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Between Victory & The White Flag

This blog has been a long time coming – months, to be exact. I’ve thought a lot about it, prayed a lot about it, talked to friends about it, and avoided writing about it because I fear that my words will be inadequate in communicating my viewpoints. But I’m taking the leap of faith, and hoping that you will share your thoughts in response to this.

In my exposure to the Bible, my own life, as well as a fair amount of modern-day Christians’ lives, I believe there’s a major disconnect in the way we live. I hold strongly to the idea that an encounter with Jesus should change the way we see ourselves. God’s character leaves no room for a belief that His redemption involves everything but our self-perception. If He changes the way we see Him and His role in our lives, as well as the way we see the world and each other, then surely He must also change the way we see ourselves.

You see, I’m most comfortable thinking of myself as pitiful and worthless and depraved without God. And none of those words are false descriptors of my sinful nature separate from the pursuit of a relentless God. But what does it mean for me to take off the old nature and put on the new, with regards to my self-perception? How do I live in a body of sin but answer boldly to the names that I am now called? Righteous, redeemed, made perfect, blameless, forgiven, a co-heir with Christ, set apart, justified. Have those words now become a part of the indecipherable mumble that fills our churches and communities and conversations? Or should they be my new self-descriptors because they are in accordance with God’s word?

Let’s take Paul, for example. A mass murderer of Christians, a social paragon, and the last person you’d ever expect to be a co-author of the Bible. But after his encounter with God, he doesn’t live in a constant state of feeling worthless and unworthy to live out the calling God has for him. While I’m sure he probably struggled with it some, he lived out his new victorious identity, becoming one of the founding fathers of our faith. Yet if he lived in our Christian world today, would he have felt bold enough to embrace his new identity and not cling to the old?

We’ve built this safe barrier between our self-perception and God’s perception of us. We treat him like a wonderful, biased parent holding a distorted lens through which he sees us. “Oh how nice that he sees me as beautiful and redeemed and blameless, but I live in reality and we all know that’s not the case.” That is me – and has been for many years. But the question God has been asking of me lately is, “Where is the victory in that?” He didn’t come to make us aware of our sin, give us a ticket to an eternity with him, and leave us on earth to wallow in the misery of who we used to be. His salvation plan includes living a victorious life right here, right now. How are our lives supposed to be a testimony when we seem even more miserable than the non-Christians we’re trying to point to Jesus? Why would I want to be a Christian if it’s an everlasting journey of feeling worthless and depraved?

It’s easier, and even more readily applauded,  to remain at the foot of the cross shaking in our boots because we cannot believe that God Almighty would take on our sins and die for us. Don’t get me wrong – that is the singular most incredible reality, the most awe-inspiring, bring-me-to-my-knees-and-make-me-weep type of reality. Yet at what point do we accept that He already has taken on our sins? Because it seems like we take them back from Him everyday and wear them with shame, and even pride. Surrendering the entirety of who I am to who He is means surrendering my self-descriptors for His. True life begins at the foot of the cross, but calls us into grander adventures than we would have ever imagined for ourselves. When I refer to myself as a sinner, I’m setting the bar there. I have no real motivation to make better choices because “we’re all sinners anyway.” But what happens if I embrace the sainthood that has been given me through Jesus? What if I set the bar higher? Would my reaction be different? I’d like to think so. And if I boast in anything that I may have done or created, I would be boasting in the One who gave me the ability to succeed. I don’t want to be a Christian who can’t accept a compliment or admit to ever doing anything well – it doesn’t bring glory to my King.

I would hate to live my entire life on this earth constantly calling myself the old names I’m used to; telling God that I’m worthless and refusing to go forth in victory. No warrior thinks she’s worthless else she’d be completely unfit for battle. Sometimes, I feel like God says to me, “Please just stop talking and listen to me. You weren’t good enough, but I have made you worthy. Now stop living in the past and go live out the victory I’ve already won for you.”

