Association or Identification (Part 5)

Discipleship Series
by Rayola Kelley

This is the fifth article in the Discipleship Series. We have considered whether we are a sinner or a saint when it comes to our status in Christ. We have examined what is truly influencing our perception about God and life, as well as carefully considered if the quality of our life can be regarded as blessed of God or cursed by the ways of sin, self and the world. Last month we examined whether we are resisting when it comes to us truly giving way to God, or whether we have learned how to come to a state of true repentance.

As pointed out last month, it is important to understand the significance of godly repentance. Repentance allows us to turn around and face the harsh reality of our sins, moral deviation and hopeless state of sin and death. It allows us to fling ourselves on God in faith that He is able to bring life to our hopeless state of spiritual ruin, allowing us to walk in hope or expectation to a new beginning, a new life, and a new future.

This brings us to the next aspect of godly repentance. It allows us the means to become totally identified with our Lord in His death, burial and resurrection. The Apostle Paul talks about this identification in Romans 6. Identification points to being united in spirit, outlook or principle in order to become the same as or to share oneness.

We know according to John 17, this oneness was a major theme and desire in Jesus’ prayer. It not only pointed to agreement and fellowship, but it was also the means in which the world would know that the Father sent the Son into the world. Clearly, such oneness would be seen in the Christian’s life.

We are called into the place of complete identification with Jesus; therefore, we need to understand what it means for our Christian life. The first aspect that Paul brings out about this identification is the fact that we are dead to sin. Keep in mind that the death, burial and resurrection points to the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Jesus died for our sin, was buried and three days later rose from the grave. If we believe this in our heart and confess that Jesus is Lord, we shall be saved (Romans 10:9-10). But, we must keep in mind that for Jesus to provide the way of salvation, He took on the disposition of a servant, by taking on the form of a man. In other words, Jesus became totally identified with us in order to address our sin problem.

       Hebrews 2:9-10 gives us this insight: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” When Jesus became man, He was made lower than the angels. However, He had to take on a body to take our place on the cross as our Advocate. He had to suffer death in our place so we could inherit eternal life. The Apostle Paul stated that He became sin, or was made a sin offering so we could be made into the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Lord Jesus Christ serves as our example. He went the way of Calvary to experience death. Likewise, we must experience death if we are going to truly become identified with Him in His life. He was put to death because of our sin, and we must become dead to sin to experience the essence of His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

If our life is hid in Christ as Colossians 3:3 states, it signifies our death to the old way of life that was subject to the Law. The Law is what declares that we are sinners because we have transgressed it; therefore, we are worthy of death. The Apostle Paul in explaining how this all worked, related in Romans 7 how if we are living according to the dictates of the flesh, we are bound to the Law in the same way husbands and wives are bound to one another. There is no way we can get away from the Law outside of our death. However, if we are identified to Jesus’ death, we are already considered dead, freeing us to have a new husband, Christ Jesus.

Clearly, if we fail to come into identification with Jesus in this way, we still remain bound to the Law. It is in Him that we stand forgiven, redeemed and restored into a new, complete life.

Some of you might be asking how such identification can occur. The Apostle Paul also addressed this question in Romans 6:11-12: “Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in its lusts”. Reckon is a mathematical term. It means to count something as true no matter what angle we may approach it. When we consider reckon in this way, it simply points to faith. Faith is clearly a matter of reckoning a matter as being true. The Apostle Paul stated that the life of Christ that he was living in his body, he did so according to his faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20).

This brings us to the next part of being identified. We must be identified with Him in burial. We are told in Romans 6:3 that we have been baptized into Jesus, which means we have also been baptized into His death. Baptism points to total immersion. Our lives have been totally immersed into Christ. Just as Christ was hidden in the grave, we are hidden in Christ. Just as the old was put off through death to allow the new to come forth, our old life that was marked by sin and death must be reckoned as dead in Christ, in order for the new to come forth. Keep in mind, the grave represented the victory of sin and death that freely reigned, but when Christ rose from the grave, it lost its victory. The reality of sin and death was silenced by the lifeless tomb of the grave, proving that the grave cannot hold life that has been empowered by resurrection of the new, eternal life of God.

In Christ, as believers, we not only become identified with Him in death, but our old life has been buried in His death.  This allows for the last point of identification, the resurrection of the new. Notice, it is not the resurrection of the old, but of the new. The old has been left in the baptism, or grave, of death, allowing for the new to come forth. The Apostle Paul put it in this way: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 8:5).

It is important to point out that what stands as a place of identification is the cross of Christ. Standing before the cross of Christ allows us to see the dreadful reality of our sin. But, when one truly becomes totally identified or immersed in the work of the cross, which is death that leads to burial, then the expectation or hope of the cross can truly be realized. The hope of the cross of Christ is life that now abides in us. This life is not only eternal, but it has been empowered by resurrection. Sin has no claims on this life, death has no part in it, and the grave has no power over it.

Life is the glorious reality for those who are truly hid in Christ. These individuals look forward to realizing the fullness of this life in eternity. Meanwhile, this life allows these people to live unto God.  Instead of yielding the members of their body as instruments of unrighteousness, now they can become instruments of righteousness unto God, fulfilling their purpose in this present world and reaching their potential in light of the next.

