The most philosophical questions in life are the most practical. There is nothing like your honest perspective on "Who is God?" and "Who am I?" to color your day.
I have spent years cultivating my self-image as a Sinner. I thought it was both biblical and humble. A gentle friend brought other Scripture to my attention. He reminded me that I was a "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). I knew that already, but I told him I can still say I'm a Sinner. My friend said that was confusing, and not particularly doing me any good. He said the Old Man, crucified with Christ when I was baptized into Christ's death, would like me to think I am him.
Now I was really confused: Who am I? Am I the New Creation? Or am I the Sinner who was crucified? Or am I both at the same time? Or are they both just metaphors? Who is the person I call Me?
My friend wrote:
"The old man dies fighting for his life. H craves existence and the freedom of wanton expression he realizes through us, his unwilling slaves. We think he is us, and so we protect him with self-validating rationales and invest him with 'rights' he claims are ours. They are not ours, they are his; and they are not rights, they are the delusory assertions of insatiable appetite by which he keeps us enslaved.
"We presume freedom is realized in yielding to the impulses of his imperious dictates. We do not know he is ruling; we think we are in charge. We confuse license for liberty and end in bondage. It is not freedom at all. It's an illusion of freedom that prevents true liberty. We think he is us. . . . In fact he is us, until such time as we are 'born of the Spirit.' For 'that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit' (John 3:6).
"His greatest power over us now is in the strength of his bluff. But the old man has no more authority over us than we cede to him. This we typically do by believing that we are still sinful sinners and that he is still in control, and so yield to the impulses of his inclinations."
The idea of two sentient beings fighting it out in my body---one of them the New Me and the other one the Old Me---resonates. It has always seemed to me that Sin is more of a Who than an It. In Genesis 4, God says so point blank: "Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." This is Personality, not philosophy. And try Personality on for size in Galatians 5:17: "The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." This is a description of Ephesians 6 warfare, not a white-gloved academic debate.
The devil would like you to think that his promptings are merely extensions of you. It suits him fine for you to think of sin as a concept and not a Person. It suits him fine if you do not see the dimensions of the battle---that as you are cruising down the road to the supermarket, swimming in covetousness, lust, unbelief, and fantasies of self-glory, the Holy Spirit and the Devil are in a knock-down-drag-out battle over your soul, each one hoping you will take sides with him in the end.
The Old Man (or Sin, or Satan), crucified but still kicking, profits by our confusion regarding our identity. If we are still identifying ourselves with the old sinner we were---if we fail to grasp the depth of the new union we enjoy with Christ---we will be robbed of the empowerment God means us to have as beneficiaries of that union.
Your identity makes all the difference in what kind of day you have, and what measure of spiritual victory you will enjoy today on the drive to the market.
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