Our New Identity
Discovering Who You Are in Christ: Lesson 9
The all-important issue of identity determines so much about how we will live and what we will do with our time here on earth. No one who has a poor self-image can truly enjoy living, yet the gospel has not come to tell you how great you are. Jesus says: "Without Me you can do nothing," and Paul writes, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells."[i] Hardly a formula for pride based self-esteem!
So what is the answer to our identity questions? Discovering who we really are - now that Jesus has come to live inside of us. And our sense of self-worth? It is based upon the solid rock of His love for us. Period. You are His beloved! Just try to wrap your heart around the enormity of that blazing truth. He lived and died and lives again to bring you fully to life. Everything else you could hope to get out of life - compared to this - is chump change.[ii]
Identity and the Lost Image
What could be of more practical value to us than discovering who we really are?There are two great questions that challenge every human being: Is there a God and who am I? Socrates, after his encounter with the oracle of Delphi, believed he was commissioned by God to teach wisdom to men. The foundation of his teaching? Know thyself.
Our fundamental problem is that we do not know who our God is; therefore, we do not know who we really are. We are suffering from a massive loss of identity made even worse by our failure to realize it and face up to it.
The fall from grace created our identity crisis. We tend to think mainly of the Fall as a fall into sin and into the sin nature, which it certainly was. We say rightly that fallen man, once created in the Image of God, no longer reflects that image. But one essential effect of the Fall was that, in dying spiritually, Adam could no longer behold his God. Both the Image of God and the image of man fell from his sight. Adam could neither see who God is nor could he see who he himself truly was, since who we are is entirely defined in relation to God who created us.
Jesus has come to restore both our lost vision of God (see Beholding the True Image) and our true identity.
Now that faith in Christ has come to us, we are New Creations.This is the miracle of new birth which raises us from our sin and separation from God into eternal life in union with our God.[iii]Who you are in Christ is someone you have barely begun to know.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 WEB
What does it mean to be New Creations? We still see a lot of the old nature and the former ways of living, thinking and feeling, but new things have been added that radically change all things. However, before we look at the things that have become new, let's review what has not changed or passed away.
Paul is not telling us that we no longer have a sin nature to contend with or sins to resist. Above all the apostles, he lays out the ongoing struggle between the New Creation (spirit) and the old nature (flesh) in texts too numerous to fully mention.[iv] So what does pass away?
1) The person who did not know that Jesus is both Savior and Lord no longer exists. That person (your former self) has indeed passed away now that the revelation of Jesus Christ has come. If a blind person regains sight and sees the sun, even if the blindness returns, they will never be the same.
2) Before conversion, we were one with our sins. With our repentance and faith in Christ, the Father separated us from our sins by forgiving them and justifying us.[v] There is still an ongoing battle with sin, but continuing in sin is a spoiled thing for New Creations for two main reasons: one, the conviction of the Spirit; two, the sense of separation from Christ. Both overshadow the former pleasures of unrighteousness, enabling us to learn to hate sin.
Many of our old ways, therefore, change with conversion, but not all. We are engaged in an all new process of ongoing conversion, which includes cleansing and growth in Christ.[vi]
3) We are no longer "on the outside." We were formerly not a people, but now we are a part of God's family. We were strangers to the covenant, but now have been brought near, being made one with His Body on earth.[vii]
This way of seeing the new birth (by what passed away) is like looking in the rear view mirror while driving. The really stunning, forward-looking view is how we now appear as New Creations!
We have been spiritually reborn through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Lesson 8: Beholding the True Image).
We can no longer measure anything without reference to Christ.[viii]
We have been given a new heart and new spirit - a new nature![ix]
We live under a new covenant of immense mercy.[x]
We are given the Holy Spirit, the righteousness of Christ and the Name of Jesus.
We are not our past, not our sin, not our negative emotions - we are New Creations!
We are also a mystery even to ourselves. God is bestowing a new identity upon us only He knows. Who we now are is only revealed whenever we trust and obey Jesus - we are "hidden" in Him. He is the key! As we die to Self (the false god), we live through trusting and obeying Jesus.[xi]
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3 ESV
Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 ESV
Our acceptance by God as New Creations is absolute, complete and unwavering. Try to fathom the massive liberation that God has accomplished by the Blood of atonement, our new covering.
It was God... in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them]. 2 Corinthians 5:19 AMP
This incredible Reconciliation covers all that we have been in Adam and will be in Christ. Faith is what God gives us so that we can receive this grace and be translated from the kingdom of darkness (in Adam) to the Kingdom of His Son (in Christ), but faith did not in any way change God's Heart towards us, which is love, or His reconciliation to our sins, which Jesus accomplished fully at the cross.
In conversion the former self (that had no life in Christ) passed away and the true self (that lives through trusting Christ) has been reborn/regenerated. The New Creation is a redeeming of the old, not an elimination of all that was former. We have a fresh start and a new center from which to live at any moment.
