As part of my healing process, God has been teaching me to learn to focus on my identity in Jesus and not what others think or say about me.  He has been teaching me a lot about identity - where & in whom it is and is not found.  As humans, we tend to label people based on their actions. Here are some of the labels that have been assigned to me recently:

Cheater. Liar. Manipulator. Unrepentant. Divorced. Deceiver. Hypocrite. Disqualified.

Labels hurt. And yet, most of these labels fit me at some human level. But the bigger and more important question is this: will I allow these labels to define me?

Perhaps even more difficult than the labels others assign us are the labels we consign ourselves. The names others prescribe us pale in comparison to the self-imposed marks that often haunt our own soul. Here are some of the self-assigned labels with which I struggle:

Unworthy. Guilty. Inadequate. Dishonest. Marked. Depraved. Undeserving. Unlovable. Unfit.

These are weighty labels that can shape how we live our lives. These labels can define you as a person, a spouse, a parent, an employee or employer, a Christ-follower and as a friend. We tend to keep these labels hidden from others and rarely do we share their pain because we do not want to be exposed for who we really are (or at least how we tend to view ourselves).  The Enemy uses these labels to keep us down and defeated. He employs their power to prevent us from living the whole lives for which we were created.  He exploits our labels to keep us from living in the victory provided for us on the cross.

Labels are crippling.

Here's what I am learning through my healing process: God exchanges our labels for His. And here is just a glimpse of how God sees us:

Loved. Forgiven. Justified. Accepted. Valuable. Redeemed. Chosen. Called.

I have been spending some time in Romans 8 recently and heard a message this week that reaffirmed this truth for me.  In Romans 8, we are reminded that Jesus followers are permanent residents in the spiritual realm of "no condemnation" (8:1).  While people and self-imposed labels condemn us, God has granted us, through what Jesus did, citizenship in the land of the no longer condemned.   Later in this same chapter, Paul reminds us that one of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to constantly remind our hearts that we are children of God (8:13).

I picture the Holy Spirit declaring to me over and over: "Devin - you are a child of God. Regardless of what others say about you or what the Enemy whispers to you in the darkness of your heart, you are a child of God. You will not be defined by their labels or your labels. You will be defined by how God sees you. Believe it. Embrace it. And live like it. "

The last section of Romans 8 is one of the most beautiful declarations in the New Testament of the unfathomable love of God displayed in Christ.  It is a love from which we cannot be separated. It is a love intended to define us and how we live life.

People assign us labels for a reason. Usually they are deserved from the standpoint that our sinful condition results in sinful actions that often define us.  That's why the label Paul most often makes use of to describe our condition outside of Jesus is sinner.  So the one label that most clearly defines our spiritual condition outside of God's intervening grace is sinner.  And that's why Romans 5:8 is so powerful: "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

God exchanges our most condemning label (sinner) for His love, forgiveness, and redemption.  Labels are ugly and that's what makes the gospel so beautiful.  God intervened on our behalf. He nailed our ugliness to a cross and replaced it with His beauty.  He turns our ashes into beauty.  He makes beautiful things out of dust.

How do you see yourself? As others see you? As the Enemy would have you see yourself? Or as God sees you? 

I am learning to embrace who I am in Jesus and as a result, He is healing my heart. 

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