Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5 [The Message]
I was so burned out by my obsession with performance and my drift into legalism that I knew that wasn’t the secret to living a changed, Christian life.
But when I started getting into the concept of grace, my old performance mentality sounded some major alarm bells: If I really owned the idea that I was forgiven and accepted totally by grace, wouldn’t I just sin like crazy? The fear of punishment had been my major motivator, so was there a better alternative?
One author has a great way to illustrate this. Imagine a kingdom where the king decreed that all prostitutes and thieves in the land would receive a royal pardon. Great news if you’re a prostitute or a thief. No more worries about your criminal record. No more anxiety every time you see a police officer. But you wouldn’t necessarily be motivated to change your lifestyle. In fact, maybe you’d even use the pardon as an excuse to continue your reckless behavior.
But now imagine that in addition to the pardon, the monarch came to a prostitute personally and asked her to be his wife. She’d be the queen, the royal representative of the kingdom. Would she be motivated to change? How could she not be?
Or imagine the king picking a thief off the streets and adopting him as a prince, the heir to all the riches of the kingdom. Why would that guy ever go back to thievery when he’s now a zillionaire?
Well, the Bible describes you as part of “The Bride of Christ,” the church. It also says you’ve been adopted into the family as an heir. Both descriptions mean that your identity has been altered.
When you became a Christian, you probably believed that because of the sacrifice of Christ your sins were forgiven. But do you understand that you are now also an heir, a bride, with all of the love and all of the riches of the Great King lavished on you? How could I have missed this? It’s a teaching throughout the Bible:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a
Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… Romans 8:17
You are not a slave, but a child… And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:7 [The Message]
So this week we’ll focus on erasing and replacing the old tapes playing in your head (“I am a loser!” “I am destined to disappoint and fail!” “I am a reject!”) with new tapes (“I am a child of the King!” “I am the royal representative of the new kingdom!” “I have a God-given role and destiny!”).
For true internal (and not just external) change it is vital to keep reminding yourself of the vast riches lavished on you by God’s grace. This is why the Apostle Paul starts most of his epistles with a wonder-filled meditation on the generosity of God. He is putting the horse before the cart when it comes to change — first you need to really have your eyes open to your blessed status; only then do you find motivation and inspiration to live a changed life!
I heard someone say it’s like taking away a toddler’s favorite stuffed animal. That kid is going to scream because he’s focused on what he’s losing. Now imagine replacing that stuffed animal with a puppy: The toddler’s got a new focus now!
That’s what you could call the grace method to overcoming sin. We are focused on what we’ve gained; our previous lives we count as loss. In other words, instead of saying “Do not sin,” Paul’s message is “Live freely!”
I’m not saying you’ll be a sinless, perfect person. But I guarantee you’ll spend less fruitless time wallowing in guilt and delayed by perfectionism, and more time being an ambassador for the kingdom and relaxing in the serenity and peace that come from living a new, righteous life!
Would you say most Christians are focused on sin (even trying hard not to sin), or are focused on their newness of life in Christ? Or something else? Why? What about you?
How can the concept of my new identity — given to me as a gift by God, not earned — help me change my behavior?
Thank God today for bringing you into His family. Pray for Christians who do not see themselves this way yet — that their eyes would be opened to the truth! (See Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15–19) Read Romans 6:13 and make it into a personal prayer as you offer each part of yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness.