IDENTITY – Who We Are and Why We Are Here –
A Journey of Discovery
By Colleen Donahue
PART 6 – HOW DO WE EMBRACE OUR IDENTITY?
Who we are in Christ is about NOW. It’s living here on earth in the midst of Satan’s kingdom – but doing it in the atmosphere of Heaven. I like to think of it this way: an astronaut by wearing a space suit (or staying within a space capsule) is enabled to live in space while staying in the atmosphere of earth. So too, by our staying “in Jesus”, we live victorious lives in the atmosphere of Heaven even while we live in Satan’s kingdom on earth.
Being “in Jesus” and filled with His Spirit, puts us in the right conditions to embrace our true identity. If you cooperate, the Holy Spirit will waste no time in your restoration and transformation process. So, this part of our study will be an exciting challenge to us as we’ll be stepping out in new ways with the Holy Spirit.
WE MUST RENEW OUR THINKING
At whatever age you come to the Lord and experience the new birth, it will be like starting over. If that is age 20, you’ve had 19 years of thinking like “the world”. But if you become a Christian at age 75, you’ve had 74 years of thinking like the world and that habit of thinking doesn’t change overnight.
- Paul insists that new believers no longer live like the Gentiles (unbelievers). How do they think and live? As you read these verses make a list.
- Before Christ, we are children of wrath like everyone else (Ephesians 2:1-3) but now we are God’s beloved, adopted children. We once were our old identity, but now we have a new identity in Christ. What is the first step in embracing our new identity?
- Why is the renewing of our minds so important?
- In other words, we need to put off thinking that doesn’t match up with who we are in Christ. Our new identity calls for new thinking – it’s a MUST!
Mark 12:28-34 / Colossians 3:1-3, 15-17
On a practical level, this is what I did to reverse the course my life had been on. I made a list of what I could see where my “issues”. For example, I was a worrier. Even as a child I worried about everything. Would I miss the bus to school? Did I study enough to get a good grade on the test? Would I be late? How will I pay for that?
Despite the fact that God said He had blessed me with every spiritual blessing, I continued to worry. I began to dig into the New Testament to find out what Jesus and others had to say about worry. I wrote down verses like…. Matthew 6:31-33… on cards that I carried with me. I said the verses over and over while thinking through what they meant (that’s meditation).
In the course of doing this I was memorizing the verses. They started becoming a part of me and my thinking. I’m not exactly sure when worry stopped in my life, but over time I was learning to take these worries to Jesus and to trust Him to undertake for me. I did this for everyone of the issues/problems in my life. God’s word is the truth that we need to begin the process of renewing our minds.
WE MUST CHANGE OUR SPEECH
5. Like others in college, I wanted to fit in and be accepted by my peers. That meant developing a foul mouth – a speech peppered with swear words. Deep down, as a young Christian, I knew it was wrong. When I went home, I had to try hard not to let the swear words slip out around my parents and younger brother. I was already learning that the tongue seemed to have a power of its own.
6. We treat people by how we talk with them and about them. All of us have intrinsic value because we are made in God’s image. People are not trash cans to be filled with our verbal garbage.
Reread: James 3:7-10
7. Any believer who doesn’t keep a tight reign over their tongue is deceived. What are they deceived about?
8. Like James, the apostle Peter tells us that we must….
1 Peter 3:10
9. Peter was perhaps remembering…..
10. What two things are in the tongue’s power?
We are either lifting ourselves and others up or we are tearing them down. It’s that simple.
11. What needs to replace any foul speech we have spoken?
12. What else are we to stop?
Ephesians 4:31 / Colossians 3:8-10
13. What will it be replaced with?
14. Often so that we can “fit in” with our peers at school or work, we can go along with obscene, coarse joking. But for a believer this is completely out of place. What must we replace it with?
Ephesians 5:4,20 / Colossians 3:17
15. What should our speech more and more become?
16. One of God’s core purposes is to tear down walls and unite us with each other. Our speech is what can unify us and unity is one of the ways that Christ’s character is manifested in the world.
17. As truth replaces the lies that we have been believing, our thinking will be renewed and our speech will start to change. Indeed, it must change because….
18. Ask God to sanctify your speech as a weapon of His truth and love. Let David’s prayer be yours.
Then watch as your words start to line up and express your new identity in Jesus.
