Identity theft is a big problem. It is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and recent stats suggest that 10 million cases occurred in the past year. The rise of identity theft has produced a number of companies that protect you from criminals that might steal your good name and credit rating. Somehow, one of my credit card numbers was recently compromised and some low life was merrily buying electronic gear on my tab in Malaysia. Fortunately, that was fairly easily resolved since I could prove that I was safely hunkered down in scenic Garland, Texas, when the purchases were made.
But it occurred to me that another identity theft occurs in the lives of Christians all the time and there is very little uproar about it. I pondered if I could start a company to protect followers of Jesus from this serious and sometimes tragic crime: Christian identity theft. Any follower of Jesus has the potential to fall victim. The target of this scam is the truth found in the second letter from Paul to the church at Corinth:
"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Because of Christ you have a new identity. You are righteous because of Him and not because of trying to do more right "stuff." You are a saint and there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. It is a liberating and joyous message. But there is a problem. Satan hates that message of hope and change. And so he goes about trying to "steal' our identity in Christ. I am afraid we make it all too easy because we find it difficult to really trust that we are changed. When we fail the old tapes are instantly cued and start playing loudly:
- You will never change.
- You always do that.
- I can't believe you did that again.
- What is wrong with you?
You would not be having these problems if you were (pick one or more):
- Reading God's Word more faithfully.
- Praying more fervently.
- Studying the Bible more seriously.
- Doing more in the church.
All of those things on the to-do list above are good things. But that list is not what makes you righteous. You are righteous because of Christ. Period. When you trust that and believe that you have a new identity, then the list above becomes a grateful desire and not a begrudging obligation to try and be better. All of the guilt and shame and sin that used to define you are no longer true. That old life is gone. You are a new creation. New life has begun. All of those accusations that Satan (and others who are quite happy to help) hurls your way are no longer true about you.
My life was changed nearly 40 years ago when I decided to trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It has just been in the past two years that I have begun to fully understand who I am in Christ and that I live my life daily in grace. I have often quoted from the book Truefaced. This statement rocked my world:
"If you are a Christian God is not interested in changing you. That has already happened. You were changed when you trusted Christ. You were imputed with His righteousness. Your very spiritual DNA was rewritten and you became a new person. So the change happened right away. God is now interested in maturing you into what is already true about you."
That has been my journey for the last two years. When the accuser starts, I simply remind myself that those things are no longer true about me. I have a new identity.
Protect your identity in Christ with even more fervor than you protect your financial identity. Remind yourself daily who you are. That you are a new person. A saint. Righteous because of Christ. A new life has begun. Live it joyfully and without condemnation.