Your Identity is Essential

Genesis 1:26-31

October 7, 2023 | Brian Bill

Parents, I want to give you a heads-up that parts of the sermon may not be appropriate for younger children.  If your child is not ready to hear about sexuality and gender matters, feel free to step out while I’m praying.  You could engage in the Family Room or listen online later.


Let’s begin with a quote from Martin Luther…

“If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved…and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” 

We want to be faithful and not flinch as the battle rages around the idea of identity today.  We will not avoid talking about those areas where the Devil is attacking in this moment.  We are committed to be convictional when preaching about sin while being compassionate toward sinners, which includes me and you.  We will be unshaken in our faith and unashamed of the gospel as we remain anchored to the truth, even as the waves of cultural change wash over us and the undercurrents and riptides of an untethered culture sweep myriads of people out to sea.

Many today seem obsessed with identity.  From personality tests to Enneagram inventories, it seems like everyone is searching for something to tell them who they are and where they belong.  This week, I did a Google search of the phrase, “What do you identify as?”  I thought the number of results would be high, but I was shocked when it came back with 8.6 billion hits!

Contrary to our culture’s confusion, identity is not self-declared or self-developed; it is given to us by our Maker and Redeemer

Identity is quite powerful because it relates to who we are and why we’re here.  It is how we define ourselves, and it clarifies our purpose in life.  Contrary to our culture’s confusion, identity is not self-declared or self-developed; it is given to us by our Maker and Redeemer.  

The topic of identity is a huge issue in our culture today.  Many suggest we can find our identity by looking inward.  Others proclaim identity is wrapped up in what we do or with what we have.  Still others equate identity with gender or sexuality.  James Jeffery writes: “The great tragedy in such thinking is its reductionism.  It shrinks a person from being an intelligently designed, unique, and beautiful image-bearer of God to the mere product of sexual instincts.  Is there anything more animalistic than reducing a person to the sum of their sexual desires?”  

Before I go further, let me be quick to say we are not out to clobber sinners.  While we are not affirming of people in their sin, we are all about welcoming sinners.  If you are struggling with gender or sexuality issues, we want to help.  The Bible says we are all sinners and Jesus died for all sins.  Can greedy people come to church?  Of course.  Can those who have committed adultery attend?  Absolutely.  Gossips?  I’m sure we have our fair share.  

If you struggle in any way, you are welcome here.  And yet, we will not affirm anyone in their iniquity.  We only affirm Jesus, not any other human, because none of us are without sin.  We don’t celebrate sin, but we do welcome sinners.  The glory of the gospel is that Jesus grants forgiveness and freedom, along with healing and hope, when we repent of our sins and receive Him as our Lord and Savior.

Recently, on The Briefing Podcast, Al Mohler highlighted the “The Oxford Safe Churches Project” published in The Times of London.  The headline read, “LGBT Ratings for Churches.”  The story goes like this: “Oxford students have rated local churches based on how safe they are for gay and transgender…the students awarded scores…after analyzing sermons and blog posts and speaking to worshippers.”

Using a traffic light system, churches like ours would receive a “red” light because we hold to the biblical teaching that the practice of homosexuality is sinful.  In this scale, even though we strive to be compassionate toward sinners, we would receive a red light because we contend for biblical Christianity, speaking truth about sin, and offering grace to sinners.  According to their scale, churches that receive a “green” light have “internalized a queer identity and a large number of LGBTQ+ people…lead the church.”

Listen to what Mohler said, “People are going to be taking names and they’re going to be keeping score…and the entire criterion for being declared on the right side of history, so to speak, is full unequivocal support of the normalization of all LGBT behaviors, relationships, the entire agenda…it’s something like an alarm going off.  It’s a siren that’s now being heard…it’s coming for your town…in one sense, it’s coming for your church…we’re going to know where every church stands in very short order.”

Brothers and sisters, this is not a slippery slope moment.  This is a tipping point moment.  

In order to bring this home, here are some ways in which the evil one is doing his insidious work of attacking identity issues in our children and grandchildren.  It’s important for parents and grandparents to be informed and equipped.  In two weeks, we’ll have a panel discussion focused on helping families live out a biblical worldview.   

I came across some deeply disturbing information that I want to pass along because it deals with our children.  Before I do, please know I am not prone to be an alarmist, but I am alarmed, so I’m going to sound an alarm.

