Of Identity.
To change our concept of identity, we reject who we think we are and we accept who God says we are. There is a drastic difference between who I think I am and who God says I am. The real problem is that who I think I am seems to give a much stronger case. But God’s good news to me: Who I think I am is NOT the real me, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
When we look at ourselves in the flesh, we see people who are born sinners. We see the same person Paul saw in his flesh—somebody who wants to obey, but who just cannot do it (see Romans 7). If you look at your life in the flesh and do not see what Paul saw, then you had better look again. And if that does not work, go ask somebody; they will set you straight!
ACCEPTING THE REAL ME
We always hear a lot about balance. We tend to have a wrong idea about what balance is. We tend to think of balance as follows: Here are two extremes; let us find something in the middle. However, I cannot find any instances of that type of balance in the Bible, but I do find a lot of instances of balance there.
Biblical Balance: Here is an extreme over here and here is an extreme over there; hold them both simultaneously.
Application: In our flesh, we are total enemies of God who are hostile to His Law; therefore, we are unable to keep the Law because we do not have the slightest desire to do so. That side is that is not the real me—not at all. Who is the real me?
q The real me is the person who is identified with Jesus.
q The real me was not even the person who was on the Cross.
q The real me was not even the person who went in the Tomb.
q The real me is the person who came out of that Tomb with a new nature.
In my new nature, I want to obey; and in the power of Holy Spirit, I can obey. That is the real me who is dead to sin. In my flesh, I am very much alive to sin, but in my new nature I am dead to sin because Holy Spirit offsets the power of that pull towards Sin. That is the real me. Do you know that is a fact, and not some theory? That is not the real me in the symbolic sense; that is the real me.
The reason I am stressing the real me as a fact is that God is not asking us to believe something that is not true. This is NOT the power of positive thinking. The power of positive thinking—according to the worldly view—is you decide something is true, whip up some belief, and it will become true. However, they have a false premise, because they believe something is true when it is not.
I know a man who got a job selling vacuum cleaners. I was worried from the beginning because he could not sell vacuum cleaners. But every day he would say to himself I can sell vacuum cleaners. I can sell vacuum cleaners. I can sell vacuum cleaners. However, there was one slight problem—he could not sell vacuum cleaners; he did not sell any vacuum cleaners.
Application: This is not God saying to believe something that is not so. He is saying believe something that is a fact although it does not seem that way.
God says to reject who you think you are. What does it mean to reject? To not believe that the sinful person you see is the real you. It is that simple. Disown him (disavow him), because that is not the real you.
However, we accept who God says we are. The Bible says Put off the old and Put on the new, as expressed in Ephesians:
In reference to your former manner of life, you put aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Be renewed is a positive command, so let it happen—in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness. Let us rearrange that for a clearer translation:
Which has been created in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness of truth.
The King James Version (KJV) calls this the old man and the new man. I like that. My old self is the person I used to be before the Cross; the old self who—
q Was an absolute slave to sin,
q Did not want to obey,
q Did not have the slightest desire to obey,
q Was not capable of good,
q Was only capable of sin.
q Had a sin nature, the only nature I had.
But my old man died. He is not still around; he died. He was even in the Tomb for three days. The problem is that his effects linger on in my flesh. So the Bible says to put him off and to put on the new man.
Let us think about this: It is always Put off the old; Put on the new. It is NEVER Do not put on the old and it is NEVER Do not take off the new. NEVER! There is an implication here, since it is always expressed Put him off; Put on the new.
Think of the old man as a dirty coat—it is always Take that thing off; it is never Do not put that thing on. That means if we do not make a deliberate choice to put him off, then that old man is on. Also, it is always Put on the new; it is never Do not take off the new. That means if we do not make a deliberate choice to put him off, we are wearing the old man!
Okay, then how can we be wearing the old man since he died? Even though he died, he left his old ways in my flesh. Physiologists tell us that every time we do something, it leaves a little rut (groove) in our brain, and the more we do something, the deeper those little ruts get. That is where the old nerve synapses tend to follow — down those old grooves.
Note: People say Christians are square; No, Christians are groovy -sic!
