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Our Essence as a Christian

Our Essence as a Christian

Our Essence as a Christian

by Barry Delk 

What does it mean to be a Christian? Ask 1,000 people, Christians included, and you will get 1,000+ different answers. You would think a simple definition or two would be enough, but we all tend to make things harder than they should be when it comes to spiritual matters. That is why there are dozens of denominations within the Christian world, all slicing (to the Devil’s delight) the same cake. A quick and simple definition (if there is such a thing) may be that a Christian is a person who believes and acts on the following:  

“There is a Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who created mankind to be in an eternal loving relationship with them. When that relationship was broken by sin, man’s eternal soul was separated from God. But God’s desire and love wanted to mend that relationship, so He first sent a flood to cleanse the sinful earth and then later His son Jesus as man’s final savior and redeemer from the broken world. Namely, God drew the world back to relationship with Himself by Jesus’ sacrificial death on a cross. And a Christian believes that Jesus’ resurrection from death gives proof that we also have hope in that resurrection, that we too will be resurrected to be with God forever in heaven and share in God’s glory. Likewise, a Christian has put their trust, faith and life on earth and hereafter into God’s hands in light of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.”  

OK, not so simple and, not quite complete. Thousands of books and a hundred million pages have been written trying to give a definition of what a Christian is, what a Christian should be, what a Christian act like, etc., but we keep on writing. 

The Apostle Paul may have said it best. “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:16). That is an incredibly powerful and concise statement. It is crystal clear Paul wished for Christ to be the very essence of his life or for want of a better term his full identity. For Paul at least, that is what he felt it meant to be a Christian. Paul’s hope was that every thought, feeling, need, want, desire and action that came from him was actuated by and from the Holy Spirit of God within him. This would effectively be “Christ” in Paul, as He, the Father and Holy Spirit are united as one in moving the will of God forward (which also involves moving man and God into a deeper loving relationship). Likewise, we should also desire for Christ be our full essence. So, to be a Christian is to be a person in whom your essence (or identity) is Christ. That is not saying to be a Christian, we have to or will reflect Christ 100% of the time and in every way, but certainly that should be our targeted desire as it was Paul’s. And, it should be the major driving force of our life, the core from which we draw our life’s actions and directives. This was the New Creation we were made to be when we accepted Christ into our hearts as will be discussed below. 

This concept of Christ as our essence may be a little hard to fully grasp, much as Paul’s statement “To live is Christ” may draw differing opinions as to what that exactly means. So, let’s start with a definition of what the “essence” of something or better, “someone” is. For this discussion let’s say someone’s essence is the fundamental components that make up their driving life force (as noted partially above). It’s the engine that drives the train, so to speak. Google dictionary has it as: “the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, that determines its character “and “a property or group of properties of something without which it would not exist or be what it is.” It is the very deepest part of one’s soul and mind that moves a person to do the things they do in their lives. Further, it not only affects the choices we make in our daily lives, but our essence affects also how we react to the results of those choices as well. So how do we arrive at “who we are?” or our “core essence”?

We may first need to ask, “what are we”? We know there is our physical (flesh) body and our spirit or soul. But for Christians, we know that in truth we are our soul, not our flesh. But since the flesh interacts with our soul, we will discuss it briefly. In the actual physical sense of our flesh, our actions are dictated by what our brain tells our body to do whether by reflex or intent. The brain sends signals via chemical and electrical impulses to our body based on what it projects as a positive or negative thing for us to do and that guides our responses. And, it is true, God made us this way. There are a number of chemicals that direct our brains to react in certain ways as well, that will not be discussed here in length, but they are part of the driving force of what our body and mind leads us to do. In addition, life’s learned experiences also affect our actions but are not merely chemically driven, like an adrenalin surge for instance. If you see a flame, you know not to touch it for example. There are chemicals that make us feel happy or comfortable, ones that signal distress and negative emotions like sadness and many others, but all originally were designed to protect us by the Creator and ultimately, they play a large role in making us feel what we feel. It is those feelings that drive our choices and actions in life (at least usually).  

That said, these chemical effects and reactions in our brains are not independent of or set merely by the physical forces of our universe as naturalists (those not believing in spiritual elements) would have it, they are instead set by what we come to believe to be true and that becomes the core of our soul. Only mankind can decide for himself what is true, and that capacity is a choice only someone made in God’s image can decide. Whatever man decides therefore, directs the brain to guide the actions of each person. That is why the truth that sets man free is indeed the TRUTH. Jesus is the truth for Christians, period. At least He should be and that is the truth that should drive us. Jesus said it perfectly when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). You will never find the way or the life until you first settle on and in the Truth. 

