One of the most important issues that a Christian must have in place is his or her identity in Christ. Every human being has formed an identity of some sort. There are things that we have been told about ourselves that stick with us, and we assume that is who we are.
Sometimes we take the labels that have been put on us from childhood, and we determine our worth and value by words spoken over us as youngsters. These could involve physical, personality or behavioral labels. A child could hear such things as: “You’re stupid; You’re such a slob; You’re too fat; You’re too thin; You’re such a bully; You’re so shy; Cry baby, cry baby; Can’t you do anything right?” Or we may have heard positive things that puff us up, such as: “You’re the pretty one in the family; or You’re such a brain.”
Any of these kinds of things can go deep into the soul and become an identity carried throughout life. A person may form their entire identity by a weakness or negative aspect.
In the book, “The Bondage Breaker”, Neil Anderson has said: “No person can consistently behave in a way that’s inconsistent with the way he perceives himself. If you think you’re a no-good bum, you’ll probably live like a no-good bum. But if you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you’ll begin to live in victory and freedom as He lived. After years of working with people who are in deep spiritual conflict, I found one common denominator: None of them knew who they were in Christ. Satan can do nothing to damage your position in Christ. But if he can deceive you into believing his lie—that you are not acceptable to God and that you’ll never amount to anything as a Christian—then you will live as if you have no position or identity in Christ.”
When you received Christ as your Lord and Savior, and He came by His Holy Spirit to take up residence in you, He made you a new creature. “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) When we came to Christ, our old way of identifying who we were passed away. Whatever names or brands we or someone else had attached to us were removed at the cross. You are now a new person “in Christ.”
We no longer have to identify ourselves by our weaknesses or labels. That is not who we are. None of us need to carry a label — because we are new and clean in Christ – and our identity is now in Him and everything He stands for and who He says we are. He made the exchange of all our filthy rags for His clean white garment. So we are not only forgiven, but we are righteous. Why? Because He is righteous and we identify with who He is. So when we think of ourselves, we think of a righteous person.
Who we used to be has 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)
It’s incredible to think about, isn’t it? He sees us as clean and whole and righteous, because He has made us that way in Him. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) I am holy because He is holy, and He dwells in me.
This means that Christ took all our filthy rags of identification and exchanged them for His pure, holy righteousness. When Christ went to the cross, it says that He became sin. The Living Bible puts it this way: “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us.” The King James version says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
This means that on the cross, the sinless Christ, although He never personally sinned himself, actually became a drug addict, bitter, angry, jealous, a homosexual, abusive, a liar, a prostitute, greedy, an idolater, drunk with a party spirit, lawless, factious (quarrelsome or self-seeking), a fool, a glutton, a slanderer and more. By taking all our sin on Himself, He made an exchange so that we might become righteous in compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, purity, forgiveness, love, peace, forbearance, thankfulness, self control, faithfulness, goodness, desiring to worship and more.
With this monumental exchange, we gained a completely new identity. Our old fleshly identity with its passions and desires was crucified with Christ. We can now come before His throne of grace confidently because He sympathizes with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Knowing who we are in Christ frees us to make right choices in life. The way it works is this: When our identity is settled, we choose actions that line up with our identity. Whatever weaknesses of soul we formerly identified with (that may have been behind our former behaviors), we can now choose not to act on, because they do not line up with who we are in Christ. Life then is a series of Spirit-controlled decisions to become more and more like Christ in our words, attitudes, and actions — so that what we DO lines up with who we ARE. As we understand more clearly who we are, then our actions and thoughts will line up more easily.
It might be an interesting exercise for you to prayerfully make a list of things that identify you. For example: “I am righteous and holy.” “I am forgiven,” “I am a new creation,” “I am a temple for the Holy Spirit.” “I am a child of light, not of darkness.” As you read your Bible, you can add other things to this list.
In the movie, “Overcomer,” Priscilla Shirer gave an assignment to a struggling young girl. She asked her to read Eph. 1 and 2 and write out everything that defined who she was. She began with Eph. 1:4, “I am chosen.” This might be something you could also do. It will be a “life giving” list concerning your identity.
We have seen that there are many distortions and lies that we have believed about ourselves. How we view these lies will determine our relationship with God and other people. There is a revolving cycle that we go through in the course of a lifetime. It looks something like this:
—valued child—truth is mirrored to child—
child accepts the mirrored image and says “I am valued”—
the person gains a true sense of who they are and feels wholeness—
the outward expression is that they can then extend that value to others—
gain a sense of life—value is internalized, I am valued—
(cycle repeats generationally)
For many people, the following is more accurate, a life where value was stolen. It also is a revolving cycle (until the lies are exposed):
—child is born with God-given value—false “truth” is mirrored to child—
that “truth” is accepted, the child has no skills to sort or sift the so called “truth” they receive—this creates a void—symptoms appear as to how the person can fill that void
(i.e. promiscuity, performance, achievements, beliefs, relationships, substances)—person experiences guilt—person says: I am worthless, I have no value—
lies have become internalized— (cycle repeats.)
