Last summer, I had the opportunity to speak at Mahaffey Camp. It’s a bit rustic, but it was a blessing to be there nonetheless. One afternoon, as I was speaking, I saw someone sitting in the pew that I was sure was a lady named Susan from my old church in Nyack. In fact, the more I spoke, the more convinced I became that it was Susan. She’s an incredible woman and the mother of one of my teens during my time there, so I was eager to talk with her after the service. As soon as I was done speaking, I made a beeline for her. She was talking to someone, and her back was to me, but I was willing to wait. As soon as the person was done talking to her, I threw my arms out wide, anticipating a giant hug and said (pretty loudly and exuberantly) SUSAN! When she turned around, it wasn’t Susan and I looked like a complete weirdo trying to get a hug from a stranger. My assumption of who she was fueled my interaction with her. It was a classic case of mistaken identity.
Now, it’s one thing to mistake the identity of someone else. However, sometimes, we too can live from a place where our own identity is mistaken.. The enemy of our souls desires that we fall prey to the mistaken identity of who we are. He knows that our perception of who we are determines how we will then live. Said another way- Our identity fuels our lifestyle. Many times, as believers, we allow our identity to be confused by the enemy, which results in us living in a way that does not represent our true character as followers of Christ. This hinders our ability to walk in the fullness with which we are promised in the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, we must ask the question: How do we walk in the fullness of our true identity?
Paul’s theme of the last few chapters before these ones surrounded the idea of how the law brought death and how the law leaves us with a bleak outlook on who we are, even within himself Paul knew there was nothing good inside of him. Yet, he doesn’t leave the Romans, or us in this place of despair, he shared with them (and now us) just how glorious the death of Christ is for us, and how it reshapes who we are! The first way we see that we can walk in the fullness of our true identity is to recognize:
The case for condemnation has now been closed
The Greek word Paul used for “condemnation” is used as a sentence pronounced over one in a court of law. Paul is stating: where we were once guilty of the crimes we were on trial for, we are now no longer guilty. The charges have been dropped. The evidence was weighed in our favor due to Christ. This, many Christians would agree with and state that they know this truth; yet many of us do not actually rest in this truth because the enemy’s deceptions have fooled us. One statement that is continuously used in Christian society to identify ourselves is: “I am a sinner saved by grace”. Although this statement on the outside seems to be correct, we are declaring something over ourselves that is no longer true. 3. We are no longer sinners, but saints. Those freed by Christ are no longer condemned and thus no longer titled sinners. This idea of “condemnation” begins to creep into our hearts when we fail and sin again as well. When we as saints fall into sin, we fear the wrath of God’s condemnation. Here the enemy does his work of confusing our idea of conviction with condemnation. They are not the same thing. Condemnation declares who we are is unacceptable; while conviction declares what we have done is unacceptable. The subtle change in this then causes us to question the goodness of God as Father. We begin to see him as a wrathful father who needs to be appeased with good behavior when Christ already appeased the wrath incurred by our sin. Romans 3:25 and 1 Jn 2:1-2 declares Christ as our propitiation, which means wrath-bearer and also states He was the only suitable sacrifice. This is what is mean in verse 3 when Paul states: “…he condemned sin in the flesh” Jesus taking on flesh took sins ability to bring condemnation upon us away.
We then tend to fall into works righteousness without understanding the full ramifications of Christ as our propitiation. When we begin to look at ourselves as unwanted by God because of our failures (condemnation), the enemy can continue to pull us down into the same spiral of sin to where it becomes habitual. Obedience to God does not earn love.
The lie that our worth is wrapped up in our works develops us into either an arrogant or absent believer. Arrogant in that we believe we are God’s champion and can do no wrong. We would then take it upon ourselves to show how great a believer we are and how others fail in comparison. Absent in that we realize we can never measure up to the standards of holiness that are demanded of us, so we walk away. Paul is saying in this passage that the Law was designed to point to the very fact we couldn’t fulfill it! We have an inability in our flesh to even come close to accomplishing the law. Yet, many of us live as if we can and get angry with people when they fail. God knew we couldn’t fulfill it, that’s why he sent Christ!
