Most often people find their identity (fundamental self-worth, value, and happiness) in the people they belong to, the purpose they are living for, and the pursuit of things that make them happy. This is hard-wired into every person, and because of sin, we have sought to find our identity in creation and not the Creator. We look to good things in creation to give us the identity they were never designed to give. We have essentially replaced communion with the Creator God for communion with creation. What was made to express and display the greatness of God, has been twisted to provide us with what we are lacking. Apart from God’s presence, everything in creation becomes about us. This is killing us, and it was not the way God intended for us to live.We were created to image (display) God’s image. The bad news is….sin has distorted that image. The good news is… however distorted the image has become, it is not beyond redemption. In the gospel God is rescuing humanity through Jesus. In Jesus, we have a new identity. The image of God is being restored in his people. In Christ, we are no longer defined by the distorted fallen image, but by the resurrected Jesus. He is the firstborn of a renewed humanity. Consider 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”
As we grow to understand who we are in Christ, it changes the way we live. The New Testament teaches over and over that we have a new identity because of Jesus. And again and again, it calls us to “be who we are.” Change is not about achieving something so that we can impress. It’s about living out the new identity that God gives us in Jesus. So who are we?
Our new identity is given to us because we are now “in Christ.” We are united with Christ by the Spirit who is at work within us. When we look at this new identity thematically across the scriptures we see three descriptors that stand out: Family (sons/daughters of God), Missionaries (sent ones of God), Servants (of a new King and Kingdom). Each of these are intimately connected, but it’s helpful to unpack who we are as disciples by seeing our identity through each lens.
FAMILY- THE CHURCH IS GOD’S CHOSEN FAMILY
We submit to God as our Father and love one another as brothers and sisters. We are God’s grace-formed people – his family – set apart to display to the world around us what he is like. The Bible tells us that when we put our faith in Christ, we are adopted God’s family. Simultaneously, we become Children of God and brothers and sisters with one another. As God’s family, we see it as our responsibility to personally care for the needs of one another – both physically and spiritually. (Genesis 12:1-3; John 1:12-13; Romans 12:10-16, Ephesians 1:3-10)
SERVANT– THE CHURCH IS MADE UP OF JESUS’ SERVANTS
We submit to Jesus as Lord and serve one another as though we are serving Jesus Fully God–fully human, Jesus took on the posture of a servant. He gave his life, even unto death, so that others could experience salvation, peace, and restoration. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves…” All those who follow Jesus are called to serve with the same humility. For us, this means joyfully submitting to Jesus as Lord, to the leaders he has placed over us, and to one another as we serve whomever God brings into our lives. We do whatever he leads us to do, whenever he tells us, and wherever he wants us to do it. (Matthew 20:25-28; 25:31-46; John 13:1-17; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 2:16)
MISSIONARY– THE CHURCH IS SENT BY THE SPIRIT AS MISSIONARIES
We submit to the Spirit as our Sender and Leader and are empowered to display and declare Jesus to others. God sent Jesus to Earth to take on human form and live within the culture. He worked, ate, and interacted among the people, living in such a way that those around him could see and experience what God was truly like. Jesus came so that all peoples, places, and things could be restored to a right relationship with God. Because we are united to Christ, we believe we are missionaries sent by God’s Spirit into our culture to restore all things to God through Jesus. Our lives are now lived for the purpose of displaying and declaring Jesus. We primarily live this out through involvement in a missional community. (John 1:14; 20:21; Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)