Do you remember the old children’s game “Simon Says”? As kids we loved playing this simple game which teaches every participant that sometimes the only way to play is to carefully follow the leader. You can, of course, disregard the leader, but then you are no longer playing the game. I want you to consider a couple very simple, yet soul penetrating questions: Who is leading you today? What is guiding your daily living? In other words, whose commands are causing you to jump, to sit, to stand, to speak, to stay, to go, to listen?
When we consider the Bible and the theology it professes, we learn that God has called His people to be led by Him. The Scriptures teach that when a person becomes a Christian their nature is renewed. Their hearts now love God, their minds now see Him and the world rightly, their wills are enabled by His Spirit to fight against sin in renewed ways. Christians are able to do this because they are humanity redeemed. We have been redeemed from the guilt of sin by Christ’s perfect righteousness. We are also being redeemed from the pollution of sin in our hearts and minds.
The Christian message proclaims nothing less than a new identity for the Christian. God changes your identity in the Lord Jesus. You used to be someone chiefly identified as united to Adam, meaning sin, death, and spiritual slavery. But by the power of the Gospel, you are now and forever identified as one in Christ (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). This and more is entailed in our baptisms, which is why we are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We receive a new name. In short, we are not our own and this new identity is the gift of God made ours by faith alone.
The new identity God gives us entails a new life. We no longer live as if we actively or passively hate God. We don’t live as if Christ is still in the tomb. We don’t live as if we are gods ourselves ruling, and bending all things to our pleasure.
What else is entailed in this new life? The Apostle Paul spends the second half of his letter to the Ephesians sketching this dynamic out for our benefit. Ephesians chapter 1-3 teaches us about our new identity in Christ. Ephesians chapter 4-6 teaches us how our new identity changes our everyday living. He sums it up in this way: “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and … be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and … put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV)
There are many who say that they are Christians but their lives still look, sound, and believe like non-Christians. What does this say about their relationship with God? Can such a lifestyle really reflect someone in a redeemed relationship with God? Let’s use some ordinary illustrations to help explain this idea. Think with me: can you speak to your spouse however you wish without it affecting your relationship? Can a child speak to their parents however they wish without consequences? Are you free to purchase whatever you want without it impacting your financial estate? What happens if you choose to skip work regularly? Or threaten your neighbors constantly? Or lie on your taxes? Or verbally decimate your children and spouse? Or regularly get into fist-fights? Or become a lustful and unfaithful deviant, either in private or public? All of these actions clearly have an immediate impact across the relational spectrum. For better or worse, our choices always have consequences in our relationships.
If that is the case why do we believe that our relationship with God is unaffected by our choices and beliefs? Isn’t the most fundamental description of a Christian someone who has a personal relationship with God through Christ? Don’t we know that our relationship with God is daily affected for better or worse by our thoughts, words and deeds?
Scripture has too many examples for us to even begin citing to show how a perpetual disdain for God’s laws eventually hardens believers’ hearts. If you persist in running from God long enough, don’t be surprised when He allows you to have what you desire most.
Psalm 119:98 says, “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.” (ESV) Do Christians believe this today? Do you believe that God’s Word are a better guide for your life than anything or anyone else? The simple and true answer is “yes”. But it is one thing to know the “right answers” and another thing to make them our own.
The Word of God has come to us as wisdom applied for all of life. If you call yourself a Christian then your desire must be to follow God’s Word. If that isn’t you today, then I’m going to challenge you to come before the Lord, ask for His forgiveness and strength to be like Christ. God empowers us and equips us by His Word, the Sacraments, and prayer to Him alone. These ordinary means of grace strengthen us to grow by His Spirit. And this is what Christ died, and rose again, to dispense to His people: true life in Him. Is your life God-honoring? What destination are you heading towards? Is Christ’s Word your guiding light or have you crowned someone or something else as King of Kings and Lord of Lords? May these words pierce your hearts so that you see anew every day, your need for the risen Christ.