  • Disney Junior’s series Muppet Babies aired an episode in 2021 showing Gonzo wearing a dress to a royal ball.  Gonzo names himself “Gonzo-rella” and says, “I don’t want you to be upset with me, but I don’t want to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, either.  I want to be me.”  Miss Piggy apologizes, telling Gonzo, “It wasn’t very nice of us to tell you what to wear.”  Then, she says she wants to get rid of the “royal handbook” and make a better one [the “royal handbook” makes me think of the Bible].  To which Summer Penguin remarks, “And in our new handbook, everyone can come to the ball dressed however they like.”

When asked about this episode, the show’s executive producer replied, “Even early on, we wanted to do an episode where Gonzo just showed up to the Playroom wearing a skirt.  And it was no big deal.  No one cared or questioned it…and it was SO wonderfully Gonzo.  We hope he inspires kids watching to be 347% of themselves in their own way, too.”

  • Producers of Sesame Street have gone all-in on Pride Month.  Here’s one quote: “Everyone is always welcome on Sesame Street.  This month, and every month, we want to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ members of our community.  From our family to yours, happy #PrideMonths!”
  • Earlier this year, the makers of “PAW Patrol” released a spin-off series called, “Rubble and Crew.”  Now in its second season, the series recently introduced the show’s first nonbinary character named River.  The episode aired on August 22.  Lindz Amer, a writer for the show, leads an organization called, “Queer Kid Stuff.”  When asked about the character River, she said, “I wanted to write a nonbinary character that was aspirational and incredibly cool, someone for the pups (and kids at home) to look up to.”

I’m also compelled to briefly mention how some churches and Christians are capitulating to culture.  This gives me no pleasure, but I’ve been challenged by something Albert Mohler said this week: “Christians should find no joy in addressing theological error, but passivity in the face of serious error amounts to complicity.”

  • Derek Webb, former lead singer for Caedmon’s Call, a contemporary Christian group, now has a song called, “Boys Will be Girls,” which celebrates gender transition and drag.  The final verse goes like this: “So if a church won’t celebrate and love you, they’re believing lies that can’t save you or them.”
  • Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta, under the leadership of Pastor Andy Stanley, recently hosted a conference with practicing homosexuals as speakers.  I listened to his sermon from this past Sunday and heard him defend the conference.  He also implied that homosexual marriage is OK.

We’re calling this message, “Your Identity is Essential.”  Here’s our main idea: Our world teaches that people can be whoever they identify themselves to be.  The Word of God teaches you are who God says you are.

John Stonestreet offers this commentary, “Our real cultural crisis is a catastrophic, culture-wide loss of meaning…now we are living with the existential results of a culture untethered from God, and therefore untethered from any fixed reference point for truth, morality, identity, and meaning…by turning identity into a self-made sort of thing…into whoever we want to be or whoever we say that we are or feel that we are, that’s no grounding for dignity and value.”

Please turn to Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”  Notice how this begins: “Then God said…”  It’s as if there’s a solemn pause after God formed and filled the earth in the previous verses.  As He considered creating man and woman, anticipation builds as we get ready to hear what God is going to do next: “Let us make man…”  The phrase “let us” is an emphatic imperative and could be translated as, “we will.”  It’s like God is consulting within Himself before creating man.  Up until this point, God’s speaking had been intentionally measured: “Let there be.”  With the creation of man, it became more intimate and magnified.  

The plural use of “us” is early evidence for the Trinity, as is the name Elohim, which is in the plural.  The word “said” is singular, signifying there is plurality within oneness.  One pastor captures it well: “God, who is one, communes with Himself – the Father to the Son, the Son to the Spirit, the Spirit to the Father – and in perfect agreement, Adam and Eve were created.” BTW, in November we’ll be preaching a series on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.

To “make” means, “to accomplish or complete” and referred to an activity with a distinct purpose or goal in mind.  The word for “man” is Adam, which was the generic term for mankind and the proper name Adam which refers to the first created male.  Humans were the last of God’s created creatures and were the crowning achievement of creation.  Animals were made according to their kinds, but humans are in a class way above all other creation.  We are the crescendo of God’s creative genius.  In addition, the creation of man and woman is narrated with greater detail in chapter two.  No other part of creation is given this much attention. 

Genesis 1:27 expands this account: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.”  These twelve words in Hebrew are arranged in three lines, each with its own poetic repetition and cadence.  Just as a poem is often employed to accentuate something with carefully chosen words and images, so God celebrates with superlative language how men and women are created in His image and find their identity in Him.  You have been made in the image of God and therefore have dignity, value, and worth because of WHO you are, or more accurately, WHOSE you are.  You matter because you have been made by the Maker.

