There are certain Biblical topics that I personally believe we should include as a regular part of our diet. For example, we need to regularly hear about the love of God—both His love for us and us walking in love towards others. I also believe we need to routinely hear about faith, in that without it, it is impossible to please God and because it is the only way to receive from Him. I would also include our personal relationship with God because that it is the primary purpose of our calling in Christ Jesus. But one of those subjects that I believe we need to regularly feed on is our spiritual identity (i.e. who we are in Christ). The reason for this is because understanding what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and who we are in the spirit keeps us from one of the enemy’s number one devices that he uses to both steal from us and to kill & destroy us with—identity theft.
You see, I’m sure we all have had someone steal from us before—maybe our home or vehicle was broken into and something was taken that was ours. Perhaps our wallet or purse was snatched by a thief. There are a lot of ways that we have experienced someone robbing us, but arguably the most harmful and inconvenient way someone can steal from us is by stealing our identity.
Some of us have experience with this, don’t we? There are those here today who have suffered from debit or credit card fraud, medical fraud, or other kinds of financial fraud. Others have had things like their driver’s license, social security, name, address, or birthdate stolen from them and have had a lot of issues to deal with as a result. And the fact is, all of these forms of identity theft create a tremendous amount of problems in one’s life—it can affect us not only financially, but emotionally, socially, and even physically.
But there are other ways that one can have their identity stolen apart from these physical situations: There are many who have had their true identity stripped from them by bad parenting, hurtful peers, and other outside influences who maybe spoke horrible things over them. And even though other people cannot steal our identity without our consent (for we must agree with and believe what they are saying in order for it to affect us), the fact is, most do let the opinion of others form who they are, particularly when it happens at a young age. Therefore, these bad things that happened to us early in life can have damaging effects on our identity.
However, I have found that there is something much more damaging than suffering from these various forms of identity theft that can happen to us in life and that is similar to how people have had their identity stripped by the words and actions of those around them; this is having our spiritual identity stolen from us. You see, like it is with the harmful words of other people, the enemy of our soul cannot do what some of these thieves are successful in doing to us. He cannot steal our identity without our consent. Yes, in order for him to take our goods, we have to let him by believing his lies and succumbing to his temptations.
This is why it is so imperative that you and I discover who we are in Christ and no longer allow him to steal our true identity from us—for if he can deceive us into seeing ourselves different than the way God sees us, we are going to constantly be fighting an uphill battle.
So, what I want us to begin doing this week is to look in the mirror and see who we are in Christ so that the thief’s attempts to steal from us and destroy our lives are no longer successful. Amen?
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
Now I have entitled this series “In the Mirror” because in order for us to learn who we truly are, we are going to have to look in the mirror and find out. No, I am not talking about that “vanity mirror” in your home that is essentially your everyday, personal grooming mirror used to check your appearance, do your hair, apply makeup and basically assist you to look your best. That kind of mirror is just that—vanity.
But that’s how the majority of the world identifies themselves—it’s by the vanity of things like how we look, what we wear, what kind of car we drive, how big our home is, etc. This is vanity, church, and not where a Christian should find their identity. Our identity is found in Christ, not in our age, our weight, our financial status, etc., etc., etc. Yes, we are blessed, anointed, and highly favored, not because of how things look in our physical lives, but because of how things truly are in our spiritual lives. Amen!
So, someone might ask--How can we see who we truly are in our spiritual lives? Is there a spiritual mirror? Let me answer those questions by saying this—These vanity mirrors (as they are called) are also called “makeup mirrors.” So, if you want to see your “spiritual makeup,” then you are going to have to look into a spiritual makeup mirror.
You see, these makeup mirrors are used for women to apply their makeup. Well, I am here to tell you that if you don’t like your physical, financial, or spiritual makeup, then the process of changing it begins with washing your face! How do we do that? By the washing of water by the Word (see Ephesians 5:26)! Church, this is the mirror that you and I are to look into to discover our true spiritual identity. Yes, we have to look into the mirror of God’s Word and let Him show us our “spiritual makeup.” In doing so, we will wash ourselves of that old identity and see ourselves in our new spiritual identity. Amen!
Church, we live in a society that more now than ever shows forth this mistaken identity. Yes, we are engrossed with various forms of social media today such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. and in all of them, we see people proudly displaying their picture, their status on what they are doing, etc. and a lot of it wreaks of insecurity. People want acceptance. They seek approval and compliments.
Now I’m not trying to be critical, but am simply pointing out the epidemic in our world of people’s insecurity. So, I’m here to tell you—if you want to find out who you truly are, then you are going to have to put your “face” in the “Book” and let that determine your true “profile.” Amen?
