“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “Above all else, guard your heart [your affections], for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
By John David Hicks
A rocket built to reach the moon may have a guidance system and all that is needed to fulfill its mission, but unless it is launched it is useless. Like that rocket, you too have a purpose and a destiny that must be launched.
You were created in God’s image for fellowship with Him. Built into every man and woman is a longing and a desire for God (Revelation 4:11; Acts 17:27). Eternity is written in your heart, with the conviction that you have a destiny and with the awareness that there is something beyond this life that no human being, no object or gadget can satisfy. Without God you will feel empty and incomplete. If you look to somebody other than God for your provisions, or look at possessions to fulfill you, you remove God as your source. This is called idol worship. To have a relationship with God demands that you “know who you are,” be dependent on Him (Hebrews 11:6), and experience His genuine love (Romans 5:5). From God’s viewpoint, success is fulfilling your God-given purpose to “be in Christ.”
In my last article I wrote that surrender and obedience is the foundation of the Christian life. God will not reveal Himself to a person who will not obey. “For rebellion [or disobedience] is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he also has rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23 NKJV). Leadership and rulership in the kingdom of God is founded on your surrender and obedience. From there you will launch your identity, direction, and destiny.
You are made a child of God when you receive Christ Jesus as your Savior (John 1:12). That is your right. God bestows on you the privileges of the tree of life, hidden manna, power from on high, a new name, white garments, and a throne of glory. Yet they are not given unconditionally. They are conferred on those who overcome. They are earned, even though you are a son of God.
Because of Christ’s obedience, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). Jesus enjoys earned glory and the throne. That is why some will rule over much and others over little. “He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done” (Matthew 16:27 Amplified). What you do reveals your faith. You are saved by grace, but rewarded by your works. James says your deeds reflect your faith; you can tell a man’s faith by his works.
The launching of your destiny hangs in the balance between what you say and what you do. Your word means nothing if it is not backed up by your deeds. Integrity means no lip service to God or His kingdom. You are genuine and transparent. You are what you do. It is true that God calls us to “be ourselves” and to “do what we are,” but God has gifted you, not for your pleasure but to serve others. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). To be “who you are” is not the same as controlling your own destiny. Being “who you are” is not “doing your own thing.” Your calling is not to self-indulgence but to service. Faith hears the Word of God and does it. Your gifts and talents are useless, unless they are used for others. What you do reveals to God and others what you believe in.
In reality who you are (or in faith believe yourself to be) defines what you do. Being (the be-attitudes) precedes doing. For years Jesus did carpentry, but He was more than the things He did. Scripturally, “who you are” is defined by who you are in relationship with. When you are born again, your spirit is changed. God then daily perfects your spirit in sanctification. Faith, vision, purpose, character, and who you are—your identity—comes out of your relationship with God. If Satan can get others to help him label, brand, or reject you, he can steal your identity. Consequently, when you question your
uniqueness, Satan is able to steal your identity.
Adam and Eve lost their identity when they sinned in the Garden. Why did they try to hide from God’s presence? Because in His presence their identity, character, and sin were exposed. Consequently we could say that your “prayerlessness” is a form of hiding from God. When you are not comfortable in His presence, you may have a problem with integrity or sin.
“Jesus Christ restores the three aspects of a man’s personal life to God’s original purpose,” wrote Oswald Chambers. “We come to a real, definite communion with God through Jesus Christ; we come to right relationship with our fellow-men and with the world outside; and we come to a right relationship with ourselves, we become God-centered instead of self-centered.”
Thus, Satan’ main temptation is to get you to question your relationship with God: who you are “in Christ.” Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The devil tempted Him, “If you are the Son of God?” Satan will also tempt you to doubt that you are a child of God, commissioned by God to do His will. The Bible assures us, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:3-6).
The New Testament declares that we love God because He first loved us and gave Himself for us. Because we are loved, we can love back. This confidence comes from His presence. Paul declares it was the love of God that compelled and motivated him. It was not his love but God’s love that brought the intimacy and companionship.
Who you are is who you are in relationship to—God. All identity apart from relationship with your Creator is false and incomplete. Identity is the condition of being yourself and not another. It is the heart of the character or personality of an individual. If you don’t know who you are, you will have a teeny-weeny character, no direction, and lack of purpose. Loss of identity will cause you to vacillate, have no vision, and try to be something you are not.
Moses’ true identity was made real at the burning bush with an encounter with God. God spoke to him and called him to deliver His people from bondage. “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). His education included leadership. But he had tried to help and lead his people and failed. That’s how he ended up on the backside of the desert, watching sheep. His distorted identity robbed him of the confidence and assurance to lead men. His disillusionment also took his sense of direction, vision, and purpose (Exodus 3:13-15).
