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United with Christ: Why does it matter?

Before I head off the world wide web for the advent season, I wanted to write a quick post to say why I believe the stuff I posted about salvation being about much more than a declaration matters enough to talk about.

You’ll have to go back in time with me again, though.

We’re at a worship service. I am in tears because I had done evil things that week, as I was at almost every worship service. Although I am feeling guilty for the wretch that I am, I am thankful to God that he sees me as righteous.

Did you catch that? Did you see what my core identity was?

A wretch.

A sinner.

Evil.

Disgusting.

This is how I viewed myself. I was a disgusting sinner saved by grace. By ‘saved’ I meant forgiven. I meant nothing more. I was left pretty wretched, but at least I was forgiven.

The preacher is talking. He is giving a sermon from the Gospel of John.

“Those who love me keep my commandments.”

I do love God! I will try to love God better this week. I won’t fall into the same traps again. I won’t display the same addictive¬†tendencies. I won’t look at porn. I won’t get in heated make out sessions with my girlfriend. I won’t be lazy. I won’t be prideful.

I would leave church, resolving to love God better by not doing evil things. I would have great intentions. After all, I knew I loved the God who forgave me even though I am so sinful.

Here’s the problem. I left with the same self-identity I came with. I left believing that I am a sinner. I am a wretch. I am evil. I am disgusting. Thank God that he sees me differently.

Thank God that he lies to Himself about me.

He doesn’t see the ‘real me.’ He sees Jesus. The ‘real me’ is shameful. The ‘real me’ is evil. The ‘real me’ is disgusting.

Do you see the recipe for disaster here?

If I know anything, it is that people act out of their identity. If you believe you are funny, you will make jokes. If you believe you are socially awkward, you will be awkward. If you believe you are worthless, you will do things that make you feel worthless.

If you believe you are a wretched sinner, you will sin.

So there I went. Rolling up my sleeves and resolving to love God more. But I believed that I was a wretched sinner. The only change that took place when I met Christ was that he forgave me. I was left the same. So wretched sinner James left to behave himself.

Then I didn’t. I behaved like a sinner because I believed that I was a sinner.

Then I came back to church on Sunday. I cried. I felt guilty. I promised to love God more…

Sound familiar? Have you had an experience like this in your faith?

Please understand. This is not some silly rant about self-esteem. This is not about how you should feel good about yourself in the way that much of contemporary psychology speaks about it. Apart from grace, we are born evil and we have every reason to feel ashamed.

But not anymore.

When you gave your life to Christ, he gave you a new identity. He gave you a new life. That’s why Paul didn’t address his letters to the ‘sinners in Ephesus but to the ‘saints.’

You are a saint. You are holy. You are righteous.

You’re no longer a sinner saved by grace. You’re a saint who sins sometimes. This shift in self-identity may change your life. It did mine.

Christianity should not be a shame-inducing religion. It should be a celebration of what God has done with you. It should be a celebration of how he has changed you.

Please believe. You are a saint. Go live based on what you are.

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