Originally published May 15, 2020
Who You Are
I inherited my brother’s cool basement bedroom when he married and moved out. The bottom half of the walls were hunter green, which was not thrilling, but those could be painted. It was the top half that made this the epic vehicle for teenage expression: the top half was corkboard all the way around the room. I could, and did, hang whatever my heart desired. I will not totally rat-out teenage me, but there was at least one poster of a shirtless cowboy along with a lot of scripture and quotes.
One of the most foundational pieces was not of my own creation. It was a printed “sign” from my mother that read “Always remember who you are and whose you are.” I can hear her saying those words as I left the house many, many times. It was a principle that guided my decision making in tough moments – and one I wish I’d heeded in moments that later led to regret. While it reminded me of the plans I had for my life, the family I came from, and the upbringing I received, it also pointed me to Christ. I was not just her daughter, I was HIS daughter. Instead of simply directing me to make good choices, my mother helped me focus on my identity, which in turn challenged me to make decisions that were in line with that identity.
In the last blog, I challenged you to learn truths regarding your identity in Christ. It is important in both discipling new believers and in growing mature believers to look to the Biblical pattern of “BE to DO.” We are quick to overwhelm new believers with a list of righteous rules to align their behavior with the “Christian” mold, when our time is better and more Biblically spent building their identity in Christ from which changed behaviors will flow. I am also quick to weaponize that same list of Do’s and Don’ts against myself when I stumble – a mistake that perpetuates the lie that I am a failure instead of building up my character.
There are several books of the Bible that illustrate the BE to DO pattern. In full disclosure: I did not notice this pattern without help. BE to DO was first brought to my attention in an evangelism and discipleship training at First Baptist Powell in Powell, Tennessee. They highlight three examples: Romans, I Corinthians, and Ephesians. Ephesians is one of the easiest to unpack (and a GREAT place for new believes to start their Bible-reading journey).
The Book of Ephesians has six chapters, which cleanly divide into two parts– (you guessed it!) Be and Do.
Look at how Chapter 1 opens:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.“
The audience here is not just the church at Ephesus, but to all believers.
In the first chapter alone, we read that the believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (1:3), chosen (1:4), predestined (1:4), adopted (1:5), accepted (1:6), redeemed (1:7), forgiven (1:7), given an inheritance (1:11), and sealed by the Spirit (1:13). These truths ground our identity so that we can come back to them when we face difficult decisions and situations. When you want to respond in anger, how does one redeemed by God respond? When everything is falling apart, remember that you have been given an inheritance in Christ.
The next three chapters open this way, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). This marks a transition from our identity to “do” which is the natural response to our identity in Christ. Chapters 4-6 action-packed– actions that should come from us as believers.
I want to be very clear: I am not saying behavior does not matter. Our behavior should flow from our identity instead of our behavior establishing our identity. This does not mean that the laundry list of “bad behaviors” should be ignored. Unpopular example: There is a popular saying that you can probably find on a cute t-shirt near you that says, “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.” We are all going to be imperfect. We are all going to make mistakes. A Christian should be in a constant process of becoming more like Christ (Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2). Is “I love Jesus, but I cuss a little” in line with what scripture tells us about our speech? For example, Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Real talk: Have I cussed? Yes. Do I flaunt it proudly? No. Is it consistent with my identity? No. Does it mean I am a failure? No. Do I try to instead speak so that I may give grace to those who hear? Yes.
If you address this issue backwardly — that your behavior is your identity. This is also an opportunity to get derailed-” Oops, I cussed therefore I cannot be a Christian. We must view it from Be to Do. In Ephesians 4, we learn our walk is to be one edifying the body (4:12), speaking the truth (4:15), putting off the old man(4:22), putting on the new man (4:24), dealing with anger properly (4:26), and speaking with grace (4:29). Failure does not cause us to “lose” our identity, but our identity should remind us to access our behavior in that identity.
Take some time this weekend to read Ephesians. Make a goal to read Romans and 1 Corinthians in the next few weeks. Underline where you find your identity. Take notes. Memorize. Consider whether your behaviors match your identity, and if they do not, ground yourself in scripture so that when choices come, you can…