Identity theft is a very serious threat in our modern world. Just about everybody who reads this will have heard and/or read where someone’s identity has been stolen. When this happens, it is a nightmare to try to recover. It involves not just your assets, but also the recovery from the stressful fact that someone stole your identity. Identity theft is not a new issue.
This thievery started way back in the garden of Eden. Adam was created in the image of God. God breathed into him His breath. Eve was created from Adam’s rib; therefore, she was “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” They both were created with their identity as God’s children. As they began to function out of this identity, they were to: “rule over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Gen 1:26. Because of who they were, “God blessed them; and said to them, ’Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Gen. 1:28
What is God saying to them? “Be” who I have made you to “be”. “You have my life in you. Go out and function out of who you are, My children!” Did you notice the word “be”? He did not tell them to “do”, but to “be”. Because of their being who He created them to be, they could function as He asked them to. Notice I used the word “could”. Yes, they had a choice. And as we will see later, they made a bad choice. He never tells them they have to go out and live up to who He has made them to be. Even in subduing the earth, they are to function out of this God-given identity.
In Gen. 2, He puts the icing on the cake. God is a giver, so He functions out of His identity, and starts pointing out to them all the things He has given them. He does this because He wants to “give” them everything they are going to need to sustain the life He has given them. Adam and Eve are “all set” as we say. They don’t have to try to create their own identity. Think about all the things they will need to do to subdue the earth. It stands to reason they will have to work at some things. It would be easy to gain identity as an accomplished worker. Now to the fun part. They have been given the opportunity to be fruitful and multiply. One of the benefits from this opportunity is that children were born. Parenting begins. It is an adventure like no other. Just think, this can go either way. If they were depending on themselves to do a good job of parenting, imagine this conversation taking place between them: “Hey, Adam, you are a great dad”, says Eve one evening. And then, Adam, wants to compliment his lovely wife and comments, “Eve, I am amazed at how you are such a great mom.” “Able is getting an award in first grade at the Garden School for Gifted and Talented Kids, and he is the first in his class for being such a great student.” “But, what happened with Cain? He is not doing so well.” He seems to be very jealous of his brother.” Well, they might want to wait on exchanging the identity God gave them for the ones based on their performances as a mom or dad. Why? It seems like an okay thing to do. Well, the story is not over. A few chapters forward, we see Cain killing his sibling. Now, what will Adam and Eve say to each other? Will the conversation change, and/or identities change based on their performances? My point: we really need to be very careful about earning our identity from our accomplishments or failures. Those things are temporal, very subjective, and easily stolen, because our performances vary so much.
Some identities are stolen, and some are exchanged. Let’s take a peek into the ones stolen in the garden. Adam and Eve began to function out of their God-given identity: Being His children. One day, while Adam and Eve were in this garden God had provided, the serpent began to challenge Eve. He began to twist what God had told her. The door was opened for him to snatch away their God-given identity. He cast doubt on God’s character and His love and care for them. Eve now is a target for “identity theft”. Satan begins to weave his net of deception and ends up succeeding in his craftiness. He started with a lie about God. Because that lie was not confronted with the truth about God, Satan proceeded to lie about how they could be like God, knowing good and evil.
The deceptive tactic he used was: to be someone, you must do something. Which is achieve instead of receiving. Tucked away in Romans 5:17 is a little-known truth: “…those who RECEIVE the abundance of grace (unmerited favor) and the GIFT of righteousness (right standing with God) WILL REIGN IN LIFE.” Why is truth so little known? I believe because we have been programed to perform as a believer, it is very difficult for us to become a receiver instead of an achiever. Satan is working from that basis and told Adam and Eve they had to “do” something to achieve this state. He convinces them that everything God had given them was not enough. They really needed much more. The father of all lies is saying, in essence, you can be so much better if you will just step up your performance. And the way you can do that is to go for what I am tempting you with. The moment they ate the fruit, their identity was stolen. The identity God had given them which was life, was exchanged for an identity of death. And just like in our modern world, when an identity is stolen, a life of relative well being and normal functioning is exchanged for chaos and pain.
When God called out to them, He began by asking them, “where are you?” He was not saying, “I can’t find you because you are hiding.” He is saying, “Where is the ‘you’ I created and provided for?” And because the identity of both of them had been stolen, they were now hiding in fear and trying to cover up. Is that not what we do as well? When we are not convinced of who God says we are: His children, in fact, “saints”, we fall into many traps. One of the most common traps of performing for acceptance is giving to get, or giving to impress. Wearing ourselves out to get people to love us, accept us, validate our worth, or get someone to make us feel competent. And when that trap is sprung, we are captured in the world of achieving, not receiving.
Wow, when we don’t know who we are, life can be confusing and tiresome. As we read on about this case of stolen identity, we find the consequences are quite severe. In Genesis 3:16-19, pain is multiplied, relationships are changed, and Adam will have to “sweat” life out until death comes calling. And a promising young couple with a God-given identity allows it to get stolen. Then they are left to function on their own until they are left in the dust.
I want to encourage you today to be very wary of the thievery all around you. Paul tells us as believers to “put on the helmet of salvation” to protect our mind against the lies of the devil, and then take up the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the Word of God. Let God tell you who you are in Christ. A saint, not a sinner saved by grace. You are fully and finally forgiven from all of your past, present and future sins. Begin to function out of that new identity. And live free from sweating life out!
How about you? Are you tired and confused? Would you like help understanding your true identity in Christ? At Crossway, we love walking alongside folks and teaching them about God’s grace and all that He has freely given us. We would love to hear from you!