No Identity Crisis

As you may or may not know, I’ve been memorizing a passage of Scripture for the past couple of weeks. The passage is Colossians 3:1-17. I finally finished memorizing the final verse this morning. Of course, the test really comes tomorrow (and the next day and the day after that, etc), to see if I really remember.

Memorizing Scripture is an interesting exercise. I’ve seen how it has worked its way into my life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. I find myself thinking about a certain verse or being reminded of a certain verse as I encounter a situation in my day. This sounds cliché, but it seems to have worked its way into every fabric of my being. I think about it when I wake up. I recite it driving down the road. I’m reminded of it as I live out my life and I think about the verses or recite them as I lay down at night.

One other thing that repeating the same verses over and over does — whether aloud or silently — you really get the overall meaning of the passage. You really understand it as a whole. Instead of concentrating or zeroing in on one verse and “standing on it”, as Christians are apt to do, you get the big picture.

Colossians 3:1-17 would seem to be the apostle Paul’s practical instructions on how to live… what to do and what not to do. There is a laundry list of things to avoid, as well as a list of virtues. “Do this, and life will be good; and be sure to avoid…” is what it sounds like.

But it is so much more than that. What Paul is talking about here is your identity in Christ. There are several words such as “Since, then,…”, “because”, and “therefore”, and when I see words like that in the Bible, they are referring to something previously stated or to a previously implied condition.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ…”
“Put to death, therefore…”
“But now…”
“… since you have taken off…”
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people…”
“… since as members…”

Our identity is now in Christ. Our old self is dead. Our new life has come alive in Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within and is growing. I am a child of God with Christ dwelling within me. I live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. The pitfalls listed in the passage are not only to be avoided, they are beneath me. That kind of living is not suited for a child of God. I have taken off my old, stinky laundry and am now clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (v.12). This is the kind of living that is more suitable for Kingdom-living.

Because of what God has done for me in Christ: a forgiven past, an abundant life lived here and now, and a secure hope and future, the old Tim is dead. As Paul says in Galatians,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)



You used to walk in these ways in the life you once lived. (Colossians 3:7)

Once. Once upon a time. Used to. Past tense.

I’ve heard a lot of dramatic conversion stories: folks who’ve killed others or been destitute, deep in drug addiction, radically changed by God in an instant. It happens. All the time. Praise God.

For me, it wasn’t that dramatic. I had tried virtually everything to try to satisfy the emptiness in my heart that only God can fill. I had used almost every kind of drug available during my formative years. I had been with women. I was motivated to climb the ladder of success and would do most anything to get there. Been there, done that. I used to walk in those ways in the life I once lived.

Then one day in a church service, I heard an old man’s story about what it meant to live in a community of followers of Jesus. I heard about the things that God hates and I was guilty of them all. I gave my life to Christ that day.

I was changed but I wasn’t sure how or why. I didn’t long for the things I once did. I had a different mindset toward life and people. It wasn’t because I decided to be different, turned over a new leaf, or decided to follow a set of rules or guidelines. I was different. Period.

As I was memorizing my verses in Colossians 3 this morning and reading the accompanying devotional, the author, James Bryan Smith said,

“Being an apprentice of Jesus is not about rules and laws, it is about identity and place. Christian life is not an if-then obligation (‘If I do this, then God will do that.’) It is a because-therefore opportunity (Because I am one in whom Christ dwells, therefore I will…”). The better way to encourage change is to remind people who they are now, in contrast to who they once were… we should say to ourselves, ‘I am a Christ-inhabited person. What does that look like in the world I live in?’… Simply put, I am called to live differently because I am not the person I once was… It is not a matter of salvation. It is a matter of being authentically who we are.”

I used to follow my own indulgent, selfish desires. But now I’m not the same person. It’s the lifestyle I used to walk in. Not anymore. Don’t get me wrong; I still struggle just like you.

But I know who I am and I know whose I am. Currently. Present tense. Now and forever.


I know I have a part to play in this thing called faith. I know that the Bible says:

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NLT).

But as strange as it sounds, I looked up the word “be”. There were a number of definitions and uses, but the one that fits its use in the Scripture above would be the same as used in the phrase, “Be careful” or “Be happy”.

The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary says that “be” is used to describe the identity of a person or thing; or used to describe the qualities of a person or thing; or used to describe the condition of a person or thing.

Identity. Qualities. Condition.


Because of Christ, my identity is holy. I have been chosen (you have been, too) to be set apart as an instrument of grace, to bring glory and honor to the One who did this for me. I am a child of God. That is my identity. I am BEING holy.

Because of Christ, the Holy Spirit of Christ now dwells within me. I am being transformed from glory to glory into the image of Christ. It is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me. I am no longer comforming to the pattern of this world but my mind is being renewed (little by little). I have the mind of Christ. If you are a follower of Jesus, you do too! I am not perfect. But I’m not who I used to be. The old is gone and the new has come. Those are my qualities. I have Christ dwelling within me. I am BEING holy.

Because of Christ, I eternally reside in the Kingdom of God. I have a home in heaven that awaits me. It will be glorious, to be sure. But that’s not all. Eternal life happen in the here and now! I am a participant in the divine nature of God! I get to watch God work in me and in the lives around me! No matter what happens to me or the world around me, I know that the Kingdom is unstoppable and unshakeable. No matter what Fox News or any other report says, in spite of the world around us, God’s Kingdom is not in trouble. The ending has been written! It’s victorious, and despite what happens in my world today or tomorrow, I am victorious, too! Unshakeable. That’s my condition. I am BEING holy.

The part I have to play in this journey of faith is to “be.” BE holy. Because of Christ, you and I are.

Good News indeed!