What Does Identity in Christ Mean To You
“WHO AM I?” is a question that all of us ask ourselves at some point. When we become legal adults and are expected to pull our weight in society, questions about our identity and purpose in life bubble to the surface. What defines me? What makes me me? All of these are incredibly hard questions. They sometimes take years to flesh out. Some people never really find the answer.
I’m sure identity means different things to different people. But it seems to me that typically people see that a person has a core of what makes them different, something for them to latch on to and claim as their own. It wasn’t always this way. Being special and unique is a modern Western value. In other countries and in much of the ancient world, your identity wasn’t in your personality but in your group—your family, tribe, associates, class level. Today, though, identity is much more complicated—it can incorporate your relationships outside of you and all your interests and talents inside of you.
Our Identity in Christ
As Believers in salvation through Jesus, however, we have a shortcut to the million-dollar question. Who are we? We are a part of the family of God. We have an identity in Christ. While this is cause for celebration—being “in Christ” is a pretty impressive title—it might be cause for discomfort for others. That’s because when our identity is in Christ, then by definition our identity is not in something else.
In America, we often celebrate our differences and those things that make us special. So for someone to say we can’t express a certain part of our inner core, it can really feel like a personal assault. It hurts deep. We often build our lives on our self-proclaimed identity and sometimes if we tear a part of our identity down, we have to rebuild it from the ground up. Our identities are closely guarded territory that only the special few are allowed to enter.
But being in Christ means we have to let go of past, fleshly identities. Followers of Christ belong to Jesus, rather than ourselves. God’s in charge, not us. Paul puts it powerfully in Galatians 2:20. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV). Life in Christ means death to our old lives. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are “new creations.” Things have to change when we have an identity in Christ.
Creating Our Own Identities
When we create our own identities, it’s easy for us to miss the mark. We can build identities on false beliefs or fleeting feelings. Humans are prone to believe false things, to feel things that are healthy, and to get ourselves in sticky situations. If we are focused on ourselves, our identities won’t be rooted in something of true value. And even if our identities are formed on good things but for all the wrong reasons, that’s still an identity that isn’t God-honoring. As Christians, sin is a reality, always trying to get us to lift us up on a pedestal instead of founding our identity in Christ.
The Christian life is not focused on living your best life now. It’s not about personal fulfillment or being true to oneself. After all, the phrase “to thine own self be true” is from Hamlet, not the Bible. Scripture instead has statements like Matthew 16:24 where Jesus says a true follower will “deny himself and take up his cross.” That’s Christianity. It’s hard. It’s difficult. But ultimately, it’s way more rewarding when our identity is in Christ, firmly rooted on the ground that will never shift under our feet.
Discovering Your Identity Takes Work
Discovering what it means to be identified as belonging to Christ takes some work. It means constantly searching the Scriptures for lessons on how to be like Christ, it means praying that the Spirit reveals to you about godly living, and spending time with mature Christians who are good examples of those rooted deeply in Jesus. Being like Jesus is an ongoing process that takes deliberate practices, thinking, and attitudes every day.
Who am I? “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We should primarily be defined not by anything else in the world except Jesus Christ. Believers are forever marked by having our identity in Christ