Why We’re Not Called To Think Like Gollum

During the month of October, we are engaging in a series at Cornerstone on our identity in Christ – Who are we? What has God done for us and in us?

These are extremely important questions to understand.

This past Sunday, I particularly looked at Paul’s words in Romans 5:20-6:14.

Watch this short clip from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and then read on. Continue reading

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The Person of Romans 7 – Part 2

Here, in this post, I continue on from my initial thoughts on the person of Romans 7. The final argument that Romans 7 is in reference to our Christian life is based around the final two verses, 24-25:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

The argument posed to those, like myself, who take the other side that the man Paul’s speaks of in Romans 7:7-25 is not a Christian, goes something like this: At the end of Romans 7, Paul asks the pointed question of who can deliver him from such a struggle and he, then, replies to his own question – ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ But, immediately after such a glorious statement, Paul goes on to state: ‘So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.’

The question: If Paul had now made the declaration in the first part of vs25 that he had been delivered from such an inner-struggle experienced as a non-Christian (remember that my argument is that the person of Romans 7:7-25 has not come into Christ), then why should he once again speak of this dual, inner-struggle in part B of the verse?

I must admit this is a good question, one that is somewhat difficult to grapple with. But I will try and give two significant responses to the question and one that will probably be considered of lesser value:

1. I believe we must consider the overwhelming testimony of the New Testament teaching as a whole in regards to what has happened in the lives of those who have come to Christ, which I have explored in my four previous articles on our identity in Christ. We all know and agree with the two hermeneutic principles of both comparing Scripture with Scripture and comparing one-off passages of Scripture with the whole context of the Bible. And I believe, as argued in previous articles, that the majority of New Testament teaching shows that a radical transformation has taken place in the lives of Christ’s followers in which we have been made new creations, God’s law has been written on our hearts and we can now look to walk in His ways as empowered by the Holy Spirit. For me, there is just too much teaching in favor of such resurrection change in our lives, and thus, we cannot solely regard the last half of Romans 7:25 as sufficient in building a major doctrine about the reality of one who has come to Christ.

2. Though, as I admitted, this second argument will be of lesser consequence, I still share it. In considering the whole teaching of the New Testament, and specifically the context of Romans 7, could it not be that the last half of vs25 fits more with the end of vs23. Do you see the connection when viewing it like this?

But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

And, then, there is a sense in which vs24 and the first half of vs25 follow on from there:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It’s almost like Paul got ahead of himself with the glorious conclusion of vs24 and the first part of vs25, which then leads us into the magnificent words of Romans 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (8:1-2)

Some might yell, ‘Blasphemy,’ at such a consideration of connecting certain verses at different places, as if I wanted to rearrange God’s word. Please know that I have no desire to change around the word of God. I only suggest that we consider that certain thoughts connect with other thoughts. For think about the fact that Paul had already spent Romans 6 sharing the wonderful power of the gospel and the changes that have taken place in our lives. He then decides to go back to the struggles and impossibility of sinful mankind living under the law. Then, he closes such glorious teaching begun in Romans 6 with the words of chapter 8.

Therefore, though Romans 6 and 8 are not successively connected in Paul’s writing, they are more connected in the thoughts that Paul is longing to convey to us. I do not negate Paul being led by the Spirit in his authorship of the letter to the Roman church. But I also believe that God did not supersede the actual human personality in the authoring of His word. Just as Christ, the living Word, was both God and man, so is the written Word both inspired by God Himself and written through the unique personalities of the human authors. And so, I simply suggest we consider that vs23 and the last half of vs25 flow together, almost as if Paul jumped ahead with the glorious conclusion of vs24 and the first half of vs25, all the while desiring to go back and connect vs25b with vs23.

