Self-Perception and Behavior

People cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with what they believe about themselves. We live according to who we really are and born-again believers are children of God. Understanding this is a critical part of our sanctification according to John: "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. . . . Beloved, now we are children of God . . . And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 Jn. 3:1-3).

Suppose you were a prostitute then one day you saw a decree from the King that all prostitutes were forgiven and you believed it. That would be good news and cause for rejoicing. However, knowing that you were forgiven would not necessarily change your perception of yourself or your behavior. You are now a forgiven prostitute. If you believed you were still a prostitute you would probably live like one. But what if the decree also said that the King had made you his bride and a joint heir in His kingdom. Would that change your perception of yourself? Would that change your behavior?

Spiritual growth in the Christian life requires a relationship with God who is the fountain of spiritual life, a relationship that brings a new seed or root of life. As in nature, unless there is some seed or root of life within an organism, no growth can take place. Unless there is a seed of life within the believer, i.e., some core spiritual life, spiritual growth is impossible. There is nothing to grow. That is why Paul’s theology is all based on our position in Christ. "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him . . ." (Col. 2:6,7a). That is why salvation and sanctification are based on who we are in Christ. In order to grow, believers must first be firmly rooted in Christ. In order to grow and bear fruit, Christians, their marriages, and their ministries must all be spiritually centered in Christ.

Recall that Adam and Eve were born both physically and spiritually alive. Because of sin, they died spiritually. They were separated from God. From that time on, everybody is born physically alive, but spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). Paul says that everyone in that state is a natural man who cannot discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). Like an ornamental orange, they may look good, but they cannot bear any fruit that isn’t bitter. The fruit will only drop to the ground and bring forth more natural stock that will only appear to look good for a season. Dear Christian we have been grafted in. We are the bride of Christ.

Dr. Neil

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