Beware of Identity Theft: Be Defined By the Gospel

J. Josh SmithBy J. Josh Smith12 Minutes

Excerpt taken from THE TITUS TEN: Foundations for Godly Manhood by J. Josh Smith.

Chapter 3

 The curse of words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, Solomon tells us (Prov. 18:21). With our tongue we can praise the Lord and curse human beings, who have been made in God’s like-ness, James adds (James 3:9). Words define us. And often, a casual and thoughtless word can negatively define us for years. We have a rule in our house that no one is allowed to make any negative “you are” statements. I will often hear one of my children saying to one of their siblings, “You are so annoying.” Most likely, the sibling was being annoying. But there is a difference between saying “You are acting annoying” and saying “You are annoying.” “You are” statements define us.

Everyone has an identity. Your identity is who you think you are. Whether you realize it or not, your identity is most formed by words others have said to you, phrases that begin with words like, “You are . . . ,” “You will never be . . . ,” or “You are just like . . .” These careless words define us and leave many of us with an inner monologue that continues to reinforce a false identity. They really are a curse. And we all have them.

Some of you have been living under the curse of words for too long. You have little phrases that repeat in your head over and over again, like a broken record, reinforcing a false identity. And these phrases not only define you; they determine the direction of your life.

When we trust and follow Jesus, He makes us into a new creation. He redefines us. And on the pathway to a restored manhood, we must continue to allow our identity to be formed by the reality of who we are in Christ. We must hear Jesus say, “You are.”

Who are you?

Fill in the blanks: My name is ________________ and I am a ____________________.

The first blank is easy. You have a name. You didn’t choose it. It was given to you. You’ve had it your whole life. It’s what people call you. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to hesitate when people ask you. You’ve said it a million times.

The second blank might be a little more difficult. There are a lot of things that could go there. My first thought when I look at that second blank is, Where do I start? I am a lot of things. And so are you. At times I feel like I am an overwhelming number of things, a lot of different things to a lot of different people, a lot of different things at a lot of different times. Sound familiar?

Despite the difficulty, our ability to clearly and quickly fill in that second blank is equally as important as the first one.

The first blank is just your name. The second blank is your identity. Or at least, it should be.

The reason we struggle filling in that second blank is that our first thought is most often not our identity, but our assign-ments. Identity and assignments are distinct but inseparable parts of every man. Identity answers the question, “Who am I?” Assignment answers the question, “What has God called me to do?” And our failure to make that distinction can lead to a lot of pain, frustration, anxiety, and a host of other issues.

I remember spending hours with James after he had lost his job during a recession. He had been successful, respected, and sought after in his field. But in a moment, it was all gone. He was surprised by how difficult it was for him. There were certainly some expected areas of pride and fear that the loss of a job exposed. But he was noticing it was deeper than that. He was having a harder time with this than he should. And he knew it. What was going on?

The loss of his job revealed he had allowed his assignment to become his identity. And when his assignment was gone, he didn’t know who he was.

Confusing your identity with your assignments can be devastating. We feel the fragility of our assignments and long to base our lives on something more substantial. Thankfully, we can.

Knowing Your Identity

To build your life on a solid, unshakable foundation, you must let the gospel redefine you. So far, we have moved from intentions (created to work and keep) to distortions (sin makes everything broken). Now, we want to begin moving down the pathway toward true manhood. This begins as you not only understand and receive the gospel, but as you allow the gospel to begin to show you your true identity (2 Cor. 5:17).

The apostle Paul didn’t have trouble filling in the second blank. We see this at the beginning of Titus. With five words, Paul gives his name and his identity. “Paul, a servant of God” (1:1). “Servant” is Paul’s most common reference to himself (Rom. 1:1; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1). This is Paul’s identity. His assignment is what he says next. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle” (we will talk about assignments in the next chapter). Paul knows who he is. And that kind of clarity is liberating and empowering.

God longs for you to clarify your identity and be able to articulate it. Your identity in Christ should make you feel like a solid man. This is why the Bible continually reminds us of who we are in Christ. We could turn to almost any book of the New Testament and find clarity on our true identity.

Take Ephesians 1, for example. In one long Greek sentence, Paul begins his letter by clarifying the true identity of all those who are “in Christ.” He says that all of those who are “in Christ” are blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, heirs, and homes for the Spirit of God. And that’s just one sentence! There are hundreds of similar passages that clarify our identity. Yet, most men still don’t know who they are.

When it comes to understanding our true manhood, and becoming godly men, four primary words must become your core identity. You are a slave, a son, a friend, and a lover.

Becoming What You Are

These four aspects of our identity—servant, son, friend, and lover—are just the tip of the iceberg. You are so much more. You are a saint, a new creation, an ambassador, a gifted part of the body, a family member, and a sojourner. And the most amazing part is, you are all of those at the same time! That truth is not meant to overwhelm you, it is meant to empower you. You are so much more than you ever imagined. And God is calling you into the daily experience of each of your identities in Christ.

There may be seasons of life in which God is continually calling you into deeper sonship. Times in which you need more affirmation and wisdom. There may be times in which He is calling you into a deeper friendship. Times in which you need more closeness. There are times when God will call you, as a member of a local church, into more of your role in God’s family. God is always calling you into more of your true identity.

The key is this: you must keep discovering who you are through His Word. Allow God to define you. Don’t let anyone else or anything else define you. You are not defined by your past. You are not defined by what others said about you. You are not defined by your limitations. You are defined by God. And the more time you spend in His Word, the more you will come to realize just who you truly are.

You must listen for those phrases that have been stuck in your mind for years and stop allowing them to define you. You must take those thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5). You must replace the curse of words with the blessing of your true identity in Jesus Christ. To do that, you must allow yourself the time and space to let God speak deeply into your heart, through His Word and by the power of His Spirit and redefine you.

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