Monday, November 04, 2019

Identity in Christ

What does it mean when Christians are encouraged to find their identity in Christ?  At least, I think, the following:

Because Jesus is in heaven, and we are united to Jesus by faith and the Holy Spirit, we too can be described as being in some sense seated in the heavenly places in Christ.  What does that mean?  I think primarily it means access to God, permanent access (hence 'seated').  Here is the Christians direct answer to a sense of self which is blighted by guilt, or by that sense of exclusion which so many of us feel.  We have access to God.  We are welcome in heaven.  No guilt shuts me out, no awkwardness raises a barrier.  When questions of identity are raised within us, we look - not inward, to find some solid identity there - but upward, to Christ.

Because Jesus is currently not with us, our identity is in a sense unknown.  Our life is hidden with Christ in GodWhat will be has not yet appeared.  For the Christian in the here and now, that means an often painful reserve in speaking or thinking of our identity.  We literally don't know what a Christian is.  Our identity is in the future, at least in so far as our experience of it goes.  Can I suggest that although this is painful there is nonetheless some relief that goes along with it?  Everyone is a mystery to themselves at some level, and I suspect often a painful mystery; to understand that there is no need to wrestle with this incessantly, to find peace in knowing that we will know ourselves when Christ appears, can be a release.

Because Jesus is crucified and risen, our identity is a constant movement from death toward life.  This is where all the NT instructions about putting the old nature to death come in, and it is the key to Paul's paradoxical sense that although physically he is moving constantly from life to death, spiritually he moves constantly from death to life, from the cross toward the resurrection.  I think this might be the most practical aspect of finding our identity with Christ, and the most terrifying.  It means a venture.  It means concretely saying 'I will put to death my own desires, trusting that God will turn that apparent death to life'.  It means living day to day in a way which only makes sense if the resurrection is real; living as if the gospel is the pattern for human living as well as the best news we ever heard.

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