IDENTITY – Who We Are and Why We Are Here –
A Journey of Discovery
By Colleen Donahue
PART 5 – WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST
OUR HEART IS WHAT DEFINES US
- When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, how did he answer?
Notice that it starts with our hearts – our spiritual heart.
2. Our spiritual heart is the innermost part of our being that guides and influences everything else in our life. It’s in much the same way that our physical heart pumps blood to every other cell. The heart is so central to our lives, what does the Bible warn us to do?
3. Since our entire life is affected by the condition of our heart, we must guard it. Why? Because we can lie to ourselves and deceive our own heart.
4. In fact, our hearts can be more deceitful than anything else to us!
5. The heart, which includes our core beliefs, leads us to the thoughts we think. Those thoughts guide our words and they in turn guide our actions. Our actions then show themselves in either good or bad fruit. And at the end of time, it’s the fruit of our lives that God will judge.
6. When it does come time for judgment, who are the ones who will remain standing?
God wants us to discover the truth about Him so that we can discover the truth about ourselves.
We are in need of a heart transplant. We have inherited a lot of corruption from our original parents (Adam & Eve) and then from our own parents as well. God put us into Jesus on the cross (a cosmic miracle) so that He could destroy the old heart and replace it with a clean, new heart.
Too many of us are into self-help methods to try to change our external behavior. That’s like putting new wrapping paper around a box while the inside remains the same. Only God can give us a new heart to replace our dead one. It’s never about improvement of our old heart. It’s a total replacement that is needed.
7. How do we know if a person has had a heart transplant?
Matthew 7:15-20 / Matthew 12:33
8. Self-help methods keep us fighting the same battles because they can’t change our heart. Only God can replace a dead heart with a living one.
We actually have two identities: how we see ourselves and how God sees us. It’s how God sees us that matters and therefore to discover that we need to take our eyes off our present circumstances. God’s Word teaches us that we can discover, believe, and set our hearts on our true identity – i.e., our identity as God sees us from Heaven.
Here is an example of a man in the Bible named Job where scripture reveals this idea that we have two identities.
9. Job’s identity on earth was of an extremely successful man. He was a wealthy landowner, a faithful husband and a loving father. He feared God and stayed away from evil.
10. But Job also had an identity in Heaven that he didn’t realize. In these verses, write down the phrases that God uses to describe Job.
Job 1:8 / 2:3
11. The greatest threat to our identity comes when tragedy strikes. And if the foundation of our heart isn’t anchored to something solid, we won’t remain standing. Keeping with the life story of Job we find that Satan had been allowed by God to test Job.
12. And Satan stripped this man of all that he had (Job 1:13-19) until he had nothing but God to cling to.
With this tragedy Job’s earthly identity vanished, but his identity in Heaven didn’t change. If you reread Job 1:8 and 2:3….. you’ll see that God saw Job the same before his tragedy as He saw Job after it.
So, which of Job’s two identities was the real one? Which identity was the most important? Clearly, it was Job’s identity in Heaven – the one God assigned him.
13. In the Book of Ephesians, Paul writes down two of his prayers for the early believers. He was asking that the Holy Spirit reveal to them the depth of God’s love by giving them understanding of who they are in Christ, what they have in Christ, and how much God loves them because of their relationship with Jesus. Read these two prayers slowly, as God intended them for us as well.
Ephesians 1:15-20 / 3:14-19
How does God identity you? That’s the journey of discovery we are now on.
WE ARE GOD’S ADOPTED AND BELOVED CHILDREN!
EVERYONE who believes in Jesus – his death and resurrection—and then follows Him, has a NEW IDENTITY IN CHRIST. You may not realize it, but you have one.
14. Before this, we had no relationship with God the Father because we were “dead in our trespasses”.
We were like walking dead people striving to fill a vacuum inside of us where God should have been living by His Spirit. Our “religion” became a litany of “do’s and don’ts” as we tried to earn acceptance by cleaning ourselves up and striving to live by God’s rules.
But all our striving and doing can’t bring the love and acceptance we long for because this isn’t God’s way. His way is grace. Grace is God giving freely His Son Jesus to us so that we can be restored to the way God originally made us. (John 3:16) The grace of God towards us is the only thing that makes sense of why He should choose us, love us and adopt us.
