What we do in life, the quality of our lives, and the quality of our relationships are all the overflow of who we are. Getting ‘who we are’ wrongly will impact the way we relate to others, and most importantly, the way we relate to our creator.
In the previous post, we looked at the matrix of a believer’s relationships and the consequence of sins to those relationships. In this post, we will look at the first, and I would argue the most important, of those relationships.
Getting our identity right is the crucial step for the spiritual maturity of every believer. In fact, I would even say that it is the only step. If we get this right, the rest will simply the natural outworking of this. The Bible bears witness to how important this is that when God sent Jesus to earth, He did so to give us a totally new identity. He did not just ‘change’ us or ‘fix’ us. He renewed and restored us completely. We are given a totally new identity and new life.
1 Peter 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you …
John 1: 12-13
12 … to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Eph 2: 4, 5, 8, 9
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ … 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Human beings were made in the image of God. This identity, as God’s image bearers, should fuel us to accomplish our mandate that God gave us, which is to rule this earth lovingly under God’s loving authority. However, in sin, we ruined that image. We refused to draw identity from God. Instead, we wanted to determine for ourselves who we are. This is full-blown ungratefulness and rebellion against God, the ultimate source of our very being. The problem is that we are not created as autonomous creatures. We will always draw identity from something or someone else. Therefore, as a result of sin, as we are estranged from God, we have been trying to draw our identity from other people, from things, from other creations who can never satisfy this deepest longing.
The essential problem of humanity is that our relationship with God is broken. Like Prophet Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isa 53:6a). We have arrogantly and pridefully tried with all our efforts to find identity and security in things other than God, but we failed, because God knows that we can only find them in God alone.
St. Augustine said it this way:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
The only way that image can be fully restored is by God recreating that image in us again. What we need is not an improvement, what we need is a full overhaul restoration from the ground up. Jesus put it simply, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
You must be born again.
Furthermore, our sin deserves death as punishment (Rom 6:23a). Being a just God, He cannot overlook our sin and rebellion. However, being a loving God, He Himself provides a way for our sins to be atoned for and for God’s image in us to be restored. That’s exactly what Jesus came to earth to do: to bear our iniquities (Isa 32:6b), to propitiate (to atone) for our sins (1 John 2:2), to reconcile us to God and to one another (2 Cor 5:18-20), and ultimately to give us a new identity (Rom 6:23b) – the right to become God’s children once for all (John 1:12-13),
We were born of flesh, but now we are born again of the Spirit.
We were once God’s enemies, but now we are given the right to be His children.
We were once spiritually dead, but now we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.
We were dead in our sin, but now we are alive in Christ’ righteousness.
That’s our identity.
In terms of identity, born-again believers bear these marks (note: not a comprehensive list):
- They fully acknowledge that they have fallen short of God’s glory and they are sinners in need of God’s salvation (Romans 3).
- They are confident of their salvation, but yet they are humble. Confident because Jesus has secured their salvation. Humble because they do not save themselves. (Heb 4:16; Eph 3:12)
- They can confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:9-10). They are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17). They confess that there is no other way, no other truth, no other life apart from Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; John 1:4; 1 John 5:11-12)
- They are not weary in searching for their own salvation anymore. They truly find rest in Jesus. (Matt 11:28-29)
- They are hungry for God’s Word. They draw their identity from God alone. (Matt 4:4; John 1:12)
- They know that they are now God’s children; therefore despite sufferings and tribulations, they know that they have hope for the future, and that nothing can separate them from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:18-39).
- They are full of thanksgiving to God who has saved them from sin and death (Romans 7:24-25).
This new identity gives us the freedom from the panic and futile search for identity outside of God. We don’t need to live our lives selfishly for ourselves because we have been given this new life. It consequently frees us to worship God and to love others.
In the next post, we will look at how this new identity impact the way we relate to God.