True Freedom- wk 5 - Identity In Christ

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Identity In Christ

Who do you think you are? If someone was legitimately curious and asked you that question, how would you answer. One place to find ways people identify themselves is online. Here are a few pictures of people I follow on YouTube.
This is Eric and he calls himself the “10th Generation Dairyman.”
Here is Joel and he is known as the “3d Printing Nerd.”
This is Adam from Florida who calls himself “Haxman.”
Here is someone closer to home. Kent grew up near Hollis and calls himself “Cowboy Kent Rollins.”
Who do you think you are? Who did you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a motorcycle guy. I even made an email account named “KTM_kid.” In school we took aptitude tests that were designed to help you see what you were good at so you could work toward a specific profession.
I’ll never forget how devastated and confused I was when they came to me and said, “Congratulations! You scored straight across the board. You can do whatever you want.” Wait a second. That’s not supposed to happen. You are supposed to tell me what field of work I should go into. How am I supposed to know what I will enjoy or be good at? Who am I supposed to be?
Psychotherapist Robin Stone shared how growing up with asthma shaped her identity:
As a child growing up with asthma, I was often cautioned against strenuous physical activity out of fear that I might have trouble breathing or suffer an attack. My mother disagreed and encouraged me to try. On the other hand, my father and other relatives suggested I stick to what they considered safer, less physically demanding pastimes.
Even with my mother’s support, the belief that I couldn’t engage in challenging activities stuck with me over the years. I would do short runs or sprints but avoided long-distance running. As an adult, I was the queen of power-walking, until one day, while I was walking on a track in Harlem, an older woman ran right past me, her silver locks flowing with each step. Just seeing her out there inspired me, so I decided to give distance running a chance.
Today, after building up to longer runs over time, I can run for half an hour without getting winded or provoking my asthma. Now I can confidently say that I am a runner, and it is a part of my identity… I’m exploring a 5K run and possibly even building up to a marathon.
We all have a set of core beliefs about ourselves in our hearts. These beliefs guide and direct our lives every day, whether or not we are aware of it. These beliefs have been created by different experiences throughout our lives and have built up over time. Your life experiences, good or bad, have shaped who you are because they have created beliefs about yourself, true or not, that have become your identity.
We’ve been talking about true freedom, freedom that can only come from God. Today we are going to talk about true identity. If we want to live in the truth and freedom God has provided, then our identity MUST line up with what God says is true about us. What is in God’s heart when He thinks about us? How does He see us?
While I was preparing for this weekend I was a little unsure about this subject. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we did a whole series on identity. So I started tossing it around, “Should I, should I not...” Then God popped a couple of thoughts into my mind.
First of all, right now identity is a huge struggle in our country. People are so desperate to find their “identity” that they might latch on to the most unique and crazy thing they can find and then force it in your face until you accept it. “How do you identify?” has become a common question. Beliefs about themselves have lead them to completely ignore truth in search of what “fits” or makes them feel happy.
Secondly, being a follower of Christ doesn’t exempt me from the identity struggle. Though I may not wrestle with the same questions as others, I still believe things that are not true about myself.
A few weeks ago we had our first organized bicycle ride at the refuge. After the ride Mike, Russell, and I were putting on the shirts that we had recieved for participating in the ride and I made the comment that I didn’t like wearing shirts like that because I am overweight and thought it looked bad.
Catching me completely off guard, Russell interrupted me and said, “What does God say about you?” I just stood there grinding gears in my head, “uh…” He repeated the question, “What does God say about you?
Experiences, good or bad, feed and develop the beliefs we have about ourselves, whether they are true or not. We store and hold these beliefs way down deep and they define who we are. That exchange with Russell made me realize that even though I know what God says about me, I still let the message of my own experiences shape what I believe about myself and determine who I say I am.
Who do you think you are? Last week we talked about God’s Word. We discussed meditating on God’s Word, chewing the cud, thinking about what He says and then letting it sink deep within us. Some of the scripture that we looked at was in Proverbs. In it God said to listen carefully to His words and let them penetrate deep into your heart. Now we are going to look at the very next verse and, if you are taking notes, it is our key thought for today.
Proverbs 4:23 NLT
23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
We listen to God’s word and let it sink deep into our hearts. While you are down there putting God’s Word into your filing cabinet, notice the drawer just beside it that says, “My Identity.” If you are like me there are no filing cabinets, everything is just in somewhat organized piles.
Most of the time we don’t realize that these two filing cabinets are right next to each other. Probably because when we bring stuff to the identity cabinet we sneak through the back entrance because we don’t want anyone to see the awful things we are putting in it. When we have files called, “What God says about me” we usually just put them in the “God’s Word” cabinet.
God wants me to realize that what I believe deep down inside my heart determines the course of my life. Because of that fact, I must guard my heart above all else. I have to curate everything that goes down into this filing cabinet. I have to be diligent with what I believe about myself. I must pay close attention and listen very carefully to God’s words.
When It comes to my identity, the first step in knowing my true identity is understanding that God gets to define it.


