(This article is an excerpt based on a message from our good friend Pastor Scott Hayes. You can watch the full message here)
Kingdom living is from identity not feelings. When we learn to live out of our identity, it changes everything.
Recently I had a powerful encounter with God at a retreat in Colorado. My eyes were opened to what it meant to live out of my identity.
For a long time, I’ve heard people talk about identity. But to be honest, I didn’t know how to apply it. Identity was like an abstract good idea without anything practical to do.
What does it actually mean to live from your identity? And how would I go about that?
To answer that question, let’s step back and set some context.
Pretend that life is like a puzzle.
- Each piece of the puzzle represents an experience in our lives.
- Over the course of life, we have 10’s of thousands of “puzzle pieces” dropping out of the box.
- We’re left trying to sort through these pieces and make sense of them.
If life WAS like a puzzle, how do you put moments together coherently?
A: You have to look at the picture on the front of the box to find out what kind of puzzle you are building. The picture on the box provides a framework that helps us put all the little pieces together.
I can know what a specific “piece” of my story looks like. But that doesn’t mean I know where it goes in the bigger picture. The picture on the front of the box matters.
Q: What box cover picture are you using to interpret your life/experiences?
If we don’t have a clear picture on the front cover of our lives, we will inevitability make one up. We will tell ourselves our lives are about…
- Human relationships
The picture on the cover of a puzzle is a great illustration for living from identity. It’s a framework that provides coherence to the experiences of our lives and what we are building.
In Scripture, we are called to choose God’s picture as the pattern for our lives, not the false framework the world provides.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is exactly what it means to live from identity everyday. It means we get God’s clear picture on the puzzle box cover of our lives. And we remind ourselves of it often to help interpret the experiences (puzzle pieces) of our lives.
Until we let God define who we are and what we are doing we will live in a swirl of confusing emotions and experiences.
An amazing story about identity in Scripture is Jacob. His very name means deceiver and for the first part of his life he embodied that false identity. But when he’s put in a tight spot and his life is on the line, God shows up to show him who he REALLY is.
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”… Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face…”
Genesis 32: 24, 26-29b, 30
When Jacob’s life was in a swirl, it forced him to wrestle with God about who he really was. In the middle his crisis, God doesn’t focus on his external problem, but his internal one. When Jacob asks God to bless him, God’s response is to ask “What is your name?”
In that moment, God supernaturally steps in to redefine Jacob’s identity. Jacob becomes Israel. He goes from being “deceiver” to “one who is victorious with God.”
The key to not being swallowed by the swirl of life is to have HIS PICTURE on the front of the box.
So how do we do that? I want to give you two practical steps you can take NOW to begin to live out of your identity everyday.
1.) Change your reference point for actions and decisions.
We all have a reference point for our actions and decisions, that is often unseen. Scripture places incredible value on wisdom and logic but also clearly tells us that ALL OF US live from somewhere other than our logic.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Ultimately, our actions & decisions flow from our heart. That is where our pain and passion is stored, even for those of us who are more left-brain. The heart is the place of the soul. It’s where your mind, will, emotions and personality reside. For many of us, the only way we’ve learned to make decisions is by what we feel.
And these feelings lead us to make decisions that affect the way we view ourselves. They impact our identity.
In other words, our reference point for decisions and actions is: I feel something. I take action based on that feeling. And those actions inform my identity. If we made it into an equation, it would look like this:
F → A → I
I’d like to propose we need a new reference point for our actions and decisions. One that BEGINS with identity. In this way of living, our identity informs our actions and over time this leads to feelings that affirm our identity. The new equation would look like this:
I → A → F
We will never effectively DO until we know WHO we are. Our identity is bigger than the roles we play. It’s so important that we realize our actions and feelings do not define us. Instead we must receive our identity FROM God. Identity always comes from His voice. It is bestowed not earned. It is received in BELIEF & owned in COURAGE.
God’s Truth about you must become your reference point if you’re going to live from identity everyday.
So practically HOW do we keep identity in front of us?
2.) Write a statement that stirs your heart to remember who He says you are.
This is how we keep God’s picture of us in front of our eyes as we put together the puzzle pieces of life. This statement affirms our identity, leading to action that over time, changes how we feel.
In Habbakuk God urges his people to write down a clear vision and keep it in front of their eyes so they can correctly run the race of life.
And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.
Habakkuk 2:2-3 MSG
Let’s make the vision plain together so we can run after everything God has for us, full of his passion and purpose.
So how do we do this?
EXERCISE – Writing your Identity Statement
Grab a blank sheet of paper and start by asking these 4 questions.
- Testimonies: how has God been good to me?
- What aspects of God’s character do I need to keep declaring in this season?
- Prophecies: who does God say I am?
- What promises has he spoken over my future?
- Wolves: what lies does the enemy try to tell me and what truth combats these lies?
- We are typically more well acquainted with the WOLVES that come for us, than we are with the TRUTH of the FATHER.
- When the wolves in our mind come for us, our identity statement should be something we can quickly call to mind to combat those lies with truth.
- Words: What scriptures or words is God speaking over my life?
- Ask the father to remind you of words he has spoken over your life or new things he wants to show you about your identity.
With these filters in mind…
HOW and WHEN are you going to write a first draft of your identity statement? Who are you going to talk to about this and have them hold you accountable to create it.
How are you going to revisit this statement systematically? How are you going to schedule reading it?
- Every morning when you wake up?
- A reminder on your phone?
- Laminate it and put it in the shower?
Whatever way you do it, I so encourage you to take this step and create an identity statement. I can testify in my life how IMMENSELY powerful creating this identity statement is. Living from identity everyday has the power to change everything.
CALL TO ACTION
Need a head start on creating an identity statement?
If you want to know how I remind myself of my identity and how you can daily infuse truth, stir hunger for God and live more like Jesus, then check out my “Morning Manifesto.”