by J.A. Medders
Bourne Again, Our Relentless Search for Identity
What comes to mind when you think about yourself is one of the most important things about you. In particular, what comes to your mind when you think about who you are in Christ is of greater importance.
As a pastor, I’ve found that most problems are traceable to uncertainty about our identity. We have forgotten who we are in Christ (2 Peter 1:9). When we forget our identity, like Jason Bourne, we should be relentless until we know it again.
Bourne, one of the great action heroes of our day, is a highly trained agent — to understate it — capable of winning a fight with nothing more than a rolled up magazine or a ballpoint pen. He is armed with unrivaled skill and know-how for every situation he faces.
In the first Bourne film, he wakes up from a failed mission, not remembering who he is, but quickly realizing all he is capable of doing. Bourne is determined to find out who he is. He doesn’t seem to care that he can do things James Bond only dreams of doing; he wants to know who he is.
Identity Comes Before Activity
One reason we get so discouraged and frustrated in the Christian life is that we forget who we are. We forget that we are new creatures in Christ. We misplace the reality that by his blood, by his cross, and by his resurrection, we are new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We need to know that we are not our former selves. We are not defined by our former sins — or our present ones. No, we are defined by being in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). We are not ultimately defined by our ethnicity, we don’t find long-lasting and enduring significance in our accomplishments, intelligence, or appearance (Galatians 3:27–28). We find eternal value, meaning, worth, and hope in who Jesus says we are in him.
Who We Are in Jesus
Here are six identities that are now ours through faith — six things God says about us. Like a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path, these truths from God’s word can lead us back to reality, to comfort, to hope, and to joy.
1. We are servants of Christ.
When we evangelize, we are serving Christ. We pray for a sick Christian, we are serving Christ. When we go to the homeless shelter, we are serving Christ. We go to the pregnancy center and care for mothers, we are serving Christ.
Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35–36). And the people say, “When did we do those things?” Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
2. We are crucified with Christ.
We have been crucified with Christ, by faith. We live with him, and he lives in us. No matter where we go, Christ is with us, alive in us, at work in us. We are never alone anymore.
And we are crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). The world has nothing better to offer us than Jesus. We’ve died to the ways of the world, how the world runs. We follow Christ now. We operate from his example, his priorities, and his words.
3. We are children of God.
God doesn’t save us and then kick us out. He saves us and then adopts us (Galatians 4:4–7). In the gospel, the Father-Judge declares us not guilty, and then he turns to us and says, “I want you to come and live with me. Welcome home.”
We are at home with God. In the triune God, we have a Father, a Brother, and Helper.
4. We are heirs with Christ of everything.
So, it’s okay if you don’t have the best house in this world. Jesus has something better for you, in the city whose architect, community developer, and real estate mogul is God himself (Hebrews 11:10).
5. We are free.
Legalism is slavery. Trying to be saved by works and do-goodery is nothing but rusty chains. Jesus shattered those shackles, and now we can follow him and walk with him. We live freely under the reign of grace, the rule of Christ.
Pornography, wheat beer, dark chocolate, clearance sales, and social media followers no longer control us. Jesus set us free from living for and finding fulfillment in things that moth, rust, trends, and death will destroy.
6. We are led by the Spirit.
The Spirit brings about fruit in our lives as we abide in the vine of Christ, tended by the local church, and watered by the living and abiding word. The Spirit weans us off the works of the flesh, and makes us more like Christ (Galatians 5:18–24).
Because what comes to mind when you think about yourself is one of the most important things about you.