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Identity 2/2: Identity Crisis

Bijgewerkt: 25 nov 2019

The Bible says that we are new creations; dead to sin and alive to God. We live in a new reality. But….. why does it not always feel like a new reality? Why do we still struggle with sin, if the Bible so clearly says we are dead to it? In this message called "Identity Crisis", we are going to look at some answers to these questions in Romans 6. We will also look at a completely new strategy to battle with sin.

Romans 6:1-3 (NLT)

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?

Let’s just first notice one very important thing here. Sin, apparently is still an option. Paul does not say that now that this new reality has set in and we are called dead to sin, this is a guarantee that we will not sin anymore. In verse 1 he says: ‘should we keep on sinning?’ The simple answer is: ‘of course not!’ is then followed by a longer explanation.

And so, Paul is going to lead us through a whole new way of explaining how this new reality has set in, so we can better understand. He will do this through a metaphor of identification. Jesus identified with us in becoming a human being and then when He was crucified on our behalf. But we also identify with Him in His death and resurrection!

Let's continue.

Romans 6:4-7 (NLT)

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Through faith we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection. On that cross, sin was crucified. That means: the guilt of sin, the identity of sin, the sinful nature and the consequences of sin – in other words, the power of sin. When Jesus was buried, our old lives were buried with Him. We have laid it off. We left it behind in the grave. And we don’t go back to refresh the flowers for that grave.

This is the new reality: our sinful nature was crucified, our old lives lie buried in a grave and we were raised to a new life. We died to sin and are alive to God!

When Jesus rose from the dead, we rose to a new life, with a new identity and a new way of living. Sin no longer reigns, Christ reigns in us. This is the new reality: our sinful nature was crucified; our old lives lie buried in a grave and we were raised to a new life. We died to sin and are alive to God.

Romans 6:8-10 (NLT)

And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.

Paul makes very clear that this victory over sin is certain and complete. He uses definitive language. There are no doubts, no buts, no ifs. This is the new reality for all who believe.

Dual natures?

For many, it has been very hard to truly embrace this idea, because their daily reality felt so different from this spiritual reality. We gladly receive forgiveness, but know that sin, guilt and shame are coming again. And because the reality the Bible describes feels so different from our daily reality, we adjust our reading because it just cannot be true.

And so, somehow, we ended up with the view that Christians continue to live with a sinful nature, but with an empowered will to suppress it. It’s like two natures in constant battle with each other. It’s an identity in crisis!

We are not half-dead to sin, but completely dead to sin!

But we are not half-dead to sin, but completely dead to sin! My old-self is buried, and a new me has risen from that grave. Where then is the battle with sin? The answer is in the next verse.

Romans 6:11 (NLT)

So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Where the battle really takes place

The battle with sin takes place in the mind. A new reality has set in, but our brains have not yet caught up. Paul tells us we need to embrace the new reality, to see it being realised in our lives.

Our sinful spirit was replaced with a divine spirit – connected to God. This is what it means that we were made righteous. We have a new identity. Not the identity of a sinner, but of a ‘holy one’. We were washed and cleansed, but we were not brainwashed.

There are still patterns of thinking, ways of speaking and certain ideas that may lead us to actions that are in contrast to our new identity. The battle with sin is not a battle between two different natures, but a battle of the mind that hasn’t completely embraced the new identity yet.

Sin is still a problem when our minds have not yet caught up with the new reality inside of us and we haven't fully embraced the new identity we have in Jesus Christ.

That’s why Romans 12:2 says: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. We have been justified. We are being sanctified. And this sanctification is not an accomplishment of the will, but the result of a transformed mind.

Why is this so important? Because it completely changes our strategy in the battle. It also changes the outcome. If we are battling something deep within us which is never going to go, we will never win. But if we understand it as a learning curve and thinking in a new way, victory is in view.

A different strategy

So, the old strategy mainly had to do with the will. The idea is that there is a force inside me that leads me to sin, but when my will is strong enough, I can suppress it.

But what does this do? Well, firstly, you see yourself as at war with yourself and that’s not a great place to be in. Secondly, it leads to depression when you fail, and you live in constant fear of messing up. This doesn’t sound like the: “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” type of life, does it?

Let’s investigate this new strategy.

1) Know and believe the truth

Genesis 3:6 (NLT)

She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.

How is this relevant? Eve did not have a sinful nature either, remember? But the combination of not trusting God and the lie of the devil ignited sinful desire. Sin was an option back then, and it still is today.

When we do not completely trust God, and start believing the lies of the enemy – we suddenly start to desire sin. Suddenly, something that God was very clear about would not be good for us seems good, delicious and beautiful.

A big part of this new strategy, therefore, is understanding the will, the character, the plans and the heart of God, so that we can quickly identify the lies of the enemy. We have to know the truth, in order to identify the lie and continue to walk in the Spirit.

When you begin to walk with God, love Him and trust Him, suddenly, you will notice there are less and less sinful desires. Why? Because sin just seems less desirable… Your eyes are opened to the truth, and you are able to see sin for what it is, and it is no longer something you want.

2) Shift your focus

Romans 6:11-14 (NLT)

So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

We need to embrace the reality of our new identity in Christ. When you identify yourself as a sinner, what are you going to do? Sinful stuff!

When you identify yourself as a holy one, what are you going to do? Holy stuff!

When you embrace your new identity, sin will decrease naturally.

The solution that Paul offers to win the battle with sin is ‘use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God’. Holiness is not about what you don’t do, but about what you do do. It’s not about avoiding sin, but about living for God’s glory. When you embrace your new identity, sin will decrease naturally. Stop focusing on sin, and start living for God.

3) Be baptised

Earlier in this chapter, Paul mentions baptism in relation to embracing the new reality.

'Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?' (Romans 6:3)

Baptism is a powerful expression of the spiritual shift inside of us that has already taken place. In the act of baptism, you express physically what you have experienced spiritually. When your body is pushed under water for a second you leave your old life behind in the water. It’s a one-second funeral. And then when you are brought back up, you are raised to a new life with Christ. It’s such a powerful way to express that you have said YES to Jesus. This is how I summarize it:

You make a statement to yourself: You bury your old life and embrace your new life. It’s a one-time decision for the rest of your life. You express your full commitment to follow Jesus from this day forward.

You make a statement to the church: You tell the worldwide body of Christ that you want to be part of this new spiritual family.

You make a statement to the whole world: Everyone may now that you have said YES to Jesus. You are not ashamed, but proud to be His disciple.

You make a statement to the spiritual world: You let the enemy know that he can’t touch this.

That is why we believe at Vineyard that baptism happens upon the profession of faith and has to be based on your personal decision. Infant baptism shows the wish of the parents and their promise to raise a child up in the faith - which we do by dedication. But we believe that baptism is most powerful after a personal decision to become a believer.

Undergoing the burial of your old life and resurrection to a new one through baptism, empowers you to fully embrace and live out this new reality.

Just to be very clear; salvation and justification don’t come through baptism. Baptism is the expression of what already happened. We are not saved through baptism, but through grace.

But – and this is why I believe that even when you have been baptised as a little child, it is good to do believers baptism as well – it empowers the change in our thinking. When you undergo that baptism, stating you have died to sin and are raised to a new life, it empowers you to now live out that new reality as well.

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