“Who am I? Who are you? What is my identity?” asked Thomas White, president of Cedarville University, at the beginning of the 2018 conference’s first session. It’s a profound question, and one that just about everyone has wrestled with at one point or another. The problem is, White says, most of the answers that we tend to offer are unsatisfactory, and ultimately lead to a devaluing of human worth. “Am I defined by what I do?” he asks. “Well if I’m defined by what I do, I must continue to work to find value. And what happens when the job goes away? What happens to the preacher or musician when the voice fades? Are they useless?” Identity by way of occupational pursuits, then, fails to provide lasting meaning.
What about identity by way of achievement? “If I’m defined by what I have achieved, I must continue to achieve more to find value and worth,” White says. “If I don’t, am I really useless?”
Then perhaps true identity is to be found in reputation, in how we are viewed by others. “If that’s the case, then we are in trouble,” White says. “If my value is in my popularity—if my value is in what others think about me—I may be more worried about my social media accounts than I am about pleasing God.”
Where, then, is true, meaningful identity to be found? The book of Ephesians provides the answer: it is found in our union with Jesus Christ.
Preaching through Ephesians 1:1–23, White explains how God, in Christ, has richly endowed the church with “every spiritual blessing” (1:3), and has thereby given her value, meaning, and purpose. Those spiritual blessings are broad and far reaching. They include election, justification, sanctification, imputed righteousness, adoption, redemption, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit.
In light of all these spiritual blessings, and in light of how God, in Christ, has utterly transformed those who believe in Him, we can face all of life’s circumstances secure in the knowledge that our identity—and therefore our value and worth—is secure. “What’s my identity in the bad days? It’s that I’m in Christ, and it’s all going to be okay,” White explains. “What’s my identity when the church doesn’t respond? I’m in Christ, and I want you to be too. And what’s my identity when everything is blowing up and everybody’s singing my praises? Listen, I’m just in Christ. There’s nothing I’m doing that’s making this happen; it’s all about Him.”
When believers come to recognize that their identity is found in Christ, that will enable them to love others with Christ’s love too. “Our call is to love that church in Christ, how Christ would have us to do it,” White says. The church “may not be perfect, she may be broken, she may be bloody, but she’s beautiful. And one day, she will be redeemed by the immeasurable power of His greatness.”