One of the most persistent problems that keep Christians from experiencing the abundant life is that of a distorted sense of identity. If we do not know who we are in Christ, then it is highly unlikely that we will be able to live in a manner consistent with who He has created us to be.
For many, being a Christian simply means we have received a pardon for our sins, and consequently we will be allowed into heaven. Without too much reflection, it ought to be obvious that this theory of Christian identity offers us nothing to go on in terms of how we can live any differently than we did as a non-Christian. Supposedly the Holy Spirit can give us the strength to live better. But if that His real job, we might wonder why all our efforts to be better do not elicit His help.
Another very popular belief held by many is that Christians are given a new nature when they receive Christ, but they retain the old nature as well. These two “natures” supposedly live alongside each other and influence how we live. Our job is to encourage the new one and repress the old. And while it would take a small volume to discuss all the things that are wrong with this theory, the most obvious is that it leaves the Christian with an entrenched sin nature and therefore a kingdom divided against itself. If the old nature is irredeemable and cannot change (until we die) and the new nature is created perfect after God and does not need to change, then how do we change? Expecting the will to provide an ever-vigilant check on the “bad” inside us and look for the “good” planted there by God has nothing to do with sanctification or transformation, and it bears absolutely no resemblance at all to life in Christ as portrayed in the New Testament. In the final analysis, this theory is really an apologetic for why we sin, not a Biblical description of the Christian soul.
Dallas Willard says that if you want to enter the life-long process of transformation, the first thing you need to do is:
“Remember who you are. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Remember who you are before God. You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.” (Renewing the Christian Mind, p.243).
If we do not know who we are, and whose we are, we will never get far.
Colossians 3:9-10 tells us, “Seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” According to Paul, we have a new nature that has replaced the old. And this new one is still in the process of renewal. That means we have a highly malleable soul that can be transformed over time. That is our hope. What we need to do is learn how to engage with God in ways that allow Him to do that kind of work in our heart and mind, so we become more and more the person He created us to be.