Over the last number of months, the focus of most, if not all, of my study and learning has been about identity, the identity of the one who is in Christ and the direct and radical and revolutionary implications of that identity. This whole process has taken me so much deeper into my understanding of who I am, who God is, and who God is for me, and Scripture itself, depths which even 5 years ago I would not have dreamed possible. As I think back, I have gone so far past and deeper than the teaching of my youth could have taken me had I stayed on that track, for that teaching rarely went beyond seeing the relationship between God and this world in a philosophical, rational and logical way.
I have come to the conclusion that there are many Christians who, while not wanting to admit it, are truly double-minded, as James says in the early part of his letter. I say that because I have come to the conclusion that there are many Christians who think of themselves in two different ways. On one hand, they see themselves as “in Christ,” but on the other hand, they still view themselves as sinners and separate in some way/aspect from Christ. There is an underlying perspective or mindset or approach that is characterized by a duality of nature. It is from this duality that the idea of an ongoing internal war between the new nature, given to us by God, and the old sinful nature comes. The problem with that is that that old nature is dead. God crucified it when He crucified me with Christ, and just like He raised Christ glorified, I was also raised being given that new glorified nature which is Christ Himself. That old nature stayed put in the grave; it wasn’t resurrected. That enemy is dead, and the last time I checked, when the enemy is killed, the war is over.
The reason I bring all this up today is because of the passage that was the focal point of my study this morning. It deals with my identity as God knows it and how God sees me. The following passage is from 1 John 4:7-16 and is my translation: “Beloved, love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is begotten from God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God is revealed in us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we should live through Him. In this is love, not because we loved God, but because He loved us and sent His Son the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us thus, we also ought to love one another. No one has beheld God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is being perfected in us. In this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He gave to us from His Spirit. And we beheld and testified that the Father sent His Son, Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love which God has in us. God is love, and the one who abides in the love abides in God and God abides in him. In this, love has been perfected with us, that we should have boldness in the day of judgment, because just as He is, we also are in this world.“
Think about that last sentence. The one in whom God abides and who abides in God has the identity of Christ – “…because just as He is, we also are in this world.” There is no duality; my identity, my nature, in this world is singular and it is Christ. The one true identity has been established. “Love has been perfected with us.” That is a perfect tense verb, meaning that the action began in the past and has been completed also in the past. The identity has been established in God’s eyes. As Christ is, we currently are in this world.
Later on, in verse 19, John says, “We love because He first loved us.” What God desires from us, He first gives to us. He placed His love into us as an aspect of our identity in Christ so that we could love Him as only He could love Himself and those around us as only He could love them. Because our nature is now Christ, it is our nature to love. Because God is a humble God, He places humility in us so that we would be humble before Him in response and also before those around us in this world. Think of any characteristic of our God-given identity and the paradigm is the same: what God wants from us He has already given to us for Christ possesses it and we are “in Christ” and Christ is in us. God initiates and gives and we respond by returning it to Him, allowing others around us to experience it as we do so.
And just as James says in James 1:6-8, a person who has a duality of identity has no right to expect to receive anything from God. But, the one who has the singular understanding of his/her true identity, that one has the right to expect to receive from God for that one abides in God and God in him. And, even as awesome as a reason and logic might be, it cannot explain the position, identity, and standing which is anyone’s who is in Christ for they are spiritually discerned.
How do you see yourself? Is your view of your identity of a singular or dual nature? What I have discovered is that anyone who has the dual mindset has the struggle that was experienced by Paul while he was still under the law. Read Romans 7 where Paul describes what that whole push-pull style of attempting to live as God commanded in the law was like. Paul isn’t saying that’s what his life was like when he wrote those words; he was remembering and describing that approach to life to Jewish believers in Rome who were wondering what to do regarding the law now that they were followers of Christ. That was the old lifestyle with all the feelings and thoughts associated with guilt and shame and condemnation. And it should not be surprising that someone still living under this approach doesn’t seem to grow in his/her God-given identity because that’s not how God does things anymore.
I have discovered this; once I received a singular mind concerning my identity and how God works in and through that, the speed of my realizing and experiencing the completeness I already have in Him went into overdrive. It will be the same for you, because that’s how God works.