Did Christ take the cross for what you did or to redeem who you are?
This question looms large in the lives of believers across the world today. After all… Everyday many believers who have been saved and bear the title Christian return to the altar time after time to confess, repent and reclaim their salvation.
At what point does what we know become who we are… At what point does it become more about who we are in Christ than what we did to need salvation?
A few weeks ago I went through a forty hour intensive training opportunity offered through my church and employer. I had been signed up for the training long before I took the position in the church offices… So it goes without saying that I was doubly excited that my new position with the church was now tied to this vital and beneficial training I was about to receive.
That week I received two revelations. I will write and post about the first revelation on Friday, but today I want to write about the issue of pardon versus identity.
You see John 3:16 does not say, “For God was so grieved by the sins of mankind that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life…” (Loosely paraphrased with spin.)
No… The Cross was about love. Love always has an object – not a list of do’s and don’ts. The object of God’s Love and ultimately His redemption is people… Sinners. Translation: All Mankind, the World.
Now think of it, when I become ill and visit the doctor’s office, I don’t go to the Department of Public Safety and have them change my name on my driver’s license to reflect my name as “Patient.” That would just be weird. My illness presents a condition or circumstance in my life which gives me a temporary status, but that does not change my identity.
So it is with sin.
Sinfulness is my condition at birth -yet, it is not truly my identity. Though I bear the title Sinner from birth – my identity is not rooted in sin. It is rooted in my Creator – the One True God of the Universe who has spent all of time building up to the moments recorded in His Word and the millions of moments since then as He has been wooing mankind to come back to the Garden of Relationship with Him.
My identity is in Christ… And, all of life is about discovering that identity – something in us is bent toward it. Just like the Sun spins things in orbit so the Creator draws out of the heart of His creation a desire to know and be known by something, someone greater than themselves.
In the Garden, Adam and Eve ate from one of the two forbidden trees. Which one? The tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their sudden awareness of good and evil changed their relationship with God and made necessary God’s plan for redemption. What did God desire to redeem? The people or the deeds that would be done out of the knowledge of good and evil. The obvious answer is the people.
However, what is prioritized in our churches today? Come to Jesus, ask Him to forgive what you DID, what you’ve DONE, and BE SAVED. Is that really why Christ died? Did He go to the cross to create some divine behavior contract that binds us into a list of religious rites and principals to correct the behaviors we commit ourselves to based on the knowledge of good and evil?
OR Did He go to the CROSS because HE SO LOVED THE WORLD (AKA as MANKIND, HIS CREATION, HIS BELOVED) and wanted to keep them from perishing in the knowledge of good and evil.
Is it possible that good, church-attending, Bible-believing Christians have spent a lifetime trying to live out a divine behavioral agreement with God and missed the point of redemption and salvation all together. Redemption is not about correcting what we’ve done wrong in the past and what we have the potential to do in the future. Redemption is about trading one thing of value to acquire something of greater use and value to the one who pays the price.
Jesus Paid the Price For You. Not to redeem you as property – but as SONS, Co-Heirs… Saints.
In allowing Himself to be nailed to a tree, Christ became the Tree of Life (the other tree mentioned by name in the Garden) for us. He spent His earthly life building a vision of a Kingdom meant for people of a royal heritage who would come into His Kingdom and find rest for their weary souls, life for their dead spirit and love to satisfy their broken hearts.
When we make the deeds of mankind the point of redemption we really cheapen grace and set ourselves up to JUDGE. We, the human race, have been doing it for years. Defining ourselves by titles, roles and deeds when God has so much more for us to discover.
“At least I didn’t do that…”
“I’ve never murdered anyone…”
“I’ve lived a good life…”
“I only lie…”
“The only person I’ve hurt in this is myself…”
“I walked the aisle…”
“I gave my life to Christ…”
“I just feel like I’ve done too much to ever be forgiven…”
“If God really knew what I’ve done…”
The list of rationalizations and religious rhetoric is endless.
You see man lost more than just his privilege of residing in the Garden of Provision called Eden when sin befell Adam and Eve at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They lost their ability to identify themselves in relationship with God.
