Do you want to be identified as a successful business person, great athlete, good investor, an outdoorsman, gospel singer, pilot, or preacher? You may want to be identified as one who is tough and persistent, or as one who is meek and passive. Are you developing your identity as a good Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or other denominational member who is religious, moral, and disciplined? Is your identity wrapped up in your appearance, your spouse, your home, the car you drive, or in other things you have? Do you want to be identified as the best in your field, or would you just be happy to be identified as a simple person, or a good mom or dad? These are just a few examples of things people depend upon to define their identity. However, all of those who are still serving their own identity have not yet laid hold of salvation in Jesus Christ. He says, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Salvation consists of losing our identity (individuality) through becoming identified with Jesus’ death and His life. To be identified with His death is to lay down our life and partake of His sufferings in total obedience to God.“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). To be identified with His life is to live as He lives. “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6).Those who belong to Jesus are dead and their lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Not dead in the physical sense, but in the sense that they are so identified with the death of Jesus that their whole being has become a living sacrifice. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”(Romans 12:1). Regenerated people have forsaken their own identity to be one with Jesus. From the verses I quoted in Philippians 2, you see that Jesus made Himself of no reputation. Likewise, neither do those who’ve been created in His likeness. Their interests and energies are not directed toward developing their personal identity but only toward obedience to God. “How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44).
Many church goers are struggling to be identified with the life of Jesus, but their efforts are futile because they are not willing to relinquish the right to themselves. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The life of a believer is dedicated to God and His identity rather than their own. Notice that the previous verse says to glorify God in your body and spirit, not glorify yourself. No one can be identified with the life of Jesus until they are willing to be identified with His death. Individuality, or personal identity, is nothing more than man’s willful independence of God. Our own identity is the hardness of heart that must be broken by the realization of our wickedness and a revelation of God’s love.
It is often said that Christian victory comes by knowing who we are in Christ. This line of thinking has the focus on us and our identity. Earlier I referred to Colossians 3:3 which says, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” I pray that God will give you eyes to see this. Christians are “dead in Christ.” Who are we in Christ? DEAD! It’s not about who we are in Christ; it’s about Who Christ is in us! This keeps the focus on Him and His identity—“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). If Jesus is Lord in you, there will be victory. Rather than perpetually memorizing and professing scriptures about who we are in Christ, the spiritual necessity is to become so identified with Jesus’ death that no part of the old life remains. It is through His death that we come to be identified with His life- “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:10). That’s victory!!
Take a close look at the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” He says—“I am crucified with Christ”; he does not say- “I am determined to imitate Jesus”, or “I will try to follow Him”. Paul says that he has been identified with Jesus in His death. To be identified with Jesus’ death is a moral decision that we must make and act upon each day—“. . . let him take up his cross daily. . .” (Luke 9:23). In doing so, everything Jesus worked for us on the cross is then given place to work in us. Reflecting the image of Jesus and following Him is not the result of one’s own efforts, but rather the result of one’s willingness and faith to believe God. “. . . nevertheless I live…”– the same body and soul remains, but the driving force, the ruling disposition, is radically and totally altered. “. . .yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, . . .”—our identity is gone and Christ’s identity lives through us- “. . . Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). “. . . and the life which I now live in the flesh. . .”– not the life I pray for and long to live, but the life I am now living in my mortal flesh- the life men can see. This life does not reflect our image (identity); it reflects the image of Jesus. We are changed from the glory of the flesh to the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3). You can also see this in Romans 8:29-30 saying, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” “. . .I live by the faith of the Son of God”– the faith of Jesus produces a life of unwavering obedience and total reliance upon God (Luke 22:42, 23:46, & 1 Peter 4:19).
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”.Regenerated people no longer live “unto themselves”. Their identity is hid with Christ in God. They now live unto Jesus, and His identity is manifested through them. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, 1 Peter 1:17). In His kingdom, no one is recognized by their own identity. The only identity that is recognized in the kingdom of God is that of Jesus Christ. Thus, in God’s kingdom, we know no man according to the flesh. The old identity is gone- “hid with Christ in God”. The new creature reflects the identity of Jesus. Does God see Jesus when He looks at your life?
In Philippians 3:3-11, Paul wrote, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is by the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” This man had spent a lifetime developing his identity as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, a Pharisee, and as one who was blameless according to the law. His salvation came by a revelation of Jesus Christ that compelled him to lose all that he was in order to gain Christ. Where is your identity? Have you had a revelation of Jesus Christ- of God’s love for you? Have you been compelled to forsake your life, to lose your own identity, so that you may win Christ? The most impossible thing to us is that we could be so identified with Jesus’ death that nothing of the old life remains. Faith is not in what Jesus says, but in Jesus Himself. He is Lord of the impossible- “All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).Maybe you’ve spent a lifetime developing your own identity, serving yourself, and seeking honor from men. If so, you are God’s enemy and in the hands of Satan. God loves you! He allowed His Son to be crucified and take your iniquity upon Himself to deliver you from the power of darkness. The question is- will you admit that you are wicked; that you need to be redeemed from your sinful state? Will you allow God’s love to break the shell of your own identity? Will you surrender to God and put your faith in the person of Jesus to do the impossible in your life? Will you make the decision to offer yourself as a living sacrifice and act upon it? God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).