Tag Archives: identity in christ

Farewell to the Flesh

The Scriptures teach that we human beings are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). We know that God is spirit, so we’re not talking about his physical appearance, but rather the imago dei is about reflecting his goodness into the world as beings with a special standing and calling—to lovingly rule as caretakers of creation.

As Stanley Grenz has written, “God has designated us as his representatives so that through us creation might experience what God is like. We are to mirror the divine character and thereby reflect God’s own nature” (Created for Community, pg. 77).

Think about this with me: God, who is spirit, became an embodied soul in Christ. Human beings were first body, but then became souls when God breathed life into us in Eden (Gen 2:7).

It’s clear that God thinks the joining of the spiritual and the physical realms is a darn good thing. Incarnation is what he wanted all along. And it will come to completion in the future resurrection.

But there is something about the “flesh” that needs to be understood.

Identity Crisis & Confusion

The New International Version translates sarx (flesh) as “sinful nature” when the NT is referring to that part of human beings that is familiar with sin, that which seeks to root our identity in evil desires and actions—distorting the image of God. The translators did this as not to confuse human “flesh” to mean “sinful” when speaking about Jesus (e.g. Jn 1:14).

I understand wanting to differentiate its meaning, but “sinful nature” is terribly misleading in what it says about us.

Greg Boyd explains it this way:

“The flesh is not a nature that is essential to someone’s identity. It is rather a deceptive way of seeing and experiencing oneself and one’s world and thus a deceptive way of living in the world… It is a way of existence that comes naturally to fallen creatures, but it is not itself a “nature.” Indeed, it is sinful and destructive, and believers are exhorted to live free of it, precisely because it is against the nature God created in us and the new identity God gave us in Christ. In other words, the flesh is a worldview that is based upon a lie and that therefore opposes truth.” Greg Boyd, Seeing is Believing (pg.35)

A self-identity of “flesh” began in Eden when the first humans bought into the lies of the serpent and experienced the fall from their original position of knowing God, themselves, and the world.

  • Lie 1: Being made “in his image” isn’t best.
  • Lie 2: You are self-sufficient and know better that God.
  • Lie 3: You can obtain life by doing something.

These lies are at the root of every sin we commit, though they can take many different forms. This identity of flesh is maintained by what Paul calls the “pattern of the world” and we’re told to resist it by being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:1-2).

Therefore, the “sinful nature” is actually a lie. It’s not the true you.

This “flesh” is the identity that is formed as a result of sin, while living in sin, and through the constant shaping of outside influences (e.g. family, society, culture, etc.). These forces often can and do seek to mold us into an image that is contrary to what God says about us in Christ (Rom 8:1-2).

We are created in his image, but we are broken and not as we should be. Thankfully, Jesus came to repair the damage done and offer us a new identity.

A New Identity in Christ

The apostle Paul said that we believers have died with Christ, even been crucified with him (Gal 2:20), and the life we now live is done so from a position of being “in Christ” and Christ living in us.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

Christ is the perfect image of God, and offers us a new identity rooted in him.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV

Jesus says his Spirit is available for the creation of new life—an identity where sin is not natural—where “sinner” is not your name. What you feel or have been shaped by with the “pattern of the world” is to be denied for belief in a deeper truth: You are a new creation in Christ!

Over and over again the Scripture says that we are to shed the old identity by taking control of our thoughts and turning our gaze upon the truth of heaven (Col 3:1-4; Phil 4:6-8). We must be intentional in this pursuit.

The one who conditions the heart and mind to embrace the new identity will gain control of his body, effecting the whole course of his life.

Isn’t it time to say farewell to the identity called “flesh” that enslaves you? The following scene from Peaceful Warrior (2006) illustrates this spiritual feat.

What’s keeping you from dashing the false image and ego? Let go of your flesh and choose to daily embrace your new identity in Christ.

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

Advertisements

The Community Life of God (Book Review)

The God Who Is Relationship

A Book Review of “The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships” by Milt Rodriguez

“God is not an individual” says Milt Rodriguez.  “He is a fellowship of three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (p.14).

In The Community Life of God, Milt Rodriguez weaves together the story of God’s desire to plant himself in His people.  God’s image is a “communal” image.  The Lord created man in His image of community.  And taking from the Tree of Life (i.e. Christ) is to take from the relational God.

It was in the Garden of Eden that the serpent sought to keep God’s image from becoming a reality in the hearts of men.  The enemy of God presented man with individual living out of his own soul-life (i.e. will, emotions, intellect).  Instead of man pursuing spiritual living after taking from the communal life of God, he experiences separation from God and other men.

Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture.  Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us.  Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.

Milt writes, “Personhood and identity can only be defined by relating to others. You will never truly “find yourself” until you are living in the community life of God” (p.62)

What is the sort of fellowship the Lord desires among his ekklesia?

“This fellowship is the place where there is nothing to hide. Complete truthfulness and complete honesty rule here.  The Father, Son, and Spirit do not hold back anything from one another… there is no fear of loss” (p. 116).

As Christian Smith has written, “Community means more than having lots of meetings. It means jointly building a way of life, a group memory, and a common anticipated future.” (Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal, p.2)

In order for us to experience the community life of God, we must embrace the cross.  Rodriguez says there “will be one brother or sister who rubs you the wrong way.”  It is there we embrace the cross and learn “they are part of the same body as you. You belong to them and they belong to you” (p.152).

Finally, this community life of God cannot work in meeting once a week.  We all know this to be true, but still we place other things before God’s heart.  We sacrifice the church on the altar of family, jobs, and personal ministries.

Milt says, “He (God) wants you and me and every other believer to be actively involved on a daily basis. This is why we were born.  This is why we live on this planet” (p.170).

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to participate in God’s eternal purpose, we must be intentional about our relationships within the local ekklesia of Christ.  We must give and receive sacrificially in order that we might know the God who is within Himself, relationship.

There have been many books written on the church being rooted in the Triune image of God, but this one delivers in a simple and easy-to-read presentation.  I recommend this book to all of those who are longing to discover that the church is born out of the very heart of the relational God.

What others are saying?

“This little book provides a clear window into the ultimate source of authentic body life. Delve into its pages and meet the God who is beyond what most of us have imagined, the God in whose collective voice all genuine churches echo.” –Frank Viola, author of Pagan Christianity, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church, www.frankviola.com

“I was deeply blessed, refreshed and challenged by this book. The author casts the spotlight on the reality and wonder that “God” is really the community life of three persons – a fact virtually untouched in traditional theology. Milt shows from various angles how the community life of God is the foundation of our organic ekklesia life together in Christ.”–Jon Zens, Editor, Searching Together; author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile and “What’s With Paul & Women? www.searchingtogether.org

Milt Rodriguez

Milt Rodriguez has been living in and planting organic expressions of church since 1990. He has also authored several books including The Butterfly in You and The Temple Within.  He currently lives with his wife Mary in Gainesville, Flordia.  He is a dear brother in the Lord and I am happy to call him my friend.


%d bloggers like this: