Who Are You? by Greg Austin

Who Are You? by Greg Austin July 28, 2011

Mendacity is a system that we live in.

– Brick, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Honesty is the thing. In all things, honesty must be the first thing. Without some certain foundational understanding of truth, no man can truly achieve or attain any life worth living.

We talk about it as though it were a universal, comprehensible absolute; we assume that everybody ‘knows it’ and ‘gets it.’ We ignore the subject because to linger too long there would signify either absurd simplemindedness or at the least, theological shallowness.

And there is this: We have used, overused the terminologies until they have become meaningless, lost in a morass of pseudo-theological blather. ‘Born again’ is no longer popularly employed nor considered to be spiritually pertinent since Jesus counseled only one man in all of the gospel accounts to be thus changed. ‘Saved’ has taken on meanings ranging from suddenly becoming radically heaven-minded to helping little old ladies cross automobile clogged intersections. ‘Hell’ has become a threadbare metaphor; Scripture itself is presumed to be merely allegorical. The ‘absolutes’ of former generations of Christian scholars are considered no more permanent than the weather on any given day and place in the world.

What once was called ‘the church’ is infused on one hand with budding Universalists, and on the other with extreme, rabid religious Exclusionists. To the latter, any relationship with the Divine must exist in laboriously formulated limitations, confines and restrictions. To the former, the title of the old psychobabble book, I’m Ok, You’re Ok[1] delineates their approach to Kingdom qualification. In the view of the Universalist, whatever one believes or does not believe is sufficient to ensure eternal life, regardless of the name or names of the god or gods one embraces and venerates – or not – in his journey towards the divine life.

Jesus Himself addressed the restrictive spirit when He rebuked the Pharisees who travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.[2] He addressed the spirit of Universalism when He declared; I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.[3]

And while there are feverish and stubborn arguments for either extreme case, the typical, common man or woman is simply not interested in theological wrangling of doctrines and teachings. With the Greeks who came to Philip of Bethsaida in Galilee in John 12, ordinary people still inquire, Sir, we would see Jesus.[4]

If Scripture is true in the sense of Webster’s original definition, “a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality and fidelity to an original or to a standard,”[5] then we must, if we are to be intellectually and spiritually honest defer and submit to Scripture’s factual authority.

Without wishing to engender debate here about the authority of Scripture, suffice it that we must, at the most rudimentary levels find at least tacit agreement that the Scriptures have come to us from God and are the foundational, overarching words of eternal life that Simon Peter attributed to his Rabbi, Jesus.[6]

Spiritual Transformation or Mental Assent?

There are, in this writer’s opinion and experience, far too many confessors of Christ who have been intellectually convinced of the claims of Jesus and of the concepts of Scripture but who have not been essentially, fundamentally changed, literally re-formed by confessing heart-belief in the crucified, resurrected Christ and by inviting Him to reconstruct their lives at the center and core of their beings.

Call it what you will, use whatever terminology is comfortable and comprehensible to you, ‘Born Again,’ ‘Saved,’ ‘Converted,’ or any other expression, the bottom line requirement for those wishing to enter into Christ is found in the word, ‘transformed.’ Returning to Webster, ‘transform’ is ‘to change in composition or structure,’ or more specifically, ‘to change in character or condition.’

An early mentor and friend put it this way, “when a man comes to Christ, even his dog ought to know he’s been saved.”[7] In other words, once we have encountered Christ and submitted our lives to Him, more than joining a like-minded spiritual community, we will be essentially, fundamentally changed – transformed by a mysterious, yet entirely comprehensible power and influence ensuing from the singular act of Jesus’ sacrifice of His life on a cross two millennia ago.

Paul, the prolific writer of the bulk of our New Testament exhorted the Romans, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.[8]

He reveals to the Corinthian church that we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.[9]

To the Philippian church, Paul gives hope when he writes of both our present and future state, our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.[10]

Scripture is clear: Transformation is essential to conformation. One cannot experience reformation without transformation. It is utterly impossible to enter into the Kingdom of God by making a mental adjustment to include Christ in our lexicon and lifestyle. We must, at the most fundamental level, be transformed, which is the core concept of the term, “converted.” The very human nature in each of us must be spiritually altered, changed, not merely improved upon or rehabilitated, but radically, vitally and fundamentally restored by a mysterious and miraculous act of heaven in our lives.

Transformation begets Reformation.

