The Christian’s True Identity (Cruse)

The Christian's True Identity: What It Means to Be in Christ

There are a handful of good books on Christian identity: who we are in Christ. Jerry Bridges wrote “Who Am I,” Melissa Kruger wrote “Identity Theft,” Richard Lints wrote “Identity and Idolatry,” and so on. It’s nice to have good Christian resources for a biblical view of identity!

Here’s another helpful book on Christian identity to add to your list: “The Christian’s True Identity” by Jonathan Cruse. It’s a 150 page devotional sort of book that expounds ten New Testament texts that have to do with our identity “in Christ.” The chapters discuss the NT themes of these aspects of being in Christ: chosen, forgiven, righteous, adopted, secure, and so on. These ten chapters are based on ten sermons Cruse gave on these NT texts. There are also some “for further study” questions at the end of the chapter.

This is a pretty straightforward book that is not too difficult to read. It would make a great ten day devotional for the Christian who wants to study what it means for him or her to be “in Christ.” It would also make a good 10-week study for a book club. I appreciate how “The Christian’s True Identity” basically expounds upon all the blessings we receive from being joined to Christ by faith. Who he is and who I am in him are essential aspects of my Christian identity. This is a faith-strengthening topic for sure and the book is one that helps us focus on our Lord Jesus. Recommended!

Jonathan Cruse, The Christian’s True Identity.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Balanced View of The Christian (Stott)

 If you follow Jesus and want to learn more about yourself as a Christian one excellent place to turn is 1 Peter 2:1-17.  This is that great text where the Apostle calls God’s people living stones, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, etc.   It’s really a gold mine for understanding our identity as Christians.

John Stott has some great comments on these verses in The Radical Disciple.  In fact, chapter 6 of the book is a discussion of 1 Peter 2:1-17.  I like how Stott brings it all together at the end of the chapter:

My readers may well have been wondering why I have entitled this chapter with the one word ‘Balance’. The reason should now become clear. We have followed Peter in the six metaphors which go to make up the portrait he paints of the disciple. Here they are again:

• as newborn babies we are called to growth,

• as living stones to fellowship,

• as holy priests to worship,

• as God’s own people to witness,

• as aliens and strangers to holiness,

• as servants of God to citizenship.

This is a beautifully comprehensive and balanced portrait. These six duties seem to resolve themselves into three couplets, each of which contains a balance.

We are called to both individual discipleship and corporate fellowship…worship and work…and pilgrimage and citizenship.

First, we are called to both individual discipleship and corporate fellowship. Babies, although born into a family, have their own identity. Even twins are born one by one! But the primary function of the stones used in building is to be part of something else. They have surrendered their individuality to the building. Their significance is not in themselves but in the whole. So we need to emphasize both our individual and our corporate responsibilities.

Secondly, we are called to both worship and work. As a priesthood we worship God. As God’s own people we witness to the world. The church is a worshipping, witnessing community.

Thirdly, we are called to both pilgrimage and citizenship.

In each couplet we are called to balance, and not to emphasize either at the expense of the other. Thus we are both individual disciples and church members, both worshippers and witnesses, both pilgrims and citizens.

Nearly all our failures stem from the ease with which we forget our comprehensive identity as disciples. Our Heavenly Father is constantly saying to us what King George V kept saying to the Prince of Wales, ‘My dear child, you must always remember who you are, for if you remember your identity you would behave accordingly.’

 John Stott, The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2012).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Gladiator Games, Abortion, and the Early Church (Athenagoras)

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts      Just over a week ago I highlighted a section from Athenagoras (an early Christian apologist from the end of the 2nd century AD) in which he defended Christian morality since many were accusing Christians of immorality.  Specifically, Athenagoras said Christian sexual ethics were much better than those of non-Christians, since Christians upheld purity in marriage and avoided homosexuality.  You can read the article here.

In the same context, Athenagoras also explained how Christians detested all sorts of cruelty, abuse, and bloodshed.   Apparently some had accused Christians of being murderers and cannibals because of the Lord’s Supper (eating/drinking the body/blood of Jesus), so Athenagoras refuted the accusation as completely untrue.  The truth is, he said, that Christians are against brutality and murder:

“[Which Roman citizen] does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you?  But we [Christians], deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles.  How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death?

In other words, since Christians renounced things like the brutal gladiator games, how can someone accuse them of being murderers?  [As a convicting side note, although Christians aren’t murders today, we typically no longer “abjure” watching the spectacles of brutality and death like our Christian forefathers did.]  Athenagoras goes on:

“And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?  For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it.”

Athenagoras is arguing that since Christians were against abortion and exposing a child (letting it die soon after birth), how can one accuse them of murder?  Christians in the early church believed a fetus in the womb and newborn children were created by God and under his care, so they would never kill them.  The were against murder, not for it (think of the 6th commandment)!

