As believers, most of us know that right answer of finding our identity in Christ. But what does that mean? We talked about identity in last week's podcast, but I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.
When we talk about finding our identity in Christ, it's important to look at what Scripture says. Below are a few key points to finding our identity in Jesus Christ.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Scripture makes it clear that humans were made in the image of God. This doesn't mean that we are exactly like God. But man is the only part of God's creation that is described this way. We're special. And because we were made imago dei, in the image of God, our identity cannot be separate from Him. We should, in fact, look to Him for our identity.
Hannah Anderson in her book, Made for More, says it like this, "Imago dei means that your life has purpose and meaning because God has made you to be like Himself. Imago dei means that your life has intrinsic value, not simply because of who you are as an individual, but because of who He is as your God. Imago dei means that your life is sacred because He has stamped His identity onto yours."
We think we're finding ourselves when we seek out success, fame or fortune. We hope we have our lives figured out when we find our niche. But we can't really find ourselves until we look to God. We can't be who we were made to be until we identify ourselves with the one who made us in the first place.
There are passages in the New Testament that describe us as being "conformed" into Christ's image. This is a description especially for God's elect and describes the believer's transformation into Christ's likeness, which is a current process (sanctification) and a future state (glorification). We don't find our identity in our ability to be like Christ of our own power, but in the fact that we are already counted as like Christ through his sanctifying work on the cross. Therefore we should live as a redeemed people. This is discussed more later.
Adopted and Heirs
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12
We are not only created in God's image, but He considers us to be his children. This is not only in the sense that God is our creator, but Christians have the privilege of being adopted into His family.
Most of you know that adoption is special to our family. But what does it meant to be adopted into God's family? I think it's important to remember that before we received Christ as our Savior, we weren't a part of His family. We were "not [His] people." We had none of the benefits of being in His family. This includes the benefits of a close and personal relationship with him and being heirs to His kingdom.
Now that we are in His family, and we've taken on His name, we are co-heirs with Jesus and receive the blessings that come with being a member of God's family. Many of us use our earthly families to help identify us, but being part of God's family provides us with eternal identity. It is not something that will pass away when heaven and earth are gone.
So we should live with the assurance that we are eternally secure and forever loved. God didn't just take away our sins, but he brought us into His household. Does the way we live follow in accordance with that knowledge? Or are we more concerned with our earthly relationships so that we mainly identify ourselves as parent, spouse, child, etc. These relationships are important, but when we identify ourselves by them, we are slaves to the imperfections that are inherent in them. They are based on how we perform which means we'll never be perfect. Our standing as a child of God is not based on our perfection, but on His.
Chosen and Set Apart
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” - 1 Peter 2:9-10
We are not only intrinsically made in God's image and given a new name through adoption into His family, but we are also called to be set apart. To be holy. 1 Peter 1:16 (quoting Leviticus 11:44) says "'You shall be holy, for I am holy." While all can stand in awe of the fact that we are made in the likeness of the creator God. And Christians can rest in the knowledge that we are adopted into His family. We are also called to live a holy and set apart life for His glory.
We are not to be set apart for the sake of being separated from others, but in order that God may be glorified throughout the nations. We are not identified by our ability to live perfect lives. Which is good, because we can't. But because God has made us perfect through Christ's death on the cross, we are able to truly grieve our sin and turn to a new way of living. We live our lives from a state of redemption and know that even when we mess up, our identity is secure. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called," (Ephesians 4:1) which comforts us with the knowledge that we don't have to do it on our own.
The very fact that we look outside of ourselves and our abilities to find our identity sets us apart from the world. As believers, we don't have to be offended when we don't measure up to the standards of someone else, but we seek our identity in the unchanging God of the universe. But we live in our lives from the security of being a part of God's holy people.
The concept of identity is vastly complex. And all the nuances of this cannot be discussed here. While our identity doesn't change, because we continually grow into the image of Christ, our understanding of our identity continues to more closely reflect who God has made us to be. And when we stand before Him, after everything else has passed away, our true identity will be revealed.
1 Corinthians 11:7
2 Corinthians 3:18
2 Corinthians 6:18
1 John 3:1
1 John 4:4-5
...and many others