I’ve heard it in plenty of sermons. I’ve casually thrown it around in church many times. I’ve used it to comfort a close friend struggling with feeling insecure. “Find your identity in Christ.” But what does that actually mean; to be ‘in Christ’? That is exactly what we dove into at the recent Young Adult Retreat up in Arrow Bear.
If you were to honestly list and then rank the things that most shape your self-identity, I think you might be surprised by the results. I was. Take a moment to think about what defines you as a person. What aspect of your life would cause an identity crisis if it were taken away? Maybe it’s your career, your culture, your physical appearance, your unique gifts and talents, or even a relationship. The moment you lose it you feel like you’ve lost sight of who you are. For those who find their identity in their position at work, the moment they lose their job they’ve lost more than a paycheck and a time-filler; they’ve lost a part of who they are. Or the athlete who can no longer play at a high level. Who are they?
So what is it to find our identity “in Christ”? The word “Christ” literally means “anointed one.” It is used in the Old Testament most often in reference to God’s anointed vessel or king, and is used in reference to Saul, David, Solomon, Jehu, and Cyrus. In the New Testament, the term is used almost exclusively to speak of Jesus of Nazareth. But as we know, Jesus is far more than just one of the anointed ones. When Jesus is said to be the Christ the Bible is speaking of THE Anointed one, THE Messiah, THE Christ and refers to the individual in whom the full summation of God’s plan comes to fulfillment (Ephesians 1:10). The term “Christ” does not just express Jesus’ last name or title, but rather the significant role that Jesus fulfills in God’s plan.
In Ephesians, Paul says that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3,7-10)
If we are truly ‘in Christ’ it means that we get to take part in this incredible plan that God has been working out since the beginning of time. The amazing history found in Scripture that tells us of what God has done through broken people now becomes our heritage and our future. It becomes our identity. We get to take part in that now! God is constantly using us, a broken people, in astonishing ways in order to fulfill his Kingdom purposes. His Spirit enables us to do so. Not only that, but all of the experiences of this life: the excitement, the pain, the trial, the joy — all of it is making us more like Christ, and preparing us for our place in eternity with Him. And this last part is the greatest of all. If we are in Christ, we are guaranteed to share in his inheritance, having been made joint heirs with him. What is this inheritance? Perfect humanity, in a perfect world, with a wonderful, loving God…forever!
If we actually believe this and find our identity in this truth, we can weather the trial of waking up tomorrow without the gifts and talents we have today. Who we are won’t depend on what career we hold, what opinions people have of us, how much money we have, or other things that can be lost or taken away. Who we are depends only upon what can never be taken away: the merciful love and gracious promises of God. When we find our identity in Christ alone we can find peace, rest, and hope for “when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4) The fact that we, today, can somehow look forward (and this is beyond my comprehension) to appearing with Christ in glory is truly amazing. That little phrase, “in Christ” is loaded with rich meaning. So let’s not say the phrase or hear the phrase lightly. Let’s allow its full meaning to saturate our every use of those words, and may they be said often.
"Take a moment to think about what defines you as a person. What aspect of your life would cause an identity crisis if it were taken away?"
"If we are truly ‘in Christ’ it means that we get to take part in this incredible plan that God has been working out since the beginning of time."
"Who we are won’t depend on what career we hold, what opinions people have of us, how much money we have, or other things that can be lost or taken away. Who we are depends only upon what can never be taken away: the merciful love and gracious promises of God."