In Wisconsin, the International Crane Foundation leads the world in saving Cranes from extinction. In addition to the zoo-like displays of the various species, there is a special compound called Crane City. Here the birds are protected from all contact from undisguised humans. Orphaned birds in this compound are fed by people in crane outfits! These Big Bird imitators teach the cranes to run, fly, and hopefully learn the natural skills required to survive when reintroduced into the wild.
Why such insistence on avoiding visual contact with the human form of the trainers? I.C.F. explains, “One of the main problems with the hand-reared chicks is that they become imprinted on human caretakers; they orient to humans instead of cranes as their species and, consequently, show no fear of people. This confusion could lead to the death of an introduced crane because cranes are hunted in many areas of the world.” If cranes receive false imprinting from humans, they would forfeit their true potential as successful creatures of their species.
Cranes are not the only creatures that are imprinted by their surroundings. As we grew up, we were “imprinted” with identity messages from those around us. Our parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friends, and others dished out to us (often inadvertently) various doses of negative imprinting (rejection), or inflated imprinting (flattery). Since a child is like wet cement, he/she interprets these various relationships, conversations, and conflicts as formative messages about his/her personal identity and self- worth. Therefore, we each have our own unique version of “the flesh” (Rom. 7:18).
Now we “fast forward” to our conversion–when we received Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. We rejoice that our sins were forgiven and that we received the gift of eternal life, but we may have overlooked the tremendous change that took place in our spiritual identity at the New Birth (Titus 3:3-7).
We tend to confuse the virtue of humility with false humility, minimizing the gracious, dignified spiritual identity which is ours in Christ. Humility requires us to give full credit to God and those whom He has used to build our lives. Yet, since we are to think soberly of ourselves (Rom. 12:3), we must not minimize God’s blessings to us by believing the twisted imprinting of the past. Instead, we are to affirm our new identity in Christ!
As a believer you need the Lord to restore your soul by imprinting this new identity in your mind, will and emotions: “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Rom 12:2). This is vital, for “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7 ). Our attitudes, motivation, and morality are influenced by what we perceive as our real identity. Since some exaggerate identity, and others minimize it, we need to study what God has revealed.
Reflect on what the Epistle to the Ephesians teaches about the believer being “in Christ”:
- “To the SAINTS who are in Ephesus, and FAITHFUL IN CHRIST JESUS.” (1:1)
- “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in the heavenly [places] IN CHRIST.” (1:3)
- “He CHOSE US IN HIM before the foundation of the world.” (1:4)
- “IN HIM we have REDEMPTION through His blood, the FORGIVENESS of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (1:7)
- “IN HIM also we have obtained an INHERITANCE.” (1:11)
- “IN WHOM also, having believed, you were SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT of promise.” (1:13)
- “IN WHOM we have boldness and ACCESS with confidence through faith in Him.” (3:12)
- “And RAISED [us] up together, and made [us] SIT together IN THE HEAVENLY [places] IN CHRIST JESUS.” (2:6)
- “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His GRACE in [His] KINDNESS toward us IN CHRIST JESUS.” (2:7)
- “For we are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works.” (2:10)
- “But now IN CHRIST JESUS you who once were far off have been BROUGHT NEAR by the blood of Christ.” (2:13)
- “That the Gentiles should be FELLOW HEIRS [with Israel], of the same body, and PARTAKERS OF HIS PROMISE IN CHRIST through the gospel.” (3:6)
- “God IN CHRIST FORGAVE YOU.” (4:32) [emphasis added]
The New Testament contain dozens of additional insights about the believer’s new identity. Notice that almost all of these passages above are from Ephesians chapters 1-3. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write the doctrinal foundation first, then the practical applications in chapters 4-6. We need to discern the difference between spiritual realities and spiritual duties. Our identity in Christ is a spiritual reality whether we have a “bad hair day” or not. As God renews our minds, we can daily reckon as true our identity in Christ. Then, our attitudes and actions will increasingly correspond to Christ who is our Life (Col. 3:4).
The hymn, My Father is Rich in Houses and Lands testifies,
I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
a sinner by choice and an alien by birth;
But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
an heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.
I’m a child of the King,
A child of the King;
With Jesus my Savior,
I’m a child of the King.
Although negative imprinting remains in your “flesh,” you can bypass its interference by walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). By looking to God’s Word you can receive the “new imprinting” about your identity in Christ.
Our Father, we renounce the harmful, false imprinting about our identity which we have received in this fallen world. We joyfully affirm what You have declared about our new identity in Christ. We praise You! Amen.
 International Crane Foundation, quoted in J. Daniel Lupton, People of Promise (Mainstay Church Resources) p.18. www.savingcranes.org/
 My Father is Rich in Houses and Lands by Harriett E. Buell
Copyright 1999 by John Woodward. 2nd edition, 2021. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use if the author and GraceNotebook.com is cited. Unless indicated otherwise, biblical quotations are from the New King James Version, copyrighted by Thomas Nelson, 1982.