3. Identity Rescued
As the Gospels open, amazingly, given the state of the human race and the way it has repeatedly rejected God, in a staggering act of love and grace God the Son becomes man and enters the world. As He does this, one of the remarkable things we see is Jesus showing us the identity we were made to enjoy.
In the Gospels we see what a life lived loving God and being secure in His love looks like. Where Adam failed, Jesus stands. Jesus was tempted as we are, but unlike us, He stands faithful to the end. And Jesus is constantly showing and inviting people to enjoy and share in His identity, to know and love God just as He does, to have a right relationship with God, to be what they were made to be.
He meets Zacchaeus, a man who is seeking his identity in money and wealth, but is isolated and lonely. And Jesus shows him real love and welcome, and Zacchaeus gives his money away and becomes who he was made to be by faith in Jesus. His identity is transformed. Jesus says Zacchaeus is now a Son of Abraham—that is his new identity. Jesus has totally transformed who he is and what he is living for—he is now defined by his being in a right relationship with God—a Son of Abraham—sharing in all the blessings and joy that brings.
How Jesus Changes People
To a woman at the well (John 4) who has been seeking her identity in relationships, she’s had five husbands and is living with another man. But Jesus transforms her. Through faith in Him, she finds her true identity in God’s love and forgiveness and in a staggering reversal of her identity as a shame filled social outcast she rushes to town to tell everyone “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.” And brings a whole town to Jesus.
Jesus meets religious Nicodemus, whose identity is in his religious learning and doing, his position and reputation, who proudly displays his diplomas on his office wall and ensures he’s introduced with them before he speaks at conferences. But he is also a man who is searching and has been secretly intrigued by Jesus’ actions and signs. Jesus challenges his sense of identity and calls him to be born again by the Spirit—to really know God and enjoy Him, to be who God made him to be. Nicodemus later comes with Joseph to claim Jesus’ body.
Jesus lived life loving God and revelling in His goodness. He shows us how far short we fall of being who we were made to be, and the joy we miss out on as a result. As we read the Gospels, we hunger to be like Jesus; to be as generous as He was, as joyful as He was, as welcoming of others as He was, as forgiving as He was, as content in His own skin as He was, as in tune with the Father as he was.
Our problem is our identity has been marred by sin. We still seek a sense of identity—to be loved, to be valued—but we seek it in all the wrong places. But Jesus comes to free us. Jesus also shows us what God is like, as He lives and in love as He goes to the cross to rescue us. Christ paid the price for our rejection of God. In so doing, He forged a new identity for us. We can now be reconciled to the God.
In Jesus, God invites us to enjoy once again what we were made to enjoy, to be who we were made to be, to rest in our identity given and redeemed as we live as His people, increasingly becoming like Jesus.
4. Identity Restored
But that’s not the end of the story. Jesus promises, just as God always had through the prophets and his promises, that one day he will restore all of creation. Everything will be remade, including us. Finally, we’ll be who God made us to be, who Jesus rescued and redeemed us to be. And we’ll enjoy Him forever in a world, a cosmos, at rest with its true identity.
But in the meantime, we live as rescued people being restored. We live between times, the kingdom is now but not yet. We are made new when we trust in Christ, filled with his Spirit. The New Testament is full of reminders of our identity in Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul writes of the Corinthians believer’s new identity: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Peter similarly writes to believers to help them grasp their new identity: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9)
As God’s people redeemed by Jesus, we have a new identity. We are not what we were. But we’re also not finished yet—there is a ‘God at work sign’ that stands outside every church and over every follower of Jesus. We are a work in progress. We are in the process of being transformed.
In this life, all of us, when we follow Jesus, commit afresh daily to fight to root our identity in Jesus. Repenting when we slip back into placing our sense of identity and worth in the things we did before Jesus redeemed us from the empty way. Things like stuff, or intellect, or attainment, or looks, or our position or reputation, or in the opinion of someone else, or our relationship with another.
And we do so in a community, redeemed and restored to live as God’s forgiven people together, bound by grace and love in a community that accepts failures but spurs one another on to love. And God—this good, loving, holy, gracious God—who invites us to know Him and enjoy Him, gives us the church as a band of brothers and sisters, and his Spirit and his Word as we explore and live out our new identity in Jesus.
And the world watches on. It sees the kingdom in our churches and it’s grace filled response to failure, struggles and brokenness. And all the while we fight on daily, battling to root our identity in our Redeemer. Whilst we long for the day when our new, redeemed identity will be finally restored.
Those four fundamental Biblical truths ought to shape our identity. That is the story we live out of, it’s the story we take our place in. But I want to take some time to try to reflect on some of the implications for that for the current transgender moment we live in. Even as I do so, I am aware that there is so much I don’t have time to say. There are so many things I can’t address. But we as God’s people must be more loving and compassionate that reacting with ‘Yuk’ and more loving and compassionate that simply knee jerking to a ‘Yep’. So what I want to try and do is reframe our understanding of transgenderism in light of our Biblical story of identity given, identity abandoned, identity redeemed and identity restored.
This is the third part in a weekly series of blogs on the topic of transgenderism. You can read part one here and part two here. Stay tuned on our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for the subsequent articles.