I once heard Tim Keller say that at the root of every sin is an identity issue.
I haven’t found an exception.
When I get upset and defensive toward my husband for not liking the less-than-average dinner I serve – it’s because I feel like a “bad wife”. When I become so worried about the health and safety of my children – it’s because I don’t believe I am a “good mom” if I let something bad happen. When I don’t do the good I know I should do (James 4:17) – it’s because I’m believing that I’m above it, or maybe I’m too worried about what others will think of me.
I’m constantly looking to defend myself. To prove myself. To validate myself.
Which reveals my true object of worship: me.
While certain seasons of life were stressful, sad or exhausting by nature, the hardest, most difficult seasons have been when I was least secure in my identity. When my identity was shattered – by someone’s perception of me or by a fault of my own, perhaps both.
Why? Because when my identity was shattered, my object of worship was shattered.
Identity matters. For everyone. Every season, every age. I think all of us want a purpose and a unique space to display our talents and passions. And maybe that’s why it can be so hard, even as believers, to find security and life in our position within Christ. What if I’m not really known?
Although, ironically, I’ve never actually felt more secure in my identity by working harder. My efforts have never sustained me. But I suppose that’s because it’s how I was created. That’s how we were all created – to know and be known by our Father, the Lord God, maker of Heaven and earth.
As I’ve grown in understanding my position in Christ, nothing has given me more confidence than learning more and more about who He is. Somehow, when my eyes are on him, the more I see him, and the more I see him seeing me. And the more convinced I am that I am known.
When we lean into Christ, and only when we lean into Christ, we begin to experience who we really are. Because Jesus doesn’t just give us an identity, he becomes our identity. Everything that is true of the Son becomes true of us when we become a believer. We are robed in his righteousness, clothed with his holiness. Not because of our good deeds or Bible knowledge, but because of his character.
Yet, if we are tied up in self glorification, how do we change our object of worship?
Despite all our amazing efforts, we could never do it on our own. We could never produce truly pure worship to the One whom worship is due, the One who is truly pure. We need someone to come get us. We need someone to change us.
He gets us and makes us new. With new desires. And a new heart.
For I will take you out of the nations… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws… you will be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36:24-28
And it’s exactly what he did. After Jesus’s resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” (Acts 2:3-4). And what did they speak about? Themselves? No. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11).
When our Father gives us a new identity it isn’t about us anymore – it is about him, it is within him. We reflect who He is and bring glory to his name through our worship of Him. It continues to be a process this side of Heaven, but while we grow in sanctification or holiness, we also stand sanctified, holy and right before God because of Christ.
For me, at the heart of wanting to be known, I really just want to matter. I want my life to count. And in Christ, those things are satisfied and beyond. I matter because I am loved more than I will ever understand. And my life counts because now it has eternal value.
If all my sin is rooted in identity and a love of myself over a love of God, then what really floors me is the whole idea that the one I’m sinning against is also the one who takes my punishment. The one who credits me with honor. And the one who declares, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” And then he assigns a new purpose. Instead of spending our lives defending, proving and validating ourselves, now our worship and allegiance have been redeemed, rightfully restored where they belong in Christ. That now, as the verse continues, we “may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).
Consider: What is it for you? What are some of the things you do against God, and how do those things correlate to your identity?
Read: John 1:12, 3:16
1 Cor 1:30
2 Cor 5:17
Ephesians 1:1-14, 2:4-10, 2:19-22
Colossians 1:14, 22
1 Peter 2:9
1 John 1:9, 3:1
Make a list – what are some of the things that God says is true of you in Christ? How does this affect your relationship with God?
Podcast: Freedom in Christ