Your Identity in Christ


Dr. John Hoole - March 17, 2019




Let me start our lesson today with what I hope each of us come away with from our lesson.  “The devil is scared stiff of anyone armed with the knowledge of who he or she is in Christ.”  To start, let’s look a verse where Paul is speaking to the congregation in Corinth.


2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV


17     Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.


Today, we are going to examine what the Bible says about our “Identity in Christ.”  Two phrases that are very important in this verse.  “In Christ” and “New Creations.”


I was thinking about how to open this lesson.  A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned our cat, and I think I will start with her today. We enjoy our cat.  She brings us companionship without reservation.  But, as I have observed our pets over the years, I have an increased awareness that I am not one. And in that observation, I find myself thanking God for the wonder of being a human.  We have the astonishing capacity to see and hear and feel, and then to think about all this amazing reality, and then to form judgments about it all and know right and wrong and good and bad and beautiful and ugly, and then feel profound emotions of love and hate and joy and discouragement and wonder and hope and have gratitude, , and then to reason and plan our lives in ways that accomplish things.  And best of all is to find all these wonderful human capacities are caught up in knowing and loving and serving the greatest Being in the universe, our Maker and our Savior and our God.


I look at our cat, Pepper, and think for a moment that she is kind and forgiving and loving and warm and gentle and happy and peaceful.  Then I realize she’s a cat.  She does not know or reason like we do, or feel or judge like I do.  She does not prize anything because of it true worth – in relation to God.  She doesn’t know where she came from.  She doesn’t reflect on her identity and wonder who she is or what it means ultimately in God’s scheme of things to be a cat.  She doesn’t think about why she’s here and doesn’t know where she is going.  She is a wonder and can call forth amazing affection.  But she is not a human created in the image of God.  And as I think about her, I am amazed at my own humanity.  And at the incredible wonders of the humans I live with.


To be alive as a human being with indescribable mysteries at every turn, and to have in front of us an eternal destiny of spectacular glory or inexpressible horror is a weight that can either press you down with fear and trembling or bear you up with joy unspeakable and full of glory.


Whether it does the one or the other depends in large measure on whether you know the answer to the big basic human question or not.  Who are you?  How did you get that identity?  What are you here for?  No cat or turtle or fish or squirrel or bird or dolphin or chimpanzee ever lost one night’s sleep pondering those questions.  Only humans ask these questions.


What comes to mind when you think about yourself is one of the most important things about you.  In particular, what comes to your mind when you think about who you are in Christ is of greater importance.


I am not a real aficionado of TV movies.  Even less of theater movies.  I like action movies on TV.  And the ones I really like, I watch them over and over.


Do you recognize the person, Jason Bourne. (Matt Damon)  There have been 5 movies about Jason Bourne, acted by Matt Damon.


Bourne is a highly trained agent – which is quite an understatement.  He is capable of winning a fight with nothing more than a rolled-up magazine or a ballpoint pen.  He is armed with unrivaled skill and know-how for every situation he faces.  In the first Bourne film, called “Bourne Identity,”,  he wakes up from a failed mission, not remembering who he is.  But he quickly realizes all he is capable of doing.  He is determined to find out who he is.  He doesn’t seem to care that he can do things James Bond and MacGyver only dreamed of doing.  But, most of all, he wants to know who he is.


Herein lies the parable for the Christian life.  We are more often drawn to what we can do for Jesus, rather that who we are in Jesus.  One reason we get so discouraged and frustrated in the Christian life is that we forget who we are.  And let me restate what I said at the very beginning:  “The devil is scared stiff of anyone armed with the knowledge of who he or she in Christ.”


Who Are You?


1 Peter 2:9 -10 NASU


9       But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

10     for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.


Notice that these verses are talking about believers.  This is who you are as a Christian.  This is how you got your identity in Christ.  This is what you are as a Christian.  He gives five ways of describing your identity.  And they answer the question of who your are.


1.      You are a chosen race.


Verse 9: “You are a chosen race.”


I know that this is a corporate identity.  He is talking about the Church (with a big “C”).  But the implication is individual, because this race is not racial in the sense we hear that word today.  This chosen race is not black or white or red or yellow or brown.  The chosen race is a new people from all the peoples – all the colors and cultures, who are today aliens and strangers among us in the world.  If you were to continue our reading our text from a moment ago, you would see, in the very next verse, Peter is talking to “aliens and strangers…”.