3. To end with a more substantial point, lets consider Romans 7:18

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Do you remember my whole treatise that one cannot have two natures within themselves? You are either regenerate or unregenerate, you are either the old self or the new self, you are either saint or sinner. It is impossible to be both. And though Paul can use the word ‘flesh’ in reference to that fallen part we are still learning to submit to the Spirit each and every day (see Galatians 5:16-17), it is obvious that, in Romans 7, he uses the word flesh to speak of the old self:

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6)

We noticed that vs5 speaks of the past tense, what we used to be like, and vs6 talks about our new life by the Spirit. It is in vs5 that we find Paul using the term flesh in regards to the sinful passions in our old life. But vs6 declares a death has taken place. So we are now new creations who can ‘serve in the new way of the Spirit’!

My point, you ask? In Romans 7:18, Paul declared that nothing good dwelt in him, that is, in his flesh. But vs5-6, the main thesis of the chapter, unequivocally states that that part of us has been crucified. That good-for-nothing, sinful nature died! It is similar to Paul’s words found in Romans 6:7 and 14:

For one who has died has been set free from sin…For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Yes, nothing good dwells in us, but that is apart from Christ. But we are no longer apart from Christ. We are in Christ, and a death, burial and resurrection has taken place in our lives. The old self, or as Romans 7 calls it, the flesh, has been put to death. And we are now living resurrection life.

Some might ask: what about Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15?

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

As I looked at in a few posts back, I do confess that it is ok to recognise who we are apart from Christ. Sometimes we find ourselves weak and given in to much temptation. But we must also do what Paul did regularly and recognize who we are in Christ – and he did this a lot more than the former! Throughout his letters, Paul recognized some 164 times who he was in Christ.

In all, I stand on the overwhelming testimony of Scripture that, as those who are in Christ, we have been radically transformed by the power of the gospel. We are new creations with new hearts and a new desire to walk in the way of the Spirit. We do not have two natures within us at war – the old sinful nature and new nature in Christ. We are regenerated by the Spirit of God and, thus, the old self has been crucified with a new nature being granted to us.

Thus, my conclusion is that the man of Romans 7 is one who has not yet come into the new life given by the Spirit of Christ. In our struggle with sin and temptation, we cannot read such an experience back into Romans 7. Rather, we must recognize the truth of the gospel and the power of the new life Christ has granted us by His Spirit. In realizing and confessing such truth, I believe we will be set free to more fully walk in that newness of life (see John 8:32), to walk out the call of the good news of what Christ has performed on our behalf.

In the end, whether or not one agrees with my conclusion about this much debated passage, I would encourage us that we not solely make Scriptures like Romans 7 the basis for our new life in Christ. Rather, we are called to take into account the whole teaching of Scripture, including Romans 6 and 8. And in doing so, that might even give us a fresh perspective of the power of Christ in our lives. May we be empowered by Him to walk out the high calling in Christ.

The Person of Romans 7 – Part 1

I have now finally come to the promised article in discussing the oft-debated man in Romans 7, though I will break it into two articles for the sake of keeping one’s attention. This is the final cap of my series on identity in Christ, which I started two weeks ago.

Romans 7 has been a passage that has caused many theological discussions throughout the centuries AD. If you are not aware, the debate revolves around the person that Paul is referring to in the text. Whether or not Paul is talking about himself or a certain ‘mystery man’, that matters very little. Rather, over the centuries, there have been two major camps in describing the man in Romans 7:

  1. This person is one who has come to Christ but still recognizes the great difficulty in obeying God.
  2. This person is one who knows the law and tries to obey it, but the person cannot because they have not come to Christ.

I think it plausible to recognize that most have generally landed in the first camp. And reading certain verses like Romans 7:15 and 7:19, as well as considering our own experiences in life, most would agree with that first assessment of the passage at hand:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7:15, 19)

Many Christians, not non-believers, testify of a similar struggle. They try and obey God, but each day they know they come up well short. Thus, the conclusion about Romans 7, from our life experience, is that Paul is talking about a Christian struggling to obey God.

But, before we discover who Paul might have been referring to in the passage, I think it best to first establish the ground that our Biblical understanding cannot be formed simply out of experience. I am one who believes that God is one to encounter and experience, not just someone we dogmatically define with black ink on white paper. Hence, the Hebrew word for ‘know’ (yada) is used to describe how a husband and wife know each other. There is a sense in which knowledge is relational and experiential. Yet, our foundation for Biblical understanding must, first and foremost, be the Scripture. We are learning to see both our knowledge of God through Scripture and experience come together in unity.

