Monday, June 27, 2016

Who am I?

    I remember, it was just too blasphemous. No way could I accept that statement. I put the book down... and picked it up and read it again. Three times. No, this wasn't true. I put down the book and went inside the church, only to hear a guest speaker say the same thing. I just couldn't get away...

     If you know my story, you know that the statement I'm talking about is the radical doctrine of substitutional, vicarious atonement.Crazy that I grew up for ten years in evangelical churches and still didn't know what that was, but it's true. That's why 14 year old me was reading a book that dared speaking of me as the bearer of the righteousness of Christ and I had to put it down.

     For those of us who grew up being taught the Bible, we know who we were. Particularly Baptists (where I grew up) are known for repetitively hammering who we were by consistent teaching on sin and vice and so on. Simple Christian theology dictates that we know who we were... we were sinners. Maybe we realized as a child that we've sinned before and so we require forgiveness before God; maybe we were older and realized to a greater depth how great our depravity is before God, that our entire nature and disposition runs counter to God. In any case, one part of the gospel I definitely got was that I was messed up on my own.

     Who I was was pretty clearly and often spoken about. We were sinners before God, guilty, black, rebellious. We were the ones who nailed him to the cross. We were the ones who fell short of God's design, His perfect plan for the world.

     But what was never addressed is the new question: who am I now? Who am I now? I know I was a sinner before. I know I was a rebel. I know I was worthy of damnation. I know all that... but who am I know? Am I the same person with a new, fresh slate to draw my new identity out on depending on what I do? Am I the same sinner, but with the past grudgingly forgiven so I can slink into heaven just as the gate is closing, forgiven but still evil?

     This new identity... do I have one? Am I the same person, just forgiven, like a murderer who murders but is pardoned and the whole world knows he's still a murderer, just not a punished one? That was the lie I fell for for years. I got that I wasn't going to hell, but that was the extent of who I was in my new identity. My new identity was "forgiven sinner". I was just as evil as ever, I just wouldn't be punished for it. God was the cosmic benevolent old man, who saw the grandson break his favorite fly rod but didn't do anything about it.

     "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

     "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

     "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

     "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

     A new creature? Old things have passed away? Grace may reign? Become the righteousness of God? Perfected for all time?... Does that sound the slightest bit blasphemous?

     In Jesus, we have an entirely new identity; in fact, I'm a new person. I'm not who I was before, and the new me is clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I am no longer a sinner. That is not my identity any more, no matter how much I may sin while clothed in my new identity in Christ. Every sin is washed away by the blood of Christ, nothing staining my new identity as the righteous child of God made right with Him through Jesus Christ.

     I am no longer a sinner... I am a saint who still sins. Yet even that sin is done away with, washed away, removed forever, by the never-ending supply of the blood of Christ my Savior. I am not anything to be despised or disgusted with anymore, because I am a child of God made new, completely new in Him. I am not the same person I was. I have an entirely new identity in Jesus Christ, not merely a cover-up or a facade to camouflage my old one.

     Who am I?     I am radically loved by my Father.
     Who am I?     I am a child of God, His by adoption and fully His child.
     Who am I?     I am justified, no longer under the wrath of God.
     Who am I?     I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ, lacking nothing before God's throne.
     Who am I?     I am no longer a sinner, with no vestige of the guilt and the stain left upon me.
     Who am I?     I am an entirely new person, complete in every way in Jesus Christ.
     Who am I?     I am a transformed being, from a dead son of Adam into a living son of God.
     Who am I?     I am a co-heir with Christ, one who has been glorified and made beautiful in Him.
     Who am I?     I am one who has been bought with a great price.
     Who am I?     "My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I
                             have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." (Brennan Manning)

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