Remembering Who You Are Matters; How We Emphasise What We Are Matters More

Remembering Who You Are Matters; How We Emphasise What We Are Matters More

Whilst we still sin and thus evidently are still sinners, we are more fundamentally holy and righteous in the sight of God, children adopted into Jesus’ sonship, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit…When we remember and recall that is who we truly are now, I suspect we will be encouraged into living in line with what we are rather than being harangued into avoiding living in line with what we once were.

I wrote the other day (or, rather, re-posted) an article about not being afraid to repeat ourselves. The reason for the need to repeat ourselves—other than that people often haven’t heard us the first time—is that we are so prone to forget. We have been going through Deuteronomy recently and a repeated theme is the need to repeat the covenant because Israel are liable to forget it otherwise. It is a point made again and again—Deuteronomy has no problem repeating itself!

The key to not forgetting is to keep repeating. That is why Israel were told to keep reminding each other of the basic covenant stipulations, particularly the Shema. The most important fact about Israel was that Yahweh was their God and they were his people. This is the truth they were to keep repeating—when they get up and go to bed, in the house and out the house, in the city and out the city, with your family, friends and strangers—remember that you worship Yahweh alone. He is your God and you are his people.

The reason for landing on that so hard, and repeating it ad nauseam, is because Israel will ultimately act in line with what they are. If they remember they belong to God alone and they are his special covenant people, they are more likely to act as though they belong to God and are his covenant people. Knowing who they really are leads to acting like what they really are. Functioning as God’s covenant people was not about trying harder so much as remembering who they already are.

The same principle holds for God’s people today. The key to the Christian life is not trying harder to be better. It is fundamentally about remembering who we are in Christ. We worship God alone and we are his people. We are united to Christ and all that is his now belongs to us by faith.

More often than not, however, people in my tradition—theologically and soteriologically reformed people—land hard on something else. We tend to emphasise that we are sinners. And, of course, we are sinners by nature. The Bible is clear that all people are dead in their trespasses and sins. It is only in and through the person of Jesus Christ we can be forgiven for those sins. When we come to trust in Jesus—as Luther helpfully put it—we are simultaneously justified and yet sinners. Our sin is not eliminated in reality even if it is truly and properly forgiven, making us justified in God’s sight. And so we continue to hear an awful lot about sin.

But as I said, the Christian life is fundamentally about remembering who we are. Whilst we are still sinners, inasmuch as we still sin, when we have put our trust in Jesus that is no longer our core identity. Our fundamental identity is now our righteous standing in Christ. Let’s put it this way: stood before the throne of God, what is going to be the essential assessment of our lives? That we were sinners? Or, that we are united to Christ? Surely the latter. The Father, fundamentally, views us as those who are righteous in Christ, not fundamentally as sinners.

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