Do you identify with some group or person? Maybe you have a favourite sporting team or player. Maybe you have a favourite music group or performer. Maybe you have your regular church connections or a preacher you particularly like. What about actors and movie characters?
Of course you have a family you identify with, and your nationality. You have your age group and peers that you most likely identify with.
In practice you probably have a very wide set of things you identify with. And one way to be aware of it is to meet people you don’t identify with. When you meet people who dress and look different, speak a different language (or sub-culture slang), or who have vastly different economic circumstances or significance to you, you likely feel you are not ‘one of them’, and they are not the same as you.
The same is true with religion. Christians don’t identify with Hindu gods or Islamic beliefs, in the same way secular people don’t identify with any religion. And Christians tend to identify with a particular style of worship and preferred approach to faith, such as being traditional, or contemporary.
The Bible signals some important moments of identification that we need to ensure are part of our life. Most important is that we identify with Jesus Christ.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
“Everyone who confesses me before men is one I will confess before my father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32
“Whoever denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:9
That’s very serious stuff. It is important that we establish and live out our identification with Christ. In fact, that identification runs very deep in our life, full of spiritual significance.
At the superficial level identification is a personal, internal experience of pain or celebration. We see that in sport. In a football game I recently saw on TV the ball had to be kicked from an awkward angle by a player who had been exhausting himself up and down the field for the whole match. The packed stadium poised in anxious anticipation as the ball took flight and curved its way, finally, between the markers to provide the winning points.
Team supporters erupted in jubilation. You would have thought they had kicked that goal. What caught my eye was the sheer delight among a bunch of supporters who were overweight, unfit and looked like they’d never played sport in their lives. They probably couldn’t run to catch a bus, but they celebrated as if they, personally, had kicked that impressive goal.
That’s ‘Identification’! That’s the internal, personal, vicarious experience of living our life through identification with the work of others.
In times of war, news of a defeat by our troops is felt as a loss by all our fellows. News of a resounding victory made people feel proud and hopeful. Yet the people rejoicing could be thousands of miles away from the battle.
What makes that form of identification so powerful is that we feel as if our champions, or our chosen representatives, have performed on our behalf. They have won for us, or their loss is ours.
That’s how it is with Christ. His victory over sin and death is our victory too! His defeat of satan is ours. His triumph over the arrayed forces of the earth is ours. So when we make Jesus our Lord and Saviour we not only get the good feeling of identification, we actually enjoy the fruit of Christ’s finished work on the Cross. We get to take part in His resurrection.
In human experience we can choose to identify with a person, performer, team or group, without those parties ever knowing. Our identification is only our own personal dream. It is alive in our head, but may never be known by anyone else. Or we may become a ‘supporter’ or join a ‘fan’ group, but our level of connection is quite tenuous.
In Christ our Identification is spiritually powerful, because Christ, God and the devil know our choice. If we confess Christ we don’t only identify with Him, we experience the power of all Christ has accomplished. If we confess Christ before men then we are confessed before God.
Identification with Christ goes way beyond all the exciting connections we can claim on earth.
Identification with Christ is not just personal and internal, or a thing of our mind, but it is a real process of connecting us with Christ in a tangible way. The Apostle Paul talked of us being ‘baptised into Christ Jesus’ and of us being partakers, or fellow sharers in Christ’s victories.
“All of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:27
“Do you not know that as many of us as have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?” Romans 6:3
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20,21
“We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” Hebrews 3:14
We are not just a fan of Jesus, cheering from our armchairs, or admiring our bunch of memorabilia. We actually experience Christ in our lives, in forgiveness of sins, adoption into God’s family, being filled with God’s Spirit, receiving eternal life, having Christ’s authority over sin, death and the devil, and alive in God’s Kingdom.
So, among all the other things you identify with in life, from your family, culture, interests, background, and so on, realise that you must identify with Christ. Not just as an enthusiast, or one who respects what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, but as one who joins with Christ, through faith. Your identification is referred to in the Bible as being ‘In Christ’, so it’s far more than just being a supporter.
Be born again by the Spirit of God as you put your faith in Christ. Be forgiven and transformed, stepping into God’s Kingdom and God’s family. Live for Christ and in the power of Christ. And, all your days, continue celebrating and exploring the wonder of your connection with God through Christ and the profound power of that Identification.