A Mini-Series on Identity (Part 2)
When I was a kid my mom owned a modeling studio. As our group waited to begin a fashion show at the local mall I befriended a cute teenage boy. I was seven years old and thought he hung the moon. I needed to tinkle, so I ran to the restroom and quickly returned as to not lose my seat next to him. When I walked out I saw my best friend sitting in my seat. Filled with envy, I quickly got her attention and called her over to me. She hesitated a bit at first, but when I told her we would play a game, she decided to come. I told her we should race to the other side of the room and see who could make it back first. As soon as she took off I tricked her and ran to my former seat, next to the cute guy. When she saw what happened I could tell she was hurt. Honestly, it didn’t bother me too much. I got what I wanted and that was good enough for me.
I could name so many examples of not being concerned with my sin before I became a Christian. In fact, I could name examples of purposeful malice, deceit, and manipulation with the single goal of wanting Victoria to be first. Since accepting Christ I am still sinful, but with more than remorse for being caught. Sin now bothers me to my core and requires complete repentance. It is the difference in who I am now versus who I was then. I have always been loved by God. But now I have chosen to embrace that love and all that it entails, which is an everlasting relationship with the Creator of the world. In 2 Chronicles 7, the chronicler writes of a conversation between Solomon and God, where God provides reassurance to Solomon concerning the forgiveness of the people’s sins:
When my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their [heart]. -2 Chronicles 7:14
Unfortunately, the evil God is referring to began as a lusts with the creation of man. Rather than forcing his creation to love and worship Him, God gave us the option to freely choose or deny Him, which includes the ability to obey or disobey His commands. Have you ever tried to get your 2-year-old, 10-year-old, or 30-year-old to listen to you when you knew your advice was in their best interest? In our house, it isn’t as easy as I would like it to be. Choosing to obey or disobey comes with great responsibility. The decision of Adam and Eve came with destruction when the first humans chose to disobey the single command God had given them. They allowed their pride, greed, and lusts to take over in a moment of weakness and Satan’s temptation was successful (see Genesis 3).
Due to this first sin, evil would enter the world and cause all things to die.
But how? First Corinthians 15:22a tells us that “in Adam all die.” Theologian William T. Shedd says, “The sin of Adam, consequently, is imputed to posterity in the very same way that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer…undeservedly and gratuitously.”(1) Through Adam’s sin, the entire human race sinned, causing death. Through Jesus’ perfect life, death, and bodily resurrection, the entire human race can be redeemed and live forever.
For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. - 1 Corinthians 15:22
Who was I then?
In essence, you were a reproduction of Adam and Eve. They are your parents, in a historical sense. In his upcoming book Why God Allows Evil, apologist Clay Jones puts it like this, “Once Adam and Eve sinned, and then had a fallen nature, they could only reproduce their own fallenness. They couldn’t reproduce something better than themselves.”(2)
Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Simply put, our sin nature is inherited from Adam and Eve and requires a new birth into the Spirit. Consider Jesus’ words: “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Even Peter says, “By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again - not of perishable seed but of imperishable - through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
Paul wrote to the Romans concerning this death and life: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned.” He continues to explain that “because from one sin came the judgment, resulting in condemnation, but from many trespasses came the gift [Jesus Christ], resulting in justification.” (see Romans 5:12-21). Adam’s deliberate sin to disobey God sent the entire world spiraling into a physical and spiritual death. However, despite our infinite, continuous sin, God sent a way for us to be justified - the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who chose to obey His Father and live the perfect life for our sake.
For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” - Romans 5:19
Who I am now.
I once received an anonymous card(4) that read,
BECAUSE I AM IN CHRIST, BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM...
Justified (Romans 5:1)
Freed from slavery to sin (Romans 6:1-6)
Not condemned (Romans 8:1)
Placed in Christ by God (1 Corinthians 1:30)
The recipient of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12)
Able to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Not my own. I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Established, anointed by God (2 Corinthians 2:21)
Controlled by God’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
Righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Living in Christ’s life (Galatians 2:20)
Blessed with every heavenly blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
Holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
Predestined to be adopted by God (Ephesians 1:5)
Redeemed, forgiven, a grace-receiver (Ephesians 1:7-8, Col. 1:14)
Sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Made alive (Ephesians 2:5)
Raised, seated with Christ in heaven (Ephesians 2:6)
Given direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18)
Able to approach God with boldness and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
Rescued from darkness, transferred to the Kingdom of His son (1 Cor. 1:13)
Rooted firmly in God (Colossians 2:7)
Made complete (Colossians 2:10)
Made alive through burial and resurrection with Him (Colossians 2:12-13)
Given a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
Saved, called according to God’s purpose (2 Timothy 1:9)
Reborn, renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)
Sanctified (Hebrews 2:11)
Able to come to God’s throne to find mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16)
Granted exceedingly great and precious promises as a partaker of the divine nature
(2 Peter 1:4)
While our new birth in Christ might be invisible to the naked eye, it’s effects are clearly visible. So visible that without notice of them one might question the person’s new life. Philippians 1:11 says that we have been “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ.” Consider the verse: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit…the good man brings out of his treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:33-37).
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. - Matthew 7:17
Psalm 15:2 beautifully describes the character that we attain in Jesus when we are a child of God: “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” This is the fruit that is visible when God adopts you and I as his children. We run after His identity, choosing to embrace all that it means from accepting His love and forgiveness to enduring the same suffering and perseverance that our Father sent his Son to suffer on behalf of His other children. That is an eternal love.
It makes me think about my earthly family. As the youngest of three children I saw a lot. I saw when my siblings made my parents proud and when they (as well as myself) disowned “the family name.” Upholding our name was the highest honor you could have in our house. Doing something foolish would embarrass the family and bring shame that might not be able to be erased. Thankfully, our eternal Father has a name that can never be shamed. However, that doesn’t give us the right to abuse His name. We must stand firm in Biblical self-discipline as to continue to grow in the character of Jesus; not simply to invoke social justice, though Jesus did indeed bring justice, rather to live in the Gospel, which is what brings justice to the world (see next week’s video titled “Social Justice or the Gospel?”).
As a daughter of the only perfect, Holy Father, this is who you are - renewed by the Holy Spirit, unconditionally loved, forgiven and redeemed, strengthened with God’s love and power, able to approach Him with boldness and confidence, forever and ever. And, it is your responsibility to uphold the truth of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and all that it entails, which starts with prayer, Bible study, and discipleship.
Let’s grow in the family together.
With this weeks topic I unintentionally combined three topics into one. Next week, we will continue exploring the last two topics we hit on this week: taking the family name and embracing the character of Jesus, including His suffering.
(1) William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3rd, ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 435.
(2) Clay Jones. Why God Allows Evil - An Eternal Perspective Theodicy (2017), 32
(3) Romans 5:21 and 6:4 (Suggested reading - Romans 5 and 6).
(4) Handed out during Spiritual Development and Formation at Biola University, Apologetics Residency, June 2016. The card was produced by J3 Ministries.
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and adoptive mom of a tween. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Follow her on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris or instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.
Victoria is a wife, mom, ambassador of Jesus, and a lover of all things that involve learning.