A New Identity

By: Jenni Walker

“Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name.  You are Mine.”  Isaiah 43:1b

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.”  Psalm 107:2-3

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A New Identity 2

I worked for a number of years part time at a tutoring center where we provide after-school math instruction and homework assistance.  As kids of all ages came through our doors on a daily basis, occasionally a water bottle, a mechanical pencil, or a homework folder got left behind when they left at the end of their session.  Normally when an item was forgotten, we easily tracked down the student who left it behind.  One day, someone forgot a black, zip-up hoodie.  On this particular day, none of the instructors knew to whom it belonged.  Not only that, but no one would claim it.  It was displayed for all to see in the lobby in hopes that someone would recognize it.  Yet throughout the entire week, every person that we asked about it gave the same answer, “No, it’s not mine.”

Finally, we hung the lonely hoodie on a hook in a corner at the back of the room.  It hung there for months.  Person after person walked by it without a glance until one day I pointed out to my center director that no one had claimed it yet.  Since she always gets cold no matter how hot it is outside, she jokingly pulled it on and zipped it up.  It fit.  She felt warm and cozy.  And with that, she declared that the search was over, and the unclaimed hoodie now belonged to her.

This is a slightly humorous illustration of the way many of us feel at times.  Am I noticed?  Do I fit in?  Am I wanted?   All of these are echoes of a much deeper question inside of us: Do I belong?  As a Christian redeemed by the work of Christ, there are three truths that God wants you to be deeply assured of in response to this question:

  • You belong to God.
  • You belong to the family of God.
  • You can help others to belong!

This week, let’s begin by exploring this first profound truth: that we literally belong to God!  But it has not always been this way.  When Adam and Even first sinned by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they could no longer remain in the Garden of Eden in communion with the Lord.  Genesis 3:23 explains that “the Lord God sent him [and his wife] out of the Garden of Eden.”  The result of this was a separation from the Lord not only for Adam and Eve but for all mankind.  Every person born after that was born into sin, creating a separation between us and our Creator that could not be reconciled by man alone.  Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Sin separates, it divides, it produces pain, and it brings sorrow.  It grieves the heart of God.  Romans 6:6 says that we were “slaves of sin,” separated from a holy God.  Another way to say this is that we belonged to our sin nature; we were literally “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

But the good news is that is not the end of the story!  God had a master plan of reconciliation.  He chose Abraham to be “the father of many nations,” and throughout the Old Testament the Jews were His chosen people.  But He did not stop there.  Through the work of Christ, we can all be reconciled to God as “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). John Piper points out how so many modern people today “would simply shrug their shoulders at this announcement” because “they have no sense of the stupendous value of the blessing promised to Abraham’s children.” (Check out his in-depth study on the matter here.) God’s plan was not just to have a covenant with Abraham’s biological descendants but to extend it to all who would receive salvation through His Son.  When the Bible describes Christians as “Abraham’s children,” it is describing a familial position, an inheritance, a belonging.  Galatians 3:29 explains, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Through this truth of Galatians 3:7 and 29, Paul shows that we as Christian believers are not only sons of Abraham but part of a new covenant in which we belong to Christ.  Romans 5:19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience [Adam] many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”  It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that He made a way for us to be bought back from the slavery of sin and death (Ephesians 2:1-5).  Ephesians 1:7 tells us, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”  The grace and redemption of God and being part of His family are freely available to all who will receive it!

But what does it look like for us to live our lives here on this earth as “the redeemed of the Lord” (Psalm 107:2)?  This is something that should affect how we see ourselves.  We have a new identity that is literally in Christ.  We do not deserve to belong, but we were chosen to belong!  As such, how we see ourselves and the way we speak should align with the truth of God’s Word about who we are as His sons and daughters in Christ.  While we may not forget our old identity as slaves to sin, we must walk in our new identity through the work of Christ alone.

There are many passages that emphasize this truth throughout God’s Word.  Zechariah 3:4 says, “He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’  Again, He said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.’”  This beautiful imagery demonstrates how we receive our identity, belonging, and worth from the Lord. 

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells a parable demonstrating how the church is to prepare for the return of Christ.  It is about a king whose invited guests do not make themselves ready for his son’s wedding.  His response is to command his servants to “go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite them to the wedding” (verse 9).  Verse 10 describes that the result was a wedding hall “filled with guests.”  In a similar parable, Luke 14:21 describes the people brought in to the wedding feast as “the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”  The last time I read this parable, I was struck by something – even though these guests were just found out in the streets and highways and compelled to come to the wedding, the guests did just not lay in nakedness and desperation on the floor of the wedding hall; they had been invited, were clothed for the wedding, and they belonged as such.

Likewise, we are to clothe ourselves in our identity in Christ.  There is nothing any of us could ever do on our own to be worthy of the grace of God.  We must remember that.  But if you have confessed Jesus as Lord and repented of your sin, that means you have been saved by grace through faith, and you have been made alive together with Christ. Ephesians 2:9 proclaims, “It is the gift of God, not by works so that no man can boast.” Scripture is filled with descriptions of this gift that is in Christ alone.  2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone; the new has come.”  When our Heavenly Father looks at us, He sees us in Christ!

Does how we act and how we believe demonstrate that it is to Him that we belong?  Does what we say line up with the truth of God’s Word?  Like my employer’s response to the hoodie where she claimed it as her own, there is a truth that God wants to help each one of us to settle in our hearts as an identity that cannot be shaken. That truth is found in Isaiah 43:1, in which God says to His people, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name.  You are Mine.”   We belong to God through redemption in Christ.  We are known, we are called, and we are His!

TIME TO REFLECT

  1. Take time to reflect honestly with the Lord: In what areas of your heart do you feel a sense of not belonging? In how you see yourself? In a friendship or family relationship? In your workplace or church community?
  2. Read Isaiah 43:1, and reflect about how Christ has made you His own and has given you a new identity and purpose in Him.

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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters  by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)