Our identity in Christ

Pastor Vyacheslav GoncharenkoMatthew 12:1-4[1]:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  

Every story in the Gospels which describes miracles of healing and deliverance performed by Jesus depicts him surrounded by all sorts of people. His disciples usually accompanied him. There also were people who needed Jesus: the sick, weak, oppressed etc. And often there were Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law who sought to trap and condemn Jesus. Jesus was always among people.

Reading these stories, whether we like it or not, we often unconsciously identify ourselves with one of the characters. Reading about David, we may think, “I would rather be like David than Goliath.” Reading about Samson, we may think, “What if I were as strong as Samson!” You identify yourself with heroes of that time and age, “Had I lived at that time I would definitely have been like Samson, neither like Philistine nor Delilah who seduced him.”

In different Bible stories you instinctively relate to something. If you are sick or are going through some troubles then, reading a story of healing, you identify yourself with a sick person. You may think, “That woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus and she forcefully withdrew the power for her healing from Jesus. What should I do to have the same results? How am I to touch Jesus so that God’s power may rest on me and heal me?” You identify yourself with a sick person because you are having a similar need. Reading the Gospel, you may ponder, “How did she make it? What is faith that brought that miracle to pass?”

The word “identity” is defined as exact likeness, who you think you are or how you see yourself. It comes from the Latin “identicus” – identical, similar. Synonyms to the word “identity” are oneness, similarity, equivalence, likeness, resemblance. When you identify with or liken yourself to another person you think of yourself as equal, identical to him or her.

Somebody may identify himself with Jesus’ disciples. He may think, “I would have been like the Apostle Peter. I have similar character, I’m a straight-shooter too. The Kingdom of God needs people like me.” I doubt many of you would identify yourselves with Pharisees. But I’d like to mention that modern church is full of them. Those were people who kept the law, were proud of their own righteousness and looked down on others. Pharisees’ identification card was the fact that they either secretly or openly stood against Jesus and asked him tricky questions hoping to see him miss the mark or fail.

I recall a group of young Christian ministers visited a very conservative church. They said, “We are going to pray for people to get healed and saved.” Many people responded when they made an altar call. But no trace of joy could be seen on the faces of church elders. Those brothers shared afterwards, “We noticed that the elders were watching us. When we prayed for a sick woman and she didn’t get healed, they smiled. So we realized it was a spirit of pharisaism or self righteousness. As if they rejoiced, taunting ‘You have failed, you have failed! We said you have no divine power! You think too highly of yourselves.’”

But today as we speak of identity, reflect on with whom you identify yourself when you read the Word of God. With all authority, I would like to assure you and confirm my words by the Scripture: the only person you should identify yourself with is Jesus Christ. Do you see yourself this way? Imagine you are reading the Scripture and it depicts Jesus walking. Do you see yourself walking? You read about Jesus healing the sick. Do you do the same thing in your imagination? Jesus is preaching and you are preaching. Do you identify yourself with Jesus Christ?

The only right way to identify yourself with is to identify yourself with Jesus Christ. I will explain why. That’s because in the world there are only two categories of people: the first one is people who have been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit of God and the other is those who haven’t been born again. The first category comprises people who are resurrected and alive, the other those who are dead, they don’t know God, they live in darkness and their souls are full of darkness. The first group is those who are full of God’s love and light; the other, those who haven’t waken up of sin, slumber. You as a believer belong to the group of those who have been born again. But how did it happen that you got born again? That happened as a result of the Word of God sown in your heart which woke you up by the Holy Spirit and you have become a new creation in Christ, a new man.

Why should we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ? That’s because it’s written that the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So in our spirit we are identical to Christ. God, looking at us, sees Jesus Christ in us. He sees us identical to Jesus. Sometimes we tell people, “We are ordinary people. We are all the same.” But actually, that’s not true. We are different. Satan sees the difference. He sees that you are a righteous person, you have different clothes, you speak a different language, your reaction and motivation are different. Your nature is different. God nailed your old nature to the cross and gave you a new nature – the nature of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter said that we have been born of incorruptible seed of the Word of God. What is the Word of God?

John 1:1-3:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

Of whom is this passage talking? It’s talking about Jesus Christ because He is the Word of God. The book of Revelation confirms it.

