Friday, May 12, 2023

P2 The New Christian Identity, The Reality Of Lingering Sin, And Introducing Union With Christ - Romans 6:1-7


   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 . 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 . 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 

    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

    What I want to do now is focus attention upon the primary reality of the Christian life - their new identity. In my studies of the New Testament, one finds the following facts about what Christian people are referred to in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, or John's Apocalypse. I'll list five of the leading descriptions of Christ-followers.

1. Christians were first called  
    "disciples". This title is found only in  
    the Gospels and Acts, yet it is by far 
    the most common designation, 
    registering over 250 places.  

2. Christians are called "saints" over 50      times. 

3. Christians are referred to as "elect"or      "chosen ones" some 15 times. 

4. Christians are termed "believers" on        9 occasions. 

5. Christians are deemed "Christians" in      3 places. 

    These five leading descriptors address the Christian life from different angles. 

    The "disciple" is at root a follower of Jesus Christ. He or she sets out to follow Jesus so closely as to mimic Jesus in thought, word, or deed. To say one is a "Christian" is to say one is a "disciple". In salvation, I accept Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. He is Lord or Master not only by right, but also by fact. The disciple's entire life is growing in their awareness, understanding, and competency in living their life for the glory of the Master Who redeemed them. 

    The term "saint" addresses how God has set apart a sinner, called him or her unto himself in saving faith, and changed their underlying human nature from being at war with God to walking with God as a "holy one" - i.e. "a saint". 

    When we speak of someone as "chosen" or "elect", this reminds us that before we ever choose God, He chose us for the sake of His Son before time began, prior to our birth, to be holy and blameless in His sight. 

    As for the designation "believer", this reminds us that God's choosing and electing does not cancel out the obligation nor call to the sinner to believe and repent of their sins in Jesus Christ. 

    The name "Christian" derived from those who opposed the earlier followers of Christ, reminding us that becoming one entails suffering for Jesus' sake. 

A brief comment on "union with Christ".

    For sake of space, I'll devote the next post to unpacking what is meant by "union with Christ". This reality of "union with Christ" is the most common teaching about Christian identity we find in the New Testament. The clearest passage that summarizes this truth is what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20  

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

    In the next post, I'll spend more time on this vital truth that is at the heart of the Christian's new identity in Jesus Christ

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