Our culture is very interested in the journey of discovering individual identity. Personality tests, dream assessments, even Buzzfeed quizzes are available everywhere you look. It seems like everyone is searching for something to tell them who they are, where they belong and how they relate to the world.
The Bible says that all men and women are created in God’s image. Humankind was created to reflect some of God’s attributes. You can look for your identity anywhere, but followers of Jesus are called to find their identity in Him.
While our world encourages you to look within yourself for your identity, your natural tendency is to search for your identity in external things.
One of the first places that you can be tempted to look to is your career. Spending your time and energy pursuing your career can cause you to feel like it is a defining characteristic of who you are. After all, a job that you are dedicated to is likely to take up most of your time and attention.
Jobs and careers are closely connected to other places where you can search for your identity, such as financial success and status. But it doesn’t stop there. We also ask our relationship statuses, appearance, grades, and reputation to provide a sense of identity.
Any or all of these may feel like solid foundations, but none of them are permanent. Any of them could change without warning. If you base your identity on things like success, wealth, power, physical appearance, and so on, you are setting yourself up for great disappointment. A sudden job loss could leave you questioning your choices in life. One piece of gossip aimed your way could destroy your reputation, even if it is untrue. Your appearance will change as you get older.
God, however, is unchanging. He is reliable. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. If you find your identity in Him, you will never ultimately be let down because He has proven time and time again to be trustworthy.
It is important, as you define your identity, that God not be just an aspect of who you are, like “I am a Christian,” or ”I am religious,” or “I am spiritual”. Understanding your identity in God starts with understanding who He is, what He says about Himself, and what He says about you. Your identity can be defined by who God is making you to be in His image.
To be able to understand your identity as a follower of Christ, you need to understand how He sees you. It’s tempting to build your identity on what you accomplish, but this is not a stable foundation.
Your true identity is ultimately based on what God has done for you. In the Bible, God tells us often about how He views His people. Let’s take a look at what He says about you, if you received Him as your Lord and Savior. (Learn how to have a personal relationship with God and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.)
In Christ, you are loved. You were created with a purpose. You are not just a convenient carbon copy of someone else. You were created uniquely and with intention. God lovingly designed every detail of your person. Can you imagine the love involved with that intricate design?
In Christ, you are not only loved but chosen. God sent His own Son to earth to die in your place so that you could be included in His family.
God was not obligated to choose you based on your performance or credentials. He chose to carry out an intricate plan that involved the death of His own perfect Son, which allowed you the opportunity to be a child of God.
You are no mistake. You are chosen and wanted.
In order to be counted a child of the perfect Father, you had to be free of sin — that is, you had to be perfect with regard to doing right and not doing wrong. That is a tall order considering no one but Jesus was or is perfect and no one can attain perfection by their own effort.
However, because Jesus, who was without sin, died the death you should have on the cross, you can be forgiven of sin. What you’ve done wrong is not counted against you, and all that Christ did right is counted for you. This forgiveness allows you to be considered a child of God.
Therefore, in God’s eyes, if you have accepted what Jesus did for you, you are completely forgiven. From His perspective, you are without sin. It’s not that you won’t sin, but when He looks at you, He calls you forgiven. That is something on which you can build your identity.
What does your forgiveness mean? You are redeemed — that is, Christ’s sacrifice has bought you back from the forces of sin and evil that once owned and controlled you and made you His.
When God looks at you, He does not see a former sinner. He does not see you in light of who you once were. He sees you as redeemed: a new creation that has been made whole.
You do not have to define yourself in light of your past mistakes. God does not do that. You can walk in the identity of someone who is made new in Christ.
What does it mean to be considered a child of God? It means that you have been adopted into His family. You are considered a legitimate child of the God of the universe, having all the rights and standing of Jesus His Son.
God sees you as a cherished child who bears His name. Just as earthly adoption is a legally binding process that names you a permanent part of a family, heavenly adoption is just as permanent and binding. You are His child, and He will never take that away.
You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. Actually, God wants you to find out for yourself by reading His Word. It is so important that you go to the Bible to find out how He feels about you. Your identity should never be based on a hope or a guess. God gave us His Word, the Bible, so you can know Him and know who He is making you to be in Him.
“You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” (Ephesians 2:19, New International Version)
We are members of His household, not strangers. If you follow Christ, you belong in God’s household and with His people.
In this passage, Paul is encouraging followers of Christ to remember that they are all part of one family. They are to be unified with each other. This can only happen if you understand that you are a legitimate child of God. You are part of His family.
“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NIV)
As a child of God, you are blessed and provided for. God is able to provide you with everything you need in Christ. He is the Owner of everything and the Giver of all good things.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1, NIV)
In Christ, you are loved. Your identity is a child of God. This Bible verse comes from a chapter that warns against the temptation to stray from God into sin. You can resist sin by remembering that God has the best for His children. He offers you more than the world ever could. You are complete in His love.
“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, NIV)
Jesus delights in you. You are not just accepted or put up with. You are welcomed into His family with delight.
When correction comes, it lasts for a short time because the goal is for it to help you reflect God’s holy character more accurately. He delights in you so much that He is making you more like Himself day by day.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)
You are God’s righteousness. You are His goodness and rightness because of what Christ did on the cross. This was given to you, and you are called righteous by the Lord of the universe.
