A New Identity in Christ

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” –Matthew 3:16-17

These words from our Gospel reading this past Sunday are not unfamiliar. We hear them each year at about this time, at the beginning of the Epiphany season. “Epiphany” means “to reveal publicly,” and with this reading about Jesus’ baptism, God the Father publicly reveals the true identity of this man in the water. This baptism is, in many respects, like an anointing of a Prince; the heir apparent to the throne of heaven.

It’s truly a powerful event, whether we realize it or not!

But, what is perhaps even more powerful—or at least more shocking—is that, each year when we look to the accounts of our Savior’s baptism, we also hear the same words of Romans 6:1-11. And the powerful, shocking event we learn about is our own baptism!

St. Paul’s words cause us to reflect on the truth of our identity: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (verse 11) We are no longer slaves to sin; we are sons and daughters of the King!

I’m reminded of a story I read about awhile back. Around ten years ago, a man from Minnesota named Marty Johnson finally learned the truth of his birth parents…and, the truth of his identity.

Johnson, who was 38 at the time, had been adopted as an infant. Occasionally he made attempts to find his biological parents, but such efforts typically ended with nothing to show. But then, out of nowhere, Marty’s birth mother reached out to him.

She explained that she had fallen in love with a young Northern Iowa University student from Nigeria all those years ago. In time, the Nigerian had to return to Africa, leaving the young woman from Cedar Falls alone and pregnant. She felt her only recourse was to put the baby up for adoption.

Armed with this information, Johnson redoubled his efforts in search for his father in Nigeria. He soon learned the truth that his family is tribal royalty! Marty’s biological father is a chief in Orlu, Nigeria. And, Marty himself now stands as the heir apparent to the throne in Orlu. Upon the death of his father, Johnson will rightfully receive the title “Ude-Ekah,” or “chief.”

It sounds like an email scam you’ve received, I know. But, truthfully, as the first-born son, Marty Johnson—the once-orphaned, mortgage broker from Eagan, Minnesota—is a Nigerian prince!

Friends in Christ, this story is not unlike our own. Whether we realize it or not, in a powerful way, God claimed you and me as His own in baptism. It’s not a scam! God the Father “publicly revealed” to the world that You are His child. Your baptism was a sort of anointing. We are truly princes and princesses of the heavenly kingdom!

Now, if only we could always live in that identity!

The problem is, we tend to forget about this new identity, reverting to our old sinful selves. Marty Johnson, for instance, still had a mortgage to pay, bills piling up at home in Minnesota, an old life he couldn’t get away from despite his royal status. We, too, on this side of eternity, cannot escape our sinful nature.

Nevertheless, the same Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus in His baptism, comes to us, too! The Holy Spirit continually is working in and through us, allowing our identities in Christ to shine. Where we fail, we seek the forgiveness of our loving and gracious God and Father, knowing that in Christ our sins are forgiven—thanks be to God!

So, no matter what you are going through; no matter what comes your way today, this week, this month, or even this year—be confident in your identity in Christ. And, “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Written By: Pastor Jonathan Meyer