When it comes to Biblical counselors there is an aspect of our counseling that deals with identity in connection to behavior. However, what is identity? The word identity comes from the 14th century Medieval Latin root idem, which means “the same.” A more formal definition of identity is found below:
“[Identity is] the condition of being oneself or itself; and not another.”
identity. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/identity (accessed: March 13, 2017).
Identity is not just found in a physical attributes, but it is also highlighted by one’s behavior as well.
Paul writing to the church of Corinth addressed the issue of saints taking lawsuits to one another before unbelievers to solve them. Paul then expressed due to their behavior they defraud, and mistreat, one another. Then Paul, admonishing the churches of Corinth says this:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God…
1 Cor. 6:9-11 NASB
Paul highlighted the churches in Corinth were not to act this way to one another. After naming all of the types of people who would not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul reminded the Corinthians that some of them were this way (1 Cor. 6:11a). In other words, they formerly bore this identity, and behaved in such a way that would have disqualified their inheritance from the kingdom of God. However, due to the mercy of God they were washed and justified by the Lord Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11b). The Corinthian saints were not to act this way any longer because that was not who they were any longer. They had been washed and redeemed by the Lord Jesus, and they have been sanctified by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. They now, by the sacrifice of Christ, and the Holy Spirit, had a completely different identity.
What does identity have to do with behavior? One acts (or should act) according to who they are. A person who identifies as a homosexual, will behave in such a way that affirms, or highlights, their identity. When one identifies with being a con-artist, their behavior reflects their identity. Who they are is connected with how they behave.
When a Christian struggles with how they behave there are four things Biblical counselors can do to assist their counselees in session:
1. Remind them of how they are justified in the Lord Jesus Christ: Paul, reminded the church of Corinth they were washed of their sin by the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice redeemed man from sin, reconciling man to God (1 Cor. 6:11). When a believers struggles with their identity they can look to the sacrifice of Christ, who took on the sin of mankind, and was punished as if His identity was one of those who did not deserve to inherit the kingdom of God. At the same time God clothed us with the righteousness of Christ, giving the Christian a new identity.
2. Remind them that having a new identity is a work (and gift) of God: The new identity that one receives is exclusively a work of God (Eph. 2:8-10). The new identity of God is also a gift of God in Christ Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11a). One does not have to “feel” they have a new identity or behave in such a way in order to have, and keep, the new identity that Christ has given to the Christian. A Christian struggling with their identity can be reminded that the Christian does good works because they realize their new identity has been given to them as a gift by Christ Himself.
3. Remind them of their present state in the Body of Christ: Paul mentioned the Holy Spirit as he addressed the churches in Corinth. They were sanctified (i.e., set apart) by the Holy Spirit for the Master’s use (1 Cor. 6:11). This is also in relation to an individual being a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:16-17). To be a new creation is associated with having a completely new identity. With this new identity comes new affections, new convictions, and new behaviors. In addition, this reality is also not dependent on how one feels. If one is in Christ, and has received the Holy Spirit of God, they are a new creation, and because of this new reality they are to express these new behaviors, and affections, even if they do not sense, or “feel” it.
4. Remind them of their future state in glorification and Rewards: There are many passages found in Scripture that state our behavior should also be governed by the glorification of the saints at the appearing of Christ, and future rewards (2 Cor. 5:10). Christians have an expectation of the great appearing of the Lord and Master because of the redemption of their bodies (Rom. 8:22-23; 1 Thess. 4:17). With the complete redemption of the body will come the complete redemption of the mind, will, and emotions. This ultimate glorification will be so radical, and so extreme, that one could also receive a new name (Rev. 2:17). In addition, there is also mention of eternal rewards, which Jesus will give when the Christian goes before Jesus to be examined. This reward judgment is based on the works the believer has done in accordance with this new identity (2 Cor. 5:9-10). The present state of a Christian’s progressive sanctification will be realized in the future glorification, and distribution of eternal rewards by Jesus Christ.
A Christian’s behavior is connected to his/her new identity, and God works in the Christian to make their identity the “same as Christ” (i.e., Christlike) in their mind, will, emotions, and behavior. A Christian can stand confident knowing their identity is not found in how they described themselves in their former life, but is found in Christ Jesus and His Holy Spirit. It is through Christ, and His work (which included Jesus Christ sending the Holy Spirit) that one receives a new identity. This identity is not due to a Christian’s own effort and work, but by the sovereign and gracious work of God. Now that a believer has a new identity, the Christian is to continually behave according to their new identity. It is the Christian’s hope one day their identity in Christ will be realized in its fullness when Christ appears, and gathers, those who are a new creation to Himself to be forever glorified. Amen.
Until Next Time…
Soli Deo Gloria!
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