As previously advanced, one cannot be reformed until he has first been transformed. A person cannot act the part of a Christ follower in order to become a Christ follower. It is spiritually impossible to “fake it until we make it,” but one must first be transformed, changed in his inner being by accepting as fact and as dynamic reality the substitutionary death of Jesus at Calvary.

For those who commit themselves, their very souls and their eternal hope to Christ, these are no longer “in Adam.” This removal from the Adamic family indicates a fundamental change in both spiritual DNA and the destiny of a man or a woman, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.[11]

Those who come to Christ in simple and honest appeal for transformation forever are removed from the Adamic family and are placed into the “Christ family,” the “Family of God.” For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’[12]

Rest in Christ

From the demarked and decisive moment when a man or a woman receives Christ’s sacrifice and the forgiveness of heaven, he or she is now accounted by God as being “In Christ.”[13] The Pauline use of the Greek en in Romans 8:1 appears to be an innocuous and passive word, hardly worth even a pause in our reading until we understand it’s literal meaning; “a relation of rest.” “In Christ” we have a relationship that affects a “rest.” In plain language, when we come to Christ in faith, we henceforth belong to Christ. We are exclusively “His” and even our physical bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in (us), whom (we) have from God, and (we) are not (our) own.[14]

We who have entered “into Christ” have been rescued from our sins, redeemed by Christ, and placed in a spiritual condition of rest from our former works and from every other attempt at changing ourselves for the better by Him who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.[15]

His Work, Our Rest

Coming to Christ is the beginning point, the genesis of “new life.” This is the start of an eternal adventure of knowing, at increasingly deeper levels, the essence of the Person of Christ and of becoming, day by day, by way of His continual transformative power, like Him.

Thus He provided for us the indwelling, ever-faithful and constantly accompanying Holy Spirit. Jesus came to His disciples following His resurrection from the dead and in one of the most compelling and transitory moments of their collective relationship with Him, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’[16]

Jesus had previously revealed to His followers regarding the Spirit, He dwells with you and will be in you.[17]

Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions, primarily to provide them with the comfort of the knowledge that He was no longer dead, but that He was fully and eternally alive, and that having risen from the dead He was no longer controlled by human conditions.

This need for comfort was of such primary concern to Jesus that He promised even in His leaving, His forthcoming ascension into heaven, He would not “leave you comfortless” but that He would pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.[18]

“The Holy Spirit would be another Comforter, but the comfort would be of the same kind. Indeed, our word ‘comfort’ does not properly represent the thought of the text, which rather is, to strengthen, to sustain: the Holy Spirit would not be merely a consoler of woes, a soother of fears, in the sense of our word comfort, but He would quicken their understandings, strengthen their zeal, and energize them for doing and enduring such things as divine providence might permit to come upon them for their correction in righteousness, and in order to make them “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Thus it is that those who receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the truth, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of Christ, are enabled to see Jesus, and have a new life begun in them.”[19]

The Holy Spirit and Christ are one; they are “together” at an intimate and intrinsic level. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Christ has come to make Jesus real, relevant, understandable, embraceable. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.[20]

The Holy Spirit comes to us to enable us to walk according to the Spirit and so gain power to resist a life according to the flesh.[21]

In the Spirit and by the Spirit, the believer possesses the ability to walk according to the Spirit. It is this truth and enablement that provides the power to overcome the sin that lurks behind the scenes in our lives.

This reality, that the very Spirit of God, the Spirit of the resurrected and life-ruling Christ dwells within us in order to teach us, to enable us, to persuade us and to empower us is essential to living a victorious, satisfying life in Christ.

Human emotions are subject to fluctuation and vacillation. A person may “feel” connected to Christ one day and on another day “feel” hopelessly lost. Emotions, feelings are the least accurate indicators of our spiritual condition. Truth must reign supreme, because truth, and fact do not change, are not affected by the fickle emotions of our hearts.

Because truth never changes, it therefore does not ebb or flow. Truth, simply “is.” And because of the knowledge of the truth that through the activity of faith and by God’s grace, we understand that we are “in Christ,” and we understand that we are securely, firmly and eternally, “in Him.”[22]

Residing within the being of the believer in Christ, twenty-four hours of every day of his life dwells, exists and is available the power to walk “according to the Spirit.” The solitary qualifier of that position is the individuals’ own volition, his will. If we “will” to walk according to the Spirit, we have the power and ability, through Him to walk in obedience to God and to crush the very inclination to disobey Him.

