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How to Discover Your True Identity

  • Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 06, 2010
How to Discover Your True Identity

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Mark Sayers' recent book, The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self-Obsession(Thomas Nelson, 2010).

Today's culture constantly tells you that you have the freedom to become anyone you want to be if you just try hard enough. But no matter how much you may work to create the persona you want, you'll still end up frustrated and confused. The only way to discover who you really are is to seek a relationship with the One who made you: God. When you find your true identity in Him, you'll find that it's better than any other choice.

Here's how you can discover the person God made you to be:

Look beyond cultural images to the image of God in you.  Don't settle for simply taking on a particular image that appeals to you - cool, sexy, glamorous, tough, bohemian, cosmopolitan, or something else.  Realize that cultural images alone are superficial.  Behind their appeal is a God-given longing to be everything God wants you to be.  Recognize that the urge you feel take on a cultural certain image is really a desire to grow.  You already have within you the best image of all, since God created you in His image.  Focus on discovering more about what God's image looks like in you, and how you can express it more in your life.

Move beyond appearances to truth.  Even though the culture tells you that it's enough to simply appear good, God calls you to actually be good.  Going to church on a weekend and then going home and living an unfaithful life for the rest of the week isn't okay.  Following God's guidance in some ways (such as giving to charity and being a good friend to others) but not in other ways (such as lying and gossiping) isn't enough.  Invite God to take control of every area of your life - from your work to your romantic relationships - and to transform you from the inside out.  Then you'll have the power to live with integrity and grow into a truly good person - not just someone who tries hard to act the part.

Break free of feelings.  When you don't know who you really are, you become a slave to your feelings, constantly reacting to them and becoming confused when they change.  Turning to God - rather than your feelings - for your sense of identity will give you a solid foundation that remains the same no matter how changing circumstances affect your feelings.  When you trust God, you'll experience lasting peace that will guard your heart and mind in any situation.

Stop seeing church as a movie.  Don't just consume your church's worship service like you would a movie, enjoying the emotional experience of it and then just moving on.  Instead, invite God to encounter you in church and change your life as a result of that encounter.  Open yourself up to all the possibilities of how God may choose to change you as you worship Him in church.  Listen for God speaking to you, and act when He leads you.

View holiness accurately.  Realize that holiness isn't about trying to achieve perfection, which is futile no matter how hard you may try.  Holiness is about wholeness - growing into a relationship with God that allows you to be at peace with Him, yourself, and other people.  Thanks to Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, that relationship is possible right now, with all of your imperfections.  If you trust Jesus, He will help constantly transform you, empowering you to grow more into the person God intends you to become.  So let the fact that you can count on God to help you become more holy give you the confidence you need to pursue holiness.  Unlike the culture's message that holiness is beyond your grasp, the reality is that you can become more holy every day.  Keep in mind that each step away from holiness will cause you to lose more of your sense of self, but each step toward holiness will bring you closer to becoming who you really are - the person God meant you to be.

Recognize that you become like whatever you worship.  When you derive your sense of self from a cultural image communicated through the media, you're essentially worshipping it, and that image will come to control you - turning you into a poor imitation of who you were meant to be.  But when you worship Jesus, you will grow more and more like Him, freeing you to discover the wonderful person God made you to become.

Deal wisely with your desires.  Regularly confess the ways in which you let your desires pull you into sin that makes you walk away from your true self.  Humbly ask God to help you avoid desires that don't reflect His will for you and strengthen your desires for what He wants for your life.  When considering a particular desire, ask yourself: "Is this desire moving me toward greater commitment to Jesus or farther away from Him?" Test the worthiness of your desires by examining whether or not they reflect a respect of God's image in yourself and others.  Test the fruitfulness of your desires by considering whether or not they will help you make the world a better place and bring glory to God in the process.

Keep growing.  Even though you can't completely become the person God wants you to become until you're raised in glory with Jesus in His new creation, you can continue to grow each day you're alive.  Rejoice when you notice how Jesus is helping you mature, and let your gratitude motivate you to keep learning and growing more each day.

Adapted from The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self-Obsession, copyright 2010 by Mark Sayers. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com
Mark Sayers is Director of Über (www.uberlife.com.au), a ministry that specializes in issues of youth and young adult discipleship. He is also pastor of Red East Church in Melbourne, Australia, an emerging church specifically reaching the young adult demographic. He is a highly sought-after speaker and thinker in the areas of Generation Y, pop culture and mission.

Original publication date: May 5, 2010