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!
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.