When God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am,” He clearly shows Moses His identity and His sufficiency. Then God commissions Moses: “I Am has sent…you!” With these words Moses finds himself, his identity, direction, and purpose. This new sense of his individuality instituted a personal relationship and revelation from God. This call to relationship, and subsequent identity and direction, gave birth to Moses’ destiny.
Who you are will determine your accomplishments. Who you are gives you your character and a clear sense of identity, direction, and purpose. An encounter with the “I Am Who I Am” God will impart to you relationship and revelation. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Notice the impartation of relationship, revelation, and direction that God has given to you.
Your relationship with God is dynamic—personal and interactive. Your identity also is dynamic—not just static. Certainly our identity as children of God and joint heirs with Christ is fixed and unchanging, but our more specific calling or vocation—who we are individually in Christ—is dynamic, changing from glory to glory. It has not yet appeared what we shall be.
Your encounter with Christ becomes a journey into your true identity—the fisherman becomes a fisher of men. Luke the doctor becomes a healer of souls as well as bodies. Jacob becomes Israel, a prince with God. Only God can say “I Am.” We must say “I am becoming”; we are being transformed.
In some ways your identity is much like the kingdom of God—the kingdom has come, is now coming, and will someday come. Your identity has been established by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and in the resurrection. Your identity is now being established by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and Word of God. Your identity will be fully revealed when Christ comes in glory and you are changed in the twinkling of an eye.
I say all this because too often we are caught telling God who we are—or in many cases who we aren’t. A danger of “discovering your gifts” seminars is the suggestion that our identity is static and exists in a vacuum. Too often Christians resist simple servanthood because the task at hand doesn’t fit our definition of ourselves or our gifting. But our identity must flow out of our relationships, first with God and then with others. You will not be a youth worker until God says work with these youth. You will not be an evangelist until God gives you His aching heart for the lost. You will not be a pastor until you have God’s heart for His sheep.
Faith working through love allows you to discover your calling and gifting. The gift of healing may never surface until love for the afflicted and faith in God’s power come together and move you to obey God’s command to heal the sick. When you really care enough for a friend, you will love enough to pray persistently.
Another way in which your identity is dynamic rather than static is that the discovery and use of your gifts is meant to happen in the context of a loving communion of believers who see you no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Brothers and sisters in Christ who see you spiritually can confirm in us the identity God is calling us into. The church in Antioch did this when in the midst of worship and fasting God spoke to them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for the ministry. We need pastors, prophets, and encouragers who will see us spiritually and then with spiritual words affirm who God is calling us to be.
The call to discipleship is to be “who you are” in Christ. Whether or not a Christian is in ministry, he is a witness of who he is in Christ. When the Sanhedrin orders Peter not to talk about Jesus, he replies: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29). He has an identity and direction. “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Peter’s calling has become his identity and he has direction.
I am retirement age. But for the Christian there is no such thing as retirement. Do you know what gets me up in the morning? The thought of telling someone about Jesus! Those who are in bondage to sin, sickness, or the devil, I get to set them free! Jesus has commissioned me to disciple, encourage, and bless others. “You are to open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God, so that through their faith in me they will have their sins forgiven and receive their place among God’s chosen people” (Acts 26:18 GNT). No, I’m not going to retire. My identity and direction comes out of my relationship with Christ. My mission is to be Christ’s ambassador to this world (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The starting place for your identity is the answers to life’s basic questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
Jesus models this for His disciples at the Last Supper: “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:2-5).
Imagine! Jesus knew He was going to die for these same men…for their sin, yet served them to the very end with love. Incredible! Talk about being secure in who you are.
First, “Who am I?” Jesus understood His purpose. He knew “that the Father had put all things under his power.” He was called and given the power for His task—everything He needed. Jesus was a steward of what He was given. The same is true for you; you are “in Christ” like the vine and branch (John 15; Philippians 4:13, 19).
Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). In John 17 Jesus describes His purpose. “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do…. I have given them the glory that you gave me…. I in them and you in me…. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Jesus understood “who He was” and what His task was.
God judges a man not on what he says, but on what he does. That is why an unselfish act will lift you above your self and the truth will set you free. “Let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Second, “Where did I come from?” Jesus understood His identity and His roots. Jesus knew “he had come from God.” His identity was rooted in God Himself. He was His source of supply (Philippians 4:13). He was sent from God as His ambassador. He had come from God. Paul affirms this: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). John 1:6-7 says, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” God has also called and commissioned you. You have a purpose and you have roots! You are a child of God sent from God just like John.
