Over the last few posts, I've discussed the issue of the Christian's new identity. The first of these posts raised the question about whether we are "sinners saved by grace" or "saints who sin occasionally". To review that initial post, readers may click here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/05/is-christian-sinner-saint-or-somehow.html . We then did a follow-up post to unpack further how it can be that in having a newly regenerated, transformed nature from salvation, the saint of God can still sin in this life. To review that second post, readers may click here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/05/a-follow-up-need-to-unpack-reality-of.html . Then in the last post, the third of the series, we began to offer comments on Romans 6:1-7, talking about the new Christian identity and the lingering effects of indwelling sin here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/05/p1-new-christian-identity-and-reality.html .
What we want to do today is continue on from our last post, exploring the important truth of our union with Christ. We will look at how this truth factors into the Christian's core identity, and offer further comments on that secondary reality we spoke of last post, namely the Christian's choice to still commit sin.
Meet the two trees that illustrate the Christian's two realities of a new identity and still lingering sin
Years ago, when we served at a church in Florida, we lived near a small lake. The perimeter of this lake featured a small residential road, dotted with palm trees and other sorts of flora. It was common to see oak trees or large pine trees side-by-side with the tall palm trees that stood straight and swayed in the warm Florida breeze.
There was one particular tree that I can remember that was an older tree. This tree had wide boughs and branches that were crooked. You could tell the tree was older than most of the others around the lake due to the bark. What was curious about this older tree was that it had a palm tree growing out of the middle of its trunk. When I looked at this tree, it was hard to tell where the old oak tree and the palm tree began and ended with one another. The oak tree had started its life sooner, with the palm tree somehow becoming a part of this older tree at a later time.
The two trees were contrasts of one another. The oak tree, as mentioned, had crooked, sprawling branches; whereas the palm tree was straight. As expected, the palm tree's growth had to battle its oak tree host. Still, the oak was an oak, having its own sort of life, a life that was slowly ebbing away. Meanwhile, the younger palm tree had a different way of life, vibrant and hopeful as it shot its way toward the Florida sun.
When I look at the Christian identity in Jesus Christ, we're like that palm tree. We become implanted in an older, crooked, shell of humanity (see James 1:21). The new nature, the heart of Christian identity, grows amidst the left-overs of the former old life.
Although the old nature is dead, yet its effects linger on. It presses in upon the new nature which was implanted and begun by the Holy Spirit in saving faith. The older tree in our analogy is a secondary feature, with the palm tree springing forth as the primary reality of the Christian's identity. They are two unequal, yet warring realities.
The Christian's new identity centers upon their union with Jesus Christ
1. Christians were first called
These five leading descriptors address the Christian life from different angles.