Identity is Everything
This is Chapter I of Rhonda’s next book, Establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, Identity is Everything, Copyright 2014, Rhonda J. Mead
By: Rhonda J. Mead
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? ―I Corinthians 3:1-3
This verse may not seem to have much to do with identity, but it really has everything to do with it. If we as Christians continue to walk as “mere men,” we are choosing to remain as “infants,” producing limited, temporal deeds of the flesh. Continuing to exhibit the “fruit for death” or the fruit of the flesh is evidence that we are walking as “mere men”―either not knowing or not appropriating the power of the very Life of Christ living in us.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. ―Romans 7:4,5
We will never be God but God DOES live in us. If we choose to walk after the spirit, our mind, will and emotions will be empowered by the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead…WOW!
Knowing about our new identity “in Christ,” is not just another bible study but is critical for our transformation into the image of Christ. There are many Christian camps that commonly use the phrase, “who we are in Christ,” but these camps often fail to disciple their followers into an experiential reality of the exchanged life. If we are not living in the fullness of the truth of what happened to us at new birth, we are wasting our inheritance in Christ. What a waste that is! For this reason, ‘Identity is Everything.’
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. ―II Corinthians 5:17
The words “in Christ” appear 81 times in the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, the only epistles written by Paul that do not contain this phrase are II Thessalonians, Titus and Hebrews (attributing the authorship of Hebrews to the Apostle Paul). Most theologians even agree to the fact that Paul was the apostle entrusted to record and proclaim the message of our true identity, which is “in Christ.”
What exactly does being “in Christ” imply? According to II Corinthians 5:17, anyone who is “in Christ”… “is a new creature.” From the usages of this phrase in scripture, it is safe to assume that anyone who is a born again Christian―as opposed to being just a professing Christian―is certainly “in Christ.” However, the dynamics of these two words represent much more than just a basic understanding of salvation.
John Wesley described the miracle of the “new creation” like this: “Therefore if anyone be in Christ―A true believer in him. There is a new creation―Only the power that makes a world can make a Christian. And when he is so created, the old things are passed away―Of their own accord, even as snow in spring.”1 The phrase, “Only the power that makes a world can make a Christian,” melts my heart. The dynamics of the new birth are beyond our understanding; we can only know the truth and choose to believe.
Jesus described the phenomenon of the new birth in the fourteenth chapter of the gospel of John.
"In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” ―John 14:20
We don’t have much trouble believing that Jesus is in the Father, since They are One. We also usually emphasize that at new birth, Jesus comes to live in us―that is, in our hearts. However, it is not nearly as common to hear the truth that we are in Jesus―“in Christ.” Jesus restated the truth of our position “in Christ,” in the seventeenth chapter of John.
That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. ―John 17:21
It is not hard to conceptualize the truth that Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Him because we know They are one Spirit. The truth that stretches us beyond our understanding is the fact that the same holds true for us. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit makes our human spirit alive through union with Christ, the union which unites us with the Godhead.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; ―Peter 3:18
Even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) ―Ephesians 2:5
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgression ―Colossians 2:13
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. ―-Romans 8:10
Let me share two illustrations that may help our mortal minds comprehend the eternal truth of our spiritual oneness with Christ. The first picture consists of two glasses filled with soft drink. The first glass has clear soda in it and the second has cola. One flavor represents our human spirit and the other represents the Spirit of Christ (don’t think too hard―the choice of flavors for the illustration has no spiritual significance)! If I were to pour the clear soda (representing our human spirit) into the cola (representing the Spirit of Christ), the two flavors would be combined but the substance of the mixture would not have changed. It would still be soda. The clear soda is still present in the union of the two flavors but no longer has an identity of its own and cannot be separated from the cola. The two flavors have become one! So it is when our human spirit is “made alive” by the Spirit of Christ.
The second illustration: imagine the Spirit of Jesus as a river with no beginning and no end. When we are born again, our human spirit is placed into Christ Jesus. So, picture your human spirit as a drop of water released into the River of Life. Your spirit cannot possibly be found in this great River and you certainly cannot separate your spirit from Christ’s. You no longer have an identity of your own, you are one with Him!
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. ―I Corinthians 6:17
If you could take a highlighter and highlight God the Father (Who is spirit), highlight the Spirit of Christ and highlight the Holy Spirit in every believer in Christ―regardless of where our physical bodies on earth are located―we would all be connected. In fact, by virtue of being “in Christ,” the very “glory” essence or character of Christ Himself has been given to us that―in Him―we might be one Spirit with the Godhead.
