rebelling against low expectations

Christian Culture’s Obsession with Identity (and Where We Should Focus Instead)


Almost everywhere we turn, messages like “I am a child of the king,” “I am loved,” “I am chosen,” and “I am worthy” are plastered on t-shirts and water bottles. They are prevalent in many song lyrics, books, talk shows, and everyday conversations. These phrases of identity in Christ and worthiness in God’s eyes are attempts to replace despair, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy.

Yet despite the plethora of positive messages we encounter on a daily basis, suicide rates are increasing, depression is widespread, and anxiety rages.

While there are glorious truths held within Scripture telling believers that through Christ, they are now “beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1), a chosen people (1 Peter 2:9), heirs to the inheritance (Romans 8:17), and made righteous to stand before the throne of God (Romans 5:1), to cling fiercely to such identities is to miss the entire focus of such passages.

Even glorious truths can be twisted by Satan to distort the focus of the gospel, reducing it to something far less grand than reality. Phrases that repeatedly turn the mirror to self leave a gaping hole in our understanding of Christ and the gospel. They ring in our ears more like therapeutic self-help than biblical self-denial, ultimately leaving us wanting for a true solution.

When the storms of life sweep over us, where should our comfort lie? Should our worthiness in Christ be the hope we cling to, or is there something perhaps more worthy of our focus?

The Dual Nature of Our Worthiness

When it comes to our worthiness before God, there are several things to keep in mind.

First, without Christ, we are grossly unworthy. The Bible tells us that Jesus died for us “while we were still weak” (Romans 5:6) and while we were sinners (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), the gospel could in no way arise from any of our own doing.

Second, with Christ, we are made worthy. The good news lies in Christ’s own worthiness on our behalf. In perfectly fulfilling God’s moral law, never succumbing to temptation, and always living a life pleasing to God, the sins of those who trust in Jesus alone for salvation are transferred to Him, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of Christ, we can now stand before the holy God, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, worthy to come into His presence.

We should embrace both biblical truths but must not allow our focus to become distorted by an improper emphasis.

The modern hymn, “My Worth is Not in What I Own,” states the dual nature of our worthiness in this way:

“Two wonders here that I confess

My worth and my unworthiness

My value fixed, my ransom paid

At the cross”

Who Am I?

In the book of Exodus, God’s people cry for help, crushed beneath the heavy hand of Pharoah as slaves. Calling to Moses from a burning bush, God gives Moses the task to declare the Israelites’ freedom and lead them to the Promised Land.

In response to this call, Moses feels immensely inadequate, saying, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). With such a heavy task at hand, Moses does not understand why God chose him, considering himself not worthy enough to carry it to completion.

The question, “Who am I?” perhaps sounds very familiar to us. There are many times in our lives when we feel inadequate and unworthy of God. But how does God respond to Moses’ question?

Many might expect God to respond in a similar way we are commonly responded to in many Christian circles. But God does not say to Moses, “You are worthy. You are My child. You are enough,” in efforts to remind him that his adequacy and worth will strengthen him to stand in the presence of the powerful king of Egypt.

God’s response is contrary to the modern means of communicating encouragement by seeking to elicit feelings of worthiness. God gives Moses something so much greater to strengthen him.

He promises, “But I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12).

Throughout the entire book of Exodus, God continually comforts His people with the words, “I am the Lord.” The Israelites are encouraged by the fact that the One who walks with them is not a mere mortal. Rather, He is the great I AM, worthy of absolute trust and obedience.

If God Himself does not direct Moses’ focus to himself and his God-given identity for his hope and strength in uncertainty, then why should we place our focus there? If God continually reminds Israel of the great I AM, then why do we feel the need to remind ourselves of who I am? God focuses Israel’s attention on the knowledge that God, the Almighty and infinite Creator, will be with them, and His presence will never cease.

And that is all they need.

Where Does Your Hope Lie?

I have often heard it said that Satan attempts to cause feelings of doubt and low self-esteem. But in actuality, as biblical counselor Gary Gilley writes, “Satan doesn’t care what we think about ourselves as long as we are preoccupied with self.” C.S. Lewis famously said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Even Christian culture is buying into the lie that we must focus on who we are in Christ all the time. But when our hope lies in our worth, we idolize self, placing our comfort in ourselves, rather than our God.

God did not save us so that we could find something within ourselves to boast about. Rather, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise,” that “no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). As Galatians 6:24 says, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

May we never boast in our own worthiness, but may God alone be exalted for making us worthy to stand before Him.

Whose worth are you clinging to? Your own, or the One whose own worth clothed you in righteousness? If we are being honest with ourselves, it feels good to saturate our minds with thoughts of our worthiness and identity in the eyes of God.

We must repent of our self-idolatry and peel our eyes from the mirrors. Look to Christ, who alone is worthy of our focus and praise, and gaze solely upon His own glorious worthiness.

“My Worth is Not in What I Own” proclaims it this way:

“I rejoice in my redeemer

Greatest treasure

Wellspring of my soul

I will trust in Him, no other

My soul is satisfied in Him alone.”

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About the author

Kyla Hardee

Kyla Hardee is a nineteen-year-old living in Indiana, who has a passion to spread the light of Christ as we await his imminent return. She loves writing, singing, reading, scheduling, and spending time with her parents and five siblings. She has a strong desire for teens to fight worldliness in their pursuit of godliness, and she writes about this and other topics on her blog, Lives Transformed.


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  • Such a great message, Kyla! I love how much Scripture you used to back up what you were saying. This is a really important truth we all need to be reminded of.

  • Profound yet simple. Well stated and so poignantly true. When I was in my early 20s (yeah, like a century ago LoL), the in-thing was “self actualization”. The focus was on self. To avoid self doubt and depression the goal was to recognize our self worth…. Just as you stated. And that has been multiplied 100 fold in the last half century. It’s such fools gold. The reality as you have so cogently stated is that God plus nothing equals everything. At the onset I was wondering where you were heading… but that became abundantly clear as you unveiled the truth about how God dealt with Moses. Very sobering thoughts. It’s never about us and always about the one who sustains our every breath… the One who walks with us. The One who so mercifully carries us when we can’t even stand. I’m so humbled by the cross (that God would die for me in my wretched estate)… but it wasn’t because of who I am. Rather it’s because of who He is. When we walk through the shadows He is there. Well done, Kyla!

    • Thank you so much for those encouraging words, Uncle Chuck! You are so right. Because we are utterly unworthy, Christ gets all of the glory. Praise the Lord that He alone is worthy!

  • This is fantastic, Kyla! Such a good—and needed— reminder! (Also, I absolutely love that song!) Thank you for sharing truth!

  • Nice job, Kyla. This wasn’t a topic I’d thought about, so thank you for bringing it to light. 🙂
    (Now I am going to go listen to that song you mentioned…..)

  • Hi Kyla,
    I am a 76 year old retired pastor here in New Zealand. I have been encouraged by you blog or article. For a nineteen year old, you are well-matured for your age. You expound the truth of the gospel so truthfully and eloquently. I have been blessed with this piece about identity. We have been singing the song “My Worth is Not in What I Own” in our church and it speaks to me deeply. Thank you. Please go one learning and writing.

rebelling against low expectations

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