Third, “Where am I going?” Jesus understood where He was going. He knew He was “returning to God”—one day He would go home. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). “We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:4 NLT).
Jesus did not wash His disciples’ feet only because no one else would do it. It did not embarrass Him to do the job of a slave. Nor did the criticism of Peter defeat Him. He had a purpose in mind. He recognized where He was coming from and where He was going. Jesus told Peter, If you don’t let Me wash your feet, you are not identified with Me. Out of this fellowship with Me, you will identify with Me and your identity will come.
Jesus’ understanding of Himself and His clear direction came out of His relationship with God. A biblical vision is a revelation or insight from God as to direction. It is bigger than you and engages people, cultivates relationships, and is a giver not a taker. It gives purpose, responsibility, and accountability. Proverbs 29:18 declares: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” A better translation is: “Without a revelation from God, the people wander aimlessly.” Out of an encounter with God, you are transformed and you see what needs to be done. This biblical vision helps motivate you with enthusiasm toward your goal.
Paul prayed for a biblical vision for the Ephesians: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (1:18 NASB). He is asking God to give you a vision that will be flooded with light to see God’s purposes. That is why Paul says, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17 NASB). Nurture a time of listening to the Lord. Isaiah 64:4 says that God “acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Out of His presence come your values, beliefs, choices, and relationships.
When the prodigal son remembered “who he was,” he left the pigpen and went home. His identity was linked to his father, and so is yours. When we have the foundation of love, acceptance, and forgiveness from God, we will have identity and direction. But the older brother stayed home and did not see himself as a son but as a hireling. So he could not relate to the Father’s vision or celebrate with Him.
Out of your surrender and obedience God wants you to hear, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NASB). Jesus needed it and so do you. If you did not hear this from your earthly father, God says He will be a “father to the fatherless.” “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). God has chosen, called, and anointed you to be His child, a member of His royal family (John 1:12). “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Your true identity as a child of God gives you special rights and privileges. As His child you can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
God knows that you have the need for security and significance. As His child, the Lord gives this. “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Galatians 4:6). In Jeremiah 31:3 God reminds us: “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” The NRSV adds, “Therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
Because your identity is “in Christ,” it doesn’t matter what others think, nor does it change what you see in the mirror—your family relationship to God is far deeper and more secure. Therefore, the way you think of yourself must change to the way that God sees you.
You’re His child, with all the rights and privileges. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19 NKJV). “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). Since the life of Christ dwells within you by the Holy Spirit, it is foolish not to depend upon Him. Even though all Christians are children of God, not all walk in intimacy. Even with the 12 disciples only three, Peter, James, and John, were in the inner circle and intimate with Jesus. You have been called and chosen for this inner circle of intimacy and leadership. The Lord has anointed and gifted you as His child.
Satan seeks to define you by your past—shame, guilt, even curses that people in authority have spoken over your life. Christ defines you by His past: His sacrificial death in our place, His powerful resurrection, and your resurrected life in Him. Jesus also defines you according to your future in Him. Your inheritance is coming—you are betrothed to a bridegroom. You are joint heirs with Christ and will rule the world with Him (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7). This blessed hope helps you stay pure from sin just as a bride on her wedding day avoids every puddle that would stain her dress.
The condemnation from the accuser of the brethren tries to define you by your failures, but God defines you by who you are in Christ, your true identity. The world defines you by appearance or the things you possess, but in Christ you are defined as God’s holy possession, beloved. Thus, you must fight the fight of faith to enter into and hold onto your true identity in Christ.
Then you can go “in the name of Jesus,” with His authority, power, and blessing (John 14:12). “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven” (Matthew 16:19 The Message). God has anointed you to minister to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, set the captives free, and liberate those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18). “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).
Therefore, as His child, God wants you to take the authority He has given you. Your former identity that came from your family, position in society, education, and denomination and from your struggles, heartache, failures, and successes—God wants you to lay them aside and “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Your identity is now in Christ and His Word. You are “accepted in the beloved” just as you are. He is your “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11 NRSV). The Lord has given you His Word: “I will never leave you nor will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
Your identity, “who you are,” is “in Christ.” This determines your success and destiny! “Above all else, guard your heart [your affections], for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Prayer: Lord, Your Word declares that I did not choose You, but You chose me and appointed me to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Lord, release Your spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You. May the eyes of my understanding be enlightened, that I may know the hope of Your calling, and the riches of glory of Your inheritance in the saints, and the exceeding greatness of Your power toward me who believes. Give to me a fresh revelation from Your Word as to my true identity. Amen.