Identity in Christ

I just got back from our senior-led retreat, and it was amazing!  God worked in wondrous ways through other people and in my own life.  As a part of the retreat being senior-led, I was one of the seniors who gave a talk.  I’ve been really passionate about identity in Christ because it’s a topic that I’ve learned so much about through my spiritual journey during these past few years.

The retreat’s spiritual theme was “spiritual disciplines” – which is really an umbrella term for knowing truth and putting it into action.  I really want to share with you all my talk that I ended up giving because it’s my testimony of my past few years and I believe that it could give perspective on how God sees you.

I’d like to start off by asking you a question – who are you?

Jesus once asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and that question is said to be the most important question you will answer as a Christian.  Next to knowing who Jesus is, knowing who you are is the second most important question you’ll answer in this life.

So, if a random stranger walked up to you and asked who you were, what do you think your response would be?  Some possible answers could range from anywhere between basketball player to professional doily crocheter.  But you have to admit!, most responses to the question “who are you?” would be based off of your high school rank, age, profession, or even church denomination.  But the truth is, none of those answers would be correct because it doesn’t define what makes you you.

What really defines a person’s identity – at their core – is their relationship with Jesus. 

Neil Anderson is a Christian author who once said,

“The only identity equation that works in God’s kingdom is you plus Christ equals wholeness and meaning.”

So, for me, I accepted Jesus when I was about 4 or 5, so really young, and I grew up in the church, so I knew all the churchy-correct answers.  I believe there were some downsides to my giving my life over to Jesus at such a young age because half the time I thought I had it all together.  Sometimes it was as if I just checked Jesus off my list and knew how to live my life from then on.  I believe that my indifference to knowing my true identity in Christ had some repercussions later on that could have been avoided, and it was only a couple years ago that I truly dove into learning how to answer the question of “who did I say that I am?”  So, I’ve learned what I’m calling my “3 Identity Truths” that I believe are really critical for every believer to know:

Once you turn your life over to Jesus, you are first and foremost a new creation, secondly you are a son of the Most High, and thirdly you are free.

First and most important Identity Truth: you are a new creation after you turn over your life to Jesus.  This is the most important truth to remember because from it stems all other truth about your identity in Christ.

One of my favorite verses about this can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

What is so crucial to remember is that our old nature is gone – done away with.  Allow me to elaborate a bit on that.  We receive a sin nature from Adam when we’re born.  That means that humans are not basically good.  Before we gave our lives over to Jesus, the inclination to sin is immediate.

Whatever the situation may be, we used to be slaves to sin, but now, it says in Romans 6:18, “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” 

Sophomore year I was going through some stuff, so my mom gave me this book to read called Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson.  That book and God’s word were what really helped me at the time and I’ll talk more about that later, but there was this illustration in the book that I wanted to show you.

DSC_1925  I really found this fascinating.  So, a person is made up of three parts: their body, soul, and spirit.  And this is the original creation, so everything here is perfect.

Now, here is where the Greek in the New Testament goes much deeper than English.  Whenever you read the word “life” in the New Testament it means one of three different Greek words:

  • bios (bee-os)
  • psuche (psoo-kay)
  • zoe  (dzoo-ay)

Bios is the life of the body, psuche is the life of the soul (the mind, will, and emotions in that second ring there), and zoe is most important; zoe is eternal life and union with God.  Now think back to way in the beginning when God created Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve were spiritually alive and physically alive, but when they sinned, his zoe ended – his intimacy with God was broken.  They were still able to connect with God through sacrifices and priests, but that spiritual closeness with God was no longer there.

However, in the New Testament, the term zoe comes back into play in a slightly different way in relation to the union that believers have with God through Christ!  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He interceded on our behalf and covered our sins so that we might have that zoe, that restored union and intimacy with God.  The sin nature that we received from Adam is completely abolished when Christ enters our lives.

That’s where my second favorite verse comes in: Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

“I no longer live” – if someone told you that someone you knew was no longer living what conclusion would you come to?  They’re dead.  Their physical life has ended.  In the same way, when you accept Jesus into your heart and turn over the reins of your life to Him, you die.  Your former flat, 2D identity is dead and Christ now lives in you through the Holy Spirit.  Well, the verse goes on to say that “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”  God not only provides instructions of do’s and don’ts for this life, because “faith without works is dead,” but he tells us why.  He loved us enough to give his Son in our place and take our punishment for our sins.  He loved us enough to draw us to himself until we became new creations in him.

So, just some food for thought:  how does knowing yourself to be a new creation influence the way you daily live out your faith?

Second Identity Truth: you are a son of the Most High when you turn your life over to Jesus.

During youth group in the fall, we had electives on different topics we wanted to learn about, and that’s where I learned this really profound twist on what I have always known.  I was talking to my mom about my topic, and I told her that we are all sons of God.  She smiled and added, “and daughters.”

Actually, no, we are not all sons and daughters, we are all sons of God.

Let me explain.

