New Identity Comes Before True Holiness

Identity: Forgiven

Review of chapter 2 of Tim Chester’s You Can Change.

Summary quote:

“We don’t change so we can prove ourselves to God. We’re accepted by God so we can change. God gives us a new identity, and this new identity is the motive and basis for our change.” (29)

We have an “instinct to self-atone runs deep in our hearts” (23). We are “hard-wired to think we must do something to make God favorably disposed toward us” (24). We think this way about other people as well. We compare ourselves with others, and “they set the standard” (24).

The focus is then put on ourselves. Why? “Trying to impress God, others, or ourselves puts us at the center of our change project. It makes change all about my looking good. It is done for my glory. And that’s pretty much the definition of sin” (25).

Chester preaches an alternative:

– Our reference point should be God in the flesh: “We should be comparing ourselves to Jesus” (24).

– Our sense of God’s acceptance should be stable and objective: “God can’t love you more than he does now” (24). “You can’t do anything to make yourself more acceptable to God than you already are” (26).

– We should live out an identity that we already have received as a gift. “We are called to be what we are” (29). An implication of this is that “your identity isn’t dependent on your change” (26). The whole logic of false religion is reversed: “We don’t do good works so we can be saved; we are saved so we can do good works” (28).

– We should abandon the futility of pursuing holiness while unforgiven. True holiness comes from a forgiven heart: “The essence of holiness is not new behavior, activity, or disciplines. Holiness is new affections, new desires, and new motives that then lead to new behavior. If you don’t see your sin as completely pardoned, then your affections, desires, and motives will be wrong.” (28)

– We should expand our category of repentance: “Gospel repentance includes repenting of good works done for wrong reasons” (25).

– We should only fight forgiven sin: “You will cleanse no sin from your life that you have not first recognized as being pardoned through the cross” (28).

A beautiful quotation from G. C. Berkouwer on page 31:

“The adoption to sons — that is the foundation of sanctification, the only foundation. . . . In his faith each has all the possession he requires and can therefore freely and lovingly devote his entire life to the service of his fellowman.” – Faith and Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 33.


Chester, Tim (2013-06-30). You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions. Crossway. Kindle Edition.