OK. I'm going for the jugular with this one. If you're not a Christ follower, please forgive all the jargony stuff I'm about to say. But this one is for the church. I can't tell you how many of my coaching clients (who follow Christ) are trapped in the lie I'm about name. It's heart-breaking to me.
Here's how most of my Christ-follower clients view their identity in Christ:
I am scum. I have nothing good in my heart. I am fundamentally flawed, twisted by the Fall and bent toward evil. But through my acceptance of what Jesus did for me on the cross, I am covered in his blood. And when God looks down from heaven on my (black) heart, all he sees is the blood of his Son, covering me, so God calls me holy and a saint, though I am really neither.
Is that the gospel? No. Well, it's the first half of it, sure. But it's just the first half. It's not the whole gospel, and the conclusion that this "half gospel" leads to...that "God calls me holy and a saint, though I am really neither"...is a lie and a bondage of the highest order. Aside from making for a miserable life (who wants to be constantly trying to live up to a standard they cannot possibly hope to attain?), one huge theological problem with that limited perception of the gospel is that it makes the claim that we actually see ourselves more accurately than God does. He names us holy and true-hearted, but (shhh...) we know he's got these blood-colored glasses on, see? We're in on the trick. We know better. God may see me as glorious and beautiful and holy and true, but I know that under that thin film of red I am still the same old depraved, selfish soul--twisted in motive and forever bent on my own destruction.
What a lie. The death of Christ paid the price for our sin. That's part 1. But part 2 is this: The resurrection of Christ gave us an entirely new kind of life--an entirely new (and fundamentally good) identity. The gospel does far more than just cover us; it goes to the core and remakes us there. It literally rebirths us. As cliche as it sounds, we are in fact born again...completely made new from the inside out. What once was darkness is now light; what once was death is now Life. Old heart out, new heart in. Old name out, new name in. And that new name, which God gives you, is the truest and most real expression of who you truly are--really, right here, right now.
"I am his; his idea, his making; perfect in my mind, yea, perfect in his sight; full of him, revealing him, alone with him. Let him call me what he will. The name shall be precious as my life. I seek no more" (George Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons)
That doesn't mean that when you put your faith in Christ that you have suddenly "arrived" or are no longer capable of sin. The new heart is good, but it is young. It's like a baby--innocent, but immature. And we have a lot of personal history to overcome. But spiritual growth isn't about trying to live up to a name (or an identity) that is too high for you to possibly attain; it's about learning to live out of the new name that describes who you truly are now.
If this rocks your world, I get it. It rocked mine too when I was first confronted by it. And if it torques you off, then test it for yourself. Buy the Good Heart by Eldredge. And God help us all stop believing that we see ourselves more accurately than he does. If God has named you Lovely, then Lovely is who are truly are. Believe it, and live from that.