Knowing our Identity
It is not uncommon for people to go through what they describe as an “identity crisis.” That is often in the context of figuring out what we want to do with our lives and whether we like how we portray ourselves to others. Sometimes the feeling persists at a major turning point in life—what many call the “mid-life crisis.” Sadly, many will use these times as excuses to do evil rather than to draw closer to God.
Who are you? That answer is first given at the beginning of Scripture when we are told that God made male and female in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28). Dignity, honor, and respect are due to all people because all are made in God’s image. We can know that our value is founded upon the fact that God made human beings to be a special part of His creation and we that we are made to remain in fellowship with our Creator.
The problem we face is that sin damages us. We are marred and scarred by sinful attitudes and behaviors, which are the very opposite of what we are created to be as God’s image-bearers. This will, in turn, create an “identity crisis” as we try to navigate our responses to the damage done in our lives. We walk in futility, darkness, ignorance, and hardness of heart (see Ephesians 4:17-19). How can we really know who we are and why we are here if our minds have been so blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4)? Our identity has been torn to pieces, and now we must be humble enough to admit that we are lost and in need of redemption.
That path to redemption is only through Christ. After telling his readers that they cannot continue walking in futility and darkness, Paul wrote: “But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:20-24).
Notice that Paul connects putting on the new self with being created after God’s likeness once again. We become a new creation that is renewed in the image of God in Christ. We may now be “conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
Christ is the perfection of God’s image because He is God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:3). When we are in Him, then we are reshaped to that image as God intended from the beginning. This changes everything about how we are to think about who we are and why we are here.
When we put on Christ, our identity is set. People talk about what they identify as in various contexts (from sexual to political), and in one sense it really does not matter when we are outside of Christ walking in futility. The world will be the world. But once we are in Christ, we have taken on a new identity as the new creation, and this identity is greater and more pervasive than any other by which we may be known. The passage that sums this up so well is Colossians 3:3-4: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Read that again: “you have died…your life is hidden with Christ in God.” If, as Christians, we insist on identities that take away from this fundamental truth or even deny reality, then we are glorifying self over Christ, and this is not acceptable. Identities that distract from our purpose and mission are to be put aside. When people see and know us, they should see and know that we find our identity in Christ as His image-bearers and that our citizenship is in heaven above and beyond any earthly identities, allegiances, causes, or agendas.
When our identity is set in Christ, then our allegiance is to His kingdom and truth. He defines how we are to think, act, and portray ourselves. He defines love, relationships, and gives purpose to our lives. In Christ, we must deny self in favor of hearing the voice of our Lord in all things (Luke 9:23; John 10:27). Worldly desires and pursuits must never take over who we are and what we are doing.
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” (Col 3:5). Read Colossians 3. Think about your identity in Christ. Know who you are … in Him.