Hyphens are used to join two words that create a compound word with a two part meaning.
We could say that I am an Italian-American. I don’t say that because I feel like being American has a great enough significance and I don’t want to cheapen being an American by making it share the stage with my Italian background.
I could still use the term Italian-American though, because we understand the immigrant heritage of America and it doesn’t represent a conflict in terms like the hyphenated identities of Communist-American or Socialist-American does. It is not congruent to be both a Communist and a Socialist and an American at the same time, since America is founded on Judaeo-Christian values and the free-enterprise system of commerce.
If you were with us yesterday at CrossHope Chapel you got my watchman warning on people who are doing this same type of illicit hyphenating with being a Christian. They are self-identifying by hyphenating their sinful anti-biblical lifestyle with being a Christian.
While there may be settings where it would be congruent to say that you are a married-Christian or a biker-Christian or even a handicap-Christian, there would never be an appropriate setting to be a murderous-Christian or a covetous-Christian or even an adulteress-Christian.
You can not hyphenate your Christian life with anything that identifies you as still being your old sinful self. What does your old nature contribute to your new nature? Nothing! While it is somewhat positive that one in struggles with iniquity may think of themselves as a Christian, it is entirely senseless to hyphenate your Christian identity as if your old nature helps what Christ gives you – newness of life.
When one becomes a Christian they become a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (ESV). You can not be new if you are holding on to the old. If you are in Christ, you are no longer in self. You now live by faith, you move by faith, you think by faith, you claim the promises of Scripture by faith, because you are now in Christ. The promise says “the old has passed away.”
Your hyphen has passed away – period. Gone. No more. No hyphen.
You are in Christ and Christ said “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). If the Savior gives you life, and life more abundant, why would you want to retain your old self? If your old sinful self was that great, why did you come to Jesus for a new life?
Look, if your life is not becoming to you than you should be coming to Jesus. If you have already come to Jesus and you are still struggling with less than contentment about your life, you come to Jesus because He said “Come unto me…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
You may look in the mirror and think you haven’t changed, but…you do not walk by sight, you walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). When you look in that mirror you remind your feelings that they are not the boss of you, Jesus is, and the Bible says that you are a new creation.
John the Baptist did not point his disciples to gaze upon themselves, but he plainly declared “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). There is relief in not holding on to our sinful selves, letting go of our hyphenated self, and simply beholding the one who takes away our old man.
You recall Romans 6:11 which says “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (ESV). You recall that the Jesus says “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV) so when you see your earthly faults you tell yourself that those earthly faults have no place in the Kingdom of God.
And since you are now a new creation in Jesus Christ and you are seeking the Kingdom of God first in all things, you do not allow for your old self to define – anymore.
You may be struggling with your old self, but you struggle through prayer claiming the very promises of the God. You pray… Lord you said in Ezekiel 36:26 that “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (ESV) and I receive that new heart with a new passion for the things of God not for my flesh. I receive a new spirit within me that I may walk in faith and identify as your follower. Fill me with your Spirit that I might be convicted of your truth and walk in it. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Incidentally, we pray in the name of Jesus because we stand on His character, on His righteousness, on His name. If you are a hyphenated Christian you stand on your own character, on your own righteousness and Isaiah 64:6 says that “our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
Yes we are sinners who miss the mark but we don’t have to miss the whole wall! Yes we sin and before we know it we are deep down in the pig’s pen, but like the prodigal son we must realize that we don’t have to stay there. We come to our senses and claim the promise of 1 John 1:9 that “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Through faith we stand up in Christ, we leave our old man in the pig’s pen by faith and we return to our Father’s forgiving, restoring arms.
We don’t cheapen His grace, we don’t cheapen His forgiveness, we don’t cheapen His character by adding a hyphen of sin to the name He declares as ours – Christian.