Have you ever noticed that when people introduce themselves, the first thing to follow their name is quite often their occupation? And though there is nothing wrong with this particular practice, is the heart of our identity merely what we do? Is it true that who you are holds no weight on what you do? We’ve all heard the idea that “you are what you do and that’s it” but what happens if you don’t do those things anymore? What does Scripture have to say about such a worldview?
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says this to the Church, “you were formerly darkness” (Ephesians 5:8 ESV). Paul’s word choice is less than flattering isn’t it? Paul does not sugar coat anything to his readers former way of life. Paul looks at them square in the eye and in effect says, “Before Christ, you were absolutely and utterly dark.” In this letter, Paul explains that before we were raised by God to new life in Christ we were spiritually corpses, running like rats in a maze, living our godless self-absorbed lives (Ephesians 2:1-4). We were not neutral or inherently good, but as natural men and women, we were “children of wrath”.
One Reformed document known as the Canons of Dort explains it in this way, “As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin”. We ought never to pray for what we deserve, for we naturally deserve to be separated from God forever because of our sin. Because, at its core sin is a declaration of anarchy against the kingdom of God.
Our world really hasn’t changed that much from that first century. Yes, we have technologically advanced, but we still wrestle with the same fallen nature. If your life does not evidence the God-man, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior, then in every moment that passes you sit and wallow in this darkness. There is no neutrality. There is no hope in our self-efforts, or self-righteousness. No one is graded by God on a curve. Everyone will be held accountable to the perfect law of God. Every Christian must recognize this estate of hopelessness apart from Christ, apart from this realization why would we flee to the cross for hope? Left to ourselves we will always fail, and this self-awareness of our hopelessness leads us to the cross. But we need a new heart to yearn for God, and we can’t produce this. What we need is regeneration or the new birth. We need to be born again by the Holy Spirit first so that we can repent and believe (John 3).
If you call yourself a Christian, then you know that God, by His Holy Spirit, reached down into the pit you were once bound in, and has drawn you into His marvelous light. Paul describes this action as a dominion transfer. “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, (which is) the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV) God performed this miracle, not us. Therefore, salvation is wholly the work of God. God qualified you to share in the inheritance of His Son. Our entire relationship with God is an evidence of God’s grace. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand the New Testament.
If you are a child of the light (Ephesians 5:8) then you must imitate your heavenly Father. You must conduct your affairs according to the light of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be foolish with the time God has given you. Don’t be foolish in the place God has set you. Instead, understand that God’s unchanging will for your life is to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. If you continue to mediate on His Word, and continue the regular discipline of sitting at His feet and letting His words surround you, you will be strengthened. Lay at the foot of the cross every hindrance to your growth in Him. Delight in Him and seek His ways. Put your old manner of life behind you. As a son or daughter of the King, live for Him. For your identity as one united to Christ by the Spirit defines you first and foremost, both now and forever.
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