You Cannot Outperform Your Identity
You don’t have to look far these days to find an identity.
Republican or democrat?
Person of color or white?
Yanny or laurel? (yes I went there)
On the outside, the messaging says “pick a side, either you’re with us or them,” but deep down, the messaging is ultimately trying to say, “this is who you are.”
Biblically, this cannot be true.
In fact, there might not be a more important topic in the redemption conversation than identity.
We know this not only from exploring the scriptures, but specifically from observing the life of Jesus.
In Luke 3, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. It is a glorious moment, one that was important enough to be included in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke). After 30 years of preparation, Jesus is ready to be launched into ministry. He finds John the baptizer to signify the transition.
As Jesus is baptized, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descends on him like a dove. The voice of the Father boldly speaks from heaven, “You are my Son. In you I am well-pleased.”
It’s a signature moment. Little did Jesus know it was about to be tested. After being baptized, Jesus is led into the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days. At the end, Luke describes Jesus as “very hungry”. No kidding.
The devil seizes the opportunity, thinking Jesus is in a vulnerable place. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus’s response is seemingly elementary but absolutely brilliant: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God.”
You’ve likely heard this story before and you may hear this again and think nothing of it. But I can assure you, a closer dissection will reveal just how profound Jesus’s response was.
- When Jesus was baptized, the Father did not say, “You are a miracle worker. You will change the world.”
- The Father did not say, “You are a great communicator, you will influence multitudes.”
- The Father did not say, “You will be known for your ability to hear my voice. You’ll even be able to hear ‘Laurel.’”
Given the life Jesus led while on earth, you’d think these would be reasonable statements for the Father to declare over him as he begins full-time ministry. Yet the statement has nothing to do with the abilities of Jesus. Instead, it is a statement of relationship.
“You are my Son.”
You cannot outperform your identity.
An identity that is predicated on ability, achievement, or appearance is a castle built on sand. Yet the message we often receive by our superiors, peers and marketers is “You are what you do. You are what you think. You are what you have.”
If you believe these things determine your value, then the limit of your value will always be determined by your abilities and possessions. Scriptures model something different.
So why is Jesus’s response to the enemy so brilliant? Because He thwarted the enemy’s ulterior agenda.
The temptation at hand was not to turn stones into bread. That’s way too obvious.
The temptation was to believe that Jesus had to prove His identity when the Father already affirmed it at his baptism.
This is hard to wrap your mind around when your identity is rooted in anything outside of relationship. Yet true, godly & biblical identity is always founded on God choosing us. It has nothing to do with our works or efforts or sexuality. Instead, it has everything to do with the relationship that God has afforded us with him.
The good news here is that Jesus modeled what it was like to be a child of God so that we could follow suit. Galatians 3:26 says that we are all children of God through Christ Jesus. The same confidence and fortitude that marked Jesus’s relationship with the Father, and ultimately his identity, is available to us as well.
What does this have to do with sexuality, freedom & healing?
You are not your behavior. That means just because you struggle with porn doesn’t make you a pervert. In fact, if you believe that you are a pervert, you will look at porn by faith.
See how twisted that is? We must fiercely guard our identity and what we believe about ourselves because on the flip side, if you believe you are a son/daughter of God, you will pursue freedom relentlessly by default.
So the question then is how? How do we form a godly identity that is rooted and grounded in the truth?
We must be able to answer 2 questions:
- Who are you?
- Who told you?
Who are you is the obvious question to ask in this conversation because it is essential. So let me ask you…
Who are you?
Personally, I’ve answered this question many ways over the years. A high-achiever, a porn addict, a husband, an entrepreneur, a pastor, etc. These are all fair answers, yet none of them exemplify godly identity.
Let’s take being a husband as an example. If that is the essence of my identity, then what happens when I fall short on a bad day? What happens if I mistreat my wife or fail to fulfill my responsibilities as a husband? If my identity is “I am a husband,” then my value diminishes because I have fallen below the standard set for me as a husband. What happens if my wife passes away or my marriage ends? I will have to redefine my identity.
Let me ask you, did Jesus ever redefine His identity based on changing circumstances?
Of course not – it was set in stone never to be altered, modified or changed. This is what happens when your identity is rooted in truth and defined by his connection with God.
The answer to this daunting question, “Who are you?” must be answered by the relationship Jesus has afforded us. If you answer the question by your profession, accomplishments, or anything else, then your worth will always be limited by what you can do.
While the first question is important, the second question is of equal significance. You see, if question 1 is answered by a preacher, friend, or podcast, then you are in trouble. This question is too critical to be answered by someone that can change their mind about you.
But when this question is answered by the Living God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, we have an answer we can trust. An answer we can cling to through thick and thin. This is the true mark of identity. Anyone can feel good about themselves in good times, but when your sense of self survives tough times, that’s when you know it is anchored in truth.
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
In the journey to sexual integrity, freedom, and health, we must not give in to the narrative that defines us by our actions, struggles, or orientation. These are all parts of our stories. They matter, don’t get me wrong. But they do not define us.
Jesus went on to perform signs and wonders, astound listeners with profound teachings, and disciple a group of people that went on to change the course of world history. Not once did his identity change based on his efforts.
Did he have challenges? Absolutely.
Did he question God? He sure did.
Did he hold on to His identity statement? You bet.
You can do the same. Good identity takes time to forge. But as you plant your roots in the truth, and allow them to grow deeper in the words God speaks over you and about you, you become a house built on rock. Let me get you started with these simple yet profound words: You are God’s beloved child, in you He is well pleased.
Cheering you on,