What is one of our greatest fears today? It’s when the wrong person gets access to our name, account numbers, and passwords, stealing our identity and everything we own: identity theft. While it has never happened to me, I imagine it would be a nightmare. And so we live in an age of safe passwords (which I can never remember) and constant warnings about leaving our purses sitting in our shopping cart or hung on the back of a restaurant chair.
Yet, as careful as we are to guard our identity in regard to finances and possessions, as believers we are often far less careful when it comes to guarding our spiritual identity. The first thing we need to ask is whether we have been reconciled to God through His Son Jesus Christ. There is much confusion today about this, but Scripture is very clear. To be saved begins by recognizing that, by nature, we were dead in our trespasses, enemies of God, and sinners who followed the course of this world.
Salvation is to believe that God sent His own Son to live the life of obedience we could not live and to take the penalty we deserved by dying on the Cross. When we believe that Good News, and receive the gift of salvation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and set apart as God’s beloved children. And that becomes our new identity.
The problem is that we might know all this in our head, while failing to connect it to our daily lives. The apostle Paul acknowledged the tension between who God says we are in Christ, and the reality we often experience day by day. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own” (Philippians 3:12). Paul acknowledged his imperfections; yet he was confident that his perfection in Christ would one day be complete. His remaining sin served as a reminder of God’s amazing grace. So God’s grace motivated him to press on to the high mark of Jesus Christ!
Daily we are confronted, and sometimes discouraged, with our own remaining sin. But we can be confident that, in Christ, we are counted righteous before God. We are becoming like Him, and one day we will be made perfect, because Christ has made us His own.
In order to live victoriously in this “already, but not yet” reality, we must preach the gospel to ourselves daily. We must also resist the enemy’s schemes to steal, kill, and destroy the security, joy, peace, and other treasures Christ secured for us through our redemption. How do we do this? Let’s look at ten ways the enemy works to create a breach in our spiritual security system:
1. By distracting us with the busyness and cares of this world, he attempts to keep us out of the Word where we are reminded of who we are in Christ.
2. By bringing out “old photos” of who we once were, the enemy reminds us of all the ways we have failed God and others – or the way others have failed us- so he can keep us in bondage to our past.
3. By raising questions about God’s goodness and love, he attempts to keep us from feeling secure in our relationship with Christ.
4. He offers us instant gratification with counterfeits of God’s good gifts, which always leave us dissatisfied and wanting.
5. He reminds us of how hard our lives are and points out others who have it much easier so he can steal our joy.
6. He attacks us in our place of vulnerability and weakness to rob us of hope.
7. He brings confusion by whispering half-truths that sound right but keep us in bondage.
8. He encourages our bent toward independence with a distorted gospel. He implies that while Christ died to save us, it is still up to us to become holy by our own self-effort.
9. He tempts us to worship people and possessions rather than exalting Christ alone, leaving us on a sandy foundation that can easily be shaken.
10. He draws attention to the possessions and gifts that other people have, promoting a spirit of discontentment within us.
Do you recognize the schemes of the enemy in the above behaviors? Are they familiar to you? How important it is for God’s children to see the ways he attempts to distract us from who we are in Christ! Now let’s look at ten ways that we can build up and guard our spiritual identity in Christ:
1. We must first be certain that we truly are “in Christ”. Unless we have been redeemed, we are outside of Christ and in a very unsecure position. If you are uncertain about this, please talk to a Christian whom you trust, or perhaps a pastor at your church.
2. We learn what it means to be “in Christ”. To name just a few of the things that define us, we are: forgiven, righteous, alive, justified, and redeemed; loved and welcomed by God; without blemish and free from condemnation; and adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have an eternal inheritance that can never be stolen from us!
3. We fortify ourselves by daily renewing our minds with gospel truths. We realign our thoughts with who God says we are and what we have been given in Christ. We have dignity, power, and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3, 19; 3:16, 20-21). We have significance that comes from being God’s child (Romans 8:16; 1 Jn. 3:1-2). We have security and confidence, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:18, 35-39).
4. We remember that there is a real war going on in our minds and are intentional about putting on the armor that God has provided for our victory: His Word, prayer, and standing firm on His promises (Ephesians 6:10-18).
5. We take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We can do this only to the degree that we know God’s Word and are able to discern truth from lies. Therefore we aim to read the Word often and with perseverance.
6. We practice submitting to Jesus Christ, Lord and Ruler of all things. As Christ submitted to His Father, even to death on a cross, we submit to the authority of God’s Word, along with the authorities He has established on earth. This is possible only when we put our hope in God’s sovereign goodness and faithfulness.
7. We practice working heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord we will receive the inheritance as our reward (Col. 3:23).
8. We pray and meditate on Jesus Christ and the gospel. We ruminate over what He has done for us, and what He will do through us, as we depend on His grace. We remember that in Him we have limitless resources to meet our deepest needs and overcome the human problem of loneliness, insignificance, and meaninglessness.
9. We memorize some of the 160 identity verses in the Bible so that the Word of God may dwell richly in us (Col. 3).
10. We praise God that we have been chosen and adopted. We praise Him that we can boldly approach the throne of grace with freedom and confidence. We rejoice that we have been given victory over our sin and that, no matter what defined us in the past, the life of Christ defines us now. In Him, there is no condemnation. We rest in knowing that the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph. 1:13-14). We take heart that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand.
Paul Tripp, in his book Dangerous Calling, says, “Stop looking at yourself in carnival mirrors. Carnival mirrors give us a distortion of who we really are, and they’re everywhere we look.” The only way we’ll be able to get a clear picture of ourselves is by looking into the undistorted mirror of God’s Word where we will see an accurate picture of both God and ourselves.
Imagine if the cross of Jesus Christ was the most dominant marking of our perceived self-image. This would mean that, regardless of our circumstances, we would never doubt that we were loved. We would be so stable and confident that our emotions would not toss us around or rule over us! When we failed ourselves or others failed us, rather than responding with judgment or self-condemnation, we would remind ourselves that, in Christ, our failures no longer define us! Finally, we would not be concerned about what other people think about us and would be more concerned that they know the Good News of the gospel.
This is the identity God has purchased for those who are in His Son Jesus Christ! Let’s believe, rejoice, and walk in the reality of who we really are as servants of the living God.