In the movie “The Bourne Identity”, you have a man who wakes up out of unconsciousness to discover that he has no idea who he is. He doesn’t remember anything about his life, his past, his friends, his enemies. Everything, even his very identity is forgotten.
As the story progresses this man discovers that he has certain skills and certain abilities and certain resources that he totally forgot about. It turns out this man was a Black Ops secret agent working for the government and he spends the rest of the story trying to piece together and recover his forgotten identity.
The movie is not believable in a lot of ways but there is one thing about the movie that’s true. Your identity is important and what you believe your identity to be changes everything.
Who you think you are will play a major factor in how you live your life. If your identity is bound up in being a mom and you view that as the core of who you are, that’s going to have implications in what you do, the choices you make, your priorities, and so on. And while being a mom is great, what happens when your kids don’t turn out the way you want them to? What happens when your kids leave home? What happens when your children become more important than God?
If your identity is bound up in your job, that’s going to have major implications. In fact, survey the wreckage of thousands of broken homes and divorces for proof of the consequences of having that kind of identity. What’s more, what happens if you lose your job? If you hate your job?
There’s a big debate raging about gay marriage in our country right now. If the core of your identity, the core of who you are is bound up in your sexual orientation and your sexual urges, that’s going to have ramifications and it will affect the choices and decisions you make.
We Christians have a hard time getting identity right. And often our identity is bound up in the wrong things. We tend to anchor our identity in people or places or earthly things instead of in Jesus Christ and when the essence of our identity revolves around anything other than Christ we have moved into idolatry and we are worshipping something else.
Author Paul Tripp says that we suffer from Identity Amnesia. We’re like spiritual Jason Bournes. Identity Amnesia is misunderstanding and replacing our identity in Christ. And Tripp goes on to say that, As a believer, when you have confusion of identity you…are a sitting duck for sin’s insanity. Identity matters. Who you think you are matters. It will affect your life, your marriage, how you handle temptation, disappointments, and challenges. This is a big deal.
If you’re a Christian suffering from Identity Amnesia, read the book of Ephesians and be reminded of who you really are. You were chosen in eternity past by God the Father to be adopted into His family. (Eph 1:4-5) You are a redeemed ex-slave, no longer in bondage to sin, Satan, guilt, and death. (Eph 1:7, 2:1-3) You are an ex-spiritual corpse that has been raised to a new life in Christ. (Eph 2:4-5) You have a mission and a purpose to do good works that God has prepared beforehand for you to do. (Eph 2:10) You are part of a new family where barriers of race, socio-economic background, culture, and gender are smashed. (Eph 2:11-21, Gal 3:28-29) You are part of God’s plan to display His wisdom to angels and demons. (Eph 3:10)
You have new gifts and abilities. (1 Cor 12:1-11) You are a spiritual warrior with brand new enemies and brand new resources to conquer them. (Eph 6:10-18) And all of these things about your new identity have radical and drastic implications for how you live, how you do marriage, how you parent, and how you work. All of those aspects of your life are now meant to revolve around who you are in Jesus and your responsibility to image God your Father to the world.
In a nutshell, when you become a Christian, you become a brand new person. The Scriptures tell us that you have put off your old self and have put on the new self. (Eph 4:20-23) The Bible says if you are in Christ, you are a new creation. (2 Cor 5:17) A Christian whose life is no different after his conversion than before isn’t a Christian. It doesn’t mean Christians are perfect. We still battle and sometimes succumb to our old sinful tendencies and the devil’s schemes (1 John 1:8) but nevertheless, if you are a Christian, something profound has happened, and you are no longer what you once were. And knowing this can make all the difference in the world as you wrestle against sin and Satan.
I love the story of Augustine, the fourth century believer and Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. Before he came to Christ, Augustine lived a sexually immoral and lustful life. One day, after his conversion to Christ, a potential moment of temptation came. He happened upon a former mistress on the street. He recognized her, turned around, and quickly went the other way. She called out to him, “Augustine, it is I!” Many men might be confounded about how to resist such a temptation. How did Augustine respond?
The woman cried out, “Augustine, it is I!” Augustine continued to stride away from her replying, “Yes, but it is not I.”
In that moment, Augustine did not have Identity Amnesia! On the contrary, he remembered who he really was in Jesus Christ. He was not the person he once was. Though he was once darkness, now in Christ he was light, and, as Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5, he lived as a child of light, avoiding sexual immorality. What you believe about who you are inevitably influences how you live every day.
Jason Bourne was on a quest to discover who he once was. It’s different for believers. We are quite familiar with who we once were. The quest for you and the quest for me is to discover who we are now. Discovering that is a game-changer, because identity matters.
Grace and Peace,