June 12, 2022

Introduction to Christian Identity

Passage: Exodus 6:1-8

“Who am I?” is one of the most significant questions in life. The answer to this question will determine nearly everything about you for your entire life. We must know who we are before we are ready to decide what we must do. Identity determines purpose.

People identify themselves with all sorts of things—families, careers, nations, regions, sports teams, schools, likes and dislikes, etc. Their personal identity—what they think of themselves—is directly related to these factors. Many things make up our identity.

Our society is bombarded with messages attempting to tell people who they are, what they should look like, how they should spend their money, and what success is.[1] Because of these competing messages, people often are confused about who they are or what they are supposed to be doing. With the culture’s emphasis on human individualism and autonomy (i.e., self-rule), people feel free to define and re-define themselves according to their latest whim, feeling, or fashion.

People today identify themselves in all sorts of odd and ridiculous ways. Fifty years ago, no one would have guessed that reasonable people would ever identify themselves in these ways. Men identify as women, and women as men. Adults identify as children. People identify as animals. Whites identify as blacks. What’s really amazing is that a large part of our culture thinks that it’s just fine to identify any way you desire. I’ve even heard of people identifying themselves in terms of a cake—fluffy, sweet, light, warm, layered, flavored. We live in a crazy, mixed up, confused culture today.

The Gospel of Christ conveys a message about identity. How should Christians identify themselves? That is, what are the ways that Scripture refers to Christians and how should those identifiers impact the Christian life? Who am I from God’s point of view? What does God expect of me now that I’m identified with Christ? That’s what this series of messages is all about.

Unlike other people, Christians must not be confused about their identity. Once we adopt and embrace what God has said regarding identity, we will have a clear sense of who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. We should have no confusion regarding our identity, because God gives it to us and we accept it.

Although the Bible does not use the word “identity,”[2] it is full of statements telling us who we are and what we are supposed to do. The Bible gives us an identity, tells us who we are and how we fit into God’s story and how that identity is to be lived out. The great challenge of biblical Christianity is allowing the Spirit, through the Word, to shape us into the people that God wants us to be, i.e., to accept and apply our biblical identity.

Quote:  Who are you? What has happened to you and through you? Where are you? Where are you going? Who is going with you? What do you do because of who you are? Answers to these questions reveal your identity. To the degree that Christ is involved in the answers is the degree to which you are a follower of Christ.[3]

Christians must insist that God, through His Word, has the right to give us our identity. Other factors may affect what we think of ourselves, but our identity must come primarily from what God tells us about ourselves in His Word. God is the potter; we are the clay. The Creator has the right to identify his creation. And we are obligated to identify ourselves by what is true and real, not by our imaginations, our wishes, or our feelings.

Christianity seeks to construct a new identity for its converts. It does not leave them where they were; Christianity remakes our identity. Old things pass away; all things become new (2 Cor 5:17). That’s especially important when one’s chosen identity contradicts God’s pattern for human life. Contradictory identities must submit to divine authority for setting one’s identity.

Identity is far more important than we might think. Because identity is almost second nature, we might not think much about it. But much of life flows from identity. Nearly everything we think and do is rooted in our identity and/or affects our identity.

This summer, we’ll be taking some time to explore the issue of Christian identity. It’s very important that Christians know and adopt the identity God gives us. Knowing and accepting that identity gives us stability and purpose in life. Failing to adopt the identity God gives us sets us off on a sea of uncertainty and instability.

[1] Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Introduction to a Hermeneutics of Identity,” Bibliotheca Sacra 168 (2011): 5. Much of the introductory lesson is based on his work.

[2] The word “identity” appears first toward the end of the sixteenth century. Some argue that the ancients of the Middle East had little concept of the individual self. People identified themselves mostly in association with a group.

[3] Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Introduction to a Hermeneutics of Identity,” Bibliotheca Sacra 168 (2011): 19.

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