Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
This week was father’s day and I did not have a holiday message planned. However, after my daughter got up and shared some wonderful things about me as a father, some even deserved, I began sharing my heart with our church. The Lord seemed to lead me to talk a little about identities.
One of the things we get from our fathers is an identity. Much of who we see ourselves as comes to us through the home in which we were raised. If our homes were good, our identity will tend to be healthy but if we were raised in a home that communicated the wrong things to us, we might develop an identity dominated by rejection, abuse or some other unhealthy view of self.
We tend to focus on the abusive mistakes that fathers can make, but sometimes our home identity can be that of a spoiled child. We may see ourselves as entitled in life. We may never understand the need for work or patience. We may not be able to see others as more important than self. We may never learn to handle disappointment or hardship. Either extreme is a wrong identity.
Of course the identity we carry only begins in the home. Many people develop identities of failure because of the disappointments of life. Some become cruel or angry. Some develop alcoholic or addicted identities.
Some identities are not necessarily wrong. They may even be good or healthy. I am a husband, a father and a grandfather. Those are identities. I am a preacher and a teacher. Those are also identities.
Whatever we do in life and as well as the trials we face contribute to the identity we carry. Race, nationality and region can be contributors to our identity. Whatever it is that makes up the way we see ourselves, we must understand that there is one identity that we must grasp and cultivate over all others.
Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ and yet I live.” He did not say it was someone else who now lived. It was still Paul, but it was a Paul with a new identity dominating his view of self. He was what we might call a “Jesus” Paul. He was still Paul but his old life and old identity had been placed on the cross and now he had a new identity dominated by his life in Christ.
Many things hinder us in life. Many things keep us from growing in the Lord. I think one of the most powerful is identity. When our identity is dominated by the flesh it will always be a problem. We may see ourselves as too important or not important at all. We may think we have no value or we may value our flesh identity so highly that we cannot allow Jesus to become dominant. Either extreme will keep us from being able to submit to the Word of God fully.
Who are you? How do you see yourself today? What dominates your identity? I knew a person once who was so dominated by their identity as a musician that they could not see any other value in their life. If they did not receive the recognition they felt they deserved their conclusion was that everyone was against them. We were all holding them back because they were so talented that surely they would be a “star” if only everyone else cooperated.
The truth was that this identity, which was true to a degree, was masking many hurts and problems that plagued this person throughout life. This person had gone through some deep trials and these things set something in motion that made relationships difficult and caused great depression. The musical ability became so important a part of identity that it was impossible for this person to receive the other things Jesus wanted to give. It was impossible to let go of the music identity long enough for Jesus to bring healing.
I have seen other people who go through counseling and sometimes deliverance. When they begin to come out the other side they no longer know who they are. They think something is still wrong with them because they do not know how to function without the identity that their depression, oppression or other emotional damage had created. In extreme cases I have seen people so lost without their old identity that they simply could not progress and they fell back into the thinking that bound them to begin with.
Poor people are poor because that is how they see themselves. That is their identity. Often sick people stay sick because that is their identity. Victims stay victims as long as they allow that identity to dominate them. Some people cannot rise to adulthood because they cannot lose the identity of immaturity. Some are so severe in their view of life and self that they can never receive the joy of the Lord. I could go on but I expect you have the idea by now.
One of my challenges as a father was to communicate the kind of identity to each of my children that the Lord showed me they really were. Each of the six is different. They had different strengths and weaknesses. They had different gifts and talents. They each had very different personality types. Of course I communicated a certain identity to them based on who I was and how my wife was. I communicated the values that I believe to be important and that became a part of their identity. In the end I could only do so much because as well as I knew them, I did not know them perfectly.
Our heavenly Father does know each one of us. He is the one who formed us in our mother’s womb. He is the one who planned our lives before we took a breath. He made us to fulfill a destiny and purpose. Only when we submit all other identities to the identity that comes from him will we find our true self and our true life. (Psalm 139)
I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I do live. There is a real me created by my Father God and that real me is the one who can walk in the fullness of life God has planned for me. We know that part of the meaning of this verse is the crucifixion of our fleshly desires and selfish goals. However, this verse means much more than that. It is the revelation of our true self.
Sometimes it is difficult because the person that you used to be will still be imprinted on your memory. The devil will say as you try to serve the Lord, “That isn’t you. You’re being a hypocrite.” That statement is the real lie. You are who God says you are. You are who and what the Word of God says you are. Any other identity, no matter how long it has been with you, is the false one.
Take some time today to look at who you think you are. What part of your identity comes from both the good and bad things in your life or personality? They are a part of you. However, when you met Jesus the true identity that God created you to have was released. The real you is the “Jesus” you. Do not let the devil, the world or your emotions convince you otherwise.
Open your heart to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will help you discover who you really are. Renew your mind by finding your true self in the Word. You will still be you just like Paul was still Paul, but it will be a different you, a Jesus you. When you accept that identity, it will make all the difference.