Let’s now consider how we grow in our new found identity.
Weight gain has been a heavy burden to bear and at times I felt that there was no solution. I was trapped in the never-ending cycle of success and failure. By the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the bible, I have come to realise that this journey is all about learning. After all, we are ‘children’ of the Father who created us so why do we expect so much more of our own ability, why do we think we are past learning? Why do we find it so hard to depend and trust a loving heavenly Father?
Corinthians 13, is a bible passage that is often used in wedding ceremonies, talks about how love is measured; it also gives us a clue to our reluctance to take responsibility for the choices we make.
Verses 11 states ‘ When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me’.
How do we measure whether we are a child or a man (a grown up)? It is by the way we behave?
The weight loss journey I have been on over the last 25 years has shown me without a doubt, my need to grow up. Those moments I demand chocolate, I hunt the house down for scrapings of change to buy whatever it is I think will make me feel better and I push aside those who get in my way. In short if I can’t get what I want when I want it then I have a full blown temper tantrum.
At the age of 52 that is not only embarrassing but shameful. Age is no reflection of our maturity in God’s kingdom. Many of us haven’t grown into the mature people God planned for us to be. We might consider ourselves mature, but it is the sin in our lives that exposes who we really are and what are our true priorities. This is simply the pursuit of self!
Is there hope for any of us? Absolutely, Jesus himself is the example for us all to follow. Jesus teaches us in the bible that we are to be child-like in our trust of him but our response is often childish. A few years ago I had a complete grown up temper tantrum for the world to see, my sin and pursuit of self spilled over into my everyday life. I could no longer contain the sin within. Jesus exposed who I really was not to embarrass me or to shame me but to change me and teach me how to grow up into His image.
When we learn from Jesus and grow up in Him we begin to reflect who He is. However, this is only one part of the picture. Corinthians 13:12 shows us the ultimate ending of a life spent trusting our lives into the hands of our Creator. ‘ For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known’.
As we put our trust in Jesus and learn of what it is to grow in him we have the confidence that it will be in the moment Jesus returns for us that we will be fully complete and fully grown in Him. During this time of learning and change (santification) let us all take the time and have the willingness to allow Jesus to do whatever it takes to enable us to grow up in Him.
Who do we think we are?
It is all well and good talking about our identity and who are but how does this work out in the real world, in the nitty gritty of life and the temptations we face?
We need to consider who we think we are and what we think we can achieve in and of ourselves. A good indicator of who we think we are is how we introduce ourselves to new people. We introduce ourselves by what we do, I’m a doctor, a housewife, a teacher our identity seems to be wrapped up in what we do. However, should what we do really define who we are?
Maybe this is an indication that we haven’t quite understood how to live out our identity in Christ.
Matthew 6:19-24 tells us that we need to store up treasures in heaven, Jesus goes onto tell us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. He finishes this little paragraph with ‘no-one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’
Our identity is tied up in what we treasure the most and what we treasure the most our hearts will be devoted to. Therefore, if we want to know where our identity is we need to look at what we treasure the most and what we treasure the most that is where we will find who we serve, who our Master is; self or Christ these are the two masters Jesus is teaching us about.
As previously considered if we serve self then we are in fact serving the purposes of sin, the world and the devil. As a born-again Christian, no-one wants to be serving self but we seem unable to do anything about it, we seem powerless and find ourselves frustrated and dominated by sin.
As people with weight issues we are desperate to lose weight and put in all our efforts to find a solution, but end up frustated that this wasn’t the solution we hoped it would be and we face these moments of helplessness many times over. Every time we get a glimpse into where we are going wrong, we start to make the right choices, we think yes, this time will be different this time is the moment of permanent change, something happens to derail us and we find ourselves further away from the place we started.
How many of us actually weighed less when we started to diet than we are now years later?
Hope for the helpless
It all seems depressing really an endless cycle that we never seem to be able to escape. Let us turn to Romans 7 where the apostle Paul gives us an insight into the human condition. This chapter is teaching us that as Christians we are released from the Law because we are bound in Christ. If this is the case why do we feel so helpless to change?
Well don’t despair Jesus is always the solution to helplessness.
Paul shows us that no matter who we are, we are all human therefore share the same condition, the sinful nature verse 14 ‘We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin’. This is who we are as human beings we have no way of accessing anything of God because he is spiritual and we are not.
Verse 15 ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’. What a dramatic verse ‘I do not understand’ this is a moment of recognition that in and of ourselves we have no power to change, we have no ability to understand why we do the things we do, we cannot fathom our own behaviour or why we make the choices we do. If we can get to this moment in our life then this is the place of humility the place we need to be to be able and willing to learn from Jesus. We don’t understand but he does – this is the moment of repentance.
