Monday, June 20, 2011

Who We Are and What We Do

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
Romans 8:14-15 (emphasis added)
No verses have impacted me more than these two in the past couple of months as I have been studying and teaching through the book of Romans. As I was studying these verses a couple of weeks ago, the Holy Spirit used them to begin to press one simple gospel truth into my heart. It wasn't the first time I've heard this gospel truth but for some reason it's never impacted me so powerfully until now. That truth has to do with the relationship between who we are and what we do. What's the connection between who we are and what we do?

The world tells us that what we do is what determines who we are. To put it another way, the world tells us that our behavior is what creates our identity. If you work hard in school, you'll be an A student. If you thrive in your career, you'll have a prominent title and you'll be rich. If you treat your spouse well, you're a good husband or wife. If you love your children, you're a good parent. If you're obedient to your parents, you're a good son or daughter. It's all around us. Whether we realize it or not.

But this, in fact, is the opposite of the gospel.

In Romans 8:14, Paul describes what Christians do. He says that "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." In other words, Christians are led by the Spirit of God to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). In this context, being led by the Spirit to put sin to death is what every true Christian does.

Then in Romans 8:15 (the very next verse) Paul gives the reason why Christians do this: "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" Put simply, Paul is saying: "Christian, you're not a slave! You're an adopted son! The reason you put to death sin is because you're an adopted son." In other words, an adopted son or daughter of God is what every true Christian is.

The world tells us that what we do is what determines who we are. But here's the simple gospel truth (based on the connection between those two verses): The gospel tells us that who we are is what determines what we do. The gospel says: "Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, you are an adopted son or daughter of God who is infinitely loved by the Father apart from anything you do! Now go live out of that understanding of who you are!"

During His lifetime, before Jesus ever overcame a single temptation in the wilderness, cast out a single demon, healed a single sick person, or forgave a single sin; before any of His ministry, before He ever was crucified and risen Savior, He was first and foremost a beloved Son.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 3:16-17
Before you're an employee, before you're a student, before you're a son or daughter to your parents, before you're a husband or wife, before you're a mom or dad, before any other identity you embrace, if you're a follower of Jesus, then first and foremost through your faith in Christ you are an adopted son or daughter of God with whom the Father is well-pleased apart from anything you do (or don't do).

If you don't live firmly rooted in that truth, you're going to live standing on shaky ground. The truth is that you almost always can (and probably should!) be a better employee, student, spouse, or parent. There will be times when you fail in each of these roles. So none of these identities is a firm place to stand. But our identity as children of God is based on what Jesus did and not on what we do. And He never failed! He was perfect! He couldn't have been better! So it's the only firm foundation we have to stand on.

The gospel tells us that who we are in Christ--because of His life, death, and resurrection--is what determines what we do. With the gospel, our identity is what creates our behavior. Nothing else in the world works that way.

If I tell you you're an A student, it's not necessarily going to make you start getting A's. If I give you a job position with a prominent title that makes you rich, it's not necessarily going to make you thrive in your career. If I call you a good spouse or a good parent, that's not necessarily going to make you a good spouse or a good parent.

But the mystery of the gospel is that when God Himself bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16) whom He loves infinitely and with whom He is well-pleased, believing and living firmly rooted in this truth will necessarily lead you to put to death the deeds of the body by the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13-14).

And you know what? In the process, believing and living firmly rooted in this truth is going to make you a better student, employee, spouse, or parent too.

2 comments:

remnantlegacy said...

I feel like I keep on hearing this. It's great to be reminded of God's grace over us as His children. Even better knowing our identity is in Him and nothing else.

remnantlegacy said...

I feel like I keep on hearing this. It's great to be reminded of God's grace over us as His children. Even better knowing our identity is in Him and nothing else.