“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” Jean-Paul Sartre
Great books and movies may seem to make the past come alive, but it’s only in our minds. That’s because yesterday is mostly dead, lingering only in history books, museums, memories and… in the attitudes of survivors. As a counselor, one of my most difficult tasks is helping victims realize they still have a choice: that they are not slaves to the way they were born or the failures of their parents.
That’s why I detest that popular mantra of today’s church: “I’m just a sinner, too.” It’s not only defeatist and cliche’, but it’s factually untrue. As a follower of Christ, I am familiar with sin, but I am now a saint. In the words of Jesus, I have been “born again” as an “overcomer.” To quote Paul, I am a “new creation in Christ, ” the old has passed away and the new has come. Sinner, indeed!
It’s no wonder modern day believers wander dazed and confused through the swamps of discouragement and defeat. One moment we minimize sin, behaving as though Christ made a small deposit on my righteousness on the cross, but I can easily take care of the monthly payments by simply going to church, owning a Bible, and practicing selective holiness. No sweat! The next moment, my sin is so powerful that it still defines my identity in spite of everything my Savior has done through his death and resurrection, dispatching the Spirit, establishing the church, and sending the Holy Spirit. “I’m still just a wretched sinner!” God help us.
The Gospel is a far cry from all this spiritual psychobabble. In fact, my sin is so grave and insidious that I cannot control it, run away from it, hide it, or make amends for it! It is innate, deceptive, relentless, and fatal. On the other hand, Christ’s work of liberation has not only paid off the damage inflicted on God’s system of justice, but also affords me the power to live a new life with a different identity. I may not forget my old abuse and addictions, but I don’t have to be ruled by them. I have experienced sin, and still know the sudden allure it can summon. But I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live. It is Christ who lives within, and the life I now live is by faith in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
I don’t have to be controlled by the way I was born- whether my birthright includes an inclination to lie, steal, kill, commit sexual immorality, rage against the whole world, or lie about others. The emotions are often still there, but the shackles have been broken. I am united with Christ, the Son of God. What’s more, I am not irrevocably chained to the way I was neglected, abused, or violated as a child. The memories may linger, but the bonds are shattered. I remind myself that I have crucified my past and am living with Christ in a new realm of experience. There is truth there and power.
The transformation that always follows faith in Christ begins not with new habits, but with a new way of thinking. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) It begins when we give up our bitter complaints and the passing of blame, and accept by faith a new identity. DNA is not destiny: ask any identical twin. Faith is the victory.
Lift up the Cross!