Four Ways Our Identity in Christ Changes Our Lives

A couple of years ago, while my family was making a quick trip to a department store, one of our children started losing control. Our little boy began to struggle with a verbal and aggressive outburst as his little mind seemed to turn into someone else. This was nothing new for us, as we had been seeking help for years, but it made me freshly aware of our struggle as I saw the eyes of those around us casting silent — but loud — judgment.

“Get control of that child!”

“Clearly there is no discipline in that home!”

“If that were my child, they would never behave that way in a store!”

As I felt my motherhood being clearly judged, I turned to one woman, who had been casting a disapproving look, and exclaimed, “Don’t judge me! You have no idea of the challenge we live with!” I had had it with the dirty looks and silent judgement that I often felt from those around me. My very identity as a mother was being challenged, and I was not okay with that!

While this woman could have been more gracious, the real problem was that I was letting her determine my worth and my identity. She had no clue the challenge that God had entrusted our family. Yet, what it revealed in my own heart was that I was seeking after my identity in how “good” of a mom I was rather than who I was in Christ. The even greater sadness of the situation is that, instead of being the aroma of Christ to this woman, I had lashed out at her in the midst of my identity crisis.

Why can’t we find fulfillment in ourselves? Because we were created to reflect the glory of God and, since the main goal in seeking an identity outside of Christ is to bring glory to ourselves, we will never find lasting fulfillment apart from him.

Where are you tempted to find your identity?

  • Are you a woman who used to find fulfillment and praise in your job, but now find yourself tirelessly working at home with unappreciative children and with very little to show for it?
  • As a husband, have you been blinded by the ladder of success at the expense of your family, or are you feeling crippled because you are jobless or in a job where you find no fulfillment?
  • As an empty-nester, are you not sure who you are anymore without a house full of people to take care of?
  • Or are you a young mom feeling like you can’t keep up with the seemingly all-together mom next door?

How Our Identity in Christ Changes Our Lives

Knowing our identity is in Christ is one thing, but understanding how that practically changes the way we live is another. Here are a few ways that understanding our true identity in Christ can greatly impact the way we live our lives.

1. We no longer chase after the desires of our flesh but instead seek to bring God glory in all areas of our life.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions is not from the Father but it is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

If we are not seeking to find our identity in Christ alone, then we are seeking it in something else. However, when our identity is in the eternal things of Christ, we will not be crushed by our failures and weaknesses, fall into pride from worldly success, or despair over disappointments or tragedy. We won’t get lost seeking the attractive but empty things the world offers because Christ gives us a stable and eternal hope in a world of unstable hopelessness.

2. We no longer fear the future.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father.” (Romans 8:14-15)

If we have peace with God, then we have nothing to fear on this earth. Our eternities are secure as adopted sons and daughters of Christ. So we don’t need to fear financial collapse, losing our job, getting Ebola or Measles, or being ridiculed for our faith. Of course these things aren’t easy or painless, but we can have confidence that our Heavenly Father is sovereign over every moment of our life and will equip us for every single thing he ordains.

He bought us with the blood of his own Son so that we could claim our identity in the righteousness of Christ. We can trust that he will provide us with everything else that we need in this world. Our identity in Christ has given us direct access to our Heavenly Father, who we can call on with confidence and complete trust.

3. We have no need to judge or compare ourselves to others when we seek to please Christ alone, in whom our identity is hidden.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:5-8)

Comparing ourselves to those around us or judging the decisions that others make can suck the life right out of us. Biblical convictions are hard and fast truths that God has given us in his word to show us the way to live. Personal convictions, however, are decisions we make within our own families that may be right for one family but wrong for another. It’s easy to confuse the two and judge others who have different convictions than ours.

This can also create insecurity in our own choices due to our desire to please man over God. So let’s be careful that we are not imposing our personal convictions on others as if we are more godly than they are. We can ask Christ for wisdom in this area of personal convictions, be open to hear and discern other’s perspectives without judgement, and then walk in confidence that God is the only one we need to honor and please in these decisions.

The other way we compare ourselves is to the gifts and blessings of others. We are all created with the purpose of glorifying God but in the unique ways God has created us. One person is filled with creativity, while another glorifies God with a beautiful voice. One person glorifies God as a CEO, while another glorifies him by doing custodial work in the church. One person glorifies God in the way they seek to raise their family, while another glorifies him in the way they use their singleness to serve him.

We must seek to glorify Christ in the gifts and talents he has uniquely chosen for us and not get lost in the joy-sucking pursuit of being something God never created us to be. Don’t miss out on the blessing of serving Christ where you are with what he has chosen for you.