So, yes, we have all of these ways in which our identity can be stolen—whether it is the identity theft that hurts us financially or the physical, mental or emotional abuse that steals our confidence or molds our personality in a negative way. Therefore, it is imperative that we protect our spiritual identity at all costs because there is a thief out there, an enemy of our soul, and he is seeking to steal our identity so that he can rob us of our inheritance in Christ Jesus.
OUR SPIRITUAL MIRROR
So, where do I get this analogy of the Word of God being like a mirror. Well, I get this from a couple of passages of Scripture:
One is found in the first chapter of James where Pastor James is exhorting this body of believers to not just be hearers of the Word, but to be doers of the Word they are hearing (see James 1:22-26). But he uses an interesting analogy in describing those who hear the Word. He says that when one is “a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror…” But do not be mistaken here; James is not using this analogy to just describe the hearers only, for he goes on to describe the doers of the Word to be those “looking into the perfect law of liberty” and continuing in it. In other words, those hearers who do what they hear are also those who are observing their face in the mirror of God’s Word.
Either way, James is saying that when one hears the Word, it is like they are looking into a mirror, and when they do, they are seeing what they look like. His point was that the ones who wind up doing the Word are the ones who “continue” looking into the mirror of His Word—meaning, they keep their eyes and ears constantly beholding what He said so that they are living in those truths with the intention of applying them to their lives. That is the difference between the one who simply “audits” the Word and those who have it reflecting in their lives. Amen.
However, while I certainly believe that God’s Word being like a mirror has different applications to our lives, how many of you know that in order to see what we now look like, we don’t necessarily need to be looking in Numbers, Ecclesiastes, etc.? No, if I am teaching Levi to behold who he is in Christ, I am not going to tell him to look at Leviticus.
Which leads me to the other passage of Scripture that is used to describe beholding the truth in a mirror--Second Corinthians 3:1-18. In fact, this is the particular passage of Scripture that I want us to camp on throughout this teaching because I believe it accurately “reflects” the truths the Lord wants us to see in this series.
You see, when you consider the context of this chapter, the apostle Paul shares with the Corinthian church how he and his team didn’t need letters of approval for their ministry because the fruit in this church was the only stamp of approval he needed (verses 1-4). Then he goes on to say in verses 5-6 that it was certainly not his own ability and qualifications that was producing this fruit in his churches; God was the One who was empowering and enabling them to be effective. However, he went on in verse 6 to state specifically what the Lord had enabled them to do—to be “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
You see, Paul brought a new and better message of a New and Better Covenant, a message that was unlike the Old Covenant of the law which could only “work death” (i.e. kill). This gospel of grace was written by the Holy Spirit and gives life to its hearers. Amen!
Now in verses 7-11, Paul goes on to say regarding this law, that there is a new message that exceeds much more in glory. He uses an example from the Old Testament to illustrate his point of how this New Covenant of grace is more glorious than the Old Testament of the law—and what better example to use than of the glory of God itself?
But before we get into that, notice how Paul calls the law that was written and engraved on stones, the “ministry of death” and the “ministry of condemnation.” That is strong language to use to describe the very Ten Commandments that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai, isn’t it? But that is what the law truly did—it could not give life; it only produces death in those who adhere to it. Why? Because it couldn’t change the sin nature that is in every person who is born in the flesh; it only condemned those who were under it. In other places, Paul teaches us that the law is simply given to show us what sin is and, hopefully, cause one to look to the Savior for their salvation. But of course, that is not how people use the law—back then and even still today, people try to use God’s law as a mirror. What I mean is they are looking into it to try and find their identity (i.e. as a means to attain salvation, saying things like— “If you just keep God’s law, He will accept you.”) But that’s not true! The truth is that it is impossible for man to keep the law—and to break just one of the commandments makes us guilty of the whole thing.
But Paul’s point here is that this doesn’t mean that there was no glory in the law. In fact, he states that it was glorious, using the example of how Moses’ face shone as a result of God giving him the law. However, Paul makes the point that it was a glory that was “passing away.” In fact, when Paul compared the glory of the “ministry of righteousness” to the “ministry of condemnation” he said there was no comparison—for the new and better covenant given by the Spirit “exceeds much more in glory.”
You know, most Christians don’t think this way. They see the Old Testament as holding just as much weight as the New Testament, but Paul thought otherwise. He stated that the New Covenant is here to stay (i.e. remains) and is far more glorious than the Old Covenant God gave through Moses.
