What if resolutions and lists and promises aren't enough?
My heart, as we prepare ourselves for a new year, is on freedom.
I'm not thinking about fighting for freedoms that I think I deserve. I'm not wondering where I can use freedom to my advantage. I don't want to set my focus on lines to avoid crossing or the things I have freedom to think or say or do.
Maybe freedom is less about doing and more about being.
Maybe being set free and getting to walking in freedom is more about our identity than it is about the things that we do or don't do.
What if you and I entered into a new year with one goal? What if we set out to walk in true freedom? What if our anthems rang with the freedom song of who we really are?
Freedom is a promise to Christ-followers. Our freedom--here and now--is God's goal.
- "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery," (Galatians 5:1).
- "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, 'Abba, Father,'" (Romans 8:15).
So, here's what I long to encourage you toward today:
to walk in your true identity as a Christ-follower and to use your true identity to speak life over others.
Mistaken identity is a freedom thief. Identity confusion is a freedom thief. Identity insecurity is a freedom thief.
I think that we, as Christians, can get caught up in the idea of accountability when it comes to our behavior. We sometimes think that to walk in truth is to live in a constant state of sin-confession. And then we fear that we might be missing something--that God must always be watching for the sin we still need to fess up to. We sometimes think that our relationships with others are about living in a constant state of calling-out-sin. And then, we often forget to encourage and build one another up.
While I cannot speak for others, my own experience of this way of thinking has caused me to go running backwards towards the very thing Christ set me free from when He gave His life for me. It doesn't mean we don't address behavior or that we won't need to confess. But feeling a constant need to either call out or confess sin causes me to take up the shackles that Jesus broke off of me and attempt to chain myself back up with them.
- I end up focusing on error instead of grace.
- I end up focusing on unworthiness instead of wholeness.
- I end up focusing on death instead of life.
When accountability looks like that, for me, I end up on a dirt road straight back to my old sinful self: the one that Jesus crucified on the cross. While I certainly need to constantly lay my heart before God and allow Him to examine me, convict me, and change me, I want to be careful not to put my identity in who I was before Christ. I was dead then. Now, I am alive with Him. And I want to live like I am alive.
The word for "sin" in the Bible comes from a Greek archery term that means "to miss the mark." It is true that because of our sin (and we all were born into sin), we can never reach God on our own. We will always be like an arrow shooting for a bullseye and falling short of our target every time.
But freedom in Christ says that when we surrender our lives to Him and confess our sins to Him, He purifies us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It's over. It's done. We no longer miss the mark. We no longer fall short. If our lives are hidden in Christ with God, then we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer identified by our sin. He sees us in our new and most true identity.
God knows that we will err. He empathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He knows that we will still struggle. He is not surprised when we need correction, and He obliges with mercy and faithfulness. He knows that we will be tempted and that we will face choices about how we behave. He knows that we will need to be forgiven and that we will need to forgive others. But, here's the thing: we have this beautiful opportunity to do it all from within our new identity: purified and clean. We can't un-save what God has saved. So, let's be careful not to chain up what God has set free.
In Christ, we are identified as His body. As His bride. We are called new. We are called loved. We are called glorious. We are clothed in garments of His salvation and arrayed in a robe of His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). We are called blessed. We are called beautiful. We are called pure. We are called whole. If that's our true identity, it will shape everything about the way we live.
Don't miss this: "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 'This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts and I will write them on their minds.' Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary," (Hebrews 10:14-18).
Hebrews 2 says that we need to pay careful attention to the truth we have heard so that we don't drift away and ignore our great salvation.
What if accountability is really about freedom?
What if it's about re-claiming our true identity in Christ and setting others free to walk in theirs, as well? What if our resolution this year could be to free true identity in ourselves and in others?
"Accountability is not calling people out on their stuff. It's calling people up to their real identity. Accountability says, 'You don't need to be doing that--THIS is who you are. Did you forget?'" (Graham Cooke).
Ephesians 4 talks about unity and maturity in Christ's Church. We are encouraged to speak the truth in love (v. 15). And here's why: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness," (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Can you believe that the Bible even says that we are created to be like God? Does it sound almost too far-from-attainable to even think of? But that's what it says. That God's desire is for us to walk in the new person that He created us to be through His salvation. That's our true identity. We are His beloved.
I want to look at myself the way God's Word says He sees me.
"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so," (Hebrews 6:1-3).
Be careful how you label yourself.
- When you put adjectives around your name, do they speak of a new creation in Christ, or do they identify you as who you were before Him?
- Do you speak of yourself as though you are in bondage, or as though you are free?
- Do you speak of yourself as the beloved of God--as one whom He considered worth giving up His very Son for--or do you think of yourself as unlovable and unworthy?
I love this theme throughout Scripture: telling of the things God does. Sharing our stories. Testifying to what He has done. The focus is on Him and on His immeasurable goodness to us. Psalm 73:28 says, "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all of your deeds."
When God frees you from something, He gives you a testimony. He gives you a story. And that story is a tool. You now get to walk in the freedom that comes with that story, and you get to speak freedom over somebody else. You get to speak life. You get to offer comfort and hope. You get to show off what God can do. When we walk in our true identity, we rub off on people.
So, as we ring in a New Year, let's resolve ourselves to live in the freedom we were set free for: the freedom of a life in Christ, identified as the ones He loves. Let's influence the world around us with the hope that comes from that love--from that freedom.
"Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," (2 Corinthians 3:17).
What has God freed you from? What kind of story does your true identity tell about God? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Maybe you have a story of how God invaded your life or about how He changed you with His love. Maybe you have a story about healing from sickness or deliverance from something that had a tight hold on you. Maybe you have a story about the smashing of an idol or a struggle in your life. Maybe you have a story about how God has used His freedom in your own life to comfort someone else. Would you share? Let's start walking in freedom right here, and encourage one another on the same path by showing off what God can do.