4. We should not be surprised when suffering comes, but we can be confident that it will produce things of eternal value.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)

If our identity is in Christ, then we are guaranteed that one day we will identify with him in his sufferings. Just as Christ’s sufferings were not hopeless and wasted, neither will ours be. Christ’s sufferings defeated sin and death, and therefore we identify with him as he uses suffering to put sin to death in us, to make us reflect more of him. Not only does suffering sanctify us, but it assures us that, after suffering with him for a while, we will one day be glorified with him.

This theme of suffering has been a familiar one for me over the last several years. While I will be the first to say that they have been some of the hardest years of my life, I can also say they have been some of the best. Everyone suffers, but can everyone look back at their suffering with thankfulness and joy because of it? Only those with the hope of Christ can do that. There is no good that comes from suffering if we are apart from Christ.

However, I can attest to the truth that the more I have let go of what I thought I wanted (despite my attempts to hold on with a white-knuckled grip), the more I have found joy and treasure in what only Christ could have done through the pain he has ordained in my life. Suffering gradually changes our earthly perspective into an eternal one.

We can spend our lives fearing pain and suffering, or we can thank God for the times of reprieve. Then we can trust the seasons of suffering to Christ’s great purpose in our lives: to identify with and become more like him.

Have You Been Changed by Christ?

Where do you find yourself seeking identity outside of Christ? Do you find yourself holding tightly to something, in fear that you’ll be lost without it? Sometimes in God’s grace, he allows the very thing we fear losing the most to be taken away to reveal that we have sought our identity in something other than him. As he grows us in understanding our true identity is in him, we are then freed to enjoy and glorify him in the unique ways that he has created us.

In my flesh, I have gifts that are riddled with pride and imperfection, I have desires that often seek my own will more than God’s, and I have blessings that I’m prone to hold tightly to rather than use for God’s glory. But that is not my identity anymore. I am righteous, holy, loved, and able to bring Christ glory through the gifts and blessings he has given me. Not by anything of my own doing, but by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Praise God that he loves us enough to take our broken, rebellious hearts and, because of the sacrifice of his son, offer us a new identity in Christ. Let’s not settle for anything less.

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Sarah Walton is a stay-at-home mom with four kids under nine years of age. She is the author, along with Kristen Wetherell, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). After a decade of trials and learning to walk with Christ as her entire family suffers with Lyme Disease, she shares how the gospel speaks into all areas of our lives and gives hope to our suffering. Follow her blog at Set Apart: Hope on the Road Less Traveled.

Date Posted: Apr 9th, 2015

  • Mountain mama

    Hi there- I’m a mom of three boys under seven. I would consider myself a strong Christian, and I feel like I know my identity in Christ but feel challenged to dig in more to this topic. I have been reading a bit on identity in Christ and stumbled onto this blog post. Thanks for writing it and writing it so well.
    Maybe you can help me with this though. I’m trying to figure out the piece about not judging or being judged. What do you do when you are blatantly judged? When the lady at the store gives you that disapproving look and you know that you are doing what God has for you and you are doing your very best at it every day, what do you say or do to/for that woman in that moment? And how do you not get in your car and feel that judgement flood over you? How do you respond when you are being judged by others? Similarly, how do you walk the line between not feeling the sting of others’ judgements and being overconfident and uncorrectable?
    I’d love to hear thoughts on this. Thanks!

    • UnlockingtheBible

      First of all, thank you for your excellent questions! You are not alone in the struggle of dealing with a judgmental look or comment. I have had many moments myself of wrestling through the initial and sometimes lasting sting of these hurtful situations and, yet, am also learning how Christ desires us to handle these situations.

      I think these questions can only be answered by looking at Christ. Philippians 2 describes his humility that meant he didn’t try to prove or defend himself, but left that in the hands of His Father. 1 Peter 2:19-25 is very helpful in remembering what Jesus endured for us because he was wrongly judged and misunderstood. As this passage says, Jesus left us an example so we could follow in his steps when we are judged by others. We know that God knows the truth and that’s really all that matters. We should be less concerned about being misunderstood, and more concerned that the response of our own hearts is Christ honoring.

      This also reminds us of how much we have been forgiven when we have misjudged others (which we all have done). So how do we walk that line between not feeling the sting of others’ judgments and being overconfident and unteachable? First, we may feel the sting of other’s hurtful looks and comments but when we allow it to remind us of what Christ did for us, it will spur gratitude for the gospel and help us have compassion and patience with others.

      And of course, we must invite Christ to show us our own sinful hearts, repenting of anger, misplaced shame, or judging others for judging us. We can either perpetuate the cycle of sin that Satan wants to feed or stop it by applying gospel truth and grace.

