When we as believers in Jesus Christ think about who shapes our lives, we certainly place Jesus at the top of the list. How does our identity with Jesus Christ impact our lives? Jesus’ call to discipleship and eternal life is primarily a call to identify with Him. The Gospel of Mark records the following:
Mark 8:34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mark 8:35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
Mark 8:37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
To summarize the above in a positive light, Jesus was saying that when He returns in His glory, He will be unashamed and excited about those who are unashamed and excited about Him now. How do we express that we are not ashamed of Him now? We purposefully seek to identify with Him so we may be conformed to His image in every area of our lives. This is the essence of identity principle three which I introduced last month: Your source of identity shapes your life. We’ve discussed three identity principles in the last several months. Let’s review.
- Identity has to do with who you belong to.
- Identity has to do with power.
- Identity has to do with who shapes your life.
Now let’s look at the third identity principle in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.
“Identity Principle Three in Christ: The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ”
Do you want to be identified with Jesus when He returns? That’s quite a question, isn’t it? It gives our lives an eternal perspective. Before going to the cross on our behalf, Jesus gave some wonderful news to His disciples. He was not going to leave them alone, but was going to come to them and fill them in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-20). This promise is just as real to us as it was to them. Ever since the first Pentecost when Jesus fulfilled His promise, the Holy Spirit has come into the lives of God’s people. The Holy Spirit’s presence is the presence of the risen Jesus Christ.
We have studied earlier about the Holy Spirit as the power of God in those who belong to Jesus. Now we are considering His role as the sanctifier, transformer, and shaper of our lives—the experience of Identity Principle Three in our relationship with God. According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, the goal of His transforming work is the image of Jesus Christ. Born-again believers have the life of God in them, the Spirit of Christ, teaching, guiding, and living in them. It is He who makes the Word of God alive and purifying in their hearts, enabling them to participate in His intercession and be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
The Holy Spirit transforms us through the Scriptures
Like you learned the vocabulary and opinions of one with whom you wished to connect when you were young, so you search the Scriptures to learn the mind of Christ and His vocabulary. To identify with Jesus is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Col. 3:16). That’s how He shapes your life. The Scriptures are sufficient for every need in life, teaching you how to think and how to act (2 Timothy 3:16). About the man who hears and acts on His words, Jesus said he was building on a firm foundation, able to withstand the greatest storm of life, the judgment of God (Matthew 7:24-25). Jesus referred to those who hear His words and do them as His mother and brothers (Luke 8:21). Reading, learning, memorizing, meditating, and acting on God’s Word is vital for our lives to be shaped into the image of Jesus Christ.
Answered prayer is a response to requests according to His Word abiding in His children, shaping their intercession (John 15:7). The apostle Paul refers to the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17-18). Without a thorough knowledge of God’s Word, our prayers will be selfish and powerless instead of aligned with His will and thus powerful. The apostle James warned against asking with wrong motives of selfish pleasure (James 4:3). When the Holy Spirit brings God’s Word to mind as we pray, faith is generated and we’re transformed through personal encounters with the living Lord Jesus (Romans 10:17).
Spirit-filled worship, praise, and thanksgiving are based on God’s Word. As we read or meditate on what is revealed in His Word, our souls respond much like when we overlook a grand and beautiful panorama in nature. The glory of the object elicits first awe and then a declaration of wonder.
The Holy Spirit transforms us through faith with obedience
If you are identifying with Jesus Christ, you wish to be like Him. The Spirit-empowered Word of God produces faith in our hearts from beginning to the end of our earthly experience with Christ. Peter expresses the alpha faith in Acts 15:8-9. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” Then in his first epistle, he describes the omega faith, speaking of those who have been born again by a living hope, he declared they are “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
This faith is, of course, an active faith that produces obedience as illustrated in verse 2, as Peter describes the work of the Holy Spirit in those who have been chosen, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ.” Jesus, Paul, and John taught about the correlation between faith, love, and obedience. God-wrought faith works through love (Galatians 5:6). Spirit-born love produces obedience (John 14:21). As this process works in God’s children, they are transformed, shaped into the likeness of Christ. Take a moment and give Him praise and thanksgiving for such mercy and grace!
Believers work out what God works in
What is the believer’s part in this process of sanctification? We work out what God has worked in. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). John confidently asserts, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
Although God is sovereign in all the affairs of man, the Scriptures also clearly explain the responsibility God’s children have to conform themselves to the image of Christ. Their confidence isn’t in their ability, but in God’s goodness and grace. They know that God gives to His children what His law requires, and thus it may be expected that they will seek to imitate Jesus because they are identified with Him. This is just like they allowed their peers to shape their lives before they met Christ.
The author of Hebrews wrote something we should all remember. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). And the apostle John encouraged us with, “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11). We also are shaped by the lives of others who are identifying with Jesus as we imitate their good example.
Before Jim became a Christian, he was known around his work as an angry slave-driver. His work associates didn’t want to be around him. Jim developed a tough exterior and demeanor by watching his boss, his mentor in business. When first employed, Jim’s supervisor rewarded task-oriented, no-nonsense, hard-hitting leadership. There was very little sensitivity or attention to relationship building. His boss, and thus Jim, considered it a weakness to allow relationships to get in the way of progress and production.
