I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (KJV)
While “identity” denotes that set of characteristics that constitute our essential self or personal uniqueness, it also describes our sameness with groups. We identify with groups based on their characteristics, values, and/or belief system. For example, we may identify with a particular area (Midwesterner, New Yorker), a certain demographic (Baby Boomers, Gen-X, Millennials), or even a certain cause (MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Save the Whales). Our identity with certain groups may be intentional in hopes of elevating our status or gaining influence. Identification with Christ is, however, what really matters both now and for eternity.
“Identification”, for purposes of our teaching today, denotes association in name, feeling, interest, or action. When identification is used in this manner, it is usually followed by the preposition with, such as, “He preferred not to identify himself with that group.” How do we identify with Christ and what does it look like in our lives? Mark Hankins, in his book, The Power of Identification in Christ, gives us great insight as to where identification with Christ begins:
“Your identification with Christ or who you are in Christ begins with the grace of God. God puts you in a place where you can see His glory, get in His presence, know and experience Him.”
This grace of God was demonstrated to us through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:4-6
So how do we begin this journey of identifying with Christ? We begin identification with Christ by identify with…
His death. Before Christ came into our lives we were dead in our trespasses (Col. 2:13). We were bound by our human tendencies to follow the impulses and temptations generated by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Now with Christ, our old nature has been put to death ((Ep. 4:22; Mark 8:35). This dying to sin and self is possible as a result of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
His burial. What do you do with dead things? You bury them! Sin is no longer “operative” (effective) in the believer’s life. We do not have to respond to sin’s demands (Col. 2:12) and we are released from Satan’s control over our lives (Romans 6:11-12). To return to a lifestyle of sin is as unthinkable for a Christian as for one to dig up a dead corpse!
His resurrection. We have been “quickened” (made alive) by the Spirit (Ep. 2:1,5 ; 1 Pet. 3:18) and are raised by the power of God into “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). This power (dynamis) is the same power that God used when He raised Jesus from the grave (Ep. 1:19-20). It is now the believer’s privilege and responsibility to “appropriate” that power in our Christian walk.
His glorification. Since we died and were raised with Christ, we will also be glorified with Him (Ep. 2:6). The believer’s greatest hope is to partake in the future glory with Christ (Rom. 8:17). This hope outweighs any trials we may experience now and becomes the goal of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). Through identification with Christ’s glorification we see the culmination of God’s plan of salvation (Rom. 8:30).
Why is identification with Christ important? By identifying in Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and glorification, we begin to shed ourselves of the earthly entrapments that compete for God’s love and affection. Christ becomes the standard as to what true love and obedience looks like—love for our Father and love for one another. During this process of identification, transformation begins. Our spirit man no longer must be coaxed to do what is right but finds joy in fulfilling God’s purpose, as willing bondservants to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet.1:1).
Our identification with Christ is our personal witness and commitment to the values and beliefs that are associated with Him. Our life is now hidden in Christ and our attention is focused on a heavenly agendas and kingdom building (Col. 3: 1-3). In the identification process, we become conformed to the image of Christ, which has always been the desire of the Father (Rom. 8:29). It is through our identification with our Savior that we achieve our true identity of “Christ-likeness”.