      The fact is, it never feels good to feel the judgmental sting of another. So we need to be prepared to go into situations armed with scriptures that remind us of who we are in Christ (Colossians 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1-2). We will still battle with our flesh, but thank the Lord that his grace covers even our sinful responses in these moments. As we grow in humility and the Gospel truth infiltrates more of us, we become increasingly equipped to filter these hurtful experiences through the lens of the Gospel and who we are in Christ. In these moments I’m learning to pray, “Lord, it hurts to feel the disapproval of others and, in my flesh I want to lash out and defend myself. Help me remember that I am a sinner saved by grace and help me reflect you by extending that grace to this person right now. Show me if I am wrong in any way, but fill me with the confident peace that I am hidden in Christ and, although far from perfect, I am forgiven and redeemed. I have no one to please but you. Help me rest in that truth. Amen.”

      Praying that both you and I would continue to grow in our ability to grasp our treasured and freeing identity in Christ. Hope this helps!

      In Christ, Sarah

  • Shawn Allen

    Hi Sarah, this is really great! I am currently writing some teen curriculum on Identity and self-worth. I was wondering if I could get your permission to use these 4 points, and some of your thoughts for one of our lessons? Thanks! – Shawn

  • DanlBoone

    love it!
    ‘- )

  • Matthew Brown

    Sarah I got a question for you. I have placed a lot of my value, Identity, in the way I look outwardly, yet my job, personal training, pretty much the world as well says unless your good looking you are not accepted. Should I get out? I don’t understand how to overcome that . You still gotta be a good mom right and do your job?

    • Sarah Walton

      Matthew, I appreciate your question, as well as your honesty. I’m sure it’s a question that many people wrestle with. First of all, the issue with finding our identity in something other than Christ begins with our own hearts. Therefore, while you know that you are tempted to find your identity in your appearance, job, etc, changing jobs will not make the heart issue disappear. So, I wouldn’t advise someone to go right out and quit their job because they are finding their identity in it. The job isn’t necessarily the main or only problem. Sin is. However, we are also commanded to guard ourselves and “cut off” that which leads us into a pattern of sin that we find ourselves unable to break free from. What’s encouraging is that the Lord has revealed to you that you have been finding your identity in your appearance, and is often being fed through your job. So, while I can’t tell you what you need to do in regards to your job, I would definitely bring it to the Lord in prayer and honesty. Confess this area of struggle and ask him to break you free from the bondage of finding your identity in your appearance, rather than in Christ. The greatest way to combat finding our identity in something outside of Christ is to be amazed by what our identity in Christ really means – in a way that causes other objects of our affection to fade. As you said, for me, I do have to keep being a mom and do my best at it, even though I struggle with it being my identity at times. However, because this is not an optional thing for me, I think the Lord has allowed some of my specific struggles to open my eyes to that pitfall. The more I learn (often the hard way) that my role as a mom will never fully satisfy me, the more I grow in understanding and thankfulness for my identity in Christ that declares me forgiven, holy, loved, chosen, and free…despite how underserving I am of those things. There will come a time when the Lord allows your “appearance” to fade, as all of ours does with time. So the question is, how are you preparing yourself now? When that happens, will it crush you and leave you flailing, unsure of who you are anymore without the positive attention and confidence that came with it? Those questions may help you as you consider and pray.
      Anyway, like I said, I won’t tell you whether it’s best to change jobs because I am not in the place to do so. However, I do think it is wise to think with an eternal perspective in how we choose to use our time, talents, and resources. If one or all of those things only feeds our flesh and hinders our growth in the gospel, then it may be in our best interest to look for a change. However, God may also use the emptiness that that very thing brings to stir up in us a desire for something more satisfying, lasting – namely, Christ.
      Whatever he leads you to do, I thank the Lord that he has allowed you to recognize this stumbling block in your life and I pray that he will give you the strength, clarity, and boldness to live radically for the sake of eternity (whether that means changing jobs or else becoming a beacon of light in an industry that is often about outward appearance and self-improvement).

      Thanks again for your question and I pray that the Lord will faithfully lead you in the way you should go.

      • Matthew Brown

        Thank you!

  • Odofin

    Thank you so much, i am real blessed.

  • Lost

    My identity was always in being a student, after graduating and going into the real world I have come to realize that I don’t know where my identity is and what It really means to find my identity in Christ. I feel lost and at times depressed. I compare myself to others. I grew up in church but for some reason this year has been one filled with doubt, even doubt in my salvation. I’m engaged and cant even enjoy my engagement season because of this overwhelming sense of feeling lost. I don’t know where to start and how to figure out who I am in Christ..