The old man died, but he left major freeways in my brain to sin. So he died, but he left the old ways.
WHERE ARE THE NEW RUTS?
It is like an old man I used to go hunting with. [That is why I always think of this, because he was an old man—about as old as dirt.] He used to take a bunch of us young men hunting for birds. Now he was a good, old man, but he was a horrible driver. We would get into the back of his pickup truck and we would just brace ourselves, because he would always head for the creek, and then drive down into it – every, single time. And he would always have to call on his radio for someone to come pull out the truck – every, single time.
After he died, I was allowed to use his truck to go hunting. And even though he died, the old ruts were still there. I would get into the truck and I would drive toward our hunting area. And there was a certain place I had to remember to turn, which was a very difficult turn to remember since this was in West Texas—the place where the only reason you know your vehicle is moving is because of its vibration; basically, you cannot tell you are moving. There was a certain place I had to remember to turn, but there was no scenery marker—no Rabbit B—no scenery mark there to tell me to turn. And if I did not make a deliberate choice to turn exactly in the middle of nowhere, do you know what would happen? I would go the normal way; I would get into that rut, then the rut would get gradually deeper and deeper, and I would be in the deep ruts thinking Here I go to the creek. And then Wham! Into the creek the truck would go.
It was a real challenge for me because I have always tended to drive on automatic pilot anyway—especially if it is a place I go to all the time—I had to make a deliberate decision not to follow those old ruts. And the key was: I did not have to decide to follow the old ways. All I had to do was make NO DECISION. If I made no decision then, by default, I would go into those old ruts.
Application: That is the way it is in our lives, and that is why the Bible always says Put off the old man. He does not say Do not put him on, because if we do not make a deliberate decision to put him off, we are going to walk in his ways.
How Do We Take Off The Old Man?
First, we must say that it is not by changing our performance. It is NOT by saying I am going to stop acting like him. It is not that. It is by rejecting him as the real me. Again, if we do not make that decision, then we are wearing him in the sense that we are going back into his old ways.
That is alarming! How often do we make a deliberate decision to put off the old man? Probably, not very often. That means most of what we do is in our flesh. If we do not make a deliberate decision I do not want him as the real me; he is not the real me, then we are in the flesh.
How much of what we do is in our flesh? How much of our Bible study – how much of our going to church – how much of our worshipping – how much of our giving – is in the flesh? [That means that what we are doing is in the flesh.] If we do not make a decision, then we are going to default into the old ways of the flesh. We are to reject that person. That is not the real me.
Second [and more importantly], I accept who God says that I am as the real me. Once we were saved, our will was regenerated. There is power in that will, which we are not aware of. By an act of our will, we say That person who is dead to sin is the real me.
If we would do nothing else in our Christian lives than to accept that identity, it would make a tremendous difference in our lives. It would change our behavior.
It is like the princess of the royal family in England. This princess was not particularly attractive, and I do not want to be unkind, but—her nose was big! The real problem was what that nose had done to her psyche. Because of her nose, she never really thought of herself as a princess—as opposed to today when every member of the royal family acts with g-r-e-a-t dignity. She did not. She had a hard time conducting herself as a princess, and it was based on the way she looked.
So the royal family hired the very best plastic surgeon to take care of her nose problem. He spent a whole day reconstructing her nose, and he got it corrected. In fact, everyone who saw it was astounded, because her nose was beautiful. However, just to make sure, they did not let the princess see her nose until all the swelling and redness was gone. They could not wait for the young lady to see how beautiful she was. Finally, they brought the mirror to her, and then they waited for her response. She said I knew it would not work!
It took the princess months and months to accept who she really was, however, as she began to accept her new identity, amazingly enough, she acted more and more as the princess that she was.
Application: The more we accept by faith our new identity in Christ, the more that behavior will come out.
My salvation was accomplished when I accepted, by faith, that when Jesus was on the Cross, I was in Him.
My sanctification is achieved as I accept, by faith, that in my life Jesus is in me.
Both salvation and sanctification are rooted in our identification with Jesus. And that is why we stress grace.
What else do we have?
We express our deepest appreciation to Mitchell and Dawn Kolodin for their excellent work in editing this entire Radical Grace series.
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