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Lesson 6: Grace-Created Identity

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“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

A New Identity that Rocks the World

In our world, identity drives everything about life. You likely carry some kind of identity card (ID) with you—a driver’s license or a work-related card. What’s on it? Your name and picture, some identifying characteristics like address or job title, and the authority that issued the ID to you. Often, your signature is on the card representing your choice to enter into contract with the issuing authority. If someone asked, “Who are you?” you could answer with the information on that card.

Identities tell us who we are, where we live, how and where we can travel. Our identity drives what we can buy with our finances and qualifies us for employment. That’s why we are so devastated when it’s stolen! Knowing our spiritual identity is even more important.

The government offers a “Witness Protection” program to those who testify against organized crime. The witnesses, helpless against the revenge of the criminals, receive a new identity and all the details that go along with it—new name, new background, new address, and new career. They can never go back to being what they were before. That’s what God does for us. We each have a new spiritual identity. And, there are wonderful perks to discover about our new position in life.

The world is not going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, you and I are the same as we’ve always been—all our “baggage” is still hanging around our necks; nothing will ever change. And, the world does things to punish us, like credit scores and memories of all that we’ve done wrong in the past. But, every Christian is a new creation with a new identity in Christ, declaring how God, our authority, now views us! It’s what he has done for us and to us that counts.

So far in this study, we have learned how our faith in Jesus Christ sets us free from our previous sin-stained existence to enjoy a new life. But, our ability to live out this freedom depends upon our understanding of who we now are. How we see ourselves directs how we live our faith walk. We need to grasp the FACT that believers get a new life with a radical new identity—something we never had before. Something no one before Jesus’ resurrection ever had!! And this new identity sets us free to live a radically new kind of life—a joyful life. But, not knowing our identity enslaves us to shoddy thinking and behavior.

Most Christians throughout the past 1700 years or so only knew they could have their sins forgiven and go to heaven when they died. And, even then, they weren’t sure of that. The information about who they were in God’s sight got lost in 2 things: (1) illiteracy of the Bible—lack of education and knowledge of what it actually says, and (2) slavery to poor teaching that one has to live by the church’s rules to maintain God’s acceptance—any church.

About 500 years ago, Martin Luther and other faithful believers who followed him rediscovered this identity treasure by reading and studying the Scriptures. Imagine that! For 300 years after that, believers were taught their identity in Christ before the teaching waned. Once again, a Christian was mainly someone who had her sins forgiven and went to heaven when she died, as long as she lived by certain rules to maintain God’s acceptance. Enslaved once again to illiteracy of the Bible and poor teaching. A great Grace Awakening has taken place since the 1970s. Teaching about our new identity in Christ is everywhere in bookstores and on the radio, TV, and Internet. Yet, most believers still have no idea what their new identity is and all the benefits that come with it. Do you? And, if you and I don’t know who we are, how will we know we’ve been set free to live a different kind of life? This lesson will certainly fill your mind and heart with truth about your grace-created new identity—an identity that will fill your life with freedom and joy!

Day One Study

The basis of identity

1. List some ways that we try to establish our identity apart from Christ.

2. What happens to us when we try to determine who we are by these things?

3. Read 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. From God’s point of view, there are two kinds of people in the world: (1) those who are in Adam, and (2) those who are in Christ. Read Romans 5:12-21 and fill in the chart below contrasting Adam and Christ from this passage. Include in your chart contrasts between the consequences of being in Adam and being in Christ.

In Adam

In Christ

Who you are in determines your identity and your inheritance.

(1) To be in Adam means that you have inherited his nature (sinful), the consequences of his actions (condemnation), and his destiny (death).

(2) To be in Christ means that you have inherited his nature (righteous), the consequences of his actions (justification), and his destiny (eternal life).

4. Graceful Living: How you see yourself will influence how you think and live. How do you see yourself? In Christ? Or, as just another one of the billions of human beings walking around on our planet? Reflect on how the way you see yourself (past and present) influences your life.

Day Two Study

God has changed the believer’s identity through the baptism of the Holy Spirit

The word translated baptized came from the process for dyeing cloth. It didn’t matter if the cloth was sprayed, dipped, or immersed. The significance was taking on the identity of the dye. So, in Spirit Baptism, we are “dyed” with Christ. The practical outcome is a total identification (uniting) with him.

5. Read Romans 6:1-11. List all the ways we are identified (united) with Christ in this passage. [Note: Although water baptism is a picture of what the Spirit does to us, there’s no mention of water in this passage. Spirit baptism is much more significant and has far greater effects.]

6. What else is revealed about our union with Christ in Ephesians 2:4-6?

Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit—of which water baptism is a picture—the Christian has been totally identified with Jesus Christ. We are united with him in his death (Romans 6:3; Galatians 2:20), in his resurrection (Romans 6:4), and in his ascension (Ephesians 2:5-6). The Greek word translated “united” in Romans 6:5 literally means, “to make to grow together, to fuse.” Being united with Christ, therefore, means that we become fused together with him. At that moment of fusing, we are no longer on our own, but Jesus’ transforming life-giving power now lives in us. We are now connected to the King who has supreme power and authority.

