I have previously written about the importance of the labels we give ourselves – and just as critical, the labels we give our brothers and sisters in Christ. We like to think it is a sign of humility when we refer to ourselves as “sinners saved by grace who have not made much progress since.” But this is a false humility at best. At worst, it is an outright rejection of God’s gift of a new identity for those in Christ Jesus.
We become what we label ourselves. When we label ourselves as sinners, first and foremost, we are turning our backs on God’s gift of a new identity, a new heart, a new nature, a new power, a new Spirit, a new purity, a new disposition, a new relationship with sin, a new everything we have been writing about for the past several months. And, sadly, it becomes an excuse to not aim higher, an excuse to shirk the goal of spiritual maturity, an excuse to remain in our sin. We were made for so much more!
So what does the idea of us being made for so much more – and celebrating the incredible outpouring upon us of all that’s new – do to our humility? Do we become puffed up at the thought of Jesus now calling us His friend (Jn 15:15)? Or Paul calling us “holy and beloved” (Col 3:12)? Or John calling us the very “seed of God” and “born of God” (I Jn 3:9)? By turning off the sinner label, does our pride rise up as we dwell on and experience our new capacity and inclination toward righteousness?
These are legitimate questions. The line between our practice of the righteousness bestowed by the new birth and the self-righteousness condemned by Jesus can become a fuzzy one if we are not careful. The important key to separating the two is an overflowing attitude of thanksgiving to God for the Gift and the gifts of the New Covenant. After all the Gift and gifts of the New Covenant are just that: GIFTS! We did not earn them! They are pure gifts of God’s grace.
Think about it this way. If you live in a million dollar home, you may have a serious appreciation for the design or the craftsmanship. But if the home was a gift, and you have any common sense at all, you will take no pride in its value. After all, you had nothing to do with acquiring the house. It was pure gift. Instead of boasting about the home’s value, you will be looking for every opportunity to thank the one who gave you the gift. Similarly, you are walking around with a “million dollar new identity”, but boasting in it is likewise foolish since we did nothing to earn it.
This attitude of extreme thanksgiving and humility in recognizing we have done nothing to earn God’s gifts sets the foundation for us to experience the gifts without apology. Instead of insisting we have nothing to offer our believing community by way of our own spiritual progress, step up and use what you have experienced in the newness of the resurrection life to encourage others to join you on the path. And give thanks to God for “His indescribable gift.”