Revelation 19:13:

His name is the Word of God. 

A seed contains information, like DNA. God has planted this Word into our spirit. He has revived us and we have become Christ like. We have the same feelings, love, spirit, compassion, thoughts. The Scripture says we have the mind of Christ. Why did people in Antioch begin calling believers Christians? That was because they were identical to Christ in what they said, did and how they lived. For this reason we shouldn’t say, “We are people like others in this world.” No, we are different. We have got God’s DNA, Christ’s DNA. Our nature has been transformed. We are not wolves, we are sheep. Jesus is the Lamb. Do you know what is amazing about him being the Lamb? It’s written that he triumphed not as a lion but as a lamb. There is nothing extraordinary when a lion conquers somebody: he has power to overcome and get victory. But the Bible says about Jesus: “the Lamb will triumph over them” (Revelation 17:14). We are also lambs and we triumph in this world. We win by the power of love, by God’s might. It’s written that evil can’t conquer evil but only good can. The Bible says: “… overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

We should identify ourselves with a born-again person only. Even when Jesus walked on the earth he never met a Christian. There was none at that time, right? Even Jesus’ disciples, though they belonged to the people of the covenant, were not born again. Jesus said, “This daughter of Abraham who Satan has bound…” Jesus called the Jews children of Abraham, they were people of the covenant but they were not born again. The only person who was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit was Jesus himself. Thus, if we have been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit the only right way for us to identify ourselves is with Jesus Christ.

Why is it so important? Well, if I am to ask you, “Could you please tell me who you are,” will you be able to give an intelligible answer? I recall one man examined me and asked, “Could you tell me who you are?” Honestly, I got stuck. I was thinking, “Who am I?” It doesn’t seem an easy question. The first things that come to mind are your profession, your education. In times past people would know about another person asking, “Whose are you?” A child was known by his parents. But I believe that a revelation of who you are is a very powerful revelation. It will open a victorious life you could never imagine.

Matthew 16:13:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 

Jesus asked his disciples a question which goes like this, “Who do people think I am? Who do they consider my equal?” Disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew16:14). People thought that Jesus was a prophet, in other words they identified him with a prophet. That was incorrect because Jesus was more than a prophet. Then Jesus asked his disciple, “Who do you think I am?” While others kept silent Peter stood up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It sounded like, “Jesus, I think you are God. I equal you to God. You are more than a prophet. You are God.” When Jesus heard that he said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew16:17). Next words of Jesus could be interpreted as follows, “If you know who I am, if it has been revealed to you, let me will tell who you are: you are Peter (rock) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” What rock was he referring to? That’s the revelation that Peter received and that we receive. On your personal revelation of who Jesus of Nazareth is and who you are in him God will build his church, your family, your business and your destiny. God will build on it because this is the solid foundation of victorious life.

Jesus Christ was delighted and inspired by Peter’s revelation of who he, Jesus, really was. Peter came to know Jesus’ identity and Jesus revealed Peter’s identity. When by revelation you find out who Jesus Christ is, the Lord begins to reveal to you who you are. Until you find out who Jesus is, you are not able to know your personal identity. A person who knows nothing of his father doesn’t know who he is.

Look what people of this world do: they try to find who they are, find themselves. But they won’t succeed until they come to know the Heavenly Father who created them. As soon as you get the revelation who Jesus is and who you are in him you have the keys. As the Lord told Peter, “I give you the keys of the Kingdom,” the same way you will have the keys of every door, every problem. And you will be able to find answer to any and every issue because you have the keys of the Kingdom in your hands.

Next important point: the quality of your entire life, whether you have a victorious life or a life of defeat, is an outcome of with whom you identify yourself. 

Numbers 13:33:

We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” 

Moses sent twelve spies to the promised land. Upon their return ten of them described the citizens of that land, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Those spies identified themselves with grasshoppers. Notice, as they thought of themselves as of small insignificant insects the same way the giants of that land thought of them. The way you see yourself is exactly the way your enemy sees you. What happened as a result? The information brought by the spies fermented the entire nation of Israel with fear and they all saw themselves as grasshoppers. The book of Numbers says that people kept on crying the whole night. People trembled fearing that in the promised land the giants would mash them as grasshoppers. And they said to Moses, “We don’t want to go there.” But two out of twelve spies, Caleb and Joshua, didn’t support the rest. They said, “We are not grasshoppers. We are tough guys! Have you forgotten how God drowned Pharaoh with his entire army?!” Caleb and Joshua identified themselves with mighty God. They took a stand against all those who saw themselves as grasshoppers but they were in the minority.

