August 02, 2020

Who Am I: Embracing Our New Identity in Christ

Who Am I: Embracing Our New Identity in Christ

Tim Nicholls

8 Minute Read
Who Am I: Embracing Our New Identity in Christ

There’s no doubt that when someone becomes a Christian something incredible has happened. Suddenly, everything about them seems different: their character, thinking, priorities and behaviour all begin to change. Where there was once only selfishness, bitterness and pride, begins to emerge love, forgiveness and humility. Gradually, their life, family, study and work no longer serve their own selfish benefit, but the benefit of others and God’s greater glory. The change seems unbelievable, even miraculous to the outside observer. They may even begin to wonder if this is the same person they used to know, and ask why?

As we search the Scriptures, we should not be surprised by this dramatic change. For when we began following Jesus, something miraculous did happen. We moved from death to life. Our old self was crucified with Christ, and we were given a new self in Christ. In other words, we took on a whole new identity in Christ.

So if I am a Christian, who am I?

1. In Christ, I am a new creation

Paul tells us that when a Christian is converted, they are in fact a new creation, a foretaste in history of the new heavens and new earth to come at the end (Rev. 21:1).

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!”

~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Being a new creation, the Christian has embraced a whole new way of life. In the preceding verses we read:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

~ 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Before we were in Christ, we were living for ourselves. We had rejected God as the ruler of our lives and sought to live life our own way without him. At the cross, God re-created us as a new people for himself. Our old life of rebellion died with him at the cross. Now, compelled by his love, we live instead for our Saviour who was raised again. Having been reconciled to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18), we now as Christ’s ambassadors implore others to do the same (2 Corinthians 5:20).

2. In Christ, I am part of a new humanity

However, more than just re-creating individuals, God has created a whole new humanity in Christ.

Before the coming of Christ, all humanity was divided into two groups, the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were God’s chosen people descended from Abraham, recipients of God’s promises of fame, land, offspring and blessing (Genesis 12:1-3). The nations on the other hand were excluded from God’s people, foreigners to God’s promises, without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12). A great barrier divided them, and there was great hostility between them. (Ephesians 2:14)

But through Christ’s death on the cross, God broke down the barrier that divided them and established a whole new humanity in Christ:

“His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

~ Ephesians 2:15-16

God’s new humanity consists of all people, both Jew and Gentile, who have been united in Christ. No longer is any distinction made in who can belong to the people of God, whether age, race, culture, background, class, wealth, or gender. All who trust in Christ are reconciled to God by the cross and take their place in this new people of God, the church. It is there, as we see people gathered from every tribe, nation, language and people under Christ, that we see the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). It is there we have a taste of heaven.

3. In Christ, I am a citizen of heaven

History is inexorably moving towards the time when all who are in Christ will take their place in heaven. This is not something that belongs entirely to the future. As Paul says:

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

~ Ephesians 2:6

Having been united to Christ, spiritually we are seated in heaven now. Physically, we remain a part of this world, but spiritually, we are in Christ, the heavenly man seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).

Many years ago, I was involved in international student ministry in Australia. The changes they experienced were drastic, as they left their home country to live in an alien country where the shops shut at 5pm; the streets are empty, and a strange “ozzie” version of English is spoken. At some point, many of them experienced a deep longing to return to their true home.

We too live as aliens and strangers in this world. Malaysia is not our home, nor is this world. As long as we live in this present world, we will be out of place. We ought to long deeply for our true heavenly home, where we ultimately belong (Hebrews 11:13-16). Paul writes in Philippians 3:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

~ Philippians 3:20-21

On that day Jesus returns, God’s new humanity of re-created people will finally be home with him as they dwell as his people forever (Revelation 21:1-5).

4. In Christ, I am an adopted child of God

In Christ I Am An Adopted Child Of God

There is one final aspect of our identity in Christ that cannot go without mention. God has reconciled us through Christ to be a part of his new humanity who belong with him in heaven. But God hasn’t merely turned his enemies into friends, but his beloved adopted children. Paul writes in Romans 8:

For you… received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

~ Romans 8:17-18

In Christ, we are adopted children of God and heirs with Christ of everything that is his. We who were once living for ourselves, at war with one another and destined for hell, can now come confidently into the presence of our Creator. We can utter those words amazing words, “Abba”, “Father”. Being heirs with Christ, one day we will share in his inheritance, as we live with him in a whole new creation enjoying his blessings forever. In a world that is so unstable, that is such an assuring promise.

Living out our new identity in Christ

Christians are a new creation, part of a new humanity, headed to a new world, where we live forever as the beloved and blessed children of God. This is the new identity of all who are in Christ. Who we are is bound up entirely in Him.

The challenge is to faithfully live out our new identity rather than slip back into our old lives. In short, we must strive to be who we are in Christ.

  1. Since we are a new creation, we must put to death our old way of life and be renewed in our character, thinking, actions after the likeness of Christ. This change can be seen clearly in passages like Colossians 3:1-17, Ephesians 4:17-5:21, Galatians 5:16-25, and Romans 5:11-14. Holiness is not an option for the Christian (Hebrews 12:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). It is worth reading the above passages and reflecting on how you must change if you are to more fully live out your new identity in Christ.
  1. Since you belong to a new humanity reconciled to God and each other through Christ, strive to live this out in how you relate to others. We must not let age, nationality, gender or anything else divide us, especially in the church. We should strive to move out of our comfort zone to welcome those who are different to ourselves. It is worth taking a moment to reflect and confess those times that you have not welcomed brothers and sisters in Christ who are different to yourself.
  1. Since you are a citizen of heaven, you don’t belong to this world, but to the world to come. Therefore, we must not live for this world. We should set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). We should store up treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth (Matthew 5:19-21). Take some to reflect on how you can use your life and everything you have to proclaim Christ and seek his honour and glory as you await his return.
  1. Since you are an adopted child of God, remember that your future with Christ is secure. Don’t allow yourself to be rocked by the uncertainty of this world. Trust and delight in the wonderful God who is our Heavenly Father. Even now, be assured of his love and goodness towards you, no matter what external circumstances you now face.

Who are we? In Christ, we are a new creation, part of a new humanity, citizens of heaven, and beloved children of God. Let’s live accordingly.

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Originally from Australia, Tim Nicholls came to know Christ as a child, before maturing in his faith during his university years. Tim now lives in Malaysia and serves as a Pastor at St George’s Anglican Church in Georgetown, Penang. Tim is married to Siew Mun and they have four children. Tim loves Malaysian food, the hot tropical weather, and is learning to speak BM and Mandarin! But most of all he loves Jesus, and is passionate about seeing people from all nations and all stages of life come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour and joyfully live for his glory.

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