Now, how does that apply to Christ becoming our essence or identity? Well, if it is truth that is essential to accurate thinking and a “right” soul, so to speak (yes, obvious), then the following are some of the most fundamental principles a person can learn about the Christian walk and life, and they are certainly some of the most misunderstood and incorrectly taught. There are a number of key elements to consider when someone comes to faith and salvation in Christ. First, they accept Christ’s work on the cross as their redemption as noted earlier. Beyond that, the word (2 Cor 5:17) tells us that when we are saved, we are literally “new creations” ourselves. Not our old self remade, improved or modified, but brand new in all spiritual ways. That new brand is Christ! We are a blank slate ready for molding. Our spiritual hard drive has been wiped clean. That is the same point Jesus made when telling Nicodemus that he had to be reborn of Spirit and not of flesh (John 3:1-15). Again, not modified, or flesh remade, but new. A fundamental part of this mental accent is realizing our true self is our spirit or soul and not our flesh as noted above. As clear as the above is in God’s word, we are not usually taught or instructed on “Full Newness.”  Instead, most are taught that there is a step-by-step process to get right with God, to clean up our act, to repent and try to stop sinning and many other things, but rarely true “NEWNESS.”  Instead of explaining to people that they are now fully indwelled by the Holy Spirit and sealed by God’s grace, they are given a ladder and told to start climbing to find Him. Moreover, newness occurs immediately when the Holy Spirit moves into a person when they accept Christ as their savior, sealing them for heaven but also acting as the NEW building project manager. The Holy Spirit is the architect of the new creation as Jesus said, “born of the 

Spirit.”  There is no new creation without Him, nor is there really anything true to man’s mind and spirit without Him. 


When Jesus was instructing the disciples about the coming Holy Spirit in both John 14 and 16, he calls Him the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, Comforter, Teacher and more (depending the translation), and that He would not speak on His own, but only from what the Lord and the Father directed Him to give them (and us).  Just as it was for the disciples, the Holy Spirit is therefore our direct link to the Jesus and the Father. It should be noted as well, when the Holy Spirit moves into our being, He does so in full measure, not in pieces. This is often misunderstood. Now certainly over time we grow to know the Spirit better and how to follow His lead and hear Him, but we have Him completely when we are saved. The very reason it may take certain people longer to grow in understanding the Holy Spirit, the Father and Jesus and the richness of a life in them, is the lack of proper spiritual instruction about who the believer needs to really learn from once they accept Christ and after. This is not critical; it is simply true. This is why discipleship is critical for all Christians to constantly remind believers the depth of the well of life already within them through the Holy Spirit.  I’m going to expand on this further, as again it goes directly to topic.


Think this through: We know clearly from the word of God, that with God, all things are possible, but without God, we can do nothing (MSR). Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is the key link to God as part of the Trinity, then we can effectively do nothing without Him. This is a critical concept for all believers to understand and settle in their hearts (seal it, stamp it, and write it on our foreheads). It frees us of 1,000 bad teachings and lets us know how things must be for Jesus to ever be our guiding force through the Holy Spirit. There is very, very good news here, but it too has been largely missed for 2,000 years. In short, it’s all God. We cannot do anything on our own. The Word says God not only drew us to Himself, but He also guided our hearts and minds to a knowledge of Him and even positioned us to accept it. He may have done this over a long period of time and in 10,000 hints and motions, or it may have been a sudden come to ME moment, but it was all Him. So, while we cannot “do anything” on our own, we can learn and grow in the Truth by the Holy Spirit’s work in our mind and hearts. We also have God’s word that works to enlighten us (but also only with the Holy Spirit’s help). This is why it is always critical to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance when hearing a sermon, reading the Bible or really while doing anything of a spiritual nature.  You cannot lean on your own understanding or that of others alone, for the wisdom of man is useless and even dangerous without the filter of the Holy Spirit.


On a related point that helps drive this home comes in understanding why the judgement of others by Christians is so horrific and damaging to the work of the Kingdom of God (or God’s purposes for mankind). In the same way that God is responsible for loving us to Himself, he is also the only, only, only one that ever enables us to do a single good thing on this earth. So, if we are ever tempted to say, “I can’t believe that person did this or that” it is only by God’s grace that we are not ten times the sinner and eviller in every way. I say that with all sincerity. It does not mean that we ever call sin good, ignore its darkness or condone it, by no means. Likewise, we certainly can in love point out a sin to a brother or sister in Christ if we fear or know they are sinning (whether they know it or not). But to ever judge someone struggling with sin or darkness, presumes they have any ability on their own to do anything about it. Outside of Christ, they have none and in Christ, it will be the Holy Spirit that enables them to have power over a struggle. By putting it on the person, we are saying they fully have control over a struggle, and they do not. Once this is understood, it changes our approach to our own lives and actions as well and how we attempt to help others. Further, it allows us to feel the plank in our own eye in a new way. This is very clearly defined by the words of our Lord, and it is remarkable it has been so missed for so long, but it is a deadly trap. It also directly relates to the topic of our essence. Our essence will never fully reflect Christ, when we are trying to “be like Him” on our own, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to His likeness.


