If I asked you who you are, would you know how to answer me? And I don’t mean “what is your name” but who are you? What are you all about? What makes you the person you are today? Could you give me an answer now, after I made it more specific? Truth is, a person knowing who they really are isn’t a given. In fact, to some extent we’ve all lost our true identity.
Because of sin, not a single person lives as we were meant to live. We were created by God to exhibit his character (made in his image), yet we fail to do so. Rather than exhibit his character, we have a twisted character and make decisions every day that indicate we do not know who we are or who God is. Rather than image a God who is loving, gracious, pure, and forgiving, our world is full of people who are self-seeking, believe the universe centers around them, and generally do not give much attention to others outside of their very small group of people they like. We don’t worship God, but choose instead to worship anything but him. In short, we are idolaters.
What is idolatry? It is, quite simply, worshiping something other than God. ”But isn’t the opposite of worship just not worshiping?” No, the opposite of worship is idolatry. As humans we have an insatiable desire to worship. I believe God created us to worship – and just because we fail to worship him does not mean we don’t worship at all. We give our time, money, and emotions away and invest our trust in gods who are not the real God. I’m guilty of this – we’re all guilty of this. No matter how much truth we’ve heard, some of us since we were young children, we will give ourselves away, believing something or someone will give us the identity we are looking for. In the end, whether it takes weeks or decades, this ugly truth rears its head: all that we have hoped in, all that we have staked our identity upon, could not bring us the joy and satisfaction we were seeking.
So, how does Jesus change any of this? Why does the Gospel matter in this situation? It is the good news that you and I are not too far gone, nor is the road a long one to return to the One we were made for. In fact, the gospel is the opposite of religion in this very important regard. In religion, you need to make things up. You need to climb the mountain, you need to pay back your wrongs. Some people believe this is the case with Christianity, but it’s not – at least not biblical Christianity. Over and over Jesus makes the invitation to freely receive his grace. To be sure, sacrifice is involved. But not the sacrifice we think of. The most important sacrifice is the one Jesus made for our sins, on our behalf, when he died on the cross. The sacrifice anyone may make as a Christian, assuming they understand what they’re doing, will be a willing and joyful response of faith to give their lives for the one who gave them life. True life. Identity.
As a Christian, you are a child of God. That’s your identity. You are adopted into the family, through Jesus Christ the Son of God, and have by faith received new life. You are not any of the titles this world wants to give you. They may be compliments – boss, executive, rich, successful, beautiful, and so on. They may be insults – loser, addict, good-for-nothing, and so on. Your identity is found “in Christ” – a phrase often used in the New Testament describing our identity. Do you know him? Have you dropped your false identities? Have you confessed that you’ve worshiped other things than the one true God, trying to make an identity for yourself from those things?