Who tells you who you are?
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11-12 MSG
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.“ Colossians 3:3
When we lose something we used to define ourselves by, maybe the success of your small business, or your role at your job, it can feel disorienting in our spirits because there can be a shift in identity. Many of us have lost something during this time. People have lost jobs, businesses, opportunities, weddings, baby showers, vacations and more. Some people have even lost a loved one. When we lose something we define ourselves by, whether it’s a role or a relationship, we are forced to take a deeper look at how we identify ourselves. Who tells us who we are?
I think the way we live our lives is shaped by what we believe about ourselves, by our identity. Our identity isn’t shaped by how we live. If you haven’t read James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits” by now, I’ll be the 5,347th person to tell you that you should. He sums up the relationship between our identities and our habits (or behaviors) like this:
“Imagine two people resisting a cigarette. When offered a smoke, the first person says, “No thanks. I’m trying to quit.” It sounds like a reasonable response, but this person still believes they are a smoker who is trying to be something else. They are hoping their behavior will change while carrying around the same beliefs. The second person declines by saying, ‘No thanks. I’m not a smoker.’ It’s a small difference, but this statement signals a shift in identity. Smoking was a part of their former life, not their current one. They no longer identify as someone who smokes” (Atomic Habits, 32).
If you don’t see the connection yet, let me show it to you. The first person wants their shift in habits to define them. They’re hoping their changing behaviors will change their identity. The second person changes their identity first. They stop identifying with being a smoker, it isn’t who they are anymore. Maybe it seems like a small change to you, but I think it’s a crucial one. James Clear uses this demonstration because what we believe about our identities scientifically impacts our brains. However, this is also a biblical principle.
At our church, we are careful to say “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “homeless people.” The difference is whether or not we allow the experience of losing a home to define who a person is. The experience itself can be heartbreaking and difficult, but it doesn’t have to become a person’s identity. Another example is saying, “I struggle with anxiety,” instead of saying, “I am an anxious person.” Some ways we identify ourselves can be harmful and impact us negatively. They can claim things over us that aren’t true, and give them more power than they deserve.
However, the reverse is also true, and it becomes a valuable resource to us in our faith. We can claim identity statements over ourselves and others that might not feel true yet, but help to reshape who we are and how we live to reflect our true purpose.
This is what Jesus does. He calls us saints, He calls us lovely, He calls us worthy, and He came, died, and rose again so we can live Holy lives. Our identities have shifted, and the way we see ourselves changes our behavior. When you start to see yourself as God sees you, your behavior will become an outpouring of that identity. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, your identity can be firm in the work Jesus has already done for you. The identity is redeemed and restored and whole, and when that identity comes before anything else, those other ways we identify ourselves become a little less important.
If you believe you were designed for glorious living like Ephesians talks about, then the way you live will naturally shift. Your small business may be struggling, but if your identity doesn’t come from success, you won’t sit there saying, “I don’t know how to pay the bills,” but you’ll say, “God has a purpose, and I can live from that perspective instead.”
The way we live our lives is shaped by what we believe about ourselves. Where do you look for your identity? What voices are you listening to? Who tells you who you are? Is it in the success of your business? Is it in the description of your job title? Is it in your actions, or habits? (I hope not, because then my identity would be somewhere in between couch potato and caffeine addict…)
Ephesians tells us that it’s in Christ that we find who we are, and what we are living for. He has a design and a purpose that is specific to who you are and to your life—and He will gladly speak the truth of who you are over you. Instead of accepting and believing what others say about you, what social media says about you, or even what you might believe about yourself, I’d like to challenge you to get back into God’s Word today, and ask Him to remind you who you are.
Don’t look to the world around you, to your present circumstances, to define you and tell you who you are. Look to who God says you are. Ready for an even more mind blowing tip? I feel like this is bonus content…
James Clear wrote about how our actions change when our identities change. The Bible also encourages us to use our words carefully because they have power. Remember when God spoke the world into existence, with His words? Then Jesus came and said we have the same power and authority He does. So guess what? You can partner with the Holy Spirit, and you have the power. You have the power to speak identity over yourself and over others in your life.
To change the way we think and the way we act, we have to change our identities. The best part is, Jesus already did the work for you. He already calls you a saint, He already made a way for you to live a Holy, abundant, life.
Don’t be like the first smoker who still believes they are a smoker. Be like the second, and start to identify yourself with the identity Jesus has made available to you. Believe you are a Son or Daughter of Christ, and watch how that identity forms and reshapes your life around you.
-Who is telling you who you are, and what are they saying?
-Are there any lies you need to take captive and allow God to speak into about your identity?
-What does God say about who you are? (I’d recommend asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you, or look directly into God’s Word. God never speaks anything that isn’t supported in His Word.)
Hey Jesus, thank you for being the One who we can always trust and rely on for our identity. I pray I may always find my identity in you. Allow your Holy Spirit to illuminate anything I believe about my identity that isn’t in agreement with what You say about me. Help me to hear your voice, and to hear your truth about my identity today. Amen.