Identity 1/2: Identity Restored
Bijgewerkt: 25 nov 2019
Who am I? This is a question we can answer in many ways. You have name, a certain nationality, profession, multiple family roles, nationality, etc. But these are all things that don't talk about who we are at the deepest level. What is your true identity? In this post we are going to dig into the story of Creation, the Fall and the Gospel and discover what they say about our identity. We're also going to talk about a toothbrush. You'll find out later how that fits in.
We are in a message series called The Kingdom Life to discover what it means to have a full life in Christ. In John 10:10 Jesus shares His personal mission statement with us: I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
If you think that the only reason Jesus came to earth for is to take away your sins and make sure you don’t go to hell, then you are missing out on what He truly wants to give to you. Forgiveness of sins is wonderful and absolutely necessary – but it is only part of the full story of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sins is a means to an end. A doorway to the rich and purposeful life God created us for.
The last three blogposts were dedicated to how our intimacy with God is restored. Now we will continue to talk about how our original identity – the way God intended it – is restored and then we will discover how our destiny is being restored. With this post I am kicking off the topic of ‘identity’. And again, I will take you on a journey starting in Genesis to discover how God intended it, how we went astray and how Jesus restored us to our true identity.
Made in God’s image
Genesis 1:26-27 (NLT)
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
What do these verses say about our identity as human beings?
Firstly, we are made like God – in His image. We are a reflection of who God is. This obviously doesn’t mean that we possess all attributes that God possesses, but that we look like Him. We reflect who He is to the rest of creation.
As most of Western society has stepped away from the idea that we live in a created world, human beings are seen as a type of mammal. In a world that exists because of coincidence, and an evolutionary process of millions of years, humans are just a highly developed animal. This thinking gives way to an interpretation of the human identity I think is contradictory to the Bible. For example, in this line of thinking, humans are seen as equal to animals and human urges are seen as equal to animal instincts that, need to be followed in order to function well.
But we are not a type of animal. We are set apart from animals and created in the image of God to reflect Him to creation. And so, human urges are not the same as instincts that need to be followed. We are going to find out soon where those urges actually come from. And we are created to rule over the rest of creation – but not to exploit it.
A spirit connected to God
Genesis 2:7 (NLT) Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.
Secondly, the first chapters of Genesis point out another very important thing about our identity as human beings: we have received the breath of life from God. We are both spiritual and physical beings, and the spirit we received was in complete connection to God. God put Adam and Eve in a Garden called Eden and provided food for them.
Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17 (NLT)
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground — trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden — except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
Eden was a place of beauty and perfection. A place where heaven and earth were completely connected. Eating from the tree of life meant receiving life from God. This is what they were created for. To live and abide in God and to reflect God to the rest of creation. This was their identity. But there was also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We don’t know why it was there. But it was. And God gave strict instructions not to eat from it.
This tree was the counterfeit of the tree of life and so, represented the counterfeit for a life connected to God. It represents self-determining what is right and wrong apart from the Creator. It was an option for rebellion. There was a choice: eating from the tree of life and living out of God, or eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and live independently – or in rebellion to – God.
So, from the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, we get two important truths about our identity: we bear the image of God and we have a spirit connected to God.
Genesis 3:1-6 (NLT)
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
(We know that this serpent wasn’t just a snake, but that he is a supernatural being in rebellion against the Creator God – we now know him as the devil, or the satan which means the opposer. This satan is out to take along humans with him in his rebellion and He lures them in with lies.)
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.
God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
(The lie of the devil is that God is withholding true life from you. This is the core to any of his lies: “there is a good life out there that God is withholding from you, and I can lead you to it.”)
The woman was convinced. 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.
What are the consequences of what happened here?
1) Death. God had said that if you eat from this tree, you will surely die. Death came in two ways. There was an instant spiritual death – a disconnect between human beings and God. They could no longer eat from the tree of life, and live and abide in God the way they were supposed to. But also, physical death, which would happen gradually.
2) Humans would, from this point onwards, live in a world deeply affected by sin.
Humans were created to worship God and find life and purpose in Him – but because of sin entering in, they started worshiping the divine beings part of the rebellion led by that same serpent, finding purpose in other things a living apart from God.
The sin-problem goes much deeper than immoral choices. It is a state of rebellion against God, separation from God and a power that reigns inside of you that is directly opposed to the life and purpose of God for you.
Humans, created to bear the image of God, now started to bear the image of sin and rebellion against God. God would no longer define their identity, but sin did.
Humans, created to rule over creation on God’s behalf continued to do so, but no longer under God’s direction, but in the way they seemed fit through their sinful interpretation of good and evil, not taking care of creation but exploiting it, not multiplying but waging war against each other.
What I want you to understand is that the sin-problem goes much further than immoral choices. It is a state of rebellion against God, separation from God and a power that reigns in us that is directly opposed to the life and purpose of God for us.
The rest of the Old Testament testifies of the deep effects of sin on humanity. But God didn’t settle for this horrible situation. He decided to start a long-term project to redeem humanity to their original identity and purpose.
