“Our Identity in Christ”
Mart De Haan
Identity theft is a problem most of us didn’t think about 5 years ago. Today it is common to hear the stories of victims who are trying to salvage their name and credit rating after learning that someone has stolen and misused a password, social security number, or charge card.
Knowing the danger of identity fraud will help us think twice before giving personal information that could permit others access to our bank account. Being informed can also deepen our understanding of a spiritual principle that I have often taken for granted. According to the Bible, we are not the only ones who have reason for concern (Romans 2:24). God Himself takes a risk with His identity whenever He allows us to use His name. When we identify ourselves as His children, and even more when we let it be known that we are followers of Christ, His credit rating gets mingled with our own. Yet by endangering His own reputation, God gives us the greatest of gifts.
The use of His name and credit is at the heart of what the Bible says God does for us. It is not a privilege we would expect or ask for. It’s natural to want to take care of ourselves, to solve our own problems, and to be obligated to no one. Yet, from a biblical point of view there are compelling reasons to see our need for access to God’s name and credit. According to the Scriptures …
In ourselves, we have problems we cannot solve. That’s one reason Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). These words remind us that there is something wrong with us. With endless excuses and rationalizations we live for ourselves at the expense of others. God knows this better than we do. Without His forgiveness, we have no ability to get out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. But …
In Christ, we have solutions to our problems (Ephesians 1:3-23). By having access to His name and credit, our spiritual obligations are paid, and our legal problems with the law of God are cleared (2:1-10). Fear of rejection, ultimate failure, and death are all solved when God sees us “in Christ.” Struggles for personal meaning and value are no longer burdened by our own flawed efforts. In God’s eyes, no one is more important, and no one is more secure, than the one He has entrusted with the name of His Son.
One with Him. According to the New Testament, being “in Christ” doesn’t depend on our own efforts. We can’t do this by ourselves. When we believe in Him, we are placed “into one body” by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). As a result of being joined to Him we become one with Him. His Father becomes our Father, His family our family, and His inheritance our inheritance. “In Christ” we are forgiven, accepted by God, and assured of never-ending life. Because we have become one with Him, we will never again be alone.
One with each other. According to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, those who are one with Christ also become one with one another. So the apostle writes, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:27-28). Race, status, and gender have nothing to do with the value of every person. Those who are in Christ discover that the oneness they have in Him is far more important than their differences.
Remembering who we are. Because our identity “in Him” doesn’t change what we see in the mirror, we need to work against the inclination to forget our family relationship to Christ. Unless we consistently renew our thoughts, we eventually make the mistake of thinking that our well-being depends on the affirmation of those around us. Visible circumstances incline us to become so obsessed with our physical health or financial independence that we lose our sense of security in Christ. We forget the One who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Protecting His Name. Living in the name and presence of Christ is life’s greatest opportunity. It means more than the hope of being forgiven and accepted by God. Our position “in Him” means even more than being able to use the “charge card” of grace in every moment and circumstance of life. Beyond assuring our own well-being, it means we have a family and moral obligation to honor the One who has entrusted His name and credit to us.
The privilege is priceless. It is greater than having access to the world’s deepest pockets or bank accounts. If handled well, we have an opportunity to reflect well on the credibility of God (Titus 2:10). If we abuse the privilege, we take God’s name in vain, not in profanity as we usually think of it but in a way that hurts the reputation of heaven (Romans 2:24).
Because of these opportunities, and with deep concern for the family and credit rating of God, the apostle Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).
The message is clear. God doesn’t give us the charge card of grace to waste on thoughtless purchases. He gives us the name of His Son, so that at His expense we can buy a whole new way of living and loving.
“Father in heaven, we so often fall back into old ways of thinking ‘in ourselves.’ Forgive us for falling back on the merits of our own name and accomplishments. Please help us to show by our attitudes and values that we have found life not in ourselves, but in Your Son.”
“Been Thinking About” column, January 2004
by RBC Ministries President Mart De Haan