The Root of Most Problems
“Identity in Christ” has been an ongoing church phrase in recent years. This is my attempt to settle the matter.
The average church spends more time correcting actions rather than revealing identity.
It comes down to this:
Your identity is not found in what you do. Your identity is found in who God says you are. As many have said, “you are a human being, not a human doing.” There is nothing you can do to change your identity because your identity is already established (as a believer).
We are called to be Christ-like, not merely act Christ-like.
That is why Jesus talked about false prophets who “prophesied in [His] name” and did signs and wonders, yet Jesus said, “I do not know you.”
Why? Because being like Jesus requires you to actually know Him, His character, and His nature (through relationship), while acting like Jesus only requires you to know a book and some good principles. False prophets look like sheep, their actions look right, but it’s their hearts and motives that are off.
So when you have church cultures that are teaching “behavior modification” instead of teaching identity, you end up with lots of people who are trying to be clean outside the cup rather than people who actually know who they are [as sons of God].
“Living from your identity” is as simple as this:
Behavior that follows as a result of understanding who you are.
You cannot have behavior that is consistent with who you are if you do not understand who you are.
Take this example:
Say that we’re in the Medieval days. And suppose there was a boy who grew up in an orphanage, and at the age of 18, it was revealed that He was actually the King’s son. The King, overjoyed to discover his lost son removes his son from the impoverished living situation and brings the son into his palace.
Even though the boy grew up and identified himself as an orphan, he now has the privilege to identify with his true Father rather than the past circumstances. And from there, he can either choose to hold on to his old lifestyle, way of thinking, and upbringing as an orphan, or he can “renew” his perspective and embrace his new position as royalty and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.
But, so long as the boy identifies with the fact that he was an orphan rather than the fact that he is now a prince, he will behave as he used to behave because he does not understand who he has become.
He will hide away his Father’s wealth for himself in fear that he might lose it. He will not trust any of the King’s servants or his new brothers and sisters because he secretly thinks everyone is against him because these were his mindsets when he was an orphan.
He will be hesitant to talk to strangers because he is fearful that someone will discover his past and scorn him for it. He will take any chance he can to get position or power because he fears being controlled. He will cut down anyone he feels has the potential to surpass him in skill or position.
He will do all of that because he still believes that is who he is. His behavior was what was considered “normal” in his past (living in an orphanage), and unless he is able to “renew” his perspective, he will be stuck living in his “old man” — the way the “old man” thought and behaved (Rom 12:1-2).
But, if the boy accepts his new identity as a son and prince, then all of his old behavior will eventually be realigned to his new identity (Rom 6:11). All of his old habits and mindsets will fade away when he begins to realize that they are no longer consistent with his [new] identity (Gal 5:24, Col 3:9).
So, when believers say, “Oh I’m just a sinner saved by grace,” that is no different than the orphan boy saying, “Oh I’m just an orphan who now lives in a palace.” It shows that the orphan still identifies with his past (his “old man”) and has not learned to get his identity from his Father. He has an identity in the “old man” rather than an identity in the King [of kings]. (Gal 3:26-27, Eph 5:8-9)
It comes to a point where the boy begins to realize, “Oh I was an orphan (sinner), but now I’m royalty (saint)! That was my past before my dad found me, but now I’m a prince in my Father’s Kingdom (Col 1:13-14)… so that means I don’t need to act like an orphan anymore, because I’m not!” (Rom 6:6).
When that shift happens “identity in Christ” is no longer a church cliché. It becomes the basis from which you live.
So when Christians say, “Oh I’m just pessimistic, I’m just lazy, I’m just an angry person, I’m an introvert, I’m bitter,” they often feel powerless to change because they still believe they are an “orphan.” They do not realize that their nature has changed, and when they shed the old identity, the old behavior and mindsets will follow suit. When they finally believe they are now a prince in a palace, they will realize how foolish it is to behave like an orphan (1 Peter 1:14-16).
My friend Daniel said this:
If God is love, and I am one spirit with Him, what does that make me?
… it’s not about going out and TRYING to love people, but rather about going out and just being who you already are. In fact, the entire Christian life is not about TRYING to be something or become something, it’s about being who you are. That’s why it’s important to see yourself as God sees you.
It’s not about trying to manage who you were. It’s about learning to live out who you have become. It’s not an attempt to change behavior, it’s a change in natures; it’s not changing the orphan’s behavior, it’s a prince who is no longer an orphan.
The bad mindset of being unable to love people disappears when you realize that Love is who you are. The bad habit of responding in anger crumbles when you realize that your nature is to be patient (Gal 5:22). Now, love and patience are natural outflows rather than forced behaviors.
You were living in fear but then you realize it’s your nature to be bold (Prov 28:1). You don’t feel like you’re capable of transforming the world around you and then you realize that it’s your nature to be leaven. You were stuck in anxiety and worry and then you realize that it’s your nature to have peace (Isaiah 26:3, Rom 14:17, Isaiah 9:6). You were stuck in depression and then you realize it’s a lie because that “old man” died and the new man’s nature is joy (Rom 14:17, John 15:11).
I don’t need to try to be holy, I need to understand it’s already in my nature to be holy (2 Cor. 5:21). I don’t need to try to be bold, it’s who I am. I don’t have to try to be patient, it’s who I am. I don’t need to try to get out of depression, it is my nature to be joy. I don’t need to try to be less pessimistic, I live and breathe hope. It’s not that I’m ignorant of the fact that I used to try and fail, it’s discovering that in Christ, I have a new predisposition to be everything I used to try to become.
It’s when you realize who you are, that you realize that you were behaving below your nature — you were living short of your potential.
One time, I was at the hospital to minister to people with my friend Susan. Things were going slow, I didn’t feel like ministering to people. I felt like I had to try to show people the love of God. I randomly started thinking about lights and lightbulbs… I realized, they don’t try to stay on — that’s just how they’re wired. If they have electricity, and the wiring is right, it will be “on.” It doesn’t struggle to try to stay on. It doesn’t have to force itself to pierce darkness, that’s just what it was made to do.
Immediately my perspective shifted, I no longer felt like I had to try, because I already was. It’s my nature to love. It’s my nature to demonstrate love. Immediately I found joy in ministering to people because I was just expressing myself and my nature instead of trying to become an expression.
You are to model your life after Jesus (Luke 6:40, John 14:12, 1 John 2:6, 1 John 4:17). This is the essence of the phrase “identity in Christ.” Jesus was Love, was Peace, was Life, was Healing, was Deliverance, was Salvation, was the Rock, was Joy, was Holy, was Patient, was Humble, was Hope etc etc. A revelation of Jesus is a revelation of yourself. Who Christ is, is who you are empowered to become and partake in the same divine nature (2 Peter 1:2-4). Ever hear the phrase “like father, like son”? That is the goal. When you read the Word (John 1:1), you should discover Jesus– his character and nature. That is who you were created in the likeness and image of (Gen 1:26).
If you get this, learning to look more like Jesus is no longer an effort, but just a simple act of renewing your mind. You will no longer “try” to be humble, “try” to be holy, “try” to have faith, “try” to love neighbors and strangers, “try” to be happy/joyful… let me reiterate what my friend Daniel said:
…it’s not about going out and TRYING to love people, but rather about going out and just being who you already are. In fact, the entire Christian life is not about TRYING to be something or become something, it’s about being who you are. That’s why it’s important to see yourself as God sees you.
That’s great news to me, because the last time I checked, God sees Jesus when He looks at me.
This video will rock your socks:
Here are two more articles that will significantly help you as well: