Earlier this week I opened my email to find a message from Wells Fargo thanking me for my online application for a new checking and savings account. Another message soon followed saying my application had been accepted. Flattered as I was, the problem is I, nor my wife, had applied for an account with Wells Fargo, nor do we bank there (nothing personal). I called their online service department and after several automated prompts, I was finally able to speak to a real person and explain the situation. I was more annoyed than surprised or upset by the whole ordeal, but something about the way the person on the other line said the words, "Sir, you are a victim of identity theft" that took me aback (P.S. I think they should have some type of dramatic music rift to follow anytime they tell people that).
Issues surrounding identity are a hot commodity in the world of 2021. Whether its financial or online fraud (Ive since learned that roughly 9 million people in the United States alone have their identity stolen each year), legal designations of gender and sexuality, or even the long term pandemic of self-esteem and anxiety in people of all ages, our identity determines a great deal in our lives.
As believers, the Bible tells us our identity is in Christ. We are as the Apostle Paul mentions, "a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." Corinth. 5:17 However, thanks to the ongoing presence and pressures of sin, we often have spiritual amnesia. We forget who we really are, and neglect all the benefits of being united to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so I'd like to share 3 benefits (of course there are endless more!) of our identity in Christ that Ive been meditating on.
- Our identity in Christ gives us new focus: Regardless of what is happening around us or even to us, as Christians we know that this present world is not our final home. This truth is a new pair of spiritual lenses for the eyes of our faith. Paul writes in Colossians 3:2-3, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Knowing my life is in Christ gives me a fresh perspective that anchors my heart and attitude in every day life. I often have to ask myself when I am discouraged or worried, "will this still matter next week, month, or year?" More times then I care to admit it won't, and so seeing my life united to the Lord sets me free to focus on what is eternal rather than just what is immediate.
2. Our identity in Christ gives us great assurance: As a pastor I'm reminded regularly of the multiplicity of pressures in life each of us faces on a daily basis. Whether its our jobs, home life, school work, sports, other activities, etc. we live in a face-paced and high-demand culture. Now, the Bible clearly commends hard work and striving for excellence (2 Thess. 3:10, 1 Corinth. 10:31) yet the danger is when we begin to define ourselves by what we do. After all, what is one of the first things we ask when we meet someone new: "So what do you do for a living?" I admit this can be a struggle for myself, as well as other friends I know in pastoral ministry. Ministry is our calling, but not our identity. And whether you have success or struggle, we must never let the grounds of our assurance and hope be in what we do or have done. The Apostle John writes, "Beloved, we are God's children now and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2 Why does John say we will be like him when he appears? Is it because we worked hard and were eminently successful? No. Its because we are God's children. That's who we are. Before I am a Pastor, or a husband, or a father, I am a Christian. I am in Christ. This is also true when it comes to my struggles and besetting sins. We are never named or identified by our sins or old nature. I am named in Christ! What good news! What a great assurance!
3. Our identity in Christ gives us rest: As we look at the life of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, the question is often asked how he was able to maintain such joy and contentment despite such affliction and suffering? I think a large part of the answer is found in his comments in Galatians 2:20-21, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Paul knew who he was. He was in Christ. And he knew who he wasn't. He wasn't the old Saul of Tarsaus. What freedom and rest come from being in Christ. Because after all, this Jesus our Lord is the great lover of our soul who gave his own life so that we might be forever in His kingdom. What a deep breath that reality is for our lives. I don't have to have it all, or live my best life now. My best life is yet to come.I am one loved by the Lord. That is enough.
And so, despite having my name and possible drivers license or social security number stolen this week, I had to remind myself that these are mere nuisances amidst the realities of life in a fallen world. I know many others are struggling with much greater pains than my own little burdens. But if you are in Christ, no one and no thing can ever rob you of your identity in Him. Listen to what are Lord said about it Himself:" My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." John 10:27-28
We are forever united to our Jesus. For now we live by faith, but will one day be with Him face to face for eternity. Praise the Lord that nothing can ever change that.