“The Power of I Am” is the title to the most famous sermon of the most infamous preacher in Texas – Joel Osteen. Millions of views. Oprah Winfrey shared his message on her YouTube channel and said his sermon changed the way she sees her life. The gist of his message was this. “If you stand in front of a mirror and you tell yourself, ‘I am beautiful. I am strong. I am successful,’ then beauty, strength, and success will come looking for you.” There’s nothing wrong with that idea, is there?
I’m not going to spend this article trashing that other Joel or all the ways he got his message wrong. I want to share the truth about the true Power of I Am, offer a proper Biblical grace-based approach to Osteen’s concept, because the Power of I Am is quite real.
This article may actually transform your spiritual life, because what the Word actually says about the true Power of I Am is better news and more powerful than anything Joel Osteen will tell you.
So are you out there looking for real, measurable spiritual growth in your life? Are you struggling with sin? Do you want to be closer to the Lord? Do you want to be a better servant fulfilling His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding? If you are, then keep reading. Are you out there wondering if you can have an assurance of your salvation? Are you perhaps wondering if you can lose your salvation? Are you asking yourself, “Is God mad at me? Is He punishing me for secret sins? And how do I deal with sin?” If you’re out there asking those questions, then keep listening. This is the article you want to read, because the answer to all of those questions lies within…
The TRUE Power of I Am.
Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Before we can even get into what these verses truly mean, we have to point out what’s not in these verses.
Not One Drop of Water
How can these verses mean that water baptism is some kind of external witness to an internal conversion when Paul says in vs. 4 that “we are buried with him by baptism into death.” We are buried with Christ. When was Christ ever buried in water? People were usually buried in the ground or in tombs. No one would correlate “burial with Christ” with “immersion in water.” To make that leap is just intellectual dishonesty. These verses don’t tell us that we are buried like Christ but that we are buried with Christ. How can this not be a spiritual baptism? There is a huge distinction between a weak watery witness and us spiritually participating in His death being buried with Christ and us spiritually being risen with Christ by the operation of God the Father. How can water illustrate a burial with Christ?
And why assume this is talking about water baptism when there is more than one baptism in the Bible? Consider, for example, John the Baptist’s words in Matt. 3:11, which has in this one verse three different types of baptism: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire…” (Matthew 3:11). How many baptisms are there in the Bible? I’d argue that there are at least 12 different types of baptism.
- Israel’s Ceremonial Baptisms. (Numbers 19)
- Levitical Priesthood Baptisms. (Exo 29:4; Lev 8:6, Num 8:6-7)
- John’s Baptism. (Matt 3:5-6; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3 and 7:29; John 1:31)
- The Lord’s Baptism by John. (Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-10)
- Baptism of Fire. (Isa 4:4; Mal 3:2-3; Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16).
- Jesus’ Cup of Baptism unto Death. (Matt 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50).
- Baptism unto Moses. (1 Cor. 10:1-6)
- Noah’s Type Baptism. (1 Peter 3:20-21)
- Pentecostal Water Baptism. (Acts 2:38)
- Pentecostal Spirit Baptism. (Isa 44:3; Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:17-18,38; 8:15-17; and 11:16)
- Baptism for the Dead. (1 Cor. 15:29)
- The Baptism of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12:13; Col 2:12; Gal 3:27; Titus 3:5)
Consider, also, that the Apostle James, the brother of John, one of the sons of Zebedee, personally experienced three baptisms. He underwent the Baptism of John. He experienced the baptism with the Spirit at Pentecost, as well as the Lord’s baptism of martyrdom at the hands of Herod (Matthew 20:20-24, c.f. Acts 12:1-2).
We have in one verse (Matt. 3:11) three different types of baptism. We have a suggested list of at least 12 different types of baptism in the Bible, and we have a disciple of Christ who was baptized 3 different ways on 3 separate occasions.
So what did the Apostle Paul mean when he wrote in Ephesians 4:5 that there is only: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”?
How can this not be the baptism of the Spirit that takes place the moment you believe (1 Cor. 12:13)? One means one. One cannot mean twelve or however many baptisms you may think exists in the Bible.
Paul doesn’t say “one primary baptism.” Paul doesn’t give us an umbrella theory in which there is one big baptism and many little baptisms. Paul said by inspiration of the Spirit that there is “one baptism.”
In the so-called “Great Commission,” Peter and the 12 were told, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost…” (Matt. 28:19). Paul said in 1 Cor. 1:17 that “Christ sent me not to baptize.” Do you think Peter and the 12 could say that? They were specifically told to baptize. How can this be possible if they were all operating under the same commission? They weren’t. A change had taken place with the arrival of Paul talking about a “mystery hid from ages and generations” (Col. 1:26), and water baptism, which was part of the Israeli program with their messianic kingdom in view, was set aside in this age of grace.
What’s now taken center stage is the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the one baptism of the Spirit. Whereas Israel was identified with Christ as their messiah through a water baptism, we are identified with Christ as our savior through a spiritual baptism.
I AM Identified with Christ
This leads us back to Rom. 6 and the power of our spiritual identification with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.
Through the baptism of the Spirit, we’re so thoroughly identified with Christ the moment we believe that His death, burial, and resurrection, becomes our new spiritual reality. God allowed us to be transformed spiritually as Christ was transformed literally. The moment we believed, we were identified with Christ in that our souls were united with Christ in His work on the cross. We died spiritually “in the likeness of His death” and we’re risen spiritually “in the likeness of His resurrection,” which means that His death became our death. His burial became our burial. His resurrection became our resurrection, which means that we are living His resurrected life in the here and now. The newness of His life after His resurrection became our “newness of life,” and what Paul is saying in Rom. 6 is that we should now walk in newness of life having reckoned ourselves as dead, buried, and resurrected with Christ.
