Identity in Christ or Identity Crisis?

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (John 1:12) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Why do so many of us struggle with accepting, believing, or understanding who we are in Christ? What is our true identity? Do we trust God’s Word and if not, why not?

From a biblical perspective, there are many ways Satan tries to steal your identity. He is not only a deceiver and the father of lies, he is the thief who comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). If he can get you to doubt, deny, or surrender your identity, he wins.

Author and pastor, Paul Washer stated:

We are Christians because we find our identity, life, and purpose in Christ. We are evangelical because we believe the gospel and esteem it as the great central truth of God’s revelation to men.

With more and more people using bill pay, the Internet, credit or debit cards to pay bills as well as for the most basic transactions today, we not only rely on technology, but on the safeguards set up by banks and credit card companies. Two of the fastest growing crimes in America today are identity fraud and identity theft, affecting more than twelve million Americans every year.

Identity fraud is a crime in which someone steals personal information, opens credit card accounts in the victim’s name without their permission, and charges merchandise to those accounts. One of the more common cases is government benefits fraud (34%), followed by credit card fraud (17%), phone or utilities fraud (14%) and a few others.

Different from identity fraud, identity theft occurs when “a person knowingly gains access, transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person…” Some consider this an account takeover. For victims of identity theft, it can take years to fully recover and it costs Americans billions of dollars in damages every year.

Every believer in Jesus Christ has been redeemed by His blood shed for us. By faith, we receive the promises of God including the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2), as well as the fact everyone in Christ is a new creation, “the old things passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

Our culture and world today are extremely confused and deceived about identity. Christians however, should not be.

How do you answer the question ‘who are you’? I’ll give you a big hint: who you are is not what you do for a living. The answer is not your family role although relationships and jobs are things used to describe us. Why? As believers in Christ, we now belong to Him and are part of a much larger family (Gal. 3:29). Also, who you truly are has nothing to do with where you live or where you are from. Why? Our true citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20).

I have known Christians who struggle to answer this question because even though they are born-again, they lack a true revelation of who they are in Christ. They may know in their head what God’s Word says about them, but perhaps they don’t believe it in their hearts. This is why at one point or another, we all need an identity restoration.

As believers, we have plenty of challenges in this world including the enemy trying to convince Christians we are not who the Bible says we are or that we can’t do what the Bible says we can do. We’ll get to this in a few minutes.

Where unbelievers are concerned, Scripture clearly teaches one of their big problems is they “suppress the truth,” meaning they stuff it down and deny its very existence (Rom. 8:18). Another problem is that they have placed the things of man above God and have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 8:25).”

As we have already stated, once a person’s worldview is built on anything other than truth, their foundation is faulty and anything goes. Something necessarily has to fill the void. We cannot ignore one of the most obvious controversies today; the rebellious, well-promoted gender identity debate in America.

One foundational teaching in Scripture is you and I were made either male or female in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). If truth is not your starting point, it’s easy to fall for the lies about humankind which will leave you searching for your identity apart from God.

Children are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t stop some parents from going right along with the lies. In children’s books, government textbooks in schools, and the messages they receive from culture, children learn they are part of an evolutionary process in which there is no specific, known purpose for their lives. Life is full of randomness, the unknown, chance, and coincidence, they’re told. So how is their value measured? By someone else’s assessment and rules.

Contrary to the world, every life has value to the Lord. He knows the number of hairs on your head, and you are more valuable than many sparrows (Matt. 10:30-31). Imagine if children were taught they are here by the purposeful plan of a personal, loving Father and Creator.

Once you abandon the truth of Genesis and creation history, an attempt to then base any part of your theology on the Bible is almost a meaningless exercise. It’s cafeteria Christianity which is quite appealing to the modern American church. True identity is based upon world history in the Book of Genesis, but Satan has used the theory of evolution to commit identity fraud. He’s got some people thinking we evolved from nothing, through a family of apes even.

Here are four questions evolution cannot answer:

  • Who am I?
  • Where did I come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going when I die?

In contrast, the biblical worldview provides solid answers for every one of these questions. Tragically, children in public schools will only get an answer to one question, (a wrong answer to) ‘where did I come from?’ It will not be based on absolute truth but on speculation and theories about the origins of mankind.

So, we have two categories of people who need their identities restored: those who have never trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, and those who have believed and are saved, but still struggle with their identity and purpose in Christ.

Every human being has a worldly identity as well as a spiritual identity. It may surprise you that according to the Bible, there are two basic possibilities: you are either a child of God or a child of the devil (1 John 3:10). You need to believe God and be saved or you will never know your true identity. This chapter is now going to focus primarily on the life of a believer and our new identity in Christ.

TIME TO BE RESTORED?

Think of the most dramatic vehicle restoration you’ve ever seen. Maybe it was an old truck that sat in someone’s yard rusting for years with grass and weeds growing up all around the tires and fenders. Or perhaps it was an old classic car that hasn’t run in years, sitting in a garage, dirty and dusty; it had major engine problems because the needed parts were hard to come by.

