Finding Your Jesus-Shaped Identity
[Editor’s Note: When Jesus comes into your life, he comes as more than just the Savior. In this blog post, Jeff Ebert shows how the lordship of Jesus extends over every area of your life from your identity to your affections to your behaviors. Jeff ends with a week-long challenge that could transform how you look at yourself.]
What is your personal identity?
Well, it’s how you view yourself in relation to the world around you. It’s how you look at yourself in relation to the people around you. It’s how you view yourself in relation to God.
Your identity is the mirror you hold up to your own soul. It’s how you define yourself for yourself. It’s how you would answer the question: “Who am I?”
So often our identity can feel like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We have all these different pieces that are competing to be the centerpiece of our puzzle.
Think about all the various ways people define themselves these days, what they put as the centerpiece of their life’s puzzle: physical appearance, gender, ethnicity, political leanings, family relationships, job, health issues.
But then along comes Jesus.
Your Identity Gets Taken Over by the Boss
Someone new comes into your heart as you enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul put it this way in Colossians 2:6-10:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
When Christ comes into your heart he comes as your Lord. That means he’s the boss. And by giving your life to him you get a new life, a new self—a new life and a new self that goes beyond knowing that your sins are forgiven and your place in heaven is secure.
It’s a new life that is supposed to overtake your old life. It’s a new identity that is supposed to overshadow your old identity.
That’s what is meant by a Jesus-shaped identity.
Jesus is now at the heart of everything else. He becomes the organizing force for our many selves—the sun to all our planets, the nucleus to all our electrons. Everything about us is now centered on him. Everything about us must first go through him—all our decisions, all our actions, all our attitudes. All of it first goes through Jesus. He is the filter through which we look at ourselves. He is the lens through which we look at each other and the world around us.
Having a Jesus-Shaped Identity Is a Huge Deal!
It’s not like a pebble you throw into a pond that barely makes a ripple. Instead, Jesus is a meteor from space that hits the ocean with the force of an atom bomb. Jesus is Lord of my life. Jesus is the consuming focus of my life.
It means I have to look at all those other pieces of my life in a new way. What will it mean for me to be a Christian man? Not just a man, but what does it mean for me to have a Christian understanding of my masculinity? Or what does it mean for me to be a Christian husband? A Christian father? A Christian son? A Christian on the job?
You see, having Jesus as Lord now puts in their place all those other things that might compete for your loyalty, compete for your main identity. All of it has to be in submission to this larger loyalty, this larger purpose.
To truly be a disciple means surrendering all those other identities to Jesus and then allowing him to shape how you live in all those areas of your life. Jesus begins to shape you into the person he wants you to be.
So, for example, whether as a Christian you consider yourself heterosexual or homosexual, in either case your sexual behavior must be surrendered to Jesus Christ. You are not free to follow any impulse or desire you want. Your behavior is subject to the lordship of Christ and you have to trust him to fulfill your needs.
Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:9-10:
“You have [to] put off the old self with its practices and have [to] put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Or in Ephesians 4:22-24:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Are You Grasping the Change Here?
Are you catching the fundamental theme of what it means to be a genuine disciple of Jesus?
In everything he must have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18). Your behavior in all areas of life must be subject to the lordship of Christ. All those things now come under the greater influence of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Therefore, your race, your ethnicity, your politics, your job, your relationships—everything now takes second place to Jesus and has to come under his influence and control. He must be first in all things, all the time.
That’s why Paul wrote to the Colossians:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
He is the head over everything. In him alone we find fullness of life. That’s what it means to have a Jesus-shaped identity.
Having a Jesus-shaped identity holds huge implications for how we live. But like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly, the change from the old self to the new doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. It’s a lifetime of change as Christ forgives, frees, heals, corrects—always desiring to shape us into his likeness. It’s the process called “sanctification.” The Holy Spirit causes us to become more and more like God’s Son as we surrender every part of our lives to him with humble hearts.
That’s why I like the bumper sticker that says, “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
A Seven-Day Experiment
I want you to do something for me.
I want you to write out on a card or sticky note these five words: I belong to Jesus Christ. If you’re a disciple, then that sentence defines your main identity.
So every day for the next seven days let that be your first thought in the morning and your last thought at night: I belong to Jesus Christ.
Write it out and stick it on your alarm clock, put it on your bathroom mirror, or enter it into your smart phone. Put it someplace where you will see it and be reminded of who you are in Christ. Read it over and over again throughout your day. I belong to Jesus Christ.
Let that be the tattoo on your brain. Let that be the inscription on your soul. I belong to Jesus Christ. Begin to change your mindset so you know who you really are. Your true identity begins with the unlimited, unmerited love of God you have found in Christ Jesus.
You are his, so “live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Ebert
Jeff Ebert has been the Senior Pastor of the Presbyterian Church at New Providence, NJ, since 1999. His passion is to make Jesus Christ relevant to real life through challenging preaching and creative leadership. Jeff earned a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Columbia Theological Seminary. He also serves as a volunteer police chaplain for the city of Plainfield, NJ, building bridges between the police department and the community. Jeff is the author of two books: an adventure novel, The Fall of Kings, and an exposition of Ecclesiastes entitled Singing the Blues: Why Ecclesiastes is the Truest Book of the Bible.