matt tillotson

Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ,
by Mark Driscoll

Our culture talks about identity as self-image or self-esteem. As a parent and pastor, I believe that correctly knowing one’s true identity is the one thing that changes everything.

This world’s fundamental problem is that we don’t understand who we truly are—children of God made in his image—and instead define ourselves by any number of things other than Jesus. Only by knowing our false identity apart from Christ in relation to our true identity in him can we rightly deal with and overcome the issues in our lives.

You aren’t what’s been done to you but what Jesus has done for you. You aren’t what you do but what Jesus has done. What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do.

He created us to reflect his goodness and glory in the world around us, like Moses, who radiated the glory of God after being in God’s presence.

Only by seeing ourselves rightly and biblically between God and the animals can we have both humility and dignity.

You were created by God, are on the earth to image and glorify God, and when you die, if you are in Christ, you will be with God forever, imaging and glorifying him perfectly in a sinless state.

Imaging God involves thinking with our heads, feeling with our hearts, and doing with our hands.Satan and people like him, with the same sinful motives (much like Leonard’s friends in Memento), lie to us about who we are in order to serve their own plans.

here is the lie: we will be “like” God if we’ll base our identity upon someone or something else other than God and the grace God bestows upon us.

our first parents disbelieved their God-given identity and instead sought to create their own apart from him. The result was the first sin and the Fall. We humans have had an identity crisis ever since, seeking to construct an identity ourselves while forgetting about the one God has already given us.

Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.”

Everything in life is sacred, and nothing is secular. It’s a lie from Satan that life can be compartmentalized in such a way. Everyone—from atheists to Christians—worships unceasingly. In the eyes of God, our choices, values, expenditures, words, actions, and thoughts are all acts of worship. They make up our identity. The only question is, what is your object of worship?

All of humanity can be divided into two categories: those who worship the Creator and those who worship created things. Because of sin, we’re prone to worship anyone and anything other than the God who made everyone and everything. That is idolatry.

“Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Scriptures.”

To help you understand idols, think of them in terms of Items, Duties, Others, Longings, and Sufferings.

Veblen, who coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption,” the chief way we obtain social prestige and is through conspicuous displays of leisure and consumption.

when consumerism is your religion and stuff the object of your worship, “the things you own end up owning you,” to quote Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club(1999).

If you find your identity in the achievement of your duties, you’ll have many troubles. First, you’ll always search for something to excel at in an effort to outperform others and demonstrate your superiority.

The truth is that you’re not what you do. You have God-given natural talents, Holy Spirit–endowed gifts, and unique abilities. You also have duties, but these duties do not define you, because your identity is not determined by what you do. Rather, who you are in Christ helps you faithfully pursue your duties and use your abilities without them becoming the essence of your dignity and identity.

If you idolize your tribe, you will also demonize other tribes.

This explains why there is often unnecessary and unholy hostility between nations, cities, genders, races, schools, classes, cultures, sports fans, churches, political parties, educational systems (e.g., private, public, homeschool), and even Christian denominations.

Obtaining an identity from our relationships can manifest itself in the idols of independence or dependence. With the idol of independence, we rightly fear allowing our identity to be determined by others. Unfortunately, in the midst of our right fear, we wrongly avoid close relationships because we don’t want to risk being emotionally hurt—which means others still control our identity.Note:This is me.

Living for the future causes one’s identity to always be out there, tomorrow, just around the corner, rather than a present reality secured by Jesus and his work on the cross.

While it’s not a sin to plan and strive for a better tomorrow, it is a sin to set one’s joy and identity on who we will be, what we will do, or what we will have tomorrow in our own efforts rather than on Christ today and who he will make us, what he will have us do, and what he will give to us tomorrow.

to be a Christian is not to live a life free from suffering, but rather, suffering should lead us to identify with Jesus, who suffered more than anyone in history on our behalf.

testimony, on the other hand, is about Jesus—his life, his accomplishments, and his determination. In a testimony, Jesus is the hero who rescues me from the terrible fate of sin, death, hell, and the just wrath of God. In a testimony, sinners should be honest so that it’s clear who the real Savior is.

We’re incapable of knowing how to image God until we look to the Trinity in general and Jesus in particular.

The absolute worst place to begin constructing an identity is you, which is precisely where most counseling begins. The absolute best place to begin constructing an identity is Jesus Christ, which is precisely where Scripture begins. Knowing Jesus and being saved by him in faith is the key to your identity and the defeat of your idolatry. It’s not about you. It’s all about Jesus.

Ephesians was the favorite book of the Bible for Protestant Reformer John Calvin, who preached 48 sermons from the book, wrote a 172-page commentary on it, As Christians, we live from our identity, not for our identity. We are defined by who we are in Christ, not what we do or fail to do for Christ.

Note: Living from your identity in Christ means the actions in your life are a life of worship — in all things, hands, thoughts, and heart — and not a process of running on a treadmill to maintain or create a worldly identity. AWESOME.


One popular Christian counseling book says, “In a pinch you could do all your counseling from Ephesians . . . [It] aims to teach you how to live.”