So, in the oft-discussed passage, is Paul referring to one who is saved, yet struggling with sin; or is he referring to someone who is trying to obey they law, but cannot, for they have not yet come to Christ?

I believe that, for us to fully understand the passage at hand, it would be helpful to look back at a few verses at the beginning of chapter 7:

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6)

When I read these two verses from the beginning of chapter 7, I get this impression that Paul is describing the radical change that took place in our lives when coming to Christ: ‘But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code’ (vs6). And even vs5, which describes living after the fleshly desires, uses the past tense, as if this is how we used to live: ‘For while we were living in the flesh…’

The use of the past tense in the statement, ‘were living in the flesh’, and the present state now being described as, ‘But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive,’ sounds synonymous with some of Paul’s thoughts in Romans 6:

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (6:6)

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (6:11)

Paul is trying to get across to the saints, the people of God, that a death and crucifixion has taken place in our lives. But at the same time, a resurrection of a new creation has taken place (2 Corinthians 5:17) so we can serve in ‘the new way of the Spirit’ (Romans 7:6).

After considering the text, it seems that vs7-25, as a whole, contain Paul’s thoughts about the experience of one before coming to Christ. In vs5-6, we saw his great proclamation of what happened in the life of the one born again. Yet, in vs7, Paul begins an exposition on the law and its relationship to humanity. It leaves one, no all, in frustration at their inability to fulfill such requirements. Hence, the well-known statement about not doing what we want to and doing that which we hate.

Here, in Romans 7 especially, the word ‘flesh’ is being used to speak of the former life: ‘For while we were living in the flesh…’. But this is the life that Paul so adamantly claimed had passed away. Again, notice the past tense of vs5 and the good news of vs6:

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Though Paul takes time in vs7-25 to expound on one trying to live by the law, especially as one not transformed by the power of the gospel, I believe his ultimate thesis comes in vs5-6. These two verses speak of the change that has taken place in the lives of new covenant believers. Not to mention the overwhelming and powerful truth of the gospel as presented by Paul in chapters 6 and 8 of Romans.

In opposition to some of my arguments, many people will point out Paul’s statement in vs21:For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.’

The argument arises from those who espouse the reformed doctrine of total depravity. (Just as a side note, I love and lean towards reformed theology.) In the work, The Five Points of Calvinism, Herman Hanko quotes this definition for total depravity, as found in The Banner:

‘The result of the fall is total depravity or corruption. By this is meant that every part of man is rendered corrupt… There was no part of his nature that was not affected by sin.’

With such statements like that, it seems we must conclude that a non-believer cannot ‘delight in the law of God’ (Romans 7:21). But let’s read a little more of what Hanko quoted:

‘The word “total” must not be taken in the absolute sense as though man is completely depraved. Man is not as bad as he can be…God does restrain the working of sin in the life of man on earth. And sinful man still has a sense of right and wrong. His corruption is total in the sense that there is no part of his being that is pure and holy; and the good he does is done for God and for His glory.’

Most reformed theologians reject the extreme doctrine known as utter depravity. This is the teaching that humanity cannot do anything good at all. Rather, a good, reformed theologian usually holds to the doctrine of total depravity, which teaches that all elements of the human race have been effected by sin, but not so much as to render them completely unable to do anything good (such as loving your spouse), but none of this good can merit right standing with our holy God. Rather, it is Christ who reconciles us back with the Father who desired to be in relationship with us in the first place, hence the willingness to send His own Son.

Thus, I think we can understand that it is not out of the reach of human beings to ‘delight in the law of God’. The greatest example would be Paul himself. He even stated this in his letter to the Philippian church:

[I was] circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:5-6)

And in comparing himself to a Pharisee in regards to the law, he was not stating such with a negative connotation. Rather, it was the Pharisees that tried to meticulously understand and obey the law. So, it is possible that one can be at a place of delighting in God’s law, especially those of Jewish heritage, yet not be transformed as a new creation in Christ.

