"… to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13)
Elaine knew evil. She experienced it. She lived in terror of it.
Personifying evil was her corrupt father. A man known in the community to associate with "bad" company—in fact, he was the head guy of his gang. His lust for crime, corruption, control and violence worsened with each passing day. His behavior at home was the same as it was with his gang. Elaine's father physically and emotionally wounded his wife, children, and anyone in his way. Because of him, everyone called her "child of evil."
Elaine's words attest to her vehement disgust with her father's evil ways: "My deepest fear was that I would grow up to be like my dad. When he beat me, I hoped he would kill me. Being dead would be better than growing up to be like him."
Elaine felt like two persons. One person was unwillingly dragged into the horror-filled world she could inherit because of her father. The other met Jesus at Vacation Bible School, memorized John 3:16, and learned to sing "Jesus Loves Me."
The Battle for Identity
What Elaine experienced is called spiritual warfare.
On the battlefield of your heart, Satan and his agents constantly confront Jesus for domination of your soul. Evil principalities want you to be a prisoner of your past and your identity in Christ unclaimed.
Elaine knows. Years after her father's death, Elaine discovered the battle was still raging when she became engaged to marry Jack, a pre-med student and a man dedicated to Christ. In pre-marital counseling, the pastor uncovered her deep emotional scars and fears.
"Pastor, I'm afraid I will become like my father who was cruel and corrupt," Elaine said. "I don't want to be the ‘child of evil.'"
The pastor referred her to John 1:12-13 (above) and said, "The moment you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became a permanent member of God's family. You are no longer the same person. You are not a child of evil, but a child of God."
After years of counseling and Bible study, Elaine began to see herself as God sees her. "Each time Satan would try to tell me I was doomed because of my father," says Elaine, "I would reread who my Heavenly Father says I am."
Discarding False Identities
Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) Jesus did not speak of a physical birth resulting from human flesh, but of a rebirth from God through the Holy Spirit.
When we follow Jesus, we experience rebirth. Simultaneously, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to live in us, making his temple in our bodies.
Today—and every day—is a new beginning for followers of Christ. We deliberately, consciously remind ourselves that our past identities are just that—history. We have new identities. We're born of God. We're fully adopted with all the benefits of his naturally born child. Through God's mercy we call him "Abba, Father," or "Daddy." We can also expect to share in the inheritance of his only begotten son, Jesus.
The Holy Spirit transforms our nature into that of Christ's. We will, over time, see evidence in our lifestyles. Patience, gentleness, kindness, love become a natural part of our life. Daily our entire spiritual selves become more like Christ's.
As we grow in God, we develop a new self-image. The old self-image — filled with negative impressions and difficult life experiences—disappears forever. Self-destructive behaviors—alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, promiscuity, poor health habits, negative attitudes, and threats of suicide— fade away as we surrender our old self to the Lord.
Growth in Christ is a lifelong transition. Many individuals who have personally survived traumatic experiences and/or marred childhoods feel change takes too long. The assumption is that if God is involved, the process will be instantaneous, magical, and not too messy. Deep healing — supernatural change — may take years of struggle, trial and error, learning, and growing in strength to make the next significant move of faith.
Every Christian alive is a work-in-progress, each with a unique growth and change process. This process will continue for all of us until we are standing face-to-face with Jesus himself. It continues until our Father welcomes us home with a greeting of "my child."
Jan Coates is the founder and president of www.setfreetoday.com, a ministry where you can come as you are and leave with a new beginning. A sought after speaker and popular author, Jan's contagious passion for the Lord is felt in every word she shares. She is on a mission is to energize audiences with truth and freedom. For more information, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jancoates.com
Rebekah Montgomery, author/speaker/teacher, is a gifted, dynamic communicator. She is the author of more than seven books and has penned 1,100 articles. She shares tough real-life topics and biblical application in a simple easy to grasp manner. To book Rebekah for your next event visit http://www.rebekahmontgomery.com. Rebekah is also the executive director of Set Free Today ministry.