I often wonder what my life would be like if certain things did not happen the way they did. Would I be married? Would I be a pastor? Would I be alive? Those are just some of the questions which pop into my head. You can probably think of some similar questions for yourself. Many times, though, when I start thinking this way about what could have happened, I need to stop and tell myself, “But it did not happen that way.” This is a good thing. I am who I am because of the past, especially learning from those moments when I fell short. However, regardless of so many factors, it is when I look back and know things could have gone quite a different way that the problems ensue. I start dwelling on those past events, as if they define who I am, as if there is no escape from my former life. If this is the case, and I am defined by my past, I am screwed.
To this day, there are things in my past that downright scare me when I think about them. For all intents and purposes, they frighten me because they could have killed me. Those are not happy thoughts. This is why I am so glad my past does not define me. Nor do I define myself. No, I am defined by something else, somebody else: Christ!
While the road of my life (as I am sure the rest of you can attest with your own lives) has helped turn me into the man I am today, nothing I have done in the past, not to mention the present nor the future, not during any time of my personal history whatsoever, defines who I am. I am not autonomous, and this is good.
The reason I say this is because there must be something bigger and outside of ourselves to define who we are to have true meaning in life – otherwise all is lost, and we might as well stop trying. Again, you are defined not by yourself, or even other people, which are both cursed with sinful thinking and logic. Instead, by being baptized into Christ, you are defined as a child of God. In fact, it was at your baptism God wrote His name – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – on you, marking you as His possession. This means forgiveness of all your sins and justification before your Father in Heaven are absolutely for you. You are forgiven. You are justified. And it is all for free.
At your baptism you were washed with the water and the Word, defining you as a member of God’s family. You are His child, having been born from above. And as with any children and their parent(s), you are promised an inheritance of some kind. What is the inheritance as a baptized child of God? God’s gift for our inheritance is the greatest treasure of all: His Kingdom of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Your birth from above defines you as a freely forgiven and justified creation. In baptism Jesus declares to everyone you are His, no one else’s, and those who say otherwise can just back off.
No matter what you think, say, or do to yourself, you are not defined as a lost, wandering, condemned person, a loser, but as a new, holy, and pure creation of God. He worked hard to make you His. He lived, suffered, and died all for you.
Another great proclamation to demonstrate His love for you: He knitted you together in your mother’s womb. That is how special you are to Him. He took His time in making you into the child you are today. Therefore, God did everything He did through Christ for you, because He loves you. Now, at this very moment, He calls you to be His own. Christ has declared it is so, and nothing can change this – no, not anything or anyone.
If you are struggling, if you are anxious or depressed, if you are suffering any affliction, look to the One who defines you: Jesus. Run to His Cross – the new tree of life – and see all those evil thoughts, words, and actions conquered by His all-atoning sacrifice. Do not forget to also run to the empty tomb, where you can see you have the promise of eternal life and righteousness.
Thanks be to God He defines you through His Son. You can live free, live boldly – all because you are defined by Christ. Now that is quite the definition of who you are, if you ask me.