Writer and blogger Jeff Goins knows the importance of identity. In his book You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), he tells of his journey of discovering his writing identity. Importantly he notes that he had to decide that he was a writer before his writing journey really began. In a promotional video for his course Tribe Writers he says “activity always follows identity”. He is spot on.
I remember visiting a worship practice as a guest at a significant church. I was stunned to hear the advice given was “fake it till you make it.” The implication was that it didn’t really matter if you were worshipping, as long as it looked like you were. Everything within me screams at this.
Both of these pithy statements are similar, but only Goins has got it right. This is because his centres on identity before action. I’m not sure how Goins’ views the Christian faith, but his words have a lot to say about what it means to follow Jesus.
As followers of Jesus we are his disciples. What an enormous privilege. But that’s not all. The Bible makes it clear that we have been adopted by God to be his children. Suddenly who we are as Jesus followers has gotten so much bigger than you or I could have ever imagined.
So who do you think you are?
This is where Goins’ statement is so important. If we understand our identity in Jesus then we are able to do “Jesus work”. But the opposite is also true. You will never be able to effectively do God’s work until you know you are his child. Knowing who we are makes all the difference because it puts us in touch with who God is.
Jeff Vanderstelt helped me to see this in his book Saturate. He does this by 4 simple questions:
Who is God?
What does God do?
Who are we?
What do we do?
Vanderstelt demonstrates it by looking at the creation narrative.
Who is God? He is the Creator.
What does he do? Creates and runs his creation.
Who are we? We are created in his image.
What do we do? We are to go forth and multiply (i.e. create) and tend the garden (i.e. exercise God’s running of his creation).
Just think about this for a second. Knowing who God is and what he does is vital but equally so is knowing who we are as followers of Jesus. The reason is simple – our identity allows us to answer the 4th question. If we do not know that we are children of God, his image bearers, created to reflect who he is we never fully do what he is asking.
Here’s where it hits the road. God is gracious! We see it so clearly in the good things he does for us! He has forgiven us. He brings good things into our lives. He acts on our behalf. No matter how difficult our circumstances may be God’s grace still abounds. As his children he has made us to show others what his grace is like. So what do we do? We treat others with grace. And we do it because this is who God is, not because we want something in return. We don’t even extend God’s grace because we want to tell people explicitly about Jesus (that may happen but it also may not). We show grace because of who God is and who we are as his children.
My question is – who do you think you are? What is your identity?