Years passed. And only two men out of the old generation who left Egypt, Caleb and Joshua, entered the promised land. This is the life of victory! They identified themselves differently.

After Moses died, Joshua became his successor. And one day Caleb approached Joshua and said, “Brother, do you remember what happened forty years ago? I was forty five back then. Do you remember our stand of faith? I have been in faith ever since. I am still strong. I am eighty-five now but I am still as strong as I was back then. Let me subdue this mountain, I would like to conquer it! I want my generation to live on it.” Joshua replied, “Go ahead!” This kind of people inherits the earth. What you think of yourself will definitely impact whether your life is going to be victorious or defeated. You may say, “I am a believer.” But whom can we identify as a believer? A believer is a person enlightened by the Holy Spirit so that you begin to see yourself as God sees you, not as you used to see yourself saying, “I am a bug, small insect, beetle, worm. I am a grasshopper.” Some Christians would say, “I am a poor sinner.” You were a poor sinner but now you are a righteous! Don’t be confused, it was your past. But it’s written the old has passed, all things have become new. In Christ, everything has become new.

Look at David, with whom he identified himself, and how he saw himself:

1 Samuel 17:26:

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 

Pay attention to his words, “Who is this uncircumcised?” In the Old Testament circumcision for God’s people was a sign that they were in covenant with God. For this reason David said, “Who is this uncircumcised?” In other words he said, “I am a man of covenant! And who is he? If he has no covenant with Almighty God, he has zero chance to overcome me. Where do you put your trust? In your chain armor, your spear, your sword? All in all you put your trust in your flesh. But I trust in God Almighty!” David identified himself with the army of the Lord Almighty, who can never fail.

If you identify yourself with Jesus Christ, do you think you can be defeated? Can Jesus fail? If you are together with Jesus you enter a supernatural life, otherwise it’s all flesh.

David was told of the benefits the one who defeated Goliath would get: rewards and the king’s daughter. So David came to meet Goliath, a human war machine, and said:

1 Samuel 17:46:

This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals… 

Imagine, a young blond innocent lad standing in front of a giant. But how powerful is what he was saying; how great is his identity with God! He didn’t say, “You know, we believe that God will defend us and He will punish and defeat you and grind you to powder.” No, David came out and said, “I will kill you!” He carried a pastoral staff in one hand and a slingshot in the other. Goliath cried, “Do you think I am a dog that you come to me with a stick?” In his bag David had five stones. So here is a shepherd boy with his light curly hair streaming in the wind looking in Goliath’s eyes and saying, “I will strike you! I will cut off your head! I will feed the birds and the wild animals with the carcasses of the Philistine army. Do you get it?” Surely, Goliath shivered wondering, “Where is his power? How can he, as little as he is, speak in such a bold manner?” David’s power was in his identity, in his personal knowledge of him who was standing by his side. David knew his identity. And sure enough he conquered Goliath.

Now I would like to show you why Adam failed.

Let’s read how Satan tempted Eve.

Genesis 3:5:

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

Look, what Satan tempted people with: “You will be like God.” The problem was that Adam and Eve didn’t know they already were like God. They were created in the image and likeness of God. They already had divine origin. But Satan went, “Try this and you will be like God.” They fell because they didn’t know their identity.

Now let’s see why Jesus, the second Adam, withstood. The first man, Adam, was absolutely perfect because he wasn’t born of a woman, he was created by God. Jesus wasn’t conceived with man’s help. How pure these two persons were. What genes and DNA they had! In the desert, Satan tempted Jesus, trying to break him down. He did succeed with the first Adam. Now he came to the second Adam.

Matthew 4:3:

“If you are the Son of God…” 

Satan tempted Jesus by repeating one phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” That meant to undermine Jesus’ identity, to make Jesus doubt who he is.

But here is his reply.

