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Identity in Christ
By David A. DePra
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
The apostle John, in this passage, tells us that we are "the children of God." There is no uncertainty about the true identity of those who are in Christ. But he admits that "it does not yet appear what we shall be." In other words, we dont have a full realization of what being a child of God really means for we are still living in a fleshly body. Yet John goes on to say that we SHALL know. When? When Christ appears. It is at that point that we will not only see Jesus, but because we see Him, who we are and what we are will also be made perfectly clear.
This passage speaks of IDENTITY. When I see Jesus I will not only see the Son of God Himself. But I will see all things BY Him. Jesus is the Light. Once He appears, everything else is shown for what it truly is including ME.
All Things Made Manifest
John is telling us that our true identity in Christ is finished and certain. But it is only when we see Christ that what it all means will become clear. This is a thought echoed throughout the New Testament:
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Cor 4:5)
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:12-13)
Jesus Christ is the standard by which all else is judged. He is that right now. Thus, right now, I am progressing towards that day when who I am towards Him is going to be exposed. When I see Him as He is, it will become clear who I am towards Him.
What we see here is that my IDENTITY is determined by my relationship with Jesus Christ. My IDENTITY is determined by who I am towards HIM. In that great day, when Christ appears, this will be made fully manifest.
Man is quite obsessed with "finding himself." Thats because we know we are LOST. Part of being lost is that we are so self-centered that we think that our answers will be found IN ourselves. Yet this is exactly the opposite of the Truth. The Truth states that the way we find ourselves by first losing ourselves, and then we will find Christ. Jesus alone can give us our identity.
Jesus told us clearly how to find our life. He said:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat 16:24-25)
There are obviously a number of applications for this passage. But the clear implication is that we must lose to win. We must die to live. This is always the way it works with Jesus Christ. In order to find our true identity in Christ, we must lose our identity in Adam. And this never happens except in a voluntary way. I must voluntarily relinquish my life in Adam by coming to the Cross. Then, and only then, can I find it in Christ through His resurrection unto newness of life.
There is, however, another level to this. If I want to find my "true self" discover who the person is that God has in mind I cannot achieve this by focusing on myself and making myself the center of my universe. I can only discover who I am by making Jesus the center and by losing my identity in Christ.
Now, perhaps this sounds like surrendering to Christ will result in our losing our individuality or our personality. Maybe it sounds like we are going to somehow be "absorbed" into a big spiritual "blob," and never be heard of again. No. God is telling us that the way in which we realize the full potential of our individuality and personality is by losing it in HIM. Thus, rather than obliterate our individuality, losing oneself in Christ enhances it.
Herein we see the contrast between the thinking of man and the thinking of God. Man thinks that he must preserve himself and focus on himself in order to realize himself. God says that all of that is utterly ABNORMAL. It is actually the very definition of insanity to be so focused on oneself. For God, the NORMAL is to leave yourself alone! We must totally lose ourselves into the hands of God. THEN we will find Him, and consequently, become completed by Him. The result is that we will discover our true identity and self in Jesus Christ.
John says, "When we see Christ as He is, it will then be made manifest who we are." The NORMAL condition for man is to have his focus away from himself unto God. THAT, John says, is the key to spiritual health, and how you find your true identity.
God made man a dependent creature. Totally. You dont have to work at it. Dependency is part of what comprises the very nature of man. Thus, right now, you ARE dependent upon someone or something.
We describe our dependent nature with a common Christian word: Faith. We place our faith IN whatever, or whomever, we are dependent upon. Faith IS dependency and trust. And again, you dont have to work at "having faith." You have it. It is simply a question of who, or what, your faith is in.
Actually, there is yet another way of saying all of this: God made man an INCOMPLETE creature that is incomplete without GOD. Man is incomplete unless his faith; his dependency, is in God.
This is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. God made man unable to live and function without Him. Man was made to be the beneficiary of everything good about God. The fact that Adam severed that relationship is why people are spiritually dead, and totally incomplete and lost.
Now, someone is likely to say, "Well, people without God dont seem incomplete. They seem to be just fine."
