Assured by the Spirit | Spirit-Filled Church Life Group Series 2/6
This is the follow-up to a series of posts in our new Life Groups series.
He was barely alive, floating unconscious in the raging seas. After a fishing trawler picked him up it became apparent that he had been shot several times. When he eventually came to, it was as if his brain had been reformatted. He had no intact memories. The only clue to his identity was a thumbnail-sized laser device embedded under his skin. When it was activated, it projected a ten digit number onto the nearest surface. The number led the amnesiac to a safety deposit box in a Swiss bank.
This, of course, is the start to one of the best espionage film series so far this millennium, The Bourne Identity. At times, many of us could probably identity with Jason Bourne: we struggle to know who we really are. Later in the film, when Bourne rifles through the safety deposit box to find passports with pictures of himself with different names and identities, he is not content to adopt one of the personas presented to him. He wants to know who he really is. He does not ask, “Who shall I be today?” but “who am I really?” He wants to know the truth.
Identity is important because humans are so designed that how we think about ourselves largely determines how we behave. Psychologists tell us that a person who feels insignificant will behave in such a way, and so on. So, change your identity (how you think about yourself) and your behaviour will change accordingly.
So who are you? Most of us answer that with just our name, or our job, our nationality, or maybe where we live. But aren’t we more than this? If you chopped off one of my arms, would I still be me? What if you transplanted some of my organs? Where am I then? Some people define themselves as a collection of chemicals but this is dangerous reductionism like describing a Shakespearean sonnet as just a bunch of letters. Love becomes nothing more than a chemical reaction, and sex, well, that’s just the act of passing on my genes, nothing more meaningful than that. Other people see themselves as experience junkies but if making memories is the key to your identity then to lose your memory, through illness or old age, is to lose your very self.
Who a person thinks they are affects every aspect of their life. Getting it wrong by putting your identity in something temporary that can be taken away from you is depressing (not to mention disastrous). Getting it right by putting it in something or rather someone who is unchanging and good is delightful.
The good news of the gospel is that when you cross the line of faith you get a brand new identity, which, if believed and embraced, will catalyse a change of behaviour from the inside out. Change your identity – change your behaviour.
Christ’s followers are not sinners (even though we may continue to sin) but “saints” (verse 1). Why? Because we are “in Christ” as Paul reminds us no less than 11 times in this passage. Surely this is repeated because God really, really wants us to know our new identity.
If you are in Christ you are in the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. You stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved by His Father, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. This means you’re free from religious shouldery and oughtery (trying to perform for God). You’re free from shame and condemnation because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ. Significance (Genesis 1:28), security (Genesis 1:29f) and acceptance (Genesis 2:18f) – which we had before the fall but subsequently lost and ever since have been searching for in all the wrong places – are given to us, abundantly, in Christ.
The challenge is to know this; not just in our heads but in our hearts. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. He assures us of these truths, making them real to us in an increasing way, intensifying our understanding and experience of our adoption, forgiveness and redemption, as we go on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). That’s why we should covet His presence in our lives, for if we truly know who we are in Christ, nothing will be impossible for us. We will be fearless proclaimers of the gospel, for we have nothing to lose – our salvation is secure – as we seek to live for the praise of His glory.
This question is, how assured are you of your identity?