"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one ―John 17:22
I close this section with a quote from the late, great teacher and preacher, Kelly Varner, “If you never see your worth in Christ, you will rob the earth of your reason for breathing.”2
Partakers of the Divine Nature
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ―I Peter 1:2-4
As we study the bible and walk out the Life within us, it is very important not to get hung up with having to understand all that God is saying or doing before choosing to believe. If we could explain how the supernatural works or understand the mysteries of God with our finite minds, they would no longer be supernatural and His ways would no longer be beyond comprehension. I like what God spoke to the heart of Benji, a teenage boy beginning to question God because he could not understand Him. God told Benji that, “He is not a God to completely understand, but a God to trust.”3 This truth was also powerfully recorded through the prophet Isaiah.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” ―-Isaiah 55:8,9
Acknowledging God’s “ways” and “thoughts” as higher than ours is not demeaning in any way. To the humble heart, it is freeing. In fact, it is ridiculous to even think of comparing the abilities of the Creator God to His creation or to even think the creation could conceptualize the workings of Almighty God!
I say this as a preamble to the truth, that no matter how unbelievable it seems, when we were born again, God’s “divine power” gave us everything we would ever need for “life and godliness.” If we choose to walk after the spirit, which is according to our new nature, the Life of God within us will lead us to “godliness.” “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Conversely, if we continue to walk after the flesh, which is walking in carnality, we are without excuse since the power of sin was broken at the cross and we are now “partakers of the divine nature.”
The Apostle Peter had already expressed the truth of “the divine nature” in a previous chapter, where he used the picture of spiritual “seed” from which we have been born again. Peter emphasized this “seed” as being “imperishable,” meaning “not corruptible, immortal.”4
For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
―I Peter 1:23
The reality is, we actually have to fight against the nudging of the Holy Spirit to walk after the flesh. The definition of a carnal Christian from the late, great author and teacher of Exchanged Life truth, Ian Thomas, shows the choice we can make to walk after the flesh, regardless of the power of the Life of Christ within us.
“If you are a carnal Christian, it means that you have been redeemed by faith in Christ through His reconciling death; you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit by whose gracious presence Christ lives with you, but you live, in spite of this, in self-imposed poverty, under the subtle influences of a defeated foe, the flesh, which Christ took with Him into the grave.”5
Here are two last witnesses of the gift of righteousness, received through faith in Jesus Christ, through the divine nature:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. ―II Corinthians 5:21
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption
―I Corinthians 1:30
“Sanctification” has a two-fold application. From the text above we see one of the traditional thoughts of “sanctification,” which is being ”set apart” from the world “by His doing.” Our death, burial and resurrection “in Christ” transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Dear Son―we were set apart or sanctified. The other application of sanctification is the outworking of the “divine nature” that was placed in us at new birth. As we progressively choose to “consider” ourselves “to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 6:11) and choose to walk after the spirit rather than after the flesh, we will gradually be conformed to the image of Christ.
My favorite definition of sanctification comes from John Sanford: “Inner healing is a misnomer. It is really sanctification, the application of the cross and blood and resurrection life of Jesus to whatever in history has not yet been redeemed.”6 “His divine power,” really “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.” All that is left for us to do is to maintain a lifestyle of applying what was done at the cross to all that remains of the “ghost of the old man,”7 which is our flesh.
Effects of the Divine Nature
The Apostle Peter had already expressed the truth of “the divine nature” in a previous chapter. There, he used the picture of spiritual “seed” from which we have been born again. Peter emphasized this “seed” as being “imperishable,” meaning “not corruptible, immortal.”7
For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
―I Peter 1:23
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. ―Romans 8:20,21
When Adam chose to eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he died spiritually. Due to Adam’s fall and the resulting spiritual death, every human being who has ever existed inherited the sinful nature of Adam, which was corrupted by sin. Not only did Adam and Eve’s sin leave them destined to corruption, it also resulted in the curse on all creation. Along with the specifics of the curse listed in Genesis 3, the entrance of sin into the world left all creation in bondage to the principle of death and decay.