They seem to be just fine for two reasons. First, unsaved people have "completed themselves" by putting their faith and dependency in things other than God. This provides them with the temporary illusion of completeness. Secondly, what we think is NORMAL and COMPLETE is not. It is utterly ABNORMAL and INCOMPLETE! But because we all look the same, and act the same, and because being ABNORMAL is all we have ever known, we think it is NORMAL. What is totally abnormal seems, to the natural eye, to be just fine.
The NORMAL condition for a human being is to be totally dependent upon God. In the here and now, this is done by faith by placing our full trust and dependence upon Jesus Christ. If we have done this, we are not only "sons of God," but we are now identified with Christ and are complete in Him.
Complete in Him
Paul the apostle writes:
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Col 2:9-13)
In this we see how we lose ourselves to Christ, and thus, become complete in Him. First, we are buried WITH HIM by baptism into HIS death. (see also Romans 6:1) This is not merely water baptism, but the baptism into death by the Cross of Jesus Christ. At that point, we have died in Christ. But then we are raised WITH HIM "through the faith of the operation of God." Through becoming one with Him in His resurrection, God has quickened us TOGETHER WITH HIM.
Do you see what is going on here? By natural birth, you are born "in Adam." By natural birth, you are identified with ADAM. But the Bible says, "In Adam, all die." (I Cor. 15:22a) Your only hope is to surrender to the Cross of Jesus Christ where Adam did die. If you do, then you will be set free from the power of Adam, and be raised in Christ unto newness of life. At that point, you will be identified with Christ. You will be "in Christ." And the Bible says, "In Christ, all are made alive." (I Cor. 15:22b)
It is vital that we see that Christ did more than just die FOR us, and more than just get raised FOR us. No. Rather, we die IN HIM. We are raised WITH Him. Salvation does not ONLY consist of a legal imputation to us of what Christ did FOR us! No. It consists of a death and resurrection IN and WITH Him.
What we see here is that salvation is more than just a new legal classification before God. Salvation is NEW LIFE. It is union with Christ in His death and resurrection. It is identification with Christ as a new creation. In Christ, we are fully completed, and find our true identity as a son or daughter of God.
IDENTITY is impossible for an incomplete person. To have IDENTITY, you have to be completed by Jesus Christ. This is the great promise for the redeemed. When we see Christ, we will see ourselves because, in Him, we will see we are completed.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. (2 Cor 5:1-5)
Paul knew the Old Testament quite well. When he wrote this passage, he was undoubtedly thinking about other passages in the OT which talks about being found "naked," and about being "clothed upon." The passages I am referring to, of course, are the first three chapters of Genesis. In it we find much Truth about finding our true identity in Christ.
Lets cut right to the chase and pull out two verses from that account, and compare them:
Adam, BEFORE his sin
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Gen 2:25)
Adam, AFTER his sin
And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Gen 3:10)
Notice that Adam was naked, BOTH before and after his sin. "Nakedness" denotes a total dependent nature. You have NOTHING. God created Adam naked. Nothing not even Adams sin could change that.
Thus, we see that despite his sin, Adams "nakedness" is not what changed. What changed because of the sin, was that instead of being naked and UNASHAMED, he was naked and ASHAMED, indeed fearful. What is the meaning behind this fact?
Think about it. Before his sin, Adam was in full union with God. Indeed, it is proper to say that Adam was fully COMPLETED by God. Thus, despite the fact that Adam had nothing in and of himself only nakedness he was complete. He had full identity. Indeed, he was so complete that he was not even conscious of the fact that he was naked. It might be said that God was actually Adams "clothes" or covering.
But AFTER Adam rejected God and declared his independence from God, we find him fully conscious of his nakedness of his lack. Of course. Adam was made to be dependent upon God and made to find completeness only in union with God. Once Adam rejected God, he was left in his naked condition, INCOMPLETE, and without life. God was no longer his "covering," and Adam was a mere shell of his former self, without any true identity at all.
In the aftermath of his sin, Adam was naked and fearful. So what did he do? He tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves. In other words, Adam was trying to substitute for God. He was trying to "complete himself" with fig leaves. Again Adam was made dependent and must be dependent. He must put his faith in something. Once he took his faith away from God, he had to compensate and put it elsewhere.
