Summary: This sermon is the second in a series of four entitled "Our Identity In Christ" which seeks to lay an important foundation for growth, maturity and usefulness in the Christian life.

When you first met “J.E.”, you could tell he was a very angry man. In fact, at age 54 he’d been an angry person for many years. In a Bible study that night, many questions had been raised in his mind. Talking with the leader afterward, J.E. said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. But nobody ever taught me about who I am in Christ, that I’m accepted by God or that Christ lives in me.”

“What were you taught?” the Bible study leader asked.” “Where I grew up, we heard all the time about how perfect Christ was and about how we should learn to live like Him – if we didn’t, God would judge us.” J.E. went on, “It didn’t take me long, I’d say in my teen years, to figure out that I was never going to cut it. So I gave up trying. I guess I’ve been living in guilt and running from God ever since. Off and on through the years I tried to go back to church, but I just got more guilt piled on top of me. I’ve sat under so many teachers who made me fearful that I was afraid to turn in any direction because God was going to get me. This is the first Bible study I’ve ever attended that gave me any hope” J.E. concluded.

At that point, J.E. was 54 years old. That means, even though he had been born again through trusting Jesus Christ at a young age, he had spent at least 35 years running away from God. Tragically, his experience isn’t that unusual. Thousands of people who sincerely responded to the gospel message they were taught spend years thrashing around trying to make it work, but without success. In fact, I believe the reason so many Christians struggle in living the Christian life is their lack of understanding their Identity in Christ. You see, knowledge of the believer’s identity in Christ is an essential foundation block of the Christian life. In fact, it’s impossible to make progress in spiritual growth if you’re still unsettled concerning your acceptance before God. So today I want to give you an introduction into this truth of your identity as a believer in Jesus Christ. So, first of all let’s consider:

I. The Introduction of Identity

That’s what was introduced to J.E. in the Bible Study – Identity. It was said to J.E. in the Bible study, “It’s no wonder you’ve been running from God J.E. First of all, the Christian life is not trying to imitate Christ. The fact is, YOU can’t live the Christian life; only Christ can!” We’re taught to trust in Christ to take us to heaven, which is good. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus Christ didn’t just come to get people out of hell and into heaven. He came to get Himself out of heaven and back into mankind. He came to get Himself out of heaven and into you! God did for you what you could never do for yourself. He took away all your sins through Jesus death on the cross, then He raised you to life spiritually. Now your role is to do the same thing as the apostle Paul: reckon yourself as crucified with Christ and to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Another part of the introduction of identity is, what we experience in running away from God is the most predictable thing in the world – if you don’t understand His love and acceptance of you, you and I will avoid intimacy with God. We will shy away from knowing Christ more personally. We will run away from a real relationship if we don’t understand God’s love and acceptance of us. You see, you can never grow to know and love a God that you’re too afraid to go near! God’s role is to unconditionally love and absolutely accept you and me. This, He has done in Jesus Christ as Ephesians 1:6 says, “To the praise of His glorious grace through which He has made us accepted in the Beloved”(KJV). Having absolutely accepted us in Christ, He has given us a new identity as Christ lives in you and me (Galatians 2:20). Your role and my role is to reckon ourselves as crucified with Christ and to live by faith in Him. So, let’s look further at:

II. The Issue of Identity

The issue of identity is inescapable and so central to our lives as Christians. We all ask again and again, “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?” We all have a drive for identity. And tied up with this drive for identity are our God given needs for unconditional love and acceptance as well as for meaning and purpose in live. Every human being wrestles with these questions and needs during his or her lifetime. You see, these are basic spiritual needs. And the answers we adopt determine the direction of our lives.

Now in our world today, the issue of identity is often presented under the banner of “self-image or self-esteem.” But as the apostles discuss this issue of our identity in Christ, it’s apparent that they are crossways with the prevailing philosophies of the world. In today’s world, through the influence of psychology, the dominant belief is that most people have a “poor self-image,” so the solution then would be a “good self-image.” In other words, they say that people need to “love themselves more.” Paul, on the other hand, says in verse 3 of our text, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” According to God’s Word, the problem of man is not a “poor self-image.” Man’s real problem is his overwhelming, egotistical pride! Pride was what caused Satan, originally a powerful and beautiful angel, to be cast from heaven. Pride was the root of Adam’s decision to strike out on his own, introducing sin into the human race. Because that same pride is now in us, we puny people stick out our chests, thumb our noses at the Creator of the universe and declare, “I’ll do it my way!” In fact, that’s why God gave us His law, the 10 commandments: to humble our proud self-sufficiency, to show us we couldn’t live up to His standard, so that we’d be willing to receive the free gift of salvation through grace alone. The Law was given to lead us to Christ.

So, having come to Christ, we don’t need a “good self-image.” We need a proper self-image, an identity based on truth. We need an image which not only has ourselves in correct perspective with God, but also has us in proper perspective with other people. And it’s here that we discover a surprising truth: While we’re warned against “thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think,” we find that the identity given to us by the grace of God is more wonderful than we could ever have imagined – so great, in fact that we need the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to comprehend it! That’s why Paul prayed in Eph. 1:17 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. . .” This issue of identity is an issue of revelation and illumination. So let me proceed on to:

III. The Identification of Identity

In its most concise form, your identity as a believer in Jesus Christ is this: You are a child of God, unconditionally loved and absolutely acceptable in His sight! That sentence is simple to say, but has ramifications that we spend a lifetime working out and learning to believe and understand. However, only through discovering and resting in your identity as it is taught in the Word of God can you become free from the false identities that this world’s system is always trying to put on you. The world is continually trying to get you to accept an identity based on your appearance, your abilities, your family or based on your acceptance of others – anything except what God says your identity is to be based upon.

You see, your enemy, the devil realizes that if he can influence you to depend upon any of these other things for our self-image, than he can control you. WHY? Because of this principle: Whatever you depend upon for your identity and meaning and purpose in life will control you. You see, control comes through dependency. In other words, if I am dependent upon what you think of me for my self-image, then you will control me. If I am dependent upon my job for my meaning and purpose in life, then my job will control me. So, it’s only as we learn and rest in what the Word of God teaches us about our absolute acceptance before God that we can become free. Only then can we go on to concentrate on the real focus of the Christian life which is “knowing Christ.” And it’s only as we learn and rest in what the Word of God teaches us about our absolute acceptance before God that we can go on to love and accept other people as they are. You see, our relationship with God carries over directly into our human relationships. And the truth is, we will ultimately treat others in exactly the same way we think God treats us.

For that reason, this truth concerning identity is of foundational importance for our growth, maturity and usefulness in the Kingdom of God. Where are you in understanding who you are as you stand before the holy God? Do you understand that because of God’s unconditional love for you He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross to completely forgive you of all your sins? As a result of that love, do you understand that you are absolutely acceptable to God no matter what you have done or what you do in the future – you’re still absolutely acceptable to God through Jesus Christ the Lord? God’s Word says that “if any person is in Christ, you are a new creation, a new creature” you are absolutely accepted by God. Believe this, reckon it by faith, appropriate it, ask God to enable you to feel it deep within your soul so Christ can life – it out by accepting others for who and what they are regardless of what they may be or how they may behave.

(Much of the content of this message came from a study of Chapter Four in the book “Growing in Grace” by Bob George)