The exciting news is that God had a plan before the foundation of the earth to bring about the reversal of the curse upon the earth and all that live in it. Romans 8:21 shows us the answer; “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The freedom from the corruption of our sinful nature only comes through the exchange of our nature for the “divine nature” at new birth. Our new nature is full of the glory of God and is “imperishable.” The answer for the earth and all that lives in it is, “the glory of the children of God!” The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reveals the “mystery” which was hidden for ages…
The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. ―Colossians 1:26,27
Christians—the Body of Christ—are God’s plan for the reversal of the curse upon the earth and all that live in it. The glory of God, simply put, is the atmosphere of Heaven. Remember, Heaven is not Heaven because of a specific location, but what makes Heaven heavenly is the presence of God. As the presence of God is allowed to be released through the lives of individual Christians, the atmosphere around them will change. As the atmosphere changes, more people will be drawn to Christ. As more people come to Christ, there will be the possibility of more glory being released on the earth until there is a snowball effect of the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea. During this time of transition, the eternal effects of the atmosphere of Heaven upon the earth will gradually make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5). The Greek word for “new” is KAINOS, which means: “of (a) different nature from what is contrasted as old.”8
Christ is Our Life
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. ―Colossians 3:4
The paramount question is, what is “life?” When we were born the first time, we received the life of our parents, which ultimately came from God. When we were born the second time—of the Spirit—we received the life of our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ.
For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself ―John 5:26
And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us ―I John 1:2
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. ―John 5:24
Three main Greek words in the Bible are translated as “life.” They are ZOE, BIOS and PSUCHE. A short study of these three words will help us understand the Life given to us, in Christ, at new birth.
ZOE is “life as God has it”9―God’s kind of life, the very essence of His Spirit. We receive this “life” when we receive Jesus as Savior. ZOE expresses “life in the absolute sense.”9 Again, since Jesus is God, the life of Christ is the life of God―synonymous with eternal life.
“ZOE is also used of that which is the common possession of all animals and men by nature.”10 Since God is the creator of all things, there would be no life without Him. All creation was spoken forth by the mouth of God and “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), resulting in the very life of God being present in creation. However, the gift of eternal life received at salvation is of a different quality or dimension than the life from God that gives all living things life. Certainly, God is the only source of life and there is no life apart from Him. Nonetheless, only mankind was made in the tri-part image of God, with a human spirit capable of becoming one with God through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ―Genesis 1:26,27
(Author’s Note: The plural use of “Our” in this verse expresses the three personalities within the Godhead; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)
In salvation, we actually “passed out of death into life” and have been united to God through Christ Jesus. Although ZOE is used in a few instances in the Bible to express “the present sojourn of man upon the earth with reference to its duration,”11 ZOE is the only Greek word used to express the quality of God’s life. For this reason, when we refer to ZOE, we are speaking of the very life of God placed within us through union with Christ Jesus.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. ―Galatians 2:20
When Adam sinned in the garden, he died spiritually. This means ZOE left him. When ZOE left Adam and Eve, a void remained where life had once been. In an effort to fill the void, mankind developed a lifestyle of self-fulfillment. The methods of self-fulfillment, such as success, fame, wealth, relationships, education, occupation, hobbies, etc., developed a counterfeit life of human flesh in an attempt to regain what was lost. This life is BIOS.
BIOS is used in three respects in the Bible. It is used for a period of time or the duration of our life on earth, it is used in regards to our manner of life, or it is used in regards to the means of life. BIOS is a description of our existence on this earth.
If we think of how long we will live on this earth, in regards to our age, we are thinking of BIOS―the duration of our life on earth. It is also a description of BIOS when we think of a period of time in our lives, such as the usage in I Peter 4:3.
For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. ―I Peter 4:3
When we describe the manner, or quality of our life, we are also describing BIOS. Scriptural examples of this meaning include:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. ―I Timothy 2:1,2
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. ―I John 2:16
The last usage of BIOS describes the means of life, or in common terms, how we make a living or are financially supported. This description of BIOS is used in several places in scripture, including Mark 12:44 and I John 3:17…
For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” ―Mark 12:44
But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
―I John 3:17
PSUCHE “denotes ‘the breath, the breath of life,’ then ‘the soul,’ in its various meanings.”12 These are two of the most significant translations of PSUCHE.
“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. ―Genesis 2:7
God “breathed” into man “the breath of life” and man “became a living being.” This verse is the Hebrew, or Old Testament, counterpart of PSUCHE. As shared previously, nothing in this world came into being or ever will come into being apart from God. PSUCHE in this respect is “the natural life of the body.”13 This is the life of God that exists in all living things. Although we previously made reference to the fact that ZOE is used a few times in scripture to describe the life that is common in all animals and man, typically PSUCHE is the original word used for this kind of life. Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that since ZOE is God’s kind of life, and PSUCHE is the “breath of life” in all men and animals, the use of the original words could easily cross over since God is the source of all life.
