Self Image Reformation Part 2: Identity

Image by Drigo Diniz at Pexels

To identify something, we must understand the qualities of the object we want to identify. What about identifying the self? What makes up the self?

In the scripture, we see that a person is body, soul, and spirit.

Is our identity wrapped up in our physical self, including appearance, race, and gender? It certainly seems that these attributes are important to many people.

What about spiritual identity? What is spirit? We are told in scripture that man became a living soul after receiving the spirit of life from God (Genesis 2:7). Spirit is what animates a person (John 6:63). I believe that a person can be of many spirits. The spirit of a person might include aspects of personality, belief systems or ideologies, and perhaps abilities. There also seems to be spirits of sin, such as murder, envy, and pride.

A spirit can be shared among many individuals. There are “spirits of the times” and ideologies that possess entire groups of people. All Christians with the Holy Spirit are of the Spirit of God, though in different measures. Only Jesus had the Holy Spirit in fullness (John 3:34).

What about the soul? The soul seems to be the core and unique aspect of the individual. The soul cannot exist without body and spirit. When the spirit of life is divided from the soul, the soul and body die (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Many believe that the soul is immortal. That is not true. God only has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).

What does all of this have to do with identity, and why does it matter?

This matters when we consider the idea of eternal life.

First, we consider that which is passing away.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2:15-17).

15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:15-17).

Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away (1 Corinthians 3:8-10).

There are many things that do not have an immortal nature. Physical identity, race, and gender do not have an immortal nature. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) There are also many spirits that are passing away, such as social ideologies that are against the teachings of Jesus, as well as spirits of sin and spirits of antichrist.

Now, let’s consider that which is everlasting: Jesus Christ—the Word of God.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35).

Consider this:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

When Jesus returns—when the Word returns—all that is of a dead nature will be “destroyed by the brightness of His coming.”

What happens when a person’s identity—a person’s core self and soul—is attached to that which is passing away? Can the soul live?

I think it is natural for people to attach their sense of self to things like politics, social movements, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or other forms of classification. We want to find our place, and that which we identify with becomes our sense of security and fills a need for order and connection with others.

However, many things we attach ourselves to are dead things. What will we do when the true nature of the dead thing we are attached to become exposed? Will we feel personally threatened? People do. This is natural, though it is dangerous.

Thankfully, we serve a wise, patient, and kind God. Jesus understands our frame, and He works on us according to His perfect timing and methods. It is true that the Word is sharp and powerful, able to divide soul from spirit. His Word can kill. However, His word can also make alive, and He knows precisely how to cut away the dead things from a person without destroying them.

This is an amazing thing to consider.

Through faith in Jesus, His blood cleanses us of our sins so that we are freed from the final consequence of sin which is death. Through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, the things we identify with that are harmful or contrary to the teachings of Jesus are stripped away over time, and we are given a new identity. We even receive a new name—if not during this present life, then in the life to come.

However, though we perceive ourselves as “new,” to God we are coming into our true selves. As we walk more after the Spirit and less after the constraining labels of the flesh, we begin to see who God created us to be. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew who He was creating.

This is a fearful thing but also a reassuring thing. Jesus loved us before we loved Him, and He knows exactly what He made and who He will make. We can approach Him safely, as a child with a good parent, knowing that our God intends everything for our good and He is kindly disposed towards us in our sinful struggles. This is especially true when we are honest about our sin and desire to do what is right. When we approach God in this manner, He is safe and we can trust in Him.

In Conclusion:

We all want to find our place in this world. However, we do not want to overly identify with the things of this world which are passing away. Jesus provides us with a better place—an everlasting habitation—that is free from the sinful constraints and labels of this world. That is so freeing.

Mankind can be very merciless, and it can feel impossible to escape the labels of our past. It is not so with God when we put our faith in Jesus. We are created again new. We are not bound to our past but freed from it so that we can live and pursue a better way in Jesus.

This is an amazing gift and opportunity that was bought with the precious blood of the Son of God. Let us really consider and lay hold of this. How great is the salvation we are given? How miraculous, merciful, kind, wise, and perfect?

What dead things do we need to divest ourselves of? What life in Christ must we put on? We need to find our identity in Jesus. Who did God create us to be? What purpose do we have in His kingdom now and to come?

As mentioned in the first article within this series, there are many forces in this world telling us who we are and who we should be. In Jesus, we can begin to strip all of this away. These things do not matter. These things are not alive, but dead.

Jesus will strip away the parts of our identity that do not fit in with His Kingdom so that He can create us again in His image. He will cause this to happen, and there is nothing we can do to get in the way of His work. We are His work, and all freedom from this world we experience is His work in us.

However, in order to prepare our hearts for His work, we must repent. We must look at ourselves honesty and with humility, so that we can see our deprived state and understand our dependence on Jesus for our salvation. This brings us to the topic of the next article in this series: self-affirming culture.

Many people try to free themselves from their painful past, negative labels, and a toxic self-image through positive affirmations like, “you are perfect just as you are,” “you are enough,” and the like. This is understandable, but this is not the most effective way. This is not the Christian way. There is a better way in Jesus, and we will discuss this in more detail.

As a side note, I plan to get back to the Considering Proverbs series once this series on self image is completed.

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