Does what you do define who you are? Does who you are determine what you do? And in the end, does it really matter? Yes, it absolutely matters. Because although the idea that “what you do defines who you are” is a nice sentiment that encourages people to take positive action, it’s actually backwards – and it’s the definition of performance. The truth is that what you do doesn’t define who you are. Who you are defines and determines what you do. And that’s actually really good news, because knowing who you are solves a whole host of other issues. In fact, knowing your identity, in your core, will actually destroy three major attacks that the enemy tries to bring against you: performance, doubt, and fear.
1. Identity Kills Performance
Performance is rooted in two needs: the need for acceptance, and the need to prove something. But when you know your identity, performance dies naturally, because both of these needs are already met. When you know who you are, you won’t respond to the call of false identity. Performance literally cannot exist in an environment where you know you have nothing to prove and that you are fully loved and accepted.
2. Identity Kills Doubt
We can probably agree that Jesus had a very solid idea of His identity. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) was God’s kick-off to Jesus’ ministry. Identity + acceptance = a powerful combination. So when the devil popped out to the middle of the wilderness for some tempting and started off with “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3) he had already lost the battle. It’s as if a police man pulled you over and you tried to get him not to write you a ticket by convincing him he wasn’t actually an officer of the law. Can you imagine? “If you’re really a police man…” Not only would you still get a ticket; the officer would look at you like you were from another planet! Because he knows who he is, he isn’t vulnerable to your questioning. Having a solid sense of your identity in Christ is like wearing a shield. Any attack that begins “If you are….” will bounce right off.
3. Identity Kills Fear
Nehemiah 6:11 is a great example of this. Nehemiah’s enemies send a false messenger to intimidate him and tell him he’s going to be murdered and that he should definitely hide. And Nehemiah’s response to the news is: “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” Nehemiah’s response isn’t an in-the-moment decision (“I’ve decided I’m not going to run away this time”); it was decided before he even heard the negative report, because it’s a response that comes from who he knows he is. In fact, the nature of the outside circumstances and the size of the fear matter a lot less than the solidity of your identity.
Stand firm in who you are, fear and intimidation will flee.
And, the final (most important) reason…
4. Identity Invites Presence
God shows up for His kids. Imagine leading worship with the deep-seated knowledge that God wants to throw the throne room doors open wide and welcome you with open arms. That’s what identity does. Smith Wigglesworth knew his identity in Christ, and famously used to say, “If the Spirit isn’t moving, I’ll move Him.” Knowing your identity actually invites the Presence of God and keeps you from missing out on everything that He desires to pour out on you. As you read the promises of identity in the Scripture, like…
1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light…”
Ephesians 1:4–5: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will…”
…it becomes abundantly clear that God bestowed us with our identity as sons and daughters of Christ out of His loving desire to be with us. The more you rest securely in your identity in Christ, the more the door is open for the Presence of God to flood your life!
Ultimately, when you can’t be enticed to perform, can’t be convinced to doubt, can’t be scared into submission, and you always know that God is ready and willing to show up – then you will be able to position yourself to do pretty incredible things. You’ll be doing them because of who you are, not the other way around. Because ultimately, who you are in Christ defines both what you do and how you do it – and, in the end, identity always wins.
Who you are in Christ defines both what you do & how you do it; identity always wins!