The following verses show the clear usage of PSUCHE as the natural life of mankind…
And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. ―Luke 12:22
But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” ―Acts 20:10
As mentioned previously, God fashioned mankind as a tri-part being―spirit, soul and body. PSUCHE is the word translated many times in the Bible as soul. The soul―made up of our mind, will and emotions—is the seat of our personality. Although the soul, the source of our identity and uniqueness, will live on forever with our spirit, it never becomes ZOE, or God’s kind of life, but will always remain distinct as the second part of our tri-part being. Another way of looking at the functions of ZOE―our life—and PSUCHE―our soul—is by seeing how the life of Christ, resident within our spirit man, becomes an expression of His life through our mind, will and emotions. One example of PSUCHE translated as “life,” with reference to the seat of our personality, is Luke 9:24.
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. ―Luke 9:24
PSUCHE is used many times throughout scripture; sometimes translated as “soul” and at other times in reference to the soul. Since there are many usages, the following are just a few common scriptures containing PSUCHE…
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. ―Matthew 11:29
But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren. ―Acts 14:2
And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ ―Matthew 22:37
Not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. ―Ephesians 6:6
When translated in reference to our soul, PSUCHE reflects all that comes forth from our mind, will and emotions. Notwithstanding, no matter how intricately entwined life expressed by PSUCHE is with our inner man, it is not the part of us that is joined to Christ at new birth. Since we are identified with Christ and become one with Him at the time of our salvation, our real life is Christ’s life. Christ’s life is ZOE and is our identity—now and throughout eternity. PSUCHE, our soul, gives us our individuality, but will never be our true identity!
Why Identity is Everything
God’s great desire has always been to have a family of sons and daughters, made in His image and likeness, to choose to love Him and follow in His ways. He made the heavens and the earth as an environment in which mankind could live, and gave Adam dominion over His creation. God’s great desire was for fellowship with a creation with His likeness. Since true fellowship is only experienced ‘spirit to spirit,’ this could only be possible with those of like spirit.
God was greatly saddened when He came to the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day to fellowship with Adam and Eve and found that instead of choosing to follow in His ways―due to a love for Him―they had chosen to do what was right in their own eyes. God had warned them that if they ate of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. On the day they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve died spiritually, along with the promise of inevitable physical death.
The problem created through their spiritual death was a two-fold loss of purpose for their existence. They were no longer capable of having true fellowship with God, due to spiritual death, and were now, in their mortality, unfit to rule and reign over His creation. The life of God that was breathed into them left, leaving only a human spirit incapable of intimate fellowship with God.
Our new identity “in Christ” is God’s perfect plan for the correction of the failure of Adam and Eve.
“In Christ,” our human spirit is made alive and joined to the Holy Spirit, which restores the possibility of eternal fellowship with God. “In Christ,” we are no longer “mere men” but have the very life of God within us, giving us the opportunity to walk after the spirit rather than after the flesh. “In Christ,” we are also given the capability of ruling and reigning with Him over all creation.
Mankind’s purpose for existence is restored through union with Christ. All that Adam and Eve forfeited in the Garden of Eden has been reestablished through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Not only did Christ provide a way for the life of God to again be resident in mankind, but His death ushered in the provision for the eventual redemption of all God’s creation from all the effects of sin.
For these reasons, it is crucial to understand the extent of what our true identity through union with Christ involves and renew our minds accordingly with the word of God.
As necessary as it is to understand our true identity in Christ, it is equally important to realize that by faith we must choose to “put off” our old identity, in order to “put on”(Ephesian 4:22-24 NKJV) the new. This entails a daily choice of giving up our self-identity or self-image for our new identity, Who is Christ!
1John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on II Corinthians 5:17, e-sword
2Secrets of the Ascended Life, Kelley Varner, page 127
3School of Transformation, Ed Silvoso, Week 5, page 15
4The Saving Life of Christ, Major W. Ian Thomas, page 37
5John Sanford, The Transformation of the Inner Man
6The Exchanged Life―the Revelation of Jesus Christ in You, Rhonda J. Mead
7Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, e-sword
8Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, e-sword
8Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, e-sword
9-13Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, e-sword