What is my Christian self and social identity? This question is one that all believers must contend with and get a grasp on to fully engage the world for Christ. It is of extreme importance that each believer knows exactly who they are in Christ and also, in the public eye. In this writing, I will contend our identity is one of a new creation, of an intellect, a sanctified life, and a child of God. These are powerful motives for one to live their life in a way that is well-pleasing to our Savior and for the world to see that we are different than the world itself.
The new creation is that once in Christ we have become new. The Apostle Paul lays out clearly what this is. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come” (English Standard Version, 2 Cor. 5:17). This is what we cling to for our life in Christ. We know that we are new and the things behind us are just that, behind us. The transformation is not of a new mind only, which will be spoken of next but a new person. C.S. Lewis states clearly, “It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes a different direction-a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God” (220). This clearly states that being a new person is not of you or your mind but a placing into another sphere. Yet, we are still on the earth and in the world, we are a new creation and a child of God that must live this way. This requires a transformed mind as Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. . .” (Rom. 12:2a). Intellectual transformation is crucial as well as the inner transformation performed by Christ through the Holy Spirit.
A STRONG INTELLECT
As for having a strong intellect and being a sound Christian, I believe that the two complement each other nicely. As William Lane Craig says, “It is the broader task of Christian scholarship to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women” (1). This means that if, as Christians, we never engage our minds and gain intellect, the world will just shrug us off. C.S. Lewis says that “[He] doubts whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary textbooks” (693). If the Christian is not even attentive enough to elementary texts, then are we attentive enough to anything? This is why our intellect is a key area of our Christian and social identity. With the New Atheism and Atheists, as well as all who have left the faith, on the rise, our minds are of great importance. A Christian is called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37 emphasis mine). This is not just an assertion by Christ, but a command that one should take seriously. Our intellect is as much a part of our identity as any other part. If our mind is not fully engaged with learning and knowing enough to proclaim Jesus to all, then we have failed as Christians.
Our identity of being sanctified, or rather, “set apart” (Ryrie 61), is very crucial to living as a strong Christian. If our life is still in the world and of the world, then we are not living in a way that is pleasing to God. Since when we believed we have been set apart because “God [made us] to be consecrated to Him” (Nee 58). Then we must remain set apart and live fully in our sanctification by God. Again, if we choose to live in a way that is still of the world rather than of God, then society sees us as no different than they are. This will in turn hurt any chance of bringing salvation to them. So, we must choose daily to “cleanse [ourselves] from every defilement of body and spirit” (2 Cor. 7:1), and “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22). This is part of our identity to the world this is the social identity that is necessary for all Christians. Our actions amongst the lost of the world should be of much importance to us. As they may hinder or strengthen their prospect of coming to Christ. If they see us not fleeing all the immoral things of the world, then why will they flee them? The answer is, they will not. If we are not doing this then we are not living out our identity in Christ well. As Lewis Sperry Chafer says:
Christians are appointed to live every moment of their lives with the Holy Spirit of God. Life for them is a moment by moment vital union with One who is infinitely holy. Sin, therefore, in a Christian, is the very opposite of any true manifestation of the Spirit in the life. (70)
This means that if our lives do not shine forth Christ continually, then we are acting against the Spirit in us. This sin “destroys spirituality” (Chafer 70), and thus causes us to fail in our full identity as a child of God.
CHILD OF GOD
The final, and probably greatest personal identity, is that we are a child of God. This means that we are God’s and no longer of the world. As such, we should live our lives in accord with all of the above-written identities. But this is more than just acting and living in a certain way before God and man. This means that we have been adopted into God’s family and that we are His. JAMES Montgomery Boice writes, “Only adoption suggests the new family relationship which is ours in Christ and points to the privileges of that relationship” (442). We are in the family and our aim in life should be as it is with our earthly family, which is to be pleasing to them. Living in this family with God as our father means that all our actions should be to bring Him glory. This is crucial to our social and Christian identity. If we always live in a way that brings God glory, then we will aid others in their life and maybe draw them to Christ. We also have great assurance in this new adoption that we are “God’s heir with Christ” (Boice 442). This gives tremendous faith and desire to live righteously “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). As a new child of God, our life should be an imitation of our savior to all people.
In summation, our Christian and social identity should be very precious to us. The desire to demonstrate them always is not only something we should want to do but something we ought to do. The fact that we have had this tremendous gift given to us–salvation by grace, should make us desire to live in it to the full. This means that each aspect of our identity listed above is not optional but musts for us. If our witness is to be effective we must live in each identity to the fullest. Jesus gave everything for us, is it too much to ask for us to give our all to Him? If this is how we see our identity in Him, then it is all or nothing for us. Now, this is not an addition to salvation, because that is totally free (Eph. 2:8-9) but I think it should be a must to be this way out of deep love and adoration to our savior.
Boice, James Montgomery. Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology. Rev. in one volume. InterVarsity Press, 1986.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. He That is Spiritual: A Classic Study of the Biblical Doctrine of Spirituality. Zondervan, 1967.
Craig, William Lane. “In Intellectual Neutral.” Popular Apologetics. www.reasonablefaith.org Accessed April 2018.
English Standard Version. The Holy Bible. Crossway, 2001.
Lewis, C.S.“The Abolition of Man.” The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. Harper One, 2002. pp.689-730.
– – -. Mere Christianity. Harper Collins, 2001.
Nee, Watchman. A Living Sacrifice. Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1972.
Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Balancing the Christian Life. Moody, 1976.