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  • Paul Reich

Becoming Who You Are

Updated: Apr 10, 2021

The Power for Transformation - Part 2: Sanctification is "Christ in us" empowering us to become all that we already are "in Christ" through justification.


Like many children in North America, I grew up hearing and reading fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and by Hans Christian Anderson. One of my favorites by Hans Christian Anderson is the story of The Ugly Duckling. Most of you likely know it well.

It is the story of a young domestic “duckling” who was different than all his brothers and sisters. He took longer to hatch, was much larger, and according to standards of duck attractiveness he was downright UGLY. Not to mention that his “quack” was offensive sounding to the other ducks. As a result, the “ugly duckling” endured much ridicule and rejection by his siblings, causing him to flee in search of a family that would take him in and love him.

His journey led him to encounters with wild ducks, geese, and a farmer and his wife, yet he found no home and no one to love him. Instead, at each turn he suffered hardships along with further ridicule and rejection. Finally, after enduring a severe winter on his own, one warm spring day he happened upon a crystal-clear pond and three of the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. Having been rejected by ducks and geese and humans, he didn’t dare even approach these magnificent creatures. Yet, to his surprise they swam over to him, gathered around, and warmly welcomed him. He had never experienced such kindness and love before.

On the shore, children who came to the park to feed the birds said, “Look Mom, a new swan and he’s the whitest and most beautiful swan of all.” Realizing from their gestures that they were talking about him, the “ugly duckling” looked down into the crystal-clear water and saw his reflection for the first time. He was shocked to see that he looked exactly like these other magnificent creatures. He had never imagined when he was an “ugly duckling” that he would be so beautiful!

In many ways, this story describes the life of a growing Christian as we progressively become more like Christ. We are in the world, but not of it (John 17:14-18). We don’t look and behave like those around us. To the world, we are “ugly ducklings” who don’t belong, sometimes even suffering ridicule and rejection because of it (Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-20, 17:14). Sadly, some Christians succumb to the seductive pressures of this world and embrace the values, the thinking, and the lifestyle of the world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 5:15-17). They are carnal or worldly (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), and by all appearances, you can’t tell from their lifestyle the difference between them and their worldly friends.

We all know Christians who have turned their backs on biblical morality, restricting or even severing any meaningful connection with believers who would disapprove. For those who have Christ in them to live this way, it means that they have had to silence the voice of conscience and choose to live contrary to the very nature of Christ and desires of the Holy Spirit who indwells them (Romans 8:12-13; Galatians 5:16-17; 1 Timothy 4:1-2). They have become hardened and calloused, justifying and excusing their choices and behavior with distortions of the truth, rejecting the light they once had because their deeds are evil (John 3:19-21; Ephesians 4:17-24). Sin requires deception to exist; it cannot exist in the light. This is why the Scriptures enjoin us to “exhort one another daily” so that none of us “will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Many more Christians fall prey to moral deception than to doctrinal deception, but this is topic for another time.

On the other hand, if we will cooperate with the DNA of Christ placed within us by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will become what we truly are. His righteous and holy seed will produce righteous and holy fruit. The seed of "Christ in us" will produce the fruit of Christlikeness in everyway as we yield to the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Galatians 5:22–25 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself and wish to lay some broad foundations in this particular blog that will be most helpful for future blogs.

To my knowledge, Nietzsche was the first who popularized the concept of “becoming who you are.” Unfortunately, Nietzsche rejected God and Christian morals, describing “Christian morality” as “malignant,” “false,” and “a curse on reality.” As a self-proclaimed “antichrist” and “immoralist,” He taught that becoming who you are is a process of self-actualization that comes through self-knowledge, descending into the depths of one’s own psyche, instincts, impulses, and drives in search of the authentic self.

Since Nietzsche, various philosophers, psychologists, and even spiritual contemplatives have proclaimed various ways to “become who you are.” Sadly, many have taken a Nietzsche inspired journey of self-discovery and self-creation, only to be lost without an objective map and a compass for evaluating where and who they truly are. As a consequence, they have created themselves after their sinful passions or an image of their own understanding.

