Embracing our identity as Christ-followers
The world puts many labels on us, and we all go along with common earthly stereotypes; “I’m a wife.” “I’m Japanese.” “I’m from a poor family.” “I’m a lawyer.” Yet none of these identities will get us into heaven or have any meaning in eternity. Hopefully, each one of us would prefer to say, “I am a child of God and I know Him intimately.” It is an identity that should supersede all the other ways we see ourselves. We are not what the world says we are, we are who God says we are – precious, beloved and worthy.
Isaiah 43:4 ESV Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider:
- How should we respond to family disputes when we see ourselves as a “friend of Jesus”? | John 15:13-14 ESV You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
- What should we do in a political crisis in the country we live when we see ourselves as “citizens of heaven”? | Philippians 3:20-21 NLT But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
- What should we do for the poor and homeless when we see ourselves as “God’s ambassadors”? | Ephesians 6:20 NLT I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.
The point is, we are all these things; citizens of heaven, friends of Jesus, and ambassadors for Christ. Yet most times, we don’t walk around with this belief. We have been moulded into earthly labels and held hostage to how the world sees us.
The way we see ourselves makes all the difference in the choices we make in life, and therefore, the outcomes of our eternities. Will we run into Father God’s arms rejoicing? Or will we end our lives defeated by lies and regretting the choices we made?
It is absolutely crucial, therefore, that we decide which identity we choose for ourselves on earth – because the world will determine it for us if we are not careful. Parents, schools, friends, relatives, employers, governments, consumer brands, and the media will all tell us who we ought to be – based on their desires and agendas. These are not necessarily bad if they all point to following the ways of Jesus Christ, but how many do?
Privileges that come with our identity as Christ-followers
When we turn to Jesus as our Saviour, we instantly receive new identities as citizens of heaven.
As with any citizenship, our identity in Christ grants us spiritual rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Whether we have turned to follow Jesus Christ for just 8 seconds or 80 years, we all share the exact same heavenly rights. This means we become fellow citizens with people like apostle Paul, John the Baptist, Mary, King David, Elijah, and Abraham. When we are familiar with our heavenly citizen rights on earth and exercise them daily, our lives will overflow abundantly with love, joy, and peace.
Ephesians 2:18-19,22 ESV For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, … In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Our citizen privileges include being:
- Made right with God | Romans 3:22,24 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
- Adopted into God’s family as His children | Romans 8:15 ESV For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
- Showered with God’s kindness, wisdom and understanding | Ephesians 1:8 NLT He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
- Inseparable from God’s love | Romans 8:38-39 ESV For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Chosen by God to receive an inheritance from Him | Ephesians 1:11 NLT Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
- Forgiven of our sins and redeemed when we confess | Colossians 2:13 1 John 1:9 ESV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- Freed from the power of sin that leads to spiritual death | Romans 8:2 NLT And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
- Kept safe in God’s hand | John 10:28-29 ESV I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
- Rescued from Satan’s dominion | Colossians 1:13 NIV For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
- Given the privilege to go confidently into God’s presence | Ephesians 3:12 NLT Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
- Given the Holy Spirit in our hearts | 2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
- Able to share in Jesus’ divine nature through His Spirit | 2 Peter 1:4 NLT And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
- Able to do all things through Jesus Christ who gives us strength | Philippians 4:13 NLT For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
- Provided with everything we need to live a godly life | 2 Peter 1:3 NIV His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
- Able to find God’s grace to help us when we need it most | Hebrews 4:16 ESV Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
- Empowered with all authority over the power of Satan | Luke 10:19 NLT Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.
We all need immersion programmes as new citizens
All new immigrants to God’s Kingdom benefit from new migrant training and immersion programmes that teach us how to live as citizens of heaven. It is pointless to be granted all our amazing heavenly privileges, only to live as spiritual refugees because we had no proper understanding of our rights. We can live as if we have been put into concentration camps when in reality, we have been welcomed into the King’s courts with great rejoicing!
Luke 15:10 NIV In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Unfortunately, we have been programmed to operate a certain way for so long that any new way of thinking requires some very real effort to re-train our subconscious thought patterns.
Scientists say that our brains become fully developed around the age of 25, with the region responsible for personality expression, decision making, and social behavior i.e. the prefrontal cortex, being the last to fully mature. The other parts of our brains that are more sensory in nature tend to fully develop first.
This implies that the ideas we form about ourselves are based on sensory, rather than rational, cues – most of which are from our childhood when we were the most impressionable and gullible. Furthermore, if there is a lack of biblical guidance or nurturing, we can be left to develop unbiblical ideas about ourselves that are based on the worst fleshly instincts. This could be the reason why God commands all parents to repeat His Word again and again to their children, as a way to safeguard innocent minds against misguided ideas about our identities.
Deuteronomy 6:1-2,7 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long… You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Negative childhood experiences will imprint deeply on vulnerable, unprotected hearts. The more we have felt alone, trapped, helpless, abandoned or rejected, the more we believe we are indeed alone, trapped, helpless and abandoned. We decide who we are based on how other people behave towards us.
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
When we take on our new identity in Christ, we need to turn away from all man-made self-beliefs and renew our minds based on how God behaves towards us – which is full of love, grace, and compassion.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The power of God to transform us when we follow Him
God is never restricted by the labels that other people have put on us or the labels we put on ourselves. The King of the entire universe gives each one of us a new identity.
Do we see ourselves incapable and under-equipped? Moses saw himself as an inept man that stuttered in his speech (Exodus 4:10), but God called him a “friend of God” for following Him faithfully even when things got tough.
Exodus 4:10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”
Exodus 33:11 ESV Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…
Have we made terrible mistakes in our lives? David committed murder and adultery, but God called him a “man after My own heart” for repenting and remaining faithful to His Heavenly Father.
Acts 13:22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’
Do we see ourselves as inferior? Gideon saw himself as being weak and insignificant, but God called him a “mighty warrior” because He knew Gideon’s potential to bring down mighty armies with God’s help.
Judges 6:12 NIV When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”
Judges 6:15 NIV “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
When we walk in the identities that God gives us, we can become godly powerhouses, just like Moses, King David, and Gideon who brought God glory in spite of how they initially saw themselves. With God, all things are possible!
Matthew 19:26 ESV But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
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