The nature of personal identity in Christ

I have a question, I mean this really honestly. Is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, meant to control us like puppets? Is there no person left at all to do things? Let’s assume that Paul had the real stuff, and was writing from that perspective. We are all non-heretics here, there is no problem taking that as a given. On the one hand he says:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

On the other hand, he speaks very much as having a personal identity:

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; (Ephesians 4:17, 18, NASB).

See, there is very much a PAUL who speaks, who affirms with the Lord. So, setting our mind on the things of the Spirit, and walking by the Spirit, is quite a different idea than being a shell or a puppet controlled by the Spirit but no longer personally there. So there remains a personal autonomy although we are new creatures, and the presence of the Spirit instructs and empowers, but our personality and autonomy remain. The Holy Spirit is a paraclete, a helper, but not a controller. There is a “me” who exerts effort in these things, but I think the Holy Spirit reveals to me the love which God has for me. The Holy Spirit makes righteousness revealed as delicious, but the choice remains for me to eat of it and see that the Lord is good.

So if I have died (Romans 6:3), and now walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4), is there some identical self that is essentially ME, originally made in the image of God, that remains in this process? We put a lot of stock in this supernatural change of personhood upon becoming a Christian and yet I find I am only an infant in understanding any of it.

Sometimes I think we talk about a lot of pet doctrines as if all of this is so obvious, but it is really very deep waters. Some of the reason I don’t like to dwell on my own self and my own sanctification is because I don’t really understand what I am made of and I don’t want to put the wrong box around what God thinks sanctification is or what kind of spiritual mechanism produces it. Is it personal effort? Apparently so. Is it the Holy Spirit? Apparently so. Are we puppets of God? Maybe when we surrender as when Jesus only did what the Father wanted. Are we autonomous choice makers? It would seem so. How can all of these things be true? I don’t know, it is honestly beyond me.

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