Second, we no longer need to shape identity by an appeal to our pedigree. If we feel entitled or begin to lean on our family name, our social networks, or our background for who we are and what we’re worth, we will inevitably think those who do not share our pedigree are somehow less than we are.
But when we understand that we are men or women in Christ, accepted and beloved in Him, renewed in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness, when we begin to recognize that our essential worth is a gift of grace, that God values us, not because of us or our family or our fraternity or our social networks, but because of Jesus, we start to look at people differently. We are not dazzled by the power and pedigree of the great and the mighty, and we do not sneer at the little guy who has none. We see instead our fellow image bearers, whose beauty remains marred and shattered by the fall, by sin. And we long to bring them with us into Christ to be made new.
Third, we need no longer shape our identity by passion. It has become common to define ourselves by our sexual desires. But our sexual desires—whether they accord with God’s original design or not—can never be the central fact about us. To make them such will distort and twist the order of things. When we put sexual desires at the heart of identity, then to deny what our sexual appetites desire is ultimately to deny our essential selves. And the great pursuit of our age, after all, is to “live your truth! You do you!” The self must be satisfied. And if the self is fundamentally and essentially a sexual self, then restraint and transformation of our passions cannot really have a lasting place in our identity.
But when we come to realize that we are in Christ, that He defines our true identity, then whatever sexual desires we may find in our fallen hearts, they do not ultimately define us. Instead, we must put off the old self and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Col. 3:9–10). We are to die to self. And live to Christ. Christ is where our identity is found. Not self and not sin. If we battle sinful sexual desires and lusts, but we define ourselves in Christ, our refusal to indulge our sinful passions and our crucifying them and seeking their replacement with holy desires are not a betrayal but an embrace of our true selves. Our true selves are in Jesus. Not in our sexual desires.
Christian identity must be shaped by the most fundamental truth about ourselves: we are men and women in Christ, and in Christ we are new creatures. He defines us. Not sin. Not the idols of the world. And in Him we find true freedom from the tyranny those idols exert.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on union with Christ and was previously published January 14, 2019. Previous post. Next post.