Apart from Christ and understanding God’s design and plan for our lives, the journey of self-discover will lead to the fallen self, the heart that the Bible describes “is deceitful above all else and is desperately sick [KJV – "wicked"]. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NASB). This is hardly a good foundation for building one's identity and one's life.

Contrary to Nietzsche and others who reject God and/or Christian morality, I believe the “true” and “authentic self” is only found in our relationship with God and in what He says about us, in particular, who we are "in Christ." This brings us to an important biblical topic: who we are "in Adam" versus who we are "in Christ." Spiritually speaking, we live in a world of "ducks," but we are really “swans” who have different nature. This nature will manifest itself in how we look, how we “sound,” and how we behave.

The apostle Paul describes the state of man apart from Christ in a number of passages. Perhaps, some of his clearest descriptions are found in the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:1–3 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

This state of spiritual death is dominated by three spiritual enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. A non-Christian behaves like the fallen sinful world, is influenced by demonic forces, and gratifies his fleshly desires and imaginations. In this state he is separated from God and deserving of judgment. Paul elaborates on this fallen state in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:17–19 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

Paul’s insistent admonition for believers to no longer live like those who do not know God, tells us that it is possible for Christians to live like non-Christians, even though this is contrary to God’s plan for our lives.

This whole sinful state of human experience that is dominated by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and is characterized by spiritual blindness, alienation from God, hardened hearts, and sensual indulgence, came into our world through Adam’s sin.

Romans 5:12 (NIV)

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

All humanity is fallen because of Adam’s sin and continues to suffer the consequences of His sin. Because Adam was the head of the human race, all mankind is considered to have been “in Him” at the fall because we are "united to" him by human descent. Consequently, due to Adam's sin, we too suffer the ailments of this fallen world such as sickness, weeds, pain in childbirth, relational conflict, and death. Further, we all have sinned ourselves and are separated from God, deserving of God’s eternal punishment for our own rebellion.

Thankfully, God in his great mercy sent His son to die for us even while we were yet sinners. In this amazing act of His grace, we are forgiven, reconciled to God, and delivered from His wrath (Romans 5:9-11), because Jesus took our sins upon Himself and was judged on our behalf for our sins. In exchange, we are cleansed and given righteous standing before God. This is called "justification." Because of Christ, I stand before God justified, “just as if I’d” never sinned. Christ took my penalty, and I am given a clean slate.

Romans 5:18–19 (NIV)

18 Consequently, just as one trespass [Adam’s sin] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [Christ’s death for us on the cross] resulted in justification and life for all people.

19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

When we give our lives to Christ and through faith are born of the Spirit, a divine exchange takes place. At that moment, I am placed in Christ and Christ is placed in me. Just as I suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin because I am “In Adam,” I now enjoy the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection because I am now "in Christ.”

Paul emphasizes this as a reality we experience in water baptism. In baptism, I identify with Christ and I am united with Him in His death burial and resurrection. I die with Christ to my sin and I am resurrected to live for God. Therefore, sin is no longer my master and I am to no longer yield the members of my body to carry out its desires (Romans 6:1-13)

By physical birth, I am united with Adam, and because I am “in Adam” I suffer the consequences of his sin. At my new birth, I am united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, and now "in Christ" I experience all of the benefits He gained through conquering sin and death. These “in Christ” realities are abundant in the writings of Paul.


In Christ …

  • I have no condemnation (Romans 8:1)

  • I have eternal life and will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

  • I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

  • I am righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21)

  • I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)

  • I am chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)

  • I am adopted (Ephesians 1:5)

  • I am graced (Ephesians 1:6)

  • I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7)

  • I have an inheritance (Ephesians 1:10-11)

  • I am sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

  • I am seated with Him in the heavenly places (2:5-6)

  • I am created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)

  • I am brought near to God (Ephesians 2:13)

  • I have bold and confident access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12)


Not only am I placed in Christ, but Christ now indwells me by His Holy Spirit. Being “in Christ" speaks of my spiritual position before God that grants me a wide array of spiritual benefits, while “Christ in me” speaks of spiritual power enabling me to live a victorious Christian life and to be progressively transformed into the image of Christ. Like two sides of the same coin, “me in Christ” and “Christ in me” combine together in a reciprocal and inseparable union for spiritual transformation.

