What We Were Is Not Who We Are

If there is a greater personal transformation in fiction than that of Ebenezer Scrooge, it doesn’t readily come to mind. For over 150 years, Charles Dickens’ miserly protagonist has served as a metaphor for callousness and greed, but his story is really one of conviction and change—his spiritual awakening, the realization of wrong, a plea for mercy, and a newly-birthed compassion for others. His testimony is that of one made new, changed from the inside out. “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”1 So, why do we still tether the old money-lender to his former “Humbug” existence? Why also do we do the same in real-life, defining, for instance, both the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene by who they were before they encountered Jesus? Did Jesus leave them that way? Of course not, nor will the man from Gergesa—the one “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind”2—ever be a demoniac again.

Writing to believers in Ephesus, Paul recalled their life without Christ, when they, like all of us, “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient … gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.”3 What kind of lot were we who now make up the church? Paul’s list of sins reads like a rap sheet: “sexually immoral … idolaters … thieves … the greedy … slanderers,” he reminded his Corinthian readers, adding, “And that is what some of you were.”4 Did you catch it, his hidden proclamation of freedom? “Were”—as in past tense, the one-time identity of a bygone life. For Jesus has not left us defined by sin, nor should we. “But you were washed,” Paul continued, “you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”5

Made new in Christ,6 we are “called to live in freedom … [and to] use [our] freedom to serve one another in love.”7 Behind us lay our shackles of shame, for though we still sin, our sin is not who we are any more, nor will it ever be again. God knows this, our enemy knows this, and we must know it, too, so that we run and thrive in newness of life. For we have been united with the sinless Christ—He lives in us, and we in Him—and Jesus always wins.

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light …” (Ephesians 5:8).

Father, send us your Spirit that we would better know the truth and riches of who we are in Christ, and that, enlightened, we would live daily in the power of Christ in us, always for His glory. Amen.

1 Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Enriched Classic (New York: Pocket Books, 2007), 104.
2 Mark 5:15
3 Ephesians 2:2, 3
4 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
5 1 Corinthians 6:11
6 2 Corinthians 5:17
7 Galatians 5:13 NLT