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What You See in the Mirror is Not the Real You
Scripture: Hebrews 10:14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Coloss...
Track 4 of 7 in the 7 Truths That Will Make You Sweat series

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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Now that we have the question solved about which came first, the chicken or the egg, we can move onto another question that is really important to understand; which part of you is most responsible for your identity, the inside or the outside? The question of identity is something the Bible speaks volumes on and yet many Christians don't have a clue what that issue is all about. In fact, I contend that understanding who you really are is the first big step in really finding spiritual rest in life. I truly believe that many Christians suffer from an identity crisis. They really don't understand who they really are. There is a passage in Hebrews that is one of my favorite that I use a lot when trying to explain the Christian life to people:

Hebrews 10:14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The words described in this passage are justification and sanctification. They are big religious words and this passage holds two very important truths that are opposite each other, you are not seen as perfect but in reality, you are seen as perfect. Sounds confusing? To many it does but that is because we get confused by what identity we have. When we truly know and understand what part of us gives us are identity, this passage makes total sense.

I have tried to hammer home to you some really basic concepts that every Christian should know by heart in life. To many these concepts are really hard to grasp in everyday living. The reality of grace, the reality of salvation and who really does the saving and the concept that God set up the whole stage to prove to you that you in no way can ever earn God's favor are things we say we believe but find really difficult to experience.

God wants you to realize that since there is nothing you can do to earn heaven, that it is something he freely gives to you because he loves you, the conclusion we should come to in life is quit trying to earn your salvation. Once we are in a relationship with Jesus, we no longer have to worry about gaining heaven or salvation, we already have it. That fact alone changes all our motivation for everything else we do while on this earth. But for many Christians, it is still hard to comprehend "spiritual rest". For many Christians, rest alone is tough to understand and put into practice in the physical life.

How many of you can spend a whole day doing absolutely nothing and not feel guilty about it? I mean lay around, don't do anything you normally would do, splurge on yourself and really relax, rest? Are you the kind of person who has to stay busy all the time or someone who enjoys having time to just relax and not worry about anything? Do you regularly schedule time to do nothing and just rest, do the things that cause you to chill and recreate yourself (recreation)?

Do any of you remember Flip Wilson? He played a character on his TV show called Geraldine. I loved that character. She was known for a favorite statement that was funny when she said it. Do you remember what it was? "What you see is what you get." According to Geraldine, the outside is responsible for your identity. After all, that is the part everyone sees. That is the part everyone recognizes. But in the spiritual life, it is totally a false statement.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you like what you see? I know people who refuse to look into mirrors because they don't want to see themselves. Because they think they are too ugly, too fat or some other reason, they just avoid looking at themselves. We have a phrase we often use to question others actions, "How can you look at yourself in the mirror? All of these things are based on the belief that our identity come from the outside.

How many have seen the bumper sticker or heard the saying:

Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.

Is this a true or false statement? Why? The intent of the message is good but the truth about the statement is false. It is based on seeing the wrong person in the mirror. Christians are forgiven but as a result of the work of the Cross, they are also perfect. It is all an identity issue, one that is critical to understanding your relationship with God.

Then Who Am I?

If what we see in the mirror is not the real me, then who is it that we are really seeing? We are seeing the outer part of the person we use to be. Did you get that? When we look at ourselves in the mirror or when we look at each other, we see the outer part that we use to be. We are seeing FLESH.

What comes to mind when you hear the word, flesh? Skin and bones. But when Paul writes about flesh in Romans 7 and 8, he is referring to more than just our physical appearances. He is referring to us humans in our original condition. He is talking about someone who is unsaved.

We are all born in the flesh. The flesh gets old and wrinkled and will eventually die. We're born into sin and in all its imperfections. We are descendents of Adam and for unbelievers, that is where they stay. Unbelievers get their identity from the flesh.

Does the world judge a book by its cover? What is the worldly value system based on? Give me some examples how this works? Unfortunately, the church does the same thing. We identify people by income, where they live, race, ethnic background, and what ever else might be apparent to the eye. Judge people, places and things based solely on what we see, on what appears to us. We have all done it; that is how people and things get labeled. Sometimes the labels are right and sometimes they are wrong but labels are hard to shake.

There was a house next door where the neighbor totally neglected the property and the house. Over many years of neglect the value of the property declined in value and also caused the same thing to happen to the surrounding neighborhood. When the old man who lived there died, the neighborhood was glad to hear the property was sold and a new owner moved in. The new owner started first with the inside of the house and made several improvements to the point that the inside of the house was beautiful and the nicest house in the neighborhood. However, to the neighbors it looked as though the old owner still lived there because the old rundown house still looked rundown and old unaware the inside was by far superior to theirs.

That is exactly the way it is for Christians. Christ works from the inside out. The old man who use to live there died and a new owner now lives inside and is making his improvements. In fact, that is exactly how the Bible describes it. Several times in scripture the phrase "old man" is used to describe what we use to be like.

Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The old man was evicted. There is a new owner in the house who is righteous and holy. There is a cool verse to look at that helps us understand what we are talking about:

Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God

Something had to die for us to become born again. That something was our old self. It may not be readily apparent to the world, but there is a new owner in your body. The new owner is working from the inside out. See, unbelievers live outside in. They get their identity from things on the outside, things that they can see like color, gender, physical attributes and appearances. Believers, on the other hand, live inside out. We get our identity from who we are on the inside.

Have you ever literally looked into someone's eyes and you could tell that person was a believer in Christ? You could see Jesus.

The real you can shine through the flesh of the "old you" and it can be noticeable to others. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when Matthew recorded this statement:

Matthew 6:22-23 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

I have heard people say that they can often tell within seconds of meeting someone whether or not they are a believer. Are you like that? Has it happened to you? I had it happen to me this week while driving back to the airport in Phoenix. The limo driver was a Christian and I could tell right away he was one and our conversation quickly turned to his ministry work. It was very neat.

So how does this new birth occur? How does the old man die? The old man dies when the new man moves in. The new you is a creation of the Spirit that now lives in you. In fact, Paul describes it as a Spiritual circumcision. Now think about that a minute. We all know what a physical circumcision is. Basically it is a physical cutting and discarding procedure. The Spiritual circumcision is the same thing.

Colossians 2:11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

Jesus invades your body and cuts away the dead part and replaces it with His living Spirit. Jesus performs a spiritual circumcision. Being born again isn't a metaphor for what happened to us, we are literally born again. God takes out our heart of stone (the one we are born with) and replaces it with a new one, one that knows, loves and follows Jesus (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is how the old man dies and the new one is born. We live like Jesus not by trying to do it, it becomes our nature because we have new parts working inside us.

A Conflict Begins

The reality to all this, the real you is no longer flesh. The real you is no longer what you see in the mirror. The real persons we talk to in this class are not what we see. The real us is the Spirit inside. When you look into the mirror, you see the old you but when Jesus looks at you, he sees the real you, the image of his son and that image is perfect. He doesn't see the broken down, weathered, tired you that is the flesh. He only sees the Spiritual you.

BUT, there is a reality to all this, we still have to live for awhile in the old body that is tired and dying. We are reminded of this fact everyday, we see dying all the time around us. Our friends, our loved ones and others die everyday. But when this old body finally dies, we are united with Jesus instantly and we don't have to experience the painful, eternal dying that unbelievers will endure. That I good news and should excite us in this life.

But there is a conflict between what you and world sees and what God sees. God sees perfection, but you and I see sin that is inherent in our fleshly bodies. Our identity is not our flesh but f we mistake that for who we are then it is easy to get depressed and feel like God is against us.

Romans 7:17-23 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

Romans 8:8-9 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

It is pretty clear, you are not your flesh. You have flesh and you have to operate in your flesh. Your flesh will still sin but that is not the real you anymore. You are righteous, perfect and a saint. Are you confused yet? Look at this passage.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

That is great news. That is also news many Christians never come to grips with and actually accept. Instead they work so hard to please God by what they do and never experience the reality that they are perfect in God's eyes because of what he did, not what they are doing. It is a glorious truth, we use to be sinners but we are now perfect in God's eyes. We have been washed, justified and sanctified.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

We have a new identity in Christ regardless what we may see or feel at any given moment. If our identity was still in the flesh, then we wouldn't feel guilty of our sins. But because we do have a new identity, sinning does bother us and makes us feel guilt. Guilt is always the byproduct of sin. Sinning is not who we are anymore and the Spirit will always be repulsed by sin. His repulsion produces guilt and remorse in us. That is why it is important to confess our sins to him so that we both agree what we did was sin so we can do better the next time.

How many of you when you pray about your sins ask for God to forgive you. If you do that, stop it. You already are forgiven and perfect in God's eyes. What we are commanded to do is confess the sin, not ask for forgiveness. We already have it, it is promised to us. To keep asking for forgiveness means we don't believe in his promise.

Really Good News

If you come away from this lesson with only one truth, this is the one I want you to remember, God will not love you any more than he already does. Tape this to your mirror so that when you look at yourself, you are reminded of this fact. God does not love us because of what we have done or will do; he loves us because of who we are. We are his children and we belong to him. He loves us unconditionally like we love our children unconditionally. Like our children, there will be times we will mess up and disappoint our heavenly Father, but that doesn't change the fact we are still his children and he still loves us. Our identity is in Christ.

So, let's not live our lives as if God is some distant entity waiting to welcome us to His Kingdom when we die. With Christ moved in, we're a resident of the Kingdom of God already. It doesn't get any better than that. We are not waiting for our inheritance; we already have it. So stop living your life as if someday, maybe, if you play your cards right, you'll be with Jesus. You already are so rest and enjoy the life you now have. You are not the person you see in the mirror.