Someone finally pulled that vehicle out of there and began working on it. Did they start by giving it a new paint job? Obviously not. But sometimes we try and cover up our flaws, our sin, by putting on a smiling face. The most important thing is the engine; the heart of the car.

This is how God begins working on you and I when we first come to know and trust Him: He gives us a new heart. And similar to a complete vehicle restoration, the before and after photos can be quite something to observe! The radical transformation in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit is even more remarkable, and something only God can do.

The Psalmist asked the Lord to create in him a clean heart, to renew his spirit (Psalm 51:10), and restore the joy salvation brings (vs 12). The work of renewal and restoration begins in our hearts. God removes our hearts of stone and gives us a new heart of flesh (Ez. 36:26).

The broken engine must be cleaned up and renewed before the whole vehicle can be fully restored. Sure, other things can be worked on while the engine is being fixed, but nothing is more important.

A restoration project is absolutely necessary when an original product or creation fails to operate at the level and capacity the designer intended. Sin prevents us from living at full strength and effectiveness, so sin must be dealt with as it is our primary hindrance. Sin must be rooted out, confessed, and constantly resisted which is part of our ongoing transformation.

We are not talking about cosmetic modifications or physical alterations here. Putting a new paint job on a rusted car that hasn’t run properly in years is simply foolish, and yet some do this in an attempt to hide the rust and make the car look newer.

I think of those struggling with gender dysphoria, putting themselves through operation after operation to change their outer appearance. They desperately try remaking their physical bodies into the image they have in their mind. The problem is their hearts won’t be healed that way and they end up living a facade.

We might compare this to identity fraud. In some cases, the thief will create a fictitious person and pretend to be the new identity in order to fool businesses or government and receive products, services, or benefits.

Typically, a person wanting to identify with someone they are not is unhappy with himself or herself, or with this life. These are people that need our prayers, not our judgment. Feelings of loneliness and struggling to fit in are quite common in life. There is a reason for this.

We can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely. Why? You’ve heard the expression or the song, ‘there’s a God-shaped hole in all of us,’ right? Human beings have a void only our Creator can fill which is why we long for fellowship with Him. Even after we are saved, our spirit groans inwardly, longing to be reconciled with the Lord.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts… Ecclesiastes 3:11

Without identifying with Christ and allowing His Spirit to work in our lives, we can put on new clothes; women can put their make-up on, but if the dirt remains underneath or if we still have an untreated heart condition (unconfessed sin), it’s just a cover-up. An entire new wardrobe, top of the line skin care products, and a year’s supply of hair products won’t change the inside.

We are also instructed to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14), putting on His image and walking in our renewed likeness.

Many Christians think they are good people because of good works they do, but those good deeds often lead to pride. Even Jesus said “no one is good except God alone.” Scripture teaches that the heart of mankind is “desperately sick,” and only God has the cure (Jer. 17:9). But He also promised:

“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

Let the Master Mechanic fix your engine! When we repent, believe God, and are baptized, He begins at that moment working in our hearts and lives continually until the day Christ returns. He sets His seal of ownership on us (2 Cor. 1:22) and is proud to call us His children.

ADOPTION TRUTH

In fact, we were adopted by God! We have received “a spirit of adoption as sons” and the Holy Spirit testifies that “we are children of God (Rom. 8:15-16).” In Romans 8:17, we are called co-heirs or “fellow heirs with Christ,” but this same verse suggests we also identify with Christ and “suffer with Him” if necessary. This identification will also lead to us being glorified with Him!

The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of adoption in a few of his letters. This is a key biblical concept which will help strengthen our understanding of our inheritance. According to Erdmans Bible Dictionary:

Familiar with the Roman legal custom of adoption, the apostle extended the concept to illustrate that the acceptance of faith brought the believer into the family of God as an adopted child, one who obtained “sonship” in a secondary or derived sense. This sonship contrasts with the direct relationship of Christ to the Father.

…In two other passages Paul provides a larger theological framework for the metaphor of adoption. Christ, he says, came to secure the believers’ adoption into the family of God through his act of redemption (Gal. 4:5), thereby terminating their enslavement to sin and permitting them to enjoy the rights of heirs to God’s kingdom (v.7).[i]

The Apostle Paul reminds believers we were meant to be reunited with God, our Father! We “groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons,” and look forward to the redemption of our physical bodies (Rom. 8:23b).

Through faith in Christ, we are all sons and daughters of God, which is just another reason the enemy hates believers. We are family with the saints of old; how’s that for identity?

To the Galatian church, Paul wrote that those of us who were baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Him (Gal. 3:27). Then he took it a step further and stated if we belong to Christ, “then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:29).”

Baptism is a simple act, but an important response on our part. It is a sign of our repentance and an act of obedience through which we publicly identify with Jesus (He was also baptized as an example for us). Through water baptism, we also denounce our old life and strive to live by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Our identity is further solidified by being baptized. It is another reminder that our old nature or old man died when we became born again in Christ. Past tense. We were buried with Jesus in baptism, “in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God (Col. 2:12).”

