Who Am I? I Am Not Yet Perfected
(Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash)
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the
prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
In this Who am I? series, I have attempted to help believers understand who they are in Christ. But you may look at your life and see something entirely different. Your daily experience reflects one who still struggles with sinful thoughts, words, and actions. Your motives are not always pure. In fact, some days you know you fail miserably. Welcome to the tension of being in Christ, declared righteous, but not yet being perfect.
The apostle Paul lived in this tension as well. In the context of wanting to know Christ and be more like Him, Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on..." (Phil 3:12). Paul understood the value of the tension, and he wasn't afraid to admit his shortcomings. He calls himself the least of the apostles (1 Cor 15:9), and the "chief of sinners" (1 Tim 1:15). Paul says he is less than the least of all God's people (Eph 3:8), but by the grace of God, he stood justified because of his faith in Christ.
THE TENSION WE LIVE IN
Jerry Bridges, in his book, Who Am I?, gives us three truths that highlight the tension believers live in:
In Christ we stand perfectly righteous before God, but in our daily lives, we see much remaining sin
In Christ we are adopted sons of God, but in our experience, we sometimes feel like orphans
In Christ we are new creations, but it does not always seem as if "the old has passed away"
THE VALUE OF THE TENSION
I said earlier that Paul saw the value of the tension, but what does this mean? Paul seemed not only to accept but rejoice in the contrast between who he was in Christ and who he was in himself. He believed his imperfections more effectively demonstrated the grace of God. Paul says:
I am the least of the apostles because of my past, but God poured out his favor on me to preach the Good News. I have worked harder than any of the other apostles, yet it wasn't me, but God working through me by His grace (1 Cor 15:9-10)
I am the least deserving of all God's people, but He graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ (Eph 3:8)
I am the worst sinner of all, but God had mercy on me so that Christ could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even sinners as bad as me (1 Tim 1:15)
We, too, must see ourselves both ways: who we are in Christ and who we are in ourselves. We must learn to embrace the tension rather than hide from it. The reality is we aren't perfect yet, and we won't be until heaven. Until that time, we live under grace. That doesn't mean we give up and excuse our bad behavior. To go back to the example of Paul, he says he worked harder than all the other apostles. He didn't work harder to gain approval with God, he worker harder because he was grateful for what Jesus did for him; he felt compelled to do everything God called him to do out of his love for Christ.
Some days are going to go well, and some days are not going to go the way you know you should live as a believer. That's life! It has nothing to do with your salvation or identity in Christ; it has everything to do with not being perfect yet. So every day should be a day of relating to God based on grace alone. God sees us the same no matter what kind of day we have. If that is a hard truth to grasp, then keep reminding yourself of who you are in Christ.
GROWING IN CHRIST
If you find yourself on the opposite side, and your struggle is more of not wanting to serve Christ out of love and gratitude, then keep in mind that the Bible also gives us many instructions on growing and becoming more like Jesus. You have the Holy Spirit living inside you, and He will give you the ability to grow. God's grace will enable you to become more like His Son, Jesus. God's grace is not intended for you to live any way you want. Consider a few things Scripture says to believers:
Throw off your old nature and way of living, and put on your new nature by letting the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. You are created to be like God--truly righteous and holy (Eph 4:22-24)
You are not controlled by your sinful nature; you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, who lives inside you. Through His power, put to death the deeds of your sinful nature (Rom 8:9-13)
God chose you to be holy, so clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Forgive others as the Lord forgave you. And don't forget about loving others (Col 3:12-14)
Keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very soul (1 Pet 2:11-12)
I will end with one last quote from Jerry Bridges: "For every look you take at yourself in your daily experience, take two looks at who you are in Christ." Use the tension of being in Christ but not yet perfected to cause you to rely on God's grace and not your performance. Let God's grace compel you to grow in holiness. Whether you have a successful or unsuccessful day, know that who you are in Christ remains the same. Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead!
Source: Jerry Bridges: Who Am I? Identity in Christ