I hate when certain words or concepts become buzzwords because it dulls their true meaning. Identity is such a word. My church (CVVC) has used it as a youth camp title and a youth sermon series title (twice I think) and I hear it all the time in talks, podcasts, sermons and see it in books. There’s a reason, though, why Christians place emphasis on this concept. Its because as believers we are aware of the dichotomy of self-identity versus identity found in Christ. Solutions to life problems are widely divergent at the junction of this choice, so It is absolutely vital to choose the right identity.
Struggles with Self-Confidence
I have pondered to death why God had Shelly & and I wait until our mid 30’s to meet each other. We have both come to the conclusion that, because of our specific personal short-comings, that we both needed a lot of work. If Shelly had met the self-doubting, timid Josh of my teens and 20’s, she would have likely distanced herself from me the way many of my girlfriends in those days did. Why? Because low self-confidence is ironically an over emphasis on self. I was caught in a perpetuating cycle thinking ‘girls don’t like me’ leading to low self-esteem which caused the females to lose interest which caused me to think…well, you get the picture. God did a lot of work on me in that area and though I’m not perfect now, I believe I have been much more prepared in the last few years for marriage which is an ultimate practice in focusing on another person. (Here is a blog I wrote years ago about when it dawned on me that serving others helped eliminate depression: The Inherent Problem with MySpace – its really old, so just replace MySpace with Facebook haha)
That was my struggle with confidence, but I have seen that struggle manifest itself many other behaviors. A good friend of mine this last decade always over compensated trying to loudly assert his manliness wherever possible resulting in an ugly display of arrogance. In other people low self-esteem leads to an ‘I’ll take anything I can get mentality’ with the opposite sex. I see this one a ton when usually good girls end up with bad guys or abusive men.
Identity in Christ
The phrase Identity in Christ has also become so common I know I have become numb to it. Yet, when I stop and really think about what that means, I start to understand how it applies to our outlook on life. There are a multitude of life-things that are fixed by a right understanding of this, but I’m focusing on the confidence issue. Very concisely, if we choose the worldly fix it goes like this ‘OK, I have low self-esteem, so to fix this I need more self-esteem’. Without realizing it we only compound the problem by focusing more on self and repeating some silly mantra like “I am good enough! I am worthy, I am important, I am special’ or whatever. If we choose to place our identity in Christ it goes something like ‘I am a wretched sinner, that’s why everything is coming down all around me. But Christ came to redeem and make me whole and He will be faithful to complete it in me. If I follow His Holy Spirit then I am on a path to restoration’. See? We’re not standing on our own crumbly foundation but upon the immovable rock of Christ. When Satan launches an attack on my self-esteem he’s successful, but he can launch all he wants at Christ and it just bounces off.
The cool thing about placing identity in Christ and thus taking our eyes off ourselves and all of our own short-comings, is that it takes off a ton of performance pressure! As long as we’re being real, we don’t care anymore if we’re nerdy or wimpy or stupid. We start to not take ourselves so seriously and we lighten up which makes us more fun to be around. Its easier to admit when I don’t know something or to laugh with everyone when you walk into a group with your zipper down (literally or figuratively) instead of shutting down in embarrassment.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about God knitting my soul together, then Christ loving me so much He was nailed to the cross and now that He patiently bears with me in my redemption- it make me want to hold my self to a higher standard. I don’t want to refrain from smoking simply ‘cuz its bad’ but because I am this lump of clay that God’s moulding for His uses. I know most of us have heard that ‘we’re a temple of the Holy Ghost’, but when I start to really see that, man, I don’t want any filth near me! I respect myself because I’m God’s child and I don’t want to fill this body with junk food, porn, drugs, unequally yoke myself to someone or really defile this temple in anyway.
(Here is a blog I wrote years ago about our dirtiness next to a Holy God: Fear in His Presence)