18… “How does it feel being an adult?”… 20… “How does it feel being in your 20s?”… 29… “How does it feel being at the end of your 20s?”
And while each birthday was a milestone, and I felt different emotions regarding it, ranging from anticipation to dread, when it came right down to it, I felt very much the same as I had the day before, when I was still 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 28.
These birthdays didn’t mark an instantaneous transformation. I didn’t got to bed the night before and then wake up as a brand new person.
A New Creation
There’s a Bible verse I’ve heard many times:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
This verse has always conjured in my mind an image of someone shedding their skin, much like a reptile; taking off the old, ill-fitting, cracked and scratchy layer, and stepping forth liberated and unburdened, bright and glowing, with new confidence, sense of purpose, and readiness for what’s ahead.
These words are true of anyone who is in Christ—anyone who has trusted in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The old identity of sinner and slave is gone, the new identity of child and co-heir is here!
And when we first trusted in Jesus, we may have experienced a lightened feeling—a burden being lifted, a sense of freedom, a peace in knowing our guilt was removed—and we could just about believe that if we looked, we’d see a pile of old skin lying on the ground around us.
But we don’t actually shed our skin.
And what if, after that initial feeling, we don’t feel all that new?
What if shame causes us to question our belovedness? What if the old doesn’t seem gone, but lurking around the corner, preying on our weaknesses? What if the new doesn’t feel here, but far away and unattainable?
What if in our heads we know all those words that describe our identity in Christ—accepted, empowered, holy, righteous, forgiven, free, cleansed—but in our hearts, it doesn’t really feel like this is who we are.
Instead, we feel worthless, weak, ashamed, not good enough, under judgement, stuck in old patterns, broken, and stained.
How can we know our identity in Christ and have confidence that this is truly who we are when we’re just not feeling it?
One Who is Greater
We need to remember that our identity isn’t in our feelings. Our identity is in Christ—defined by Christ, secure in Christ, and to be a reflection of Christ. Because our identity is in Christ, our feelings don’t dictate whether or not it is true.
Who God says we are in Christ, that is the truth of our identity.
1 John 3:19-20 gives us this assurance:
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
If our hearts, our feelings, our thought patterns, say one thing, there is One who is greater—One who has more authority, more wisdom, more grace, more power—than any shame, condemnation, or insecurity.
We get to choose to believe and trust what He says about us.
1 John 3 goes on to say, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God… And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (vs. 21 and 24)
As we trust and believe that what God says about us is true, we can process our feelings, heal from shame, and develop new thought patterns. Our hearts become rooted in truth, our minds become renewed by truth, and we have confident assurance that our identity as God’s beloved is true, even when we may be feeling otherwise.
Knowing and Becoming
So how do we trust and believe the truth of who God says we are in Christ in the midst of emotions, insecurities, and doubts?
We can say all the positive mantras and affirmations we want, but they have no real authority apart from what God has already said about who we are.
As we grow in our relationship with God, our trust in Him and in His Word will also grow, so His words about us, His character toward us, His will for us, will be the lens through which we see ourselves and others.
We all have sinned, and in our sin are separated from God. In our sin, we are broken, weak, stained, under judgement, and unable to be good enough. (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 5:6; Eph. 2:1-3)
This is why God sent His Son Jesus. He lived a sinless life, in perfect relationship with God and perfectly reflecting God in His relationships with others. Because of this, He was able to take our place on the cross, take our sin upon Himself, and die the death we deserve. (Rom. 5:8, 6:23; Heb. 1:3; 1 Jn. 4:10)
He rose victorious over sin and death, and so to all who trust in Him as Savior and Lord, He gives His righteousness—we are no longer separated from God, but forgiven and set free to live in relationship with God (2 Cor. 5:15, 21). We are no longer under judgement, but adopted and accepted as His child (Gal. 4:4-5). We are no longer broken and stained, but are made whole and pure (1 Cor. 6:11).
When shame, condemnation, and insecurities speak doubts about this identity, we can point to Jesus’ death and resurrection—the Gospel—as the power that makes this identity true.
New identity and new character go hand-in-hand. We are made new in Christ so that we can become more like Christ: knowing our Father’s love more and more, returning our Father’s love more and more, and sharing our Father’s love more and more (Eph. 5:1-2; Col. 3:10, 12; 1 Jn. 4:7-21).
Becoming more assured and confident in our identity in Christ doesn’t happen overnight, but day by day, as we walk in step with the Holy Spirit, who joins with our spirits to affirm who we are as God’s beloved children, and who empowers our spirits to obey our loving Father (Rom. 8:14-17; 1 Jn. 5:2-4).
As we continue to walk in relationship with God through faith in Christ, we will know growth. We will grow in confidence in who are in Christ, and we will grow in Christ-likeness.