What makes a Christian different from every other religious, church-going individual in America? Is there really something set apart about them besides the fact that they tend to be a little later to the football game on Sunday? Augustine in his Confessions once asked, “Is it then the walls of a church that make a Christian?” As Christians plunge further into the future of the American society that is all about individualism and self-significance, it is especially important that they are fully confident and aware of who they are in Jesus Christ, and that they have His word as a foundation over the shaky standards of this world.
The first side that should be tackled on this identity topic is the assurance of one’s identity. A Christian already has an identity in Christ – emphasis being mainly on the word in. If one is not aware of just who God has made them to be, or denies the gifts and abilities God the Father has bestowed upon them, a depression and feeling of insignificance sneaks in on the soul. Neil T. Anderson writes about this particular issue in his work Victory Over the Darkness. On page 19 of his text, Dr. Anderson writes “External appearance, accomplishment and recognition do not necessarily reflect – or produce – internal peace and maturity." He goes on to talk about the character of oneself outside of Christ and outside of God’s will, and brings in King Solomon’s take on the same subject from the book of Ecclesiastes – “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless…everything is meaningless!” So that is a lot of meaningless-ness in the life of a human without that link to Christ who makes man whole and complete. Dr. Anderson declares “The only identity equation that works in God’s kingdom is you plus Christ equals wholeness and meaning." No case or justification can be made for one who denies the labor that God put into making His children. He has carefully crafted each of our identities. The Star-Breather God; the Creator of the heavens and the earth created man fearfully and wonderfully. He, who spoke the waves to spring out from deep chasms of nothingness in just a single day, spent the entirety of one day making man. After making man, his most favored work of art, He saw that it was good. Therefore our identity in Him is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, mankind is heir to His Kingdom, and he is His child. As Dr. Anderson puts it, “You are already a whole person and possess a life of infinite meaning and purpose because of who you are – a child of God."
There is no better way for the enemy of the Christian faith to combat his foes than to warp their identity in Christ in their own minds. If a young man of God has the full, biblical understanding of whom God has made him to be; he is a danger to Satan. Because of this fact, fellow Christian soldiers should realize that while they are living in the shoes God has entrusted them to wear – traps will be set, laces will be tied and holes will be dug to stall them and watch them fall. Let this clear; this understanding of Christian identity does not enhance the view of man, but rather enhances the view of God through man, that men who are lost shall see him.
The ministry of a Christian is ineffective if he looks and acts just like everyone else in his society. What has he to offer everyone else that could possibly complete their life? What evidence is there that this Christian has hope that his friends do not have? Who a man or woman is in Christ could not be more important in this day and era. Discovering one’s identity is extremely contingent upon the nature of his Bible study, and how often his studying takes place. For the Bible is the Word of God, and it is the good news that commissions us to represent Christ, God’s son, to a world lost without Him. To represent Christ for this world is the sole purpose of the Christian. Beyond that, life is fluff. Without that, life is meaningless and plain vanity. Without that, life is an argument essay without valid sources.
The culture of America tends to poison a healthy relationship with God and with other brothers and sisters in Christ, mainly from its fast-food lifestyle. We want everything and we want it now – our way. Needless to say, that lifestyle is ungodly and therefore hinders relationships with Christ. The Christian’s role and identity in Christ can be misguided or undefined when the church lives in a culture that makes so much of what it believes to be wrong okay.
As Romans 12:2 states, the Christian is “not to be conformed to this world, but transformed” by the renewing of his mind. God is holy, and by definition, holy is “set-apart.” Just as Christianity is Christ-like and man is made in the image of God, he should strive to be set apart. Now obviously, and quite needless to say; no one is or can be perfect, but even Jesus desires us to pursue perfection. To pursue perfection is to pursue Christ. However, the goal is to not cause some kind of uprising against the culture or the church as it is today, but rather to make an inward change in the heart, and to help further that process with others. This process is called discipleship. Since Christians are spiritual siblings, it is their responsibility to hold one another accountable. This is also the mission of Jesus. In his book Joyful Exiles, James M. Houston reminds us of Jesus’ mission on earth; that “Jesus did not send out His disciples to change governments or even to build churches, but to change hearts." Houston stresses that “Christian discipleship is personal, not professional," and the Christ-like should therefore not seek to condemn the world, but as Jesus did, save that which was lost through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Joyful Exiles and in careful study of Scripture, we see that this mission starts and ends in the heart.
It is evident that there are two sides to this topic of identity in Christ. Firstly, that the Christian recognizes that his life should be smothered with Jesus and coated with more of Jesus; that he should not try to fit Jesus into his future goals and dream careers but fit his future goals and dream careers around Jesus, his everything. Secondly, that he understands the heart that goes behind the Great Commission that Jesus assigned unto him. The mission is a personal one, not a shaking of fists or a raising of voices. Houston also says that Jesus’ revolution was “not about social and political structures, but about changes of the mind and of the will and, indeed, of the heart." What great things the Christian can do if Jesus becomes his identity and that this identity is understood and practiced in his everyday life.
So if Christian life is so richly based off of the importance of who one is and what one does for Christ, is not the issue of identity in Him now at a critical stage? Should the Christian not be seeking resolve for this issue with desperation and a heart readied for conviction? There is a severe identity-in-Christ crisis within the church body; especially in the youth of America. With so many things rising to fame and normality that contradict the Bible, the Christian is tempted to mold to the pressure. Perhaps it is due to the problem stated above, but apathy and complacency has settled over the young American-Christian culture. The Proverbs warn that the “complacency of fools destroys them."
Let the words of Paul to both Timothy and Titus be an encouragement, as he models the Christian identity for all who are Christ-like; saying “no” to ungodliness, “yes” to Jesus, and going against the tide.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and have eternal life.” (I Timothy 1:15b-16)
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us all from wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)