Christ Forged Identity

A Christ Forged Identity


By Ben Patella

You board the plane, sit down and meet a man named Rob sitting next to you.  Based on the first conversation-filled minute since fastening your seatbelt, you realize Rob’s going to be your new best friend for the duration of your flight from DIA to Boston.  Rob was born in Chicago, is an accountant in Denver, has recently been divorced and can’t wait for Comic Con Boston.  Before you even have time to Google what a ‘Comic Con’ is, Rob says, “Now, tell me about yourself.”  How would you describe yourself to Rob?  How do you identify yourself to others in your everyday life?

The truth is, we tend to identify ourselves with some combination of many external and temporary aspects of our lives.  Just like Rob, our identity is grounded in where we’re from, our career or work, some feelings of sorrow or shame over past failures, and hope for how much fun it will be to dress up as Spider Man with a bunch of like-minded adults at Comic Con (well, ummmm, maybe not that part).  While these everyday facts about us play a role in defining who we are, when we base our identity on life’s ever-changing circumstances, we will never flourish as the person God created us to be.  Apart from a stable identity, we spend life restless, exhausted, unknown and fearful.

The college-aged young adults in our Faith Church college ministry, called Forge, just returned from our fall retreat to the YMCA in Estes Park where we focused on finding solid identity in Jesus.  Our Forge Family had a blast telling stories around the campfire, laughing together, and enjoying God’sIncrease creation on a hike to Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We also devoted the weekend to quiet time with the Lord, small group discussion and teaching from Ephesians 1:1-14.  In this passage we discovered the wonderful truth that, as believers, our identity is grounded in our belonging to Jesus.  We find peace, stability, and power in being HIS:

                                Holy in Jesus’ blood.
                                 Included in Jesus’ family.
                                 Sanctified by Jesus’ power.

In Jesus, holiness is a fact about who we are, not just a description of the purity of our lives.  Like being given a new job title from our employer, God gives us the title ‘holy’ the moment we profess faith in Jesus. The instant we believe in the gospel, our identity changes from Sinner to Saint.  In our Ephesians passage we read Paul’s encouragement to the Saints, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”  This means our past, present and future mistakes do not define who we are.  Jesus erases those from our identity.  This means we are desirable and loved by God, even on our worst days, because Jesus purchased us by his death on the cross. 

Our Forge Family experienced this reality of our identity as we heard it spoken by God through his Word and by the encouragement of our small groups as we confessed old shame and received our true identity in Jesus.  In Jesus, our identity is holy.

In Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family, we belong with all the people of faith and we have hope in a glorious future.  This is counter to our everyday lives, where our relationships with friends, family, co-workers and every group of people we associate with can change in an instant.  Every one of us has been hurt by rejection and broken relationships in life.  Even our own families can let us down and turn their backs on us.  This rejection seeps into our souls as we work to maintain a fake identity we think people will like or just give up and assume our identity is to be a loner.  But Paul encourages us with the truth that God holds us in his family by the power of his sovereign will: “In love he [God] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”  Adoption is a clear picture our inclusion in God’s family.  We don’t belong naturally, but now that we’re holy, we are included in Jesus’ family as sons and daughters.  Just as adopted children receive the family inheritance through the guarantee of a will, we look forward to the inheritance Paul describes by the guarantee of the Holy Spirit: “In him you... were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”

Our Forge Family reveled in the idea that God loved us enough to choose us lost orphans and has promised us inheritance we don’t deserve.  We worshiped God for including us in his family.  We celebrated our future wedding feast with Jesus by taking communion together.  We will never lose the fellowship of our Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit within us or the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in the Church.  In Jesus, we are included in God’s family.

In Jesus, we are also a work in progress.  By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can rest in God’s loving arms and trust him to change our hearts to increasingly love Jesus and other people in this life.  As we reflect on Jesus’ own love for us, he grows our character and capacity for actions which glorify him.  Let’s reflect further on Paul’s words: “In him [Jesus] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”  The Holy Spirit is God’s power to change our hearts and transform our actions to bring him praise.  This transformation occurs through the process of sanctification.  As God grows us to look more and more like Jesus throughout our lifetime, he is glorified and praised. 

Our Forge Family was encouraged to look at our sanctification, not as an instant fix or a series of actions we must do, but as a process of God’s grace to be experienced over a lifetime.  Like an artist passionately and meticulously creating a masterpiece over the course of years, we are the product of God’s expert work on our souls.

With the truth of God’s sanctification fresh in our minds, our Forge small groups closed out an amazing retreat weekend in prayer for each other to experience peace and trust in God’s power to create something beautiful in and through us.  In Jesus, our identity is God’s masterpiece in progress.

Can you imagine living a life where, no matter your past failures, present circumstances, or perceived future, your identity is secure?  The feeling would be an unshakable confidence in who you are.  How much freedom would you feel knowing that no matter where you go, what disappointments come, what you do or whom you’re with, you have nothing to fear because you are HIS?  This is the encouragement we found in our Christ-given identity during our Forge retreat.  Our prayer is that this weekend was so impactful for our Forge young adults that every time they introduce themselves in the future, they remember the October 2019 Forge Retreat where they learned they are HIS!  May you also be blessed to know you are HIS for the next time you need to introduce yourself to a “Rob” on your flight to Boston.




 

 

Ben has been a member at Faith for 5 years.  He has been on staff for 1 year as the college ministry director after transitioning from a career in electrical engineering into full-time ministry.  In his new role, Ben loves teaching the Bible, developing young leaders and discipling college-aged young adults.

Ben loves spending time with his wife, Sally, and their 3 boys.  He enjoys all outdoor activities including running, camping, skiing and hiking.



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