Christian friend, we have declared ourselves to be followers of Christ and we now identify with Him! As a result, we also became instant enemies of Satan and this world. It’s our responsibility to resist the devil, flee our own flesh and lusts, and pursue the things of God one day at a time.

God doesn’t force us to be holy or to walk a disciplined Christian life. We have an old inner man to tear down and a new man to build up. We do have a say in how we live and obey.

“…in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (Emphasis mine)

Truth and love changes everything. Being adopted into the family of believers thanks to the love of Christ, we can live day by day in full confidence that our Father in Heaven is faithful to His promises. In the meantime, even though we deserved God’s judgment and wrath, as His children we receive an inheritance because of His lovingkindness.

What is the truth? You and I belong to Christ; He owns the pink slip. This simple fact should give us great comfort and peace. Our identity has been restored, and when He returns and we are glorified with Jesus, that restoration will be final and full. Completion and perfection only begin to describe it.

We already defined “truth” in an earlier chapter, but this is good. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, here is the deeper historical meaning of Truth:

Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be. The truth of history constitutes its whole value. We rely on the truth of the scriptural prophecies; Veracity; purity from falsehood… (Emphasis mine)

This reminds me of one of the many descriptions of Jesus, “the Truth,” in the pages of Scripture. In Revelation, He states that He is making all things new, and He is the first and the last. This definition, “exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be” reminds me of what Jesus said in the revelation to the Apostle John:

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Revelation 1:18

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

As Christians, our past has been forgiven and yesterday is gone. Our future is bright, our redemption is drawing near and is guaranteed! Eternal life is promised, and the present is to be lived by faith according to the will and word of God.

When we do not live as Christians ought to live, we give our Father a bad name. When we conform to this world, forget who we are in Christ and who we represent, it results in a case of mistaken identity. Wrong family! This happens when someone thinks you’re a Christian, but because your fruit is rotten, people have a hard time distinguishing you from an unbeliever.

Finally, too many people deal with what is known as an identity crisis. Don’t let the lies permeating our culture sway you! Sadly, many who are confused about sexuality including some transgender individuals admittedly struggle with what some call a “sexual identity crisis.” We are highly affected by traumatic events in our youth while many kids today are also influenced by pop culture, peers, Hollywood, and a complicit media.

Often caused by psychological distress, it is a real crisis because failing to know our true identity can lead to depression, self-hatred, and ultimately, eternal death. The ultimate “account takeover” is when a person dies without Jesus Christ and the enemy steals their identity permanently. These are tragic victims of gender identity fraud because they fell for his schemes. As a result, Satan took control of their ‘spiritual account.’

Aren’t you glad that as true believers, our faith is credited to our account as righteousness?

 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, Romans 4:23-24

We are part of the people of God, the family of believers (1 Pet. 2:9, Gal. 6:10). Let’s live up to His name and our identity in Christ!

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WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR IDENTITY?

YOU ARE ACCEPTED IN CHRIST

John 1:12                     You are God’s child

John 15:15                   You are Christ’s friend

Romans 5:1                 You have been justified

1 Corinthians 6:17       You are united with the Lord and one with Him in spirit

1 Corinthians 6:20       You have been bought with a price, you belong to God

1 Corinthians 12:27     You are a member of the body of Christ

Ephesians 1:1              You are a saint

Ephesians 1:5              You have been adopted as God’s child

Ephesians 2:18            You have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit

Colossians 1:14           You have been redeemed and forgiven of all your sins

Colossians 2:10           You are complete in Christ

YOU ARE SECURE IN CHRIST

Romans 8:1-2              You are free forever from condemnation

Romans 8:28               You are assured that all things work together for good

Romans 8:33-34          You are justified and free from any condemning charges against you

Romans 8:35               You cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus

2 Corinthians 1:21       You have been established, anointed and sealed by God

Colossians 3:3             You are hidden with Christ in God

Philippians 1:6 You are confident the work God began in you will be perfected

Philippians 3:20           You are a citizen of Heaven

2 Timothy 1:7              You have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power and love

Hebrews 4:16             You can draw near to His throne and receive grace and mercy

1 John 5:1, 4                You are born of God, and you have overcome the world

1 John 5:18                  You are born of God and the evil one cannot touch you

YOU ARE SIGNIFICANT IN CHRIST

Matthew 5:13-14        You are the salt of the earth and light of the world

John 15:1, 5                 You are a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life

John 15:16                   You have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit

Acts 1:8                       You have received power, you are a personal witness of Christ’s

1 Corinthians 3:16       You are God’s temple

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 You are a new creation, a minister of reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:20       You are an ambassador for Christ

2 Corinthians 6:1         You are God’s coworker

Ephesians 2:6              You are seated with Christ in the heavenly realm

Ephesians 2:10            You are God’s workmanship

Ephesians 3:12            You have approach God with freedom and confidence

Philippians 4:13           You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you

 

[i] Erdmans Bible Dictionary, Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI, 1987, page 24

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