But Paul then goes back to his analogy of the glory on Moses’ face representing the glory of the law and
explains that Moses put a veil over his face for the purpose of hiding the glory that was passing away. Now I had always been under the assumption that he put the veil over his face because the glory that radiated from his countenance freaked them out! But here Paul was saying that he did it to hide how the glory was going away. Nonetheless, all of this illustrates how folks still listen to the Old Testament—with a veil over their minds. Meaning, they miss what God is saying because of a veil that lies over their hearts which keeps them from seeing the truth.
Which leads us to verse 17 & 18—the verses I want us to camp on in the weeks ahead. Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Now there are some misconceptions about verse 17 as so many “charismaniacs” out there use this verse to substantiate them doing whatever they want to do. For instance, we had someone visit our church one time who was ministering to others in an inappropriate way, and I went to them and told them they weren’t to do that. And they responded with this verse to me. How many of you know that this verse is not saying that when the Holy Spirit is involved there are no rules, protocol, etc.? No, this is freedom from sin and from being an idiot—all of which, the Holy Spirit will make us free from. Amen?
Then Paul is sure to say in verse 18, “But we all.” The “we all” being referred to here is the Body of Christ, the Church of the living God. Therefore, every born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, believer is with “unveiled face”—meaning, we are not reading the truth of the glories of this new & better covenant with a veil over our face like those under the Old Covenant. In Christ, the veil has been rent! Now we are able to see into the holy of Holies, peering over into the ark of the covenant with the cherubim and seeing who we are. Glory to God!
That is why Paul goes on to say, “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord…” What glory are we beholding? Those truths of this new and better covenant of what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him! This is what we are to be beholding—the mystery of this New Covenant which is Christ in us, the hope of glory! Therefore, beholding the mirror of truths contained in the New Testament is us looking at who we are in Christ and who He is in us.
And notice that he says that we are beholding “as in a mirror” these truths. So, the specific mirror that you and I need to be looking into in order to see who we now are is the far more exceedingly glorious New Testament where our new spiritual identity in on full display.
IDENTIFYING WITH JESUS
So, I want us to begin this series of teachings by looking at the example of Jesus Christ and how He too had to learn to look into the mirror of God’s Word and discover who He was, is, and evermore shall be.
Now some do not believe this about Jesus, thinking that since He was the Son of God, that He automatically knew everything and operated in the omniscience of God. But that cannot be true—for even though He certainly was 100% God when He came to earth and inhabited a physical body, He was 100% man too. And his humanity was what He operated in.
For example, Hebrews 4:15 teaches us that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How could He truly have been tempted in all the points that we are if He had an unfair advantage of being omniscient, omnipotent, etc.? No, the truth is, Jesus lived the way that He did as an example to us of how the Christian life is to be lived.
But the fact is, Jesus had to grow, He had to learn, and He had to look into the mirror Himself to discover who He was while in the flesh. So, let’s spend the remainder of our time this week learning how He did this.
Now the first thing we need to realize is that Jesus was not born in as ideal conditions as one might think. Sure, His was the immaculate conception and He was born the Son of God. However, even though He was God’s Son, He was also called the Son of David—meaning, even though He was born from above, “according to the flesh” He came through Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph.
Yes, if you ever consider the lineage of Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-16), you will find that his heritage is not one of purity. David himself was an adulterer and a murderer. Do you know who else was in the genealogy of Jesus? Bathsheba, the woman who committed adultery with David (Matthew 1:6)! Also, Tamar & Judah (Matthew 1:3)! Now, you know what Judah and Tamar did, don’t you? They are known in the Bible for committing incest with each other (Judah, of course, not being privy to it, but that would make him at least a fornicator, right?) Rahab, a gentile harlot, is also in there (Matthew 1:5)! So in the genealogy of the Son of God, we have several adulterers, fornicators, murderers, and even a prostitute—God knows what else.
But do you know what this should tell us? It should tell us that even if we have any of these things in our lineage or even our own personal history, we can still carry the Christ like Mary did! No, I am not referring to another immaculate conception; I am talking about how Christ can dwell within us spiritually. My point is that Jesus came through many imperfections—and I believe this illustrates to you and I how even though we can have a lot of problems in our past, if we are born from God, we can still identify with Jesus. Amen!
So, Jesus was born through some stuff, and then we can see in Luke chapter 2 that He even had to grow up into some things:
In Luke 2:40, we see how He grew as He “became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” The fact that He became strong in spirit indicates that he was not born strong in spirit. This was something He had to become. Also, He was filled with wisdom. What does that indicate? That He wasn’t already full of wisdom. Finally, we are told the grace of God was upon Him. Now that could mean that the grace was always upon Him, but by virtue of the fact that the other two statements describe things that happened as He grew, would indicate that this grace came upon Him as He grew in these other things.