You can live in light of the righteousness you were given. It not only allows you to approach God with confidence, but it allows you to be an ambassador to others around you. Because your righteousness is not earned but freely given through faith in Jesus, you can share this gift with others and invite them to be God’s righteousness too.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13, NIV)
You are forgiven. If you are a follower of Christ, you have become God’s child because the Lord forgave you for the sin you committed against Him.
As someone who is forgiven, you can now freely forgive others. God extended grace — that is, undeserved favor — to you. You can extend that grace to others around you.
“We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)
You were created with a purpose. God had specific intentions for your life when He brought you into the world. First and foremost, your purpose is to know Him and glorify Him. Then you can engage in other good works that will bring God glory and grow your own faith.
You were saved from great sin. Now, as a child of God, you can walk with God and do great good through His work in you.
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
In Christ, you are a new creation. God has made you new. The old things that used to define you have been taken away. God used to identify you as an enemy, but now he knows you as a child. You who were a sinner are now righteous.
You are new because through Jesus your sin has been paid for. You have been restored in right standing before God.
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV)
You are special to God. You are chosen by Him. This verse comes from a passage that talks about how Christ was rejected by many. But by faith in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, if you trust in Jesus, you are part of His holy, chosen people.
You can rid yourself of things that are part of the old you, part of the darkness, such as deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander because you have been brought into wonderful light.
Even if you know all these things about where a follower of Christ finds their identity, there can often be obstacles standing in the way of believing who you are in Christ. Other sources of identity often stand in the way, such as career, appearance or money. But there are other things that can distract you as well.
Everyone has made mistakes. Everyone has sinned. If you accept Christ, God forgives you of these things.
Psalm 103:12 (NIV) says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Transgression is another word for sin or mistakes. God removes your sin from you. You will still often remember your sins, and those memories can make you feel unworthy, keeping you from accepting your true identity.
You might not just remember what you have done; you may also remember what people have done to you. Maybe you were treated poorly or neglected. Maybe people told you negative things about yourself.
The world is broken by sin. There are people who have experienced unspeakable injustice. From gossip to verbal and physical abuse, outside messages are trying to shape your identity every day. Those outside messages can lead you to believe that you are unworthy of what the Bible says is true of you in Christ.
As you follow Jesus, you will seek to know Him more. You can do this through time in the Word, through prayer, through talking with friends or a mentor and through gathering together with other believers in worship.
As your understanding of God grows, you may recognize flawed beliefs that you held before that do not line up with what you are hearing and learning about your identity now.
Maybe you grew up learning that you can lose your salvation. Maybe you thought that there were certain behaviors or sins that disqualify you from receiving Christ’s salvation. There are many false beliefs out there that seem correct but really take away from who God is and what He says. It can be confusing to work through these differences.
These obstacles are difficult to navigate. It’s easy to believe that these things are legitimate barriers to following Jesus. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, you can overcome these obstacles and live fully in the identity that you were given in Jesus.
The word “repent” means that you agree with God. So the first thing you can do to embrace your identity is to agree with Him that you are believing things that are no longer true of you.
Bring the things you are struggling with to Him. Admit that they are difficult for you to overcome. Confess that you believe Him when He says that they are no longer true of you.
Many places in scripture encourage believers of Jesus to mourn over their sin. Although your sin no longer defines your identity, you do still experience its effects in your life. Therefore, it is legitimate and even important to grieve the sin that keeps you from truly believing the things Jesus says.
You can also grieve the sins that were committed against you and all that those wounds cost you. You can grieve the effect that it had on your relationship with the Lord.
Paul was one of the leaders of the early church who helped write the Bible’s New Testament. In a letter to one church, which we now know as the Bible’s book of 1 Thessalonians, he talks about how to mourn for lost loved ones. He helps us to understand how we can grieve well.
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, NIV).
In this passage, “those who sleep in death” is referring to followers of Jesus who have passed away. Paul says that we can grieve that they are no longer here and yet have hope that in Jesus they live in eternity.
The same principle applies to grief over sin. You can grieve your own sin and the sin of others, all the while knowing that you have hope in Christ. You are a new creation. You are forgiven and restored in Jesus.
When you have confessed and grieved these things, you can ask God to help you believe what is true. He is the one who renews your mind and changes your heart.
God is the one who grows your faith and makes you new. Ask Him to help you believe the things that He says of you. Ask Him to continue to make you into the person that He intends you to be in Jesus.
He is faithful, and He will do it.
God never meant for you to walk with Jesus on your own. He brings people into your life so that you can encourage one another.
When you are struggling with past sin or false and discouraging beliefs, share that struggle with a trusted friend. Inviting others to pray for you and remind you of the truth can be so beneficial.
A believer that is farther along on their faith journey can provide great insight to you as you walk with Jesus. Consider inviting a fellow believer to mentor you in areas that are a struggle for you.
When Christ followers bear one another’s burdens, they not only grow closer to the Lord, but they grow in unity with other Christ followers.
If you put your faith in Jesus, you have a new identity in Him. The more you get to know Jesus through His word and time in prayer, the more you will understand your identity in Him.
The more you get to know Jesus, the more you will be able to identify areas of your life that you are not living in this identity by the power of the Holy Spirit.
If you believed that you were all that God says you are in Christ, how would that change the way you lived, the way you interact with others, or the way that you relate to the Lord?
As you find your identity in Christ, you will grow to look more like Him and less like the world. You will grow in intimacy with Him and with other believers.
To learn more about finding your identity in Christ, go through the exercise described in “How to Discover Your True Identity."
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