Not achieved but received

By Dave Henning / March 5, 2024

“Here we see the richness, complexity, and startling distinctiveness of the Christian approach to identity.  Paul can say, ‘God judges me,’ not with alarm but with confidence.  Why?  Because unlike traditional or secular culture, a Christian’s identity is not achieved but received.”- Timothy Keller (emphasis author’s)

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.”- 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NIV)

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 7 of Making Sense of God, he notes that the apostle Paul refused to allow either society or his own inner consciousness define him.  Most significantly, Paul states that “God judges me” with confidence – not alarm.

Furthermore, Paul writes that Christians are “found” in Christ.  As Pastor Keller stresses, this means that God regards us “in Christ.”  Not on the basis of our own record and character.  Yet, ordinary moralistic religion operates on this principle.  That God accepts one based on one’s living a good and moral life.

Therefore, Pastor Keller explains:

“In the Christian approach the motivation is one not of fear but of grateful joy.  You live to please and resemble the One who saved you at infinite cost to himself by going to the cross.  You serve him not in order to coerce him to love you because he already does. . . .  If you believe in the Gospel and all its remarkable claims about Jesus and what he has done for you, then nothing that happens in this world can actually get at your identity.”

As a result, for example, you now pursue your career to serve God and the common good.  Rather than to get a self and achieve self-worth.  Certainly, your career remains part of your identity — along with family, ethnic background, etc.  But being in Christ relieves you of the burden those things create when you make them the ultimate source of your self and value.

Today’s question: What does it mean to you that your identity as a child of God is not achieved but received?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our primary audience – God”

About the author

Dave Henning

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