God gets to set my value! He created us. When we messed up and sold out, He purchased us back. We belong to Him. He defines identity. God gets to set my value. So who does God say that I am?
2 Corinthians 6:18 NLT
18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Ephesians 2:19 NLT
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
We probably have heard these verses a thousand times and we already know this, but have you let it sink deep within your heart? So deep that when you think of your identity, this is what comes to mind. God knew this would be difficult for us to wrap our heads around so He sent His Spirit to help us understand this truth. Paul says that The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit about it...
Romans 8:15–17 NLT
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.
You are children of God. You belong to Yahweh. You can take that filing cabinet deep inside of your heart that is full of all of the beliefs you have about yourself and throw it away because your Heavenly Father has made you into a NEW creation. All of your past experiences don’t define you, He does and He has made you into something entirely new that has never existed before. Just like a caterpillar that changes into a butterfly, you have been changed into something new. Unfortunately, many Christians still believe they are caterpillars and act like caterpillars when their true identity is that of a butterfly.
One reason for this is that when we fail to be a good butterfly we think that God is mad at us or disappointed. Some people may even see God as harsh, cruel, and judgmental. This impacts the way we approach our relationship with God. Now our prayers and devotions are checklist items to “make Him happy.”
What does God say though? How does He define your identity in the relationship? Do you have to please, impress, and satisfy Him? In truth, He is happy when you spend time with Him. He plans to spend the rest of eternity with you. He isn’t disappointed, He is delighted. Jesus paid that price for us, that means that God’s wrath for our wrongdoing was placed on Jesus.
Colossians 1:21–22 NLT
21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
Now He sees you as that beautiful butterfly. Holy and blameless. Not a single fault. God doesn’t see us as that old mess we were before. He sees the new creation.
Then I mess up, or don’t live up to expectations, and then see myself as that old gross looking caterpillar again. I let that experience define my beliefs about my identity. “I can’t be a good enough butterfly, therefore I must still be a caterpillar.
If that slip-up last weekend, that decision not to care for a day, that feeling like you will never be better, or whatever it might be, is making you believe something about yourself that God didn’t say, think about this… Remember that God alone has the right to determine your value. He had a plan in mind when He created you. To God, this is your identity…


That means the value He has placed on you is priceless. To God, your value is beyond calculable. There is no number, no price, no comparable value that can be placed on you that could accurately describe your worth. Last week we said that we are incapable of creating a word of apocalypse or a word of revelation. Our job isn’t to reveal God’s Word, our duty is to meditate on the Word that God reveals to us.
In the same way, we are incapable of creating our identity or our value. We can try to be a better version of ourselves or even a completely different version, but God is the one who defines us and sets our value. Your identity in Christ is set. When you believe the lies that your circumstances tell you about who you are instead of believing who God says you are, you are allowing a lie to determine your value instead of God.
Paul had a name for these lies. They are lies that sound like truth. They are believable lies. We believe them because our experiences are attached to them. Our experience tells us that the lie feels true and looks true. So then we own the lie. It becomes part of our identity. Paul called it a stronghold…
2 Corinthians 10:3–5 NLT
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
When we encounter strongholds, or lies that make sense based on the evidence of my own personal experiences, we use God’s weapons to knock them down. God’s Word is the sword that knocks down strongholds. We let His Word penetrate deep within our hearts and then we guard our hearts. Capture the thoughts that try to rebuild strongholds and teach them to be obedient to Christ.
Here is an important thought to note…


