“Identity Before Activity”
by Pastor Kent Munsey
August 4, 2019
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 1:1-2, NIV)
Paul is introducing himself to the church he founded in Ephesus. Ephesus was the capital of Asia in the Roman empire. It was a wealthy, sophisticated city. and a key city for the Gospel.
Paul chose to change his name from Saul to Paul when he began to preach to the Gentiles. Saul means “prayed for, asked for.” Saul was Hebrew of Hebrews. He held position and authority amongst the Jewish people in the Jewish faith. Here he does not want to be known as Saul of Tarsus; he wants to be known as Paul. Paul means “little, small in stature.” You’ve got to be pretty confident to change your name from “answered prayer” to “small in stature.” Paul knows who he is.
Do you know who you are? How do you identify yourself? Paul sees himself as an apostle of Jesus. If we look at Genesis 1:26-28, we can learn about our true identity: God said, “Let us make mankind in our likeness.” We can learn four things about who we are:
I am God’s creation. There is no one like you. You were created by God, you are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). You are a masterpiece; you are unique.
I am honored in the earth. God honored us by placing us above the animals and above the angels. He gave Adam the honor of naming every animal.
I am made to mirror God. We were created in the image of God. We were made to mirror God’s heart and God’s character.
I am blessed by God to be a blessing. God blesses us so that we can bless others. We are already blessed. When God gave us his son, Jesus, he gave us everything (Romans 8:32).
We see in Genesis these truths that establish Adam and Eve’s identity, and then Satan appears. Satan can’t stand us because of who we are--God’s creation, honored, made in his image, and blessed. When Satan appears to Eve, he questions what God has said. Satan will always question what God says, because our identity is rooted in God’s Word.
Then Satan lies to Eve about what God said. The thing about a lie is that it doesn’t have to be true to destroy you. Satan tells Eve that if she eats the fruit, she will become like God. But the truth is that Adam and Eve were already like God.
Satan really has nothing to offer us. All he can offer us is counterfeit. He begins to lie to us so that we will question who God is and who we are.
The Fall isn’t about an apple; it’s about whether Eve would choose to trust who God said she was. Notice that she didn’t see who she was, and she thought that if she did this one thing, she would be more like God. The biggest lie we can believe is that we can discover our identity through our own activity.
You are either in Christ or in Adam. To be in Adam means that your identity is achieved, not received. To be in Adam means that who you are is about where you came from, what college you got into, the job you have, the money you make, or the amount of followers you have on social media. When you are in Adam, you are cursed with an identity that can only come from achievements.
When you are born again in Christ, your identity comes from what has already been done for you. When you are in Christ, you’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, your identity is rooted not in what you achieve, but in what you receive. We have received forgiveness of sins and redemption in Christ. We are the righteousness of God in Christ.
Identity always comes before activity. Christianity says, “look who you are--now you can do...” Once we know who we are, then we can fully do all that God has purposed us to do. When we don’t know who we are, everything we do is fleeting because it’s not rooted in Christ.
When somebody is living a life that is less than their best, it usually traces back to an identity problem. What happened with Eve? She chose not to trust God with her identity. She wanted to achieve more so she could be more. There is nothing we can do that could ever make God love us less, and nothing we could do that could ever make him love us more than he already does.
Paul knew who he was in Christ and counted all of his achievements as rubbish (Phillippians 3:8). Do you know who you are in Christ today? When you know who you truly are, you can live in freedom to do the things that you were created to do.
Where does your identity come from?
Have you ever placed your identity in your achievements?
How has achievement-based identity impacted your life?
Have you ever placed your identity in Christ?
What changed when you placed your identity in Christ, or what do you think would change if you did?