Galatians 3:26 and 28 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Shortly after, Paul continues in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

Now this is where I found the Greek to be really deep again because according to Strong’s concordance, the Greek word for “son” is huios and means . . .

“properly, a son (by birth or adoption); (figuratively) anyone sharing the same nature as their Father. For the believer, becoming a son of God begins with being reborn (adopted) by the heavenly Father – through Christ In the NT, 5207 /hyiós (“son”) equally refers to female believers (Gal 3:28).”

Did you all catch that?  When Jesus died on the cross and defeated death three days later, he made it possible for us to be adopted as sons of God!

In the definition I just read, “son” means “anyone sharing the same nature as their Father.”  That means that we are righteous, holy, and pure.  It means that we possess the mind of Christ.

Jesus made that possible.

Also, “5207 /hyiós (“son”) emphasizes likeness of the believer to the heavenly Father, i.e. resembling His character more and more by living in faith.”  Sooo, the bad news is we’re not perfect.  Not in this life anyway.  We are going to make mistakes along the way, but as long as we are living by faith, living out our identity as sons of the Most High God, we will resemble His character more and more every single day.

Third Identity Truth: when you turn over your life to Jesus, you are free.

This is perhaps the hardest concept for me to grasp, because throughout my high school years I was spiritually attacked in several different ways.  When I was 16, I had a lot of guilt attacks where I would remember some deceitful thing I had done, feel a load of condemnation for it for a day or so, confess to my mom and feel a million times better before it happened again.  I think the first time it started was when I started watching a show.  My mom never told me it was okay to watch it and was skeptical of it, so I watched probably three seasons privately.  I eventually stopped watching it, but the weight of what I had done clung on my conscience.  I’m not proud of this, but I didn’t tell my mom what I had done for about 8 months.  And after that 8 months, my pastor gave a sermon on confessing to each other . . . and conviction . . . and truth . . . and I absolutely burned in my seat.  I blurted out the whole deception to my mom in the parking lot – probably a bit incoherently – and she forgave me.

But then I almost felt chained to the cycle, like I had to confess everything I had ever done before starting afresh.  That constant dwelling on the past didn’t help me much either and led me to dwell on immoral things and think of things that certainly didn’t line up with Philippians 4:8, where it says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on such things.” 

Know that if you are struggling with a weight of condemnation about something that was done in the past, that is spiritual warfare.  I know, I’ve been there.  If you are in Christ, there is no more condemnation, only conviction.  The difference between condemnation and conviction is that condemnation is a feeling of no hope and overwhelming guilt whereas conviction is your conscience being pricked by the Holy Spirit.

Guys, there is a spiritual world that we can’t see with our eyes.  There is a constant invisible war being fought that we simply can’t see, but the effects show up in our lives.

Satan is real.

I don’t mean to sound shocking, but he is as real as Jesus and he desperately wants to distract us from loving and following Jesus.

The problem for us is that Satan doesn’t appear in our lives as the ugly brute we know him to be.  He shows up as an angel of light –  as the summation of all of our daydreams and hopes.  He can use the slightest bit of a lie and conceal it in truth and people buy it!  I’ve bought it.  He is the king of deception and all he needs to do is move our course a bit off, get us a bit distracted, get us in a false mindset, in order to throw our focus off of God.

And guess where it all starts?  Guess where Satan deliberately begins his attack.

Thoughts.

Exactly like a speaker at our youth group was talking about a couple weeks ago, our thoughts are the beginning to who we ultimately become.  That is why it is SO important to know God’s truth, to dwell on it every day, and to constantly be in communication with Him, because that is how we can stand our ground against the enemy attacks and know who we are in Christ.

You are filled with the Holy Spirit whether you feel it or not and that is the key difference between who you are now and who you used to be. 

2 Corinthians 3:17 says “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  I really struggled knowing the freedom I had in Christ with his Holy Spirit living in me, mainly because I believed that I didn’t have much choice in my thoughts.  I believed similar lies when it came to singing.  There have been days where I’ve been so beaten down mentally that I couldn’t squeak out low notes that I knew I could sing, much less higher notes that I struggled with anyway.  And the sad part is is that I partially knew that the thoughts I were thinking weren’t true.  So I had to decide, would I believe the lies or would I believe who Jesus told me I am?  The more I spent time soaking up Scripture and communing with God, the more the lies disappeared.  It’s a truth that I repeat to myself every day, that I am free in Jesus and that if temptation does come my way, He will provide a way out of it.

In conclusion, you are

a new creation

a son of the Most High God

free

Your identity changes its very DNA when you hand over your life to Jesus, and you are forever a new creature in Him as His very free child.  If you are in Christ, you are righteous, holy, and pure.  You possess the mind of Christ!  If you’ve been reading this and don’t know what it is to give your life over to Jesus, please contact your local church, a Christian friend, or even me.  I would love to pray for you.

Now I want to close in Ephesians 3:14-21, just as a prayer over you.

 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.

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