Identity

If you want to know who you are in Christ, you only need to look at what the Bible says.

Are You Defining Yourself by Your Sexuality?

What if I asked, Who are you?, how would you respond?

If you’re like most people, you would tell me your age, current job, or even a list of hobbies you enjoy. If you’re a parent, you would surely tell me about your kids. And if you got more comfortable with me, you might even share that you’re gay, straight, transgender, or bisexual. After all, there does seem to be a growing pressure in our society to define yourself by your sexual preferences.

But what if your sexuality isn’t the best way to define yourself?

When we think of sexuality, it’s tempting to view it as a collection of different boxes. For example, look at the following image:

LGBTQ Sexuality

Most people can place themselves in whichever box they identify with. To do so, however, can lead you to become attached to that particular box. In other words, you can allow the box you’re in to define your identity.

For example, let’s say you identify yourself as a lesbian. By making that a defining characteristic of who you are, much of your life will be interpreted from within that box. If you hear someone claim God’s plan for marriage is for one man and one woman (a paradigm that doesn’t fit within your box) it will feel like a personal attack.

Or, what if you identify as a gay man, but find yourself drawn towards a woman? You might question those feelings based on the understanding that you’re supposed to be attracted to men and write the desire off as an anomaly. You may reject it based on how you understand your box, not on what your heart is telling you.

By defining yourself based on your sexual attractions, you’re allowing something that is designed to be only one part of you to become the driving force in your life. Rather than asking how your sexuality fits in with who you are, you may be trying to fit who you are into your sexuality.

Sexuality and Identity

Photo by Mario Mancuso | Flickr CC

A Better Way to Define Yourself

Your sexual attractions certainly do help describe you, but it’s important to never let them define you. In order to figure out what does define you—your true identity—you first need to understand who God says you are. After all, He’s the one who made you, so He is the only one with the authority to tell you who you truly are.

Thankfully, all throughout Scripture, there are dozens of examples of God telling you His definition of you. Any time you see the phrase “in Him,” or “in Christ,” it’s a description of how God sees you from the first moment you trust Jesus. For example:

The best part is this identity is available to everyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus. On top of that, it’s not a box you have to earn the right to enter, because He already paid the admission for anyone who accepts it.

It should be noted, however, that receiving this new identity doesn’t mean your sexuality will change instantly. Transformation is a life-long process, and God may or may not decide that your sexuality is His first priority. Odds are good though, that He will change the lens through which you interpret it.

Interpreting Your Sexuality from Your True Identity

Rather than identifying yourself by your sexuality, I’d encourage you to first define yourself as a child of God, and then ask which of the following categories your sexuality fits into: Pistis, or Porneia?

  • Pistis is the greek word used throughout the Bible for faithfulness (and in this case, the purity that results from it). Now, this isn’t the white-knuckle, resist-temptation-through-sheer-willpower external purity many of us grew up chasing, but the internal purity that only comes from trusting Jesus to transform the deepest desires of your heart.
  • Porneia, however, is any sexual activity outside of God’s established boundaries. There has been much debate on what exactly that entails, but I trust if you’re truly seeking to be pistis, anything that falls under porneia will become clear to you.

The important thing to realize about these categories, however, is they aren’t boxes—they’re trajectories: opposite ends of a line you can move between with varying levels of speed and velocity.

For example, imagine a pastor of a growing church with a loving wife and a couple of kids at home. He’s very outspoken about his conservative political views on marriage, and has preached multiple times on the evils of lust and sexual sin. Recently, however, he’s discovered a strong draw towards pornography, but he’s ignoring it hoping that it will go away. In reality, he knows it’s pulling him further away from his wife and causing him to feel increasingly distant from God. He may seem closer to pistis at the moment, but he’s quickly moving towards porneia.

On the other hand, imagine two women in a committed relationship who hear the message of God’s love for them and wholeheartedly receive it. They both recognize their need for a Savior and choose to trust Jesus, yet they decide to remain together as they pursue a deeper understanding of what it means to be disciples of Christ. Many would place them near porneia, but they’re moving towards pistis quickly.

These examples illustrate how, when it comes to being either pistis or porneia, the direction in which you are moving is more important than where you (or others) would place yourself currently.

Furthermore, no matter which direction you’re headed, it will never change your truest, deepest identity as a forgiven, accepted, unconditionally loved child of God. Once you’re in that box, you’re there for eternity.

So, instead of defining yourself as gay, what if you defined yourself as a child of God who happens to be attracted to other men?

Instead of identifying first as bisexual, what if you grounded your identity in the fact that God loves you unconditionally?

After all, God sees you as so much more than your sexuality. What would happen if you did the same?

Stephen KuhnStephen Kuhn is the author multiple books, including 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn, and DONE. 52 Amazing Things That Became True of You the Moment You Trusted Christ.