Being “in Christ” is my true and authentic identity as a new creation. “Christ in me” empowers me to progressively become what I already am “in Him.” My position “in Christ” gives right standing before God and the many other benefits of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. When I become a Christian, this is mine instantaneously because of justification. Christ also indwells me at this same time by His Holy Spirit. However, I only experience the transforming power of “Christ in me” as I yield to the Holy Spirit’s working in my life.[1] This results in a progressive transformation of life into greater Christlikeness and holiness. The Bible calls this process sanctification.

Just as there are numerous passages that describe the reality and our many blessings of being “in Christ,” there are many passages that also describe the reality and the power of “Christ in us” (John 14:23, 15:1-7, 17:20-23; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:27). In fact, since Christ indwells us by the Holy Spirit, Paul directly equates “Christ in us” with the “Spirit of God living in us.”

Romans 8:9–11 (NIV)

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Because “Christ in us” is equivalent with the “Spirit in us,” this means that the many verses that describe the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering are expressions of Christ’s power working in us and through us (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19–20; Galatians 4:6; 2 Timothy 1:14; 1 John 4:13, and many others).

As we continue to surrender to the Holy Spirit’s control and transforming work in our lives, the power of sin is increasingly broken. This results in increased victory over sinful thoughts, words, and actions as we are transformed from glory to glory into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). All who have a hope of Christ’s return and being like Him will even now, because of the indwelling life of God in them, purify themselves as He is pure (1 John 3:1-18).

At his return, the promise is that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 NIV). This final transformation is called glorification. In glorification, we will be like Christ in character and we will also receive a glorified immortal body.

1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 50-53 (NIV)

21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.


50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—

52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Philippians 3:20–21 (NIV)

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

This entire process of justification, sanctification, and glorification progressively frees us from sin. In justification, we are instantly freed from the penalty of sin and as a consequence of being “in Christ,” we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. In sanctification, as we yield to the indwelling life and power of the Holy Spirit in us, we are progressively freed from the power of sin in our own lives. And in glorification, we will be finally freed from the very presence of sin. While in this life, our journey of sanctification is to increasingly become who we already are “in Christ” because of justification. This is our true self and by cooperating with the transforming power or the Holy Spirit, we are changed from glory to glory into the image of Christ.

When we finally see Christ face to face, we will be like Him (1 John 3:1). Much like the children observing the transformed "ugly duckling" from the shore, I can hear the angels commenting, "Look at all those men and women. They must Jesus' brothers and sisters, because they really look like Him" (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 2:9-15). Like the "ugly duckling," we too will be amazed when we finally see our reflection in the mirror and the likeness of Jesus is looking back. However, unlike the story of the "ugly duckling," Christ will be the most magnificent and radiant one of all!


[1] Believers can grieve or quench the Holy Spirit working in them and through them by resisting His work. This results in lack of spiritual power, carnality, and ineffective ministry.

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댓글 3개

Kevin Reich
Kevin Reich
2021년 4월 07일

Great word!


2021년 4월 03일

Sorry, that should have said, "whole thing".


2021년 4월 03일

Wow, Paul, I think this is my favorite blog so far! The Ugly Duckling illustration and that wonderful diagram just bring your already clear teaching to life. It is so timely too--for this weekend, but also for a lesson I've been preparing to teach next week. You just gave me the wh thing and it's way better than what I had done. Oh and I also love the "in Christ", "Christ in me" as two sides of a coin example! And the "just-as-if-I'd" never sinned. Such good stuff! Well done.

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