15. God loves us because HE is so loving --- NOT because we are so loveable! In scripture we can see that Israel was not exactly choice material to be loved – and neither are we.
16. Who does God choose to set His love upon?
1 Corinthians 1:26-28
17. So, our new identity in Christ starts with the fact that we have been chosen.
According to this verse, WHEN did God choose us?
18. It’s amazing to think that before God did any of His creating, He literally saw you and I in His mind’s eye. He had already chosen us back in eternity. But what did he choose us for?
Reread Ephesians 1:4 and then continue with Ephesians 1:5
That word “holy” in Ephesians 1:4 means to be set aside for God’s purposes because He is worthy of our complete devotion.
19. Then we see that we are blameless in God’s sight because when He looks at us, He sees His son. Christ’s blood covers our life and His righteousness has now become our own.
2 Corinthians 5:17,21
Notice that we aren’t blameless to ourselves or to others. We and they will always see something wrong in us. But remember, we’re on a quest to know what God thinks of us. And He sees us as blameless, or without fault.
So far, we’ve been chosen to be set aside for God’s purposes and to be without fault before Him. Then, moving on to Ephesians 1:5 we see that God has adopted us into His family. If God created us in the first place, why does He need to adopt us?
20. Because Adam and Eve chose to live their lives independent from God, they became part of Satan’s kingdom. Since all of us are born “in Adam” we are part of the Kingdom of darkness rather than God’s kingdom (or family). God adopts us through the agency of His Son Jesus. How did He do the transfer?
In this verse you’ll see the words that Jesus has rescued us or delivered us from the power of darkness. The Greek word used has the idea of our being snatched away quickly from behind enemy lines. And then He transfers us to God’s kingdom.
21. The fact that God has chosen us to be part of His family and then used for His purposes is all because of the great love that He has for us. Let’s look at one more verse as we finish this section. It’s Paul quoting from the Prophet Hosea.
Here is how this verse reads in the CSB translation: “I will call Not My People, My People, and she who is Unloved, Beloved.”
We aren’t just given love; we are given the title of “beloved”. Beloved is rooted in the Greek word “agape” and means “one who is unconditionally loved by God”. And that is what you are no matter how you might feel about yourself.
WE ARE BLESSED AS GOD’S SONS AND DAUGHTERS
22. When God blesses, it means that He freely provides everything we need to complete the task assigned to us. Notice the order of things in …
First God blesses and then he tells Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply”. They couldn’t have done the second without the first.
23. We often ask in prayer for God to bless us, but this prayer is misguided. Why?
Notice the past tense Paul uses in this verse. God already has blessed us in the heavenly realms.
24. Peter tells us the same thing.
2 Peter 1:3
25. Therefore, instead of asking for blessings, we need to start thanking God for His blessings. His treasury of blessings is unlimited.
Psalm 50:12 / Acts 17:25
26. And God has no desire to hold back anything from us!
Romans 8:32 / Ephesians 3:20
WE ARE SAVED AS GOD’S NEW CREATION!
27. What is the greatest danger to us from a just and holy God?
28. If we don’t believe that Jesus is the living Son of God then we will die in our sins – that’s a promise---repeated two times in this verse so we don’t miss it.
29. Sin and death go hand in hand. What will happen to the guilty?
30. The Cross is a glimpse of what the wrath of God will look like and feel like for all eternity for those who die in their sins. The Cross at that time was maximum pain, cruelty, and humiliation. Jesus not only had the physical pain but the spiritual pain as well, for he held the world’s sin in himself all at once which causes Him to cry out…..
31. God is already revealing signs of His wrath: disease, disaster, destruction, lostness, purposelessness – all are warning signs.
32. But what is God’s heart desire for us?
Ezekiel 18:23 / 1 Timothy 2:3-4 / 2 Peter 3:9
33. We don’t need to keep seeing ourselves from a worldly perspective. We can start over!
2 Corinthians 5:15-16
34. Everything becomes new when a hopeless sinner is rescued by Christ’s work on the Cross.
2 Corinthians 5:17
35. What actually happens to us to make us new?
36. God has put you and I in Christ so that we are not only saved from God’s wrath, but so that we have a restored relationship with God and a fresh start in life.