This brings us to the second group of Christians, those who associate with the Christian way. Those who are associates to the Christian way may keep company with believers, attend services, and develop common interest, but will fall short of becoming identified with Christ. These are the people who are forever walking on the outskirts of the deeper Christian life. They may claim, or give the impression, that they want such a life, but they never really enter into the door that would lead them into the secret chambers of communion to experience it.

Sadly, it is not unusual to encounter people in the religious realm who do not want to really become identified to Christ. Even though it is His life in us that truly distinguishes us as His people, these individuals show no real desire to become identified with this life. Those who possess this attitude are simply associates to the Christian life.

There are various ways that people become associates to the Christian life. For example, there are those individuals who become associated to Christ through family. Since these people’s families are linked to the Christian belief, they conclude they must also be Christians. People that operate from this premise assume that such association identifies them to Christ, when in reality it simply identifies them to their family. However, these people do not really possess the life of Christ. They are assuming that such identification will somehow allow them to slide into heaven. However, the Bible is clear that if a person is not born again of the Spirit and the water of the Word, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Another way people become associates to the Christian life is through religious association. People who associate themselves to a particular school of thought, denomination or religious leader will fall into this category. When people’s identification is based on such associations, it becomes obvious that they are not looking to Jesus as their only source of life and hope. We are told that there is only one mediator between God and man, and that is the man, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Granted, these points of identification may possess aspects of Christianity, but when people are looking to such sources as their mediator or point of identification, Jesus will simply be tacked on to their religious activities to bring an appearance of credibility. In such a situation, we can see that instead of serving as the sole source or inspiration behind them, Jesus has been replaced by that which has no power to save.

The Word of God is clear. Jesus is the only author and captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9). He alone saves. To embrace and experience Jesus’ salvation, we must become identified with Him in His work of redemption. Such identification requires us to believe what has clearly been established in the Word of God. To believe not only requires us to receive Jesus’ salvation as a truth, but to accept the responsibility of walking in obedience according to the way that has been laid out in the Bible. The writer of Hebrews makes this statement about Jesus: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). (Emphasis added.)

The third way people sometimes associate with Christianity is in name only. Anyone can say he or she is a Christian. These people can associate themselves to Jesus by using His name. In other words, they will drop his name to fit in to the scene. However, dropping the name of Jesus in the crowd or using the title of Christian does not identify a person as being a Christian. It is true that salvation cannot be obtained in any other name but Jesus. But, a person must know Jesus in order to be saved. Knowing Jesus requires having a relationship with Him. Therefore to use His name without knowing Him is the same as using His name in vain. It has no real personal meaning other than be used as a point of credibility. Such people may know of and about Jesus, but they do not know Him.

The important question is what keeps people from truly becoming identified with Jesus? After all, we see some people coming so far in their life in Christ, but stopping short of becoming identified with Him. There are three reasons people do not fully become identified with Jesus.

The first reason is that such people refuse to consecrate their life to Christ. The Apostle Paul relates consecration as presenting our bodies as living sacrifices. The life we live as Christians is the life of Christ, but we must consecrate the members of our body as a living sacrifice to ensure that the life of Christ is not only established in us, but also worked in us. For example, we must develop the inward disposition of Jesus, that of lowliness or humility. We must let His mind transform our mind so that we can have agreement. We also must learn how to walk as He walked in this world, dead to its influence, and alive unto the will of the Father.

The second reason people become associates to Christ is because they refuse to surrender all of their present life to Him as Lord and Master. After all, we have been bought with a price; therefore, we do not belong to ourselves. To consecrate our lives is to set them apart from the world to God, but to surrender our lives points to total abandonment. We abandon all ties with this present world and the influences of our self-life in order to surrender all else to God for His purpose and glory. The problem with many Christians is they will surrender certain aspects of their lives, while holding onto rights to determine what they surrender, in what way they will surrender it, and when they will let go of it. To reserve any right to any aspect of our lives is not surrender or total abandonment. Those who refuse to surrender all for God’s purpose will never gain their complete life in Christ.

The third reason people operate as associates to Christ is because they lack true faith towards God. They have not chosen to trust Him with every aspect of their life. What has not been submitted out of child-like confidence to God becomes a point of unbelief in a person’s life. Such individuals will fail to trust God in all matters of life that proves inconvenient or does not make sense to them. As a result, such people will only associate with Jesus in areas that will not challenge their self-sufficiency, personal understanding, and weak character.

This leaves us with the necessity of examining our present status in Christ. It is vital that we examine to see whether we are in the true faith that exemplifies a growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). Perhaps in your examination, you will have to admit that you are simply an associate to Christ. If so, you need to be born again from above with the very life of Jesus. Humble yourself in true repentance and need for salvation, and ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and come into your life as Lord and Savior.

Maybe you are one who has come so far in becoming identified with the life of Jesus, but you have stopped in unbelief from entering into complete identification with Jesus. As a result, you walk in and out of the spiritual aspect of the Christian life into the fleshly ways and entanglements of the old life. If so, you need to repent of your independence and unbelief, and humble yourself before the Lord of lords and King of kings with the intent of paying the complete price of abandonment to secure your life in Christ.

Admittedly, I have been an associate in the past, but discovered that it leaves one empty, uncertain and miserable. But, thanks to the faithfulness of God, I have discovered the place of total identification in Christ. It is challenging, but a blessed place of assurance in Jesus, communion in the Spirit and peace in one’s relationship with the Father.