The Spirit, not the Flesh Brings about Holiness (vs. 3-13)
To be Holy is to be in alignment with God and His desires. Being ones who have the Father’s heart as our heart. The totality of our relationship with God should not be a striving relationship. Yes, there will be areas and places of striving as you surrender things you never intended to surrender, but the majority need not be striving. As you draw closer to God, you’ll be drawn more towards obedience. When we strive and aren’t drawn closer to obedience, we are no longer in the Spirit, but in the flesh trying to please God with our actions rather than allowing the Spirit of God to control our actions. The only way to put to death the deeds of the body is through the Spirit of God. That is why Paul states in vs. 13 “…but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” Warren Weirsbe puts it perfectly when he stated: “The Law does not have the power to produce holiness; it can only reveal and condemn sin. But the indwelling Holy Spirit enables you to walk in obedience to God’s will.”
Why then do we neglect to live in the Spirit? Mistaken Identity. We have a misunderstanding of who we are and who He is. We either think we are worthless hunks of trash, or we think we are God himself. Both myths about who we are lead us to desire the control. While we are living in the flesh and not the Spirit, we miss out on one other true component to living in the fullness of our identity and that is the issue of our adoption. Finally, to walk in the fullness of our identity, we must understand
We are adopted Children of the King (vs. 14-17)
Two weeks ago, Pastor Rock in his sermon Cut and Conquer stated: “All of God’s people have inherited abundant life, but many fail to inhabit it”. This goes with identity as well for: 10. All of God’s people inherited adoption through Christ, but many fail to inhabit it! We don’t live out who we are. We allow a lie about ourselves to determine how we live, rather than the truth about who we are to determine that. We are Sons and Daughters of the King. We strive and we wrestle in the flesh because we don’t rest in our adoption. This may be the most important aspect of this case of mistaken identity because If we forget whose we are, we will forget who we are and thus forget why we are. That may sound like some physiologist mumbo jumbo but I guarantee it to be fact. We have a Good, Good Father who truly is perfect in all of His ways, and when we understand that we understand that who we are is LOVED BY HIM. It transforms how we live, so striving can cease.
This reality wasn’t real for me until I was forced to see it.
Ron Walborn, the dean at ATS, who was at the time by Professor at Nyack. He took some of his students on a retreat where he (or another small group leader of the class) gave each person a place and a task for about 6 hours. My place was in a pavilion, with four pillars and the task of concentrating on my sonship. I had to remain silent for the entire 6 hours and not leave until I understood this concept. In those six hours, I realized my issue stemmed from my relationship with my father. He was a task-oriented man who pushed me to strive at my work. This is good, however, I didn’t feel his love, I misinterpreted his actions. I felt like if I did well, he was happier with me, but never did I sense his love. I then put this on God and began to work for his love. There in that pavilion, God revealed this too me and I for the very first time understood that He loved me for who I was and that my turning to Him and allowing Christ to cover me was enough. I then experienced a fuller view of the Holy Spirit’s work and was unlocked to the fullness of my identity. I am His and He is mine. He is a Good, Good Father. It transformed my relationship with my father as well, who I realized loved me all along, but I misinterpreted his actions. We had frank and honest discussions, which changed how we love each other, even to this day.
The purpose of this passage was for the Romans to step out of their false identity and embrace their real one. They were sons and daughters of the King. You and I are as well, as long as we have believed in His death and resurrection are for us! Allow the Spirit of God to speak deeply to you this week set aside time to have your own “pavilion experience”, let go of your striving and see that the case on your condemnation closed! When you sin, begin to run to Your Abba, not from Him. Allow His Spirit to speak your true identity into your life. Let go of the mistaken identity you’ve been walking with, whether it’s a false sense of who you are do to your sin, or a mistaken identity of who God is.