John Wesley, the great 18th century Methodist preacher, said this, “Never think of yourself apart from Christ.” We are continually fused together with him and can live to enjoy the benefits of being in him.

7. Graceful Living:

  • Consider items that are fused together (fabrics, welded metal, ingredients baked into a cake). What is the purpose of fusing? Does the fusing usually create something stronger and/or better than the original items?
  • Reread Ephesians 2:4-6, inserting your name in place of “we, us, or you.” Dwell on what it means to you to be fused with Christ.

Day Three Study

Benefits of being identified with Christ

The moment we believe, the old self that was born in Adam died; a new self with the same body but a new interior started life as a new person with a new nature and a new inheritance. This radical new identity means you can never go back to not being in Christ. Never!

8. Our new identity in Christ contains at least 35 characteristics or benefits. We get all of these benefits at once. God is not a vending machine parceling out these benefits one at a time. Everything about our new identity and all the benefits are God’s gift based on his love for us. We receive all of them at the moment of our salvation because we are in Christ. What God does to us is his choice, not ours. These benefits are unconditional. The burden of performance is upon God, not upon us.

Fill out the chart below by reading the word/phrase describing what is true about you. Then, look up the verse reference and reflect on what that means to you now.

Justified, declared righteous (Romans 3:23-24) —

Made at peace with God (Romans 5:1) —

Safe from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9) —

Reconciled to God (Romans 5:10) —

Redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) —

Freed from condemnation (judgment) (Romans 8:1 )—

Indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) —

Adopted as sons (Romans 8:14-15) —

Accepted by God (Romans 15:7) —

Baptized into Christ’s body (the Church) (1 Corinthians 12:13) —

Chosen by God (Ephesians 1:4) —

Saved by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) —

Freed from God’s Anger (1 John 2:2) —

Freed from the Law (Romans 7:4) —

Translated out of darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8) —

Forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14) —

Washed clean (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made holy and blameless (Colossians 1:22) —

Sealed in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14) —

Clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27) —

Given Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) —

Made into a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) —

Made perfect forever (Hebrews 10:14) —

Translated out of death into life (John 5:24) —

Born again (1 Peter 1:3) —

Sanctified (made holy) (1 Corinthians 6:11) —

Made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) —

Made children of God (John 1:12) —

Made complete (Colossians 2:9-10) —

Made heirs of God (Romans 8:17) —

Made citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) —

Made into a holy and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5,9) —

Given confident access to God (Hebrews 10:19-23) —

We have been given every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3; 2 Peter 1:3) —

Secure in God’s Love (Romans 8:38-39) —

9. Graceful Living: One of the fundamental questions of the human race is that of identity, "Who am I?" The one secure, eternal answer is that through faith in Jesus Christ you can say, "I am in Christ, a child of God, one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by God"—an identity that no circumstance can change!

  • Write a short description of your identity in Christ based on what you discovered in the verses you just read. “I _____________ (your name) am in Christ,…”
  • Consider carrying an ID card with you that reminds you of who you truly are. See the sample card below that you can print and fill in with your name plus 7 of the benefits of your identity in Christ that are most significant to you. Put it in your wallet near your Drivers License and credit cards. Next time you get out your Drivers License, you will see it and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all Justified and Forgiven.” When you show your Drivers License at the airport, you will see your ID and remind yourself, “I am once-and-for-all accepted and loved.” A list containing the same 35 characteristics of your new identity is also found at the end of this lesson. Keep that handy for a quick reference when you are attacked by the world’s view of who you are!

Download a Believers Identity in Christ chart.

Day Four Study

Knowing our identity sets us free from the world’s viewpoint

As stated before, the world isn’t going to validate our new identity. From a worldly point of view, we are viewed as the same we’ve always been—with the baggage still hanging around our necks. But, we can know our true identity—what God has done to change us from the inside out. And, knowing it sets us free from the world’s constraints and expectations, from our past, and from the garbage that others feed us about our failures.

Think About It: “Some of us are drawn in by circumstance [wearing ourselves out by our own efforts] because we don’t know who we are. The greatest crisis is not outside; it’s the identity crisis within those of the faith! Men and women of God are so focused on the darkness that they’re missing the adventure.” (Michelle Wallace, “Fruit of the Vine: The Greatness of God,” Living Magazine, October 2012)

10. Graceful Living: Read the chart below contrasting the world’s lies about who you are with the FACT of God’s truth about who you are. (Adapted from Dr. Timothy Warner, Resolving Spiritual Conflicts and Cross-Cultural Ministry, Freedom in Christ Ministries, 1993.)

Respond through any means you choose (journaling, prayer, poem, art, song) to illustrate what you have learned from this lesson.

The World’s Lies (are)

God’s Truth (says)

*You are still a sinner because you sometimes sin.

*You are a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sometimes sins.

*You get your identity from what you have done.

*You get your identity from what God has done for you.

*You get your identity from what people say about you.

*You get your identity from what God says about you.

*Your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself.

*Your belief about yourself directs your behavior.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Discipleship, Grace, Spiritual Life