Monday, August 1, 2005

No Longer Identified By Sin

Hi, I’m Joel Brueseke. It has been no less than a wonderful, joyful experience for the past 5 years for my wife and I to worship with and connect with the various parts of Christ’s body who call the Vineyard their home, as we do. Along with our two children, Jared and Noelle, we thank God daily in our prayers for extending our family by a couple of thousand people! I work part time at Covenant Medical Center as a Courier and I work part time at the New 89.1-The Spirit (aka KWOF-850AM in Waterloo). You might know me as Joel Sommers on the radio, and if you do know me in that capacity, my sincerest apologies!

As I share a little bit more about myself, I’ll use someone else’s words to describe my thoughts: “I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Paul, in Galatians 2:19-21, The Message)

My friend Mike Kapler (also with KWOF and this church) has often brought up that we humans tend to identify ourselves by what we “do.” You find out what other people “do” and you tell them what you “do.” “I’m a salesman.” “I’m a hairdresser.” “I do construction work.” “I work in radio.” “I race cars.” “I’m a pastor.” “I work in a factory.” In introducing myself above, I first told you what I “do.” But because what I do is generally the fruit of who I am, or even the fruit of who I perceive I am, I first want to grow in and be grounded in who I am.

The Bible says that my identity – who I am – is not “me” anymore! When I was born, I was identified with Adam and unfortunately it was a life which didn’t quite cut the mustard when it came to being right with God. So, as an act of His great love for us, God made a way for all of us who were born in Adam to be “born again” into Christ. But in order become this “New Creation,” as Paul phrases it in II Cor. 5:17 and Gal. 6:15, it was necessary for the old “me” to die. So, that identity was crucified with Christ. It is dead and buried, expired, six feet under, bereft of life, pushing up daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It’s stone dead. (Thanks to a Monty Python skit for those synonyms for DEAD!) My new identity (who I really, actually am) is identified by the very life of Christ in me.

Plainly put, before coming to Christ we were identified as “sinners.” Now, after coming to Christ by faith, we have a new identity as saints! As Bill Gillham writes in his book, “What God Wishes Christians Knew About Christianity,” and as our pastor has often said, we are not “sinners saved by grace.” It is grace alone which has saved us, but now in addition to having been forgiven of our sins, we have been made holy, blameless and righteous - saints! That is actually, factually what God has made us to be! He doesn’t just “see” us as holy and righteous. We are holy and righteous.

We do contain the capacity to sin, and the reason is that sin dwells “in” us (see Rom. 7:17,20). The good news is that we are not identified by what is in us but rather by who we actually are! When you have a virus “in” you, you don’t say “I am a virus” or “I am a runny nose and swollen tonsils.” What is in you might temporarily have power over your bodily functions, but it does not define who you are. In Christ, sin doesn’t define us. We are defined as a saints. Nothing we “do” can change that identity, just as nothing we did created that identity in the first place. It was all the work of God and it will always continue to be the work of God. The prodigal son didn’t lose his identity as a son, even when he went off and squandered his inheritance.

The book mentioned above says, “Believe you are a ‘sinner saved by grace’ and you’ll act like one; believe you are a holy, purified saint who admittedly sins at times, but who hates that life-style, and you’ll be highly motivated to act like such a saint.” Our new life in Christ is lived by trusting and resting in what God has already done, and in His very life which is in union with ours!

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