We Are New, But the Old Is in Us
The New Creation "comes to life" in us whenever we trust in the One who is our new life. As we "walk in the light" trusting God through Jesus Christ, our old nature is laid to rest like a shadow lying down behind us.[xii] However, the one Paul calls "the old man" wants back in. Our old nature "comes back to life" in us whenever we cease to rely upon our God. Are we going to live by a resuscitation of the old self, or by a resurrection of the new life? The choice is ever before us.
I have been crucified with Christ... it is no longer I who live, but Christ... lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 AMP
The old nature draws power from false ideas of self shaped by the world. Some of us carry elements in our personality that we think of as ourselves. They are in us - but not us!
Nervous energy/anxious feelings
Perfectionism (people pleasing)
Drive to achieve (self-salvation)
Flashes of anger (hot temper)
Excessive sensitivity (easily hurt)
Timidity/shyness (fear of man)
Deep wellsprings of grief
Feelings of persistent loneliness
Depression, heaviness of heart
Nuclear reactivity/panic mode
Impatience (prickly, irritable)
Stubbornness (pride, rebellion)
Impulse to control/be in control
These ideas of self are not who we really are! Any or all of these may describe our personality as we have known it until now, but they are not our true God-given person-hood. They reveal where the fallen nature still has power to block the life of the New Creation from coming forth, but they tell us nothing of what the Father created us to be before the enemy began "unmaking" us.
Consider these two things about our "personalities":
1) In the womb these negative traits weren't in us. Even as young children we trusted and loved freely - no baggage!
2) When we die and go to heaven, these traits will have to be removed from us. They are not God's desire for us.
Restoration of our true life begins by breaking agreement with false beliefs about ourselves and choosing instead to embrace what God is speaking to us about our new identity. Two images fell when Adam fell - that of God and that of us. Get your image rightly set by seeing His. Whatever does not look like Jesus in you, isn't the real you. Refuse to be deceived by your enemy about who you really are.
Apply the six Steps to Freedom in Lesson 7 (Recognize and Replace!)! Never settle for anything less than "Christ in you, the hope of glory."[xiii] Proper self-love is accepting God's view of us - it is not pride, false humility, or self-absorption. Let's get purified from all false ideas of ourselves.[xiv]
The Great Exchange
Apart from Christ we will be weak, foolish, sinful and ignorant in many ways, but in Christ we are complete, secure and sustained by His life. As Archbishop Francois Fenelon wrote, "Expect nothing of yourself, but all things of God. Knowledge of one's own hopeless, incorrigible weakness combined with absolute confidence in God's power are the two foundations of the spiritual life."[xv]
God is not asking us to perfect or change ourselves, but to turn to Him and learn to see and believe all of life from His perspective. Heaven's perspective on our life is always liberating. Take a moment to "look through" to heaven with your eyes of faith and seek to catch a glimpse of who you are in your eternal being. This is the real you - the eternal you.
Then let the power of that glorious vision be released with "prophetic decree" into your own heart now. If you are in Christ, then read and confess with full faith:
I am eternally the beloved bride of my Savior Jesus.
I am eternally a receiver of God's love, mercy, wisdom, saving help and never-ending life.
I am only a sinner needing mercy for a short while on earth.
I am in Christ and He is in me - forever!
I am an eternal being with a spirit as free as the wind and a soul of dazzling beauty and grace.
I am indestructible in my being, due to His life in me.
I am worse in my fallen-ness and better in my new created-ness than I ever imagined.
The Way of Restoration
Joy is produced in us whenever we realize by an active faith who we really are in Him. Even so, the truly great joy is not who you are in Christ, but who He is to you!
1) Learn to recognize all false images of self that don't match up with Jesus and which block your new life from coming forth.
2) Take full responsibility for your attachment to these false ideas of self: Repent, renounce and break all agreement with the enemy about who you are, confessing the truth instead.
3) Turn to the Father and release gratitude that who you are in Christ already looks a lot like Him - you are a New Creation!
Father, as a New Creation I cannot define myself by anything less than who I now am in Christ without damaging my self-image, security, sense of worth and purpose. I will therefore accept no lesser definitions of who I am. Help me break all agreement with my former ways of seeing myself and trust completely in Your heavenly perspective!
Take it to Heart!Don't just give these truths a 'head bob'! For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Our New Identity part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 9) and 'work out' with exercises, discussion questions, review of main points, digging deeper, more scriptures, model prayers, renunciations/affirmations and practical steps of life application.
Scriptures and Foot Notes
[i] John 15:5; Romans 7:18
Philippians 3:7-8John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:16; John 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13
ee Romans 7:17-20; 8:1-8; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Colossians 7:1; Galatians 5:13-17, 24-26
[v] Romans 3:24; also see the whole of Romans 3-8 and Galatians
[vi] 2 Thessalonians 2:13
[vii] Ephesians 2:19; 1 Corinthians 12:27
[viii] 2 Corinthians 5:16
[ix] Ezekiel 36:26
[x] Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
[xi] Romans 6:5-11
[xii] 1 John 1:7; Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20
[xiv] 1 John 3:2-3
[xv] Francois Fenelon, Spiritual Letters to Women (New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1980). p. 55.