In a brilliant way, Athenagoras turns the tables on the accusers: Christians are not the ones who are murderers, since they detest gladiator games, brutality, abortion, and the exposing of children.  The non-Christians do those things, but not Christians – therefore no one can accuse Christians of being immoral murderers.

The entire apology by Athenagoras is worth reading: A Plea for the Christians.  The above quotes were taken from paragraph/chapter 35.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Slave of Christ

Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ (New Studies in Biblical Theology) The NT teaching that Christians are “slaves” of Christ is a metaphor full of meaning.  Jesus owns us because he’s purchased us with his blood.  He’s our Lord and Master because he owns us.  We have a duty to trust him and obey him because we are not our own.  In body and soul, God’s people are owned by Christ and now called to live – body and soul – for his glory.  This is a great biblical theme!

If you want a good book on the details of being a servant of Jesus, you’ll have to get this one: Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ by Murray J. Harris.  I don’t have time to give a full review now; I hope to do so in the future.  Here’s part of a paragraph I thought was helpful in thinking of 1 Cor. 6:20 (and 7:23):

“…The body is meant to honour the Lord (v. 13); resurrection involves the body (v. 14); the body is a member of Christ (v. 15); physical unity with a prostitute compromises spiritual unity with the Lord (vv. 16-17); sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body (v. 18); the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 19); as purchased property, Christians do not belong to themselves (vv. 19-20). “

“In establishing this latter point, Paul introduces a slogan of his own, ‘You were bought at a price.’  Neither the purchaser nor the price is mentioned, which suggests that this was a stock phrase of Pauline theology.  There can be no doubt about the identity of the purchaser, for Christ is the subject of the compound verb exagorazo (‘buy out,’ ‘redeem’) in Galatians 3:13 and 4:5.  As for the price paid, it is clearly the blood of Christ, given the close parallels in Revelation 5:9 (‘with your blood you purchased [egorasas] people for God’) and 1 Peter 1:18-19 (‘you were redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ’).  The movement of Paul’s thought seems to be: ‘You do not belong to yourselves, but are the exclusive property of Christ, for (gar) he purchased you at the price of his blood.’  That is to say, purchase gives the right to possession; ownership is the corollary of purchase” (p. 110-120).

Indeed, it is a blessed thing – and an honor! – to be a slave of Christ.  I will gladly follow and obey him because he rescued me, loves me, and watches over me.  Like the Heidelberg Catechism says, “I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ….”

shane lems
hammond, wi

“Who Am I” by J. Bridges: A Review

Who Am I?: Identity in Christ If you are a follower of Jesus, what answers would you give to this question: “Who am I?”  There are some that might first come to mind, such as “a child of God,” or “a Christian,” or maybe, “A disciple.”  Or, perhaps on those bad days in life we might answer, “I don’t know!” or “I’m not really sure.”  Since we still struggle with sin, sometimes Christians have deep questions about their identity.  Wise counsel and help answering this question is needed!

Jerry Bridges wrote a little booklet to help God’s people answer this very important question: “Who am I?”  In under 100 pages, Bridges gives Christians some biblical insight to consider when they ask questions about their identity.  As with Bridges’ other books, this one is clear, straightforward, easy to understand, gospel centered, and full of biblical truth.

There are eight chapters; each gives a biblical answer to the question, “Who am I?”  I don’t want to give away all Bridges’ answers here because I want our readers to think about answering that question themselves.  For a few examples, however, Bridges talks about justification, adoption, and being a servant of Christ.  I have to admit that the contents weren’t necessarily groundbreaking for me, but I was edified by he way he took Christian truth and applied it to the identity question.  This book did give me a fuller answer to the question at hand.

Who Am I isn’t meant to be a doctoral dissertation on identity, but it is a great introduction to the topic.  I’m also glad to see it is brief, since (I’m guessing) people who are deeply struggling with this question and possibly battling depression (for example) might not have the energy to read through a longer book. Also, this is a good book to give to newer Christians, or Christians who are unable to read longer and deeper theological books.  In fact, I’d give this to a high school student who is wrestling with identity; I’d also give it to an older person who has questions about identity.  Bridges does a fine job of making the subject readable and he constantly focuses the readers on Christ’s work and God’s grace throughout the book.

I do wish there were some application questions at the end of each chapter, since this book might be a good one to read and discuss in a group (or one-on-one) over the course of eight weeks.  However, if you’re leading the group it wouldn’t be tough to write your own sets of discussion questions.  Bottom line: If you’ve been looking for a book like this, or if you’ve not read one like it before, I recommend it!

Jerry Bridges, Who Am I? (n.l. Cruciform Press, 2012).

shane lemsr
hammond, wi