Several years ago, I heard an interesting story from a young relative of mine who had just been enrolled in a secondary school as a day student. The school closed daily at 4pm and so the students were served lunch in the school refectory by 2pm. However, for more than 2 months after his admission, this boy did not join others during lunch but would rather go and buy biscuits for himself and eat. On a certain day, one of the teachers saw him eating biscuit while others were having lunch and asked him if he didn’t like the school food. The boy replied that he was a day student and not in the boarding house and therefore was not entitled to have lunch like the rest. Shocked at his reply, the teacher then went on to enlighten him that his school fees made him eligible to have lunch daily like the other students. The boy then excitedly proceeded to the refectory and joined others from that day onward. The lesson here is that though the young boy knew that he was a student of the institution, he hadn’t fully come to terms with the implication of his identity as a fee paying student in that school.
A full understanding of identity empowers the bearer to act in consonance with the expectation of the identity. Likewise, a clear understanding of our Christian heritage and identify in Christ will empower us as Christians to fulfill our God ordained purposes in life.
The word, identity, can be defined as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual or the qualities, beliefs, etc. that make a particular person or group different from others. Identity can also be defined as who someone is or the name of a person.
The true Christian walk is first and foremost a total alignment with our God proclaimed identity in Jesus Christ and second, an understanding of that identity through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Carefully consider the following facts regarding our identity as God s children:
1) We were made in the image and likeness of God ( Gen.1:26) and programmed by His command to be fruitful, to multiply and to have dominion (Gen.1:28)
2) In Christ Jesus, we are the seed of Abraham and carry the oath of God to possess the gates of our enemies (Gen 22:15-18; Gal 3:29)
3) We are a peculiar people that God is pleased to freely give all things, having first given us His only begotten and priceless Son. (Rom. 8:32)
4) We are they who are sanctified by the one-time offering of Jesus Christ on the cross (Heb.10:10,14)
5) We are members of the body of Christ, and sit together with Him in heavenly places far above all forces of darkness (Eph. 1:19-23; 2:4-6)
6) The Almighty God; whom the heavens and earth cannot contain, dwells within us and we carry Him wherever we go. ( I Cor. 6:19; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:19)
7) We have a priceless and eternal inheritance reserved for us in heaven, which exceeds any earthly wealth or possession (I Peter 1:3,4)
The power of understanding and accepting our God proclaimed identity is illustrated by the following three examples:
1. Abram s change of name to Abraham.
Abram means exalted father, while Abraham means father of many nations. God proclaimed an identity over the Patriarch Abram by changing his name to Father of many nations; a situation that seemed inconsistent with his condition of childlessness through his wife Sarai (Gen.17:4,5). However, as he accepted his new identity over time, his former condition aligned with his new identity and Isaac, the child of promise came forth.
Therefore, as we hold unto our God proclaimed identity, our situation though contrary will certainly align with our identity as long as we don’t waiver in our resolve. God has proclaimed us righteous in Jesus Christ. That is who we are and who we will manifestly become as long as we hold unto that identity in spite of the contrary situation that we may be seeing presently.
2. Moses – the fugitive deliverer.
When Moses, full of confidence that he was the deliverer, killed the servant of Pharaoh for beating an Israelite, he ran away from Egypt to escape the sure consequence of his action - death. Have you ever wondered what gave Moses the confidence to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh? At the age of 80, when God met Moses by the burning bush, his confidence was totally gone after years of frustration and subsequent depression. God had to convince Moses that he was still the deliverer. In spite of the signs that God showed him, his confidence remained abysmally low as shown in Exodus 6:30 where he said to God “ Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me”? In the very next verse (Exodus 7:1), God addressed the problem of Moses by revealing to him his true identity “See, I have made you a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet”. From that point onward, in spite of Pharaoh s stubbornness, Moses never went before God to complain that he would be unable to do the job. The moment he understood his identity, that Pharaoh was far below him by divine ordination, his confidence soared and Pharaoh became a non-issue going forward.
