What is your fundamental identity? Are you a thief? A fornicator? An adulterer? Are you homosexual? A drunk? A glutton? A helpless slave to sin who can’t change?
The Bible teaches that when we believe in Jesus, a fundamental change occurs at the core of our being. The person we were before, the old man, is dead, crucified with Christ, and we are now new creations, brand new people who never existed before. Paul said of himself:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (GA 2.20)
He told the Corinthians:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 CO 5.17
You can’t get much clearer than that. The old has passed away. Dead. The new has come. Our fundamental identity has changed. We may not FEEL like it has changed, but it has. We may have the same temptations we had before and feel like we have to keep giving in to them, but in reality we don’t. Paul also told the Corinthians:
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
Did you catch that? “And such WERE some of you.” Some of the Corinthians HAD BEEN immoral, idolaters, drunkards, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves – IN THE PAST. These were their old identities. But they weren’t these things any longer. Yes, they had been, “BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” They had been adulterers. They had been homosexuals. They had been drunkards. But they had been cleansed of these things by Jesus’ blood, and sanctified, or set apart for God, and justified – declared not guilty and righteous in God’s sight.
Such WERE some of you. Your fundamental identity has changed. You’re a whole new you.
One day not long after his conversion, Augustine was walking down a street in Milan when a prostitute he’d been involved with in the past called to him, “Augustine! It is I!” He turned to her and replied, “Yes, but it is no longer I!” He knew he was a new creation, and that the old, immoral Augustine had passed away. Was he tempted? Did he feel like giving in to the old sins? I would imagine he was. But he knew that as a new creation in Jesus, he couldn’t keep living the old way.
Again and again in the New Testament Paul urges us to live in line with who we are NOW, not who we once were. We ARE new creations, so ACT like them. He says in Colossians:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. CO 3.5-10
See Paul’s appeal? He says you once walked in these things, but now you’ve put off the old self and put on the new self. So live in line with the new self. In Romans 6 Paul says we “were once slaves of sin” but now we “have become slaves of righteousness” (v17). Our fundamental identity has changed.
Do we kill sin in our own strength? NO! We must cry out for help and take advantage of every means of grace – various ways God gives us to receive his strength, like his word, prayer, fellowship, worship. Most of us fail many times as we seek to walk out our new identities but if we confess our sins Jesus forgives, cleanses and gives us fresh grace to get back up follow him.
Remember, God sees you in Christ – righteous, justified, a new creation, his beloved child. You are a whole new you.