I remember standing in that hospital room, overwhelmed by the frail beauty of this baby girl in my arms. Never in my life had I laid eyes on anything so precious, so helpless and yet so magnificent. A new creation, entrusted to us to love, cherish, and raise. In some ways, I felt as helpless as my baby girl in that moment.
Though we may not believe it now, we all were that small once. We all were entrusted to the care of people who hopefully set out to raise us in love. And in spite of the love showered on us, none of us have lived our lives perfectly the way our Creator designed us to live. Romans 3:23 puts it this way:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” NASB
Society offers a number of interesting answers to address the source of this sinful behavior. Psychology might point to our upbringing as the source of our brokenness; other sciences might alert us to the genetic foundations that prompt our decisions. Myriads of theories exist to explain who we are and why we do the things we do. As I think back to the hospital room and that helpless baby, though, the question rises up within me: when my little girl is all grown up, what will she point to as the source of her identity?
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says the following:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB
Paul doesn’t seem to shy away from radical statements. Oftentimes, his words are so shocking that I have a hard time believing them. Here are those words, though, as plain as day:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…”
This is nothing short of radical. According to Paul, our past does not define us. Our parents and our upbringing do not define us. Yesterday’s sins, today’s fears, and tomorrows failures do not define us. Christ defines us. This is such a straight-forward truth that I have a hard time believing it. Paul would not have penned those words if he had known what I am capable of. He would have written a psychologically charged treatise if he had known my past when he wrote that!
And yet those words echo again:
“…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Somehow, I have a feeling that this goes much deeper than I realize. This is more than just a fancy theological statement that doesn’t touch the core of who I am or what I do.As I reach back to my past and define patterns and identify psychological sources, Paul points to Christ. I point to my peers, parents and pastors as the source of this kaleidoscope that is my identity; Paul points to Christ.
In the midst of the chaos of this internal identity crisis, I hear a voice calling:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
My response is almost immediate: “Me?!? But Lord…do you know who I am? Sure, I was a new creation. But I’ve messed that up, haven’t I? My identity is not at all in you! How could you want me to follow you?”
I fiercely argue with and fight with the truth that resonates throughout the New Testament, namely that the very core of who I am is found in Christ. When all is said and done, however, this fight does not diminish the truth that continues to prevail. I am defined by the love of Christ, the grace of Christ, the victory of Christ, the truth that He has paid for all my sins, nailed them to the cross, and overcome sin itself in my stead.
I think it is high time I stop defining Christ and let Christ define me.