There is a story told about a thirteen-year-old amateur tennis player, named Rosie, as she struggled to stay above the competition while facing the temptation to cheat.
In amateur circuit matches, fewer line judges were available to make calls, so the players called their own balls “in” or “out.”
Rosie discovered that she could tilt the match her way on important points by calling her opponent’s shots “out” when they were really “in.”
She experienced heavy guilt because she knew she was a cheater, but the fear of losing matches was still much greater.
At one of her lowest points, a friend approached her, knowing that she cheated.
He spoke to her calmly, “Don’t you understand? You may have cheated, Rosie, but you’re not a cheater.”
That truth was the turning point for Rosie.
When facing the next opportunity to cheat, Rosie didn’t.
She was not a cheater.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to define who we are by our behavior?
We can be thankful that God does not play that game.
He defines who we are by who His Son is.
If we are in Jesus Christ, then His Spirit dwelling in us defines us.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read:
“If anyone belongs to Christ, He is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we as believers are seen as “righteousness of God in Him.”
We may have cheated, but we are not cheaters.
We may have stolen, but we are not thieves.
We may have slandered, but we are not slanderers.
We may have lied, but we are not liars.
No, we are holy, righteous, saints.
At our core, new creations in Christ truly want to obey God.
We have a desire to do what is right in the core of our being; which is our re-created human spirit where the Holy Spirit dwells.
Legalists or those who do not understand the difference between Law and Grace may say that this approach is being soft on sin.
On the contrary, this approach is the only effective way to motivate godly behavior.
What we believe about ourselves determines how we behave.
If a new creation in Christ truly believes he is a sinner at the core of his being, he will live like a sinner; however, if he truly believes he is the saint that God says he is, he will be highly motivated to live like a saint.
If we think producing spiritual fruit or godly behavior is difficult, we are wrong.
It’s impossible, apart from complete dependence upon Christ as life.
The enemy wants us to think something like this: “If I can do better than I just did, sooner or later God is going to like me more than he does right now.”
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Can I really impress God with a better performance or better behavior?
The answer is: No way! It is impossible to increase God’s pleasure in you.
Make no mistake about it, the Holy Spirit will encourage you to correct your course or your behavior so your performance or behavior more accurately reflects who you are in Christ; but this has nothing to do with gaining God’s favor.
He accepts us as we are in Christ. Period! What an impact our true identity in Christ makes!
Pastor Ken Keeler