Welcome back to this third and final blog about your true identity.
In my previous blogs I said that since the fall of mankind (Genesis 3), we all, like Adam and Eve, have gone into some form of hiding. We live with a core fear that if others really knew us and saw our core "nakedness" such as our flaws, sins, failures and weaknesses, they would reject us. Therefore, we hide in many different ways. Moreover, because of shame, many hide secrets of past abuse or sexual struggles. Hiding breeds loneliness and makes us vulnerable to more sin.
Truth is, we must come out of hiding if we're to be the men and women God longs for us to be. Coming out of hiding means opening our lives up to at least one or two trusted people so we can be fully known. James says, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed (James 5:16)." We can only be loved to the degree we are known. When we hide secrets our self-talk goes something like, "Yea. You say you love me but if you really knew me there's no way."
In my last blog I gave the first step in writing our life stories. It begins with facing the lies we believe about ourselves so we can turn from them. In this blog, I'll explain how to take the second step in writing your story: facing and embracing the truth about who you are in Christ.
How to face and embrace the truth about your true identity
First, take a moment and imagine Jesus is thinking about you. If you were gut-level honest, what do you think he feels when you come to his mind? What do you think he would want to say to you?
Many Christians assume God feels angry, frustrated or disappointed with them. That's because they think their sin and failure are what catch God’s attention. Therefore, they imagine Jesus would give them some kind of advice, correction, or rebuke to help straighten them out. Not true. God sees our sin but that’s not what catches his attention if you’re in Christ. Like any good father, he feels love and delight when he thinks about you (Dr. David Benner).
Having a proper, biblical self-image is important because everything we do we do according to our self-image. For example, if I believe I'm worthless, I'll get defensive or angry if others treat me that way. If, however, I believe the truth that I'm God's dearly loved son, I'll have a better chance of responding redemptively when people don't treat me well.
Listen to what God thinks and feels for his people (and for you) even when their sin is causing the Lord to discipline them: “‘Oh! Ephraim [Israel] is my dear, dear son, my child in whom I take pleasure! Every time I mention his name, my heart bursts with longing for him! Everything in me cries out for him. Softly and tenderly I wait for him.’ God’s Decree” (Jer. 31:20 msg). And God says through another prophet, "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)." God sings over you. That's what he thinks and feels about you.
The Bible is clear--we are God’s dearly loved children (Eph. 5:1). The Bible says there is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ (Rom. 8:1). None. Reflect on that for a moment and let it sink in: God never has a condemning thought toward you even when you mess up big time. Whatever your core lie may be (slut, worthless, no good, never wanted), God never thinks that way about you.
Grace means “unmerited favor.” If you’re in Christ, God has poured out his grace on you. He favors you. He loves you. His heart is moved with compassion for you and your struggles. Read and reflect on Luke 15:3–24 to understand how God feels about you. Consider what the Good Shepherd, the woman, and the Father feel in these stories.
Here are a few more examples of the truth about how God thinks and feels about you.
The Lie The Truth
I am unloved and rejected. I am a beloved child of God: 1 John 3:1; I'm beyond hope. 4:10
I am unacceptable due to my I am accepted and loved because of Jesus' performance. performance: Rom. 3:21-24; Titus 3:4-5
I am unwanted and alone. You are chosen: Ephesians 1:4–5, 11
I am unusable. I’ve blown it You are called by God for his purpose: too badly. Matt. 9:9–12; Lk 15:7; 2 Tim. 1:9–10
Saints not sinners
You and I are not merely forgiven sinners, we are saints. When people use the word saint, they say things like, “Grandma sure was a saint. She never said an unkind word about anybody.” Or we think of special people, like Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived such virtuous lives that they’re called saints. That, however, isn’t how the Bible uses the word saint. Saint means to be holy. Holy means set apart. Everyone in Christ is a saint. God has chosen us and set us apart for his love and purpose. We are his. Moreover, we literally have Christ living, breathing, speaking, and moving within us. The term in Christ is used eighty-two times in the apostle Paul’s letters: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). “This is the secret: Christ lives in you” (Col. 1:27 nlt). This truth is the bedrock of Paul’s theology. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The Corinthians were a mess but Paul doesn’t talk to them as sinners who need to shape up. He speaks to them as saints who need to remember who they really are.
