Who am I? I mean, who am I really? Who do I want to be? Who was I made to be?
We ask these questions on the inside. But on the outside, all too often the question is what do people think of me? How do I want people to see me? Does anyone know the real me?
In one way or another we put on a mask when we leave the house, see our friends, go to school. Even for Christians, the mask comes on when we go to church or youth group. What do people think of me? How do I want people to see me? How long until I get found out?
When you become a Christian, the Bible tells us, we receive a new identity. “For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ” (Colossians 3:3). Our lives that were full of sin and selfishness have died and now we have the Holy Spirit living in us, and we are united spiritually with God through Christ. Your identity is now “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
But what difference does that really make to your life?
Is everything now perfect? Am I free from temptation? Am I always fulfilled? Do I walk around with a constant ‘Jesus loves you’ smile?
That’s certainly not true for my experience. I’m just not one of those super bubbly smiley types! Why is it that we exalt the extrovert, active, charismatic Christian? How much of their apparent joy, togetherness and energy is their personality more than the work of the spirit?
Does resting-bitch-face disqualify you from being a Christian?*
Earlier this year I was looking for testimonies to share in a service, and one person asked told me “I’m not sure I’d be a good person to share a testimony, my life isn’t all that exciting.” I assured them this is exactly why it would be great to have their voice. There is no such thing as a boring testimony if it points to what Jesus has done for you. All too often the platform at church is filled with mountain top experiences, answered prayer and complete transformation, but if this is all we hear we get a distorted view of the Christian life.
When we become a Christian, we do have a fundamental identity change. We become children of God, and become right with God because both Christ is in us and we are in Christ. This is what we call in Christianese ‘Justification’ – being made right in God’s eyes. It’s as if Jesus has performed the ultimate faceswap and when God sees us, he no longer sees our sin but Christ’s holiness.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
But whilst that fundamental change has occurred as we put our faith in Jesus, the rest is still a work in progress. There is often a mismatch between the spiritual truth and our everyday experience. As we seek to follow Jesus, we need to recognise that we’re all on this journey, and perfection is not here yet.
However that’s not to say we shouldn’t be satisfied with this mismatch. In Colossians 3, Paul writes that since we have now been raised to new life in Christ, we must now let our actions reflect that. It is when we look at the fundamental identity change within us that we find the motivation and capacity to walk in it. We need to become who we already are. And who we are is no longer the combination of our personality, appearance, gifts, passions or choices. It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The freedom of Christ and joy of the Lord is not a personality type, if anything it’s a blood type. A reality made possible by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross in love for us. As we look to this reality, we find strength and courage to continue. It doesn’t mean our lives will be free of depression, irritation, mistakes and heartache but no longer do they have to define us. Our lives are now hidden in Christ.