One night I was lying in bed, almost asleep, when I heard what sounded like an elephant stomping on a car-sized Coke can and then dragging it off to a recycling center. There haven’t been many elephant sightings in my neighborhood, nor are elephants known to be religious recyclers, so I got up to inspect the situation.
I looked outside and instead of a Coke can, there was a mangled car limping away from the scene. The car had smashed my neighbor’s treasured pick-up truck parked in front of his house.
We lived on a normally quiet street—hardly any traffic, or elephants, in the evenings—so my guess was that the driver was highly intoxicated. I saw my neighbor, normally a calm and controlled guy, rush outside and completely lose it.
Now, I’ve been in car wrecks. It can be an emotional experience, especially if you or a loved one is injured. But I’ve never seen someone so rattled by a damaged vehicle.
A car wreck is no fun. It’s a hassle to get everything fixed or replaced, but it’s not something that should completely unravel your world. If it does, you have to ask yourself, why was this vehicle so important? Why did this event send me off the deep end? Is my identity so fragile that a car wreck unravels it?
It’s easy to point fingers, but I’ve come unglued over less significant things. The point here is to be able to endure hard times and set a course that is meaningful and fulfilling. And to do that your identity has to be rooted in something stronger than yourself.
The popular idea today is that you have to look deep within yourself to discover your true identity. That is a scary thought. What if you don’t like what you find? What do you do?
Looking deep within yourself simply won’t work. Think of how many times you’ve let yourself down. You tell yourself, I’ll never do that again. And then within 48 seconds, you do it again. Or you tell yourself, I’ll always be a happy person. And then you get sad that you’re not suddenly happy. None of us live up to our own expectations for ourselves, which is a bummer.
So we have a couple of options. One is to drop your expectations to such an abysmally low level that it becomes impossible to let yourself down.
But another is to find something outside of yourself that you can lean on for strength, for direction, for purpose. Something utterly dependable when you can’t depend on yourself. Something that will hold up in every situation.
And that thing is actually a person—and His name is Jesus Christ.
‘Hiding’ your identity in Christ
Colossians 3:2–3 says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
When your identity becomes hidden, or rooted, in the revelation of who Jesus is and what He has done, rather than on what you find hidden deep inside yourself, you can live life to its truest, not distracted by whatever momentary messages are dictating the way you live. When you “hide” your identity in Christ, it’s not hidden from others but protected by Christ.
What does it mean to have your identity hidden in Christ? Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life, one of the bestselling books of any kind in the last 20 years (over 30 million copies sold), says it means, “That you abandon any image of yourself that is not from God. … You start believing what God says about you.”
Finding your identity in Christ means you do a better job believing that what God says about you is truer than what anyone else (including yourself) says. When you’re tempted to believe that you’re either much better than you really are, or much worse than you really are, look to what the Bible says about you.
An amazing story
So what does the Bible say about your identity?
Well, it says a lot. Some good things. Some bad things. Let’s start with the bad.
You, yes, adorable little you, were born full of sin. You were born a sinner. We all were. Of course, you were incredibly cute even 10 seconds out of the womb, but you still were full of what a friend of mine calls P.U.S: pride, unbelief, and self-love. You wanted what you wanted, and that’s all that mattered. This came to you because from the beginning of time, humankind has rejected God’s plan (see Romans chapter 5).
However, for those who believe in Christ, the story takes an amazing turn.
I love to go to the book of Ephesians and look at all the places in the first chapter where it says “in Christ” or “in Him.” Depending on your Bible translation, those phrases appear about 11 times and describe a host of incredible things about ourselves that if we truly believed, it would change everything.
It says that those in Christ are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (verse 3), chosen (verse 4), predestined and adopted (verse 5), redeemed and forgiven (verse 7), grace has been lavished on them (verse 7), that they are “in the know” on God’s will (verse 9), have been given an inheritance (verse 11), and are sealed by the Holy Spirit (verse 13). Those are some weighty statements. Entire books have been written about the meaning and depth of each of those words. You could spend the rest of your life dwelling on just one of them and still not come to fully grasp it.
If you come to base your identity in these statements, it roots and hides your identity in something that can’t be changed and can’t go away.
So if you’re a world-renowned guitar player and your fingers get chopped off in the latest smoothie blender sensation, your identity doesn’t crumble. And yes, even if your treasured truck gets destroyed in a stomp and run accident, you can still function. Life won’t crumble.
Excerpted from True Identity, by John C. Majors. Copyright © 2017 by FamilyLife. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission.