Identity and the Book of Ephesians

Five months and six days – that’s how long it has been since I’ve posted.

There’s been a few reasons why I haven’t, but the short version is I just haven’t felt like it. A lot has happened since my last my post.

The mister and I found out we were pregnant at the very end of February/beginning of March (so exciting), the mister continued his epic find-a-job-so-we-know-where-we-are-moving-to journey and eventually landed a job at a great company, we both graduated from grad school (me with a few internship hours to complete and the mister fully), the mister had another leg surgery, we packed up our apartment in Mass (or our parents did so while I was in a week-intensive class and the Mister was recovering from surgery), we moved back to Midland, TX, we closed on our first house, our Uhaul flooded (which turned into a long ordeal), the mister started his job and I started my internship, my sister got diagnosed with breast cancer (very hard news), we finally moved into our house, we found out we’re having a boy (yay!), our air conditioner went out two times, and now we don’t have hot water.
Whew! All this to say, my mind has been on a lot of other things, and focusing while reading the Word and praying throughout the day has been rather difficult leaving me feeling somewhat dry and irritated. That is, until a few days ago when the Mister suggested that we read through a book of the Bible together.

We chose Ephesians.

Although I haven’t gotten into the nitty gritty substance of specific verses, yet, I must say my mind and heart feel so refreshed. After reading the book through twice, here’s my major take away…

Our actions, thoughts and words are influenced by where we place our identity. 

You’re right. This is nothing new, but it’s absolutely a transforming thought – and Paul uses it brilliantly in the book.

In Ephesians 1 through 3, Paul reminds believers in the church of Ephesus (and everywhere) that they were chosen to be His before the foundation of the world (1:4), that they’ve been adopted as his sons and daughters (1:6), that they have been saved by grace through faith (not by works) and through his blood have received forgiveness of sins (1:7 and 2:8-9), that they have been made alive through this salvation (2:5), and that they have been given a supernatural peace and access to an abundant amount of strength through Christ (2:14 and 3:20).

He says much more, but the basic point is this: Believers in the church at Ephesus (and everywhere) no longer have to wonder who they are at the very core of their existence. They are loved, accepted, forgiven, saved and transformed by Christ – by God, the founder, creator and king of the world.

I mean, this is a big deal.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4 through 6, but here he writes about how their identity should influence their actions – the way they live their lives.

He instructs them to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, love and unity (4:2-3), to focus on building up the body of Christ (4:12), to not use words that tear others down but words that encourage and build others up (4:29), to maintain a heart and life that is free from bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander (4:31), to be kind forgivers (4:32), to walk in love and freedom from impurity (5:2), to work towards exposing areas of slavery (5:11), to honor their wives, husbands, parents, and employers (5:22-6:9), and to stand firm in the faith even when it gets hard (6:10-20).

Again, he writes about much more, but the truth is the same: Our identity influences everything we do. 

I mean, Paul (formerly known as Saul) exemplifies this. He himself was a Pharisee, a man of status, knowledge, power and prestige who killed Christians because they went against everything he was taught and everything he stood for. His identity was found in being a Pharisee, in keeping a bunch of laws, and it influenced what he did. Then, He met Jesus on a road and everything changed (Acts 9). He dropped his position as a pharisee, began making tents, started telling others about Jesus (his death and resurrection) and the inclusion of Gentiles (non Jews) in the church, and how there is nothing they can do to earn salvation (the opposite of what he had been preaching before). He risked his life by traveling all throughout the region doing this, and was eventually arrested several times and killed in Rome for telling others about the freedom available in Christ.

Paul found his identity in Christ, and it radically changed the way he thought about and lived life. 

I guess all of this impacts me so much because sometimes I forget where my identity is found.

Sometimes, I forget and think it’s found in everyone liking me, which leads me to compromise on the things I truly believe in and leads me to be an analytical mess when interacting with others. Other times I forget and think it’s found in having awesome possessions (cute clothes, brand-name stuff, a nice house, an awesome couch, a nice car, and money), which leads me to be overly concerned about self and ultimately leads to emptiness and wasted time. (I’m pretty sure the love of possessions is a subset of people pleasing for me, but whatever.) Other times I think it’s found in being fit, which leads to me think that my body is a trophy instead of something given to me by God to glorify him, and at times I forget and think it’s found in success – in rising to the top of my field and having an awesome practice. I struggle with this one, because I think it’s good to help others and seek to be excellent in your field, but sometimes my heart gets focused on myself in that process and not in glorifying God through it.

The ultimate truth is my identity isn’t found in these things – even if I forget and think it is.

It isn’t found in how smart I am, how much money I have, what people think of me, how successful I become in my job, what kind of clothes I wear, how skinny I am, or the state of American politics (yuck)! It’s not even found in how much of the Bible I know, how well I can preach or teach, how well I can write, or how well I can follow what the Bible tells me to do (it’s definitely not found in that). 

My identity is found in Christ alone. It’s found in the fact that He is and was perfect and His perfection covered my imperfection (what prevented me from being able to abide with a perfect God) at the cross and his resurrection proves that God is powerful over death – both eternally and temporally. Because God has allowed me to have faith in Him, I am a part of His family. I am His daughter, and that means He loves me and He’s accepted me. He’s adopted me. I didn’t do anything to deserve this status and I don’t have to do anything to keep it. This also means that He has given me the Spirit, which influences my life, my thoughts, and the things I do – the Spirit allows me to remember and act on my identity.

Where is your identity placed? How does this identity impact your thoughts, words and actions?

I don’t know were you are in life, but if you’re a Christian, cling to the fact that you are secure in Christ! That you’re loved, adopted, accepted, forgiven, and saved through Him. Allow it to give you freedom and hope. Allow it to transform the way you live life. Allow it to break chains of pride, bitterness, slander, competition, self-hate, obsessive self-concern, depression, and materialism.

Oh, Ephesians. You’re a good one.