Republican or Democrat? Conservative or liberal? Cubs or Dodgers? Seahawks or Cowboys? There are countless ways to identify oneself. And though we may not be an actual player on a favorite sports team, we still identify with it, exulting, “We won!”
A stunning moment for viewers of the 2016 Olympic Games came when two members of the US men’s synchronized diving team pronounced their identification in Christ on national television. For them, that identity supersedes any earthly accomplishments, and demonstrates the true meaning of their lives.
Three of the ways Christians identify with Christ are through His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4). This trilogy of events symbolizes the radical change from “old man” to “new man” that offers reprieve from a godless life and renewal of true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Some believers have been physically crucified with Christ or laid their lives down in other ways as martyrs. However, when the apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ,” he meant he had given up all hold on his earthly life in obedience to his Lord. He had put his self to death to make room for Christ’s self (Galatians 2:20). Being wholly committed to following after Christ results in a “living sacrifice,” evolving on the altar to think, act, and be more like Him (Romans 12:1). The aim of this evolution is love. Christ died for us because of love, and we die to self because of love for Him. Reveling in one’s sacrifices is not dying to self. A quiet, humble, genuine love draws others to the crucified Christ.
Burial followed Christ’s crucifixion. In the same way, our old self is buried after it is crucified. Though unseen, it is changing from a decaying, corruptible self to an incorruptible new creation, as a caterpillar hidden in a chrysalis transforms into a beautiful butterfly. Immersion baptism, with the body submerging below the surface of the water, symbolizes this identification with our Lord’s burial (Romans 6:4).
If we continue to be carnally minded, we stay dead and buried. But the good news is that when we choose to be spiritually minded, we are infused with life (8:6). Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so God also raised His followers to new life (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:4-6). We identify with Christ when we set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-11). Our lives gain eternal significance as our minds are renewed to see the worldview of Jesus Christ.
This heart transformation raises us above the competitive, hierarchical society of earth into His kingdom of peace and justice. We are raised to new life now, and God will raise us up at the last day to live forever with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Just the fact that we are given eternal life identifies us with Christ because He is eternal (John 10:28).
Our identification with Christ first comes through the crucifixion and burial of the old self, followed by the growth of a new, imperishable life raised by God’s grace. Because of this, we “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).
Yes, we can have the best seats at stadiums or arenas, the most prestigious seats at town hall meetings or in chambers of government. But nothing compares to a seat in Christ Jesus! His seat is above all and redefines the rest. May we identity ourselves in Christ alone!