At the moment of salvation, something radical happens.
- All that is part of our old self, all that is sinful and contrary to God, has been crucified. It is dead (Romans 6:2–11; Galatians 2:20).
- We are completely forgiven, perfected for all time, and hence completely reconciled to God (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17–19; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:4, 7–8; 2:13; 4:32; Colossians 2:13–14; Hebrews 10:14).
- We are completely made new and given Christ’s eternal resurrected life (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:5–6, 10; Colossians 2:13; 3:1; 1 Peter 1:3–5).
- We are indwelled with the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of God Almighty (2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). We are thus made into a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).
- We are redeemed and set free from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; 5:1; Colossians 2:13–15).
- We are seated “in heavenly places” and made partakers of the eternal inheritance Christ purchased for us (Ephesians 1:3–11; 2:6; 3:6).
- We are hidden in Christ and united with Christ (Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 6:17; Colossians 3:3). As such, we are made participants in the eternal love that flows within the Triune Godhead (John 17:20–24; 2 Peter 1:4).
- God the Father completely redefines our state of being. Whereas once we were in Adam and by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:15–19), now we are in Christ and are the recipients of the very same eternal, perfect love he has for his Son (John 17:23, 26).
- The Father has chosen us and made us “holy and blameless before him in love.” He loves us and lavishes on us “his glorious grace” as he relates to us as we are “in the Beloved,” Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3–6).
At the moment of salvation, the real me is completely remade. I am made new. God doesn’t simply see me as new, I truly am a new creation in Christ!
I love the way that Greg Boyd says it:
The Christian is, very literally, “a person who has become someone he was not before.” The Father does nothing less than place the believer “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:3).
But do we really believe this?
Living a Lie
The problem is that we don’t live like this is true…at least most of don’t and no one does at all times. This is because our old thoughts, memories, and habits are still attached to us. This is why Paul encourages the Romans and us to be transformed by the renewing of the mind and not conformed to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1-2).
Again, Greg Boyd has some insightful words:
The problem, in other words, is that the identity they experience is not in line with the true identity they have in Christ.
In short, we’re living a lie. We’re basing our behaviors and actions on who we were and what the world says we (as humans) are. In Christ, we are children of God, but we are quicker to believe the lie that we are merely forgiven sinners.
What does this lead to? It leads us to live mediocre Christian lives because we can never seem to master our old sinful nature.
Trying Harder to Live Righteous
Falling into this lie is dangerous because all of the “ought to’s” and “should’s” in the Bible turn into unrealistic burdens on us that we can never fulfill in our own strength. This is why Paul says in Romans 7:6:
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
When we live out of our true identity, our behavior follows. When we live in the lie, we try to make ourselves righteous in a feeble attempt to become who Christ has already made us to be. Is that clear? Maybe Greg Boyd can clear this up:
If believers have character and behavior problems, the problem is not first and foremost with their behavior, as the “try harder” solution assumes. The fundamental problem is that they do not see and experience themselves as they truly are. They do not “consider themselves” as they are in Christ (Romans 6:11).
Instead of living out of the truth of who Christ has made us, we attempt to make the truth a reality with behavior modification.
The Work of the Spirit
The goal of the Christian life is simply to display in our lives the truth of who we truly are.
This is a gradual process. It’s a process of submission: submitting to our true identity and to the working of the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we can force. Modifying our behavior won’t make us righteous. Striving to love is different than simply living out the truth that I am a loving person.
When Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, he means that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to see these realities of who we have become in Christ to become a reality in our everyday lives. Then we begin to display in our lives the truth of who we really and truly are in Christ.
We are loved.
We are dead to sin but alive to the Spirit.
We are holy and blameless before God.
And I believe that the battle begins in the mind. We have to claim these truths about who we truly are and see it in our minds. It’s not just pretty prose from the New Testament writers that make us feel good sometimes. It’s truth that we must realize before the enemy distorts it and blinds us to the awesome power of our new identity in Christ.
This is the real me and it’s what I must really see.
Also published on Medium.