Matthew 4:7:

“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

“Satan, don’t you understand? It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to a test.’ I am the Lord. I know that I am the Lord though I say I am the Son of man. I know my nature, I know my identity!” In the end Satan stepped back and angels came to serve Jesus. When you know your identity, you are going to win every time. Satan will step back and angels will come to serve you.

The devil comes against you because he also knows who you are. His temptations are still the same: he tests our identity. You can hear him saying, “You think you are saved? No, you are not saved. You say you are God’s child? No, you are not God’s child. You believe your name is written in the book in Heaven? No, that can’t be true. And in fact, there is no God. Who told you there is a God? Are you a Christian? What kind of Christian you are? You are not even close to being a Christian. You say you are with Christ? But where is your Christ?”

Believers are constantly tempted by Satan. Temptation is not a sin. Jesus also was tempted. He had different thoughts come to his mind but he held his ground. You will also win because you are born of God. He who is born of God overcomes the world. You will overcome the world if you know and hold fast to your identity with Christ. You should rightly divide the Word of God. You should find Scriptures which reveal who you are in Christ.

Colossians 1:27:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

A mystery was hidden. It’s written it was closed and hidden from ages and generations. What was that mystery? It wasn’t a mystery concerning healing because in the Old Testament people could be healed. The Pool of Bethesda is an example of that. What mystery is the Apostle Paul referring to? It’s the mystery of Christ in us. Christ is for you, Christ is with you but on the top of that Christ is in you. This is the mystery Christ living inside of you. When you walk Christ walks. The Holy Spirit is in you. When you walk he walks; when you open the door he opens. Visiting the sick, don’t identify yourself with the sick. Sometimes you try to comfort a sick person, “I also feel pain now and then. For whom is life easy?” Don’t say that: it won’t help the sick. Even when you are sick Christ lives in you.

Jesus Christ is described as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was the Son of man. He suffered thirst, hunger and cold as we do. He suffered the way we suffer. He suffered sickness. Jesus had a physical body as we do and he was tempted because of it. The only thing he didn’t suffer was sin. Never! But he went through all the rest. He took upon himself sickness and even death. But it wasn’t an ordinary death; he went through a painful anguished death. Herod’s soldiers mocked him, treated him with contempt: they beat him on his cheeks, placed a crown of thorns on his head and beat him with sticks. His hands and legs were nailed to the cross. He went through terrible sufferings! It’s written that his face was disfigured worse than any man. No one on earth has ever gone through sufferings worse than the Son of God. Jesus Christ didn’t commit any sin; he suffered for our sins. He took upon himself the sin of the whole world. He carried all sicknesses in his body.

Do you know how it feels to take up the sins of just one person? Can you imagine what it is to carry the guilt of just one person? What does it mean to take upon oneself the sins? Jesus became sin. All sins of the human race, of past, present and future generations, of all who have been and will ever be born he took upon himself. This is why no one else has ever suffered worse than Jesus Christ. He submitted unto death and went to hell for us. Demons got hold of him imagining he was one of the humans. But Jesus is not like humans; on the third day he rose up and left the grave. He overcame death, hell and the devil!

 

After that Jesus came to his disciples and said, “As the Father sent me, I am sending you.” This also says of our identity: to be an answer the world is looking for as Christ was. Heal the sick, cast out demons, preach the Good News. He sent us to go into the entire world. Think of it: you live here in Belarus, chew your daily bread, caring for nothing, seeing yourself as a small individual but Jesus trusts you! He says, “Go into the world! Go out to Japan! Set forth to South America, Europe, Africa, India! Go to the West, North, South, East!” – “I have to go?” – “Yes, I will be with you. You are going to represent my Kingdom; you are going to be my representative! I will be at your lips. The works I did you will do also, even greater works.”

Can you hear what Jesus is saying? God can’t tell a lie. God is not only with us, God is not only for us, he resides in us forever. It’s written that he is in us and we are hidden in him. Don’t you ever think only of yourself. The apostle Paul said, “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Meditate on Christ living in you. Meditate on yourself being united with him. He is always here. Dear friend, you are never alone. Think of yourself as a carrier of the greatest treasure, the most powerful force in the universe. If you identify yourself with Christ you are going to have a mighty and victorious life in him.



[1] Here and after from NIV

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