I am convinced that the single greatest struggle of Christians today is not sin, but a lack of knowing who they are in Christ, that Christ in them has defeated sin and has empowered them to live lives abundant and free from the power of sin.
My first understanding of this truth came in the days when God used 180 Degrees Ministries to set me free from addiction and help me see life through the lens of God’s grace rather than through the skewed lens of my own limited understanding. I had grown to believe that my struggle with sin somehow put me on the outer edges of God’s love and that if I didn’t stop, sooner or later I would lose my salvation.
After my transformation at 180 Degrees, I came to see that I was a son of God, fully bought with a price—a price that was paid for by the blood of Christ—that becoming a Christian did not leave me as a tidied up sinner, now able to start over on my own with a clean slate, but it left me completely reborn in heaven with God, and fully in the hands of my Creator as a new creation of His for all eternity.
When grace collided with fear and shame, and when I came to see the truth of Romans 8:1 that there truly was no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, the reason for my sin was taken away. I no longer had to fear punishment from God. Jesus took all the punishment I deserved. All that was left between me and God was the open arms of an invitation to be in relationship with Him.
The Bible says it this way:
1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” – Romans 5:1-2
Probably nowhere though are these truths more apparent than in Paul’s letter to the Colossians in chapter 3. Paul says:
1 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:1-4
Notice Paul never says, “If you do good enough long enough, you will be raised with Christ.” He says, “Since, then you have been raised with Christ.” That’s past tense. It’s done. Forever settled in heaven. And so because of that truth, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” What things above? The things he just told us about, that we are raised with Christ, right now, and seated with Him at the right hand of God, that our lives are now hidden in Christ in God—think on those things. Live out of those truths.
Because if we choose to live here as they live in heaven, in our true identity who Paul says already exists in heaven, then we will have the ability, authority, power, and strength to practically live out verses 5-11 which have to do with overcoming sin in your life.
Listen to how Paul continues to describe our new identity in Christ as he picks back up on the things that we need to “set our hearts on,” in verse 12 …
12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
So many of us readily claim the identity of a sinner, and we forget the very thing that Jesus came to do awhich is make us saints. We forget the truth of verse 12 that declares for all eternity that we are God’s chosen people, holy, and beloved.
One thought caught my attention as I was reading these verses the other day. Notice again what Paul says in verse 3:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Remember when Moses was up on Mount Sinai and he asked to see the glory of the Lord? Moses actually asked to see God. Here’s what happened:
18 “Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock so He could grant Moses’ request and let him see just a passing glimpse of the glory of God Himself. And when Moses came down from the mountain the experience was so incredible that Moses’ face actually shone with light to the point he had to wear a veil over his face (Ex. 34:33, c.f. 2 Cor. 3:13-18).
But we are not like Moses. Again according to Paul we have died with Christ and our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God.” Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock to catch a glimpse of God. We are hidden in God Himself in order to get to see God fully in Christ.
This one truth alone should rock the very foundations of what it means to be a Christian, and how to live the abundant life that Jesus promised. I pray like Paul in Ephesians 1 that…
18 “…the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” – Ephesians 1:18-23
When we finally come to grips with who we are in Christ, who we’ve been recreated to be, not only will we live victoriously over sin, but we will also become the beautiful bride that Christ purchased, fully able to walk in the authority of Christ and carry out the mission on the heavens on the earth. As Jesus prayed, “Your will be done, on earth, as it IS in heaven.”