Understanding identity is key! The term “in the flesh” has to do with position, not practice. According to the apostle Paul, “When we were in the flesh”, we that believe were once something, but now we are no longer what we once were. We were dead in sins, because we had our identity in Adam, Adam in rebellion. We now have a brand new identity, “dead to sin” identity. The goal of most believer’s life has been to become disgusted enough with ourselves to try hard enough, so that we can finally win God’s approval. One of the most disturbing things is someone unable to express confidence about whether they can know if they will have eternal life or not.
From Adam onward, people have been doing what seems right before other people, in regard to having a relationship with God. Not one member of the entire human race has ever lived up to any system of rule-keeping for righteousness. Yet, how many are attempting today, to do what humankind before us was totally unable to do? Does our no-condemnation status with God depend to any degree whatsoever upon our performance? We need to cease attributing our righteous standing before God to our performance and keep our mind focused solely on how God views us in Christ, that is what grace-life is all about.
Many believers spend their entire existence unsuccessfully trying to be someone other than who they really are, paying lip service to the idea that we are accepted because of God’s grace, the struggle for acceptance on the basis of works is epidemic, but the greatest travesty of all, is the lack of understanding about our new identity in Christ. It would be disastrous enough if the reason people did not understand who they are was simply for a lack of information, and the truth is that there is an absence of teaching concerning our new identity and what it means to be new creations in Christ.
Should we not be grateful today that God no longer recognizes the old man, that he now sees us in our new man identity in Christ! Yet, our flesh will always want to make provision for the flesh. The members of our flesh are like matches, and when we spend a great deal of time striking matches under the curtains, and then we stand there in amazement when the house is burring down. Paul wants us to make the members of our flesh available as weapons of righteousness. When we do not understand the doctrinal truths Paul taught pertaining to our sealed position in Christ, we have no ground for success in the practical arena.
We are capable of transforming our thinking, it is a new operating system, day by day renewal of the mind as to who we are in Christ. It is not about perfecting the flesh, it is about crucifying the flesh in our minds. When we put on the armor of God, we are really putting on Christ, and when we put on Christ, we take ourselves out of the realm of the flesh, where we are vulnerable to attack, it is not wise for us to live on the enemies level. The most dangerous and harmful detriments to our growth is passivity, putting our mind in neutral and coasting, sitting back and waiting for God to do everything is not God’s way to maturity.
We stand firm in the truth by relating everything we do to the truth of God’s word, and when we learn to live in the truth on a daily basis, we will grow to love the truth because we will have nothing to hide. If the enemy can deceive us into believing a lie, they can control our life in that area. God’s protection is that our role is not passive, God requires us to be active participants in the defense that he has provided for us. Our old pattern for thinking and responding to our sin-trained flesh must be transformed by the renewing of our mind, it is our responsibility to change our behavior.
The issue for life everlasting is not what church you attend or to which denomination you belong or how religious you are. The issue in eternity will not be how many sins you have committed or how many sins you have promised God you will abstain from committing. It will not be whether you have walked an aisle, recited a particular prayer, or asked Jesus into you heart. The issue in eternity will be to which man are you related? Do you have your identity in the first Adam, or do you have your identity in the second Adam, Jesus Christ.
Wholeness and meaning in life are not the products of what we have or do not have, what we have done or have not done, we are already a whole person and possess a life of infinite meaning and purpose because of who we are in Christ. Our understanding of the identity that Adam had before the fall, that identity has been restored to us. Those who are in Christ are those who are not walking after the faulty assumption that their righteousness is related to their performance.
God has dealt with that problem of sin, and the issue with sanctification is not about sin, but about perfection. We can rejoice and we can give all the glory and the praise to God for the fact that even though that sinful nature is strapped onto our fleshly backs like a rotting corpse, God does not see us in our flesh from his judicial perspective. God does not relate to us on the basis of our performance in the flesh, but on the basis of our new identification in his son, he views us in our glorified identity, he sees us as being joined to his son.