Our Relentless Search for Identity
What comes to mind when you think about yourself is one of the most important things about you. In particular, what comes to your mind when you think about who you are in Christ is of greater importance.
As a pastor, I’ve found that most problems are traceable to uncertainty about our identity. We have forgotten who we are in Christ (2 Peter 1:9). When we forget our identity, like Jason Bourne, we should be relentless until we know it again.
Bourne, one of the great action heroes of our day, is a highly trained agent — to understate it — capable of winning a fight with nothing more than a rolled up magazine or a ballpoint pen. He is armed with unrivaled skill and know-how for every situation he faces.
In the first Bourne film, he wakes up from a failed mission, not remembering who he is, but quickly realizing all he is capable of doing. Bourne is determined to find out who he is. He doesn’t seem to care that he can do things James Bond only dreams of doing; he wants to know who he is.
Identity Comes Before Activity
Herein lies the parable for the Christian life: we are often more drawn to what we can do for Jesus, rather than who we are in Jesus.
One reason we get so discouraged and frustrated in the Christian life is that we forget who we are. We forget that we are new creatures in Christ. We misplace the reality that by his blood, by his cross, and by his resurrection, we are new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We need to know that we are not our former selves. We are not defined by our former sins — or our present ones. No, we are defined by being in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). We are not ultimately defined by our ethnicity. We don’t find long-lasting and enduring significance in our accomplishments, intelligence, or appearance (Galatians 3:27–28). We find eternal value, meaning, worth, and hope in who Jesus says we are in him.
Who We Are in Jesus
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul takes a buzz saw to legalism and all its nasty knots. He does this by reminding the Galatians of their identity in Christ, showing how the gospel and all of its gifts to us are better than anything else we could build or find for ourselves.
Here are six identities that are now ours through faith — six things God says about us. Like a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path, these truths from God’s word can lead us back to reality, to comfort, to hope, and to joy.
1. We are servants of Christ.
After we are saved by Jesus, we are enlisted into his service (Galatians 1:10). We are now called to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18–20). We are called to spread his fame. We don’t live for the approval of men, but for the name of Christ. No Christian is insignificant. We are his servants.
When we evangelize, we are serving Christ. When we pray for a sick Christian, we are serving Christ. When we go to the homeless shelter, we are serving Christ. When we go to the pregnancy center and care for mothers, we are serving Christ.
Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35–36). And the people say, “When did we do those things?” Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
2. We are crucified with Christ.
“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” (Galatians 2:20).
We have been crucified with Christ, by faith. We live with him, and he lives in us. No matter where we go, Christ is with us, alive in us, at work in us. We are never alone anymore.
And we are crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). The world has nothing better to offer us than Jesus. We’ve died to the ways of the world, how the world runs. We follow Christ now. We operate from his example, his priorities, and his words.
3. We are children of God.
Not like Jesus, of course; we are not God. But we are children of God, like Jesus, in that we are a part of the family of God (Galatians 3:26). We have all of the perks of being one of his own. We are cared for by God, led by his Spirit. We aren’t strangers, we are family.
God doesn’t save us and then kick us out. He saves us and then adopts us (Galatians 4:4–7). In the gospel, the Father-Judge declares us not guilty, and then he turns to us and says, “I want you to come and live with me. Welcome home.”
We are at home with God. In the triune God, we have a Father, a Brother, and Helper.
4. We are heirs with Christ of everything.
As Jesus’s people, he gives us all that is his. We are heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:29). Whatever belongs to Jesus belongs to you and me. The universe belongs to Jesus, and now, it belongs to you and me. Jupiter belongs to you because of Jesus. The Hubble Telescope is itemizing your inheritance. “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23). We are Christ’s, and we are co-heirs with him (Romans 8:17).
So, it’s okay if you don’t have the best house in this world. Jesus has something better for you, in the city whose architect, community developer, and real estate mogul is God himself (Hebrews 11:10).
5. We are free.
“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). We’ve been set free from the hideous rule of sin and Satan. Christ himself set us free — not our works, not the church, not ourselves. Only Jesus.
Legalism is slavery. Trying to be saved by works and do-goodery is nothing but rusty chains. Jesus shattered those shackles, and now we can follow him and walk with him. We live freely under the reign of grace, the rule of Christ.
Pornography, wheat beer, dark chocolate, clearance sales, and social media followers no longer control us. Jesus set us free from living for and finding fulfillment in things that moth, rust, trends, and death will destroy.
6. We are led by the Spirit.
Our lives, our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions are no longer chained to the sinful flesh, no longer pushed around by the law, but we are led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18). The Spirit uses the word of God to lead us. We no longer have to rely on our own thoughts and desires.
The Spirit brings about fruit in our lives as we abide in the vine of Christ, tended by the local church, and watered by the living and abiding word. The Spirit weans us off the works of the flesh, and makes us more like Christ (Galatians 5:18–24).
God has made you these things through Christ. Even though you will be prone to forget what is true about you now, you have been born again into these identities. Live them. Love them. Let them be more than Bible knowledge. Let them be a shield of faith to extinguish all the awful, deceitful warheads of the evil one. Know yourself — hidden in Christ, raised from the dead, and made into someone new.
Because what comes to mind when you think about yourself is one of the most important things about you.