How many small group/home group/community group/cell group/care group meetings (did I forget any names?) have started out like this:
PERSON 1: I’m really struggling with [insert impatience, anger, lust, discontentment, and any other sin].
PERSON 2: Thanks for being so open and honest about your struggles. We can all identify with that struggle.
PERSON 1: Yeah, it’s just so hard to overcome. I feel like I’m struggling with this all the time.
PERSON 2: I can relate to that feeling. I feel the same way. In fact just yesterday I [yelled at my kids, looked at porn, wasted money, etc.] We’re all broken people. Thankfully there’s grace. Let’s pray and ask God to help us.
Now, is there anything wrong with this interchange? Not exactly. It’s good to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. Plus, if there’s one thing the world hates, it’s hypocrites. So, in an effort to obey scripture and be “authentic”, we confess our struggles. And we drink fair trade coffee, listen to Bon Iver, and wear faded jeans.
But I think in general, we as Christians need to be less authentic.
What I mean is, we need to identify more with who we are in Christ than our current struggles. We are not primarily defined by our anger, lust, impatience, or discontentment. We are defined by the fact that we are united to Jesus Christ, and that Christ himself lives in us!
So should we talk about our struggles and sins? Yes, of course. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to remind each other that, because we are united to Christ, we will not be ruled by our sin. As Romans 6:14 says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
We are united to the almighty Christ. That fact should completely transform the way we talk about our sins. We need to remind each other that our struggles with sin are NOT our authentic identity. Our authentic identity is as new creations in Christ. So our discussions should go a little more like this:
PERSON 1: Man, I’m just really struggling with anger this week!
PERSON 2: Thanks for being open and honest about your struggles. I can relate to that struggle too.
PERSON 1: Yeah, it feels like I can’t get past this! I’m always going to be angry.
PERSON 2: I know that it feels that way, but I want encourage you that this sin WILL NOT rule you. You are under grace. You don’t have to obey this feeling of anger that is rising within you. That feeling of anger is not your identity. You are in Christ and he is in you, and he will give you the power to overcome that sin. You don’t have to give in to it! Isn’t that good news? Now let’s pray and ask God to help you obey.
We are not slaves to sin. Our true, authentic, real identity is as Christians, united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Yes we confess and repent of our sins. But we don’t stay there. By faith we embrace our identity and fight against the sin that wages war against us.