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Establishing Your True Identity
In the 1970’s a radio show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) held a competition whose goal was to compose the conclusion to the phrase: “As Canadian as …” The winning entry read: “… As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.”
It was an interesting question that revealed how Canadians understood their identity. Those who are familiar with the Canadian culture may not find the answer surprising. Canadians are known for wanting to work with others and to adapt to the present situation. In many ways this has shaped the destiny of our nation.
Our destiny is directly related to the understanding of our spiritual identity and the choices we make because of it. Our identity is first based on the eternal kingdom of God before the identity we have from the nation we live or the family we grew up in. In establishing this true identity there are four things we need to remember:
1. We are re-born into a spiritual kingdom.
In the movie The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne who is rescued at sea by an Italian fishing boat. With only bullets in his back and his bank account tattooed into his hip he sets out to find out who he is. He finds out he has extraordinary talents in fighting, linguistics, and self-defence. He is on a desperate search to find out who he is and why so many want him dead. The only way he can survive is to find out who he is. In one scene he is sitting in a restaurant and asks a woman he met “Who am I?” One of our greatest joys in life is when we discover who we are in God’s kingdom.
Christianity Today had interesting article a few years ago. They wrote that in October 2011, the Associated Press ran a deeply moving story about a name-changing ceremony for girls in a certain country. At birth the 285 girls had been given a name that meant unwanted. The family culture of this country often saw sons valued more than daughters. As a result, female babies have been aborted or neglected at an alarming rate.
The renaming ceremony was an attempt to give the girls a new identity. The article reported, “The 285 girls—wearing their best outfits with braids and bows in their hair—lined up to receive certificates with their new names along with small flower bouquets.” Some of the girls chose new names that mean prosperous, beautiful, good, or even “very tough.” One girl who had been named Unwanted by her grandfather who was disappointed in her birth said, “Now in school, my classmates and friends will be calling me by this new name, and that makes me very happy.”
These girls were given a fresh start as they found a new identity in their new name. God, in a much more significant way, gives us a fresh start when we are born again. We are more than renamed God’s children as we are re-born or born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said: “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”
When we accept what Jesus has done for us, we are born into God’s kingdom, adopted into His family and now called His child. In a similar way that these girls had a newfound victory in their lives, we have a much greater victory in our newfound life in Christ. As John writes in 1 John 5:4, For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
When one of our children was little, they asked me the question, “If Jesus is in heaven how can He also be in my heart?” Sometimes children ask the simplest and the most difficult questions! As I thought about this and prayed on how to answer, the Lord reminded me as much as I was born of an earthly father I’ve been born of a heavenly Father. My dad’s name is Henry, so I could say I was born of Henry. Henry Koop is in my DNA. It is impossible for me to get that DNA out of me. My dad is no longer with us and has been in heaven for a number of years. Even though he is in heaven he still very much in my DNA. Likewise, even though Jesus is in heaven He still is very much in my spiritual DNA, in my heart. This is my identity; I am a child of God with the DNA of my heavenly father.
2. Our identity is based on a relationship with the heavenly Father.
In the story of the rich young ruler found in Luke 18:18-23, we see this young man’s image was found in his possessions. This image had stolen his affection and true identity in God.
The question he asks Jesus is telling of this. He asks Jesus “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What can you do to earn an inheritance? Nothing! You cannot earn an inheritance; you are simply granted it. It is based on your relationship with the giver.
But because this guy is a peak performer, a high achiever in areas ranging from finance to religion, he thinks he has to do something to earn it so he asks, “What must I do?”
We tend to equate blessing with what we do. God is not like us. The kingdom is not based on a performance plan, but on a faith and gratitude plan. In the world we live in, the formula for identity is:
- Self-worth (identity)= performance + other’s opinions
However, in God’s kingdom the formula is:
- Self-worth (identity) = God’s love + faith
In Luke 9:25 Jesus tells us: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self (identity)?” Jesus is inviting us into another way of life where your significance and identity is not centered in your performance and the way the world perceives you, but in your relationship with God as His child. Don’t lose yourself, your soul, or your true identity by trying to gain all the word has to offer. Our identity as a child of God is what must get settled before we allow the symbols of success to define us.
3. True success begins with and flows from identity.
The first thing that was settled in the public ministry of Jesus was His identity. In Luke 3:21-22 we read: When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
It is striking that all the things God the Father spoke from heaven that He would choose these words. Before Jesus had performed any miracles or given any teachings, God declares that He was His Son, He loved Him and that He was pleased with Him. This is something that every child longs to hear from their earthly father, to hear that they belong, that they are loved and validated.
Likewise, every born-again believer also needs to hear this message in their spirit from their heavenly Father. “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus is unique in that He is the only divine Son of God. There is no other to compare with Him and there never will be. We are partakers of the divine nature, but we are not divine. The Father is pleased with us because we are “in Christ”. We are right before God because of what Christ did for us on the cross.
Just as water baptism was a moment of identification for Jesus, so it is important in the believer’s life for we publicly identity with Christ.
4. Understand you have a spiritual enemy out to steal your identity.
Not long after Jesus was baptized, He found Himself in the wilderness tempted by Satan. Satan is the ultimate identity thief. The trick he uses to deceive us is to get our eyes off the fact we are created in God’s image. As we read in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Our most fundamental identity is that even before we are born again every human being bears the image of God. All of creation reflects something of God, but we alone bear the very image of God. We are creatures endowed with the highest identity possible.
To the world image it’s about how you look on the outside, but in the upside-down kingdom it’s about the image on the inside. We are reminded of this when God chose David to be king. It was not based on his outward appearance but his heart. In 1 Sam. 16:7 it says, For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
When we understand who we are in Christ, that we are created in God’s image, we will rise up and do mighty exploits. No wonder Satan attacks our identity. It is an attack that happens in the natural and in the spiritual.
Studies have shown that there’s a new victim of identity theft every 14 seconds. 118.6 million individuals had their records exposed in data breaches during the first half of 2021. Consumers lost more than $56 billion to identity theft and fraud in 2020.
I don’t have any statistics for this, but I am sure it is greater than every 14 seconds that Satan is attacking a new victim over their identity. And the loss is far greater than the financial ones just mentioned.
Like the devil did to Jesus, the enemy of the kingdom comes to steal our identity when we feel spiritually dry and emotionally depleted. He will question what God has said about us. The devil undermined Jesus as we read in Matt. 4:3, Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God…”
At the root of every temptation is the undermining of our challenge identity. Do you know who you are? That is what Satan was saying, “do you know who you are? If you are the Son of God turn these stones to bread. Compromise for a momentary pleasure.” In each temptation that Satan threw at Jesus, Jesus responds with confidence knowing His identity as He quotes the word of God. The spoken word of God always drives back the enemy! Jesus won the victory because in the heat of the battle He remember His identity and relationship with God the Father.
When we forget our identity, we make poor choices and compromise our destiny. In 2 Samuel 11 we see King David’s problems started when he forgot who he was. Instead of fulfilling his role as a King he compromised and stayed home. This led to an act of adultery and eventually murder.
Our identity determines our destiny. It determines how we act. It determines what we do. How many times have you seen people sacrifice their destiny for a moment of pleasure because they forgot WHO they are? James addresses this important issue in James 1:23,24, For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
In conclusion, we can be established in our true identity as a child of God when our significance is settled in our relationship to God as His child, when we realize that our faithfulness to God matters more than worldly success and when we stand firm to resist the lies of the enemy with God’s word.