By Jeff Metzger
Who are you? When you look in the mirror who is looking back?
Our identity is a big deal. The search for it begins early in life and continues. “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?” I started answering those questions when I was a teenager. First on the list was my identity. Who am I? How do we even begin to answer the identity question? People try lots of options.
We start life with a family identity that evolves over time. I began life as Jeff, the son of Kenny and Mabel and little brother to Ray, Diana, and Sandra. Later I became the husband of Teresa and father of Erin, Adam, and Joshua. I am a son, a sibling, a spouse, a father, and a grandfather. It’s all me.
Our government is interested in legal identity. Take a look at your driver’s license. This little document gives you more than driving privileges. It also serves as a valid form of identification. I was surprised to discover 11 different characteristics that mark me as me on the front of my license. You need this government issued proof of identity to board an airplane, rent a car, stay in a hotel and to transact business in many places. A valid government ID lets anyone who examines it know who you are legally.
Culture and Identity
Our culture tends to build identity around issues, groups and behaviors. Do politics define you? Are you conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Socialist, or none of the above? How about gender issues? Gender choices used to be binary, male or female. Culture and the census now offer a range of gender options. Society offers an alphabet soup of identity based on sexual behaviors. Looking to culture for identity can bring more conflict and confusion than clarity.
Relationships and Identity
Ultimately relationships define our identity. But, our most important relationship is our relationship with God. What is my identity in Christ? When I came to faith in Jesus as a teenager, I realized my identity was instantly defined by him.
Jesus says I am a disciple. That’s who I am. Jesus is my teacher. My goal is to grow up and be like him. Following Jesus creates my identity as a disciple who makes disciples.
My Identity in Christ
Who does Jesus say we are? Paul says more about our identity in Christ in Ephesians than any other New Testament writer. His letter reveals who we are in Jesus. Twenty-seven times the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent is used to describe who we are.
I found forty-nine metaphors, adjectives, and nouns in Ephesians describing who we are. Paul says I am chosen, called, growing to become mature like Jesus, and able to help others be the same. That’s a disciple! Here’s the identity list I made in my journal a few years ago. You can make your own list. Let Jesus define you through his word.
Living My Identity
When I began my life as a disciple of Jesus, even as a teenager, my primary self-identity was disciple maker. I heard Jesus say, “Follow me!” I said, “Yes!” I saw myself as a disciple who makes disciples that make disciples.
In my early thirties I experienced a subtle identity shift. I made a shift away from my primary self-identity as disciple maker—and moved toward seeing my primary identity as church leader. This was a subtle move away from my identity in Christ.
There’s nothing wrong with being a church leader. But it is not primary. Sadly, you can be a church leader and not be a disciple of Jesus. You can be a church leader and never make a disciple. While I did still make disciples, my relationship with my work gave me my identity more than my relationship with Jesus. This was wrong.
Several years ago, I began to realize what had happened and determined to return to my first love. I determined to once again allow Jesus to define me. I repented and began to do the things I did at first. I am his disciple who makes disciples that make disciples. That’s who I am.
Declare Your Identity
Do you know who you are? As a Christ follower you are a disciple of Jesus! You are growing to be like your teacher. Own it! Declare it! Live it!