Written by Janet Khokhar
A boy built a toy boat, set its sails, and scratched his name onto the bottom, and took his treasure to a river to sail it where, in an unlucky moment, the boat drifted out of the boy’s reach and floated away into the distance. A month later, as he walked through town past a discount store’s window, he spotted his boat propped near the glass. Overjoyed, he went inside.
“Hey mister, that’s my boat in the window. I lost it on the river. See? It has my mark on the bottom,” the boy said to the proprietor behind the counter.
“Someone brought that in a few days ago and I bought it from him. I’m sorry, but if you want the boat, you’ll have to buy it for $2,” replied the man.
The boy ran back home and gathered the money he had earned from small jobs and careful saving and returned to the store, where he bought back his boat. As he clutched the boat to his chest and ran his finger along the bright paint, he said: “You are twice mine. First when I made you and then when I bought you.”*
Our identity in Christ is not a theological point of debate, but a soul’s searching question: “Where do I belong? Where do I stand with God?”
Are you restless, flitting about seeking approval and security from other people, from your own efforts, from the pursuit of possessions or job status? Where is the rest we are promised in Christ? Confusion and unease about our identity in Christ can prompt us to ask questions about God’s character or doubt our faith:
Is God mad at me?
Is He disappointed in me and tired of hearing me pray for help?
Is God involved in my life? Does He care what’s happening to me?
Am I doing “faith” right?
What if I miss my purpose and waste my life?
God’s answer to “Where do I stand with God?” and “Where do I belong?” are “You belong to Me. You are created by My hands, bought with My blood, beloved, known, and highly favored.”
When our souls are secure in our identity in Christ, we operate from a shelter of rest. We release the slavery of effort, not returning to “works of the law” but to the easy yoke of grace, knowing our identity as children of God, loved simply for who and Whose we are.
There are three keys to living in the security and shelter of our identity in Christ: Our new name recognizes the accomplished work of salvation; good works means who we are is not what we do, and the purpose of our new identity is intimacy with God.
A New Name
No matter who you were before you followed Jesus, God has met you and given you a new identity.
The Lord renamed His friend, Abram, and his wife Sarai in preparation to become parents of a people too great to number.
Hagar received Ishmael’s name in a moment of God’s compassion for her.
God christened Isaac before he was conceived.
Jacob became Israel and lent his name to a nation.
An angel announced the name of the promised Messiah to a virgin.
Jesus forgave his friend, Peter, for Peter’s betrayal and called him the Rock on which Jesus would build His church.
Believers who remain faithful to Jesus during the tribulation will receive a new name from the Lord that only the believer and Jesus will know.
Every time God gave or changed a person’s name, or identity, it represented a change in trajectory. A name is a person’s most intimate identifier, the first answer to “who are you?” that most people would give.
No matter who you were before you followed Jesus, God has met you and given you a new identity:
You were an enemy of God transferred to an heir in Christ.
You were a sinner refashioned to a servant of Christ.
You were a body of death that has died to sin and will one day rise to everlasting life.
You were a prodigal son or daughter and now you are a prince or princess of the King.
Now you have a new name:
We belong to Christ and receive our identity in our relationship with Him. Christ’s death, His payment for our sin, provided everything God’s holiness required to bring you and me from our previous positions as enemies of Christ into His kingdom as treasured sons and daughters.
John said of Jesus: “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
Changing the trajectory of your life and giving you a new identity was His idea and deepest desire. You cannot earn your position, just as a baby does not earn his sonship. A baby doesn’t strive or wrestle – he is received and loved and given a name.
Our position in God’s family, in His heart, is as accomplished, finished, and complete as Christ’s propitiation for sins on the cross. “Who we are” is “Whose we are”.
Good Works: What We Do Is Not Who We Are But A Sign Of Whose We Are
When artist Paul Gustave Dore (1821-1823) lost his passport while traveling through Europe, he hoped to pass through a country border on the strength of his fame. The guard, however, had encountered many frauds and impersonators trying to do the same. The guard offered Dore an identity test of an unusual nature: he handed Dore a paper and pencil and instructed him to draw a group of nearby peasants. Dore drew with such speed and skill that the guard accepted Dore’s self-identification and allowed him to pass. *
Like Dore, we act of our identity, out of who we are. Among nonbelievers, or Christians apart from their true identity in Christ, this can be a recipe for either striving or boasting: “I am a doctor…a writer…a mother…a failure.”
We can confuse what we are and Whose we are with what we do.
In Christ, what we do is not who we are, but as believers, our actions are signs of Whose we are. The grace that conducted us into God’s kingdom and bestowed a new identity on us invites us to share in His kingdom work.
Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus:
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
Because we are beloved children, we celebrate His goodness through good works. In our secure place in God’s heart, we no longer strive to prove our worth or earn our position, but we become fully who we are and act out of our secure identity. His transforming power through the Holy Spirit brings out the best in us.
Life Purpose: Our Identity Ushers Us To Our Purpose
God calls us His children and invites Him to call Him “Abba, Father.” Christ calls us His bride. Our identity in Christ ushers us to our purpose. The relationship between parent and child or husband and wife is close, intimate. Who knows us better? Who loves us more? In intimate fellowship with God, we rise to the purpose of our identity: to know God, to be known by Him, and to make Him known to others.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
In His grace, God sent Jesus to die for us so He could bring us back to His family the way He intended us to know Him when He created Adam and Eve before sin corrupted and separated us from perfect fellowship.
Embracing the truth of our identity in Christ is key to living in spiritual rest, putting away effort-based approval, and dwelling in God’s grace. Who you are is Whose you are.
The Lord commands us to “be still and know that I am God.” That’s welcome rest for the restless soul.
Be still and know that He is God, are you are His.
*Stories referenced from SermonIllustrations.com and paraphrased in my own words.
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