Jim was successful in business, but emotionally and spiritually he was empty. When a new employee, Larry, came into the office, Jim noticed something different about him immediately. He didn’t laugh at the crude and dirty jokes or go drinking with the men after work. Larry was joyful most of the time, worked hard, and was patient with Jim’s cold, hard demeanor. After a few weeks, Jim asked Larry why he didn’t go out with the men when it was expected if he wanted to go further in the company. As Larry shared about his faith in Christ because of God’s love revealed in the gospel and his love for his family, something happened in Jim’s heart. He wanted what Larry had! After numerous conversations, Jim began to read the Bible Larry gave him and not long after that was born again by the Holy Spirit.
Jim was excited about forgiveness, a new eternal hope, and his new-found relationship with Christ and Larry. Almost immediately, he realized something had to change at work in his relationships. What would people think of Jesus if he continued to yell at them and make unreasonable demands? His love for Jesus compelled him to reform his relational style. He also watched Larry’s patience and tried to imitate him. Living with Jesus was a completely new way of living! As Jim learned about the importance of living out the gospel toward his wife and children, his marriage was saved and his relationships at home became fulfilling. Within a few months everyone in his family had come to know the Savior. He found he no longer wanted to trade two hours each evening with his family to be with the guys in the gym, bar, or restaurant like he used to.
Jim’s relationship with Jesus impacted every area of his life. That’s how it is with Jesus! Once Jim wanted to be identified with Christ more than anyone else, the process of transformation began. The more He learned from God’s Word, Larry, fellow believers, and from fellowship with the Holy Spirit, the more his life changed at work, home, and in private. Jim’s testimony is a great example of Identity Principle Three.
Meredith’s story is very similar to Jim’s. Her brother and sister-in-law had been praying for ten years that she would trust in Christ. Their witnessing efforts were met with repeated resistance. Meredith had a pre-school age daughter and was concerned about sending her to the public school because of the negative environment she knew was there. So when invited to a home education conference, Meredith was intrigued and attended with her brother and sister-in-law. At the conference, as the speaker shared the gospel and how God has provided a blueprint for family, her heart opened to Christ, and she was born again.
Her life changed drastically. She resigned her job, dedicated herself to teaching her child at home, and began growing in her relationship with Jesus. Meredith was challenged and encouraged by her newfound relationships that accompanied her new life with Jesus. Whereas previously her life was shaped by her culture, it was now impacted by Jesus and dozens of families in her church.
One way you can get in touch with this third identity principle is to make a list of the people and groups with whom you wanted to connect when you were between the ages of 14-16 and presently. Now take those same names and ask yourself, “What did I do to gain the connection with them?” What habits began, what words did I adopt, or what changed about my life? After you have done this exercise, lead your family to do the same. There are more application questions in the book available at www.spiritofelijah.com. This is an excerpt from Walking Worthy As a Son of God - The Walking Worthy Series, Volume 1. Available in print and ebook format.
I hope this has been helpful as you think about your own identity—who you are in Christ. Next month we will begin looking at the fourth and last identity principle: Your identity is impacted by what your father did or didn’t do. This is true in both the natural and the spiritual realms. Until then, I hope you’ll be encouraged to live out of the life of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Resources by Jerry White, Jr.
Spiritofelijah.com has the privilege of hosting a resource page for my friend and mentor, Jerry White, Jr. He and his wife, Gerrie, have had a tremendous impact on our lives since we were 29 years old. Although he has a webpage (adisciplesnotebook.org) where video resources are available, his books are only available on our website. I invite you to visit http://www.spiritofelijah.com/jerrywhite and become familiar with the spiritual riches God has given to the body of Christ through Jerry. Here is a brief description of what is available.
- Fellowship With God: This brief and simple book (80 pages) has been used to help many discover the reality of true fellowship with God beyond just having daily devotions.
- The Spirit and Presence of Christ: An invitation and simple instruction in how to seek and experience a vibrant relationship with Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit
- God Drew Near: Personal testimonies of God’s grace written to encourage and increase your faith, love, and hope.
- A Disciple’s Notebook: Excerpts from writings of spiritual giants throughout the ages have been chosen because of their deep insight and inspiration into relationship with Jesus Christ.
- A Disciple’s Notebook II: Another collection of excerpts from writings of spiritual giants throughout the ages which have been chosen because of their deep insight and inspiration into relationship with Jesus Christ.
Host a Live to Love Adventure at your church or homeschool organization.
The Live to Love Adventure is a Friday-Saturday event which invites and equips God’s people to live to love with Jesus for the rest of their lives. The goal of the 10 part series is to grow intimacy with the indwelling Jesus Christ by learning how to be His disciple in a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Jesus launched a live to love movement when He commissioned His disciples to go make disciples who would love the world with Him. I would consider it an honor and privilege to present the Live to Love Adventure at your church or organization. Promotional videos and resources are available at www.livetolovewithjesus.com. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At livetolovewithjesus.com there is also a streaming video of the Live to Love Adventure which you can use personally or in your small group, family Bible time, or as a discipleship tool.