As a result of our spiritual death, burial, and resurrection with Christ through the one baptism of the Spirit, we are now and forever victorious over sin and death as much as Christ Himself is forever victorious.
The more I meditate upon our spiritual identification with Christ, the more moved I am as to how beautiful it all is, that God loved us so much as to make us so intimately identified with His Son that when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we spiritually die with Him. Our old man, which is our old selves, is crucified with Him on that cross. Then, we are spiritually buried with Him. Our old man and all our sins, including our bondage to sin, was buried with Him. And finally, we are spiritually risen from the grave with Him, “like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” now and forever alive unto God with His righteousness imputed to us. Our resurrection with Christ nullified the sting of death and the power of sin over us. We are made victorious with Him in our spiritual resurrection freed from the bondage of sin and death just as Christ Himself was freed, and we are now living His resurrected life in an eternal newness of life.
As our sins were imputed to Him, so too, His death, burial, and resurrection has been imputed to us. As He was baptized into our death by grace, so we are baptized into His death by faith. As He, by grace, became one with us in our death, so we, by faith, become one with Him in His death, “crucified with Him” (Gal. 2:20), “buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:4), and “risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).
In that moment of salvation, we are joined in an eternal union to Christ in Heaven and the all-sufficiency of His work on the cross. Christ’s life becomes our life. Christ’s victory becomes our victory. Christ’s riches become our riches. Christ’s glory becomes our glory.
When we place our faith in Him, we are brought into the perfection of His work on the cross. We are brought into the perfection of His victory. We are brought into the perfection of Jesus Christ Himself. When we place our faith in Him, we are forever identified with His work on the cross, spiritually transformed as Christ was literally transformed, and made to be risen with Him by the same power found within the glory of God the Father, which raised Christ from the dead. We enter into a new spiritual state. We became new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), behold, all things new, with God’s righteousness imputed to us (Rom. 4:23-25). We’re made alive unto God (Rom. 6:11), complete in Him (Col. 2:10), accepted in the beloved (Eph. 1:3), blessed with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13), seated in the Heavenlies (Eph. 2:6), forgiven all trespasses (Col. 2:13), circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11), baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), one with Christ (Eph. 5:30), freed from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), washed, regenerated, and renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), and we’re now living His resurrection life until our bodies are redeemed (Eph. 2:4-6).
Our identification with Christ is why we are able to have all those many spiritual blessings the moment we believed. What Christ accomplished for us by our spiritual identification with His death, burial, and resurrection is to guarantee that our salvation is eternal, to make that eternal life a reality the moment we believed, and our spiritual transformation makes it possible for us to receive all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places, and it empowers us beyond all that we ask or think to have victory over sin, victory over temptations, and victory through all the sufferings of this present time. What Christ accomplished for us – He conquered sin and death for us at Calvary. He condemned sin in the flesh. He took back, on our behalf, power over sin in our corrupt bodies, and by virtue of our spiritual identification with His work on the cross, we’ve been transformed into new creatures (1 Cor. 5:17), freed from sin’s dominion over us (Rom. 6:2,7,10-20,23) by the Holy Spirit who has freed us from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), and we now have the power to bring our sin-corrupted bodies into subjection to our regenerated souls (1 Cor. 9:27). Thus, sin now becomes a choice in our lives. We’re free to choose to yield to the flesh or yield to the Spirit.
Just consider all those questions I mentioned at the beginning of the article. “How can I have an assurance of my salvation?” “Will I lose my salvation?” “Is God mad at me?” “Is He punishing me for secret sins?” “How do I deal with sin?” The answer to all those questions is in Romans 6:3-4. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The answer to all these questions begins with us embracing what He has done and what He has made us in Christ. Our eyes are not turned downward in remorse upon ourselves and all our many mistakes. Our eyes are directed upward to Christ in joy about the victory He’s given us through His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross and our union to His death, burial, and resurrection.
I AM Crucified with Christ
We do not look in a mirror and say “I am” this or “I am” that hoping it’ll come true in future blessings. What we do – we look into His Word, which is a mirror to our souls, showing us everything we were before we got saved and everything we are after we’re saved, and we celebrate all the blessings we were already given the moment we believed. The True Power of I Am is the power of us celebrating with Paul, “I AM crucified with Christ… nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
We don’t look in a mirror and tell ourselves, “I am beautiful. I am strong. I am successful,” lying to ourselves about our own power over our own corrupt flesh, which can never be overcome apart from Christ. Instead of looking in a mirror, we look into His Word. We reckon our spiritual transformation as a fact. We reckon in our minds that “I am what God says I am. I am what God has made me in Christ.” We rely on His Word by faith about what God has made us in Christ by virtue of the cross. We now rely on His strength made perfect in our weakness to find victory over sin and to perfect holiness in our walks, and we praise Him for every victory in our lives and every good thing we do to honor Him, because He made that victory possible by His overwhelming grace and love. This is the true power of I am, the power of what Christ has made us by spiritually identifying us with His death, burial, and resurrection. This is the power of us reckoning as true what God tells us we are, and we live our lives according to those truths. This is the power of victory over sin by relying upon His strength made perfect in our weakness and giving Him the glory for every victory in our lives.
[Most of this article comes from Joel’s book, Empowered by His Grace, which you can purchase through Dispensational Publishing House.]