As the rustic barn doors opened on that chilly January evening, my heart started to pound with great expectation as hundreds of our family and friends turned their heads towards her. My eyes welled up with heavy tears as I saw my gorgeous bride gliding down the aisle. This was the moment we had waited so long for. My life was about to change forever.
Kathleen and I listened intently as the pastor eloquently expounded upon the beautiful meaning of marriage. We read our vows to each other as authentically as a person possibly can with hundreds of people watching and hanging on your every word. “I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.” I was beaming with joy and excitement as we left the venue to begin our new life together.
We were married. Our position was changed in a moment, but now came the lifelong process of learning how to live out of that new identity.
This is similar to how it is when you become a Christian. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In a few moments, your identity changes completely, but you must now learn how to think and live out of this new identity. Learning this is the essence of true freedom. Here are a few of the foundational truths that we must know and adopt if we are going to think and live in the freedom that God has freely given us in the Gospel.
1- You are a child of God.
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
If you have received Christ, you’re now in the family of God. This means you have a Good Father who provides for you, protects you and loves you deeply. God is no longer angry at you or disappointed in you, but instead, he is beaming over with joy because His child is in His arms. It’s the difference between the fear of going to court to face charges you know you are guilty of and the playful exuberance of a young child jumping into their Father’s arms. Understanding this truth causes you to climb up into your Dad’s lap every single day and experience the joy of intimacy with God, rather than walking on eggshells trying to appease the Judge.
2- You are an intimate friend of Jesus.
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
If you are in Christ, you are now an intimate friend of Jesus. Just like the comfort you feel around your closest friends to be completely yourself, Jesus desires this kind of relationship with the real you. You no longer need to put up a religious front as many do at spiritual gatherings, but you can be raw, authentic, and real, allowing Jesus to see your true self at all times. You don’t need to try to impress God with your tidy work as a servant does with his master, you can rest in the fact that you are a friend of Jesus. As we learn to trust Christ in this way, our guard comes down, and we can begin to live every day in deep communion with our dear Friend.
3- You are holy and blameless.
“...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4).
Before I asked Kathleen to marry me, I told her everything I had ever done. I will never forget her response after I timidly shared the laundry list of things I’d hoped to take to my grave. “That’s not who you are anymore. That’s not how Jesus sees you and that’s not how I see you. I see you as holy and blameless.” Tears rolled down my face as my new identity was confirmed yet again.
Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, all of our sin has been completely paid for. All of your past mistakes (hidden and public) were put on Jesus on the cross and all of His righteousness was imputed to you. This means that you are no longer what you did. You no longer have to walk around in shame because of what you did last week, last year, or when you were a kid. You are washed, sanctified, and justified (1 Corinthians 6:11). All God sees when He looks at you is perfection. As we accept this clean slate, we can hold our head high knowing that we have nothing to hide.
4- You are completely free.
"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
When Jesus rose from the grave, the power of sin and death was completely broken for everyone who is in Christ. The chains have been cut and the prison doors are wide open. Although many of us know this intellectually, we have Stockholm Syndrome, choosing to remain in the comfortable jail cell rather than walk in our new identity of a free man or woman. As we learn to renew our minds and walk out of the disgusting prison cell, we will begin to taste the pleasure of the outside world. We will most likely feel uncomfortable for a season leaving the prison we have made our home in, but soon we will realize that this life of freedom is what we’ve always longed for. Because of Jesus, you can walk out on your sin!
Very few things compare to the joy of not only being married in name but also learning how to live with regards to this new identity. As we learn to live together in this way, we laugh harder, love deeper, and get to enjoy all the blessings of being married.
The only greater joy in the universe is the joy of knowing and living intimately in Christ. As you learn to think and live in the new identity you have as a Christian, you will experience more joy than you ever thought possible. God has said to you, “I now pronounce you a new creation. Go and live the abundant life I’ve given you."