When our children were very young, we spoke about the soul like this: “I have a soul. My soul is inside me. I can’t see it, but it lasts forever.” Jim Packer says that your soul is your “conscious personal self,” the “I” that knows itself as “me.” Your soul is the identity...
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.