You can find out more about his ministry and read his story here.

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In Christ: You Can No Longer Be Touched by the Evil One

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them (1 John 5:18).

When I was growing up, I would torment my brother by playing the “I’m not touching you game.” I’d move my finger as close to him as possible without actually making contact. As if that wasn’t annoying enough, I would then hold it there for as long as it took to get a reaction from him.

Naturally, he would become irritated and tell me to knock it off. My response, being the brat that I was, was always the same: “Knock what off? I’m not even touching you.”

In a lot of ways, this is the same game that Satan plays with you as a believer. The difference though, is he doesn’t hold back from touching you because he’s content with merely annoying you. He holds back from touching you because he no longer has the power to touch you.

He knows this, of course. Which is why he will still try to get as close to you as possible. He will push up against the force-field of faith that surrounds you, leaning in close enough to whisper accusations in your ear to deceive you into believing you are still vulnerable.

But these are lies. You are not vulnerable. The evil one cannot touch you.

I encourage you to rest in this verse. Remind yourself of it whenever you face temptation. Believe it is true, even for you. Trust that the shield of faith truly will protect you from the fiery arrows of accusation, condemnation, and temptation that Satan hurls toward you.

Remember, you are in Christ. You are a child of God, a saint, fused with Jesus Himself, secure for all eternity.

Which means you have been made invincible to the attacks of the enemy.

This post is an excerpt from my new book, 52 Amazing Things That Became True of You the Moment You Trusted Christ. If you enjoyed what you read here, be sure to check out the book for 51 more awesome truths about how God sees you!

You Have Become a Child of God

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

If you’ve spent much time around here, you may wonder if this blog is more about being a father than finding freedom from pornography addiction.

To be honest, there’s a pretty good reason for that. The truth is, as much as I love writing about finding freedom from pornography, I simply can’t help writing about being a dad. It’s the greatest joy in my life.

The Bible refers to children as a gift from the Lord, and even though there are days when I question how true that may be, I have to say I whole-heartedly agree.

I love my daughter more than anything.

She is my joy.

She is my blessing.

And you know what? My feelings towards her have nothing to do with her behavior or how “lovable” she is at any given moment. In fact, I remind her all the time that there is nothing she could do to make me love her any more or love her any less, because I already love her with all of my love, and that will never change.

I love her solely because she is my child.

But get this: You are a child of God, which means the God who created the entire universe feels exactly the same about you!

You are God’s joy.

You are God’s blessing.

Even on your worst day, when you’re wallowing in sin, throwing tantrums, and being a complete pill, God still looks at you and says: “Man I love that kid. How lucky am I to have him as my son?”

God is absolutely crazy about you, and that will never change, because you are now His child.

DONE: You Have Been Made Dead to Sin

[Jesus] personally carried our sins in his body on the cross, so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed (1 Peter 2:24).

In order to comprehend the full depth of what this verse means for us we first need to understand what is true about those who have yet to put their trust in Christ:

  1. When Adam chose to live his life apart from God, sin entered into mankind and brought with it death. This sin is in the hearts of all mankind from birth. (see Romans 5:12)
  2. The only way to be set free from the penalty of your sin is for it to be included in the death of Jesus. (see Romans 6:7)
  3. If you die physically without trusting Jesus to pay the penalty of your sin, the sin in your heart will keep you separated from God for all eternity.

So, instead of being dead to sin, those who are still living independently from Christ are dead in their sin. The sin within them defines who they are, dictates how they are able to live, and destines where they will spend eternity.

No matter how you spin it, that is not good news.

But let’s look at what today’s verse says about those of us who have trusted in Christ:

  1. When Jesus was on the cross, all of your sins (past, present, and future) were placed on His body.
  2. When He died, His death fulfilled the penalty of your sin. And now that your sin debt has been satisfied, it will never need to be paid again.
  3. When Christ came back to life, you were also included in His everlasting life. This life of Christ within you is what gives you the power to live righteously today.

Therefor, because of Christ’s work on the cross, you have been made dead to sin and alive in Him. Your old identity of sinner was crucified with Jesus and you have been given a new identity of holy, righteous saint.

But if I’m truly dead to sin, why do I still struggle with it?

Perhaps the better question is: “How does God view those who are in Christ when they fall back into sin?”

Scripture answers that question clearly:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Because of what Christ did for you on the cross, you have been made dead to the penalty of your sins. Your sin will never again define how God sees you.

In fact, when God looks at you, He sees you as holy and blameless (even when you are sitting in front of a computer with your pants around your ankles).

Yes, all of us will struggle with sin from time to time…even after we trust Christ. But those struggles no longer define us in the eyes of God.

