Five False Identities
Identity means self-definition or self-concept. It is who we imagine we are at the very center of our being. It is from this wellspring that we feel, think, choose, act, and speak.
Because identity is the practical genesis of our life outcomes, God will devote significant measures and lengthy seasons to its proper development in us. We can expect Him to put us in odd, handcrafted situations whereby false identities can be spotlighted and dismantled. We can expect Him to put us in encouraging, empowering situations whereby our true identities can emerge.
If we second-guess our identity in Christ, we become what James calls "double-minded". If we become double-minded, God refuses to respond to us (Jas 1:6-8). Jezebel's desperate last effort to stop Jehu was to bombard his identity. She sarcastically labeled him "Zimri", a betrayer and murderer (2Ki 9:31, 1Ki 16:15-20), to make him second-guess himself. Joseph's brothers likewise bombarded his identity (Gen 37). Job's wife cursed his identity (Job 2:9,10). Satan targeted Jesus' identity immediately after He received affirmation of it (Matthew chapters 3 and 4)! Like Ezekiel, our forehead must be as hard as flint in understanding and protecting the identity the Lord has conferred on us. Step One in this endeavor is recognizing and growing out of the false identities most people hide themselves in, even Christians.
False Identity #1: The Family-Dependent Identity
Many people depend on their families to define them. This can be a positive or negative thing, depending on the messages and the extent of the family's influence.
During the pre-puberty years of life we learned to define ourselves by what our families reinforced. In general, we absorbed into our personality what they modeled, affirmed, and rewarded, while discarding what they disparaged or persecuted. We internalized their messages, the direct and the subtle, and made them our own.
The messages that were healthy and holy contributed to a sound identity. The messages that were not healthy and holy, or the ones that were conveyed inappropriately (extremes, exaggerations, etc.), contributed to false or limiting or destructive identities. Such identities would eventually hinder the full enjoyment of our identity in Christ. Knowing this, the Lord told Israel not to be dictated by wrong family ways (Eze 20:18,19). Any self-concept rooted in family sin and dysfunction is a false identity, a competitor to our identity in Christ. Genesis 5:3 sums up this false identity (NASB): When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, according to his image...
False Identity #2: The Socially-Dependent Identity
Some people depend on their social circle to define them: friends, romantic partners, co-workers, anybody in their social niche. If we are not aware and deliberate with the Spirit's help, the attitudes of those around us can form and conform our self-image. Similar to family influences, not all social influences are sinful or harmful, some might even be very helpful. It is simply the unwholesome, unbiblical messages we need to deflect away or distance ourselves from.
False Identity #3: The Performance-Dependent Identity
The humanist manifesto deifies the human potential to perform and achieve, a deification that penetrates every cell of western society, including Christianity. The result? A self-concept along these lines: I am only as good as my performance...If I perform well, I am well...I am what I do.
This performance orientation and obsession drives workaholism, perfectionism, and legalism--an unholy trinity quite easy to recognize. It leads to unhealthy comparison, competition, and contention--the derivative unholy trinity of the former. The performance-dependent identity tends to produce competent and successful people who are empty, anxious, and broken internally.
We must be grounded and founded first in I am, not I do. Our innermost cornerstone must be Jesus Himself (Col 2:7) and self-valuing (Mk 12:31 "as yourself"), apart from what we can do through human striving.
False Identity #4: The Material-Dependent Identity
Just as a person can overdepend on family, social connections, and performance to conceptualize themselves, so also money and possessions can be used to self-conceptualize. Nebuchadnezzar had a material identity (Dan 4:4,27-30). It drove his pride for which he was judged. It is not at all wrong to have practical abundance (Ecc 5:19, 2Co 9:8,11, 1Ti 6:17), however, it is quicksand to base our inner sense of wellness on it.
