THE POWER OF A LABEL
We tend to find our identity in labels. For example, the label “nerd” applies to somebody that likes video games, obscure movie quotes, science fiction movies and books, quotes, and all the latest tech gadgets. Some of those things apply to me so maybe I'm a "pseudo nerd". I love researching and writing about spiritual things especially as they relate to Christianity. I'm almost always on my computer, tablet, and phone. I don't know how you would label those things but I have no problem with those labels. I'm sure you have several labels, much like these, on you too. For the most part these labels are neutral.
However all of us have also adopted labels which are not so good. "My grandfather and my father were no good, and I'm no good. My mother was promiscuous so I'm promiscuous. My parents said that I wouldn't amount to anything so I must not be anything. I've always struggled with my weight. I've always been a worrier. I can't help who I am." We assume that what has been always will always be. We willingly adopt the labels that come with the struggles. Labels like angry, loser, trash, failure, addict.
When we believe the labels we more quickly give in to temptation. "It’s just who I am. I might as well keep giving in to it.” Or, “I’ve always been impatient. I can’t help it. I’m always going to be this way so I might as well learn to live with it.”
Conversations revolve around our labels. “I’m ADD, OCD, manic, depressed, disabled, handicapped, diabetic…” The list goes on and on. We throw out labels as if they clarify who we are, maybe even our most defining marks. We use these labels as a way of helping people keep their expectations of us in order. The problem is, when we use one of these labels to describe ourselves, they often give us our deepest sense of identity.
We believe that the label defines us.
The label is no longer something we face.
The label becomes who we are.
This sets up expectations of an indefinite future with a predetermined outcome.
Labels are powerful things we can misconstrue as our identities. But what if we came to understand that labels don’t define us?
What we must realize is that labels don't define us. Labels help the world understand things we’ve dealt with or come up against. When we don’t view our identity through a label, we’re able to find ways to thrive in spite of whatever label we are living under.
Most people today believe we best “define ourselves” by looking within. We think that if we look deep into ourselves and evaluate our feelings, personalities, passions, desires, and even addictions long enough, we will discover our true selves. But this can lead us to a dead end, because although our internal realities are true, they don’t define us either.
They don’t always show us who we really are because we are always changing. Staring into a mirror might show us what we look like in the moment, but it cannot show us who we really are or where we’re going.
James 1:23-24 ESV For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (emphasis mine)
Biblical reality is that we are not our labels.
Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
When Paul said he had been crucified with Christ he meant that his old, sinfully enslaved, wickedness-loving self had been killed. It was crucified with Christ and it died. When his old self died, all the labels that went along with his old self also died. There was only one label that mattered: "Christ lives in me". That reality defined who he was.
The same is true for us. Our old self was crucified with Christ and now Christ himself lives in us. We are not ultimately defined by our struggles we are defined by our union with Jesus Christ. Our old self, with all its labels is dead and buried. Those old labels don’t apply to us anymore. We may still struggle with the same temptations, but those temptations no longer define our identity.
The Christian faith leads us beyond the trappings of ourselves and into an identity rooted in something more solid, more immovable — God Himself. Identity in Him is trustworthy and unchanging.
When our identity is found in who God says we are rather than in our highs and lows, our successes and failures, or our desires, affections, or shortcomings, we experience the freedom we were meant to enjoy.
HERE'S WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE
- You are a child of God.
John 1:12 ESV But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
- You are a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- You are a friend of Jesus.
John 15:15 ESV No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
- You are created by God to do good.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- You are free in Christ.
Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
- You are chosen and loved.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
- You are the light of the world.
Matthew 5:14 ESV "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
- You are not ruled by fear.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- You are forgiven.
Colossians 2:13 ESV And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
- You are God’s possession.
Titus 2:14 ESV who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
- You are free from the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:24 ESV And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
- You are a light in the world.
Matthew 5:14-15 ESV "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
- You are secure in him.
1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
- You are loved by God.
1 John 4:10 ESV In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
If you have worn your own identity label like a name tag, take a moment to ask God who you are in Him. Root yourself deep in that identity. Then, with an identity rooted in the God who gives wisdom, strength, and love, go out into the world, secure and confident in who you really are.
We are in Christ and Christ is in us. We are not our labels. We are Christ’s. Period.
Psalms 139:14-15 ESV I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.