Understanding Our Identity

September 3, 2023
4 min read
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In order for a person to experience the abundant life that Jesus speaks of in John 10:10 it is essential that they find their identity in Christ, which is only possible through first coming to a saving knowledge of Christ. 

Why is it that the Lord is the one who determines our identity? Our modern-day culture would say that each individual gets to determine his or her own identity. This idea is flawed and ultimately hopeless because we are not autonomous beings. We are created in the image of our Creator. God’s role as Creator gives him the exclusive authority to determine the identity of his creation. In addition, Jesus’ role as Redeemer, the one who paid for our sins with his life, thereby granting us salvation and the promise of eternal life, reinforces the truth that God alone determines our identity. And finally, the Holy Spirit’s role as the Great Counselor, guiding our decisions and leading us to a life that honors God, solidifies God’s triune role in being the only one with the right to determine our identity. 

In defining identity, it is helpful to make a distinction between a person’s perceived identity and his or her true identity. A person’s perceived identity is who they believe they are, how they see themselves. A person’s true identity is who Christ says they are and how he sees them. It is important that we do the necessary work to unpack an individual’s perceived identity in order to help us understand the core belief that is the foundation of their misplaced identity. Once we gain this understanding, we can work with those we are counseling and walking alongside to help them gain a biblical understanding of who they are in Christ and learn how to function out of that position. 

Misplaced identity for the Christian is a common problem, if not the core problem, that brings so many into the counseling room. Misplaced identity can play out in many ways. For example, people-pleasing behavior, perfectionism, achievement and success, workaholism, low body-image or self-worth, narcissistic behaviors/beliefs, and the list goes on. 

We find an example of how Jesus dealt with identity issues in Luke chapter 7, verses 36 through 50. Here we read of Jesus attending a dinner party at Simon the Pharisee’s house when a sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, kisses his feet, and pours perfume on them. Simon’s response was disgust for the sinful woman and disbelief in Jesus for allowing such a woman to touch him. Jesus responded by telling a parable that leads him to the conclusion that those who have been forgiven little, love little (like Simon), while those who have been forgiven much, love much (like the sinful woman). Jesus uses this parable to highlight Simon’s misplaced identity and the sinful woman’s properly placed identity. Simon fell into the trap that many Pharisees did — as do many legalistic Christians today — of finding his identity in his education and status rather than in the Incarnate God before him. The sinful woman, most assuredly found her identity in the shifty things of the world at an earlier time, but not here. At this time, she clearly placed her identity squarely in Christ, the only firm foundation. She no longer cared what others thought of her or made her decisions based on that. She only cared what Christ thought about her!

Foundational principles for helping a counselee understand his or her identity:

  • You are created by God and in His image. (Genesis 1:27)
  • He intricately created you in a wonderful way. (Psalm 139:13-14)
  • God created you with intentionality, with a purpose. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Jesus died as a ransom for your sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Jesus’ work provides redemption and forgiveness to you. (Ephesians 1:7)
  • The Holy Spirit is your advocate and teacher. (John 14:26)
  • The Holy Spirit is the evidence of your promised future. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Additional verses for helping Christians understand their identity in Christ:

  • 1 John 3:1 - You are a child of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:8 - As a child of God, you are blessed.
  • Galatians 4:4-7 - You are adopted into the family of God.
  • Ephesians 2:19 - You are no longer a stranger, but a citizen. 
  • Zephaniah 3:17 - The Lord delights in you.
  • Ephesians 2:10 - You are God’s handiwork.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 - In Christ, you are a new creation.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 - You are part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood.

For counselors, caregivers, and parents who find themselves talking with children on the theme of identity, we have adapted this content in the format of a free kid-friendly activity


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