In the Bible, a dramatic confrontation takes place in Luke’s gospel account. Immediately after His baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness for forty days. During His time of isolation and fasting, the devil approached Jesus with the sole objective to tempt Him.

What is fascinating in the recorded dialogue between Jesus and the devil is how Satan tempted Christ. The Bible records three temptations that Satan cunningly deployed to derail Jesus from His divine calling and mission. Two of the devil’s temptations centered on Jesus’s identity. Twice the devil began his polished temptation speech with the opening line, “If you are the Son of God . . .” Jesus quickly overcame the devil’s temptation because He firmly knew the truth of God and was secure in His identity.

Identity Theft

Around the world, identity theft is growing at an alarming rate. Every day thousands of people, discover that someone has stolen their hard-earned money and left them with nothing.

Identity theft does not just occur in the physical realm. Identity theft in the spiritual realm is even more rampant and more costly. In our last post, we learned about some of the incredible aspects, promises, and blessing of our spiritual identity.

However, Satan does not want us to walk in those truths. The devil wants to rob you of the freedom and joy of your identity as a child of God.

However, unlike identity thieves in the physical world, Satan does not want to leave you empty-handed.

Satan not only tries to rob you of your real identity, but he also wants to leave you with something. He plans to snatch your true identity from you and to replace it with a false identity that you begin to believe about yourself.

There are way too many false identities to list, but here is a small sample of the more popular false identities Satan seeks to convince us of:

  • “I am a failure.”
  • “I mess everybody’s life up.”
  • “I am just a screw-up.”
  • “I am no good.”
  • “I am a horrible mother.”
  • “I am an awful husband.”
  • “I am a terrible son/daughter.”
  • “I am a loser. I will never overcome this.”
  • “I am a mess. God must get sick and tired of me.”
  • “I am not loved by God as much as other people.”
  • “I always sin.”

If Satan can get you to doubt the truth of whom God declares you to be and believe a lie in regard to your identity, then he can bring you into bondage.

Jesus declared, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Knowing the truth of our identity brings freedom. I also believe the opposite is true. If knowing truth brings freedom to our lives, what will the believing lies bring into our lives? Bondage.

That is so why it is so important not to let Satan rob us of our true identity and deceive us into believing a false identity about ourselves.

Identity Replacements

In addition to false identities that we are tempted to believe about ourselves, we also can seek to exchange our true identity in Christ with other replacements such as:

1. Identity in Achievement or Performance.

This false identity brings bondage into our lives when we believe that our value and standing before God and others is determined by what we do or don’t do in life. When we live by attempting to find our identity in our achievements or performance, we believe the lie that “I am my success.”

I love the reality that millennials are so ambitious. However, this can potentially lead them down a dangerous path for them. In a recent study, Barna Research concluded, “a key characteristic of Gen Z is that their expectations are largely shaped around themes of academic and career success – more so than any other generation we’ve observed.”  In the same survey, it discovered that 43% of Millennials stated that personal achievement was the most critical issue to their sense of self.

Naturally, Jesus desires his disciples to be fruitful and productive. God has incredible plans for His children to do great things for His Kingdom and glory. However, the moment we replace our true identity in Christ with the replacement identity of our success and achievements, we are in danger.

When we seek our identity in our performances, we become slaves to an endless voyage of potential successes and failures.

Living a life based on our performance is a living hell. Throughout the Scriptures, God declares that our salvation is a free gift through the love, mercy, and grace of God. Salvation is never a result of our works (Ephesians 2:9). Neither is our identity as a result of our actions.

2. Identity in Acceptance.

This false identity enslaves us when we seek to find value, worth, and purpose for ourselves through the lives of others. When we allow our identity to be defined by the people around us, we believe the lie that “I am my relationships.” We must be careful that we do not replace our spiritual identity with the following:

  • Identity from our family (parents, spouse, children)
  • Identity from our friends.
  • Identity from our co-workers.

Millennials possess a remarkable desire to engage and build strong relationships with others. Their longing to do life in community is an excellent value of the Kingdom. In fact, God declared that it is not for us to do life alone (Genesis 2:18).

Yet, we must not let our relationships become the primary source that determines our value, worth, and purpose. If we do, then we will be devastated. No human connection can provide the identity found in our relationship with God. Eventually, we will experience disappointment and hurt from human friendships. Our identity is only secure and life-giving in one relationship – with Jesus!

3. Identity in Physical Things.

This false identity imprisons us when we think our worth in life is based on the things we possess or obtain. When we allow material things to be the core determination of our identity, we have believed the lie that “I am my possessions.”

The material world provides a robust and seductive replacement for our spiritual identity. A big house, a luxurious car, expensive clothing, the latest technology, etc. can all function as false identities. These items can create a temporary sense of feeling good about yourself.

Also, we must not let our physical appearance become the foundation of our identity. Physical fitness and health are important aspects to living out our calling and destiny. Yet, our pursuit of physical fitness and appearance can also lead us to false identities. The apostle Paul told young Timothy, physical training has value, but training to be godly and to live the way of Jesus has enormous value in this present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

Many of the millennials I work with struggle with comparing themselves to others. Comparison robs us of joy and creates tremendous anxiety and dissatisfaction. Our identity in Christ means that each one of us is God’s one-of-a-kind masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). God has uniquely and creatively made you. We need to stop trying to be someone else and be whom God declares us to be.

RELATED: Identity: Becoming Who God Says You Are (Part 2 of 4)

Putting off . . . Putting On

Just as the devil sought to destroy the life of Jesus through attacking His identity, your enemy has his targets set on you, attempting to steal your real identity and replace it with a false one. Therefore, we must follow the way of Jesus by securely knowing the truth of our spiritual identity.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we must put off the lies of the enemy and put on the truth of God. Do not replace your real identity with a false one. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and know who you are in Him.

Craig Conaway is a trainer, coach, spiritual director, and writer. His passion is to help equip people to be courageous followers of Jesus who impact their spheres of influence for the glory of God. Craig has over 20 years of pastoral experience including directing an in-depth discipleship training school. He recently completed his book, Identity: Being Who God Says You AreCraig resides in Norman, OK with his wife and three kids, and is pursuing his Master’s of Leadership.