Think about the strongholds that you believe. The lie about yourself that you are allowing to define your identity. “I am hopeless. I’ll never be able to change. I will never be good enough. I can never make a difference. I am ugly.” Whatever it is for you.
Next think about what happened that led you to believe that lie. The evidence of you being a failure. The experience that encouraged you to listen to and believe the stronghold lie.
It is important to realize that the events themselves are not strongholds. They are just your experiences. They don’t even cause strongholds. Good or bad, they are just events. It’s not the experience itself that caused the stronghold, it is the lie you believed about that experience that becomes the stronghold.
That message that plays on repeat about my mistakes becomes a powerful force that impacts my belief about my identity. “Oh man, I can’t believe you did that. How could you. That’s not how a Christian should act. What a horrible thing.” That is an arrogant thought that wants me to believe something that is untrue of myself as a believer.
The reason it is important to recognize exactly what a stronghold is is because we tend to attack the wrong thing when we want to get rid of them. Sometimes we attack the experience itself. We over-analyze the event itself in an attempt to understand what happened. So we examine and relive the event. When we play it over in our head, the only thing that ends up happening is that the lie it told us is reinforced. The pain attached to the memory locks it in place and restates the lie.
Sometimes instead of attacking the experience, we attack the behavior. We attempt to fix ourselves by willing bad behavior into submission. We may even succeed in getting our behavior under control for a while. Temporarily succeed in changing our actions. But the lie is still there and waiting for a chance to attack.
So what does this look like in the real world? To me it looks a lot like that pizza I ate a few weeks ago. Later I went over the whole thing in my head…
*I should not have eaten that whole pizza! How can I do better next time? Well, I probably should have stopped half way through. When I got the pizza I should have boxed up half of it so I wouldn’t even be tempted. Man that pizza was good. I ate it all because it’s been a long week and I just needed to pig out for a minute. I can’t believe I ate all that. I am always going to be overweight! I will never be strong enough to avoid pizza!
The stronghold is not the event. It’s not the fact that I ate a whole pizza. Right or wrong, it isn’t a stronghold. The stronghold is not the behavior. I could have done it different, I could have done a lot of things. My actions aren’t the stronghold. They are a result of the stronghold. A result of the lies I believe about my identity. The lie that I am a failure, always going to be overweight, never going to be able to avoid pizza.
Fixing the problem starts with disbelieving the lie. Tearing down the real stronghold. We do this with God’s weapons. Shining God’s light of truth on the lie. Slashing through the lie with the Sword of Truth. So what is God’s truth that knocks down the strongholds?
First and foremost, Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin. Not only did He simply take our punishment, but He essentially swapped places with us. He knew no sin, but became sin for our sake so that we could become righteous in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He became sin for us and we became the righteousness of God in Christ. He became forsaken, gluttonous, lustful, and wretched so we could be righteous, accepted, healed, and loved.
Isaiah 53:3–6 NLT
3 He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
In many passages of scripture we see ourselves identified as having taken part in Christ’s victory. Literally as if we were there and taking part in it. When you study, notice the use of the phrases, “with Christ” and “in Christ” in the NT. For example, look at this verse...
Galatians 2:20 NLT
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
By placing us “with Christ” and sharing in His victory, we learn from this verse that, 1) we died with Christ, 2) He lives in us, 3) and He gave Himself for us. Paul said even more things are true of our identity by using this phrasing...
We died with Him - Galatians 2:20
We were buried with Him - Romans 6:4
We were made alive with Him - Colossians 2:13
We were raised with Him - Colossians 3:1
We are seated with Him - Ephesians 2:6
We are co-heirs with Him - Romans 8:17
We are hidden with Him - Colossians 3:3
These are all statements of what Christ did and what He did for us, at the same time it was credited to us as though we had done it ourselves. Paul also uses the phrase “in Christ” to describe our identity.
I am a new creation - 2 Corinthians 5:17
I am the righteousness of God in Him - 2 Corinthians 5:21
I am His workmanship - Ephesians 2:10
I am complete in Him - Colossians 2:9-10
I am blessed with every spiritual blessing - Ephesians 1:3
I have obtained an inheritance from Him - Ephesians 1:11
Admittedly, all of this sounds too good to be true. I know myself and most of my faults and failures. It is difficult to accept God’s opinion and this new creation when I stare in the face of the lies and strongholds that I believe about myself. That is why Paul told us to take every thought captive. Accepting God’s opinion of us over our own opinion requires us to be diligent in guarding our hearts against any and everything that is contrary to what God says is true.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” One final key thought, then we will close…
Living out our identity in Christ requires a decision to make our thoughts line up with what God says is true.
Be intentional about replacing the lies and opinions you believe about yourself with the truth of what God’s Word says. Meditate on that truth. Write it down. Say it out loud. Emphasize it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you until God’s opinion of you becomes YOUR opinion of you. Then own it. Own your TRUE identity.
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