37. Jesus is in the business of making all things new – and that includes you and me. It’s a miracle for sure.
AS GOD’S REDEEMED SAINTS WE ARE FORGIVEN
38. Forgiveness is the key element that takes us from having a debt to our Creator that we can never pay to having an account ledger stamped “paid in full”! But is this true if we don’t “feel” it?
Psalm 103:12 / John 3:18 / Colossians 1:13-14 / 1 Timothy 1:15-16
God’s word is always true whether we “feel” it or not. In the new economy of grace, we each have a report card stamped with failure everywhere. But then, because we believe in Jesus, we take on HIS report card with straight A’s. The Father nails our failed report card to the Cross and looks at Christ’s report card as if it was our own.
39. It’s true that once we were hopelessly stained with sin and guilt before we knew Jesus. But now, what three things have happened to you when you believed in Jesus?
1 Corinthians 6:11
40. The third thing Jesus does after washing and sanctifying us is to make us JUSTIFIED. Justified is a legal term declaring us not guilty and innocent of all charges. Jesus makes us “just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned”.
Romans 8:3-4, 33-34
41. He declares that we are righteous “in Him”.
42. Because God has done everything for us “in Christ” it’s all fair and just.
Everything that happened to Christ, has spiritually happened to us. For example:
43. We were crucified with Him.
Romans 6:6 / Galatians 2:20
44. We died and were buried with Him.
45. We were raised up with Christ at his resurrection.
Romans 6:4-5 / Colossians 2:12
46. We were seated with Christ in the heavenly places
47. We are declared righteous in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Now Satan doesn’t want us to get hold of any of that. He is the “accuser of the brethren” and “the father of lies”. He’ll get us to believe that Christ’s sacrifice comes up just short in your case. And if it has, then you’ll always be lost in your sins. He wants us to believe that Jesus didn’t die, his blood wasn’t enough, and that we can never be forgiven.
48. You can either agree with Satan and all his lies or you can start agreeing with what God says. And what is God saying to us?
Romans 10:13 / 1 Corinthians 1:2 / Ephesians 2:19
49. Notice that we are called to be SAINTS – redeemed and forgiven by Jesus Christ – not earned or deserved.
Ephesians 2:8-9 / Titus 3:5
50. Where has God indelibly imprinted our name?
51. Therefore, what can we now confidently declare to ourselves and all the world?
WE ARE THE HOME OF GOD HERE ON EARTH!
52. When we think about where God lives, most of us would quickly say Heaven and we would be partly right. God has no need of more places to live…. Why?
Deuteronomy 10:14 / Psalm 24:1
Since God created everything, He is enjoying and partaking of everything that He wants.
53. With the birth of His own chosen people – the Jews—we see God coming to live amongst them in what was called the tabernacle.
54. This portable tabernacle gave way to a more permanent structure called the temple.
2 Chronicles 7:1-2
55. These times of God settling down with His people in “buildings” was foreshadowing something more amazing. We get the first clue to the “more amazing” in….
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
God was saying to the young Mary that He Himself would overshadow her so that the Son of God would have the time needed for his physical development.
56. She erupted in praise at the thought that she would be so privileged as to have the Son of God within her.
57. When Jesus was born, he was the first man back on earth who was “full of the Holy Spirit”.
Jesus’ mission on earth was to restore us to the way God originally made us – men and women full of His Spirit and walking in partnership with Him. You’ll remember that the Holy Spirit left man’s spirit when Adam and Eve sinned. Man has ever since been born physically alive but spiritually dead.
58. John the Baptist had been sent ahead of Jesus to announce His coming (standard protocol for all kings coming to a territory). The people wondered if John was the Messiah but no, he pointed them straight to Jesus. Why?
From the beginning, God’s plan had been to dwell WITHIN his people. This plan got interrupted by sin. But with Jesus now alive and full of the Holy Spirit, it was back on track.
59. When Jesus walked for three years with his 12 disciples, He was WITH them but not yet IN them. He would have to die and then rise again before God’s vision of living within us could be fulfilled. Jesus was like the grain of wheat that would be buried but then come up in a field filled with wheat.
