I’m persuaded that many Christians don’t have a Gospel perspective on who they are. This lack of Gospel identity shows up in two ways. First, many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin.
We don’t see how easily entrapped we are in this world full of snares (see Galatians 6:1).
We don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that’s always raging within our heart (see Romans 7:15-25).
We’re not aware of how prone we are to run after God replacements (see Romans 1:25).
We fail to see that our greatest problems exists inside of us, not outside of us (see 2 Corinthians 5:15).
My work with teenagers has convinced me that one of the main reasons teenagers aren’t excited by the Gospel is because they don’t think they need it. Many parents have successfully raised self-righteous little Pharisees. When they look at themselves, they don’t see a sinner in desperate need, so they’re not grateful for a Savior. Sadly, the same is true of many of us.
We also fail to see the other side of our Gospel identity: a new identity in Christ. Christ not only gives me forgiveness and a new future, but a whole new identity as well! I’m now a child of God, with all of the rights and privileges that this title bestows.
This is important because we all live out of some sense of identity, and our Gospel identity amnesia will always lead to some form of identity replacement. That is, if who I am in Christ doesn’t shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I’ll live out of some other identity.
One replacement identity that we take on is difficult life circumstances. While divorce, depression, and single parenthood are significant human experiences, they’re not identities. In the same way, our work isn’t our identity, even though it’s an important part of how God intends us to live.
For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God’s grace. It’s wonderful to be successful at what God has called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you’ll always have a distorted perspective.
There are many other types of replacement identities. Here are four common ones:
Identity in Achievement
Identity in Acceptance
Identity in Performance
Identity in Physical Things
Living as an “effective and fruitful” Christian begins with healthy identity rooted in Christ. If you understand who you are as a child of God, you’ll make decisions that produce good fruit. An identity rooted in any other replacement will lead to some kind of ineffectiveness and unfruitfulness.
What difficult life circumstances could potentially shape your identity?
What personal, professional, or ministry successes could potentially shape your identity?
How can you root your identity deeper in Christ?
Paul David Tripp