How to read the Bible with identity in mind


Since my identity is found in Christ and sanctification is the process of the Spirit remolding me into his image, I find it to be of great help when I read the Bible to first focus on who Jesus is (worship) and then think about what is true of me because I’m in Him (identity) before tying it into how it applies to my thoughts, affections, and actions (ethics). This keeps my sanctification firmly rooted in a longing to see and become like Jesus as well as an awareness of what’s true about me (indicative) and available for me now that I’m in Christ.

In other words, I read with my eyes open to the model of “Jesus is,” “In Jesus I am,” and “therefore I will.” You could do this with any verses related to Jesus so I’ve provided an example through Galatians 4:4-5 simply because that’s what I most recently read.

Jesus is my righteous redeemer who frees me to be a grateful son.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son [Jesus], born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV)

Jesus is…born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.  

Jesus entered this big blue earth just like every other person, through the very human and humbling act of childbirth. Our messy lives lack sanitization and Jesus experiences this reality from the moment of his birth in a dirty stable to a mother with no place to go. His body consisted of the same substances as anyone else: hands and feet, oily flesh, life-giving blood, and unique physical traits making him identifiable as Jesus of Nazareth. He laughed at humor, cried because of pain, felt the emotional drain of weariness, and the joy of intimate friendships.

As part of his human birth, Jesus joined a particular people group, Israel, and therefore was “born under the law.” As a Jew, he was to live according to the law (Gal. 3:13; 5:3). God required Adam to obey God’s command and he failed. Israel was to obey God’s law but also failed. Jesus as the second Adam and true Israel fulfilled the law perfectly. Every day, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, he said yes to God in each situation. There was never one moment, not one day, where he chose to just do his own thing. Jesus became God in flesh so that as the man who lived a perfectly righteous life he might lay down that same life to redeem mankind from their sins.

In Jesus I am…redeemed from the penalty and crushing weight of the law.

In Jesus I am redeemed from the law. The law sits on our shoulders and crushes us with guilt like an oversized house crushes the ground beneath it. We rightly feel the weight of the law and the heavy tug of guilt because we have never been able to actually do what it says. Yeah, maybe occasionally I did something good and I’m not as bad as other people (at least I don’t think I am) but the law reminds me that God demands perfection, not an occasional act of obedience.

And yet, now that I’m united to Christ I am free because he perfectly kept the law and then died to take that enormous weight off my shoulders and onto his own back. All the law’s demands against me were paid in full as he bore my sins on the bloody tree. His redemption payment bought me out of my prison of slavery so I am no longer held captive because of the condemnation of the law. Although God used to relate to me according to my sin, He now only sees the righteousness of Christ that covers me like a full-bodied coat. All of my sin is removed and the debt is fully satisfied; all that remains for me is Jesus’ righteousness and the full freedom of an adopted son.

“Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for us, not because of all the great stuff we’ve done but because Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.” (Matt Chandler[1])

Because in Jesus I am redeemed from the penalty and crushing weight of the law, therefore, I will…live in the freedom and joy Christ gives and not enslavement to law. 

I will walk in gratitude and genuine thankfulness because Jesus spilled his blood and sacrificed his life for my redemption. I choose gratitude, but it’s more a matter of letting my mind wander to these stunning gospel realities so that new reservoirs in my heart for otherwise untapped joy and thankfulness can brim to the surface.

The temptation to run back to what I’ve always known proves strong, but I won’t go back to trying to rescue myself, to bargaining him with my good works, or to living under the law’s demands. If Jesus supplies a perfect righteousness for me why would I in vain seek to attain my own? If Jesus liberated me from the law’s demand by fulfilling it on my behalf why would I live today as if I’m doomed? In him I’m righteous, accepted, free from condemnation, and if God sees me that way I will see myself that way too. Seeing things as God sees them instead of how my over-emotional, prone to lies, ridiculously skewed vantage sees them works out better anyways.

I will let Jesus be Jesus and I will be the disciple (the follower). As much as I’d like to rewrite history and live in a fantasy world where I’m the hero of my story, the reality is Jesus is the heroic redeemer and I’m at best the helpless sinner who always seems to get in the way.  Even as a believer in Christ I’m still sinful and stubborn, and because of that my sins pile up like a ton of bricks. If I try to carry them myself I’ll sink under despair from guilt.

So, I must do today what every person must do when they first believe:  I must look to Jesus as my redeemer and by faith let him be the one who carries my pile. He was crushed in death so I might not have to carry them at all. To walk by faith requires trusting that Jesus atoned for my sin and reconciled me back to God. To act as if I need to self-atone or make up for my sins, or that I’ve blown it when it comes to my relationship with God, suggests I’m living according to works and not faith.  Living as a son free from the law’s demands means I can daily take the yoke off my own shoulders and place it on Jesus. I’ll walk in freedom not because I don’t still sin but because Jesus has fully paid for my sin.

Since Jesus is my mediator I will come to God through him and not according to my own or anyone else’s merit. Since Jesus is my righteousness I will trust in and rest in his righteousness alone. Since Jesus secured my redemption I will neither live as if I’m still in bondage nor try to rescue myself. Since Jesus is my mediator, my righteousness, and my redemption I will walk in the freedom, the joy, and the intimacy of being God’s child who belongs and is loved. Through Jesus I can have joy in freedom instead of fear in bondage.

 [1]Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 15.

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