False Identity #5: The Appearance-Dependent Identity
Finally, some people center themselves on physical beauty. This underlies the cosmetic surgery craze that hunts unicornish beauty. I am not arguing for or against external enhancements, rather, I am certainly speaking against an appearance-dependent identity. Narcissus, the instructive mythical character, lost himself in his own beauty, drowning himself to be one with it. What a parable.
Scripture tells us to be excellent in our physical upkeep and presentation (Pr 27:9 NKJV, Ecc 9:8, Mt 6:17). God even uses human beauty for good purposes (1Sam 16:18, Est 2:1-18). Our job is to rightly categorize it, not as primary but as tertiary, after spirit and soul (1Th 5:23). Good looks are deceptive and fleeting as an innermost and uttermost dependency (Pr 31:30).
The Need for Love, Blessing, & Purpose
All counterfeit identities are simply illegitimate, hyperextended ways of experiencing three things: love, blessing, and purpose. The human heart craves these. If these are not found in Jesus and through healthy methods, they will be hunted in exaggerated ways and measures. This does not have to be. Our identity in Christ provides the foundation or premises for these three things.
I am Beloved in Christ
In Jesus we are loved fully and freely. He gave birth to us spiritually (Jn 3:5-8, 1Jn 4:7). He has made us His beloved sons and daughters (Ro 8:14-16, 1Jn 3:1,2). He has lavished His love all over us (1Jn 3:1). He has poured His love into our hearts (Ro 5:5).
Because we are His beloved, we have many amazing privileges: we are complete or "full" (Col 2:10), we are one with Him (1Co 6:17), we have Christ's new nature (2Co 5:17, Heb 3:14), we have direct access to Him (Eph 2:18, Heb 10:19-22), we are eternally hidden and protected (Jn 10:28,29, Col 3:3), we are royalty/heirs (Ro 8:17, Gal 4:7, 1Pet 2:9, Rev 1:6 NKJV), we are citizens of heaven (Php 3:20).
This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is where our self-conceptualizing begins. If you are born-again, this is your foundational identity. Not family, not social niches, not performance, not money and possessions, not appearance. You are the beloved of the Lord.
I am Blessed in Christ
In Jesus we are blessed spiritually and practically. Ephesians opens by saying we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3). Romans mentions the "blessedness" of the saved (Ro 4:6-9). 2Corinthians says every promise for us in Christ is YES (2Co 1:20). Many scriptures emphasize our blessed position and opportunity in Christ: Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:8,9, Philemon 1:6.
Operationally, our blessed identity means three essential things. First, it means we are blessed with a new identity upon salvation. As mentioned in the previous section, Ephesians 1:3-14 discusses this magnificently.
Second, it means we are blessed with power (Eph 3:20) by the indwelling Anointing or Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:20,27, 2Co 1:21). This internal supernatural enablement helps us live out experientially every last detail of the overcoming Christian life.
Third, it means we are blessed with more than enough practical resources for our spiritual goals and earthly needs--food, clothing, shelter, transportation, money, physical health and vigor, anything (Php 4:19, 1Ti 6:17, 3Jn 2). You are blessed in the Lord.
I am Built in Christ
In Jesus we are built intentionally and strategically. We have been built with a specific design to fulfill a specific vocational calling on earth. Paul says we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). Peter tells us to faithfully use whatever gifts God has built into our born-again being (1Pet 4:10).
We each have a practical contribution to make in the kingdom of our Father. As we grow and actualize our beloved-identity and blessed-identity, our built-identity emerges naturally and supernaturally. You are built by the Lord.
Who am I?
You are not your family experiences or templates. You are not your parents. You are not your social circle's norms, expectations, or comments. You are not your job or your abilities. You are not your net worth or what you own. You are not your looks or how many people ogle you (or not).
You are the beloved of the Lord. You are blessed in Him. You are built by Him. When you make these concepts the go-to wellspring of your inner life, then life and life more abundantly will blossom in your reality. All the other areas of life will begin to make sense and more supernaturally fall into place. Matthew 6:33 (NASB): But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.