The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. (Proverbs 24:16 NLT)
Two winters ago I was on a jog through our neighborhood after a light dusting of snow. Just one block from home I slipped on a hidden patch of ice and went sprawling forward onto the sidewalk. It was a jarring experience and after confirming nothing was broken I picked myself up and gingerly walked the rest of the way home. That fall caused me to change my winter running habits. I made a decision then and there to limit my running to indoors on a treadmill unless the footing outside was clearly ice free.
Falls are scary because of the potential harm they can wreck in a person’s life. As true as that is for physical stumbles, it is often even more impacting with spiritual ones. For one thing spiritual falls are more common. And the nature of spiritual falls frequently hinders people from getting back up and running again.
There are many causes for spiritual stumbles. Sin of course tops the list. But things like relationship conflicts, worldly distractions, disappointments and a failure to maintain spiritual disciplines all contribute to causing slips and trips spiritually. Spiritual stumbles lead to discouragement, condemnation and ultimately feeling estranged from God. All that contributes to a sense of unworthiness which is probably the biggest factor hindering a person from recovering from a stumble.
Overcoming all that can be a challenge. But there is a secret to getting back up again. And it has to do with understanding what it means to have our spiritual identity “in Christ.” Spiritual falls, much more frequently than physical falls, cause us to have spiritual amnesia. It is as if every time we take a spiritual tumble we hit our head, and as a result forget who we are.
The established fact is that anyone who puts their faith in Christ Jesus becomes a new creation and a child of the heavenly Father. (2 Corinthian 5:17) Throughout the New Testament, this new identity is frequently referred to as being “in Christ.”
The quintessential passage of scripture conveying this foundational truth about our new identity “in Christ” was penned by Paul in writing to the Ephesians. He actually begins this epistle by addressing his readers as “the faithful in Christ.” (1:1) He then goes on in the opening verses to enumerate nine different aspects of what it means to be “in Christ.” To be in Christ means to be spiritually blessed, chosen, holy and blameless, redeemed, forgiven, destined, hope filled, included and marked by the Holy Spirit. (vs. 3-14) That in a nutshell is a description of the new identity each Christian has by virtue of their born again experience through faith in Jesus.
A person’s identity both naturally and spiritually does not change with a fall. If I had hit my head when I slipped on the ice and broken a bone, become unconscious or even forgotten who I was, I would still be who I am. I would have the same name, same family, same address, same social security number, same bank account etc. Falling and forgetting does not alter ones natural identity. And it is the same for one’s spiritual identity. Falling spiritually does not alter the facts that in Christ we are blessed, chosen, holy, redeemed, forgiven, destined etc.
The secret and key to getting up after a spiritual fall is affirming and claiming our spiritual identity in Christ. Since most spiritual falls result in a sense of unworthiness, that unworthiness militates against an acknowledgement of who a person really is in Christ. One thing that may help is in imagining that when a person is born again they are given an ID card to carry in case of a fall and resultant spiritual amnesia. On one side of the card is says “New Creation” because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) And on the other side of the card it says “No Condemnation” because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 NIV).
So the next time you stumble and fall, and find yourself battling feelings of unworthiness and confusion as to your identity in Christ; pull out your card and read both sides. “New Creation” and “No Condemnation.” It will help you remember who you are and get you back up running the race. You’ll be glad you did and have a grateful heart for His forgiveness and the cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11 cheering you on!
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