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Proof of Identity

Today's guest is: Dr. John Woodward from www.GraceNotes.com

 

 A while back my wife and I registered to vote in our regional election. In order to get on the voters' list we needed to bring with us two proofs of identity. After showing them our driver's license and health card, we were deemed eligible to exercise our right as citizens.
 
Similarly, we need to be convinced of our "proof of identity" spiritually before we can exercise our freedom for abundant life as citizens of God's kingdom. How can we learn about our true identity as believers in Christ? What proof will really convince us of this new identity?
 
We can look nowhere else for this revelation than the written Word of God. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16,17). God's Word corrects our understanding and equips us to fulfill our calling in Christ.
 
Let's focus on some texts in Philippians which relate to our identity in Christ and how this perception should affect us. According to this epistle, we as believers are
•  partakers of grace (Phil. 1:7),
•  brethren in the Lord (Phil. 1:12,14),
•  participants of consolation, love, fellowship, affection, and mercy in the Spirit (Phil. 2:1),
•  lights in the world (Phil. 2:15),
•  righteous in Christ (Phil. 3:9),
•  called upward (Phil. 3:14),
•  citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20),
•  inscribed in the Book of Life (Phil. 4:3), and
•  saints in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:21). Amen!
 
We need to distinguish between spiritual facts and spiritual obligations. There are numerous obligations and admonitions in this epistle (e.g. Phil. 1:27,28, 2:2-5,12-14), but these are not requirements for obtaining our new identity in Christ. Being precedes doing!
 
We are new creations in Christ by grace alone through true faith alone (Eph. 2:8-10). This awareness then encourages us to cooperate with God's Spirit in carrying out His directives.
 
In his book, Birthright, David Needham shares about his quest for identity.
"In order to assuage my constant guilt, I tried even harder to do the things I figured God wanted me to do... I was committed to become someone for God--a youth leader, a pastor, a husband, a father, a teacher, a something... I had reckoned myself 'dead to sin' dozens of times; often with a great surge of faith. I pled with God with all my heart for victory and for joy. I confessed countless times. I memorized dozens of Bible verses. I claimed the fullness of the Holy Spirit in earnest faith. It was real faith, and it did not work. Then, God opened a door."
 
For David Needham, this door involved the discovery of the nature of his union with Christ and the new identity that resulted from this. He continues,
"A Christian is not simply a person who gets forgiveness, who gets to go to heaven, who gets the Holy Spirit, who gets a new nature. Mark this--a Christian is a person who has become someone he was not before. A Christian, in terms of his deepest identity is a saint, a born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of heaven. Not only positionally (true in the mind of God but not true in actuality here on earth), not only judicially (a matter of God's moral bookkeeping), but actually. Becoming a Christian is not just getting something, no matter how wonderful that something might be. It is becoming someone." [1]
 
As God illumines you about your essential spiritual identity in Christ, you will discover new potential for abundant living!
 
Discovering our new identity enables us to view our circumstances from God's perspective. Consider Paul's identity in Christ and how it influenced his outlook on his circumstances as he wrote Philippians. Instead of being a mere prisoner of Rome, he declares himself a bondservant of CHRIST (Phil. 1:1); his chains were in Christ (Phil. 1:13). This security assured Paul in spite of threats of rivalry (Phil. 1:5-17), martyrdom (Phil. 1:20), and false teaching (Phil. 3:1-7). His ministry was not just a job, but likened to a drink offering being poured out (Phil. 2:17). Rather than glorying in his Roman citizenship (which he did claim when it was useful), he gloried in his spiritual identity: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." (Phil. 3:20,21).
 
If God's Word does affirm these truths about our essential identity in Christ, we should meditate on them rather than our flesh patterns, the trials of life, or the failures of others. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." (Phil.4:8).
 
Have you ever taken one identity truth and kept it throughout the day as a focus of "renewing your mind"? (e.g. "In Christ I am God's workmanship" - Eph. 2:10). This discipline will help you focus on your new identity and provide variety as you take a different identity truth for each day.
 
Since we live according to how we perceive our identity, we must take God at His word about it.! The new you can walk in newness of life.
 
Lord, when we slip into doubts about our spiritual identity, reassure us of the radical change that You have accomplished in our hearts by Your grace. Incline our minds to believe this wonderful truth of who You have made us to be in Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.
 
_________________________________
 
[1] David C. Needham, Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? (p. 45-47). Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1979.
Copyright, 1999 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non commercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com.
Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Copyright, Thomas Nelson.
 

 

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