Furthermore, the life of Christ within you gives you the power you need to walk away from sin. You may not always choose to, but for the first time in your life you actually have the ability to do so.

And that, my friend, is good news.

DONE: You Became Part of God’s Royal Priesthood

You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light
(1 Peter 2:9).

Imagine you’re at your wedding standing across from the woman you love. The pastor is saying something about forever…rich or poor…better or worse… But if you’re honest, it’s all a blur. Your mind is fixated on the beauty in front of you.

You know you love this woman, and you decided long before this moment that you want to spend your life with her, so whatever you agree to at this point is just confirmation of what you already know in your heart.

The important thing to recognize though, is this ceremony is the moment when you will finally become her husband.

For those of you who have been there, did you have any idea how to be a husband on the day of your wedding? Did you fully understand what you were agreeing to when you made those vows?

Nope. None of us did.

But that didn’t change the fact that you still became a husband the moment you said “I do.” It just means you now get to spend the rest of your life figuring out what being a husband looks like.

That’s the thing about identity. You often become something long before you know how to actually be that something.

 

You often become something
long before you know how to
actually be that something.

 

The moment you put your faith in Christ you became a royal priest. You became holy. You are now possessed by God in the same way a husband and wife possess one another.

Do you know how to be a priest? Do you know how to be holy? Probably not completely. But the more you trust that God has already made those descriptors true of you, the more you will learn how to live according to that truth.

You are already a priest. Now you can learn how to live as one.

You are already holy. Now you get to learn how to walk in holiness.

You are already God’s possession, and not even death can separate the two of you.

And as a result, “you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

DONE: You Have Been Granted Full Access to God

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16).

As a child of God, you have full access to God whenever you want. You can come before God and ask Him to help you with your struggles, give you His strength to make it through a difficult circumstance, or even give you His wisdom in a specific situation.

You can come before Him and ask Him anything.

Not only that, God actually wants you to come before Him with your needs and desires. He honestly cares about whatever is on your mind:

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you (1 Peter 5:7).

Think of it this way: How hard is it to be granted an audience with the president of the United States? Apparently, there isn’t even a clear path laid out for the average citizen to meet the president. The closest I could find was a page on the presidential website allowing you to enter a drawing to hopefully win an invitation to a dinner with him—but it expired four years ago. That leaves me the option of performing some amazing act of heroism that will gain me national attention, or winning the Super Bowl (I think those guys usually get a White House invitation).

But what if the president was my dad?

Do the president’s kids need to enter a contest to win dinner with their daddy? Nope. They can walk into the Oval Office and hang out with him pretty much whenever they want.

As a child of God, you’ve got the same level of access to Him as the president’s kids have to their dad. 

So come before God and let Him know what’s on your heart. He won’t reject you or push you away. He will accept you fully as His son, showering you with His unending mercy and grace.

DONE: You Have Received Power, Love, and Self-Discipline

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline
(2 Timothy 1:7).

Last week, we looked at the first half of this verse and saw what God hasn’t given us: a spirit of fear and timidity.

This week, we get to look at what He has given us: a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.

First, those who are in Christ receive His power. No, this doesn’t mean you’ll instantly add 100 pounds to your squat the minute you hand your life over to Jesus. But it does mean you will have the power of Christ within you, equipping and enabling you to do whatever He calls you to do.

The best part about Christ’s power at work in you, is it means you no longer need to rely on your own power, which, if you’re being honest, is extremely limited. The power of Christ, however, is infinite.

Second, those who are in Christ receive His love. We are told that we love because He first loved us. In other words, apart from experiencing (and trusting) the love of Christ, we cannot effectively love others. We must receive it before we can offer it.

We can try to love others, but there will always be at least a small amount of self-interest driving your motivation. Under the surface, your love will always be given with the hope of receiving their love in return. (Not that there is anything wrong with receiving love. The problem is when your offer of love is conditional upon being loved in return).

Once you trust that the unconditional love of Christ applies to you, it frees you from needing to obtain validation from others. Your need for love will be fully met by Christ, and only then can you offer love to others completely free from any external motivation.

And finally, those who are in Christ are given a spirit of self-discipline. We often look at following Jesus as an outside-in process. If I change my behavior, my heart will become alive to Christ. In reality, following Jesus is an inside-out process. I must first submit my life to Christ and allow Him to redeem my heart and give me a new nature.

The message of Christ isn’t “Become a better person so I can love you.” No, the message of Christ is “You can’t become a better person, but because I love you in spite of your brokenness, I will make you a new person. And as a new person, you will have My spirit of self-discipline inside of you enabling you to change your behavior.”

We have power because His spirit of power empowers us.

We can love others because His spirit of love dwells in us.

We can resist temptation because He has given us His spirit of self-disciple.

