In my travels, speaking and mentoring, I have seen a serious deficiency of one of the most foundational principles of our faith—identity. Identity has many meanings, but I define identity in this context as knowing my value in Christ, knowing who I am in Christ, living loved by my Father, and engaging the power that is in me through Christ Jesus. Finding our own identity in Christ can open the doors to help cultivate identity in those around us.
Recently, I was the guest speaker for an amazing group of about 30 teens and young adults in Iowa. I would not choose camping as the setting for a weekend involving six teaching sessions, but I was up for the challenge. Brooks, the guy who initiated the meeting, set the weekend up out of a passion to see God move among his friends.
Hunger for God was the driving force behind this event.
Friday evening was a time to carry the tons of supplies a quarter mile or so through the woods, forest really, where I'm sure I saw a rodent of unusual size (R.O.U.S.). Having arrived at the sandbar, the agenda was to set up the tents and tables, unpack the guns, kill obnoxious mosquitoes, organize the food, find a convenient potty, create light via a campfire, spit and act manly, and blah, blah, blah.
I went to this event, like I went to most teaching events, over-prepared but not having a clue what I was going to teach or say. Some of the participants I recognized from when I lived in Iowa six years prior. I was amazed how they had grown spiritually. Almost all of these guys were from conservative Mennonite churches. Even though I am not Mennonite, 90% of my ministry the past decade has been to Mennonite, Amish or similar circles. When my family and I left Iowa, many of these guys were teens in formation, but now were mature adults.
Late Friday evening, it was my turn to teach—around the campfire. They didn’t have anAcme Sand Podium for my notes and I couldn’t have seen even if I chose to use them, but I knew, once there, what God wanted me to say.
I went around and introduced myself to them individually, then I started in on my lesson—identity—not the worldly idea, but knowing who you are in Christ and who Christ is in you. I told them the weekend was going to be about discovering the real you, your potential, and the power of Christ in you. I felt assured in my heart that it would be a life-changing weekend for many of the guys.
I began by telling the guys they will never go higher than what they think about themselves, and what they believe about themselves will be their greatest struggle in life. This is the case because Jesus, according to I John 3:8, came with a mission to destroy the works of the devil, and I am convinced that the main work of the devil is to steal identity. You can’t love others when you don’t love yourself is a truth I believe wholeheartedly.
I told them, “Most Christians are trying to fix and improve something that is supposed to die!”
When you are attempting to grow deep roots, but planting profound truth in corrupted soil (negative self-image), your harvest will be disappointing. When you are focused on engaging more faith, but from a weak view of who you are, you dismantle the power of faith.
To some, identity and self-love are a form of pride. I couldn’t disagree more. True identity is when we deny self in favor of “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” True agape (God’s love) for yourself will enable you to love others without a dominating self-focus. Often people cannot find their God-identity because they are afraid of being proud, because the God-identity is glorious!
How Does the Devil Steal Identity?
The whole concept of walking in your identity is based on one word—value. Discovering your identity is simply discovering your value in God. Most people, yes, believers, live their lives managing a self-image created by what others have said: parents, leaders, peers, society, school teachers, and self-talk. The truth is that nobody has the right to define who you are other than God.
How Do I Discover My God-Identity?
First, you must break your agreement with the false definition of yourself that you have believed that was shaped by the world—that came from sources other than God. Second, you must discover through the Word, through communion with the Holy Spirit, the glorious and valuable person God made you to be.
In my book, To Kill a Lion: Destroying the Power of Lust From the Root, I tell how self-devaluing/low self-image is a fertile foundation for sexual addiction. Just yesterday I was chatting with a church leader who exuded an unhealthy identity. I asked him, if he also struggled with lust. He said he did.
Where Healthy Identity Comes From
You will never discover the fullness of your true identity in God on your own. The reason is, you need me, and I need you, and we need each other to call our potential and value to life. Our identity originates with knowing who we are in God, but He also gives us relationships to help bring out the full potential of our identity. Ruthie, after 38 years of being married to me, knows more about who I am in God, in some areas, than I do. She has called my identity to life countless times. I have friends who constantly remind me of who I am in the Lord—and I remind them of who they are. God made the body for theone-anothers and healthy identity doesn’t happen without them.
Getting back to my camping trip story - I pounded the idea of identity again on Saturday morning. The ministry time lasted well over an hour while the guys called each other to life and spoke truth over each other. We skipped lunch and returned after a break for another session. From that session on, I told the group that I was going to step back and let them do the ministry time themselves for each following session. I wasn’t going to say a word. From then on the ministry/prayer time lasted close to two hours. There were tears, confessions, and renouncing the enemy’s lies. Dreams came alive as one-by-oneGod-identities were exposed in those who didn’t know their value and worth in God. Several of the young men came unglued, speaking powerful words of value to the other guys in each meeting.
Before I departed I said, “Guys, if I came from Pennsylvania to Iowa just so I could help you all find your worth in Christ, I have not invested my time well. But if I came here to help you find your worth so that you can call others to life with what you learned, then I invested my time very well.” I encouraged them to have a follow-up meeting and invite all their friends that couldn’t come to the retreat, and re-teach what they learned. Spread the good word that we are valued by God, and everyone of us is powerfully unique.
Confidentially—don’t tell anybody—I was not, in the natural, excited about teaching this retreat—more travel, camping dynamics, and personal challenges I was struggling with inside my heart in a major way seemed to bog me down. But leaving the retreat, I couldn’t imagine NOT having the privilege that I had—seeing God move in and through a bunch of committed Mennonite youth that wanted God with all their hearts. The next few days I could only describe the feeling over me as glory.
My purpose of writing this to you is to challenge you to discover your identity and worth in God. Don’t let the world define who you are. Don’t let others devalue you. God wants to speak some wonderful things to you, if you will open up to His glorious love.
Resources To Help You Discover Your Identity
To Kill a Lion: Destroying the Power of Lust From the Root—This book has been the catalyst for many men to get free from sexual lust. Though focused on sexual addiction, it will provide many insights that will help you destroy your low self-image, giving you a foundation to walk free in Jesus. READ THE FIRST CHAPTER FOR FREE ATBRUCELENGEMAN.COM. Also available at certapublishing.com/ToKillaLion andAmazon.com
You’ve Been Tweeked! is a fable I wrote, in book form, that uncovers the battle for your identity. One businessman called it, The Secret to Overcoming Everything. It is available at BruceLengeman.com