I have set the scene for why I believe Romans 7 describes the inner struggle for one who has not yet come to Christ by the power of the gospel, rather than what is to be the inner struggle of one who is in Christ and indwelt by the Spirit of God. I will finish off my thoughts on Romans 7 in the next couple of days.

Identity in Christ – Truly A New Identity

I have decided to post two more articles rather than one final article concerning the topic of our identity in Christ (click here to read the previous article in this series). The reason being that it will keep the posts shorter, but even more, I believe I will be addressing two related yet distinct topics – first, the final characteristic of our new identity in Christ and, secondly, who is Paul talking about in Romans 7. Hence, the need for two articles rather than one.

But launching into the purpose of this blog post, I will address our new identity in Christ. As in the previous two articles, it might be good to state what our identity was before we came to Christ – sinner. That is the bad news. And I don’t know any Christian that would disagree with that statement. All are on the same page that humanity is born into sin. But it’s our new identity that will lead to some debate. Nevertheless…

So, before we were born again, our identity was that of sinner, and we were mightily good at it. I could quote numerous passages in Scripture, but I think just one will suffice:

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

But, the good news, the absolutely great news is that when we came into our new life in Christ, we became saints! Whenever Paul started off one of his letters, he usually began with a greeting like this:

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7; see also 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:1; etc.)

Paul wrote to ‘all those in Rome’, and supposedly, he was referring to all Christians in Rome rather than a select group. And all of those Christians he wrote to were the ones ‘loved by God and called to be saints’. The word saint simply means ‘set apart one’ or ‘holy one’. And that is who we are, for this is who God says we are. This is not a status we attain to after death, but a reality right now (see Acts 26:10 and how Paul said he had imprisoned the saints, and Paul could only do this to people who were alive, not dead).

Therefore, we are saints! I am saint Scott and you are saint _______. Yet, I wouldn’t use it as a title. Rather it is our true identity in Christ.

Because of this reality about our identity, I must confess that I believe it a misnomer to make this statement about ourselves: I am just a sinner saved by grace. I know that is the motto of many a Christians, but the truth is that the people of God are saints, not sinners. We are people that are declared righteous, declared not guilty, have been given a new heart and now have the identity of saint! Thus, I believe a better description is this: I was a sinner, I have now been born again by God’s grace and am now a righteous saint in Christ.

Let me give you an illustration of the importance of recognizing and confessing who we are in Christ. What happens when you regularly tell a small child that they are stupid? Well, any psychologist would tell you it would be detrimental to that child. Why? Because the child would find it very easy to believe such a statement spoken over their life. And that would probably only escalate the actions of the child in accordance with what he or she believes. The progression becomes: I’m told that I am stupid >> I believe that I am stupid >> I will act like I am stupid.

The same is true of God’s people. You tell them enough times that they are wicked sinners, then guess what? They will believe it! And even more, it makes it that much easier to walk as such.

As another example, I will tell you a story about Exodus International. Started in 1976, this ministry was a resource to those coming out of a homosexual lifestyle. Interestingly enough, the founders and volunteers consisted of those who were themselves looking to follow Christ and leave the homosexual lifestyle. But a few years after the ministry started, one of the founders and a volunteer announced that they could no longer deny their passions inside. They were gay, were attracted to one another and loved one another.

This is a hard-hitting story, probably with much controversy as well, but the point I make is found in the importance of our identity in Christ. These two men who had supposedly come to Christ out of a gay lifestyle, were now identifying themselves as homosexuals. It’s not to negate their struggle and temptation with such, as we all have various temptations. But I just wonder if they had known the truth about the new identity of believers in Christ, would they have been able to stay the path in following Christ? If they were truly followers of Christ, I believe great strength and encouragement would have come through recognizing and confessing that they were saints, yet not denying their temptations towards homosexuality.

You see, this is serious stuff, and the enemy loves to lie to us about our identity. If he can get you to believe you are a liar, cheater, pervert, druggie, homosexual, or whatever, he will do so. But the truth is this: we WERE sinners, but we have NOW been born again by God’s grace and are now righteous saints in Christ.