Verse 16 ‘And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good’. It is the law of God that exposes our sin, it is the law that teaches us there is something wrong within, through the Holy Spirit guiding us through God’s word.
Verse 17 ‘As it is, it is no longer myself who do it, but it is sin living in me’. In our new identity of turning to Christ a separation happens between sin and ourselves. Our new identity is now found in Christ not the sin within. In the next few verses Paul expands on this truth.
Verse 18-19 ‘For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing’. Paul as a servant of Christ now has an awareness that his heart is bent towards Christ but his sinful nature is still alive. Our sinful nature is counterproductive to the new nature we have in Christ.
Before we turn to verse 20 lets recap.
So here in this chapter in Romans we see the gospel being played out; before us we see the human condition without Jesus, we see the need of repentance and turning to Christ. We see that Christ separates us from the sinful nature but it is still alive within us (the spiritual battle).
Verse 20 ‘Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it’. Paul recognises that Jesus has provided a separation from the sinful nature. This is not a cop out or an excuse to sin it is a waking up to a spiritual reality.
Even as a born again Christian sin still lives within us, sin still lurks in the depths waiting to pounce, to take us unaware and expose our vulnerability. This truth is then balanced out by the truth that we no longer need to respond to the sin within not because we are strong and capable of dealing with the sinful nature but because we are in relationship with our Saviour who has defeated sin and its consequences.
We have no power in and of ourselves, it is when we think we are the overcomers that things start to go wrong and we give the sinful nature a way back to control our behaviour.
We see this truth being played out when we decided to diet. We recognised that we had a weight problem and we need to do something about it. So, we immediately think ah I need to go on a diet. This seems plausible because after all I am fat because I eat too much therefore I need to restrict what I eat. We don’t know where to start so we turn to people who know; who have lost lots of weight, if we copy what they do then this will result in losing weight.
But it never works out this way! Why?
Because we are using a physical solution to resolve a spiritual problem.
The reason we put on weight in the first place wasn’t because we ate too much it was because we ate too much to replace lost relationships, to feel better, to give reward, to shut the world out and its problems etc.
The diet plan works like the law to expose sin however it doesn’t have the power to deal with the sin so it becomes a means of legalism. It says to our spirit hey follow this and all will be well however our sinful nature shouts yay I love a bit of legalism I will use this to grow pride in the heart of this person and the devil joins in because he knows that if pride is our behaviour then we will be serving self and not Christ.
Verse 20 of Romans 7 tells us that our identity is no longer tied to the sinful nature therefore sin no longer defines who we are, it is Christ that defines who we are.
The sinful nature says you are fat
The sinful nature says you are an overeater
The sinful nature says you are lazy
The sinful nature says you don’t belong anywhere
The sinful nature says you are useless
Every time we sin we are saying we agree with our sinful nature however if our identity is in Christ then
Christ says the Creator of the universe is Our Father therefore we are loved
Christ says we are his beloved therefore we belong
Christ says we have been born again and gives us the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us therefore we can learn spiritual truths
Christ says he uses our weaknesses for his good purposes therefore we are strong
Christ says we are heavenly royalty therefore we are holy
Christ says he promises to work out his purposes in our lives therefore we have no reason to fear
We no longer need to identify with the sinful nature because it represents who we used to be; we need to identify with our born-again identity which is bound up with who Christ is.
‘So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?’
Paul is explaining the spiritual battle we all face; that in and of ourselves we have no hope, there is no rescue, there is only sin….
Verse 25 ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin’.
Paul is saying we are who we believe we are, there are two masters at work here but thanks to God we have a choice, we can choose who we serve, we can choose who we listen to by the power of the Holy Spirit who now lives within us.
Turning to Christ
Jesus Christ is our only hope for whatever situation we find ourselves in, we need to turn away from the troubles of this world and turn our attention to Jesus. We need a spiritual response to a spiritual problem and this can only be found in Jesus and His word.
In Christ, we are no longer defined by what we do, but what we do is defined by who we are in Him.
Over the next few weeks ask Jesus to teach you the truths held within Romans 7 and take the time to apply it to your everyday situations through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
If you are not a Christian then hopefully you can see your need of turning to Christ, if not talk to Jesus and ask him to deal with your unbelief.
Mark 9:21-24 ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!’
Next time we will unpack more about the spiritual battle and God’s provision for the battle we face.