The messages we receive about our identity shape our lives in powerful ways. The child who’s told time and again, “You’ll never amount to anything,” “You’re stupid,” or “You’re the black sheep of this family,” will often grow up to fulfill those very stereotypes. Who we understand ourselves to be matters in how we live our lives.
When Paul writes to the church in Rome, he greets them with these words: “To all in Rome who are loved by God, and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). His greeting to the Romans highlights three important aspects of our identity as believers.
First, we are beloved. The infinite, all-knowing God, the Creator of the universe, the One who reigns forever and ever, loves us. He loves us not because we are worthy of His love nor because He looked into the future and saw the amazing things we would accomplish. He loved each of us when we were enemies of God, dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul tells us, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). In the midst of our waywardness and rebellion, He chose to love us. We can live with hopeful confidence, knowing that God’s redemptive love for us is independent of our actions. Nothing can separate us from His love—neither death nor life, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (8:38–39).
Second, we are called. Just as Jesus called His disciples to come and follow Him, God calls each of us to a new life. Jesus told His listeners, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). As He pursues us with His grace, God calls each of us in different ways. As He promised Ezekiel, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). When we cry out to God for salvation, it’s because He first calls out to us. God pursues, seeks, and finds. Our identity is secure because of His pursuit of us, not because of our pursuit of God.
Finally, we are saints. While each of us will continue to struggle with the lingering effects of sin and will fight the inner battle between the spirit and the flesh, we are regarded as saints in Christ. What a difference it makes to understand this truth! Sinners who struggle to be saints will spend their lives working, never knowing if they are good enough. Saints who struggle with sin will spend their lives worshiping, always knowing Christ’s sacrifice is enough. Sinners are weighed down by their uneasy consciences, but joyful, thankful hearts adorn the saints.
Hear the good news afresh today: your identity is centered on God’s disposition toward you, not your disposition toward God. Live freely today in the identity you’ve been given: beloved, called, saint. Who you are changes everything about how you live.