So the next time you feel you need more power, more love, or more self-discipline, don’t look to your own ability to drum it up. Recognize that because the spirit of Christ dwells in you, you already have all the power, love, and self-disciple you will ever need.

Instead of trying to generate more of these things, I would encourage you to trust that you already have more than you will ever need.

DONE: You Have Been Set Free from Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline
(2 Timothy 1:7).

What’s your biggest fear? Snakes? Planes? Snakes on a plane? Regardless of what it is, every one of us is afraid of something.

According to a quick Google search, the top ten fears of people are:

  • Speaking before a group
  • Heights
  • Insects and bugs
  • Financial problems
  • Deep water
  • Sickness
  • Death
  • Flying
  • Loneliness
  • Dogs

Chances are, you can relate to at least one of these.

But, remember, God has not given me a spirit of fear, which means I no longer had anything to truly be fearful about. Nonetheless, this fear of singleness remained a part of my life. So what gives?

In order to understand this dichotomy, we need to recognize that there are two types of fear:

  • Legitimate fear (fear of a very real and present danger).
  • Illegitimate fear (fear of an imagined or assumed danger).

When fear sneaks back into our lives as believers, it’s always illegitimate fear. It’s fear that is not based on the truth. Ultimately, it’s a sign that we don’t believe God will keep His word.

Let’s look at that top-10 list again. How many of those fears are still legitimate once we hold them up to the truth of Scripture?

Do we still need to fear financial ruin if we recognize that God has promised to meet all our needs? (see Matthew 6:26)

Do we need to be afraid of death (which is ultimately what the fear of heights, deep water, and many other fears are about), if we understand that death doesn’t separate us from God but releases you into glorious eternity with Him? (see John 11:23-26)

Once we recognize how Jesus has set us free from any legitimate reason to be afraid, our fears are all exposed as illegitimate.

As I placed my focus back on the truth of God’s love for me, I recognized that I wasn’t actually lonely, even in my singleness. The love I receive from my friends, my family, and from God Himself was more than enough to satisfy my heart’s desire for companionship. And the same can be true for you as well.

So the next time you’re afraid, look to the Scriptures and see what God says about whatever is frightening you. Perhaps you will discover that, thanks to the Spirit of Christ within you, you no longer have anything to truly be afraid of.

DONE: You Have Received the Promise of Life

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life He has promised through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:1).

The apostle Paul knew his calling was to tell others about the life that is promised to those who trust Jesus. But what exactly is Paul talking about when he says “life.”

The way I look at it, there are two possible ways to interpret Paul’s use of the word “life” in this context. On one hand, we could read this as Paul saying “Here’s what your day-to-day life will look like for you if you choose to follow Jesus.” If this were the message God wanted to communicate to the world through a man though, don’t you think He would have chosen someone other than Paul?

Seriously, take a look at Paul’s life:

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Prison…beatings…shipwrecks…sleeplessness. I’m pretty sure nobody is going to voluntarily sign up for a life like Paul’s—not unless there’s something attached to it so amazing that it makes all these hardships pale in comparison.

Ah, but there is something attached to it: The life of Christ living within you. Eternal life.

This is the life that Paul is talking about.

You see, Paul’s calling wasn’t to tell others how Jesus wanted to change their day-to-day lives. His calling was to help them see their need for the eternal life of Christ to redeem their hearts (which would give them the power to thrive within their day-to-day lives).

Hopefully you won’t ever find yourself shipwrecked or starving, but if you do, rest in the fact that the same life of Christ that dwelled in Paul dwells in you as well.

Which means when your day-to-day life gets hard, you can do more than simply try to survive…you can thrive.

DONE: You Have Received the Gifts of Faith

Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14)

Have you ever thought I just need to generate more faith?

I know I have.

But here’s the deal. Faith isn’t something you can increase on your own, it’s a gift from God.

When a man brought his son to Jesus and asked for him to be healed, Jesus asked if he truly believed in his heart that what he was asking for could be done. In other words, did he have faith?

And how did the man respond?

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

This man had heard about Jesus healing others, so he believed in his head what he was asking for could be done.

But that isn’t faith…it’s knowledge.

Faith is when your belief moves from your head into your heart.

For this man, faith came the moment he believed the healing he had seen Jesus offer to others was available to him as well. And in order to believe that, He needed Jesus to help Him overcome his unbelief.

Did Jesus respond to this man’s request with a list of things for him to do to increase his faith? Not at all. Jesus healed the man’s son, proving His faithfulness in spite of the man’s unbelief.

Jesus knew that only His faithfulness would increase the man’s faith. 

Every time you choose to trust Jesus, He will come through for you. Always. And the more He proves to be faithful, the more your faith will increase. Looking at it that way, it’s easy to see how faith is not something you generate on your own, it’s the result of Jesus coming through for you 100% of the time.