GOD IS SO GOOD. He gives us a process to regain our lost value. This is also a revolving cycle:
—Adult devalued by lifelong process—
confusion results, unable to sort the truth and lies—
EXPOSURE TO GOD’S TRUTH says “I am valued”—
Adult now has the ability to sort and sift the truth—
cognitive thinking is impacted, the void is beginning to be
partially filled in relationship to the truth that is accepted—
the outward expression of internal truth is exhibited in relationships—
a sense of life begins to spring up—value is internalized,
I really start to believe I have value—> (cycle repeats)
Often as children we experienced rejection or even abandonment and have a skewed identity as a result. Satan is a master deceiver and is adept at “identity theft.” He rejoices when he can convince a person of a false identity, one that is not our true God given self. The good news is: Our value and connectedness can be re-claimed. It starts when we believe God’s truth about ourselves.
A good Biblical perspective concerning identity in Christ is found in John 15, where we learn about the vine and the branches. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” A branch is connected to the vine. It is a part of the vine. Jesus’ “sap” flows through us because we are “in” Him, just as a branch is “in” the vine. We produce fruit because He energizes and controls us. We are nothing without Him. He is in us and we are in Him. This is intimacy…connectedness at its finest. This is our identity.
Sometimes we forget that we are continually connected to the Author of life itself. That connection is probably the only firm and sure connection we have…and it is sure indeed. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” They are connected. And He invites us into that unity, that oneness…that connectedness. Jesus said of His relationship with us, “I in them and Thou in Me..” Jesus is “in” the Father and the Father is “in” Jesus. You and I are also “in” Christ and He is “in” us…”Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)
So to change our identity, we must change who and what we identify with.
As I think about my relationship to Christ and how thankful I am that I am secure in my identity in Him, I have a picture in mind:
If I am rooted in Christ, and He Himself is actually the root of my life, then everything that springs from that root has to be holy, good, right, loving, and pure – because there is no unrighteousness in Him. A branch of a tree is dependent on the root system of the tree, and whatever comes up into the branch flows up from the root. Because Christ is completely righteous, His flow of nourishment into my life is continually and only righteous.
Romans 11:16 says: “…if the root be holy, the branches are too.”
Colossians 2:7 also talks about roots: “…having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…” My roots and therefore my identity are firmly grounded and rooted in who He is, and all the attributes and character of Christ are at my disposal. I am “in Him” and He is “in me”. This is intimacy at its finest, and this identifies who I am. This is the closeness of relationship that the Lord offers me — even to the point of identity.
Webster’s Dictionary says identity means: “the condition or fact of being the same in all qualities under consideration; sameness; oneness.”
In John 17:11 Jesus prays…”…Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.” I believe Jesus was praying about our identity here, that our identity be in His name, that we be one with Him and the Father. Then in verse 21, “that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us…” and vs. 23 “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…”
In all this, I see Jesus praying fervently that we know who we are, that we be clear about our identity in Him…that we are one with Him, in Him, in His Name. Securely attached – this is His will for us, and He cried out to the Father that it would be so.
Knowing that my true identity is in Christ, there is NO WAY I can say that weak tendencies whether mental or emotional, or fleshly thoughts are my identity. They don’t fit in with the identity I have in Christ. Yes, we all have weaknesses associated with our flesh nature, but we are new creatures in Christ, and our identity is not associated with our flesh. Our identity is in the Spirit. I am righteous because He is righteous, and He has imputed His righteousness to me. I am rooted in righteousness. I am holy because He is holy. I love because He is love.
In reality, there are times I choose to act or think away from the context of my true identity. I sometimes choose to walk in the flesh, but my deeds do not change the fact of who I am in Christ. My flesh can rise up and do or say unloving things, hurt people, hurt God, but that is out of my flesh, not out of my God-given identity.
It’s important to remember that for every Christian, there is a “condition” and a “position.” Our “condition” is that we were born with a flesh nature and that we will have it until our bodies are glorified. But in Christ, we have a new “position”, and that is in the heavenlies, seated on the throne “in Christ.” Our lives now optimally operate out of our new position. (Ephesians 2:6)
WHO AM I? (MY TRUE IDENTITY IN CHRIST)
I am a child of God. (John. 1:12)
I am chosen (Eph. 1:4)
I am forgiven (Eph. 1:7)
I am redeemed (Eph. 1:7)
I am the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life. (John 15:1,5)
I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
I am appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. (John 15:16)
I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him. (Romans 8:17)
I am a temple-a dwelling place-of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19)
I am a member of Christ’s Body. (I Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:30)
I am a new creation. (II Corinthians 5:17)
I am reconciled to God & a minister of reconciliation. (II Corinthians 5:18-19)
I am a saint. (Ephesians 1:1, I Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1)
I am God’s workmanship, created for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
I am born again. (John 3:3,7)
I am righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:24)
I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven now. (Philippians 3:20, Ephesians 2:6)
I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12, I Thessalonians 1:4)
I am a son of light and not of darkness. (I Thessalonians 5:5)
I am one of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house. (I Peter 2:5)
I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. (I Peter 2:9-10)
I am an alien and stranger in this world in which I temporarily live. (I Peter 2:11)
I am an enemy of the devil. (I Peter 5:8)
I am what I am by the grace of God. (I Corinthians 15:10)