Your Feelings Don’t Define You

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Co 6:9-11

Your feelings do not define you.

Your desires don’t define you.

Your past does not define you.

Some organizations try to prepare people for the reality that after they quit a harmful behavior, they will still be tempted. They tell members to introduce themselves like this: My name is Bill and I’m an alcoholic. My name is Sally and I am a drug addict.

I respect these organizations. They have helped thousands. And they recognize a significant reality, though they wouldn’t say it this way ? even when we turn from sin, temptation doesn’t go away.

The Bible agrees. But God says our desires and temptations don’t define us. They are no longer who we are, no longer our fundamental identity.

Someone who practiced immorality before Jesus saved them will probably experience sexual temptations all their lives. Homosexuals who come to Jesus will probably continue to struggle with same-sex desires. In some instances Jesus removes these desires. Lots of the time he doesn’t.

But these desires don’t define us. Here’s why:

And such WERE some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Key word: “WERE.” Paul says that in the past some of the Corinthians HAD BEEN immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, drunkards, swindlers. They WERE. But something happened to them. They were washed, set apart for Jesus and justified. Their identity had changed.

You may be tempted to lust 30 times a day but if Jesus saved you, that’s not who you are and you don’t HAVE to lust. You once WERE immoral. NOW you are a new creation in Christ. You once WERE a homosexual. BUT NOW you’re a son or daughter of God. You once WERE an alcoholic (drunkard). ?NOW you’re a joint-heir with Christ.

I don’t deny that your desires feel overwhelming and irresistible. I’m not saying it’s an easy battle. You may feel like you just can’t help it. Like you’ve tried and tried to deny these feelings and they just won’t ever go away. But be careful not to fall into thinking “I guess this is just who I am. This is how God made me and who God meant me to be.”

Our past does not define us. Our desires aren’t who we are. Our identity in Jesus defines us.

Remember, such WERE some of you. BUT you were washed, sanctified and justified. You were changed. You are new creation. The former things have passed away. The new has come. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.


  • Elaine says:

    I love that word, "were." Before the Lord saved me, many terms in that Scripture applied to me. Grateful that He has washed, sanctified, and justified me. Because of what He has done for me, I KNOW that no one is too far for Him to reach – that gives me great hope.

  • Joan Kirk says:

    This is a great reminder and there are pendulum swings in both directions.. I'd prefer to think of it as both/and rather than either/or. We live in the tension that exists between being a new creation and the daily Romans 7 struggle with sin. Why do I constantly do the thing I hate? I am a sinner but.. victory is possible through Jesus. Everyday and in every way I sin and most days that awareness brings the proper humility that is my entryway into the throne of grace… That is all I have to offer. The publican prayer. I think we set ourselves up for failure on both sides of the spectrum if we isolate one part of our new creation over and above the other; since this new creation is an amalgam of both natures. I think the message of AA is the same as the message of Christians is some sense. I am an alcoholic.. but there is hope since in fact those temptations define a part of us but not all of us. I am a sinner but there is Christ. The AA moniker is helpful as others who know they are alcoholics are facing those who are identifying with their struggle but are providing hope and a way out. I will go to my grave with those words, I am a sinner, because daily I have to deal with the reality of the fallen nature that desires to have it's way and destroy me. but there is hope and that hope is Jesus!

  • Mark Altrogge says:

    Amen, Elaine! NO ONE is too far for him to reach!

  • Mark Altrogge says:

    Hi Joan,

    Thanks so much for your comments!

    I agree that believers still experience strong temptations and are capable of any sin. Yet the New Testament doesn't call believers sinners, except perhaps in 2 places. James 4:8-9 [8] Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. [9] Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:8-9). This seems to be addressing unbelievers.

    In 1 Ti 1:15-16 Paul says [15] The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. [16] But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16 ESV). He says he is the foremost of sinners, then talks about receiving mercy (past tense) of how Jesus saved him when he was a sinner.

    Many commentators believe that in Romans 7 Paul is addressing Jews who were trying to justify themselves by keeping the law. They know the law is right, but the law of sin is operating in them. He is not talking about born again Christians. He switches the Christian's experience in Romans 8.

    All that said, we still battle sin and it is a real battle. We must daily put sin to death. We must sow to the spirit not to the flesh. I believe that it would be more accurate to say "I was an alcoholic – a slave to sin. But now I am no longer a slave of sin but a slave of righteousness (Ro 6)." This doesn't mean I let my guard down however – I must guard my heart, flee temptation, resist the devil, put sin to death, sow to the Spirit and not the flesh. But I would understand my "identity" is I'm a child of God, a new creation, a joint-heir with Christ. I am not a "sinner", though my struggle with sin is very real and serious.

    It may work itself out very similarly, but that seems to be the best way of taking all the NT Scriptures to me.

    Anyway, whichever way you look at it, I totally agree with you – "there is hope and that hope is Jesus!" Aman! Thanks again for commenting.

  • doug says:

    the battle of sin is real and an ongoing struggle. it seems on the outside i sometimes feel more affected than most. but that is the most difficult to realize we all battle sin every day and it is so tough sometimes. thanks for reminding me that our sins are washed away. allot of times in a moment or moments of weakness i think we all forget we are joint -heirs with Christ. Flee Temptation !!

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