Satan’s biggest weapons have seldom been the big lies, although he is good at those too. It has instead often just been the little distraction, a tiny little lie, a drop or two of legalism, a misused doctrine or any other way he can trap man in our fleshly weakness (pride, control, self-esteem, lust, etc.). That’s all it takes for 10,000 tangents of man’s mind to lose the entire message of Christ or at the very least, critical parts of it. We cannot be like Jesus, but Jesus can be (and express) Himself in us through the Holy Spirit if we get out of the way. Our part is to first understand that truth and then to earnestly ask for the Holy Spirit to open our heart and minds to receive and understand this truth at the fundamental depths of our mind and hearts. This is a very real part of being the NEW creation you are, as noted earlier. We cannot grasp the newness without God teaching us. While mentors, pastors, friends and others can give advice, it is the Holy Spirit who will truly teach us. He is our “go to” in all matters spiritual. The word of God is our scale as well, as there is nothing the Holy Spirit will teach us that does not agree with God’s word. Now, a word of caution here. Much of God’s word has been misunderstood and incorrectly taught from Genesis on, so we cannot rely simply on other people’s interpretations of the scriptures as we read or listen to them. Again, pray before you read the word or hear it. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to His truth and to give you what you need from the message and to seal it in your heart. It’s remarkable what the Lord will show you when you encounter Him with an open, humble heart and mind. Also, while the Lord wants us to always come to Him with everything and, it is often good to try and encounter Him without a set agenda. Instead, go to Him and ask Him to tell you what you need to know. God is deeply in love with you and so eager to bring you into His heart and to enrich your life, He will always deliver what you need. You may not know it at the time, but He does not miss his target and you are His target and have been since before recorded time.


Now, here is where things get fun, life changing, rich, stretching, hard, humbling and more once your essence and identity begin to change and emerge. Within you, the Lord placed at your creation certain spiritual and natural gifts. The natural gifts may be healthy genetics, physical and mental capacities, etc., but it is only through the spiritual gifts that you can really reflect your true self or essence that God created in you. The spiritual gifts are a most critical part of your essence, you may just have never known it. In Eden before the fall, all our personhood was designed to be eternal and to live in harmony with God and His creation forever, but we are not in Eden anymore. (That is an entirely different topic worth discussion, but we will leave that for another time.)  Once the love of God begins to infuse your soul, heart and mind to levels of overflowing (and it will) by the work of the Holy Spirit, your spiritual gifts begin to come alive. Everyone’s gifts are different, and many people have no idea what their gifts may be until suddenly they come alive. The word of God discusses different spiritual gifts and again, there are enumerable writings on such, but people should go to the word itself and to the Holy Spirit within you and you will be lead down the path where your gifts can most serve the Kingdom of God, which is now also in your heart.  

As this writing highlights and many reading this already know, it is in the Holy Spirit expressing God through your spiritual gifts that your real essence emerges. It is when you step back into Eden spiritually in perfect harmony with God and the peace that passes all understanding rules you in those moments. This is the fountain of love overflowing from within the Christian that is often discussed. When Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, it was written (….and the 

heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matt 3:16-17). People who have Christ as their essence can radiate that same dove of light out from within them and He always shines with love, joy and peace. This too, I feel is what Paul meant by “to live is Christ.”  Early followers of the Lord were called followers of The Way. It was a way of life that flowed from within many of them. They did not need a cross on their neck, a Post-It-Note, wrist band or other to remind them “What would Jesus do?” (Not that there is anything wrong with such items). Their actions flowed from their essence as God’s children. Many of these followers of course had direct knowledge of or experienced the event and coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and various events that followed. By seeing many manifestations and miracles of the Holy Spirit (as we still do today with open eyes and minds), among other events, they were closer to the source of original teaching as well. So having the Holy Spirit reflect Christ as an essence would have been much easier for believers to understand at that time. But, for almost two thousand years it seems, “The Way” got lost on the way and traded for rituals, works, to do lists and “how to” books.


So, in conclusion, our essence in Christ with God as our essence is this, “We are our best when the love of God is expressed through us by our spiritual gifts empowered by the Holy Spirit.”   That is the eternal reality of what we are and why we were created. This is the very thing our hearts have chased since we were born. This “Way” would have been so natural to us as our next breath before the fall of man, but now we are locked in a never-ending chase, blocked and blackened by dark forces, always chasing for the heart of God (both in sinful folly and by the Spirit), to reunite it with our own. Being made in His image, there lies within us all, a great craving to be fully loved by our God and to love Him fully. In that way, our desire is His own, but this to by the Spirit, until we go home. In the meantime, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to take the lead in life’s dance.  

In a very real sense, there must be an osmosis of our flesh nature in exchange for the desires of the Holy Spirit for us to be in harmony with the desires of God and Jesus of course. This osmosis quite literally changes us, down even to the chemical reactions from our brains, so that what pleases the Spirit is what pleases us. We don’t think about being like Jesus, it is our natural reflective nature. In John 17:21 (the Last Supper) Jesus was praying to the Father for believers and he asked, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me”.   This is a loving and powerful description of our Lord’s desire for oneness with us. We are brand new, sealed and protected, infused with the Spirit, power and glory of the Lord himself. That’s a pretty good Essence to have. And to have and to hold that even death will not part.

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