Once you begin to understand that you are not what you do or what you have done, you are free to be something different. Nor are you what has happened to you. Many people form their identity based on the things that have happened in their lives, whether things done by themselves or by others. They refer to themselves by the events of their lives. “I am a _____ survivor.” Or, “I am a _____er.”
As Christians, we must learn to see sin as an event and our past as something that happened, and neither as a definition of who we are today. “I did this,” is vastly different from, “I am this.”
Identity is so important for victory in the Christian life. If I see myself as a sinner, worthy of the wrath of God, I will live in fear and worry. If I see myself as God’s child, unconditionally loved by the Creator and Judge of the whole world, I have peace. But there is more than that. From which perspective will I be more likely to move into victory in my daily life?
The person who sees himself as a failure will fail. The person who understands that success is already accomplished can only succeed. A regular person who goes into a job interview will be worried about doing well. He may be afraid that failure will define his life. He wants to be someone who makes $XXX per year and has a comfortable life. Blowing the job interview will cause the failure. But someone who is already a millionaire will go into the job interview with a much different perspective. He may still want to do well, but the fear of failure will not be the same. The regular person may be afraid of financial doom. The millionaire will find rest in the fact that his money and his comfort are secure.
Now, that’s not a perfect illustration, but it makes a point. You and I are in Christ, already saved, already forgiven, already bound for Heaven. No failure can take that away. We didn’t earn our place and we don’t maintain our place. Jesus does it all. We are the millionaires—and so much more.
We must understand who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us. We are not what we used to be. Before Christ, sin did define us. We didn’t have anything else. Now that we have Christ in us, He defines us. We are not Him, but we are what He says we are. We are saints. We are free, forgiven, loved, accepted, and already citizens of Heaven.
This is why boundaries are so important. We will talk more about this tomorrow, but let me say here that strong personalities will try to impress on us an identity that is not ours. They may move us to be like them or they may try to make us something they can use. In either case, we are faced with the challenge of losing who we are. By standing our ground on truth and believing in our identity, they lose much of their power over us.
Long before Popeye said it, Paul proclaimed his identity. He looked back on his life, filled with failures, and proclaimed that he was just who Christ said he was.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (NKJV)