The word “so” connects us to verse 26 and expresses “agreement or confirmation.”  Three times the word “created” is used, thus emphasizing the uniqueness of God creating mankind as male and female.  From this point on, humanity is divided into two groups – male and female.  In addition, the fact we are made in God’s “image” is stated twice for emphasis.

Let’s ponder the phrase, “male and female He created them.”   In Hebrew, it literally reads this way: “As male and female, created He them.” Males and females are equal, but not identical because their biological sex is separate and distinct.  God created males and females on purpose with different purposes.  We’ve been made differently by design with distinct capacities and roles to fulfill the divine mandate to serve as stewards of the earth.  

There are three primary characteristics which distinguish males from females:

  • Different reproductive organs.
  • Distinctive external anatomy.
  • The presence or absence of a Y chromosome.

Gender is designed by the Grand Designer at conception, from our DNA to our reproductive organs.  As such, God is the creator and giver of gender.  Males and females do not have interchangeable anatomy and those differences are not inconsequential.  Both the Bible and biology make this clear.

This week, I read an insightful post called: “Does God Care About Gender Identity” by Collin Hansen and Sam Ferguson:

It’s been dubbed the “Gender Revolution.”  You see it all around.  Gender identity has been disconnected from biology.  What you feel about your body matters more than what you can see and touch.  Children who are encouraged to believe they were born into the wrong-gendered body now expect and even demand support from parents and other authorities as they seek life-altering drugs and surgeries to “confirm” the gender with which they identify.

The phrase “according to its kind” or “according to their kinds” is used 10 times in Genesis 1 to indicate there are separate species and genders which are distinct and different.  Clearly, God established categories of creation.  In addition, the word “separate” is used five times in the first chapter and means, “to set apart.”  This is a word of distinction, or differentiation.  The creation account in Genesis 1:1-27 shows how God separated many things.  

  • He separated the light from the darkness.
  • He separated the waters above from the waters below.
  • He separated the dry land from the waters below.
  • He separated the day from the night.
  • He separated humankind into two biological sexes.

God’s way is always best.  Contrary to the thinking in our current culture, binary is not bad, it’s beautiful.  Gender is not just a social construct or something one chooses as their “identity.”  As Psalm 139:13-14 says, because God formed your inward parts, you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  To say it another way, your biological sex and gender are fixed and finite, not fluid.

Your identity is wrapped up in being an image-bearer of God.  You are who God says you are.  You are not who you identify as.  You are not the result of some coincidental cosmic accident, nor have you somehow evolved from a single-celled organism over the space of a million years.  You are more than just matter, and you matter greatly to the Almighty.  Since you are the product of divine design, you have been created with dignity, value, worth, and purpose.  

We don’t have to work to establish our worth; we are already worthy because of who made us

As humans, our worth and our identity is intrinsic because we have been created in the image and likeness of God to display His character.  We don’t have to work to establish our worth; we are already worthy because of who made us.  According to Isaiah 43:7, the main reason we’ve been created is to show forth God’s glory: “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Our world teaches that people can be whoever they identify themselves to be.  The Word of God teaches you are who God says you are.

In his new video series, The Holy Sexuality Project, Christopher Yuan says, 

“The world is shouting at your kids these days, telling them any and all types of sexuality should be accepted, even celebrated…but my identity should not be defined by my sexuality…sexuality is not who we are, it’s what we feel and do…it describes our experience, but not our essence…my identity should not be grounded in my desires…my identity as a child of the living God must be in Jesus Christ alone.  God says, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

In order to go deeper, our Growth Groups will be discussing this statement this week: “What you do doesn’t determine who you are, who you are determines what you do.”  We need to learn how to balance our various identifiers (ethnicity, vocation, marital status), with our primary identity in Christ.  

When we repent and receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, Jesus takes our rottenness and transfers to us His righteousness.  We have been reconciled, ransomed, and redeemed.

And in the process, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, we become someone we never were before: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 teaches we can be transformed today as we gaze upon the glory of God: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”


Let me make four applications.

  • If you’re confused about your gender or living in a state of sexual brokenness, remember Jesus gave His body to recover and restore those who feel alienated from their bodies.  After describing a long list of sins, 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  The gospel changes everything, and the gospel can change you.
  • This church is a hospital for hurting sinners.  While some might label us a certain way because we strive to speak the truth about sin, we also speak the truth about our Savior, who gave his life for sinners like me and you.  When you confess Christ, He brings you into the church, the body of Christ.  I love what a 10-year-old put on her Connection Card last week: “If we did not have a church, then we would not learn about God.  We would not know who He even is.  So, we need a church to learn about Jesus and God.”  I listened to a podcast this week with this title, “When Having a Biblical Worldview is lonely.”  We need each other, church.

I appreciated one commentator’s insight: “…our new ‘fluid’ selves have yielded only homelessness, an existence without roots in either place or person.”  There’s a place for you here in this place.

  • Brothers and sisters, we must be a church that speaks truthfully while tenderly offering hope and healing to those who have been talked into pursuing their identity apart from Christ.  We want to walk alongside all who are full of regret and help them find redemption and restoration in Christ.  As Alisa Childers says, Let’s remember as we pursue Christ to keep a sharp mind, a soft heart, and a thick skin.” 
  • Find your identity as an image-bearer of God and as one who has been redeemed by the Savior.  At the heart of what happens when you become a Christian is that you receive a new identity.  In Jesus, we do not lose our true selves, but we become our true selves, only in Him.  Your true identity is ultimately based on what God has done for you.  As one author puts it, “Christian identity is received, not achieved, taking enormous pressure off us to perform and merit our affirmation.”  

Over thirty years ago, I read a captivating book by David Needham called, Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?  I ponder his premise often:

“A Christian is not simply a person who gets forgiveness, who gets to go to heaven, who gets the Holy Spirit, who gets a new nature.  Mark this—a Christian is a person who has become someone he was not before.  A Christian, in terms of his deepest identity, is a SAINT, a born child of God, a divine masterpiece, a child of light, a citizen of heaven.”

Let’s go back to Martin Luther.  Before his conversion, he was tormented by the guilt of his iniquity.  He felt like he was a slave to sin and didn’t know how to break free.  After he was saved by God’s grace, he renamed himself Martin Eleutheros, which in the Greek means, “Martin the Free.”  

Let me come back to the Grand Story of the Bible from a couple weeks ago.  We’ve made these four key themes into a bookmark for you.  They’ll help us remember the metanarrative of the Bible.  We’ve also included some helpful evangelism questions on the back.

  • Creation – We matter because we are made in the image of God and we find our identity in Him.
  • Fall – We are sinners who deserve God’s wrath.
  • Redemption – Jesus came to die as payment for all our sins, He took the judgment we deserve, and rose on the third day, showing He has victory over death, the devil, and our own depravity.  We must repent of our sins, believe in Him, and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
  • Restoration – Jesus will make everything right in the end.

I want to end by reading from a document called, “I Am a Child of the King” by Dr. Ed Laymance. 

If you’re a born-again Christian, this is WHO you are.  If you’re not a believer yet, this would be a great day to become one, so you become someone you’ve never been before.  

I’m going to read it first and then I’m going to ask you to stand, and we’ll read it together.  

Because of who Jesus Christ is, and because He is my Savior and my Lord… 

I am a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, seated with Christ in the heavenly realm. 

I am chosen, accepted, and included – a citizen of heaven and a member of God’s household. 

I am loved by God unconditionally and without reservation.

I belong to Him, having been bought by Him with the precious blood of Jesus. 

I have eternal life and will be saved from all of God’s wrath to come – guaranteed!

I am a Christian. I am not just different in what I do. My identity has changed. Who I am has changed. Everything has become brand new.

I am a dwelling place in which God lives by His Spirit.

I have access to Him anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

I am God’s creation – His workmanship. 

I was created by Him and for Him, so who I am and what I do matters.

I am spiritually alive. 

I have been set free from the fear of death and have been given life to live and enjoy to the full.

I am forgiven – completely, totally, and absolutely.

I have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of light – the Kingdom of the Son.

I have been set free from the penalty of sin and the power of sin.

I am an enemy of Satan and at war with spiritual forces of evil, but greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

If God is for me, it doesn’t matter who or what stands against me, because nothing and no one can separate me from the love of Christ – not hurt, pain, loss, problem, or brokenness; not persecution, trouble, difficulty, or danger; not abandonment, abuse, addictions, or appetites; not desires, food, sexuality, or relationships; not life or death, angels or demons; not my past, the present, or the future; no power, no person, no place, not anything in all creation; not even Satan himself shall prevail.

I am in the hands of Jesus, in the hands of God, and nothing and no one can snatch me out of God’s hands.

I will fear no evil because God is with me, and He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

God’s presence is with me everywhere I go – to the heights of heaven, through the valley of the shadow, to the ends of the earth – forever and always. 

I am a child of the King and I choose this day to live as one. 

Please stand and let’s recite this together like we mean it.

Settle this truth: Our world teaches that people can be whoever they identify themselves to be.  The Word of God teaches you are who God says you are.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?