The longer I live, the more I know the importance of identity. One dictionary defines identity as “the fact of being who a person is.” Sounds reasonable at first glance. But think about it . . . “the fact of being who you are.” But who decides the fact of your identity? Get kidnapped in another country, and your identity would be determined by someone looking at your passport? Die in a plane crash, and your identity might be determined by someone looking at your dental records. Commit some dastardly crime, and your identity might be determined by someone decoding your DNA.
Get it? Our identity is determined by someone. And it’s a huge deal.
Unfortunately, many of our parents (and grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc.) didn’t realize how important this was. Some of us received identities like “fat boy,” “troublemaker,” “jock,” “bookworm,” “sissy,” “Romeo,” and “klutz.” Others got branded with “spoiled,” “loser,” “black sheep” and “never going to amount to anything.” Subconsciously, we bought into these identities and let them define us our entire lives.
When Jesus came into the world, He became the new Identifier. He invited us to replace our parents with a Heavenly Father . . . one who would ‘make us new.’ We could be born again and have a new identity . . . as a “beloved son.” (Bible trivia: Why didn’t Jesus say “sons and daughters?” Because in that culture, daughters didn’t receive an inheritance. Jesus included everyone as “sons” to be inclusive . . . to leave no doubt about their divine inheritance in Him!)
Sometimes in the Scriptures, God gives people new names to go along with their new identities. It seems to happen when God transforms specific people with oversized egos for a great mission or purpose. Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sara, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul.
Not to put myself anywhere near this list of Biblical heroes, but I had a somewhat similar experience. When I was born, I was named “Reginald” . . . my folks shortened it to “Regi.” All my life I was “Regi.” When I started climbing the career ladder at AT&T, I became self-conscious about the spelling of my name. I didn’t want my identity to include anything that would be weird or hold me back so I changed the spelling to “Reggie.”For the next 11 years, as I chased after the wrong god, I was “Reggie.” But when I surrendered to Jesus, I grasped my identity in Him. I became less concerned about what the world thought and “Reggie” seemed fake . . . it wasn’t who I was anymore. So, in a way, my old name became my new name.
Our identity is ascribed to us by someone other than ourselves, but it’s up to us to own that identity and live out of it. “Jesus-follower” is a great identity, but “beloved, adopted son of our Heavenly Father” is the best one. Grasp that, and it’ll change everything.
Scripture: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. (Romans 8:14-15a)
Mentor Tip: If your guys graduate from your mentoring having learned this one thing, it would be worth it. They are “sons of God.” That’s their identity!