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February 18, 2017, 12:42 PM

New Identity

Which is better: Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, or doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. While I have faced many situations that called for both answers, the truth is neither one is better. The only right answer is doing the right thing for the right reasons. But the fact that we don't live is a right world has affected the way we approach this question. It has also affected the way we approach our relationship with God.

In Ephesians 4:17-32, Paul goes through 7 characteristics of our new identity in Christ. We will often look at these characteristics and react in one of three ways, but only one is correct. The other two are really close to right, but still totally wrong. 

The first wrong way is to view the characteristics as a check list that we have to follow. They are not simply rules to govern us. But, all too often, we view our relationship with God as a checklist of Do's and a checklist of Don'ts. This is harmful and called legalism. It is the trap of thinking that I can do certain things to earn God's approval. 

The second wrong thing is to ignore the weight of these characteristics. Some people struggle to understand that they are forgiven and don't need to earn God's approval. Others struggle to understand that just because they are forgiven doesn't mean that God approves of their sin. This is just as harmful as legalism. It leads to people who never deal with their sin with God. They misunderstand God's unconditional love for them as a type of unconditional approval of who they desire to be. This is most dangerous when the man with an anger issue excuses it as “just the way God made me.” 

There is a balance between understanding that we cannot earn God's approval and recognizing that we do not measure up to God's approved standard. The balance between the two is the Cross of Christ. The characteristics of the new identity cannot be strictly kept, nor can they be flippantly ignored. Instead, we must turn our eyes to the Cross. We must realize that we don't have to measure up because Christ already has. But, we must also realize that we are no longer a slave to sin. We can now live free because of the Cross of Christ. As we fall more in love with Jesus, we will become more and more like him. Then these characteristics will begin to shine through.

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