And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people crossed over. The king himself also crossed over the Brook Kidron, and all the people crossed over toward the way of the wilderness. (2 Samuel 15:23)
Every now and then, we stumble across a name or place that seems to jump out at us for no apparent reason and so prompts us to dig in a little deeper. The river Kidron provides for fascinating study. A smallish river which habitually dries up during drought seasons – or so my research indicated – the Kidron winds through the Kidron valley just outside of Jerusalem. This is the river where Elijah waited out the drought and was fed by ravens at God’s command. It’s also the river the Jeremiah uses to define the outmost reach of what will be holy to the Lord. Keep these two facts in mind as you read, because they offer some amazing insight into the power of our identity in Christ.
We cannot overcome alone. We can only do so in the power God has provided in our identity in Christ.
The word ‘kidron’ comes from the Hebrew verb ‘qadar’ which means to be dark or to mourn, and the river was known as ‘the dark one.’ It is continually associated with a place of spiritual darkness, and it’s important that we contextualise this right from the beginning so that we can understand its relevance to our identity in Christ by grasping its spiritual significance. The drought which occurred during Elijah’s ministry was an act of God’s judgement worked on Israel for the wickedness worked during the reign of Ahab and his wife Jezebel. During this time, the Kidron dried up completely.
If we look at this truth in conjunction with the fact that Jeremiah used to represent the outermost limit of those things that would be holy to God, we begin to see that the Kidron represented a border, the line between Jerusalem and the wilderness beyond – the line between ‘of God’ and ‘not of God.’ From this perspective, we can understand the importance of the river drying up – essentially, during Ahab and Jezebel’s time, there was no longer a line drawn. There were no longer any Godly parameters, no spiritual boundaries. These spiritual boundaries are critical to our understanding of our identity in Christ, and the Kidron is a wonderful metaphorical tool to explain this.
To take this a little further, we must consider the significance – an if it’s mentioned in the Bible, it’s significant – of King David crossing the river. To fully understand it, we must remember that this occurred during the rebellion of his son, Absalom, and that the entire context of this rebellion and the tearing apart of David’s family was, in essence, the outworking of the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah the Hittite. This is the point where it might feel confusing, but the truth of our identity in Christ is critical to understanding consequences.
In simple terms, David was driven to fully cross the dark river by the consequences of his sins, and he did so mourning and weeping. What a picture of every single one of us. Jerusalem represents ‘in Christ,’ the place of power in Christ. Our sins and their consequences force us out of that place of safety and victory and into the wilderness place – the place of darkness and mourning. It’s very important that what when David returned to Jerusalem, it was up through the Mount of Olives. It’s equally important that he went up weeping, with his head covered to signify mourning, and that he worshipped God on the summit overlooking Jerusalem.
We must understand that Jerusalem was David’s rightful inheritance. God had promised that his kingdom would endure forever, amongst other things. What God had given could not be stolen, but it could be lost due to David’s weakness and foolishness. Nevertheless, it remained his inheritance, and he could regain it – but not without genuine repentance, the kind that brings grief and mourning, and which results in humility before God and right worship. For David to return to his rightful place – our inheritance is our identity in Christ – he needed to fully repent and utterly trust God to restore. He could not do it alone, nor could he expect God to simply restore it without some kind of action on David’s part.
This is where we so often misunderstand the issue of consequences along with our identity in Christ. There are those who automatically assume that they must fight for their inheritance. On the surface, this is true. We must always seek to take back lost ground, but we cannot simply assume that it’s our fight or that God will automatically restore. The other side of the coin is those who sit back in the knowledge that ‘the battle belongs to the Lord.’ Again, this is truth, but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to participate. It is this matter of the balance between our participation and our surrender that defines our identity in Christ.
Our Jerusalem, our inheritance, is the place of victory, the place where we will begin to ‘reign forever,’ but it’s also the place of the holy things of God. It is never, ever about self but about our identity in Christ. Everything we are promised and given in our spiritual walk, every right, privilege, and blessing – and the responsibilities that come with them – exist only in our identity in Christ. We must understand that we carry the name of Christ – that which identifies Him. When we say we are Christian, we are essentially saying we are Christ because we are in Him and He is in us. It’s not simply a name, it’s a way of life, a submersion in the nature and character of the King.
But what does the Kidron have to do with this? The answer lies in the direct parallel drawn between King David as a type of the King of Kings. Two very important parallels are drawn. First, Jesus also went to Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives, but with an important difference. While David went up mourning his sins and worshipped – surrendered – atop the mountain, Jesus wept on top of the mountain for the sins of Jerusalem and for a people who would lose their ‘inheritance’ and spend eternity in the wilderness. He mourned there for those who would reject salvation and the full blessings and power of an identity in Christ.