Then, in the middle of prophecy against the people of God in rebellion to His instructions, the prophet Ezekiel says this: And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) God promised that it wouldn’t be this way forever.
Made righteous through Jesus
God Himself decided to become a human being, in order to redeem them back to Himself. Jesus was born thousands of years after Adam. He was a man, but with a divine nature – instead of a fallen nature like the rest of humanity.
Colossians 1:15 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
Now, we are all created as image bearers of God, but we have a fallen nature. Jesus, though, is THE image bearer of God in the most perfect sense. He had a divine nature, and lived a sinless life in complete connection to God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
This verse, in a nutshell, points out that Jesus has dealt with the sin problem. Let’s break it down.
He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin - Jesus was completely righteous and completely innocent of sin. No fallen nature, no sinful actions. He didn’t live in rebellion against God but in complete unity with God.
to be sin - When He died on the cross the sin of the whole world was put on Him.
on our behalf - This means both for us and instead of us. He died instead of us, carrying the consequences of sin – providing forgiveness. He also died for us, dealing with the root of sin – our fallen nature.
so that we - By we, Paul means all those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died and rose again from the dead
might become the righteousness of God in Him - The result of what Jesus has done is that we might become – we were not but we are now! – the righteousness of God.
What does this mean?
Righteous means being in ‘right standing’. `
Other translations say ‘justified’.
Romans 5:1 (NLT) puts it this way: Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
This means that, all those who believe have been restored to be the image and likeness of God again. We are restored to our original identity, to bear the image of God.
Jesus did not only die to deal with the consequences of sin, but with the sin-problem in us. He didn’t only deal with the physical death part of the Fall, giving us eternal life when our life here ends – but He also redeem us from spiritual death and dealt with our fallen nature!
Jesus did not only die to deal with the consequences of sin, but with the sin-problem in us.
Eternal life starts here and now! He replaced our fallen and sinful nature with a divine nature that is alive and connected to God. By the way, this does not mean we never sin again – look at this in the next post called Identity Crisis. But this does mean that our identity is restored in Jesus. We are now in right standing with God again.
Let me illustrate this for you. If you would, by accident, drop your toothbrush in the toilet. What do you do? Do you rinse it off under the tap? Do you put it in the dishwasher? Do you boil it out with vinegar? No! You throw it away and get a new one! No way that toothbrush is going back in your mouth!
In the same way, God isn’t just wiping your slate clean, time and time again. He has given you a new slate altogether.
In the same way, God isn’t just wiping your slate clean, again and again. He has given you a new slate altogether. Your sinful nature has died with Christ, it is no more! You have received a new nature in Him that is connected to God.
In Romans 5, Paul gives a beautiful summary of everything we have talked about. I will use it to sum up what we’ve learned.
Romans 5:12-14 (NLT)
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did.
1) The sin issue is an identity issue
The heart of the sin issue is not that we make immoral choices, but that we live in a state of rebellion against God. Instead of bearing the image of God and receiving life from God, we started to bear the image of sin and were spiritually dead – disconnected from God. The old identity is: sinner.
This passage also shows that sin goes deeper than not obeying a certain instruction. Between Adam and Moses, there was no God-given law, but there still was sin!
Therefore, you can be considered to be a ‘good person’ and still be a sinner. You can be the greatest philanthropist on the planet, but if you are not saved by the grace of Jesus, you are still a sinner! Sin is an identity issue.
2) Jesus dealt with the sin issue
Romans 5:14-16 (NLT)
Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.
Through the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, we are put in right standing with God. We are restored to our true and original identity – an image bearer of God. We do not bear the image of sin anymore. And since you bear the image of God, He calls you righteous and holy. That is your new identity. A holy one, a saint. This is not our achievement, but God’s doing.
You may have grown up thinking of yourself as a sinner, but nowhere in the Bible do you see any reference to believers as sinners. Only in a past tense.
Jesus is the model of what it truly means to be human, the way God intended it. In perfect harmony with God and without any blemish or sin. Through His life He showed us what it truly means to be human, bearing the image of God.
3) We have a restored identity
Romans 5:17 (ESV)
For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again on the third day, then you are made righteous and sin does not reign anymore in you.
A transition happened. Sin has lost its power over you. Sin does not reign anymore
– Christ reigns in you. Sin doesn’t define you anymore – you are called righteous in God’s sight. You do not bear the image of sin anymore – but you bear the image of God.
I know it may be hard to think of yourself this way, because we do still struggle with some things. But here’s what I believe: everything changes when you start seeing yourself the way God sees you. And that’s the journey I want to take you on.
Everything changes when you start seeing yourself the way God sees you.
You are not what other people say of you, You are not your achievements, your talents or diplomas, You are not your roles and positions You are not your nationality, your family or your parents You are not even what you think of yourself or what you aspire to be…
YOU ARE WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE
And He calls you His child. He calls you righteous and holy. He loves you with a love that goes so deep He was willing to send His Son to the cross in order to call you all these things. Embrace your identity in Christ and your life will begin to change dramatically.