Building a "Non-Brittle" Identity
Seven truths you need to remember to build your identity on Christ alone.
Last week, I listened to James Clear’s book Atomic Habits to help me prepare for the new year. He closes the book, which I think is extremely helpful, with a plea for his readers to build their identity on something they cannot easily lose. “When you cling to tightly to one identity,” Clear writes, “you become brittle.”
Clear said that what people should do instead is to build their identity on things that cannot change. For example, he said that “I’m an athlete” could become “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge. Or, “I’m the CEO” could change into “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things.”
I appreciate what Clear wants to do here. He desires to help people build an identity that cannot be torn apart by one disaster or failure. However, when we build our identity on who we are or what we value, we can still become brittle. What happens when I stop being mentally tough or am no longer able to build and create things? I will find that I am still brittle.
Ultimately, we cannot build our identity on ourselves. We must build our identity on something outside of ourselves–something that never changes and that never fades away. What follows is nothing you have never heard before, but something we need to be reminded of frequently. Every single one of us forgets the truths of the Gospel in our lives. We must revisit them often.
I am loved by God.
It turns out that “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” is one of the most important lessons we can learn. Every person in the world wants to know they are loved, but the love of the people around us can be fickle. God’s love for his people never ends. Nothing can separate his people from his love.
I am chosen by God.
By his grace alone, God set his love on his people before the world began. God’s love for and acceptance of his people is not based on something within us. If this was the case, we could lose it. Instead, God’s love towards his people is rooted and grounded in his endless grace. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t gain it through good works. He generously granted it to us.
I am forgiven by God.
When you start talking to someone about God, there is a good chance that a sense of guilt will wash over them. We know we are people who have violated God’s law. Even if someone wouldn’t express it in biblical language, they would admit they are morally flawed and feel guilt for things they have done wrong.
Jesus died for us. He bore our sins in his body on the cross. We know he did this because he was raised from the dead and now prays for us in heaven. Through faith in Christ, God wipes the guilt of our sins away. He no longer holds them against us. Through Christ, we know the joy of forgiveness.
I am justified by God.
“But now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s words in Romans 8:1 summarize the good news of what God does when we trust in his Son. We are united with Christ in the likeness of his death and resurrection. God looks down upon us and pronounces that we are no longer condemned for our sin and guilt. We stand before him both freely forgiven and fully righteous.
I am adopted by God.
It is not uncommon to talk to people who bear tremendous father wounds. They pain of rejection and wondering if you belong can be overwhelming. In Christ, God adopts us as his children. He freely welcomes us into his family, gives us a place at his table, and promises us an inheritance. We can know that he will hear us when we cry out to him.
I am sealed by God.
How do I know that I am loved by God, chosen by God, forgiven by God, justified by God, and adopted by God? I can know this because God gave us his Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 tells that God sealed us with his Spirit, whom he gave to us as a pledge of our inheritance. This means God’s Spirit lives in us a pledge and a promise that God will give us everything he promised to us.
I am preserved by God.
Have you noticed that almost every book or movie about the future describes it in a bleak and dystopian fashion? We despair of the future and believe life in days to come will be worse than they are now.
Whatever may be true of life to come in this present world is not true for the Christian in the life to come. We have real hope. We belong to God and he will hold on to us. When we die, we enter into his presence. When he comes again, we will be glorified and experience life in the new heavens and the new earth. In this paradise, sin, cancer, bankruptcy, backstabbing, pain, frustration, and death will be no more. We will always be with the Lord.
For Further Reading:
Faith Alone by Thomas R. Schreiner
Christ Alone by Stephen Wellum
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Thank you for the article “ What to Do When You are in a Spiritual Dry Spell”. This helped helped me in a time of need.
Very good article. The simplest of truths but they’re so easily overlooked if not careful.