This ability allows us to walk in what the Scriptures denote as “newness of life.” For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.[23]

So Paul concludes, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.[24]

And the conclusion which may be drawn from the Apostle’s logic is this: Godly, human behavior is dependent upon seeing, recognizing and believing the basic truth of our identity in Christ. And Scripture provides that identity when it says, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.[25]

Allow the truth to pierce through the barriers of objection and unbelief until you see it: “Sons of God.” Permit heaven’s supreme truth to penetrate past the untrue and false judgments and curses that others may have layered upon your heart. Please, don’t rush by this, blindly assuming you comprehend the ramifications of this divine sonship. Permit the Spirit, now and here to speak to your heart, to cement the reality of your true identity in Christ deep in the core of your being. It is this relational position, provided by His atonement that makes us, that enables us to rise above the course of natural, fleshly and corrupt spirits and to lift our heads and see our position in Him clearly.

Basic psychology tells us that only when we have a clear idea of our identities can we truly, from our core act and think and live according to the knowledge of who we truly are. In other words, we cannot act like something until gradually, finally we become that person.

The singular process of becoming different, divorced from what the Bible describes as our lives before Christ intervened for us as being without Christ, . . . aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world[26] is being changed, transformed at the very core of our being by implementing faith in Christ and so becoming something different from what we were. And when we believe what we actually are, what the Scriptures insist that we are in Christ and what God the Father declares that we are; we begin to live our lives in a “Godward” direction.

At the risk of redundancy, Transformation engenders Reformation. No human being can be reformed until he is first transformed.

In Christ, we find a new identity, a “God” identity. The more we understand our true identity in Him, and the more we believe the truth of the revealed Scriptures, that God’s assessment of us is true under all conditions and in all circumstances, regardless of our changing emotions or shifting feelings, the more we begin, supernaturally to live in a manner that brings glory to God’s name.

So we find in Paul’s instruction to the Roman church a title that he has not previously revealed: He calls the believer in Christ “sons.”

To those who had claimed that they had Abraham as their father, Jesus said, You are of your father the devil,[27] but to those who claim God as their father through Jesus, the Son, He says, those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God.[28]

Further, and in the same context, Paul writes, You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father.[29]

To the Galatian church, Paul writes . . . because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’[30]

In Christ and through Christ, we become “sons of God.” And the process of becoming such is specified: It is through the legal act of “adoption.” In Christ, we are adopted into a new family and we are henceforth called “sons.”

Sonship provides liberty, authority, permission, security, identity. None of these were ours before and without Christ. All of these become ours as a portion of the benefit of becoming God’s true sons. Through Christ we become sons of the living God and have at our disposal all the power of heaven in order to overcome evil.

Regardless of temporary setbacks or moments when the child of God is overwhelmed, he will never be fully overcome; he can never be ultimately defeated because within the believer lives the very Spirit of Christ, Who is the very hope of glory.[31]

In Romans, chapter six, Paul declares to those who would follow Christ, Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.[32] It is through this God-born relationship we are made and constituted to be sons of the living God.

This relationship, this knowing that we are indelibly, everlastingly “in Christ,” is the starting point, the beginning of the miracle of “transformation.” We are, unmistakably and unconditionally “sons of God” if we have trusted in the full offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord and if we are sons, then we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.[33]

We might move towards this new concept, this requirement to “suffer with Him,” but that topic must wait its turn. Sufficient for the moment is to capture and to marvel in the reality of our position in Christ – we are sons.

[1] I’m OK, You’re OK. Thomas A. Harris, M.D., 1967, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.

[2] Matthew 23:15

[3] John 14:6

[4] John 12:21

[5] Merriam-Webster Dictionary

[6] John 6:68

[7] Rev. David C. Crabtree, from a sermon preached in Des Moines, Iowa, 1972

[8] Romans 12:2

[9] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[10] Philippians 3:20,21

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:22

[12] Romans 8:15

[13] Ibid

[14] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[15] 2 Timothy 1:9

[16] John 20:22

[17] John 14:17

[18] John 14:6

[19] He Shall Give You Another Comforter, Author unknown.

[20] John 14:26

[21] Romans 8:1

[22] Romans 8:38,39

[23] 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

[24] Galatians 5:25

[25] Romans 8:14

[26] Ephesians 2:12

[27] See John 8:39-44

[28] op.cit.

[29] Romans 8:15

[30] Galatians 4:6

[31] Colossians 1:20

[32] Romans 6:14

[33] Romans 8:17

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