If you look ahead to verse 52 of the same chapter, Luke tells us how “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Again, we see the increase in wisdom just as He grew in physical stature. Not to mention, He also increased in favor with God and men.
So, my point is that Jesus had to grow up in the things of God just like we have to increase in them. And do you know how He increased in these virtues? I believe we see the answer to this in Luke 2:46-49 when He hung out in the temple when He and His parents visited Jerusalem.
These verses say, “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
Now if you asked most Christians what Jesus did when He stayed behind in the temple, they would say He was there teaching them. But that is not what these verses say. They teach us that He was listening to them and asking them questions! Now He certainly was impressing them by how He understood what they were teaching Him and His answers were insightful, but the fact He was there learning paints a different picture of young Jesus, doesn’t it? No, the facts are that Jesus had to learn and certainly was teachable. This is a necessary step in changing the way we see things, including our own selves.
So, we can clearly see that after Jesus’ birth, even He had to grow and increase. Likewise, just because we are born again, we still have to grow into who we've been born again as. And the way we do this is by learning, listening, and asking questions. Yes, of those around us who have wisdom and are mighty in the Scriptures, but also from God Himself.
Which leads me to the next thing we see in Jesus’ growth process: Then we see that when Jesus’ time had come to fulfill all righteousness, that He was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when Jesus came out of that water, Luke 3:22 says that “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”
Now, again, if you were to ask most Christians what God the Father said in that audible voice when Jesus was both baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And they would not be entirely incorrect—for one Gospel writer (Matthew) records this event as God saying that. However, both Luke & Mark record it differently—they say that the Father said to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Now if I were to say about one of you today, “So and so is my beloved church member, in whom I am well pleased,” who am I talking to? I am talking to “all y’all.” But if I were to say to one of you today, “You are my beloved church member, and in you I am well pleased,” who am I talking to then? I am saying this to them, and therefore, for their benefit.
You see, I believe this what God was doing here with His Son: He was letting Jesus know that He was His beloved Son and He was well pleased with Him. Which, interestingly enough was before Jesus ever began His ministry—showing us that our identity is not to be found in what we do for God, but in who we are in Him. Amen!
And as I believe it was to Jesus at this point in His life, I believe we must hear directly from our Heavenly Father who He says we are. Yes, just as many of us developed our identity by what our earthly father prophesied over us, we can redevelop our identity by what our Heavenly Father prophesies over us. Amen.
This is critical. And do you know why? It is because that identity thief is sure going to try and tempt us to doubt who God says that we are. We see this in the very next event in Jesus’ life & ministry.
In Luke 4:1-13, we have the instance where immediately after Jesus’ baptism in both water and the Holy Spirit, that He went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And essentially what Jesus had to do through the course of these three temptations was resist the tempter to doubt His identity. Why do I say this? It is because in two out of the three temptations, the devil prefaced the temptation with “If you are the Son of God…” And most do not realize this, but this was the root of these temptations. The devil was not just trying to get Jesus to turn rocks into bread or throw Himself off of the pinnacle of the temple. His temptations were rooted in trying to get Him to do it to prove He was who His Father said He was. In other words, two out of the three temptations that Satan gave Jesus were based on identity. Likewise, I believe we could make a case that 2/3rds of the temptations you and I will have by Satan are directly rooted in our identity. In other words, most of the temptations we will face will be overcome or will overcome us based on whether we will subject ourselves to who God says we are and what He says we have. Amen!
Finally, we see that not too long after Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit, that He came back to His hometown of Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-22). And as His custom was (that’s important), He went to the Synagogue to stand up and read. And He was handed the Book of Isaiah and He found the place in it where it was written concerning Himself. Did you know that this is what you and I must do too? We need to make it our custom to get this mirror out on a daily basis and find in it, the places where it says concerning us. Glory!
And, glory to God, Jesus didn’t just find it in the Mirror, but we see that He stood up and boldly declared it before the rest of the assembly in the Synagogue. Likewise, a key to me renewing my mind to my true spiritual identity is my boldly declaring who the I Am says that I am. No, not necessarily before an audience, but before an audience of one. In other words, looking into the mirror and boldly declaring who the Lord says you are until you begin to believe it about yourself. Amen.
Then I love what Jesus did after declaring what He did. We are told that He closed the Book, gave it back to the attendant, and then sat down. And this is what we need to do as well: We must see it as a done deal, “sit down,” and rest in who and what God’s mirror shows us that we are. Amen!
All of this is to say that there is hope for you. There is hope for me. We can change the way we view ourselves and begin today to embrace our new identity in Christ. And it all begins as we look into the mirror of God’s Word and have the Father speak to our hearts of who we are. Glory and amen!