We all need a frame of reference to define who we are as human beings, but most people determine their identity according to the world’s standards. The problem is that the world constantly shifts its standards, and the identity we thought was firmly established one day may crumble the next day. Using a fixed, immovable standard will keep us from faltering and anchor us solidly. As believers, our identity in Christ gives us all we need to live according to who we really are.
Grace has made us God’s children, but we must understand this in order to experience real life transformation. The power of grace frees us from the guilt, shame, and fear that define the identity of countless others, but even born-again Christians can struggle with this concept. We all want to live right, but we can’t until we first believe right. Wrong-believing about who we are keeps us in bondage to the world’s standards and impacts our entire lives, but the Gospel of Grace frees us. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32).
Jesus told this to the Jews because they closely adhered to and lived according to the Law of Moses, which focused on performance. They struggled with the truth and didn’t want to accept it. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Today’s world isn’t much different; the messages with which we’re constantly bombarded tell us that we have to do good to get good, and to succeed we must fit into man-made standards.
Grace is God’s unearned, undeserved favor, and grace is also the truth that sets us free. This means that as born-again believers, we’ve been freed from having to conform to worldly ideas of who we are based on what we do. Our identity is now based on what Jesus already did. “But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name” (John 1:12, AMPC). All self-effort has been removed, and belief is now all that’s required to claim our identity in Christ.
The world will tell us we have no right to be called children of God because of our past, but when we’re born again our past disappears forever. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become as holy and righteous as God Himself because He now lives inside us. This transformation happened with the apostle Paul (Acts 8:1-3; 2 Corinthians 7:1, 2) and it happens the same way with us.
We must not see our identities backward. We are spirits possessing souls (which are our thinkers and choosers) and living in physical bodies. When we are aware of who we are in Christ we realize that our behavior doesn’t determine our identity, but our identity does govern our behavior. Knowing this in our hearts, not just in our intellects, assures us a victorious life now and a bright future later.