2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Understanding our new identity is essential to reaching a fuller potential of the Spirit-filled life. If one remains bogged down in the old ways they have no room for the Holy Spirit to “guide them into all truth.” And what is truth? According to Jesus, He is Truth.
To become more Christ-like we must embrace who we are as new creations. We are no longer slaves to our old self or to sin or to the negative things done to us. In Christ, we literally die to the past and get a brighter present and future.
But this is easier said than done. When people suffer traumatic events in their lives it becomes easier to just accept their pain than actually deal with it. Their pain eventually becomes so much of their identity that they lose sight of any hope of ever being any different. As I have often said to family members dealing with those caught in these cycles, “No matter how irrational it may seem, it is real to them.”
In the very famous 1986 movie The Mission, Captain Rodrigo Mendoza is doing penitence for murdering his brother in a fit of jealous rage. In addition, Rodrigo is a soldier who has hunted, captured and killed indigenous people of the jungles of Uruguay, selling them into slavery. In one scene Rodrigo is carrying by a rope on his back the net with which he captured the natives. Inside the net are all of his weapons and heavy armor. Rodrigo is struggling up the side of a waterfall with all of this burden. Father Fielding can no longer take the pain and suffering that Rodrigo is under and cuts the rope, allowing all of the cargo to fall behind him. Rodrigo looks at him in disgust and heads back down the steep hill to gather his belongings. The frustrated priest turns to Father Gabriel and pleas with him for this to end. The wise priest explains that Rodrigo is not ready to let go!
Letting go of pain, guilt and shame is an impossible task to do for someone. It is also an impossible task to do for one’s self. I am often disturbed when I hear people say, “Just forgive yourself.” Asking people to do the impossible is…well, impossible. We can never truly pardon our own conscious. If this task were true then we would really have no need for God.
But as believers we are encouraged to identify with Christ. Look at vs. 18 in the passage again. “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.” Did you catch that? It is all from God through Christ!
You and I were never meant to carry the burdens of our past. We were meant to release them onto Jesus. In fact, to continue carrying our old identity is rooted in a self-loathing pride that says “Jesus, thank you, but you just weren’t enough.” Sure, you may not actually say that, but “actions do speak louder than words.”
“Okay. So how do I change?”
I am glad you asked.
John 16:13-15 (ESV)
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
We were never meant to do this alone. Anything that we face from our past we are instructed here that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. The truth is not necessarily understanding our past though. In fact, I think the truth will more than likely be about our present and future. The truth will most likely be helping us to better understand the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. When we truly understand the cost of Jesus’ death on the cross we can then begin to see ourselves as the redeemed. Jesus didn’t die to almost forgive you. He died to completely forgive you. Jesus didn’t die to almost redeem you from the pain of your past. He suffered on the cross for the “chastisement of our peace.” In fact, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus paid for it all!
Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Ask yourself a serious question right now. How much did Jesus not cover for me? Be completely honest about your feelings with him. Now invite the Holy Spirit into those areas of the darkness of your soul. John 1:5 gives us great hope. “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” Catch that. When we invite the Holy Spirit to shine the light of Jesus’ sacrifice into the dark places of our souls he will be victorious no matter how dark it seems. We simply need to give him the invitation.
Come, Holy Spirit!
(Here is a clip of the scene directly after the one I mentioned above. I highly recommend this wonderful movie.)