I’m still living in the tension of what I’ve always called myself and what God says to be true of me today. I haven’t figured this out – there are certain areas of my life where I have embraced this truth and it is intoxicating in the freedom it brings. Because my righteousness or justification is not as a result of anything I’ve done or could ever do. And there are still very many areas that I struggle with. But living in a body of sin and struggling against sin does not make me a sinner any more than living in America for the last six years has made me an American. My passport is still green, not blue.

So what does living this way look like? Where do you find yourself on this issue?  I would love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment if you’d like! And thank you so very much for caring enough about what I think to come read my blog.

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About thehonestbrave

tending the space between where i am and where i want to be.

11 responses »

  1. I definitely appreciate the truth in this entry. I think it’s essential for us to step away from our old selfs in order to embrace who we are in Christ as best as we can. True, living up to the names that our Father calls us doesn’t make us any more perfect than we’ve ever been–but it definitely makes us better. And it goes beyond the fact that God calls us righteous and blameless–the names that he has crowned us with lifts us over and above the context of just a name; we are to be his ambassadors–a role we cannot fill if we are stuck wallowing in our depravity. So we must take our name, embrace his mercy and his grace, and run–run toward him; seek after him; follow him down the path that he has crafted for us, all the while allowing him to spill over into the lives of the people we encounter.
    I think of this topic in the context of my womanhood. God has been showing me and telling me, in various ways, what it looks like to be a woman after his own heart; what it looks like to be preparing myself to fill the role of wife; what it looks like for me to be preparing myself for the role of mother. I am none of those things. In my sin and brokenness, I do not deserve to hold either of those positions–but he calls me beautiful and he calls me blameless and because of HIM I know I’m WORTHY of the position of wife and mother. So I’m striving to become that woman, I’m trying to allow him to sculpt me into the right woman for that one man out there who will have the privilege of calling me his wife–and to have the freedom and the confidence to live with that mindset is amazing; it’s a gift, from my Savior.
    I hope that he will continue to teach me how to apply this confidence in other areas of my life–and I hope that he will do so in many other lives, as well. I can only imagine how different the Christian community would look if we were all able to put down the white flag and stand boldly and confidently in Christ’s victory, which he has so graciously decided to share with us.

    Reply
    • the girl on a journey

      I love the idea of this in terms of becoming a woman after God’s heart! Excellent. Thanks, Rosalyn!

      Reply
  2. Our long, less-than-fun Crown Pub conversation made me think about this a ton. At the time of our conversation, I would have described the “white flag” identity the same way you’ve just described the “victory” identity, but after some time I guess I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I so agree that we are not worthless, based upon the price at which we were bought! I also think we walk in immense favor characteristic of an only child. Regardless, keeping that truth in mind, I MUST continue to live in the reality that, while my soul is redeemed, my heart and my mind are yet still in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ. Unless I lie and claim anything different, I continue to sin willfully and regularly against the God that redeemed me. Unless I lie and claim anything different, this part of me isn’t suddenly removed when I pursue God. It becomes lesser and lesser as I “pursue perfection as if it were attainable,” yet my need for Christ is gloriously highlighted by the fact that, while I am redeemed before the Father, on Earth I daily blaspheme His sacrifice through my actions against Him. The two self-perceptions need each other to make sense. I think they hang in an incredible paradoxical balance, as the blameless is daily guilty of soul-damning sin and the desperately wicked is seen as having the righteousness of God Himself. If we choose cling to only one identity, we may be choosing only one-half of the truth about ourselves. If we chose just one self-perception, we may be missing the beauty and understanding of God afforded by the other. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • When you say, “my heart and my mind are yet still in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ,” I’m totally with you–I think that is part of walking with him, allowing him the room to sculpt us like clay with his hands. But to live with the conviction that “I daily blaspheme His sacrifice through my actions against Him,” is depressing and seems to be a completely defeatist attitude. We live in a fallen world, that is true. We are all broken, that is true. But we are made righteous through him–and that doesn’t mean that everything we do is right; that does not mean that we don’t have to worry about making an effort to stop sinning–it means the opposite; it means that we should strive to be more righteous, knowing that it is God that makes us whole and it is God who FILLS us and enables us to be righteous.
      Yes, we should begin every day at the cross; we should begin everyday acknowledging his sacrifice and his victory, acknowledging that we are nothing but filthy wretches without him–but then we have to get up and live in his victory. Faith without action is dead. If I don’t walk with my head held high, confident that I am a woman made blameless, my heart full with the belief that my God is greater and more powerful than the devil who is tempting me, than my faith is dead. Yes, I must admit to my identity that is drenched in depravity, but to cling to that just as much as my identity in Christ seems to make God smaller than he is. I think if we choose to cling to only one identity–our blameless, worthy, and righteous selves–we are choosing to cling to Christ–we are choosing to turn our back on the broken version of ourselves, not so that we can ignore that sin exists daily in our lives, but so that we can live in the reality that God never waved the white flag and WITH HIM, we don’t have to.