The question might arise: What about Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 1:15?

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

You know, I do confess that it is ok to recognise who we are apart from Christ. Sometimes we find ourselves weak and given in to much temptation. All Christians find themselves in that place at some point. But we must also do what Paul did regularly and recognize who we are in Christ – and he did this a lot more than the former! And that is what the full gospel says: we are not simply forgiven of our sin, but we have been given a new life and a new heart in Christ, declared righteous by the Father and are now His saints!

Neil Anderson, author of Victory Over the Darkness makes this comment:

‘It’s not what you do as a Christian that determines who you are; it’s who you are that determines what you do.’

This is, first, all about who we are in Christ, and that leads to how we walk. Our identity produces or precedes behavior: I am light, thus, I walk as light. I am righteous, thus, I walk in righteousness. I am not trying to give lessons in behavior management. I am laying out the truth of God’s word, the truth that sets captives free (John 8:32).

Anderson goes on to state:

‘Sadly, a great number of Christians are trapped in the same pit. We fail, so we see ourselves as failures, which only causes us to fail more. We sin, so we see ourselves as sinners, which only causes us to sin more. We’ve been tricked into believing that what we do makes us what we are. And that false belief sends us into a tailspin of hopelessness and defeat.’ (Victory Over The Darkness)

It’s like the young child I mentioned above. And it’s like the two men that identified themselves as homosexuals. Both lose the reality of their identity, and it proves detrimental to their lives.

The question is then asked: Why do we struggle with sin? Well, let me try and explain this one with an illustration as well. Let’s say I worked in a factory and my job was to prepare packages for shipping. Each day I work pretty hard, decently doing my best in my department. Yet, each day, I have a manager that always yells at me with foul language. It’s not fun (as some of you will be able to testify)!

But one day, my factory receives a new manager with the old manager being shipped out. While I am working away in gathering packages and getting the right paperwork filled out, the new manager begins to walk over. As he approaches my workstation, I start to look away, begin fidgeting and my heart starts beating fast. Why? Because my experience of managers is definitely bad, if not horrendous. But, as he approaches, I find that he only wanted to say, ‘Hi, my name is Don and I am the new manager. I just wanted to stop by and say, “Hi,” to all the employs and let you know that we are going to have a meeting this afternoon to discuss some new things I have in mind for the factory.’

Wow, that was different?! Much different to the way my old manager used to treat me. This manager was kind. This new manager seemed respectful.

And I believe that can help explain what has happened in our lives as Christians. Before we came to Christ, we had this old manager, and all that old manager knew how to do was sin. Thus, in most, if not all, situations, we reacted with sin. That was our bent. But when we were born again, a new manager stepped in and replaced the old manager. Yet, the thing is, we are still used to the way our old manager functioned, and thus, we even tend to respond in accordance. But we are slowly learning how this new manager works, this new man, this new creation. We still have that part of us referred to as the flesh. But we have a completely new manager, and we are learning to get along with this manager and know his ways.

Thus, I find it helpful it we start by remembering that our old self died when we came to Christ. Here are a few verses to remind us:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me… (Galatians 2:20)

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)

But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

When your old self died, you became a new person in Christ! And there is no possible way that you can be both the old self and the new self. You are either sinner or saint, you are either unregenerate or regenerate, you are either unbeliever or believer, you are either the old self or the new self in Christ. As John Murray best said it:

‘The old man is the unregenerate man; the new man is the regenerate man created in Christ Jesus unto good works. It is no more feasible to call the believer a new man and an old man, than it is to call him a regenerate man and an unregenerate.’ (Principles of Conduct)

If we are in Christ and have believed the gospel, then we are God’s righteous saints that have been given new hearts! This is a done deal. And this is truth that sets us free!

Yet, as mentioned before, we all know we still have the flesh. That is the part of us that we still have due to living in a fallen world. And it’s that part of us which was so used to submitting to the ways of the old man. Thus, we are called to learn how to regularly submit to the Spirit of God, to live by His strength and His power. Or simply stated, we are to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). We are already united to Christ (Romans 6:5), seated with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6) and partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). But now we must learn to die to the flesh and walk in the Spirit daily.