The second parallel is that Jesus also crossed the river Kidron, and it’s the only time that this little river is mentioned in the New Testament. Unlike David, however, who crossed into the wilderness and out of Jerusalem, Jesus crossed it to enter Jerusalem. It was, in essence, the beginning of His final journey through Gethsemane, betrayal, suffering, and death of the cross. He was reversing the journey, and this metaphor is a powerful portrayal of just how critical our identity in Christ really is. By doing the journey in reverse, Jesus assumed – absolutely, totally, and completely – our sinful identity and the consequences, which were suffering and death.
The natural progression of the journey of sin and its consequences is to cross the outer limit and enter the wilderness – to move away from the things of God. Jesus, however, provided the way for us to return to the heart of Jerusalem – the presence of God – by fully identifying with us, our sin, and its consequences and paying the price before the judgement throne. We do it like David, in mourning and worship. Now worship, in essence, means acknowledging the sovereignty of God and His full nature and character – all of which was revealed in Jesus. We come to God in mourning for our condition, but through our identity in Christ are empowered to remain in God because the battle does indeed belong to the Lord, and Jesus has already won it.
Our response must always be to assume our identity in Christ. To fight our way back, we can only do it in Him who has already won the battle on our behalf. Our fight is simply to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. But nor can we sit back and assume He will ‘automagically’ restore. Like David, we must follow the path of mourning and repentance in order to assume our identity in Christ. God’s provision is always incredibly simple – so simple, in fact, that we often overlook or ignore it because we think it should be complex.
Every power we need to overcome sin and its consequences lies in Christ. He is way bigger and infinitely more powerful than any situation, temptation, or condition, and He has already walked the road back for us. We only need to follow Him. To follow Him, we must be immersed in Him. We must continually ‘wear’ Jesus, because this is our protection and our power to overcome. Every battle we face has already been fought and won, so why battle on alone? It doesn’t make sense, but it’s the flesh which assumes the ‘right to do it’ even when it makes it that much harder for us. We don’t like to give over control, but we still expect God to work our miracle.
The real truth is that God will seldom simply act to remove sin and its consequences without our participation. That participation means genuine repentance, real mourning, and intimate worship. It means acknowledging who and what we are without Jesus, but also acknowledging with humility and surrender who we are in Jesus. Our identity in Christ requires setting aside our identity in self. It means fully identifying with the perfection of His identification with us. It means, in essence, taking hold of the truth that when Jesus went to the cross, it was me. The rest of my life means ‘catching up’ to the spiritual truth that the old, sinful me is dead. It simply hasn’t learned the lesson yet.
Why is our identity in Christ so powerful? It lies in the simple truth that while we remain in Christ, God sees Christ. He doesn’t see the weak, sinful me who struggles with temptation and the consequences of my choices. He sees His Son. What can be more powerful than that? Jesus is the King of heaven, the Commander of the host of heaven’s armies, the one who overcame Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, severed his hold on us, and utterly defeated him at the cross. When God looks at us, that is what He sees – the power and potential to walk in the victory that is beyond our expectation or ability to comprehend in full. That is what is available to us if we will only put self aside and live in our identity in Christ.
Like all things, it starts with a simple choice. We’re human and therefore weak. We have to unlearn the habits of the past and relearn the truth of the Word. We fall, we succumb, we make mistakes, and continually struggle. But God knows that, and that’s why He provided the power of our identity in Christ. We don’t have to do it because Jesus has done it. The more we are in Christ, the greater will be the power to overcome because it has nothing to do with us. Our part is, firstly, to choose to do believe our identity in Christ and secondly, to continue to choose to believe it. This means continually surrendering self in repentance and mourning. The more we do it, the more we repeat it, the more powerfully we will begin to repeat it.
Jesus showed us clearly that it was a journey, a step by step thing which already exists in eternity. In eternity, our identity in Christ is already is. Every tiny step we take towards Jesus releases just a little more of Him in us. The day will come when we will look back and wonder why we found it so difficult, but for now, we should seek Jesus first before seeking solutions that He has already paid for. What an enormous encouragement to all of us in our inevitable battles. Jesus has already walked the road. He makes it possible for us to walk it too, not alone, but secure in the absolute power of being completely identified with Him and immersed in Him. It’s not us walking the road. It’s Jesus walking it with us in Him. That, beloved people of God, is absolute grace.
Thank You, Jesus, that You were willing to set aside all that was Yours as the Son of God so that You could so fully identify with us. Help us to learn from You. Draw us to the place of humility and repentance, where we can weep for our sins as You did, and keep us close in You. Remind us daily of our identity in You, so that we may learn to trust totally in Your power to overcome and bring You the glory that You deserve.