Like Moses, there are several in the Church, who are yet to understand that our spiritual position, heritage and authority in Jesus Christ make us to be far above the devil and all the cohorts of hell. For such Christians, witches and wizards and occult powers continue to intimidate them on a daily basis. If you belong to that category, like Moses, you need to come to an understanding of your God proclaimed identity. You carry Jehovah, the Almighty. He that is in you is greater than He that is in the world. What God expects you to do in order to activate the power inherent in your identity, is simply to believe who He has said you are.
3. David overcomes Goliath.
The difference between David and the others Israelite soldiers who were scared to confront Goliath was one thing – identifying with God. The sheer size of Goliath intimidated the army of Israel to forget that they had a God who could easily destroy the challenger. However, David rather than concentrate on Goliath size chose to focus on the identity of Israel as God s chosen people to whom He was committed to protect. His battle statement – “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (I Sam. 17:46) tells much of his understanding of his identity as a child of God.
How often as children of God do we behave like the armies of Israel? We focus on the enormity of the obstacle(s) before us - sickness, lack, suffering, persecution etc. rather than on the greatness of our God and the fact that He is ever committed to act in our interest by reason of the sacrifice of Jesus.
We therefore need to work on ourselves this year. We must see ourselves as who God says we are. We must factor God in all equations of our lives. As we do so, mountains and obstacles will melt before us like wax because of His presence that we carry. That shall be your portion after now in Jesus name!
Therefore some manifestations of not knowing and acting in line with our identity in Jesus Christ include:
1. Fear: Various fears that ought not to bother us as children of light, take a hold on us because we have not come to the place of fully identifying with who God says we are in Jesus Christ. Such fears include: fear of tomorrow, the unknown, death, the forces of darkness, sickness and failure. The Word of God is clear that we have not received the spirit of fear but of power, love, and of a sound mind (II Tim.1:7)
2. Sin: We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb.10:10,14). We have been empowered to live holy by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. Therefore, every disobedience to God, in whatever form - lying, cheating, immorality, hatred, un-forgiveness, self-centeredness and wickedness, amongst others are no more consistent with whom we are.
3. Not making an impact in life: Kings reign. God is a great king and therefore as His children we are programmed to reign in this life. The gift of being in right standing with God (righteousness) qualifies us to reign in life (Rom. 5:17). The power of the Holy Spirit guarantees us dominion, fruitfulness and multiplication.
Therefore knowledge empowers us to work in a higher level of ability (grace)- II Peter 1: 2,3
What then is God s method for us to come to realization of our identity?
1. From childhood, we should be constantly exposed to the reality of who we are. (Deut, 6:6-9). As parents we must repeatedly saturate our children with this information in line with God s commandment. This we can achieve by the type of stories that we tell them, the films they watch, the story books we buy for them, making sure we bring them to Church always, making them understand the place of prayer and constant fellowship with God as well as the importance of integrity and godly character.
2. Our environment must be saturated with God and be consistent with what we want to become. Godly and edifying music should be played in our homes and cars. We must separate ourselves from friends and acquaintances that are not heading in the same direction as we are, and who will ultimately constitute distractions from our heavenly race.
3. We should repeatedly declare with our lips who God says we are, in spite of situations that may appear to be contrary to our expectation.
4. The Word of God must be our daily companion. We should read, study and memorize it with passion and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
5. We must learn how to meditate on the Word of God. After reading a passage, we should exercise stillness and ponder on what we have read, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate it in our hearts.
6. We must commit ourselves to start doing the Word, by way of giving out time, talent and treasures for the service of God and humanity and being Christ-like in our pursuits
7. We must desire to manifestly become who God says we are by putting away those things that are inconsistent with whom we have been proclaimed to be. That intense desire to become God s best for us should drive us to heart felt prayer before Him, earnestly desiring to be transformed into His showpiece in our generation.
As you commit yourself to accepting the identity that God has proclaimed over you in Christ Jesus, I see a newness breaking forth in your life! New depths in God, which you never thought possible, will become possible unto you! May the honor and glory of Jehovah; which follows those who serve Him whole heartedly, rest upon you and your loved ones, now and always. A’men!
The Revd. Dr. Nduka Iwuchukwu.
Priest, Diocese of Lagos West, is presently attached to St. Nicholas Cathedral, Anglican Diocese of Victoria Nyanza, Tanzania. (firstname.lastname@example.org)