Before we were born, or even a “twinkle in our mother’s eye” as my father likes to say, God had an identity – an original, true identity – with purpose, dignity and value all wrapped up in His love for us attached to it… For each and every person. He fashioned and knit us with unique skill sets, talents, and giftings. He hand selected the color of our skin, hair and eyes… He positioned us precisely in the moment in time which He wanted us to live and breathe and bring forth life. He had us in mind the entire time.
Then man was created and he fell from the relationship with God he had in the Garden.
And, as that tracing of original sin has been reproduced in us and our human nature time and again from the moment the Cherubim locked the gates of Eden we have lost the most vital part of our existence – our ability to identify ourselves with God. Yet God so identified with us that He allowed His own Son to take on the limitations and agonies of flesh only to suffer Him and allow Him to be tortured and to die a harsh, cruel and criminal’s death so that we might one day be free.
However, most of mankind is doing the same thing Adam and Eve did in the Garden. Staring at the knowledge of Good and Evil and buying the same old lie of Satan as we go along life’s way. We spend all our time jumping back and forth between the limbs of the knowledge of good and evil and completely miss the Tree of Life knocking at our door waiting for us to invite Him into our lives for good. To dine with Him, to relate to Him in the depths of intimacy and affection and to discover what He has known about you all along.
We find really good religion by living our lives based on the knowledge of Good and Evil but we never really discover the truth about ourselves. We spend all our time trying to change ourselves by focusing on what is wrong with our environments and behaviors and never delve into what it is we truly believe about ourselves, our God and well about the Life He gave us to live.
Instead, we listen to the murmurs and the rumors of Satan. The little lies he whispers when some experience we begin to define ourselves by goes awry. Our marriage ends… We’re a failure. A Divorcee… I was raped… I’m a victim. I stole something – I’m a thief. I spanked my child – I’m a bad parent. We hear it. We see it. We feel it. And every time we experience something that reopens those old identity wounds and affirms what we feared to be true… We take another bite of the lie. We swallow it down in sobbing gulps and allow it to take residence within us – to be the thing we feast on in our weaker moments and dwell on when all else seems lost. And in it, Satan achieves the same victory he sought in the Garden with Adam and Eve. He robs us of our identity. Threatens to steal our faith and destroy our lives… And he speaks it to us in our own voice.
The truth is unless we deal with what we believe about ourselves and God – line it up with His Word and allow the Truth of Christ to transform and renew our mind – nothing in our lives will ever truly change. We just end up swinging from the branches of that same old tree in the Garden wearing ourselves out and never getting anywhere. No Life.
But, when we allow God to tell us who we are. When His love begins to penetrate our lives and our thoughts… It works its way into our hearts and we begin to realize that just like illness makes me a patient but doesn’t have anything to do with the God Created Definition of my life. So it is with Sin. Sin cannot define me anymore than illness or failure or trauma or death can. But all of those things can distract me from the truth:
Salvation is not a Behavior Contract. It is the point at which the old me dies on the cross with Christ and the new me – the original, created me that God purposed for me to be – comes to life.
The other night in my journal I was reflecting on John 17:1-9 and this is what I wrote:
“When the Truth makes Himself know to me, my response must be self-examination, confession and repentence. This brings sanctification and cleansing as well as relationship.
When I am sick, my condition (illness) makes me a patient, but my condition does not define my identity (my existence). My condition gives me a title related to my circumstances – that does not change who I am. Recognizing I am sick sends me to the doctor for remedy. And, so it is with sin.
Sinfulness is my condition, and Sinner is the title that defines my condition. My identity is not sinner, but my condition drives me to God to seek restoration of my life and healing, to reconcile me to my true identity in Christ.
The utter depravity of my soul requires God’s healing and restoration of my original identity. God did not send His Son to die for what I did — though He took care of that on the cross, and I am so grateful He did. He died to redeem who I am – who God created me to be.
No, Salvation is not a behavior contract.
It’s the moment when I experience Christ in such a transforming way that my life and I will never be the same.
For God so loved YOU (the World) that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…. John 3:16 (my memory…)