A New Identity in Christ

The name Jacob means “supplanter”. He cheated his brother out of his birthright and then ran for his life. Twenty years later he is wrestling with the angel of the Lord on the wrong side of the Jordan River. He is struggling to get away, but God won’t let him go. Suddenly the dawn breaks and Jacob sees the face of God (Peniel), and the whole battle changes. Jacob wouldn’t let go until this “man” blessed him. This encounter with God forever changed Jacob. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Gen. 32:28). Jacob limps across the Jordan, but his name is now Israel which means, “having power with God.”

Our encounter with God has forever changed us. We are no longer “by nature objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), we are children of God (1 Jn. 3:1-3). “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light” (Eph. 5:8). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9,10).

Unregenerate people struggle with their identity. As little children we were the sons and daughters of earthly parents and we accepted this physical heritage as our identity. At the beginning of our teenage years we began to search for our own identity. As adults we try to make a name for ourselves in the world. The tendency is to find our identity in our natural heritage, in the things we do, places we live, and the roles we play.

It is different for believers who are created in the image of God and now being conformed to His likeness. “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Co. 3:11). In other words, there is no racial, religious, cultural, or social distinctive. We are all children of God and share the same status in the family of God.

Paul says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Cor. 5:16). Literally it means that Paul no longer recognizes believers according to the flesh, i.e. their natural identity or who they were in Adam. He recognizes believers as new creations in Christ (2 Cor.5:17). Paul asks, “Don’t you know that all of us were baptized into Christ Jesus?” (Rom. 6:3). Knowing who we are in Christ is the foundation for living free in Christ. Don’t you know that you have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection? Don’t you know that you are a new creation in Christ? We have to keep asking ourselves until we reply; “Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ, and by the grace of God I shall live accordingly.”

Dr. Neil

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