60. While Jesus walked on earth, he was ONE man full of God’s Spirit. But soon, that Spirit would be available to any and all who would receive Him. The next step closer to this opportunity came after the resurrection when Jesus appeared to his disciples.
61. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This was the reason these men needed God’s Spirit. They were being commissioned to do the same work they had seen Jesus do.
62. This taking in of the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them was only like a down payment of more to come. What did Jesus instruct them to do after He left the earth for good?
Luke 24:49 / Acts 1:4-9
63. The greatest day for the disciples (and all of us mere mortals after that) was when God literally poured out His Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
64. With the Holy Spirit poured out, these early disciples were now restored to the way God originally had made them. They were now men and women full of God and able to see God-like results. Acts 2:14-36 records Peter’s first sermon. This was the same Peter who denied the Lord three times and ran away the night of Christ’s mock trials. What resulted from his sermon?
65. And how did Peter answer?
66. When our hearts are convicted of sin and we repent so as to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (baptism) then WE WILL RECEIVE the gift of the Holy Spirit. WHO can receive this promise?
67. This promise is for YOU and ME! We have the amazing privilege of having Jesus within us and having him forever! Read these verses slowly and let the truth sink in.
John 14:20 / Romans 8:9 / 1 Corinthians 3:16 / Galatians 2:20 / Ephesians 3:17-19 / Colossians 1:27 / 1 John 3:24
68. Christ abiding within us is the essential ingredient to our identity. When we receive Him and submit to Him it’s like a reset button has been pushed for our life. We are back on track to fulfill God’s purpose for our life.
John 15:4, 7
WE ARE GIFTED AND SPECIALIZED WORKERS
69. Earlier in this study, we saw that our spiritual identity really started back in eternity when we were chosen by God.
Reread Ephesians 1:4
70. Since God chose us even before He created us, what naturally follows from this?
71. So, even before we got started, God had a plan for us. He had already decided how He wanted to use our life for His glory – if we’d agree with Him. Over and over in scripture we can see examples of this. Let’s look at a few…..
BEZALEL ---was a practical man with the knowledge and skill to build things. God filled Bezalel with His Spirit so that together He could have His temple built properly.
72. REHAB—was a prostitute living in Jericho. God used her “street smarts” to help his people, but also as a way to absorb her into His own family.
73. DAVID—started life as a shepherd tending sheep in the lonely countryside. It was just the training he needed for God to use him as a shepherd over His own people—the Jews.
74. SAUL (Paul)---was an ultra-orthodox Jew, raised in today’s Turkey, a Roman citizen, and on a rampage to wipe out the early Christians. Even while he was on his rampage of destruction, God had a plan for him.
God used his knowledge of the Jewish, Roman, and Greek mind to become his ambassador to the Gentiles. God was able to redeem Saul’s sinful ways and make him Paul – the ideal man to go to the Gentiles and write one third of the New Testament.
These are just four of many Bible characters. For every person God had a purpose to use them in developing his earth. He was able to redeem their faults and then use their strengths. And so, He has a plan for you and I to be His own specialized workers. But first we must align our life with God’s.
75. After we are saved, our entire life becomes a work of art. God’s Spirit fills our own spirit and then from the inside He begins to work out of us what He puts into us. How do we cooperate with this?
We simply start walking in them. We see needs, we meet needs. We see an opportunity and we take the opportunity.
76. Besides the natural talents God gives us, we also receive an assortment of spiritual talents. What do these gifts include?
77. What will all these gifts be used for?
78. Therefore, it’s important that we each use the gift God has given to us.
1 Peter 4:10
79. If this idea of being a specialized worker for God scaring you? Remember, it’s never us alone doing anything. It’s always God doing His work in us with our cooperation. That takes the pressure off of us to perform.
80. As we dedicate ourselves to partner and cooperate with God at work within us, we will accomplish what we are put here to do and enjoy the satisfaction of it. Every work is needed and important.
2 Timothy 2:20-21
Being a specialized worker for God is all part of our identity.
Next Study: Part 6-How Do We Embrace Our Identity?