One of my favorite kinds of stories is whenever there is a hero whose world is changed in an instant and he must learn how to conquer all odds, find confidence in himself, and become the person who can win the battle of his lifetime.
They call this the “hero’s journey” model of storytelling. And if you are not sure what I’m talking about, you’ve never heard a story. Almost every story that has a hero, and every story must, talks about this transition from the way things were to the way things are now.
Consider with me that the Christian life is also the story of the hero’s journey. Except this time, the hero of the story is Jesus because of the changes he makes in every Christian. He’s the one who turns life upside down at the moment of salvation.
The life we used to live, it dies at the cross. And the hero, Jesus, begins his masterful work in us, changing us from the inside out. He declares us to be victors with him but then we become victorious as we obey the Holy Spirit.
As we talk about the first set of identity changes Jesus makes in us to make us conquerors, I want to focus on that moment of conversion. All of these parts of the identity of Christ in us begin at the moment of salvation.
Each is an image of conversion that shows how we can never be the same again. As we look at each one of these, you will see the total change Jesus makes. It’s not that it’s impossible to go back, but like the hero on his quest, Jesus compels us to go deeper in him and farther on our journey toward becoming like him.
From Darkness to Light
A common theme, or motif, used by several of the New Testament writers focuses on the difference between darkness and light. Jesus talked about being late of the world and us as lights with him (Matthew 5:13-16; John 8:12).
John uses this image probably more than others in the New Testament. Darkness leaves us wondering what is ahead of us while the light illuminates our path. It represents wickedness and evil in the world. The whole Bible likens evil forces and wickedness to darkness. Down to
But the light represents righteousness and goodness. John declares God is light and there is no darkness in him at all (1 John 1:5). So God is on the side of goodness and righteousness. When Jesus declares he is the Light of the world,, he declares he is God in the world.
But we are also in the world and we are lights for Jesus. In Ephesians 5:8, Paul describes our journey with Christ from darkness to light, from the old life to the new.
Then Paul gives us one of our identities in Christ, as his children of light (Ephesians 5:9). We now live to serve Jesus, the Light of the world. Children of light do righteousness and good in the world.
We represent Jesus as his lights in the world. We make choices that honor God and please him. We glorify him in our actions. Paul further describes righteousness as fruit, or works, that are good, right, and true.
Unlike before we met Jesus, we reject selfish desires and please Jesus. We understand the world in a wholly different way. We choose to live for him every day. We don’t always get it right. Not every choice or action is always good or pleases God.
But we strive to obey the Holy Spirit, and he always leads us to the fruit of a child of light. So we shine like Jesus’ lights in the world. We show the world what it’s like to work for the Light of the world. We do it because this is who God has declared us to be. We are children of light. We know no other identity.
No Longer Strangers
Paul also describes us is no longer strangers and aliens. We began our journey by being God’s enemies. In Ephesians 2:11-17, Paul highlights how Jesus became the peacemaker, making peace between Jews and Gentiles.
In the Bible, you are either one of God’s people as a Jew, or you are a Gentile. No matter how you look at it, Paul explains in the first half of Romans that whether Jew or Gentile, we have all failed to be God’s people on our own account.
This is why Jesus came, to make peace between God and us. He came to bring reconciliation. And once you meet Jesus, you don’t want to go back. It’s possible to fall away from him, but you don’t want to.
Paul focuses on Gentiles in the flesh, because he is speaking to the mostly Gentile East Asian Christians. He defines their relationship, and ours before we met Christ, as hostile toward God (Ephesians 2:11-12). We fought God at every turn.
He could’ve left us there, but instead he sent Jesus to be our peace. Paul uses language that shows a clear-cut difference between then and now. He begins Ephesians 2:13 with, “But now…” He uses language of distance. He says we were far off and have now been brought near, the same kind of language Peter uses in his sermon in Acts 2:39
The power of the blood of Jesus changed our lives forever (Ephesians 2:13). It brought us close, now part of God’s family. We are no longer strangers or aliens in a foreign land. This land has now become our home. We have become part of the people of God.
Jesus broke down all the barriers that kept us from a relationship with him (Ephesians 2:14-17). Paul describes a physical wall in the Temple in Jerusalem that kept Gentiles in the outer court. They weren’t allowed to go into the court of Israel.
This wall had a sign that threatened immediate death to any Gentile that tried to cross it. But Jesus removed every barrier that kept us from him. He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God so we can be part of his family.
Now everyone who believes in Jesus has access to the Father through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). This is a beautiful image of our conversion experience. Once locked out of heaven, we are now children of light, friends of God. Only Abraham and Moses were called friends of God. Because of Jesus, every believer in Jesus is a friend of God today.
Putting on Christ
Another image Paul uses is that of putting on Christ like a coat (Galatians 3:27). This is the choice we make to serve Christ every day. If we don’t have it in our minds eye that we can put on Christ on a regular basis, be enveloped in him in his presence, we will go backward instead of forward.
Paul is in the middle of talking about what it means to put on Christ, to make his identity our first identity. Jesus doesn’t change everything about us when we become Christians. For instance, I’m still an American citizen. I’m still a male.
He follows this verse about putting on Christ to show that these other identities we have, the other ways that people think about us, are secondary to the fact that we now belong to Christ. His identity is our first identity.
All the things the world uses to divide us into groups don’t matter anymore. We are first and foremost Christians, part of God’s family and members of Christ. It doesn’t mean that we are no longer these other things. I’m still a guy and I’m still an American.
But before I am those things, I consider myself a Christian, united with Christ and the other saints that are part of his body. If I can illustrate it like this, I don’t like to call myself an American Christian. I would rather call myself a Christian American.
You see what I did there? I placed my identity in Christ above my country of origin. But I have a much greater and more lasting identity in Christ than in anything else the world considers me to be.
When we “put on Christ,” a reference to water baptism that symbolizes our conversion in Christ, we make him our first identity. Being part of Christ is a greater identity to us than any other identity we may have.
The world uses our identity to divide us. They put us in groups and strip away our individuality. They say our power is in these groups to get what we want. But being identified with Christ is our greatest power. His power is the greatest.
Can you see the power in our converted identity in Christ? When we become Christians, we receive an identity unlike any other identity we’ve ever had. It is the very best of us because it is Christ in us.
When Jesus converts us to children of light, friends of God, and we put on Christ above all other identities, he gives us a strength we didn’t know we had. This is why it’s so important to know our identity in Christ.
This identity has spiritual power to break down strongholds and claimed great things in God’s promises. It has the power to be part of God’s side, no longer enemies and part of his judgment. We gain a power stronger than anything we ever knew.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the power of these first ways of looking at our identity in Christ. Have you ever realized exactly what Jesus did when we became believers in him?
In our next deep look into our identity in Christ, we will speak of a change in perspective that Jesus brings into our lives. This will reorient our mind to understand how we are different from the world and how we can show the world this difference. Stay tuned!