One of the NT paradigms so helpful in growing or maturing as a Christian (sanctification) is that we live out our new identity in Christ. We are a new creation in Jesus, with our old self dying and a new me rising to life with him (Col. 2:11-13; 3:1-4). From this foundation of our new status as God’s forgiven, remade, and beloved children, and from this new identity where who I am is integrally connected to my union with Jesus, we then put to death sin and put on Christ. We say “out with the old and in with the new” when it comes to those desires, thoughts, and behaviors that aren’t fitting of me now in Jesus or are fitting. Unlike how our clothes become out of fashion every few years, the virtues of Christ we’re to put on (Col. 3:12-15) are unchanging. They are attractive, fitting clothes in every season and through the ages.
After rising earlier in the morning than we want, identity questions invade our mind as we look in the mirror, think about the upcoming day, and decide what to wear. Do I want my clothes to be the casual me, the dressed-up me, the outdoorsy me, the stylish me, or the “life beat me down so I didn’t care” me? We don’t realize we’re thinking in terms of identity, but the questions of “Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do others view me?” shape us all day long.
I know, repentance isn’t your favorite word. It’s not mine either. No doubt it conjures up something like an angry turn-or-burn “preacher” (either pounding the pulpit or screaming in the streets) letting people have it or an ultra-fundamentalist family member unhappy with your choices of what’s right or wrong. Despite the bad taste that might be lingering in your mouth for words like “repent” and “repentance”, let’s together seek to move past those barriers and rediscover what God actually says about repentance. It might never be for your favorite word or your favorite part of being a Christian, but as we look into God’s Word I think we’ll see that repentance is meant to be a life-giving, sin-replacing, gospel-rooted posture of the Christian life. Easy? No. Good? Yes.
Yesterday’s post reminded us the decisive break with sin allowing us to fight our sin already happened at conversion. I stated that rather than this making sin excusable or causing us to be spiritually lazy, it should actually motivate us to live in the freedom from sin and the fellowship with God that we get in Christ through definitive sanctification. I thought it might be helpful to consider how 20th century theologian John Murray summarized our role versus God’s role.
Don’t get confused by the title. I’m not another millennial ditching personal growth or holiness in the name of authenticity or liberties. In this post, I won’t be arguing to stop pursuing sanctification (maturity or growth), but I will argue for understanding how the most important part of it has already happened.