Before entering vocational ministry, I was a classically trained dancer. In dance, especially ballet, perfection is the goal. The way I was expected to look and move was precisely defined, from how high I jumped to the position of my index finger while jumping. Along with correctly executing technique, I was also expected to perform and entertain. My identity as a dancer was measured and determined by those two things—my execution and how well I performed a role.
As Christians, we often mistakenly measure and determine who we are by the same criteria. We look at being a Christian like it’s a role we’re taking on, measuring success or failure by how well we execute it. An identity determined by our own performance is actually in opposition to the gospel…not to mention impossible to maintain. It’s this predicament that serves as the impetus for Colin Smith’s book, Be Yourself: Discovering Your New Identity in Christ. In just over 40 pages, Smith addresses four major symptoms of a dysmorphic identity—feeling “messed up, defeated, insignificant, and lacking confidence.” With a theologian’s mind and a pastor’s heart, he offers four simple and beautiful gospel truths to combat these symptoms.
Simple, Beautiful Truth
In the first section, “You Are Clean: Finding Purity in Jesus Christ,” Smith presents the truth of our justification through faith in Jesus Christ as the source of our eternal pardon as sinners and the renewed purity we receive as a result. In speaking of Christ’s work on the cross, he says that what appeared to be a “miscarriage of justice” was more like a justice transaction. “God’s justice fell on him [Jesus] so that God’s mercy could be released to us” (7). This so wonderfully addresses the feeling of being “messed up” because it says that our mess has been forever cleaned up. Smith reminds us that our righteousness is not actually ours. It is Christ’s and is therefore secure. He says, “Nothing you do can make Jesus less righteous, and nothing that is done to you can violate the purity that is yours in him” (9). Amen.
Next comes the section, “You Are Free: Finding Victory in Jesus Christ.” Smith answers feelings of defeat in our daily battle against sin with the truth that we share in Christ’s victory over it. Smith clearly differentiates our own efforts to keep temptation at bay like accountability, counseling, self discipline, etc. that, while good and helpful, are not what save us. Being freed from the “cage” of sin is not a matter of what will rescue us, but who (19). He reminds us that the who is Jesus, our great Redeemer and that “redemption is a freedom word” (13).
In the third section, “You Are Holy: Finding Significance in Jesus Christ,” Smith breaks down our status as holy in a very helpful way and draws attention to an aspect of the gospel that I think is often overlooked. In Scripture, we are described as God’s gift to Jesus, what he received from the Father (25-27). We are the bride of Christ. That makes us inherently significant and of inestimable value.
The final section, “You Are Wise: Finding Confidence in Jesus Christ,” addresses the identity issue of lacking confidence. There is a positive correlation between knowledge and confidence. The more we know about something, the more confident we feel. Smith goes a step further to say that wisdom is the foundation of confidence because rather than simply gathering information (knowledge), wisdom gives us the ability to put it together (34). He goes into great detail about what it means to “have the mind of Christ,” that with the Holy Spirit we are able to confidently navigate life and learn from mistakes when we inevitably make them (39-40).
The Why and the How
One of Smith’s strengths is his ability to maintain the integrity of weighty theology while condensing it into something relatable, digestible, and applicable. He does this so well in Be Yourselfand in less than 50 pages. The why behind our identity in Christ is scripturally sound and comprehensive. The how to discover this identity and hold on to it is clear and motivating.
In this world, it’s easy to unintentionally start living as if being a Christian is a role to play or a set of expectations to meet. But instead of feeling the confidence, joy, and freedom of our salvation, we soon find ourselves insecure, overwhelmed, and lost. If you fit that description, this small book of big truths will rewire your understanding of who you are and enable you to do just as the title suggests: be yourself— a clean, free, holy, and wise coheir with Christ.