A person’s identity is what they are most known for. We see this evidenced in the sports world, with the most well-known athletes such as LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Lionel Messi. These individuals are known for their success as athletes and the love of their sport. Certainly, many things make up the lives of these athletes, but above all, they will be remembered for what they did on the field or court. Every person to ever exist has an identity. It is the thing or activity that most dominate their time and energy. You, the reader, also have an identity, and as a follower of Christ, the ultimate goal is to have an identity rooted in Jesus Christ. In this blog, we’ll unpack what it means to have an identity rooted in Christ and how to display it to the people around you.
From Slaves to Friends
It is no secret that sin has a powerful grip on the lives of unbelievers. As Jesus puts it in John 8:34, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Before salvation through faith in Christ, we all have the identity of a slave. We are enslaved to acts of sin, the consequences of sin, the wages of sin, and ultimately, spiritual death (Romans 6:23). However, because of the grace that our God has given us in Christ, that identity changes from “slaves to death” to “slaves of righteousness.” Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul writes in Romans 6:18, “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.
The believer’s identity is no longer rooted in his or her own sin, but rather in the righteousness that is imparted upon us from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Furthermore, though our identity was once God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), Jesus gives believers the identity of being God’s friends. Jesus says to His disciples in John 15:14, “you are my friends if you do what I command.” n Christ, our identity shifts to our righteousness from Christ and our newly established friendship with God.
A New Creation
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In the life of the Christian, there is an inward change that comes from the Spirit of Christ inside of us (Galatians 2:20). This inward change that makes us into a new creation is what becomes our identity. Before Paul became the obedient servant of Christ, he was known as Saul, the Pharisee and murderer of Christians. Upon Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ in Acts 9, Paul’s identity changed. He became a new creation. In the same way, the things that we were once known for become obsolete to our new identity in Christ.
Paul makes this reality clear to us in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This by no means states that we are to be perfect, but the Spirit of Christ certainly causes change within our lives that will become evident to those around us. Though your identity was once rooted in selfish pursuits and sinful activities, because of the inward change that Christ causes in a believer’s life, your identity shifts to a new way of living, which corresponds to the will of God.
Created for Good Works
The greatest mistake a believer can make is trusting in their own good works over the finished work of Christ for salvation. On the contrary, another mistake a believer can make is thinking that good works are useless in their walk with Christ. Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-10, writes “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boat. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In these verses, Paul makes it clear that we are saved only by God’s grace through faith, not by works. However, he does highlight the importance of our good works, and that these works have been prepared in advance by God for believers to do. This reality is a vital aspect to our identity in Christ.
We are not created for selfish pursuits or for earthly gain, but rather to be servants of Christ who accomplish the works He has set before us. Therefore, you might ask yourself “what are the good works I am called to do?” The first of these good works that we are called to do is most likely one you have already done. In John 6:28-29 it says, “Then they asked him, what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Seems simple enough, right? The work God requires is believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation.
Beyond our faith in Christ, God has also called us into other good works, as Paul stated in Ephesians 2. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). He also commissions His disciples in Acts 1:8 to be His witnesses. As disciples of Christ, we have the same calling. This work is telling others about the finished work of Jesus, and the free gift of salvation through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Finally, Jesus calls His followers to be the light of the world. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our service to others and our righteous actions are also a part of our good works in Christ, and it is evidenced in this verse that these good works lead people to glorify God. In Christ, our identity is no longer focused on our careers or personal successes, but rather our identity is placed in the works that God has called us to do as His disciples.
We must ask ourselves what we want to be remembered for. Is it for having an outstanding career? For winning championships? Or, would we rather be known for our discipleship and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord? As believers in Jesus, this is our identity and what should define our life above all else. In life, we have many roles: coaches, teachers, administrators, fathers, uncles, equipment managers, the list goes on. But, our greatest role is being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let that reality infuse your identity during this short stay on earth.