Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Yesterday I "rediscovered" a book I had started reading some time ago. It's called "Victory Over the Darkness," by Neil T. Anderson. Subtitled, "Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ." There is a wonderful list in the first chapter that I have often returned to, documenting with Bible verses "Who I am in Christ." It's a must-read.

Today I opened up to a section called "Balancing the Indicative and the Imperative. Simply put, he's talking about a balance between understanding what God has already done and what is already true about us, and how we respond to God by faith and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit. Anderson's observation is that these two things are balanced equally in scripture. "But," he says, "I have not observed that in our churches." In other words (my own words), the church teaches a lot of the "do's and don'ts" of the Christian life, and a lot of the "how to's," but the teaching of our identity in Christ is rare or altogether missing!

It's been my view for a long time that understanding our identity in Christ is crucial to "Christian living." We can hear all about what we Christians are supposed to "do." (And as Christians, we certainly don't sit on our duffs and "do nothing!") We can read Bible stories of the incredible things people of faith have done. (And we can do some of the same incredible things!) We can receive point by point instructions on "how" to live the Christian life. However... if there's not solid and constant teaching and reminders of who we have actually become as saints, as children of God, as new creations, as people with brand new identities (apart from what we do or don't do), and of the power of the life of Christ in us, then all that will become of us is that we will be people striving to fulfill God's call on our lives by the futile efforts of our flesh.

It's as if we've made "what we do" the foundation, and identity is something that comes out of our doing... rather than the other way around! We end up struggling with the daily living of the Christian life because the foundation we're building on - our own efforts - simply cannot sustain us. But we have a rock solid foundation in our identity - what God has already done and what is already true about us - apart from anything we've ever done! If we don't grow in our understanding of this, we are building on a sandy foundation.

A little while later, after reading the section of the book I mentioned above, I just happened to turn to the book's Introduction. There Anderson nails it perfectly. He says that in his years of ministry (being a pastor, seminary professor, discipler, counselor) he has "found one common denominator for all struggling Christians. They do not know who they are in Christ, nor do they understand what it means to be a child of God."

I believe we need to constantly renew our minds as to who we are in Christ, and rest in that and find peace in that, in and of itself, with nothing added. Instead, it seems like we as the church have a primary focus of renewing our minds about what we are supposed to be doing as Christians. I'll even take it a step further, and you can jump all over me all you want, but I don't even believe we need to find a "balance" between knowing who we are and knowing what we are supposed to do. When Jesus was asked, "what shall we do, that we may work the works of God?," Jesus' reply was so simple, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Elsewhere Jesus said that if you abide (rest) in Him, and His words in you, you will bear fruit!

I believe that our focus should be simple faith and Christ's very life in us. As we focus on Him, I believe that His life will be expressed through us in ways that a focus on the "do's and don'ts" can never do! Paul did of course have many exhortations for the church about what to do and what not to do. It seems the church focuses a lot on the actions Paul talked about. But each time you read through Paul's letters, and his exhortations for the body of Christ, notice how he never fails to first build them up with talk of who they are (Saints, accepted in the beloved, children of God, justified, sanctified, holy, complete in Him, God's workmanship, free from condemnation, etc, all by faith and by God's own work, not their own). Perhaps if they were solidified in their understanding of their identity, they wouldn't need such exhortations! Personally, the more focused I am on who I am in Christ, and the more my understanding of who I already am grows, the less I need people (and rules and precepts and law) to tell me what to do and what not to do.

Not that we shouldn't use exhortations and sermons and fellowship to "spur one another on toward love and good works!" (Heb 10:24). We do need that! I'm just saying that we (the church) are desperately missing ongoing and steady identity teaching. Does this make sense?


  1. Absolutely makes sense to me! It is only now, when I have somewhat really appropriated my identity in Christ, not in religious behaviour or duties or earthly roles and profession ...that I have come into this life that is Him, Christ and what a freedom is found in that. Mind you, I too have to review over and over again what truly is my identity. Neil Anderson is a great resource! And truth be told it is rarely taught, you are right...maybe there is a lot of people out there who don't really know what their identity is apart from those particular areas of definition. Very sad that even our church leaders struggle with this. Might He bring us all along in this truth in identity with humbleness and by His grace.

    Keep writing brother and God's blessing on you and yours.

  2. Quite a few yrs ago neil anderson's book and studies were really promoted in the church I attended. Funny thing is that nothing really sank in to stay in me or anyone else. I wonder why that is? We just went on to the next popular guy's teachings.

  3. You are absolutely right!

    Firstly, you have said yesterday that you will reply to me on 'youtube' where I'm 'clarebelz bellinger'; you said you would direct me to podcasts and other things that I may find useful. I would be appreciative for that.

    I've been looking through this blog however today, and I'm finding so much understanding. Can I say though, that what you're absolutely right about is that people don't understand what it means to have an identity in Christ, or how to be childlike: that's me!! I honestly cannot understand what you mean concerning it. It's like a mystery to me, one of very young faith despite studying the bible for over 30 years!

    Anyway, I'm ploughing through all of this info, and will do so a little at a time. So far, it all seems to 'fit' concerning 'grace'; though I could not explain it to anyone. I do know nevertheless, that I've been trying to do good works, but I've NEVER rested in God: NEVER! I've always striven and failed over and again, trying so hard to make myself righteous by works, and failing.

    Before I came across your youtube channel, I was meditating on the exact things that I've been reading here today. The message I sent to you was exactly what you have outlined in one of your blog posts; it's uncanny. I kept thinking of the rich person who was 'perfect' according to the law, but when Jesus asked him to sell all of his belongings and give them to the poor, the rich man went away distressed. Who can be saved indeed! And I was thinking much about Jesus saying that with man it is impossible, but it is possible for God. I'm tired of trying to justify myself. This is NOT what the gospels are about.

    Anyway, I'll continue reading through these amazing blogs, and I get the feeling that I will finally 'get' it. I just wonder why I couldn't find out this on my own, but maybe that's the point, I'm trying to do things on my own when I should be relying on Yashua.

    1. I'm so glad that these blog posts and the youtube stuff is helpful to you. It really seems as if you already know all this stuff, but you just needed someone to say it to relate to what is already stirring in your heart. :) You've hit the nail on the head about what the gospel is and what it isn't. Striving to be perfect, striving to do good works, etc... that is not the gospel and in fact it's the opposite of the gospel. The 'bad news' is that all of this stuff is impossible for man. But the 'good news' is that what is impossible for man is possible for God.

      Many of the words of Jesus, such as the Sermon on the Mount and His words to the rich young ruler (etc), were meant to make a person say what you said here. "I'm tired of trying to justify myself." Romans 3:19 says, "Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and all the world become guilty before God."

      Jesus' words were very often mouth-stopping words. Rather than being teachings of how Christians are supposed to live, they are teachings that show self-righteous people that their self-righteousness is nowhere near close enough to the righteousness that God requires. It makes boasting mouths go quiet. And then hopefully it leads them to say, "I just can't do it. I will accept the free gift of God's very own righteousness that He offers to 'whosoever will.'"

      Speaking of the Sermon on the Mount, we've done many podcasts on that at, and here is another link about the sermon on the mount from a friend of ours, Andrew Farley, who has a great teaching on it. You can find it here.