by Marsha Inman, Friends & Family Director
Most of us have heard the phrase (or perhaps said it ourselves), “That’s just who I am.” That is a common reply used by people who feel that their sexual identity is being challenged. Others of us use it, too, especially when we are being challenged to change something in our lives that we either perceive as too difficult to tackle or that we don’t really view as a problem. Whatever the reason a person uses those words, they state that their identity is being called into question, a core part of who they are that cannot change.
Identity labels are a part of the LGBTQI+ world but are also a part of the struggles that everyone faces. Whatever label we adopt is an attempt to define ourselves, but God has already given each of us an identity. In the first book of the Bible, we are told that God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness,” Gen. 1:26. That is a high status given to us just by being human and created by God. We are all bearers of His image. Christians are given additional stature and identity as God’s children. When a person adopts a label or identity outside God’s Word, whether benign as “I’m a dad/mom/teacher/employee,” or a more demeaning or polarizing title like “I’m gay, a nobody, failure, stupid, dirty or ugly” it chips away at who Christ made us. Whether in big or small ways, we have all assumed an identity that is not ours. You could even say that we have participated in a form of “identity theft.” Our God-given identity can get lost – or stolen – by our Enemy, who comes to “steal, kill and destroy.”
It would be easy to think that identity theft is only a problem in the world of finance, where it is a huge and growing problem. In 2018, I.4 billion dollars was lost to identity theft. One-third of adults in America have experienced some level of financial identity theft, and the impact can be devastating. Not only does it make a person feel vulnerable and powerless, but it can impact their sleep, their physical health, their mental health and cause huge financial losses from which they may never recover. For some people, it takes them to the brink of suicide. To combat this vulnerability, all kinds of expensive software programs have come on the market to protect people from online identity theft. The effects of a stolen personal identity are more hidden but can be just as severe. It can affect everything that financial identity theft does but be harder to recognize. Are we more concerned with guarding our finances than our God-given identity?
What are some of the identities the Bible tells us are our birthright as Christians? The following list is just a few of the many to be found in scripture, but if we lived into even this shortlist of identities, it could change our lives. In Christ, we are sanctified (I Cor. 6:17), chosen, holy, blameless, beyond reproach (Eph. 1:4, Col. 1:22), justified, righteous (Rom. 3:24), liberated, free (Gal. 2:4, 5:1), accepted, forgiven (Eph. 1:6-7), His possession (Isa. 43:1), complete, perfect.
(Col. 2:10) and hidden in Christ (Col. 3: 3). Don’t blow by that list. Ponder each one because they are powerful and are true – about you.
The first chapter of 2nd Peter has a list of qualities that Christians should possess. It is not meant to be a checklist that is guilt-inducing. Peter must have known some people would read this list and focus on their inadequacies because it is immediately followed with these verses:
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they do not make you useless nor unproductive in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the one who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins,” 2 Pet. 1:8-9.
In other words, if you don’t have these qualities – open your eyes and remember who you are! You are forgiven and purified.
When we rely on the power provided by the Holy Spirit, there is no reason for a child of God to feel defeated, rejected, shamed, enslaved, condemned, or damaged goods. Those things are not our identity. It is easy to listen to the Accuser’s voice and believe that we are “less than.” God has provided software that protects us from that type of identity theft, and it is His scripture. Like Jesus did when He was tempted, answer those lies with the truth of who you really are from God’s word. The previous verses are an excellent place to start.
If we realize we are thinking demeaning things about ourselves, stop and remember the truth of who we really are. Our identity as Christ-followers is beloved, righteous, forgiven, and blessed. Everyone has past mistakes that they wish they could change or current persistent sinful tendencies they work on – sometimes with more success than others. At those times when you are riddled with regret or realize you have succumbed to temptation, our Enemy would like nothing more than to have us hide from the Lord in shame, regret, and defeat. He wants to convince us of a different identity, that we will never improve, and that we are hopeless and without help in our struggle. Instead of focusing on the failure, turn to the scriptures listed above or others found in the Bible. Declare to yourself, OUT LOUD, who God says you are. Confess that you have believed a lie and that you can restore your closeness with God. The door is always open to His children to come back and enjoy His presence. If it isn’t already in your memory bank, add this verse to the list of identity descriptions, “There is therefore now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus,” NASB, Romans 8:1.
God never lies, and the identity He has given you is true and secure, now and always. Has God brought to mind a false identity that you have adopted? You’ve lived with a stolen identity long enough. Claim your birthright and live into the authentic identity that He has given you. He wants you to enjoy the freedom from condemnation that Christ provides.