Welcome to part five of the Approach the Throne series! You can find a full list of past posts, and an explanation of the series, on my Archive page. The series began with exploring who God is, and now we’re in the second part of the study: discovering who we are. In the last post, we discussed the importance of believing God’s forgiveness. Today, we’re exploring who we become after Christ saves us.
After we settle the fact that God’s grace is indeed real, after we are no longer focused on who we were when He found us, we are left with the questions: who have we become and who are we becoming in Him?
1 John answers both of those questions for us. As far as who we are now, John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1, ESV). And regarding who we are becoming, he says, “what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Let’s start with the “easy” part: who we are now. John’s words are very straightforward: we are children of God. We were sinners and rebels against God. By Christ’s sacrifice, we have not only been reconciled to God and justified, but have been adopted into the same family of which Christ Himself is the firstborn. In fact, the writer of Hebrews says, “[Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brothers” because “He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Source” (Hebrews 2:11).
There are plenty of other terms used to describe the redeemed people of God: servants, priests, ambassadors, and so on. But I think these other titles are all wrapped up in the gift and responsibility of being part of God’s family. When God calls us His children, He doesn’t mean that in a vague, figurative sense. He has literally taken responsibility for you as His child, and He expects you to listen to Him, love your brothers and sisters, and fulfill the other requirements of your inheritance.
That brings us to another important aspect of being children: children are also heirs. Paul wrote, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The promise that God gave to Abraham is recorded in Genesis 17: “‘I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you'” (Genesis 17:7). In other words, this was a promise of relationship, that God would devote Himself to Abraham and his offspring and in return, they would devote themselves to God.
During the days of the Old Testament, circumcision was used to mark those who were set apart as God’s people. Today, we are circumcised inwardly by the Spirit through the putting off of our old self, our flesh, and putting on of the new self that Christ gives us (see Philippians 3:3 and Colossians 2:11-12).
The Holy Spirit’s presence within us is evidence that we are God’s children. “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Galatians 4:6, see also Romans 8:15). And because we are indwelt by the Spirit, that also makes us God’s living, breathing temple (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
But what on earth are the implications of having the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within you, working through you and changing you from the inside out? This brings us to the second point: who we are becoming.
While living on Earth, we can often feel like a sort of half-breed. Part of the time we behave like our old, sinful self, and part of the time we follow God. There’s a constant back-and-forth pull, the old man struggling against the new, and we have to die to ourselves every day so that the Holy Spirit can live through us instead. But it’s not always going to be this way. “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
John’s Gospel relates an occasion when the Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy because He claimed to be God’s Son and one with God. The people tried to kill Him for this statement, but Jesus said to them, “‘Is it not written in your Law, “I said, you are gods”? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”?'” (John 10:34-36). The section of Scripture that Jesus quoted comes from Psalm 82.
Yes, you just read that paragraph correctly. The ones “to whom the word of God came” were called “gods.” This by no means implies that we ever become equal to God; that would be blasphemy, because only Jesus Himself is God. But He is making us into creatures like Himself, and when Jesus returns, the work will be completed.
C.S. Lewis wrote about this concept often, the idea that God’s goal is to make “little Christs” out of each one of us. At first, it feels almost wrong to think of such a thing, to believe that we could actually become gods. Indeed, there’s an inherent contradiction in the phrase “creatures like Himself” that I used above: we are creatures, made by God and in no way equal to him. And yet, we know that God is making us like Christ and one day “we shall be like Him,” as the earlier quote from 1 John states. If we actually realize how great God Himself is, how limitless and divine, then what else could we think “like Him” means? Calling us “gods” doesn’t say anything about how great we are; it says everything about how great the Author and Perfecter of our faith is.
In closing, I’d like to say that although it is vitally important to understand who we are in Christ, the end goal is to be so caught up in Him that we forget ourselves entirely. I’ve still got a long way to go with that; I struggle with insecurity all the time (why do you think I wrote a whole blog post reassuring myself and you about our identity in Christ?). And it’s okay to ask questions and to have doubts, as long as we bring those to God and let Him deal with them. He is faithful to remind us of His truth, no matter how many times we need it. But there comes a time when we just have to choose to trust what He says, and then move on.
My prayer for all of us is that God will give us the assurance and the faith necessary for us to release all our fears about status and identity, and let Him draw us so close that all we behold is Him—because in His presence, we will never need to doubt who we are.