In the above passage, Paul writes, "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked." He then uses more plain language to say the same thing: "That mortality might be swallowed up of life." Paul is telling us that "fig leaves" man made attempts to substitute for God will not do. The Redemption of Jesus Christ provides a way back to the place from which Adam fell: We can be naked and unashamed. We can have our identity completed by union with God Himself.
Paul is saying essentially the same thing that John says in I John 3. He is saying that this mortality makes it impossible for it to fully appear "what we shall be" in Christ Jesus. But when Jesus finally appears, and we see Him as He is, we shall discover "what we shall be." Indeed, we will be changed and released to that through full resurrection of the body. Paul adds, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit."
The Holy Spirit in us, which is the evidence that we are, in fact, "sons of God," is like a down payment of what will later appear. We carry the Holy Spirit in a mortal body, and despite that, it does not yet appear what we shall be. But when we finally see Jesus, it will appear all of it will. For in seeing Him as He is, we will discover who we are in Him. And we will be released into the fullness of it.
Adam lost his identity and established his own. All born in Adam or therefore identified with Adam bear his moral and spiritual likeness. Only through the Cross do we see a death to Adam, and a resurrection unto newness of life. Then we are identified with Jesus Christ, the Last Adam.
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Cor 15:45-49)
I Corinthians 15 is the "resurrection" chapter, and echoes these Truths about our true identity. There Paul writes:
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die: And that which you sow, you sow not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God gives it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. (1 Cor 15:35-38)
This passage is about the resurrection of the body. Paul says that "it does not yet appear" what is going to be raised. All we know about is what is sown and dies. That is our responsibility to relinquish our life to Christ to sow and thus DIE. But "that which you sow, you sow not the body that shall be, but bare grain." We just do the surrendering of the "grain." It is Gods responsibility as to what is raised.
Again, if we want to find our life be raised we must lose them by sowing ourselves into the ground and dying. Only then will it "appear what we shall be" when we find full release to our identity in Christ through the resurrection.
The Hope Within
John tells us that, "every man that hath this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure." This "hope" is not only IN Christ, but it is a hope which, by the Spirit, lives IN US. Again, we have the down payment of the Holy Spirit the very life of Christ.
The result of this "hope" is that we will "purify ourselves" even as Christ is pure. What does this mean? That we must strive to live free of sin? Be perfect?
Well, we certainly ought to strive to live free of sin! What are we supposed to do, strive to live IN sin? No. The point is, while it is true that we are going to commit sin through weakness, we ought to want to obey God. This is what I will want to do if I am a son or daughter of God.
The Truth of the Bible is that I should always strive to obey God. This is FAITH. But whether I succeed or fail to obey God should never affect my faith. My faith should never be based on my works. It should remain in Christ.
Herein we begin to see what John means when he says we ought to be "purifying ourselves." It involves more than just merely obeying God as important as that is. It involves a purifying of our faith.
To "purify" obviously means to remove IMPURITY. Thus, all that would cause a duplicity in our faith or heart towards God must go. God wants people whose eye is single which means "pure" to His will and purpose. In effect, we should live for God looking forward to the day when we shall see Him as He is. This should be our reason for living.
Jesus is the Light as is God light. But notice what this means: It means that, yes, when we see Jesus, we will see Light. That will be wonderful. But it also means that when we see Jesus, by Him we will see everything else correctly, including ourselves. In short, everything will be identified by Jesus, and in relationship to Him.
In the final analysis, I will be either identified with Adam, or be identified with Christ. I need only reject Christ to be identified with Adam. But if I want to be identified with Christ, I must embrace His Cross, die to Adam, and be raised IN CHRIST.
Salvation is new life. There is NO new life without the death of the OLD life. There is NO new life through a legal classification or an "election." There is NO new life with a mere assent to the facts. None of those things can take the creature we are "in Adam," put it through the death of Jesus, and birth us anew "in Christ." None of those errors can give us a new identity.
We become identified with Jesus Christ by becoming ONE WITH HIM. We must be baptized into His death and be raised together with Him. We must be planted together with Him in both death and resurrection. Then we will be like Him be identified with Him.
John says, "It does not yet appear what we shall be. But when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Paul adds, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (I Cor. 13:12 )
True identity is found only in Jesus Christ. It is by leaving oneself alone, and surrendering to Him, that we find out who He really is, and thus, who we really are in Him. *
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