You might be surprised to learn that for years a member of our household actually slept in a cage at night. He was very friendly, but never said a word. Before you report me to the authorities, I should clarify that this little fellow was our rabbit–Buggs Bunny. I remember taking Buggs to the vet for the first time because of an eye infection. (Somehow I managed to avoid saying, “What’s up, Doc?”). With some ointment, he was on the road to recovery. I guess it was a hare raising adventure…
I have introduced you to our rabbit to illustrate a point about identity. Is Buggs’ identity as a rabbit based on his behavior? (winning a hopping contest?) or outward appearance? (getting a white fur coat from a thrift store?) or diet? (perhaps acquiring a fondness for carrots?). Of course not. A rabbit is a rabbit because it was born a rabbit. This points us to the insight that identity is based on birth, not behavior.
Dealing with the theme of the Christian’s spiritual identity, we recall the words of the Lord Jesus to the religious leader, Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God … That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3,6). Since we were originally born as descendants of Adam, we were born as spiritually dead human beings. As Romans 5:12 explains, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Because of this alienation from God we must receive Christ as our personal Lord and Savior to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul draws a parallel between the results of Adam’s sin and the results of Christ’s redemption: “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17; see 1 Cor. 15:22).
How are we made alive in Christ? “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” (1 Peter 1:23). The type of seed determines the identity of the organism that is produced. Since we are born by the Word of God, we are now members of God’s family in Christ. Instead of basing our identity on our achievements, feelings, or the opinions of others, God calls us to recognize the dignity of our status as those born by His gracious Word and Spirit !
Bill Gillham noted,
“Every person is born with the same identity crisis. We each showed up in the spiritual lineage of the first rebel, Adam. This is a very important point to grasp. Here’s why: birth, not performance, always determines identity. . . When Christ was crucified, you were in Christ, crucified and buried in Him. When He was resurrected, you were re-created in in Him (Eph. 2:10). Because you are now a spiritual descendant of Christ and your old spiritual past was crucified in Christ (‘Old things [have] passed away’–2 Co.r 5:17), You have been given a brand-new (holy) spiritual past! God changed your identity from sinner to saint!”
As we allow the Holy Spirit to convince us of our identity in Christ, we view living a Godly life as a joyful opportunity. Righteous attitudes, words and actions correspond with who we really are; sinful behavior might be average, but it is not normal (hence the title of Watchman Nee’s book on abundant living–The Normal Christian Life). Grasping our identity in Christ increases the likelihood of living up to our potential by God’s grace.
While visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the preacher Fred Craddock met a man who gave him this testimony:
“I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply. What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was.
When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me. ‘Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute,’ he said, ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God.’ With that he slapped me across the rump and said, ‘Boy you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’ That was the most important single sentence ever said to me.”
. . . Suddenly, Fred Craddock remembered that on two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected an “illegitimate” to be their governor. One of them was Ben Hooper. 
Our legitimate Father is God (John 1:12). Through Christ’s salvation, we have been made alive to express His family resemblance day by day.
Are you living in light of your true spiritual identity?
Our Father, we rejoice in the glorious inheritance You have given us through faith in Christ. Guide us to avoid thinking of our identity in terms of our performance. We thank You for the new nature You have given us through Your Holy Spirit. In Christ’s worthy name we pray, amen.
 Bill Gillham, What God Wishes Christians Knew About the Christianity. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1998, p. 73,77.
 Jamie Buckingham, Power for Living. Arthur DeMoss Foundation, 1984.