What gives us our identity is not color or culture.  But, rather, it is our chosenness, if I may invent that word.  Christians are not the white race or the black race – they are the chosen race.  Out from all races, we have been chosen – out from all colors and cultures.  And we have been chosen one at a time, not on the basis of belong to any group.


That is why this amazing phrase – You are a chosen race – is individually crucial for you.  You are part of a “chosen race” because the race is made up of individuals who were chosen, chosen from all races.  So your first identity is that you are chosen.  God chose you.  Not because of your race – or for any other qualification – God chose you.  Who am I?     I am chosen!!


It was nothing in me of value above other humans.  I did not earn it or merit it, or meet any conditions to get it.


2.      You are pitied


For this, I am going to the last half of verse 10. “…You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”


I chose the word “pitied” because the English structure of this verse has a little difficulty on the translation of the Verb in this phrase.  The Greek word translated “mercy” is a Verb, not the object of a verb.  The closest I could have made it in English is: “You had not been mercied, but now you have been mercied.”  It is not a really bad translation, as long as one knows that it is a verb.


When God chose you, He then saw us in our sin and guilt and condemnation, and He pitied us.  We are not just chosen – we are pitied.  We are not just the objects of His choice, but the objects of His mercy.


I am chosen and I am pitied – Or you could say, “I am graced.”  I am “loved.”  God did not just choose me and stand aloof.  He chose me and then drew near in mercy to help me and save me.  My identity is fundamentally this:  I have been shown mercy.  I am a “mercied” person.  I get my identity not first from my actions, but from being acted upon with pity.  I am a pitied one.


3.      You are God’s Possession


This thought is expressed twice in our text.


         You are … “a people for God own possession” (vs. 9).


         Vs. 10a: “You once were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”


You are chosen by God.  You are pitied by God.  And the effect of that pity – that mercy – is that God takes you to be His own possession.


Now God owns everything.  So in one sense everyone is God’s possession.  So, this must mean something special.  And, of course, it does.  You are God’s inheritance.  You are the ones He aims to spend eternity with.


God says, in 2 Corinthians 6:16b,  “I will be their God and they will be my people (My possession)”  What that means is that “He will dwell with them and walk among them.”


You are chosen; you are pitied; you are God’s possession.  You are the ones He will walk among and reveal Himself to in a personal relation forever.


4.      You are Holy


Verse 9:            “You are a … holy nation.”


You have been choses and pitied and possessed by God.  Therefore, you are not merely part of the world anymore.  You have been “set apart” for God.  That is what “holy” means – set apart.  You exist for God.  And since God is holy, you are holy.  You share His character, because He chose you, pitied you, possessed you.  You are holy.  And if you do not act in a holy way, you act out of character.  You contradict your essence as a Christian.  Your identity is holiness to the Lord: You are holy!


And finally,


5.      You are a royal priest


Verse 9:   “You are a … royal priesthood.


You are chosen by God and pitied by God and possessed by God and holy like God and A royal priests to God.  The point here is first that you have immediate access to God.  You don’t need another human priest as a mediator.  The Bible tells us that God provided one Mediator between God and man – Jesus Christ.


You have direct access to God, through God - the Son.  And, second, you have an exalted, active role in God’s presence.  You are not chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy just to fritter away your time doing nothing.  You are called to minister in the presence of God.  All your life now is the life of priestly service.  You are never out of God’s presence.  You are never in a neutral zone.  You are always in the court of the temple.  And your life is either a spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1-2), or it is out of character.


So, you see that your identity – the question, “Who are you?” leads directly to the question, “What are you here for?”  You are chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy – all for a purpose – to minister as priests.  And the heart of that ministry Peter describes for us very clearly.


How did you get this identity?


The answer is almost too obvious.  We got our identity from God.  In fact our identity is our relationship to God.  We are pitied by God.  We are possessed by God.  We are set apart as holy by God.  We are invested as royal priests by God.


Peter says this in a summary statement at the end of verse 9.  He refers to God like this.  “Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”


The light we live in is the light of our being chosen, pitied, possessed and holy and priestly.  We received that because He called us, and we responded to that call.  The darkness has been put away and we walk in God’s light.


