This week, we plunge full-bodied into the deep waters of New Years Resolutions. Statistics consistently report that most of us are great at identifying New Years Resolutions we’d like to make, but only a few of us manage to keep them. Believe it or not, part of our success or failure will depend on how we see ourselves, since what we do is heavily influenced by who we think we are.
Who are you, really? And how does it affect the way you live? Do you know?
Maybe you’re an athlete or a musician or a wife or a career girl. But, what happens when an injury robs you of your ability to play, or a prolonged illness strips you of your musical skill, or your husband walks out, or the kids grow up and move out? This is the danger of basing our identity on something external, or something temporary, or something untrue: it leaves us vulnerable to circumstances.
What we need is an identity that is permanent, that is rooted in something intrinsic to who we are.
Now the motivational speakers solve that problem by telling us we need to choose for ourselves who we are and what we live for — and that sounds really nice, since the end result will likely be a conglomeration of all our personal preferences – but, according to Scripture, our identity doesn’t come from us, its given to us.
The Good News is that we are not our own. We did not create ourselves. God created us, and the Bible clearly tells us that we are made for Him…in His image. And until we understand that, we always run the risk of placing our identity in the kinds of things that can be lost or taken away.
“The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.”
To be an Image-Bearer of God means we have value and dignity which differentiates us from the members of the animal Kingdom, and sets us in the position of overseeing and administering the affairs of the earth as God’s representatives. As I mentioned in this video, we were always meant to represent Him. (Gen 1:27 & 28). So, to conduct business here on earth as God would do requires that we be similar to Him in certain significant ways:
- Spiritually –
- We have an immaterial nature which is evident in and includes this life but is not limited to this life. When we grasp the eternal as an integral part of our identity, we will deliberately seek opportunities to grow in understanding and observance of spiritual truths, since we will be called to give an account of our time spent here (2 Cor. 5:10), and will experience rewards and losses based on our conduct (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 1 Cor. 4:50).
- By, contrast, the secular worldview insists that life ceases to exist at death. This limited understanding of human identity necessarily shifts the focus to our earthly existence and efforts, and causes us to identify ourselves more closely to our professions, our familial relationships, or our personal interests, talents and activities. We then become very vulnerable to circumstances such as economic downturns, death/divorce, or illness and injury that strip us of our previous skills and abilities, and by extension, our sense of identity.
By identifying in Christ, Scripture allows us to embrace aspects of personal identity that are rooted in the permanence of Christ’s person and work. Since He is eternal and unchangeable, our sense of identity is protected, and can serve as a continual refuge in times of adversity.
- Mentally –
- Since God thinks, reasons, and chooses, so can we. He’s given us our mental capacities as a reflection of His. They are evident in the decisions we make every day, and again serve to differentiate us from the animals, whose mental capacities are observably less sophisticated than ours.
- On the other hand, if we were to be strictly physical beings in a strictly physical universe (as the predominant secular worldview presumes), then our mental capacities would be reduced to nothing more than the accidental byproducts of physiological constituents and the laws which drive their functions. Thoughts, memories and intellect, would be ill-equipped to serve reason, logic, and deliberation. Instead, natural selection would incline our mental activities toward death evasion, not truth detection.
Instead, the function and existence of human minds grants us a noble distinction, separates us from the animals, and is largely the reason why the Bible insists that we renew our minds (Rom. 12:2) and love the Lord with them (Luke 10:27).
- Morally –
- Merriam-Webster defines ‘moral’ as pertaining to right and wrong in behavior. As image bearers of God, human beings possess a sense of morality because God has gifted us with it. Though its damaged by original sin, its existence inside each of us serves as a reflection of the fact that God Himself is a moral being, and is intended to steer us away from moral decay and toward right living.
- If God did not actually exist, then our sense of morality is in much the same position as our mental capacity mentioned above. Strictly physical beings in a strictly physical universe can’t actually be said to possess morality, since morality is not a physical thing. Again, what we perceive as morals would be merely the emotional products and preferences of DNA, environment, and the natural laws which oversee their functionality, and as such, they would not provide any kind of standard that is fixed and binding.
Fortunately, true morality is rooted in God’s holiness (Rev. 4:8) and is as unchangeable as He is (Mal. 3:6). It also creates a standard we are unable to meet in ourselves (Rom. 3:23), prompting Him to launch a divine rescue mission in the person & work of Christ (Luke 5:31-32; John 3:16-17).
- God’s Trinitarian nature (as 3-persons-in-1-being) is evidence of His essentially relational nature. When He created us, He created us with distinct features that would allow us to be in relationship to Him, as well as each other. Initially, our primary relationship was with God Himself in the Garden, although He then established relationships, particularly marriage (Gen 2:18), to meet our need for fellowship. We’re also instructed in the New Testament to cultivate regular relationships with other believers in a local body of Christ for the purpose of learning better how to walk with God and others (Heb. 10:25).
- A secular worldview toward relationships, on the other hand, would suggest that social interactions are primarily evolution’s way of attempting to secure survival, and have little reflective or particular significance beyond personal enjoyment.
But because the Christian worldview affirms our value as image-bearers, then despite the reality of sin, God has chosen to invite us into relationship with Him through Jesus’ atoning work, at which point we are joined to Christ as His Bride (Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9), and are adopted into God’s family as children (Rom. 8:15).
To ensure that we fill up our 2019 calendar pages with things that matter, with things of eternal significance and substance, let’s make a New Year’s Resolution to redefine ourselves according to our Identity in Christ.
To help you soak in the truth of your identity in Christ, I’ve
created an ‘IDENTITY IN CHRIST – Scripture Meditation Video’ which you can watch
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 444.