Beloved bride of Christ, understanding your identity in Christ will help you experience the divine romance of His cherishing love for you. If you are having a difficult time believing you are Christ’s pure, holy, and righteous bride, take heart. After years of viewing yourself through a natural earthly perspective, seeing yourself through an eternal spiritual perspective takes time.
Your feelings and behavior will begin to line up with the truth of your new identity as you continually renew your mind. In the following verse of the Song of Solomon, it appears that the Shulammite maiden is also having a difficult time seeing the fullness of who she truly is.
I am black but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.
I am black but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem
An unknown amount of time has passed between the Shulammite and the other maidens’ rejoicing in and extolling the love of their King in verses 2–4 and this verse. In verse 5, her focus has turned onto herself, and she is now addressing a new group that has emerged onto the scene—the daughters of Jerusalem.
We want to be careful not to confuse this group of believers with the maidens—those who are faithfully pursuing their King in response to their longing for greater experiential intimacy with Him. Let’s revisit the character profile for the daughters of Jerusalem from the overview found at the beginning of this study to get better acquainted with them.
Daughters of Jerusalem represent the group of believers who are “infants in Christ who cannot digest the solid food of the Word of God” (1 Cor. 3:1–2; Heb. 5:12–13). Their perception is limited to understanding that their eternal destiny is in heaven with Jesus. They have little or no knowledge of the truths of their new identity in Christ. These believers’ lives bear little or no fruit because their minds have not been renewed (Rom. 12:1–2). These “baby” believers in Christ are often mistaken for unbelievers because their outward lives closely resemble theirs.
Paul addresses believers like these in his letter to the Corinthians:
I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. (1 Cor. 3:2–3)
The author of Hebrews also describes this type of believer:
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. (Heb. 5:13)
Believers who are “unaccustomed to the word of righteousness” are ignorant (lacking knowledge) of their pure, holy, and righteous identity in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Although they have believed in (into) Jesus and understood that their eternal destination is heaven, the renewal of their minds concerning who they are either hit a stalemate or never really began, for whatever reason.
The maiden too was a daughter of Jerusalem when she first believed. But something happened within her that has not yet happened in them. That something was desire. A longing rose up within her to know Him more deeply. In her pursuit of greater intimacy with Him and knowledge of the truth, she has come to understand that His Spirit actually lives in her. She now has a “Christ-in-me” consciousness. Before going to the cross, Jesus promised His disciples that one day His Spirit would live in them:
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16–17)
Jesus wanted to assure His disciples that even though His physical presence would no longer abide (live) with them, His coming Spirit would forever indwell them. He promised them that they would not be unaware of this, but they would know He indwelt them. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Did you notice in this verse that He also told them they would know that they were also in Him? Not just He in them but they in Him. You in Christ, and Christ in you.
We can infer from the maiden’s first statement in Song 1:5—I am black but lovely—that she has an imperfect understanding of who she is. She does not primarily see herself as a lovely spiritual being indwelling an imperfect physical body. Instead, she sees herself as a sinful (black) physical being who happens to have a lovely spirit (because Christ lives there). She does not understand that her new spiritual heart is who she is and that Christ’s Spirit has completely permeated her.
The Shulammite’s description of herself as “black but lovely” is the first statement of how she sees herself—her self-image. At this point in the Song, she has likely fallen into some type of habitual sin because of her primary focus on her blackness. Her feelings and behavior have taken center stage in her vision, rather than God’s truth. She has yet to realize that though her feelings can be great followers of realized truths, they are lousy leaders.
In general, believers will see themselves in one of three ways after salvation:
- Self-image 1: “I am a sinner saved by grace. I have been forgiven and am going to heaven when I die, but I am still the same person I was before salvation (John 3:16). At the core of my being is a sin-nature. God’s desires and my desires are polar opposites most of the time.”
- Self-image 2: “Second Peter 1:4 says I received a new nature in salvation, but my feelings and behavior indicate that my old nature is still very much alive. Therefore, it is apparent that I now have two natures—the good, new me and the bad, old me.”
- Self-image 3: “I am a saint who sometimes acts like a sinner. Not only did I receive forgiveness and a new nature at salvation, but the bad, old me—my sin nature—was crucified with Christ on the cross (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20). I am a new creation because I am in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The desire of my new heart is not to sin, even though sometimes I still do.”
Please notice that each self-image is directly proportional to the extent the believer’s mind has been renewed with the truths of his or her new identity in Christ. The maiden is most likely holding self-image 2 at this point in her journey. She believes she has two natures, basing her evaluation on her feelings and behavior. She feels like a “house divided.”
On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a famous acceptance speech upon his nomination for the Illinois Republican Party’s US Senate seat. He called it “The House Divided Speech.” It became one of the best-known speeches of his career because it created a lasting image of the dangers of the disunion of his country due to human slavery issues. Perhaps the most remembered part of this speech was, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.” Lincoln actually borrowed the words of Jesus to make his point that a country divided over the issue of slavery could not survive:
If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mark 3:25)
This was Jesus’ response to those who were accusing Him of being possessed by Satan. In saying that a house divided against itself wouldn’t be able to stand, He meant that a man could not be of Satan’s kingdom and cast out demons at the same time because of the obvious conflict of interest.
After reading Jesus’ statement, do you think that He would purposely set you up to fail by creating you half good and half bad—a house divided? I hope your answer resounds in loud agreement with mine: No way! How could anyone who “lives and moves and exists” in Christ be anything other than good? (Acts 17:28).
The maiden’s problem is the same problem that multitudes of believers have experienced throughout the ages and still experience today: her lack of knowledge of her new identity in Christ.
Dear reader, I hope you enjoyed today’s excerpt from my soon-to-be-published Bible study, His Banner Over Me Is Pursuing Love. I would love to interact with you concerning its content by asking you,
“Which self-image is closest to the one you currently hold of yourself?”
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Until next time,
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