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Who We Are Instead

Posted by – 7/6/05

Who are you? Who am I? Let’s go ahead and admit that we’re all constantly searching to find our identity. Oftentimes it seems people are looking outwardly to determine their identity: from the particular styles of clothes they choose to the kinds of people they associate themselves with. Sometimes it’s not so apparent. Personally, much of the energy I spent on my identity in high school was in an effort to become the kind of person people wanted to be around, and hardly for noble reasons. I simply wanted to be surrounded with people who coddled me and told me they liked me. And I wanted to be “the sensitive guy” that all the girls claimed they wanted. All those personalities only bought me a lot of heartache.

So where should we find our identity? As a follower of the living Christ, I believe I should look to Him who made me for the most solid, complete profile of myself. Paul seems to fixate on the idea of allowing Christ to live in and through us daily, and his letter to the Colossians is a good place to start:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

- Colossians 3:15-17 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” It’s hard to let the word of Christ dwell in you at all if never take the time to study the Word he’s given us. Consistent Bible study is key, even and especially when you don’t feel like doing it. This is separate from your daily devotion. This isn’t picking out a verse and thinking some happy thoughts about it. This is diving in and seeking understanding of the immediate verse, the context in that particular passage, the context in that book, the meaning in that literary style, and the context within the entirety of scripture.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” Wow, now there’s a big qualifier. Whatever you’re doing, are you doing it in His name? Can it even be done with His blessing?

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

- Ephesians 4:22-24 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

It isn’t merely that we did bad things occasionally in our former way of life. Without Christ we were actually a complete perversion of the creatures God intended us to be. Furthermore, we couldn’t have simply been improved at that point because in our evil nature we were actually at war with God. We first had to surrender, literally, and attempt to unlearn all the selfishness and pride that we’d been training ourselves into for years. But there’s a problem with all that. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.”

So it seems like we would have to have that person, not just beside us, but actually living our lives for us, showing us how and making the change in us. And that’s just what Christ came to do. Only God could repent perfectly. Only man needs it. Christ was both.

But we have always felt this tension between what we want to do and what we know should be done. It was in us before we knew what it was or even how to respond to it. And now as Christians that feeling is even more pronounced. I wasn’t created for this world. I don’t fit here.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

- John 15:19 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

So if the world hates us when we seek to become that which we were meant to be, then where should we look? And what are we?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

- 1 John 3:1-3 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

This is the hope to become the heavenly creature that God intended for me through His will and Christ’s transformation in me. We should be sanctified by truth, and Jesus prayed that very prayer for us:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

- John 17:15-17 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

Again, Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us how to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christ to transform us from the inside out, a change that does not occur based on our own will. You cannot live with Christ, daily immersing yourself in His presence and in the study of His word, and remain unchanged. His presence will radically change the way you think.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

- Romans 12:1-2 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

Returning to the passage we read at the beginning in Colossians, but backing up a little bit to the beginning of the chapter, notice in the first few sentences where our hope is intended to be. On what things are we supposed to dwell? Read this passage carefully: Paul lays out a great description of the Christ-life that is in all of us as Christians.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

- Colossians 3:1-17 [niv] [msg] [nlt] [nasb] [amp]

C.S. Lewis rephrased it this way: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

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