Do you struggle with feeling unworthy? Do you wonder about your purpose in life? Do you feel as if you're not growing spiritually?
You're not alone--millions of believers feel the same way. Unfortunately, many of them will never experience a breakthrough and become mature in their faith because they lack a proper understanding of their essential identity in Christ. But you don't have to settle for something less than your full potential in the kingdom of God.
First John 3:2 says: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (KJV, emphasis added).
It is hard to avoid the noticeable tension between these two phrases: "now are we the sons of God" and "it doth not yet appear." John is showing us that our identity is a settled fact, but our spiritual maturity is yet to be determined. We are sons of God on a journey to becoming fully matured.
The new-birth experience is the defining moment in a person's life. Following the miracle of regeneration, there is nothing you can do to become more of a son of God than you already are.
You can become a mature son. You can become an obedient son. You can become a faithful son. But you are already a son of God.
Consider the process of being born to your physical parents. Your gender was determined at the moment of conception. Throughout "Woman looking down SS26062" your life, you can choose educational, emotional and physical activities that will enhance your masculinity or your femininity, but there is no activity that will alter your essential identity. Your essential identity was determined by God, programmed into your genes and revealed at birth.
Many Christians are engaged in a life-or-death struggle to find their identity. But God has already deposited everything in you, through His incorruptible seed, that you will ever need to become who you already are in Christ. This incorruptible seed lives and abides within us, continually growing and bearing eternal fruit.
Second Peter 1:3 says: "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (NKJV). What do you presently need to be confident in your essential identity? What do you need to succeed in overcoming every challenge to your destiny?
The answer is already within you. The key to your success in life is contained in the seed of God's incorruptible Word, which exists within your spirit.
Have you ever stopped to realize that the only aspect of creation that struggles with its identity is mankind? The birds, bees, dogs and fleas do not give the issue of identity a second thought. Have you ever observed an apple sapling struggling with an identity crisis, desperate to become an apple tree? Certainly not!
The genetic structure of that apple tree is destined for one thing: producing fruit after its own kind. The destiny is in the seed. The "guidance system" of the genetic structure relieves the plant kingdom, as well as the whole of creation, from stressing over being something other than what it really is. With the exception of mankind, God's entire kingdom is at peace with its inherent design and ultimate destiny.
Time to Grow Up
God desires for us to grow spiritually until we reach maturity. This journey is not complete until the line between us and Jesus becomes indivisible--until we live like Jesus, talk like Jesus, respond like Jesus and love like Jesus. And the wonderful thing about this is that we have all of God's grace at our disposal.
But why do so many people say the sinner's prayer, walk away from the altar and never go on to discipleship? The primary reason is because they have never been shown the value of growing up into Christ in all things.
There are many reasons we have been called to grow spiritually, but the foremost reason is this: Only the fully matured son can inherit everything the Father has willed to him. Only as we mature is our inheritance released to us.
The goal of the Holy Spirit is to prepare us for our spiritual inheritance. One of the ways He prepares us is through chastening.
I still remember these words that my father spoke to me when I was a child: "Son, this is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you." I knew that pronouncement was going to be followed by my father's discipline. I could not see how this process hurt him more than it did me. As a father, I now understand.
The author of Hebrews wrote: "'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons" (Heb. 12:5-8).
The chastening process of the Lord is for our spiritual development. But when rejection is present in our lives it makes correction seem like destruction. The corrective process of the kingdom may hurt your flesh, but it will not destroy your purpose. God is intent on developing a son, not destroying an "enemy."
I believe that the devil works to alienate us from the corrective process by sowing seeds of mistrust in our lives. I have ministered to many Christians who do not trust God's intention in divine correction because they have been abused by human authority figures.
Not recognizing how they have been set up by the devil, they despise the chastening of the Lord. Consequently, they never mature as a son and cannot be given their inheritance in the kingdom.
Although the new-birth experience formed the new creation deep within us, restoring us back into the likeness of God, the challenge we encounter is in communicating, or transmitting, that new image back to our mind, will and emotions. The transmission of these new creation realities is a continual process in life and is between you and the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God serving as the instruction manual.
He supplies the grace; you cooperate by supplying the faith. He supplies the power; but you must make available the vessel. He provides the wisdom; you develop the understanding.
If you desire to truly walk in your identity, you must become "renewed in the spirit of your mind." Renewing our minds takes more than factual information; it necessitates spiritual revelation.
Proverbs 23:7 declares that "as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he." The true secret to living the new creation life is to begin renewing our minds to new creation realities. It's really a matter of programming our minds with the revelation that will ultimately set us free. Information will not set you free, but revelation will.
What many Christians have failed to discern is that there is a vast difference between truth and revelation. Truth doesn't require a personal application to be true, but revelation cannot exist independently of a personal application. Revelation is actually the truth that I have received and applied. Only the truth that we hear, believe, receive and apply will set us free.
Renewing Your Mind
Many of you desperately want to change the broken areas of your lives, but you are going about it all wrong. Perhaps you want to heal a broken marriage or spark a dying career or kick a bad habit, and you are frustrated with yourself because you feel powerless to change. You have deceived yourself into thinking that one morning you'll wake up and everything will be magically changed.