People of God, be encouraged! The full gospel says you are saints, you are new creations, you are righteous in Him, and thus, in His power you can walk out His call on your life. Thus, if someone asks you, ‘Who are you?’ you can now answer with the confidence of His Word.

You can follow this link to see my articles on the enigmatic passage of Romans 7 – who is Paul talking about and how does it fit into the understanding of our new identity in Christ.

Identity in Christ – A New Heart

In the previous article, I looked at our new standing, or status, because of our identity in Christ. Whereas we stood condemned before we came into Christ, we now stand justified. That word simply means to be declared not guilty and righteous. We must remember the full gospel message embraces both characteristics – the declaration of the forgiveness of our sin, and thus, no guilt. But also, we have the reality of receiving the righteousness of Christ into our lives. The gospel truly is beautiful!

The second aspect of our new identity in Christ that I would like to cover is that of a new heart that’s been given to us by God. Before coming to Christ, our heart was completely unclean. Many of us know the Scripture in Isaiah 64:6:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

Or most of us know the NIV’s renowned phrasing – ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.’ Yet the life-changing good news is that, when we came into union with Christ, we were given a new and regenerated heart. Countless Christians are familiar with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Because we know this passage all too well, it has lost some of its significance. But the truth is that this is a major foundation for our identity in Christ. The old has truly passed away and the new has truly come! We are completely new in Christ! Yes, you can shout, it’s ok!

Yet, though people are willing to recognize that they are new creations, many have a problem with recognizing they have a new heart. Let’s look at some of Ezekiel’s words:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Did you catch that? God said He would give us a new heart! Wow! And that is the honest reality of the new covenant – our rights as children of God to be given a new heart and a new spirit, all that we might walk in His ways. I’m amazed!

Yet, many will turn to the words of Jeremiah and quote this passage:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

I am not sure as to why, but so many people are stuck on this verse, as if it is the motto of their life. But what we must remember is that Jeremiah was speaking to an unbelieving, hard-hearted and obstinate people. Yet, Ezekiel was addressing those of the new covenant. Do you see the difference? Folks, we are part of the new covenant, provided we have a faith relationship with Christ! Thus, we have a completely new heart!

Most people will admit they are robed in God’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). But once that robe is removed, they think that it’s nasty underneath. But that is not what Ezekiel tells us about our identity as new covenant believers in Christ. We are not only clothed with His righteousness, but we also have been given a new, clean and regenerate heart.

Again, this is the full gospel – that we have not only been forgiven of our bad deeds, but that you and I have been given a new life with a new heart. We are new people with new hearts!

John Eldredge stated it this way:

‘You’ve been far more than forgiven. God has removed your heart of stone. You’ve been delivered of what held you back from what you were meant to be. You’ve been rescued from the part of you that sabotages even your best intentions. Our heart has been circumcised to God. Your heart has been set free.’ (Waking the Dead)

He then goes on to remark:

We are free to be what he meant when he meant us. You have a new life – the life of Christ. And you have a new heart. Do you know what this means? Your heart is good.’ (Waking the Dead)

Now I know – the theological wheels are turning. You don’t know if you agree with that last statement by Eldredge, ‘Your heart is good.’ But I believe it is because we have been indoctrinated with the words of Jeremiah. Those words are fine and dandy if you want to include yourself in the category of unbelieving and obstinate. But, if you are one who has come into Christ, if you are one that has been made a new creation, if you are one who has been given the promised new heart and new spirit as declared by Ezekiel, then guess what? You’ve been given a good heart because it was one given to us by our Father.

This is not of your own doing. This is not of your own effort. This was a God-action in which He switched your old, unclean, hard heart for a new and regenerate heart. This is part of ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints’ (Ephesians 1:18). This is the gospel of God’s amazing and powerful grace.

So, remember the beauty of God’s grace as expressed in granting you a new heart in Christ. Revel in His goodness towards you. Not because you deserved it, but because He is that good. Go on, revel in it. You might just taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

My fourth article on our identity in Christ will be posted soon.