So the answer to the question: How did we get this identity is that God gave it to us.  He gave it to us by virtue of his call and our acceptance of that call.  Because of our response, God has given us the identity we now have in Him.


What are you here for?


What we have seen thus far is that our identity leads directly to our destiny.  We are chosen, pitied, possessed, and holy all for the sake of being a royal priesthood.  But Peter is more specific when he tells us the precise reason for our existence.


He says, in verse 9b that we exist for this reason:


1 Peter 2:9 NKJV


         You are – His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”


This is the full-time destiny of a royal priest.  We are to make the glories of the King known.  In other words, God has given us our identity in order that His identity might be proclaimed through us.  God made us who we are so we could make known who He is.  Our identity is for the sake of making known His identity.


What God Thinks About You


I remember many years ago taking a couple of Personality Tests.  The one I remember most, I believe, was called the Myers & Briggs test.  I still remember that my personality was represented by the code INTP.  Right now, I couldn’t tell you exactly what that stands for.


But as helpful as those tests can be, have you ever stopped to ask:  What does God think about me?  Who does He say that I am?  God has a lot to say about what He thinks about us – a whole Bible full.  But, if we could summarize it in a short space, here is how it might sound.


You Are Valuable


I am the Creator and you are my creation.  I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2).  I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27).  My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16).  I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matt. 10:30; Palm 139:1).  You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).


You are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). I have given you dominion over all sheep and oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (Psalm 8:6-8; Genesis 1:26, 28).


However, from the very beginning, you exchanged the truth about me for a lie.  You worshiped and served created things rather than me, the Creator (Romans 1:25).  You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Romans 3:23).


Just as I said to Adam and Eve, the penalty for your sin is death (Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17).  And in your sin, you were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).  You were children of wrath, living as enemies to me (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:10).  You turned aside from me.  You became corrupt.  There is none who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2-3).  What you deserve is my righteous judgment (Psalm 7:11-12).


And yet, in my great love, I gave my only and unique Son, that all those who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  While you were still sinners, Christ died for you.  While you were still hostile toward me, you were reconciled to me by the death of my Son (Romans 5:8, 10).  Sin does not have the last word.  Grace does (Romans 5:20).


Now everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13).  You who have believed are born again (1 Peter 1:3).  I have adopted you (Ephesians 1:5).  You are children of God, heirs of God (1 John 3:2; Romans 8;16-17).  You are no longer orphans.  You belong to me (John 14:18; 1 Corinthians 6:19).  And I love you as a perfect Father (1 John 3:1; Luke 15:20-24).


In my eyes, you are a new creation.  The old has passed away, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).  There is now no condemnation for you (Romans 8:1-2).  All your sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9).  All your unrighteousness has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus (John 1:7, 9).  You are now righteous in my sight with the very righteousness of my perfect Son (Rom. 4:5).


You’ve been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8).  You’ve been justified by faith (Romans 5:1).  And I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).


You Have My Spirit


You not only have a new Father, but also a new family of brothers and sisters (Luke 8:21).  And together the life you now live is by faith in my Son (Galatians 2:20).


Look to Jesus.  Keep your eyes on Him.  He is the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).  Christ is in you by my Spirit, and you are in Christ (John 15:5; Colossians 1:27).  Stay close to Jesus.  Abide in Him (John 15:4).  Your life is found in Him (John 14:6; Colossians 3:3-4).  To live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).


You Will Be Transformed


As you seek me and see more of my glory, I am transforming you into the image of my Son (2 Corinthians 3:18; Exodus 33:18).  One day you will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of any eye, at the last trumpet sound (1 Corinthians 15:52).  When Jesus appears, you will be like Him, because you shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:29).


You will be delivered from your body of death through Jesus Christ, and your dwelling place will be with me (Romans 7:24-25; John 14:3).  And I will wipe away every tear from your eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore (Revelation 21:3-4).  You will drink from the springs of the water of life without payment, and I myself will make for you a feast of rich food (Revelation 21:6; Isaiah 25:6).  You will enter my rest, inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you, and step into fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore (Hebrews 4:3-11; Matthew 25:34; Psalm 16:11).


But, most of all, you will see my face and be with me where I am (Revelation 22:4; John 14:3)