Ponder this--God’s Spirit dwells in our hearts! Therefore, deep down, in our hearts, we want to love and follow God. Through the miracle of our new covenant heart (Jeremiah 31), our hearts are now inclined toward God—not away from him (Rom. 6). We want to love God and others because that’s what Jesus, who lives in our hearts, wants to do! We may squelch our awareness of this deeper desire through out sin but that doesn't change the truth about who we really are.
Sadly, too many Christians have been taught that they are forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus but their hearts are still utterly sinful. No. That's a lie from hell. We are no longer sinners by definition. We are saints who struggle with sin. That’s the truth! It may not feel true but we must choose to believe what God says and continue on the path of working this out in our daily lives.
You and I are not just forgiven sinners; we are new creations in Christ. While sin exists in our fallen nature, our fallen nature no longer defines who we are. Think of it this way: black tarnish can cover and hide precious silver. The tarnish is what we see but the silver still lies beneath. Christ in us is our truest and deepest identity! Jesus lives in our hearts! Therefore, our hearts are good.
What about Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” How can our hearts be good if Jeremiah says they’re deceitful and beyond cure? When Jeremiah wrote chapter 17, Israel’s heart was so corrupt they were beyond cure. There was no hope. Israel needed a heart transplant. Therefore, Jeremiah said a heart transplant was coming through the new covenant (Jer. 31:31–33). You and I are living in the time of the new covenant. Through Christ, we’ve received the heart transplant. Theologians call it the double transfer. Our sins have been transferred to Jesus and the righteousness of Jesus has been transferred to us. This isn’t just academic theology. Christ actually lives in our hearts urging us to love and follow him. That’s the biblical doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness. It’s real and alive! Jesus lives and speaks from within our hearts.
As you reflect on these truths, continue to think over your life story. Write down ways God has spoken truth into your life. How has God's Word spoken to you through sermons, devotions, classes? If nothing comes to mind, go back and reflect on all the Bible passages I listed above.
Also, think about significant people in your life who have spoken truth to you. Maybe God spoke to you through a parent, grandparent, friend, Sunday school teacher, coach, pastor, small group, an author, spouse, etc. Who has believed in you and mentored you in ways that have helped you believe the truth about God and his unwavering love for you? If memories like that don’t come to mind, write about any other ways you have seen the faithfulness of God in your life.
Now, if you took all the times, events and people you just thought about and boiled those memories down to a word or phrase about what God thinks and feels about you, what would that word or phrase be? Some people have said things like, Dearly loved. Known by God. Friend of God. Cherished. Hemmed in. Radiant. Warrior. We all share a common identity in Christ. We are his dearly loved children. Maybe that's the true identity you'll embrace for you life. It's true: you are God's dearly loved son/daughter. But as you have thought about your life story, maybe there's another name God might give to you about your identity in Christ. If so, what might that word or phrase be?
Write it down. My true identity in Christ is:
What you wrote down is your core truth about your identity in Christ.
During a men’s backpacking trip in the Manistee Forest, all the men went around the campfire and gave feedback to one another about how we had seen Christ in each other. My friend Chris said, “Field Commander” came to his mind when he saw me leading other men out into the woods in order to point them to Christ. I’ve also been told the name “Gary” means “Mighty Warrior.” Those names have a common theme. In Christ, I’m not a strikeout. I’m a warrior and field commander of the King, who fights for the hearts of others. When I choose to believe the truth, it makes a difference in how I relate to God, Lisa and others. Reflect on the following questions as you finish writing your story:
If you believed the truth of who you are in Christ, how would that influence the way you relate to others?
How would you see and treat others differently if you saw their true identity?
What will help you remember and believe the truth about who you are in Christ as you relate to your spouse, children, boss, coworkers, friends, and enemies through the day?
Write down Bible passages that you can take with you through the day to help you believe the truth. Those passages can help you hear God’s voice, urging you to turn north to him and to be thankful, knowing you’re secure in Jesus even when you face difficulties.
Now, share your life story with your small group, trusted friends and others so God can use each of you to help one another believe the truth about who you are in Christ. And have fun embracing your security in God as you take risks in loving others.