Let’s answer an important question: What keeps break-thru from happening when people plan their life?
On the surface, there are many possible reasons, but they share a common root problem. Specifically, the desired change in activity is not rooted in a break-thru understanding of identity that is named in a specific, personal, and powerful way.
There are two critical steps for this break-thru to be understood and named. But before we cover them, let’s explore why identity is so important.
God wants us all to excel both in God-awareness and in self-awareness. The trouble is that people tend to make these kinds of awareness compete instead of co-operate. The default posture for many people is to strive for high self-awareness but to neglect God-awareness. They go to great lengths to understand their strengths and maximize their skills, but it is for the narcissistic pursuit of self—it’s all about whether they find meaning or not.
Some godly believers see people living this way and react by swinging the opposite way. They make life all about God—or at least that’s how they talk. They prize learning about God, but they think that learning about themselves is a worldly waste of time. They attribute everything to God’s will, but they do it in a fatalistic sort of way. They are suspicious that dreaming about the future and desiring to do something about it is sinful, so they settle into passive resignation to whatever comes next.
But God wants us to have high God-awareness and high self-awareness. He wants us to know him deeply and to know how he made us to reflect him. He wants us to recognize his sovereign presence in all things and to take action. He wants us to grasp the identity he dreamed for us and to design the life it implies. He is the Creator who formed us in his image to create like him. “We are God’s coworkers” in everything (1 Cor. 3:9), including in the task of making a life. As the saying goes, you can only give as much as you know about yourself to as much as you know about God.
Knowing your identity is essential to making progress in your life with Christ because all behavior is rooted in belief. Someone invests in stock because they believe it will go up. Someone buys an electric car because they believe it will save them money or help the environment. Likewise, we could say that all activity flows from our identity—what we believe about ourselves. If you want to change your habits, actions, or behaviors, it works best to root those changes in the soil of identity. Identity is like the rudder on a giant barge that carries everything else in your life. One small turn of the rudder—a relatively tiny piece of metal—and the one-thousand-ton ship adjusts its course to a new bearing.
The pattern of teaching in Scripture reveals that transformation must happen in our identity before it happens in our activity. When Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, the first three chapters are all about who they are in Christ. Only after establishing what is true about their spiritual identity does Paul coach them on how to live. Chapters 1 through 3 are filled with indicative statements of fact such as, “You were chosen before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4, paraphrase). It’s as if Paul is repeating over and over, “This is who you are . . . this is who you are.”
Then in chapters 4 through 6 he opens a floodgate of imperatives. How they live for Christ is first anchored in who they are in Christ. The first command in chapter 4 is like a giant pivot in this six-part epistle. Paul writes, “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:1–3, emphasis added). The very structure of Paul’s teaching reveals that lasting behavior change flows from identity to activity just like water flows from mountaintops to ocean shores.
Excerpted with permission from YouNique by Will Mancini. Copyright 2020, B&H Publishing Group.
God created you with unique potential and placed you on planet Earth for a specific purpose. But in the busyness of life and the activities of church, you’ve probably never identified your specific calling in a way that brings life-changing clarity.
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