OUR HEARTS MUST BE CLEANSED
As a new believer there are several things that are just FACTS:
First: God has forgiven your PAST sins – everything you have thought, said, and done against God and others because of Christ’s shed blood on the cross.
Second: God put us into Jesus on the cross (a cosmic miracle) so that our old nature – the one that keeps us sinning in the PRESENT—was crucified with Christ.
Third: When we repent of our sins and ask Jesus to be our Lord, He moves into our human spirit so as to make His home with us and lead us into the FUTURE.
19. We become “new creations in Christ” – restored to the way God originally made us. God wants for us a life close to Him, committed to Him, and full of peace and joy -- no matter our circumstances. The Holy Spirit in us is God. He is holy and has a high sensitivity to sin. No sin is committed in isolation. God is there not only seeing it but also feeling it.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
20. If we insist on cherishing sin in our hearts then He reacts within us. How does the Holy Spirit react?
21. The fact that the Holy Spirit is grieved should open our eyes to how offensive our sin is to a holy God. Apart from Jesus our hearts are hard, darkened, and calloused. What does an unclean heart allow us to give ourselves over to?
So, if you are a Christian and have slipped backwards in any of these ways then you need a clean heart. Let’s get specific here so that we don’t talk in generalities.
Let’s say that you have a critical attitude towards the manager over your department at work. You think of that person and nothing good comes to mind – only critical thoughts. You try to hold those thoughts to yourself but when you’re with other colleagues, words slip out. You do your best to avoid any contact with the manger because by now you certainly can’t look him/her in the eye.
And all along the Holy Spirit has had to “listen” to all that criticism rolling around in your head and then “hear” it when your words slipped out to others. He is grieved and deep down you know it. What do you do?
22. The thing is to agree with the Holy Spirit. Your constant and critical thoughts are eating you alive and the gossip you let slip out with others is poisoning everyone at work. And to this manager that you essentially hate, you say one thing but think another.
Jeremiah 17:9 / Mark 7:20-23
23. You need to see the seriousness of your condition the way God sees it. This is what the Apostle Paul did.
24. If you’re still rationalizing your sin then you’re not serious about having a clean heart. What does God say about your old self that you have allowed to reemerge and start ruling your life again?
25. Second, we must recognize God’s solution. God has provided only one way for us to receive forgiveness and a heart that is clean and right again.
26. When we slip off the narrow highway of holiness, we must crawl back onto it and make our way back to the Cross – back to Jesus who died on it for us. We take our clean heart by faith just the same way we took our initial salvation by faith. It has already been done for us and now we must walk in it again.
27. Third, we believe and receive. We must believe that Jesus who saved us from the guilt of our sin can now save us from the power of sin over us – and he can do this every day. According to our faith it will be done for us. The Holy Spirit who moved into our spirit when we first became a Christian is there helping us and changing us from the inside out.
1 Corinthians 6:19 / 2 Timothy 1:14
28. Even though the person you criticize may not change, the Holy Spirit will cleanse your heart of its critical thoughts and you can accept His gift of a clean heart by faith.
29. Fourth, we cooperate with God. Our only work is to yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him have his way. The next time you think: “That guy is an idiot”, the Holy Spirit may say to you…. “He is nonetheless your manager and his office deserves your respect. Pray for him.” Then, you must start to pray for the guy. You can’t pray for someone and criticize them at the same time. It’s not possible and the Holy Spirit knows that.
The Holy Spirit will undertake whatever work is needed, however long it takes, provided we don’t grab it back and start trying to fix things ourselves. He does the work, He does all of it, and He does all of it right!
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
30. Our part is only to yield to the Holy Spirit, trust Him to do His work of cleansing our heart, and then thank Him for it.
Colossians 1:12-14/ 2:6-7 / 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
31. Throughout this time what is to be our prayer?
A clean heart towards God and others is all part of our new identity.
WE MUST LIVE BY GOD’S WORD AND WALK BY THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO DWELLS WITHIN US.
32. What does Jesus say that we are to live by?
33. And why is this so important?
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Now that’s overwhelming. Some of us can’t read. Some of us haven’t read every word of the Bible yet, and most of us haven’t memorized even one chapter -- not to mention the entire Bible. So how are we to live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God”?
34. The secret lies within us – with the Holy Spirit who makes his home within us as our new identity in Christ.
2 Timothy 1:14
35. The secret also lies in the fact that all of God’s Word was written by men who were moved by the Holy Spirit to write down exactly what God was saying.