      Reply
    • the girl on a journey

      Well said. But I don’t think we need a reminder of our sinful nature – we live in it and struggle against it every minute of every day, like you said. We don’t need to reclaim our pre-Christ identity in an effort to remind ourselves of the beauty of salvation. I believe it is even more powerful to be reminded throughout my day of the beauty of the cross, as I embrace my new identity and struggle against the flesh. Within the next half hour, I’ll probably be tempted to tell a lie or dishonor one of my friends with my words. And in that moment, whether I give in to sin or not, I am reminded of my weakness and filthiness apart from Christ. I don’t need to embrace the “sinner” identity to be reminded. Each moment of the struggle reminds me, takes me back to the foot of the cross, and then pushes me to embrace my new nature. It’s less about a one-time event, and more about a moment-by-moment response to our broken world, our bodies of sin, and the enemy’s tactics.

      Reply
    • Rosalyn you wrote, “If I don’t walk with my head held high, confident that I am a woman made blameless, my heart full with the belief that my God is greater and more powerful than the devil who is tempting me, than my faith is dead.” I don’t want yall to think that by keeping in memory the fact that I am a sinner and need the work of Christ daily that I am proposing to walk in shame or with the understanding that God and the devil somehow have equal shares in my life! I am not suggesting a “defeatist” attitude, but one that walks in humility borne of consciousness of the forgiveness of an ENORMOUS debt. If someone were to bail me out of jail and it cost like $500,000 or something, I would rejoice that I was freed from prison, but in my heart I would know to enact humility because I was in jail for a reason and did not deserve to be bailed out on someone else’s dime. In reality, what Christ did for us is much larger than to simply pay our bail, He did such a thing as to die that we may live eternally. While we go around, continuing to do what we were thrown in jail for, let us not shout “I was freed from prison, therefore I am innocent!”

      We are human and our sin nature is a thing that’s always in front of us, and we DO overcome it through Christ! It’s beautiful! Yet no one would disagree that we continue to sin, and thus we have to balance reality and reality. I am not defeated because while I still sin daily, I can still walk with my head high on account of HIS grace and HIS mercy, humbled by His kindness, burying my pride in the ground. While I do believe He ascribes me righteousness, it is still FAR more beneficial for me to focus on His and cling on to that!

      Regardless, I love this conversation and have been thinking about it oh so much. I fear this debate is intractable, and as such these are my last words on the matter. If we disagree, that’s wonderful because every person is different and will see their lives a different way. My joy is so full in my acknowledgement of weakness because “His power is made perfect in it.” I hope you find similar joy in your self-perceptions! Thank you again for writing on this, Chichi.

      Reply
  3. “He didn’t come to make us aware of our sin, give us a ticket to an eternity with him, and leave us on earth to wallow in the misery of who we used to be. His salvation plan includes living a victorious life right here, right now.”

    Love this! I totally agree. Thanks for writing this.

    Reply
  4. I am reminded of what C.S. Lewis said, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing yet had been done.” Not to say a person is right back where they started every time they try to remember the balancing act of their new identity in Christ and their old nature. It’s more like you must stick close to the Lord and rely on him heavily so that you can remember who you are. That you aren’t a wholly sinful being anymore, and that you, simultaneously, have been and are being changed. Also, it’s a lifelong process that is never fully accomplished until heaven “comes here” or we “go there”, hence the, “All over again every day”.

    Reply

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