find your identity as image ofChrist

Find Your Identity in the Image of Christ

Coleman FordBy Coleman Ford9 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Formed in His Image by Coleman Ford.

Chapter 3
Getting Union with Christ Right for Formation

Our age is grasping for identity. The word identity itself is present in much of our political and cultural conversations. From identity politics to gender identity to even identity fraud, we are very concerned about our identity. Movies and TV shows explore the theme of identity, whether it’s El from Stranger Things or Elsa from Frozen. From talk shows to tabloids, we are all seeking ultimate meaning for our life. Let’s take, for example, the conversation of gender identity in our culture today. Not that long ago, the sort of conversations that are normal would have been unthinkable. We can not only choose our own gender identity, but we can also decide if we want to have a gender at all. You may shake your head and dismiss gender ideology as trendy or faddish, but it reveals another facet of the persistent question of identity in our culture.

Philosopher Charles Taylor has called our age a “secular age,” where there is a rejection of a cosmological meta-narrative guiding our thoughts and actions in the world. What Taylor and others have observed is that our culture has lost a sense of otherworldliness and mystery. There are no forces (let alone a transcendent God) guiding our lives and circumstances. We are in this for ourselves by ourselves. Rather than freeing humanity, this “secular” view of the world has created a crushing burden and has led us deeper into the crisis of identity.

Christians should not be surprised that people struggle with identity. The question of identity is as old as time, as Satan tempted Eve to question who she was and the mandate given to her and Adam as image-bearers of God. “Did God really say … ?” (Gen. 3:1) is the demonic whisper that permeates all questions of identity. Many of our problems are rooted in mistaken identity. Apart from an intimate relationship with God through Christ, the tension of false identity will never be resolved. In fact, this is the crux of the gospel message. Christians should understand most of all that identity is found in Christ alone. By trusting in the person and work of Jesus Christ, placing our allegiance in him as Lord, we gain a new identity in the world with a renewed sense of purpose in it. The Spirit continually applies the work of Christ and drills the eternal truth of our union with Christ deeper into our hearts. Before we look at the doctrine of union with Christ and its implications, let us take a step back and look at an even more foundational doctrine for understanding the dilemma of identity in our world today.


In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” This design, the imago dei or image of God, is intrinsic to who we are as humans. Our basic identity is bound up in the creative genius of the triune God. The account of Creation in Genesis also describes mankind as containing the breath of God (2:7). We are theomorphic  creatures —formed by God and containing his breath. Because of this, humanity is distinct from all other creatures and is alone capable of a deep relationship with one another and with God. Because of the imago dei, every person has value. As male and female, God gave mankind a mandate to create and cultivate. We represent God and have been given a mission by God as his representatives. We get to do God-like things with God-made stuff. We till the soil of God’s original creation to develop, grow, and create new and exciting things. From Tesla plants to turnip patches, humanity imitates God in our creative work. In the Creation account, humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creative work, given abilities that no other creature possesses. The imago dei grounds our basic identity and our knowledge of self. It also means we have the potential for virtue and growth, acting in ways in accordance with God’s will. The creation of humanity as image-bearers of God grants us permission to pursue what is good, true, and beautiful. We have value, vocation, and the potential for virtue because of God’s design.

It was because of our divinely gifted abilities that humanity took that fateful step away from God in rebellion. The Fall created a fracture in the very fabric of the cosmos. Because of sin, we are alienated from God, from creation, and from one another. In God’s grace and mercy, he continued to sustain and provide for his creation and promised a Redeemer who would restore all things and establish the peace and justice of God once again on earth (see Genesis 3:15; 1 Peter 1:18-20; Revelation 22:1-5).

The aching question of identity in our culture is rooted in the Fall. Because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), everything, from our hearts and minds to our bodies to our relationships, has been radically affected by sin. We have become fractured and have lost the unity we had with God. There is not one area of our life and experience left untouched by sin. Because of sin, we have a heart that is dis-ordered and bent toward itself. We love the wrong things. We seek after false beauty. We find hope in things that are ultimately hopeless. We retain the same basic concepts, have basic abilities to do good things and think rationally, but our hearts are turned in on themselves. Even the best of our actions is tainted with sin, selfishness, and pride. The reason we are still able to do anything good and have societies that function at some level is because we are made in the image of God and retain this basic design and divine imprint. But apart from a restorative work of grace in our lives, we will always be at the mercy of false ideologies, vain philosophies, and cultural dogmas that can never provide us a true and meaningful identity. Only in union with Christ will our identity be restored. When we are united with Christ by grace through faith (see Eph. 2:8), we can once again live for what we were made for: peace and unity with God and one another.

Order your copy of Formed in His Image: A Guide for Christian Formation by Coleman Ford.