Identity sorting is critical for ministry. In ministry we are constantly tempted by identity distortion. We are not fundamentally what we do, what roles or titles we carry, or even how people receive us in those roles.
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ wilderness temptation the first two of three attacks begin with Jesus’ identity, “If you are the Son of God…” (Mt. 4:1-13). The tempter is not random. Identity distortion is a prime objective. Imagine the consequences of Jesus wavering on, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17).
What we functionally believe about our identity will determine in large measure what we do, what we attempt, and what we fail to try. It will affect our stability and our joy. So, again, who am I? How we answer this is critical. The two messages of the cross speak to the two sides of the coin of our identity. Or, to use Martin Luther’s words we are, “Simul Justus et Peccator”, that is simultaneously righteous and sinful.
On the one hand the cross says we are hopeless sinners unable to contribute anything to redemption save our sin. The other message of the cross is that we are of such value to the Father that the Son poured out his very life to make us Sons of God. This why the Christian life embraces both ongoing repentance to address the former and ongoing belief to address the latter. For healthy identity we have to battle to embrace both messages. For now I want to speak to only one side of this coin, but remember you have to hold on to both. I want to speak to the side Satan assaulted with Jesus, the, “If you are the son of God” side.
Rarely will we feel like our true identity in Christ. Our feelings are always real but often not a true index to reality. Several years back in a time of great financial challenge my thirteen-year-old truck died. Gas was around $4 a gallon and it was a gas hog, but at least it was paid for. We didn’t have the money to replace it, and I felt alone and abandoned in the struggle. Unknown to me, a friend had decided to replace a great four-year-old sedan with an SUV because he had to have more room. Also unknown to me, God was doing a work of generosity in his heart. When he heard of our need his first thought was, God want’s me to give them this car. I stewed for several days feeling like an orphan. In reality we were both blessed and blessing sons of a good Father.
A great brother and ministry colleague keeps the following Gospel identity list on his desk to remind him to embrace by faith who he really is. I share it with you,
- In Christ I am dead to sin (Romans 6:11)
- In Christ I am spiritually alive (Romans 6:11; I Corinthians 15:22)
- In Christ I am forgiven (Colossians 2:13; 1 john 2:12)
- In Christ I am declared righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
- In Christ I am a child of God (Romans 8:16; Philippians 2:15)
- In Christ I am God’s possession (Titus 2:14)
- In Christ I am an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
- In Christ I am blessed with all spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
- In Christ I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
- In Christ I am free from the Law (Romans 8:2)
- In Christ I am crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20)
- In Christ I am free from the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:24)
- In Christ I am declared blameless and innocent (Philippians 2:15)
- In Christ I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14-15; Philippians 2:15)
- In Christ I am victorious over Satan (Luke 10:19)
- In Christ I am cleansed from sin (I John 1:7)
- In Christ I am set free from the power of sin (Colossians 2:11-15)
- In Christ I am secure in Him (1 Peter 1:3-5)
- In Christ I am at peace with God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:6-9)
- In Christ I am loved by God (I John 4:10)