2 Peter 1:20-21
36. This means that the author of God’s Word resides in us! HE knows and understands every word of it! What name does Jesus call the Holy Spirit in this verse?
37. And what is his role from within us?
In other words, the Holy Spirit knows exactly what you need to know and when you need to know it. He knows how to apply the word to your life by giving you understanding and then the wisdom to act on it.
38. Having the Holy Spirit as our live-in-tutor is so important that Jesus said it would be profitable to us if He left the earth. Why?
Depending on your translation of John 16:7, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit by another name. John uses the Greek word “paraclete”. This word has been translated as comforter, counselor, helper, advocate, intercessor, strengthener and standby! The Holy Spirit is all these things to us! He is always standing by, ready to help us in any way that we need.
39. The Holy Spirit is like the engine of the Christian life. He is the power source for all believers.
40. He helps us understand the Bible and live out our spiritual identity.
Romans 8:14 / Galatians 5:16-18
If we ignore the Holy Spirit, we’ll live by our own strength, and obeying God’s Word will be impossible.
41. Repeatedly in the Bible our identity in Christ is connected to the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13 / 4:30 / 5:18 / 6:18 / Reread: Galatians 5:16, 18
42. In fact, the entire Christians life will be about being filled with the Holy Spirit and then guided by Him. We’ll go when He says to, and stop when he says stop. His guidance will affect our thinking, speech, and action.
43. We see an example of this in Jesus’ life. We can see how the Holy Spirit was guiding Him from place to place and from task to task.
Luke 3:22 / 4:1, 18
44. We see this with the early Christians in their lives.
What if we have a hard time discerning the Holy Spirit’s direction to us? There are two things that can help us.
A. The Holy Spirit will never tell us to do something that is contrary to the Word of God. If we feel the overwhelming urge to get even with someone and compare that with God’s Word to love our enemy then we’ll have the answer.
B. There will be God’s peace or lack of peace from within us. It will be like a protecting umpire inside of us.
In some versions of this verse it will say, “let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts.” If we feel uneasy in any way about going forward with something, that’s the time to stop and talk with the Lord until you get a “green light”.
45. The truth is that the Holy Spirit within us searches the deep things of God and then reveals them to us. This enables us to have the same mind about things that Jesus had.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
46. Living by the Word of God, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit will always go together. First, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Then, from the platform of our life, we are led by the Holy Spirit so that we can walk WITH the Holy Spirit into the things He wants us to do.
WE MUST LEARN TO WALK IN LOVE
47. Within the Trinity there is perfect love. And, when God made Adam and Eve, there was unity and love in the garden. But, when sin and death entered the world, so too did selfishness and hate enter into the heart of every person since then.
Jesus came to reverse this downward spiral. When He came to earth, He was a living demonstration of God’s love. The love Jesus demonstrated was the love known as “agape” love in Greek. For example, Jesus showed love for the repulsive leper by touching an untouchable and healing him.
48. He loved his enemies and forgave them from the cross.
This kind of agape love is unnatural to us and can only be poured out on others when the Holy Spirit fills our spirit.
49. The process of love starts when we receive the love that God has towards us first.
Jeremiah 31:3 / John 3:16 / John 15:9,13 / Romans 5:8 / 1 John 3:16
50. When we truly receive His love, our response should be to love Him with everything that we have in us.
51. We abide (or live) in Him and He in us.
52. And we can only do this because God has loved us first.
1 John 4:19
53. Love is actually the proof that God abides in us.
1 John 4:13-16
54. And the Holy Spirit within us wants to pour His love out to others.
John 13:35 / John 15:12 / 1 Thessalonians 3:12 / 1 Peter 1:22 / 1 John 4:7
55. Jesus showed love by stepping into the moments that were before Him. A need would be presented and He would call on His Father to help Him to meet that need. He was anointed by God’s Holy Spirit to do good.
56. Our lives can have that same kind of adventure as we step into our moments and ask Jesus to love through us. We are told to walk in love.
2 John 6
57. And here is how we carry that out.
We must therefore refuse to stop the flow of love. How? By forgiving all who have sinned against us. This is only possible because we have received God’s forgiveness for our sins. The Holy Spirit within us will do His loving through us. It will always be a joint effort.
58. All of God’s commandments are summed up in this one:
Next Study: Part 7-What We Have in Christ-Our Inheritance