I believe most of our struggles as Christians stem from a misplaced identity.
When we are not secure in our identity in Christ, when deep inside we have to build up our own identity, maintain our own reputation, or excuse our behavior on our culture, ethnicity, or upbringing, then we will fulfill the works of the flesh.
We cannot walk in the Spirit as long as we have a misplaced identity.
We will never be truly free to walk in obedience to Christ and the Word – free from performance, free from the pressure to live up to a standard – until we have become secured in who we are in Christ.
When we have discovered our true identity in Jesus Christ, our obedience to Christ flows out of love and devotion. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14
Many commentators agree that Galatians 6 really begins with Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
Our identity will determine how we relate to others
This verse flows right in to what Paul addresses in the final chapter of this powerful book, as he goes on to address how Christians ought to relate to one another.
When a brother or sister is uncertain of their own worth and value in Christ, they will attempt fill that void by seeking affirmation from other people.
Because they have fallen into the trap that Paul warns about in Galatians 1, they don’t have the affirmation of God and so they use their human relationships to give them the worth and value they lack.
The word “conceited” in Galatians 5:26 is translated as “vainglory” in the King James Version and literally means eager for empty glory. These people are desperate for human recognition; but this recognition and praise is empty because it doesn’t last.
Once the initial feeling of acceptance and validation wear off, they have to go seeking more acceptance and validation.
Some live their whole lives in this cycle of using relationships to validate their worth, never realizing that the only validation that fulfills us is found in the cross!
The conceited feel superior to others, so they don’t associate with those who they feel are beneath them (James 2:1-13).
The envious feel inferior to others and resent anyone they perceive to be better than they.
A misplaced identity leaves us empty
Both assume that they are (or should be) some extra kind-of special; but because pride actually creates a vacuum in our heart, we have to fill it up with something. The void created by pride cannot be filled with Christ, so all we’re left with the poor substitute of using those around us to constantly affirm us and tell us how great we are.
They both provoke those around them with the competition they create in the body of Christ – constantly comparing themselves among themselves, striving to see who comes out on top.
The result of that is vainglory or envy. Both are sin.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
Paul gives the anecdote for this when he said, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
The only way we find healing for our emptiness is in the cross of Jesus Christ, in His sacrifice for our sins and by discovering who we are in Jesus Christ.
Those who battle with feeling inferior and insecure are told to affirm themselves. Tell yourself how good you are, how pretty you are, how smart you are, how accomplished you are.
But boasting in yourself, boasting in your flesh, only leads to conceit, envy, and provoking. Self-affirmations, boasting in your flesh, leads to works of the flesh.
Paul tells us that we should not boast in anything but the cross!
You will boast in what identifies you; and when your identity is in Jesus Christ, you will boast in what He has done for you. You will boast in the sacrifice He made for you.
You will boast in the fact that His affirmation and validation of you is based on the blood of Jesus alone, in Christ alone, and in the cross alone!
When Jesus Christ and His sacrifice are what identify you, it sets you free!
When you discover who you are in Jesus Christ, and when His work on the cross identify you, you are no longer obligated to perform.
This new identity sets you free from having to maintain a certain standard, a certain reputation.
Suddenly, your entire Christian life is based on God’s grace and not on your performance record, your ability to measure up.
Let’s be honest, the only standard for the Christian life is perfection. Jesus set that standard when He said in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Who can keep that standard? Not you. Not me.
The only way we maintain that standard is by justification, and the only justification that enables us to live within that standard is Jesus’ blood, because none of our efforts even come close!
“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6
What you identify with will bear fruit in your life
Remember that void?
It’s like a garden. If you fill that void by using those around you to affirm you and boost your self-worth, you’ll reap the consequences of that lifestyle in corruption.
The works of the flesh always reap corruption because they stem from the three root sins of mankind: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16
However, when our identity is in Christ and that void is filled by knowing that because of the blood of Jesus we are affirmed, we are accepted and we are validated – not because of anything we can or should do, but because of what Christ already did – we will reap eternal life.
The freedom we experience enables us to walk in the Spirit, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and to be ministers of God’s grace to those around us.
Find this entire study in a workbook, complete with study questions and a prayer guide to help you pray through the book of Galatians in 30 days.
Walk Free is a self-paced study through the book of Galatians, looking in depth at what Paul addressed to the churches of Galatians and how it applies to our lives today; how we can walk free from the Law, but why the Old Testament still applies to us today. You will see the practical application of living free from personal expectations and the expectations of others, as well as discovering your identity in Jesus Christ.
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