But before your situation will ever change, you may have to change. And sometimes change only comes through the process of spiritual conflict.
When paraphrasing John 8:31, the Jerusalem Bible says, "Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution." The purpose of a revolution is to overthrow "governmental authority." If your mind has been ruled by the "governmental authority" of the kingdom of darkness, you can dethrone its power by renewing your mind to the truth of God's Word.
In ancient days, cities were built within massive walls, thereby protecting their citizens. When the people were under siege from an opposing army, the wall provided a formidable barrier that protected the city, holding the enemy at bay. Before any enemy force could expect to conquer a city, it first had to overcome that protective shield.
In addition to almost indestructible walls, towers were erected in strategic places throughout the city. During times of battle, warriors would position themselves in these stations, which towered above the surrounding wall. From these high vantage points they could see the location of the advancing troops and plan their strategy of defense and counterattack.
In order for the enemy to take the city, three objectives had to be accomplished. First, the wall had to be scaled or penetrated. Second, the towers had to be invaded. Third, the men of military strategy had to be captured.
After the military leaders were captured or killed, then the general army was left without direction. Such was the strategy for first-century battles.
In 2 Corinthians 10, we see this very principle illustrated--not in a city, but in a mind. Originally our minds were enemy-held territories. Our minds were the base of operation for the powers of this world.
Rebellion, anger, lust, insecurity, intimidation and rejection ruled without resistance. These forces of darkness had complete control over our lives through our minds. That's why Paul uses military words and ideas that suggest physical combat, even though everything being described here occurs in the mind.
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5, KJV).
Most Christians are familiar with these verses, but not the context from which they are taken. Rather than being a passage on the importance of spiritual warfare, the real issue at stake here is Paul's identity as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. His authority as a New Testament apostle flows out of his identity as the new creation.
Although the light of the glorious gospel has set us free, the enemy still attempts to operate through the strongholds that he has established. He seeks to rule our lives through the habits we established when we were under his control. The real battleground is at the point of the stronghold--the thing that we fall back under when pressure comes upon us.
In a moment of pressure, many Christians hide under the stronghold of personal addiction. They bow their knees to the ruling power of gluttony, alcohol, nicotine, sex, anger or withdrawal because they do not know who they really are. In order to change the behavior, we have to cast down the imagination and bring our thoughts captive to the image of Christ.
If you do not understand your identity as a son or daughter of the kingdom, then you will live your entire life beneath the privileges of your sonship. But if you come to grips with who you really are in Christ--if you realize that there is a divine call and destiny on your life--then you will walk in freedom, authority and victory.
Terry Crist is pastor of CitiChurch International in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he lives with his wife, Judith, and three sons. He has traveled to more than 50 nations and is the author of The Image Maker (Creation House).
Know Who You Are in Christ
Watch out. If you're not careful, these seven identity killers will keep you from realizing your purpose in life and identity in Christ.
Lack of revelation. It is easy to wander aimlessly through life without giving any consideration to whether or not you are living in the reality of your essential identity. Too many Christians focus on outer image at the expense of inner image. They settle for less than they were created to be. The Word of God is the only influence that has the right to define you. But you will never discover your essential identity unless you have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Generational curses. One of the foremost ways that strongholds of insecurity and rejection are established in people's lives is by the spiritual transfer of the sins of the fathers to the children. A man will deal with his children exactly as he was dealt with unless he makes a conscious choice to do otherwise. This process will continue generation after generation until the curse is realized and broken through repentance and prayer.
Wrong relationships. The most powerful force in the universe, outside of God, is human relationships. Your relationships are the key to your personal success or failure; they will either coach you into destiny or restrict you from your ultimate purpose. Everything we are today, good and bad, is a product of the people we know and the lessons we've learned.
Insecurity. Much of the insecurity we struggle with is not a result of who we are, but rather a result of using a false measuring stick to determine our worth and value. We often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with those whom we perceive to be "perfect" in those ways in which we desire to excel, and in doing so we block the wisdom of God from revealing our life's purpose. The measuring stick for your destiny is not your husband, wife, brother, sister or classmate; it is the divine pattern established by God.
Rejection. Man's greatest fear is that he will not be received, respected and loved. We search for significance in materialism, sexual gratification, achievement, self-improvement and even religion. But none of it works because this is a spiritual problem that cannot be solved with a natural solution. Some people even use rejection as a means to manipulate others. Rejection and manipulation will distort your essential identity.
Unforgiveness. When we allow unforgiveness in our lives, we set in motion a chain of circumstances that often results in emotional, spiritual and relational destruction. But forgiveness is for the sake of the offended as much as it is for the offender. Forgiveness is the act of believing the Word of God and making the conscious choice to release your offender from your desire for revenge.
Perfectionism. Perfectionism is the fear of failure expressed through an overcompensation to succeed, at the expense of personal fulfillment. While many perfectionists appear to be overachievers, their motivation is usually fueled by a desire to gain acceptance and to overcome a poor self-image. How much of your life have you wasted in a futile attempt to gain the approval of others? In order to unveil your essential identity, you must give yourself the freedom to grow into who you are.