Another season of American Idol is over. It is exciting to watch the contestants grow in their confidence and abilities, challenged by the pressure of each performance and the input from the judges. One of the things that “sells” American Idol though is the large number of people who audition who cannot sing at all. They are interviewed while in line and boldly proclaim with confidence that they are the next American Idol, only to go before the judges and make horrible, off-key attempts at singing. Then, when they are rejected by the judges, they continue to hold firmly to their belief that they are a fantastic singer and that the judges didn’t like them or were unfair. It is amazing! This phenomena illustrates the great truth that what we believe about our identity greatly affects our behavior.
Obviously the “singers” who were rejected by the Idol judges had a wrong view of their own identity. They were believing the lies of others who told them that they could sing. In the same way, as followers of Christ we often believe the lies from our past or the lies from Satan that tell us we are sinners, failures, losers or screw-ups. If we choose to believe these lies, then we, like the American Idol wanna-be’s will behave like the lies are our true identity.
The truth, though, which flows from the marvelous grace of God is that He has given us a whole new identity. Scriptures says that, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We don’t earn this new identity by changing our behavior, our behavior changes because we have a new identity.
Let me illustrate. When the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians he was writing to a group of believers that he dearly loved. He had visited the city of Ephesus on one of his missionary journeys, had won many to Christ, established a church and even ordained elders. He stayed in Ephesus longer than any other city he visited. He loved these people. After he left Ephesus he got reports of behavior issues in the church. The new believers were not behaving like followers of Christ. When Paul picked up his pen to write this letter we call Ephesians, his purpose was to address their behaviors.
It is interesting, then, that he doesn’t mention their behaviors until chapter 4 of the book. He begins his letter by reminding them of their identity. He tells them they are blessed (1:3), chosen (1:4), children of God (1:5), highly favored (1:6), redeemed and forgiven (1:7) and wise (1:9). After assuring them of this new identity, he then challenges them to “walk worthy of their calling” (4:1). In other words, believe in who you are and then live accordingly. Let your new identity drive your behavior instead of believing that your identity is determined by your behavior.
In the same way, you as a believer have been given a whole new identity. In spite of the sin, poor choices and mistakes of your past and in spite of your ongoing struggle with certain temptations, you are blessed, chosen, children of God, highly favored, redeemed, forgiven, wise, etc., God’s desire is that we, like those American Idol contestants, walk out on the stage of life believing in this good identity. However, in our case, it is true!