Text: Romans 7:15-25 | Listen to Message
An “Identity Crisis” is when someone feels confused about his or her sense of self, or – to put it another way – is unsure of where his or her validation and meaning is going to come from. This crisis typically occurs when someone is undergoing a major (and often negative) life transition – like being fired from a job, getting divorced, losing a loved one, or retiring.
Spiritually, we experience a crisis of identity when we’re conflicted about where to look for our sense of self or significance. God tells us in the Gospel that we are unconditionally loved and accepted in Christ – we are adopted into his family by free grace. Yet in our day-to-day lives, we functionally live as if we have to prove our worth through some kind of performance or by being something utterly unique.
I call this “Spiritual Bipolarity.” We swing back and forth, simultaneously trying to live off of two competing identity scripts. Like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, we end up doing the very things we don’t want to do. And though we feel absolutely miserable, we don’t know how to break the cycle. We’re just confused, frustrated, and exhausted.
How would we break out of this spiritual identity crisis if we wanted to? I think Paul shows us three important steps:
1) Acknowledge you have a problem.
Simply admit that there’s a battle raging for your heart and mind. You are conflicted because you’re trying to juggle allegiance to your old/false identities and your new/Gospel identity.
2) Disown the false identities.
This is more than simply saying you’re sorry and repenting. This is calling out your sin and brokenness, and saying something like, “You don’t belong here; you will not define me; you might be part of the person I used to be, but you’re not part of my new identity in Christ; get lost.”
Paul uses this principle throughout his epistles as he teaches us how to live the Christian life. For example, in Colossians 3:9-10, he says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
We need to learn to disown the behaviors that reflect a false identity that no longer defines us, and practice the behaviors that reflect our new/true identity in Christ.
Finally, having received that identity by God’s free grace . . .
3) Celebrate and walk in the freedom that is yours by the Spirit.
We need to live everyday life in the reality of the good news of Romans 8. By free grace, the Spirit of God has applied the work of Jesus to us who believe in him! It’s not just that God sees us as if we’re like Christ. We actually have a new identity that embodies the merits of Jesus Christ! It’s not just like we have a ticket to go to heaven when we die. We’ve been adopted as children of the King – so of course we have access to the palace!
How do we break free of our spiritual bipolarity? We need to stop living lies and half-truths. If the Spirit says we’re free, we need to live each day as an expression of all the freedoms and access we have in Christ. We need to celebrate the Giver and enjoy his gifts.
In the end, we break the crisis of identity not by finding ourselves, but by finding Christ, who shows us who we really are.