The Great Exchange …
The Practical Power of New Identity
"You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 6:11
There is nothing more practical than the message of God's love and grace, and the believer's identity in Christ! People are always looking for God's power, and this is it! As proof, let's take a really tough situation. How would you counsel someone who is caught up in homosexuality? Does Jesus Christ have an answer for him?
We all know it's wrong. The world can call it a "sickness," an "alternative lifestyle," or a "sexual preference." But nobody who accepts the Bible as the Word of God can call it anything but sin. But accepting that it is sin, just proving that it's wrong, is not an answer. What answer can we offer a man caught in this terrible bondage? I know of only one: he needs not just a change of behavior but a totally new identity.
Lee slumped in a chair in my office as he told his story. "I have been a homosexual for many years," he said. He spoke in a low voice. He was visibly depressed and tired. "Then just a few months ago, I was introduced to Jesus Christ by some friends. I started attending church, and I thought everything had changed. But now there's a guy in church that I'm attracted to, and I can't get him out of my mind." Lee's voice broke with emotion as he told of his heartache, of how, in spite of his efforts to change, he found himself falling back into the same old habits.
"Let's back up for a moment," I began, "and let me discuss what salvation is all about." My first goal was to discover if Lee was truly a Christian. Based on his answers, he was truly born again. He had indeed received Christ, so our work had to be done elsewhere. What do you do if you're a Christian and you are wrestling with temptations and desires that are obviously sinful? In Lee's case, as in most counseling situations like this, there were some issues that needed to be clarified.
"Lee," I said, "when you received Christ, what part of you was born again?"
He thought for a moment. "I guess, my spirit."
That's right," I answered. "When we are saved, our bodies aren't born again. I've got the same one I had before and, in fact, it's getting worse. And neither are our souls (our mind, emotions, and will) born again. In other words, you and I can think the same dumb thoughts, have the same ungodly desires, and do the same sinful things as we could before we became Christians. That's why the Bible says, 'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind' (Romans 12:2). We used to live in total darkness, at the mercy of the lies of Satan, but now we can be set free by truth. The Spirit of God lives in you, and He wants to renew your mind. And Jesus promised 'the truth will set you free.' But the 'renewing of your mind' is a lifelong process."
Living in Accord with Who We Are
I went on to talk with Lee about truth in many areas, beginning with the issue of identity. Who did Lee say he was in the beginning of our conversation? "I am a homosexual." But is that true? Is that who God says he is? I began by turning to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and we read:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Wow, that's tough! Why start there? Because I'm committed to truth. And according to God's Word, I have to call homosexuality what God calls it — sin. But before anyone begins feeling self-righteous, let me also point out that in the same list are things like "greedy" and "slanderers." How many of us can say that we are totally free from all covetous desires? How many of us can say that we never gossip? If it weren't for the matchless grace of God in Jesus Christ, those sins — just as much as homosexuality — would be enough to condemn us to hell.
Too often, we stop reading the Bible in the wrong place. Lee really didn't need convincing — he knew his sins. What he needed was good news that would set him free! And it's right there in the next verse:
And that is what some of you were (1 Corinthians 6:11)
"Do you see that, Lee?" I asked. "You came in here and told me that you are a homosexual. But the Bible says that that's what you were. That's not your identity today! Let me finish reading the verse: 'But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God' " (1 Corinthians 6:11). I went on to explain. "When God looks at you, He doesn't see a person with the identity 'homosexual.' You are a child of God, Lee! That's who you are."
After much time in study and discussion, Lee responded this way: "Bob, if these things are really who I am, then that old activity just doesn't make any sense, does it?" That's exactly the point. You see, if a person's identity is "homoxsexual," then homosexual activity is the only natural and logical thing you can expect. But if a person's identity is "child of God" — holy, beloved, righteous in God's sight — then that old behavior makes no sense at all. It is totally inconsistent with who you are!
excerpt from Classic Christianity by Bob George