One of the most misunderstood and undervalued truths of following Jesus is the importance of understanding our identity in Christ. When you repented of your sin and believed in Jesus, you weren’t just forgiven, you were given a new identity that completely replaces how you saw yourself and how the world labeled you. This shift that happens at the moment of our surrender is so incredibly powerful that many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to fully comprehend it.
Son. Sheep. Bride. Brother. Many times these identities are studied within the body. We emphasize the idea that these are identities that exist because we are “in Christ.” They’re not based on what we do. They’re real because Jesus invaded our life.
The truth is, when we begin to see ourselves as one of these identities, we begin to live differently. How we believe God sees us and how we see ourselves is fundamental in changing how we live. If we believe we are delighted in by God as a Father delights in His son or daughter, it will increase the amount of joy we walk in as the people of God. Knowing and believing our God-given identity has the power to flip the script that we’ve been reading over our lives. It’s powerful.
God spends so much time in Scripture telling us who we are that there are multiple identities he gives us. Each one of these identities can be received without working for them but have a corresponding reality to walk out. For example, God calls us His sons. And for us that means that we are loved by God and have become part of His family. To be an accepted son of God that is loved by Him is life transforming. But when we accept and begin to walk in that reality it changes us. Well-matured sonship means growing up and becoming fathers ourselves. We get to live as loved mature sons who walk in the authority and inheritance of our Father.
So while there are many of identities out there for us to get our hearts and heads around, one of the identities that we focus on very little is the missional identity God gives us. Paul says this:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
-2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Notice a couple of things:
- This isn’t the identity of only the Paul and his apostolic team, though they surely operated out of this reality to a great degree. This missional identity starts as an outgrowth of being in Christ. It’s part of the “new” that has come. If Christ has reconciled us to Himself, then He has also given us the ministry of reconciliation.
- This whole identity centers around knowing that we have been completely reconciled to God. Let that sink in for a moment, because I fear many of us don’t operate out of this identity because we feel we are only partially reconciled to Him. You aren’t just a struggling sinner that God has mercifully let in to sit in the back of the room. You are God’s beloved child who He’s made the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus has not counted our past trespasses against us and He has entrusted to us the message of God’s reconciling act in Jesus.
- Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ and God makes His appeal through us. This missional identity is one of ambassadorship. We are constantly speaking on behalf of God to lost and dying humanity for them to be reconciled to God through Christ. Believing by faith that this is who we are will open up power and effectiveness for us as we step out.
Many of us miss out on more effectiveness in the realm of sharing our faith and walking in the power of the Holy Spirit because we don’t believe we are truly God’s ambassadors. I know this is an area I’ve personally struggled with. But I’m seeing again in my life and the life of our churches here, the more we believe this reality is true, the more we walk it out in our daily lives.
Just like any of our other identities, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to renew our mind and fill it with the truth we see in God’s word. As our minds are renewed and we accept this identity and role that God gives us, we will mature in it. Not everyone will be a missionary, apostle, or evangelist, but all of us can participate in the service of being a voice for the world to be reconciled to God in Christ.
Do you believe you are Christ’s ambassador? If not, what’s stopping you?
I forgot for a season of my life who I was and what I was called to. It wasn’t intentional. Forgetting never is. But when people who didn’t know what they were called to be began to be intimidated by me, I stepped back. I sat down. I buried my all my money in the sand for fear of losing it (Matthew 25:14-30). I turned on my flashlight but stuck it in my pants pocket (Matthew 5:14-16).
And so I forgot who I was. I forgot what I was called to. I forgot that the flashlight wasn’t just for me, but for others to find their way, too.
I also forgot about one of my heroes. He was this guy who got knocked off his donkey by a blinding light on the way to kill Christians. After being blinded, he repented and was told the path of the rest of his life. And over and over again he kept telling people that he had to complete the calling that he received when he was saved. It was the laser focus of his life. He would also tell others to not forget their calling. He even told me time after time after time: “Your calling is important. Finish it.” (See Acts 9:1-19, Acts 26:12-23, Colossians 4:17)
But now I’m remembering. I’m remembering that I cannot let people’s reactions sway me from the heavenly vision. I can’t be disobedient to it. A little older, a little wiser, I’m learning to pursue my calling while simultaneously not sacrificing others its altar.
But make no mistake, this is not some Christianized version of self-actualization. Being missional means knowing your calling. You cannot help advance the mission of Jesus if you are walking in someone else’s calling. A soldier in the wrong place during battle will not help win the war. The same is true in Jesus’ kingdom. Only a people who are intent on fulfilling their calling will spread the Gospel far and wide like my hero.
Know your calling. Fulfill your calling. It’s important. Souls hang in the balance. Remember. Don’t forget.
This past weekend I journeyed out to the Midwest Prayer Center to attend a worship gathering that was
led by Rick Pino. After the time of worship they had a speaker named Rex Crain who I had never heard
before this weekend. He had a tremendous ability to provoke people into their callings (and do a very
corporate version of what I’ve been talking about in my “On Sonship” series).
I found something he did really simple and helpful for clarifying identity and helping people move
forward in their calling. He gave everyone two sentences to fill in the blanks for themselves. Once
you answer these two questions, a lot of other questions become much easier. I’m going to post both
sentences, but here’s the challenge: Answer them in the comment section. You’ll be helped by having
written down a clarifying statement on identity and purpose and I would love to know who is reading
and where the people who are reading are going. Here are the two questions:
My name is __________________.
My life is about ____________________________________________________________________.
Now, some of you may not know the answer to the question, and that’s okay. This is an exercise
designed to cause you to go back to the Father and get the answers. Obviously the first answer is just
your name. The second answer has an infinite number of possibilities.
Here’s mine: My name is Travis. My life is about recovering the essence of apostolic Christianity in my
generation. (I’ll clarify that statement at some point in the future, but it will probably look something
Okay, now it’s your turn. Go to the comment section and leave the answer to your two questions. I’m
excited to see the answers.