Knowing and Living Your Identity

Knowing and Living Your Identity
A couple of weeks ago Cheri and I had the privilege of viewing the movie, “Overcomer.”  The same Kendrick Brothers that made movies like “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” “Courageous” and “War Room” also created this movie. If you haven’t watched the movie, I highly recommend it as a must-see movie. I don’t want to give away the details of the movie for those of you still waiting to see it but there is one important issue that is dealt with in the movie that needs our attention. The Kendrick Brothers do an admirable job in dealing with “identity.” Can you describe your identity? Is your identity based on your education, job, title or position, annual salary and bonuses, wardrobe or where you live?  Maybe your awards and achievements? Maybe your physical characteristics? Maybe your family, heritage and culture? Or maybe your identity is colored by your past and even current circumstances? Let’s not overlook those who don’t feel like they have an identity of their own.
Think about it, look around and listen and you will discover most of us base our identity on what is most important to us, maybe even our circumstances or bad choices. Beyond that, our identity is often shaped by societal labels. Do you know of anyone that describes themselves as an ex-con or meth addict? What about homeless or poor? What about cancer survivor or veteran of war?  What about CEO or professional? The list is endless and filled with descriptors that are positive, negative and even neutral. But let’s examine this closely. Do these labels really describe our identity?  Further, what or who determines our identity?
If you’re not a Christian your identity is, in fact, based on what you can do, what you’ve done, what you’ve said or have said, your attitude, your appearance and otherwise how society labels you. This is all you have. In fact, you are under the control of the devil.  JN 8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me [Jesus], for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. However, if you’re a Christian your identity is based on what Jesus has done for you and what He says about you. On the one hand there are obvious consequences for bad choices, but by placing our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, He gives us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) and He makes us new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
What is my identity? People may say husband, father, grandfather, leader, pastor, teacher, graduate, Air Force veteran but these are all in the background. In fact, these descriptors do not define my identity.  If you ask me who I am, I’d joyously say that I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. Beyond that I’d say I’m born again (John 3), child of God (1 John 3), co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), royal priest and holy citizen of the kingdom of God (2 Peter 2:9) to name a few. I don’t have to live in the past. I’m no longer defined by my past or circumstances past or present. I’m not looking back but living in the present and facing the future with hope. Jesus has transformed me, and He is constantly refining me.  My identity is in Christ and Christ alone.  The Apostle Paul may have said it best when He wrote, GAL 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For those who are in Christ, we can know our identity because it is, in fact, in Christ. Still, we must not only know our identity, but we must live our identity. It’s entirely possible that you are confused about your identity because you don’t believe what God has done for you and what He says about you. In addition, you may struggle with your identity because you’re not living consistent with your identity. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8 “you are saved by grace through faith . . .” Albeit this grace saves us and thank God, but it also gives us the power to live godly lives. TI 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age . . .” We also know that God’s divine power gives us the ability to overcome our sinful desires.  2 PE 1:His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
God saves us through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus and when we receive Him by grace through faith, He gives us the right to be called the sons of God (John 1:12). That’s right, in Christ, we are a child of God. That is ultimately our identity. Therefore, if you’re not living consistent with your God given identity, your testimony not only confuses you, it also confuses the people around you. It even causes doubt. On the one hand you claim that God loves you and that you’re saved by His grace but on the other hand you live according to your sinful desire. This is inconsistent and maddening. However, the problem isn’t God. He is in every way enough and He has done more than enough. The question isn’t whether God loves you or your identity in Christ. The question is, do you love God? If you want to live according to your identity in Christ, begin with the greatest commandment. MT 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. John Newton, author of the cherished hymn “Amazing Grace,” said: “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I will be. But thank God I am not what I used to be.” The progress may be slow, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus and love Him with our entire being, we will become more and more like Him and can encourage others to do the same.
A Work in Progress,
Pastor Gene