There is no more characteristic theme of modern western culture than that of ‘identity.’ Talk is incessant about gender identity, racial identity, national identity, self-esteem and personal identity. The Bible, however, speaks about Christians getting a new ‘name’ in Christ, the more ancient way of talking about a change in identity.
In ancient times, a person’s identity and self-worth largely rested in one’s family. So if you had a lot of children it meant you were esteemed and respected in society. But God says that believers receive a name “better than that of sons and daughters” for it is “an everlasting name that will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:5). In other words, the Lord gives us an identity not based ultimately in family or race, in money or success — it is not like any other kind of identity in the world. And the New Testament tells us it comes to us through faith in Christ. In Christ we are born again and adopted into God’s family (John 1:12-13) and we have God’s name put on us (Revelation 3:12), and so receive the praise and applause of God (Romans 2:29). This being “in Christ” means now that no other feature — not your education, vocation, gender, race, or any other human condition or achievement — defines you or grounds your worth and identity as does your relationship with God through Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). It also creates a deep bond and tie to all other believers, regardless of their worldly status, gender, race, or nationality.
This year’s “Formation” emphasis in the Redeemer churches includes three conferences that bring our family of churches and ministries together, and this coming November 17-18, at the Salvation Army auditorium on 14th Street, I will lead participants through an exploration of this crucial theme and subject. There will be three sessions.
The first will be entitled “Modern Identities” and it will explore the views of identity that prevail in the world’s cultures. We will examine how they differ from the biblical and Christian teaching. We will give special treatment to the way identity is understood and formed in the late modern western culture in which we live.
The second session will be “Gospel Identity,” and there we will discuss what the Bible tells us a gospel identity is and how it operates in our lives. We will give some time and attention to how a gospel identity can make us peacemakers and bridge builders in a diverse and fragmenting society.
Finally, the third session will be “How a Gospel Identity Grows.” It would be great if we all instantly lived fully out of our identity in Christ, but we do not, because growth into Christlikeness is a process that is gradual and always unfinished in this life. How then can we develop a gospel identity? We will look at how we do so through the five practices of Christian formation (devotion, worship, accountability, hospitality, and rest).
I couldn’t be more excited about this subject and the retreat. I hope to see you there.
For more information, see redeemer.com/formationconference.