As hard as it can be to believe, God differentiates between the sin that we do and who we are. This is true for every man, woman and child on the planet, whether a believer in Christ or not. God sees His image in us, even when we have been caught in cycles of ongoing sin. This can be hard to accept—that God still sees His beauty in us even at our worst.
His ability to see His beauty in us extends to the good of our physical bodies. Yes, your physical body may become aroused at sinful thoughts or images; yes, your body may even automatically respond to sexual sinful stimuli; and yes, there may be times it feels like your body is working against sexual purity in your life. But none of this means your body is inherently bad. Sin is working in your members, but your body was created by God as an essential part of how you bear His image. And this is why Christ came to redeem your body, too (cf. Romans 8:10, 11). This means he can change your body’s automatic responses.
And as we join ourselves with Christ, or better stated, as we remain connected with Christ, we increasingly learn to live as the men and women we really are—our true selves. No one of us can walk in the “true self” apart from God because none of us were created to do so.
The true self doesn’t seek to posture or pose because we know we are absolutely loved and accepted by God our Father, and that the Father supplies for our every need out of that love. The true self can acknowledge the power of sin because we know that the power of the Father is greater. The true self can acknowledge sinful desire because we know we are not defined by the “sin residing in its members” (Romans 7) but by who God has created us to be. And the true self can acknowledge when sin in us has gotten the best of us and sinned because we know sin no longer has power to condemn us (cf. Romans 8:1ff).
How can we live in reality of what we’ve done and do while also continuing to live, to look the world in the eye? Only at the Cross. The Cross speaks to the reality of our depravity and our worth; our wickedness and our God-given goodness, our rebellion and our position as Christ’s beloved.
Are you tempted? Sin in you responds by either giving in or pretending to be good enough to combat temptation like a pro. And this just leads to further sin. We know this all too well. But how does your true self respond to temptation? By acknowledging the power of sin and the greater power of Christ. The true self runs quickly to Christ and trustworthy others, acknowledging the lure and the flesh’s desire for it.
Did you sin? What does the true self (the true you God has made and redeemed) do? The true you lives righteously now. What’s the righteous thing to do when we sin? Confess, come clean, ask forgiveness, forgive. As we walk in the true self, we’re free to cowboy up right where we are.
Did you stand firm and resist temptation? Sin takes the victory and chooses pride to feel better about itself. Sin takes the victory and uses it as fuel to further posing and posturing. But the true self is free to celebrate the victory gratefully, rejoicing at the thrill of how Christ’s life in us wins the victory and is changing us from the inside out.
When we think we are our sin (or our temptation), we are more prone to shame and more prone to sin further. But as we grow in the knowledge of who we truly are as beloved sons and daughters of our Father rescued by Christ, we learn to stand, to refuse sin, to walk in progressive holiness day by day. As we learn to abide in His Spirit, we experience new freedom to do good based in who we, in truth, are—based in the true self.