This is why I am finding Facebook such a turnoff (besides that my life had taken a negative turn — i guess — though the loss of my job). Facebook says it is an engine for connection with friends. It is not. It is a engine of idolatry — the worship of earthly things, most notably conspicuous consumption — the worship of things and experiences as an expression of identity — and also identity politics, where my tribe is right and yours is evil.

Paul the “first theologian in the early church, and arguably the greatest in the history of Christianity.”Orange highlight | Location: 498Luke was a disciple and traveling companion of Paul, most of the New Testament can be directly or indirectly traced to Paul.

Among his letters is Ephesians, which he wrote to the churches in and around the city of Ephesus.

Christianity is rooted and flourished in difficult urban contexts, where people struggled with the same things you and I do today. If ancient Rome was like New York or London, then Ephesus was like Los Angeles or Chicago.

faith can be lost from one generation to the next if we’re not careful.

had the gospel of Jesus Christ not taken root in Ephesus and spread from there across the Roman Empire on the trade routes and beyond, Christianity as we know it may not exist.

Ephesians was most likely written to newer Christians from pagan or Jewish backgrounds who were tempted to go back to their former sinful lifestyles.

The two words “in Christ” changed the world
and are the summary, essence, and totality of a believer’s identity. Simply put, either our identity is in Christ or in idolatry.

From my perspective, “in Christ” far outstrips the term “Christian” in describing Christianity. Aside from the fact that “Christian” is only used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16), that title allows for an ambiguous interpretation. It can mean one who has a specific cultural affinity, or the “western tradition,” or one who lives on one side of barbed wire and is killing those on the other side. But “in Christ” invites no such abuse, because it demands reflection on a dynamic, living relationship.

am learning to allow him to carry the load for me so I can continue to do his work and care for all the good things he has entrusted me to do.”

being a saint requires one step: be in Christ.

While we still struggle with sin in this life, as Christians, our identity is not found in our sin but in Christ’s righteousness.

Those who are in Christ are his holy saints, set apart to endure temptation, criticism, and ostracism just as he did. Dear saint, you must always remember who you are, especially when you need it most.

We are not what we do. We do what we are.

It’s helpful to think of the benefits of being in Christ as a fourfold salvation process. First, through regeneration, we are brought back from spiritual death resulting from our sin to new life in Christ. Regeneration brings us new desires, thoughts, and hopes to do the things of God rather than the “lusts of our flesh” (Eph. 2:3).

Second, through justification we’re saved from the penalty of sin.

Third, journeying down this path toward God and godliness continues throughout our lives in sanctification. Through sanctification we’re saved from the power of sin. Sanctification is both a position—we are already set apart and sanctified—and a process, in which we increasingly become more like Jesus as the Holy Spirit cleanses us and we grow in relationship with him. As a sanctified saint, we’re not obligated to sin and can start enjoying holiness.

Fourth, our sanctification is completed upon death when we experience the finality of our salvation in glorification,

sometimes we as saints sin by becoming proud of the changes we’ve made and the things we’ve learned, something the Bible calls being “puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4; 1 Tim. 3:6).

Pride is our enemy and humility is our ally.

Pride compares us to other sinners; humility compares us to our sinless Savior.

The trend of modern counseling is encouraging people to think better of themselves, to make better lives for themselves. Accordingly, the answer to what ails us is self-esteem leading to self-improvement and self-actualization. But these are just technical terms for pride.

We don’t need to feel better about ourselves. We need the God who makes us better through himself and for himself.

Knowing we’re sinners saved and kept by grace will keep us from a prideful, high self-esteem. Knowing we’re also saints in Christ will keep us from a painful, low self-esteem.

We arrogantly see people from the past as more naive, primitive, and less sophisticated than ourselves. The truth is that people have always been the same, and today, people are as pagan in their thinking as ever.

the entire point of God’s blessing is his glory, writing that God’s blessing is “to the praise of the glory of His grace”

Sit down with some uninterrupted time, ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the ways you’ve been blessed by God, and simply journal them. As you do, God will grow bigger, his grace will be richer, and your troubles will become smaller.

When we’re unappreciated, we’re prone to engage in unhealthy competitiveness. While there is a healthy kind of competition, where we “spur one another on toward love and good deeds,”j seeking to motivate one another in love to be more faithful and fruitful for God’s glory and others’ good, many times our competitiveness isn’t godly or gracious. Rather, the focus becomes showing our superiority over others, seeking to outperform others to achieve power, status, praise, and reward. When even godly things are done with the underlying motivation of ungodly competition, it leads to ungodly behavior. Sinful spiritual competition is when we compete against others to defeat them rather than compete with others to become more like Jesus.

Jesus redirected their aspirations, saying they should aspire to be great servants.

Knowing God appreciates us allows us to exchange our performance for service.

Performance is done for the sight and approval of others. Service is done knowing that God is watching and approving whether or not anyone else is. Performance causes us to be enslaved to others’ opinions, unable to say no, and prone to being overworked. Service frees us to do what God wants, thereby saying no as needed.

According to Paul, we have been saved,b we are being saved,c and we shall be saved.

In Christ, we’re saved from six things: sin, death, worldly living, Satan, our old nature, and the wrath of God.

All of what God does in us happens “with” Christ through his resurrection from the dead and his exaltation at the right hand of God