On Veteran’s Day I had the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington with my family as part of a homeschool program they were having. We had a blessed time learning about the life of a man whose devotion to God and country could be seen in everything he touched. Not to mention for a November day in Virginia it was unseasonable warm which added to the delightfulness.
Nevertheless, while I was touring the museum portion of Mount Vernon I saw an interesting video on a Revolutionary War spy organization known as the Culper Ring. The innovations these spies and George Washington had developed, from trick ink to code books, had more of an impact on the war’s outcome than I had previously thought. One particular spy was known as Samuel Culper Jr. and his infiltration in to the life of the British loyalists was so complete that it wasn’t until 1930 when his true identity was discovered; that of Robert Townsend.
What makes our identity is often defined as our character and personality. Discovering that identity is also closely attached to the question of our purpose in life or the meaning of life. This identity and meaning has been explained in some interesting ways. One such person described it this way, “Life is problems. Living is solving problems.” For those of us who hate math this is some very bad news. Another person said there are, “two … ingredients that give meaning to life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we are born with. [the]Second [is] we should try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.” This is the quintessential message of the public school system. It is one that is rooted in the idea of self-help and success. A less optimistic definition might be that, “Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” I call this the pessimistic atheist view. On a more humorous note, we could just roll with what the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe says; “The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!”
But our meaning in life and our identity is not based on our own definition. Life and our identity have been already defined by God. This identity was established in the garden in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image, and in Our likeness.” Our identity is in God and that identity has been marred and lost through the original sin of Adam as he served as our representative. In other words, through sin we live a false identity as the image of the Evil One, doing the things that give pleasure to the serpent that first tempted Adam rather than to God who defines our true identity. (John 8:44)
“Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (v. 14). – Romans 5:13-14
In the second Adam (Jesus Christ) our true Identity is restored. We do not merely find our identity in Christ; He is our identity. Through repentance and faith in Christ we are made a new creation (2 Cor 5:16-17) We no longer belong to sin nor to the Devil, but rather we belong to Christ, and as such we now reflect this identity…that is we reflect Christ showing we are His.
Reflecting His Identity Inwardly
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” –Titus 2:11-15
“We are instructed to turn from…sinful pleasures…”
With a new identity come new affections and attitudes. This pours out into the exterior of a person but originates from inside. This is not because the person has figured out how to tap the inner strength of their self, as most self-help advocates and Joel Osteen would have you believe; but rather through the power of Christ. Look at verse fourteen…”He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin.” Sin robs us from our true identity and enslaves us to continue in it. This enslavement does not resolve us from our obligation to the law of God nor its enforcement and penalties. Christ became the substitute for us so that we could be set free and be seen righteous before the law. This righteousness is imputed on us during conversion from a slave to freeman. This conversion takes place when a person, being led by God, repents and places their faith in Christ to save them. This repentance begins first by seeing sin for what it is…a transgression against the law. This coincides with a godly sorrow (2 Cor 7:10) and confession of sin before God. The transformation that begins inwardly develops a hatred for sins that were once loved or produced indifferent responses. We as a result turn from this sin in disgust and turn, take up our cross, and follow after Christ (Mathew 16:24). Where there is no inward change there is no conversion.
Reflecting His Identity Outwardly
“We are instructed to turn from godless living…”
True repentance leads to fruit worthy of that repentance. The outward life is a proof for the inward change (James 2:26). An orange that has spoiled, sours first on the inside; within time its exterior changes. Christ’s imputed righteousness not only cleanses the heart of the believer (Ezekiel 36:26) but purifies sin’s influence that is manifested in visible actions. As a person continues to grow in Christ, his actions become more like his master’s. It is possible to do good, “for goodness sake” rather than for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31) just as the popular Christmas song goes. But this is from incorrect motives that cannot be hidden from God who searches the hearts of men (Romans 8:27). Paul tell us in Titus that we are to be “totally committed to doing good deeds.” This can only be the fruit of Christ who has prepared our good works before we were converted so that we only need to walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Reflecting His Identity in Eternity
“Look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.”
With our restored identity we become eternally focused. The Westminster Catechism says the duty of man is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The fear of death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55). We look forward to the moment when we will leave this earth, not with despondency but with expectation of being in the glory of Christ. This eternally focused mentality also brings a compassion for those who are still lost in their false identity. Charles Spurgeon said that, “the love of Christ will melt your spirit to compassion for those who are despising Christ, and sealing their own destruction.” If the things of eternity do not cross your mind, but only perhaps as a fear of death or hell, then serious consideration should be given as to your conversion and whether it was a passing fad born out of selfish motivation or if it was truly a complete and total transformation of your identity; inward, outward and above. Christ has called His own to complete submission (Ephesians 6:7), to throw off their old nature (Ephesians 4:22), to become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), to carry their cross to the point of death (Luke 14:27), to continue plowing the field never to look back again (Luke 9:62). Christianity is not a religion. It is a restoration of people lost in an identity of sin being restored to life by a loving God. If you have not been completely transformed by this love of God, then cry out to God, so that He may grant you repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Leave your false identity and be restored by Christ as a new creation.